WF: Well, My Old Nemesis, We Meet Again

Synopsis:  Life’s been going fine for Willforge lately.  Sure, there’s been monsters to deal with on Monster Island, and fights with forces from ARGENT and VIPER, but aside from that, things have been pretty quiet.  Sounds like it’s time for Mindhunter to make a televised appearance and force Willforge to return to Millennium City to deal with the problem!  Can Willforge keep his nemesis from destroying WCOC?

Still working my way through the early 30’s for my Champions Online character, Willforge, and I felt it was time to cash in that Nemesis Clue that opens up an important mission in the Nemesis series:  the takeover of the television station WCOC.  One thing about the Nemesis missions is that some of them are one time only events.  While you can eventually have multiple characters serving as a Nemesis for a period of time, the fact is that most of them are “introduced” in a mission that I’ll describe in a future time (that future probably isn’t as far off as one might think).  But the first Nemesis gets a number of missions all to himself-it started with the attack on the museum that kicks things off, and then proceeds to this mission.  There’s one more mission that will be on that list before we exhaust the “first Nemesis only” missions, and start going into a more shared set of missions.

These missions, incidentally, do not count what is commonly referred to as “popcorn” missions, where you encounter the Nemesis or his minions doing some nefarious deed or another.

I had worried a bit about this mission-my first encounter with the Nemesis plus his minions had gone roughly, particularly with larger groups of minions combined with attacks from Mindhunter.  But I’d since gotten that additional telepathy power that causes most hostiles problems at close range, and being able to stun them for long enough to do more damage has helped a great deal.  It’s still a bit of an issue against the heavy hitters, but that-plus a move favorable way of keeping everything from attacking me at once-made this fight a lot less brutal than the Museum fight had been.  So, huzzah!  Another mission successfully dealt with.

Monster Island has been going about as well as one can expect.  I’ve been sweeping down the southern half of the island-although not to the southwest as of yet-and I’ve started picking on VIPER thugs and bases, finally graduating from beating up Manimals.  I figure it shouldn’t be long before I start working my way through the southwest area of the island-and start up on some good old fashion alien bashing!  Unless, of course, I level enough to start looking into the next zone of interest.  Stay tuned!

The Cast List: Introducing Chadam of Star Wars: The Old Republic

I confess, there are certain classes/professions in the Star Wars setting that do not appeal to me at all.  The top of that list is the Bounty Hunter.  Blame it on Boba Fett backlash; I always felt that he was overrated-sure, he had the cool armor, but he needed Vader and a heap of Imperials to get Han Solo (and of course, Solo was my favorite character at the time, so that didn’t help), and then he wound up killed by a blind smuggler with a pike and a Sarlacc.  So it drove me somewhat nuts that the Expanded Universe for Star Wars had to find a way to dig him back out of being digested for a thousand years and overcompensate.  When Star Wars Galaxies was a thing, my opinion didn’t improve when a heap of content was thrown into the whole “Jedi vs Bounty Hunter” thing they had going there, at the expense of other professions; that said, I didn’t really have a big issue with them actually, you know, hunting bounties-it was what they did!  If only the Smugglers in that game had been able to smuggle as THAT was what THEY were supposed to do, but that ship is long, long gone.

So, I have some prejudices against Bounty Hunters as a class.  That’s probably why this class was the next-to-last one I did in my work to level up all eight classes in Star Wars: The Old Republic.  But hell, I’m a completionist sometimes, and so I put together my future Grand Champion of the Great Hunt.

You can run, but you can’t hide. A job’s a job.

Chadam started out simple enough:  I wasn’t going to go out of my way to have him kill and eat kittens Dark-Side, but at the same time, he wasn’t going to be the nice guy.  I wanted him greedy, but with a code:  he did the job, and he got paid.  He would move heaven and earth to make it happen.  Not an evil character, but not exactly a role model.  Smarter than a thug, but not interested in the bigger picture or deep philosophy.  In other words, someone well suited for the fringe and not comfortable in the halls of Imperial power.  (Boy, did that go south on him…)

In appearance, my first goal was to use a different body type.  For those unfamiliar with the game, there are four body types for each gender.  I tend to use body type 2 for my males; fit, athletic, strong guys.  But I wanted Chadam to have a more imposing presence, so I went up a notch-someone who makes you think of a space marine.  As far as species went, well, I was still going for a wide variety among my characters, so I went with a Chiss, a popular Expanded Universe species who recently got canonized with the on-screen debut of Grand Admiral Thrawn.  His out fit look varied a lot during my gameplay; for a long while, he used a sort of turban-styled headgear and whatever mission-reward armor he could get.  Eventually, I was able to get a damaged set of Triumverate armor off of GTN (damaged in appearance, not in stats).  Later I picked up the restored version of that armor.  The icing on the cake, though, was the final helmet I used.  At one point, I looted a Sith Warrior helmet that was just too good to ignore.  I thought that a mildly terrifying helmet would suit Chadam just fine for his work, so I finally settled on the look shown on this post.

I went with the Mercenary advanced class, and went with the pyrotech discipline.  Because plasma fires are fun.  The Merc was chosen because I didn’t really want him to be the Boba-lite kind of character (well, I sure blew that one, when you look at the image above).  The dual guns made him an amusing mirror for my Smuggler main, who was took the Gunslinger path.

I actually got to like Chadam as I played him.  Sure, he had no problem shooting and executing people he was hired to off, but he wasn’t big on collateral damage.  He was interested in a fast credit-got along great with Gault-but Mako helped keep him more or less ethically honest.  He had no issues taking advantage of advertising-there are two moments in the game where a bounty hunter can effectively advertise himself to the galaxy at large, and man, he did it.  He came to respect the Mandalorian code, though, and his struggles tended to come in when that ideal came into conflict with his desire for ready cash.  The result of this all meant he was mildly Light-Side in nature-there were a heap of Dark-Side choices that kept him fairly balanced, not the least of which involved the reason why we got a Chancellor Saresh in power in the Galactic Republic.

The character completed the Knights of the Fallen Empire expansion, but I have yet to run him through the Eternal Throne (just like in my leveling work, the BH is near the bottom of the list).  He knelt before Valkorion not for any desire of power, but because he saw what happened to the last guy who didn’t kneel; in other words, sometimes the best thing you can do is lie to the guy with all the power and hope you get another, better opportunity.  Which, honestly, he sort of did, since Arcann chose that moment to go after his father-but as a result, Valkorion keeps harping on that initial kneel-down, and Chadam only wishes he had an option to say to the dead Emperor, “Hey, you know I was only doing that to buy some time, right?”  I think the worst thing for him in his future isn’t the possibility of taking the Eternal Throne-it’s that he’s going through all this and not getting paid.  (I do seem to recall him having Gault funnel some of that loot from that treasure run into profitable enterprises, though.)

I can safely say that while the Bounty Hunter is still not on my list of favorite character types in the setting, Chadam is still a character I enjoy; sometimes, it’s not about “good” and “evil”; it’s about having credits and not having credits, and the things you will or won’t do to get them.

 

WF: When Monsters Roamed The Earth!

Synopsis:  In the Pacific Ocean, there exists an island-MONSTER ISLAND!  Bureau 17 and the Champion Ironclad have reached out to Willforge for assistance dealing with a rise in activity from the natives-the Manimals-and darker forces.  Between the war between Manimals and ARGENT’s interest in the area, has Willforge bitten off more than he can chew?

Over in Champions Online, I have managed to get Willforge up and over level 30, which means a new zone is available for him to start leveling in-Monster Island!  Odds are good that this zone will be providing the meat of most of the xp as I start the push to the max level of 40 in the game (but there are two other zones that can get the attention later!).  Canada will probably still see some activity, though.  For now, though, it’s time for Willforge to deal with man/animal hybrids, the ever-present threat of ARGENT (those corporate greedheads!), on the way to somewhat larger problems.

The levels gained recently mean a new power pick for Willforge, and I wound up taking a maintained personal area of attack ability that theoretically “incapacitates” and damages enemies in its radius.  I honestly thought when I picked it up that it was a standard ranged area attack ability, and I was tempted to hop to the Powerhouse to change it-but it’s worked out nicely in tandem with some of the other powers Willforge is using, so I let it go.  I don’t believe there are likely much more in the way of powers to be gained for the character at this stage; I believe there will be another travel power coming up, and maybe one more standard power, and that will be it-so Willforge’s power picks are as set as they get without a full respec.

In addition to the Monster Island thing, I also started an attempt on the Serpent Lantern adventure pack-a series of missions that are linked together by a coherent story.  Unfortunately, Willforge hasn’t done so well in that, so I shelved the attempt until I get a few more levels under my belt.  I’m not sure that this will make a difference-one of the bosses consistently makes mincemeat out of Willforge, and let’s face it:  he’s neither a tank nor a DPS guy, so it’s looking more like I’ll just skip the Adventure Pack.  (I’m not ruling out one of the comics series, which are similar, though-they may not be as rough, and the Demonflame Adventure Pack was never on my list.)

My leveling has been supplemented by doing some Alerts, usually to refresh the xp bonus I get from them.  I could conceivably finish leveling entirely by doing Alerts and nothing else, but that’s no fun!  Particularly since there’s still two more zones to level up in and visit.  For now, continuing to fight in a land where the line between man and beast becomes blurred.  (Thanks, Dr. Moreau!)  Plus, there’s that pesky Nemesis still out there; I recently got a new Nemesis clue that should lead to a cover-worthy moment next time.

Magic Gathers in the MMO-sphere

Well, Cryptic/PWE kind of threw a curveball at me recently.  Not being an industry insider or anything like that, I didn’t have too much warning on this, but it looks like the next big thing for Cryptic MMOs is a game famed far and wide:  Magic the Gathering.

My first rare in my first Magic starter pack. Had a soft spot for this guy ever since.

For the folks who aren’t familiar with it:  MtG is a trading card game that’s been around for years and years now; I’d played it myself for number of years, roughly from the tail end of the Unlimited run to the last of the Invasion block.  Yeah, that probably requires a bit of explanation too:  Unlimited was pretty much the third edition of the main game, and they’ve cranked out revised editions regularly (including, if I recall right, one actually called Revised).  Additionally, the producers of the game-Wizards of the Coast-would release expansion card sets, and it didn’t take long for them to follow a pattern of releasing a big expansion, then two smaller expansions that followed on the same theme; these would be called “Blocks”.

I’m not getting into the mechanics of the rules-this is an MMO blog, so I’m going to instead talk a bit more about the setting.  And the setting is a little tricky, because it’s actually many settings-a multiverse of worlds, with their own societies and problems.  Some are more fantastical than others, but for the most part, all are fantasy settings, from Dominaria-which was the “primary” setting early on, to Phyrexia, which could best be described as “Borg Hell”.  Additionally, there are individuals who have a “spark” which gives them the ability to travel from plane to plane-from world to world, and they’d be called Planewalkers.  (Early on, they were the next best thing to gods, because they were intended to represent MtG players.  That changed somewhere along the line.)

Given the possibilities of this setting, with all the possible worlds it represents, it makes one wonder just how they’re going to put this together.  Will Cryptic be focusing on a single world?  Multiple worlds?  How will the players be represented-will they be Planewalkers, or something more traditional in class?  The fact that Cryptic is involved tends to make one dubious as to how they are going to distinguish characters, from a mechanics standpoint.  I feel pretty confident on the appearance customization, as that’s a Cryptic hallmark.  Races to choose from can span all kinds of possibilities, given the span of the card game.  Humans and elves are usually a safe bet.  I don’t recall heaps of dwarves in the setting-this could just be my memory getting involved, but back when I was active, there were always a lot more elves published than dwarves.  The setting shines with less traditional races, and even brand new ones; minotaurs and goblins are active in the setting, angels and demons, merfolk and vampires and even stranger beings:  slivers who became stronger when more of their species were around and gained the abilities of their fellows, plant-creatures that could breed more plant-creatures, lizard men and more.

Gearing should be no issue; the setting has heaps of artifacts which can easily be adapted to an MMO.  Magic…well, it’s in the name, right?  We can probably expect wizards to show up.  Priests are also around, although one doesn’t necessarily have to be one to use healing magic in the game.  I’d be shocked if the game didn’t include a roguish sort of character, somewhere-and fighters are always with us.  So I’d expect at least a core of wizards and warriors-and from there, all bets may be off.

There are web sites out there than can tell people more about the assorted settings of MtG; they’ve all got a story, and it’s been expressed via the cards for years.  I’ve not followed said stories for over fifteen years (yes, it really HAS been around a long time), and not actually played the game for almost that long-but I’ve still got fond memories of going to the local game shop and playing in games with friends, and took a lot of personal satisfaction in their reactions to my card decks (which were less “OMGHe’sGonnaKillUs” and more “WTFKindofDeckIsThat!?”  I built for personal entertainment as much as utility…).  I’m not sure how big a splash an MMO with MtG’s pedigree behind it will be; big properties do not necessarily translate into big MMOs.  We’ve seen example after example of that over the years.  If the developers for this MMO try to keep realistic expectations and don’t expect a flood of card players to suddenly translate their passion to an MMO based on their game, we could be looking at something interesting here.  I’ll be watching where things go.  There isn’t much information out there yet (they DID just announce it), but since this is Cryptic/PWE, there’s only one thing we can be dead certain of.

There will be lockboxes.  Lots of them.

The Cast List: Introducing Bill (of Borg) of Star Trek Online

I promised a non-tactical based captain for the next installment of the Cast List (for the Star Trek Online guys, anyway), and I deliver!

So, who assimilated whom?

Bill was either the second or third character I made for Star Trek Online, and I made him for one reason only (among many others): I had a lifetimer sub from pre-launch, and since I had the ability to create a Borg captain, I was damned well gonna make one!

Bill was my second Starfleet guy, and I was already going with a pattern.  My initial Starfleet captain-Walt-was a Tactical captain flying a cruiser; I was interested in mixing and matching ship types with captains, so I wanted Bill to do that sort of thing as well.  So I made him a Science captain, and I threw him at the Escort class of ships, eventually winding up in a Defiant variant.  Back then, there weren’t nearly as many ships as there are now at the upper levels-and I keep considering finding a new ship for him, but keep deciding against it.  Unlike what you see in the picture to the left, Bill’s ship-the Integral-is loaded with Borg tech; in fact, he was the first guy I went into the effort for to get the three-piece set of Borg technology from the original Special Task Forces related to the Borg, before Reputation became a thing, and I have the visuals enabled, so there’s an awful lot of Borg attached to the hull.

Originally, the character of Bill was designed to wear the old late 23rd century uniforms, as originally seen in The Wrath of Khan.  Thanks to some really stupid moves from Cryptic/Atari in the earliest days of the game, they attached that costume code to retail items to promote the game; not a big deal, honestly, except they had the brilliant idea to just use a single code instead of unique codes.  This meant that it only took one person out there to put the code out into the public domain.  (This is why the devs eventually just made the damned thing free to claim; I’m not sure what the status on it now is, though.)  Full disclosure:  I saw the code out there, and I used it-but I felt guilty and purchased a DVD that had the code in it to salve my conscience.  It was arguably my favorite Star Trek uniform that’s ever been on the screen, so I really wanted a chance to use it.

That made it all the more ironic when, eventually, I decided to update the uniforms to what’s on the picture above.  Of course, that’s sort of hard to tell, since my primary bridge crew is…well, let’s go back and do some story time.  Early on, when those aforementioned Borg task forces came out, word came that you could get a Borg science bridge officer as part of an achievement.  This had me dreaming of one day, perhaps, having an all-Borg away team.  It never happened, but I did the next best thing.  Over time, I got the veteran reward of an android bridge officer, and thanks to some circumstance that I can’t even recall, I got a holographic science officer.  So every member of my team is, in some way, technological and mechanical in nature.  Three Borg, an android and a hologram.  How’s that for a crazy bridge crew?

I didn’t have much in the way of story concept behind the character.  There were a significant number of lifetimers at launch, and so there was a lot of liberated Borg floating around as captains-not to mention the even larger pool of people who had access to the Borg Bridge Officer at the same time.  Fortunately, there were a couple of places where one could locate liberated Borg if you look back at Trek history.  There was the Borg Cooperative, for example, introduced in Star Trek Voyager, and liberated drones from Unimatrix Zero from the same series.  I decided, though, to go with a different branch-one freed by the original liberated Borg, Hugh, introduced during Star Trek: The Next Generation.  I figured that Hugh would have definitely become the Big Deal Leader guy as the first to be freed and returned to thinking as an individual, and wouldn’t have stopped with the ship he wound up on-or simply stayed on that nameless planet that the android Lore manipulated a bunch of liberated drones.  Hugh struck me as the kind of guy who could create a revolution.  (In the Delta Rising expansion, in fact, you can encounter Hugh, who seems to have thrown in with the Cooperative).  Anyway, given Hugh’s simple name, I figured that other liberated Borg who had been freed by Hugh would adopt similar names-thus, Bill.

The other pair Borg on the bridge officer crew don’t have as fancy names, still choosing to use designations like Seven of Nine did.  I named the hologram “Hertz”, a play on words for a doctor for both his holographic nature and a pun on what he treats.  The android has a more normal name, “Jen”.

Bill hangs around in the mid 50s as far as level goes, and represents a different method of leveling.  Back in the day, STO had exploration missions that were performed in star clusters.  They were basically the STO version of City of Heroes’ radio missions (or newpaper missions if you were a villain), a randomly generated mission choosing from a pool of maps, opponents, and goals.  Don’t bother looking for them now; they don’t exist anymore.  I still haven’t forgiven the devs for that stunt.  Anyway, Bill leveled up almost exclusively via exploration missions in the various star clusters; the only exceptions were the tutorial missions and the then-new Feature Episodes.  I haven’t really put much more into Bill since the early days, but I would suspect that if I were to continue to develop him further, I’d be tempted to push exclusively through Foundry missions-the next best thing to the old exploration missions.  The quality might vary on those dramatically, but then, people had no problem using the Mission Architect for their characters in CoH-why should I have a problem doing the same with the Foundry?  (Admittedly, a significant portion of the folks using MA had special “grinding” missions to do nothing but power level themselves, and I’d be shocked if similar didn’t exist in the Foundry….)

That sort of puts me in mind to consider a new series of posts that center on Foundry missions.  I’d been considering the idea of a new post series on STO from the Klingon side (much like I did with Rick Masters and the Temporal Agent angle), but worried that the experience would have a lot of repetition thanks to the tripling up of Starfleet missions to include Klingon and Romulan sides for the Cardassian/Borg/Undine content, not to mention the shared content for Nimbus and the ramp-up to the Iconian War.  But the Foundry offers some possibilities here.  (The con of this idea is that, well, Klingons don’t get as much nice stuff in anything, and that includes people putting time into developing missions for the Klingons with the Foundry.  Still….)

Anyway.  Bill’s in a state where I’m fairly happy, although there is one area that I sort of keep thinking about developing further.  I don’t do much in the way of crafting in the game, but Bill had been my main crafter in the beginning.  Crafting has gone through various iterations, but when the new system came in-the current system, that is-most of my crafting effort went to my Starfleet main character.  Buuuuut…Bill’s prior experience entitled him to a special crafting duty officer that would allow him to craft AEGIS equipment, one of the early starship sets back in the day.  It seems like it’s a damned shame to not have Bill work up the ability to craft stuff that makes use of that officer-and thus, the AEGIS equipment-for use later on.  Food for thought.

Driving with Roadmaps

A couple of days ago, the developers of Star Wars: The Old Republic released a long-awaited “roadmap” describing their goals for the next few months.

This has been a breathlessly awaited bit of information.  Some people on the forums declared it could make or break their continuing subscriptions, if it didn’t include their pet issues.  You know the ones:  raids, PvP, story content, companions, iterations on previous systems; it’s a song that’s been heard before in multiple games.  (Well, not the companions part, but the general idea is sound.)  And if it didn’t include their issue, that was it!  Game over!

Take with some salt; forum goers are, by definition, the loud sort.  Not to be completely ignored-particularly if it’s in overwhelming numbers (e.g. the NGE of SWG responses); they tend not to be a unified voice.  When they are, then it’s time to worry.  But I digress.

So, what did they have to say for themselves?

The raiders will be getting a new operation boss to add to the one out there now on the world of Iokath roughly every couple of months.  I was guessing that they’d be going to roughly 8 such, but it seems that the next one is a package deal of two, so that may be counting as a single boss encounter.  I can’t speak to that sort of thing; I remain entirely uninterested in the raiding thing ever since my WoW days ended-City of Heroes trials notwithstanding.

PvPers will be getting a new season of play, with new unspecified rewards, and a new warzone is expected.  Additionally, the neglected Galactic Starfighter side of things will be having some changes as well.  Classes can expect a balance pass (again), which will undoubtedly include nerfs which will make life more miserable for PvE people.  (I could be wrong here.  Not all balance passes are bad.  But man, they feel like they are.)

More story content is incoming, in the form of a “Crisis on Umbara”, which will feature a new Flashpoint; no word if it’ll be a solo FP or a group-only, although I’m inclined to believe the latter.  That doesn’t rule out a solo version at one point, though; it’s just that with the group-heavy emphasis after the Knights of the Eternal Throne wrapped, I expect FPs to be the same way.  Speaking of story related stuff, the missing Companions are supposedly going to continue filtering back.  (There’s a good number still MIA, though, and most of them were potential old flames for the player character.  No indications on the rate of return, but I’m not optimistic.  What does intrigue me more, though, is the ability to finally customize the newer companions that have come down the pipe since Knights of the Fallen Empire.  Theron and Shae Vizla are first on the list.  Still, there’s no word as to whether we’re looking at true customization, where you can put on the large assortment of armors and weapons on the companions like you can with your original ones, or if we’re looking at the “change the faces” kind which you see with the ship droids or HK-51.  I’d like to think we’re looking at the first of these options, but I’m dubious.

The first of the results in the roadmap are scheduled for mid-June, where we’ll see the return of the Nar Shadda Night Life event with new rewards (who wants a Gamorrean companions?  You know you’ve always wanted one!), along with some improvements and legacy perks-such as new Mount skills to make you drive even faster than before-along with the aforementioned Shae and Theron customizations.  In July, the new bosses for the Iokath raids land-along with a new “ocean view” Stronghold, for those who have been wanting a new place to decorate.  (I’m kind of kicking myself for recently shelling out credits for the Tatooine Stronghold now.)  More customizations at this time, but specific companions weren’t mentioned.  The balance passes begin here as well-be afraid!  Finally, in August, the Umbara FP lands.

The developers plan to release a similar roadmap quarterly; we’ll see how that works.  More communication is promised, but I’ve seen those promises come and go before.  The question is how long it’ll last.  A lot will depend on if the current team manages to avoid major shakeups in the near term.  I’m keeping a semi-optimistic outlook on where things are going from here; very little of it tends to be my speed, but the way I see it, I got my turn in spades with the last two major expansions-I can sit back and let the raiders and PvPers have their time in the sun.  We’re all in this together, right?

The Cast List: Introducing Zor’venrel of Star Wars: The Old Republic

The Cast List departs the final frontier for a little bit, to take a peek at a galaxy far, far away-particularly since I’ve spent a little time on this character to continue getting my primary characters through the Knights of the Eternal Throne expansion.

I’m a dagger in your back/An extra turn on the rack/I’m the quivering of your heart/A stabbing pain, a sudden start! (Lyrics by Voltaire)

I will confess that it’s tricky playing an evil character sometimes in Star Wars: The Old Republic.  Some of those dark side choices can be pretty dark sometimes.  But ignoring them just isn’t in me-there are bad people in the galaxy, and the Sith, by and large, are some of the worst.  All the same, if they’re totally evil, they become a bit of a caricature.  Fortunately, the story of the Sith Inquisitor gave me an out:  it allowed me to give a Sith one redeemable trait.  In this case, as a former slave, and an alien, he took serious issue with slavers and anti-alien people.  Of course, since he was a Sith, he tended to be hard on said people….

But I’m getting ahead of myself.  Zor’venrel was, honestly, a potential ancestor for one of my Star Wars Galaxies characters, Zhaven Rel.  Maybe he is, maybe he isn’t, but the possibility meant that the character was going to be a Twi’lek, which was going to do wonders for the character in an Empire that was iffy about aliens in general.  I’d designed the character during closed beta, and even did a good portion of Korriban with the character during testing-and certain conversational choices I made gave him a new nickname in my mind:  “Darth Jerkass”.  (You can thank Overseer Harkun for that one; he more or less provoked the trollish nature of this character.)

When it came to dark/light side choices, I went dark-side hard.  There were a few moments where I took light side choices-he remembers his past as a slave, and wishes his life hadn’t started that way-but for the most part, he was out for himself.  Once he got to the Dark Council, he grasped its power with both hands; he never let go of the bound spirits he took towards his rise to power; he willingly knelt before Emperor Valkorion in the hopes of getting more power (and seeing Darth Marr get curb-stomped probably might have affected that choice); and in the end, he recently completed the Knights of the Eternal Throne storyline to rule the Eternal Alliance as its new Emperor.  He romanced Lana Beniko, who may be the one person he won’t sacrifice for more power, and killed off pretty much everyone who has betrayed him…or even really annoyed him (I cut a swath through the KotET characters; nobody got away with it as far as he was concerned…), and sacrificed the more useless of his companions when he had to make a choice.  No, Zor’venrel was not a nice guy, and it showed.

For his appearance, I went with the red-skinned Twi’lek, as a nod towards my former SWG spy, but I left the option on to show Dark Side Corruption; on this character, in addition to the veins and eyes, it paled the formerly rich red of his skin to a pale appearance, nearly leeching out all of the color.  The robes he got early on in his career looked like they really suited the character, so I maintained that appearance pretty much throughout his career; I’ve mixed and matched gloves and lower robes, and I may still keep doing so-but the chest armor was perfect.  While I’d originally used red crystals for his saber blade, I liked the look of the dark core/violet blade lightsaber crystals I’d gotten from some promotion or other, and used those ever onward.

It isn’t a stretch to say that Zor’venrel is the most evil character I’ve got in the Old Republic.  He’ll troll his enemies before killing them, kick a sick puppy, and drop a moon on a single enemy if he could be sure it would do the job.  His moments of light are few and far between, and I’d hate to meet him in a lighted room, let alone a dark alley.  He’s the villain of his story, and he’d have it no other way!

The Cast List: Introducing Venkoreth th’Reklaw of Star Trek Online

When one looks at the title logo for this blog, one can generally see a pattern in the characters I create-at least in appearance.  It’s also not hard to see that one of those characters doesn’t quite fit.  The story behind that is the story of Venkoreth th’Reklaw.

Speaking of balding, bearded characters….

When Star Trek Online was first announced, back before the day when Cryptic took over development, there was a lot of speculation as to just what the game was going to be like.  I kept saying that my plan was to create an Andorian redshirt (eg. Security); redshirts, of course, were infamous in the Original Series for being killed, often before the first commercial-indeed, sometimes before the opening credits!  It was to these unsung heroes that I decided I’d dedicate my character in the game to, instead of being a captain or one of those other big positions.  Well, time passed, new developers came on board, and what we got was very different than what I had envisioned.  I had a character in mind for the game as Cryptic revealed it, but since I was thinking of captains, I put the Andorian concept aside.

Almost.

What I did instead was take advantage of one of the shining details of the game:  the ability to create your bridge officers.  And that was the beginnings of this character.

Of course, developers being developers, they promised the moon on any number of occasions, and one of those was that they wanted to eventually allow max level captains to “spin off” characters from their bridge crew, promote them to captains of their own ships.  How they could have gotten this to work would possibly have been a coding nightmare, and in the end, it never happened.  When I figured that detail out (it didn’t take as long as you’d think), I decided that, “Gee, since I can save the appearance of the character on a file, why don’t I just make a new captain based on that?”  It wouldn’t allow the character to jump right into a higher tier ship right away, but I was certain I could push him to significant levels in a reasonable amount of time.  The final push that convinced me to make that move was the release of Andorian starships on the C-Store; who better to command one such ship than an Andorian captain?  And since I had an Andorian concept already just sitting there, well…!

The story of the character was tied to that of my primary character, Walter Frost.  Venkoreth-or Koreth for short (aren’t I clever?)-was Walt’s earliest friend in the Academy; during his cadet cruise, the Klingons (who were still at war with the Federation at the start of the game’s episodic timeline) managed to blow up the ship he was on, and he was one of the lucky few to be in an escape pod before it went up.  Damaged, he was still asked to serve with the newly put-in-command Lieutenant Frost.  If I had gone on to write any other fiction on this beyond what I’d done prior to the game’s launch, I’d have had him get his confidence back-a definite swagger-and eventually be promoted off of Frost’s chain of command and onto a new ship-a retrofitted Andorian Kumari-class starship called the Zihl.  I figured that since these archaic ships were in the game, and since the devs pointed out they were updated versions of these archaic ships, I’d run with it:  the Andorian Imperial Guard kept old shipyards with the specs dormant just in case the Federation fell.  But wiser heads realized, “Why don’t we just crank out these ships, since we seem to be losing ships by the dozens?”  The ship makes use of higher end Andorian phasers/torpedoes, and I felt that Koreth’s command would be a sort of cavalry ship-the kind that you see that shows up “just in time” when other ships are at their direst need.  Koreth himself was a tactical captain as well-yes, I’m aware that thus far, all three of my Cast List captains are tactical.  I promise my next one will be a science or engineering captain.

The uniforms, I’d decided early on, would be more of a darker coloration, reflecting a more military posture for this ship and crew.  I did maintain the traditional three-color set for Starfleet branches, with red showing command/tactical, gold for engineering/operations, and blue for sciences/medical.  The difference was that instead of being the primary colors, I used the colors only on the trim of the outfits.  I wanted a couple of “outsiders” for the main crew, too, so I used my pre-order Borg officer as one, and a Jem’Hadar from the Dominion arc as another.  This helped confirm for me the “rough and ready” nature of this crew.  I didn’t get exotic with the weapons on the Zihl:  I saved up Dilithium and grabbed upgraded Andorian phasers (mostly cannons, but I slapped a turret in as well) to stick with the whole Andorian warship theme.

Koreth got his push, and I managed to get him to max level in the game-and while he’s not a main character of mine, he IS pretty much the same sort of guy as most of the balding, bearded guys in my blog logo, because heaven forbid I play an MMO where I don’t have a character with that sort of appearance.  I even got clever with the name:  go ahead and spell out the last part of his name in reverse.  Sometimes I can’t help myself.

Old Reliant

Back when Star Trek Online launched, there was only one absolute truth:  you began your time in the game on a Miranda.

The Miranda-class ships have been in since the beginning; the very first tutorial ship.  Sure, people who had bought the game with the pre-order Constitution-class could fly those at the low levels, but you couldn’t swap ships in the tutorial.  And technically, there were other ship parts available so when you got your random ship, you could just as easily be in a Centaur-class or a kitbashed mix of both.  Regardless, it was the Miranda that was most frequently seen, so it gets top billing.  (Not to mention it was a wee bit more infamous being the ship class of the USS Reliant, best known for being captured by Khan back in the day.)

So the painfully slow moving, slow turning Miranda-class vessel was the very first ship new players flew.  This was back when Klingons couldn’t be created until you had a level 6 Starfleet character and had unlocked an accolade for completing a certain mission, and when Romulans weren’t anything more than another opponent for both factions to fight.  You could eventually get into the ship tailor after the tutorial, and either swap to your pre-ordered Constitution or fiddle with the appearance of the ship.  As time went on, C-Store options became available to fly a more tactical or science oriented low level ship, but that was that.

The Klingons didn’t have it much better.  At level 6, they were flying Birds-of-Prey, and that was it.  When the Romulans came to play, they got the T’varo light cruiser.  The one thing these ships had in common was that players generally wanted to get away from these ships as soon as possible.  Even if the appearance appealed, the lack of weapons and bridge officer spots just made using them painful.

The light cruisers, in other words, got no respect.  The Bird-of-Prey got some, since its general appearance kept following along at almost every tier of starship for the Klingons, and the T’varo got a retrofit version which allowed it to play with the big boys.  The Federation, though?  Nope.  No love for the Miranda.

Until now.

A new light cruiser for a new era!

With the recent patch, a trio of light cruisers-one for each faction-has been given the Tier-6 treatment.  The Klingons get the brand new QeHpu’ cruiser, the Romulans get the equally new Deleth warbird, and Starfleet updates the Miranda to new specs with a new appearance-and adds a new light cruiser of the Reliant-class.  (Aside:  I’m really surprised Starfleet was willing to name a class based on that ship; I mean, it’s famous, but look at what it’s famous for:  being captured by Khan, nearly destroying Enterprise, and finally being at ground zero for the Genesis torpedo explosion that created the short-lived Genesis Planet.  Not exactly a thrilling career, right?)

As usual with C-Store ships, they’ll have a unique console, only usable on these cruisers, and as T-6 ships, they will have access eventually to starship traits that your captain can slot.  Since the bundle contains ships for each faction, the ships don’t have a shared set of consoles to create a 3 ship set bonus like you’d see with, say, the Odyssey bundles.  Given that they’re in different factions, it’s probably not hard to see why.  It…probably goes without saying that you can purchase these individually as well as in a single bundle; I know many players tend to stick with one faction.

With every other starship that’s been on the big and small screens having T-6 variants, it was only a matter of time before the Miranda got its turn; if there are any others out there that haven’t, I’d be hard pressed to name them.  Ordinarily, I wouldn’t be going out of my way to comment on a C-Store release unless it was to deliver a rant, but the arrival of this once-lowly ship to the top tiers of the game was something I felt was worthy of commenting upon.  I’ll be very interested to see just how many of these ships I see in the queues-not to mention in orbit near Earth Spacedock.

WF: Total Eclipse of the Nemesis

Synopsis:  In the wilds of Canada, dark spirits are assaulting the Hunter-Patriots.  Argent is ramping up activity in the area.  And the alien Gadroon are continuing to work a transformation to convert the environment to one of their liking.  Into all of this comes Willforge, who must stop their plans and face a super-villain who is working to increase his own power with a magical artifact that will make him unstoppable!

The Champions Online adventure continues!  I’ve had Willforge return to Canada to continue his push to level 30-he’s over halfway there, which has gone substantially faster than I remembered.  Either the slowdown is occurring later in the leveling chain, or the Alerts I’ve done to boost the xp gains have really done a benefit.  It occurs to me that there are players who exclusively level their characters through Alerts as soon as possible….

One thing that’s been scarce, though, has been Nemesis-related missions.  Some background:  once you get a Nemesis, in theory, you can be ambushed by their minions at any time-or more specifically, when you pick up one of the little boost drops that occasionally come from defeated opponents-think of them as instantly activating boosts to damage, or accuracy, or you health or energy bars.  This sometimes triggers a spawn of the Nemesis minions, and one of them should drop what is known as a “Nemesis Clue”-which enables a mission related to the Nemesis.  Often it’s just to stop the minions from doing something; sometimes you get a shot at the Nemesis.

This is sort of the theory, anyway.  There’s a few ugly things that seem to happen sometimes.  There is a timer of sorts involved, for example, so you don’t end up hit with minions within seconds of each other.  In fact, the clues have a timer, too-and I think it starts when you complete the Nemesis mission (but I can’t prove that).  That’s not a major problem.  The bigger problem is that sometimes, when the Nemesis spawns in, they suddenly spawn out before you get a chance to start fighting them-or even while you do so.  This, of course, robs you of any chance to get a Nemesis Clue.  Plus, some of the Nemesis missions are level-gated, which means if one is slated to come up, you simply won’t get a the Clue or perhaps even spawns until you get to a level which can do that mission.

This may or may not be why I’ve had but a single Nemesis mission to date-to smack the minions around a pipeline, if memory serves.  Nothing worth writing home about.

Brighter sides:  I am closing in on level 30 rapidly, and may do so by the time of my next post here.  The character arcs in Canada of late have focused on the groups from Argent, the Hunter-Patriots, and undead serving the villain Eclipse.  The next arc on my list, though, will take us away from corporate skulduggery, revolutionaries, and magic and into good old classic mad science!