Next week, on April 28th, City of Heroes turns 6 years old.
This is celebrated with a number of events and activities, the primary one being the release of the new update, Issue 17 – Dark Mirror. Celebrations start slightly early on April 26th with some in-game events, followed by the update to Issue 17 on the birthday itself. There will also be meet & greet with developers and an anniversary speech/address by developer War Witch.
Other events, contests, anniversary badges to be earned will happen then throughout the whole month of May, it seems. It is nice to see that things are moving along – happy birthday City of Heroes!
One of the major features with Dark Mirror is of course the Ultra Mode graphics setting. It is actually a group of settings, which essentially improves on shadows and reflections within the game, taking advantage of advances in graphics card technology. This can be noticed in a multitude of ways, one being that water in the game actually show reflections now.
Another thing that is noticeable in this update is that the day and night cycles are more distinct. Instead of the almost perpertual daily sunshine that always is the same, the environment do get distinctly darker at night-time and one can see the shadows moving as the cycle progresses.
Because it always has annoyed me that my work mobile phone takes a long time to start, I decided to time it (yes, nothing better to do right now)
Boot-up time until PIN/Login code prompt
- HTC TouchPro (Windows Mobile 6.1-based) – 62 seconds
- Nokia Xpress Music - 17 seconds
- Huawei U8220 (Android-based) - 44 seconds
- My home PC (Windows Vista-based) – 61 seconds
- My work laptop (Thinkpad T61, OpenSUSE Linux 11.2) – 60 seconds
Time after PIN/Login code entry to become usable
- HTC TouchPro (Windows Mobile 6.1-based) – 27 seconds
- Nokia Xpress Music - 10 seconds
- Huawei U8220 (Android-based) - 7 seconds
- My home PC (Windows Vista-based) – 15 seconds
- My work laptop (Thinkpad T61, OpenSUSE Linux 11.2) – 25 seconds
Thus my work mobile actually takes a bit longer time than either PC as well as the other mobile phones to become usable. And on both PCs I could shave some time by having less stuff run at boot and login time
The battery time for the HTC is the worst of them also, followed by the Huawei. The Nokia beats them by far, but then it also does not offer the same amount of power consuming features as the other two.
I like the HTC hardware – the combined touch screen and keyboard is quite nice, but would not mind replacing the software. The cool toy is of course the Huawei. I would love to see a bit shorter start-up time there as well, but it is tolerable at this point.
Looking at the spam folder of one of my email accounts, I noticed that there was another scam email in there. This one was quite good.
Not only are the first few lines formulated so that the manage to leave out any actual reason that you may be in violation of the EULA etc, but still conveys that you may have done something bad. But when it comes to the second part they do the usual “verify Login/account” type of thing, but then also add a lot of statements about account security. That includes, statating that Blizzard will never ask for the password during any circumstances.
That is a bit bold or devious. What will be the next approach?
Recently I got an email on one of my email accounts from “account management” @ Blizzard. It was pretty obvious this was some type of scam:
For me, I did not even have to read particularly far to see that it was a scam, since I have not played the game in about 4 years. I certainly do not remember my password or even the account name I used.
It makes me a bit curious though where they have picked up the email address. It is not an address I use for MMO related stuff nowadays, but it could happen some years back. So presumably they have hacked some fansite which I may have visited a few years ago and from there obtained various email addresses.
The upcoming update for City of Heroes/Villains, issue 17: Dark Mirror, is now in open beta since a few days. It has a number of nice features, the most visually apparent one being the new Ultra Mode graphics setting (actually a number of settings grouped under that name).
In essence Ultra Mode improves on shading and reflections, which has a nice effect of making environment (and characters where applicable) look more “real” (not realistic) and the world gets a bit more depth than before. But I am going more into Issue 17 features in a different post.
This post is actually for something that is not part of Issue 17, but rather is tested together with it – the new powerset Demon Summoning. This powerset is intended for the Mastermind archetype and allows you to control a number of demons as pet. For the character itself the powerset includes a whip as the weapon of choice.
This powerset is part of the Going Rogue expansion, but will be available to players to have already pre-ordered the expansion, with Issue 17. It seems that “everyone”, including yours truly, thinks that whips and demons absolutely should be a female character – I have yet to see a male demon summoner. I am sure they exist, but will likely be in the minority. Perhaps that is because the new signature character for the powerset, Desdemona, is female or that Paragon studios shows off the powerset with a female character.
Either way, the powerset seems to be quite nice as far as I have tried it (up to level 18) – obviously Paragon Studios do learn from experience. Most of the masterminds I have played before I never got particularly far with – in the end it did end up a bit boring when gameplay mainly was about supporting and controlling the pets, rather than do things yourself.
With the whip this changes a bit – the weapons is mostly melee oriented and includes some debuffs. In the end the result is that one takes a more active part in the combat, resulting in more fun gameplay. It has been pretty good so far, hopefully this will continue towards higher levels.
Below is a video capture with my demon summoner/thermal mastermind robbing the Skyway City bank (mayhem mission).
Currently I am working in Helsinki in the weekdays and travel back home to Sweden in the weekends. However, this week the force of nature that is Eyjafjallajökull caused some change in the plans.
When we first heard of the ash cloud on Thursday and looked at the prognosis, it was quite clear that flights from Helsinki would be cancelled on Friday. So those of use that were from Sweden took the opportunity to get tickets for the boats between Helsinki and Stockholm instead.
A longer travel than the short flights would have been, but still much better than getting stranded. The boats going between the two cities are really big floating entertainment and tax-free facilities; the typical crowd going with the boats are there to party and have fun, and/or buy cheap booze. This time there were a significant portion of the passengers that were carrying air cabin suitcases and laptops, instead of duffelbags and beer.
Given the nature of these boats, they might not be the best place for uninterrupted sleep – at least if they happen to be close to the night clubs on the boat. I have had better nights.
Coming home to Stockholm on Saturday, the next task was to go to the airport and get my car back from the long-term parking area.
The usual airport shuttle traffic from the city centre had been significantly reduced – one bus per hour and the bus I traveled with was almost empty. All the passengers were there for the same purpose as me – to get their cars back. When I got to the airport, it was almost completely deserted. It was still possible to get a ride to the long-term parking area and soon I had the car.
Overall I think I was among the lucky ones. Some of my collegues who were from other parts of Europe did not have the option to go by boat home and had to stay over the weekend. Other people we met and much more complex travel plans to get home – literally taking a few days in some cases, if they could get a seat on a bus, train etc.
Other people had been in the process of switching flight connections when traffic stopped and now could not get hold of their luggage. Other people are stranded abroad without option to get home – a friend’s parents were supposed to fly home from Beijing.
Hopefully this ash cloud will be an issue for only a few days at most.
When I started to think about what to write in this post I originally thought about talking about spring; the weather outside was starting to get warmer and most of the snow had melted away. But this morning I woke up to a white landscape outside – a couple of centimeters of snow had fallen during the night and continued during the morning. Spring suddenly seemed to have escaped.
I started a bit of spring cleaning in my City of Villains/Heroes account though – across the two European ENglish-speaking servers (Defiant and Union) I had around 30 different characters. So I started to play a couple of the characters that were not at max or high level to see whether they were worth keeping.
I honestly expected to not like most of those I played, but I found that my experience with them now were in some cases much better than I remembered. Perhaps there had been changes to the game that made the difference – some literally had been years since they were played. While I deleted a couple of them I also got more reason to play – there were a few that were quite fun to play and with fairy different play styles.
Two of the strong points with characters in City of Villains/Heroes is that they can generally feel that they excel in some area and feel powerful. Not compared to other players, but in the context of the PvE environment. Sometimes this does not quite come into play until you play in a somewhat large team, but when it is there it provides a nice feeling of satisfaction.
Compared to other superhero MMOs another thing I like about the game is that you can do characters that are a bit vicious, dark- and insidious-looking characters, with a perhaps dubious nature. I think when it comes to portrayal of a characters personality, City of Villains/Heroes is still the one at the top – even if other games provide some more detailed control.
It seems to me that there is renewed activity in the game – more people seem to be playing than some months ago and I have also encountered a number of new players. The latter is quite refreshing to see and it is nice to see that there are people that see and experience a number of the missions for the first time. Good times!
I guess and hope that with Issue 17 (a number of changes, including the new graphics) and later the Going Rogue expansion there will be additional interest in the game.
When play time is limited, as my time as been for the past months, what activities are done in the game becomes a bit more inportant. The stories have always been an important factor for me. In Champions Online there are some quite nice stories in there, told in a quite visual fashion. That is also mixed up with less exciting mission stories. But one of the strong points I believe is the Nemesis system – there are some quite nice missions that are part of the nemesis system.
This weekend my character Toy Master picked up a nemesis mission while swimming around in the underwater empire of Lemuria. Toy Master’s nemesis Steeleye had sent a troop to eliminate Toy Master, which failed. This led to a discovery that there was some secret facility in Canda run by Steeleye, and Toy Master headed off to set things straight.
At the facility there was some commotion; the alarm had triggered and a number of villains attacked Toy Master. As any secret faciulity should have, there was also a mad scientist there – he was working on creating clones of the Millenium City mayor! Toy Master defeated the villains and the initial group clones, shutting down the cloning chambers. He also discovered that a few citizens were held captive for experiments and was also attacked by some early attempts of the cloning process – deformed versions of the mayor attacking the hero.
Steeleye had already left though and was now in the process of capturing the mayor himself. Off from Canada to Millenium City and the city hall, jumping in through the ceiling. In the city hall a number of fights with various villains and henchmen in Steeleye’s service happened, including a giant clone of the mayor. In the end Toy Master defeated everyone, except Steeleye himself who managed to escape. Good fun!
In Star Trek online there is also a number of story oriented mission arcs, which can be nice to follow. In this case there was a story (Divide et Impera) about a suspected weapons of mass destruction creation at a Romulan base, where on the surface it was just a medical research facility. The starfleet admiral leading the investigation insisted that they were hiding something though. As a liaison with te admiral you obey the orders and apply pressure on the Romulans in a less diplomatic fashion.
This story is a good example where it would have been nice to have multiple paths to reach the end of the story and perhaps different endings. Without spoiling it for anyone who has not played it, after a while it becomes apparent where things are heading – which all the more can be a bit frustrating if you would have liked to try different options. Nice story, but these stories would shine more if there were not just one path through the story.
Unfortunately this is too common in MMOs still. It is a complex topic to address, but would like to see some more thoughts on designing mission stories that at least give a perception of player choice.
One game that has a somewhat unique approach to story-telling among MMO-type games is Dungeons & Dragons Online. I think the story-oriented dungeons in there were quite nice and that the focus on completion of the dungeon giving rewards and XP a nice appraoch. For a number of other reasons the game did not quite stick with me, even though I tried it 2-3 times after it was originally released.
The new version with the revamped business model to a “free to play with item shop” approach I had not tried though. In the past year my fantasy MMO exposure has been limited and when it comes to high fantasy downright avoided it. Now after a number of months I feel a bit better and have no longer an urge to bang my head against the wall as soon as I see an elf or a dwarf. In moderate doses I can still tolerate it.
So I decided to try out DDO. Again it is one of the more promising MMO-type games when it comes to story-telling it seems to me, so it would be a good choice to try. So far I have had two shortish sessions and I like what I see – the game experience is in general much nicer than I remembered it and the strong parts about the dungeon story-telling still seem to be there. Probably old news to many of you, but this was my first dive into fantasy MMO for quite a while and it seems it may be a good choice. We will see how it works out.