Retro Reprise Episode 13: ’90s studio fanfares

After an incredibly long absence, Retro Reprise is back for a kind of weird episode — but aren’t those the best? On this week’s show, Syp listens to many video game studio logos and fanfares from the 1990s. These jingles may be short, but we heard them so many times they became burned into our brains! Which one was your favorite?

Show notes (episode download, episode page)

  • Intro (Sega Scream commercial)
  • Origin Systems
  • Rare
  • Capcom
  • Apogee
  • Hot-B
  • Blizzard Entertainment
  • Konami
  • Microprose
  • Interplay
  • Crystal Dynamics
  • LG Software
  • Micronet
  • Ocean Software
  • Seta Corporation
  • Sierra
  • Telegames
  • Warp
  • Outro
  • Special thanks to the Retro Video Game Logo Project!

DDO: Mad Tea Party

Mad Tea Party is another fantastic Ravenloft quest that shows off much of Dungeons and Dragons Online’s strengths: its storytelling chops, quest choices, non-standard settings, humorous writing, cool places to explore, and devilish puzzles. It was another one of those evenings where I didn’t care that much that the quest was going long because I was totally involved in it.

This one has an odd setup: A local lady is throwing a tea party and has invited the town’s baron to attend. The twist is that the two are fundamentally enemies (she is pro-Stahd, he anti-Stahd) but both are pretty awful human beings. As the quest and party progresses, you get the choice to betray one, the other, or both. I’m the harbinger of chaos and doom, so I decided to bring down the whole shebang.

I think that objectively, the lady is the worse of the two. She’s a literal devil worshiper, for starters, and has a house of horrors if you are daring enough to poke through it. You know the type: well-preserved corpses lying in rooms for no reason, skulls in chests, secret underground cult clubhouses.

Oh and she’s squirreling away a girl who thinks that she’s an angry cat. That’s my daughter, most days.

I think that this is the first DDO quest where I actually fought devils. You don’t see devils in a lot of MMOs, come to think of it. Demons, yes, but devils? Not as much. They’re pretty creepy looking, especially their teeth.

The Baron is more of a raging jerk than anything else. He locks up anyone who mocks or protests him, and his main enforcer has an arm that’s covered by these purple tumors for some reason. Oh, and he has a wizard son who keeps exploding the help while allegedly trying to teleport them out of a teleport-locked country.

I cannot tell you how disappointed I was that I couldn’t do anything with this mirror. My Use Magical Device skill was too low. But man! I wanted to!

Pity for your FACE, you mean. In the end, it was a lot of killing back and forth. I do appreciate that the quest seemed to offer branching choices, but I suspect that most players are going to be like me and just wipe out everyone in both manors.

It was cool to see the peasants cheering the demise of the Baron, but the dungeon master introduced an ominous note by saying that with a power vacuum in the town, there’s an opening for a strong leader to swoop in. Gee, wonder who that might be?

If we could bring MMOs back to life, what would it be like?

Since my head is stuck in MMO news, gaming, and discussion for a part of my day, I have been known to conjure up hypotheticals to keep me amused. After all, the news is often so weird and unexpected that my daydreams might one day happen — you never know!

One of those I’ve been pondering lately is what would happen, exactly, if a studio brought back online a rather popular long-deceased MMORPG. Say, City of Heroes or Star Wars Galaxies. Just out of the blue, “Hey guys, we’ll be reactivating the game next week, officially. See you then!”

While those two titles are almost certainly forever lost to us, it’s not the craziest of questions. We have seen dead MMOs revived (such as Asheron’s Call 2 coming back for a short run, or Shadowbane in other territories, or Hellgate: London). It all depends on whether the code is still out there, the servers capable, and the studio willing. Plus IP issues and all that. Anyway, it’s feasible, it’s possible, just not that likely.

But hey, who knows? I mean, we’re seeing an interesting surge of interest in classic servers, what with Old School RuneScape, World of Warcraft Classic, RIFT Prime, and the like. People miss what they used to have. They miss the old times. They want to go back. As a retro gamer, I get that. So maybe there are studios thinking that they could make a quick and relatively easy buck by flipping back on the switch to a game.

It would be the event of the year, I can tell you that. If City of Heroes came back next week? It’s all anyone would be talking about for a good month. Players still carry many torches for that game.

There would be a lot of questions and issues to work through. Who would handle it? Would old characters be available? Would it pick back up from the last patch? Would there need to be hardware and software improvements to handle the changes in the years that have since ensued? Maybe it wouldn’t be a “relatively easy” move to get some money, but still, this is my daydream.

People would rush in to play these games. Some would be coming back home while others just curious. And then there would be those players who never really got a chance to try out these titles but subsequently felt bad that they missed out back when it was operating. Not that that is me and SWG, oh no. Look elsewhere for your shame.

I think about this whenever Paragon Chat comes up in discussion or I log into that client. The second you’re in that program, you can believe that CoH never died. It’s still there, somewhere. Still online. And while it really is just a shell of the former game, it’s amazing how so little can trigger a wave of nostalgia and instant believe in its current operation.

I do wish, and not for the first time, that there was a place that old, unwanted, or unpopular MMOs could go to retire as an alternative to being shut down. A museum or a discount studio or something. It burns me that I can play an arcade-worthy Ms. Pac-Man on a keychain device these days but I can’t log in to, say, Marvel Heroes that shut down two years ago. (Speaking of which, can you imagine how much money Gazillion would be making from Infinity War tie-ins?)

Star Trek Online: Party like it’s 2385

Life moves pretty fast in the 25th century. I think it’s the 25th? I’m not even going to check. There are ray guns and space ships, so it’s the future sometime.

I’m dashing as fast as I can through the familiar old missions, and as I write this, I’m all the way up into the upper 30s. I kind of forgot how involved and long some of these missions can be, and sometimes I’m not going through them as quickly as I would like. With a month to go until the expansion, I don’t think I’ll have this character fully ready, but I’ll be happy if I’m in my endgame ship by the end of May.

One interesting feature that I’m experimenting more with this time around is the ability to freeze time in ground segments. Since it all takes place in isolated instances, there’s the ability to be able to do this, and that makes for cool picture taking opportunities — especially during combat. My only quibble is that sometimes there’s a lag between hitting the butting and having the time freeze take effect.

Even though I could have requisitioned the next tier up of ships, I’ve decided to stay in my Ambassador-class starship for the 30s. It’s simply one of my favorite Star Trek ship designs. I know I’m weird, but the Enterprise-C trumps all of the other Enterprises in its design. It’s just stately and sleek without being too curvy or too stark.

This is the U.S.S. Jorg, and I’ve taken far too many pictures of her sailing through space. She’s pretty durable, although that could be thanks to the purple gear rewards that the Delta Recruit event is paying out.

OK, one more picture, because this one is my favorite. The weather in space is cloudy with a 50% chance of rain.

The other night I took an excursion back to Spacedock. I don’t think I’ve commented on the redesign — it’s not that new at this point — but I definitely remember how Spacedock used to look, and boy is this so, so much better. They did a masterful job coming up with a space that makes for a great player hub that’s open, visually attractive, and offers quick access to key vendors.

I don’t think I’ve ever checked out the improved Club 47, so I made a point of doing so this time. Again, so much better than the old one, which I think was a disco floor and a few tables. This club definitely has an 80s neon feel to it.

If my character could look and dress like this, I would do so, full stop. Seriously, Cryptic, sell me these clothes!

My favorite environmental joke in the club is seeing a line of frustrated clubbers standing outside of the potty. Also, there’s only one potty for all of these races and genders. Seems like poor design.

6 things I want to accomplish in World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth

As we count down toward World of Warcraft’s late summer expansion, I’ve seen a lot of articles talking about what players should be doing to prepare (get normal sleep and live a normal life) and what Blizzard is doing to prepare (enlargening its bank vault to accept even more money). But what I haven’t seen as much is discussion about what people want to do when the expansion comes out.

Maybe that’s because there’s still a lot of unknowns and because the answer seems obvious (level, loot, raid), but here are six objectives that I would like to accomplish during the first year of Battle for Azeroth:

1. Take my time

This is always the hardest to follow, because there is such a huge race to the new endgame that it becomes easy to feel left behind and pressured to keep up. But really, with all of the new zones and quests, I want to just take my time, sightsee, get into the lore, and enjoy the journey. We’ll all be in the endgame soon enough — and for a long, long time.

2. Hang out with my guild more

I do have a really great guild… and I’ve been neglecting it. Part of that is because I’m often off in other MMOs, but part is that I didn’t get much into the raiding or mythic plus scene in Legion. I’m going to make an effort to put myself out there more and be more open to guild activity nights.

3. Take a look at both sides

Because I used my free level boost on my Warlock to help with allied race unlocks, I feel more than a little bit bound to pursuing that character. Plus, with all of my toons on the Alliance side, it’ll be nice to see what’s happening over on Horde side as well. So yeah, I think I’ll be sampling both sides. I don’t really care about their chest-bumping conflict to develop a strong allegiance to one side or the other.

4. Be better about keeping track of long-term objectives

Probably one of my stumbling blocks in Legion is that I wasn’t as attuned to some of the longer reward tracks that I should have pursued earlier on. Most of that came down to troubling myself to research guides — such as how to get class mounts — and it always ended up with me smacking myself on the forehead and going, “I wish I knew that sooner!”

This time, I’m going to sooner the crud out of it.

5. Level a Kul Tiran Druid

Been dying for a human Druid for a long time now, and the Kul Tiran forms look wicked awesome. That’s very high up on my list, although it all depends how soon this allied race is unlocked to play.

6. Make a list of old world objectives to accomplish

Blizzard’s trying out some new features that don’t, on the surface, seem to interest me. Warfronts are a huge “meh” and I have no idea how enjoyable island adventures will be no matter how much the devs fake enthusiasm in their videos. So I think it would behoove me to keep looking at legacy content in the game that I have yet to do and create a list of personal objectives. Even if it isn’t the newest stuff, it doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing.

6 things Star Trek Online does poorly

Now that I’m back in Star Trek Online and spending a lot of time going back through the storylines and building up a new ship, I’m convinced all over again that this MMORPG has really become a gem in the industry. I know it gets some flak for its lockboxes and cash shop, but honestly it doesn’t bother me that much or seem that prohibitive. There are so many great aspects of the game, yet I cannot help but see six areas that definitely need improvement.

Let’s gripe!

1. Cutscene glitches and lip syncing

Star Trek Online gets a lot of points in my book for going to great lengths to secure the actual actors from the show and for doing a whole lot of voice acting (in fact, I would say that STO has the most voice acting by the original cast of any IP-related MMO ever made, unless I’m forgetting a glaring oversight). Yet it often squanders that with abysmal lip syncing and visual glitches during cutscenes.

The mission briefing screens are fine, but any time the game decides to throw in a cutscene… boy. It’s usually pretty bad. Lots of overacting in the emote department and no link at all between the vocals being said and the way the characters are moving their mouths. My favorite glitch — and I’ve seen this many times — is when the game shows my character standing on top of the command chair with her head out of frame. They really need to throw some people at this.

2. A lack of true exploration

Star Trek is well-known and -liked for its focus on exploring the unknown… yet Star Trek Online has pretty much never had this. Its old exploration system was a laugh, and eventually Cryptic yanked it and replace it with a big “under construction — check back later.” It’s been years now and we still haven’t been able to really go exploring as ship captains. That’s a shame.

3. Explaining the stats

I’m willing to look stupid here by admitting that I have very little idea what all of the stats do in this game. Star Trek Online is one of those titles that has way, way, way too many stats (for both space AND ground), and once you get up in the levels, they stop being self-explanatory. What should I focus on? How do I build my ship? Eh, I’ll just trust that purples are “good” and hope for the best. It’s not like this game is ever going to explain it all to me.

4. The music

This is a Cryptic problem more than a Star Trek Online one, but man… the music in this game has never been that good. Oh, the main theme is dynamite and there are a handful of decent tracks, but for the most part it’s those blaringly awful Cryptic tunes that made me switch over to real Star Trek movie and TV themes while I’m playing.

5. Tight ground combat

I’m not one of those people who hates ground combat. I actually really do like controlling parties of fighters and seeing them all do their stuff. It’s also good to get out of the ship and see my avatar once in a while. Nice change of pace, that.

But my problem with ground combat is that it always feels loose and slippery. There’s too much rubberbanding and delay between what you see on screen and then actual effects happening. It all needs to be tightened up to be a lot more fluid and reactive, especially considering that all of this takes place inside instances.

6. Give you stuff to do inside your ship

Watch pretty much any Star Trek show, and a vast majority of each episode takes place on board the ships. Yet in the game so little of it ever does send you to the interior of your ship. I was thinking about this, doing the tutorial a few weeks back. That was pretty great because it did have a lot more interiors — and your bridge officers even talked. But now all the action takes place outside your ship, and I wish that wasn’t the case.

Also, we need a LOT more housing options on board ships. I’d love to be able to customize my interiors! But I guess I’m out of numbers.

Secret World: Dropping all pretense of subtlety

The wacky fun continues in the New Dawn compound as my handler shows up to chew me out for going off the grid on my own quest. Because heaven FORBID I do anything without the Templars holding my hand. The second I turn 18, I am so out of this house!

Now that I had gotten almost all the way to the mansion and come all the way back, now it’s time to return. But that’s not going to be easy. It’s time to drop all subtlety and do a full-on assault.

Looks like reality is dropping the pretense of having it together, because the Dreamer’s reality (or whatever the red sun and floating rocks are supposed to represent) are showing up a lot more now.

At least it gives me the opportunity to strike a pose against an awesome backdrop.

All right, Morninglight. Let’s do this.

This mission is a whole lot of fighting and action with several sub-bosses. Eyeless Joe Cannibal here returns for a creepy fight. He’s got a bit of a gut. Think he needs to go off Atkins.

And just when I think we’re already in the thick of the action, the game throws mortars and rocket launchers at me. WHY NOT. Seems totally fair, since there’s only one of me and a few hundred of them. Thanks, Templars, for sending me some backup!

At least I can turn the enemy’s armory around on it. Sorry, Marquad, I think your front gate is going to need some renovation.

Remember how The Secret World used to let you use auxiliary weapons? Secret World Legends hasn’t really brought that back, but at least in this quest I’m able to use a rocket launcher pretty much nonstop to wipe out packs of Bloodied mobs. I won’t lie, it’s pretty fun.

Nothing like fighting giant filth dinosaurs and genetically overcharged super-soldiers on the edge of reality itself. So very glad that bee flew into my mouth all those weeks back. Otherwise, I’d probably be at the farmer’s market and then going out to brunch with some friends.

If the main approach to the mansion doesn’t work — how about a secret entrance? Scooby Doo would totally approve.