Posted in Gaming Goals

Syp’s gaming goals for February 2022

January 2022 in review

  • Honestly, this month felt like a really messy start to the year. Between the post-holiday blues, a bad snowstorm, visiting company, and a week of sickness, my whole schedule — and my drive to accomplish goals and projects took a big hit. This is to say that I wanted to do more this month but ultimately ended up falling back on comfortable habits and a lot of procrastination.
  • That said, I did make a good amount of progress in Lord of the Rings Online on my Captain. I took her through the War of Three Peaks, Blood of Azog, and into the first part of Gundabad. I think she’s 135 or so, and doing just fine for herself.
  • I only did a little bit on my SWTOR Operative, although I did get her all the way to the start of Onslaught and wrapped up three planets’ worth of datacrons.
  • Elder Scrolls Online adventuring saw the conclusion of Greymoor’s base expansion and the start of Blackwood, including snapping up the two companions for play.
  • I didn’t get in much Fallen Earth at all, to my dismay.
  • I wrapped up a RimWorld series and had a good time setting up a handheld pocket emulator with all of my favorite retro video games.
  • I also spent a week trying out Crowfall (which really wasn’t to my taste).

February 2022’s gaming goals

  • With the expansion and FOMO and all that, it’s probably time to give Guild Wars 2 another shot, if only to see if it can reel me in or spit me out. Not going to buy the expansion unless I get settled in there, though.
  • Lost Ark comes out this month and I most definitely want to put this through the paces to figure out if it’s for me or not.
  • Getting two more Gundabad zones done in LOTRO would be a bare minimum of an accomplishment. I think I’d like to be done with Fate of Gundabad by, oh, April or so, but I can’t ignore that there’ll be a new zone to visit in February either that could be distracting.
  • Might blog about trying out some retro video games on my little emulator device.
  • In Elder Scrolls Online, I’ll be focusing solely on Blackwood adventuring. Don’t think I’ll have that done in a month, but I’m sure I’ll make some really good headway.
  • Fallen Earth? Yes, I shall do some of that. Repurposing last month’s goal, which is to get all of Clinton FARM’s quests done.
Posted in Elder Scrolls Online

ESO: Plumming the secrets of Greymoor

While Elder Scrolls Online boasts a gloriously vivid and interesting-looking game world, it’s a fair complaint that the characters themselves are a little “off” and bland. This extends to their outfits, as a whole bunch of the game’s looks are slightly below average. Lots of loincloth flaps, though. Lots of those.

So I’ve placed a premium on getting my character to a good “feel.” For instance, out of all of my mounts — and I have maybe a dozen — by far and away I like my Morrowind bug mount the best. It doesn’t have an overly loud sound associated with it (as do some of the horses) and looks right moving at max speed. I also bought a new costume that is loincloth flap free and gives her a no-nonsense combat style.

The past couple of weeks I’ve been plugging away at finishing up Greymoor. In a previous post, I said that the zone was initially underwhelming in both tone and quests. Happily, it does get a whole lot better as one goes along. For starters, the underground realm that’s lurking right below Skyrim is a beautifully visualized cavernous space that isn’t too difficult or annoying to navigate (which must be said).

And the main storyline ramped up beautifully. Sure, in the end it was all werewolf-this and vampire-that, and I am more than done with these gothic tropes, but it managed to make it interesting even so. There was court intrigue, torture, a vast conspiracy, and a coming-of-age story that all made it worthwhile.

It may also be the first time that I found all of the skyshards in a zone on my own before having to resort to a “where’d I miss one?” guide. Maybe it goes to show that I really combed over as much of the region as possible to eke out all of the content before I had to move on.

Finally it was time, and I said farewell to Greymoor — and hello to the latest expansion, Blackwood. I figure I want to see the newest chapter while picking up a companion to help me with the rest of my adventures.

Posted in Nostalgia Lane

Nostalgia Lane: Final Fantasy Tactics Advance

After Final Fantasy VII and perhaps IX, the Final Fantasy title that holds the greatest nostalgic power for me isn’t one of the core RPGs — it’s the tactical battler offshoot.

I never got/purchased a Gameboy during the ’90s, but once I got a job and some disposable income in the early 2000s, I figured I’d see what I’d been missing out on all those years. I sprung for a Gameboy Advance — and later a Gameboy SP — and… kind of had a good time? I liked the handheld, but I wasn’t IN like with it, if you get my drift. I think I only had maybe five or six games for it and played them sporadically, preferring computer or console if I had the time.

But the real killer app for that system, at least in my opinion, was Final Fantasy Tactics Advance. Oh man, this game was made for me. You ever get that feeling, that a title is hand-crafted to your exact likes and preferences? That was FFTA.

By taking the Final Fantasy feel and tropes, downplaying the story a bit, and making it 99% about turn-based tactical combat on a grid, Tactics Advance became an obsession for me. There was so much choice as you hand-tailored your army with the characters and jobs you wanted. I honestly never minded grinding this because there was always a new skill or unlock ahead that I wanted for my team.

I also liked how there was a judge who would levy “rules” during matches that would literally change the game. It kept me on my toes to have a regular asset denied to me or to be forced to play in a different way, and I kind of dug that.

And that pseudo-3D pixel art was a huge selling point as well. If a game looks charming and cozy, I tend to gravitate toward it.

I haven’t played this in a long, long time, but in remembering it, I’ve put it back on my “must revisit” list for 2022.

Posted in Lord of the Rings Online

LOTRO’s Update 32 and the kitchen sink mentality

Right now in the LOTRO community, everyone is pretty much only focused on one thing: the arrival of Update 32 next month. This is the one and only significant release in the first quarter of the year and promises to have a little — or a lot — for many different playstyles.

I wanted to round up the list of features and comment on them, so here we go:

  • Abnankâra raid: Raiders are going to be happy to get a Fate of Gundabad instance, but for the rest of us who don’t have any sort of LFG or LFR tool to get into it, it’s a non-issue.
  • Erebor premium housing: This looks and sounds genuinely cool, and sure, I’d love to get a piece of it. Not sure I’m going to, though, because premium houses come with a premium price tag that’s hard to justify to my premium wife. Plus, I have the Rohan and Gondor houses, so it’s not like I’m hurting for living space.
  • Legendary Item Reward Track: I think I can sum up everyone’s reactions to this by saying, “It’s about time, and I’ll withhold judgment until I see how grinding and/or essential this is.” It’s a huge question mark for the game right now, and I’m not fully confident that SSG can pull it off.
  • Angle of Mitheithel: A new zone, huzzah! A new zone in a level range that doesn’t really need any additional zones, huh. As excited as I am to see a little more of Middle-earth, this feels… superfluous at best.
  • Spring festival: My least favorite festival in terms of activities, although there are promises of new rewards.
  • Unlocks for free players: We just learned that free players can earn extra class, race, and virtue trait slots by leveling in this update instead of paying for them, which is a great move.
  • Currency changes: SSG attempted to float highly unpopular and restrictive currency changes that would, among other things, shunt people to the cash shop. It backed off of this plan “for now,” but that left a bad taste in a lot of people’s mouths.
Posted in Music, Podcast

Battle Bards Episode 209: Superhero MMOs

Episode 224: A return to EverQuest II Battle Bards

It's been an almost egregiously long time since the Battle Bards turned their attention to the EverQuest II soundtrack — but now that wait is over. Join Syp and Syl as they comb through the expansions for all sorts of delightful musical morsels to enjoy! Episode 224 show notes Intro (feat. "Main Theme," "Landing Zone," and "Darkpaw") "Artisan Theme" "Qeynos Rises" "Stonewood" "Dreadcutter" "Visions of Vetrovia" "Enchanted Lands" Which one did we like best? Listener notes: Zinn Jukebox Picks: "Big Apple 3PM" from TMNT Shredder's Revenge and "A New Land Awaits" from Going Medieval Outro (feat. “Gnomeland Security Headquarters”) Talk to the Battle Bards on Twitter! Follow Battle Bards on iTunes, Stitcher, Player.FM, Google Play, iHeartRadio, and Pocket Casts! This podcast is produced using copyrighted material according to Fair Use practices as stated under Section 107 of the 1976 Copyright Act.
  1. Episode 224: A return to EverQuest II
  2. Episode 223: Dragonica
  3. Episode 222: World of Warcraft Dragonflight

When they’re not saving the world from bad tunes, the Battle Bards stuff themselves into spandex and try out for sixth-tier superhero teams. Because saving the world is en vogue, don’t you know? In today’s episode, the crew takes a tour through the music of superhero MMORPGs past, present, and future!

Episode 209 show notes (show pagedirect download)

  • Intro (feat. “Freedom Court” from City of Heroes, “The Rime Woods” from Champions Online, and “Credits” from Marvel Heroes)
  • “Digital Death Dream” from City of Titans 

  • “Nightclub District 2” from Marvel Heroes

  • “Funk” from City of Heroes

  • “Asgard Town” from Super Hero Squad Online

  • “Arkham Asylum” from DCUO

  • “Desert Disaster” from Champions Online

  • “A Brave New World” from City of Heroes 

  • Which one did we like best?

  • Listener notes from Katriana

  • Jukebox Picks: “Welcome to a Kick in the Pants in Good Old Hillville” from Commander Keen 4, “The Winding Meadow” from RuneScape Orchestral, and “Opposites Attract” from It Takes Two
  • Steff’s Best Books of 2021 list
  • Outro (feat. “Metropolis 13” from DCUO)
Posted in Star Wars: The Old Republic

SWTOR: Unleashing an Onslaught

With Ossus done, there’s a very brief interlude before Onslaught begins. I imagine that this was a “gotta give them some story to tide them over” stuff during a pre-expansion lull a few years back, because it’s the very definition of fluff. Both Republic and Empire are getting worked up to butt heads once more, and my Agent really couldn’t care less about either side. Unfortunately, there’s no “factional apathy” option.

One personally interesting fact about SWTOR is it may be the only MMO where I still have and play a character I made on launch day. I made Yeti here back in December 2011, and she’s stuck it out with me ever since. Reading back through my old posts from 2011 sparked warm memories of just how pumped I was for this MMO at the time and how much fun I had playing it.

It’s even more warm and fuzzy for me to know that a decade later, I’m back and having a great time once more.

I spent a session cleaning up some overlooked datacrons on Belsavis. There was this one that is apparently called the “Indiana Jones jump” because it has a similar near-invisible bridge that was featured in The Last Crusade (although this one was holographic or somesuch).

And that officially brought me to the start of the Onslaught expansion! Weirdly enough, whenever I get closer to the end of the current content in an MMO I slow down because I get worried I’ll run out of it too quickly. Of course, Legacy of the Sith is just a couple of weeks away, so this is a silly concern at that.

Posted in General

MicroBlizz and the state of uncertainty

So last week a thing happened where Microsoft sauntered down to a vending machine, rubbed its chin for a minute, popped in $69 billion in quarters, and punched up C10 — the code for Activision Blizzard.

We all witnessed one of the world’s largest software giants gobble up yet another (rather large in its own right) gaming firm, and now we’ve got Elder Scrolls, World of Warcraft, and Halo all under the same corporate umbrella. Everyone, of course, has Opinions, although mine will probably be less interesting than most.

Partially it’s because apart from the historical significance of this acquisition, there’s not a lot to make me care with this. I didn’t have any strong feelings, pro or con, in regards to Microsoft, and I don’t have any emotional investment in Blizzard these days. It’s certainly interesting to see that the huge scandal of last year may have well led up to this moment, and there are all sorts of hopes and dreams that it will improve the sinking prospects of many of Blizzard’s titles. Right the ship, clean house, start fresh, and all that.

Bobby Kotick, who I’m sure has a reptilian face under that creepy human facade, is most certainly out at the end of this deal, and nobody will shed a tear. Of course, he’ll make out like a bandit and doesn’t really care about your or my feelings on the matter, so again, it doesn’t really matter on our level. He needed to go anyway, and it will be interesting to see how Microsoft structures Activision Blizzard’s management in Kotick’s wake.

There are always other possibilities. Microsoft may push Blizzard to push out products and releases faster, or make WoW 2, or dump everything to focus on the mobile market. It may leave things be and let business go on as usual. Long gone are the days when Blizzard got to call its own shots, and so it must now dance for its many overlords.

So we’re left in a state of uncertainty in relation to Blizzard and its properties, and I can’t imagine that sits well with any current players and fans who have already endured a rather traumatic year of accusations, legal entanglements, and much delayed product rollouts.

Posted in Star Citizen

Star Citizen reminds us that feature creep is still a very real thing

A long time ago on a website far, far away — this would be old Massively — the hot topic that got us up in the morning was something called “feature creep.” You probably don’t need me to explain what this is, but just in case, feature creep is when a studio kept adding more and more features into its upcoming product to the point where it got overloaded and couldn’t actually deliver any of it. At least, not fully and to expectations.

I think a lot of us tracked feature creep on MMORPG projects because back during the boom era of these games, developers were promising the moon. Then the boom went bust, games and approaches went back to the drawing board, and we started to see some more sensible approaches to games.

Some. Not all. Even though we stopped talking about feature creep as much, it was still rampaging across studios seeking to impress players with their potential output. No Man’s Sky had a massive list of features that it promised to deliver — and then delivered very few of them, earning a whole lot of ire. Chronicles of Elyira staged a successful Kickstarter vowing to make this highly ambitious fantasy title with all of these hard-to-implement concepts — and then went bust when it couldn’t even get an alpha out the door.

And then there’s Star Citizen, whose major ambition in life is to be a poster child for feature creep. This game got successfully crowdfunded — and then some — a ways back. But the huge infusion of donations led to Chris Roberts and his team piling on more and more and more and more features like some bizarro Jenga tower of wishes and dreams. This was going to be the be-all, end-all space simulator that would fulfill our every desire. There’d be a single player game. A massively multiplayer universe. This, that, and all the rest.

Instead of wisely keeping the focus to the core product, delivering that to launch, and then iterating on it with more features, Star Citizen has attempted to do it all at once… and thus become bogged down in a never-ending cycle of development, failed milestones, and a launch date that keeps slipping into the future. Sure, there is a part of a game that is playable, and some people have actual fun in it. Good for them. But the whole deal, even with multiple studios and hundreds of millions of dollars, looks doubtful of ever arriving as promised.

Meanwhile you have games like Stardew Valley that push out a manageable project to completion and then spend years afterward adding on those features to a stable base — and getting all of the sales and awards that they deserve. I really don’t understand why this can’t be done with bigger games too. I guess there’s nobody at these massive studios whose job it is to tell the creative people “No… at least for now.”