At one time, not long ago, a company would bend over backwards in order to make sure the customer was happy. Because if the customer was happy, it was a guarantee for the company that customer would repeat business with that company. That ideology has changed a lot in recent years.
This is especially prevalent in the video game industry. The video game industry already has a huge number of problems, the first and foremost being a long list of -isms that it doesn’t really seem to be able to figure out how to solve, or simply doesn’t realize it’s a problem. That aside (and it’s difficult to set that aside, because that’s a huge elephant in the room), the video game industry has another problem.
I know I’ve gone over time and time again about my enjoyment of one particular video game, and I honestly don’t wish to name drop and point fingers, but there are times when a company has to be held accountable. That company in this case is Cryptic Studios. They aren’t alone in this, as people have had massive issues with EA in the past and many other game publishers and studios. Granted, Cryptic is merely the game developer owned by Perfect World Entertainment. I can tell you, it’s not such a perfect world.
Cryptic has four games under their belt, all within the MMO market. They developed and launched City of Heroes, then sold off their share to NCSoft and the studio Paragon Studios handled development. Since then, City of Heroes has had life support cut by NCSoft. It was a good game, don’t get me wrong, it had a lot of loyal fans which a small amount of searching will show. But Cryptic struck off to do their own thing which was develop their own game (sort of). With the licensed product of Hero Games’ Champions pen and paper game, Cryptic went ahead and began working on their second super hero MMO. Which went fine. Later, they acquired the rights to produce a Star Trek MMO. Currently, they have launched a Dungeons and Dragons MMO called Neverwinter, which initially gave many players warm feelings about Neverwinter Nights, developed by Bioware.
Before I go on, I need to say this right here and now. I do enjoy Star Trek Online. But you can enjoy something and still be aware of how problematic that thing is, or how problematic the group or company who owns/distributes/creates that thing is. People can enjoy a television show while still recognizing that it’s incredibly misogynistic (Game of Thrones, for example), racist, homophobic and so on. Or even how misogynistic, racist or homophobic the developing team/creative department is. And that’s where I sit; I really enjoy Star Trek, but Cryptic Studios is the worst company.
In defense of Cryptic, I don’t accuse them of being misogynistic, racist or homophobic. I’ve never heard devs or artists or management within Cryptic say anything like that. They are, however, horrible when it comes to customer service. At present, they are running three MMOs; Champions, Star Trek and Neverwinter. Two of those IPs (initial properties) are much bigger and have a bigger fan base than one of the others. No offense to Champions, but it has a long way to go to eclipse either Neverwinter or Star Trek. Because of that, new development in Champions has laxed a lot. The driving force of a game, especially an online game, is more content at a reasonable time frame. Champions (or Cryptic’s) idea of new content is small alerts that take no more than fifteen to twenty minutes and have no repeat value except for grinding to get more loot. There’s been no additional story content since they made major changes to the Westside arc which happens to be low level content. So Champions has basically been kept on the back burner with a large group of players who are feeling rather left out in the cold.
This began when Star Trek launched. Cryptic released content for Champions and then began their focus on Star Trek Online. And it’s been that way even when they launched Neverwinter. When you’ve got two really good stallions in the stable, why do you pay attention to the mule in the corner. I can’t say much about Neverwinter, except what I’ve mentioned in a review before. I played the game for all of two days and then became extremely bored with it. However, this discussion has less to do with the content of a game, and more to do with those who maintain it.
Since beta testing and launch of Neverwinter, the servers for Cryptic have been, at best, mediocre. There have been constant crashes and near daily emergency service patches to each game. Since Legacy of Romulus came down, it hasn’t gotten any better. The three games are set up on their own servers, however, there’s only one gateway to get into those servers. Think of it like a shopping mall with three really big brand name stores, all three are popular, and all three have good layouts, lots of lighting and decent areas to find what you need. The only problem being is that all three stores have only one door to get into all of them. Just one door. No double doors, no bank of doors that might have three pairs of doors. Just one. When people flock to these stores, they run into the problem of getting inside. And once they’re inside, there’s still more problems. The lights flicker in certain areas, there’s no proper labeling on some of the merchandise, there’s no staff to help customers. This is what Star Trek Online is like, and lately it hasn’t been once in a while, it’s been so common you could set your watch to it.
Easy solution, right. Get the problems fixed and move on, right? You’d think that would be the solution, but it’s not. During these outages (some scheduled, many more not) emergency patches are released that are often 130 meg in size. And the things that were broken before the game crashed, well they’re still broken.
The common feeling among the player base is that Cryptic, and Perfect World, just doesn’t care. They’ve got the customer’s money, and that’s all that matters. They don’t care about helping the player base. Especially the player base that are lifetime subscribers or monthly subscribers. They’re more content with just taking the money, and if anyone disagrees with them and the way they operate, then they don’t care. The Better Business Bureau has even given Cryptic Studios an F out of the usual A+ to F system. The BBB does note that Cryptic Studios is not an accredited business and is under no obligation to become an accredited business. Since 2010, however, the BBB has listed 49 complaints that have been filed with them, and of those only 9 resolutions to complaints.
Yet, it seems Cryptic Studios, and to an extent Perfect World, really doesn’t care. As a side note, Perfect World Entertainment, which is the parent of Cryptic Studios, was also given an F by the Better Business Bureau. Perfect World is also not accredited by the BBB, and is under no obligation to do so.
I’ll more than likely still play Star Trek Online and Champions Online. I’ve got memberships with both, and both lifetime, so no more need to pay more money. I just feel like Cryptic took my money and then didn’t care about giving proper customer service.
Star Trek Online released the Legacy of Romulus pack for the MMO. I’ve played through it, and it’s actually quite good. There are some issues, and some things that I think Cryptic went a bit over board with. Before going through some of it, however, there’s one thing I wanted to mention about the game that’s really quite good.
The developers of Star Trek Online have done an excellent job of giving homage to what has come before. They’ve taken into account that Romulus was destroyed in the 2008 movie, and have used that to weave an interesting world (or universe). From the fact that Leonard Nimoy does some of the voice over as you cruise from sector of space to sector of space, to the fact Denise Crosby was brought back to reprise her role as Sela (and Natasha Yar in one mission). They aren’t the only ones, mind you. Chase Masterson also reprises the role of Leeta, mind you as a hologram that hosts the Dabo tables as a part of Dabo from Quark Enterprises. From Deep Space Nine to Drozana Station, Leeta can be found with a Dabo wheel.
It’s not just the actors reprising roles. It’s also the characters that are mentioned. Worf is standing in the courtyard of the First City on Qo’nos The character of D’Tan is the new political head of the Romulan Republic, and D’Tan was a character in Season Five of The Next Generation, the very well known two parter that saw Spock going to Romulus to discuss and investigate Reunification. D’Tan showed Spock a book and a set of toys with the Vulcan language written on the sides. There’s even a mission which has Bones and another that has Scotty, both in the past on an old Drozana Station.
But that’s not the end of it.
Many of the accolades that players can get point to many different famous lines throughout Trek. He’s Dead Jim. Crossing the line. Neutral no more. And many other accolades that call back to every single episode of Trek.
Now, with the introduction of the Legacy of Romulus, there’s more.
As a Romulan, the player is introduced to a population trying to find a new home after the destruction of their homeworld. These are the surivors of that catastrophe. But they won’t be so fortunate as they are hounded by Empress Sela and the Tal Shiar, who believe what they are doing is the best for the Romulan people. The player plays as a Romulan who is thrust into the conflict, and must make certain choices, even going so far as to align themselves with the Klingons or the Federation.
Right from the get go, there’s a major difference, as this new Romulan Republic has shrugged off the old uniforms of the past and taken up a fresh start. The player’s ship can even have Remen crew members aboard (and, players can also play as a Remen). The missions are interesting, which follows a conspiracy that the Tal Shiar is leading. Even to the point where the player is indoctrinated by the Tal Shiar and Empress Sela (one of the accolades for completion is called “There Are Four Lights” which harkens back to the TNG episode where Picard was held captive by Cardassians).
There are a great number of episode missions that the players can go through, before they embark on the episodes that are based on their alignment. Romulans who ally themselves with the Federation go through the usual Federation missions, and Romulans who ally themselves with the Klingons will go through the Klingon set (in some cases, they are the same, such as the missions set on Deep Space Nine and the ones on Defera).
Just like the ships available to Klingon and Federation players, many of the Romulan ships are familiar. From the old warbirds from the original series, to the massive D’Deridex Warbirds seen in the Next Generation, along with some new designs based on what has come before. Sadly, there is only one bridge option at present for the Romulan ships, something that may change in the future.
There’s a few more updates as well. Players who want a Klingon Defense Force character will now get the option to play from level 1 instead of level 20 as before. This opens up a few more mission possibilities. There’s also new UI updates, which make the game look a lot cleaner than it did before.
Plus, there’s promises of more of the same in the future, with the opening of the Cait homeowlr (home to the feline like Caitians as seen in the animated Star Trek series, when they introduced M’Ress), as well as the Trill homeworld, and even making the faction for the Cardassians available.
With all of this coming out, Star Trek Online is in good shape.
Now, it’s only hopeful that Cryptic can treat its other properties in Champions Online and Neverwinter just as well.
That is a damn fine uniform. It happens to be one of the really cool things you can unlock in Star Trek Online. There’s a lot of things you can unlock in the game, more than just uniforms. There’s weapons, armour, ship weapons, shields, devices to help in space and ground missions. Naturally, as you progress through the missions and episodes of the game, new missions and episodes unlock (the main story missions are called episodes, where there’s a series of missions that focus on one arc). If you collect certain weapons, shield and armour types together, they will unlock additional abilities to help you in combat.
The above uniform, I opened up while performing the duty roster missions (what I call XP while you are away from your computer, because you just set the mission and then walk away). Four ranks in Diplomacy of the duty roster missions and you unlock the uniform, plus the ability to transwarp to DS9 (at the other ranks you can transwarp to Starbase 39 and Deep Space K-7), plus you get the option to have an bridge officer from an enemy faction. I picked an Orion (I wanted a Ferasan but those are a species you have to buy in Cryptic’s C-Store… which I’ll get to in a bit).
You can also do actual missions that help to unlock ship items (weapons, shields, consoles, impulse engines and deflector) which unlock additional abilities, as well as personal shields, armour and weapons. I managed to unlock the entire M.A.C.O set of armour, shields and weapons for M’iaa (above) which gives the ability to replenish personal shields and remodulate weapons on the fly while fighting against the Borg.
That’s all great, it takes a long time to unlock this stuff and there’s a feeling of accomplishment when you do so.
However, for as much as there is this stuff you can unlock, it’s really annoying to see how much stuff you can unlock just by buying it. Cryptic has the C-Store, which uses real word dollars to buy in game currency. It is a lot of in game currency, mind you, as $20 will get you about 1500 which can buy some decent things. You can buy additional ship skins and types. For example, M’iaa’s ship is the U.S.S. Ocelot, a Defiant Class Escort ship complete with cloaking device. There is a Defiant Class ship you can unlock when you reach the captain’s level, but it doesn’t have the cloak. You can even buy playable races (like Caitian and Ferasan) and certain bridge crew species (like Caitain and Ferasan). I’ve taken advantage of that, plus I’ve taken advantage of all of the costume add ons. This I have no issue with, because it’s a quality of life aspect to the game. Customizing things so that you stand out in the game just a bit.
What really annoys me is one aspect of the game which manages to drop lock boxes. These lock boxes contain special additions for your character to use. Weapons, shields, duty rostes to complete your duty roster crew, costume pieces, and in the case of the Ferengi lock boxes, lobi crystals which can be used to buy a few other add ons. You even have a chance to open a box with a ship (Cardassian, Jem Ha’Dar, Tholian, Ferengi, Mirror Universe ships available). What picks at me is that the keys required to open the boxes require real world money to buy. And they aren’t cheap. Over 1000 in game credits to buy ten of them. Which isn’t so bad, but at the frequency of which the lock boxes drop, it can get very expensive.
These aren’t achievements you can unlock, but achievements you can buy. And even then, the chance of getting a ship is remote.
Costumes and ship skins I don’t mind paying for. It’s an added bonus to the game to help make you look unique. I do have an issue with being forced to buy keys to open boxes in order to have a chance of something really different. What I’d suggest is keep the keys in the store, but have certain missions that will offer the chance to get a key as a reward on completion of the mission. Make that drop rare enough, so when a player does manage to get one, it’s a real accomplishment. If players want to shell out cash to buy keys, so be it, be at least give players the opportunity to be awarded keys in game. Even make a key bundle of ten a reward option.
It’ll make the reward actually feel like an achievement.
I remember the glory days of Beta testing. You know, a new product would come out and you’d sign up to Beta test it, hoping to be one of the lucky few who have managed to make the list. Years ago, it was a prize to be cherished.
That’s changed a lot now, and while there are still the Beta lists of invites, Beta doesn’t exactly mean the same anymore. Companies now offer preorders which allow you to get in on the Beta testing of a product. I’ve Beta tested four games in the past few years, two I got in on merit of invite, two others I did preorder (one of which I really wanted to get, which was Guild Wars 2).Some might say I’m being hypocritical to complain about paying for something in order to be involved in it, and yes, I’ll admit the decisions to pay to Beta test were prompted by the aspect of monetary availability. I had the money, I wanted to try it out, so I paid.
But the problem with this comes from paying for something, which includes a pre-order, to try it out before the official launch. What if you think it stinks? You’ve just blown X amount of dollars in order to “try” something out. In some cases, name branding will help the product succeed. Knowing that a brand name that’s been trusted will help in the decision making. That has the adverse effect, as well. And it’s very confusing when it’s a trusted name brand that is being developed by a company who has a shoddy track record.
“I know it’s X game, and X game has always been cool, but it’s being made by Z company, and they’ve proven to be really shitty with development and customer service. So, do I sink money in order to play a really great franchise, all the while supporting a really crappy company?”
It’s a very complicated issue nowadays, considering how video game companies are pumping out products which just seem to be complete carbon copies of what’s been done before. And the consumer has this attitude that the video game companies don’t have any obligation to deliver anything to the players once they have your money. Well, yes, they do. They’re still a business and they still produce a product. When you give someone money to buy something, even if it’s digital, it’s still a product. There may not be a physical thing to hold in your hands, but you still did get something in the transaction. And to say it’s just the entertainment industry is nothing more than a cop out.
Consumers are now paying for the privilege (because, that’s what it is, a privilege) to join in during the Beta, and often, unless you’re really confident about the game or product, that’s like playing Russian roulette. For every one Beta test you get involved in that’s really good, there could be three or four that are just crap. And is it easy to get your money back from such a venture? Most often not. Sometimes a company will claim that the time you spent beta testing, is money to them. You, the consumer, basically rented time in the beta to play it.
Video game companies have really gone full bore with business attitudes that they are money making machines first and foremost (which, to be honest, all companies are), instead of trying to make a decent product and having good customer service to help out that product move along. There are cases where some products (in this case, video games) have gone by the way side, but let’s look at one in particular; Neverwinter Nights. Years after Bioware stopped production of the game, they still made a patch for it, and they still had servers and support for the game after that. Almost ten years after the game was launched, Bioware still supported it. And it wasn’t only until a couple of months ago that GameSpy, the company that ran the master servers for multiplayer aspects of Neverwinter Nights, finally shut those servers down. 11 years after the game was launched. That’s dedication to a product, that’s customer service. It helped that Neverwinter Nights had a massive community, but they also had a huge respect for that community.
Another example of excellent customer service and listening to the customers was the now defunct City of Heroes. CoX (as it was called) would often send out Beta invites for their expansions, never charging for it. Often, however, if you were playing the original game, there was a very good chance you would have gotten their expansions (City of Villains and Going Rogue). The team at Paragon Studios kept fans and players up to date on events, issue releases (patches or updates to the game were called Issues, like comic book issues), and a whole lot more, before NCSoft pulled the plug on Paragon (both the studio and the game). And if there was a problem in game, it was often handled fast. Paragon Studios and CoX was the fastest response time I’ve ever had with support problems, often times while I’m still attempting to find a solution on my own in game.
Those two previous examples seem to be the exception to the rule, as it now seems companies and development teams are less and less interested in customer service and more interested in pushing a product out.
Remember the days of video games that you bought in a box and had paper instruction manuals? In some case, more than one disc? Fortunately, this was on a DVD, so there was disc changing. It’s the diamond edition of Neverwinter Nights from Bioware, and took me two minutes to punch in the serial code.
Mind you, I still have the original discs that have been quite badly scratched (thus, why I bought the diamond edition which has both expansion packs, Shadows of Undrentide and Hordes of the Underdark), but can you imagine swapping out discs to install a game now? Especially when the current trend is to digitally purchase it and download it. But I still have those discs, and the only way to play it now is to have a friend who might have an extra copy (such as me having two copies).
Along with all three of the original manuals.
And… apparently a Far Side book was tucked in next to them.
Light reading material for later, to be honest.
Ah, but forgive my brief nostalgia. It brought back wonderful memories.
Since the Internet has had it’s users there have been online games. And during all of that time, there have been several varied attempts to create a Dungeon and Dragons video game. Especially with the name Neverwinter.
While the game Neverwinter Nights, created by Bioware in 2002, was the most well known and most popular game (there is still content being used to create modules and there are still active servers that host complete worlds created by different people) it wasn’t the first. The first came out in the early 1990′s and was a text based MUDD that featured Nasher as a character questing through a complete story. Since then, there’s also been Neverwinter Nights and Neverwinter Nights 2, created by Obsidian. The first Massive Multiplayer Online game was released in mid 2000′s with Dungeons and Dragons Online, and while it had references to Neverwinter, it didn’t start in Neverwinter.
Now, Cryptic Studios has developed their own MMO called, simply Neverwinter. It’s a throwback of sorts, to remind players of the original Neverwinter Nights, even using the font that was popularized by the Bioware release. However, that’s the only similarity (along with the fact it takes place in Neverwinter). There’s some good with this game, but there’s also a lot of bad.
It’s standard Cryptic development, which they used in both Champions Online and Star Trek Online, and is becoming their own sort of stamp on online games. Many of the animations used in the game are used in both Champions and Star Trek, as are many of the voice actors. The game was only in Beta, so I’m not going to be too harsh on the character creation system. It was very lax compared to Champions which has a much more indepth creation system. You could literally spend hours just creating a character in Champions, whereas in Neverwinter, they have a series of cookie cutter choice that you can tweak, or you can make your own additions and changes. Again, not nearly as extensive as Champions, but it’s also only in Beta.
Game play itself is pretty decent, and something which can be expected from Cryptic. After all, this is the fifth MMO they’ve created (they created City of Heroes and City of Villains as well). Even the system for levelling up is a familiar one for those who play D&D. However, it’s all very cookie cutter, and there’s very limited customization. You get feats based on your class with some racial feats levelling up as you go. You can swap out certain feats to use at various times, and as you battle you gain advantage points to unleash a massive attack.
It was a decent system for adding to attribute points which includes Strength, Constitution, Dexterity, Intelligence, Wisdom and Charisma. Every ten levels you add in more attribute points, two at level 10 and 20, and six at level 30 (only one point per attribute). I only managed to get to level 30 in the two days I played. There are 60 levels, which means even at casual play, one could reach the maximum level very quickly (hardcore gamers might do that in a day).
Early on, you get a quest that sends you to a livery, and you can then purchase a horse, which is pretty cool. However, they don’t allow for attacking while in the saddle. Any prompted attack automatically takes you off the horse and you’re planted firmly on the ground. Even in Neverwinter Nights, Bioware had made allowances for riding combat (it was one of the last patches that Bioware released with the game, which was patch 1.69).
Getting a mount isn’t the only thing available. You can also have a companion to help you with your quests. The choices are a devote cleric, a warrior, a guardian or a wolf. I went with a devote cleric, because I have a tendency of losing hit points fast. Having her along for the ride helped keep me topped up. Your companion will even level up as you progress, which does take time. Longer for higher levels. You go to your character sheet, click the companion tab, and click on the level up button for your companion and they go off and level up (which you just have to imagine they are doing something else and not presently available for an hour or so). Handy to have a backup companion, that way you can swap to that one as the other is levelling up (I had two clerics).
The vistas were actually nice, the area is well done and looks much improved from what Cryptic did in Champions and in Star Trek. The only problem I have is… it’s still the same. It’s very cookie cutter, whereas they took their work from Champions, tweaked it and made Star Trek, then took that work, tweaked it and made Neverwinter. Even the quests are of similar design, right from having a spawning point in dungeons. There were lots of “go collect x things”, which is really tired and boring (yes, let’s do the same thing that every other MMO from time in memorial has done). Even the big dungeons are copy and pasted from what Cryptic did in Champions and Star Trek. Five player teams needed to do a major dungeon. Even the monetary system is similar, right down to mining and refining a particular type of ore that can be used as money. This ore is one that can be acquired through quests.
I didn’t get a chance to go through the crafting ability, which has been titled as professions, so I can’t really comment on that at all. The combat was actually fairly good, and it looks as though they’ve done away with the tab targeting that most games use (you have a targeting reticle and your target has to be in front of you in order to attack). It makes it a bit more fluid and dynamic when you’re in battle.
The biggest downer is, there’s nothing really new with this, with the exception that they seemed to over use the word “Never” when naming things. Seriously, having a leader of a city of Neverwinter named Neverember, and have the Neverdeath graveyard. What next, Neverwater for the city port and Neversobber for a pub?
The game is only in Beta, but there was a severe number of races and classes that were missing from this outting. No paladin, no ranger, only wizard, no sorcerer. And I believe that Wizards of the Coast ditched druid for the D&D 4.0 release (which Neverwinter is based on). But there was also a lacking of races. Wood Elf was it’s own race, which I don’t understand why you can’t just have “Elf” and a series of subraces in there (such as Sun Elf, Wood Elf, Grey Elf, Drow).
As I said, it was only a Beta, so there may be more changes on the horizon, but so far it seems to be standard Cryptic design, which isn’t bad. They were successful with the two previous outings, but it’s also not great because it’s nothing new. I’ll have to see what changes come about with the next Beta weekend.
It’s the long weekend. And seeing how it’s February and while relatively warm out, it’s still not the best weather so that means it’s a perfect time to stay in and do other stuff.
Like writing. Or playing video games. Or cleaning. Or laundry. I opted for parts of all four.
With option number two, I decided to embark on one of Guild Wars 2 many jumping puzzles. In particular, a difficult one that begins not with small jumps, but with a huge leap of faith.
It’s not so much that it’s new, but it’s really sort of exploded in the past couple of years. Thanks to youtube, blogging, tumblr, twitter and all manner of social networking, people are doing things in a very creative way with something that for the longest time had been just about playing. I’m talking about video games.
Video games have evolved from a very linear style to something that becomes different with each play. But it’s gone further than that, as some very creative people are coming together to create some very good works of art. This comes in the form of fanfiction and fanart, but also comes from an area of video games that for the longest time nobody really cared about. The video game soundtrack.
Soundtracks and music have been a staple part of video games for a long time, but now, people are getting together to create their own recordings of what are becoming iconic video game soundtracks. These are just three of my favourites that I’ve found lately.
What’s also pretty mind blowing is just who is creating these impressive collaborations. Well, not so much the who, but it is something that sort of shatters a stigma about video game culture. It’s not a culture that women aren’t familiar with, as seen by these videos. Women have been playing video games for a long time, but thanks to the different outlets to talk about love for video games or video game franchises like Skyrim and Elder Scrolls and Guild Wars, it’s becoming a lot more common place.
I really love seeing these kind of collaborations and really creative people who are using a venue from something they love in order to create something incredibly wonderful.
For years there has been an MMO that has captured the imagination of players. An MMO that has filled a void in a genre. That genre was super hero comic books. And that MMO was City of Heroes.
Launched almost a decade ago, City of Heroes went from the single game MMO, to the expansion City of Villains, and finally City of Heroes: Going Rogue, which allowed heroes to go to the villain side and villains to go to the hero side. That being from Paragon to the Rogue Isles.
It was announced a couple of months ago that CoX, as it is more commonly called, was closing down. The servers will be shut down later today. Barring any eleventh hour save that has been pushed by fans. So that leaves many in a void that hasn’t existed for years. Granted, it’s not completely empty. CoX fans will attempt to find a new home, and many aren’t exactly looking to join a fantasy game. Some have already said they’re going to The Secret World, other are moving on completely, and some are going to the other super hero MMOs.
One is DC Comics MMO, which I’ve played but not fully. The other is Champions Online.
Champions is based on the old pen and paper game. The game has made news, and it’s received some rewards. And players from CoX will attempt CO. There’s naturally some pros and cons that come hand in hand with moving from CoX to CO
Those familiar with the CoX character designer will love the Champions character designer. Champions is very much as complex as City of Heroes/Villains. With a small addition. Champions allows players to change stances, manipulate individual shoulder pads, arm pads, gloves, bracers, leg attachments and boots, whereas City didn’t allow the differences between left and right side.
Champions game play is a bit more dynamic. Whereas in City, your hero/villain is rooted during an attack. So a gunslinger can flip and move and run while shooting, whereas in City, they remain stationary. Champions is also a lot more free when it comes to power choices. Unless you’re a free to play player, Champions allows the player to start their character, choose an opening power (say Martial Arts) and choose powers from other archetypes (like munitions, gadgets, might, ego blades, sorcery, fire, electricity and more). There is some limitations as to what powers you can take at certain times, but you’ve got a lot of freedom. In City, you are locked into a set of powers based on the archetype you chose, and what power sets you chose. Even when doing a retcon, which is basically going back to level 1 and choosing your powers and enhancement slots over again, you’re locked into your archetype and your power sets. The only exception is the power pools. You aren’t locked into that. In Champions, when you do a retcon, you can choose completely different powers, including different opening powers from a completely different power set (unless you are a free to play player).
Many of the larger team missions, such as Therakiel’s Temple or Shadow Destroyer, are not long, drawn out missions. That was one complaint I had about City, whereas a large task force would take hours to play, and often no one really cared how well we did by the time we got to the last couple of missions. The worst was the opening Task Force, offered by Positron which was also dubbed The Baton Death March. A level 10 Task Force, longest, hardest and most difficult due to lack of powers. Since then, Positron has been split into two task forces, but if you really like long, drawn out slogs (because we’re all a little masochistic at times) Positron’s complete Baton Death March is still available through Oroboros, a time displaced area where characters can go back and do missions they missed and claim badges that were available through missions they may have out leveled.
This is more a knock on Champions than a pro. City had epic powersets at level 41. Based on the character’s archetype, players could give their characters some extra power with these epic powers. They could choose four powers from a set and enhance them as much as they could. This went on until the player reached level 50. Further, players could continue to gain powers by doing some of the extra events that would allow characters to gain further powers through a series of trees that would give them a touch more flavour. The character would still register at level 50, but would seem like level 54 or higher. A lot of these missions to achieve these additional powers, however, while fast, were kind of a grind. It was essentially end game content and a lot of people complained about it’s set up. Champions, there’s just one epic power that a character can get once they hit level 35 and have unlocked the Vibora Bay content. Some of those powers are really kind of meh, and the players can’t level past 40 (though there has been talk of upping the level cap to 45, but that’s been a rumour for over a year now).
Vehicles! Champions has vehicles, City doesn’t. Though, the vehicles are more reminiscent of Star Trek, as they’re all fighter craft and hover tanks at present. There is talk about adding motorcycles and cars at some point. And the vehicles aren’t easy to acquire. Either using real world money to purchase a vehicle from the in game C-Store, or running an opening mission to acquire what’s called Drifter Points to unlock one of the vehicles he sells.
The biggest pro about Champions has to be the leveling curve. It’s not nearly as steep as City and casual players may find that it won’t take long to hit level 40. I did that with Rocket Fox in two weeks.
Regarding PvP, while Champions is like City in that it has specific zones in which players can battle players, players can also challenge other players out in the open. By right clicking on a character and choosing DUEL, the two players can engage in a slug fest in the middle of Millennium City or any other zone in the game (with the exception of Club Caprice or the Minefield, two of Champions social areas).
Unfortunately, Champions has a lot of cons, and quite a few of them don’t really need long comparative descriptions. One of Champions major failings is customer service. I’ve made support notes in both CoX and Champions and found CoX had far superior support. I never waited more than ten minutes before a GM would come to assist me with a problem that I had. In Champions Online, I have yet to interact with a GM to help solve an issue. And issues seem to take months to resolve, making some missions unplayable.
Champions is also plagued by the fact that while the first of Cryptic’s MMOs under it’s new direction (remember, Cryptic started City before NCSoft and Paragon Studios took over), it seems the team of developers for Cryptic is concentrating more on Star Trek Online and Neverwinter Online. The latter two are seen as the major money makers, and thus Champions development has suffered. Aside from vehicles and one new mission, there has been no new content, no new areas, and no new development on the horizon. Players are promised a lot of stuff, but some has taken over a year to complete, or has been completely forgotten.
Another con for Champions is the fact it is developed by Cryptic Studios. A lot of people who played City felt they got shafted by Cryptic. The studio left a huge bad taste in their mouth and anytime a new game would be announced like Star Trek Online or Neverwinter, there was some excitement until readers saw the developer; Cryptic Studios. That made their decision for them to never try the game because they had a bad experience with Cryptic.
In the end, the choice is up to the player. Already there have been several people who have logged onto Champions who have the tag in their bio that says “CoX refugee”. How long they stay will be another question entirely.
- Farewell to City of Heroes – and What’s Next? (mmomeltingpot.com)
- Requiem for Paragon (facesoftheranger.wordpress.com)
- Saying Goodbye to City of Heroes (andallofthem.wordpress.com)
- Farewell, City of Heroes (bronzeagebabies.blogspot.com)
- ‘Save City of Heroes’ campaign appeals to Disney (incgamers.com)
- Champions Online gets massive vehicle update (destructoid.com)
- City of Heroes Retrospective (geeksunleashed.me)
- Heroes at the End of the World: Living in the Final Days of City of Heroes (mediumdifficulty.com)
- How to Back Up your City of Heroes Characters (lurkingrhythmically.blogspot.com)
- Ten things to do in City of Heroes before it’s gone (massively.joystiq.com)
I’ve had some time to play Guild Wars 2.
Over a month, in fact. I have a human thief at level 70, a human mesmer at level 30 and a charr engineer at level 25.
I do like how dynamic the game play feels, even when you’re exploring solo, you’re never really alone. There’s always the chance that if you find yourself in trouble, you can always feel as though someone will come and help you. Even with the open field of players in a zone, you never have to worry about kill stealing. It’s changed the way a player can look at a game. Instead of someone being accused of kill stealing, people are helping to take down a mob, and are given reward accordingly. People don’t ignore you if you’ve fallen, because you also get rewards for resuscitating people. A small amount of experience and perks toward a title (Shani, my thief, has brought back nearly 1,000 fallen allies from the brink).
It’s fantasy, with a little taste of steampunk in there. And maybe even a bit of science fiction. No other fantasy setting has swords and sorcery that combines with flintlocks and musket rifles, and then enter an area where inside the buildings are hovering computer screens and mechanical golems built with speech patterns that seem to come from computer if/then statements.
It’s also nice that you never really outlevel an area, as it automatically sets your level without removing skills to the level of that area. You happen to be level 70 in a level 15 area? No problem, you’re still going to find it a challenge and you’ll still get rewards accordingly.
My first play through (not complete) was with my thief. I like the speed of the thief, plus the ability to hide quickly and draw enemies away and confuse them. Plus, having the ability to switch from dual daggers to dual pistols (or a mix thereof) is really fun.
The mesmer was a bit of a challenge to get used to, and seeing how they have an odd array of weapon choices, but once I got past that it was kind of easy. Mesmers can wield a scepter, staff, pistol, longsword or a greatsword (have yet to try that as of this moment). Plus, many of the abilities can create copies of yourself so it’s like a small army of you. That happen to smash into butterflies once combat is done.
My third high level character is a charr engineer. The charr are feline like creatures that were at one time at war with the humans. Now, they’ve set aside differences and are working on a peace treaty with the humans. 250 years after the charr reclaimed their old home of Ascalon. My first charr is named Flintlock Burnfur, an engineer. The engineer profession took a little getting used to, but it definitely has some major versatility. Rifle turrets, healing turrets, grenade satchels, tool kit, and much more. No weapon swapping, unfortunately. This is mostly due in part to the fact engineers have so much versatility. Though you can choose rifle, dual pistols or pistol and shield. It was a bit difficult at first to play, as poor Flintlock kept face planting a lot. She still has some difficulty, but now she has the skill Flamethrower, and it chews through enemies quite nicely. There’s an Avatar the Last Airbender parallel in there: Everything changed the day Flintlock got a flamethrower.
One other thing I do like about the game is the visualization. And this points to how gender is represented in the game and how characters are created. There’s A LOT of female NPCs that your character will interact with. A LOT! Especially with the charr. Which is also something rather nice regarding races.
Often in a game, whenever a female character is created, it seems that they are made more for titillation and eye candy. In Guild Wars 2, charr females look nice, but they look like charr. They don’t look like feline heads on human bodies with huge breasts. Charr male and female characters have similar builds. The same can be said for the Asura, which appear like very small creatures, rather pudgy, large ears and large eyes. Norn are just large humans, but even the women are muscular.
Want to make the characters in your story or book creative with their cursing? Well, there’s help!
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I have just one thing to add:
New stuff in STO (Star Trek Online)! Which is one of the reasons why I haven’t posted anything in a while.
Left the game for a bit (from boredom, really), but decided to come back to it after seeing something new.
They added the race called the Ferasan. Distantly related to the Caitians, the Ferasan are a more feral looking feline race. Longer canine teeth, different fur colouring and patterns. They are a playable race on the Klingon side of the game. Something nice about adding the Ferasan is that now the Caitians also have more additions for hair and fur patterns, so you can make some differences instead of just colour of the fur and eyes.
Displayed above is S’Returru (left) who is currently a captain in the KDF (Klingon Defense Force). On the right is my main character, Vice Admiral M’iaa T’Chall, who up until recently was commanding the U.S.S. Lynx, an Odyssey Class starship for which the latest Enterprise is built for (U.S.S. Enterprise NCC1701-F). But, the devs for STO released a new ship.
Thanks to efforts to match the Klingons with their carrier ships, the Federation has called out to other races to help match the intensity. The Caitians answered, making the Atrox Carrier class ships available.
The Atrox is a larger vessel (a little longer than the Odyssey Class starship) and doesn’t have the greatest maneuverability. However, it is powerful and has decent defensive capabilities. But the Atrox’s main attribute is she is an aircraft carrier.
She comes complete with a large squadron of Stalker Class fighter craft. So she’s basically a point and shoot, not fly in and take part in combat, though she does have her weapons banks.
No matter how busy it is today, work is going to feel like it’s dragging.
Especially that last hour, it always does that.
Partially, because today is Friday, and work days always seem to drag slowly on a Friday. As an example, Tuesday was very busy and seemed to zip by quite fast (albeit in a rather hectic “we’ve gotta bust our asses” kind of way). Today, however, I have a decent workload, nothing too stressful. But there’s no urgency to get things done as there is on a Tuesday. I’m merely getting them done so I won’t have them to do on Monday when I come back from work.
The other reason why today is going to drag by slowly, is because a game I’ve been waiting for to come out is having their second beta weekend beginning today. I’ve preordered it, and I’m ready to play. Granted, I’m at work still. That game is Guild Wars 2. I think the biggest reason I’m excited for it is because they have given the player the ability to jump. Which is fine, but it makes a huge difference. The other, much larger reason, is because it’s a fantasy setting game, where I can use pistols. Okay, flintlocks, but still its a step.
The third, and final reason for today going by so so slowly is for the event that I mentioned earlier. That being Saturday and something rather special that only comes around once a year. Yeah, tomorrow’s my birthday. Some might say “but Tim, you’re like old”! And I’ll answer with (first) “Oh shut it” (and then) “Age is just a number, really”. You see, I got over the fact I turned 40 two years ago (simple math, 40, two years ago, makes me 42, or soon to be). I can’t wallow in some depressed mulch over the fact I’m turning older. It’s just something that happens. I’m 42! It means I’m still alive!
Maybe it’s just me, maybe it’s just the fact that there was a piece of literature out there that I enjoyed a great deal and fell in love with the comedy of it’s words. Thanks for the fish. Don’t panic. Always remember your towel.
I awoke this morning with the not so subtle reminder that today is Towel Day. There on my tumblr dashboard was something that told me not to forget my towel.
I was excited. Filled with girlish glee (and I am comfortable in my manhood to say I was indeed filled with girlish glee), I set forth to spread the message of the day. Naturally, I thought one way of doing this would be to venture into the gaming world of Champions Online. I would take the character I fashioned for the Rocket Fox series and go into a populated area with her towel. One of the more populated areas that players go to happens to be called, Club Caprice. So there I was, playing the role of Senia Felix, commander of the Royal Vulpine Armada’s Nighthawk class deep space fighter. I walked up to the bar, order myself a tea and scones, and made certain that every time I said something or described an action, that the towel would also be mentioned.
Hang the towel over a shoulder.
Use the towel to wipe off the counter of crumbs.
Slip the towel into the weapons belt.
Much to my surprise, and my chagrin, there was no reaction. None at all.
Granted, I do know that some players have identified anyone playing an anthropomorphic character as a “furry”, and there is a lot of stereotypical baggage that comes with that sub genre. Those players often ignore such characters. Their loss, really. Especially when dealing with the members of the Royal Vulpine Armada. Granted, there are those who are mildly entertained by Senia’s actions; an incredibly intelligent mind in such a small frame. A military officer sworn with a duty to protect and keep the peace. A dedicated explorer.
But what I was really disappointed with was there was no reaction at all, even from those that Senia spoke to and interacted with, who mentioned the towel. Who got the reference. Even when some had to leave, there was no comment to “As the intergalactic saying goes, don’t panic” whatsoever. There wasn’t even a reaction to the comment “thanks for all the fish” upon my leaving the club.
Perhaps it was just the morning crowd. I’ll have to try again this evening.
- It’s Towel Day (travelbetweenthepages.com)
- Interstellar Hitchhikers, Rejoice: It’s #TowelDay! (geeksaresexy.net)
The name Two Steps From Hell may not conjure images of music that would inspire, but for the past week, it’s been doing just that. As the wikipedia page describes:
Two Steps From Hell is a production music company based in Los Angeles, California. Founded by Nick Phoenix and Thomas J. Bergersen, the company produces music for movie trailers and top ten classical albums on iTunes, Amazon and CD Baby.
In particular, the group’s music has been used in trailers for such films as Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, Star Trek, The Dark Knight, The Fighter, Avatar, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, No Country For Old Men, 2012, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, X-Men: First Class, Pirates of the Caribbean, The Matrix, Inception, Drive Angry, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, The Town, Priest and Prince of Persia, as well as video games such as Mass Effect 2, Mass Effect 3, Killzone 3, and Star Wars: The Old Republic and television shows such as Doctor Who, Game of Thrones, Blue Mountain State, Merlin and Frozen Planet.
Their album Nero was released officially on 1st October 2011.
Their official website has a great deal more information about the group. This music has really been helping a lot to inspire some expansive scenes in Rocket Fox. An example below of their music, from Mass Effect 3, Two Steps From Hell – Protectors of the Earth.
- Mass Effect 3 Launch Trailer Premieres (bnbgaming.com)
- Meet the Composers Behind Mass Effect 3 (g4tv.com)
- The Perfect Writing Music (mitchallan.wordpress.com)
A while back (almost two years now) I mentioned that a video game was in development and I was looking quite forward to it. Seems a lot has happened since then. I haven’t mentioned it here but I have been reading up on it, and I have still come to the same conclusion; I’m still very excited for this game to come out.
That game is called Guild Wars 2. Incredibly perceptive if you clicked the link and read the previous article.
But yes, I have been waiting with baited breath and just yesterday received a link to apply for Beta testing (it’s not a Beta invite, sadly). However, it’s one step closer to actually getting in the game and seeing what it’s all about. There has been a lot that has been reported about it, such as combat changes, the new concept of “what you do effects the world” as opposed to the current MMO standard of “go out and kill ten ogres picking daisys”. Those “kill x number of things” are tedious, grindy, dull and repetitive. Plus, all you’re doing is pissing off a bunch of ogres who have green thumbs. I mean, come on! They were making Valentine’s bouquets.
There’s some other nice things, such as GW2 will recognize any achievements you made in GW1. Which means I must now crack open my Guild Wars characters and get some phat lewt!
…as the leet kids say.
Anyway, I’ll leave you with some interesting videos that introduce the Charr as playable characters. Two are in English, the last in German, but they focus on the Blood Legion, Ash Legion and Iron Legion. The three legions that make up the core of the Charr military.
- Guild Wars 2 Beta (tobolds.blogspot.com)
- Guild Wars 2 public beta sign ups end today at 6pm GMT (vg247.com)
- A jaunt through Tyria: hands on with the Guild Wars 2 beta (vg247.com)
- Guild Wars 2 Beta Sign Up Goes Live (webpronews.com)
- Guild Wars 2 Charr Elementalist Gameplay Video 2 (gamingphanatic.com)
Regarding massive multiplayer online games, I have never played a sci-fi game. No Star Wars Galaxy for me. I didn’t even sign up for the Knights of the Old Republic beta. Don’t get me wrong, I love the look of the Star Wars games, and I’ve played a few in the past with Dark Forces, Dark Forces II: Jedi Knight and even Jedi Knight II. Light saber battles are always awesome.
But I’ve always wanted to fly and command a starship. From the NX class in Star Trek: Enterprise, to the Defiant of Deep Space Nine. Even with all of those games out there about Star Trek, none of them, with the exception of an old Commodore Vic 20 game, allowed you to fly a starship. Not Star Trek Voyager: Elite Force. Not Klingon Honor Guard. Not DS9 The Fallen. Not even Star Trek Elite Force II. Sure, there were Real time strategy games that did, but not like this.
One of the first things to find is the costume creator. You only have access to Starfleet crew, and cannot play Klingons until you reach level 25. Which is fine, because a lot of the Klingon missions involve Player vs Player activities. Most likely not something for someone faint of heart (really, anything Klingons do wouldn’t be for the faint of heart). Your choices for species are vast, including Vulcan, Andorian, Tellerite, Trill, Bajoran, and more (and yes, by buying ingame tokens, you can make a Klingon Starfleet member, along with joined Trill and a cat like race of beings).
The character editor is quite extensive, allowing you to create personal look right down to if they have bumps on their noses. Which means, yes, you aren’t just limited to each alien species, you can make your own and modify it to look however you wish. The character creator does have a large number of outfits, but if you have the Cryptic Points (in game money to use on the in game Cryptic Store) you can buy more. Such as uniforms from the Enterprise Series, TOS Mirror Universe Episode, Enterprise Mirror Universe, Wrath of Khan uniforms, STNG Uniforms, DS9 Uniforms, Dress uniforms, even outfits to use for holosuites.
Once the character is created you are thrust into the action. The action, in this case, being the tutorial which is almost a standard given with any game. But what a tutorial it is! You come phaser banks to phase banks with the Borg.
You enter the game as an ensign, and through a series of unfortunate events (apologies to Lemony Snicket) the command of your vessel is killed and you are the highest ranking officer to take command. Throughout the course of the tutorial you experience ship battles, ground battles, scanning, medicating, transporting and repairing. All simple stuff that gets expanded on in the game proper.
And what a proper it is. The map, or galaxy, really is huge. There are a number of different places to go, some friendly, some not so. Travel time is made easy between systems because each system is in a sector, each sector in a sector block. The sector blocks are not that hard to get across. It’s just a matter of memorizing where each important landmark (or space mark) is.
There are the standard missions, but it’s nice that you can get missions that are either away missions, ship based missions in space, or a combination of both. Such as fighting off Klingons in deep space, then having to beam over to a nearby station to continue the story.
Players can get in on the story building as well, as Cryptic has made the Foundry. The Foundry allows you to create a mission or series of missions that are only limited to the creator’s imagination. Players can access these missions through the interface commbadge used to contact any of the usual mission contacts (see? 24th Century! No need for running back to contacts in this game, they have commbadges!).
The mechanics are quite nice, as the space missions and the away missions do give you a nice variety. Space missions will include scanning anomalies, or fighting off enemy invaders, or chasing down smugglers. The weapon, shield and hull modifications a ship can get are quite vast as well. Ships can have multi target phasers, photon torpedoes, quantum torpedoes, photon mines and much more.
Away missions allow you to assemble a team and head to the planet or space station to continue a story. How your team is made up determines how easy or difficult the mission is. And in away missions, there’s always a chance to get in a phaser fight. That is, of course, on top of scanning for life signs, anomalies and much more. Your interface even allows for assisting teammates (whether NPC or player) if they happen to fall in combat. You even collect quick fix devices like hypo sprays, personal shield units, energy batteries, and different weapon upgrades and personal shield batteries and armour types. There’s even food which can help heal wounds over time. Everything from Starfleet rations to Ferengi Tube Grubs (yum!). The absolute best are the tribbles. Tribbles as devices that you can take out, pet and hold and they help heal you from wounds.
As rank systems go, they have a usual skill set up which you can adjust as you increase in level. You start as an ensign, end the tutorial as a lieutenant, and every few levels after you get a new rank. Level 10, Lieutenant Commander. Level 20, Commander. Level 30, Captain. Level 40, Rear Admiral, Lower Half. Level 45, Rear Admiral, Upper Half. Level 50, Vice Admiral. With each new rank there are new abilities to help in combat or in whatever you choose.
On top of rank, you also have three “classes” to choose from, which you can modify to suit your play style. Tactical, Engineer, Science officers.
The last is the duty officer system. Each ship has a crew, and you being the captain (or at least commander) have to give them all something to do. As you level, you gain new crew members and will eventually gain duty assignments for them to do. These are missions that the only part you as the player see are the assignment and the completion. You have to assign the appropriate crew members in order for the assignment to succeed. So, yes, you can fail (or at least your crew can fail) a duty assignment. Successful completion gives you experience, however, so load up on duty assignments for your crew, go out in the real world (away from your computer) and run some errands, come back and log into game a few hours later and they’re done. You’ve just received experience for it as well.
The game may not appeal to everyone, either by genre, branding, or play style, but the game definitely can be fun. If you do like Star Trek, you might find this a very nice game indeed. Best part, it’s now free to play.
- Star Trek Online F2P: Klingons Galore, Still Few Missions To Play (lezgetreal.com)
- Star Trek Online bringing the Klingons into the free-to-play test realm (massively.joystiq.com)
- STO: De-Borging the Manchester (westkarana.com)
It’s been a while that I’ve had this cross comparison in mind. Nothing to do with politics or social behaviours (though, the latter might come into play due to the nature of the comparison). This comparison is completely about MMOs.
After the last 7 years, the gaming industry has seen two big Massive Multiplayer Online superhero games (three, now with DCUOnline, but I leave that one out because I haven’t played it). City of Heroes/Villains and Champions Online.
City of Heroes came out in 2004 to a wide market of burgeoning MMOs that all seemed to try and steal the success of Blizzard’s World of Warcraft and the previous success of Everquest. It was a lone wolf in a sea of fantasy games. Developed by Cryptic Studios, CoH was a game changer of sorts. With a very complex costume creator, and a large world with which to play in, it attracted a large audience to the game. Many tried making clones of the more popular comic book characters already in existence, such as Superman, Batman, Wolverine and so on. It got to a point when there was a major bloockbuster movie with a superhero, you could almost set your watch to when someone would try and create the character in game. This became problematic for Cryptic, as both DC and Marvel took notice, and then took aim.
After a long legal battle, Cryptic went off to do it’s own development, leaving CoX with developer NCSoft. From there, the studio dubbed Paragon Studios was born. Since that time, City of has expanded to include City of Villains and City of Heroes: Going Rogue, which has expanded the universe even more, and has opened up the character archetype so that what were traditionally villain or hero only powersets can now cross over with ease.
While Paragon Studios was adding to this already growing franchise, Cryptic was developing another superhero MMO. This one based on the old Pen and Paper RPG, Champions. Champions took what was done in City of Heroes, added in quests the like of World of Warcraft, mixed it in with City of style task forces and strike forces and added in additional crafting abilities.
Now it’s time I did my review comparison of both franchises. I’ll start with City of Heroes.
City of Heroes has been around for almost eight years. It’s had it’s successes and a failure or two along the way. It contains a comprehensive costume creator, along with a massive base builder, and gives the players options to craft their own adventures. Regular game play is quite broad, as a large number of contacts can be accessed to grant missions to the player’s character as they level up. There are a number of powersets a player can access through a large number of archetypes. Once a character hits 41, they can start choosing epic power sets, geared for their specific archetype. This changes somewhat for characters built and played predominantly in the Rogue Isles, which is the setting for City of Villains. There are two other starting points, the first one on the scene was Paragon City, where heroes populate the city in a never ending battle for justice. The other came out last year, and reflects Praetoria, the mirror universe of Paragon, which has Statesman’s inter-dimensional doppelganger, not as a hero but as a dictator. Here in Praetoria, all powersets are open to a new character, with the exception of hero and villain epic archetypes. Those being Widow and Spider for the villains and Peacebringer and Warshade for the heroes. Widows and Spiders are the frontline soldiers for the ruling despote, Lord Recluse in the Rogue Isles, while Peacebringers and Warshades are alien symbiots that appear in Paragon City.
Meanwhile, in the Champions Online universe…
This game is relatively new, but is close to two or three years old. Like City of, Champions has a comprehensive costume builder, allows the player to craft their own nemesis and gives the player’s options of their own personal hideout. Champions is currently free to play, but those players who opted in for a lifetime subscription have more options available than free players. Free players experience locked in archetypes, while paid subscribers have a wide array of options available to them when character building. Unlike City of, Champions only allows for characters to advance to level 40, with one epic power available, should the character fullfill the requirements. The different zones a player can go to is expansive, as there is the option to start in the Canadian North, or the Midwest Desert. This after getting the hang of things in Millennium City, built on the ruins of Detroit after a pitched battle with Doctor Destroyer. Throughout the course of the game, players will have the ability to “team” with many of the signature heroes such as Defender, leader of the superhero group the Champions.
Time now for a cross comparison.
City of Heroes and Champions Online both have the most expansive costume creators on the market today. A player can literally spend a couple of hours just crafting a costume. Though, often times many will settle on a look they like, and when crafting new characters will have a good idea where the different costume pieces are in the creator. Both games offer many of the same details, but Champions has expanded it slightly by adding in backpacks, holsters, side swords, forearm pouches and leg pouches. While each has it’s own unique aspects, both are extremely well thought out. A point to each.
Both games also have base building abilities. These two things are very different, however. While Champions gives personal options for a base, City of Heroes allows to make a base for a complete super group or villain group. In Champions, the player has the option to select from a base number of predetermined bases, and making slight changes from a simple popup window. City of however, allows for a detailed hands on approach, allowing the player to craft their base to look how they want it to look. Want a library just off the medical bay? As long as the supergroup has the necessary prestige (money needed to build bases) then the sky is the limit. Bases in CoX can also have teleporter rooms, which after players collect badges in each zone, can set up teleporters to those zones from their own base. This makes traveling much easier. A point to CoX.
Champions gets this point, solely because City of doesn’t have the ability to craft a nemesis for characters. The nemesis creator is just as expansive as the costume creator, as players can determine the look of the nemesis and even set their base powers and even give them minions. Although, the minions are not as nearly as comprehensive in customization. During game play, players will be set upon by the nemesis minions and at points will drop clues which open missions the player can get to fight against their nemesis. The only problem is after a while, the missions get rather repetitive. Players can craft their nemesis at level 25, and each nemesis will be “jailed” at some point, which the player can craft a new nemesis. The end game for the nemesis is most always the same. Giant death ray, threatening the world.
City of Heroes gets this point, solely because Champions doesn’t have the ability to craft your own missions. At Architect Entertainment, located in most every zone in the game, players can make their own adventures. Five missions long is the maximum, and each map is premade, though there are a large number of options when making them. Players can also fill maps with premade villains groups (or hero groups, if missions are crafted for a villain) or customize their own groups. While there is a large number of very good player made missions, there is also a large amount of crap to be found in the AE buildings. Needless to say, they are a fun diversion from the usual grind of the regular game.
Customization points: CoX 2, CO 2
This will go on a different point system, because you can’t just compare with one point. There will be five categories, which 3 points will be offered, unless the selection is poor, then a negative number will be given.
City of Heroes/Villains has a large number of power sets available to players through a large number of archetype characters. Heroes are blaster, controller, defender, scrapper, tanker, peacebringer and warshade, while villains have corrupter, dominator, brute, stalker, mastermind, widow and spider. Each archetype has their own power sets, with some of those sets crossing over archetypes. For example, some of the scrapper primary melee powers are available to tankers as secondary powers. Just as some of the scrapper secondary defensive powers are available to tankers as primary powers. Some of the blaster primaries show up as defender secondaries, while some of the defender primaries show up as controller secondaries. Each of these powers a player can advance as they level, allowing the player to add more slots to each power and add more enhancements to make it even more powerful. Those enhancements as well are expansive as they range from single origin/dual origin/training enhancements (these deteriorate as the player levels) to Common Invention Origins (these never deteriorate) to Uncommon and rare and very rare Invention enhancements (these offer small bonuses when a set is completed or added to).
Once a character makes it to level 41, they have the option to take epic powers, which are locked into the archetype of choice. Each of those sets has four or five powers. On top of that, characters have the option of selecting power pools which include where a person will find travel powers. Like base power sets, these pools and epics can be enhanced as well.
The downside is, once a character is created complete with powers, those powers are locked in. Characters can respec their abilities, whereby they can erase their current leveling and rebuild all at once to make small changes.
Final tally: 3 for archetype choices, 3 for power set choices, 3 for enhancement building, 3 for power pools and epics, but -3 for any further customization. Total score 9.
In Champions, the player has the option of a wide range of archetypes and powers. Free players are locked into certain archetypes and powers, though they can change things up just slightly. Subscribers have much more options, even the ability to take powers that are not found in their own power sets. For example, a might based character who has taken powers based on strength brawling and face to face fighting, can take one of the munitions powers to give themselves a pistol. Characters, while it is important to build powers that are complimentary, are more focused on their own attributes. Strength, dexterity, constitution, intelligence, ego, presence, recovery and endurance. Each is pretty self explanatory. Enhancements can be purchased, crafted or drop from mobs that will help to bolster offensive, defensive capabilities and a special section for utilities. Those enhancements will add to a characters attributes. Characters will also have the ability to choose their own travel power without making the choice of a power pool. At level 35, the character gains a second travel power.
While Champions seems to have more customization for powers, they are still rather limiting. Yes, when a player respecs their character, they can wipe the slate clean and do something completely different. But beyond that, there isn’t much. Also, the epic power is just one power, locked into what the character takes as they progress. If a character does not take a specific number of powers related to an archetype, then they are out of luck in getting an epic power.
Final tally: 1 for archetypes, 1 for powers set choices, 1 for enhancement building, 1 for travel powers and epic powers, 3 for customization. Total score: 7.
Game play – score set out of ten
Each world is very expansive. In City of Heroes/Villains, the choices are vast. Players can start in one of three places; Paragon City (hero specific), The Rogue Isles (villain specific), or Praetoria (neither hero nor villain, and can choose either side at level 20). Each side (with the exception of Praetoria… for now) has a large number of trials and strike forces which a player can level up. Also, there are regular contacts. Some will offer what are called badge missions. Most of the content is described as door missions, meaning a player enters a building to complete the objective. This is common throughout the entire game on all sides. As a player progresses in level, they can enter different zones without fear of being set upon by much higher level enemies. That is if the player is soloing through a zone. If they are teamed with someone of a higher level, then other players in the team will automatically side kick to the team lead, and appear as though they are a level lower than the team leader. That is, if the team leader is a higher level. Then teammates will exemplar down to match the level of the team leader. Doing this, higher level characters will “lose” certain powers while at a lower level. This is also apparent during task/strike forces at certain levels. Example, a level 50 will appear as a level 10 or 15 during the Positron task force, which begins at level 10 and has a maximum of level 15. Some of the task/strike forces are only available to level 50 characters, and City of is now increasing level 50′s power ability with the Incarnate system. A system which offers a wider ranger of powers.
City of also has one major social hub, though players can use other means for social interactivity. Some role play their characters, while others use it to trade influence/infamy/information (in game money) or enhancements or salvage (used to craft invention enhancements). Either supergroup bases are used, or the large (and often lag-tastic) Pocket D. THE place to be for heroes and villains to party down.
Final tally: with a large area of zones available, and thanks to Going Rogue, characters have the option of traveling to all three areas, City of is very large. Each zone has a number of exploration badges and history plaques which lead to complete badges. Couple that with additional defeat badges, task forces and more, completed badge sets give characters additional hit points or endurance. These aren’t necessary for game play, but are a nice addition. The only downside is that some zones appear completely barren, while a couple of others are very laggy at times. Total out of 10: 9.
In Champions, characters have six base zones; Millennium City, The Canadian Wilderness, the Midwest Desert (Nevada), Monster Island (just off of Japan), Lemuria (completely underwater), and Vibora Bay (New Orleans style, but said to be in Florida). There are a few other meeting points for other zones, such as UNITY and UNTIL headquarters, both of which are jumping points to larger scale missions. Missions themselves are expansive, though after a while players will know them like the back of their hands. City of players will have this same issue, but they have more options available to them based on archetype and origin. In Champions, it is almost guaranteed that a player will play through every single mission with every single character (with the exception of crafting house missions). While zones in City of are open to all players at any level (with the exception of the Hive), players must go through a “primary” set of missions before opening up the full zone. SPOILERS: Players can only access Vibora Bay at level 34 or higher. There they go through an Armageddon sequence and are shuttled back in time. Bonus; you get to watch several signature characters, Defender, Ironclad, and others, die. Then you go back in time to stop the apocalypse. Throughout the course of adventuring, players will receive perks for their characters. These, however, provide nothing more than costume pieces. Some will, however, provide ultra rare enhancements which have higher bonuses to attributes and defenses. Champions has social hubs as well. The elegant Club Caprice which has it’s own VIP lounge for lifetime subscribers. There is also the scummy dive called Sherrara’s in Millennium City’s West Side (yes, the area is called West Side). The desert has an old west saloon on the grounds of an old amusement park that is populated by wild west robots. Vibora Bay has the SS Bayou Queen, an old steam boat turned floating restaurant and casino. Each zone also have timed events, or special monsters that will appear. These events are repeatable. City of now has with Going Rogue, events. There has always been giant monsters in some of the zones, along with random events such as Rikti invasion and zombie invasion.
Final tally: While the missions are nice, they are more WoW in their style, which include many more open missions and hunt missions, often a player will have to fight with other players in order to complete an objective. The missions can get very repetitive after a while, which leads to a lack of interest. Cryptic is, however, adding on adventure packs and a comic series, which is a series of missions played out like a comic book staring your character or a team of characters. Total score – 6.
Can’t do a review of a pair of MMOs without comparing PVP. Score out of five.
City of has a different way of setting up PvP, which is quite unique. They’ve set up different zones specifically for hero vs. villain pvp, and one which is more a free-for-all. Each zone will also have mission objectives to boot. If that’s not your cup of tea, as often that form of PvP is random and chaotic, players can challenge each other in the designated arenas. Pocket D has the arena terminals set up for hero vs. villain one on one. In those scenarios, there are a large number of maps, of which includes one that can randomly pop up that has a badge, for all badge hunters out there. No spoiler, as most know it’s the monkey cage fighting arena. Not only can players fight each other, but they can also create teams of minions to fight against another player’s minions. These are obtained through the collection of badges which grant different and sometimes stronger minions. Another reason for badge hunting. These can be a lot of fun because you get to control a large group of minions to fight off other minions. Score – 5.
Champions takes a different approach to PvP. While they do have PvP zones that players can queue into, they also have a challenge system, where players can challenge each other out in the open. This is fine and it’s always one on one, but it can get annoying when you end up with multiple random challenges. Granted, you can deny them easily enough. In the dedicated pvp areas, players can collect points which they can spend to get special enhancements that include costume parts. Often times these will have the biggest improvements to abilities. Champions also has a fun pvp which is set up to fight against a horde of zombies. Everyone, save for one unlucky soul, starts in a shack in the wilderness and must fight off zombies that keep coming at them. If a player is “killed” they respawn as a zombie, and try to take out the players. Goals change up as players change sides. All in all, while there is no real beef about pvp, it feels like it was sort of an afterthought, though, the open challenge system is fun, it can get annoying too. Score – 5.
I’m going to skip over graphics because each game has their own variation and both are very well done. Granted, Champions can run on my Acer Aspire 1550 laptop, whereas City of can’t (very well). Downside for Champions is the god awful comic book outlines. Thankfully you can turn those off. City of, however, does have the Ultra system, whereby it contains more dynamic graphics, and has an improved reflection system. This can be a resource hog, however, but fortunately it can be turned off. I’ll give each a 5 for this.
This is a game changer. Let me repeat. This. IS. A. GAME. CHANGER! Score out of 10.
There’s no denying Cryptic had it’s hands in creating the City of Heroes franchise, and they have since branched out to create Champions Online. They’ve created two very good games. But Cryptic forgot to take one thing with them.
It seems that Cryptic would rather ignore players and award them with CP Points, in game money to be used at the in game store, instead of actually solving problems. While Champions is a good game, this one flaw makes for it’s down fall. When bug reports are filed, it takes days, sometimes weeks for a reply. In City of, the longest I’ve waited is ten minutes, and a Game Manager was sending me tells right away, along with the usual emails. I’ve encountered three problems in City of that required assistance, one was completely my fault and I realized it after sending a report. But in the other two cases, there was an issue with the game, and the GM’s were more than willing to help, they were courteous, and they were pleasant. In Champions, there was nothing like this. Final tally for each: 10 for City of Heroes/Villains, 0 for Champions Online.
City of Heroes: 35
Champions Online: 20
The other day, while cleaning out my storage closet, I found several boxes that I forgot I had. In them were old comic books, trading cards (hockey and football along with old Magic The Gathering cards) and my old table top D&D sheets. It was a really cool surprise, because there were characters that I hadn’t touched in such a long time.
And I noticed two characters that have evolved over time.
Those sheets were from fifteen years ago and ten years ago. And today, I want to show case one character. Her name is Fadra Englen.
Fadra actually began as an NPC (non player character) and was the sister of my were-tiger character Fena. Fadra was a quiet, rather reclusive elven druid. And she was only mentioned in passing in table top sessions. It wasn’t until Neverwinter nights came about did Fadra see the light of day.
Even within that game, Fadra evolved more. Both in single player campaigns and in the online persistent worlds. She was a mute, a druid, and very passionate about her duties. She remained an elf in the online campaigns, but her form changed over time. Weapons really didn’t change much, she carried a pair of scimitars and a kukri, and fired a longbow.
She became a bit of a mainstay in the persistent world, never becoming an arch druid, but dictating who would lead the druidic circle of the Neverwinter Wood. It was pretty fun to play her (yes, I play female characters, imagine that).
For several years, I played that character in Neverwinter and Legacy of the North (the aforementioned persistent world server). But, like all things, they usually come to an end.
Guild Wars was limited in race, there was only humans as player characters. But then, Tyria was a far different world than the Forgotten Realms setting of Faerun. And Fadra changed and became the dervish class in Guild Wars, wielding a scythe instead of a pair of scimitars.
Even her appearance changed, not only because she was human. Fairer skin was changed to darker tones, mostly to fit the setting which was quite evident. Nightfall was a sort of African setting, and it seemed much more plausible that someone with darker skin would be born there instead of someone with fair skin tones.
Her story changed slightly as well, to fit the setting, but some aspects of the original stayed. She was mute, knew sign language (you know how hard it is to play someone with a hearing disability, and have them communicate in sign?).
During this time, I was still flipping back and forth between City of Heroes, Neverwinter Nights and Guild Wars. Then, along came Neverwinter Nights 2. Just like the two fantasy based games, Fadra found a new home. Thus far, I’ve only played the single player campaigns with her, I haven’t ventured out to any persistent world servers in NWN2.
But, she changed again, going back to an elf, with darker skin, and could speak but in incredibly quiet tones. She always maintained this very animalistic attitude that I came up with because she was a druid and took her work in the grove very seriously. Even if it wasn’t the grove she was originally a member of. She had always come from a very desert like nation, in every game I played her in. But like everything, I’d move on, but she’d come too, and she’d change again.
To Champions Online.
And again, Fadra changed.
She went from being an elf to completely human, with minor traces of panthera tigris in her DNA. Instead of a druid, she was an environmentalist and a surgeon. Instead of being born in a desert nation, she was born in Canada, but her parents emmigrated from Palestine. And Fadra has made her way into my writing. In two forms. Both the elven form and the newly created human form will show up in some of my works, from Black Mask & Pale Rider to Canyons of Steel. She will most likely continue to evolve and grow, just as most of my characters in my writing do continue to grow.
It’ll be fun to see what the future holds. But fifteen years is a long time to hold onto a character.
Until next time…
…keep ‘em flyin’!