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!

MMO regrets

regret-ron-burgundyOne of the Blaugust topics kicking around is the subject of MMO regrets — what we wish we would have or could have done differently in the past. And that’s a weird subject to think about for me, because while there are certainly things I would have changed now that I’m looking back, I also recognize that all of the decisions in my life that I’ve taken with God’s guidance have led me to right here, right now, and I’m pretty content. If things had played out differently, maybe I would never have gotten into MMO blogging or met some of the friends I have.

Still, for the sake of wistful thinking and an easy Friday blog post, here are four regrets that I have.

Regret #1: Waiting so long to get into MMOs

My crappy early 2000s computer and internet connection were only part of the reason why I waited so long to get into MMOs. For the most part these games were outside of my sphere of interest, which at the time was pretty much single-player RPGs and various strategy titles. Any time I looked at MMOs during those years, I was either turned off by the graphics or cowed by the complexity and time involvement.

So while I did fiddle about in Anarchy Online, it wasn’t until spring 2004 that I really got into MMOs with City of Heroes. I regret missing out on the EverQuest/Ultima Online/DAoC/SWG era a bit, at least to have said that I was there, but I also see that CoH and World of Warcraft were great stepping stones to making MMOs more accessible and player-friendly, so I’m glad those were my introductions.

Regret #2: Not sticking with characters

I’m a well-known altoholic in MMOs, which is fun in and of itself. Still, when I look back and see how many hours I spent on characters that I ended up deleting and rerolling, I think of what might have been if I had picked a single character and stuck with him or her all the way through.

For example, I don’t know what possessed me to delete my WildStar Medic that I rolled at launch, unless I just wanted to reclaim the name. I wasn’t short on character slots or anything, and that character had benefited from numerous boom boxes that were thrown out when I tossed her into the recycler.

Regret #3: Not knowing about MUDs in the 80s and 90s

While I really couldn’t get into MUDs today, I can say with certainty that I would have flipped over them in the early era of dial-up. Unfortunately, I never knew about them, not in high school and not in college. Never saw them mentioned in any computer magazine or had a friend tell me, and even the early days of the world wide web kept me away from any potential MUD flings.

And that’s sad, because I know that I would have had a blast with those games back then. I didn’t mind text-based games at all and would have flipped at connecting online with tons of people. Alas.

Regret #4: Buying MMOs that I barely played

I’ve always wished that any purchase could come with a 100% refund guarantee whenever you were tired of it. Never so much as when it comes to some video games that I bought on a whim and then barely played.

Examples include paying a good chunk of change for MMOs like Final Fantasy XIV and Elder Scrolls Online against my better judgment. At least I forced myself to play a month in FF14 to see what’s what and get some return on that investment, but ultimately I would have rather had that money back for books or clothes.

What do you regret about MMOs?

WildStar: Breathlessly waiting for F2P

happy1I want those sunglasses.

The more that I look into the mega-patch coming with WildStar’s fall F2P switch, the more I genuinely can’t wait until it gets here. I was listening to a podcast last night last night while playing, and the hosts were detailing some of their discoveries on the PTR. After a long, dark night of dropping subscriptions and harsh criticism, it’s like seeing the first rays of a glorious dawn creep over the horizon. Can’t help but lift your spirits and give you hope.

What’s exciting me is just how much is being thrown in here: tons of new costumes, tons of new pets, daily rewards, attunement streamlining, AMP unlocks, challenge system overhaul, dungeon reorganizing, and loads more housing options. Heck, I’m even excited about the store, especially since WildStar is taking Trove’s approach of offering a second currency that can be obtained in-game to buy the same things in the shop.

happy2My attitude was also buoyed by a really good night of progress and loot. I spent a lot of my session exploring the uncovered bits of Malgrave and doing the odd quest, all while the RNG showered me with tons of great loot. I got a purple gun (with tanking stats, alas, but it was a nice gesture on behalf of the game), a really neat chest upgrade with a cool look, and an awesome punk headpiece. I made a new costume on the spot (right).

I’m level 48 and I think I’m getting to the end of Malgrave. I know I’ve overleveled it but I’m not going to leave until I’ve done everything.

I also continue to accumulate new decor for my house. Every time I log in I do my standard three Thayd challenges on two alts that I leave park there. I recently got a squicky totem and a cool chair (my house lacks comfy chairs), not to mention a few more dyes.

I keep looking wistfully at my Spellslinger, torn between wanting to keep pushing forward with my Engineer and playing an alt. Some day, I comfort myself.

Oh, here’s a weird thing I noticed last night: My Spellslinger’s pistols shrink in size when she holsters them on her butt. Like they go from these hand-cannons to dainty little pea-shooters. Weird.

When do you play MMOs?

failWe’ve often talked in blogging circles about the pros and cons of juggling MMOs vs. being devoted to a single title, but one thing I haven’t seen so much discussion on is when we play.

For me, my gaming schedule is fairly predictable and boring. While I’m going through my morning routine before work, I usually log into games to hit up daily rewards (Marvel Heroes) or to reset minigame timers (crew skills in SWTOR).

During my lunch break is when I squeeze in a half-hour to work through the retro games for the weekend posts.

Back before Massively I used to have more time in the late afternoon to game, but not so much these days. Even so, sometimes I’ll get in a half-hour before dinner depending on if the kids are sleeping or otherwise preoccupied.

But most of my gaming time comes after the sweet hour of 8:00pm, which is when the rest of my family heads to bed (my pregnant wife cannot wait for this time). Then it’s a race to get in as much gaming as possible before I start nodding off at the keyboard, which could be as early as 10:30 or as late as midnight.

Sometimes I get a decent block of gaming time on Saturday, my only free day of the week, although I have to make sure that chores and family time gets priority.

So if I was to time it all, I’d say that on an average week, I probably clock in around 16 to 18 hours in MMOs. Maybe 20 to 25 if it’s a really good week with few distractions. It’s not huge, but I do try to make the most of those five or six hours in each title to get as much done as possible and enjoy myself.

I think my pre-kid, pre-marriage self would be somewhat horrified to see that weekly tally. I was probably in the high 50s back in the bachelor era. But I wouldn’t trade all of this for that extra time. I’ll merely look back wistfully.

What about you? When do you play MMOs?