The Unifying Force?

Merge Ahead

The devs at Star Wars: The Old Republic recently put up their roadmap for the next few months, and…well.  This can’t be good.

The biggest news coming out of it involve server merges.  It’s not a new thing-it’s happened at least twice before with this game (I freely admit there may have been another I missed at some point).  We’re now going from seventeen servers down to five:  two American, one European (English), one European (German), and one European (French).  They can put up a nice face on this all they want, but the simple reality of it is this:  you don’t see server merges of this nature unless the subscriber base has dwindled severely.  And that bodes ill for SWTOR entirely.  You can dress up the reasons for merges up in pretty language (More competitive PvP!  More people to group with for raids!), but in the end, the simple fact is that the developers feel that the seventeen servers don’t have the population to support their current “group focus”.  How much of this is a result of having focused too much on the last two expansions is an open question (I’m not convinced that a “raid or die” philosophy would’ve done much better).

With the merges comes the usual potential drama with names.  Legacy Names will not be impacted, and guild names will potentially have a former server slapped on it (so you could well end up as the “501st Fist – Jedi Covenant” because another guild on another server had the same name.  If one of those guilds should go belly up at some point, the suffix will be removed.  Of course, god forbid that the devs offer free rename tokens to the guild leaders to rename the guild to something that doesn’t have a server suffix on it.  Character names are, of course, an entirely different issue, with priority going to subscribers, then “highly played” characters.  I’m sure there are going to be a lot of people who are going to discover that their characters aren’t going to be what they last saw them as.  Characters who have been inactive for an extended period and not beyond 10th level will also be flagged for renaming prior to the big move.  So, good times.

(I’ll be putting any Cast List entries in my queue for SWTOR on hold until the merges hit; no sense in posting names that may be obsolete when the merges hit in early November.)

It’s not all doom and gloom here.  A new Flashpoint is set to land which continues the storyline with the Alliance Traitor, and offers the return of another lost companion, scheduled for late November.  Another step in raid progression is in the works, but they won’t be hitting until early 2018.  There is a lot of class “balancing” going on; whether or not that’s a good thing depends a lot on what classes you play, and I’ll leave it to other more analytical sites to go into that sort of detail (I always recommend Dulfy for this sort of thing).  There’s an anniversary celebration slated for December (let’s hope it’s not the last one).  There are updates being planned even for the Galactic Starfighter stuff, centering on Iokath (which I imagine would be a pretty fun map to fly on).  A minor but welcome thing is a new vendor at Fleet that will allow you to purchase customizations for opposite-faction companions (so Republic characters can change Vette’s coloration, and Imperials can slap on new T7 designs).  And there are some rewards for encouraging grouped behavior on deck, which can earn you the Darth Hexid companion.  If that names sounds familiar, it should:  Hexid was one of the two possible companions that were offered during the Light vs. Dark event, which Hexid lost (I guess folks liked the light-sided Chiss Jedi better).  I always suspected that Hexid would make an appearance sooner or later, but I figured it would be a gamble pack thing.  Instead, you need to play content under the Group Finder (PvE or PvP); I believe the target number is three of either of these (I don’t think it triggers from any combination; it’s gotta be three of one or the other).  Finally, there will be double rewards (xp, command xp, etc) for about two weeks after the merges go in.

November is shaping up to be a big month for SWTOR.  Whether or not this is a good thing is the big question.


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.

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?

Old Reliant

Back when Star Trek Online launched, there was only one absolute truth:  you began your time in the game on a Miranda.

The Miranda-class ships have been in since the beginning; the very first tutorial ship.  Sure, people who had bought the game with the pre-order Constitution-class could fly those at the low levels, but you couldn’t swap ships in the tutorial.  And technically, there were other ship parts available so when you got your random ship, you could just as easily be in a Centaur-class or a kitbashed mix of both.  Regardless, it was the Miranda that was most frequently seen, so it gets top billing.  (Not to mention it was a wee bit more infamous being the ship class of the USS Reliant, best known for being captured by Khan back in the day.)

So the painfully slow moving, slow turning Miranda-class vessel was the very first ship new players flew.  This was back when Klingons couldn’t be created until you had a level 6 Starfleet character and had unlocked an accolade for completing a certain mission, and when Romulans weren’t anything more than another opponent for both factions to fight.  You could eventually get into the ship tailor after the tutorial, and either swap to your pre-ordered Constitution or fiddle with the appearance of the ship.  As time went on, C-Store options became available to fly a more tactical or science oriented low level ship, but that was that.

The Klingons didn’t have it much better.  At level 6, they were flying Birds-of-Prey, and that was it.  When the Romulans came to play, they got the T’varo light cruiser.  The one thing these ships had in common was that players generally wanted to get away from these ships as soon as possible.  Even if the appearance appealed, the lack of weapons and bridge officer spots just made using them painful.

The light cruisers, in other words, got no respect.  The Bird-of-Prey got some, since its general appearance kept following along at almost every tier of starship for the Klingons, and the T’varo got a retrofit version which allowed it to play with the big boys.  The Federation, though?  Nope.  No love for the Miranda.

Until now.

A new light cruiser for a new era!

With the recent patch, a trio of light cruisers-one for each faction-has been given the Tier-6 treatment.  The Klingons get the brand new QeHpu’ cruiser, the Romulans get the equally new Deleth warbird, and Starfleet updates the Miranda to new specs with a new appearance-and adds a new light cruiser of the Reliant-class.  (Aside:  I’m really surprised Starfleet was willing to name a class based on that ship; I mean, it’s famous, but look at what it’s famous for:  being captured by Khan, nearly destroying Enterprise, and finally being at ground zero for the Genesis torpedo explosion that created the short-lived Genesis Planet.  Not exactly a thrilling career, right?)

As usual with C-Store ships, they’ll have a unique console, only usable on these cruisers, and as T-6 ships, they will have access eventually to starship traits that your captain can slot.  Since the bundle contains ships for each faction, the ships don’t have a shared set of consoles to create a 3 ship set bonus like you’d see with, say, the Odyssey bundles.  Given that they’re in different factions, it’s probably not hard to see why.  It…probably goes without saying that you can purchase these individually as well as in a single bundle; I know many players tend to stick with one faction.

With every other starship that’s been on the big and small screens having T-6 variants, it was only a matter of time before the Miranda got its turn; if there are any others out there that haven’t, I’d be hard pressed to name them.  Ordinarily, I wouldn’t be going out of my way to comment on a C-Store release unless it was to deliver a rant, but the arrival of this once-lowly ship to the top tiers of the game was something I felt was worthy of commenting upon.  I’ll be very interested to see just how many of these ships I see in the queues-not to mention in orbit near Earth Spacedock.

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.

We Make This Look Good

There’s an odd little currency that exists in Star Trek Online that tends to sit on the high end of the rarity spectrum.  It’s called Lobi, and for the most part, the only place where it can be obtained is by opening lockboxes.  There was a time when there were events that ran where doing certain missions could award Lobi, but I haven’t seen one of those in a long time.  But when they did run, I was an active participant.

Thus, I had a bit of Lobi to play with, awaiting the next Lobi sale.

Let me back up a moment.  If it’s currency, after all, then it stands to reason that it can purchase stuff.  The Lobi Store (accessible either on Drozana Station or simply right clicking the Lobi in your inventory) has stuff from equipment to weapons to ships.  And uniforms.  Shockingly, a lot of the good stuff is priced disgustingly high.  And it’s not like you get a large amount in the lockboxes; they tend to be almost “consolation prizes” when you open a lockbox and it has garbage in it.  So, most of them.  And back in the day, you weren’t getting a heap of Lobi either through those events.  Finally, to add insult to injury, items procured in the Lobi Store were not account unlocks.  A ship purchased here was only good for the character making the purchase, and nobody else.  (That said:  most of the stuff purchased come in a box, which means they can be slapped up on the exchange, for oodles of energy credits.)

Every so often (not all that often), STO throws out a Lobi sale.  This isn’t a method of procuring Lobi; it’s a sale on the stuff in the Lobi store.  So I’ve been patiently waiting with my small amount of Lobi, looking to buy a new outfit.  I’d been looking at the Vaadwaur outfit for a long time; it put me in mind of Star-Lord of the Guardians of the Galaxy movie, and I liked the look.  But it was a bit too expensive by a whisker for my Lobi, and I don’t have the raw cash in energy credits to pull down buying it on the exchange (something to do with blowing energy credits on fleet holdings over the years…).  But I knew that the next sale would put the outfit in reach.

So, the next Lobi sale has hit.  And…well, I started doing something dangerous.  I started thinking.

The Lobi was no small investment, so I wanted to make sure I got the most use out of the outfits.  The problem was…I couldn’t justify in on my Starfleet guys, and I couldn’t see it working for my Klingons or Romulans.  I could make a new character and new crew (and heaven knows, that’s as inevitable as the sun rising in the morning), but I wasn’t really feeling like it.  Suddenly, I was faced with a new problem:  if I wasn’t going to pull the trigger on the Vaadwaur, should I purchase something else?  Or anything at all?

I toyed with one of the Mirror Universe variants.  I have the Mirror Universe uniforms from the Enterprise era and the Original Series era, but those had been available in the C-Store for Zen; the variants in the Lobi Store were 2409 versions, Mirror Jupiter and Mirror Odyssey variants.  And that had some appeal; I could see myself making a Mirror Universe character with crew.  But…I could also see myself not bothering with that.  A lot of the other outfits tended to be alien related, and thus, maybe suitable for one character on a crew.  I didn’t really feel I’d get my Lobi’s worth from them.

Until I noted the Wells uniforms.

The Wells uniforms are based on the outfits worn by Starfleet’s Temporal guys in the future-they showed up on Star Trek: Voyager back in the day, as the crew outfits for the USS Relativity.  And wouldn’t you know it, I had just finished going through the game with a Temporal Agent who had recently outed himself with a future starship.

The purchase was made.  And I outfitted Captain Rick Masters and the crew of the USS Connor with new uniforms that matched his status as a Temporal Agent.  And I think they look pretty decent, too.

NOW we look like we’ve been to the future and back. Of course, with all the time travel, who can tell?

So my Lobi is now barely in the double digits, and never likely to go any higher-but I have a crew using a uniform that makes sense to me.  Maybe someday I’ll find a way to get the Vaadwaur outfits-purchasing Master Keys and putting them on the Exchange for credits I can use to pick those outfits off the exchange is doable-but for now, I’m satisfied with my choice.  And best of all, no buyer’s remorse here.  Sometimes, in these games, it’s enough.

Five Years at WordPress!

As hard to believe as it may seem, five years ago on this date saw my first post on WordPress.  I’d been doing the blog thing for years prior to that (as can be seen in the posts now residing in “The Old Blog” category), but due to some dissatisfaction with GuildPortal’s blog site at the time and a realization that I was transitioning off of using GP anyway due to problems at that site-and a desire to go with software that was pretty much dedicated to blogging-I decided to head on over to WordPress and brought the Faces with me.

So it’s a happy fifth anniversary for this site!

Five years ago, my first post here spoke of the SOE developers having managed to flub their transition of DC Universe Online to a freeium model.  Since DCUO is still out there, it seems they’ve managed to hang onto its audience despite that, eh?  I was at the time in the closed beta for Star Wars: The Old Republic (but since I was under NDA, I couldn’t actually say anything about it for another week and a half).  At the same time, Star Wars Galaxies was approaching its sunset, although I was already gone after spending 45 days back due to SOE’s little problem with account security.  City of Heroes was still going strong, having recently undergone its own freemium transition (and with no hints of the horror to come in the next year).  And Star Trek Online was literally days away from completing its freemium transition.  (I’m seeing a pattern here.)

The games I’ve spent time in have remained remarkably stable in that time.  While I’d spent some time back in EVE Online and World of Warcraft when they had free return day promotions, I mostly stuck with a core set of games.  City of Heroes held the top spot then, and Star Trek Online was a strong secondary.  SWTOR hit, and I started spending time in that game (gee, I guess we can safely retire the TORtanic meme; a five year run is a pretty damned good run, with no indications that it’s going away soon).  CoH passed on, and I added CO to the rotation, although admittedly it was at the bottom of the list.  And that’s pretty much the way it’s been for most of my WordPress run.

That isn’t to say that the future is set.  Who knows what may happen in the next five years?  We could see one of the spiritual successors of CoH finally rise, or perhaps the Repopulation might finally drag itself out of the hole it found itself in.  Or maybe another MMO will get the attention.  Or maybe not.  Is it beyond the realm of possibility that at least one of my current games might still be around?

Let’s see what the next five has in store, then, shall we?

Knights of the Missing Companions

It may come as a surprise that Star Wars: The Old Republic has got an expansion coming out next month.

No, really!  Here’s the trailer for it.  It’s a charming little look at the childhood of one of the primary antagonists.

Okay, maybe not so charming as much as horrifying.  Life’s tough when you wind up a dark-sider.  Then again, with Valkorion as your daddy, maybe there was no other way that could end.

Knights of the Eternal Throne is slated to apparently wrap up the Zakuul storyline in SWTOR, and it’s going to be a lot faster than one might have expected.  Unlike its predecessor, Knights of the Fallen Empire, we aren’t going to get nine chapters, followed by a chapter monthly to fill out the story-we’re getting the nine for this, and that’s it.  And it won’t be monthly-it’s coming at us all at once.  I may have to avoid Internet and zone chat when the release lands, because I imagine folks will have powered through it on day one.

The reason stated for this appears to be a dedication to focusing back on group content, which has languished for the most part since KotFE (and by group content, I mean “flashpoints and operations”).  Details on just what that will entail will apparently start getting tossed our way in 2017.  Despite not being a grouping sort of guy (mainly because operation-scale fights and late-game FPs tend to require a specific set of tactics and the like which requires research which requires time I don’t have a lot of), I’m for this.  I’ve always been a believer in MMOs to have something for everyone, even if that something isn’t my cup of tea.  I was spoiled by Star Wars Galaxies, I expect, which actually did have something for everyone.  Granted, the two are very different games.

One of the things that jumped out at me, though, is the status of the character companions.

It’s been close to a year since KotFE booted everyone’s pre-expansion companions to the curb, and some of them have managed to make their way back to the Outlander’s base-and some have not.  People have believed that the rest of the companions were likely to return in KotET.  But with only nine chapters left, I’m somewhat dubious-particularly in light of the fact that most of them were “romance-able” companions, and the devs have stated that they want to make reunions of that sort memorable, eg. probably not in an Alert.

Let’s take a quick peek at the roster, shall we?

Bounty Hunter:  Oddly, one of the big winners of the returned companion sweepstakes.  Skadge, Blizz, and Gault have all returned, as well as romance-option Torian; two of these were alerts, the other two during storyline.  Mako (also a romance option) remains at large.

Imperial Agent:  This class had a strong showing.  Lokin returned during an alert, while Kaliyo (romance option) returned in the story-as did SCORPIO, although her status has…mutated a bit.  Temple and Vector, romance options both, remain at large.

Jedi Consular:  The Consular hasn’t had great luck.  Qyzen came back during an alert, but Iresso, Nadia, Tharan, and Zenith are all at large-and honestly, I really expected Zenith to show up earlier, given his background on insurrections.  This makes the Consular the big loser in the sweepstakes, with only ONE companion returned.

Jedi Knight:  Saved from having the least returned thanks to the latest Alert that came with the HK Interlude, the Knight saw one of his guys earliest-T7 in the escape from Vaylin and company; he rejoined officially later down the road.  Rusk came back in an Alert very recently, but Doc (romance option), Kira (romance option) and Iresso (romance option) Lord Scourge (and where is he?  You’d think he’d be VERY interested in the events of this storyline…) are still among the missing. (Note:  the original post put up Iresso twice.  Bad me.)

Republic Trooper:  Havoc has managed to find its way back together…mostly.  Jorgan (romance option) returned during the story, and Yuun was the very first Alert every character does.  M1-4X returns in an Alert as well.  Tanno Vik is…well, complicated.  He shows up in the story, but does not rejoin thus far-and in fact, depending on decisions made, may not actually be able to come back.  Elara (romance option) is still at large.

Sith Inquisitor:  The Inquisitor’s crew is still being reconstituted.  Talos came back from an alert, as did Xalek.  Khem Val, Ashara (romance option), and Andronikos (romance option) are still out there, somewhere.  A Khem-copy can be recruited during an Alert, but is not explicitly a “replacement” for Khem.  Given the variable circumstances of Khem’s mind, it’ll be interesting to see how that may be dealt with.

Sith Warrior:  Vette (romance option) returned to the Warrior in story, while Broomark and Pierce come back during an Alert.  Quinn (romance option) is still missing, as is Jaesa (kinda-romance option), with Jaesa representing some of the potential issues that Khem does, and has a couple different ones as well.

Smuggler:  No love for the Smuggler characters in-story, but he did manage to get Bowdarr and Guss back into the fold.  Risha (romance option), Corso (romance option) and Akavi (romance option) all remain at large.

By my count, 20 companions are unaccounted for, and most of them are potentially former paramours of the Outlander.  If you had two per chapter, it still wouldn’t cover all of them.  Exactly four of them are possible alerts, leaving us with sixteen-but again, still looking at multiple companions per story chapter if they were to get back during KotET.  The odds suck.  This means that it’s likely to be well over a year before the last of the companions return to the fold.  And since most of them are characters that the Outlander may have married, it’s hard to believe that there won’t be a sizeable amount of people who are irritated that they’ll have to wait even longer for them to return.

Well, return in-story, anyway.  As mentioned in prior posts, all of a character’s companions can be brought back, in name only, thanks to the terminal in the commander’s quarters on Odessen.  If you can’t live without seeing them again, that’s certainly one route.  Having done the RP thing in my time, and being a believer in the story, though, I’m likely to leave that terminal alone; suffering is good for the character’s soul.

The devs may yet surprise me, though-and we won’t have to wait much longer.  Knights of the Eternal Throne lands December 2, but subscribers from now until November 27 will get in on November 29, three days prior.  Folks who go that route can nab a couple bonuses as subscriber rewards:  the first for being subbed on October 25 nets you a special companion:  Shae Vizla; expect her to be treated similar to Nico Okarr, where you will get a token to bring her in early, but her Alert mission will probably take place between KotFE and KotET.  Being subbed on November 27th will get you a new vehicle-your very own recon walker-and most importantly, it won’t be painted like HK-55!

When the expansion lands, one can expect a pause in Sorshan’s Story as I put my primary characters through the new stuff.  Expect my thoughts as I go along as it happens; I’m not sure if I’ll put in little preludes like I have with the Epic of Anthrandos and Sorshan’s Story-but I’ve had so much fun doing so, that it’d be a shame not to.  I’ll figure it out by the time the fun begins!

Free to Make Ships Explode

Preparing for the most implacable enemy New Eden has ever seen: free players.

Preparing for the most implacable enemy New Eden has ever seen: free players.

While I’ve been spending my time heavily in Star Trek Online and Star Wars: The Old Republic, I’ve not been ignoring the news that tends to float around on the Internet concerning other games, particularly if it’s a game that I’ve played in the past.  For the most part, I don’t make remarks on them, mainly because…well, they’re games I’ve played in the past.  The key word being “past”.  Thus, even though World of Warcraft’s got this expansion out again, I’m not compelled to remark hard on it-aside from the odd offers of free game time, I don’t really expect to spend a lot of time on Azeroth anymore.

The same also held true for EVE Online; I’d had a number of stints there, including a lengthy one before STO was released with some of my old SWG guildies.  But aside from the occasional “play five days free again”, I’d not really spent a lot of time with it.  But recently, the developers as CCP dropped a bomb on the market:  even though they’ve tiptoed around it, EVE Online is slated to go to a freemium model in November.

Now, in the interests of fairness:  there’s really two types of freemium games.  Ones that are literally free to play and sell a bunch of stuff to make playing easier (like STO), and those that are technically free but have so many restrictions that if you really wanted to enjoy the experience, you’ll want to subscribe on a monthly basis (like SWTOR).  From the sounds of it, this is going to be closer to the SWTOR model than it is to the STO model.  It’s still not quite the same, though.

It has to do with what they’re calling “Clone States”.  The Omegas are exactly what you see in the game now:  no restrictions except for that which is imposed by lack of training in the appropriate skill books (and, you know, ISK, the in-game currency).  In other words, your subscribers-or the folks who have so much ISK that they can purchase PLEX, which is an item you can buy with real money and put on their market for ISK-usually a lot of it-or simply use to give yourself a month of paid subscription.  (Honestly, if you’re buying PLEX with real money, there’s almost no reason to use it other than by selling it in-game; a straight sub does just fine.)

The Alphas are the new guys-or the guys who have let their subs lapse (ahem).  The Alphas can only use certain skills, at a certain maximum level; use only certain ships-Tech One frigates, cruisers, and destroyers-and have a ceiling on their maximum skill points (which is still a pretty healthy number but hardly earth-shaking).  While it hasn’t been said, I would not be surprised if, in addition to those ships mentioned above, one might also get access to the industrial ships for hauling, as those are mostly harmless (please, nobody send me builds of heavily armed Iterons); I do not expect the Tech One mining ships to be on the list, though, given the troubles the game has had with mining bots as it is.  Why would CCP make life even easier on those?  I can see them justify hauling, but not mining.  That said, a legion of mining frigates can probably do a bot’s job just as well over time.

Presumably, a returning player-one who is returning free, that is-will find all his clones in an Alpha state, and I can easily see a situation where a player might reserve one of his three character slots for an “Alpha only” character to use in free periods, and leave another as their “paid Omega guy”.  Certainly, that’s my plan; keep my original pair in Omega-land and leave them semi-retired, and spend time with a new character.  This should not imply that I’m expecting to upgrade to full-time status with EVE again; but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I expect to log into it come November and see what’s what.

Of course, this also begs the question of just what I’d actually do when the time comes.  After all, I’ve done my best to eschew PvP wherever it lies, and PvP lies at the dark heart of EVE Online.  Mining is out, hauling is out (until proven otherwise, I’m going to assume it won’t be there at launch, no matter what I figure may happen in the future), and mass market manipulation is out.  Crafting is a possibility, as is exploration to a limited extent seems possible, since those skills are available but have a limited ceiling on training.  The classic PvE missions are still there (well, presumably-it’s been a while), but with the limit on the ship types, one can easily presume that you’ll hit a ceiling on the types of missions you can run with a reasonable chance of success.

Still, one has to admit:  even with the limits, there’s a pretty fair amount of stuff to do.  EVE is still one of the most pure sandbox MMO’s out there, and with its huge galaxy of star systems (and even bigger if you dare low-sec or null-sec space), it’s difficult to not find something worth doing.  Even if it just involves day trading at Jita.

Odds are high that I’ll be making a new character for the freemium EVE ahead, and unlike my previous ones, it won’t be Gallente; I sort of want to see other sides of the EVE universe, and I may very well just look at the galaxy map, see who’s farthest away, and go with that faction.  I’m like that sometimes.

Oh, For the Love of Alts…!

Bioware/EA had been indicating an interesting event upcoming in Star Wars: The Old Republic independent of the Knights of the Fallen Empire’s story.  What we knew was that it would involved eventually getting a brand new companion, and that companion would either be a Light Side or Dark Side companion depending on the choices made during the storyline…for everybody.  To be a bit more precise, every single player involved in the event would tilt the scales, and whichever side won would determine the nature of the companion-who would be available for all participants as an account unlock.

The devs recently slapped up a blog post going into greater detail-and there’s a wee bit more to it than just “get more Dark/Light Side points”.  Oh, is there a lot more.

First up:  the only participants in the event are new characters.  If you’ve already filled up all your character slots on a server, you can buy new ones (they’ll be going on sale next week) or do the event on a different server.  In theory that would work; they did say it would be an account unlock for that companion, but since everything is being tracked by Legacy achievements, I’m withholding judgment on that.  Still, the point remains:  you have to do the event with a brand spanking new character, and it can’t be one starting at level 60 if you’ve got one of those tokens.  Nope.

Next:  it’s not just a question of Light/Dark points.  See, there are different levels of achievement here.  Each one will give you some gamble-packs, with some decent stuff (one of which is Satele Shan’s outfit; well, that’s one item on the GTN market that’s about to tank in price) which will be bound on pickup, but will unlock in the Collections tab so that your other characters can benefit.  Each one will have other stuff attached, too, like event-related armor, pets, vehicles, titles, and yes, the aforementioned new companion-which will either be Darth Hexid or Master Ranos.  Whether or not we’ll ever see the one not chosen is an open question.

Whose side are YOU on?

These levels of achievement are tricky, to say the least.  The first level is straightforward:  get that new character to level 25.  Nice and simple, right?  The next level is a bit more complex.  Get that character to level 50, AND complete three “story” Flashpoints.  Well, with the solo Flashpoints out there, that’s not horrible; the first one for each faction, and the Jedi Prisoner/Foundry ones will do nicely for that.  Level 50 isn’t simple, but it is doable, as I certainly have cause to know!  The level that comes after that takes that character up to level 60 and through the Shadow of Revan and into the first 9 chapters of KotFE, plus doing the introductory stuff for the Galactic Strongholds (which is no big deal).

So, everything seems nice and simple, right?

It continues, and now it starts getting into the deeper water.  The character must complete KotFE (up to the final chapter, revealed as the Battle of Odessen-that’s a bad, bad sign-which launches late July); he must do ALL of the Flashpoints in Solo or Tactical Mode (and a good chunk of those have no Solo Mode, so hang onto the hats) AND must reach Valor Rank 5, which is achieved by doing PvP Warzones-and since I don’t really do the PvP thing, I have no idea how difficult that detail is.  Oh, and complete 5 Alliance Alerts, but that’s no big struggle.  (Yuun’s doesn’t count.)

The next level appears to be independent of the previous ones-which is good, since that’s the one that has as its reward that companion mentioned above.  However…you need to have that new character each level 65, AND a new character of the opposing faction to level 65.  AND you need to complete round 5 of the Eternal Championship with one of them.  (That one I’m less sure about; it might be that you could get that with one of your other characters, but I’ve no confirmation either way on that.)  Now, that’s just beating up players.  Altitis Hell approaches.  But it hasn’t arrived yet.

That’s for the next level:  this is just a bit of what you need:  level 50 for all classes, 1 million credits (that’s not as impressive as it used to be), reach Dark 5 and Light 5 alignment (thankfully, not on the same character), kill 5 specific World Bosses, Kill 5 specific Operations Bosses, all Hard Mode Flashpoints and the Eternal Championship.  Among other things.  If you have to do this on the new characters-effectively making 8 new characters-this will be a bit of a living hell.  I mean, I’m an altoholic, but come on, now!  (And that IS eight new characters; they have to be “event characters” made for this event.)

So, my operational plans are to pretty much do a Republic and Sith character thru KotFE and go for the first three levels, and then focus fire on the Eternal Championship fifth round to qualify for the character.  I haven’t decided what side to be on; I like the look of the Light Side character, but I hate to make snap judgments.  As for the characters themselves…well, if one is going to do this sort of Dark/Light sort of thing, I kind of feel I gotta go Jedi and Sith.  The only question is:  Knight or Consular, Warrior or Inquisitor?  I might finally do what I’d been considering for a while:  let random rolls determine everything about the characters, from appearance to class to advanced class choices.  The plan originally was to also do the same for Light/Dark choices, but I think if I do this, I’m going all in with my choice.  So both will either be staunchly Light, or seriously Dark.

Light Versus Dark begins on June 28-which is, ironically, when the next Chapter for KotFE lands.  KotFE has priority, followed by the Alliance Alert for that chapter (I need Guss back!), and once those are done…THEN I can begin the journey…for the seventeenth time.

Yes, I have had questions about my sanity before, and I will probably be hearing them again soon…!