Time Capsule 2015

So for those that haven’t read one of my previous capsules, or my opening thereof, here’s how this works. I record some of the things I’m looking forward to, some of my burning questions for the year ahead, and record my biggest nostalgia impulses. And then a year later, I see how they turned out. (Hint: sometimes not as great as I thought, sometimes, even better).

So here we go:

What I’m looking forward to in 2015

As others have pointed out, this is a down year for MMO’s. There are no real major launches that we know of, and nothing waiting on the back burner to amp up. So most of my anticipation is locked into games I’m playing in the here and now (and that’s not a bad thing!)

Maxing Out Marvel Heroes Online

I started last year with just a free hero (Hawkeye) and some time to kill, but the game was so good I put in enough quarters to buy out my two favorite Marvel characters: Moon Knight and Taskmaster. Moonie is…well, he’s a complicated character and its hard to get a good build on him. Taskmaster on the other hand, is a world of fun. I added Rogue over Christmas through the Steam sale. She is the quintessential utility character, something I thrive on. So I’d really like to get those guys maxed out, or at least to where I have all their fun abilities, including ultimates, unlocked.

Grats to Gazillion on raking in that Game of the Year award too. And they deserve it. All the other action RPG type games are built on PvP – but not this one. This one is built firmly on PvE, and that is what has made it such a nice secondary game for me. Drop in, drop an elbow on several hundred henchmen, and drop back out. Good times folks, good times.

Unleash the Tiger

The inscription in Russian reads:  "Pic Unrelated"
The inscription in Russian reads: “Pic Unrelated”

One of the seminal moments of the World of Tanks beta for me was, as week before the wipe and launch, unlocking the Tiger tank. My boyhood dream, come to life in a way that had never, in my opinion, been done right before. And then War Thunder comes along, and, in my opinion, they do it even better than WoT did. And I’m sitting 61,000 RP from unlocking that steal beast in WT. Well, maybe a little more than that, as I’ve elected to beef up my AA lineup a bit first. So call it 85k or so. Shouldn’t be too long, but unlocking it is not what I’m looking forward to – playing with it is. In WoT the Tiger was always a mediocre tank – the way they rank it, it falls into battles where its already poor mobility was combined with a new weakness – armor that couldn’t stop anything. It was….disappointing. I’m curious to see how it fares in WT. Will it live up to the image cast by my younger self, watching Kelly’s Heroes and drooling longingly?

More Jet Combat In World of Warplanes

I know that sounds weird, but, now that I have a couple of jets in my inventory, I’m really starting to like the way the game plays out around them. In War Thunder, at those levels, it appears a one second burst can shatter you jet beyond repair, but the mechanics in WoWp are more forgiving, and combined with the greater difficulty in maneuvering at those speeds…well, its a fun and fast paced challenge. I never thought I would be in that place, a year ago, I’d have said to take jets out all together. But I really do think the game is set up to handle them well, maybe even better than it handles the lower tier prop battles, which is already very good at building high paced furballs.

My Burning Questions For 2015

Speaking of WoWp…

Where will things stand a year from now? Will the game be improved, with greater numbers of players, or will it have dwindled south? Will it even still be around? Already some NA players have moved to the RU server, trading a rough delay for the ability to have a large population present. For me, my heartache would be in the loss of the game I love, but not in money invested. Warships will be coming soon and I know I will be invested in that as well, so any gold I have will find a happy new home there. But I genuinely love WoWp, and the thought of it disappearing on me…well, it would be a hard blow to take.

What will Elder Schools Unlimited Actually Look Like?

Screenshot_20150115_204737

They say that nothing will be restricted, but I’m calling baloney right now. XP gain will be choked back, without a doubt. Which means if my brother and I want to keep moving at the comfortable pace we are living at right now, we are going to have to stay subbed. Which means there are no real benefits for me to derive from the game. Yes, I know, the Crown Shoppe, or whatever they will call it, but…unless they are also lying about restrictions in the realms of fashion – I already change outfits and colors almost nightly – there is nothing more I could want to buy from the shop in terms of cosmetics. But if they are lying about that too, and the crafting content will also be restricted….well, then, again, I’m not better off than when I started. Honestly, it doesn’t really hurt my status quo, so there is nothing for me to be mad about. But as someone who is already loyally subbed, I stand to gain nothing in the switch it seems.

What MMO Closures will 2015 Bring Us?

It was this time last year when word came that Vanguard would be closed down for good….err “sunsetting” as they euphemize it. That made it the fifth MMO I’ve played to shutter its doors (EQOA, Shadowbane, CoX, SWG are the other four). So the thought is in my head as I write this: who is going down this year? Will it be the very original, but long suffering Pirates of the Burning Sea? They admit this is going to be a tenuous year for them revenue-wise in a recent letter, but if they can get in place the things they need, they can probably hold on for awhile longer. Sony has proven itself the harbinger of doom when it comes to closures in the last year – is there something else on their list to axe? Dragon’s Prophet maybe? Do any of the really old school games that have clung to life face an end in the next year? Dark Age of Camelot? Asheron’s Call?

Or…will this be a closure free year, which will seem to be, after the last couple of years, a rarity?

Where Will I Return To In 2015

Ah, the nostalgia lanes. Last year I enjoyed trips into retro-RPG lands. What about this year?

ArchAge Online

Given how passionate I was about this game early on…should I go back and try to rekindle some of that interest now? I mean, it is free to play, so if it doesn’t work out, no big deal. And I doubt I will ever get through enough of the content that PvP will be an issue. And in some sense, it woudn’t be a return since I never made it that far on the RU server. Still, an interesting possibility.

Dominions 4

I would love to do a nice, long (maybe playing just once a week) playthrough of a Dominions game and write up a narrative of the action. It would function in some ways like Syps Nostalgia Lane, though I really only have an interest in doing it for this game, which it would work well on I think. His Master of Orion playthrough in that format was a great read and a lot of fun.

Or….

Or will something not here jump up and catch my fancy, something like the recently resurfaced Uncharted Waters Online….

I must have ships on the brain. Anyway, here’s to 2015. May it surprise us in a good way.

Five For Friday: Favorite Character Mechanics

I thought I might share this series with one of the things that drives interest in a game for me – interesting classes and class mechanics. This is one reason WildStar is not of interest to me while Elder Scrolls Online is – same old classes with same old three part skill trees vs. archetype + weapon + morph builds that change the way the game looks and unfolds in front of your eyes. This may be a reason TERA appeals to me too – the warrior is DPS and one of the healers is a pet class?! Love it! I like for fun little perks, utilities, and options to come into play. I like for norms to be twisted up a bit. I like to have a character that has something interesting or unusual to do in the game, even if that means they are not the best tank or healer or DPS player out there. So, in no particular order, here are some of my favorite character mechanics in the MMO field thus far:

1) “Avast matey, lower your flags, this ship be mine!” (‘Take Command of Ship’ Skill; Pirates of the Burning Sea)

My favorite character in PotBS has always been my Pirate – later, after the class break, known as the Cutthroat. And one of his fun abilities is to use this skill on a ship he has just successfully disabled:

takecommand

Ships are hard to come by in PotBS, and they don’t necessarily need to be easy to come buy. Its like having a car in real life – you only need a new one every so often. But if you could get a new one, say, every year…for free…wouldn’t you want one? And that is the life of the Cutthroat. Eh, I’ve had this ship for a whole level – I want a new one! Of course the captured one only has 1 durability point (if you are defeated in combat, the ship is lost permanently), but if you were like me, you kept a stockpile of more than one on hand. Because some days you feel like a gun shooting frigate, and some days you feel like a boarding galleon.

2) “Whatya need? Supplies? Gear? Fireball tossing gems? Lemme summon one for you…” (Magician Class, Everquest/EQOA)

Take a gander at the base spell list, levels 1-65, for the Everquest magician. Notice anything? At level one, three spells, not to hurt things, but to get you food, water, and weapons. Level two: armor and bandages. Level six? A backpack. It gets better: arrows, spears, staves, armor for your mates, armor for you, jewelry, resistance items, mana to hp conversion rods, breathe underwater items, click-to-nuke charged items, weapons/armor/gear for pets. Hell, you can even summon your friends – poof! – to right in front of you. A walking, talking, one man fixer for the masses. The ultimate utility kit.

Everything you see here came from my magic.
Everything you see here came from my magic.

Of course, what killed the class, and the idea it brings to the table, was the move to bring characters home at the end of each night. When your group is logging off in the wilderness at their favorite mob spawn and grinding location, characters like the Magician are a godsend. They help you make camp and bring those basic supplies to keep you rolling longer. But none of those can compare to the rest xp that you get when you port back to town each night. After all, the real reason to camp in the wilderness is to be close to the action and cut down on down time. But double xp more than covers the transit time to your favorite spawn camp – particularly in MMO’s dominated with fast transit.

3) “If you build it, they will come.” (Necromancer Class, Vanguard)

Vanguard was the first MMO to move away from the idea of a simple summoned pet for a pet class. While you could certainly raise the dead in the traditional manner, Vanguard went beyond. You built your own Frankenstein. Dead bodies could be scavenged for parts, constructed and given to your persistent pet, turning it into a powerhouse that grew right along side of you. It dealt with a part of the lore of necromancers that other games had not touched on – that of true grave robber, visionary of giving life to the dead. It was an interesting take and a fun little side quest within the group. After all, what could be more character enriching than the experience of a group pulling down their new loot – sword, staff, or what have you, wild the mad necromancer just smiles and pillages the claws off the dead body, excited not for the gold and silver but the knicknack nobody else even noticed, that will make him that much more powerful.

4) “Dual wielding, healing, teleporting, pet class? Yeah, we got those.” (Disciplines, Shadowbane)

While some fun has been had with Wildstar’s system allowing you to chose a sort of subclass that unlocks new area quests, they don’t change the way your class is played, as Shadowbane’s original discipline system did. You had a base class, and advanced class, and then up to three disciplines you could stack on top of that. The end result was that you could build characters that might both be wizards, but with wildly varying skill rotations, abilities, and out of combat utilities. Both could hit you with a lightning bolt, but one might summon dark lords and dual wield swords, the other might run around healing and buffing his group. And the disciplines ranged from the ho-hum (Enchanter, Archmage) to the interesting (Bladeweaver, Traveler) to the WTF (Ratcatcher, Sundancer, Gorgoi). It was a lesson lost on PvP developers everywhere, who now seem to think that PvP can only be good and balanced if every character can be summed up in a class word and its abilities and strengths and weaknesses determined at a glance. In Shadowbane, those kinds of assumptions got you killed. Fast.

5) Attention! Party on deck! (Crews and Duty Officers, Star Trek Online)

Growing up, my favorite RPG series was Might and Magic. I loved rolling a party (sometimes naming characters after my buds) and having a grand adventure through fantasy, not to mention time and space (because Might and Magic wasn’t complete without laser guns appearing at some point). Later on RPG’s evolved, and you had only one character. And so when MMO’s hit, the same followed. But I miss the party system and the fun that could be had with some…well, what I will call “internal roleplaying” – fan fiction, having the universe personalized and come alive in your own head a little more.

And you know, there is only one MMO right now where you can play a fully fleshed out party of five, and where their skills and yours are usable, and where you can pick their race, class, and personality. And that is Star Trek Online. I mean, if you want to play a classic RPG, STO is sitting right there waiting for you, with fleshed out, well written, hour long quests (er, “episodes”) covering multiple story arcs. And if you want to play with a buddy, like I wanted badly to do with Might and Magic back in the day – team up, and you can each bring half your party (on the ground) or all of it (in space).

Truly, this is one of the under-appreciated aspects of STO. One that is not noticed, much less lauded, often enough.

We come in peace (Shoot  to kill)
We come in peace (Shoot to kill)