WF: It’s Hotter Under the Water

Synopsis:  Assault on Arvad’s Palace!  A rebellion in Lemuria reaches fever pitch, and Willforge is right in the middle of it.  Can Willforge help set things right?  Can he survive the undersea fury unleashed by Khusor the Crooked?  MEANWHILE:  Guess who didn’t stay in jail very long?  A threat thought contained is ready to hunt Willforge once more….

Got Willforge to level 36 in Champions Online, and is nearing the final push to 40.  It’ll be interesting to see if I get to “Issue 25” in the covers….  I’d expect so, but one never knows.

I picked up an “Ultimate Power” for Willforge; these tend to be the high-level powers, and are usually tied to the primary power sets used by a character (but not necessarily-freeform is freeform, after all.  But it tends to work out that way).  Specifically, I grabbed Mind Link, which is a sort of area of effect attack centered on the character, which…well, I’m still a little uncertain as to how it works.  In theory, it does damage being done to and by everyone to the enemies in range.  In practice…well, I’m not horribly impressed-it has a high cost to use, and seems to rely upon others doing damage while active for it to work.  This is often not an issue:  even if you aren’t on a team, opponents are always happy to damage you.  But the amount of damage being done back in return seems underwhelming.  It may take some time for me to figure how to use this-it seems like it would be best in team situations, but…I don’t know.  It just seems like it’s ultimate in name only (or perhaps only technically, as it is effectively the “last” power available in the power set.

I also, as one may have guessed from the synopsis above, managed to run the “Prison Break” mission, the kick off of the second part of the great Nemesis chain.  Prison Break is…well, sort of problematic.  It often breaks, for one reason or another, by which I mean to say that the mission glitches and prevents completion.  I’ve seen two areas where this happens:  one during the cutscene when the villain is actually broken out of his cell, where he refuses to walk out and play his part; and the other at the very end when the Nemesis sics a superhuman operative on you just as he makes his escape-sometimes he doesn’t bother with his dialogue, and that causes that villain to remain as an NPC and not as an opponent-and so can’t be targeted.  I’ve gone online any number of occasions to see what exactly causes the glitch, with no satisfactory answers; some folks claim fire powers for the Nemesis causes it, but I’m dubious on that score.  I’ve noted in the past that the door that has explosives attached to it beyond the entry room has a bug where it has two different options to disarm/defuse it, and I can’t help but suspect that this may be an area where things go bad.  Willforge managed to avoid that problem, though, because he was too slow and the door blew off, releasing the Green Dragon villain to fight.  I may experiment more in the future for this, either with other characters or this one.

Yes, I said “this one”, because starting with Prison Break, the Nemesis missions can and will repeat.  There is a point where the Nemesis can be defeated once and for all (and should I get that far, I’ll be posting about that), and when that happens, you have the option of creating a new Nemesis for the character-and that chain starts with Prison Break.  So if things were to go abnormally well, I could conceivably have Willforge running this mission again before it’s all over for him.  It’s more likely, though, that a new hero will be going through this chain of events and we’ll see what happens then.  You’d think that just maybe, someone in the development department would try to figure out the problem with this mission, but since it’s been glitched like this for years, I suspect we’ll never see a proper fix.  (That said:  my last run through didn’t have a glitch, and maybe that indicates that it DID get fixed when I wasn’t looking.  Miracles HAVE been documented in the past….)

I figure once Willforge gets to 37, it’ll be time to get apocalyptic!  Stay tuned!

The Cast List: Introducing Chyrim of Star Trek Online

One of the biggest things that Cryptic as a developer has always had going for it is a love of customization.  You can create all kinds of characters with all kinds of appearances.  Star Trek Online is a shining example of it, but not in the way one might think.  After all, even with all the uniforms out there, it’s still a pretty limited selection in comparison with, say, Champions Online.  But that’s not where it truly shines.  No, where STO really earns its reputation is with the alien species, where you can literally design an alien species in almost all aspects-as long as it’s hominid, of course (no Tholians for you!); it’s also notoriously difficult to design a species that appears like some of the major ones in the shows (Jem’Hadar, Cardassians come to mind-and it’s not impossible to get a close facsimile).

Given all of this, you would think I’d have more alien characters; new cultures to work with and conceive of.  And if I were doing more RP in STO or fiction writing in the setting, maybe I would have.  But…nope.  I’ve designed some alien looks for bridge officers, but very few captains.

Why, no, I’m not a standard Star Trek species. Why do you ask?

One such captain is Chyrim, who has the distinction of being the second Klingon Empire aligned character I created.  The character is a (sigh) Tactical captain (I swear, I DO make other types of captains…), and originally my goal was to have him go hard on the assault ships, the “raptors”, which were the functional equivalent of Starfleet’s escort ships-in other words, hit hard, hit fast…with hull like tissue paper.  (It isn’t really that bad.)  I regret to say that I never did come up with a name for his species, but I did envision it as sort of an almost barbarian species; think Cimmerians in Space.  A warlike species is one that would work nice and neat with the Klingon Empire.  It’s worth noting that, when creating a character for the Klingons, I’m always thinking about “why is this person in the Klingon Defense Force?”  Klingons have a very specific code of honor and viewpoint towards warfare-and it’s not really shared by their allied species such as the Naussicans, Letheans, Gorn, or Orions.  So I had to consider why a) Chyrim would join the Klingons, and b) why the Klingons would follow him.  Hence, the idea to go barbarian.

With that in mind, I had a general idea as to his appearance-at least as far as outfits go.  Originally, it was pretty limited-this was early in the game’s life, after all.  But when veteran rewards started coming available, I could slap on fur-lined costume parts, and really play up the barbarian look.  As for the alien look itself, I wanted to give him a long, narrow sort of head, and I wrinkled it up substantially from one of the alien facial options.  His skin is more on the greenish side-something I sort of regret, but at the time, I hadn’t used green skin tones much.

One of the things I had decided to do with my early characters was to plan out their professions and ship types in advance.  For Starfleet, I was going to mix and match captain professions and their ships.  For the Klingons, though, I was going to match the professions to the ship; so my main Klingon, an engineer, got to go with battlecruisers, which were strongly engineering.  Chyrim, being a tactical guy, got to go in a tactical based raptor.  I eventually ended up having him swap over to the veteran Klingon ship, a Duvqu’ class heavy destroyer named the IKS Koloth (I’m a fan of the classic Klingons).

Bridge crew, sad to say, tended to be mostly generic Klingons.  When the Breen episodes first came out, I’d run most of my characters at the time through it, and the result was that I had a Breen bridge officer available for Chyrim.  So I made him a part of this crew, so that Chyrim wouldn’t be so alone in his alienness.  Chyrim, as well, has suffered as other Klingon Empire characters have surpassed him, and he’s been stuck at level 50 for a very, very long time-long enough that he’s never done the Fekl’hri story arc.  That’s a long time!  I guess the barbarian sort of character doesn’t fit me after all.  (Or, if I’m being more honest, I’m just too damned much of an altaholic.)

WF: Fish Gotta Swim, Nemeses Gotta Get Beat

Synopsis:  At last!  Willforge and Mindhunter go head to head!  Who will walk away from this confrontation?  Plus:  the Lemurians have come to Monster Island seeking aid.  What threats under the ocean’s surface lie in wait?

I’ve finally managed to wrap up the early cycle of Nemesis missions for Willforge in Champions Online-and now that Nemesis is locked away in the Millennium City Jail for good (well, at least until he gets shipped to Stronghold)…right?  RIGHT?!  (Spoiler alert:  don’t bet on it.)  I love missions where I can actually make full use of the Telekinesis power to throw things at the bad guy; it’s often an open question as to whether or not there are any destructible objects that the power is strong enough to utilize.  The character isn’t able to throw eighteen wheelers, but lots of crates and other incidentals are certainly doable.  The fact that so many missions don’t have that sort of thing available is why the TK has been relegated to the upper bar of my power-bar, making room for more useful abilities on my keyboard.

It seemed that the time was also right to start running some missions in the next available zone:  the underwater zone!  Taking place originally near the undersea kingdom of Lemuria, it’s all about fighting evil cultists and their minions…wait, that sure sounds a lot like the surface world, doesn’t it?  Bad guys are gonna be bad guys no matter which side of the ocean you happen to be on-above or below!  I’ve managed to climb up another level, and it may not be long before I hit the final zone in the leveling sequence (for those unfamiliar with the game, a hint:  Willforge has actually been there before, but not in this way).  But I expect to spend some more time in Lemuria-and in Monster Island-before then, because the number of equal-level missions are dwindling, and I prefer not to do the higher level ones until I get around those levels.  I expect I’ll be going back and forth with the two zones.  I’m figuring tentatively around level 35 or 36 will be the time I start devoting myself to the end of the line.

Some of the slack is picked up, too, in the Alerts.  I continue to run the xp-bonus Alerts, roughly every fifty minutes of gameplay (this is so that the lump sum of xp gained at the end is ALSO still boosted), and that helps fix some of the gaps.

Things have really improved for the character once I got that close-area attack power for him; being able to prevent anything less than boss-level from beating on him while he unloads that power, plus doing similar with his ranged-area power, has done wonders for his survivability.  The heavy hitters are still an issue-particularly if they have buddies-but I’ve been able to do okay (as witnessed by the big Nemesis fight mentioned above).

Hopefully, I’ll have a chance to pick up a couple levels over the weekend and holiday.  I plan to spend some time on CO that’s been lacking a bit lately, as I’ve been doing the Summer Event in Star Trek Online, and getting a few more of my primary characters in Star Wars: The Old Republic caught up.

Surf City, Here I Come

Everybody’s gone surfin’…!

Well, once in a while, Starfleet Captains just gotta have fun.  And who needs it more, right?  Between wars with Klingons, Borg, Dominion, Undine, Vaadwaur, Iconians, and now Tzenkethi…well, it’s a wonder most of the officers in Starfleet haven’t gone mad.  And what better way to unwind then in Star Trek Online’s Summer event, the Lohlunat Festival?

Every year, STO breaks out the summer fun on the planet of Risa, famed for being a pleasure planet-and not in the “mind-in-the-gutter” way.  It’s about sand, surf, and good times.  Oh, and rewards.  Did I mention rewards?  Many of the mini-events on Risa involve gaining Favors, which will allow you to purchase swimwear for your character (which does not work on bridge officers), or special items like kit modules.  But as usual, there’s also a big prize, one that’s reserved for running an event daily for a heap of days-in this case, it works out about three and a half weeks (but if you exchange Lobi, you can shorten that time a bit, Lobi being found in opened lockboxes).  Most years, I don’t really care about the prize:  it’s been exclusively non-standard ships, such as Risan luxury ships, or a Ferengi ship, or-last year-a Vorgon escort ship.  This year, though, I’ve been kicking around character concepts for my next STO captain, and the ship this year is a Vorgon carrier ship-and that sort of thing might work very well with a concept I’ve been toying with in my head.

So, I decided THIS year, I’ll push for it.  Over halfway to the goal right now, so I feel confident of reaching it, barring surprises.  In the meantime, since I’m at the resort, might as well indulge in the other activities to get those Favors-which are not account bound-in order to help other captains in my stable be ready for summer beach activity.  So I’ve spent a lot of time in powerboard (eg. surfing) races (took third place in one such race-it’ll likely never happen again), floater courses, building sand castles, looking for temporally displaced artifacts-I’m pretty sure that one’s new this year-racing in a biathlon, which uses both the floaters and powerboards (I actually took a second place prize on that one at one point-also probably never happen again, I’m sure), and, of course, dancing at the beach-which actually has the largest single return on favors, although I haven’t bothered calculating what’s best per-minute.  I’m not that dedicated.

Also, as might have been noticed above, I’m experimenting with new screenshot frameworks for various characters.  I’m not really happy with the one above, but I wanted to have something for this post.  The framework idea’s worked out pretty well for my Star Wars: The Old Republic characters of Anthrandos and Sorshan, and for STO’s Rick Masters, not to mention the covers for Willforge in Champions Online; so I’m likely to continue to experiment until I get one I like for my Starfleet main (and by extension, KDF and Romulan mains).  It’s probably not a shock that I will also be considering what to use for that aforementioned future STO concept down the line, likely to make appearances after I get Willforge to 40 in CO.  We’ll see what happens.

WF: Well, My Old Nemesis, We Meet Again

Synopsis:  Life’s been going fine for Willforge lately.  Sure, there’s been monsters to deal with on Monster Island, and fights with forces from ARGENT and VIPER, but aside from that, things have been pretty quiet.  Sounds like it’s time for Mindhunter to make a televised appearance and force Willforge to return to Millennium City to deal with the problem!  Can Willforge keep his nemesis from destroying WCOC?

Still working my way through the early 30’s for my Champions Online character, Willforge, and I felt it was time to cash in that Nemesis Clue that opens up an important mission in the Nemesis series:  the takeover of the television station WCOC.  One thing about the Nemesis missions is that some of them are one time only events.  While you can eventually have multiple characters serving as a Nemesis for a period of time, the fact is that most of them are “introduced” in a mission that I’ll describe in a future time (that future probably isn’t as far off as one might think).  But the first Nemesis gets a number of missions all to himself-it started with the attack on the museum that kicks things off, and then proceeds to this mission.  There’s one more mission that will be on that list before we exhaust the “first Nemesis only” missions, and start going into a more shared set of missions.

These missions, incidentally, do not count what is commonly referred to as “popcorn” missions, where you encounter the Nemesis or his minions doing some nefarious deed or another.

I had worried a bit about this mission-my first encounter with the Nemesis plus his minions had gone roughly, particularly with larger groups of minions combined with attacks from Mindhunter.  But I’d since gotten that additional telepathy power that causes most hostiles problems at close range, and being able to stun them for long enough to do more damage has helped a great deal.  It’s still a bit of an issue against the heavy hitters, but that-plus a move favorable way of keeping everything from attacking me at once-made this fight a lot less brutal than the Museum fight had been.  So, huzzah!  Another mission successfully dealt with.

Monster Island has been going about as well as one can expect.  I’ve been sweeping down the southern half of the island-although not to the southwest as of yet-and I’ve started picking on VIPER thugs and bases, finally graduating from beating up Manimals.  I figure it shouldn’t be long before I start working my way through the southwest area of the island-and start up on some good old fashion alien bashing!  Unless, of course, I level enough to start looking into the next zone of interest.  Stay tuned!

The Cast List: Introducing Chadam of Star Wars: The Old Republic

I confess, there are certain classes/professions in the Star Wars setting that do not appeal to me at all.  The top of that list is the Bounty Hunter.  Blame it on Boba Fett backlash; I always felt that he was overrated-sure, he had the cool armor, but he needed Vader and a heap of Imperials to get Han Solo (and of course, Solo was my favorite character at the time, so that didn’t help), and then he wound up killed by a blind smuggler with a pike and a Sarlacc.  So it drove me somewhat nuts that the Expanded Universe for Star Wars had to find a way to dig him back out of being digested for a thousand years and overcompensate.  When Star Wars Galaxies was a thing, my opinion didn’t improve when a heap of content was thrown into the whole “Jedi vs Bounty Hunter” thing they had going there, at the expense of other professions; that said, I didn’t really have a big issue with them actually, you know, hunting bounties-it was what they did!  If only the Smugglers in that game had been able to smuggle as THAT was what THEY were supposed to do, but that ship is long, long gone.

So, I have some prejudices against Bounty Hunters as a class.  That’s probably why this class was the next-to-last one I did in my work to level up all eight classes in Star Wars: The Old Republic.  But hell, I’m a completionist sometimes, and so I put together my future Grand Champion of the Great Hunt.

You can run, but you can’t hide. A job’s a job.

Chadam started out simple enough:  I wasn’t going to go out of my way to have him kill and eat kittens Dark-Side, but at the same time, he wasn’t going to be the nice guy.  I wanted him greedy, but with a code:  he did the job, and he got paid.  He would move heaven and earth to make it happen.  Not an evil character, but not exactly a role model.  Smarter than a thug, but not interested in the bigger picture or deep philosophy.  In other words, someone well suited for the fringe and not comfortable in the halls of Imperial power.  (Boy, did that go south on him…)

In appearance, my first goal was to use a different body type.  For those unfamiliar with the game, there are four body types for each gender.  I tend to use body type 2 for my males; fit, athletic, strong guys.  But I wanted Chadam to have a more imposing presence, so I went up a notch-someone who makes you think of a space marine.  As far as species went, well, I was still going for a wide variety among my characters, so I went with a Chiss, a popular Expanded Universe species who recently got canonized with the on-screen debut of Grand Admiral Thrawn.  His out fit look varied a lot during my gameplay; for a long while, he used a sort of turban-styled headgear and whatever mission-reward armor he could get.  Eventually, I was able to get a damaged set of Triumverate armor off of GTN (damaged in appearance, not in stats).  Later I picked up the restored version of that armor.  The icing on the cake, though, was the final helmet I used.  At one point, I looted a Sith Warrior helmet that was just too good to ignore.  I thought that a mildly terrifying helmet would suit Chadam just fine for his work, so I finally settled on the look shown on this post.

I went with the Mercenary advanced class, and went with the pyrotech discipline.  Because plasma fires are fun.  The Merc was chosen because I didn’t really want him to be the Boba-lite kind of character (well, I sure blew that one, when you look at the image above).  The dual guns made him an amusing mirror for my Smuggler main, who was took the Gunslinger path.

I actually got to like Chadam as I played him.  Sure, he had no problem shooting and executing people he was hired to off, but he wasn’t big on collateral damage.  He was interested in a fast credit-got along great with Gault-but Mako helped keep him more or less ethically honest.  He had no issues taking advantage of advertising-there are two moments in the game where a bounty hunter can effectively advertise himself to the galaxy at large, and man, he did it.  He came to respect the Mandalorian code, though, and his struggles tended to come in when that ideal came into conflict with his desire for ready cash.  The result of this all meant he was mildly Light-Side in nature-there were a heap of Dark-Side choices that kept him fairly balanced, not the least of which involved the reason why we got a Chancellor Saresh in power in the Galactic Republic.

The character completed the Knights of the Fallen Empire expansion, but I have yet to run him through the Eternal Throne (just like in my leveling work, the BH is near the bottom of the list).  He knelt before Valkorion not for any desire of power, but because he saw what happened to the last guy who didn’t kneel; in other words, sometimes the best thing you can do is lie to the guy with all the power and hope you get another, better opportunity.  Which, honestly, he sort of did, since Arcann chose that moment to go after his father-but as a result, Valkorion keeps harping on that initial kneel-down, and Chadam only wishes he had an option to say to the dead Emperor, “Hey, you know I was only doing that to buy some time, right?”  I think the worst thing for him in his future isn’t the possibility of taking the Eternal Throne-it’s that he’s going through all this and not getting paid.  (I do seem to recall him having Gault funnel some of that loot from that treasure run into profitable enterprises, though.)

I can safely say that while the Bounty Hunter is still not on my list of favorite character types in the setting, Chadam is still a character I enjoy; sometimes, it’s not about “good” and “evil”; it’s about having credits and not having credits, and the things you will or won’t do to get them.

 

WF: When Monsters Roamed The Earth!

Synopsis:  In the Pacific Ocean, there exists an island-MONSTER ISLAND!  Bureau 17 and the Champion Ironclad have reached out to Willforge for assistance dealing with a rise in activity from the natives-the Manimals-and darker forces.  Between the war between Manimals and ARGENT’s interest in the area, has Willforge bitten off more than he can chew?

Over in Champions Online, I have managed to get Willforge up and over level 30, which means a new zone is available for him to start leveling in-Monster Island!  Odds are good that this zone will be providing the meat of most of the xp as I start the push to the max level of 40 in the game (but there are two other zones that can get the attention later!).  Canada will probably still see some activity, though.  For now, though, it’s time for Willforge to deal with man/animal hybrids, the ever-present threat of ARGENT (those corporate greedheads!), on the way to somewhat larger problems.

The levels gained recently mean a new power pick for Willforge, and I wound up taking a maintained personal area of attack ability that theoretically “incapacitates” and damages enemies in its radius.  I honestly thought when I picked it up that it was a standard ranged area attack ability, and I was tempted to hop to the Powerhouse to change it-but it’s worked out nicely in tandem with some of the other powers Willforge is using, so I let it go.  I don’t believe there are likely much more in the way of powers to be gained for the character at this stage; I believe there will be another travel power coming up, and maybe one more standard power, and that will be it-so Willforge’s power picks are as set as they get without a full respec.

In addition to the Monster Island thing, I also started an attempt on the Serpent Lantern adventure pack-a series of missions that are linked together by a coherent story.  Unfortunately, Willforge hasn’t done so well in that, so I shelved the attempt until I get a few more levels under my belt.  I’m not sure that this will make a difference-one of the bosses consistently makes mincemeat out of Willforge, and let’s face it:  he’s neither a tank nor a DPS guy, so it’s looking more like I’ll just skip the Adventure Pack.  (I’m not ruling out one of the comics series, which are similar, though-they may not be as rough, and the Demonflame Adventure Pack was never on my list.)

My leveling has been supplemented by doing some Alerts, usually to refresh the xp bonus I get from them.  I could conceivably finish leveling entirely by doing Alerts and nothing else, but that’s no fun!  Particularly since there’s still two more zones to level up in and visit.  For now, continuing to fight in a land where the line between man and beast becomes blurred.  (Thanks, Dr. Moreau!)  Plus, there’s that pesky Nemesis still out there; I recently got a new Nemesis clue that should lead to a cover-worthy moment next time.

Magic Gathers in the MMO-sphere

Well, Cryptic/PWE kind of threw a curveball at me recently.  Not being an industry insider or anything like that, I didn’t have too much warning on this, but it looks like the next big thing for Cryptic MMOs is a game famed far and wide:  Magic the Gathering.

My first rare in my first Magic starter pack. Had a soft spot for this guy ever since.

For the folks who aren’t familiar with it:  MtG is a trading card game that’s been around for years and years now; I’d played it myself for number of years, roughly from the tail end of the Unlimited run to the last of the Invasion block.  Yeah, that probably requires a bit of explanation too:  Unlimited was pretty much the third edition of the main game, and they’ve cranked out revised editions regularly (including, if I recall right, one actually called Revised).  Additionally, the producers of the game-Wizards of the Coast-would release expansion card sets, and it didn’t take long for them to follow a pattern of releasing a big expansion, then two smaller expansions that followed on the same theme; these would be called “Blocks”.

I’m not getting into the mechanics of the rules-this is an MMO blog, so I’m going to instead talk a bit more about the setting.  And the setting is a little tricky, because it’s actually many settings-a multiverse of worlds, with their own societies and problems.  Some are more fantastical than others, but for the most part, all are fantasy settings, from Dominaria-which was the “primary” setting early on, to Phyrexia, which could best be described as “Borg Hell”.  Additionally, there are individuals who have a “spark” which gives them the ability to travel from plane to plane-from world to world, and they’d be called Planewalkers.  (Early on, they were the next best thing to gods, because they were intended to represent MtG players.  That changed somewhere along the line.)

Given the possibilities of this setting, with all the possible worlds it represents, it makes one wonder just how they’re going to put this together.  Will Cryptic be focusing on a single world?  Multiple worlds?  How will the players be represented-will they be Planewalkers, or something more traditional in class?  The fact that Cryptic is involved tends to make one dubious as to how they are going to distinguish characters, from a mechanics standpoint.  I feel pretty confident on the appearance customization, as that’s a Cryptic hallmark.  Races to choose from can span all kinds of possibilities, given the span of the card game.  Humans and elves are usually a safe bet.  I don’t recall heaps of dwarves in the setting-this could just be my memory getting involved, but back when I was active, there were always a lot more elves published than dwarves.  The setting shines with less traditional races, and even brand new ones; minotaurs and goblins are active in the setting, angels and demons, merfolk and vampires and even stranger beings:  slivers who became stronger when more of their species were around and gained the abilities of their fellows, plant-creatures that could breed more plant-creatures, lizard men and more.

Gearing should be no issue; the setting has heaps of artifacts which can easily be adapted to an MMO.  Magic…well, it’s in the name, right?  We can probably expect wizards to show up.  Priests are also around, although one doesn’t necessarily have to be one to use healing magic in the game.  I’d be shocked if the game didn’t include a roguish sort of character, somewhere-and fighters are always with us.  So I’d expect at least a core of wizards and warriors-and from there, all bets may be off.

There are web sites out there than can tell people more about the assorted settings of MtG; they’ve all got a story, and it’s been expressed via the cards for years.  I’ve not followed said stories for over fifteen years (yes, it really HAS been around a long time), and not actually played the game for almost that long-but I’ve still got fond memories of going to the local game shop and playing in games with friends, and took a lot of personal satisfaction in their reactions to my card decks (which were less “OMGHe’sGonnaKillUs” and more “WTFKindofDeckIsThat!?”  I built for personal entertainment as much as utility…).  I’m not sure how big a splash an MMO with MtG’s pedigree behind it will be; big properties do not necessarily translate into big MMOs.  We’ve seen example after example of that over the years.  If the developers for this MMO try to keep realistic expectations and don’t expect a flood of card players to suddenly translate their passion to an MMO based on their game, we could be looking at something interesting here.  I’ll be watching where things go.  There isn’t much information out there yet (they DID just announce it), but since this is Cryptic/PWE, there’s only one thing we can be dead certain of.

There will be lockboxes.  Lots of them.

The Cast List: Introducing Bill (of Borg) of Star Trek Online

I promised a non-tactical based captain for the next installment of the Cast List (for the Star Trek Online guys, anyway), and I deliver!

So, who assimilated whom?

Bill was either the second or third character I made for Star Trek Online, and I made him for one reason only (among many others): I had a lifetimer sub from pre-launch, and since I had the ability to create a Borg captain, I was damned well gonna make one!

Bill was my second Starfleet guy, and I was already going with a pattern.  My initial Starfleet captain-Walt-was a Tactical captain flying a cruiser; I was interested in mixing and matching ship types with captains, so I wanted Bill to do that sort of thing as well.  So I made him a Science captain, and I threw him at the Escort class of ships, eventually winding up in a Defiant variant.  Back then, there weren’t nearly as many ships as there are now at the upper levels-and I keep considering finding a new ship for him, but keep deciding against it.  Unlike what you see in the picture to the left, Bill’s ship-the Integral-is loaded with Borg tech; in fact, he was the first guy I went into the effort for to get the three-piece set of Borg technology from the original Special Task Forces related to the Borg, before Reputation became a thing, and I have the visuals enabled, so there’s an awful lot of Borg attached to the hull.

Originally, the character of Bill was designed to wear the old late 23rd century uniforms, as originally seen in The Wrath of Khan.  Thanks to some really stupid moves from Cryptic/Atari in the earliest days of the game, they attached that costume code to retail items to promote the game; not a big deal, honestly, except they had the brilliant idea to just use a single code instead of unique codes.  This meant that it only took one person out there to put the code out into the public domain.  (This is why the devs eventually just made the damned thing free to claim; I’m not sure what the status on it now is, though.)  Full disclosure:  I saw the code out there, and I used it-but I felt guilty and purchased a DVD that had the code in it to salve my conscience.  It was arguably my favorite Star Trek uniform that’s ever been on the screen, so I really wanted a chance to use it.

That made it all the more ironic when, eventually, I decided to update the uniforms to what’s on the picture above.  Of course, that’s sort of hard to tell, since my primary bridge crew is…well, let’s go back and do some story time.  Early on, when those aforementioned Borg task forces came out, word came that you could get a Borg science bridge officer as part of an achievement.  This had me dreaming of one day, perhaps, having an all-Borg away team.  It never happened, but I did the next best thing.  Over time, I got the veteran reward of an android bridge officer, and thanks to some circumstance that I can’t even recall, I got a holographic science officer.  So every member of my team is, in some way, technological and mechanical in nature.  Three Borg, an android and a hologram.  How’s that for a crazy bridge crew?

I didn’t have much in the way of story concept behind the character.  There were a significant number of lifetimers at launch, and so there was a lot of liberated Borg floating around as captains-not to mention the even larger pool of people who had access to the Borg Bridge Officer at the same time.  Fortunately, there were a couple of places where one could locate liberated Borg if you look back at Trek history.  There was the Borg Cooperative, for example, introduced in Star Trek Voyager, and liberated drones from Unimatrix Zero from the same series.  I decided, though, to go with a different branch-one freed by the original liberated Borg, Hugh, introduced during Star Trek: The Next Generation.  I figured that Hugh would have definitely become the Big Deal Leader guy as the first to be freed and returned to thinking as an individual, and wouldn’t have stopped with the ship he wound up on-or simply stayed on that nameless planet that the android Lore manipulated a bunch of liberated drones.  Hugh struck me as the kind of guy who could create a revolution.  (In the Delta Rising expansion, in fact, you can encounter Hugh, who seems to have thrown in with the Cooperative).  Anyway, given Hugh’s simple name, I figured that other liberated Borg who had been freed by Hugh would adopt similar names-thus, Bill.

The other pair Borg on the bridge officer crew don’t have as fancy names, still choosing to use designations like Seven of Nine did.  I named the hologram “Hertz”, a play on words for a doctor for both his holographic nature and a pun on what he treats.  The android has a more normal name, “Jen”.

Bill hangs around in the mid 50s as far as level goes, and represents a different method of leveling.  Back in the day, STO had exploration missions that were performed in star clusters.  They were basically the STO version of City of Heroes’ radio missions (or newpaper missions if you were a villain), a randomly generated mission choosing from a pool of maps, opponents, and goals.  Don’t bother looking for them now; they don’t exist anymore.  I still haven’t forgiven the devs for that stunt.  Anyway, Bill leveled up almost exclusively via exploration missions in the various star clusters; the only exceptions were the tutorial missions and the then-new Feature Episodes.  I haven’t really put much more into Bill since the early days, but I would suspect that if I were to continue to develop him further, I’d be tempted to push exclusively through Foundry missions-the next best thing to the old exploration missions.  The quality might vary on those dramatically, but then, people had no problem using the Mission Architect for their characters in CoH-why should I have a problem doing the same with the Foundry?  (Admittedly, a significant portion of the folks using MA had special “grinding” missions to do nothing but power level themselves, and I’d be shocked if similar didn’t exist in the Foundry….)

That sort of puts me in mind to consider a new series of posts that center on Foundry missions.  I’d been considering the idea of a new post series on STO from the Klingon side (much like I did with Rick Masters and the Temporal Agent angle), but worried that the experience would have a lot of repetition thanks to the tripling up of Starfleet missions to include Klingon and Romulan sides for the Cardassian/Borg/Undine content, not to mention the shared content for Nimbus and the ramp-up to the Iconian War.  But the Foundry offers some possibilities here.  (The con of this idea is that, well, Klingons don’t get as much nice stuff in anything, and that includes people putting time into developing missions for the Klingons with the Foundry.  Still….)

Anyway.  Bill’s in a state where I’m fairly happy, although there is one area that I sort of keep thinking about developing further.  I don’t do much in the way of crafting in the game, but Bill had been my main crafter in the beginning.  Crafting has gone through various iterations, but when the new system came in-the current system, that is-most of my crafting effort went to my Starfleet main character.  Buuuuut…Bill’s prior experience entitled him to a special crafting duty officer that would allow him to craft AEGIS equipment, one of the early starship sets back in the day.  It seems like it’s a damned shame to not have Bill work up the ability to craft stuff that makes use of that officer-and thus, the AEGIS equipment-for use later on.  Food for thought.

Driving with Roadmaps

A couple of days ago, the developers of Star Wars: The Old Republic released a long-awaited “roadmap” describing their goals for the next few months.

This has been a breathlessly awaited bit of information.  Some people on the forums declared it could make or break their continuing subscriptions, if it didn’t include their pet issues.  You know the ones:  raids, PvP, story content, companions, iterations on previous systems; it’s a song that’s been heard before in multiple games.  (Well, not the companions part, but the general idea is sound.)  And if it didn’t include their issue, that was it!  Game over!

Take with some salt; forum goers are, by definition, the loud sort.  Not to be completely ignored-particularly if it’s in overwhelming numbers (e.g. the NGE of SWG responses); they tend not to be a unified voice.  When they are, then it’s time to worry.  But I digress.

So, what did they have to say for themselves?

The raiders will be getting a new operation boss to add to the one out there now on the world of Iokath roughly every couple of months.  I was guessing that they’d be going to roughly 8 such, but it seems that the next one is a package deal of two, so that may be counting as a single boss encounter.  I can’t speak to that sort of thing; I remain entirely uninterested in the raiding thing ever since my WoW days ended-City of Heroes trials notwithstanding.

PvPers will be getting a new season of play, with new unspecified rewards, and a new warzone is expected.  Additionally, the neglected Galactic Starfighter side of things will be having some changes as well.  Classes can expect a balance pass (again), which will undoubtedly include nerfs which will make life more miserable for PvE people.  (I could be wrong here.  Not all balance passes are bad.  But man, they feel like they are.)

More story content is incoming, in the form of a “Crisis on Umbara”, which will feature a new Flashpoint; no word if it’ll be a solo FP or a group-only, although I’m inclined to believe the latter.  That doesn’t rule out a solo version at one point, though; it’s just that with the group-heavy emphasis after the Knights of the Eternal Throne wrapped, I expect FPs to be the same way.  Speaking of story related stuff, the missing Companions are supposedly going to continue filtering back.  (There’s a good number still MIA, though, and most of them were potential old flames for the player character.  No indications on the rate of return, but I’m not optimistic.  What does intrigue me more, though, is the ability to finally customize the newer companions that have come down the pipe since Knights of the Fallen Empire.  Theron and Shae Vizla are first on the list.  Still, there’s no word as to whether we’re looking at true customization, where you can put on the large assortment of armors and weapons on the companions like you can with your original ones, or if we’re looking at the “change the faces” kind which you see with the ship droids or HK-51.  I’d like to think we’re looking at the first of these options, but I’m dubious.

The first of the results in the roadmap are scheduled for mid-June, where we’ll see the return of the Nar Shadda Night Life event with new rewards (who wants a Gamorrean companions?  You know you’ve always wanted one!), along with some improvements and legacy perks-such as new Mount skills to make you drive even faster than before-along with the aforementioned Shae and Theron customizations.  In July, the new bosses for the Iokath raids land-along with a new “ocean view” Stronghold, for those who have been wanting a new place to decorate.  (I’m kind of kicking myself for recently shelling out credits for the Tatooine Stronghold now.)  More customizations at this time, but specific companions weren’t mentioned.  The balance passes begin here as well-be afraid!  Finally, in August, the Umbara FP lands.

The developers plan to release a similar roadmap quarterly; we’ll see how that works.  More communication is promised, but I’ve seen those promises come and go before.  The question is how long it’ll last.  A lot will depend on if the current team manages to avoid major shakeups in the near term.  I’m keeping a semi-optimistic outlook on where things are going from here; very little of it tends to be my speed, but the way I see it, I got my turn in spades with the last two major expansions-I can sit back and let the raiders and PvPers have their time in the sun.  We’re all in this together, right?