Marvel Heroes: Spider-Gwen to the rescue!

I haven’t done a lot with Spider-Man in Marvel Heroes, mostly because I was waiting on Spider-Gwen’s enhanced outfit to hit the stores. Enhanced costumes are sort of overlays for existing classes that change the look, gender, and/or voices for that hero but retain the same skills and abilities. I think it’s one of the coolest ideas that Gazillion has come up with, and they’re obviously a bit of a cash cow as well.

I don’t know much about Spider-Gwen other than she’s a new, alternate-universe version of Spider-Man and that I kind of dig her costume. Hey, not everyone makes turquoise work.

So I switched over to her on Monday night, brought along Franken-Castle for a team-up, and had Spider-Ham there for pet commentary. We were quite the crew blasting through Midtown Monday.

Thus far she’s not amazing (nor spectacular) but she is easy and somewhat satisfying to play. Since I don’t especially like melee in this game, I’m going with web-slinging for her primary combat abilities. Basically she’s a stationary turret flinging out webs like a weird silk machine gun.

What I really, really like about Spider-Gwen is her web travel animation. It’s smooth and she does all of these aerobics in the air which looks so much cooler than straight up flight or quick tuck-n-rolls.

With more characters at 60 and lots of boosters and the Midtown thing going on, Spider-Gwen shot up from level 8 to 24 within 30 minutes or so. It’s a good start, although she might have to take a backseat when Magik arrives on the scene.

Forging a better MMO combat system


The other night in WildStar guild teamspeak, a group of us got into it over the subject of combat systems in MMOs. I voiced my opinion that while there’s so much about WildStar that I love, it’s highly twitchy and constantly mobile action combat system is somewhere down toward the bottom of the list. I’m not terrible at it and I’ve made my peace with how it works, but to me it’s not as interesting or engaging as, say, tab-targeting GCD titles.

For example, every fight with my Engineer more or less goes the same. I hold down my main attack button so that it starts auto-firing and then I quickly jam out all of the remaining abilities in rapid order (usually between six and nine additional skills). Then I keep auto-firing while I wait for those ablities to recharge and continue to spam them out as they come back online. That’s it.

It might be nice not to have to wait for a global cooldown, but at the same time I lose any sense of how each skill impacts the fight because they’re all going off together. It’s just a bunch of button-smashing to get the DPS meter up, throw out some buffs and debuffs, and hope that things die quick.

Not every WildStar class or build is that frantic, of course, but even as I’ve tried other ones, I’ve found that the game’s combat ultimately requires more keystrokes as I’m constantly moving and firing off multiple rotations for a single encounter. This was even worse in The Secret World, of course, because those battles can be so long as to have their own epochs named after them. Probably the most I’ve come to liking an action combat MMO was Neverwinter, and that only because it utilized the mouse so much.

Part of my dislike of action combat is that it feels as though MMOs are trying to compromise to the dumber, simpler console titles — you know, the ones that look beautiful but are slowly and surely taking information and choice away from their gamers, as if they couldn’t be trusted. I’m not the only one who’s noticed how in Fallout 4 the game outright hides kind of important statistics and information when it comes to shaping your character through perks and stats. Nah, we’re just all going to button mash, so what’s the point, really?

Maybe that’s being willfully blind and a little bitter, but I don’t think — for MMOs and RPGs — that I’ll ever grow to like action combat as much or even more than the older systems. I love having hotbars that give choices and offer a slightly slower-paced but more strategic combat system. Positioning? Not every fight has to be a mimicry of a boss battle where you’re constantly dodging out of red circles (because this gets downright silly when you’re fighting dodos and level 10 bandits).

In WildStar I’ve even started to get stubborn about NOT moving out of telegraphs, a stubbornness that I can afford due to heavier armor and a lack of caring whether or not an attack will kill me. I’m rejecting the game trying to make me some twitchy bunny player. No, I’m more stoic: I want to plant my feet, tab onto a target, and start unloading skills until one of us is dead.

I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but for a comprise between the two systems, you can’t really do better than Guild Wars 2. Yes, that combat system had some issues — the telegraphs were messy and hard to see (especially when multiple ones overlapped) and identifying what skills people were using to chain off of was a pipe dream of the developers more than a reality of regular grouping. But the combat felt good. Animations, sounds, pacing, the amount of outgoing damage — it all had a really great feel to it. It was a little faster and more flexible than the traditional tab-targeting setup but less “ahh! run! duck! weave! juke! firefirefirefire!” than action systems.

That isn’t even to say that it has to be one or the other or a hybrid. There are other possibilities out there. Two other (much less used) systems include turn-based combat (such as Wakfu) and a kind of “wind them up and let them go” automatic combat.

Could a better MMO combat system be made? Maybe, but I really don’t mind sticking with what works and has worked well for years. If developers are going to try to improve these systems, by all means go ahead and try, but don’t just do it to try to be like the non-MMO crowd. I mean, who’s that worked for? Destiny?

Aw crap. We’re stuck with this type of thing, aren’t we?

Fallout 4: Radio made the wasteland star


One of the joyous benefits of having a newborn in the house is that it reintroduces you to hours that you previously were ignorant to, mostly due to being in deep slumber. Three a.m.? It’s amazing! And a perfect time to put in a little Fallout 4 gaming while bouncing a kid on your lap.

As the world’s pokiest gamer, I’ve yet to get past Concord, instead spending my time looking around, uncovering all the secrets I can, and stocking up on gear and ammo. I was pretty amused to discover a good old-fashioned speak-easy (was the Fallout alternative universe still under prohibition?). Amazing that after 200 years, that skeleton is still balancing a cigar in his mouth with aplomb.


What is this I don’t even.

A headless skeleton in a tub (the skull was in the toilet nearby) with machete-wielding manniquins standing over him. I kept expecting them to attack, but no dice.

Anyway, probably one of my favorite features of Fallout 4 is — without a doubt — the in-game radio station. You start out with two, one is classical music (pass) and one is a 50s-era station called Diamond City Radio. There are more, but I haven’t encountered any yet.

If you don’t have a radio station on, the default game soundtrack plays, but I gotta say that the experience is a lot more immersive by tuning into DCR while I’m crawling through sewers and scavenging old houses. The old timey songs are spot-on for the retro futuristic setting and the DJ — a nervous, halting, adorkable guy — keeps making me smile. Along with Dogmeat, he’s my constant companion, keeping me from feeling too alone in the wild.

I even got a kick when he mentioned that people had been seeing a person wearing a Vault 111 jumpsuit in the area, which is me!

The whole in-game radio feature is a staple of open world sandboxes such as Grand Theft Auto but hasn’t really made its way into MMOs. At least I can’t think of any that have official in-game radio stations (some unofficial ones, like with The Secret World, exist and are run live by players). The problem with adding such a feature is immediately obvious and two-fold:

  1. A majority of MMOs are fantasy and how does radio broadcasts work in that setting? It doesn’t, really.
  2. You’re still spending way more time in MMOs than you would an open-world single-player title, so any radio station would need to have an even larger body of music and voice work.

Still, it’d be pretty cool to have that option, especially if the devs could slip in in-game announcements as part of the DJ patter. Holiday event going on? DJ promotes it as part of the ‘cast! Or the radio station could highlight the community, special housing projects, or rile players up for some PvP. Lots of possibilities.

I wonder if developers have ever considered it. If done right, it could be pretty stinking awesome.

Retro Gaming: Master of Magic part 7


(This is part of my journey going checking out Master of Magic. You can follow the entire series on the Retro Gaming page.)

So my previous Master of Magic session got cut short because I got a call from my wife saying that she was heading into the hospital to give birth. And while that turned out to be a false alarm, I forgot to save my most recent progress in my haste to get to the hospital. So I lost a few turns… but I think I shall manage to recover. Let’s see if I can tick off Kali again by just exploring the map.


Yup! Best of friends we are, most definitely.

See, this is one of the aspects of 4X games that I really dislike: diplomacy. It never seems to work, no matter how recent the game. The computer is just too wonky and unreliable to try to reason with, unless you know the system intimately and can game it. Make an ally one turn, and they are your worst enemy the next. Explore waters, some crazy witch declares war on you.

Kali sends a magic spirit after one of my ships, but I use a couple of my spells (healing, stone armor) to win the day. She retaliates by sending two ships to beat up my one.


War bears? Pshaw, those were so last week. I got a basilisk now, baby!

Of course, it’s probably going to turn my entire army into stone, so that’s a problem.


One of the features that I dearly miss from more modern MMOs is the ability to order a unit to automatically explore the world. Having to click on where these ships should go every turn is such… a… pain.

Someone suggested that I use magic spirits, since they can travel fast over land and water. Sounds great, but I’m pretty sure that I don’t have those in my summoning book. I’m a pretty poor wizard.


For the life of me, she looks like she’s the leader of a sorority. Why can’t any of these other wizards greet me with a, “Hey, you look pretty cool, want to come over to my place for fondue? Why don’t we team up against all of the other wizards and rule the world together!”

Because I am always down for fondue.


Good news everyone! Braxwolf is back! Fear his crazy eye!


Another player appears on the scene. Rjak sends a fearsome army of… um… cute little sprites against one of my towns. I web the sprites, because I’m part Spider-Man, and my archers take them out with ease.

So, Rjak… fondue? No?

In the midst of the most adorable offensive ever, I move a settler onto another island and establish the hamlet of Chestnut. Hope she doesn’t mind that it’s at the foothills of a volcano!

And baby makes six


So everyone say “hey!” to the newest member of my family. Little Casey was born late last night after a movie-like dramatic water break and rush to the hospital. Everyone’s doing well, but I’ll be taking a little time off the blog to tend to the family!

More Bio Break goodness for ya!

My work on the new blog format continues, and today I have a few treats for all of my readers:

  1. I’ve added a ton of new concept art MMO headers, including ones from Star Trek Online, SWTOR, and World of Warcraft.
  2. The Retro Gaming page has been fully overhauled, with each title getting its own section with a graphic and a brief description.
  3. Nostalgia Lane now has its very own page.
  4. The site has been enabled for mobile, so it should adjust to tablets and smartphones.

Fallout 4: Luck be a lady tonight


As I indicated yesterday, I did decide to go ahead and reroll my Fallout 4 character about three hours into the game now that I had a better feel for the systems and what I wanted to do with her build. The main difference is that I’ve given her max (10) luck and will be focusing on luck perks because… why not? I like the idea of a super-lucky lady wandering around the apocalypse.

I did invest in a perk to find more ammo, because you always need more ammo. I’ll be trying to resist other perks for the limited future as I invest into my main stats more. I want every main stat to be at least at a 5 for a more well-rounded character. Then I can start having fun with perks.

Last night I mostly retraced my steps from the day previous, gearing up my character and completing a few quests. I did go one step beyond my previous progress by completing a mission for a local farmer who wanted his daughter’s locket back from some meanie raiders at a radar station some distance away.

Dogmeat and I trotted over there and stumbled upon a little camp of raiders in the middle of the night. I am no sporting person: I shot them all as they were scrambling to get up out of their sleeping bags.

Let me tell you that Dogmeat is a great companion — he throws himself into combat and cannot die (although he can be knocked out of the duration of a particular fight). I like sending him in to soften up the enemy before I charge into the fray.

I was ecstatic to get my hands on some shotguns finally, as those are my preferred weapon of choice in the wasteland. I’m going to have to head back and mod one out soon.

Next up on the docket is to explore Concord and see what glorious loot awaits me there!