An Age Undreamt Of

Yeah, sometimes it’s like waiting for a bus-nothing for an age, and a heap arrives at once.  Kind of like my posts sometimes.

The prompt for this post involves a little announcement from Cryptic concerning Star Trek Online.  First, they’re swapping out executive producers, which may or may not have greater consequences down the line.  At this point, I just roll with those punches.  It’s the second news point that is the subject of this post:  the next season is going to be heavily centered on the newer show in the roster, Star Trek: Discovery.

I bet you were thinking I was going to be talking about Conan from my blog title, didn’t you?

Much like the Agent of Yesterday expansion, it seems that the upcoming “Age of Discovery” is going to take characters back to the era of that show.  It sure seems like it’s aiming to have you start new characters in that era, based on the news post on their site.  (Yeah, it means I’ve got a new potential chronicle coming up later this year here.  Why do I do this to myself…?)  Also based on that post, it seems that we’re getting a “reimagined starting experience that allows players to create a Federation character from the Discovery era”.  I don’t know if this means it’ll be a new starting subfaction like the 23rd century captains, or if they’re replacing the Starfleet starting point with this.  (They can’t conceivably replace the 23rd century experience, after all.)  Since I doubt the entire game is being thrown under the bus, it seems that Temporal Agent Daniels is going to be busy-busy-busy in the near future.

The post goes on to say that they’ll be updating in line with the currently-running show.  I’m not entirely sure if that means what some forum posters think it means.  Posters seem to think this means the devs will be releasing content as fast as Discovery shows episodes, which would be an interesting trick.  On the other hand, I don’t think it’s a stretch to believe that this statement is simply indicating that yes, STO is making updates concerning a show while it is actually currently on-air.  I’ve seen people making comparisons to the great experiment with the show “Defiance” and its MMORPG, but I don’t think that’s what we’re looking at here.  I am prepared to be wrong, of course.

I’ll freely admit that of all the Star Trek stuff out there, movies and TV shows, I’m the least familiar with Discovery.  I’ve not done the “CBS All Access” thing, because, well, that’s not really my thing.  Plus this whole “Oh, Spock had an adopted sister we never knew about”; I wasn’t impressed when Sybok popped out of thin air, and I’m not impressed now.  So the show’s got two strikes against it right off the bat with me.  However, since I haven’t seen the show, I’m not going to arbitrarily consider the next several months of releases garbage (although I do regret that yes, it seems that we’ve gotten all we’re getting out of the Gamma Quadrant).  In some ways, I’m even looking forward to it, because my ignorance of the show means everything that happens will be brand new to me.  Whether it’s a good kind of new or a bad kind is something we’ll have to wait and see on.

There are more stuff coming at that time, too, but it’s the usual sorts of stuff you’d expect out of a new episode arc.  More info, naturally, will be forthcoming.  The only thing to be sure of is that the release will happen later this year-and given the relative size of the “Victory is Life” expansion, well, I woudn’t be shocked if it came at roughly the same time the next season of Discovery premieres.


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.

Calm Before Victory

I’ve hit a quiet moment on the MMO front recently.  I’ve taken a brief pause in Star Wars: The Old Republic, after completing my work on Anthrandos, before I pick up with Sorshan and get her wrapped up.  On the other hand, I’ve kind of held back on any major activity in Star Trek Online, because the “Victory is Life” expansion is coming up in a matter of a few weeks (no, I don’t have an official release date for it as of yet, except “June”, so playing the odds here.  I’m a bit dubious, since the last time I was on the test server, the lighting in DS9 was pitch black and it still hasn’t been fixed to my knowledge unless you’re using the more machine-intensive “Lighting 2.0”).  As a result, I don’t want to start a new chronicle when I’m already expecting to do so with the Jem’Hadar (which will probably be a very, very brief chronicle due to how they’re being handled).  I’ve spent a little bit of time with Captain Rick Masters there, my Temporal Agent, who I figured could use some reputation ground gear, and since he had maxed out his Temporal Agent reputation, it seemed sort of obvious.  So, I figured the best way to get temporal marks would be to hit the Badlands adventure zone.  I never covered it with Dathiro, because, well, it’s a max level zone, so by the time he could go there, I was done with him.

The general conceit is this:  the Terran Empire from the Mirror Universe is attempting a foothold in the Badlands, and you (along with everyone else in the zone) want to kick them out.  It’s pretty similar in nature to the Undine adventure zone, where your ships are attempting to capture sections of the zone, which has one of three possible minigames; those minigames make a reappearance when all the sections are captured, as three starbases from the Mirror Universe appear-including the Mirror DS9-which require you to pretty much do all of those minigames to shove them back to their universe.  After that, if you manage to push out all three, you get the big fleet battle as Mirror Universe ships assault, including the I.S.S. Enterprise.  For the most part, it’s pretty much the Undine zone with a Mirror Universe paint job.  It seems to still be reasonably popular, though; there were usually about 8-15 people in one instance, which is enough, with some effort, to do the job.  Thus, I’ve gotten Rick two thirds of the ground rep gear, and the third may get enough marks any day now.

But that’s pretty minimal activity needed on my part to log in, do a capture of a section to get the marks, and log out.  And since the expansion could be landing at any time, I’m not sure about starting something new and having it get interrupted almost immediately.  One possibility is a new Champions Online chronicle, but my concern is that it’ll wind up too similar to Willforge’s; while CO isn’t as linear as SWTOR and STO, it’s still got a fairly repetitive path.  Another is to commit myself to pushing Sorshan in SWTOR since I need to get her through anyway-although I’m not greatly concerned about timing on that, since it seems the next story content is months away.  EVE Online isn’t the best choice, since it really does require a certain level of commitment to the game that I’m not prepared to give.

So, decisions, decisions.  We’ll see what develops.

Sinking the Subs

Recently, Star Trek Online made an announcement that I found…well, interesting, anyway.

It was nestled in a post about their new “Elite Starter Pack”, which sits in the C-store for 1500 Zen.  It includes stuff like bank slots, retrain tokens, credit cap increases, a character slot, stuff like that.  In other words, all the stuff that would unlock if you were to subscribe for a month.  They would stick around forever, so a lot of people would subscribe for a month, and then cancel and reap the benefits of having all the unlocks.

Cryptic/PWE seems to have finally noticed it, and effectively scrapped monthly subscriptions in favor of this starter pack.

It doesn’t do anything to current subs; they can keep on with whatever plan they’ve got-but the only real benefit they’re gaining at this point is access to vet rewards as they reach the usual 100/200/300/etc day marks.  (Oh, right-and the stipend of 500 Zen per month.  Can’t forget that.)  Lifetimers are in the same boat, except they don’t have to worry about time-gated vet rewards, since they get them all immediately upon taking the lifetime sub.  The big thing, though, is if the monthly subscriber were to stop subscribing at any point…they can’t re-subscribe.  There’s no more monthly sub to subscribe to.

On the one hand, it’s a little baffling.  Why get rid of a revenue stream?  I mean, sure, they’re having to give out 500 Zen per month, but that’s countered by the fifteen dollar monthly sub fee (well, possibly less if you had gone with a different plan-discounts happened for subs in blocks greater than one month at a time).  And it sure doesn’t impact the lifetimers in any way (yet).  This also kills the vet reward program entirely for any new players.  Are the devs considering the vet rewards to now be lifetimer-exclusive?  It sure seems odd.

The only thing that makes sense to me is that they’re planning a new revenue model.  And that’s where the misgivings begin, because I can’t think of any that wouldn’t be worse than what was there.  I can’t believe that they plan to continue to exist based on Zen sales alone; even with the lockboxes, they can’t possibly be getting enough to balance out the lost monthly revenue stream…can they?  If that’s a true statement, then that implies they’re looking at monetizing something else.  And I’d bet you that it’ll be revealed just prior to or just after the Victory Is Life expansion.  (That sort of strategy worked so well for Star Wars Galaxies, didn’t it?)

I don’t know.  I have a sense of dread on this sort of thing-maybe it’s needless.  But I just don’t see an upside to Cryptic/PWE on stopping the subs without having something waiting in the wings that they think will earn them oodles of money.  They have a couple of “Gamma Packs” with goodies on sale that go live with the expansion, but I can’t figure on the influx of cash being quite enough to counterbalance the loss of the monthly revenues.

Maybe I’m wrong.  I’ve often said that what the monthly sub gets you wasn’t worth doing long-term, and maybe a lot of other players agreed on that.  Maybe they aren’t really losing anything by doing this.  I don’t have access to the account books.  But something is still a greater value than nothing, and that’s why this whole thing puzzles me.

Stay tuned.  I’m sure we’ll be hearing about things before summer ends.

And Contact!

“Don’t try to be a great man … just be a man. Let history make its own judgments.” It did.

While we wait for the inevitable drop for the Star Trek Online expansion, “Victory is Life”, we’ve had some stuff land.  We got a couple new announcements of voice actor work, which shows the return of the characters Nog (predicted in my last post!), and Brunt+Weyoun (run by the same actor, and NOT predicted in my last post).

For people looking for content, we had a new publish land.  Season 14.5 landed, which included a new episode:  the “story thus far” from the Tzenkethi point of view.  Not a bad little episode, let’s you fly around a bit with the Tzenkethi ship, and play a Tzenkethi on the ground (I love their running animation!).  The squad the character works with was a high point-more personality than you’d expect from the Tzenkethi, although perhaps not entirely unexpected-I think there were some amusing remarks from them when fighting at the new colony world last time around.  The episode also gave some intriguing hints as to who else may be showing up with the new expansion:  there’s a security chief with a familiar name to TNG fans, implying some relationship here-and if I understood the dialogue correctly, there may be another relative of the same TNG character here….

Also worth noting:  there’s a short event celebrating First Contact Day, where you can mess with Phoenix replicas and work for prizes.  It goes until the 12th, so if you hurry, you can still get in on the event rep stuff.

Foundry’s down again, which makes picking up Dathiro’s story a bit problematic for now.  I might put some more time into Star Wars: The Old Republic to start finishing off a pair of characters who really deserve a close to their stories.

Expansions are Life

Okay, it’s been a while.  Let’s get to it.

So, let’s try to guess who all the blacked out characters are…

Today’s topic:  “Victory is Life”, the new expansion announced for June from the developers for Star Trek Online.  We knew it was coming, didn’t we?  Ever since they sneaked in that little stinger in one of their “new season” videos, and only further confirmed with the last episode “Scylla and Charybdis”, where we not only got to fight it out around Deep Space Nine and Bajor with the newest “big bad”, but we also saw the return of one of the major characters of DS9.  And now, we have the official announcement.

Of course, being an announcement, it’s sort of light on details.  Here’s what is known.

It will feature about six episodes for a new faction…er, let’s say subfaction, shall we?  While it hasn’t been official, it’s basically been basic operating procedure since the Romulans showed up.  What I find interesting, however, is that it’s going to be the Jem’Hadar.  I’d have figured on something a little more wide ranging, such as “The Dominion”, which would imply the Jem’Hadar plus the Vorta and possibly the Cardassians (they’ve got history), and perhaps a couple other Gamma Quadrant species.  But, nope.  The Jem’Hadar.  This makes it literally the most restrictive faction-er, subfaction-in the game.  According to some of what I’ve been reading online, they also won’t be a level 1 experience.  They’re be starting at level 60, and will have some “important unlocks” already taken care of-possibly advances in some reputations?  Specializations?  Dunno.  This feels less like a faction-er, subfaction-and more like a “hero class” similar to how World of Warcraft handled Death Knights.

Due to that, as well as the minor detail that the level cap is rising to 65 (no “tier-7” ships are coming with the expansion…yet.  Expect it to happen at some point, though, because the denial was specifically worded…), those six unique episodes are probably not restricted to the Jem’Hadar, but are for the ongoing storyline in STO.  For a new expansion, that seems horribly inadequate.  A new queue is on deck-related to the new Big Bad, one can expect.  New “progression systems”…I got nothing on this one.  New Gamma Quadrant reputation, maybe?  New Gamma Quadrant fleet holding?  Your guess is as good as mine.  Speaking of level caps rising…is that going to mean anything other than a new specialization point and a change in number?  The thing I really had hoped to see-a new exploration system-doesn’t sound like it’s happening.  Instead, we’re getting a new “sector battlezone”, which will probably be on the other side of the Bajoran Wormhole.

For fans of the DS9 series, we are supposedly getting ten returning characters from the series, fully voiced.  They’ve announced Odo, Quark, and Kira Nerys, and General Martok is back in the mix as well.  I’d not be surprised to see Worf back involved, and gee, we’ve seen Nog in a prior mission, so I’d not be shocked if he were there too.  According to other sources, we can also expect to see Garak and Julian Bashir pop in.  That would leave room for two more characters.  Sadly, I have a feeling that we will not be seeing the long-promised return of Benjamin Sisko; of course, he did have a child on the way before the end of the series, and this would sure be a good time to introduce a new Sisko to the game….

So, we could be seeing some good stuff, some iffy stuff.  It’s kind of hard to make definitive statements when we just had an announcement.  More details will be incoming, though, and I’ll be happy to pick them apart as they start coming through.

Closing out ’17

Just a smallish post today-getting ready for the holiday season tends to eat into the gaming time.  Still, I’ve managed to put a bit of time in anyway.

Dathiro in Star Trek Online is proceeding quite nicely; I’ve gotten him to where I’m almost ready to do the next big post with him, although-again-time has more or less guaranteed that it won’t go up before the New Year.  I’ve done a couple of Foundry missions and have a third lined up, but I’ve also been doing a bit of the Winter Event to see if I can manage to get enough of the vouchers this year to get the Winter ship.  It seems doable, even with the time I’ll be away from the keyboard, but we’ll see how things finally shake out.  I’ll have some thoughts on leveling and the specific Foundry missions I’ve been doing next time (unless something big happens in the MMO-sphere that gets my attention).

I’ve also put some time into my Star Wars: The Old Republic Bounty Hunter, since he’s the last of my original eight main guys who needs to finish the Eternal Throne content.  He’s recently hit his max level and is about to attend the big party (and accompanying party-crashing) on Zakuul.  I’d hoped to have that all wrapped before the end of the year, but that’s so not going to happen.  SWTOR’s winter event/anniversary is also happening, but there isn’t much new to grab; a new flair for your portrait for free, another you can earn with the snowball game (I think), and most amusingly, a commemorative statue of Valkorion for your stronghold-because after all the time you had to spend with him lurking in your mind, you just can’t quit him.  (Honestly, that’s the sort of thing that should be clickable so you can throw rotten fruit at it.  Missed opportunity here, Bioware!)

It’s probably also worth noting that I’ve started doing short log-ins with my EVE character, mostly to start training up some skills so he can start looking at cruisers and higher; since the big patch came down with the changes in character limits, I’ve thought about putting a bit more time into EVE, but for now, it’s just limited to “swap skill training”.

So that’s where things are at the moment-aside from me wishing everyone a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah (I know, I’m practically closing the barn door here), or the holiday of your choice!  See you in ’18!

A Somber Anniversary

It occurred to me recently that an MMO anniversary was coming.  It wasn’t the good kind, though.

It was five years ago today (minus a few hours) that NCSoft closed down City of Heroes.

Wow.  Five years.  Feels like just yesterday.

Not all of that venerable MMO is gone, of course.  The Titan Network folks have set up a couple of applications that can access the assets in the game to allow you to at least create an avatar and see the zones and other maps in the game.  So if I felt like it at any random time, I could take a quick hop into Paragon City and stand under the statue of Atlas in front of City Hall, or listen to Lord Recluse’s villainous motivational speech in Grandville.  I could go into the Pocket D extradimensional nightclub, or visit the alternate Earth of Praetoria.  And, of course, I could make characters-or remake them, as I still have all my costume files.  But of course, it’s not the same.  The number of people you might find there are much smaller than you’d have found back in the day; you can’t access your superpowers (mostly-travel powers are accessible), and you can’t beat up bad guys.  At least, not in the way you could in the actual game.

In an era where superheroes are more popular than ever, you’d have thought that CoH would be going strong even today.  Certainly, its competition couldn’t touch it-well, its genre competition.  Obviously, its MMO competition were still leaps and bounds ahead; it’s hard to beat World of Warcraft on its worst day.  But it was cut down just before it was ready to start resolving one of its longest running storylines, and aside from a few annual AMAs from its former devs, those secrets remain unknown.  What might have been.

I’ve lost touch with most of the people I’d played with back in the day.  I know a couple read the blog, and I’ve interacted with a couple more outside of the MMO-sphere on a weekly basis, but-just as I’d seen happen with the fall of Star Wars Galaxies-people drift to different games, different hobbies, and just quietly vanish into the ether.  Nevertheless, I’m hoping that they’re all well out there in their various hobbies and interests-and I hope they know they’ve been remembered.

Here’s to you guys.

Try to guess how many of these were alts.

The core of the team; wish I’d had more data to have included more members.

The Alpha is the Beginning

Soon, free players can fly one of these…no matter what faction he belongs to.

It’s been a while since I’ve put up anything involving EVE Online.  It’s probably not shocking that I had spent about a month doing stuff, and then kind of went away after the Alpha Clones got released last year.  I’d gotten my free guy to the point where he could fly destroyers and do a reliable job on cleaning up level 1 missions, and use an ammo blueprint so that ammunition shouldn’t be an issue, but as I knew I’d not be spending a lot of time in EVE-really, I bounce between three other games as it is-I ended up quietly putting the character to the wayside.  I was going to be running into issues anyway, as Alphas have a limited number of skill points (although I was nowhere near the limit) and could only use a limited amount of equipment, which included ships.

But last month, CCP devs dropped this bit of data on everyone:  in December, Alphas are going to get some expansions.  For starters, and probably most significantly, Alpha players will no longer be limited to a Cruiser sized ship as their top tier; Battlecruisers and Battleships are being opened up.  That’s a big deal, because it means that level 3 missions will be much easier for players, and level 4 missions will actually be possible (well, solo, at least; I’m sure the smaller ships in a group might be okay).  That’s a big step up in available income.  You also will be freed from your initial faction’s ship type-if you’re a Gallente Alpha, you couldn’t fly anything other than Gallente ships.  But now, it seems that the floodgates are open, and you can train up and fly the ships of the other three.  And for the truly daring, it also allows use of pirate faction ships, so if you’re desperate to join a pirate factions like the Serpentis and fly their stuff, your time is coming.

Another bit of news that makes Alphas more of a force upcoming is the ability to use some Tech 2 weapons, at least for medium or small weapons.  That’ll keep the smaller class of ships a bit more attractive-not that the battleships are all that bad with just Tech 1 weapons.  This apparently also includes the ammunition for those weapons.  It’s good for the small ships, but since the large ships aren’t getting the Tech 2’s, I wonder if more Alphas will gravitate to the Battlecruisers instead.  No idea how that might influence group play; my experiences in group play were pretty limited way back in the day when my old guildmates were with me prior to the release of Star Trek Online, and we mostly did mining or mission operations-and there weren’t really enough of us to match the kind of stuff you read about on the various MMO sites involving EVE fleet battles.

The skill caps are getting fiddled with too, but there is still a semi-hard cap of five million skill points, but you can apparently get beyond that from subscription time or skill injector items-I’m not sure where those stand on market value, or if they’re being sold for PLEX, the RMT currency.  That said, I can again say that my own Alpha is a long, long way from 5 million skill points, but then, he hasn’t started training those battlecruisers/battleships yet.  He might never-after all, “never fly what you can’t afford to lose”, and that destroyer is pretty much presently at the upper end of that for the character.  But then again, I’ve been limited to level 1 missions, and only recently logged in to start training up cruisers; the income does go up with level 2 missions and beyond.

The changes are coming in December, but I haven’t seen a specific date in the month.  I’m not sure how this will change the dynamics of the player base-or if it’ll encourage more people to join in.  But it’ll be interesting to watch, and who knows?  I might see about getting my Alpha a bit more time to mess around.

After the Merge

Well, the server merges have completed in Star Wars: The Old Republic.  And things shook out pretty well, on my front.  Only one character name had to be renamed, and it was one of my minor characters that I’d thrown together at one point.  My “primary” eight, plus Sorshan and Anthrandos, all made it through the other side intact.  Just as importantly, the guild names came through intact as well, so all is well with the world.

So, my first order of business was to ensure that I was able to get the Darth Hexid companion-well, to be more accurate, qualify for it.  The companion won’t be awarded until near the end of the month.  But there is a pair of achievements that key to it; either one will qualify a player for the companion (and a pet, if I recall, but that’s no big deal for me).  Both rely on grouped content:  either 3 Flashpoints via group finder, or 3 PvP warzones.  Not a combination of both, so if you do two of one and one of the other, it won’t work.  Oddly, for me, the warzones were the easiest to do.  Heck, I might even log into my Republic and Imperial mains to get the PvP locked companions while there’s still demand in PvP.

I’m kicking around rolling a new character in SWTOR to help fill out the time while I wait for things like the Foundry in Star Trek Online to come back up.  It’ll probably include a random element again, but I am purposefully excluding a few options in my head-no Knight or Inquisitor, no Mirialan or Rattataki.  Mainly because they’d been covered by my Dark Vs. Light characters.  I’m also likely to choose advanced classes based upon what my mains don’t have-why repeat when I don’t have to.  Heck, I could conceivably make a healing based character, which I haven’t done much of.  (I’ve never had that mindset, but I’m willing to try anything once, right?)

One thing I’ve also discovered with the server merges is that with so many new people (relatively speaking), finding a name for a new character is a lot rougher than it used to be.  Fortunately, somewhere along the line, the devs put in the ability to include a space in the character name, so if you aren’t heart-set on using your Legacy name as the character surname, you can make a full name your character name, like “Darth Vader”.  I’m dead certain the devs would’ve blocked that particular name…right?  Anyway, it’s just one of those little things that I should have realized but didn’t connect the dots on until after the merge.

With the merge complete, I will probably at some point continue the SWTOR version of “The Cast List”, to sprinkle in with the other games’ lists in between activity for Dathiro in STO.  On with the show!