Posted in Fallout, Neverwinter, Star Trek Online

Snapshots from MMOs: Star Trek Online, Neverwinter, Fallout 76

Bouncing around to various titles leaves a debris field of posts in WordPress, and sometimes I like to compile those and clean up some space. So here are a few snapshots of games that I’ve dipped lightly into over the past couple of weeks.

I’ve been watching and greatly enjoying Star Trek: Strange New Worlds lately, which feels like a return to form for the wayward franchise. And so that’s certainly sparked more interest in playing Star Trek Online — this time with a new character named Doxology. I had to go through the entire tutorial, however, because the Delta event was running and didn’t allow me the option to skip past it. Ah well.

I did set her up with the Pathfinder science ship as a good middle ground with firepower and a launchable fighter pet. I think the odds are good for her getting a full run this year, although it may well be an off-and-on experience.

Speaking of Cryptic, I poked into Neverwinter after seeing the D&D movie. It’s been long, too long, on my to do list to roll up a Neverwinter Bard and take another run through this MMO. I last visited Cryptic’s D&D realm back in spring of 2020, but you’ll forgive me if I don’t remember much from that year.

In any case, it’s been more than long enough to justify a reroll, so I conjured up a tiefling Bard from the ether, slapped a lute and rapier on her, and got to work seeing what’s changed. Happily, all my account unlocks were still intact, including my armored spider mount that gives me the warm fuzzies late at night.

I’ve done zero research into the Bard, mind you, and that’s probably not going to change soon. I like to see what I can learn from tooltips and hands-on experience. From the get-go, it seems like she’s mostly a magic user with some close-range sword attacks if desired.

And then there was some time on my Fallout 76 character. She’s doing fine for a newbie, a lot better now that she’s got a shotgun, but the glee of coming back to the game wore off pretty quickly. Still, I had some fun taking screenshots along the way.

Upon the recommendation of several F76 guides, I went over to a fancy resort where apparently there’s this huge mall in the basement with every type of vendor available. And, as a bonus, it’s one of the few locales that offers free fast travel. I liked checking out the shops, such as the above cabin-themed outdoorsy locale.

Posted in Star Trek Online

Beam me back to Star Trek Online

Considering that I’ve barely touched Star Trek Online since 2019 or so, it feels like a ripe time to return to an old favorite — and do what I always do, which is to start a new character from scratch. I rerolled Myfanwy as an original series Andorian and dipped myself back into Cryptic’s outer space gem.

I couldn’t resist going with original series, as it was *my* Star Trek for the longest time. Plus, I dig the retro style and kind of wish that Cryptic had created more than five missions for it. I would’ve loved to stay in this setting far longer. At least I get a really neato phaser rifle.

There are five missions set in the 23rd century, so I’m not going to begrudge that. It’s a really fun way to start a new character, and I’ve only ever gone through these once or twice before. I hopped into my not-quite-as-good-as-the-Enterprise ship and got to some Gorn-busting.

The cutscenes in STO are always a good time to take some screenshots, especially since you don’t have to worry about the UI or moving the camera.

My daughter’s been playing through the same content with me, and while she’s not that familiar with the original series design, she still finds it kind of retro-cool. I can’t help but think that Teenage Me would’ve been geeking out over this, big-time. They did such a great job replicating all the ’60s sound and visual effects.

This game is the best kind of fanservice, really.



Posted in Star Trek Online

Star Trek Online: Exam season

Every prolific gaming blogger out there knows all too well how your drafts folder can fill up with half-started posts that, for whatever reason, get abandoned or neglected. While I was cleaning out mine the other day — taking it from 84 posts down to about 20 or so that I actually intend to finish — I noticed this Star Trek Online post sitting in drafts from back in February.

I guess I was playing through some of the Discovery-related content, took a whole bunch of interesting screenshots, and then totally forgot to write up descriptions and post it. So instead of abandoning it, I am dusting it off and posting it today — even without personal context.

Context needed for this screenshot, obviously. I like to think that this is the start of a new Breakfast Club.

Choices! I like choices in a game. Wish we got more of these.

Sparkly action scene with short shorts. Starfleet standard attire.

Dang, Star Trek Online gets bloody at times…

…and creepy, too.

Posted in Fallout, No Man's Sky, Project Gorgon, Star Trek Online, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Villagers and Heroes

Six MMOs that want my attention in 2021

Boy do I feel like I’m in a weird place with MMO gaming right now. Call it a summer malaise or what have you, but it’s that mixture of guilt, restlessness, and a hunger for fresh blogging material that keeps turning my mind to MMOs I’m not playing — but kind of feel that I should. Or might. Perhaps. Maybe at some point later this year.

The delay of New World really threw my summer plans into disarray. Now I’ve got over a month before gearing up for that, so I have some extra time that I could be using elsewhere. Not that LOTRO or FFXIV doesn’t offer enough content to fill those hours, but… restlessness. Freshness. I don’t like getting too stale.

In any case, here are six MMOs that I’ve been contemplating as titles that I want to get to sooner or later:

No Man’s Sky

The recent fifth anniversary thrust this title back in front of my eyes. It always seems like a game that I should like and stick with more than I have in the past, and so it’s always on the docket for another go. I think this might actually be a really fun blog series if I wanted to do a journal run of it.

Fallout 76

It’s been a while since I’ve done any serious F76 play, and this is a good contender for bite-sized explorative play. I’ve never hit level 50 on a character, and I would like to see how the level scaling works from the start. I’m still kind of holding out for a guild and chat system, but that’s not on the immediate horizon, so my feelings are more lukewarm than “MUST PLAY NOW.”

Star Trek Online

My daughter and I have been watching through some Star Trek: The Next Generation — she’s kind of interested in Trek, so I’m low-key encouraging it — and it’s certainly having the result of making me want to head back into the MMO… at some point. Probably in about six episodes, if my track record is a witness.

Project Gorgon

Label this one under a big, all-caps “GUILT,” because boy do I feel guilty that I’m not actually playing this. Allegedly, I’m waiting for a bonafide launch, but that’s just an excuse. The truth is that I know I’m going to have to learn a whole bunch of new systems and figure out what to do, and that takes mental energy I’m not super-willing to expend. Right now. But I should.

Star Wars: The Old Republic

New expansion will come with new hype. But the appeal for me, right now, would be that SWTOR is a good MMO substitute for when I’m craving WoW again. I’m not quite at that point — LOTRO is probably helping, here — but it’s quite possible that I’ll be blasting my way through this during the holiday season.

Guild Wars 2

Another case of “new expansion news brings actual hope that this game has a future instead of stagnation.” I genuinely hope it does. I don’t really care for GW2’s story, but I love so much about this game and want to see it pull out of this nose-dive it’s been in the past few years. Considering that I’m reinstalling it as I’m typing this, there’s a better-than-average chance I’ll be puttering around doing map completion before too long.

Posted in Star Trek Online

Star Trek Online: These are the voyages of the Kuchi Kopi

It is time. After taking a full year off playing Star Trek Online in 2019, I felt that it was a perfect time — especially with the 10th anniversary in full swing — to return. And you know me, that means starting alllll over again instead of picking up where I left off. It’s just more satisfying that way, you know?

Plus, this time I can test out the newish ability to play a Tier 6 ship all the way from the start through endgame without swapping out ships numerous times. I have a trio of T6s unlocked on my account, so after some deliberation, I went with the updated Pathfinder (science) ship. It wasn’t a carrier, which is my usual preference, but I always have loved the look and function of science ships, and this one even comes with an aeroshuttle combat pet. So it’s like a mini-carrier in that regard.

The first night I came back to STO, I don’t think I did a single mission. Instead, I spent a couple of hours working on making a character and designing her outfit. This above look was a work-in-progress — the picture at the top of this post is my final result.

So meet Myfanwy, captain of the Kuchi Kopi (a nod to Bob’s Burgers). I had fun customizing the ship as well, choosing more “chunky” elements and those really neat nacelles that have stabilizer-like fins that move when it goes in and out of warp.

It’s pretty astounding to think that we’re already a full decade into this game. When Star Trek Online launched in 2010, it was a far more ramshackle deal with half-baked systems and lopsided factions. Now we have an MMO that’s fleshed out with expansions, races, eras, hundreds of shops, and a half-dozen factions.

I do think that a giant hologram proclaiming the name of the game and its age is a bit immersion-breaking to put right in the middle of Stardock, but I’ll allow this indulgence.

Finally, my voyages were underway. I’m tempted to jump into the 10th anniversary stuff, but it’s not going anywhere and I want to get into the groove with this crew first. Right now, I’m logging in to do about two missions a night and then moving on to a different game. No sense chugging when there’s no urgency for it.

I will say that I have missed the gameplay — the stories, the ship battles, and yes, even the ground combat. I think the ground combat gets a lot of jibing when it’s honestly not that bad. There aren’t many MMOs that let you lead around your own personal army all the time, so as a pet guy, I always feel like I’m fielding a crew of them.

And let’s not forget all of the cameos. Hearing Spock’s voice from time to time gave me a bit of a heart-twinge at Nimoy’s passing, but it’s good to know that he and others have a legacy in this game as well.

A friend said the other day that Star Trek Online’s writing team does an amazing job bringing all of the different shows and plot threads together — and that it often does this far better than the shows do (especially the newer ones). I kind of agree with this. The Discovery/Picard era shows feel so far removed from Star Trek even though they can be enjoyable on their own terms. But I’m having a hard time mentally meshing them with what came before. Maybe the MMO can be the bridge there.

Posted in Neverwinter, Star Trek Online

Cryptic calls it quits on the Foundry, and that is a shame

Man I am getting sick of promising features (and games that contain them) being shuttered. If MMORPG developers are ever going to crack the problem of ravenous gamers consuming content at a blazing pace, then chances are player creativity is going to be the tool to solve it.

We’ve seen this in plenty of places, from the successful (Minecraft, Roblox, Trove) to the sunsetted (Landmark, City of Heroes). Players like to create and many would leap at a chance to expand their favorite game worlds via their handmade quests, so why not facilitate that?

To its credit, Cryptic’s long been in the player created content business. City of Heroes did spawn Mission Architect to let supers make their own maps, and while that was a problematic system, it was popular enough to make it into both Neverwinter and Star Trek Online as The Foundry. I’d only briefly engaged in both ends of this system (creation and consumption), but I liked that it was there and felt that so much more could be done to sift the really good created quests from the cruddy ones that littered up the place.

But after the first year or so of these games’ operation, you could tell that Cryptic didn’t really have the heart to keep The Foundry in the forefront. It did make some half-hearted attempts to promote it, but after a while it was demoted to one of those systems that you know will never get an update or a revision. It was a withering appendage.

And now that appendage is gone, as the studio is ending both games’ Foundries. The official excuse is that the people who helped to create and maintain this system are no longer with the company and it’s a pain to update. There’s a ring of truth to that, but it also sounds like a convenient excuse to do what Cryptic always does — which is to get frustrated with a system that isn’t working out as well or is as popular as it hoped and then just can it with vague promises of maybe doing a better version in the future. STO players are still waiting on that exploration system, by the way.

I’m not crying buckets over this, but I have to say that it is a real shame that both of these games are losing this. For starters, plenty of players — such as the MMO blogosphere’s Tipa! — put in countless hours crafting their own narrative experiences to share with others. This sunset wipes all of that work out while the games endure.

Also, this isn’t an idea that should be given up on. I think Daybreak had it right when it saw that player-created content was a rich resource to be harvested, and even though the Landmark/EverQuest Next experiment didn’t pan out, that doesn’t mean the studio was wrong about this. The Foundry needed help, maybe even a total rewrite. But you look at Star Trek Online, which might get one new mission every two or three months, and you can see that there’s a real need for more content to fill the gaps.

How these player-created content systems can be wielded, promoted, and utilized in MMOs is a speculation essay for another day, but suffice to say that some serious thinking and planning would need to be done to avoid gross exploits while promoting quality.

In the meanwhile, these games have one less item to put on their feature list. And while Cryptic may deny it, it’s a pretty significant loss for the potential of both titles.

Posted in Star Trek Online

Star Trek Online: Armistice

For an expansion that only has six (now seven) missions as its main story content, you’d think that Star Trek Online would have to make every episode in Victory is Life absolutely count. With so few, they’d have to all be slam-dunk winners, right?

Well, I’m two episodes in, and so far I am incredibly underwhelmed. In fact, Armistice is one of the lamest missions that I’ve played in the game to date. Part of the problem is that this expansion is so deeply Deep Space Nine-focused that it comes off as a lot of fanservice that, as a person who hasn’t seen most of the series, will not get nor appreciate. Usually Star Trek Online is pretty good in bringing us non-viewers up to speed, but this quest was some sort of weird coda to one of the show’s episodes. And it was pretty dull.

Armistice had me heading into the Gamma Quadrant (which I couldn’t explore, as the mission auto-warped me right to the planet in question) where I was supposed to rescue the old Bajoran priest who was intentionally marooned here but now I guess they want to un-maroon her. Oh, and they had given her and her companions immortality via nanites. You’d think that all of the universe would be using these nanites by now, but I guess not? As I said, it’s very confusing if you’re dropped into the middle of it.

Anyway, getting her out is compounded by the pesky Hur’q, the new villains of this expansion. Like what I’ve seen so far, they’re kind of generic bug-aliens. Underwhelming. Lots of swarming and hyperactive jumpers.

Kira and Bashir come on this mission for some reason, and Kira — looking like a cartoon action figure — activates her bizarre pink lightning sonic power. Honestly, I have no idea what’s going on in this picture here.

Part of the dullness of this mission is that it’s very lopsided in favor of ground exploration and combat on a planet that’s just not interesting in the least. Oh well. I entertained myself by firing a miniature Death Star laser all around the place.

The worst part of the mission was the boss fight against this overseer insect up there. He hit so hard with multiple cone attacks, and any time we respawned, we were right at his feet and had no time to regroup and prepare. Basically, it was one of those instances of “throw your bodies at the boss often enough and hope that you get lucky sooner or later.” Took me about a dozen tries.

Back in space, there’s a hectic fight against a huge Hur’q fleet. Lots and lots of ships vs. me, my fighters, and the reprogrammed drone satellites. Everything was so small that I couldn’t really see it. As a carrier, I kind of have to take it on faith that my ships are actually fighting and not just doing donuts and figure eights.

I guess I save the day. Kira stops being a priest and goes back to being a captain, which is good for her because she looked like a gerbil in that getup. Then the wormhole opens and Sisko talks to the two Bajorans in a brief and unilluminating cameo. I get that they didn’t bring Avery Brooks back and so could only use voice clips for the show, but what was all that about?

I don’t get how this mission moved any sort of plot along, and even if it did, it wasn’t worth going through for the story or rewards. Two down, five to go!

Posted in Star Trek Online

Star Trek Online: Storm clouds gather

Let’s face it: Deep Space Nine has seen much, much better days. But in a way, its better day also arrived with the new expansion, Victory is Life. Apparently the developers spent insane amounts of time and effort revamping the interiors to be as show-accurate as possible, which I’ll have to take their word about since I’m still only in Season 2. Hey, it’s HARD watching hour-long shows when you have four kids and always put gaming above TV time.

I do find it funny that the show has this obsession with baseball, as if that would be the sport that would survive to the 24th or 25th century. I mean, I like baseball, but it’s just such a random pick. You’d think that soccer or quidditch would have beat it out in popularity.

I spent some time touring the revamped DS9, which looked just as fine as the old one did (again, to my eyes). Good to know that even in the future, the Papyrus font endures. And is that Comic Sans?

No story here other than this little corridor offered me the chance to take one of my all-time favorite screenshots. LOVE. IT.

Anyway, let’s talk about this mission itself. Cryptic’s been billing this expansion as the closest thing to a Deep Space Nine sequel/movie/reunion that it’s ever going to get, and with 12 voice actors returning, I suppose that’s the truth. It’s been 25 years since the show first went on the air and 30 in-game years, so it’s been a while. Everyone’s older and settled into their new lives, but an old threat brings them back.

That’s how you do a reunion episode, by the way. You’ve got to reunite the band and come up with a reason why all of these people who had previously gone their separate ways would come back for one last ride. In this case, it’s the threat of the Hur’q, yet another faction of weird-looking bad guys that has the Dominion wetting its pants and other races concerned about unchecked aggression.

Really, I just want an expansion about the accordion-playing Klingon. Victory is Music.

I know Cryptic’s artists do the best they can with the models of the actors (aged forward three decades, of course), but some just look better than others. Bashir did not come off as well, with his huuuuuge forehead and weird beard. Odo looks more plasticy than normal, Kira’s got that goofy Bajoran headgear on, and the Ferengi… well, they look just as ugly as on the show. I suppose the artists were rushing through some projects to spend that extra bit of time on Chase Masterson’s model.

“Guys, she looks good enough as it is. Time to move on.”

“One more pass, Scott. I haven’t quite captured the transcendent beauty of her arches.”

“Go home. Your family misses you, man.”


Reunion aspect aside, the episode itself was mostly a prologue with your standard ground action and massive space battle. Actually, the space battle WAS really crazy. I kind of just park myself somewhere and fire at will while sending fighters out to swarm the bad guys, and that seems to work.

Posted in Star Trek Online

Star Trek Online: Survivor

As promised, I extracted the U.S.S. Firefly from Star Trek Online’s drydock this past weekend and took her out for her first mission in many months. I figured that with the new expansion launching this week, it just made the most sense to switch back to my highest-level character and ship that was mostly ready for it all.

To get back into this character/ship’s groove, I perused my mission list and noticed that I had missed this episode, which I guess was added a year or so ago. It turned out to be one of the better stories that I’ve experienced in this game, combining Yesterday’s Enterprise, the Tholians, and time travel. All of the dependable Star Trek ingredients for a good romp.

I guess this mission could be considered the sequel to the rather excellent Temporal Ambassador. That one, too, was all about Yesterday’s Enterprise, Tholians, and time travel, having the player crew assist Tasha Yar and Daniels in escaping an alternate universe and taking the Enterprise-C back in time to fight and be captured.

Well, Survivor picks up on this story thread and fill in some of the gaps to the whole Tasha Yar/Sela story. We know that Yar was captured by the Romulans, became a concubine, had Sela, and supposedly die, but I guess STO’s writers wasn’t happy with this thin story.

Instead, while investigating temporal anomalies around a Romulan prison planet (which is drawing Tholians like flies), we find out that Yar and company were plopped down here and left to rot after the Romulans abandoned the prison (and the guards!) after a time. Sela, Yar’s daughter, joins the away team to investigate the aftermath of all of this.

And Daniels is here, too. I kind of get the feeling that the actor who played Daniels was so delighted to get an expanded role in Star Trek Online that he never left the studio. He seems to be in an awful lot of episodes, kind of like Cryptic kept making time travel ones just to work him in.

I’ve always thought that there is irony in the fact that while Denise Crosby (who played Yar/Sela) left the first season of TNG, she seemed to spend the rest of her acting career trying to get back to it. She got to come back for Yesterday’s Enterprise and the Sela episodes, and Star Trek Online certainly is making the most out of her appearances. At least Sela in this particular mission isn’t that unbearable. She’s here against her will, but you can sense a curiosity when she starts uncovering the details of her mother’s lengthy stay on the planet.

The mission, for the most part, bounces back and forth between reading datapads of Yar’s life as the situation on the planet became more and more desperate and the danger of pocket temporal anomalies that were a major cause of death for the survivors. Some really well-done cutscenes on this mission.

Oh, and there’s some crazy Vulcan admiral from the parallel universe who’s making the anomalies or something. I was far less interested in her story. Darned space elves.

You kind of feel really bad for Yar and Richards for how all of this went down. Can’t think of anything less heroic than wasting away and eventually dying off, forgotten, on a jungle prison world.

I really thought that the mission was going to have Yar pop out of the shadows and officially rejoin the timeline, but no… it’s time to press “F” to show respect. Yar, you died too many times, and yet you were scrappy and wanted back in the limelight. I respect that.

The mission ends with a tantalizing cutscene showing Sela, in an “undisclosed location,” talking to an unnamed, unseen character (presumably Data) about her mother. Aww. Getting sentimental, are we?

Posted in Star Trek Online

Star Trek Online: The search for better music

Last week when I was griping about a few of Star Trek Online’s worst features, my sour opinion on the game’s music seemed to hit a chord with at least a few readers. I know my Battle Bards co-host Steff disagrees with me — she seems to like this OST, although I suspect it’s mostly for a couple signature tracks — but honestly I’m surprised how irritating and non-Star Trek most of these pieces are.

While I hate to turn off the soundtrack in an MMO, preferring to let the game present itself to me in its fully intended glory, I haven’t been able to listen to STO’s music for years now. Any time I come back, the music is always deactivated, and I provide my own score for the stars.

What I’ve been doing as of late is substituting the music from the Star Trek series and movies, and I have to say that it works remarkably well. In particular, Ron Jones’ TNG soundtracks transform this game with their very unique and memorable qualities. Berman reportedly disliked how much attention Jones’ music was getting, and Jones was let go after TNG season 4. That’s a shame, because most of the rest of the music from that show was pretty generic and forgettable. His stuff? Still well worth listening to today, even if it is totally synth 80s, through and through.

I took this approach with Star Wars: The Old Republic, too. SWTOR’s soundtrack isn’t bad (and I quite like the newer stuff, to tell the truth), but when it got a little dour, repetitive, or lengthy, I would switch over to a playlist that used the movie music as a perfect substitute.

Star Trek simply deserves great music. The franchise has seen some masterpieces (Star Trek’s I, II, III, VI, Ron Jones’ work, the theme songs), but it’s not as consistently great as it should be. Likewise, the game needs killer audio to go with its gorgeous visuals. I’ve put three screenshots from recent adventures in this post, and you can tell that this game is not lacking in those cinematic vistas. Bad music or no music at all detracts from it, while stirring symphonies transform these adventures into unforgettable experiences.

It’s probably just a pipe dream to hope that Cryptic will bring on board a composer(s) who would do this game justice at this point. Kevin Manthei has his strengths, but he is not suited for MMORPG composition at all. Maybe one day, STO will sound as good as it looks. Until then, my substitutions will have to suffice.