Phoenix? Or Zombie?

I never thought I’d use this group of category and related tag again, but….

Some of the plans I’ve had recently got derailed by certain annoying RL events.  Despite this, however, I’d have had to have been living under a rock not to hear about the news about the Secret Server.  Or, to be less clever about it, the secret server that’s been around and running the MMORPG City of Heroes.

It had been an open secret practically from the first day after the game shutdown that someone out there was working to reverse engineer the code for CoH to release once it was done.  But apparently, it’s been a bit more in-depth than that:  someone had the actual game code and ran a secret server for years.  It even supposedly included the characters that were created in the game at a point in time (which point in time, I couldn’t say).  And in the last few days, that code has been released into the wilds of the Internet.

I’ve got mixed feelings on the subject.

I don’t care that I wasn’t one of the “chosen few”.  When the game ended, I walked away.  I did a little bit on the Paragon Chat client, but that was more or less a passing fancy; it didn’t have the main reason I’d stuck around, which was the people I played with.  (Plus, some bugs made it very difficult for things to work out; I imagine it’s more stable now.)  But I moved on, just like I did after Star Wars Galaxies.  I don’t have an emulator account for one of the several emulators for that game either.  And…I don’t really plan to do so for any of the servers that may or may not spring up for CoH.

Leaving aside the legalities of the issue, I just don’t have it in me to start over again, especially when NCSoft-you know, the guys who shuttered the game in the first place-has a history of throwing “Cease and Desist” orders around.  One could argue that once this stuff is on the Internet, keeping control over it is kaput, but I never underestimate the lawyers.  But that’s beside the point.  The point is, I’ve already done my mourning for CoH, and while it’s risen again in this new form, it remains to be seen if it’s like a phoenix or like a zombie.  It’ll be interesting to see if NCSoft acts, and how.  They could choose to come down hard on this sort of thing, like Blizzard did with some private servers; or they could ignore it, like Disney is currently doing with the various SWG emulators.  I can’t rule out that these could be different situations; I don’t know if the SWG emulators are reverse engineered code, or if they are clones of actual server code like the CoH set apparently is.

Either way, I’m not planning any comebacks there.  If I do a new superhero game beyond Champions Online, it’ll be one that hasn’t been released yet, whether it’s City of Titans, Ship of Heroes, or Valiance Online.  (And even on those, it’s a “we’ll see” sort of situation.)  I wish ’em all well; I just hope that the players aren’t setting themselves up for disappointment in the future.  Check with me in a year; if these servers are still going strong at that point, then maybe their future will continue to be bright.


WoW! Or: A visit to Azeroth

Bet nobody figured I’d be posting on THIS today.

Earlier last week, I’d heard that the folks over at Blizzard were going to offer a free reactivation of all accounts for World of Warcraft for the weekend.  So I thought I’d take some of my valuable time away from Star Trek Online’s Foundry and mess around a bit there.

Full disclosure:  a few years ago, I did take another short visit to WoW, thanks to a friend dumping a Scroll of Resurrection on me, which updated my game to a significantly later expansion than I’d had, gave me a high-level boost to a character, which allowed me to muck around a few days with the heroic Death Knight class.  By “heroic”, I mean to say, it’s a Heroic Class:  similar to the Jem’Hadar in STO, for readers less familiar with WoW, it’s a class that starts out at a high level.  You have to have already gotten a character to a certain high level on the server originally, though; otherwise, no luck.  Well, since then, a new Heroic Class landed:  the Demon Hunter, with the Legion expansion (which was quite some time ago).

Having not-so-very-long-ago messed around in Diablo III, I figured that this would be similar in tone to that game’s Demon Hunter.  Man, did I swing and miss there!

(Did I mention that, thanks to that Scroll, I had a character on a server who was at level 70+, thus allowing access to heroic classes?  I guess that was obvious by the comment about playing a Death Knight.)

So I decided that for my return, instead of hauling out one of my older characters to give them a spin and wind up in horrible straits because I had forgotten everything on how to play the character, I’d roll up a Demon Hunter.  It’s worth noting that, for this free reactivation period, you didn’t actually HAVE to have a level 70 character to roll a Demon Hunter; I guess it’s a way to highlight the class?  That wouldn’t shock me, since I suspect the whole reactivation thing was-in part-likely to have happened to help counterbalance the…shall we say “less than great” reception of the recent expansion, “Battle for Azeroth”.  Well, it’s recent as in, within the last six months or so.

The Demon Hunter can be of either faction, Horde or Alliance, based upon the species chosen for the character.  However, there’s only two available for these guys:  Night Elves and Blood Elves.  I’m not entirely sure about how that works in the lore of the setting; obviously, not having played Warcraft when that game was introduced, much less the assorted WoW books and stuff, I’m pretty clueless on most of that.  It’s tied to a former Big Bad named Illidan, who kind of waffles between evil and less-evil.  In any event, you’re introduced as one of his big guns, a Demon Hunter like himself with abilities akin to his; you gain power by defeating certain demons (aka a clever way to unlock skills for the character; it’s a bit more fun than simply “go to trainer, train up skill”).

With that in mind, I rolled up Malthoras, a Blood Elf Demon Hunter.  I’d always shortchanged the Horde in my past-life in WoW, so to speak.  So it was time to take a walk on the…well, the whole “good/evil” thing has been thrown in the woodchipper long ago in WoW.  To borrow a phrase from a favorite author of mine, this is more of an “us versus them” thing.

Malthoras at the start.

So what was life like as a Demon Hunter?  Well, I will admit that I was sort of “okay, it exists” as far as the storyline goes; like I said, I really don’t have a good handle on WoW’s lore, but the early story seems straightforward enough; you’re with a bunch of other Demon Hunters looking to make a comeback to Azeroth, the main setting of the game, and you have to get through a bunch of the Burning Legion to do so; those would be the “demon” part to be hunted.  Unlike the Diablo 2’s Demon Hunters, you’re not a mortal man, but an elf-Blood or Night-infused with demonic fel power.  Unfortunately, that infusion, plus the fact that Illidan has a pretty bad rap, means the moment you enter the Black Temple, you get curbstomped and imprisoned for an indeterminate length of time.  Then, apparently, Legion happens, and the wardens of the prison under assault decide that you’re the lesser of two evils.

And away you go!

The class itself has a pair of specializations; you can either go Vengeance, which is a tanky sort of build, or Havoc, which is a DPS build.  Having done the WoW tankish thing before (long time readers may recall my main did tanking stuffs, back in the day), I decided I wanted this guy to put the hurtin’ on; I cried “Havoc!” and let slip…yeah, it’s a cliche.  I can’t help it sometimes.  My experience leads me to believe that the Hunter is meant to be a fairly mobile combatant, and relies on a few keys abilities:  like eye beams that do cone damage (and a fair amount of it, too), a build and spend resource attack mechanic, and a transformational skill which helps change up a couple attack skills and heals you as you inflict the pain.  I also figured out later that another ability that increases magical damage taken to opponents goes together with the eye beams like peanut butter and chocolate.

The fact that Demon Hunters start at an obscenely high level also permitted me to see something I hadn’t seen in my previous journeys in Azeroth (which, admittedly, wasn’t there at that time):  a class hall.  Apparently, all the classes have a specialized location to meet at and do an almost duty-officer-ish system (again leaning on my STO experience).  You can get a couple followers and troop units to apply to missions that occur “off-screen”, which can give you a minor reward or two.  One of these followers can also be a “combat ally”, which assists you with an ability at random in a fight.  I didn’t get too far with that system-hey, it was only a few days!  There are other benefits too, as you level up your class hall by doing these missions, but I didn’t really get beyond the first tier.

There’s a certain amusement in a Blood Elf Demon Hunter meeting a Dranei in the Exodar, given how both species landed with the same expansion long ago.

There was, of course, another reason I didn’t get horribly far.  I took a bit of time to check in on a couple of other characters (such as getting one of my characters out of Panda-land)-and made another new one from scratch, because I couldn’t believe I hadn’t done so during a previous return trip:  I rolled a Shaman character.  To be fair, I only did the Shaman because I’d never tried one before.  That wasn’t the reason I rolled him, though.  The class was the lesser aspect.  The real reason is because I didn’t have a Goblin character, and I wanted to see what the early game was like for these crazy, mercantile technologists who remind me of the gnomes-not the WoW gnomes, who are actually decent at tech-the gnomes of Dragonlance fictional fame, who are…interesting.  You haven’t lived until you’re driving a goblin-designed hot-rod through the streets of their home town (and those streets are just as insane) and running down pedestrians.  I’m a bad, bad, bad person sometimes….  Obviously, I didn’t get too far with that character either, but the fun I had playing him almost tempts me to return to WoW just to finish up with any racial questlines.  Almost.

But, we’re a little over two weeks off of the Death of the Foundry in Star Trek Online, and after that, I have other plans, so despite this short visit, WoW will be back in storage for now.  I’m not ruling out someday coming back to run a character chronicle for a character there, but it’s not a priority.  But this taste reminds me of just why WoW has been around so long, and why it’s still the powerhouse of the MMO market.  (I swear, it seems like no other MMOs out there lately can pull off the feeling of scale in a setting; transitions between zones are seamless for the most part, and while there are transition points-they’re on a scale that makes other MMOs cry.  Why can’t anybody else pull this off?  Admittedly, I haven’t hopped to many other games lately, but still.)

Death of a Foundry

Well, crap.

It seems that the good folks at Cryptic/PWE are sunsetting the Foundry, the tool used for player generated content in Star Trek Online and in Neverwinter (they aren’t technically the same tool, as Neverwinter’s was more advanced, but still).  The staff has apparently lost enough people to maintain the tool, and the decision was made to shutter it.

I’m…not really happy about this.  Particularly as I’ve been using the Foundry to advance characters and keep the game fresh in STO (as readers are more than aware with the last couple of character chronicles).  At this point, the methods of advancing in the game are pitifully limited:  do the in-game, linear episodes, or do the queues to death.  (Or, I suppose, the battlezones, but I believe some are level gated).  And technically, some old patrol missions, but there ain’t nearly enough of those to get more than a handful of levels.

I had also some big plans for my “Cast List” characters with Foundry missions that…well, they’re just not going to happen now.

Did I mention I’m not happy about this?  I’ve never been a fan of removing content, and this bit is the worst of the bunch.

Well, I was beginning to feel I was spending too much time in STO anyway.  Maybe come April 11, the sunset date for the tool, I’ll shelf STO and start spending more time in Star Wars: The Old Republic.  I’ve been meaning to do a chronicle there again soon, and this may be the excuse to do it.  Hopefully, I can put Selak in a decent place before that happens.

Winding Down 2018

Traditionally-although never planned to be that way-I seem to do a slowdown at the end of the year.  This year’s probably no exception.  Still, there’s at least a couple things that will likely make an impact on the blog posts as we warp up 2018.

First, we’ve got a new Star Wars: The Old Republic publish coming soon, which will actually have content I’m interested in playing.  I still remember when Bioware kept hyping the “fourth pillar of story” for the game, and that was one of the big draws for me.  (The other being, duh, Star Wars.)  It’s been a long drought since I’ve been online there for any real length of time, and I’m hoping to have a return to the game in the reasonably near future.

Second, which is sort of over to the side, is an upcoming delivery of a new computer system, which is sort of long delayed.  I’ve had my current system for more than half the lifetime of this blog, which in computer-years is Methuselah-like in scope.  It’s hard drive is begging for mercy, and the graphic card struggles at times, particularly when newer graphical stuff get thrown in; I haven’t ever actually seen the “Lighting 2.0” in Star Trek Online because my system can’t handle that.  The new system, on the other hand, if all goes according to plan, should be able to handle maximum graphics settings on the games I’ve got and maintain a high frame rate.  We’ll see.  Some of my screenshots will hopefully look a lot better when that time rolls around.

I was this close to getting ready to pick up the character of Selak back in STO again; the Foundry came back online, but I’m not sure the kinks have been worked out.  I chose a Foundry Spotlight mission, which indicates that this is a mission that should be working just fine, and it wouldn’t let me advance past the first map.  So, his chronicle stalls a bit longer.

The winter festivities have begun in STO, and although there aren’t new activities, there is a new ship for those interested in putting the time into doing races every day, and a few new other wintry related things.  No winter festivities have started in Champions Online yet (to my knowledge, anyway), but SWTOR is set to kick off its Life Day festivities on the 11th (amusingly, the same day the Republic/Empire war re-ignites.  Happy Life Day!).  I imagine the other assorted MMORPGs have also either started or are getting ready to start their winter events.  I usually don’t go all-in for these events, but I do enjoy doing some of the stuff.  Whether it’s throwing snowballs at Sith at Vaiken Spacedock or engaging in combat with caramel-throwers against snowmen (or most recently, taking my Jem’Hadar, arming him with a candy swordfish, and hacking away at Krampus), it’s a nice break from the usual storylines of the games I play.  After all, games are meant to be fun-and if you don’t take them too seriously, this season is big on fun.

(Except Ewoks on Valentine’s Day.  That was just wrong on so many levels.  Long story.)

Wait, This Isn’t a Star Trek Online Post!!!

You could be forgiven if you thought, over the last few months, that I only played Star Trek Online.  And to a certain extent, this is true:  STO has dominated the blog a bit lately, with the “Victory is Life” expansion rolling out, followed not long after with the “Age of Discovery” patch and the dev plans to advance the storyline based on the Star Trek: Discovery show.  So it’s kind of sucked all the oxygen out of the room for a while now-especially since I have a pair of character chronicles on standby in that game who can’t really advance until said Discovery-related episodes get released or the Foundry gets restored again, or the devs finally get off their hindquarters and fix the so-called “streamlining” of their mission journal so my Cardassian can do the Lost Dominion arc at a time when it actually makes sense.  (I’ve ranted on that subject enough.  Moving on.)

It also hasn’t helped that the other pair of games I mess with regularly, Star Wars: The Old Republic and Champions Online, haven’t exactly put out the kind of stuff I mess with lately.  CO is CO, with the iffiness of its content releases, and SWTOR has been focusing on its raid stuff a lot lately.  And even though I’m an avowed altoholic, there comes times when I’ve burned through the same storylines enough times that I just need a break-one of the reasons why STO and its Foundry have been invaluable in giving me an excuse to indulge the altitis.  The Foundry gives me stories I haven’t played through ad infinitum.  I can’t say that about SWTOR, where I’ve done most of the class stories no less than three times each, and the subsequent “shared” content at least twenty times.  And I can’t say that for CO, whose leveling path for most characters is nearly identical, with minor variations with Canada and the Desert.  So I find it’s easier to wait until the new arrives for those games, or when I feel a craving to get my lightsaber or cape on.

Fortunately, at least for SWTOR, newer content is coming in December-on the 11th, to be precise, barring surprises.  The Republic/Empire war is getting ready to reignite, and an old Jedi stronghold on the planet Ossus is the flashpoint (which may or may not actually include Flashpoints; I haven’t been keeping up).  Ossus is from the long-ago days of what is now known as the Star Wars Legends era as an important site for the Jedi, which means we’re likely looking at more Jedi-centric content.  Well, I guess I can’t complain horribly much.  The last major storyline was intrigue and treachery and didn’t focus so much on the Force except in a roundabout way-it didn’t forcefeed that kind of thing at you like the previous big storylines.  And I get that the Force is going to be centric in any Empire/Republic storyline, because the Empire is the Sith Empire, which means the Dark Side of the Force, which means it’s opposed by the Jedi Order, but still.

It’s just my perception.  I feel like we just got out of major Force-related stories, even though it’s been a couple of years now since we wrapped up Valkorion and his family issues (man, has it really been that long?), and we’ve got another one likely on deck.  I will admit that I haven’t done much reading up on what’s upcoming with the plot-I like surprises-but the fact that it’s Ossus screams Jedi vs Sith stuff, and that’s just the way it is.  I guess it’s a hazard of the “all classes are one” story prospects now, although it sounds like we’ll be separated into Republic and Imperial sides once more (and intriguingly, not necessarily the sides your class may have started out with).  But there are times I really miss the class stories, where bounty hunters could be bounty hunters, troopers could be troopers, agents could be agents, and smugglers could be wiseasses.

But it’s coming, and I expect to play through the content upon its release.  There are companions who will be making their returns (most of which, I believe, only for the classes they worked with in the past); significantly, one of them is an individual who could’ve been a Dark Sider or Light Sider depending on choices made, which was a big question mark for a while.  One more note of interest:  upon starting the new content, at least one Alliance Alert for a companion may be automatically completed (which may or may not matter, depending if you got him as a companion during the previous storylines).  It probably means it’ll happen regardless if you actually started that Alert-I’m guessing it’s considered “started” if it shows up in your list of Alerts.  We’ll see.

It’s been a quiet time in a galaxy far, far away, but it might be time to revisit it very soon!

When Story Becomes a Tangled Mess

I’ve commented recently on Star Trek Online’s recent “streamlining”, and now that I’ve had some time to see just how it impacted things, I feel that the devs have royally screwed up.  It’s not NGE-level screwed up (nothing gets that screwed up…hopefully), but it smacks of having not done the research as to the impacts.  For those coming in late:  the devs at Cryptic/PWE recently did a reshuffle of the mission chain for STO, removing some missions, and theoretically moving some missions and arcs out of the “primary storyline” and into the “Available missions” tab.  This shuffle has exacerbated an ongoing problem with STO concerning their storyline missions.

I think it could be said to have really begun with the Delta Rising expansion; at least, that’s where I first started noticing discrepancies.  More specifically-when the whole “Delta Recruitment” was a thing.  It’s not that noticeable for players using high-end characters, but definitely noticeable for new characters (and guess what the whole Delta Recruitment thing was about?).  Throughout the career of the recruits, he got told about Iconian this and Iconian that; of course, this was well before there were any hints of Iconians in story arcs.  The earliest that they got referred to was during the Romulan arc, thanks to Obisek.  This persisted even after the Delta Recruitment period was over-missions would seem to presume that your character knew of events that he hadn’t participated in-and in fact, couldn’t have known about, such as the fact that yes, the Iconians were definitely mobilizing behind the scenes as an active force.

So this isn’t a new problem.  And it’s not shocking, given how mission arcs got shuffled hither and yon over time.  But now, it’s worse.

For older characters, the Age of Discovery publish has them dealing with an “As you know” statement from the bigwigs of their associated factions indicating the return of J’Ula.  Well and good.  Except…I’ve yet to see a single reference to J’Ula in any of the earlier episodes.  Now, maybe there’s something that shows up in missions I’ve done with other characters (future grist for the Cast List) recently, but at least as far as the Delta Rising mission arcs, there isn’t a single mention of J’Ula.  Why would established characters have assumed that J’Ula magically showed up from the past to be such a big deal?  Now maybe that’s something the devs are planning to go into further with future episodes, but I sort of doubt it.  This should’ve been seeded somewhere, and as far as I can tell, it hasn’t.

Then you have the fact that most of those mission arcs that were moved to the Available tab and out of the episode chain are level gated to max level.  And that’s where you start going off the rails.  One of these appears to be the Deferi arc; so you’re likely to be trying to defend a Preserver site before you discover it, since the Iconian War references that.  Then there’s the “Lost Dominion” arc, which would make a lot of sense where it was in the old episode chain, but now your first encounter with the Dominion is likely to be well after the events that should have taken place.  And my personal favorite incidence of idiocy:  the Delta Rising arc, which has a mission that explicitly takes you to to the Kobali homeworld…where you can’t actually DO any of the missions there because of the damned level gate.  And that in turn comes after you discover the Vaadwaur beef with the Kobali, which spoils the first act of the Kobali adventure zone!

Whoever came up with this streamlining idea…no, I’ll be more specific.  Whoever was in charge of implementing this streamlining idea should be fired.  Someone needs to sit down and go through each and every mission in this game, and start doing rewrites where things don’t make sense-which at this point is looking like a hell of a job, because there’s an awful lot.  Even with the crazy time travel that goes on in this game now, you expect a character’s POV to be consistent.  And it’s not.  And if the game is still trying to get new players, this kind of garbage isn’t going to leave them with a favorable impression.  And given how good so much of this game is, that’s a damned shame.

(As you may have guessed, the Foundry is still down, which keeps Selak from going further-and given the above mess with the “Lost Dominion” arc and the length of time that the devs usually take to bring the Foundry back up after major publishes, he’s likely to stay there for a while.  So, we could be looking at even odds for a new chronicle either in Star Wars: The Old Republic or Champions Online.  Stay tuned-it’s likely to come down to a coin toss.)

Discovering New Character(s)

Well, it looks like we have a date for the Age of Discovery patch for Star Trek Online.  Mark October 9 on the calendar, barring last minutes surprises that delay things.  (It’s possible; while I know most devs will push through regardless of game breaking bugs, they will certainly hold off if those bugs benefit the player in any meaningful way.)

With that, the “Ways & Means” chronicle will be put on hold after the next post-at least for a week or two.  A lot depends on how the content for AoD is going to be delivered.  As I recall, they had talked about releasing content along with actual episodes of Star Trek: Discovery.  So, we’ll see how things shake out.  I imagine there will need to be at least a couple of episodes (some of which have gotten their TV Guide-like synopses on the STO site) ready to go.  I’m still dubious about them being able to handle episodes on a weekly basis-I was impressed as hell when they were pulling monthlies during the Iconian War arc.  It’s possible they’ve developed a backlog of Discovery-related episodes for the game and will be able to meet that kind of schedule, or maybe they’ve already walked back their original intentions.

It seems likely at this point-without having gone on the test servers-that this is not replacing the 2409 tutorials, but is rather going to be treated similar to the Agent of Yesterday storyline:  you’ll make a character that has their missions/maps in the past, and then at some point some temporal action will take place that will kick the character to the present day.  All that said…the missions for AoD sound like they’ll be accessible to current captains as “historical records” to play through.  I don’t know if that means “historical for both Starfleet and Klingon factions”, though.  I get some potential amusement from the idea of using my TOS-era captain who got shot into 2409 to play historical DSC-era content.  (I’m pretty sure that, despite the amusement of the alternative abbreviations, that DSC is the preferred one for Discovery.)

This is why I hate time travel.  :)

Anyway, it’s a little over a week away, so I anticipate maybe one more W&M post, before figuring out what the heck kind of character to make for AoD.  The good news is I can at least experiment ahead of time for appearance, because I got the Discovery uniform when they were promoting Discovery’s CBS debut.  Of course, I imagine that everyone will be getting it now, which only makes sense because it’d be stupid to have episode arcs dedicated to that era without having the uniforms available.  I’ll have to hunt down some uniform coloring guides….

Reputation Matters

In Star Trek Online, the upcoming Age of Discovery episode release will be including an update to the existing Reputation system.  Think World of Warcraft’s faction grinding and put a sci-fi spin on it.  That’s sort of what the Rep system in STO is.  There are five tiers, with each giving access to equipment and special abilities.  There are a LOT of Reputations available, which makes life mildly horrific for altoholics; that’s the price of doing business.  Well, we’ve got a new tier coming up-and it’s not going to be just for any new Reputation revealed for AoD.  It’s going to be applied to all the reputations.  (Well, except maybe the Event Reputation, which plays by somewhat different rules anyway.)

A post on STO’s site goes into details, but here are some of the highlights that caught my attention.

  • Reaching Tier 5-the current max, remember-will automatically grant sponsorship account-wide.  Sponsorship was the means to help those aforementioned altoholics by means of purchasing a sponsorship token you could give to your other characters on the account with rep marks, and it effectively halved the time and resources to advance that character in that reputation.  Now, it’ll happen automatically; no grinding required, no single token purchases-it’s automatic.  I’m a big fan of this one.  Doesn’t guarantee I’m going to actually push a heap of characters down the Reputation path, but I approve simply on principle.
  • Reaching Tier 6, among other things, will grant a character a Fleet Module and a Retrain Token.  This will be once per character-because these are things purchasable on the C-Store, and I’m dubious Cryptic/PWE are interested in killing another revenue stream.  I’ve not seen any clarification on that at this time.  Still, that could be a big thing.  Fleet Modules are the only way to get Fleet Ships (well, in combination with a Fleet Shipyard capable of building them, I think), and you usually need about four plus whatever other resources are involved to purchase them.  The Fleet Ships tend to be fancier/better versions of existing ships.  Given the sheer number of Reputations, it’s not unreasonable to presume that you could get a pair of Fleet Ships from advancing to Tier 6 in a bunch of reputations.  I’m pretty sure that the goodies here will be character bound, not account bound-and I’m almost certain they won’t be sellable on the exchange…but I’ve been wrong before.
  • Account-wide Rep Gear discounts-well, at least as far as energy credits and Dilithium.  You’ll still need to grind off the Reputation’s Elite Marks though, but I think the regular marks will still be discounted.  This is at Tier 6, but you can’t argue with an account-wide benefit.  Well, you could, but I won’t.

Now, there are other benefits, but I’m not going to go through their post and just regurgitate it here-I just wanted to hit the things that got my attention.  There’s no indicator as to the requirements to advance to Tier 6, either-but it’s logical to assume that it may take as long as it did for you to reach Tier 5 for a given Reputation, with the corresponding amount of resources spent.  I don’t THINK Elite Marks will be used to advance…but I can’t rule that out either.

Regardless of how one might feel about the Age of Discovery coming up, the change to Reputations should at least shake things up and possibly get people back onto some of those lesser-used queues and Battlezones.

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.