WF: A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste

Synopsis:  STRONGHOLD, PART TWO!  The force behind the breakout is revealed!  Menton, the most powerful psionic on Earth, is projecting his power from beyond the hot-sleep chamber in the Stronghold.  The only way to stop him is to confront him in the deepest parts of the massive prison.  Willforge must fight his way through mind-controlled guards and angry prisoners, some of whom desperately want to repay him for putting them in there!  But is Willforge strong enough to even survive a direct confrontation with Menton?

Back to the Champions Online push!  I’ve been sidetracked with a bit of Star Trek recently, but it’s time to have my Willforge character continue his push through CO towards level 40!

There’s quite a ways to go there, though.

My focus, as shown in the last post for CO, has been in the Southwestern Desert, and specifically Stronghold.  But now I’ve reached that area where levels are a little more painful to come by, so I’ve begun to supplement my activities with the Smash Alert queues.  I’ve only done a couple thus far, and they gave a great study in contrasts.  First, though, a basic description:  the Smash Alerts tend to follow a general pattern:  beat up the trash mobs (who tend to be pretty though, but this IS group content…), enter a building, beat up more trash mobs, and then face the main villain of the piece-usually one of the major villains of CO (but not the BIG villains), such as Medusa or Kevin Poe, but sometimes a villain who is more or less unique to the Alerts-and sometimes, if you’re really lucky (or unlucky, it’s a point of view thing), you can run into the Nemesis of one of the characters in the group.  Those are the ones I enjoy most, honestly, because even if the powerset for the Nemesis is a pain in the posterior, it shows off a player’s work in developing his Nemesis, and I always appreciate that.  Of course, I appreciate it even more if the Nemesis that gets selected is MINE.

Obviously, the mechanics aren’t complicated.  There’s not even a time limit on the Smash Alert, which you see on other Alerts (I may get to them at some point).  It is, literally, just go in and smash.  Which brings us to the groups.  The queues usually throw together a bunch of unaligned heroes; you can do this as a premade group, I’m pretty sure, but I haven’t done that in an age.  I’ve been all about the random groups, and sometimes-like in my first queue for the character-it can be pretty rough.  We had people go down on occasion, and I found myself trying to use my healing power to help out-I suspect things may have gone uglier if I hadn’t.  I’m no dedicated healer, but I’d picked up the power to help because I knew that crowd control abilities-one of the big groups of powers in my toolbox-were of limited use, and I’m no high DPS character.  Willforge is a fairly decent all-around character, so I felt that a heal power would be of a benefit in group settings.  Thing is, though, it’s not a maintain heal-which means, I don’t push the button down after targeting an ally and just watch the healing happen.  It’s a “charge up and burst heal an ally” ability.  One of my other telepath powers also has a minor heal on characters near the target of the damage part, but that’s a minor heal in comparison with the damage being dished out.

So, the first queue was a rough one, but we did get through it in a reasonable period of time.  Then came the second queue.

That queue shows what happens when you have everything going right.  One of the characters had a Tank role-which meant that a tough character can get even TOUGHER.  (Willforge uses a Hybrid role, which is exactly what it sounds like-not great at any one thing.)  We had a couple people in Healer roles-I’m not entirely sure how useful they actually were, though, because I was watching health bars for our tank the whole match, and his health bar never budged.  We went through that Alert like your average plague.  The main villain in that fight is probably still wondering what happened.

Queues can be very variable in how well they go, and these two are a decent example of the spread.  Some can get worse than my first one-but not often-and some can be better than my second-but again, not often.

As far as the Desert goes, after I charged up my xp gains for an hour’s boost, I completed the Stronghold missions, including Menton, who had always been on my target list from the moment I designed this character.  I also managed to hit the Area 51 region and wrap up the missions there.  With those down, I believe that I’ve pretty much completed the mission arcs for that zone.  There may be low level missions I missed (in fact, I’m almost sure of it), but I don’t think there are any other higher level missions waiting in the wings there.  So at this point, I will be spending time in Canada and in Millennium City, before heading to the next, more monstrous zone.

The Cast List: Introducing General Fralex of Star Trek Online

Let’s stick with the Star Trek Online theme for a moment, but shift over to the other big faction of the game:  the Klingon Empire.

Badass. Nobody can tell me otherwise.

The Klingons are a pretty interesting faction, if you ignore the fact that the game dialogue assumes that all of their captains are dyed-in-the-wool Klingons.  In fact, you can’t assume that:  you’ve got Orions, Naussicaans, Gorn, Ferasan, and others-not to mention the generic “Alien” which can be anything you can possibly conceive of.  And you aren’t limited to Klingon ships, either; before we even get into the C-Store ships, you have the potential of Orion and Gorn ships.  Indeed, a lot of the non-Starfleet sort of lockbox ships work very well in this hodge-podge of a fleet.  By opening up the Klingon Empire to such, the Klingons have managed to, in a weird way, become just as inclusive as the Federation.

Well, as long as you follow their code of honor (or at least can fake it).

All of which leads to this character.  The Talaxians have a bad rap in Star Trek, as their primary representative, Neelix, is viewed as “the Scrappy” (don’t believe me?  Here we are!).  So the species is looked at in a “planet of hats” sort of way (I’m horrible-two TV trope references in one paragraph) as being cheerful to a fault, interested in good food and good company.  But what a lot of people overlook is that their species took a massive hit in population, thanks to a war they fought.  So one might presume that there might be in their collective character an ability to be truly dangerous.

Now, I’ve been a lifetime subscriber to STO since the very beginning-literally a purchase on the first day they became available, before launch.  As such, I had the ability to create a Borg captain-which I did (I may speak of him in a future post).  But when the Delta Rising expansion rolled out, the developers added a little bit of extra spice to the stew of lifetimer benefits.  (Now a cooking allusion; what am I doing with this post!?)  Now, lifetimers could make a Talaxian captain.  Note that both of these species were available to both Starfleet and the Klingon Empire.  I’m sure a lot of players looked at that and went, “Really?  THIS is the species you give us to work with?  Why couldn’t it be a cooler one, like a Vaadwaur?”  (That was never going to happen; “cool” races are more likely to be in the C-Store than just given for free to Lifetimers; actually, I suspect it would be more likely to be a lockbox grand prize, these days.)

Obviously, I had a different reaction.  Along the lines of, “Okay, if this is the hand I’m dealt, how do I make it a hand worth holding?”  So what if they were Talaxians?  I was bound and determined to make a character that gave this species some respect back.

Enter General Fralex.  My first task was to work on the appearance of the character; most of the time, the default look of a Talaxian was…sort of dumpy.  I added a bit of height (not horribly much, but enough), got rid of the stomach fat, shaved the top of his head and gave him a beard-hey, it worked for the guys in the blog logo image, right?  I stayed away from the traditional KDF options for uniforms and went with the Intelligence uniforms that were non-faction specific.  (There really aren’t enough outfit options for the Klingons.)

Keeping him with the badass attitude I wanted to generate, I made him a tactical captain, although the ships he flew were wide and varied until he got high enough of a level to use the Kobali cruiser, called the Concord; I definitely didn’t want his final ship to be a standard Klingon starship, even though I’d used mostly Birds-of-Prey up to that point.  I’m still not completely wed to it, but it’ll do unless I come upon a different sort of ship that has Delta origins.  (I’d grab a Vaadwaur ship for the irony value, but those are lockbox ships, and tend to be expensive on the Exchange.)  Until then, he flies Concord.

His story is pretty much one a Klingon could get behind.  His father was in the Talaxian military.  During Fralex’s life, he bounced around mercenary crews, and eventually wound up in the Klingon Empire (how he got there from the Delta Quadrant is something I never really worked out, but it wouldn’t be hard to think of something-Iconian gateways, unstable wormholes, Q…), where he imposed his brand of disciplined tactics upon his Klingon crew.  He embraced a saying of Kahless, “In war, there is nothing more honorable than victory”, and backed it up with getting victories in a calculated, tactical manner, as opposed to zerg rushing enemy ships.  The crew caught on, and are behind him 100 percent.  It helps that he might have dispatched a few challengers to his command with the same ruthless efficiency he demonstrates in his approach to war.

The character is around level 55-ish in order for him to officially use the title of “General”, because it felt right that he be considered so.  Since then, he’s been more or less held in stasis-he’s at the first quarter of the Delta Rising expansion, and I’ve mentioned before how much of a slog that feels-and this has held up his forward motion.  This may change with the recent updates to the Delta missions.  But for now, I’m happy that I managed to advance a Talaxian captain to my upper ranks, and defy stereotypes in doing so; Fralex’s cooking prowess only extends to opening a can of whoop-ass!

Riding the Escalator

Transporting to the wrong side of the tracks.

Last week, Star Trek Online hit us with a new Feature episode:  Escalation.  First, though, I’m going to touch on a couple highlights of other stuff in the patch.

One thing I won’t touch on this time, though, are the new “war game competitive queues”; I’m undecided as to whether or not I want to bother with that.  I’m okay with cooperative team-ups, but I don’t have the same thrill on competitive ones as I might’ve in younger days.  That said, I didn’t absolutely hate doing STO PvP back in the day when it was really the only decent way to level up a Klingon, so the jury is still out on it.  It’s a significant part of the latest patch here, so I’d feel remiss if I ignored it completely.  We’ll see what happens.  There’s a Reputation associated with these queues, too, making them one of the few Reputations I likely one have maxed out on at least one character.

There have been space combat balance changes.  So far, I’m not noticing major differences, but let’s face it:  I’m not one of the high-end players either, who tune their captains and ships to be death-dealing machines.  I do okay-but that’s about it.  So others more knowledgeable will have to comment on the impact those changes have had.  I’m not horribly helpful today, am I?

How’s this for good news?  The Delta Rising missions have undergone some mutation.  The Kobali Adventure Zone has mutated in the mission logs; originally, they were independent of the episodes, then they were incorporated into the Delta Mission arc, but that was causing issues, too-so now, they’re set within three missions that contain the adventure zone missions.  I don’t know if that’s a big improvement or not, but it at least reduces the perception of having to come back every level to the planet to do stuff.  Heaven help you, though, if your character had already done some of the missions but not all of the ones in an arc; plus, judging from some of the dialogue windows, someone needs to go through and make sure that they aren’t missing the first half of sentences.  Just saying.  Speaking of levels, the experience curve of 50-60 isn’t as harsh anymore, and-best of all-the patrol missions for the Delta arc have been removed from the episodic path (although you can still likely patrol them if you want to-both of which may make the Delta arc feel less like a slog, which is a big deal as far as I’m concerned.

You know, I’m not sure this has been completely thought through….

Bringing us to the new Feature Episode, the eponymous Escalation.  In the current episodic arc in STO, your captain has been assisting the first exploratory vessel of the Lukari in its first steps to reach out to the wider universe.  In doing so, you’ve learned a bit more about the Lukari as well, like how they were driven off of their original homeworld in a…disagreement with their parent species, the Kentari.  In fact, you even stumbled upon the abandoned Kentari homeworld, which was a bit of a mess.  Unfortunately, in your seeking out strange new worlds, etc, you’ve also come upon another mystery-the alien Tzenkethi have been exploding protomatter weapons on worlds with strange crystals upon them-and they don’t care much if the world is inhabited or not.  How bad are protomatter weapons?  Remember Genesis?  Just when you thought the devs had opened up a massive can of worms with time travel, they’ve opened another one just as big with reviving the technologies that brought us a weapon of mass destruction like no other.  As Doctor McCoy once said in response to Spock’s comment that it is easier to destroy than it is to create:  “Not anymore; now we can do both at the same time! According to myth, the Earth was created in six days. Now, watch out! Here comes Genesis! We’ll do it for you in six minutes!”

Which brings us to the present.  A mysterious world has been discovered nestled in a nebula, and the Lukari have asked your assistance in making first contact.  The results are…perhaps not surprising, given the episode arc thus far; the world is a ravaged mess, in the grips of ecological disaster.  Worse, the natives are factionalized in the usual fashion-some of them are happy for any help you can deliver; others trust you about as far as they can throw your starship.  And just when you manage to get things going, the Tzenkethi show up….  And things go nuts from there.

The mystery of the Tzenkethi motives remains just that; but don’t think that there wasn’t any forward momentum in this episode.  The natives are likely going to be a key part of at least another episode, I suspect, before this is all over.  The uses of protomatter as a help and a weapon continue to be front and center-perhaps showing that technology is indeed neither good nor evil, but simply neutral.  It is the hand that uses the tool that determines its usefulness.  Star Trek-the television series-didn’t shy away from these themes, and STO seems to be willing to continue in the same vein.

The episode does feel like it was written harder for the Starfleet POV than the Klingon, though; it’s hard to imagine the Klingon captain being polite-at least, not the Next Generation/DS9 and beyond Klingons.  I could see the Original Series ones being that way….  But the dialogue options are pretty much identical for Empire players as they are for Starfleet ones.  Is it REALLY that difficult to represent the points of view and the admittedly generic attitudes of the Romulans and Klingons?

As usual, playing through the mission in the opening weeks will make new rewards available for completing the mission (encouraging replay), and the first run of the week will give one character the choice of a tech upgrade or a specialization point for each week that the episode is featured.  Choose your characters wisely.

So, we’ve got a decent episode, and a lot of updates to the combat system in the void of space, and a new set of queues in which to test yourself against other captains in a new way.  STO’s continuing to move forward with no end in sight.

(As a final aside:  it seems that the previous feature episode, Survivor, has been put into the latest episodic arc.  Not entirely shocking, I guess; there weren’t many other places it would work.)

WF: What a Riot!

Synopsis:  STRONGHOLD, PART ONE!  Stronghold: a name to bring fear to supervillains everywhere-an inescapable prison in the heart of the Southwestern Desert.  UNTIL NOW!  A massive breakout of unprecedented proportions has begun, and the one thing between the super-powered criminals and the general population of the country is Willforge!  But can he discover the hidden hand behind this horrific event?

It’s been a slow week or so for Willforge in Champions Online.  This is, in part, due to the fact that there have been a couple other releases in the other games I play lately (the Iokath entry in Star Wars: The Old Republic, and the Escalation in Star Trek Online-comments on that will be forthcoming).  So, no new levels gained, although I’m not far from 26 at this point.  Plot-wise, I’ve done a chunk of the Argent pipeline missions in Canada, although there are a couple left behind because I didn’t want to skip an arc in the Desert:  the Stronghold breakout.

This is a staple, sadly, in superhero MMOs.  (I can’t really speak for DC Universe Online, but I’m willing to place bets they have the same issue somewhere.)  There’s an open zone with a prison, and there is a massive breakout happening.  City of Heroes led the way with the Zig in Brickstown, but CO really embraced it, with not just one, but TWO breakouts.  There’s the jail in Millennium City, with a big hole in the freaking wall and a heap of rioting prisoners, but that’s just cake compared to what’s going on in the Desert in Stronghold.

Stronghold is supposed to be where they keep the baddest of the bad, supervillains of incredible power.  Well, it also holds lesser super-villains, too; my impression is that folks in the Millennium City jail wind up here if they’ve got significant powers.  But it’s really known for holding the really super-powerful, one of whom has orchestrated the breakout by mind-controlling guards.  So the heroes have to-again-deal with rioting prisoners, PLUS controlled guards, and get to the bottom of the situation.

If I ever designed a superhero MMO, I’d make sure that any prison breaks are in instances and not in general zones.  I know that prison-breaks are a common trope of the genre, but it’s hard to take seriously any prison that can’t hold most of its prisoners.  Mass escapes should NOT be happening 24/7.  It gives credence to vigilantes like Marvel’s Punisher, whose preferred method of dealing with criminals involves a bullet to the head; he doesn’t have to worry about constant recurring problems in villainy….

I think I’m also at the point where I may supplement my missioning activity with the Alert queues; not only do they give an xp boost to normal activity (at least the ones I’ll be doing-more on that when the time comes), but they also reward a decent hunk of xp all on their own.  It’s getting to the point where level slow downs start happening, and this could help things out a great deal.  The character should be good enough at this stage to not be a burden on a team going through the Alerts.

An Eternal Alliance Versus Gods

It’s been a while since we looked in on Star Wars: The Old Republic, hasn’t it?

If I never see another throne as long as I live, it’ll be too soon.

From a playing standpoint, going through the legion of alts, I’m just about to have my Sith Inquisitor go through Nathema, after slaughtering everyone who’s irritated him up to now; it’s going to be very interesting when he gets to the end of the Knights of the Eternal Throne story, with the body count he’s racked up.  Once he’s done, I think the next on my list will be my Trooper-but that’s got a ways to go, given my current Champions Online focus.  Well, that, plus the point of this post.

It’s the first chunk of content released since the Eternal Throne fell to the Alliance (is it really that much of a spoiler that the PCs are victorious?).  And it seems that the Sith Empire and the Galactic Republic are already positioning themselves to kick off their own war again.  However, the force that is the Alliance is the pivot, the determining factor that both sides see as important.

So naturally, the first thing they do is piss off the Alliance by going to Iokath, a world introduced in KotET, and a presumed super-weapon located there.  It’s no coincidence that the Alliance, the Empire, and the Republic all converge at this same location at this same time.  Something’s up here, and it’s up to the Alliance Commander-that’s you, just as a reminder-to unravel what’s going on, and secure the super-weapon before it falls into the wrong hands.

One problem to be encountered early is:  whose are the right hands?  Early on, you are approached by representatives of the Republic and the Empire, urging you to side with them.  Players of Sith Warrior and Trooper characters will immediately recognize these reps.  That choice declares the Alliance irrevocably to one side or the other.  (Sadly, there is no option for “A pox on both your houses!”  Admittedly, the Alliance has their biggest sticks negated for story reasons for most of your time here, but still.)  While there’s a feature that will allow you to switch factional support on a regular basis, the initial choice here is what locks in the character story as to whose side the Alliance is ultimately on.

The true miracle is that they aren’t trying to kill each other.

Because your character is Destiny’s Chew Toy, the Commander will get a chance to say hello to another familiar faction-or what’s left of it-after they were more or less completely sidelined during KotET (some help they were…), and discover that the gods of Zakuul have a basis in fact.  By the time you’re done, that choice you made as to what government to support will have very permanent consequences-and opens the door to the raid content that the developers promised the players.  (Full disclosure-I’m unlikely to bother on those; I’m notoriously unwilling to bother with raids more complicated than the City of Heroes trials.)

Despite the fact that there are two companions returning in this chapter, you’ll only get one of them per character (although if you’re a Trooper or a Sith Warrior, you could conceivably pull off both by use of the Companion terminal back on Odessen; I haven’t tried this, so can’t confirm if it is possible).  There’s an issue with getting said companions, though; posts on the official forums indicate that some folks aren’t getting a companion out of this; I’m one of them, at least on my Smuggler.  My Agent had no issues there, with the companion showing up after the primary storyline was complete.  It’s not obvious, though-there’s very little fanfare in comparison with even the Alliance Alert companions.   The devs have indicated they are aware of this, so hopefully a fix is going in.  I don’t know if there is more fanfare for characters who have previously romanced those companions, though, so I don’t know if there’s more dialogue involved-be wary about going through this with Troopers or Warriors until the bug is fixed, just in case.

The quest line here does include participation in a raid, but that isn’t a requirement to get the companion or to finish the storyline-which, incidentally, will continue; there is a dangerous loose end here on Iokath that could spell the beginning of the end of the Alliance-or maybe just you.  Valkorion did say that there were people who meant you harm way back in Knights of the Fallen Empire….  Given the nature of that threat, players of the Imperial Agent will feel right at home.  (“Another conspiracy?  How novel.”)

In addition to the story and raid, there are daily missions here, and if you found the structure similar to Oricon, you wouldn’t be far off.  After all, Oricon had a storyline, leading to a raid, and had a heap of daily missions.  I haven’t noticed any Heroic dailies, but I haven’t looked hard at it.  There’s a new Reputation, based upon the side you choose for your Alliance, and a new vendor with stuff to use.  There’s also a new currency that is used to purchase the equipment (along with credits), although that currency can also be used to purchase special buffs with which to take on the dangers on Iokath.

Play-wise, it’s not incredibly difficult, although there are a couple of mechanics in big battles that might cause issues, particularly to DPS-focused characters; having a high-influence healing companion out may not be the worst thing you can do for those fights, particularly one early one.  Be aware that they may not necessarily be simple “survive and shoot them down”-paying attention to the environment will help defeat those encounters.  Expect another trip in a walker, too.  (Golden quote from the Republic side:  “Eh.  I’ve seen bigger.”  Iokath really spoiled my characters as far as the size of walkers…)

All in all, it’s not a horrible update; it’s got its bugs, and it’s not as in-depth as the missions we’ve seen in the last couple of years.  But it is more significant than an Alliance Alert, and it does include the return of companions for the Trooper and Sith Warrior (if that doesn’t glitch out on you), so it’s at least progress on my pet peeve.

The Cast List: Introducing Jenled Lar of Star Trek Online

Here we go-the first of my Cast List, one of my captains in the Star Trek Online MMO.

My attempt to redeem Star Trek: The Motion Picture’s uniforms.

The character’s name is Jenled Lar, and his creation came about for two reasons.  The first was that I wanted to use some of those uniforms I’d purchased in the C-Store over time; the uniforms from Star Trek: The Motion Picture get a lot of grief, and I wanted to see if I could do something with them that made them look a little less…bad.  The second was that this was during a period of time when I wanted to see about the RP scene in STO, and most of my other characters were committed to my main Fleet.

Right off the bat, I decided to take advantage of the fact that I’d purchased the Joined Trill species for this captain.  With some thought, I figured I’d make him a Tactical captain flying tactical escorts-my usual methodology was to mix and match ship and captain types (my main Starfleet guy, for example, is a Tactical captain who flies cruisers).  He’s not the first Tactical/Tactical character I’ve made (and I’m likely to come back to that in a future post)  The character’s appearance is a bit swarthier than my norm, but I figured it would make him stand out a bit more-as if the uniform wasn’t enough.

I managed to get Jenled up to level 50-ish.  That would allow me to put him into a Sao Paulo class escort, which is a Defiant variant-which includes a phaser quad-cannon.  I made sure to add photon torpedoes as the weapon of choice, as I wanted something that had a faster recharge time than my usual quantum torpedoes.  I didn’t go all out with gear-after all, the good stuff tends to go with my primary guys, the ones I’ve spent the most time with, and Jenled wasn’t one of them.

The final bit for the character was story.  If this was going to be a character to RP with, I wanted to have something to hang on him.  I didn’t write up any big fiction for him (as I’m wont to do), but I did at least give him a background where he rose to command after decking his Commanding Officer; there were extenuating circumstances, such as that she was currently mentally impaired at the time.  That got him a transfer off that ship-with his former CO’s blessing-and into the center-seat of a new one:  the Gullwind (named after a ship from an old RPG I’d played long, long ago).

I actually did manage briefly to join an RP fleet in the game for a couple of weeks; but it didn’t really wind up being a good fit for me, and other fleets I’d looked over in that time really didn’t seem like they would be good fits either.  So Jenled stopped advancing, and he got put into the cooler.  I still enjoyed putting this character together, and remains a character I’ll occasionally play when I just want to mess around.

The Cast List: An Introduction

I’ve run into any number of occasions where, in between new content in the MMOs I play and the work on commenting on current character activity, I run into periods of time where there just ain’t all that much going on.  Whether it’s a minor content drought or a period of time where I haven’t really gotten much done in my assorted games, I sometimes run into long stretches were I just have nothing to really post about-and accordingly, sometimes there’s a significant gap in between blog posts.  (Or, on occasion, I am away from the nearest gaming computer and thus unable to do anything, which leads to “nothing to post on” and so forth.)

This hasn’t been a major issue of late; my rededication to posting up on the activities of new characters has helped a lot; but it’s always wise to look ahead.

It occurred to me that what I could do is have the occasional post that showcases past characters, then.  I’m an altoholic-I blame City of Heroes for that, but it was already beginning to bloom as far back as World of Warcraft.  I imagine the only reason it didn’t go hog wild in Star Wars Galaxies was that-at the time I played-there was a 1 character per server limit.  And even then, I just made a character on a different server.  (After the NGE, of course, they went up to two characters per server, and I added a pair accordingly; pre-NGE Jedi players were able to get three characters on the servers that had their Jedi, but that wasn’t a majority of the population.)

Ever since CoH, I’ve had a significant stable of characters.  I had well over thirty characters in CoH, over a dozen in Champions Online, about the same number in Star Trek Online, had at least six in WoW, over a dozen in Star Wars: The Old Republic, and heck, I even had two in EVE Online-a game which really didn’t encourage same-account alts.  Many of these characters had a story behind them.  (Many also didn’t-sometimes I made a character just to mess with them.)

I tended to come at creating characters from three potential directions.  The first was “get a look, and build on that”.  This works better in games where you’ve got a robust character creator, and particularly well with the super-hero game genre.  I saw outfit pieces that I liked, found a way to put them onto a character, and then started developing the character from there.  One character who came about from that sort of thinking was my recent character of Willforge in CO.  The second was “get a character concept, and build on that”.  If I have an idea for a character, I might build the character’s abilities and look around that.  Stellar Protector from CoH is a good example of that style.  Finally, I may find I want to try out new abilities and see how they work, and build around that.  There are probably too many characters to mention on that front, but Rick Masters from STO spawned from my desire to mess with the 23rd century stuff.

Anyway, that leads to the creation of a load of characters.  And it’d be a damned shame to let them all toil in obscurity.

So, just like I’ve done with my Building Character posts, I’m putting together a new category:  the Cast List, where I’ll pontificate on a single character I created at some point in the past.  By definition, these won’t be the ones who are currently being developed-that’s for my Building Character category.  The Cast List will be for the lesser lights, the characters who I’ve created but never really posted on anywhere-the ones who aren’t likely to see too much further work, either because I’ve gotten them to where I want them to be, or because I don’t play the game they were made for anymore.  (That’s not to say they’ll never see play again, though.  But there’s only so much time in a day.)  They will also usually be characters who haven’t been posted up anywhere else in a lasting manner:  in other words, I don’t expect to say much about characters who exist on the PRIMUS Database site for CO, Virtueverse for CoH, or the late and semi-lamented STO Geekipedia.  (Characters may well appear on a personal wiki if I ever manage to get one rolling again, though.)

So, that’s the lead-in.  How far this goes depends on how busy I get with the games; I’m thinking of this as the occasional mint after the heavy meal of my regular posts.  We’ll see how things develop.  There’s a fair chance we can expect one in the next week, though, since I’ll be away from the computer in that time.

WF: Meeting One’s Nemesis

 

Synopsis:  Once upon a time, the man who would become Willforge was abducted by aliens, seeking to understand humanity and their metahuman potential.  In the process, they awakened his psionic potential which he used to escape.  NOW THEY WANT HIM BACK!  An alien Mindhunter has been unleashed upon Millennium City with a single purpose:  to recapture Willforge!  Can Willforge manage to defeat an opponent who can unleash its robotic servants upon him at any time and any place?

Willforge hit level 25 in Champions Online, and that opens up what I consider the best part of the game.  There may be some ranting ahead, and I’m likely preaching to the choir, but I figure I’ll mention that right off the bat.

The best part of CO is the Nemesis system.  I’ve said it before, and it’s worth repeating.  Once your character gets to 25, you can design a villain and minions to assist said villain (although the minions are more along the lines of “pick a type” more than a complete design like you can with the villain).  You can use just about every costume part you’ve got access to; at one point, I thought that there were some that didn’t show up, but I’ve never really noticed an issue, and it may not even be an issue anymore.  What IS an issue is that saved outfits from the costume creator for your hero don’t translate over to the Nemesis; nine times out of ten, your saved outfit doesn’t actually load for a Nemesis.  Moral to that story:  don’t bother trying to design the villain’s look in advance unless you plan to take notes as to all the options you chose, because you sure aren’t going to be able to save and use for later.  I DO believe that you can design the outfit in the Nemesis creator and save it there, and have it available for future use, but I would think this only matters if you want to have the illusion of a common Nemesis between multiple characters of yours.  Or if you want to share that file with others to use.

The powers available to the villain tend to go off of powersets; they don’t customize down to the gritty level like Freefrom characters, so they’re similar to Archetypes in that respect.  Also regrettably, they don’t have access to all the powersets.  If there’s one thing that’s virtually criminal about the Nemesis system, it’s that it has almost never been iterated upon.  There were a few nods to it-there’s an endgame Nemesis Confrontation where groups can take on everyone’s Nemeses, a Nemesis can be an option for one of the Alert villains, and the Nemesis can show up in one of the Comic Series/Adventure Packs.  And I think that’s about it.  For the most part, the Nemesis system now is as it was upon launch.

The caveat, of course, is that adding new Nemesis content confirms that you have to a) be at level 25 minimum, and b) actually have a Nemesis.  On the other hand, Nemesis alerts have done just fine with having a “generic” Nemesis show up, so I wouldn’t think that’s a big issue.  And heck, the devs have been spending time on the endgame thing, so why the heck not get the Nemesis more involved?  For that matter, why not improve the system further?  (I expect the real reason is that all the people who worked on it in the beginning are long gone, and nobody wants to fiddle with it for fear of breaking it.)

Still, it’s a damned shame.  Even City of Heroes didn’t have anything comparable; sure, you could design a personal Nemesis with the Mission Architect system, but that didn’t sent the minions out into the wider world and attack you, for example.  You knew the activities of that nemesis because you designed the entire mission they would appear in.  CO has more spontaneity to it in that manner.

As far as Willforge’s nemesis:  I was tempted to design the actual aliens involved with his abduction, but I decided instead that I’d make another example of their experimentations-another alien that they’d worked on and sent after Willforge.  Keen observers might note that there’s more than a little Roin’esh in Mindhunter, and it’s perfectly possible that it is indeed of that race-or at least, it was.  What it is now is a servant of the alien abductors’ will.  I may design the actual alien species if I should get to a point where I finish the Nemesis missions for Mindhunter and put him away permanently.  It’ll be rough going:  I went hard on Power Armor for the powerset for Mindhunter, and his robotic minions are pretty similar; I had a hard time with the first mission.  This may be a false positive, though, since it’s far too easy to wind up fighting most of the room plus the Nemesis in that encounter.  I imagine LOTS of characters wind up face-planting a couple of times.  Willforge sure did.  Well, it wouldn’t feel right if the Nemesis was a character one could just plow through-I look forward to the inevitable rematches ahead.

AoY: Just When I Thought I Was Out, They Pull Me Back In

How do I keep getting called in on temporal problems? Oh, yeah, that’s right…I AM a temporal problem….

Personal Log, Stardate 94874.13

Well, this figures.

I shouldn’t be surprised.  Even though I hoped that I was finally done with the temporal craziness, I knew in my heart that I wasn’t.  I’m in command of a ship from the 31st century, and an acknowledged temporal agent, hailing from the 23rd century, operating primarily in the 25th.  Temporal stuff is always going to catch up to me, sooner or later.

And it seems that a loose end from a previous temporal event has come up.  When Agent Daniels showed up again talking about a mess with the EnterpriseC, I wasn’t sure what to make of it.  I had to get briefed on that, which included not only the fact that a temporal mess caused a 24th century Starfleet officer on the D to wind up on the C on its way back to its doom, but also that there were survivors from that-from which came future-Empress Sela.  And added to that was the fact that between the C‘s final fate and the diversion to the D‘s time, it made one other stop:  the 25th century.

And apparently, I was involved-somehow.  I must’ve done something right, but I can’t recall the details.  But I must’ve also overlooked one minor issue-that timeline’s version of Admiral T’nae was on the C when it went back to its proper place in time.  So now we had two elements in play that were causing the timeline to start buckling.

At least this time, I didn’t have to worry about jumping into the past; we took care of things in the present, and got a prisoner to boot:  Sela.  I can only hope that this time, Starfleet Security can actually hold onto her.  She may cooperate more now that she hasn’t been turned in to the Romulan Republic for execution-but what do I know?  That’s politics, and I have enough trouble dealing with variant timelines.

What a job.

End Log.

Nah, that couldn’t be. Right?

Got us a new featured episode in Star Trek Online, and instead of continuing the Tzenkethi line, it seems like it’s a stand-alone episode.  I’m sure it’ll get folded into one of the existing arcs, of course-and given the presence of Sela in this mission, called “Survivors”, I’m guessing that it’ll be after the Iconian War and the Temporal Front.  It’s also possible that it may be put as a part of the current storyline, too, but I’m going to treat it as a stand-alone because it really doesn’t fit the story-arc structure that STO encourages.

And since it involved Agent Daniels and time travel, I had to bring Rick Masters out of mothballs for this post.

The episode conceit is this:  waaaay back in the episode “Temporal Ambassador”, your character managed to help fix the timeline by breaking the Enterprise-C out of Tholian hands with the help of Tasha Yar, Richard Castillo, and-most relevant to this point-T’nae of Vulcan.  The thing is, T’nae is a native of the current time, not of the era of Yar OR the era of Castillo.  Now, Captain Walker of the Pastak retrieved your character to avoid the timeline from getting messed up horribly-but he missed the tiny detail that T’nae was aboard Enterprise-C.

Oops.  Walker screwed up.  So Agent Daniels has to fix it, or more to the point-YOU get to fix it.  And who should he suggest to help find the divergent T’nae than the daughter of Tasha Yar:  Sela, the Empress of Escapology.  (TV Tropes would call her a Karma Houdini.  That’s fair.)

This is actually a reasonable breather episode, really.  I’m not going to say there’s no combat-you’ll be slugging it out with Tholians in space and on the ground, as well as some local wildlife, and another unexpected target.  But once you get past it, it turns into a bit of a mystery as to the fate of not just the alternate T’nae, but also the rest of the Enterprise-C survivors, including a very unexpected one.  And when all is finally said and done, there’s one more [speechless] cameo appearance from a Starfleet legend.

Sela hasn’t really learned too much from her previous encountered with the PC captains.  Still an arrogant know-it-all; you’d think she’d have become a little less sure of herself from her actions on Iconia, but nope.  I really wanted a dialogue option to have her pushed out an airlock; maybe the Klingons will have that option.  (I doubt it.)  By the end of the episode, she might have dialed it down a bit, but I’m going to say the jury’s still out on that.  I doubt we’ve seen the last of Sela.

Reward wise, the gear’s okay.  I often don’t try too hard for the gear sets, and that’s probably going to continue for the foreseeable future.  Ground gear, with another portion of that gear coming next week to complete the set.  The fact that it’s only going to be two weeks is probably in recognition of the fact that the next Season is going to land later this month.  Also worth noting is that during these two weeks, you’ll get the standard “first time run-through” reward which can either be a tech upgrade or a specialization point, your choice (I always go with spec points).

One minor complaint was that the pathing on the planet is…somewhat awful.  I lost one character at one point, and even respawning after a bad encounter didn’t reunite us; he was there for a second, then bamf-he headed right back to where he’d gotten stuck, over 100m away.  That made some of the fighting rougher than it had to be.  Aside from that, it’s nothing we haven’t seen before.  It’s also possible that one of the early puzzles on the planet is a bit too easy; you can generally find important areas by using tricorder scans-do we really need the big yellow arrows pointing out which way to go, too?

So, I think I’ll give this one high marks for story, mediocre marks for mechanics.  And a wish that it had come a bit earlier so that the wait between the last Tzenkethi episode and the upcoming one wouldn’t have felt so long.

WF: FOXBATCON!!!

Synopsis:  THERE’S SNAKES IN THEM HILLS, PART ONE!  VIPER has set up shop in Canada, and Willforge needs to find out what FOXBATCON!  Come attend the greatest convention in the world, celebrating the television show based on the greatest superhero ever to live-FOXBAT!  Bask in the awesomeness of the best of the best, and not that telepathic weenie, Willforge!  Remember:  Willforge sucks, Foxbat rocks!

The event FOXBATCON is going on at the moment for Champions Online, which is sort of their April Fool’s event.  And…well, it involves Foxbat.  That sort of tells you everything you need to know.

That said, I haven’t really been participating.  I find the “find 5 Foxbat impersonators per day, without repeating the ones you hit earlier” to be tedious, even with the help of the maps that are floating around on the web.  And the prizes aren’t really worth the tedium to me, so I just have continued on my merry way.  Of course, one can’t get away from the event entirely; special loot drops of Foxbat swag ensure that you can collect the special currency (I admit I haven’t checked item pricing, but I suspect that what is gained from these drops is a literal drop in the bucket as to what’s needed for a single item from the event), or entertaining limited use toys suitably appropriate for Foxbat (such as a trout melee weapon) .

As expected, I’ve been spending time in Canada, and after clearing off some blue level missions to clean my plate, I headed west to the VIPER compound to start hammering opponents there.  The good news is that it also threw me a lot of “help me, help me” missions.  I should elaborate:  one of the catchier things that happens in this game (at least at certain levels-I don’t think they happen at the really high levels) is that civilians will run up to your hero and give you a one-shot mission.  Kind of like your standard “kill x goons” or “find x items” or “blow this stuff up” that aren’t tied to the storylines of the game-and for that matter, don’t matter where they send you on the map.  The missions are always instanced, so no fighting off other players, and sometimes the entrances are in rather level inappropriate places (like, say, 10 levels higher).  That said, I like the feeling of spontaneity here, the idea that civilians are asking for your hero’s help.  Now, it can get annoying at times-you’re standing around talking to someone else, and you get interrupted by the big mission window to accept or decline the mission-but for the most part?  I don’t really mind it.

Anyway, the missions that were sent my way in combination with the storyline missions got me to level 24, and one more level before some of the really fun stuff happens.  I’m going to work on finishing up the VIPER stuff, and then I think I’ll be ready to return to the desert for a bit.