MMO

Star Trek Online Goes Free-To-Play

I enjoyed playing Star Trek Online and think giving a Free-To-Play option is a good move.  Along with many fans, Eric and I played Star trek Online when it first came out.  It's huge fun for fans of Star Trek and those who like getting into the story of the game.  They did a great job with ongoing story and an evolving galaxy.

As an MMO player my hardest choice is picking which MMO to pay a monthly subscription for to play.  I find with more offering free play options I can go back and forth between them and then paying for the one that I am mainly playing at that point in time.  After all there are those times when one wants to swing a sword and cast spells and other times when the mood strikes and piloting a Prometheus class ship into combat against a Klingon bird of prey sounds like a blast.  This option also allows those unsure about getting into the game a way to try it out and make an informed choice, aka get hooked.

Cryptic will not restrict the play for the free-to-play options which is smart.  In other words both options will get to level up to maximum level, explore the whole galaxy, join fleets (aka guilds), enter into pvp which is a lot of fun in STO, and have access to all of the classes. 

The main difference between the free-to-play option and the subscribers is the conviences and perks that does not have main game play impact.  For instance subscribers will get more storage slots for items and credits, create fleets, have more character slots and additional bridge officer slots, and vet rewards.

I hope this move will allow Star Trek Online to continue and to bring back some of those players who had to make the hard choice and left.

Star Wars: Galaxies: Death Troopers

deathtroopersThis is something I have wanted to see for a long time (sort of). I have advocated for a decade now that franchise owners should run their MMO plots in tandem with their franchise fiction.  It would provide:

  • a better immersion into the setting
  • more content for the game
  • cross-promotional opportunities to pull players into the franchise, and readers into the game.

This is not what I had in mind though...

Worse idea since the Christmas Special?

Death Troopers is probably the stupidest idea to hit a franchise since Star Trek Voyager.  Simply, it is zombies in Star Wars, and not even an original or setting consistent attempt to capitalize on the zombie Crazy.

To make matters worse, they are implementing it in Star Wars Galaxies, the game Sony Online Entertainment is seeing how many time they can ruin it before it just dies.

I miss Galaxies

It is no secret that I am a huge Star Wars fan.  In fact, I have the posters for Episodes 4, 5, and 6 hanging in my living room over my coach.  I used to play Star Wars Galaxies... a lot.

I left the game twice after major recodes of the game that made it simply unplayable in any fashion that could be described as fun.  They have offered me several free trials to try to lure me back, and I always update my client (which I still haven't uninstalled).  The hope returns that the game will be fun again, but that is quickly crushed.

Is there hope?

In the lead up to the release of Death Troopers SOE has plans to overhaul some of the core systems again.

  • Update 13 will add in Star Wars Chronicles.  A system for players to make their own missions (PvE and PvP)
  • Update 15 will overhaul the Galactic Civil War system

Updates 14 and 15 will be the Death Troopers additions.

O, the pain of it all

Yet again, I am torn whether or not to dust off my old account and give Galaxies another try.  If you are still playing, let me know how the gameplay is now

(via Club Jade.)

City of Heroes Goes Rogue with New Expansion Pack | NCsoft

I am excited to share the news that City of Heroes is going Rogue!

In the Going Rogue expansion, hero and villain characters will become immersed in the new parallel universe known as Praetoria, which is governed by Tyrant™, the evil incarnation of the game's main protagonist, Statesman™. As gamers search for Tyrant and the rest of his Praetorian guard, implacable foes and fierce resistance will arise to face them from all sides, causing heroes and villains alike to question their loyalties.

City of Heroes Going Rogue will introduce a new alignment system that helps players explore the shades of gray that lie between good and evil. For the first time, hero characters can become villains and vice versa, enabling hero archetypes to cross over to the Rogue Isles™ and villain archetypes to experience Paragon City™. Clearly marked missions, in addition to behaviors and decisions made by the player, will move a hero's or villain's moral compass, which could eventually change the hero's or villain's alignment. Going Rogue will also introduce two primary new fictional characters representative of this alignment shift in the game's lore: Maelstrom, a pistol-wielding hero gone rogue, and Desdemona, a demon-summoning villain who has been redeemed (NCsoft).

I can't wait to play a mastermind in Paragon City.  There are a lot of things we don't know:

  • When the expansion will be released
  • How much it will cost
  • How the are implementing the alignment system
  • Will there be 2 Paragon Cities and 2 Rogue Islands.
  • Will a rogue hero or villain at 50 unlock their respective epic classes or will they count toward their alignment?
  • Will rogues be locked in the parallel world or will they be able to cross over?

I hope to have annswers to those questions soon, but it sounds interesting.

City of Heroes - I'm a Hero. I'm a Villain - Sidekick

This City of Heroes video is just too funny, but side kicks are one of the things that makes City of Heroes work so well.  It allows a low level character to run around with higher level character who by making the side kick one level lower than their mentor so long as they stay close to your mentor.  A brilliant idea every MMO should have.

City of Heroes: Captain Dynamic and the Mission Architect!

City of Heroes has started getting us excited about Issue 14, the Mission Architect which will allow players to create missions and storylines of their own and earn rewards based on the participation of other players.

You can read the early details here.  I cannot wait to play around with the Mission Architect.  I already have a bunch of ideas.

Costumes, Role Playing, and Unity

One of my absolute favorite aspects of fandom is the costuming and roleplaying, and I would have to say they are the two most maligned and stigmatized things that we do.  Let's start with the most accepted by the popular culture and proceed to the least understood.

Computer Roleplaying Games

Mass appeal of video games have normalized RPGs on the computer, and why not.  Final Fantasy, Mass Effect, and Knights of the Old Republic were all such brilliant games, it is hard to see how they couldn't have had a mass market appeal, but in the one place where Roleplaying should flourish, it is all but extinct.

There was once a type of game known as the Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Game (MMORPG).  The problem is that these too entered the popular culture, and they spawned a new bane: badge collectors.  A sizable number of the MMORPG players became obsessed with their statistics, what badges they earned, and what loot they could get.  The software companies saw these players as their core audience and in some cases, there only audience.

The games were increasingly designed for these players and not for the fans of story.  Coinidentally, the acronym was shortened from MMORPG to simply MMO.  Players have done what they can to keep roleplaying alive, but they are generally isolated to a specific server or guild, and they are not aided by the software designers who more and more are crafting games that challenge your prowess with a keyboard and mouse and don't require any thought whatsoever.

This is one of the reasons I am so excited about Star Wars: The Old Republic and Stargate Worlds.  They are trying to bring story into the games and make it front and center.  I wish them the best of luck.

Table Top Role Playing Games

Earthdawn Gamemaster's Compendium (RedBrick Li...
Image via Wikipedia

Table top RPG fans are the geeks that geeks love to hate.  Don't believe me?  Listen carefully to a lot of the podcasts out there.  It won't take you too long to find people having a geeky conversation about their favorite tech and occationally mocking TTRPG players.

Table Top games are not  as easy to play as their computerized bretheren, but they are a lot more fun.  There are more requirements to play:

  • The Rule Books
  • Friends who have free time to come over
  • Dice
  • Creativity
  • Imagination

I didn't stutter at the end, and no, I am not padding the list.  Creativity is the ability to think originally, and imagination is the ability to see with the minds eye events as they are described to you.

I think those last two more than anything else makes people not like tabel top games.  Personally, I love them.  I run an Earthdawn game at the house every Sunday.  Nothing brings friends together for a good time like a shared adventure built from the collective imaginations of everyone there.

Live Action Role Playing

Vampire: The Masquerade
Image via Wikipedia

Live Action Role Playing (LARPing) is penultimate expression of role playing.  There are numerous systems for LARPing and they all generally involve renting a location, playing in a park, or the storyteller's home.  Most LARPers dress up in elaborate costumes and carry props to aid in game play.

I used to play Vampire: The Masquerade both as a table top game and as a LARP, and I have to say, the LARPs were always more fun.  We played at local conventions and I ran a chronicle that spanned various players homes, parks, and a few businesses who allowed us to use their establishment.

Who doesn't enjoy getting dressed up and spending a night as someone else?

One aspect of the LARPs I've played that made them so fun was that they were locked to the locations they took place.  The story was handled through notes given to the players to explain what happened between sessions, and a couple players who agreed to play according to the scripted motives I provided for them.  To this day, some of my favorite memories took place at LARPs.

We were a part of a LARP network where storytellers coordinated large scale events between cities, and at conventions our players would play through pivitol stories.  The largest LARP event we threw had 500 players in attendence.  3,00o players made up the network.  We coordinated through a email list.

LARPs are emense fun, and I miss them terribly.  I had hoped that MMOs would provide a platform for virtual LARPs, but so far, they haven't.

Costuming

Death EaterSome people just love dressing up.  They don't roleplay at all, they just wear the costume for enjoyment.  For some, it is an uniform.  For others, it is an expression of their identification with the character or race they are recreating.  And others do it for the challenge of recreating the costume.

Steampunk is an entire movement built around costuming for the sheer fun of it.

Fans who Play together Stay together

Most of the deep, personal relationships I have developed with fans over the years has been between fans I have roleplayed with.  We share an experience that is truly unique to the players who were there.  Memories of events that are not replecatable in real life.

All these years later, I still run into people at the conventions who remeber the night my Taleison should have seen his reflection in the mirror and went mad.  We talk about it like a moment from a movie or series that we loved, but our connection to the event is so much more personal because we were there when it happened.

So if you haven't before.  I hightly recommend to gather up your friends and play a game with them.  Feel free to choose the type, but make sure it is one that will build those memories that will last a lifetime.

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Star Wars: The Old Republic Revealed

Despite the dreaded “Micropayments,” videos like this make me fall in love with Star Wars: The Old Republic before I have played it.  I know that is wrong, but since the Sony Online Entertainment destroyed Star Wars Galaxies, I have dreamed of a day when I would have a replacement.  This could be the one. The video looks really good.  I hope I can get into the beta when it launches.

Star Wars: The Old Republic

StarWarsTheOldRepublic

LucasArts and BioWare™, a division of Electronic Arts Inc., today announced the development of Star Wars®: The Old Republic™, a story-driven massively multiplayer online PC game set in the timeframe of the Star Wars®: Knights of the Old Republic™ franchise. Star Wars: The Old Republic, being developed and published by BioWare and LucasArts, represents an innovative approach to interactive entertainment, featuring immersive storytelling, dynamic combat and intelligent companion characters (Star Wars: The Old Republic).

It is nearly impossible for me to contain my excitement about this game.  I heard the rumors for ages, but I never dared to believe they could possibly come true.

I am not new to Star Wars MMOs.  I have been an off and on player of Star Wars Galaxies for years.  The love/hate development cycle Sony Online Entertainment has maintained for years has kept me falling in and out of love with the game.  I often joked with my friends that a day would come when someone other than SOE would one day make a new game.  That day has finally come.

SS_20081021_PlatformLightsaberDuel_full

I am not sure I would be as excited as I am if anyone other than Bioware were making the game.  Knights of the Old Republic is one of the best games I have ever played, rivaling Final Fantasy VII for the top slot on the list.  Add to that their success with Mass Effect, and my hopes are exceedingly high.  Now, I will be the first to admit that Knights of the Old Republic II was not the best game and could have used much more time in development before release, but the potential was still there, and even though it was incomplete, it was still enjoyable.

What excites me the most about Bioware making an MMO is that they are masters of story and setting.  Two things often missing from most MMOs.  Even better is there goals for the game:

"Traditionally, massively multiplayer online games have been about three basic gameplay pillars - combat, exploration and character progression," said Dr. Ray Muzyka, Co-Founder and General Manager/CEO of BioWare and General Manager/Vice President of Electronic Arts Inc., "In Star Wars: The Old Republic, we’re fusing BioWare’s heritage of critically-acclaimed storytelling with the amazing pedigree of Lucasfilm and LucasArts, and adding a brand-new fourth pillar to the equation – story. At the same time, we will still deliver all the fun features and activities that fans have come to expect in a AAA massively multiplayer online game. To top it all off, Star Wars: The Old Republic is set in a very exciting, dynamic period in the Star Wars universe (Star Wars: The Old Republic)."

I have been skeptical about claims like this in the past, but since it is Bioware.  They are the one company that have the long track record making brilliantly enthralling role playing games.  A track record is of course no guarantee.  Square Enix did not do the best job with Final Fantasy XI.

What they are hoping to accomplish is a game with few instances where the choices of the players dictate the events in the setting.  Many have tried this in the past, and I have heard good things about Warhammer Online.

SS_20081021_TrooperOpensFire_full

Dr. Greg Zeschuk, Co-Founder and Vice President Development Operations, BioWare and Vice President, Electronic Arts Inc. [added], "Star Wars: The Old Republic is set roughly 300 years after the events of Knights of the Old Republic, a timeframe that is completely unexplored in the lore. BioWare has been able to add to the Star Wars history in developing the game’s story and has created an overarching narrative that players can enjoy, regardless of their play style. Our goal is to offer players an emotionally rewarding experience that combines the traditional elements of MMO gameplay with innovations in story and character development (Star Wars: The Old Republic)."

This is the dream, whether or not it can become a reality will have to wait to be seen.  They have only a released a few hints at what they are working on.

1) The lightsabers in the screenshots will shrink – but not by much.

2) They really, really, really mean it when they say that there is story in this game and it is what sets Old Republic apart from every MMO out there.

3) You don’t pick good or evil right off the bat

4) There will be crafting, there will probably be guilds, there will definitely be PvP and there won’t be a whole lot of instancing

5) Star Wars: Galaxies is not getting shut down (Kotaku)

SS_20081021_ForceChoke_full

Yes, you will be able to travel to many of the planets featured in the Star Wars movies and in Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. There will also be a number of new planets and star systems to explore (SWTOR FAQ).

There are many questions that need answering:

  • What races will be available for play?
  • How many factions will be represented in the game?  Republic? Jedi? Sith? Hutt?
  • What classes will be playable other than force sensitive?
  • What planets will be included?
  • Will there be space battles?
  • How will squad based play work in game?
  • How will they incorporate lightside/darkside meters into the game?

For more information see:

You may want to sign up for their community to try to get into the beta when it starts.

The Rise of Wild Phoenix

screenshot_2008-09-03-02-34-19 screenshot_2008-07-22-23-52-06

Last night, I hit level 50 on City of Heroes with Wild Phoenix as did Brian’s Black Cniht.

Two things hit me really hard when I hit the top level:

  1. I did not get the same sense of accomplishment I have from other games.
  2. My love for the Character made me start wondering about the current state of intellectual property laws.

Sense of Accomplishment

While I love City of Heroes, my attachment is more to the character than too the game.  The amount of detail I was allowed to build into my toon connected me to the imagery and back story I associated with the character separate from the storyline and setting of the game.

At first, I thought this was a byproduct of the games setting.  It is not based on any of the major comic series that I was in love with an wanted to explore.  I never really fell in love with the setting.

What City of Heroes offers is an elaborate character that is continually customizable.  When I reached 50, I did not run around testing my toon, I quit the game to create another character…  I am not sure if this is a weakness or strength in the game and only time will tell.

Intellectual Property…

Now the writer in me is faced by with a dilemma.  I have fallen in love with character, and am tempted to write about him, but then the question arose: Who Owns the Intellectual Property?

I understand that they would own the exact image of the toon, because they own that IP, but what about the general appearance.  Since I chose the colors and general motif so as long as I do not copy the toon, then I should be ok.

What about the powers?  I chose the power sets, and in any story, they would not be limited to the set available in the game, but their would be similarities.  This is the point that I think is blurriest.

Cryptic would have no rights over the back story I created for the character, it does not tie into their story at all.

I am going to continue by obsession with the character, and may work on it as my NaNo project this year.  It just gave me pause and made me think.  I am curious if you think I am overly paranoid or if there is actually an issue here.

Firefly Canceled and Buffy Greenlit at Multiverse

clipped from kotaku.com
Multiverse were working on a Firefly MMO. We say "were", because as of today, that project's been "delayed"
the company have announced they're working on a Buffy title
This is a bad move on Fox's part in a long list of bad moves. Buffy may or may not be more popular than Firefly, but it will not be easy to turn it into a game that relates at all to the mythos of the series.

Even if the game takes place after the final season, you still have the limit that only women can be slayers, and magic use has a price so high it would turn more characters into NPC villains. I am not sure what is happening with this decision or why.

Star Trek Online's History from 2379-2380

Kestral has posted the history from 2379-2380 on the Star Trek Online Official Site.  The post tells the story from the end of Star Trek Nemesis to game start focusing on the other races, particularly the Cardassians and the events in the Federation itself. 

I wish it was written more as a story and less as a timelkine, but it is still interesting.

Star Trek Online Details Revealed

startrekonline We have finally seen Star Trek Online, and while they shared a lot of good information, I don’t think they showed nearly enough gameplay footage. Before we get into the details, I have to say that I am encouraged by the amount of knowledge Cryptic showed about setting and types of stories that are told in the Star Trek series, but the arrogance of the team and the fact that they brought up the nerfing of characters in their first release of gameplay footage worries me.  Grant it, the comments where made in jest, but I am uncomfortable with any developer talking about who to blame for messing up a game while that game is still in development.  I can only hope they will stay true to the vision they laid out and not sacrifice the setting and the story in a vain grasp for popular appeal.

Game Development

Developers Must Watch Series

Cryptic made it mandatory for all of the developers to watch at least one entire series of Star Trek.  They are mining the series and the books to provide detail to the setting as well as inspiration to guide gameplay systems.

Built on the Champions Engine

Star Trek Online is being built on the Champions Online (available in April) game engine.  As soon as they got the license, they began building content and in-game systems.  Once Champions Online comes out we will have a better idea whether this is a blessing or a curse.

Game Takes place Post Star Trek Nemesis

Star Trek Online will take place after the events of Star Trek Nemesis.  Relations with the Klingons are breaking down, and the Federation is in a state of turmoil.  The developers are using the books and series for setting information, especially for information regarding the state of the galaxy after the film.  The films and series are considered hard canon, while the books are considered soft canon.

Windows Only on Release

Cryptic will not have a Linux or Mac version on first release , but left the window open for future version.  They are planning to release the game in less than three years.

Graphics and Requirements

The animations in the game are going to be hand drawn rather than relying on motion capture.  Having played City of Heroes/City of Villains, I am encourage by this.  Any company that can make superheroes look and act naturally in the setting should not have much trouble with aliens and starships.

The game will be playable on as may  computers as possible so, like World of Warcraft, it will be playable on laptops as well as towers without requiring an expensive overhaul of your gaming system.

Gameplay

startrekonline_planet Character and Ship

Every player will be the captain of their own ship.

Play as one of the classic races or create your own with what was described as a City of Heroes style character designer which will give the player many customizable features.

Captains will have a specialty: science, tactical, navigation, diplomacy, or medical.

Gameplay will be squad based.  Each captain will recruit NPC staff they will bring with them on away missions with their own skills and talents.  They will effect away missions, and possibly even the ships stats.  Control over the away teams will be more like City of Villains than City of Heroes where the captain will be able to issue orders and have them carried out.  Players will be able to recruit staff from the races they encounter.

Star Trek Online will not be a level based MMO.  The abilities will be determined by the crew and new ships will be earned as a character gains renown.

The exteriors and interiors of Ships will be customizable.  Within the parameters of the ships class, each vessel will be customizable.   Even the bridge, engineering sections, medical, and holodecks.  I wish they would have said more about the holodecks.

Missions and Tours of Duty

Star Fleet or the Klingon High Council will issued players tours of duty.  In the way this was described, it sounds like you might also receive random distress calls as well as making first contact with randomly generated races.

The Borg or the Tholians will randomly invade. I presume this will be handled like a Rikti in City of Heroes.

Cryptic is planning several style of mission for varied gameplay:

  • Combat
  • Exploration
  • Science
  • Diplomatic

I hope they do not make these noncombat missions into nothing more than running  around clicking on things.  The possibilities are endless if they take advantage of them.

Groups and Guilds

Players can team up in task forces to work on missions together.  They can also band together into fleets.  Fleets are required to have:

  • Star Bases
  • Ship Yards
  • Resource Gathering.

Player v Player

Star Trek Online will not be a PVP centric game.  At launch, PVP will be between the Klingons and the Federation.

Servers

Cryptic hopes have the game take place on a single server so everyone will play in the same world.

I hope to get into the beta, and I wonder if we should start recruiting for the fleet now.

Leonard Nimoy to Announce Star Trek Online Footage

startrekonline_alphaquadrant I am counting down the days until the webcast from the Roddenburry Theater on Sunday, August 10 at 1:30 PDT, and now the wait pulls on me more than ever:

We are thrilled to announce that legendary Star Trek actor and director Leonard Nimoy will be our special guest at the reveal of the first gameplay footage from Star Trek Online! (STO)

I can see it now, Nimoy’s legendary voice narrating the adventures displayed on the screen.  I only hope they are not bringing him in just to say, “Roll tape”  or “May Star Trek Online live long and prosper.

If you just can’t wait…

Get the original 1971 ASCII-based adventure here (thanks to Geekend)

Knights of the Old Republic Online?

There is a lot of wishful thinking at the heart of the rumors going around.

Now in an interview with Video Gaming 247, Ray Muzyka from Bioware confirmed that they are working on an MMO, and wheels begin to turn:

“I think the idea of emotion and narrative in an online game, combined with the best of breed features in MMOs ...

“And if you combine that with progression, exploration, customization and combat, which are the staples of current MMOs… with another pillar of story, and put it all in a social context, I think you have something that could be an incredibly rich and maybe the most compelling experience ever delivered. That’s our goal.”

The logical question for all of the Knights of the Old Republic fanboys like myself is, "What could be a more compelling than a Knights of the Old Republic MMO?"

I have been craving a new KotOR game for a long time. In fact, that is why I started playing Star Wars Galaxies. I really wanted more Star Wars and hoped Galaxies would fill that need. For a long time it did... until chapter 6 was released. The game became for the most part unplayable. No one wants a new Knights of the Old Republic Online than I do, but these rumors are even less than a whisper and a prayer.

I can only hope that is game is actually coming, and that if not, if we dream openly about it enough, perhaps the stars will align and this game will be made.

I will be keeping my eyes on this and hoping that something more concrete evidence of the games existence.

(via GayGamer.net)

D&D 4th Edition Goes Online

Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition Monster Manual June 7th is slowly approaching and with it the impending release of D&D 4th Edition. I am concerned that simplification of the rule set will not take the richness out of the games and the various settings that rely on them. The most exciting part of the release it the coming D&D Insider:

To start with, the digital initiative, which is called Dungeons & Dragons Insider, will, for the first time, make it feasible to play a game of D&D with your friends over the Internet and without having to pull out the thick, iconic, hardcover books that have for so long been an essential element to the experience.

That makes my whole body go woo! I would love to run some of these games. There are no details about pricing or game mechanics as yet, but the idea of setting up stories that can be played online is a thrill. I have tried several virtual table tops, but none of them have been worth the price.

The images I have seen from the D&D Insider character generator are exciting and the reported customization options thrill me. I am curious to see how easy the dungeon maker is to use, and what level of control and how time consuming the DM tools are to use. I wonder if it with have a voice chat built in or if Skype or something else along with it.

I signed up for the game which in not available for download yet.

Finally, something in gaming to get excited about.

(via Crave)

In-Game Ads in City of Heroes

ingameads_02_after_sm Hmmm, how should I take this?

Double Fusion will provide the technology and sales force to bring brands into the popular online role-playing game which takes place in a modern urban setting, an ideal environment for unobtrusive in-game advertising (Double Fusion).

Well, there are billboards in the game already with fake ads for companies in Paragon City, so they are not adding them in... at least for now, the program is opt-in... and well this will keep me from having to pay more to play the game...

I am really mixed on this. My business side loves this idea. I would love to advertise my books, blog and podcasts to the players of City of Heroes. My player side is ambiguous because I barely notice the fake ads in the game now, so I am not sure that the ads will bother me at all.

If only this were the path to lower fees, but it is not. The goal is to add revenue so they can double their dev team. I am not at all sure that this is a good idea because I don't know how many players will notice the ads, and if they are made noticeable it will detract from the experience of the game.

Ads will probably not make it into the game until June-July.

(via City of Heroes Community Site)