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?


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 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.

State of My Game: June

This is a nutso week for me.  I was gone for three days and came back just in time for my wife to fly out for four days, and then we can have a nice peaceful two days together before I’m gone again another week.


So, I don’t have much time to write.  Or play.  But here’s a general rundown on where I am right now:


World of Tanks:  Unfortunately between travel and single-parenting, I haven’t gotten much of anywhere lately.  And all our Clan Wars matches have been super early.  And my client crashed on my laptop.  So I upgraded my desktop drivers to the new 320’s.  That worked…for a day.  Then they started crashing again.  I guess I just got a lemon video card.  Oi.   Anyway, so now we are back to laptop play.    I haven’t made any significant progress on my tier 9’s  About the only thing I can say is that I have fallen in love with the SU-100M1.  It is fast, has nice angled armor, insane travserse speed.  And the upgraded gun is super accurate and drills out shots every six seconds or so.   Tier 9’s are sometimes and issue, but the game is so accurate and the tank so fast, that even getting the best of them is not often a difficult prospect.  I can relocate, and on occasion I’ve even circled them to great effect.  Great tank that I will be holding onto as I continue to climb the line.


The new camo's are pretty awesome, btw...
The new camo’s are pretty awesome, btw…


Star Trek Online:  The new Romulan content is great, but I’m stuck with analysis paralysis.  I really don’t know whether to go KDF or FED.  And so I haven’t done either.  Really, despite the new content, what I would like to do now is go back and play all the KDF missions with my level 50 engineer.  I leveled solely through Duty Officers with him, mostly because the UI was such a RED EYESORE ATTACK.   Now that this has been fixed, I’d like to run the actual content.  Oh, and I think I will be shelling out for at least one of the Romulan refit ships.


Hello, gorgeous. I would trade my pointy ears for you.


Uncharted Waters Online:  I dinked around a bit last week, but that’s about it.   I really want to go finished the advanced schools and start doing some exploring…


Lord of the Rings Online:  I think we finished up the Lone Lands this past weekend.  It has been slow going with my travel, but we are still enjoying ourselves.  We talked about trying one of the 3-person instances soon.  That could be trouble though since I can’t even hold aggro on regular mobs, must less boss monsters.  We will see I guess!


The Secret World:  I’m back, and I rolled a Templar.  Surprise!  While I have never really been a self-modeler or self-biographer in my roleplaying, there was one thing the Templars offered that nobody else did that I decided I absolutely couldn’t live without:


I can only dream of being this stylish IRL...
I can only dream of being this stylish IRL…


Plus it goes with a healer build.  Right up my alley.


Anyway, this may be it for the next week and a half.  Game well everyone!

If You Want To Dip Your Toes Into Uncharted Waters…

Now is a good time to do so.


Create an account  anytime up until April 15th (or since March 22nd, so I will qualify for this as well!) and you will get a Talisman that will give you a 50% speed boost.   Unlike some MMO’s whose experience or speed boosts are limited only to a small window of time, NetMarble is very generous with their consumable boosts – you get it for a full week.




If you clear a small hurdle, you are eligible for phase two of the rewards:




Okay, not as fun, but this is a crest for your ship, you can use it to decorate.  I assume “Planet” is a translation error.  (-:  You have to reach 10 in all three of the foci – Combat, Trade, and Adventurer,  before April 18th to qualify but even doing the basic tutorial will probably get you to that point.  And that won’t take more than a night, two at most.


Then, one more hurdle will get you the best part:




To get these you only need to get one of the three foci to level 23.  This is not all that hard to do either, I’m pretty sure that’s where I am at now, after completing the intermediate courses of all three schools and taking a couple of standalone contracts (quests).


You won’t be able to use either of these yet though – I think I have maybe 1500 fame *tops* right now.  3,000 might be a realistic number for finishing all the advanced schools.    Ten thousand will probably take awhile though.   But…that’s still a good bit of cash.   I think I have around 300k squirreled away right now, but I have a hefty wishlist that will cut that in half next time I log in.   So 1 million is nothing to sneeze at, even later down the road.   And those Oceanographer outfits?   Well, they ain’t “cool” but the bonuses are great for anyone doing the Adventurer school.   Which is good, because the tutorial prizes for Combat and Trade seem to outstrip the Adventurer ones.




Anyway, no better time than the present to get in and putz around, some nice incentive to do so this weekend!

Finishing School

And I mean that in more ways than one!  Well, two anyway.  My adventures in Uncharted Waters Online continue.   And I did finish one school and I am ready for finishing (that is, Advanced) school now, in all three areas.


Adventurer school was great, and I continue to be happy with my main selection.  I did jump jobs a couple of times with the permits earned in school, but just so I could pick up some basic Merchant and Battle skills.   And since I haven’t finished school yet, I am reserving final judgment.   But for now, I was happy to have passed my tests with flying colors!




The Battle skills I hadn’t intended to grab, but after getting wiped by the AI in the Intermediate Battle school…twice…I decided to pick up a few basics.  Even then it wasn’t an easy win.   It took way more Munitions and Lumber than I thought, and even then I barely pulled it off.


The stats don’t tell the whole story, believe me!


Next up is a trip to Pisa.   The graduation exercise gives you enough money to use a Liner to travel there if you like.   Liner’s are like the Flight Point paths in WoW – only with a ship instead of a griffin, and it will take 15 minutes instead of a minute and a half.   And its expensive.  So I’d rather save the money and make the journey myself.  (Hello…Adventurer character.  Duh.)


First though, I have to see a man in Hamburg named Martin Luther about a letter to a Mr. Erasmus.




Which is funny, because I’m actually Lutheran.   Maybe I’ll get to hoist a drink or three with ol’ Marty.   Its a nice touch, having a game that is at least nominally tied into real history.

Just Sit Right Back And You’ll Hear A Tale…

A tale of a fateful trip.   It started when my brother called and gave a helpful tip.   “There’s this sandbox game you ought to try, in the age of sail and ship…”


So I downloaded Uncharted Waters Online.  How to describe this game.   Imagine your favorite 90’s console RPG made sweet, sweet love to EVE Online, and this is the legitimate but slightly offbeat offspring.  Skill based – but with classes that favor certain skills (advancing them at twice the normal rate) and can be changed with minimal effort.  Three well-defined areas of focus – Combat, Trade, and Adventure.  100 v 100 PvP battles but also options that would allow you to play with absolutely no weapon or combat skills and still do just fine.    And its free to play – no, seriously – there is *no* subscription option.  No “gold” members.  And a learning curve that is higher than average, but with a solid tutorial that lasts…


Also, for those of you who worship a minimalist UI, I have found your god.

Well, it really was a three hour tour – that’s how long it took to get through the tutorial.   The first one.  And I loved every minute of it.   I had that feeling like I might when on the sixth mission in that tutorial, I was told to sail from London to Antwerp to find a book.  And all I had was a static map of Northern Europe with a few major cities and landing areas marked on it.  No quest markers or exclamation points.  I admit, I panicked a little.   The game kinda slapped me and was like “didn’t you learn to read maps in middle school?”  London here, Antwerp to the southeast there…I have a compass.  Okay, lets do this thing.   And that’s the brilliance of this sandbox.  Just enough help balanced with just enough respect for the fact that you are an adult and can probably figure this out on your own.  (And if not, you’re going to be caps lock yelling in the school/help channel, where one of the helpful GMs – yes, honest to god, they are there – will help you out. )


The Map (TM)
The Map (TM)


I’ve played a grand total of three nights now, and I’m only just now wrapping up the Intermediate (second of the three) tutorials.  I’ve also taken a few contracts (missions/quests) in between, just to make sure my learning was more than just book oriented, and I admit, the tutorials are good.  One of the oddities of this sandbox is that you can only have one active contract at a time.  Its just as well for me, playing the game mainly in the Adventure realm – most of those quests are things like the one I did last night.   Sitting in Antwerp, and I get a contract from a scholar who has heard rumors of a flying rodent over in Oslo.  Would I be so good as to head over that way and investigate them?  You’ll need Biology 1, Ecological Research 1, and know how to speak Nordic.   I did so – though I should also note that, since I have a healthy fear of pirates, I picked up Swordplay before I left as well.   Trade contracts will ask for you to do things like secure certain trade goods (only certain goods are available in certain ports) or ask you to learn new crafting recipes.  Combat (aka “Maritime”) contracts will have you tracking down NPC pirates on the waters or bandits on land.


Or, you can stuff the contracts altogether and start your life of PvP (or PvE) piracy and combat.   Along the way, you can use guns or hand weapons, which gain power as you use them and get better with them, and equip any number of specialty items for your party of sailors/marines – from hand grenades to throwing knives to medicines to tip  the tide of battle in your favor.   Not to mention your own skills, some like Swordplay that will help you and your party both passively or something in the Surgery line that you can activate using Vigour – action points.


Combat is overall much like Eve – not a lot of whack-a-mole button mashing – more about your ship and party setups.   Do you use your upgrade slots for an armored stern-castle for an edge in boarding combat?  Or use it to pile on extra sails?   And will they be vertical sails for outright speed or horizontal ones for maneuverability?   Will you choose a ship with rowers for the best agility – knowing that will leave you with less hands for boarding combat and cannon fire?    Should you have long range cannons or smaller cannons that reload faster?  Or a mix of a the two?  Do you use one of your active skills to try to tip the battle?  Vigour doesn’t regenerate over time – only with eating and drinking.  Did you bring along any food beyond your basic provisions for that?  Will you have time to eat before your next combat?  Maybe you should make a run for it – or hand over some tribute items (NPC) or offer up a ransom of ducats (PC) to try to get them to leave you alone.   Overall – the game is much more forgiving than Eve is though – ships do not cost and arm and a leg to buy and outfit, and getting shipwrecked is not so bad – unless you end up in a country where you don’t speak the language.  But then hopefully you are smart enough to not be privateering off the coast of a country whose language you are unfamilar with.  And if you are – well, there’s a Body Language for that – it will take up one of your skill slots, but if you don’t want a bunch of languages clogging up those slots either, it will at least let you withdraw some money from the bank to buy a cheap ship that will get you home.


Crafting is deep and wide too.  Advanced ship builders can customize their ship right down to the most basic stats – it looks like a whale of a trading ship, but all that cargo space is now filled with guns.  Cook anything from the hilarious (Sea Pizza) to the most formal (Steak Tartar).   Speaking of which, if you want to present your new discovery to the Governor in his honor for a a reward or perhaps a new skill or in return for the production of a special item – best not do it in your salt-water skivvies.  He only talks to people who can dress like a civilized man (or woman).  Best pay attention to your clothing’s formality stats as well as its protection values.  Or keep a couple of sets of clothing on hand – yes you can make those too.  Craft at the craft shop, at your charater’s housing, in your ship, or anywhere else, then set up shop in the town square and hawk your wares – yep, direct P2P sales – or put it up in the Bazaar and look for an offer.


Or you can give a violin performance.
Or you can give a violin performance.


Adventuring is the real gem though.  If STO had a system like this in place, it would have been the feather in the cap most traditional Star Trek fans were looking for.  Non-combat puzzle missions that garner “discoveries” that can be turned in to famous figures for achievements, xp, cash, and other favors.  John Dee in London is looking for more esoteric mysteries, but that new Celtic manuscript you uncovered with your landing party on that uncharted beach in Northern Europe is just the kind of thing that Mr. Shakespeare would pay handsomely for.   Contracts may ask you to open up trade routes between cities, visiting both within a certain restricted time period and using our Survey skill to map out the route.    Or you may find a map for a some treasure an old pirate buried down in the Ottoman Empire.  Visit Japan and trade your clipper in for one of their famous armored “turtle ships” or castle-like Atekebunes and your leather hauberk for a kimono.  Major cities like London  will have randomly trending fashions though – so maybe you should buy two and sell the other when you get home – it may fetch you enough money to buy that private island you have been dreaming about.


Yeah..maybe not.
Yeah..maybe not.


I started the quest for a good sandbox MMO over a year ago.  I tried Istaria, which started out strong and then got dumb and slow.   I had much the same problem in Vanguard this past month when I went back to it.  Three solid nights of adventuring got me halfway from level 22 to level 23.  Uh…no thanks.  Project Gorgon is back up and running, and I will be involved there from time to time, but its a long way from done.   Dawntide is on life support, and probably won’t recover.


I think that quest has come to an end.  If you want to try the game but aren’t a Steam person, here’s the main site.  The game is truly free to play, but the shop offers lots of fun and convenience items.   You don’t really need anything to start out, but the Novice Sailor’s Package at $4.00 provides plenty of bang for the buck with large quantities of provisions, consumables for sailing to save on your Vigour, and some Lifesavers to recover your already experience crewman if you do get shipwrecked after running afoul of pirates or a trolling player.   My advice for starting players – to the tutorial.  All of it.  And then go back and do the tutorials for the other two areas of interest as well (the tutorial system is “smart” – it will skip basic lessons you already know from another field).   Oh and keep most of your cash in the bank, just in case.  Not every three hour tour ends well.