Ship of Heroes: Janky but fun

Last week, I got to settle a lot of curiosity I’ve had with Ship of Heroes by spending several hours in the mission beta. My only previous experience was making a character and running around, so it was really great to see some of the meat-and-potatoes of the questing system this time around.

I went with a tank this time, because why not? It’s not the typical archetype I’d pick. I went with some sort of luck-based primary and a “street sweeping” secondary.

And yes, it’s totally janky. It’s a beta’s beta. Every other time I went in or out of a building, I had to reload my character because the doors wouldn’t work. There’s half-finished art everywhere, and the stuff that’s more in place looks like it was lifted from a CD-ROM adventure from the late 1990s. Then there’s stuff that looks fantastic, such as the superhero character creator itself, so it’s heading in the right direction. Just not there yet.

I played through six missions of a chain. Apparently you pick a faction to help and then dedicate yourself to pushing through those storylines and getting rewards from them. There was only one in this beta, but it worked surprisingly well. I had no problem completing missions or figuring out where to go, and the combat itself — janky elements aside — was honestly enjoyable. I wanted to see more skills, so I think my next objective is to roll up some different characters and experimenting around with them.

It’s certainly not near release, so I’m resetting my expectations to two or three years from now. That’s cool. I just want it to cross that finish line strong rather than be one of those crowdfunded MMOs that finally launches to a resounding silence.

Battle Bards Episode 199: World of Warcraft Tavern Tunes

Battle Bards Episode 200: Battle Bards Bicentennial! Battle Bards

Can you believe it? The Battle Bards have hit 200 amazing episodes! Join Steff, Syl, and Syp as they take a victory lap around the field of MMO music, sharing their personal soundtrack discoveries and listeners' favorite tracks. It's a Battle Bards Bicentennial! Episode 200 show notes  Intro Reminiscing about the history of Battle Bards (feat. "Fields of the Shire from LOTRO and "Tempest Bay" from RIFT) Our favorite MMORPG soundtrack discoveries over the past 100 episodes Syp: Club Penguin Steff: The Division 2 Syl: Lost Ark Syp: Myst Online Steff: Lost Oasis Syl: Star Stable Syp: MapleStory 2 Steff: Tree of Savior Syl: Lineage Listeners' favorite tracks "Mystery of Wistmead" from LOTRO (Katriana) "Title Screen" from DCUO (Friendly Necromancer) I Am the Sea" from FFXIV (Lewenburg) "Twilight Over Thanalan from FFXIV (Drelkag) "Undead Tavern in Brill" from WoW (JinxedThoughts) "The Length and the Measure" from Warhammer Online (Thomas) "The Rebuilding of Lion's Arch" from Guild Wars 2 (Tishtoshtesh) "Knowledge Never Sleeps" from FFXIV (Psychae) "First Light" from Star Citizen (IpaMu71) Our favorite non-AAA MMO scores Fallen Earth (Syp) Star Citizen (Steff) Dragon's Prophet (Syl) Dungeon Runners (Syp) ArcheAge (Steff) Runes of Magic (Syl) Wizard101 (Syp) RuneScape Orchestral (Steff) Ultima X Odyssey (Syl) Outro (feat. "From Protostar!" from WildStar) Talk to the Battle Bards on Twitter! Follow Battle Bards on iTunes, Stitcher, Player.FM, Google Play, iHeartRadio, and Pocket Casts! This podcast is produced using copyrighted material according to Fair Use practices as stated under Section 107 of the 1976 Copyright Act.
  1. Battle Bards Episode 200: Battle Bards Bicentennial!
  2. Battle Bards Episode 199: World of Warcraft tavern tunes
  3. Battle Bards Episode 198: Final Fantasy XI expansions

At the start and end of a long day of adventurin’, the Battle Bards love to kick back with a frosty mug of (ginger) ale or a stein of (root) beer at their favorite taverns. And what watering holes have better music than World of Warcraft, which actually released a full album of it? In today’s show, Steff, Syl, and Syp share some more great music from the social hubs of Azeroth.

Episode 199 show notes (show pagedirect download)

  • Intro (feat. “Vanilla Tavern,” “Deepwater,” and “Hunter’s Refuge”)
  • “Kul’Tiran Taverns”

  • “Dive Bar C”

  • “Slaughtered Lamb”

  • “Pig and Whistle”

  • “Midsummer Fire Festival”

  • “Temple of the Moon”

  • “Thunderbrew”

  • Which one did we like best?
  • Listener notes from Ithirahad and Katriana
  • Jukebox picks: “Chinatown” from Katana Zero, “Shooting Star” from Overwatch Animated Shorts, and “Main Theme” from Fantasian
  • Outro (feat. )

Holding on to physical media in a cloudy age

Compared to how I lived even a decade ago, I rely far more on the cloud — and streaming — than I used to. I don’t get physical box copies of games any more, unless it’s a rare Switch title for the family. Most all of my games are on platforms like Epic or GOG, or else are MMOs downloaded from websites. I can’t remember the last time I bought a CD. The only physical books I buy these days are commentaries for work; everything else is on Kindle or Audible. And almost all of my movie and TV entertainment is streamed to me through Tubi or Amazon Video.

The cloud offers a great deal of advantages in regards to instant access, space saving, and organization. I like not having super-crowded bookshelves any more, and I wince when I think back to the days of juggling a music collection spread out over hundreds of CDs.

But I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling uneasy at how much I’ve grown dependent on internet connectivity for, well, everything entertainment-related. This is very noticeable when there’s a power or internet outage and then I’m left twiddling my thumbs or using cell data on my phone as a desperate lifeline.

I’ve started to come around to appreciating physical media more and more these days. Our family ditched Netflix (streaming) a while back and is using DVDs far more than we used to. It’s also a nice way to control what the kids are watching. I don’t store my music collection online, instead making several different backups every month and putting them in different locations to minimize risk of loss. And I now bring a physical book with me on a trip, you know, just in case.

One thing that I really don’t like about this move into a cloud-based age is that it transfers all of the power to the companies holding on to that stuff for you. They can take it away from you if they want, or modify it, or whatever. Games can go missing from portfolios. So having physical media — books, DVDs, games — is a way to retain some of that power and control and ownership. I can resell my game or book; I can’t do that with an audible title or something on Steam. The latter benefits game studios while putting the consumer at a disadvantage.

Still, I’ll be streaming and clouding and whatnot as I’ve been doing… just with more of an eye to preserve as much physical media as I can along the way.

FFXIV: Lala out, Aura in

FFXIV likes to yank me around. I got so dang excited the other day when I hit what I thought was the max-tier for this Vanu Vanu beast tribe and went through this epic little battle. I thought I had finished my rep grind… but no, apparently there’s still more to do. I had heard it took about a month of dailies to get through a tribe, and it better happen soon because I’m losing my patience for sundrop dancing and scaring people with a Chinese dragon.

Meanwhile, I found someone’s tall pile of rocks. I guess that’s Heaven-on-High, but I’m calling it “An Structural Disaster In The Making.” That sucker is going to fall down and smoosh a whole bunch of crabs when it does.

Stormblood continues to abide. It’s actually a pretty depressing expansion so far, because it’s been a nonstop tour of visiting oppressed people beaten down so far that they’ve more or less given up. I understand that it’s setting the stage for some big liberation, but just when I think they’ve hammered in the malaise, here comes some more THWAK THWAK THWAKs. But hey, now there are two big bad guys that I hate with every ounce of my passion! Perhaps even more than Alphinaud the Wonder Elf!

So as I patiently bide my time until I can single-handedly save two countries from oppression, I found a little vial that said ‘DRINK ME’ and followed its instructions. Actually, I swapped from a Lalafell to an Au Ra after a whole lot of internal debate. You see, I really did like a lot about the Lala — I’ve always been a fan of pint-sized races — but the animations and squished cosmetics weren’t big selling points.

Why the Au Ra then? It wasn’t going down the beaten path of bunny girls and cat girls, and it also gave me a shorter character. It’s something different that I hadn’t considered until I saw a couple cross my paths and went, huh, I might be able to live with that. So I spent an embarrassingly long time working with the character creator to come up with this look — and I’m very happy with it. Not too big, not too small. Just right.

LOTRO: Revisiting many old friends

If you were to create a pie chart of Bio Break posts, probably a good-sized slice would be “Syp no like elfies” and more than half of it would be “Syp can’t settle on what he wants to play in a given game.” It always comes up as a factor because (a) alts are almost inevitable when you’ve been playing a game for a while and (b) MMOs take up so much time that it gets impractical to pursue too many alts. And it comes up far more with older games that I return to, because of all of the accumulated characters.

I’ve been sussing this out in Lord of the Rings Online, because I have nothing BUT leveling options over there. The first is my Lore-master, who is the furthest along and most well-developed in terms of her character build. Unfortunately, she’s not consistently fun to play — very fiddly to fight with and not as powerful as she used to be in lower levels. I end up dying with her a lot, and that gets frustrating. But then she has pets, which I love, and a really cool theme. So I don’t see supplanting her as my main.

A dark horse — dark bear? — candidate is my Beorning on Treebeard. It’s actually been a lot of fun to play, and I like the potential tankiness and all-around maulings. The drawbacks to this one is that you’re staring at a blobby bear butt instead of awesome cosmetics all the time, that it’s super-time-locked due to the progression server, and that I have so much content ahead to re-climb. It’s probably going to end up as a column over at MOP and that’s that.

Then there’s my level 118 Minstrel, who needs to go through the epic, Minas Morgul, and War of Three Peaks. It’s another mountain to climb, sure, but not insurmountable. I like the Minnie playstyle and her toolkit. But I have the weakest attachment to her and no huge compelling reason to pick her over my older characters.

I’ve been fiddling more with my Cappy as a side project. She used to be my main for so very long, and I regret not keeping her up to spec. I love having a super-tough and versatile class, but she’s got a long road ahead of her, as she hasn’t even entered Mordor yet. Still, might be something fun to do now and then.

But no matter what I go with, I’ve been having a genuinely good time in LOTRO this past month. It’s been mentally helpful as a transition away from WoW Classic, and I’m still in that honeymoon phase of re-loving all of the stuff that I loved before.

New World delayed again? COME ON!

At least, that was my knee-jerk reaction to hearing last week’s news that this MMO just announced its fourth delay — and this coming shortly after the beta concluded and just weeks away from launch.

If it’s needed, it’s needed. The beta had pretty strong word-of-mouth, but there were concerns over balance and the game bricking graphics cards and some other issues. I get it. I get that you only get one first impression and that Amazon has yet to launch an actual successful game. They’ve got to be second-guessing everything over there. I’ll trust that this was a good call, just like many other MMO delays of past game launches, and hold back from raging out.

Still, on a personal level, this really stinks. Right here, right now is the perfect time of the year for an MMO to launch for me. Fall’s only going to get more busy, both in my work and with gaming. There’s Endwalker and Gundabad and Legacy of the Sith coming up, and now we’re shoving New World into this fall corridor. It’s going to be an awful lot within the last three months of the year. It’s going to be really tough to carve out time for all of them.

So yeah, ideally I would’ve loved to have New World already launch and have August and September to enjoy it properly without feeling rushed of crowded. But there’s no use crying over it now.

This means that I’ll just keep on trucking with LOTRO and FFXIV this month, with a side dish of Book of Travels and Ship of Heroes. Here’s hoping — REALLY hoping — that New World uses this extra month to get extra good and ready. Because I’m not going to brook another delay, let me tell you, and I’m going to expect it to be top shelf.

LOTRO’s Old Forest is the bane of Bree-land

Every time I’ve taken a new character up through Lord of the Rings Online, I’ve identified a few points where the game seems to bog down, to bend over backwards to keep you in a somewhat unpleasant place for longer than necessary. Early on, there’s one that threatens to leave a bad taste in what is otherwise quite a tasty zone.

I speak, of course, of the Old Forest in Bree-land. Bree-land is already hideously big and makes you feel like you’ll never get out of it when you quest your way through there. At least it’s full of interesting sights and largely pleasant music and settings. I generally like Bree-land. But my heart always sinks when I get to the point where I have to head into the Old Forest.

And I know what you’re thinking: “Well, Syp, it USED to be bad before they put in the new map. Now it’s way better!”

It’s better, I’ll give you that, but it’s light-years away from “fun” or “easy to navigate.” Map or no, Old Forest is a dense maze that makes it surprisingly easy to lose one’s bearings and not even easily see where the “walls” are. Again, it’s not impossible to go through — I’ve done it countless times — it’s just like having to go through rush hour traffic. You’d rather not, but you kind of have to if you want to get to your destination.

What’s the true kicker here is that LOTRO goes overboard in how many times it makes you go into the Old Forest. There are scads of quests, deeds, and epic book missions that require you to head into here and bumble about. Seeing all the sights, getting all of the flowers, and wrapping up all of the quests take too much time — all while the forest’s walls seem to close in and heighten that claustrophobic feeling.

I just sigh and wish I was past it. Again. It’s the bane of Bree-land, iconic or no. I wouldn’t be opposed to a revamp that took out the walls and make this more of a traditional forest that you could explore by going around trees and making your own path.

The weird truth about video game swag

Something I don’t see a lot of video game journalists talk about very much is on the topic of studio swag. YouTubers are different in this, because they’ll get an easy video showing off stuff, but generally journos keep it quiet.

Because it’s weird. It really is. And I think that a lot of us worry that even mentioning that a studio gave us free stuff casts instant suspicion on the veracity of any coverage or opinion.

I get stuff from time to time from various studios. No, I don’t know how I got on their mailing lists. I assume that some go-getter PR person does research on everyone who has, at some point, covered their game professionally and then put them on a mailing list for goodies. It’s a blatant attempt to garner favor — or at least recognition — of that game.

There never seems to be a rhyme or reason for the studios that choose to send me stuff. Nexon does, which is why I get MapleStory (!?) swag from time to time. I used to get LOTRO stuff before I got on their naughty list and/or SSG stopped paying money for expensive gifts.

Sometimes these gifts are really cool and impressive. I got a set of RuneScape vinyl records that I display in my office to this day. I had a Rohan flag from LOTRO that I liked. And I have my GW2 Charr and WildStar sheep sitting on my bookshelves.

Often times they’re… weird. Random. Like this “hydropod’ thing I got earlier this week from MapleStoryM. I shared a picture of this to the MOP team and declared that because of this gift of a future plant, for the next day we had to give nonstop glowing coverage of this mobile game.

A month ago, Jagex attempted to send me a pen (!) for RuneScape for some reason. But the pen got confiscated in customs and then I had customs sending me forms to fill out to release the pen. I swear this happened. And no, I wasn’t going to fill out anything for a pen, so as far as I know it’s in Pen Jail forever.

You can believe me or not, but swag doesn’t really change my opinion or attention to a game. More often than not, I give it away to friends or my kids. An incredibly nice MapleStory bathrobe I got a few weeks ago got ruined when our basement flooded and we needed all available absorbent materials to plug a hole. I gave away my Rohan flag to a friend who loved Lord of the Rings. Stuff is stuff, and I’m happy to be generous with it, especially if it was just handed to me in the first place for no real reason.

Anyway, I’ve broken the silence on this odd topic. No real conspiracy here, just a quirk of games journalism.