2013 Crystal Ball Review

So I pondered what I was going to do last January about predictions. I decided that instead I would look at what I was looking forward to the most and least, and ask some questions that could only be answered a year later. That way I could come back a year later “with some wisdom and hindsight and laugh and make obscene hand gestures at myself for how dumb or idealistic I was.” It worked out way better than I could have thought. If you are still missing the point here, think of it this way. I buried a time capsule for my future self with a bunch of questions about the coming year, and now I get to reflect and pontificate on them. It is glorious.

So in the “looking forward to” section I had a couple of entries:

Hearing More About ArcheAge Online and Possible Release Dates

Sadly, we haven’t really heard anything more. An enterprising EU team (of Germans if I understand correctly) from Impact Community have made and kept up to date a skill calculator for the game in English, which is fantastic. You can use it here to build your class from the 120 possible combinations. Keep in mind that even if you have the same combination of skill trees as me, your picks will be different. For the curious, I plan on utilizing Devotion (healing), Finesse (Rogue-ish abilities), and Necromancy (pretty self-explanatory…). Which is the class known as…wait for it…the Writer.

The lack of news was a result of Trion finding its balance I think. Scott Hartsman leaving and then returning as the new head honcho bodes well for the company, but despite his protests to the contrary, I’m sure those waves within the company had a push-back effect on the game. I still hope for a 2014 launch, and I am of course signed up for Beta. I simply can’t wait to get my hands on this title, and I’m all but begging for more information. So if you are out there…pretty please.

Expanding My Tier 10 Garage

And expand I did. I collected all the tanks I originally set out to, except for the IS-7. The arrival of the Chinese line and the pressing needs of my previous clan for certain tier 10 tanks caused a shift in that final drive. Right now I am sitting about 50k from the Object 140, 150k from the IS-7, and 225k from the E-100. However, with Warplanes occupying almost all my PvP time these days, I’m just not sure how active I’m going to be over that way. We will see. I have to think that, in part, getting kicked to the curb by my former clan is at least part of my decline in tanks interest. I can say for sure that while I still enjoy the game, I am done with Clan Wars for the forseeable future.

Nostalgia: Vanguard

Here we come to the first bust of the year. I was really really looking forward to getting into Vanguard. I love the setting, and I love my character. I loved playing the game. I even went out and bought a card for a month’s sub. But the progression is just too damn slow. Its a snail’s pace and that is really discouraging. And beyond that, I died. A lot. Against even level or +1 content. Which forced me into lower level quests, which then lowered my progression that much more. My only hope now is that the max level character program is successful in EQ2 and is ported over to Vanguard. That’s a setting where I really don’t care what quests I’m doing, I just want to roam the world and explore. And I can’t do that with a 20 something character that keeps getting his ass handed to him by random wolves. And I’m a healer to boot.

Battlefield 3

This game really, really wound down for me this year. I still have a buddy who is hardcore into 4 right now, but I just can’t bring myself to it. I put the game on my Christmas list so I’m sure I will get in some time come the new year, but…the verve is gone, as I predicted. I think it was probably back around summer time when I last logged in, but I can’t remember for sure.

Star Trek Online

I finally got my Ambassador class! That was indeed the anniversary ship. I played my new Romulan to level 10, and then couldn’t decided which way to go. Most of the KDF content is unknown to me, but my gaming buddy I was leveling with wanted to go STO. So I did what anyone with indecision does…nothing. I quit playing. I come back occassionally and am always pleasently surprised with how good the game is. I play a storyline mission or two, and that satisfies me. And then of course, if there is a fun ship up for grabs or a new story to tackle, I’m in as well. But day to day play I am out. If I could find an active, friendly fleet that wasn’t comprised of 300 jerks, that would help, but other than starting my own fleet, which would be a pain to play catchup with at this point, I just don’t think I can find something that is a good fit for me.

And then there was my second category – questions I asked myself about the coming year. This is the best part. Are you ready?

Will the small indy developed sandboxes of Dawntide and Project Gorgon be revived?

No and yes, in that order. Dawntide lost funding and sometime last month or so, the website shut down completely. That one stings. Dawntide was *the* sandbox title in my book. It had lots of great things going for it, and I’m very discontent that the doors have closed for good. Project Gorgon, on the other hand, continues to poke and prod its way into development, which is about the best the team can hope for, given that its sort of a nights and weekends project while they put food on the table from elsewhere. If you’d like to log in and play around, feedback is appreciated. Just be aware that if the game warns you about something, its not kidding around. Turning yourself into a cow is a real possibility if you aren’t careful. And by cow, I mean cow. Literally.

Will some unexpected MMO suck me in this year, much as STO did last year?

Yep. TERA did that for me pretty hard. It wins the award here. I’m still playing and still having fun. You know why? Its the only MMO I can think of where I could turn off the UI and still play it. It wins the award for funnest combat and immersion in that sense. To a lesser extend, I enjoyed UWO, which has left the hands of NetMarble and ended up with…uh…OGPLanet. No, I have no idea who that is either. There is a good chance I go back and play that some more in the near future.

There are three others I played that did not suck me in though. The Old Republic was there when I needed an emotional crutch, and by all rights that should have launched me right back into the game. But the bad storylines for my main character were oppressive, and the content I was working through for a second time with my Sorcerer was boring. Which left me with an itch to go through on the light side as a Jedi. But I’m so sick of Tython that I was physically ill trying to play through it for what has to be the dozenth time. Until they allow character transfers and I can bring over my level 11 from another server (you know, before they announced that whole Legacy thing. Thanks again for that, jerkwards at Bioware), I’m not headed back.

I had a similar problem in The Secret World, where trying to get through the starting area for the umpteenth time just wore me out. If I can ever push through that starting map, I’ll be golden though, because there is nothing about the game I don’t like.

Last of the trifecta was LotRO. The summer home of my little group, once we all got stable internet again, it seemed like a good idea. I certainly had fun, and all three of us are fans of the IP. But between the crappy and buggy launcher that caused at least one of us problems *every week* when we logged in, and the fact that our healer was soloing the content while I as tank and our DPS person followed along behind them (Guitar Power in LotRO is OP!), it got old after awhile. So I played with the group, and enjoyed it, but it was far from sucking me in.

Will we finally see some information on Titan or Everquest 3?

Well, Titan, no, not really. But Everquest 3, or Everquest Next as we now know it, was all the rage. And my personal opinion was…meh. Basically, from what I have seen…its not Everquest. In fact, if you had given me the pictures and watermarked it with Blizzard or Titan, I wouldn’t have even batted an eyelash at the deception. So…looks like I’ll be passing on that one.

Is there any chance of me logging into TOR in 2013?

Yes, but it took the death of a friend to bring me to it. Think about that for a moment. That’s how strong the emotional rejection of a game that has failed you can be.

And don’t even get me started about that failure of an expansion….

Will Wildstar be the unmitigated failure I think it will be?

To its credit, Wildstar seems to be building steam as it goes along. I am still singularly unimpressed by what I see and read, and completely turned off by the graphics. The final nail in the coffin was learning that races and classes will be limited. Welcome back to MMO’s, a la 2004. Good job guys.

***

So there ya go, that was my Crystal Ball for 2013. Its been a bit of a wild ride. I’m looking forward to what 2014 has in store, and I have more questions and answers to go to. But I’ll leave those for another post.

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.

 

uw1

 

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

 

uw2

 

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:

 

uw3

 

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.

 

Oceanographers(3)

 

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!

 

school1

 

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.

 

school2
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.

 

school3

 

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…

 

uwo2
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.