Search This Blog

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Star Wars: TOR Releases Sith Character Progression Video

BioWare released another progression video, this time we get a look at the Sith Warrior Character Progression. See the article and Video at the site here or check it out below.

So What’s the Deal with Rift Anyways

When you write a blog there is a very good chance that you read blogs as well, in most cases a lot of blogs. That is exactly where I am and ever since its release Rift has been a hot topic. It seems that bloggers are either writing about it or declaring Rift free zones on their sites. The biggest surprise has got to be the heated battles being played out between WoW fan boys and the newly converted Rifters.

           When the game was released I had some mild interest in it, but I decided to delay giving it a try and focus on my other gaming interests. But now that the game has been out for a few months and still appears to be going strong, I am starting to wonder if I’m missing something really good? Is it worth it to leave my other games and focus on this one? From what I’ve seen the game looks good and seems enjoyable to play, but I haven’t witnessed anything ground breaking. I guess I’m just curious about it, but not enough to get it. Maybe someone can change my mind.    

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Lost Desire for Running Dungeons & Raids

            Since Cataclysms release I have not ran a single Raid instance, nope not one, nada, zero, zilch. If you were to go back in time and inform a past version of me during Vanilla, The Burning Crusade, or even Wrath, that they would not be running raids come a future expansion I would have either died of laughter or disbelief. Its not that I am a powerhouse raider or anything like that, in fact I am as casual at raiding as one can get.

I have been to Icecrown Crown Citadel, both 10 and 25 man versions, and garnered some nice loot. But to date I have failed to acquire the King Slayer moniker and don’t really care that I haven’t. It has occurred to me that I couldn’t remember the last time I had been to a dungeon for that matter. I still play the game (Although not as much as in the past.), so what exactly am I doing with all my time and why am I not raiding?

WOW without Raiding

            To some people the concept of playing World of Warcraft without an active dungeon or raiding aspect is some what pointless. For me it has always been just a portion of the game I have come to love and something I did when I wanted to.  I have never had the time or desire for the single minded focus a true hard core raider must have in order to successfully complete raiding in WOW. I applaud those that are able to conquer everything that Blizzard throws at them, but for me it’s just not that important.
With that being said I have never played this game before without some form of dungeon or raiding game play. There has always been some type of progressive gear building for PVE, but now I seem unwilling to climb that ladder. Although I am focusing a lot lately on PVP gear, this is also not the answer to the demise of PVE content for me. I have always balanced the two aspects during my time in game and maintained a desire to run both.
After some minor soul searching, I believe I have come up with the number one reason why I am not raiding anymore and it is rather simple, I just don’t want to. Dungeon running and raiding (Which for this topic I will now call PVE Progression) and the loot it provides, has lost its fun factor and luster for me.  PVE Progression in Cataclysm has had that “been there, done that” feel which I just can’t shake. I am actually at the point where running dungeon after dungeon and then repeating the same for raiding is actually distasteful for me.
Now I understand it is not the games overall fault for this drastic change in my gaming behavior, but it must hold some responsibility for my apparent burnout as each new dungeon and each new raid is basically the same thing as before with a few extra mechanics here and there. WoW has been plugging along with the same instance structure since the beginning of time and although some minor changes may have occurred, it is basically the same thing as it has always been which is an advanced game of sequence memorization with a gear check.

Simon Says

PVE Progression in WoW has for the most part been an advanced game of Simon says in which each player reacts to a preconfigured series of events. Before most players ever step into a Dungeon or Raid they can look up strategies and videos of the fight and gain a basic understanding of what to do next. Although I don’t begrudge Blizzards way of PVE design (They make a lot more money doing it than I do, because I make 0) There methods are not my personal ideal way of playing a game. With that in mind I just feel that the PVE Progession ladder climb is not for me anymore.

As long as a player can meet the following criteria – connection doesn’t lag (which was a killer in the safety dance), reads a strat guide, installs add-ons (Deadly Boss Mods and such), has sufficient gear, and can think and react on the fly, they can beat anything this game has to offer. Sadly for me the one thing missing from this is the unknown factor.

Raiding has no suspense or surprises anymore. I want to have to react to unexpected changes, to walk into a raid and marvel at it all, to enjoy that sensation of trepidation. I can’t do that with pre defined instances which can be viewed on YouTube. Now the expected response from others will be for me to not watch the videos, install add-ons or learn about the instance before entering, but is that really possible? How many raiders would put up with my uneducated and ill informed self before dropping in a fit of rage? For Cataclysm, Blizzard has made raiding harder, but that doesn’t necessarily equate to better or even different.

I Guess it’s Just Me

           Although I highly doubt I am the only one that feels this way about raiding, I imagine the majority of the raiding community is still having a good time. I am truly happy for  them and hope they get all they can out of the game, but for me I guess I am just missing that feeling you got when first entering Blackwing lair or Karazhan. With each release of an Expansion, raiding has lost its newness for me and I think I am just at the tipping point of not being entertained anymore.
          Secretly I am hoping that all I need is a break from raiding, that some day in the future I’ll be itching to jump back into the foray. Ultimately I feel that raiding for me is suffering from diminishing returns, becoming less and less enjoyable with each addition. I realize that for WoW it is too late to change the structure of raiding for me, but my hope is that future game I intend to play (looking at you SWTOR) can be different or original enough to relight that flame inside me.         

Monday, April 25, 2011

Arenas, Captain and Other Games

World Of Warcraft

PVP has still got me hooked to this game and now I have reentered the Arenas after a lengthy hiatus. Joined a wandering Warrior to create our team of DPS/Pally heals and I must say for a new group we did quite well winning 50 percent of our matches. I also discovered that I need much better gear, but all in all I am doing pretty good for myself. Also on the PVP front I I am still annoyed at the amount of interupts, snares and silences in this game. Once the other team realizes I am healing I am usually locked down in Battle Grounds. Sometimes I get tired of watching my GCD spin around and around without being able to do anything. I do understand that we need balance in this game, but it seems the only way Blizzard balances anymore is with interupts.

Star Trek Online

I made it to the rank of Captain and selected a cruiser for my next ship. Going from an escort to a cruiser is very dramatic. I coudln't beleive just how slow a cruiser seems next to an escort. I went ahead and purchased a escort as well in case I need some firepower. I didn't want an escort for this rank because I dont like the way the escorts look at this level, but I can tell I'll miss the fast kills if I level with the cruiser.
Also I played the mission set "Cold Case" and thought it was well done. Nice mix of lore, puzzle solving and fighting.

Other Games

Although most of my time has been taken up between WoW, STO and BF: BC2, I'm thinking of dipping my hand into a F2P game like Lord of the Rings Online (Again) or Champions Online (Never Played). I might also give Battlestar Galactica Online A try mainly to see how it works as a Browser based MMORPG.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Review of Star Trek Online: Part Two

Welcome back to my review of Star Trek Online after two months of playing. if you missed my first part please read it HERE first. Otherwise lets get back into it.

Crafting – 3.4

Crafting is somewhat entertaining, but ultimately confusing. Basically you gather Data Samples from around the galaxy and use them to make different items both for your person and ship. The biggest problem is the number of different data samples to obtain and which one to use when. I was able to get the hang of it after some time, but for a new player it may appear confusing. Also everyone crafts the same things with the same stuff. I much prefer a system that lets me pick my profession. In STO there is no choice if you want to craft you need to do what everyone else does. One last thing that annoys me is that the only place that I have found where you’re able to craft is a planet called Memory Alpha and no where else. it can be a pain to have to run up there every time you wish to make something.

Foundry – 4.8

Using the Foundry is by far my favorite part of STO. In case you didn’t know, the Foundry is a program you log into that allows you to create your own custom missions and then share them with the general player base. The details you can go into while making your missions is pretty in depth and make this a lot of fun. You can perform a wide variety of options including creating your own maps to setting up each encounter to adding sound effects. For a first release of this program it is well done and the only reason I did not give it a perfect score is because I feel there is some room for improvement. Adding some more advanced features like a building builder and item builder would help. This is one of the better parts of the game and one I look forward to using.

Game Play

 The meat and potatoes of any game is how well it plays and whether or not it has replay ability. In STO you have two completely different styles of game play, Space and Ground. Because these two are so different from each other I thought it prudent to separate each ones score and talk about them differently.

Space Game Play – 4.5

Ship combat in this game is very well done. You have well thought out offensive and defensive systems and many types to choose from. You can have Turrets, Cannons, Beam emitters (Phasers and others) and Torpedo Launchers. You can change out your ships consoles to improve different things both offensively and defensively. You can change the setting s of your shields, change your crew and on and on. There are a lot of options and it is fun playing around with them to find the right mix. Also the ships themselves are customizable and come in three different classes, Escorts, Cruisers and Science Vessels. Each looks completely different and performs different roles in the game.
Action is usually smooth with minimal bugs and traveling around open space, even in transit, is fun. By far the best aspect of this game and you never want to leave your ship. But alas this is a Star Trek based game after all and what would Star Trek be without Away Teams and ground based missions.

Ground Game Play – 1.5

I tried to give this a better score, I really, really did but for me the ground based missions are just too darn buggy and bland. Every time I stop running for no apparent reason or my forward progress is halted by a plant leaf I want to log off. Also the weapons in the future apparently miss fire a lot because my weapons almost never appear to fire when I press the button. Randomly generated maps also often create misaligned graphics leaving over laps and bugs. Enemy and crew member intelligence appears very low and they will often do very dumb things like running into bad. Fights are often chaotic and disorganized with very little effort given to strategy or team work.
Besides the bugs and messy game play of random generated maps, pre made maps like space stations and fleet actions operate better and better scripted storylines in some missions are an improvement, but overall the game play of ground based action is just a mess right now. Fortunately most of the developer’s time has been centered on improving this portion of the game and I am hopeful for it.

Fleet Actions and other things – 4.2

Fleet actions are fun period, the come in both space and ground varieties and are basically zones that people join and work together for a common goal. They are very similar to Warhammers public quests as each person is rated by their participation and given a reward based on it. They can be a lot of fun especially when you get several people working together. In fact my ship has been parked outside “The Big Dig” for quite some time now.
The other things I wanted to cover are Warzones. Warzones are areas in which opposing factions, Star Fleet and Klingons, can enter and compete to capture an objective. One in particular is about the Borg and shutting a Cube factory down. Which ever side completes the listed tasks first wins. It has group play and PVP in one and it can be quite fun. Unfortunately there always seem to be a shortage of Klingons playing in Warzones when I play, but from a game play aspect they are very well done.

Overall Rating - 3.7

Well there you have it 3.7 is the average of the 10 categories I graded above and quite frankly seems about right for the game as a whole. If we were to take that as a letter grade it would be somewhere around a C+ to B-. Either way the game is at times great and at other times abysmal. I still am enjoying my time in game and have decided to continue on to at the very least I reach level cap.
This after all is my opinion of the game so far and I hope this review will prove helpful and informative. I would like to hear from you on what you think of the game so far and also feel free to grade it yourself or criticize my grades the more the better.   

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Review of Star Trek Online: Part One

This is part one of my review of Star Trek Online after 2 Months of playing. Please check back tomorrow for the remainder of my review.

I purchased Star Trek Online on a whim two months ago when I found it on sale in a store. I had been curious about this game ever since its release and wanted to give it a try, but bad reviews had kept me away from it until recently. I joined the game right in the middle of its one year anniversary and for the most part have had fun since. Although I am not at level cap, only commander level 8, I thought I would give a review of the game so far. This means that I will not be reviewing any portion of the game reserved for those of higher level than me.

Keep in mind that I never had any intention of playing this game past the first 30 day subscription that comes with the game so it has already surprised me. For grading I will go over some aspects of the game and rate certain aspects with a numbered grade, 5 being the best possible grade and 1 being the worst. I imagine I may miss some aspects of the game which may have changed my grade, but keep in mind this is a grade based on my experience of the game so far.

 This is going to happen a lot during this review so let’s spell it out now. There are two sides to this game space and ground. In most cases the space portion is a lot better than its ground based counterpart. I will get into detail under each category, but for the most part this games grades have suffered because of the bad design in the ground aspects of the game. It is almost like the ground portion was incomplete when the game was released and not much attention was given to it when it was being worked on. I am glad to hear that many fixes and changes for ground combat are in store for Season 4 which will be released soon.

** A final side note - most of my review focuses on the Star Fleet side of the game as I have only played a handful of levels as a Klingon. However the game play seems very much the same. **

With that said lets get down to the individual grades.

Graphics – 4.0

The game does not look that bad, in fact in some ways it is down right beautiful. I play the game at max settings and can easily say the space portion of the game looks gorgeous. The Planets, Nebula, Ships and other space traversing items all look good. If not for the ground portion, the game might have gotten a higher grade, but damn it those randomly generated away team mission maps just leave much to be desired. Static maps like “The Big Dig” and such look good, but the majority of the maps you play on will be random generated and they just are not up to high standards. Characters look pretty good and interact somewhat okay, but some things like running animations and looping movement animations can use some work.

Sound and Music – 4.7

Cryptic must have went to great lengths to grab the sounds and music from the TV shows for this game, because they are all here and done well enough to fit the feel and flow of the game. I would have preferred a few more songs, but allowing you to control your music player via the game itself allows you to easily interject your own flare. The only negative I can think of is the lack of voice acting. Having Leonard Nemoy speak as you enter new zones is nice, but other than that there isn’t much. The “Featured Episodes” have voice acting and that also helped to push this grade up to an A.

Interface – 4.6

I can imagine some people do not like the user interface of this game. I on the other hand find it quite handy and easy to navigate. Changing the settings and placement is easily done as well. On a negative side for some reason the PVP Ready Block that comes up will not disappear in some cases when you click to ignore the call to battle. This is technically a bug, but since it is interface related I will list it here.

Missions – 3.8

If not for the “Featured Episodes” and some other well written missions, this grade would have been lower. The biggest grade drop to this portion of the game is the repetitive nature of the missions. Many of them appear to be retreads of the same thing just recoated and presented differently. However the Featured Episodes are decently done and stand out in stark contrast to their brethren and show promise for the future of mission running. Obtaining missions and finding their location in the beginning is a little hard to follow as well. A newer player may be a bit put off with the lack of direction in locating and finishing missions.

PVP – 2.0

What can be said here about a system that shows so much promise but ultimately falls flat on its face? Space combat is awesome when you can find it and ground combat suffers from the same thing that ground based missions suffer from, Bad game play (See part two) and bugs. For some reason the PVP Queue times are long 18-30 minutes in most cases and even then the game usually fails to find enough other PVPers to start a match. The once you have gotten into a match it is often mismatched and boring because one team has an unfair player advantage.
 PVP seems like it was all but forgotten in this game, but I think that is a mistake on Cryptics part. Space combat against other players is by far one of the better aspects of this game and should be promoted instead of ignored. Just imagine you are roaming around a battleground looking for the enemy with a handful of other Star Fleet vessels, when suddenly five Klingon war birds decloak and open fire. Unfortunately this happens to far in-between and usually leaves you wanting more that you can’t get.
As for the ground PVP available the imbalance and buggy game play ruins what matches you can get in. I only hope the changes they have planned for ground combat also improve the PVP side of it. 

Check out Part 2 of my review where Icover Crafting, The Foundry, Game Play, Fleet Actions, War Zones and my overall grade for the game. Thanks for stopping by

Monday, April 18, 2011

Data Samples and Common Decency

Before I get into the point of my post lets do a little background explaining about Data Samples and their importance. Data Samples are the raw materials that are used for crafting in Star Trek Online. They spawn randomly in each map that is generated for your missions. Locating Data Samples are made easier by the use of a scanning tool next to your mini-map. Much like a ore node in World of Warcraft they are first come first serve, which usually isn’t a problem since your are normally the only person on your map. However sometimes you are grouped with other players and this is what I will be writing about today and something I have noticed is a problem in STO.

Some missions are in what can best be explained as, public areas that when you enter the zone you are automatically grouped with any other players who might also be on that mission. The basic idea is that you work with your new teammates to complete the mission. Think of it as an automatic pug generator without any input from you.

 Now the Data Samples are generated the same as in regular solo maps and are available for anyone to get. Every time I have been voluntold to group with another player I have noticed the same thing occurring. During the mission my new teammate will inevitably streak off in their ship towards the closest Data Sample and collect it. I have even had teammates do this while I was fighting for an objective. So instead of helping in defeating the enemy they have gone off to collect a nearby sample. Usually their behavior remains the same on any ground based portions of the missions and will quickly run up to collect any samples we stumble upon. All this is done without a single word being said.

Now maybe it’s just me, but community loot or collectables found during group play should be at the very least discussed before someone collects it, but in STO it would appear that it is a matter of whoever gets there first wins. I have even had some grouped missions where the other person collected all of the available samples without blinking an eye. Now for comparison, in World of Warcraft some dungeons hold Ore nodes and it was common practice that party members either rolled for it or took turns collecting. The question is why isn’t this same instinctive sharing trait occurring in STO?

Do I believe the average STO player is incapable of common decency and manners? Absolutely not, in fact I have found them for the most part friendly and helpful. But for some reason when it comes to data samples it appears that a lot of players no longer keep manners in mind. Also I have found on forced grouping players will not interact much at all.

In contrast players in a PVP match often seem overly friendly and talkative for the manner of game play. I am still dumbfounded by the zone talk that occurs inside a PVP match between the two teams. This has included helpful advice for better gear or tactics, to both teams working together in trying to get a player unstuck from a glitch. I love this open banter as long as it doesn’t detract from the match, but it just goes to show you the level of common decency found in STO. So why isn’t this the case with Data Samples?

I believe part of it has to do with STO, for the most part, is a single person game. Most missions and maps are generated for individual players and the occasional forced grouping that occurs is unusual enough that people forget they are indeed with another person. Has anyone else out there experienced similar behavior? Or have you unknowingly been one of the mass takers?

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Death of 25-man Raiding

Rohan over at Blessing of kings posted recently about the slow death of 25-man raiding Guilds in World of Warcraft. He points out, that most guilds would not bother to raid 25-mans if they are able to establish successful 10 mans. I think the difficulty in locating enough people to do 25-man raids as opposed to 10-mans is the main culprit for this decline. Pre-Cata there was an abundance of people willing to raid and nothing to stop them from joining a new raid guild. Today however there are less and less players to choose from and few of them willing to jump ship.

In a previous post, I wrote how I felt this is a direct cause of the new Guild Advancement system. Imagine for a moment that you are forming a new guild, raiding, casual or whatever. Now your options available to you would be to either collect a new group of players just starting out (which I question just how many actual NEW and not alts there are out there) and leveling together or form a new guild from existing level capped players. Most players today are reluctant to leave their present guild because they don’t want to lose the perks and guild rep they have established. This alone will drastically cut the amount of applicants you can talk to as compared to WoW before Cataclysm.
So with this information in tow, imagine now forming that raiding guild and trying to attract the necessary people to do it. Will you even bother to or even be able to attract enough members to form a 25-man team? I believe that not only will we see the demise of 25-man raiding but large guilds for that matter. As the old guard guilds begin to die out a few will reform into new ones, but they will most likely be centered on much smaller groups.  

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Foundry, DDOS, Reputations and Vietnam

Hello again readers and thanks for coming back around. In this post I will write about some of the more interesting things I have experienced in my gaming world in recent times. I will make this a regular entry on the blog and try to inform you guys on the better experiences from the games I play.

Star Trek Online - So as I previously Wrote I have Completed my first Foundry mission "Ascension". The one problem I seem to be having is finding my mission in game. I have found it here and there but I have to search by author name. For some reason the mission does not show when searching by title. I will have to look into that more closely.
In other STO news I have reached the rank of Commander 3. My leveling has slowed down dramatically because of my use of the foundry and I have been focusing on crafting which has taken me some time as I gather mats, as I am way behind in my crafting for my level. This has required me to go back to lower level areas and has hindered my leveling.

Supremacy 1914 - My favorite Warfare combat browser game was attacked by a DDOS (Distributed Denial-of-Service) attack and games were unavailable for a couple of days. Basically someone bombarded the website of the game in order to overwhelm it's servers and prevent anyone from being able to log on and play. Bytro games was able to get everything working again and offered every current player 30,000 free Goldmarks. As to the games I was playing only one was affected as when I logged back in I found myself the victim of a coordinated assault by two players and my capital, London, already gone. I was able to win my game as Austria-Hungary and am still playing the other Great Britton Game. There are four players left and we are on Day 60, that's right 60 days of warfare it has been fun. Oh and I have started a new Gold Round game which allowed me to choose my starting country. Nice addition and should cut down on the early defections of players since they can choose thier own starting place. I picked Morrocco as my start as some of the other preffered choices were already taken.

This is my 60 day game, I am Britton (Orange) and my allies are Russia (Dark Green) and Northern USA (Light Green) Things are Indeed looking promising, we will have to see what happens once all the opponets have been dealt with.

World Of Warcraft - So for lack of anything better to do, I have been working on my Tol Barad Reputation. I have been able to get into a handful of Tol Barad games and have been working on the Dailies. Unfortunately this is all old news for me as far as playing this game and is way to similar to other daily quests from years past. I am afraid I am losing any reason to log in anymore. I love this game but think I am becoming burned out. I have no desire to run dungeons (Probably from to many Wrath Dungeons and Beta play) and have stayed away from any other parts of this game except PVP.

Battlefield: Bad Company 2 - So I downloaded the Vietnam Xpac and have been playing this quite a bit. I do like the different look with the Vietnam War as a backdrop and the minor changes to the game play (Flamethrower, etc), but it is basically the same game with new skins, weapons and maps. Operation Hastings is a fun map with its large bridges, water ways and Rice Patty Fields. The one thing I have to know is this, WHEN DID HUEYS GET TITANIUM PLATED ARMOR? My god these things can be a bear to bring down, The problem I think is there is nothing to counteract them. Light arms fire has little effect on them and even vehicle mounted machine guns don't do a lot of damage. Lucky hits from a tank round or an attack from the opposing chopper appear the only real solutions. 

Friday, April 8, 2011

Why Call to Arms Tank Treats Won’t Work in the End

Blizzard announced their plan to decrease wait times in the Looking for Dungeon System by introducing goodie bags to those classes that are in short supply, namely tanks and in a lesser way healers. So basically if you play a class that is needed to decrease wait times, you will be rewarded with extra gold and some vanity items like pets and mounts. To me this is nothing more than a band aid for a big wound that won’t work in the long run and I’ll explain why.

Excerpts From the Article are below:

In patch 4.1 we'll be introducing Dungeon Finder: Call to Arms, a new system intended to lower queue times. Call to Arms will automatically detect which class role is currently the least represented in the queue, and offer them additional rewards for entering the Dungeon Finder queue and completing a random level-85 Heroic dungeon.

Call to Arms is meant to lower wait times by offering additional rewards for queuing as the currently least represented role. To be eligible for the additional rewards you must solo queue for a random level-85 Heroic in the role that is currently being Called to Arms, and complete the dungeon by killing the final boss. Every time you hit these requirements (there is no daily limit) you'll receive a goodie bag that will contain some gold, a chance at a rare gem, a chance at a flask/potion, a good chance of receiving a non-combat pet (including cross faction pets), and a very rare chance at receiving a mount. The pets offered come from a wide variety of sources, and include companions like the Razzashi Hatchling, Cockatiel, and Tiny Sporebat, but the mounts are those specifically only available through dungeons (not raids), like the Reins of the Raven Lord from Sethekk Halls, Swift White Hawkstrider from Magister's Terrace, and Deathcharger's Reins from Stratholme.

This system is meant to address the unacceptable queue times currently being experienced by those that queue for the DPS role at max level. The long queue times are, of course, caused by a very simple lack of representation in the Dungeon Finder by tanks, and to some extent healers.

            The argument will be made that the rewards will encourage people to roll tanks and healers and I do people in some capacity that this will be true, but does a new tank definitely equate to a good tank? Not at all although we will see an increase in quality tanks giving it a go, we will also see an increase of bad tanks that will make wiping a more common event. My biggest fear however is for the hybrid classes that will be queuing as tanks in their DPS gear so they may get the extra rewards. Under geared or improperly geared tanks is a recipe for disaster, especially in today’s world of more challenging dungeons.
            Also you have to wonder if it will bring enough tanks to truly make a difference that noticeable in the times. Is waiting 25 minutes instead of 30 really that much of a change? I question whether there are even enough tanks out there at this point to offset the deficiency enough to make the change noticeable. 
            The idea as it stands has some merit for improving the dismal wait times DPS is experiencing, but I believe that at best this is only a temporary solution to a much bigger problem that won’t go away easily. Blizzard needs to look at other ways to deal with this on a long term basis and hopefully this band aid solution will give them the time needed to make it to surgery.  

            While in the meantime the added extra loot will entice some tanks and healers to Queue more often, but what happens when they are just sick and tired of running randoms or they have all the pets, mounts and gems they can handle. What will be the incentive to keep going? Eventually these presently enticing rewards will become less desirable and the number of tanks queuing up will become low again.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

BattleField: Bad Company 2 Prices Cut in Half

If you have never played this game, but always wanted to you have never had a better reason to do than now.

EA sports has cut thier prices in half for the game $9.97, The Expansion Vietnam $7.47 and the SPECACT Kit which allows you to customize your soldiers appearance for only $2.75.

I will be purchasing the Vietnam and SPECACT since I havent already and for 10 bucks its a good deal.

See you on the Battle Field.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

"Ascension" - My First Foundry mission to be published

               Well After quite alot of learning and trial and error in figuring out the Foundry, I have sucsessfully completed my first Star Trek Online Mission called "Ascension". I was still having a problem with markers working correctly, so I went around them by using "interact with objects" instead. For some reason my markers were not triggering, even when I increased the radius out to extreme range. Oh well I will continue to make missions if only for the fact that I enjoy doing so much and I am confident my skill at making mission will only get better. If you get the chance to try it out, please stop back to this post and let me know what you think. Good and bad comments accepted becuase constructive feedback can only help me improve future missions.


Playing around in the Foundry

Last week Star Trek Online released their mission building program called Foundry to the live server. Although still leveling my main character (Commander Rank 3 ATM) my curiosity got the better of me so I took the plunge and began creating my first mission. I was instantly enthralled and frustrated at the same time.
            Building your own missions and then having other players play them must seem like tedious mind numbing work for some people, but for a guy like me this is exactly the kind of fun I am looking for. Developing a story, creating new maps and new characters is a lot of fun for me and the foundry is a nice tool to do this. Whether or not my missions turn out to be entertaining or not is yet to be seen, but I am having a blast learning the system even if it does frustrate me at times.    


Good Interface, just read the Q & A First 

            I am going to assume that most of the people who will use the Foundry are going to have limited knowledge and experience with programming. The concepts of programming logic and code progression are probably not widely known. Therefore it goes to reason that the average person will not be able to use this knowledge in crafting their missions with the understanding of how things should progress. One word of advice to those unfamiliar with programming, it is usually prudent to write out your plan before engaging in writing the code or in this case writing your mission. Having a map to follow while working on your story will help out tremendously in reaching your desired goal.  
            Fortunately the Foundry has a user interface that is pretty straight forward with tabs set up to make everything that you need. The look and feel of it is similar in design to Microsoft products like Visual Basic and such. However understanding how a story should progress, on a programming level, is often hard to follow unless you do some homework first.
            Although very basic in its information, the official Q & A has enough to get you started in designing your mission. However where it fails is in helping someone to understand triggers and transitions. Although they are covered, the material provided is very limited and only helps you in building a very basic mission. Once you have tinkered around with it a little bit, you should be able to get the basic idea behind how to use the Foundry, but to do the more dynamic story development you should look for additional help outside of the Q & A.
            There have been several videos and websites created to assist you in figuring out some of the more advanced features of the Foundry and I suggest you read up as much as you can before tackling your first mission. It is twice as hard to try and go back and fix what you have already done, instead of doing it as you go the right way. This is why mapping your plan and learning as much as possible are very important.

And then there are the bugs

            As any programmer will attest to, writing code also means fixing bugs. Bugs are those pesky things that will make your screen freeze or a program to stop working. Foundry has its own bugs and writing bad story progression or map design will give you plenty of them. The system does a decent job of providing you with clues to what’s wrong, with the addition of a task pane in the bottom left of the interface, but inevitably you will come across something that will be out of place or will not work. This is where the Foundry can get frustrating as solutions to your missions problems are not given.           
            For instance in creating my first mission (Which should be out soon) for some reason the server stops responding when loading the first map of my mission. I pre made this map instead of using a provided one (possibly the problem) and created a spawn point and a place marker. The map will eventually load, but nothing happens when you reach the first marker. This problem only happens on the first map and not on additional maps with the same mechanic. Also in places my pop up dialogs are not engaging when they are supposed to.
            At the moment I am without an answer as to why this is happening, but I will fix it eventually or just remake the map and reenter the pop ups. The point is according to the Foundry there is nothing wrong with anything I have created and it doesn’t have a problem until I test the mission. I can imagine that this could become annoying to the average user and may prevent them from using it further.

The Verdict so far
            The fact that Cryptic has given its players the Foundry to use is a huge plus to me. Although not a new concept in the world of gaming, it is not normal in MMORPG games.  I really, really like this feature and if nothing else it will keep me a paying subscriber for the foreseeable future. I am positive that Cryptic will make changes to improve this tool, but even in its present state the Foundry is a very nice program to play with. The fact that you can publish your missions to other players is simply a bonus.
            I am sure that people will create missions that exploit certain game aspects and find ways to manipulate the Foundry          to gain an advantage in the game, but that still doesn’t diminish the value of this tool. I am looking forward to many hours of creating content for my fellow gamers and I am sure that my creations will get better as I become more familiar with this tool. My first mission (Which is yet to be named) should be ready soon for public consumption and I will announce its arrival here.
            If you have a question about the Foundry or if you have a mission you would like me to try and talk about you please let me know and I will do my best to help or check out your content. Until then good luck in crafting that epic episode you always wished they had made.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Shame of an Elder Gamer

We have all heard the stereotypes associated with playing games, especially MMORPG style games. Nerd, Geek, or my personal favorite “No life loser living in your mom’s basement” are all used in society to label a gamer, especially an adult gamer. In fact the negative names are often used the most by gamers when describing other gamers. Is there anyone over 18 that is not a gamer? Also at what age is it no longer considered cool to be a gamer?

Everybody plays Games

            The first thing I did when I thought about this was to look at the people I know and see who does and does not play video games. I was hard pressed to locate a single person that I know that doesn’t play video games at some level. Each and every person I thought of had or actively does play video games on a daily basis.
            Today video games are everywhere and are played on all types of devices and mediums. From social media sites like Facebook to consoles to cell phones, video games have infiltrated modern society like no other form of entertainment available. How then it is still considered weird or not acceptable in society? Why do people feel it necessary to conceal their online lives behind avatars and pseudo names?

Secret Identities

            In comic books super heroes always hid their true identities for fear of being discovered. In video games we follow this same line of thinking and hide our real selves behind cleverly (in some cases not so clever) fake names. In some part it is the desire to live a secret life that causes us to do this, but how many of you have during the course of a conversation will talk about your latest exploits in Azeroth? Or how many times have you included your gaming life as part of your resume for a job, even under the hobbies portion?
            Normally we are very discreet when disseminating information about the games we play to the general public and will often only do so when we know someone is of like mind. What causes us to shy away from our hobby of choice and hide like a vagabond afraid of the dirty little secret? IS it this preconceived notion that gamers are in general social outcasts unable to maintain a real flesh and blood relationship? If that is the case then how can anyone today be considered normal since for the most part we all play video games to some degree? Shouldn’t the person who doesn’t play any type of video game be the one given weird looks and talked about at the water cooler?

 Fantasy Phobia
            As much as we might like to believe that our society has become more modern and forward thinking, a lot of the old world taboos still exist today. This is never more evident than in the worlds of fantasy and Sci-Fi. Saying you enjoy movies or books like The Lord of the Rings or Star Wars in many cases will still get you labeled as a geek or weirdo. However these movies and book series are some of the best selling of all time, so just how many closet geeks exist out there? When you combine these genres with video games, which is the case in most MMORPG titles, you have a recipe for ridicule and shame.
            Whether we like to admit it or not Fantasy and Science fiction will most likely always be considered outside the realm of normality. Go ahead and do a search for “Sci-Fi fan” on your favorite search engine for images. How many “Normal” people do you see in the photos? The image most people have in mind when they hear fantasy or Sci-fi video game, is often one built on pre ordained prejudices and misconceptions.

Add Adult and stir until well blended

            When we interject the word adult into this equation the recipe creates a hideous monstrosity of social awkwardness and deprivation. An Adult Video Gamer is someone who refuses to grow up and move out of their mother’s house. Now the person is unable to maintain a meaningful relationship and most likely is a 40ish year old virgin. Hmmm remember the scene in that very similar sounding movie with all the action figures and collectibles?
            This is the preconceived image that anyone who is over 18 years old and still playing video games, especially MMO games is perceived to be. Going to a Star Trek Convention or ComicCon this year? Better not let that out of the bag to the wrong person because you will most certainly receive a label that is not kind. I think we can all agree that this is not fair, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist today.
            I applaud those who bravely go to these events in full costumed regalia unafraid of what others think, but for the most part I tend to believe that most attendees are unwilling to admit attendance to non followers of the genre. We talk to or fellow gamers about the things we do, but very rarely do we discuss it in open public.
Maybe this is acceptable; maybe it is supposed to be this way, but I have to believe that as these games grow in popularity so will it become more social acceptable to be a fan of them. I look forward to the day that I can say “I am an Adult Gamer who plays an Armor Wearing Paladin” without be looked at funny. Well ok that might be a bit much, but at least allow me to claim my love of online gaming without ridicule.