I really meant to put some time into the new Champions Online “Free For All” thing, but life happens. Particularly when it involves the other games that I’m currently playing. Both of which have kicked off certain weekly events (as well as a couple updates).
In the City of Heroes, the “Issue 19.5 Strike Pack” got pushed to the servers. This allows those folks working on those Incarnate abilities to get access to the Alpha Slot Rares and Very Rares, if they do certain “weekly task forces”. Okay, technically, it’s weekly strike targets, probably because nobody in Devland wants to have something called “WTF”. (If you don’t know what that means, you aren’t old enough-get back to class!) Needless to say, these are either paired as TFs and villainous SFs, or they will be using a single cooperative one (such as the Lady Grey Task Force). Completing one gains a “Notice from the Well” of Furies, which is an essential component in creating the rares-and the very rares, if you get multiples. (But you only can get a max of one a week on a character; yesterday should be the absolute soonest someone can pull off getting a second notice, and if I recall right, two more weeks before someone can create a very rare one. Obviously, this isn’t in my immediate future.)
When Issue 20 comes out, there are indicators that they’ll be using “Incarnate Trials” to also allow a shot at getting the Notice of the Well. Trials have a definition in CoH, as a timed, 8-man encounter (usually; the Cathedral of pain is best done with about 24 people!). This has had the forums buzzing a bit with the question of the solo and small team players-who are effectively locked out of all of this. I’m of two minds on it (surprise, huh?). One hand: being locked out of content is not a new thing for me. I never saw the big raids in WoW, never got to the bottom of Death Watch Bunker in SWG, and I may never see the stuff in the Khitomer Accord STF in STO. And that also means I never got to the shiny stuff at the end of those: no tier-x gear, no Mando armor parts, no Borg Engineering bridge officer. In a way, that’s what we’re seeing with the Incarnate Trials for CoH.
Thing is, there has always been locked content. Vanguard costume pieces, for example, are gated to level 35 or higher, and require heaps of Vanguard Merits (we’re ignoring the “Vanguard Pack” I mentioned last time; that hasn’t happened yet). Roman armor, shields, and swords are not available until 35 either, and you have to complete a task force for that, too (although some Roman stuff is unlocked by stomping on heaps of Cimeroran Traitors). But those are just shiny toys-they don’t impact the game proper. The rare/very rare Incarnate abilities apply a “level shift” to the character, making a level 50 an effective level 51 character. And the ability to advance in that way-or the inability, for those solo players-has caused a bit of an uproar.
It’s hard for me to apply a concrete opinion. There’s a certain argument toward introversion/extroversion here-which has been a big topic in the forums. I’ve never been an extrovert, so you would think I’d fall on the other side of the argument: the one with the solo players. Yet I have put myself out to play the task forces; arguably, I’ve teamed with other people more in CoH than I’ve done in any other game. As a result, I have two characters who have now level-shifted. I wasn’t looking for a commitment out of the players on the teams; I was just looking to get through the TF successfully, and to enjoy a TF that I hadn’t actually run on before. You could say it was even easier to do than before; with a new TF/SF being chosen every week by the devs, there’s a large demand for bodies to fill the teams. (Although I will add a caveat: this applies mostly to the folks in Paragon City. The Rogue Islands, being as underpopulated as ever, likely have greater difficulty. I haven’t tried over there yet-only did a single SF ever-but one would be tempted to say that this would make it easier than it would be without the weekly designations.)
That’s not the only MMO with stuff going on for me. Star Trek Online’s one year anniversary hit; I’ll pause a moment to look meaningfully at all the people who were dead certain the game wouldn’t last a year. I plan to do this again in another four months, when my lifetime sub effectively “pays for itself” for the people who thought lifetimers were throwing away their money because the game would die before that happened. We got a couple things rolled out for the anniversary. Q (well, Son-Of-Q, but then, all Qs are Q, so that’s just the way it goes) showed up in Qo’nos and Earth’s Spacedock to give out party gifts and treasures, so to speak. Earth Spacedock itself got redesigned a lot-including a new exterior entirely, which matches the Spacedock we know from the movies and TNG series. While I’d think it should be a bit bigger, it still feels like the right thing.
The daily gift surprises were done, however, poorly. How it works: in theory, Q gives a mission, you go to a fountain or a mountain of tribbles (I’ll let you figure which faction got what), and interact with it. You get a pop-up with items, which could be really common, really rare, or even things only seen on the C-Store. One of mine, for example, got a pet sehlat, only seen on the store. The problem? Twofold: one, you could scrounge again and again until you get what you want. But the second issue was bigger: everyone scrounging got the same pool of stuff. So if you found something really good and rare, click that “take” fast, because another player may see the same thing and take it first. Worse yet, sometimes they only took one or two items from the list, leaving the last sitting there-which means until someone gets desperate enough to take it, that item prevented another set of items from coming available. It isn’t as noticeable in Spacedock: you have a lot more people and a lot more instances of Spacedock. Qo’nos, on the other hand, has a lot fewer people and a whole lot less instances. If they decide to repeat this in the second year, one hopes that they will redesign this dramatically to avoid this.
I’d be remiss in not mentioning that the next set of Featured Episodes began over the weekend, starting with “The Vault”-the location where Nero outfitted Narada, as seen in the most recent Trek movie. Very well designed, with your character class determining the best way to get in (but not the only way!), an environment that had the feel of V’Ger, using shuttles to explore, and a confrontation in a nebula that was not quite as rough as Kirk had to deal with against Khan (but hey, been a number of decades-sensors have improved a bit). Add to that the voice over work for a few important contacts, and you get a pretty solid starting episode. The weekly Feature Episodes were the highlights of the game with the Breen and the Devidians, and I’m looking very much forward to seeing the Romulans enjoy their spotlight.