Aside

Well, looks like Champions Online decided to postpone committing suicide

I’m sure we’ll see a lot of what was planned still going in, but maybe they’ll figure a way to not screw over the current subscriber base in doing so this time.  I’d say I was doubtful, but then, I also thought they’d ram this one through, so hope springs eternal for CO.

Aside on Another Sub Model Sinks

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Another Sub Model Sinks

It wasn’t that long ago that I posted my thoughts on the removal of subscriptions from Star Trek Online.  So I’m not sure why I was so surprised to hear that Champions Online is doing the same thing.  However, this hasn’t been greeted with all sweetness and light from the playerbase; quite the opposite, in truth.  Why would this be?

Well, it’s complicated.

Star Trek Online’s subscription model didn’t offer a whole bunch of extra stuff for subscribers that couldn’t be gotten from free play.  In fact, it was further degraded by the fact that you could subscribe for literally one month to get a bunch of unlocks that wouldn’t go away once you stopped subscribing.  So the smart thing to do in that game was to do exactly that.  Sure, you missed out on veteran rewards, but none of them are game breaking-not even the free vet ships at 1000 days.  In contrast, Champions Online gave heaps of benefits:  access to freeform character building, which meant you could mix and match powers.  That meant you weren’t locked into a number of freely available Archetypes.  You could color the powers, so you could have (for example) blue or red flame powers.  You got more (lots more) character slots.  You got the ability to open a new character slot when you reached max level.  You had more inventory slots to work with.  Et cetera, et cetera….

So while STO’s benefits could be conveniently boiled down to ditching subs and created a one-time purchase pack that did the same thing that most of the playerbase was doing anyway, CO isn’t that simple.  The pack gets you more character slots, but from what I’ve read thus far, they aren’t freeform slots-there is only two ways to get freeform slots at this point (well, starting on the 7th):  either purchase a freeform slot separately, which is overpriced to start with, or buy a lifetimer subscription, which is a hell of an investment at this stage of the game.  And that’s one of the reasons why the playerbase is up in arms:  for those who are subscribing, it means that if they let their sub lapse, their freeform characters are effectively gone forever.  (Unless they pony up the cash that they could’ve used to buy a whole new game with.)

Additionally, it seems that the devs have decided to no longer allow new character slots to open up at max level, and are enforcing a slot limit.  The devs claim that the limit’s always been there, but the free slots from leveling bypassed that somehow.  I’m dubious.  In any event, closing this up is a thumb in the eye for subscribers and lifetimers-that was a significant benefit being wiped out.  Of course, you can still get character slots for purchase.  One wonders how that’ll work if freeform slots are still just as expensive for either type of sub.

Like it or not, CO is getting ready to undergo a seismic shift in how it does things, and it might just be the last blow for a game where replayability relied upon alts, which relied on character slots-because the game sure doesn’t get new content at anywhere near the pace that many of the modern MMOs do.  And as another company I recall could tell, pissing off the playerbase in large numbers that you rely upon to stay afloat isn’t exactly what I’d call a good business model.  That sort of thing is why we have Star Wars: The Old Republic now.

Thirteen Years In

Another year has come and gone with my MMO gaming-and my MMO blogging!  And as is traditional for me, it’s time to look back at 2017 and the games I spent my time on-and perhaps take a peek into what is planned for the future.

Moving towards its first major story content update.

So…many…alts….

I’d closed out ’16 with the beginnings of putting my characters through the Knights of the Eternal Throne expansion for Star Wars: The Old Republic, and 2017 continued that work.  I was aided a great deal in the fact that most of the publishes last year focused on class balance, raids, and the other sorts of stuff that I tend to have little interest in.  We did get a couple new strongholds, but I haven’t gone out of my way to get access to them-I’m still way under-decorated with a couple I have now!  Thanks to the lack of newer story content, though, I did manage to get all eight of my “class representatives” to finish the KotET expansion-and a couple have gone beyond that.

When I say “beyond that”, it’s because there were at least a few bits of story that sprinkled through the year.  Nothing to the scale of previous years, but hey, it’s an MMORPG; that means devs have to deal with other aspects of the game such as those little details I mentioned in the previous paragraph.  Still, we got a renewed flareup of the Sith-Republic War on the world of Iokath, treason against the Eternal Alliance on Umbara (and I still love that mission, even though I haven’t done it much), and a game of “catch the traitor” on the Chiss world of Copero.  Two of those missions features the return of three companions as well-although you can only get two of them, since that involves a decision as to who your Alliance will support on Iokath.  (Alas, I still regret that there wasn’t a choice of “how about I just conquer both of you?  I mean, Valkorion had no problem doing it….”)  It’s still slow going for folks waiting for the return of companions-pity the Jedi Consular!  It’d be nice to think that 2018 will finish the job-and as of this posting, three more are scheduled to return on the 23rd, two of which will make the Smuggler VERY happy, and some will be pleased by the return of an Inquisitor’s as well.  Maybe we’ll see the rest this year after all….  Due to my significant number of characters who had to get through content, I only did the Iokath and beyond missions with my two “primary” main characters.  My Trooper and Sith Warrior got to get a jump on Iokath, though, since it was their companions being offered as returns.  (For folks carrying a grudge against the Imperial one, it is possible to kill him.  I let him live, though-and I still have him using a bunch of cybernetic limbs to show that all is “forgiven”.  Heh heh….)

There was a short bit of entertaining activity with the United Forces update, which consolidated the servers dramatically, and included a bit of “encouraged grouping” in order to get the companion who didn’t win the Dark vs Light event in ’16.  I’d always suspected Darth Hexid would show up sooner or later.

What’s next for SWTOR for me this coming year?  Well, since I wrapped up the last of my original eight through the expansion, I think it’s time for me to bring the stories of the Jedi Anthrandos and the Inquisitor Sorshan to a conclusion-both of these characters were chronicled heavily in 2016, but left hanging since I wanted to get my other characters through the then-new expansion.  I’ve caught up, so expect somewhere between two to four posts featuring the conclusion of their saga.  I don’t plan to put either of those characters through the post-expansion content, as it’s already hard enough for me to push through the eight.  Speaking of those eight, I will probably also put them through the post-expansion content to get them all caught up; who knows what lies ahead for the game in 2018, after all?

The transition from wartime to peacetime begins.

There is no content but what we make for ourselves-okay, that’s a minor exaggeration.

Star Trek Online actually got a decent chunk of my time in 2017.  I chronicled the adventures of two major characters through the year.  The first month concluded the adventure of temporal agent Rick Masters, Agent of Yesterday.  Then, starting in September, I began to chronicle the Orion pirate-at-heart Dathiro, giving a look at the Klingon side of life, as well as exploring the usefulness of the Foundry missions out there.  In between all that, we got a couple of new missions.

Those missions featured the Lukari, encountered during the Future Proof series, and expanded upon their story-which also brought in the Tzenkethi on their mysterious sterilization crusade.  We reunited the Lukari with their cousins, so to speak, and discovered that the Tzenkethi might have a point with their campaign.  We got a new fleet holding-well, I sort of threw in the towel with that one.  Fleet holdings are a game for the larger fleets, and I’m not involved with any larger fleets to mess with it.  We also got a couple of missions more or less independent of that storyline-like recapturing Sela (AGAIN!) after some fallout from the Temporal Ambassador mission way back, and a return to the Nexus (of Star Trek: Generations fame) with the coming of a being who I’m not convinced we’ve seen the last of.  Oh-and we also get the return of a Klingon warrior long thought dead, which could make the political situation on Qo’noS very, very interesting indeed.

What does the future hold for my work in STO?  I expect to get Dathiro at least to level 50, and I’m very likely to try to push him to level 60-again, solely through non-episodic content, so expect more Foundry commentary, as well as comments on the PvE queues at that point.  Dathiro might get a bit derailed, though, because we got hints in the back half of ’17 that the Dominion of the Gamma Quadrant will be returning in a big way; I won’t say the word expansion, but-oh, wait, I just did, didn’t I?  I expect big things out of 2018, and I expect some good stuff to come down.  I won’t be surprised if we get yet another sub-faction related to this (I’m so cynical), and perhaps a new region of space to actually explore.  (Take what you can get, exploration fans; I’m still dubious we’ll ever see new “exploration content” like in the old days, much less better than the old days….)

There had to be a loser here somewhere.

Willforge’s Big Year

Unlike last year, Champions Online got a lot of love from me.  I’d noted that I hadn’t put any real time into that game in ’16, and I resolved to run a character through that game up to max level, and I chose to do it with the character Willforge.  Chronicling his adventure through the various content in the game was a blast, and while nothing really new came out for a solo sort of guy, it had been a long enough time since I did anything at all in the game that stuff felt at least a little fresh.  And best of all, since it isn’t as linear as STO or SWTOR (which isn’t to say it’s perfect, but it’s still a heap better), I was able to pick and choose a bit as to how I leveled the character.  The game did get some new content in, but it seemed to tend to the group oriented, and because I keep floating from game to game, it’s not really that simple for me to get that involved with them.  I do expect at some point in 2018 to return to CO and run a new character-I have a couple of concepts I’ve been kicking around-but with Dathiro’s story rolling in STO, along with its expected content, finishing Sorshan and Anthrandos in SWTOR, and whatever rolls up in that game, well…we’ll see what happens..

Returning for a new engagement....

Didn’t see a lot of activity, but….

EVE Online, despite its transition to a freemium model, didn’t get all that much time from me.  I did get my character up to the point where he could fly a cruiser, but he’s still training up skills to actually survive flying one; and of course, gaining income enough to afford to fly one.  And that was before the big update that opened up battlecruisers and battleships to the character.  I’ve recently done some minor dabbling in it again, mostly consisting of resuming training skills, flying the occasional set of level 1 missions (and just recently upgraded to level 2s!), and messing with ammunition blueprints to reduce dependency on outside arms dealers.  Currently, I’m flying a destroyer, which is handy to deal with frigate sized opposition.  If I get to the point of purchasing and flying a cruiser, I may well start in on those level 2 missions.  No hurry, though-it’s not like I don’t have enough going on elsewhere, right?

That wraps up my look back on 2017!  Thirteen years, right?  Who would’ve thought I’d have been doing this that long?  I don’t have any great plans to continue writing up fiction for my assorted games-although one never knows; maybe I’ll do a serialized sort of thing on WordPress and link to it.  I also keep kicking around reviving the “Images of the Ranger” site, since I still have heaps of screenshots and heaps of related images (and that site still has heaps of upload space); I’d been considering doing a series there on player housing, and I think it might work better on that site than on this primary site.  So stay tuned-anything can happen.  Hopefully I can make 2018’s gaming as enjoyable as 2017’s!

The Cast List: Introducing Silver Paladin of Champions Online

I’ll confess it:  I’ve been a long-time fan of the superhero character “Iron Man”.  I liked Tony Stark long before he became a household name from the movies, although there were long periods where I didn’t follow the character because of the frankly idiotic moves by the comic writers who I often felt just didn’t actually like the character at all.  I could go into more detail, but this is a blog about MMOs-and in this case, Champions Online.

The relevance comes with this thought:  I wanted to make a very different Iron Man-like character.  Iron Man is, in many ways, a modern version of the medieval knight:  skilled with his weapons and encased in a full suit of armor to protect himself.  I thought, “well, with all the tools that technology can offer, what would happen if someone managed to more or less convert an actual knight’s armor to modern specs?  Or to be more accurate, super-heroic specifications?”  With that as my opening move, the character of Silver Paladin was born.

The first thing I did with the character was design the look.  Fortunately, costume parts for a knight were easy to put together.  I deliberately chose nothing that made him look obviously hi-tech; all of those goodies were inside the armor.  I didn’t really go overboard with accessories here; it was a link to what some might consider a simpler time (is any time simpler?).  The next step was powers.  Sadly, there is no shield powerset in CO, and no “block” power that manifests as a physical shield; there’s a missed opportunity, if you ask me.  So I couldn’t go all out with the simple sword and shield combination like I could’ve with a certain City of Heroes character I’d had once.  (Someday, I may do a Cast List for those, but it’s hard to bring myself to do that for a game that’s no longer remotely current.)  But I was bound and determined to mix melee weapons with powered armor stuff-which meant this had to be a freeform character, as none of the Silver Archetypes would have what I wanted.

So I wound up going with a ranged/melee hybrid, with a few extras.  The melee part of the equation used Heavy Weapons, which allowed him to use an almost anime-esque broadsword.  On top of that, I used the Power Armor powerset to help round things off, including a shoulder-mounted gatling gun (with mercy bullets, naturally, that wonderful comic-book-friendly answer to lethal rounds) and the energy shield block power so he would have a tech-looking defense.  Threw two layers of healing on the character-one that was a straight self-heal, and another that came in the form of a set of drones that could be swapped from offense to healing.  (The healing was also helpful in teams, as they’d heal any friendly nearby.)  The character was a pretty tough cookie as he leveled, particularly after slotting an Invulnerability passive to give him improved survivability.  He couldn’t beat a Cosmic like Grond, admittedly, but he could survive a hit or two from him-empirically tested the hard way in Snake Gulch.

I did manage to get a Nemesis for him, a villain called Techknight; nothing really fancy or unusual on him-I like to make a Nemesis that I can contrast and compare with the hero in some way, and this one was designed to be what you usually think of as a power-armor wearer as opposed to Silver Paladin’s old-fashioned, knightly look.  By the time I got this guy to 40, I still hadn’t finished his Nemesis arc, so Techknight is still at large….

As is often the case for my costume slots, I would create a “civilian” look for the character.  I also did a couple variations on his armor, including a more armored up look (heavier helm, for instance), and a helmetless look, for conversation outside of a combat scenario.  But nine times out of ten, if one were to encounter this character, it’d be in his usual appearance-ready to deal out justice the old, OLD fashioned way!

The Cast List: Introducing Runelord of Champions Online

When City of Heroes shut its doors, some of the folks in the supergroups I’d been involved with decided to try out Champions Online as a replacement.  (That’s actually not entirely accurate; that implies we hadn’t tried it before, which we had-but not as a group.)  As we were doing the RP thing, we decided to set up a supergroup there and made a bunch of new characters.  My offering was the character Runelord-a character I had very, very loosely based on an old Marvel Superheroes RPG character I’d made years and years and years ago.

I wasn’t entirely sure what my future was going to be in CO, so he was originally designed as a Silver Archetype.  Some explanation for those not-in-the-know:  subscribers were considered “Gold” players, and were able to create characters with pretty much complete freedom, mixing and matching powers that didn’t necessarily go together; if you wanted a magic-throwing/hammer-wielding healing character, you could conceivably do so.  However, Silver players-the ones who did the “free” part of the “free-to-play” equation-could not create a freeform character (unless they purchased a freeform character slot); they were instead led to choose among a variety of Archetypes, which had a preset path for gaining powers.  I don’t recall all the pluses and minuses involved, but the part that is important here is that Gold players could ALSO use the Archetypes, even though they could also create freeform characters.  My thinking at the time was, “If I make a Silver Archetype here, I should be able to keep using him even if I let my sub lapse.”  So I used the Grimoire Archetype, which is a Hybrid archetype; it does a little of everything, although not nearly as well as those that specialized in things like damage, tanking, healing, etc.

I’ll admit that in the fullness of time, I decided to grab a lifetime sub to CO-which has “matured” to the point where the amount I spent on it during a sale was roughly equal to the amount I’d have paid if I’d kept up a subscription.  Once I’d done that, I made use of a “once per character’s lifetime” ability to convert the character from a Silver character to a Gold character-allowing me to do a changeover from the Grimoire to freeform character.  I re-established most of the character powers, and got a couple extras (freeforms ALSO have a different leveling experience that winds up with two extra powers by the end).  This didn’t happen until well after I’d gotten the character to level 40, though, so his entire leveling experience had been done as a Grimoire.

The character concept was fairly straightforward:  a wizard who had newly come into his power (but still growing:  low levels mean you gotta have room to grow the character) by making use of “rune magic”, allowing him to create various effects-in other words, the powers in the Grimoire repertoire (I couldn’t help that one.  I’m bad.)  This was actually the only CO character I’d bothered putting any fiction together for, but things more or less fell apart as CO just really wasn’t what the people who’d come with me were looking for, and my own will to actually run a new supergroup had burned out faster than I had expected; so the story I had been building towards with that character remains locked in my head.  That origin did include one of that character’s future Nemeses, a demon called Fhtagath, who had killed his master/teacher; I’d actually effectively had the villain “banished” with some SG help during the last Nemesis mission which allowed me to create a second Nemesis, Black Blade, who was a a thief of magical artifacts.  I had planned up a third Nemesis, who would be the wizard who had held Fhtagath’s leash, but I don’t believe I ever got to the point of opening up a third Nemesis for Runelord.  Nevertheless, merely by virtue of having complete even one of the full Nemesis arcs, it made Runelord the holder of the most Nemeses of all my characters.

The appearance of the character was planned to evolve.  The first outfit (pictured here) is very much a wizard-like look with the deep hood; I also made a version of the outfit without the hood up, so he could have it up or down as the situation demanded.  A third outfit that was very “Dr. Strange-esque” was put together, which I had planned to have him start using at level 40-where he could legitimately be said to have mastered his magic.  But that never really came to pass, as the SG had more or less ended by that point, and there wasn’t much point to it.  I tended after to swap among the outfits according to whim.

Obviously, as noted above, I did manage to get the character to level 40, but he hasn’t seen much action since.  He was the second character of mine to hit that milestone, and probably the last one that I bothered keeping track of as far as the order of that milestone goes.

The Cast List: Introducing Gunfighter of Champions Online

Well, coming on the heels of Willforge’s finale, it’s time to expand the List to include Champions Online characters.  I debated on adding CO characters to my Cast List; after all, a very large portion of them are already out there on the web in assorted locations.  But it occurred to me that while that’s all well and good for a role-playing perspective, those don’t really go into my thoughts on when I put those characters together.  And since CO is still a game that I’m playing, it made sense to me to part the curtain here.  (At some point, I may well add characters from defunct games like Star Wars Galaxies-that’ll be a short list-and City of Heroes to the list, but the current games I’m involved with should cover this nicely for the foreseeable future.)

So.  Gunfighter.  I can’t say he is the first character I created for CO; but he is the oldest surviving one; I’d wiped out a couple of other characters over the years dating back to when I started playing CO, but Gunfighter had evolved into my “main” character for a short period of time when I had that free time from game purchase, then got shoveled to the side until the game went Freemium-it was still shoveled to the side, though, because I didn’t have access to the Freeform archetypes, and I wasn’t willing to convert him to a Marksman AT.  Eventually, when I started doing the sub again, I was able to continue advancing the character.

Since the character was put together at a time when I wasn’t interested much in developing an RP backstory for him, his creation came not from any story concept but from “gee, what if I make a modern-day cowboy”?  A man in black, complete with a black hat, but a good guy?  Since this was the game’s early days, everyone built via Freeform characters, and the powerset that obviously suited this guy was the Munitions powerset, which had all the good stuff like dual pistols and sniper rifles.  My plan was to give him all the gun-related powers, regardless of type of gun-he was going to be as familiar with rifles as he was with pistols; over time, he’d also get access to submachine guns and even a gatling gun!

It also meant that he got what I consider the character’s pride and joy.  Early in the game’s lifespan, there were items that were considered “Power Replacers”; items that basically meant you could replace a specific power with a modified version of the power.  Somewhere along the line when I wasn’t involved with CO, they got rid of those-or more accurately, stopped letting them drop.  They still existed, so if you had them, you could still use them, but nobody was getting these anymore.  Well, at one point in the character’s career, he got a replacer for his sniper rifle, an alien Gadroon sniper rifle; the weapon looks alien, and instead of doing a sniper-bullet, it was a sniper-energy-pulse.  It was the only power replacer I’d ever gotten.  I believe some of them have come back, but they require heaps of Questionite-the CO equivalent of Star Trek Online’s Dilithium-to purchase, I’m unlikely to ever get my hands on another similar type of item.

I could have given the character a classic cowboy appearance, but since I was going super-modern, I went with an armored suit, with extra plating on the upper body.  I had to include the black hat, though-that just wasn’t negotiable.  I added gold as a secondary color, and I think the look worked out pretty good.  The character’s face is a bit rugged looking, which is exactly how I figured it should be.  Finally, I slapped on a black eye mask, because, why not?  It’s a superhero setting!

I did eventually start up a backstory for the guy; my time in CoH made that sort of thing almost a reflex nowadays.  I wanted to work with the game’s setting-I often try to do that-and found my link in the organization called PRIMUS, which, among other things, is a law enforcement agency working in the US concerned with superhuman activity.  I figured that an ex-military guy might migrate to the organization, so I made him an ex-Marine; then, because I can’t leave well enough alone, I came up with a back story how a faction in PRIMUS was annoyed at how the international agency UNTIL often took over jurisdiction on superhuman activity, and this faction decided to take twelve people and enhance them in various ways (beyond what PRIMUS is normally capable of doing, that is)-one third got cyber enhanced, one third got “gene-mapped” new powers with an experimental process, and the last third simply got hi-tech toys.  Gunfighter would be in the latter category.  These would be superhuman operatives that operated more or less in international territory, and given plausible deniability to avoid issues with the assorted governments.  Because I didn’t want to get too crazy with rogue factions, I had the faction found out by the higher ups in PRIMUS and shut down-but not before they cut the survivors of the twelve loose to operate as heroes.

Worth noting that I had planned to mine this basic concept for future reference.  I have no less than three other characters tied to this rogue PRIMUS experiment, and in addition to that, I also put together one Nemesis (not all of the survivors from the original 12 wound up as good guys in the end), who conveniently is Gunfighter’s.  I planned to build a foundation similar to what I had done with a chunk of my characters in CoH, just in case one day I’d be actually doing any RP with the guy-or any future characters.  As I’ve more or less drifted away from that scene, that idea’s something that now only exists in my head.

Gunfighter was not my first level 40 character, but he was somewhere in the first three.  The Munitions powerset has gone through its ups and downs, but Gunfighter managed to get through them intact, and-as most of my top level guys do in this game-is now more or less enshrined in my personal hall of fame, as I work on new characters.  With new character slots that open up when you get a character to max level in CO, it’s painfully easy to move onto new ideas and indulge hard in altoholism.  This sort of helps encourage a guy to actually try to occasionally focus on getting characters to 40, so the addiction to alts can be continually fed!

WF: To All Things, An Ending

Synopsis:  FINAL ISSUE!  Willforge discovers that his nemesis, Mindhunter, is plotting to use the VIPER Draysha formula for his own ends.  Can Willforge stop Mindhunter once and for all?  Join Willforge on his final adventure!

At last, the character of Willforge has hit level 40 in Champions Online, and thus it’s time to close the book on him.  Let’s take a look back on the things I was able to accomplish, the things I missed, and final thoughts.

I was able to put the character through a pretty good leveling experience.  Thanks to the XP Alerts, I never really felt any real issue with leveling-at least when I was able to dedicate some time to it.  I was able to go through story arcs through every major zone in the game, including the it-gets-a-bad-rap Lemuria zone.  Also got to do the Vibora Bay Apocalypse arc, which I’d only done with one other character in the past, and although I didn’t complete the post-Apocalyptic Vibora Bay missions, I did do more than enough to get the levels to reach 40, which was the primary goal here.

I got to see the power-and the limitations-of the Telepathy powerset; as I hit the stretch from 30 to 40, I was able to hold my own against most opponents, and a fair chunk of groups of opponents.  It wasn’t perfect, and there were times I got myself into serious trouble with too many enemies at once, but for the most part, the character survivability went way up from where it had begun.  The character didn’t have raw damage on his side, nor did he have high resistance to damage, but he did manage to incapacitate opponents long enough so that he could survive and defeat them.  Usually.

Unfortunately, there were instances where it just wasn’t enough.  I had hoped to get to the final Nemesis mission, “Deathray Demolition”, but one of the two-parter missions more or less put that to a standstill with a giant robot with a large sack of health, a large capacity for damage, and a knockback that made most of Willforge’s powers almost impossible to get going.  So when I hit 40, I decided that I’d just hang it up there and just let the mission sit in his journal.  Probably for the best, though-because the Deathray Demolition probably would’ve been even worse, given that he’d have to deal with not just one, but three versions of his Nemesis, and a swarm of the minions; even with the assistance you can get in that mission from a pair of aggro-magnets (except, naturally, when you need them to be), it would’ve been a rough go.

Another regret was Adventure Packs.  I’ve done the Serpent’s Lantern pack on my own in the past with other characters, but Willforge wasn’t really geared up to handle that, so that got put aside.  Likewise, I didn’t bother with the Demonflame pack, which I’ve never managed to complete with any characters.  Since I wasn’t doing those, I never went to do Resistance, either, which is a shame because one of the missions there features the use of a very large robot stomping around-I’m always a fan of that kind of thing.  I could have done the comic series arcs, but decided against it-my leveling path was working well enough that I didn’t feel a need to go in that direction.  Finally, there is a story arc that involves Mechanon which would’ve been on my list except for the fact that the final mission is a grouped mission (unless the character is a seriously well geared and leveled one, and…well, Willforge isn’t).  Also, it occurs to me there’s another similar sort of arc called Fatal Error that’s sort of cyberspace oriented, but again, that arc closes out in grouped content that I’m not entirely sure is available at the present time.  And again, level of difficulty solo in the other missions there gets in the way.

Despite the things that were missed, and the challenges that were not overcome, I enjoyed running this character through Champions Online, and will undoubtedly do so again at some point in the future with another character-perhaps one who will be a bit more geared towards damage or toughness than Willforge was.  But for now, Champions Online is going to get set to the side now while I focus on my other games.  I think my next bit of focus is going to be getting the rest of my remaining Star Wars: The Old Republic characters through the Knights of the Eternal Throne story (including Anthrandos and Sorshan; they will get their conclusions!), before kicking off a new focus character for Star Trek Online.  (This character is the one I put myself through many days of Risa this summer for.)

That said, I won’t ignore CO completely; now that Willforge is out of focus, I will probably start putting up Cast List entries for some of my other CO characters, who may be chronicled elsewhere as far as their fictional stories, but haven’t been covered anywhere as to how I decided to build them.  Watch for them!

WF: Mayor SMASH!!!!

Synopsis:  After a harrowing experience in Vibora Bay, you would think that Willforge would get a break to recuperate.  But his nemesis Mindhunter has other plans in mind.  When the archvillain clones the mayor of Millennium City, Willforge must fight across two nations to keep Mindhunter from replacing the real mayor!  But what hidden allies has Mindhunter mustered to deal with Willforge’s interference?

With the Vibora Bay Apocalypse in the past (or is that the future?  Time travel makes my head hurt…), I’ve been focusing my time in the post-apocalyptic Vibora Bay (or is that pre-Apocalyptic?  ARRRRGH!).  The Vibora Bay missions are nice and uncomplicated for the most part, although some of them involve drop-hunting missions that drive me mad because the drop rate of the items involved seem so pathetically low.  That wouldn’t be so bad, if it weren’t for the fact that the respawn rate of some of these criminals is so annoyingly slow.  Well, it could be worse.  I could also have to be dealing with timed missions that require you to fetch items in a predetermined order that you don’t know in advance.  Oh-there’s one of those, too.  (After my second attempt, when I had a better idea of what I was doing, and still came up short, I said, “yeah, you go get those things yourself-I’m out of here” and dropped that mission.)

I also occasionally went back to Monster Island, to clear out a couple of lingering missions in my log-including one that had accidentally finished when I was doing…something-and to help ensure that I could spawn Nemesis minions so I could get the Clues needed to run a new Nemesis mission.  I knew that they would spawn in Monster Island, but I had a feeling that they wouldn’t in Vibora Bay.  I was wrong, by the way; after a fruitless period in Monster Island at one point, I went back to Vibora to do some missions-and was delighted to see those robots pop up and ambush me as I was going after the Sovereign Sons.  All is right in the world-especially since one of my goals before finishing up the character is to lock that Nemesis away for good!

To that end:  there tend to be two types of Nemesis missions that drop from the Clues.  The first kind is almost painfully generic:  the minions of the Nemesis are up to no good, and you have to stop them from doing what they’re doing.  It’s usually as simple as getting up a radio tower in Canada fighting through spawned minions, or blowing up barrels of toxic waste in Millennium City as the minions guard them.  I’ll note that this can occasionally cause fits for poor lower level heroes doing their level missioning in the areas.  I’ve had at least one occasion where another player blew his top because he was doing missions in the desert around a VIPER prison and a bunch of high-level Nemesis minions suddenly spawned and blew him to greasy chunks.  For this sort of reason, I always try to clean up my minions even if my objectives are complete-no sense in letting those guys hang around and beat up lowbies.

The second type of mission is a lot more fun.  They tend to be instanced affairs, and feature the Nemesis in some way, sometimes physically, sometimes via some communications method, and involve a more elaborate plan.  For example:  the aforementioned cloning drama.  This is actually a matched pair of missions, one starting right after the other-one in Canada, where you discover the cloning plot, and fight a couple of “named” supervillains, and then another encounter in the City Hall of Millennium City, where you have to fight at least three other supervillains, a gigantic clone of the mayor (you did see that cover above, right?)-and oh yeah, your Nemesis (who, of course, in classic fashion, gets away).  And of course, scattered all around are the minions of the Nemesis.  Good times.  Well, usually-sometimes fighting two supervillain level threats at once is a little rough; I got taken down by one plus Mindhunter, but fortunately, the two weren’t keyed to each other as far as aggro logic goes.  I was able to engage one of them at a time after that faceplant, and things went a lot better.

So, hopefully, in the not-distant future I hope, I will be able to chronicle the final battle between Mindhunter and Willforge-and celebrate level 40.  It’ll be interesting to see if I can wrap up the Vibora Bay missions prior to then.  Signs point to “probably not”, because I’m pretty sure that some of those missions are intended for level 40 content, but we’ll see.

WF: Game Over, Man! Game Over!

Synopsis:  APOCALYPSE, CONCLUSION!  The End of the World is at hand!  The Champions:  dead!  The heroes of Vibora Bay:  betrayed!  The fallen angel Therakiel is about to bring about the end, but the deadliest villain on Earth wants such power for himself!  It all comes down to Willforge to execute a desperate last-minute plan to reverse the Apocalypse and set things right!  Join Willforge in this 25th issue spectacular!

The End has arrived!  The Earth is gone!

Wait…that can’t be right…let me check that script again….

Here we go.  Thanks to one of the most painful plot devices known to man (and the only one that allows you to maul the main cast like this), the Apocalypse has been stopped.  You would think that stopping the end of the world in Champions Online would be good for gaining at least one level, right?  Heh-keep thinking that.  I’ve put Willforge through the conclusion of the Apocalypse, and all he got was a lousy t-shirt.  Actually, strike that-he didn’t get that either.  But in the plus column, at least the world is still spinning, right?  At least, it’ll keep doing that as long as he manages to prevent the Apocalypse from actually happening based on the knowledge he got from said Apocalypse.

One would think that a simpler solution would be to take out the baddie who kick started the whole mess in the first place, instead of trying to change heaps of little things hoping to change the future, but that’s the biz for you.

Despite my griping, I am fairly close to 38 at this point, and expect to hit it next time I’m on.  I suspect I’ll spend a lot of time in post-Apocalypse Vibora (the images that phrase evokes is nowhere near reality.  I blame Mad Max and Wasteland…) to begin the push to 40.  I have a sneaking feeling, though, that Nemesis minions don’t spawn off in Vibora, which means I might take trips to the Canada or Monster Island to harvest some Nemesis clues so I have a reasonable shot at reaching the end of that line before wrapping up this CO run.  It’s not as unrealistic as one might think-it’s taken me this long to get from 37 to near 38, after all.  I’m sure I could grind the last two levels out doing just Alerts, but hell, that would drive me bats-especially if there’s no double-xp events rolling.  Besides, there IS an end to the Vibora Bay arc post-apocalypse, and it’s not inconceivable that I could be facing the big bad one more time.

Nearing the end, of course, puts me in mind of where I’m going next.  I’ve got a character concept percolating and a general plan of attack for Star Trek Online, but at the same time, it’s been a while since I’ve seriously visited Star Wars: The Old Republic.  This is all in terms of new characters, mind-I’ve got some other irons to wrap in the meantime, such as pushing my Romulan main to get up-to-date with the mission log, and I’ve a bunch of characters in TOR to finish through the Eternal Throne expansion (including a pair who will get actual conclusions to stories I chronicled here who helped reinvigorate my Building Character posts).  So expect some of that to possibly litter the blog from now until the next big thing.

But obviously, first things first.  Willforge managed to scrape out a second chance for the planet-and he’s got two levels (and a smidgen) to go before the final issue is writ.

WF: It’s The End Of The World As We Know It And I Feel Fine

Synopsis:  APOCALYPSE, PART TWO!  As things in Vibora Bay continue to fall apart, the world’s mightiest heroes arrive to join Willforge stopping the end of days!  But as the party responsible for starting the Apocalypse continues to ascend, Champions will fall-and Willforge must make new allies in the darkened streets of Vibora Bay!

The Vibora Bay Apocalypse continues….

It’s been a long time since I ran the Apocalypse arc in Champions Online, and it’s possible that I’m further along than I think I am-I’ve gotten to the point where Willforge is about to try to recover the Elemental Gems, but I don’t recall how many more missions until the grand finale of the arc.  I have managed to avoid gaining any levels since last time around, which indicates to me that perhaps this isn’t as big a deal as I was thinking-so I’ll probably resume doing XP Alerts to help things along again.

If I time it right, the final missions of the arc will correspond neatly to Issue 25 of my Willforge covers.  25 is often a big issue for comic books (especially in this day and age when comic runs get restarted after just a year of publication), so it seems that Fate has decided to work with me for a change.

One thing that I appreciate about this particular arc is that-as it’s the end of the world and all-the story writers didn’t pull many punches.  When I mentioned “Champions will fall” above, I wasn’t joking-and the mood of the quest givers reflects the long odds that just keep getting longer as the arc goes on.  It’s not so much that your character is failing in the missions-it’s that it’s a race against time (so to speak-“time” is really not a big issue in an MMO questline) and if the bad guys get done with their plans before you get done with yours…well, you didn’t really want to keep living in this universe, right?

It’s not every story arc where you have to decide to ally with man-eating werewolves or blood-drinking vampires, too.  (I went with the wolves; it’s hard to feel sympathy for vampires, and they’re already technically dead.)  Nor do you usually get a chance to fight side by side with groups of Champions.  (Well, sort of.)  Despite the presence of the NPC heroes, you never get the feeling that you’re there to assist them.  They’re here to assist you.  Of course, that said, the usual conventions of MMO writing still apply-you’re still getting missions from other NPCs (Dr. Ka and Robert Caliburn, mostly-but there’s a number of others in this arc that have things for you to do, such as Trismegistus mages and Black Mask-you remember her from the Queen City arc, right?).  How many of these luminaries will be left standing after the End of the World is still an open question.

That does sort of lead me on a side-ramble.  MMOs in general have the glaring fault that your character is always a reactive one-at least as far as quests/missions go.  In some games, it works out okay; Star Wars Galaxies had mission terminals that had missions to give out, but your character wasn’t the champion of ultimate destiny (well, not until the NGE, anyway), and needed to make a living getting credits somehow.  World of Warcraft has a number of people who would give out missions because they have actual authority (kings, queens, military officers, etc.).  But as one gains levels (or increases in ability, as not all MMOs are level based), one gains a certain reputation for getting things done.  You get to a point where you’d think that you wouldn’t need character X to tell you what to do; but there you are, still taking orders (or requests) to “do this”.  It seems to me that you could ramp up the illusion that you’re actually competent if you could respond with what would apparently be your own ideas.  Some MMOs can do this during missions/quests (Star Trek Online does a decent job of it-certainly better than in the early days of the game, and the Old Republic does a decent job too-with some missions more than others), but CO isn’t really set up for that sort of thing.  Which is a damned shame, but honestly, there are other things that bring me greater regrets than this does.  Yes, these are “themepark” MMOs, and not sandbox MMOs, but one can at least try to give the illusion of character competence.

Well, that was a bit of a ramble.  Let’s close it out with the obvious:  since I’m really unlikely to get to level 40 before the End of the World, it’s probably safe to assume that we’ll be going beyond issue 25 above.  Maybe not by MUCH, but it’ll happen.  Hey, wouldn’t it be hilarious if I could close it out with the last mission of the Nemesis chain?  Food for thought….