Twelve Years In

It’s that time again!  It’s been another year of MMO gaming, MMO blogging, and now it’s time for me to look back at 2016 and throw out some thoughts on the past as I look to the future!  Specifically, let’s see what’s been going on with the games I play.

Moving towards its first major story content update.

AKA A Game of Thrones

2016 was a pretty good one for Star Wars: The Old Republic-at least from my point of view.  Updates came regularly with new content, tied to the ongoing story of Knights of the Fallen Empire, and concluded the year with the conclusion as Knights of the Eternal Throne.  The story feels like it effectively concludes the stories of the assorted classes into one funneled end (maybe two-I still haven’t thrown a dark-sider through KotET, and things may be different there), which does lead one to wonder if we’re at the end of story content.  Certainly we are for most of 2017, as the developers are rededicating themselves to group content; just how that unfolds is something we’ll be learning early this year.

I’m a tad annoyed at the fact that a significant number of companions for the classes remain unaccounted for, and that aforementioned rededication makes it unlikely we’ll see any make a comeback in 2017; yes, they can be brought back in a game mechanics sense, but they’re still effectively gone in-story.  All that said:  the companions have mostly been irrelevant in-story at the end of the class stories (with perhaps a sop thrown in depending on your class in the Shadow of Revan expansion), so one has to wonder if it’s really a big deal at this point.  Something to think about.

From a personal point of view, this year saw the return of my tracking assorted characters through content.  Thanks primarily to the Dark vs Light event that kicked off in the summer, I began the journeys of Anthrandos the Jedi Knight and Sorshan the Sith Inquisitor, and brought them from humble beginnings on Tython and Korriban and through the KotFE expansion.  Neither have as yet gone through KotET, but they will-so expect at some point “final” posts for those characters that will encompass that expansion, once I’ve finished getting my primary class characters through.  Naturally, those primary characters have gone through the entirety of the KotFE expansion, one of which maxed out his alliance contact reps, one of which got them all to at least level 10.  My smuggler and agent win the prize for most total companions now, as they both have all the Star Fortress companions, and almost all of the companions available in alerts, excepting ones who were refused on moral grounds (or killed off) and the PvP related ones.

The transition from wartime to peacetime begins.

Sure seems quiet in the galaxy these days.

Coming in at a distant second in my time is Star Trek Online.  Last time I did one of these posts, we were just beginning the New Dawn, heralding the rebirth of exploration in the galaxy.  Guess that was mostly hyperbole, because what we actually got was the latest outbreak of the Temporal Cold War introduced in Star Trek: Enterprise.  Things started really rolling, though, with the year’s free expansion, Agents of Yesterday, which created a new sub-faction:  the 23rd century Starfleet.  This was tied in hard with the Temporal Cold War as well, but man, it was fun seeing missions and characters in the 23rd century look.  The New Dawn arc concluded and a new one is underway now, which returns a station from the past returning to the limelight.

At roughly the same time as developing the idea of characters in the Dark vs Light thing in SWTOR, I decided to chronicle the adventure of a character starting out from the 23rd century with Rick Masters, and while my time has been more limited than usual in STO, the character has finished his run through “New Dawn” (or “Future Proof” if you want to use the episodic arc name), and has caught up to the present time in the game.  Since the new arc seems like it’ll at least somewhat involve the space station the character saw go away back in the 23rd century, Masters will likely see at least some participation there, but I’m likely to look to focus on my Starfleet, KDF, and Romulan mains a bit.  That said, since the 23rd century guy is in his own sub-faction, I can easily justify promoting him to a “main” status.  Does anyone else out there have multiple main characters, or is it just me?  It’s hard being an altoholic.

There had to be a loser here somewhere.

Still not getting a lot of love from me.  I blame Father Time.

Champions Online, still technically in the stable of games, didn’t get a lot of joy from me this year.  I did finally manage to level up a character-Overload, my Reawakened Automaton-to max level, so that opened up a new character slot for me to work with.  Unlike previous years, this year saw a bit of content introduced, as well as some significant reworking of the “endgame” experience as far as gear grinding goes (which, apparently, is another way of saying “more grind”).  I’ve never been about the endgame, though, and the new content is highly group oriented-which is good, honestly, but for a guy who is as irregular as I am on the game, well, not the biggest attraction.

Here’s the other hand:  with things wrapping up with characters in SWTOR with the KotET expansion, and its focus on grouped content, it opens up some time for me to do a leveling experience in CO as I have with Anthrandos/Sorshan/Rick Masters.  It may be a little less structured, since CO is less structured, storywise, but that could work for the best in many ways.  I’ve already been laying the groundwork in my head on how that’ll work, so stay tuned.

Returning for a new engagement....

Returning for a new engagement….

I’d be remiss if I didn’t remark upon the Freemium conversion for EVE Online, which has allowed me to return to New Eden to fly spaceships again.  I’m not anticipating much time in here, particularly given the Alpha Clone limitations on ships and skills, but hey, it’s good to fly out into the unknown for a bit.  My character being developed (independent of the original ones I had) is likely to stick with Minmatar Frigates, although I’m spending time on a Minmatar Destroyer to help clean out frigate annoyances in Level 1 missions.  I’m debating trying to hit some wormholes and see if I can find any data/hacking sites; the problem is that skills only go so high, which means even locating the sites are a challenge-and worse still, the hostile mobs in the area probably outmatch me in skill and equipment.  But seeing as I’m basically using cheap stuff, I may well decide “why the hell not?  Frigates are disposable.”

On the fictional front, I’ve restricted myself to reposting some open-RP posts rescued from the fall of GuildPortal last year, including “Injustice” from the Justiciars site, “Birth of the Union” and “The Darkening” from the Union Supreme site.  I’m planning to do a repost of “Invasion of the Gems” from the Hyperion Force site at some point in the coming year.  As far as new works, though, nothing really came to mind.  I am in the middle of writing what I anticipate will be my last MMO-related story, and hope to have something put up this coming year on the Outlaws’ site.  Fact is, my motivation on writing this stuff has been fading considerably, and in combination with finding time to actually do the writing, that just spelled a “time to put a bow on it” in my mind.  Of course, putting that bow on it will depend a lot on me actually finishing the one I’ve started; we’ll see how that goes.

That’s 2016 in a nutshell!  The latter half of the year helped reinvigorate some of my blogging, thanks to the decision to start chronicling the actions of my characters again as I had in the old days, and helped fill the empty spaces between game publishes.  It puts me in a positive frame of mind as we move forward in 2017 to start year thirteen of my MMO adventure!

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Eleven Years In

When I looked back at 2014 in my MMO gaming, I had some concerns that I might be reaching a nadir in my enthusiasm for the genre. While it’s true that the number of games I played around in didn’t budge, the amount of time I spent in them did tend to vary. And in all the cases, it came down to “new stuff”.

So: eleven years. That’s a pretty lengthy amount of time to have put into MMOs. What did 2015 hold for me and my games?

Moving towards its first major story content update.

There has been an awakening…have you felt it?

Star Wars: The Old Republic probably has a slight edge in the amount of time spent this last year. I’d completed all eight of the class stories in the year before, but I still had an ambition to also complete the stories on all the advanced classes. Since there are two advanced classes for each class, it would effectively mean doing the entire story again, all the planets again, all of it another eight times. Even with that, I was willing to slap some time into it. But Bioware/EA helped out a lot on that when they put in the 12X xp for subscribers on class stories, which cut down a lot of the time spent, and made it possible to achieve that goal: which I did, thankfully. Finances in-game have been better than ever, as well, as I’ve managed to purchase the opening area for the Yavin stronghold after making the “mistake” of looking at one in-game and deciding “I want one”. My Coruscant stronghold was shoved into the locker (and after unlocking all of its rooms, too. Good thing I didn’t spend cartel coins on that one).

The biggest news for the game, of course, was the Knights of the Fallen Empire expansion, which is still a work in progress: we’ve gotten nine chapters of the story, and more is slated to come in the coming months. With that came the addition of the release of Shadow of Revan for subscribers as well, and I finally got to play through that content. A lot of flashpoints and heroic missions also became doable solo, which meant some of these I was able to do for the first time. It wasn’t all fun and games, of course; companions have been buffed then nerfed, xp has been buffed considerably (too much? Hard to say), and the refocus on story has come at the price of operations and PvP. As I never did any of the ops and tend to avoid PvP, I’m obviously not too sorry, but I do recognize that raid-like stuff and PvP are pretty much an accepted part of any MMORPG these days, and there should be some content aimed in that direction. I’ve been looking to push through my “eight mains”, one of each class, and so far I’ve gotten five through to the end of the available content, one of whom even unlocked all his Star Fortress companions and rank 10 with the assorted supply contacts. It’s not unreasonable to think that by the time the next chapter is released in February, I’ll have gotten all eight in the same boat as far as story progression.

Not much to say about the guild(s) in game, as they’ve been mostly been quiet, although some folks appear here and there occasionally. The expansion may have helped a bit with that recently. Admittedly, I also haven’t really been looking to join any of the active guilds around, either-in part because I tend to muck with different games, which means my focus is constantly divided. That’s a theme going forward here. I did take advantage of a Cartel Market sale, though, to properly rename the Republic side guild to “Hyperspace Outlaws”. I’d been meaning to get around to that for a long time.

The transition from wartime to peacetime begins.

The transition from wartime to peacetime begins.

The next on the list is Star Trek Online, which has had a roaring comeback after last year’s Delta Rising debacle. The entire year just about was a grand finale of all the story content that had been released up to that point, culminating in the Iconian War, and while there were minor missteps, for the most part it delivered on wrapping up most of the loose ends hanging around as a result of Iconian meddling. (That said, there’s one prominent Iconinian still out there with one hell of a grudge…) There have been the usual number of queues released, but for a number of months, we could expect one feature episode per month for the duration of the War, and that was a relief-because unlike a good chunk of the Delta Rising missions, none of those missions were basic filler. Speaking of Delta Rising, it seems that there has been some adjusting of level requirements as well, which means it’s not as painful to actually get that content done now. The year closed out with the Admiralty system with the coming of a “New Dawn”, which so far has involved what could be a reopening of a temporal cold war-or perhaps its origins. (This is why time travel makes my head ache.)

Despite this flourishing of content, I found that I didn’t spend all that much time in the game. I seem to be mostly one for short periods, especially once KotFE for TOR was released. Earlier in the year, though, the Corps of Discovery performed a hard push between its few active players to get our starbase up to tier-3 status, and after blowing through a large amount of energy credits and dilithium, we succeeded. My own credit reserves are still recovering from that push. We also managed to get the dilithium mine up to tier-1, and we’re eyeballing the research facility as the next tier-1 target. There had been some thought that we’d benefit from being in one of the new fleet armadas (basically a tiered coalition of fleets), but that never really panned out. Activity levels matter, and that includes mine. I suspect time will balance again once I’ve managed to get through the KotFE content with my “eight mains”-which isn’t as far away as it sounds.

There had to be a loser here somewhere.

There had to be a loser here somewhere.

Champions Online, sadly, was the victim of all this content. I didn’t really work on any of my heroes there much at all, and haven’t had the craving to do so over the last year. Despite this, CO actually managed two bits of content worth noting. The first was a new tutorial, which I honestly still shake my head over. It wasn’t actually so much a “new” tutorial as a shell around the tutorial. The bigger deal was the Onslaught content, which basically allows you to transform into one of the big villains of the franchise and wreak havoc (and potentially have your havoc wreaked) on both the law and other heroes. It’s a PvP sort of thing, because heroes can attack you, and you can attack them if they attack you first-but in my brief bit doing it, it was sort of fun. Of course, since it is PvP, I didn’t spend much time with it-and ultimately, other games were calling, so that was that.

For most of the years I’ve been playing MMOs, I’ve always managed to find time to write my own bit of fan fiction based on my characters in assorted games. Last year was a milestone in that I didn’t write anything. I’d flirted with a concept I’d been nursing for a while for my spy character from SWG, and I keep wanting to find a reason to get back to my STO characters, but for the first time in ages, none of the characters in my head have been demanding my attention. We’ll see if the next year brings out any creativity to shake loose.  The year got punctuated with the passing of the long-running guild host, GuildPortal, which closed up its doors at the end of the year-I sincerely hope people managed to save the content they wanted to save from any guild sites there.

My fears of burning out last year seem to have been unfounded, and while I’ve yet to join up with any active guilds in any of these games, I’ve at least found enough going on that I haven’t felt the need to wrap things up in the genre. So the odds are high that I’ll be here again next year writing up something for “Twelve Years In”.

Ten Years In

I had to pause when I typed that title in.

Ten.

Years.

One decade of semi-regularly posting my thoughts on MMORPGs, from my early “gee-wow” phase of starting playing the games to my significantly more jaded self today. And the blog’s covered the bases. Some posts have been simple peeks at “here’s what I’m doing this week” (back when I was a lot more regular). Some posts have been about deeper thoughts on MMORPGs in general, and some in specific. Some have praised assorted developers, and some have…well, let’s go with the opposite of “praised”.

There have been bumps in the road, of course. A few times I’ve pondered just saying “Game Over” to the MMO scene, usually during times of big transition, but something always managed to keep me at least poking my nose in. And of course, RL has occasionally gotten in the way of playing, much less putting up posts about things. At one point, I even bit the bullet and made the big jump from the GuildPortal blogging host to WordPress.

I’ve played quite a few games over the years.  Star Wars Galaxies was the gateway drug, and when I started playing that I honestly felt I’d not need to play any other MMOs.  If the New Game Enhancements had any positive impact on me, it was that it kicked me out of the comfort zone and allowed me to look at other MMOs.  And the list goes on:  from games where I only dabbled such as Lord of the Rings Online, EVE Online, and DC Universe Online; to the games where I truly spent a significant amount of time with, such as World of Warcraft (hasn’t everybody?), Star Trek Online, Champions Online, Star Wars: The Old Republic, and of course, the one that took the top place in amount of time spent, City of Heroes.

Well, we’ve had a lot going on this year, so let’s set the wayback machine and take it for a spin.

A pair of stories reach their conclusions

A pair of stories reach their conclusions

In Star Wars: The Old Republic, I finally managed to complete my long-term goal of getting through the class stories for all eight classes.  I wrapped up my Bounty Hunter relatively early in the year.  My Jedi Counselor took a bit more time, thanks to the appearance of the Galactic Strongholds expansion, which brought player housing of a sort to the game.  Unfortunately, what they didn’t tell you was that in order to open up all those nice rooms, you’d have to shell out Cartel Coins (the real money equivalent) or lots and lots of credits.  I did eventually blow some of my accumulated coins to open up my Nar Shadda rooms (I got a fair amount of them for free, being a subscriber), and a whole lot of credits.  With all the rooms opened, I took a short break in order to recuperate from the grind burnout, before pushing onward with my Counselor and completing the last class story.

But of course, that turned out not to be the end of the story, because the Shadow of Revan expansion hit before year’s end, and as I understand it, there are mini-class stories in that.  Unfortunately, Bioware/EA decided to make it a paid expansion, which put me in mind of what happened with the Rise of the Hutt Cartel expansion-namely, the fact that it became free for subscribers less than six months after it was released.  I’m all for eventually releasing expansions for free, but the turnaround for that seemed like dirty pool to me-and so I’ve decided not to fall into that trap again, and will wait until the inevitable happens with Shadow of Revan.

Guildwise, not much goes on there.  I had originally hoped that I might be able to pull off a purchase of a fleet flagship there, but the price for the ship is so disgustingly high-and given that I’m more or less solo in that game these days-and the benefits are iffy in that case anyway, that I figured that it’s something we could live without.  A guild stronghold was established on Coruscant, but I don’t anticipate opening any rooms there for a long time; I have enough work to do opening up my own Coruscant and Dromund Kaas rooms as it is.

I'm reminded of being shaken down by a bully....

I’m reminded of being shaken down by a bully….

Star Trek Online has long been a source of…well, let’s call it discontent.  For me, at least.  I’m good with their story content, but their business practices continue to make me sick.  (Okay, that’s a bit too extreme-let’s say “extremely unhappy”.)  The first blow was the removal of the Exploration clusters, removing what could well be considered one of the primary pillars of Star Trek in general.  Then came the new tier-6 ships, rendering the tier-5 ships-virtually all of which were paid for with Zen, the real money equivalent for Perfect World games-obsolete.  Or, if you wanted to be really insulting, you could upgrade some of those tier-5 ships to be almost-but-not-quite as good as tier-6 ships for more Zen.  In fact, it seems that it’s now about fleecing customers; the crafting system is designed to take forever to max out in any branch, unless you spend a large chunk of dilithium-and given you can only refine 8000 dilithium per day, you’re looking at being forced to purchase dilithium off the exchange, which requires-you guessed it-Zen.  The announcement that bridge officer training is about to go down the same track is one that continues to bring me closer to abandoning the game entirely; as it is, I spend less and less time in the game.

Which is a pity, because the devs can do some good things.  The story advanced to bring an uneasy peace between the Klingons and the Federation at last, thanks to a bigger threat uniting them in the form of the Iconians.  This included a revamp of Earth Spacedock (again), which is an extremely beautiful bit of work.  Also of interest was the release of Delta Rising, the new expansion taking place in the Delta Quadrant; while what story is there is pretty good, it’s also somewhat lacking in comparison with the Legacy of Romulus expansion.  Comparing the two isn’t a real comparison:  Legacy beat the tar out of Delta in terms of sheer content.  Accordingly, while I enjoyed the Delta stories, it didn’t enthuse me as much as the Legacy expansion-and I’m not that big a fan of Romulans.

The Corps of Discovery fleet still continues to exist, although the active folks tend to be on when I’m not on (and there aren’t many of them as it is).  One of the members managed to get the fleet embassy up to tier-1 through sheer determination and will (not to mention dilithium and fleet marks), so the fleet’s now got a tier-1 embassy to go along with its tier-2 starbase.  I’ve entertained the thought of pushing a tier-1 dilithium mine, but at this stage, I think everyone’s burned enough out on that particular grind.

A new hope

Low development effort never looked so good

Despite my exit from Champions Online last year, I went back again.  I guess I needed to get my superhero on, and it beat DC Universe Online in my book, so there it is.  (I do play Marvel Heroes as well, but honestly, they don’t let me make my own creations.  That’s painful for a creative sort.)  I spent some time getting a number of my stable of characters to the max level 40, and began a few new characters-one of whom also made it to level 40.

One of those characters came about because of something truly unusual for CO:  new content.  While lockboxes have been the primary push in patches in the game, some actual new missions were put in-and for a change, they weren’t limited time deals, but permanent additions to the game, featuring the crazed robot, Mechanon.  All things considered, I’d call that a successful bit of work for the devs there, given that the game continues to be barely above maintenance mode.  On the other hand, given the activities in STO, I’ve decided that this isn’t a bad thing for CO.  That means that there’s less chance of the game being poisoned by the devs to the point where this one makes me ill as well.

I spent some time playing EVE Online again this last year; I didn’t do a whole lot, but I did manage to get a couple of personal goals complete.  First, I managed to get my character standings high enough to install jump clones at a Sisters of Eve station, and second, I managed to finally delve a short bit into wormhole space-and nullsec space, which ended rather predictably.  (But I didn’t get pod-killed!)  Juggling a fourth game is asking a bit much, though, so I let the account go dormant again-but I’m reasonably sure that at some point, I’ll have the urge to go back; after all, I’ve still got my eye on one of the exploration ships that the Sisters sell….

My MMO fictional work was limited this year, for a couple of reasons.  The first is that in this year, I’ve not been really attached to any guilds that could be called active; I did make a short attempt to join an RP fleet in STO, but it didn’t really work out-mostly because I just didn’t feel it worked for me there.  So I’ve been doing the solo thing mostly, which has allowed me to spend relatively equal time in the assorted games, but it does tend to get boring without people.  We’ll see how things go next year.  The other reason is that the one story I did do, “Unending”, was another one of my overly-long works, which closed out my City of Heroes stories with a ribbon to tie up my remaining loose ends.  Where I go from here is still up in the air.

The year’s been a somewhat rough one, all told.  While the games I played continue to have their positive points, actions taken by their assorted developers have managed to put a big spike in the enthusiasm.  It could be that I’ve become jaded by my ten years now and have become more cynical in attitude towards the developers.  Or maybe it’s just short-term burnout.  But there’s still a couple of games on the horizon that could displace any one of my current games-so it’s a wait and see situation.  Until then, we’ll see what Year Eleven will hold.

Nine Years In

It’s kind of amusing that this is (if WordPress is counting right) my 100th post on WordPress for the blog.  I don’t recall how many there were on the original Faces site, so it’s iffy as far as landmarks go.

What isn’t iffy is that it’s been nine years since I started MMO gaming.  Almost a decade now.  It’s a combination of “my god what have I been doing with my life?” and “damn, that’s pretty cool!”  Ah, the contradictory feelings of gaming!

Let’s take a peek at the last year, hm?

First up:  there was no City of Heroes action.  Probably because NCSoft killed it.  Fortunately, some enterprising folks managed to put together an application that allows access to the costume creator, and even access to the maps in the game, which is great for screenshots and stuff, but not so good with things involving other people.  That’s all I’ve got to say about that, as Gump would put it.

Okay, into the actual games.

The Winner of the Most time Spent award this year

The Winner of the Most time Spent award this year

A significant chunk of my time has been in playing Star Wars: The Old Republic.  Thanks to the magic of paid server transfers, I consolidated my characters into one server-Jedi Covenant.  I’ve managed to complete the class stories on the Sith Inquisitor, the Sith Warrior, the Trooper, and the Jedi Knight-which means they join the rarefied air breathed by my Imperial Agent and Smuggler.  This leaves me working on the Bounty Hunter and Jedi Counselor as my final two class stories to finish.  My BH recently wrapped up Chapter One, while my Counselor is still hip deep in it.  The next step after those two will be the really insane idea of trying the other Advanced Classes; this would mean I’d have two of each basic class.  My sanity may or may not hold out that long.

As far as the game itself, the Rise of the Hutt Cartel has caused me both irritation and joy.  It was a nice enough planet-and a coherent story, and I liked the kind of sneaky end of the storyline on the Imperial side.  I did complete the Republic one, too, which led to the amusing conversation of “why is Makeb still here?  Wasn’t it falling apart last time I was here?”  It makes sense when you do both sides.  On the other hand, I hated the fade-to-black transitions when you take the speeders to each location on Makeb-I know some folks complain about time eaten up in travel, but I like the scenic views in flight!  More of an annoyance was the way Bioware/EA treated the expansion itself.  They charged for it, and made it free in less than a year.  I know it’s traditional for an expansion to become free eventually, but that tends to happen when another expansion hits-maybe-and after a period of time substantially longer than a year.  It’s a good thing that the latest expansion, Galactic Starfighter, was a free one, because after feeling burnt on RotHC when they gave it away after charging for it scant months before, I’m certain I wouldn’t have bought it-especially since it’s pretty much solely a PvP expansion.

A lot of the added content besides these two have centered on short maps and dailies.  The Czerka facility and the planet Oricon are fairly small, and most of their story seems to be tied up into flashpoints and operations.  Full disclosure-I’ve only really started doing some of the Oricon single player content, and am currently trying to figure out how to deal with a beast that can overwhelm my tank companions and then me in very little time.  I really need to do some serious gearing up again….  Also for fans of the grind, the game introduced a Reputation system, so if one can work to get some gear and other stuff if they get on the hamster wheel.  The good news is that it’s account-specific, not character specific, so it’s not like you have to really abuse yourself on multiple characters-all of your characters can help.  And that’s a good thing.

Who would've thought a year ago that this would've gotten an expansion?

Who would’ve thought a year ago that this would’ve gotten an expansion?

Star Trek Online hit its own expansion with the Legacy of Romulus, bringing Romulans into the fold as a subfaction for Starfleet and the KDF.  In spite of this game-mechanic status, they had their own set of missions-at least early on.  By the time you get to the Beta Ursae sector block, you start sharing missions originally designed for Starfleet, but with a Romulan spin.  Even more importantly in my eyes, however, the expansion raised the level for the Klingons, allowing them to FINALLY have a full 1-50 leveling experience.  The situation isn’t perfect-the majority of stuff released is still Starfleet centric, with the Romulans being a distant second thanks to the fact that they were the focus of the expansion.  The Klingons did manage to get a new ship this year, though, so you know, improvement.  The addition of the Dyson Sphere prior to the end of the year brought us the dinosaurian Voth as new antagonists, and again, it seems that the hidden Big Bad of the game is involved.  Whether or not we actually see any movement on this during the year is iffy-but on the other hand, the developers have indicated that they’re working on a new expansion for later this year-although it will not include a new faction-which might give hope for major movement on the setting’s story.

Not too much on the character front going on, though.  The Corps of Discovery’s rush of activity faded, but not before we pulled up to a tier 2 starbase-which is really as good as can be asked for at this stage.  Technically, the fleet’s working on an Embassy to tier 1, but the upgrade project for it is a long haul, and if it gets done before year’s end, it’ll be impressive.  There’s two other fleet holdings available in the game, but there’s no chance they get upgraded.  Most of my characters in the game are at level 50-including a few new Romulan factioned characters-but I’ve found my time shrinking in STO.  With luck, I can work on ways to help keep my interest up there-either by going nuts in the PvE queues or learning how to use the Foundry to develop my own missions.  (Given how things ended with the Mission Architect and I in CoH, though, I’m iffy on how far I will go with that.)

Well, they can't all be winners....

Well, they can’t all be winners….

And then there’s Champions.

Well, I tried.  I got a few characters to max level, but the content drought continued, and the folks I played with faded out from it, and ultimately, I felt there wasn’t enough to keep me around playing on my own-and I more or less crash and burned myself out on putting together supergroups (or guilds, or whatever you want to call them), so with absolutely nothing holding me there, I let the sub lapse, and that’s been that.  I think I’ve logged in maybe twice since I hung up the cape there.  During my time there, they’d introduced vehicles, and a few events-one featuring the attack of Lemuria on Millennium City, one involving the Forum Malvarum (I know I spelled that wrong) on the moon, and one involving a hack down to the big supercomputer of the Champions (did they ever actually finish that arc?).  And put in auras for characters, but that was after I’d left.  Not sure what lies ahead for CO, but it’ll have to be something that happens without me.

With my written fiction stuff, I didn’t get much done as far as number of stories.  On the other hand, they also were longer than any of my previous efforts.  “Landwalker” was written to fill in a blank spot from my SWG stories back in the day, while “Storm” is my interpretation of the big Coming Storm event that City of Heroes should have gotten (that one’s still being posted-there were not short bits of writing like most of my previous stuff).

It would seem that year 10 could be slowly winding down my time in the MMO-sphere; I expect to finish the class stories in TOR this year, and STO may or may not manage to hold on depending on what else comes along there.  On the other hand, TOR is a freemium game, so if I decide I’m done, all is not lost there; and I’m a lifetimer in STO, which means even if I’m done, I’m never REALLY done (although there are actions being made by Perfect World Entertainment that could put a ticking timer on this-more on that in the future).  And if there’s one thing I’ve been astonishingly bad at, it’s been predicting the future.  Plus, hey, it’s possible I may simply spend some time at one of the other games I’d done in the past for short stints (EVE?  WoW?  DCUO-okay, now I’m getting crazy).

Eight Years In

Seems hard to believe it’s been eight years of MMOs, doesn’t it?  Well, eight years for me, that is!  As is usual at around this time, at about the anniversary of my introduction to the MMO-sphere, I take a look back at the previous year, summing up the past year of gaming and related stuffs.  Plus, hey, it’s an excuse for me to look over past posts and see how things changed and evolved as we went along.

Hail and farewell….

The first on the list, sadly, is the late and lamented City of Heroes.  But before things ended, there were little moments of triumph.  The villain Dracofire reached level 50, to the acclaim of the Entropy Legion-my only new max level character.  The Legion was likely the most stable of the groups I was involved with; given its villainous bent, it’s sort of amusing.  During the year, I effectively retired the character of Stellar Protector from Hyperion Force, and my involvement with the SG as well; the character did return to the group before shutdown to end as a member of the group he started with.  The Union Supreme also underwent upheaval as well, with a total leadership change.  Also in the running was a new group, the Prometheus Project, in which I and a couple of others hoped to create a new story-based RP group where members designed stories for the other members; unfortunately, it finally launched in August:  a couple weeks before the shutdown announcement.  That sort of castrated the group entirely, so it just morphed into a standard missioning SG until the end.  The game itself was ramping up for some good stuff:  the Coming Storm hinted at for years was literally two issues away from release, the Praetorian storyline was wrapping up, and things were looking bright.  Then NCSoft dropped the bomb.  (And no, I’m afraid I don’t believe some recent statements by NCSoft about profitability; I’ve seen enough info out there to be iffy on their credibility.)

I’d be remiss in ignoring the activities of the CoH community who are doing all sorts of stuff to keep the game alive-or at least its spirit.  The Titan Network is pretty much the central point for activity, by virtue of having a bunch of dedicated people already in place with the CoH wiki, Paragon Wiki.  It was by reading their posts and making use of tools developed in the wake of the shutdown that I was able to create an after-the-fact screenshot of the Union Supreme’s character membership-something that would have been literally impossible in-game.

The Union Supreme-and these were just the characters I could get a hold of.

Next on the list comes Star Wars: The Old Republic.  Or as I have to think of it:  the biggest game fastest to go to Freemium status.  I sure as hell wouldn’t have predicted this a year ago:  subscriptions apparently hemmoraged so fast that Bioware/EA felt compelled to convert the game to Freemium to help stop the bleeding.  Contentwise, most of the action has been toward group content-the operations, mostly.  In other words, stuff that I’m less than enthused in, since my social circle there tends to be limited (and accordingly, my time there has reduced dramatically).  In spite of that, my main characters-Coreth the Smuggler and Alcarin the Agent-reached max level, and Zor’venrel the Inquisitor is in the early 40’s on Belsavis, so it’s not hard to imagine him going over the top in the next year.

Moving towards its first major story content update.

Moving towards its first major story content update.

One of the things that has caught my attention is the coming of the Rise of the Hutt Cartel expansion.  Actually, I’ll take a page from a contact on Ord Mantell:  it is a DLC, which is called an expansion; I am watching it with both eyes.  I may pick it up, I may not; but I’m not preordering for five lousy days of early access.  I’ll wait and see what the folks who have got that access have to say.  The devs have made the right noises as to what it contains, but I look at things from the POV of a player; we’ll see where things go from here.  I was happy with a couple events they ran earlier in the year with the Grand Acquisitions Race and the Rakghoul Outbreak, but not so thrilled since they were apparently one-off events that won’t be regular.  That’s the sort of thing that should really be at least on a yearly basis, given that the game doesn’t exactly have an easy access to holiday events like other games might (Life-Day notwithstanding).

The Final Frontier isn't going to go away anytime soon.

The Final Frontier isn’t going to go away anytime soon.

Moving on to Star Trek Online.  To be honest, I’m sort of surprised with where things have gone here-and in a good way.  There had been a dearth of content over the previous year, but that may be going away.  This year saw a new Feature Episode arc, involving some of my favorite antagonists, the Dominion, as well as Deep Space Nine; it’s added starbases for fleets, a reputation system which puts the high-end gear in better reach for players, a new space zone in the Tau Dewa sector block, complete with patrol missions (all space, at this point), and a new planet:  New Romulus, which advances the storyline in STO and has its own missions as well-some of which are unlocked with the reputation system.  The Corps of Discovery has quietly come back to life to a limited extent-players came back for assorted reasons, and the starbase has managed to get to a tier-1 status, and has an excellent chance of reaching tier-2 in the next few months-a far cry from where things could’ve been if it had continued on the trajectory I’d thought the last time I put up one of these annual posts.

This is not to say all is wine and roses with STO; the lockboxes came in, which sets my teeth on edge.  If this had been all we were seeing, I’d really be glad I wasn’t paying for subscription anymore.  Dilithium-the “currency” that you can use to purchase Zen with, or purchase WITH Zen (the PWE game currency)-is being used for more and more things in the game, and ways of getting Dilithium are either nerfed or removed (and sometimes restored when the devs are told that’s contradictory to their “we want to make stuff easier to get” concept).  The Dilithium Exchange, at this writing, has dropped well below the 100 Dilithium for 1 Zen ratio, which is the lowest it has ever been, and if the devs keep using Dilithium as their magic currency, it’s going to get even worse-or better, if you’re hoarding Dilithium.  For myself, I did manage to get a trio of characters to max level, mostly on the strength of Deck Officer Assignments-two Federation, one Klingon.  My activity there is erratic and sporadic, but I’m still doing my part to get our starbase built up.  (Don’t even talk about the Romulan Embassy; this is rough enough….)  Still, the future seems bright for STO, as it seems to have picked up more devs, including former CoH devs.

Returning to Millennium City!

Returning to Millennium City!

And this brings us to the sister game, Champions Online.  With the closure of City of Heroes, if one wanted to get the superhero fix, this was where to go.  Yes, I realize there’s another game out there, but it just wasn’t gonna work for me.  At this point, I have one character at max level, and one who is in the mid-30s, so has an excellent shot at reaching max level there as well.  With a new game comes a new supergroup, the Paragons of Virtue-a homage to where its founding members came from, but the RP backstory has nothing to do with CoH or its story.  While the game is a freemium game, I took the 3 months for 2 months subscription offer since the subscription actually does mean something in CO, unlike in STO.  There’s still enough in CO that I don’t feel starved for content yet.

But that’s where the danger signs are.  CO recently began its own lockbox frenzy, and signs were pointing to a content drought much like what STO experienced.  A new Alert-an instanced mission-seemed to be the only thing to go right in recent days.  During its anniversary, a big event was aborted since it was actually beating down more than hit points; the previous event ended, effectively removing content that had just been added.  Vehicles were added in, but they’re basically transform devices which turn your character into a vehicle.  (This doesn’t bug me that much:  I play STO, after all, and that’s a starship in a nutshell.)  Despite this, it seems that the next year is about to kick off with a new event-we’ll see if there’s more to it than just alerts, and see if it actually has lasting impact as opposed to “run this once and we’ll remove everything when it’s over”.

The last MMO visit of note was World of Warcraft; it was a brief visit, thanks to a Scroll of Resurrection that was sent my way, which allowed me to upgrade up to Cataclysm (including Wrath of the Lich King).  I didn’t really spend a lot of time there, though.  Still, I can’t help but suspect that when all the other MMOs get cancelled out from under me, WoW will still be there waiting.  Hm, that sounded almost stalkerish.

I’d resolved last year to write one story for each of my characters I’d written before in my various versions of short fiction on the appropriate guild sites.  I blew that one to Hell; I always sucked at New Year Resolutions, anyway.  I did manage to get a few done, though.  The Union got “Days of Yore” and “Nuclear Winter”, while the newly christened Paragons got the origin of Runelord in “The Rune is Cast”.  On my to-do list is a pair of Old Ranger stories, which will conclude the character’s story, continuing the story of Runelord, and a special project that kind of exceeded my estimates just a bit-and is likely to see the light of day first.  Eventually.

And that’s another year down!  I’m expecting lots of ups and downs this year, because why should it be any different than previous years?  I’ll be here to continue posting my observations, my thoughts, and occasionally showing off my characters in the MMOs I play.

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.

Five Years In

It’s around this ballpark, five years ago, that I started playing MMOs.  On this occasion, I’m tempted to summarize the entire five year stretch-but seeing that it would be disgustingly long, I think I’ll stick with the tradition of looking simply at the past year’s worth of activity.  Heaven knows, there’s enough here to go on.

I’ll start with my “main” game at the moment, City of Heroes.  The biggest thing on that end was taking over leadership (well, co-leadership) of the Hyperion Force SG, something that at the time I wasn’t really sure that I’d be able to deal with; I had no idea how I kept finding myself in these kind of positions in games.  I was a member of the leadership group in the Hyperspace Outlaws in SWG; I’d been moved up in the ranks of the Justiciars in CoH before that meltdown; and now I was in charge of a different Supergroup.  Clearly, these people were seeing something I hadn’t been seeing.  More on that later.

With that responsibility (and make no mistake-this was more responsibility than privilege), I think things have gone pretty well.  HF remains an RP group, and with the mission architect installed in the game last year, we were able to run a bunch of storylines, from a maniac’s plot to use a hurricane device to wipe out the Eastern Seaboard, to averting a potential war between a pair of Paragon City’s criminal factions-which makes a certain amount of sense when one thought about the factions involved-to stopping an evil wizard determined to slay in one stroke every immortal being on Earth.  And those were only the large scale ones that I’d put together!  The best part of that group was how the other members also stepped up with plots of their own, and my co-lead and I, as well as the sole director just below us in rank, were able to meld them seamlessly into the group narrative.  If there’s one thing I’m most proud of from last year, this would be one of the two two strongest contenders for that distinction.

Another SG finally kicked off from the remains of the former Justiciars, which formed Union Supreme.  While it seems that it’s got similar issues from a personal POV-primarily involving timing of actually seeing folks in-game-I do consider the members friends, so I at least try to be on at least once a week with my characters there.

And, oh, have the characters multiplied!  A number of characters hit level 50, all of which were heroes.  My villains are protesting the time given.  I still try to make time for ’em, having every other Weds night be “Villain Night”, but it’s slow going.

The other big game for me this last year was EVE Online.  Hyperspace Solutions remained a small corporation, and we didn’t have much interest in expanding it, feeling that our time there would be a limited amount of time.  Still, my characters there did manage to grow quite a bit.  Coreth Walker managed to get fit into his Covert Ops frigate and did what I’d been wanting to do for a long time-see the EVE gate in lowsec space.  I also managed to do some exploration with that ship, although I never really took advantage of what I found in the wormholes that were introduced last year.  I did manage to use some mining areas from the exploration sites, though, and some of the combat sites I let Zhaven blow up.  Zhaven managed to get himself outfitted in a Dominix battleship, and after some hiccups, managed to skill up so it was a Beast of War.  Well, at least in hi-sec.  Being PvP averse, both characters tended to stay out of lowsec as a rule.

The biggest achievement for me in that game was Coreth’s acquisition of an Orca subcapital industrial command ship.  Capable of hauling huge amounts of mined ore, it was a big boon to mining operations where we had multiple players online at once.  It was a joy just to get the income to afford the ship and outfit it, and I was very, very happy with the results.

However, the realization was coming at the end of the year that the time in EVE would have an end point (as of this writing, that end point is coming very soon).  There was a good reason for that.

That reason was the imminent coming of Star Trek Online.  I had been watching it for the last year, slowly developing, and in the Autumn I set about creating a Fleet for the game, reasoning like others had long before that it might be nice to hit the game running.  For the first time, I was putting effort into a game that had yet to be released-and planned to be in at launch!  It was originally named Horizon Fleet, because we were pulling in some of the old Hyperspace Outlaws from SWG, and hoped to get together in there again-and our home city in SWG was Horizon on Corbantis.  However, that idea got a bit scuttled when another fleet on the STO official forums took the name for themselves in the fleet registration section.  I blame myself; I was a bit forum shy at the time, and hadn’t acted when we’d originally planned for it.  However, it did spur me to become more active there, and come up with a better name: the Corps of Discovery.  While it was a slow start in growth, things did take off, and the people recruited thus far seem like they’ll be a good bunch to play with.  As an interesting aside, this is the first time I’ve SERIOUSLY took an active leadership role in forming such a group-before, I’ve been promoted into an existing guild structure.  Gives me the willies, sometimes.

I delivered a final goodbye to my SWG characters last year, as I uninstalled the game from my PC; SOE apparently felt the same way, as it closed the server the characters were on later in that year.

With an unexpected gift card from my job (it was a corporate anniversary), I picked up Champions Online.  While I treated it as a solo game for the most part, it was because I wanted to give myself a leg up on what kind of things I might expect in a game sharing its engine soon-Star Trek Online.  If I were to say I had a main there, it would be Gunfighter, although I certainly filled up my available slots in that game with other character ideas I wanted to try.  I’ve been playing the game only in small chunks, as I don’t see it as a long-term game.  I did get Gunfighter to his late 20’s in level, and I admit the Nemesis system is damned fun.  Wish CoH would pull something like that off.

My fictional writing had a workout last year, some in less traditional fashions than others, and most of it centering on the City of Heroes setting.  Stellar Protector faced off against a mad scientist in an orbital space station in “Falling Sky”; he also met his opposite number in villainy with a rather abrupt and unexpected ending (for the villain, anyway) in “Looking into the Abyss”.  Winter Tornado stepped into the limelight a bit as he came to terms with the trauma he’d suffered the year before in “Before the Union”; later in the year he would begin to learn a bit more about the power he’d been given, and faced off against a pair of the Rogue Islands’ roughest in “Crown of Earth”.  And near the end of the year, the Old Ranger was “back from the dead”, after an exile out of time, followed by a stay in the ancient mideast in “Ice and Flame”.  I also took the time to “reprint” the original Old Ranger stories on the Union’s site, after having saved them from the Justiciar Fiction Purge.

There were also some “open RP” stories participated in.  This is where all the members of that supergroup wrote their own sections in a story within a framework.  “Birth of the Union” was the origin story of the Union Supreme group, and Winter Tornado did his part there.  He also appeared in “The Dinner Party”, where a quiet dinner with other members kind of had a big bad crash it.  It was capped off by “The Invasion of the Gems”, where Stellar Protector’s own origin story came crashing in as the evil versions of his alien weapon arrived on Earth and put the character into a coma.

While the City of Heroes setting took the bulk of my fictional writing, Walter Frost of Starfleet got his introduction late last year as well, in “The Coming of Frost”, detailing his time at Starfleet Academy and moving on towards the time of STO’s launch.

It was an amazing year, and I don’t feel myself slowing down any in the settings of MMOs.  With Star Trek Online promising to be a major impact, I think the next one is going to be just as exciting!  And for those folks who have abused themselves by reading my blog for the last five, thanks for reading (both of you!); here’s to another five!

Four Years In

Has it really only been four years of MMOs?  Feels longer.  Guess I’ve packed a lot of living into ’em.

As I have done in previous years, I’m going to take a look back on the previous year of my MMO hobby-the highs, the lows, and the stuff in between.

It has the distinction of being the first MMO I’d played, and as such, continues to warrant being the first I discuss.  Star Wars Galaxies did NOT have a good year for me, though.  As the year opened, the old guild had been flaking apart like old bread, and had just attempted to defibrillate itself by making new characters on the Bria server (leaving behind our Corbantis characters).  Unfortunately, in spite of a decent start, it never really got off the ground.  By the time June rolled around, I noticed that I hadn’t logged into the game for over a month-and with that came the decision to let the subscription die its final death.  I did visit when the folks at SOE reactivated everyone for a month for free in November, but nothing really gave me the feeling that it was worth going back to long-term.  It seems that my MMO time with Star Wars is over (at least until The Old Republic hits, and it is far, far too soon to make any calls there).

City of Heroes/City of Villains has become my “main” game of choice nowadays, and a lot happened on that one.  I managed to get my primary hero and villain (Old Ranger and Ebon Thunderbolt) up to level 50, max level, and proceeded to make legions of alt characters.  All right, that might be a bit of an exaggeration.  In April, the hero group I was in, the Justiciars, got hacked by a disgruntled former member, which led to all members being kicked.  Extraordinary efforts managed to regain most of what was lost in Prestige (coin of the realm for building bases), and for a time, the supergroup came together in the face of all this.  Unfortunately, disagreements with the way the group was being run finally came to a head and caused a significant splintering of the group, and a number of good people left the group-some voluntarily, some not.  I chose to leave the SG with some regrets, which had other consequences (more on that later).

Since then, I’ve had characters drawn into significant roles in a couple of other SGs; Amazing Kane joined the Adventurists, a pulp style group, while Stellar Protector joined Hyperion Force; both characters have a certain amount of authority/respect in their SGs.  Neither has really replaced the Justiciars, though, although there is some movement going on where the displaced J’s may again come together.  Stay tuned.

A game that hit the radar in the second half of the year was EVE Online.  While my loathing for PvP is pretty well known at this point, there was enough going for EVE that I was willing to give the trial a shot; and it was nice and complicated and deep enough that I subbed.  I don’t spend as much time as I might like-time is always a premium, honestly-but I’ve done well with new incarnations of Coreth and Zhaven.  With a couple old Hyperspace Outlaw refugees, we formed the Hyperspace Solutions corporation, and began doing weekly events (half mining, half missioning).  If it isn’t as large as the Outlaws were, at least we’ve consistently gotten together to do things on a regular basis, and that’s worth the world.

Unlike previous years, the number of MMOs played was pretty small.  With other MMOs on the horizon in the sci-fi genre, however, who knows what the future holds; Star Trek Online, and Stargate Worlds are the obvious choices, and I’m certainly watching for them.

My writings on various characters in the MMO world has centered on the City of Heroes franchise.  The Old Ranger had a quartet of stories this year, most of which were a part of an arc I called “The Arbiter Initiative”.  Smoke and Mirrors, and The Future is Now came first, broken up by Transformation-which resolved just what was going on with the character since the Rikti War-and finished with the character’s apparent death in the finale of Defiant.  But in a comic book style setting, death is one of those things you can never be absolutely certain about.  I also wrote up Musings in Metal for my other Justiciar-at-the-time, Armored Battalion.  Unfortunately, all these stories were purged from the Justiciars web site after my departure (not much bad blood there, huh?), but I’d already taken the precautions of moving the stories off-site; all of them can be reached via the Virtueverse pages for those characters.  In spite of this, you might also be able to catch the Old Ranger’s presence in the “Injustice” open RP story on the Justiciars website, until they remember it and delete my entries there, too (but I’ve saved that info offsite, too).

I also managed to put some time into writing A Gem of Rare Value, the origin story of Stellar Protector.  I wrapped things up with two holiday style stories:  A Paragon City Chirstmas Tale, featuring Aaron Richardson (aka Magic’s Shadow), investigating a rather unique kidnapping; and Holiday Vignettes, where I revisit just about every character in City of Heroes that I’ve written about as they approached the holiday season; both of these stories can best be found on the Tavern on the Edge site here at GuildPortal.

2008 was a year wrapped in turmoil, but closed out strongly, confirming my appreciation for the friends I’ve made online; I’m crossing my fingers for a fine 2009!

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.