WildStar: Yes, I will take more free stuff please

cosI’ve always seen getting account freebies as unnecessary but delightful toppings in addition to the core game experience. I won’t lie; starting new characters in LOTRO, RIFT, or SWTOR and seeing the pile of extras they get right from the start is exciting. It’s like a mini-Christmas where I already know what the gifts contain but pretend I have no idea.

So today we learned a bit more about what players will get for their “loyalty” to WildStar (i.e. “having spent money on the game and might spend money in the future”). Since I already consider money spent to have already given me plenty (game time/experience plus digital goodies from the deluxe edition), I don’t feel that any of this is needed. But if you’re handing it out? I will not complain. I love swag as much as the next gamer guy or gal.

Since WildStar is pretty much borrowing any and all F2P systems from other MMOs, this is a reprise of the loyalty meter that you might have also seen in, say, RIFT. It’s not a terrible thing. On one hand, you could look at it as pressure/incentive to spend more to get these tiered rewards. On the other hand, you could look at it as freebies for money you spent/were going to spend anyway. I prefer the latter, because I am never going to blow money on a game just to make a meter go up.

There are some nice rewards hinted at here, including costumes, pets, and account boosts. There’s also the new Osun house, which is far too big and ostentatious for my tastes. Considering that I bought the deluxe edition and have several months subscription under my belt, I should be somewhere around tier 3 or 4.

I’ve seen on twitter that some people are irked that CREDD redeemers only get 1000 points versus 3000 for those who sub up a month, but considering that CREDD purchasers also get 4000 points, I don’t see the issue. They’re giving more loyalty points to those paying real money for the CREDD and some extra for those who cash the CREDD in, 5000 points total. Maybe I’m missing something.

From a marketing perspective, this should help F2P by getting old players to come back — “Hey, you got some free gifts here. Just gotta log in to get them! And while you’re here, why not see what’s what?” Slick.

Project Gorgon: Today I will become a cow

g1Project Gorgon is the type of MMO in which you determine your own goals and shoot for them. So when I logged in last night, I had one overwhelming desire to fulfill: I wanted to become a cow. I had heard so much about player cows and even seen a few, but for all my talk, I was still walking around on two legs. I shoved all other tasks to the side and made it the sole direction of the play session to attain bovinehood.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t as easy as it sounded. Apparently way back when, the cow boss was in the newbie cave, but after too many players got cow-ified, the devs moved it somewhere else. That somewhere else turned out to be a hidden cave underneath some “creepy crystals.”

To access the cave, I had to go through a quest series. The first step was to chip off red crystals, which then transformed and became angry stags. No worries, I am becoming a master swordsman with a minor in psychology.

g2I do not know what this giant statue / petrified guy is all about, but he certainly dominates the landscape.

g3The next step of the quest was to head out to the crypts and obtain some blue crystals. That was a fairly long run — my kingdom for a mount, or at least a faster run speed. The place was crawling with trains of skeletons and spiders, although I was two-shotting them left and right, so they weren’t a huge problem.

People in chat told me that dying is the quickest way to port back to town, and sure enough, it was.

g4With both crystals obtained, a fire mage elf gave me a secret password to get into the hidden cave. Whew, I thought, at least the worst is over.

Except it wasn’t. Oh no. For you see, the hidden cave is just crawling with poison slugs, and these suckers don’t mess around. I could maybe — maybe — take one out before the poison sucked away all my life, but it was slow going, especially with respawns. Eventually I decided to run for it and hope that I could make it to the boss before succumbing.

The above warning screen told me that the boss was near, and with a meager 10 health left, I dashed into the chamber. I’ve never been so happy to die.

g5Maronesa, the cow boss, charged right at me. She’s one of many experiments that Davlos, a mad scientist sort, made. She gored and trampled me right good, and I gained the curse that I wanted for so long.

What was interesting is that I wasn’t instantly transformed into a cow, but instead got a cow-ntdown timer telling me that I was transforming. When it hit zero, I traded my human body for a beautiful bull.

g6ALL SHALL MILK ME AND DESPAIR.

I gained two skills at the transformation: cow attacks and beast speech. Beast speech levels up the more you talk in chat, which is amusing because the chat kept putting “moos” instead of my words. I’m guessing that the higher I am in beast speech, the less moos come out.

Interestingly, I retained my psychology combat skills. So I guess I’m a cow that can psyche out pigs and skeletons. This will be interesting.

g7Back at town, Harry the Wolf finally talked to me — he’s a werewolf and has some limited sympathy for my condition. He even has a cure, although he requires a lot of materials for it. I’m in no rush to lose my cow status, to be honest. I would love some cow armor, though.

g8Oh yeah, there’s a cow /dance emote. It’s hilarious.

Marvel Heroes: Looking to date a superhero with personality

doomWhat attracts a player to certain characters in Marvel Heroes? From my observations and personal experience, it’s one of three things (or, more likely, a combination thereof):

(1) The hero’s powers and playstyle

(2) The identification and association of the character from the comics or movies

(3) The hero’s personality

Personality is indeed a major factor in one’s decision to pick up and play a hero in this game. Unlike most MMOs, where your character is your own creation and infused with whatever personality you give it, in Marvel Heroes you’re assuming a preset role that comes with a backstory, one-liners, relationships with other heroes/villains, and a look.

Some people cannot stand to play certain characters because they really dislike that hero’s personality. I saw someone in supergroup chat the other night bag on Cyclops, not because his powers were weak, but because he’s an annoying arrogant jerk. It is hard to force yourself to play a character that you don’t actually like on a personal level.

Doctor Doom for me began as a character whose personality I disliked, but the more I’ve played him, the more his megalomania and over-the-top quotes charmed their way into my heart. Switching between him and Squirrel Girl feels like slipping on two radically different suits of personality, both enjoyable in their way. SG feels scrappy, upbeat, and cute while Doom looks down at the entire world and expects all to bow before him. How can the latter not inflate my ego as I play him?

As a side note, I’m always touched when one of his Doombots dies and says, “Doom will… avenge me!” Because Doom will. Doom is nothing if not loyal to those who serve him.

I was listening to a character play Hulk nearby and realized that, boy, I need to play him sooner or later for the quotes alone. Plus, my daughter ADORES Hulk and has oh-so-many questions about him and why his skin is green. She also got a “spider-hulk” action figure from a garage sale that she totes around everywhere. I did not think that the phrase “spider-hulk” would be uttered so much in our household, but such is the surprise of raising kids.

With Odin’s Bounty and MM lately, I’ve been fishing for loot to see if I could get any more summoning gear for Doom. Not much luck on that front apart from a unique that had +1 to summon powers, but I did snag one of these from ICP:

gotkI’m told a lot of people hate me right now. The irony is that I don’t have a character who needs this at the moment, so into the bank it goes!

SWTOR: Good, bad, I’m the girl with the gun

gr1In Army of Darkness, Ash sums up his role as an antihero with the phase, “Good, bad, I’m the guy with the gun.” In an alternate take, be blows off the head of a demonite and grows, “I ain’t that good.” Either way, he projects that attitude that while he may technically be on the light side, he’s only just… and he’s willing to toe the line if it amuses him or if the bad guys push him too far.

The antihero is fun to both watch and play because he or she isn’t as strictly constrained by rules as the pure goody two-shoes hero. In a game where the Jedi attitude sickens me with their dull pious arrogance, it’s decidedly fun to play good in a different — and dirtier — way.

gr2So my bounty hunter has won the Great Hunt — what, did you expect that there would be a lose condition with this? Where the bounty hunter class would return home in disgrace and spend the rest of the hours in the game choosing snack options while watching the TV? — and been inducted into the super-sekret winners club. What does this mean? Well, more of the same, really: More contracts, more assassinations/kidnappings.

As a side note, I love how characters in SWTOR always make a big deal out of how much money they’re going to give you for various tasks, but it’s always a pittance based on the level. Talk big, pay little. That’d be a good summary of the reward system.

gr3I picked up a new companion, Torian, aka “Pretty Boy.” Here I am stepping on his face and showing him who’s boss. I do not think he’s going to supplant Gault as my companion of choice.

Man, SWTOR, what I wouldn’t give for more than one companion to be out at a time! I miss that from other BioWare games, where the companions would bicker and talk between each other. Here I have to make a tough choice who to bring and it always makes me feel like I’m missing out.

gr4Because who would want to miss out on Gault? Nice to know he’s got a quip ready for when a sniper repeatedly takes me down on Taris.

gr5So a product endorsement on Quesh turns out to be a silly trap by the Republic SIS and a Jedi padawan that I spared in an earlier chapter. Seriously, girl? I saved your life and this is how you repay me? I do not feel bad clicking the button to insta-kill you.

I’ve been thinking a lot about choices in storytelling games as of late between SWTOR and Telltale’s Walking Dead Season 2. Both games really want to lend the player agency in making decisions but struggle with how to genuinely allow the player to alter the story. In most cases, it’s cosmetic flavor — the story is a raging river flowing to the same destination no matter what while players can nudge the waters here and there for a different kind of splash.

It’s got to be terribly hard to try to come up with choices that won’t result in a massive branching off of the story into two or more divergent segments. That sort of branching might be more possible in a Choose Your Own Adventure book, where the resources required are some typing and a flow chart, but out of the question in games where you have to pay voice actors and take the story to a set conclusion, more or less.

BioWare’s made some noise about putting more into its choices and consequences with the fall expansion, so we’ll see if the devs have managed to crack this code.

gr6In other news, I’m now on Hoth and have met Blizz. I am a very happy Bounty Hunter indeed, because all I’ve ever wanted is a crazy Jawa at my side.

Retro Gaming: Star Trek 25th Anniversary part 5

ha1(This is part of my journey going checking out Star Trek 25th Anniversary. You can follow the entire series on the Retro Gaming page.)

One interesting thing about Star Trek 25th Anniversary is that even though it’s split into six or seven episodes, there are a few running threads that connect some of them. One of these threads is the Elasi pirates, who make a return in Another Fine Mess.

I kind of wish they didn’t make a mess, because after I interrupt them beating up a scout vessel, I have to fight two of them off. Did I mention how much I hate the ship combat parts of this game? I did a bit of poking around, and one suggestion was given to put the ship in full reverse which makes targeting more difficult. That seemed to work and I chased the pirates away…

mud1…only to come into contact with Harry Mudd. Mudd was one of the few recurring guest stars in Star Trek TOS, having been in two episodes as a sort of comedic merchant. He’s kind of the Q to Kirk’s Picard, for TNG fans.

Harry is on board a derelect vessel, up to no good, no doubt. Kirk and the away team beam over to see what’s what.

mud2Mudd says that he’s been taking items off this derelect as his rightful salvage (which Kirk reluctantly backs up), but after selling them, the Elasi pirates began to gun for him for reasons unknown. So time to investigate the ship and see what riled these pirates!

mud3Spock and Kirk find an alien weapon system that’s activated by a toddler’s triangle pad, so naturally they try to unhook the thing, carry it over to the Enterprise, and jury-rig that puppy to become the baddest starship in the whole darn sector. Too bad that communication to the Enterprise seems to have been jammed.

mud4Yes, I think it’s fair to say that these aliens have a full-on triangle fetish. Also, doesn’t that view screen look like the side panel of a TIE fighter? Spock notes that the aliens really like the number six (and 3, and 12), which now makes me feel like I’m on an episode of Sesame Street.

mud5After some good ol’ fashioned tricorder computer hacking, Spock and McCoy find out more information on the aliens, get control of the ship, and find plans to a weapon booster. The aliens have six eyes and six fingers, which seems like descriptive overkill. McCoy says that with those eyes they have 360 degree vision, which I would like to debate since all of the eyes are in the front of the alien’s head. Magic eyes, perhaps?

mud6Meanwhile, Mudd’s been up to no good. He tries to take a vial from the alien sickbay but drops it, releasing a gas that drives him psychotic. Even his head does a full-on Exorcist turn. It takes Spock to nerve pinch him into unconsciousness, after which McCoy patches him up.

With some new weapon tech (which Scotty ties into the Enterprise’s photon torpedoes) and data on the alien race, the away team returns and heads away victorious.

Retro Gaming: Star Trek 25th Anniversary part 4

love1(This is part of my journey going checking out Star Trek 25th Anniversary. You can follow the entire series on the Retro Gaming page.)

I really dig the episodic structure of Star Trek 25th Anniversary. It not only helps the game from being bogged down and makes one feel like they’re getting multiple games for the price of one, but it also helps me immensely by splitting the title up into easy-to-blog sections.

Here we go with the third episode, Love’s Labor Jeopardized. Admiral Homework comes on the screen to say that the research station Ark 7 is the target of a Romulan raid and we’d best get there ASAP.

love2Once there, the Romulans pop up for another one of the game’s tedious ship-to-ship battles. As with pretty much any adventure game trying to shoehorn in action bits, this part of the game is by far the most lacking. It’s made worse in this instance by the fact that the Romulan ship keeps cloaking, which means I can’t really do anything until it pops back up.

After the ship is destroyed, the Enterprise heads to Ark 7. An automated message warns of a biohazard, and a nearby Romulan ship suggests that there are still bad guys around. That’s just the way Kirk likes it.

love3Is it just me, or does the Romulan warbird there look like a bug that’s just gone *splat* all over the windshield of the station?

The station looks abandoned and the computer log mentions that there’s been a horrible accident involving a virus that affects both Vulcans and Romulans. At that, Spock says, “See ya later, suckas!” and beams back. Wait, no he doesn’t. But he really should.

love4Trying to go down a ladder nearly results in Kirk getting phasered by Romulans. Guess they’re content to hang out down there, so we’ll leave them be for the time being. Meanwhile, Spock starts coughing and McCoy remarks that he’s getting worse. Tell me that there isn’t a time limit on this mission!

love5Basically the mission is to try to find a cure for the virus before Spock and the Romulans bite it. It’s a somewhat tedious “science” mission with lots of synthesizing and gas-swapping and other things I won’t bore you with. As Kirk makes water as only a space-faring man can, his away team play Candy Crush on their smartphones.

love6McCoy shows grace and tact by cracking jokes as Spock is dying on his feet.

love7Eventually Kirk — not Spock or Bones — figures out the cure, gasses the Romulans, and makes all their boo-boos go away.

love8It’s only in the last 30 seconds that the name of the episode makes any sense, as this is Carol Macrus’ station and she and Kirk have a brief and somewhat awkward reunion. The game takes the opportunity to foreshadow Star Trek II a bit, but really, more could have been done with it. And more could have been done with that horrible Carol Marcus model.

Mission complete!