Account Management - Blizzard and Square

I recently found myself logging into my battle.net account to see the status of my SC2 Beta, and was quite surprised at the overall changes they’ve done there since last time I visited.

I think in a way, this is something that really spoils people using Blizzard products, not only do I have the available downloads of my old games there, but there’s a simple link to administer my two WoW-accounts, and also a simple link that says “click here to add a new WoW 10-day trial account!” – almost scary how easy it’d be to get started with the multiboxing again.

In terms of SC2 though, I clicked around and found that they actually have the option to download SC2 now, and just pay/activate at the launch day if needed! If you misunderstand me right here, this is almost enough incentive to actually buy SC2 on its own!

This realization comes at a time where I’ve been trying to figure out what to do in regards to Final Fantasy XIV (online), and how the ordering there will work out. In terms of mmorpgs, I’m extremely fond of being able to log in at the exact minute that the servers go online and be one of the first to explore the new server – and I’m concerned in terms of the FFXIV launch and their pre-ordering options – as I don’t really know which ones will be able to get me the game on time!

In previous online games, it has been more or less the standard for pre-orders to gain access to an early access beta, and in that sense you’re covered regarding having the software available at launch – and they also have a 3-5 day grace period where you can still play live before you actually get the retail key in the mail.

Note that this could still happen with FFXIV, having their launch date two months ahead in time, I’m just slightly concerned as the pre-orders are already being sold, and if they have such perks, they’d usually announce them.

I’m hoping Square will follow slightly with what Blizzard is doing with their account management, downloadable software and all – not to mention simplify the entire account management process in general, as anyone who played FFXI will testify that creating the account and getting things working there wasn’t as trivial as it should have been. Note that they could’ve fixed this up already, but seeing how they didn’t feel like inviting me into their beta, I don’t know!

/bitter

Technorati Tags: ,,,,

FFXIV Names

I’m quite happy that the launch of FFXIV is coming closer here now, as I was planning on playing some FFXI this month to get my dose of Final Fantasy sorted out, but seeing how close the launch was – I decided to pause it and just wait it out instead.

However, from the reports of the beta, it seems that there’s actually a requirement for characters to have both firstname and lastname, which makes me – well – not concerned, but it got me thinking!

To me the name in an online game is something I respect a fair bit, I don’t really mess around with funny names or silly ones, I try to maintain my identity throughout games, so that if you encounter a “Mijan” in a game, it’s a good chance that it’s actually me. I’ve been trying to figure out what kind of last name would go well with Mijan, but it seems I’m not very creative – or I’m just too used to it being “stand-alone” to actually imagine it with another name at the end…

Any suggestions? :)

Technorati Tags: ,,

Borderlands

Just a quick post here after quite a bit of time without posting, life has been hectic lately – and I haven’t been able to keep up with gaming as much as I’d like to!

However, I managed to pick up Borderlands in the Steam summer week special, and it’s heaps of fun really. I didn’t quite think I’d enjoy it as much as I do, but there’s something about the successful combination of FPS and RPG here that really makes me have fun with it, would recommend it to anyone who’s remotely interested in those genres!

Technorati Tags: ,

Global Agenda

After more or less randomly coming across Global Agenda after it being offered as a free trial download on Steam, I found myself being quite fond of the game and mechanics – almost made me think back to the golden days of Planetside and the fun I had there.

The game claims to be an MMO-FPS type game, with persistent worlds and skills/experience… the whole standard MMO-progression path, but in reality, it’s as MMO as Guild Wars and other instanced games. Not saying that this is a bad thing really, but I think there are quite a few games that tend to blur the definitions of what the massive aspect is – and I’d consider this in no way as MMO as Planetside once was.

The overall essence of the game is 10v10 combat. For the random masses, people sign up and get thrown into a match with similarly leveled people, with different objectives – and then fight it out. The setting is a futuristic earth, and the invention of jetpacks really impacts the game and making it a whole lot more fun than one would assume initially.

There are 4 different classes in the game, each with a relatively familiar role in such combat, namely Assaults (heavy/tank), Recon (scout/sniper), Medic (healer) and Robotics (misc drones/turrets), and despite being slightly biased as someone who tends to gravitate towards healing in online games, I’ve had tons of fun playing all the different classes – it’s strongly recommended to try out the different classes, as there’s a good chance one of the classes will really appeal to your specific gameplay!

In addition to the PvP elements, there are also some PvE missions for 4 player teams, though the variety here isn’t really all that huge, and I fear that it might put some people off having to run through the PvE missions initially (from level 5 until level 8, when you can start the PvP groups) – despite it being intended as introduction to the class you’re playing and all. If you try this game out, make sure you sit through the 20-30mins it takes to get to level 8 and try out the PvP before you toss it away, after all, that’s what it’s aiming for – 10v10 PvP fights!

Furthermore, for the organized PvP, you have Alliances fighting for control in the Conquest system, I haven’t participated in this yet, but you can see the introduction to Conquest video here!

So, if you’re slacking one day, or want to try another game while waiting for Planetside 2 (or Planetside Next) – head over to Steam or the main Global Agenda site today for a free trial!

Technorati Tags: ,,

Settlers 7 Review of sorts!

As a huge fan of the old Settlers 2 game, I’ve seen the newer games in the series come and turn out to be much worse than the previous ones; the previous few installments of the game actually changed the series so much that it could easily be its own franchise! However, the initial look at the screens and concepts seemed to be decent enough, so I decided to buy Settlers 7 and see what it’s all about…

First impression is that Ubisoft seems to want you to be online while playing it, requiring a login to their site, and locking your key to the site as well… the plus side here is that they’re also kind enough to store your save games online – which actually came in handy as I was testing the game on both my PCs.

Now, the actual game is fairly similar in thought to the the original versions of the game. You construct buildings, manage resources, build tools to expand and all that, but the annoying bits in the first few games seem to have been resolved nicely with generalizing the tools concept, so you don’t need to make a TON of different tools in the event that you would actually want to be prepared to expand further!

The buildings you can construct are also compressed slightly, with the ability to build a  generic farm or residence, then attach work shops to them to be able to do production and so on. Building a farm in a decent spot gives you up to three slots available to construct work items such as grain-fields, pig-farms or windmills. Similarly, the residences will let you attach workshops to them for construction of various goods.

In the sense of strategy and overall map  functionality, the map is divided into a number of zones in Settlers 7, and you only have access to the nearest zones for interaction, making it easier to focus defenses, and plan ahead when it comes to which zones to go for first, each zone once conquered will then give you the option to build anything in that zone, and typically take advantage of its natural resources. Planning ahead is roughly everything in that game, as if you manage to expand in a direction without certain required raw materials, you can easily find yourself severely limited and need to do a complete reorganization of your assets to be able to recover, meanwhile your enemies keep building…

Each of the zones are typically able to be upgraded with fortifications to slow down and damage opponents who try to invade, and this really seems to be an excellent way of pacing the game properly making sure that you don’t just get rushed crazy by an aggressive player.

One of the goals with Settlers 7 was the idea that you could focus on different paths to victory, and this has been implemented through the use of Victory Points, and giving out these points whenever players manage to satisfy certain conditions.

There are three different main paths to achieve victory, namely Science, Trading and through Military strength, and as opposed to previous games where they’ve tried to balance these different paths out, Settlers 7 actually manages to pull it off! As an example, the skirmishes are usually set up so you need 4-5 points to win, and if you manage to completely focus on your given craft, there’s about 4-5 points to gain from going all out there, provided no one else turns out to be “better” at it than you.

The main concern I had when I thought of this balance was how the science and traders would be able to withstand a military player. Typically the military player will have a bigger and more advanced army than the others, as they’ll be focusing mainly on building up swords and educating higher military troops. However, that might not be enough against the other players… as traders will usually have an insane amount cash flowing around, and the ability to set up trade routes and trade for whichever resources they might lack, and/or just trade for profit – then hire excessive amounts of troops from the tavern without needing specialized tools like the military player. While the science player will be able to research technologies and upgrades, making his troops stronger and even increasing the strength of his fortifications! All in all, the overall balance is a whole lot better than I could’ve hoped for. Then again, once people start coming up with cunning schemes in the next few weeks for multiplayer matches, people might start complaining again…

I think in summary, this is by far my favorite installment of the series since the Settlers 2 edition. I started playing the campaign friday evening, and when I decided I was tired and needed to get some rest, I assumed the time was around midnight… quite shocked to find out that it was actually 05:00 and the birds who were chirping weren’t in-game sounds after all! I’m fairly sure there’s been some sort of scary time-continuum experiment involved in the making of Settlers 7, as I can’t remember the last time I completely lost track of time while playing a game like I have here, and that’s surely a good thing in terms of it being a good game!

Currently the only slight negative with the game is the limitations of the map editor, however I can completely understand why it’s limited like it is, as you need to have some control of the zones and resources to keep it slightly balanced – however, seeing how this is the first and only game I’ve actually *wanted* to use a map editor, this isn’t much of an issue! I’m assuming they’ll release more than enough maps to keep people happy in the time to come…

In short, if you liked one of the previous titles, chances are you’ll love this one, if you like the strategy/city building genre, but not necessarily the titles where you need over 100 actions per minute to be successful, give it a try… it’s good fun!

Technorati Tags: ,,

ATI Eyefinity - the good, the bad and the ugly

Upon buying my new pc, I decided to go for the “best of the best” in the current semi-single card graphics world, as such – when I saw the ATI 5970 in stock, I instantly ordered before they’d run out (again!).

Now, my previous PC setup had a 30” Dell monitor running at 2560x1600, with a 27” Dell monitor for “support” and general two-monitor fun, but after seeing some of the really cool videos of Eyefinity in action on youtube, I decided I just had to try and see how it would work out.

The prices for the 30” monitors seemed a tad too steep for me to invest two additional matching monitors - not to mention I’d run out of desk-space – so the solution was to grab a hold of 3x relatively cheap 24” monitors to be able to run 1920x1080x3 (5760x1080). This went relatively well, however, the 3 outputs on the card are 2x DVI and 1x mini-DisplayPort, one of which proves to be more painful than the others! Now, there’s a technical explanation of why it “needs” to be a mini-DP, but I’m not going to go into detail here, I just wanted things to work! In addition to this, the regular mini-DP to DVI adapters won’t work with eyefinity, you need an active powered adapter, which really isn’t available in my region – unless you decide to go with the Apple link… and this is extremely expensive for just a small adapter!

After reading around, one of the reasons why you need an active adapter is to support a potential 30” 2560x1600 resolution, something which I really didn’t need. So, I checked out the alternatives, and apparently you can use a mini-DP to VGA adapter as long as you don’t go above the 1920x1200 resolution – it worked nicely and cost 10% of what the DVI adapter did!

Setting it up is a breeze really, go into Catalyst and select the order in which the screens are, and woosh! It merges all your screens into one! It’s quite funny to watch really!

Now, starting off with the good … I decided to give Dirt 2 a spin, the racing game that came with the graphics card, and it’s just plain awesome! The added vision that you have on the sides, really gives you a much more immersive experience, and I think it’s one of the few times I can honestly say I’ve really enjoyed racing games!

The bad … not a lot of games actually support Eyefinity just like that; some support the resolution, but just stretch everything so it’s so horrible that it’s just no use, while in-game movies tend to keep the aspect ratio of the originally intended video, resulting in you either seeing only the top, middle or bottom of the movie. If a game doesn’t support the resolution and jumps to 1920x1080, Eyefinity detects this and decides to go single-screen mode, so people should be able to go around this if they wanted to really.

The ugly part came around when I played Left 4 Dead 2 (for the first time in my life), as I really wanted to try a FPS with eyefinity! The level of immersion was so good and I’d literally jump when I’d see zombies jumping at me from “the side” – I was actually reminded of the first dark Half-Life sections back in the day where it’s all dark and quiet before you have a screechy head-crab jumping at your face, that’s how I was getting worked up during the first level of the game.

So, what’s bad with this? Well, as I finished the first 20-30 minutes I was getting fairly dizzy. I usually keep my mouse sensitivity fairly high, and this apparently really messed with my head, as I all of a sudden got the urge to run to the bathroom to throw up. I suspect there’s a warning label somewhere saying you should only play this with extremely horrible sensitivity, or in segments of 30secs at a time. Either way, I was throwing up and feeling sick the next 24 hours as a result of this, and I’m not the person to ever get sick like that sitting in front of a PC, ever.

All in all, Eyefinity is excellent fun for the games that support it – especially if used carefully when you encounter FPS-games. I recently played Settlers 7 with it, and apart from some minor misadjustments and the ingame movie problem, it’s really adding to the whole game experience. If you have an eyefinity-capable graphics card, there’s really no reason to not go for a setup like that regardless with the cheap monitors at the moment, even if you don’t use it for the eyefinity-mode, what’s not to like about 3 monitors? :)

Technorati Tags: ,,,,

New PC - Alienware (Me selling out)

I recently decided to go for a new PC, as my old one was, well, not exactly lagging behind, but I wanted to be able to play on 2560x1600 with higher details even on new games, which I wasn’t too sure I’d be able to achieve simply by swapping some parts, so a new PC it was!

Now, I’ve been building both my own and other peoples PCs for the last decade, and vowed many a time to completely avoid all the pre-built systems out there, but then I started doing some minor price comparisons and wanted to see what the hype was all about regarding Alienware.

With a reputation of being extremely overpriced, I configured the top model and saw it was definitely true there, and went on to check out what parts I’d need for my new PC, but stopped at the point where watercooling for the CPU became a priority. Not feeling too brave in that department, I decided once again to look up the pre-built options.

I decided to start with the smallest model from Alienware instead, as it hit me that the initial option really wasn’t too expensive given its features and components – and a price comparison showed that it was roughly the same as buying the same components!

At that point I was fairly sold on the idea, and decided to add custom upgrades to the system for the part which I couldn’t easily replace myself – namely the CPU and its watercooling system – and the price was so close to the component price that it was well worth it to actually put in an order.

I did however want this PC to be fairly decent, and after doing a quick check with customer service to ensure that the warranty wouldn’t be broken by me messing around in the case I placed the order, and did a side-order of RAM, an Intel SSD and the new ATI 5970 graphics card. The interesting part here is that actually upgrading these parts in the configuration of the PC put almost 50% more on the price than it should have if you were thinking component cost, and I’m fairly sure this is where the overpriced and profit margins from Alienware kicks in – as people who usually want to buy a “top of the line” PC tends to just go and max out everything, then complain as it’s horribly overpriced.

When the PC arrived, I have to admit it was quite beautiful! Not really thinking so much of the appearance on the outside, but the careful thought and deliberation that had gone on in creating the inside of the case, everything was so easily accessible and doing the upgrades was so simple I’m quite convinced I’m never going to go back to custom building unless I actually have the exact same flexibility this case offers! On a side note here, the size of the 5970 is massive, and you really need some added space next to the motherboard inside the case to actually fit it at all.

All in all, I’m pleasantly surprised with my experience, I feel that I’ve gotten great value, and the only negative I can think of is the time it took to actually assemble and ship the system, I’m giving them the benefit of “We had a christmas backlog”-doubt though, and figure it was just a timing issue.

If you’re borderline when it comes to the custom vs pre-built and don’t have a local retailer, I would recommend just trying to check the basic specs for the smallest Alienware setup available, and then do a nice price comparison there, then add on what you really want.

Current PC Specs: i7 960 3.2ghz, 12gb RAM, ATI 5970, Intel X-25 Gen2 SSD

Technorati Tags: ,

Star Trek Online - Overview, Tips and Review-ish Info

Now that the NDA of the Star Trek Online has been lifted, I’ve had a fair few people ask me some questions about it, and decided it would probably be good to summarize some hints and tips, as well as giving an overview of the general mechanics of the game. The tips and suggestions will include mainly the low level stuff, as you should be able to make your own conclusions after playing for a while.

A slight disclaimer should note that the views expressed here are my own opinions based on roaming around in beta, and only that, opinions. Also, this will be a lot of text, the TL;DR version should be at the bottom. :)

First off, the general setting is – as the name implies – the Star Trek Universe, where you’re roaming around captaining your starship, or leading your away team to boldly go wherever you want! Undertaking missions involving combat and/or exploration for the benefit of the Federation or the Klingon Empire.

The actual game is divided into two different sections, ground and space. When you’re on ground missions, you run around as your avatar, with a squad of 4 others, either your NPC officers or other players. While the space section has you captaining a spaceship roaming around in space.

Space Combat

Probably the most anticipated and fun part of the game is the space part of the game. A typical fight would involve maneuvering around trying to destroy the other ship with phasers and torpedos, making sure to have them in your firing arcs, while at the same time trying to deflect as much damage as possible into your shield, balancing out the shield to the area where you are receiving damage.

The shield mechanic is based on there being 4 different sections on your ship each covered by a portion of your total shield energy, then as attacks come in, your shield will absorb a fair amount of the damage, depleting the energy in that section. At that point you should use skills to channel energy from the other sections over to the damaged one, or simply try to maneuver away so the damaged section is no longer facing the enemy.

The weapons mechanic consists of there being front and rear weapon slots, with each weapon having a different firing arc. The main types of weapons are energy weapons, torpedoes and to a certain extent mines – the energy weapons are usually quick to fire and are relatively decent at sorting out shield, while the torpedoes generally have a longer reload and have extreme amounts of damage to hull when the shield is down.

The choice of weapons determine how you’re going to maneuver around in combat, typically the smaller arc gives the most damage, while the 240degree arc does medium damage, and the 360 arc does less damage. As an example, if you were extremely forward focused, you could put cannons (45degree) and torpedoes (90degree) in your forward slots, and turrets (360degree) in rear slots. If you go with such a setup, you need to adjust your playstyle to ensure that you almost always face the target, while a more balanced setup with 240degree phasers front and rear would have a more flexible setup, being able to deal damage while performing evasive actions.

As an example, the standard setup is forward and rear 240degree phaser beam weapons, and front torpedoes in the second weaponslot. I’d keep the phasers on autofire and try to broadside the other ship, while switching sides or adjusting shield power to compensate for their damage output, until their shields are failing, at which point I try to get them in the frontal view to launch torpedoes for the massive hull damage.

In addition to this, you also have control over where you want to put your power. There are 4 systems in need of power, namely weapons, shields, engines and auxiliary. Increasing power to weapons or auxiliary will increase damage from energy weapons or effectiveness of various utility skills respectively, while increasing power to shields will improve shield regen rates, and engines will increase movement speed. In a typical combat situation, I found it generally preferable to set full power to weapons, remainder to shields and minimal to engines/auxiliary due to the ships usually not being strong enough to break through my shields before I could destroy them.

Another tip when it comes to surviving against stronger ships especially, is that you should quickly identify if they have a ton of torpedoes and/or cannons at their forward arc, typically escorts will have these, if so – try to avoid being in their really strong arc, as that could easily the difference between a destroyed ship and taking minimal damage.

Furthermore, the outcome of battle will be influenced by the use of skills, these are coming either from your character, your ship(type) or your bridge officers.

Bridge Officers and Ships

Bridge Officers are NPCs you recruit or gain as rewards throughout the game with their own special abilities. As you progress in the game, you can also train and promote your own bridge officers, advancing them in rank just like yourself, with the slight exception of them needing to stay at least one rank below you. For each rank they gain, they gain access to another skill.

The different ships available have a set amount of Bridge Officers you can use at the same time, and different grades as well. As an example, the first science vessel you can access (when you reach rank Lt. Commander) has room for two science, one tactical and one engineering officer, however only one of those two science officers can be ranked as Lieutenant (Rank 1, Ensign being Rank 0), while the other has to be ranked as an Ensign still. As a result of this, only one of those officers can use their rank 1 skill, while the other one will have this disabled.

The different ships you can use are divided into three types, Science Vessels (Science Bridge Officers), Cruisers (Engineering Bridge Officers) and Escorts (Tactical Bridge Officers). Cryptic has stated that they’re aiming to fill three different roles in combat with these, and want the Cruisers to fulfill a tanking role, Escorts to perform a damage role and Science Vessels to represent the utility. The main attractions of the different ships are that Escorts are able to mount cannons, are agile and have an extra forward weapon slot, cruisers are slow, have an extra weapon slot and have a ton of hitpoints, while science vessels possess more shields than the rest and have the ability to target subsections of the enemy vessels.

As far as endgame goes, the current final tier ships will allow you to have one Commander (Rank 3) and one Lt. Commander (Rank 2) of the main ship career active, while having a Lieutenant and Ensign of a second career active, and a Lieutenant of a third career active – which career the latter two relate to will depend on which subtype you choose for the final tier ship.

What does this mean? This should be one of the main things to consider when deciding on a ship class. In addition to the special effects for its given class, you will only have Lt Commander and Commander Bridge Officer skills available for the given career for your shiptype available.

Careers and Progression

As mentioned before, there are three different classes or careers in the game, namely Tactical, Science and Engineering. The real impact these careers have on the game is narrowed down to what kind of ground abilities (kits) they can use/equip, and to a certain degree what kind of special skills they receive for use in space.

I’d like to just note that there are people thinking that a certain career means you will be locked to a certain type of ship, which isn’t true at all. As it stands, certain career abilities will favor some ships more than others, but you could also argue that those abilities will complement the other ship classes as well, so it’s really up to personal choice. Note that I’m not 100% sure what the abilities for the different player careers are, as I couldn’t find a list of them, and they seem to appear at random levels.

The progression is a simple leveling system, sort of tucked into the Starfleet ranks. From Lieutenant to Admiral basically involves 50 levels, with a rank up and new ship possibilities every 10 levels.

Each time you complete a mission or defeat some of the higher ranked enemies in the game, you receive an amount of skillpoints. These skillpoints can be used at any time to increase your skills in the skill list. A note here should be that all of the skills are either ground or space skills, and you don’t gain any powers directly from the skills you select, in fact, most of the advanced skills are simply enhancing other skills used by yourself or your bridge officers.

Currency and Missions

The currency in the game is divided into two. First you have the “replicator credit” which you get from “selling” items you find. This will let you “buy” various items from most merchants ingame. Secondly you have merit points, which are awarded at the end of missions and could be seen as faction credits to be spent on various faction perks from Starfleet. In addition to these two, you have a fair amount of commodities you can either buy or trade for, some of which are required to complete certain missions. As an example, to progress in a quest at Deep Space Nine, you need 10 Entertainment Provisions, which are traded for by a nearby merchant, who requires something like 6 Provisions to trade for one Entertainment Provision. The regular provisions are replicated and sold at Starfleet commodity brokers, so you would need to first buy 60 of those provisions, trade them with the shady merchant, and then turn them in to the person who has the quest.

In addition to currency, Cryptic declared that crafting was in-game, which is true according to their definition I suppose. As you travel through the universe, you come across anomalies, which upon examination rewards you with some sort of artifact or other item. Gathering these and giving them, along with an item to a merchant will reward you with an upgraded version of the item, I can’t say it’s quite SWG-crafting, but then again, nothing is. :)

The various missions you can perform are relatively diverse at first, ranging from exploration quests, kill quests, and fairly mixed content. Furthermore, all missions and encounters are scaled to your group size, so you can group up and still receive challenging content, as the game will just spawn more ships or harder enemies for you.

In addition to these you have missions in the form of Fleet Actions which are similar to public quests in Warhammer Online, where a ton of people group up and perform a shared goal. These also seem to mix a bit of space and ground as well, establishing groups as you beam down to perform ground combat.

Ground Combat

Ground combat is exactly what it sounds like, where you run around like most other mmos today, except you have a relatively limited amount of skills on your character. The mechanics are slightly different than what’s “standard” compared to the other mmos out there is that you have an expose/set-up-for-damage system and flanking damage. You want to initially perform an expose attack to render the target immobilized and open for massive damage, almost similar to dropping shields of a starship, and follow up with a damage attack to deal added damage. Furthermore, attacking from the side or the back will deal extra damage, so positioning is key to do the tactical approaches here.

Now, the reason I don’t write too much about ground combat is that I really don’t have too much positive to say about it, I dislike the controls, combat feels very unnatural and there’s an insane amount of latency compared to space combat – I assume the latter one will be fixed soon though. However, after the first few ground combat missions, I just sat there with a sour taste in my mouth whenever I saw these appear, and just wanted to get back into space as quickly as possible. The solution to ground missions was for me to just run into the midst of the enemy and hopefully get killed, then go do something else for a few minutes, while my trusty Bridge Officers killed the remaining enemies and helped me get back up.

Another “flaw” in both the ground and space combat, but much more visible in ground combat, is the utter lack of any death penalty. One of my missions bugged at one point, rendering the level of the boss I was going to kill much much higher than it should be, pretty much unbeatable in a fair fight. However, when he decided to follow me back to my respawn point, things started looking up – except I don’t think the “graveyard zerg” tactic should be one of the more viable ones for defeating tough opponents. Yet, with no death penalty whatsoever, this is unfortunately not only a viable tactic, but a fairly efficient one as well.

Klingon Gameplay and PvP

A separate section is needed here, as the above is mostly generic, but all based on the Starfleet side of the universe. Once you reach Lt. Grade 5 or 6, you receive the option to create a Klingon character. This character will start at Lt. Grade 6 as a member of the Klingon Empire and roam around with his stealthy little Bird of Prey.

I have to admit I didn’t spend a lot of time on my Klingon character, so I can’t go into details on this, but from the little I played, I can tell you there’s a lot of fun to be had with a cloaked ship!

The Klingon progression has been flagged as being very PvP-centric, and I suspect it became quite apparent when one of the first missions I received was to die 25 times in PvP combat.

All the different scenarios were something I didn’t get around to testing, but from what I could see, there’s a wide variety of scenarios and “battlegrounds” to participate in, and the ones I did try were quite a bit of fun, despite me figuring out the hard way how cloaked doesn’t really mean undetectable as I managed to get too close to one of the enemy ships, and received a very timely torpedo barrage before I was able to remove my cloak and raise my shields.

Summary

All in all though, I feel the game as a whole comes off strong despite its flaws. The space combat is quite refreshing, and as you progress to the stages where you gain new ships and more skills, the combat really turns hectic, and it’s increasingly difficult to keep track of all the different angles you need to maintain for weapons, shield values, power balance, positioning to minimize damage and various skills to use.

The concerns are present especially regarding ground combat with away missions, but also in the sense that I feel they may have a case of the diversity and potential for longevity in the game not really showing until you’re quite a while into the game, and as such, it might scare off some people.

Meanwhile, I’ll keep petitioning for Star Trek Online to follow the Starfleet directive prohibiting captains to participate in away missions …

Technorati Tags: ,,

Aion Early Start

I’ve been quite “busy” having fun in various games and other activities over the summer, and as a result I suspect I didn’t get around to posting things, will see if that can change a bit now though …

I honestly didn’t think I would have the time to post anything at present, as I decided to give Aion a try, after pre-ordering it to get into the beta way back when … it released for pre-orders this sunday, and I’m usually quite occupied when it comes to new MMOs being released, it triggers a rather competitive must-level-asap gene…

Now, the reason for me actually writing here now, is the way NCSoft is handling this lovely launch! Sure, people claim most MMOs are off to a rocky start, but really, the previous two big title MMOs in my book (Warhammer/AoC) both had a fairly decent actual launch, and seeing how Aion already has been running for a year in Asia, there shouldn’t really be any reason for it being dodgy.

The current issue is the fact that servers have insanely long queues to actually get into the game, I came home from work today and immediately queued for login, and found that there was a 4hour 30minute wait ahead of me. I sighed and went around doing other stuff for a while, checking in every now and then to see how things were coming along, then at 5minutes remaining, position 50ish in the queue, the client decided enough was enough, and just froze. Back out and in, why hello there, another 4 hours for you!

I tend to be quite favorable towards developers/gamecompanies when it comes to pretty much any software title. Being a developer myself, I know how messy things can get, and how extremely hard it is to predict issues/bugs and so on, yet, on this occasion I can’t seem to figure out why NCSoft hasn’t launched this smoother.

First off, they knew the amount of people pre-ordering, so they should definitely be able to scale servers accordingly. If that’s not enough, they’re employing the zone-instance approach in-game, which basically lets them have a lot more people on the servers at the same time in the “same” area than most other MMOs, again, if it’s a capacity issue, just spawn more instances! Then, the final straw has to be the fact that they let people pre-register 3 days before actually being able to play. Even if they blatantly ignore the amount of people who have pre-ordered, surely this should be a VERY GOOD indication of how many people would actually want to play the during the early start period!

Now, 2hours and 39minutes remaining, with the launcher still thanking me for my patience, I can’t help but wonder what will happen when the game is officially launched, and the rest of the population who wants to play decides to start playing… also, I can’t help but wonder if any anti-afk type tools are frowned upon, as it’d be quite tempting to just leave the character logged in while at work, to avoid having to spend 80% of the evening in a login queue.

For the record, I’ve managed to play the game for roughly 3 hours in total now, while spending 15 hours in queues!

Oh, and I’ll give the review at a later point, need to hopefully let this slide and give a relatively unbiased review based on the actual in-game features!

Technorati Tags: ,,

WoW Arena Season 5 and Season 6 - Arena Fun!

I had a break from WoW due to last arena-season being slightly worrying. With last season being the first season at level 80, there was bound to be some sort of imbalance really – but for me it was just too much really. I initially started off with my freshly leveled Paladin and did a few matches right out of the starting blocks really, not having done any PvP with my Paladin before that, and did rather well. A limited skillset with independant skills was really not my idea of having fun in arena though, so I decided to scrap that and level up my Priest to play that instead.

My previous arena history includes grabbing Rival titles from both S3 and S4 with a Priest/Rogue setup, first one with a RL friend, second one with someone I met online. Now, I didn’t actually have someone in mind to play with, as my previous rogue had transfered off to greener pastures, but decided something would show up sooner or later, and just rushleveled Priest up to 80 to start PvPing. It was actually quite refreshing and fun in comparison to the Paladin I played, and, my previous rogue decided to transfer back to once again team up and annihilate the opposition in my battlegroup.

Now, initially things weren’t going all that well, but as we progressed and got slightly better gear – we managed to push through and finally break the 2000rating barrier. However, things just went downhill really…

First off, the skillset of Hunters and Death Knights mainly in combination with Paladins, we would pretty much get properly annihilated if one of these would show up and say “hi!”. Any Hunter-team could mess up several times without being able to lose really, at one point I saw 3 different CC-types on me at the same time from a Hunter/Paladin team, and still we’d barely be able to win that match. I know if we’d screw up our cooldowns like that, we’d struggle with any wins at all really.

Secondly, the weapons and gear for arena was extremely important for success, especially seeing how fresh gear also implies zero resilience, people with the endgame raidgear had an insane advantage over the rest. As someone who really only enjoys the PvP/Arena aspect of the game, neither of us had access to that kind of gear, and was at an immediate disadvantage. It probably didn’t help that I only leveled my Priest *after* playing Paladin in arena for a few weeks and got behind on the gear race even further. As an additional point here, Blizzard had decided to let the raidgear be superior to the top pvp-gear you would be able to get from arena, as such, the dps-classes would mainly want to utilize their raidgear, even if they had access to the arena gear.

As a result of all of this, and after meeting excessive amounts of what people would consider “hard counters” to our setup – where we could really play 100% flawlessly but yet have no chance of winning if they were doing well, we just dropped it, and I ran off to take a break from WoW altogether.

For me, playing 2v2 with my Priest and not playing with a Rogue would just be… something I wouldn’t do to be honest, I’ve just always liked the synergy and relative finesse which you mainly have to use to win. I realize that people who have been properly annihilated by over-raidgeared luckycritting rogues would most likely be whining at this point, but really, when I see the Rogue I’m playing with having to deal with all the different choices possible, the reactions and mainly sneaky tricks in general, I can’t help but feel that it’s not as random as some people will have it. We’ve faced several matches where I see the other rogue just being utterly annihilated by my rogue, despite him not having nowhere near the gear and general damageoutput as the other person if they had been fighting targetdummies. This was one of the things I felt we just had to accept last season, neither of us would get the top gear, and we would just have to start at a slight disadvantage when facing other teams with access to these items.

Now, the new season came in, I was reading up on the patch-notes, and they addressed quite a few of the problems that I felt was making last season quite crappy, namely Hunters had their insane attacks toned down, but the killer is most likely that the manadrain has been toned down to more or less a non-factor. This alone would enable us to have a fighting chance against Hunter teams. Furthermore, I have to admit I’m not all up to speed on what kind of skills the Death Knights use, but I know that I was killed by one at one point who was spamming one attack over and over again, so I’m guessing that quite possibly got toned down a bit. And those were pretty much the nice balancing factors that I felt was “enough” to make me want to give it another go. Then I came to the Priest section, and realized that they’re giving some new utility for Priests as well, increasing the survivability and lasting by so much I had a feeling it’d be a bit too much, but we’d see when the season got going.

One of the new “interesting” things Blizzard did for Season 6 was to start all teams at 0 rating. I assume this was done to sortof make players feel like they were progressing, even if they were eventually going to land up around 1000 rating regardless, and for people in my guild who weren’t at the top of the lists last season, it has been a fairly huge success! The matchmaking system still matches you against your “hidden” rating (which now is a “visible hidden” rating – shown at the end of each match) and gives you points based on the differences in points from the matchmaking rating compared to your teamrating. The rating gain was capped at 47 I believe, and started going down at around 1200, so it would take about 50 wins to get to 1500, and as a result - start looking at the gear rewards.

My other problem with the last season related to gear had also been solved by Blizzard, by letting PvP-weapon/armor-rewards being equal in level to the very endgame content from the PvE part, implying that as people get geared, the gear aspect of the game will more or less fade away, and it’s all down to who can play their classes and combinations best.

After playing for a few days, we were doing fairly well, hanging out around 2000 rating and being quite happy with that really, when the SK-100 (top 100 teams in the world) showed something that made me laugh a bit, apparently in the top 100, almost 50% of the teams were Rogue/Priest! Now, I started thinking about this one, as it’s a fairly crazy thing really. And my theory was that by removing the Hunters from the foodchain, Priests again became the viable healer, Shaman and Paladin healers would go down as they were better against Hunter-teams, but worse against Priest-teams, and adding in the fact that Warriors got buffs and now have the ability to remove the Paladin bubble, those kinds of healers have rapidly dropped below the charts. The entire top player class representation was turned completely around.

I don’t really know what I assumed would happen, I did expect some nerfs to surface soon, but seeing how they let things run wild last season, I expected them to let things calm down for a bit before doing anything quickly, as the top 100 list was nowhere near completed due to the fact that most teams had to start at 0, and not all the top teams would’ve been able to play enough to get “up there”.

But, I guess I was wrong about Blizzard again, and they started their new policy, with “today we’ve patched in these changes …” type announcements, instead of letting things run through the normal patch-cycle. Priests got a few slaps in the face, but, I’m not too concerned about that really. All I see now is that things are starting to look a bit more like they were in S3/S4, with a slightly more balanced field, letting PvPers have as good gear as PvEers, and having a feeling of being able to stand a chance at most combinations we’re up against, yet we’re able to lose horribly in the same matchups if we’re not doing what we should. My favorite types of matches now have actually become the mirror matches where we play other Priest/Rogue teams, more specifically the matches that go on for a good 5+ minutes. I think even if it’s a win or loss there, it’s a fun test for both teams, and they have a great way of going back and forth creating a fair amount of close calls and recoveries.

… of course, those matches will hopefully be a bit more fun tomorrow when we get our first S6 weapons … :) sitting at 2100 rating now before that, and our last rated match was a win against a double undead mirror at ~2450 matchmakingrating, good fun! Hopefully that’s us in a few weeks. :)

 

Ooh, reminds me, I should start recording some matches again, recruited a fair few players last time I recorded arenafights in S3/S4.