Opening the 2015 Time Capsule

I do this every year in lieu of predictions, and because it is fun for me to gauge expectations versus reality on a year in gaming.   Later this week or early next we will start a capsule for 2016.   But for now, despite my irregular posting as of late, I wanted to take this opportunity to look back on what was a very odd duck year for me personally.

I Was Looking Forward To Three Things…

 

Level Capping in Marvel Heroes

At this point last year I had just gotten Rogue and wanted to get her and my two favorite characters at the time, Taskmaster and Moonknight, up to a point of max level “or at least to where I have all their fun abilities, including ultimates, unlocked.”  Boy did I nail that one!  And it was as fun as I had hoped it would be!

Level Up

Currently my roster includes all three of those beauties at level 60, with their unique gear and complimentary artifacts, costumes, and trinkets.  Not ready for raiding perhaps,but then I’m not into that, so…yeah.

Behind them includes several characters in their 30’s – Dr. Strange (didn’t enjoy, gave up on him for now), Star Lord (leveling alongside my brother), Hawkeye (on the back burner), and War Machine (my current main character).

I also have four more heroes I want to purchase (Black Panther, Dr. Doom, Psylocke, and Winter Soldier), and own seven that I don’t really have any interest in playing (Iron Man, Thing, Cyclops, Jean Grey, Human Torch, Cable and Thor) thanks to free hero boxes.

 

Unleashing the Tiger in War Thunder

I never made it there.  I tried to get a better AA tank into the lineup, and then more tanks got added, and then the US tanks came, and then the British tanks came…anyway, I am literally no further along than before.  I have gone an entire year and made zero additional progress towards that Tiger.  I guess I didn’t really want it after all?

 

More Jets!

I can’t remember what jets I did or didn’t have unlocked at this point last year, but currently I own three of the buggers, five if you count a pair of rocket assisted USSR planes:  Gloster Meteor I, Me 109TL, and the FJ-1 Fury.  I am also very close to unlocking the Me P.1092 and the Yak-15.

WoWp underwent some tremendous changes this year, and my play time with it did too.   I think I quit back in February or March because you just couldn’t get anything other than 3v3 matches and it wasn’t fun anymore.  I skipped a big marathon to get a free t8 premium (which I now regret).   And then later in the year, they added bots to every match, which despite the whining was the best possible move they could have made.  The game is easier now (a good thing for general audiences), population has actually recovered a good bit (up to 600 concurrent from 300 on a normal night), and the old fun of those giant furballs is mostly back.   They also finally added in the Republic  Thunderbolt line.

shot_165

On the down side – the introduction of pay to win elements like cash exclusive premium ammo.   But then…War Thunder has some obvious P2W elements as well, and I still play it.   In the end, the game was fun again, and this proves that that is pretty much all that matters to me.  I completed the Christmas marathon (just barely) and collected a new t8 premium, this time forgoing a jet for the ultimate iteration of my beloved t5 Spitfire, the t8 Seafang.  And speaking of WoWp…

 

I Had Three Burning Questions for 2015…

 

What will become 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?”

Well, despite some hiccups and steps back the game is definitively in a better place than it was a year ago.   Despite our frustrations with the developer (and this is wholly their fault), they have made good progress this year.  Better than I would have thought at this time twelve months ago.  A better game, with twice as many players, is almost unbelievable.   So whatever frustrations I may continue to have, I will do what I can to play and support the game.

 

What Will Elder Scrolls Unlimited Actually Look Like?

Turns out this wasn’t all that much of a burning question for me.  My sub ran out about the time they went F2P and I haven’t logged in since.  Part of that was the surprising rise of SWTOR that I experienced as my son dove into that and dragged my brother and I along for the (admittedly fun) ride.

So, I don’t really know what things look like there.  I do seem to remember that crafting was changed in a way I did not like, and that nothing really exciting has come out of it.   So with other things on my plate, I have moved on.  I would like to go back for a bit I think….we will see what 2016 brings.

 

What MMO Closures Will 2015 Bring Us?

Well it brought some, but none that I was all that concerned with.   One I listed as a question mark was Dragons’ Prophet, and it is indeed gone.   One I thought for sure would be dead and done was Pirates of the Burning Sea, but it continues to drive forward in a remarkable display of stubbornness and skill.

Maybe instead I should have asked what MMO changes 2015 would bring us – look at Sony’s buyout, Wildstar’s F2P transition, SWTOR and GW2’s new heavy expansions, etc.  It was definitely a year of movement, and mostly in a positive direction it seems like.

droid crossing

I Had Three Places I Wanted To Return To…

 

ArchAge Online

Never made it back in, and just haven’t felt that classic “fantasy MMO” itch at all lately.  The classic MMO itch is covered by SWTOR, while the fantasy itch gets scratched via single player RPG’s (brilliant titles like Darkest Dungeon have sucked up my time) and the engaging action combat of TERA Online.  So I’m not really sure what AAO could offer me at this point.

 

Dominions 4

I did play a solid scenario of this and even blogged the early portions of the game last year.  But despite the great improvements on Dom4, especially graphics, I found it was not quite what I was looking for.   And then this fall Conquest of Elysium 4 was released – basically, a Dominions skinned version of a Rogue/HoMM crossover.   And I went back and played some CoE3, and I realized this was really what I had wanted before.   So CoE4 is on my wishlist for the coming year.

 

Uncharter Waters Online

Well, UWO underwent some big changes this year itself – being sold off and bought up by a new company.  I like some of the things the new owners have done with the game, but I don’t like that the move meant I can’t play through Steam anymore.  I have it downloaded and patched, but never found time to squeeze into it.  Maybe in 2016?

 

Well there we go, that’s the 2015 Time Capsule, unlocked and scavenged through.   Next week we will seal another one.   I can only wonder at the moment what January 2017 will look like.

BB 70 – Dreaming

Its been years since I did an EVE Blog Banter post, but this topic fits a nice bill for me.   You can find more of the BB pack here.

Dear CCP, I want a Space-Pony and a Space-Puppy and a….
If CCP was Santa and you could ask for anything (in-game obviously) what would it be? A new type of ship that is tailored to your game-play? A change to mechanics? A battleship mini-doomsday weapon? Proper hats for your avatar? Opening of that bloody door? There are so many different options depending on what you do and what you want to get out of Eve Online. What would you like to see in your virtual Christmas stocking from CCP?

+++++

First off, I would love to have Santa CCP bring me one of the classical aspects of space combat.  I want marines that I can use to board another ship, a space station, or a planetary headquarters.   Where are my drop pods and assault shuttles and power armor?  We already have some concept art and background from Dust 514, Santa CCP needs to hook us up with some mechanics.

dust_514

Secondly, one of the remarkable online successes this year has been Armored Warfare’s use of PvE matches.  It has drawn players that normally wouldn’t be involved in the game and provides a nice break (or challenge) for the regular PvP crowd).

I would love for Santa CCP to bring me a more detailed, interesting, involved, and fun version of its current boring PvE regimen.  I don’t mind repeatable random missions, but they need to be rewarding enough to be worth the time it takes to do them.  And it wouldn’t hurt if the missions grouped you up with other pilots with similar objectives.

There is a very deep and profitable side of EVE Online that CCP hasn’t even begun to tap yet, and they need to get it going.  And quite frankly, as the game gets longer in the tooth, and the power gap between veterans and newcomers (or even just casual regular players) grows into a chasm, this would be an option for addressing some basic needs in the community.  Even more so with the stasis that null sec seems to have locked itself into.   In other words:  this would be a new and interesting side of EVE for old and new players alike.

+++++

I’ll cross my fingers and hope Santa CCP is listening.  It would be great to have a reason to sub up again.  Finally.  :-p

AW: Game, Set, Match

 

There has been some banter back and forth between the giants, much as there was last year between War Thunder and World of Tanks, but that tiny rivalry has been shoved aside (and rightly so, WT makes an entirely different breed of tank game) for this one.

But the banter here has had some bite in it, with jabs traded over twitter and in on-site articles.  And now, this.   I’m not sure how WoT can respond, if at all.  Generally they seem to be letting AW have the last word…

World of Warplanes Adopts a Pay to Win Policy

I have not been around much lately, but I had to mark this occasion.

In a rather desperate and distasteful bid to salvage some cash from World of Warplanes, Wargaming has greenlighted the adoption of “Pay to Win” strategies in the game.   Starting with update 1.9, the gun and damage systems have been overhauled, making critical hits more common and fires more dangerous.

This is the third time now that they have made major changes to the weapons and damage systems of the game.  Stop for a moment and think about how you would react if your favorite game changes the mechanics of how DPS works three times.  Now also account for the fact that these changes have never been requested by the player base.   Can you feel the rage building?

And not, to top it all off, with this third unasked for change comes another.   From now on in World of Warplanes, the best ammunition, the ones that give a bonus to the now more dangerous critical hits and fires, can only be bought for gold (real world currency).

Yes, you heard that right.  Only real world cash on the barrelhead will allow you to purchase the best damage rates for your weapons.  They cannot be earned as rewards or purchased with in game currency.

For a game that has gone from 3k players a night in Open Beta down to 300 players a night now, its a strange move to make.  I suppose the argument is that those 300 left are so diehard that nothing will make them leave at this point, and to recoup their losses, those 300 will have to be sacrificially bled on the altar of Wargaming’s failure.

Adding credence to this theory is the other major part of Update 1.9 – instead of the usually 3v3 battles necessitated by the low population, all matches will now be filled to 15v15 with AI bots.  The idea of attracting new players and increasing the population has officially been set aside in favor of a life-support model that will allow the game to limp along.

Me?  I’m already out.  War Thunder has finally found a sweet spot where their flight model is good and workable, and the game balance is there for fun times.

With this loss to Gaijin in the air, and the fact that Obsidian has, with the launch of Armored Warfare today, beaten Wargaming at its own best game on the ground, I have to believe we have passed Wargaming’s high water mark.  I know that sounds impossible, but I guess ten years ago I would have thought it was impossible for MySpace to become completely irrelevant to social media.  I have a feeling that ten years from now, Wargaming will still be around, but at a fraction of their former glory.

Overpromised and Underdelivered

I just read about the latest Derek Smart drama, which, like Summer Blockbuster movies, is fun and goes great with popcorn but lacks any real depth. Still, it got me to thinking, and reading the rather succinct summary of demands that Smart laid down at RSI’s feet. And it occurred to me that a couple of those are things that I would love to see out of Cryptozooic’s Hex crew as well.

Now you may not see the comparison as fair right away, but from an original backer perspective, I think it is. SC funded on Nov. 19, 2012 with 2.1m and 34k+ backers. It promised that: “The people who pledge for their spaceships will get to test-fly them long before the general public. 12 months in, we will allow the early backers to play the multiplayer space combat Alpha, and then 20-22 months in they will get to play the Star Citizen Beta, adventuring around the huge open galaxy, well before the general public.” If you’ve followed the story at all, you know those numbers were slightly exaggerated. 24 months for that combat thing, and 32 months and counting on that Beta.

Meanwhile, Hex funded on Jun 7, 2013, with 2.3m and almost 18k backers. It stated: “Our goal is 300,000. This amount will insure we can meet the last of our art and engineering requirements” and “we have built a series of deliverables that we believe can be completed in the remaining development time we have scheduled. We have tested the game systems and feel confident everything will socket together and create a fantastic experience. Further game testing is of critical importance, and we have planned for a staggered beta phase that will allow us to polish the experience and catch all the bugs (this is will include both private and public testing).” Alpha was scheduled for Aug of 2013 and Beta for Sept. Alpha launched a couple of months late and Beta as well, but neither Alpha nor Beta had any of the promised MMO elements that were supposedly all but finished. 25 months later, that is still true. Even basic character creation does not exist.

Another comparison: just as SC has sold and sold and sold, so too has Hex. While no MMO is even on the radar yet, Crypto continues to rake in money from the sale of tickets to PvP tournements, as well as the sales of starter and booster backs. They have also now just completed and launched their third set of cards. I’m sure that there is a volume differential on the sales, but you can see the parallels, yes?

So Smart had 7 demands, but really for HEX, we can dismiss the 7th outright, as I am not aware of any nepotism issues. Here’s the rest:

1. disclose the full detailed (private jet travel? we want to see it) P&L accounting (money in off-shore bank accounts? we want to know about them) for every crowd-funded dime that has been raised and spent on this project. Allow an independent forensics accountant, hired by backers, to come and do an audit. This is standard practice in developer-publisher relationships. So you know how that works.
2. disclose the true state of the project in terms of what is expected to be delivered, and when. Allow an independent Executive Producer, hired by backers, to come and do a project review in order to get an accurate picture of the game state, so we know when it is likely to see the light of day – if ever
3. disclose the true timeline for the project’s completion. As per the above.
4. setup a page offering refunds to all those who REQUEST it. The TOS is going to be the first thing attacked in any lawsuit. It is not likely to survive a legal challenge. Plus, the FTC will trump all that crap anyway, so there is that.
5. admit, in no uncertain terms, and apologize that the scope of the project has changed since the original $2.1m kickstarter crowd-funding campaign
6. halt all further crowd-funding activities until a sizable part of the game – as originally pitched in 2012 – has been delivered to backers who have paid for it. In other words, STOP selling virtual items and taking money for vaporware

Now for me, #1 is not strictly necessary. I’m not worried that Crypto is off partying on private yachts or something. And #5 is only really necessary if they have indeed decided to drop the MMO portion of the game.
And I have to say here, if they have looked at that, as developers, and said – we just can’t do that, its beyond us or no longer something we want to pursue – *that’s okay*. Just enact #4 above and I’m happy to walk away from the whole fiasco with no hard feelings.

But if the MMO is still really on the table and in development I want to see #2 and #3 as soon as possible. Right now, there is no timeline, not even a whisper of when these things might be coming to a test server. No questions are answered about them, no information is given. At least tell me something.

And if this is an issue, then just “TOS” me out and gimme my money back. I mean, I’m not as (in)famous as Smart, but if that’s the only way to get this resolved, I promise I can be just as much of a pain in the ass.

I Just Peed A Little

…in excitement.

My only question now – will it be a centralized server like EVE, or will there be an option for “private servers” like Minecraft. Either way this is a game changer. It lowers the learning cliff of insanity in EVE to a gentle sloping hill and points out Star Citizen as the Emperor With No Clothes.

Collector’s Edition, Subscription, whatever the hell they want ($$$), I’m in.

All the Way To The Top

While Syp has been expanding his base of low level heroes during the incredible boosts that Marvel Heroes has showered us with in the last week, I went the opposite road. I have a passing familiarity with all the characters, but a real interest in playing only a handful of them. And I know one of those will be coming down the pipe later this year (War Machine), so I decided to take the three I have actually spent money to acquire and spend a lot of quality time with them.

With all the boosts that quality time resulted in me hitting the level cap last week – twice.

Rogue, who I bought because of her unique gameplay: her abilities come from stealing/borrowing them from others, which allows you to design some pretty unique and fun combos. I settled on a version of rogue using the combined powers of Pyro, Mandarin, Magneto, Iron Man, Gorgon, and Nova. Basically, she was a Ranged Energy build with some wicked passives that gave me a nearly limitless pool of Spirit and crazy boosts to damage. I literally floated through any area I pleased smashing and electrocuting things into oblivion. Anyone who did manage to get close got a taste of my Magik’s blade (my chosen Team Up hero). I rolled her from level 40 to 60. But I wasn’t content.

Level Up

No, I wanted a brawler as well. Someone who waded into the thick of it could take on all comers. That is clearly a Moon Knight agenda. So Moonie I started out with at level 30 from some previous adventures. And it took awhile. Melee is tougher than ranged to level, and some of Moon Knight’s abilities, true to his comics, rely on him getting trashed before he reaches his full potential. Not like, drunk, but like, punch-drunk. He is really a hero that you want taking damage, and it took awhile to get the rhythm of that and find a nice combination of abilities that made it work. It was pretty satisfying to just deliver a solid beat down, and it was so fun I did it for 30 straight levels. And then to cap it all off, his ultimate ability is sort of a Indiana-Jones-Pulls-A-Gun moment: After all those beatdowns and fist punching, you can click a button and have the Moon Copter drop a load of rockets and autocannon fire in an area for total devastation.

And now I have a pair of 60’s. I spent the rest of the weekend cleaning out the bank, making sure my newly crowned kings had a full suite of uniques, and then fondly packing them away.

I have two more characters on the docket that I really want to spend time with (Dr. Strange and Taskmaster), and two more I’m interested in after that (the newly buffed Scarlet Witch and Psylocke). Assuming all these other games don’t distract me – we are still on XP boosts for TOR and TERA both, and I need to spend a little time if I want to extend this whole level-cap attitude to other areas of my gaming universe!

NBI: Advice From Chandler

No, no, no. Not the one from that TV show.

Yes. The one that wrote all those detective novels.

Critics have been alternatively kind and critical of him over the years, but much of his writing advice is sound, and believe it or not, fits very well within the genre of blog writing. I wanted to share two of those tips with you.

The first is perhaps my favorite quote from a man who was eminently quotable, and is known colloquially as Chandler’s Law:

“When in doubt, have a man come through a door with a gun in his hand.”

Now, of course, you are probably not writing fiction. Though some blog writers like Kirith Kodachi and Rowan are well known for their excellent fan fic, even for them, its not their bread and butter, not their regular post.

But Chandler’s Law is not actually about writing fiction. Its actually a tool for beating writer’s block. And the goal is to force the author to ruminate on what they have just written. That is the part of writing that tends to be hardest for people. We already know what we know, but taking the time to slow down and say it to someone else in a logical and coherent manner is tricky and sometimes time consuming.

By adding/throwing a wrench into the story like that, the story itself becomes unfamiliar territory to the writer. Now, even the guide has to stop and work his way through it.

And the same is true of blogging, because ultimately blogging is about ruminating on the games you are playing. Eleven million (no, wait, nine million) (nope, now like seven million) (I think) people play World of Warcraft. How many of them stopped to ask themselves why Tauren culture looks a lot like the culture of Native Americans? And of those who actually asked themselves the question, how many took the time to really answer it? And of those that really took some time to answer it, how many of them wrote about it and shared their opinion with the world?

If you are a blog writer, you are that person. That doesn’t have to be all you are – see the fiction writing examples above, or the highly biographical writing styles of the likes of Wilhelm or Syp. But everyone, whatever their penchant, does the rumination thing. Don’t believe me? Go look at Wilhelm’s tagline below the name of his blog. Go on, I’ll wait….

See? That is blog writing in a nutshell.

Don’t worry about whether or not its interesting. Don’t worry about how many people will read it. I learned a long time ago, if its good (technically or entertainment value) people will read it, no matter what the subject is.

And for that, I want to leave you with Chandler’s second piece of advice:

“Throw up into your typewriter every morning. Clean up every noon.”

Just write it baby. And when you are done, read it. Force yourself to. Change whatever you want to change, hit the publish button, and move on.

Blogging is the long game. Longevity is success as much as hits and page counts are. It doesn’t have to be every morning, but throw up into your browser or word processor on a regular basis. Worry about quality later.

In fact, even if you don’t have the answer, sometimes the blog post can just be the question itself. Even that is enough, to ask the question out loud, even if you haven’t yet written the answer.

TL;DR: Ask the question, write an (not the) answer, rinse, repeat.

Good luck!

#blogging, #NBI, #2015

May the Fourth Be….Delayed

I am enjoying my second run through SWTOR, now entering its third month. But one thing I don’t like is when I start up the launcher and I see this screen:

worst updates 21m

I don’t know what “reorganizing data” means from Bioware’s perspective, or from a coding perspective. I know what it means for me as a player though.

It means I will be waiting at least thirty minutes to play this game, and that while I am waiting, my computer’s CPU power will be so enslaved to the process that I will be able to do virtually nothing else with it.

#swtor, #2015

Blog, You Fools!

That’s how I feel every years, because every year the New Blogger Initiative sneaks up on me!

But this year will not be the like the rest!

If you want to blog, go sign up here:

We already have new blogs rolling! Go read them here:

Chaotic Pixels
Soultamer
Gaming Adventures

Initial advice to new bloggers:

1) Be utterly up front and in face about having a blog. Leave a comment on a current blog and say “Hey, loved your post, if you get a chance, I just started blogging here.” (and leave some linkage). Any forum you are a part of: make a link to your blog your signature.

2) Use Twitter. I am not a Twitter guy, but right now, everyone in the blogging world and their sister and their pet poodle have Twitter accounts. If you want to be part of the “in crowd” you’d better have an active Twitter account.

3) Nothing wrong with a 100 word blog post. In fact, sometimes its easier to read and reply to those. Nothing wrong with a 1000 word blog post, most of us appreciate a tasty meat sandwich of gaming thinkeration from time to time.

That’s it. Go blog. More from me later. Right now I’m off to read the new blogs….

#blogging, #NBI, #2015