Posted in WildStar

WildStar: Locked and Reloaded

WildStar: Reloaded is here, and as to be expected, it’s a mixture of giddy highs and crushing lows.

Most of the lows are on the technical side of things: a crushing queue that sometimes reached into the hour-and-a-half range, server lag, and so many day-one maintenance patches and associated downtimes that playing was more of an occasional nicety than anything else. I expect most of these issues to be worked out soon, but it didn’t make for the best F2P opening I’ve ever seen.

In fact, at times even when I was in the game, it was virtually unplayable. That’s the thing about action combat — any lag pretty much shoots the experience in both feet. Two or three seconds of delay between hitting any key and seeing a result was unacceptable. I was not the only one I saw who got out of the game last night to wait and see when Carbine would iron all of this out.

On the upside, the excitement over WildStar is positively electric, both in the game and outside of it. It’s kind of a weird mixture of launch, expansion, and Christmas. The second I logged in, I rushed to check all of the loyalty goodies that I’d accumulated. While for some reason I have yet to be awarded the subscriber pet and housing item, my cosmic rewards shot into the fifth tier and spat out a ton of items and unlocks.


That Northern Lights dye is spectacular. And I’m not complaining about the mounts, costume pieces, and pets either.

Every long-term player was suffering from inventory bloating, myself included. Due to all of the rune changes and whatnot, Carbine mailed us SO MUCH STUFF that went on top of any cosmic rewards. Sorting all of that out took some time.

I poked around the new challenge interface as well. Instead of tying a set of randomized rewards to individual challenges, now you have a challenge reward track that lets you choose one of three goodies at certain intervals. It’s cool… I guess. I am saddened that my Thayd run will no longer spit out a string of decor boxes or that certain challenges I had been working on for pet rewards are no longer there. I really wanted that squirg pet, darn it!


In a spate of questing, I did start to accumulate omnibits — one here and there, including one from a challenge. It’s going to be slow going building up a bank account of those to spend on the store, but at least it’s an option. There’s one lawman outfit that I really want to get at some point.


Apart from that, I put together a couple of outfits from the sets that I was given (a cannibal one and a formal one — seen above). I jetted off to my housing plot and suffered agoraphobic shock at how much empty space there is now that the plot’s been quadrupled in size.

Honestly, I don’t know how I feel about that. I can imagine that many intricately designed housing plots were ruined with this. For me, I’m struggling to think how I’m going to fill up all of this space. Eventually we’re supposed to get more housing plugs, but they’re not in yet. I just wish that my house wasn’t so far away from the teleportation pad.

Speaking of the house, the patch allowed me to buy an opposite faction pad, so I got the Cassian cozy house. I like it so much more than the Exile one, if that it contains straight angles, a floor grid, and enough space to make a second floor easy. Lots to do there, and I am mulling over options as to how I want to design the interior before moving in all of my stuff.

It’s a heady feeling to have so much to do and a largely improved game in which to do it. I still have to go through the Alpha Sanctum and start on crafting, so those are on the table for some time this week.

Posted in Star Wars: The Old Republic

SWTOR: Blitzing to 60


Mayday! Mayday! We’re going down in a shower of sparks and non-canonical narrative!

I am making myself breathless how fast I’ve been whipping through SWTOR over the past week. Maybe it’s that thing where the first time through content feels like it’s so long because it’s unfamiliar and you’re smelling the roses, whereas subsequent journeys can be a lot quicker. But I also have to factor in my laser focus on getting my Smuggler ready for Knights of the Fallen Empire. The pressure is real. The red hair dye is not.

Thus I rocketed through Rishi and the six solo flashpoints that make up a bulk of Shadow of Revan so quickly that the story became secondary. Oh, I slowed down whenever I got a chance to put Lana in her place:


I’m not normally this rude, but SWTOR is making me team up with an ex-girlfriend who dumped me. On another character BUT STILL. Lana is getting no slack from me this time around — and no flirt options either.

I hit level 60 pretty effortlessly before wrapping up Rishi. The 12x boost lasted until level 55 and XP pots after that helped nudge me across the level finish line. Now my build is cemented and is being bolstered by all of the yummy quest reward gear that’s getting me up to par.


As I said the other night in guild chat, I love my tauntaun. Not only is it blissfully quiet compared to those grating speeder noises, but it’s portable one-time housing!


With Rishi done, I merely have Yavin and Ziost to go. Yavin will be nice to upgear and get Guss a new costume, for sure. Past that, my checklist involves maxing out companion affection and perhaps going through some of the optional high-level planets that I hop-scotched when the expansions became available.

Or perhaps an alt. Because I have a sickness.

Posted in General

Living in an internet-free household

No_WifiIt was not the best weekend in the Syp household. After taking the kids to a bounce house place on Saturday morning, I came home, did some chores, and settled in for a little gaming. At 3:00 p.m. our internet went out, the third time in the past month (fourth if you factor in a power outage last weekend). And it didn’t come back up, even after troubleshooting over the phone and endlessly resetting the modem. The best they could do was to send someone out Monday afternoon, they said.

Well that just put a damper on the past two days.

I know, I know, first world problems and all that, but when the internet goes out, it really changes up your schedule and creates some significant headaches. I had some games I needed to play for columns, I had pieces to write, and I really wanted to attend the pre-F2P launch party that was going on on my WildStar server on Sunday night.

Today I feel frazzled because of this outage, knocked out of my established routine. I had to wait until going to work to write this, and I’m trying to plan my day around a five-hour window that the internet guy is supposed to show up. There’s a podcast to do later, not to mention a three-gig WildStar patch to download.

That’s not to say that I was sitting in a corner, rocking myself while keening out loud because I felt completely lost without my precious internet. I always have things to do and that need to be done, and I’ll never begrudge spending a little more time with my family. We all unwrapped a DVD we’d been saving, Plans: Fire & Rescue, and my kids absolutely loved it. After everyone went to bed, I chewed through a novel and then caught up on my sleep.

I’m all for taking breaks from the constant online connectivity, I just would rather do it as part of a plan than my crappy modem deciding to take a sabbatical in the middle of a weekend.

On the plus side, I did get some time in with Devilian’s alpha and should be back up for WildStar’s Reloaded patch tomorrow, so I’m not going to spend any more time whining about it. So I’m sorry there isn’t any exciting gaming tale to share today!

Posted in Retro Gaming

Retro Gaming: Star Trek Judgment Rites part 8


(This is part of my journey going checking out Star Trek Judgment Rites. You can follow the entire series on the Retro Gaming page.)

Episode 8: …Yet There Is Method In It

As we reach the final mission of the game, we’re also in the presence of the first two-parter of these adventure games. Episode 8 transitions right off from the previous one, as Kirk, McCoy, Spock, Uhura, and Klarr the Klingon jump through a portal to meet the test-loving Brassicans that have been putting the crew through the ringer for a good part of this game.

My favorite part is when Klarr knocks out his grumpy aide for trying to commit mutiny. Seriously, I usually hate Klingons, but I am warming up to this one.


Kirk and company appear on a bunch of Tetris blocks floating in space, whereupon they meet the Brassicans. Which… look like a cube with a Furby face on the side of them. To be fair, this game did come out before the weird Furby craze, but it’s an unfortunate comparison.

Naturally, the Brassicans want to conduct even more tests. This is so not why Kirk signed up for Starfleet. Green-skinned women, yes. An alcoholic engineer, for sure. Plenty of fist fights, definitely. But tests? C’mon.


So the idea behind this mission is that the Brassicans pose a question to the group, each of whom have an answer to it. The player has to pick the best person for the answer, at which point that person disappears and the questioning continues. It’s not really that gripping.

The riddles get downright silly when Spock, Klarr, and Kirk start debating the merits of “pig + X = cow.” I kid you not, the three of them bicker about this automatically for about four minutes.


Riddles passed — wasn’t that a gas? — everyone arrives on the Brassican home planet. These guys look even goofier than when their faces were on geometric objects. Anyway, the Brassicans say that all of the tests were necessary because they’re extreme isolationists fearful of reestablishing contact with the galaxy.

One last test is given, as both Kirk and Klarr are given discs with supposed information about each other’s territory. Klarr agrees to smash both of the discs and the Brassicans are impressed. Yahoo.


And with that short mission, Judgment Rites comes to a close.

Yes, there are some flaws with this game. Some missions are too long and devilishly difficult, and I couldn’t stand the limited and grating music after a while. But overall this is not just an improvement over 25th Anniversary, but a candidate for one of the best Star Trek games ever made and a darn solid adventure game in every sense of the term.

There’s just so much detail given to examining environments, talking to (and using) your crew, and making dialogue and action choices that can radically change how you go through a mission. It’s definitely got some replay value, especially with every mission being scored. Finally, I really loved hearing the old cast come together for their final full group performance.

Judgment Rites still holds up admirably even over two decades later. Highly recommended.

Posted in Retro Gaming

Retro Gaming: Star Trek Judgment Rites part 7

rom1(This is part of my journey going checking out Star Trek Judgment Rites. You can follow the entire series on the Retro Gaming page.)

Episode 7: Though This Be Madness…

Now that shore leave is over, it’s back to the stars — and in a big way. Episode 7 starts out in a wild flurry of huge events. First up is a Romulan sub-commander who broadcasts a distress call from the Neutral zone. Kirk is loathe to violate the treaty, so he ignores the call. Plus, it’s the Romulans. Forget those guys.

Then another call comes in, a planetary invasion of Atabis. That sounds more fun than stuffy Romulans, so away we go!


Showing up at Atabis, the Enterprise encounters two strange sights: a Klingon battlecruiser and a giant alien ship. The Klingons are there to defend their interests (Atabis is a disputed planet) and the aliens… no idea. At least the Klingons don’t want to fight.


The away team beams over to the alien ship, joined this time by Uhura (because of possible communications issues). Might want to change that red shirt, Uhura!

Talking to the two people here give the feeling that we’ve stepped into some sort of mental institution, as they’re textbook Hollywood “crazy.” McCoy examines them and notes that both have some physical issues going on, while Spock tricorders the plants and discovers that none of them are on file, but all have similarities to real plants. Fascinating.


More examples of Hollywood crazy here: a big man being a little baby and a guy who thinks that he’s a king. And a cactus that probably thinks that it’s a cactus. Fortunately, Uhuru is descended from royalty, so the king treats with her and then leaves.


Another room, another collection of disturbed people. These guys are more like a gang, with the ringleader to the right there. Plus a teddy bear. Kirk wantee the teddy.

The Klingons beam in to do their own search of the ship, which I predict will quickly end in bloodshed.

Again, nothing is quite as it seems here. Scans from the tricorder reveal that the playhouse is actually a space-time portal. Wonder if I just won myself a space-time teddy bear too.


In another room we meet the Phays, a “food-fixated mothering computer” that keeps swapping between referring to itself as “I” and “we.” It seems to think that all of the people on the ship are its children (of sorts) and ignores Kirk’s entreaty to stop trying to land the ship in the middle of a settlement.

Spock does a mind-meld with the woman in the corner, who apparently gorged on the library computer in an effort to try to understand who made the ship and what is going on. However, understanding never happened and she’s nearly a vegetable as a result. The Klingons barge in, asking for answers, and are unhappy that McCoy wants to treat the woman back on the Enterprise.


Am I the only person who never liked the Klingons as villains or allies? Bunch of paranoid bullies with single-minded dispositions. And in this mission, they keep following Kirk around and being passive-aggressive.

Meanwhile, Kirk phasers some plant equipment in hydroponics and imagines Klarr’s face on it. Pew pew! Believe it or not, this is all part of a complicated plan to grow fresh food.


Food is pretty important here. The Phays mentioned that she was feeding her children, yet Stambob talks about how there’s something being put into it that’s bad. Sure enough, after analyzing a box of prepackaged food, Kirk discovers that it’s been drugged to hell and back.


After much — oh so much — puzzle-solving and maneuvering, Kirk, company, and Klingons arrive in the heart of the Phays. Since it’s just another super-computer that needs to be spanked, Kirk knows exactly how to deal with it.

Klarr actually helps to repair Phays, who now becomes more-or-less complete. She says that this ship, the Compassion, was launched by the Builders but somehow she became damaged. The more Kirk talks with her, the more apparent that Phays doesn’t know much or won’t admit to much. After calling her out on it, the mysterious alien race that has been testing Kirk over several episodes creates a portal, tells him that he’s passed the test, and invites him to make first contact. Klarr decides to come as well.


Posted in General

6 MMOs I wish I had time to be playing

Right now I’m in a pretty good MMO gaming groove, focused down on two games for the most part: WildStar and SWTOR. Each gets about an hour of playtime a day from me, with a smattering of Marvel Heroes here and there.

And that’s perfect for me right now. I want to focus on those titles with the upcoming major content updates, not to mention that I’m genuinely enjoying both. Trimming down to two MMOs is definitely less stressful as well, which is something I want to keep in mind for when baby #4 arrives here around November. No sense overloading!

But that doesn’t mean that I don’t think about playing other games, sometimes wistfully so. You can’t read all of the blogs I do and write about MMO news without peering over the fence at other games. So here are six titles that I have no time to play — but I still think about now and then.

The Secret World: Now that Tokyo’s over, I feel the urgency to progress through TSW at a standstill. Sure, I could continue with my lowbie playthrough series (and I might at some point), but right now I’m OK taking a break to return whenever a new zone or missions arise. No, Funcom, a new dungeon isn’t enough to get me to come back.

Trove: Weirdly enough, I feel deeply regretful that I’m not playing Trove. I see that community having a rip-roaring good time and know that in a world where I had another 10 hours to my day, I could be dropping a third of that time into this game happily.

RIFT: Speaking of Trion, RIFT will always be an “MMO home” that I’ll at least know I’m welcome to come back to at any time. Lots to love about that game, and after doing a dev tour yesterday, I wish that I still had the fire to be playing it. I’ve made a promise to myself that if I ever do come back, it will be on a character that will only do instant adventures and dungeons.

Project Gorgon: This one will take some explanation. I didn’t suddenly lose my newfound interest in this game. On the contrary, I really, really want to be playing it, but I don’t want to get too deep and then have to start over (either from a wipe, some major changes, or — in my case — the addition of a new race that I’d want to play). I will come back, it will happen, it’s just a matter of time and development progress.

World of Warcraft: Sometimes it hits me, how long I’ve been away from this game. It’s for the best, I know — I was burned out and I wanted to see the wider world of MMOs. And I’m glad, not just professionally but personally. But every now and then I’ll hear some WoW music that will drudge up memories or have a small freak-out that I’ve missed out on some five years of the game’s life and want to go back. Never say never!

Star Trek Online: Those space battles were something else, weren’t they? And I loved how I never felt insanely far behind the power/gear curve. I haven’t even seen the Delta Rising expansion, it’s been a while.

Posted in Retro Gaming

Vote for Bio Break’s next retro gaming series!

I just wrapped up the final two missions of Star Trek Judgment Rites, the writeups of which will go live this weekend. With that out of the way, I’m open to a new game for next week and would like to put it to a reader vote.

Here are the three candidates for the next retro gaming series:

  • Pool of Radiance (RPG): A classic “Gold Box” D&D adventure from 1988 and the first such advanced D&D computer game.
  • Thief: The Dark Project (FPS/Stealth): The 1998 first-person stealth title that kicked off a cult series.
  • Master of Magic (Turned-Based 4X): A 1994 title that has the player assuming the role of a wizard who must grow a fantasy kingdom.

That’s a good variety from my library, I feel. No adventure game this time around!

Posted in WildStar

The three types of MMO winter zones


Winter’s been on my mind more lately, partially because the season has turned to fall here in Michigan and partially because I’ve been adventuring through Whitevale this past week on my Medic.

Generally, I like winter. I’m weird that way, but I think it’s important to find something that you love in all of the seasons instead of taking sides and preferring one at the expense of loathing another. After all, if I’m going to be saddled with three or four months of snow and ice, I should make peace with it. And I do: I love the look of snow, the whole lead-up to Christmas, the coziness of sitting inside somewhere warm while the wind is howling outside, wearing winter clothes and jackets, and having fun with my kids outside. There’s a simple pristine beauty that winter can demonstrate that the other seasons can’t.

So I’m also drawn to winter zones in MMOs. We make a lot of jokes about how MMOs have been using the same generic biomes that have been in video games since the days of the NES, but to be fair, many designers do come up with different twists and shades of those biomes that end up putting each in their own categories. So it is with winter areas.

There are the “Christmas” winter zones, as I like to call them. These are welcoming, bright, and full of fluffy snow. WildStar’s Whitevale is a great example of this. Plenty of cozy and inviting settlements with traditionally festive winter activities — building snowmen, for example — and lights and vivid pine trees. The sky is bright, the air is clear, and one wishes that one had a snowmobile to travel around on.

Alternatively and less rare are the “desolate” winter zones. Winter here isn’t a set dressing, it’s a nasty force of nature that’s out to oppress and kill. Lots of ice, mountins, howling snow, blizzards, frozen landscapes, and few if any settlements. LOTRO’s Misty Mountains could fit into this category, or perhaps SWTOR’s Hoth.

Then you have the “Scandanavian” zones, which can be a mix of the above two, but throw in the northern lights, more greenery, and some jagged fjords. There’s a different sort of beauty here, one that’s wild and breathtaking and bold. These areas have more moose and bears and other tundra/boreal forest fauna. World of Warcraft’s Howling Fjord is a prime example.

There are probably more divisions than these, but the above three are the ones that I commonly notice in MMOs. Which is your favorite?

Posted in Sword Coast Legends

I’m worried about Sword Coast Legends

I wouldn’t say that I’m pinning all of my hopes on Sword Coast Legends — WildStar, SWTOR, and Fallout 4 are there this fall no matter what — but after the premature demise of Shadow Realms, it’s been the co-op DM experience I’ve been anticipating.

Early reports of SCL were good. Lots of strong word-of-mouth, even as recently as PAX. I had no problem with pre-ordering the game based on that, especially since Steam had a discount that made it just a little over $30. But now my faith in this game is a bit shaken based on this past weekend and today’s announcement of a delay.

If you didn’t hear, SCL held a head start weekend that was really just a two-day stress test of an unfinished build of the game. All pre-orders were welcome to attend, so I jumped in on Saturday with the hopes of writing some grand saga on Monday. Obviously, this didn’t happen.

There were things I liked — the character creation looks promising (even if the classes are the blandest of D&D bland), the graphics appealing, and the co-op at least functional. But I felt confused the entire time and frustrated with the controls. I wasn’t sure which menu option to pick to get a live DM campaign (were they running?) and instead ended up in a couple of groups running non-DM dungeons. There was no roleplaying, no big story, just a dungeon crawl with some fights. I felt like I wasn’t getting it, and in a game that you want to understand and like, that’s a big problem.

Also, can someone explain the controls? Sometimes hitting a skill button once and then clicking a target fired it off (healing spells worked okay). Sometimes I had to jam on a skill TWICE after clicking a target. It felt inconsistent and awkward. I ended up auto-attacking with flame cantrips nearly the entire time.

I also really, really disliked how loot — at least in the dungeons I visited — was first-come, first-served. Party members were rushing to grab stuff, leaving the rest of us with nothing. It was like the earlier, uglier days of MMO looting, a time I am not eager to revisit.

My initial goal was to get familiar with the game and then try my hand at making something, but I didn’t even get that far. From hearing what others have reported, many of the tools were either not present or not as in-depth as they would have liked.

So maybe it’s a good thing that Sword Coast Legends is delayed until October 20th. At least it won’t be competing with WildStar’s F2P launch for my attention next week. I just hope that the finished product is a LOT better and easier to grok than what I experienced.