Marvel Heroes: Big 10 withdrawal and Ant-Man incoming

doopAfter the ending of Marvel Heroes’ second anniversary month celebrations AND a whole week of Big 10 events, this week has felt downright lackluster in the game in comparison. I’ve seen mention of it in the chat channels as “Big 10 withdrawal” or “Big 10 depression,” and I get that (tongue-in-cheek, of course). One gets used to loot exploding out of every game orifice — even more than usual — and then gets a little bummed when that doesn’t remain the new norm.

I tried to take advantage of Big 10 as much as I could, mostly by continuing to run Squirrel Girl through cosmic terminals in her quest to get that darn Octobot Controller. 420 runs so far, nada. At least number 500 isn’t too far away.

Even though I haven’t seen that unique drop yet, it was a wonderful week even so. I got so many cosmic worldstones that I was able to buy a new pet (cosmic doop, top right), and one of the free fortune cards I got from the events spat out a STASH Access Card pet. It’s a pretty stupid “pet” in the looks department, but it does have stats AND functionality as a portable bank, so I’m willing to overlook it.

One of the terminal runs also rewarded me with my next must-get unique, Spear of the White Gorilla Tribe, so I was able to scratch that off my list. Really, I just need the controller (and I don’t *need* it as much as want it), toss on a couple more blessings, and… I guess she’ll be pretty kitted out. Need more relics and omega points, but that’s just clean-up, really.

I do feel as though I’m swimming in team-ups. The advance pack I bought a couple of weeks ago has already gifted me with Quicksilver, Angel, and Sam Wilson, and that’s on top of the nine I already owned PLUS the new Iron Man Mark 2. Leveling them up seems a lot slower than leveling up my heroes, for some reason. I don’t really mind, except that some of the team-ups’ voice cues are more annoying than others, and some (Iron Man, I am SO looking at you) won’t shut up.

antsI was toying around with pre-buying Ant-Man for his upcoming release. It’s about $16 and change right now, which feels high for a character that I know nothing about, including what his playstyle will be. Looks interesting tho, but then, I have plenty of heroes that already need my attention. I don’t really mind slowly saving up eternity splinters to pace out the accumulation of new heroes, because it’s not like I’ve exhausted all of the content or even leveling on the ones that I have.

I heard that Ant-Man will go for 400 splinters, so perhaps the better course will be to simply save up for him as my next purchase. I only have 362 more to go!

It will be very interesting to see how Gazillion handles Ant-Man’s powers. Some heroes pose a much more difficult task of converting into the game due to their powersets. I heard that the devs have pretty much ruled out super-speed characters (like a playable Quicksilver) because the system couldn’t handle it in a multiplayer setting like this. So how do you portray a character who shrinks really tiny? I mean, he grows too, and that’s not hard, but what… do you give players the ability to become three pixels tall and use a magnifying glass to keep track of their avatar?

If he has ant summons, though, I am so there.

Retro Gaming: Planetfall part 4

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

newmapYou may have to really squint to see the above, but that’s the entirety of Planetfall’s map. For a 1983 adventure game, it’s pretty big and sprawling, made all the more complex for how the rooms unlock and connect to each other. Drawing your own map on a first time playing through a text adventure game rarely resulted in a neat, orderly, grid-like product, but rather squished notes, misshapen blobs meant to be rooms, and lines EVERYWHERE.

Today we’re having fun with teleportation in Planetfall. Apparently there are three booths that zip you across the complex, which is quite helpful if you don’t want to keep messing with the shuttle. ‘Course, you need a teleportation access card to start the fun, and guess what I just found?

te2We come across another robot, although this one isn’t working as well (or at all) as Floyd. This place gives me the willies with all of its brokenness, lack of corpses, and dead robots.

If I was to sum up your main duties in Planetfall up to this point, it’s mostly doing maintenance: fixing broken junk, replacing burned-out gadgets, and generally trying to get parts of this complex working again. Y’know, like a janitor would.

te3Floyd is the most interesting enigma of Planetfall by far. At first, he’s just background noise: a little annoying, a little amusing, but nothing more than that. But as you go along, Floyd starts to become more and more useful, including this part where he volunteers to go into a dangerous area instead of you. Heck, I don’t want to go in… although I do want to see what happens. Shall we?

te4Well, that was a Bad Idea, but at least it satisfied my curiosity. So it looks like we’ve got a mutant infestation (including a sly reference to Zork’s Grue, what with the slavering fangs in the dark). OK, Floyd, you take this one.

te5Floyd goes in and gets a much-needed item, but he takes a horrific pounding by the mutants in the process. He stumbles out, barely alive, and there’s a really sad (no, I’m not sniffling) part where you sing his favorite song to him.

Yes, Floyd. You’re a good friend.

te6I dare you not to feel something at this point. Dare you. te7With tears streaming down my face, I press on, using a miniaturization booth to shrink myself down for one big final repair. One small final repair? Something.

te8Using my laser, I clean off a circuit board and then get into a vicious fight with a microbe. This whole section reminds me quite a bit of the shrinking part of Space Quest II. Coincidence?

Once un-shrunk, I find out — to my horror — that the only way out is through the bio lab with the mutants. Grabbing a mask, I trigger gas into the area and run through. Following this is a harrowing sequence of turns in which the mutants chase me and I barely stay one step ahead until I get to an elevator and escape.

Turns out… I won.

te9My efforts to fix everything has triggered the cure and called the Star Patrol back in. Not only did I save the planet, but I’m offered the job of being planetary ruler AND Ensign Blather (who isn’t dead) is now my “personal toilet attendant.”

And one more thing:

te10Wow, when they made happy endings in the ’80s, they really made happy endings. Floyd’s back! And there is actually a sequel (Stationfall), although I won’t be playing that any time soon.

Good stuff. Could’ve done without the sleeping/eating/drinking limitations, but overall it was atmospheric and interesting with some narrative in the environment.

FFXIV: Pantsless — and clueless — in Eorzea

ff1Don’t laugh (too hard), but I had a dream that told me to play Final Fantasy XIV.

Oh, it was probably my subconscious working out what I’d been pondering lately, but I did actually wake up the other morning fresh from a dream in which I dipped into FFXIV to hang out with some online friends. Maybe it’s part of this summer wanderlust that I’m experiencing with trying a smattering of other MMOs, and most definitely it’s part of the current hype (and blog posts) that everyone’s doing about this game and its expansion, but I found myself shrugging, reinstalling, and squirming through a rather atrocious account interface to sub up for a month.

Two years ago, I played A Realm Reborn for about an hour before pushing myself away from the desk and declaring that I was done. Earlier this year I pronounced my interest in the Final Fantasy franchise RIP, part of this ongoing love/hate thing I’ve had for it. And even last week when I was thinking about trying it again, I acknowledged that it was my disillusionment with FF tropes and style that worked hard against a possible Syp incursion.

But to paraphrase Doc Brown, sometimes you say, what the heck and do it anyway.

So why? Why was I staring at a way-too-long intro cutscene and contemplating sharing screen time with moogles and chocobos and Limsa Lominsa other words that belong in a Dr. Suess book? Other than how dreams and whims can work on a person, I logged in because I really did want to hang out with the Cactuar blogging crew (including Belghast, Grace, and Syl), and partially because I’ve been missing dungeon runs and healing as of late. Some MMOs are better for this than others, and WildStar’s instance setup isn’t for me, nor is The Secret World. Kind of miss the old RIFT/WoW runs, to be honest, and everyone seems to go on and on about FFXIV’s dungeons.

ff2Oh! So I think I figured out an answer to my own question from last week (or at least part of the answer) about why it’s sometimes hard digging into a new game and figuring it all out. With FFXIV, I had an entire morning to play last Saturday with little else to do, so my first session was something like three or four straight hours. And let me tell you, having a sizable play session as your first into a game seems to make a world of difference in really getting to know it. Maybe part of my problem with other titles was trying to get to know them initially with only small bite-sized sessions.

I rolled up an Arcanist and entered into the game, feeling a little bit of deja vu from my 2013 trial. At least Square-Enix gives you a small discount on a monthly sub if you’re only playing a single character per server, which was certainly nice. Two game subs now plus podcast hosting and other monthly bills, it all adds up. FFXIV is really going to have to work hard to woo me in past a month, but I’m going to give it the benefit of the doubt until the 30 days is up.

There’s no doubt that FFXIV is a pretty, screenshot-addicting bit of eye candy. Music is beautiful too, although it loops the same tracks too much for the amount of time that I’ve spent in these intro zones for my taste.

What’s interesting (both good and bad) is how the game starts you out after the cutscene. I think it was an hour-and-a-half, if not two hours, into the game before I even got into my first fight with a mob. I can’t remember the last time a game waited that long for a fight (maybe TSW, and even that had a bit of a weapon tutorial). Instead of instantly sending me off to fight 10 rats, the game forced me to get to know the starting city and FFXIV’s quirky systems one chunk at a time.

ff3While occasionally frustrating to slow down and take all of that in, the end result was impressive: I knew this city inside-out after a while, had my game and map bearings, and felt a little more immersed in things. Of course, I was doing all of this immersion without proper pants, because why give you the security of a pair of trousers when the game can just throw you into a shirt, panties, and thigh-high boots so that you feel threatened by drafts?

The guild was very welcoming and instructive, especially for folks who are already at level 60 and deep into the new expansion. One thing that was conveyed to me repeatedly is that FFXIV does things a little differently than the norm — not always, but often — and that you kind of had to roll with it. So for every one thing I enjoyed, there was another that annoyed or at least befuddled me.

Good? Charmingly detailed mobs, including mouse-sheep and these giant toothy rock-guys. Bad? No cosmetic system (glamours) until you’re level 50. Good? A handy teleport system to zip across zones. Bad? A map that was often hard to read and not always clear where quests were in relation to you. Good? Some genuinely funny bits of quest dialogue. Bad? Lalafells. Those little guys and gals creep me out (sorry Bel!). Good? Breathtaking sunsets and starry skies. Bad? Very slow combat that’s taking some getting used to.

ff5From what I’m told and what I read in some beginner guide research, this game is a little more on rails than usual, which is a mixed blessing. At least I don’t feel totally lost; just follow the breadcrumbs and watch the game slowly open up. I’m so hideously behind the expansion crowd that I feel no pressure to rush, but instead probably my greatest enjoyment is soaking up the environmental details and dredging up good Final Fantasy associations (and ignoring the weird New Agey crystal fixation that the series has).

If I stick around, my plan is to gradually develop a Scholar and try my hand at healing in groups. To the game’s credit, there does seem to be a very robust set of grouping features, including incentives to include newbies on runs and try out random dungeons together. But that seems like it’s a ways off for this level 12. Right now, I’ll run around in my ridiculously puffy shirt, beating up sheep, and trying to figure out what’s hooked this game for so many — and whether that’s for me.

WildStar: Do Karaoke 0/1

What do you expect to find when you’re fighting your way deep into an enemy camp in the wild desert? Probably not a karaoke stage, but here we are because we’re playing WildStar and this game can be pretty gonzo at times.

The mission? GET UP THERE AND SING, BABY.

kara1 kara2 kara3 kara4

This is always how my singing attempts end.

Why is it hard playing new MMOs?

collectionDespite my rather untrue reputation of playing dozens of MMOs all of the time — and somehow writing, working, and helping to raise a family even so — the truth is that I tend to have a couple comfort MMOs that I dive into on a regular basis and then a scattering of other titles that go from one-shot curiosities to every-so-often loads.

But for a while now I’ve been struggling with a frustration over why it’s hard for me to, say, just load up an MMO I haven’t played before (or in a long while, or much at all) and go for it. Because I can’t. I try, I stretch myself, I make vows to expand my boundaries, and then I inevitably go back to the handful of titles that I’ve played for a while yet. It’s frustrating because I know that there’s a lot of good stuff out there that I really haven’t experienced, and I would always like to have a broader base of experience. But there’s a block in there, maybe a few of them, and this post is my effort to try to put a finger on why it’s harder to swap between MMOs than it was playing console games.

I guess for starters there’s the fact that every MMO has its own control scheme and UI setup, and no two are exactly alike. Oh, there are plenty that are similar, but the same? I haven’t seen it. This one game has double-jumping and the other game barely allows your feet to clear the ground. One game allows rebinding your keys while the other doesn’t. One has a less responsive chat window than the other. One has the dorky running animations, one has the combat lag, and one has the instant mount summons. One is tab-target combat and the other is all about twitch action.

Differences are fine, but when you’re bouncing between games, you have to mentally shift between what they are and attempt to get your finger memory to where it needs to be. That’s not a problem when you’re primarily playing one MMO. It starts to stack up when you add more games to the mix. MMOs are too complex sometimes with all of these nuances and features when you’re trying to shift between them.

Speaking of remembering, does anyone else have a good system for keeping track of dozens of logins and passwords? That’s a factor, too.

There’s the financial barrier as well. If it’s a sub-only game, well, I have to make a rather big call as to whether or not I’m going to tack on another bill to my card every month. If it’s F2P, I have to figure out how much I’ll be penalized for playing without paying and see if it’ll cross the threshold of unbearable or not.

When I play more than one MMO during an evening, I notice that it takes me a few minutes of in-game play to make the psychological transition between the previous game and the new. During that time, I’m resenting the new game because my “feel factor” is still on the one I just came from.

Jumping into new MMOs also requires a lot of learning, more so if the game has significantly different systems than other titles. If an MMO has been out for years and years, then you’re playing catch-up with a mountain of combat that vets have long since become accustomed to.

I also have a hard time playing a game in the moment — playing it for its own sake right then and there. If it’s an MMO, I can’t help but think about my future in the game and if I’m going to actually be spending more time here. And if my internal answer is, “I can’t see going the full distance” then my mind starts throwing up roadblocks to letting me enjoy even a partial distance.

This all isn’t a problem that I can see MMO studios wanting to solve, by the way. Studios would vastly prefer that I make their game a permanent home and welcome any obstacles from jumping ship — however temporarily — to other games. There’s always an ongoing effort to establish brand loyalty and get players to plant roots.

Don’t mind me and all of my brain-flotsam today. Just thinking out loud here. Wishing that it was easier to game hop than it is. Maybe realizing that this is just how I’m wired and to enjoy what I enjoy without feeling like I’m being left out of the fun of othe games I’m not playing.

WildStar: Syp’s party of five

party1Probably one of the things that I enjoy most when I solo is to be running around as a pack. In Marvel Heroes, Squirrel Girl is constantly surrounded by squirrels, team-ups, and other summons. In WoW, I loved having a warlock/hunter pet out as well as a vanity pet. In Guild Wars 2, my Necro would often have several pets out at a time. And in WildStar, I’m all set up with a party of five.

It is a shame that I can only have out two bots at a time as an Engineer, because be assured that I would have them ALL out if given half the chance. Even so, I usually am running with my assault bot and my repair bot. The latter is just so dang helpful with constant shield regeneration and a touch of additional DPS. Then as a scientist, I usually have my scanbot out as well. Add on a vanity pet — right now my cowboy Lopp — and I’m a full party of five tearing up the landscape.

Why do I like this? What’s the appeal of running around as a pack?

It’s a different feel than when there’s only a single other NPC companion on the field. Controlling an entire group as a soloer makes me feel like I’m part of a task force, a danger squad. I mean, look at all of the cartoons we watched when we were kids: Ghostbusters, TMNT, Voltron, Jayce, MASK, GI Joe. They all worked as packs, and there was something thrilling about seeing a whole group like that head out into the mission zone together. That’s a bit of the same vibe that I get here. We’re like some weird rag-tag assembly on a mission to save the world.

And as an Engineer, it fits quite well to be surrounded by all of these robot companions (and a Lopp, but I can pretend he’s actually an android or somesuch).

Anyway, last night we ripped up more of Malgrave. Nothing special, just mopping up a few quests, including killing cattle so that vultures would come down and we could kill those. Poor cows — a sacrifice for the greater good. THE GREATER GOOD.

I’ve been reading about this fall’s patch with growing excitement. Neighborhoods sound completely awesome (who will be my neighbor? Taking applications!) and I really like the idea of simplifying the stats so that they actually make sense. Now can we do something about the mess that is the AMP panel? I mean, I’m glad all of them will be unlocked, but dang if that’s not a headache to page through.

Anarchy Online: Wherefor art thou, screenshots?

Believe me, I was diligent. I looked up the screenshots key. I took many pictures. And yet this morning, I cannot for the life of me find the Anarchy Online screenshot folder. Maybe I confused the game with all of my hard drives. But you have to trust me that I took them and that they would have blown your mind.

Blown.

Your.

Mind.

OK, probably not so much. It’s Anarchy Online, a 2001-era game with a 2005-era paint job. But I did want to poke my head in and say hi, mostly to satisfy my curiosity over the graphics upgrade and the new beginner experience.

I think — think — I installed the new graphics engine right, but without having been in the game recently, I had a hard time figuring out whether or not I had launched it or was looking at the old engine. It looked fine, I guess… Anarchy Onlineish. My character still had a body that was made of about 12 polygons, the world done up in that blocky but futuristic style that I used to love.

As per long-standing Syp tradition, I rolled up a new character, the same character I always do: a Solitus female adventurer. Having a self-heal plus dual pistols plus the ability to morph into creatures is too appealing to look elsewhere. Right off the bat I got a leet morph, because how awesome is it to skitter around as a tiny leet?

Oh, and I had a great screenshot of that. It would have brought tears to your eyes, truly.

I’m of mixed feelings of the new beginner experience. The old one took place on this tropical beach (n00b isle or somesuch), but the new one is a series of industrial platforms. It’s definitely uglier than the previous setting, although it was far more linear and easier to track.

I spent some time trying to beat up malfunctioning droids with my fists before I realized that my inventory had a ton of gear that I should, y’know, probably equip. It took an embarassing death before I discovered that. Oh yes, I screenshotted the death too. You would have written poetry if you’d seen it.

Every time I return to Anarchy Online, I have to fiddle around with the UI to make it look like a more contemporary setup. That takes several minutes of adjusting the settings and turning off some of the more screen-hogging elements. No, I don’t want a GIANT CHAT BOX right in the lower center. Who does that? I mean, post-2002?

The quests were pretty rote, an endless series of “kill a bunch o’ stuff and occasionally use this special item” tasks. That didn’t matter so much, because I was rolling in the nostalgic hay — the familiar music, the sound and backflip of a level ding, the slow-paced combat, the AO art style.

But man, I wish I had those screenshots. It would have brought this entire blog post together in a way that would have left you standing and applauding wildly at your screen. As it is, it’s probably going to leave you depressed and pondering the meaning of life to any and all who wander into earshot. My apologies.