Seven Years In

Holy passing time, Batman! Seven YEARS?!

On the original blog, I would have a yearly sum-up of my previous year of MMOs at around this time.  So guess what?  The tradition continues.

Seven years ago, I dipped my feet in, and then plunged into, the MMO world.  And now, seven years later, things are still going strong.  So what’s filled the time in Year Seven?

The winner, and still champion…!

Well, as usual, City of Heroes conquers as being the game I spend the most time in.  The biggest news of the year there was the advent of Freedom, the freemium conversion of the game.  Hasn’t changed much for me, though-because I’m still subbing, and still having fun.

A pair of characters reached the lofty heights of level 50 in the last year:  Professor Dredd, a Mastermind character I’d had for the longest time (one of my earliest City of Villains characters, in fact), and a Warshade called Skyshade-who had originally been named Magic’s Shadow.

The game itself has undergone some significant additions:  primarily the Incarnate Trials, allowing greater and greater power for those level 50s.  Still, I have a fair stable of 50s now, so only a few got to start walking the path.  The top incarnates are Winter Tornado, Operative Rostov, Ebon Thunderbolt, and Stellar Protector.  Amazing Kane had a run at it, but when the developers introduced a new powerset called Time Manipulation, I knew I had to reroll the character to use that set.  So for the first time, I removed a level 50 from the stable and made a new version.  The original one made use of a free server transfer to the VIP Exalted server, in case I ever decide this was an incredibly stupid mistake.  Another fun event was the opening of a new 12 potential character slots per server, making it possible to purchase to 48 character slots per server.  Past history assures me that it still won’t be enough….

On the supergroup front, things have remained more or less stable.  The Union Supreme is still around, although activity when I’m active is a hit-and-miss proposition.  Hyperion Force has come off a year of assorted storylines, some of which were bigger hits than others.  And I’ve also been pushing ahead full forward with a villain group, too-the Entropy Legion, with my representative being originally Baron Craven (who eventually left because he backstabbed the group) and currently Dracofire, an alien fiery flying lizard.  Have I mentioned I love the Virtue server?

On the other hand, by TKO…

The next major MMO was Star Trek Online.  And things are less pleasant there.  The year started pretty strongly-a new feature episode hit in February featuring the Romulans and Remans, and it was-much like the previous feature episodes-a hit.  The highlight was the “Coliseum” episode, featuring an arena combat with some classic Trek music, a huge map, a puzzle…it had a lot of stuff that was just right.  Unfortunately, that was pretty much the end right there.  Thanks in part to the sale of Cyptic from Atari to Perfect World Entertainment, there was very little that was released outside of the C-Store offerings.  A publish did include a set of mechanical options, like “shooter mode”, but the next promised feature episode was pushed back…and back…and back.  The only thing resembling content for a long time was a series of random space Borg invasions.

Then the developers announced (to the surprise of nobody) that STO would be going freemium.  This, however, has been handled far worse than the CoH conversion.  My recent posts have probably hinted (well, that’s a mild way of putting it) of my own dissatisfaction with things there, and my opinion hasn’t changed much recently.  Despite this, there have been some good things.  Special Task Forces have improved to a point where a relative noob like me can play in them via PvE queues, and not spend several hours in one.  The Borg Invasions (now including a ground attack on Defera) have been pretty fun as well-they get you running around in space sectors, and the ground one seems nicely complex.  It’s not all bad.  It’s just a number of other decisions and actions involving the game that has me thinking that my time there is limited.

The Corps of Discovery still exists, but mostly in name only; it’s a place to exchange items and the like between characters, but there hasn’t been much in the way of fleet activity as everyone has drifted off into doing different things.  The Freemium conversion may have changed that, however; I’ve noted more activity in the News section of the Fleet menu than I’ve seen in a while, with names I’ve not seen in longer.  We’ll wait and see what the future holds there.

And now…the new challenger!

And then there’s the new kid on the block.  Star Wars: The Old Republic has come among us like a titan.  I obviously don’t have much to report on this one-it’s only been live for a little under a month.  All the same, I have a new Coreth on Canderous Ordo server-a smuggler.  And Alcarin is an Imperial Agent on Rubat Crystal, a member of the Correctors faction of the Sith Empire.  The Hyperspace Outlaws formed up on Ordo (although technically they’re using the guild name of simply “Hyper”).  The game’s been great fun for me so far, and I expect to be writing more about it in the near future as I indulge in my altaholism.  This isn’t to say that there haven’t been growing pains-I read on the forums and on news sites about exploits and errors-but I’m not seeing anything I haven’t seen from other game launches.

The old fighter gives up the ghost at last.

Speaking of Star Wars:  we saw the sunset of Star Wars Galaxies.  Nothing to say on this one.  I actually did manage to resurrect Coreth Landwalker briefly when SOE managed to have a huge data breach, giving me a free 45 days of compensation time; granted, since Corbantis server was no more, he had to be transferred off to another server, but I did it-and spent time taking screenshots of places, figuring I’d never get a chance to see them again.  Ironically, not long after, they announced the end, so there you go.  The timing of its expiration and that of the release of TOR is probably not a coincidence, no matter how much some folks might say otherwise.

A couple of other games claimed some time from me, although to a far more limited extent.  I amusingly had another 45 free days from the aforementioned debacle also applied to Vanguard: Saga of Heroes.  Which I’d only done a trial for, when it was released.  Funny, huh?  My PC is able to handle that game a lot better now than the one I’d had then, but it still couldn’t capture me.  SOE being in charge may have also had something to do with it.  I spent very little time in Champions Online, even given its freemium status; I tried out their version of feature episodes, but they just couldn’t grab me.  I spent even less time in Lord of the Rings Online; just enough to ensure characters were still alive, more or less.  I did get a few free weeks back in EVE Online (but I missed the really entertaining period when the riots were ongoing in Jita); I trained up a few skills, picked up a new salvager-specific ship for Zhaven Rel, and managed to get a datacore which I’ll likely sell off if I ever visit again.  DC Universe Online also went freemium, and allowed me to poke around there a bit.  I did something I never thought I’d do again-give SOE any cash at all-but it’s also likely to be the last of the cash I give them.  I expect to stop by there once in a while, but it’s no competition to the best superhero game out there.  Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention a bit of time in the still massive World of Warcraft, where I got to see the Cataclysm hit; my free time literally spanned the space before and after the patch that wrecked the world, although the expansion itself hadn’t hit by the time I was done.  Irritated as hell about the talent changes, and more is supposedly on the way, but I don’t have a horse in that race anymore.

As usual, I also sprinkled some fictional writing in for my various MMO characters, since that’s something I still enjoy doing.  In a City of Heroes, Stellar Protector got put through an emotional wringer after finding out his wife had been replaced by a clone for a year, and I explored his reaction to that in “Facets”; but at least he had one victory earlier in the year in “Fall of the Gems” where a significant monkey was taken off his back (and a potentially nastier one was being put on-deck).  The Old Ranger of the same setting also got a little play in “Web of the Spider” as a new set of villains begin to assert themselves.  Meanwhile, in the Old Republic, the Imperial Agent Alcarin Rost began to get some time in with “Tales of an Imperial Agent”, and is a player in the open-RP fiction “The Arrival”.  All of those stories are at present at the respective web sites (all linked to on this blog), but I’ve begun to consolidate all my work over on the current Hyperspace Outlaws site-a project which will likely take some time.  Plans for the next year are ambitious:  throw up a new story for each character I’ve written about in the past.  That’s a lot of characters….

Seven years in, and a small horde of MMOs under my belt.  When I took a glance over my earlier years’ thoughts, I can’t help but notice how much longer the posts have gotten; the first one was maybe four paragraphs and some odd sentences.  This one is…well, bigger.  I expect the strong emphasis in the coming year to be with the Old Republic, mainly because it’s new; but I won’t ignore City of Heroes, and I’ll be keeping an eye on Star Trek Online’s follies as well.  I hope you’ll come along for the ride!

Six Years In

Six years ago.  You’d think that in that time I’d have gotten tired of playing MMOs.  But that’s just not the case.  I’m still playing, and still writing.

As is usual for me, now’s the time I tend to take a look back at the previous year’s activity in the world of online gaming, seeing what I’ve done, what I haven’t, and maybe look at where I’m going.  In other words, covering a bit of territory.

City of Heroes gets the top spot as is becoming usual.  The game keeps earning my loyalty between the content and the people playing along with me.  There’s been a few bumps on the trip, though.  But let’s take a quick look at the things that happened.

I finally got a second villain to level 50; given how much neglect my villains received this year, that’s a feat by itself.  It took a double xp weekend to do it, but my Arachnos Crab Spider, Operative Rostov, moved on to the rare air of max level characters.  Later on in the year, the hero Armored Battalion hit his own level 50.  So a decent balance-one hero, one villain.  There’s a few characters on the cusp, but circumstances keep them from getting played to the top of the food chain.

The biggest thing to hit City of Heroes was the Going Rogue Expansion.  While the parallel Earth of Praetoria is the big attraction there, I find that the aspect I have played most has been the side-switching/tip mechanics, which allowed me to move some heroes to a darker side, while some villains have stepped toward the light.  And the tip missions themselves have been decently written.  Additionally, the expansion is also the means of getting to the forthcoming high-end content, where level 50s work to become Incarnates on the scale of the signature characters in the game-of course, getting there involves challenges like few others.  I haven’t tried the end-game task forces yet (the first of several, I’m sure), but now that I’m getting some characters like Winter Tornado, Amazing Kane, Stellar Protector, Ebon Thunderbolt, and Operative Rostov to the point where they won’t be obliterated in a minute, it’s possible I may poke my nose in at some point soon.

On the SGs I’m involved with, it’s been…interesting.  Union Supreme got dragged into drama a few times (never a good thing), and it’s back on the downswing as far as activity goes.  In spite of one player’s attempt to kick things in the rear to get people to see that no activity eventually equals no SG, it seems that there’s few folks appearing on the one night of the week we tried to set aside for teaming and playing together.  Granted, it’s possible-even likely-that they’re getting larger numbers in the later hours of the night when the West Coasters get active, but if I don’t see them, I don’t get the impressions of activity, do I?  It’s not hard to understand why the Union isn’t what I consider my “primary” SG.

Then again, Hyperion Force has had the opposite issue; inactivity hasn’t been a major problem for a good chunk of the year.  The problem was that we had so many people on that the storylines couldn’t keep up.  The group managed to garner a good reputation, from the sounds of it, because we had periods where we had heaps of people applying to the SG.  Unfortunately, my periods of activity tended to be limited-CoH is STILL a very alt-oriented game, not to mention my time at another game-and that may have hurt the group.  I stepped down as SG leader at the end of October, and things have been on a roller coaster ever since.  The original leader is now in charge, and restructuring things, and the post-holiday blues and the imminent release of DC Universe Online is beginning to take a toll on membership; but suffice it to say, things are likely to be a bit chaotic in the near future.

So that’s City of Heroes.  The other big game this year has been Star Trek Online, and that’s where I quickly put together a triumvirate of characters:  Walt Frost, as my “main” character, who is sitting at max level (51), with Bill of Borg at 44; Kelleth is closer to 33, and he represents my main “non-Federation” character.  Star Trek Online itself has had a rocky ride, mainly because of 1) insane leveling speed, and 2) limited content.  The fact that some of the missions were not exactly works of art didn’t help either.

STO had a lot of expectations heaped upon it-and in the eyes of many, it wasn’t worth it.  I felt it was good enough at the time to grab the lifetime sub; in spite of the folks who jeered on the forums that it was wasted money, here I am at 11 out of the 16 months projected until it pays for itself, and STO’s still moving along nicely.  Even if it goes Free to Play after June, I’ll still have gotten my money’s worth.  The weekly episodes-well, that’s not quite accurate.  The “Featured Episodes” have been the best stuff put out in the game so far, with a very Trek feel to them; better still, as they were released one at a time in a weekly manner, they had the feel of a TV episode.  Props to the Halloween episode; as far as atmosphere for both Halloween AND proper atmosphere for Star Trek, that one knocked it out of the park.  The big thing to look forward to is the Foundry, STO’s entry into the user-generated content game.  I’ve fiddled a bit on the test server, and while it’s got issues still, it’s also looking very good.  I don’t know that I’ll make as much use out of it as far as design goes as I do with the Mission Architect of CoH, but I think I may well take time to play its missions.

Unfortunately, the fleet planned for the game has taken turns for the worse.  While it had an optimistic beginning pre-launch, the Corps of Discovery saw the same migration hits as several other fleets, as people decided that STO wasn’t the game for them.  As a result, what had been looking like a decent community never really materialized.  The people who remain are still good people, though, and well worth talking to.

While these two games were the big ones on the list, they weren’t the only ones I’d messed around with a bit.

Before there was STO, there was EVE Online.  This was the tail end, though:  Hyperspace Solutions closed up shop at the beginning of 2010, selling its assets and dividing the cash among the active membership (a large share going to the player who had put a huge amount of initial cash into the bank; these things get remembered).  Even so, the corporation didn’t disband; so when I had the opportunity not long ago to return for a free 5 days, I was surprised to see I still had the CEO title for HS-S.  I took the time to get the assets of my characters under one roof, so if I ever have the need to go back and fiddle more, it’ll be in a consolidated location.  I don’t see returning for a long-term schedule, though.

On the subject of trials and free game time:  I also took some time to return to the World of Warcraft for the first time in years.  This had the effect of a) horrifying me about the talent changes (they really changed how that works-a lot), and b) demonstrating that using level 60+ characters for the first time in years cold is a good way to have a lot of corpse runs.  I ended up rolling new characters on another server to get used to the mechanics again-including a human hunter, as the big Doom Patch hit prior to the Cataclysm expansion’s release.  Again, not a game I plan to return to, although it was a nice visit.  Since I never reached max level in Burning Crusade (let alone Wrath of the Lich King, which I never picked up), I didn’t feel as if there wasn’t any content; but it also didn’t particularly compel me to return.

I took a peek in Age of Conan as well, since they had an unlimited trial.  Didn’t spend much time in it; it doesn’t seem as bad as I’d heard, but then, I’d also heard the best stuff is in the areas I could get to in the trial-that things got uglier beyond.  I can’t comment-it was pretty much a lark to try anyway.

And finally, in the F2P bin, Lord of the Rings Online.  This is another spot where the F2P version tends to hose me; in this case, though, it had more to do with the level of the character, as none of the quests he would expect at his level were available to free players.  It’ll have to be all-grind, all the time.  For my character there, that just isn’t enough incentive for me to spend a lot of time in that game, either.  But at least I was able to play him.  (Of course, thanks to F2P, I could only play a couple characters instead of the small stable I’d had.  That doesn’t make it better.)

As an aside, I’ll concede that the F2P for this is closer to “Freemium”, where a sub fee gets you what you would expect from the subs-in other words, the game you were playing prior to the F2P conversion.  Champions Online, another game I’d dabbled with in ’09, is doing the same sort of thing soon-and from the looks of what I saw on their plans, most of the characters I’d whipped up at the tail end of ’09 are going to be more or less unplayable as a “free” player.  Actually, ALL of them will be, unless I “convert” them to an archetype build.  Yeah-that’s probably not happening.

Fiction-writing wise, it’s been a mixed bag this past year.  In the CoH setting, Stellar Protector was put through a “Crucible” to start off.  The Old Ranger dealt with self-doubts about the wisdom of being back as a hero in “Fading Away”, Winter Tornado was put through his own paces as he learned the true origin of his powers in “Winter Lie”, and he would team up with the Ranger against a common foe in “Turning Points”.  In the cooperative, open-RP kind of writing, the hero Shadesworn was my POV character for “The Darkening”.  For STO, I finished “The Coming of Frost” detailing the pre-game career of Walter Frost; there was some work done on a followup called “Precursor to Vengeance”, but it fizzled out in October and is very likely going to be put in the same pile as the unrealized sequel to the “Tales of Zhaven Rel” I never got around to writing.  Can’t all be winners, I guess.  All of those writings can be found, as usual, at the guild sites I frequent.

It’s been a very full year of MMO gaming.  It’s possible-even likely-that I’ll be covering the same major two this time next year, although obviously I can’t rule out sprinkles of others as free trials and days come along.  And as usual, I expect to comment on things in these games and on MMOs in general as they occur to me throughout this year.  I hope everyone will follow along with me.

This is the Way the World Ends: Cracked Like an Egg

As I’d indicated in my last entry, I hit the land of Azeroth for the first time since…gee…June ’07.  Figure nothing’s really changed in over three years, right?

Logged in my 60+ characters for the first time, and was not horribly surprised that there was a full talent reset.  What was a surprise was that the talents mutated hugely; couldn’t take bits and pieces from other trees.  My warrior, for example, couldn’t take bits of Arms and Fury if he was going mostly Protection spec.  That was a “oh, wow” in my opinion-and not a good one.  Still, in spite of this, I soldiered on and got him set up.  Then went to try to kill some things.  Oops!  It was horrid-no idea what I was doing anymore, couldn’t recall what half my abilities did, and-ack.

And don’t get me started with the attacks.  See, there was this invasion of elementals hitting the capital cities, as I understand it; which didn’t bug me as a concept.  It’s a terrific one, really-but when a guy’s trying to see his trainer so he can get his abilities updated…not good.  Because all the city services were interrupted completely-including flights into the city.  I’m not even going to comment on the minor detail that all the elementals were at level 80; God help you if you’re a lowbie in town.

Needless to say, I felt like I should start a new character to relearn what I had learned.  I wasn’t enthused by the idea, though-because, after all, I only had seven days.

But then something else happened that made it worth it.  The Patch That Broke The World hit; while the Cataclysm expansion isn’t due to hit until next week, the event that actually breaks the planet hit.  The world is transformed!  Nothing will EVER be the same!  Except…well…not so much, maybe.

One of the big deals of that patch was the spread of classes to races that had never had them before.  So I was finally able to use a different server to create Coreth as he should’ve been originally-a Human Hunter (just like a few hundred thousand, from what I could see).  This would give me a few things to mess with.  First, I could run a character from the beginning of a type that I hadn’t played much; second, I could see the changes to the low-level experience.  Well, there really wasn’t much.  The tutorial area is changed a lot-the grape patch (pretty sure it was a vineyard) being the most dramatic example, as it’s being burned to the ground, when originally you had to deal with those bloody bandits to get the grapes.  But outside of it?  Goldshire hasn’t changed much, and the low level quests haven’t changed much at all.  (Although the Princess hog graphic has gotten a LOT bigger.)  Admittedly, this was a very small sample space; but even Stormwind didn’t look all that devastated; the auction house moved a bit, and there’s some broken statuary, plus the gates look like they need some repairs-but I didn’t see a city broken by a major cataclysm.

Didn’t see drastic changes from the air, either, when I finally logged in my high level guys again to get them back to town.  (Was REALLY irritated to lose the portals in Shattrath; not happy about that one bit.)  The trip from the Burning Lands to Stormwind didn’t exactly showcase major changes to the world, either.  Regretting not having rolled Horde; I keep hearing about the changes in the Barrens and in Thousand Needles.

It’s probably not a surprise to say that I wasn’t motivated to renew my sub for WoW (although with a 10 dollar sale on Wrath of the Lich King, I admit to having a tiny temptation-but since I didn’t have any characters even at level 70, what would be the point?); things have changed a helluva lot, and while it was nice to return for a short visit, I just couldn’t get into a frame of mind that says “yeah, this is what I’ve been missing”.  Besides, got some good stuff coming in the very near future with the games I do play.  Season 3 should be hitting in about a week and a half for STO, and CoH just released Issue 19 today.  I expect to have comments on both in the near future.

The Storm Abates

Just wanted to mention that the RealID on Forums issue has died a quiet death.

I’m sure they’ll redo the forums, and if they’re smart, they’ll associate it with an account that you post on rather than a character you post on (similar to, oh, most other gaming forums), and I have no issue with that.

The storm grew to close to 25k posts in their primary thread on the American forums (I didn’t count the Europe forums, as I usually don’t look at those-but they likely added a hefty chunk themselves), and caught the attention of not just the MMORPG media, but national and international media like CNN, the Washington Post, and BBC.  And I haven’t even looked at threads that sprouted on the Battlenet forums or the other Blizzard games’ forums.  There was a LOT of interest in here, and it demonstrates just how many people are a part of the World of Warcraft phenomenon-and the unity shown by the majority of those posters in saying “no” to this was truly amazing to read.

Well, the customers spoke, and Blizzard listened.  Maybe they remembered another storm of protests on a major over-arcing change a little under five years ago.  If so, then the damage done to the SWG community may not have been totally in vain after all.

The Storm at Blizzard

Sometimes, it’s funny how things work out.  I was figuring this week on putting down thoughts on the Season 2 stuff that was to hit the test server for STO, but two things have knocked that one out of the running.  First, the test build hasn’t been able to get onto the server; it happens.  This is why there’s a test server in the first place.  The second reason is that a bigger juggernaut came along to steamroll it.

I’m talking about the announcement yesterday by Blizzard concerning their forums.

Some backstory here.  I haven’t played WoW in a long time.  I was never a big poster on their forums; I think I posted maybe twice back in ’06.  Those posts no longer exist, probably because of whatever forum maintenance they do over there.  So I have no stake in the announcement.

Not long ago, as I understand it, Blizzard began hyping their “Real-ID” tech, which basically was a friends list kind of thing-except with your real name.  So for example, instead of seeing “Coreth” on your list, you might see “John Doe”.  This was a concern (and remained so up to the present day…well, until yesterday, anyway), but as it was an opt-in thing, it was a little easier to swallow; if you never gave out your “Real-ID”, then it’d be a bit more difficult to pry it loose.

But yesterday, Blizzard announced that in the near future, using the forums for their games would automatically use the player’s Real-ID-and there’s no opt-in for this…or an opt-out.  Unsurprisingly, this has caused a bit of a reaction.  As of this writing, 22,000 posts worth of reaction-and most say the same sort of thing.  To summarize:  “Do Not Want”.

I haven’t seen a forum storm of this magnitude since the NGE in Star Wars Galaxies.  We know how that turned out.

It seems to me to be a colossally dumb idea.  I’ve heard various reasoning behind it, from shaming forum trolls to an attempt to integrate completely with Facebook.  All well and good.  But a truism on the Internet is that you don’t casually give out your customers’ names out in the public eye.  It’s like asking a library to give up the names of everyone who’s checked out a certain book.  There’s a certain expectation of personal privacy that’s been ingrained in the MMO player, and Blizzard’s basically thrown them out.  There are stories going around on the posts on how this move will assist stalkers, or increase abuse on players (God help anyone who’s rolled an opposite-gendered character), and maybe that is true.  A lot depends on how motivated someone is to do these things.

There are already a bunch of posts there shouting that they have cancelled their WoW subscriptions.  Maybe some of them actually have done so (it’s easy to say it in a forum, and be back next month).  Perhaps there will be a large number of them; maybe it will be on an NGE scale.  Some articles have already hit the blogosphere wondering if the ultimate WoW-Killer turned out to be Blizzard.  I think that’s probably exaggerating.  I have a strong feeling that even if this goes through (no sure thing, but it’s looking likely), there will still be more than enough subscribers sticking around-especially with a new expansion slated to hit at the same time as this change.

What it will do, however, is stifle the forums.  Sure, it’ll put the light of shame on the forum trolls-although one would suspect that a troll is still a troll and wouldn’t necessarily give a damn if his name is attached.  But it will also prevent the security minded from posting ever again-and this doesn’t just include trolls.  It includes the people who put time and effort into writing guides, offering advice, recruiting for their guilds, asking for technical support-anything that involves the official forums for legitimate reasons.  Sure, their forums will be a quieter place-but then, it’s imposed by fear.  Grand Moff Tarkin would be proud.

Maybe Blizzard will understand what is going on here.  Maybe it will pull itself back from the brink.  But with a company that’s pulling in so much cash, with the biggest MMORPG on the market (at least here in the States)…I have no doubt that they’ll be happy to test their brinkmanship.  And that’ll end in a bunch of players feeling the sting of betrayal from a company they once respected.  Is this the NGE for WoW?  It’s pretty damned early to tell-it’s been only a day.

But then, everyone knew which way the wind was blowing one day after the NGE announcement.

Three Years In

Since the new year conveniently hits close to the time when I started playing MMO’s, it’s always a nice time to reflect on where I’ve been in the last year, with any random observations on those games.  I did it last year; I did it the year before.  So I’m doing it again now.

SWG is up first-as it should be.  It was my first MMO, and Star Wars remains my favorite setting of the ones I play in.  This is not, unfortunately, to say that it’s my top MMO.  2007 saw a number of milestones, some good, some not so good.  I converted Coreth Landwalker from officer to jedi at the year’s start, and as it progressed I managed to hit his two long term goals:  becoming a 9-ace pilot, and looting a Black Sun Ace helmet (still on display at Coreth’s lodge on Rori).  Zhaven Rel managed to reach his own milestone of hitting level 80.

Unfortunately, as the year wore on, it became obvious that the Hyperspace Outlaws were a quickly dying breed.  While it managed to surge into life again briefly during the summer, once that time ended the guild itself began to fade into a shadow of its former self.  In desperation, the still-active members chose to relocate operations to the Bria server; from my point of view, though, not much has changed, except there is more of a general population on the server.  The guild itself hasn’t really gained any more people, and guildchat remains somewhat barren.  I’ll admit, at least, that I enjoy the concept of the Wookiee smuggler Kallatarr that I put together; he’ll at least be entertaining when he’s online.

WoW, by virtue of being the biggest MMO in the nation, gets covered next.  Coreth-the-Warrior changed from being an Arms warrior to a Protection warrior; and to my surprise, that change didn’t hose him as much as I had feared for solo play.  With the Burning Crusade’s advent, he managed to plunge into the early 60’s levels.  Also about that time, Coreth got his epic mount at long last, which made a serious difference in travel time.  Gilraen the paladin also managed to hit the Outlands, getting up to about 61 if memory serves, and he respec’d to a Holy build, which was scarily efficient at raw survival.  But as time passed during the year, I found that I had trouble motivating myself to log on.  Finally, I decided to let it go; I canceled my subscription after about two and a half years of play.  I did not delete my characters though, because one never knows if I’ll find a reason to travel in Azeroth once more.

Vanguard gets a mention in my yearly review, if only because I gave it a try during a trial period.  Ranger Coreth lived again, in a way, but due to the game’s rather…strong hardware requirements, which my PC barely hit, it was a difficult game to play for me at best.  The setting failed to really grab me, too, which was disappointing for all the hype that Vanguard had built up.  These factors convinced me that Vanguard was not going to be the way to go.

Lord of the Rings Online, on the other hand, fit like a glove.  Creating Corethor, a captain of Gondor, I pushed the character into the mid-late twenties in level.  The setting was one I knew, and gameplay was pretty entertaining.  Grouping with other people was sometimes a challenge, and I never did manage to join any Kinships there; but I enjoyed a couple of months in Middle Earth.  However, LotRO became a victim of the next MMO.

City of Heroes/Villains sucked me back into its world in a hard way; the Rikti Invasion event was one that helped pull me back, as it was-even with the lag-the most fun I’d had in an MMO all year, and that included the WoW’s Opening of the Dark Portal event.  Up until about August, I played on the Protector server with my villain, Ebon Storm; but in September I took advantage of server transfers to send him to Virtue, a very well populated RP server (even though his name had to change from Storm to Thunderbolt).  He got to level 41 just before the New Year.  Also in September, I created the Old Ranger on hero-side, and he joined the Justiciars supergroup, and that accomplished something I hadn’t hoped to see since I’d first left SWG after the NGE:  I found a guild worth being in.  Given the troubles I’d had in guilds in WoW, I’d honestly not expected to find one I could enjoy myself in.  The Ranger managed to get himself up to level 38 before the New Year rang in, and he hit a new level just yesterday night.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the other detail inspired by MMO play:  my stories.  Last year saw the Tales of Zhaven Rel finished up (based on my SWG spy), covering an over-arching plot through each of the short chapters.  Unfortunately, due to the near-disintegration of the Outlaws and the abandoning of the Corbantis server, it’s unlikely that there will be any more written on the character; it’s not such a bad thing, though, since his story was pretty self contained.  The Saga of Coreth Landwalker was also concluded in 2007, with two stories:  Point of View told the story of how Coreth became…well, Jedi-like, if not an actual Jedi, while Final Reckoning finally wrapped up the plot threads I’d been kicking around in my mind for months (and in some cases, years).  All of those stories can be found on the Hyperspace Outlaws website.  I also began to write about the Old Ranger from CoH, and got three stories in the can; Origin, Between Scylla and Charybdis, and Sua Sponte.  I also had a brief vignette written called Public Service Announcement.  All of those writings can be found on the Justiciars web site.

It was quite a year for MMO play in 2007, and it’ll be interesting to see how things shake out for the coming 2008.

A Farewell…and a Welcome

First, the farewell:  to Azeroth.

In a few days, I’ll be letting my account die out for WoW.  It was an enjoyable stay, for roughly 140 levels worth of adventure over three characters, and it kept me entertained during the bleak period after 11/15/05.  But I have found myself logging in less and less, and the motivation is no longer there for me to continue doing so-and it made less sense to continue the subscription in this event.  Perhaps one day I will return, but that day will be likely very distant.  I am told that it is unlikely the characters will be deleted anytime in the future, so Coreth-the-Warrior, Gilraen, and Landwalker may one day again pit themselves against the Scourge and the Burning Legion, but for now their story is over.

The welcome comes in a few days, to Middle-Earth.  Using the buddy key provided to me, I’ve found my stay in Lord of the Rings Online to be entertaining.  Maybe it’s because it’s a shiney new toy, or maybe because the story is more familiar to me than WoW’s ever was.  So when the trial key runs out, I’ll be purchasing the game; it will be taking the time slots recently vacated by WoW time.

In SWG news:  started Ace Number Eight (Havoc), and am nearly done with the tier-3 boxes.  I have to admit, if I had to do the process over again, I’d have done all of one faction first, then another, and so forth; because saving the high-end stuff on low ships makes a difference.  I plowed through the tier-3 missions like a hot knife through butter once I got the X-wing that I never decommissioned available again.  Be nice to think I could ace by the weekend, but I know better.  Maybe by next Monday….

It’s Levelicious!!!

Not been a heavily exciting couple of weeks, but my characters did hit a couple milestones.

In WoW-land, Coreth managed to claw his way up to level 63.  Still got plenty of level 62 Zangarmarsh quests on the docket, so I anticipate things will continue smoothly-if long.  It’s worth a mention that one of my preconceived notions seems to have been blown out of the water.  When I spec’d the character to 41-point Protection, I honestly figured any solo viability would go straight to hell.  To my considerable pleasure, this has not been the case.  With the exception of the group quests, I’ve managed to hold my own against even multiple attackers (well, two or three) at once, or even more if they hit one-at-a-time-without-pause.  Perhaps Fury warriors would go through them faster, but I’m quite satisfied with how things are going as a Protection warrior.

Also in WoW-land, Gilraen finally got to 61.  Seeing as he’s my secondary character, it’s a surprise to have gotten him that far.  Actually, given that I had expected to make Gil my main, circumstances have certainly shifted.

In SWG-world, Coreth…well, is Coreth.  Still haven’t dropped his current Reb ace to start on number eight yet.  It’ll happen!  Zhaven, however, got up to level 78 and has about 20 percent of his experience bar to go before hitting 79.  Just one level after that before he’s Mustafar bound!  I expect to spend some more time on him soon, including on any instance runs as I believe he’s ready to be cannon fodder (hm, not sure I should’ve put it that way…).  Then again, there will be more than enough to keep him busy for now.

The Slow Process of Advancement

Got WoW-Coreth up to 62 last weekend.  As expected, I had to do a chunk of raw grinding, but I also stumbled onto a couple quest chains for level 61 that I hadn’t noticed before at a goblin zepplin.  Upon reaching 62 I headed back to train-to discover that some of the abilities I was able to get now were available at 61!  I’d not realized that the devs would break the usual even-number level ability growth (sounds bad-couldn’t think of a better way to say it).  Plan to try to get into a PUG for the Hellfire Ramparts soon; I’m told the gear that can drop is MC comparable, and I’ve got a quest for that too.  I just need to review things like layout and strategy so when I do go in I don’t end up causing the group to wipe.

In SWG, I didn’t do too much with Zhaven.  There’s been a glitch in the latest chapter which has done strange things to xp.  Zhaven was one of those affected, as he had somehow gained a good chunk of xp towards his next level-which I KNEW I hadn’t earned.  A hotfix reverted it apparently back to where it was, so I may be picking up a bit more with him.  Starting do do Clone Relics quests, but trying to avoid the ones for space, as he isn’t the best pilot out there.

As far as SWG-Coreth, he’s ALMOST finished getting the materials he needs to order his factory run of camps.  Might also pick up a single camp with a shuttle and/or clone chamber and/or entertainer area in preparation of something Tidal is cooking up.  Shuttle is looking likely, the other two questionable.  Also need to pick up an astromech for my Y-Wing; the first tier-3 mission mopped up the floor with me, and I’d held off droid commands for a bit, but now it’s kind of a necessity.

Whoa! I said WHOA you varmint!! WHHOOOAAA!!!!

At long last, WoW-Coreth got the funds needed for his epic mount.  In a development that seems to be typical of me, I discovered that I didn’t need as much gold as I thought I did-I could’ve gotten it last week.  Nothing like complete humiliation here.

What a difference!  I put on the carrot trinket, had the mithril spurs on my boots, and had my epic mount, and I took him for a spin.  The difference was so noticeable that I was screaming “Brakes!  Where’s my #%^! BRAKES!!??”  It really has cut down travel time, and I’m so glad to have this out of the way.  Now, the flying mounts will be a different story, but that is still far in the future.  The character has just entered Zangarmarsh (or however it’s spelled), but the quest levels seem to be mostly 63s.  Since I’m still at 61, I’m not horribly inclined to do those as of yet.  I may end up trying to grind my way to 62 on the Peninsula.

On SWG, Zhaven finally got around to his level 76.  Might pick him up again and drive to 80 by doing Kash quests…or perhaps the Clone Relics (it’s time).  I feel it’s time to start establishing the character a bit more firmly than I have-Coreth has been most of my time of late, and it’d be nice to get the spy closer to 90.