Another year has passed and it is time to look back a bit on my MMO gaming in 2012.
City of Heroes
For most of the year, City of Heroes was my base game, the one I always fallen back to after excursions to other MMOs. Except for the months July and August when I had a break from the game, this was one I played to the very end. I do very much miss the game and community, in particular on my main server Defiant. I still get sad about it from time to time. There has been a lot of discussion and speculation why it was shut down; it would be good at some point to hear actual reasons and a bit more specific than “change in policy”. It would also be good to hear why they handled the shutdown the way they did, but I guess that is not something we will ever hear.
I did also play some of the competition to City of Heroes in the superhero genre, both Champions Online and DC Universe Online. After all, I am a lifetime subscriber to Champions Online. There are certainly good things in Champions, but for me that is a game that I can only enjoy during short periods of time. Part of the reason for that is because some of the features and elements of the game felt like simple money-grabbing features – the crafting/harvesting is one of those. I initially liked the change they had made, but realized it was a broken design from a game-play perspective – which could be overcome somewhat by spending plenty of money. I am ok with spending money on a game that is “free to play”, but not when design seems to be broken on purpose for people to spend money.
DC Universe Online
Very late this year, after the shutdown of City of Heroes, I also tried out DC Universe Online again briefly. Previously I had played in on PS3, but this time was my first experience with the game on a PC. I liked it a little bit better on the PC, but in the end the controls and the horrible character creator and tutorial turned me off that game. That, and that I could not use my SOE acount either, but had to use a ProSieben1 (Alaplaya) account – plus that it was not possible to merge these two accounts either. Maybe I will give it ago at some point later, but the controls does put me off this game.
Star Wars – The Old Republic
During spring-time I also ventured into Star Wars – The Old Republic. It was really a great and fun game to play – at first. In the beginning it was very cool and fun to play and I enjoyed trying out most of the different classes available, up to the point that it was time to leave the starter areas. For continued play, I stuck with my Sith Sorcerer and it was a quite enjoyable ride for some time. In the long run though the non-class-story missions started to feel grindy though and even getting to the different points for the class story missions became grindy – which is when I lost interest. I reached about level 30 I believe. Maybe at some point I will give this game ago again; I did not read up closely on the details for the “free to play”, but it did not seem that it would require much or any money spent from my side really considering how I expect to play. This is probably a game I will return to at some point in 2013.
Early this sping I did play a bit of Anarchy Online as well and enjoyed it quite a bit; at least for some time. The setting is marvelous, even though the graphics are dated. While there are many nice people in the game, many are long time veterans that have played the game for years. Most of them started playing the game long after I initially played the game, so in calendar time I am “more veteran”, but a newbie in terms of played time in comparison. We do not quite play at the same level, unfortunately. I do hope for a revamp of some of the combat mechanics; it is too much reliant on auto-attack for my taste at the moment. I did sign up for a 12-month subscription close to the end of this year and I hope to jump back in the game during spring, hopefully when there may be some beta testing of a new New Player Experience and the new game engine.
Age of Conan
Late this spring I also jumped into Age of Conan. I do like this type of fantasy setting better than the typical high-fantasy-with-elves-and-dwarves settings one see in a lot of MMOs. I am not too keen on fantasy settings, but this one is at least more tolerable. In the end though it felt a bit empty – most active people seemed to be doing high-end raids and dungeons. The gold seller spam was also quite annoying. Plus, another Funcom game craved for some time and attention in the summer-time, with a more contemporary setting. Similar to Anarchy Online, if this game gets a bit more people playing in my level range and experience level I might try it out again.
I played Guild Wars a bit on and off during spring. This is a game I love returning too – every time I do I realize why this was my favourite fantasy MMO-type game. For some reason I do not stick around though – I have yet to figure out why that is. While I have completed all of the main campaigns in the game, there are other story-oriented content I have bought but not yet played and a number of things on my to-do list. Remains to see how many people still play this when Guild Wars 2 is the new kid from Arenanet.
One game that I played briefly in the beta, but did not write anything about, was Raiderz. For some reason I got an invite to the beta for this game, so I tried it out for a short time. I did not expect to like it, but I quite enjoyed the tutorial/starter area. It was a bit different and it was fun. Then I got to the main land and to me the game transformed a bit from quite fun to more of a normal fantasy MMO-with-a-bit-of-grind from Asia. Perhaps the launch version is better, but the fantasy setting did not thrill me though.
City of Steam
Industral Age fantasy with steampunk elements – that is how the setting for City of Steam is described as. This game have had four closed beta weekends during autumn/winter an d I have played a bit in these four weekends. A notable feature of this game is that is is a browser-based game – there is nothing to install (except for the Unity3D web player plugin). The game looks great for a browser-based game; I think it compares favourably to for example Runes of Magic (at least as I remember Runes of Magic). I thought the combat was pretty fun (dual-wielding “wands” that throw lightning balls – what is not to like… ). There are some design elements that I do not quite like or am on the fence about; but the interaction betweent he developers and the community is top notch I think. I would be happy to provide some support to the game because of this, even if I would end up not playing it so much. There will be an open beta later in 2013, but no dates are set yet. I will try it out again then.
Guild Wars 2
A big game of the year, but one I only played for about a week. Pre-ordered the game and played for almost a week – then NCSoft announed that they were going to terminate City of Heroes and Paragon Studios on August 31st. My focus switched to City of Heroes then after that weekend and I have not played Guild Wars 2 since that. I pretty much lost my urge to play the game during that period. Perhaps in 2013 if I get some cravings for fantasy settings I will try it out again. I am not sure that I will spend any money in the game though; I do have a bit of a trust issue with NCSoft corporate.
The Secret World
And finally, the game that for me has been the best still remaining game of the year. I played it a fair amount from early access to a few weeks after launch, then due to Real Life interfering activity dropped significantly during summer-time. The City of Heroes situation forced a pause from the game as well and now in December I picked up up for real again. The stories and missions are for the most part really quite enjoyable and I have gotten back into making builds/decks for my character, trying out different abilities and play styles & weapons. Contrary to most other MMOs I have mainly played melee-oriented combat in this game and I am quite enjoying it.
I have a lifetime subscription for the game and with the recent change I will get monthly bonus points to buy stuff for from the store. I will probably spend more than those points in the end – not because it would be necessary, but because I am more inclined to buy stuff just because I love the game and want to support it. The same thing happened in City of Heroes, so I suspect it will happen here.
The year 2011 has ended and we have started with 2012. The past year has been interesting in a few ways for me, but perhaps more in areas outside of MMO gaming. While I have been writing a couple of blog posts the past year (123 according to WordPress) I must say that I have felt less inspired when writing posts for large chunks of time.
I used to hop around quite a bit in different MMOs, but this year it has settled down a bit – the past few months I have been pretty much exclusively playing City of Heroes. The year started out with a few other titles though:
This game in theory had a lot of promise, or at least there was a picture painted that this could be an interesting and fun sandbox-style SciFi MMO. Closer to launch it showed many signs that this was a potential train wreck to be launched. I bought the game knowing that very well though, mainly because I wanted to support a non-mainstream developer, in case they had some good ideas.
The launch was indeed a train wreck and I was a bit disappointed looking more into detail of some actual gameplay elements – not as inspired as I had hoped it would be, not in areas I liked anyway. Even if the performance and bugs were sorted out I do not think I would have enjoyed the game anyway, so that was it for me.
The current state of the game seems to be that the game still has some quality issues and that they have started a transition to a “free-to-play” model – no new accounts can be created from December 1st and this will be in effect until the “F2P” revamp is completed some time in 2012.
Played this in the early parts of 2011. The open sandbox world was quite fascinating, but also consumed a lot of time. In the end I decided I did not have the desire to invest enough time in this game/world for it to feel worthwhile. Not sure if I will fo back to this particular game, but would definitely want to try something in the same sandbox spirit as Wurm.
Not a big fan of the Star Trek Universe, but I did enjoy creating my own races to play and making up some background and story for my characters. I played STO primarily a bit in the first couple of months of the year and also ended up playing on the Klingon side mainly – very much enjoyed playing my Klingon-sided engineer type (but my own race). I was very enthusiastic about creating missions with the Foundry also initially, but ended up now being anything completed. My inspiration for creating soemthign for the Star Trek universe ended up a bit lacking, although I did look into Klingon material (including the language) a bit as part of the research.
I will probably revisit the game when it changes its payment model.
Visited the geme a couple of times, mainly playing one character. I am a life-time subscriber, so the cryptic points keep piling up in the game. It has been ok to visit a few times, but for my spandex fix City of Heroes works so much better. At some point I should try out the content I have not treied out yet, but I have had difficulty building up enthusiasm to do so. Which is a shame perhaps.
A very hyped game in the early part of the year, which also is a well executed and polished game. I did avoid reading about the game consciously precisely because of all the hype and in late April/early May jumped in and tried the game. I liked many things with it, although I found the combat a bit annoying with the global cooldown timer and the skill trees which quickly cluttered up multiple hotbars. The soul system was nice, but I would have liked a different skill progression model within these souls.
Unfortunately for me, I signed up with a 6 month subscription. In June, after around 1 1/2 month of playing the game I quite quickly lost all interest in logging in and playing the game anymore. I had a brief attempt later in July to get back into the game, but could not muster up enough interest to keep playing. This was very similar to my play experience with LOTRO, which played out quite similar – although in that case I had pre-ordered and played in beta also. Lesson learned – do not sign up for a long payment period initially with a subscription-based fantasy game.
My only major visit into mobile MMO gaming and this on my Eee Pad – the screen is too small for my taste on a phone for these games. Was very fun to play for short periods of time, but after a while I lost interest. Still have the game installed, but rarely visit it any longer.
Bought this game for PS3 shortly after launch, primarily to see if there could finally be something MMOish to play on the household PS3 – which primarily is used to watch blu-ray movies. Dropped it quite quickly – not a DC fan and it felt like you had to be that to appreciate the content. The controls were really awkward to use also.
Reinstalled the game again on the PS3 after the “F2P” revamp and I thought the game was better now from a UI/control perspective – but could not find that much enthusiasm for the DC content. Maybe I will play it more – maybe.
My very first MMO. I jumped back into the game just prior to its 10th anniversary and I have had a pretty good time in the game, with some nice people. Still, the combat mechanics are quite different from what I appreciate nowadays, being too much auto-attack dependent. Funcom does not seem to spend much resources on the game currently, but have indicated that when the conversion to new engine for the game (same one that Age of Conan and The Secret World uses) is done _and_ they have done a profession revamp, they will do a relaunch effort for the game.
The graphics engine revamp is what mainly has been talked about, but I think the profession/combat revamp is just as important for the game, if they get it right. A new graphics engine can get people to come back or to try the game, but it is a profession gameplay revamp that may potentially keep them in the game. I have not played AO since I decided to focus on City of Heroes, but I hope to get back into the game at some point – hopefully Funcom gets to the point where the new engine and the revamp will be done during 2012.
A quite polished fantasy/steampunk title from big Chinese MMO maker Perfect World. Same as Rift, this game is very well executed – just not something I could muster up continued interest for.
A SciFi space shooter kind of MMO. The initial PvE storyline part of the game had me hooked and the space combat is very well executed and fun. But the story part ended abruptly and then it was mission grinding and/or PvP. While some mission were quite enjoyable it became a bit too repetitive for my taste, so lost some interest here. Should get back into the game again at some point – if they have more of the story-oriented content that the game started with I would love to play that.
Signed up for SWG again when I heard the announcement that they were going to shut down the game. Manged to play a bit in the game, primarily with some new characters I created. Really loved some parts which I remembered from the old days when i played the game, but also remembered why I ended up playing my particular combination of professions originally (ranger/creature handler) – that was one combination that did not feel grindy to me and which also supported scratching my exploration itch back then. It was not quite now.
I would have played the game longer, but a credit card related issue stopped my access to the game prematurely. I do not like the way SOE handled the shut down of my access; but at least my memory of the game is less coloured by what its current state was.
Bought this when it was on sale from Steam, after a brief visit in beta. Looking at what Heatwave had eleased before Gods & Heroes I am not quite sure why they decided to with a traditional MMO route, perhaps someone thought they might be able to make some easy money on a game that was in beta when the original game company went belly-up. This was another of those game where I really could not muster up enough interest to keep playing (and paying).
This is my main game and in the past few months my only game, pretty much. This part will be very brief here; most posts end up being about this game anyway. For good and bad, City of Heroes has evolved quite a bit over the years and at the same time been the same as well. The community aspect is important here, it is a game that feels like “home” to me more than any other MMO. It is the one game that I can be fairly sure to get a happy greeting from someone else when I log in and where most people I end up interacting with (friends or strangers) are for the most part friendly and nice to each other.
Other stuff, not gaming
A lot of other things has happened in this year, but not related to MMOs. In August I changed employer, after working for more than 12 years for an American software company. I really liked my actual job there and the collegues I worked with, but it was also a position that required a lot of travelling to other parts of Europe, and a few times to Middle East. During very long periods I only saw my home area/town/country on weekends and impacted how I my non-work life was handled.
With my new employer I can do a similar job to what did before and enjoyed, but also pretty much work so I can get home every day, instead of staying in a hotel room. It is a great company and a great group of new collegues.
My general fitness have had its ups and downs in recent years, but not stayed at a good level. In the past 11 months I have done a better job though with continued improvement and am in better shape now than a year ago, and also lost perhaps 17-18 kg. Still more to be done, but feels quite good.
So after a bit more than 22 hours of download time DCUO was finally in place on my PS3 and I could log in. Since I bought the game for PS3 shortly after it was released (January it seems) I entered the game as a premium player and had 6 character slots in total. Three of those had my old characters and these had been renamed with _JFA appended to their names, which I guess is an indicator of my previous server before they merged the servers.
First I tried to login to one of my old characters, selected him and waited to enter the game…and waited…and waited. Finally I gave up, aborted, entered the game again and started a new character. The character creation seems to be pretty much as I remembered it, which on the whole has fewer choices than the other Superhero MMOs (City of Heroes and Champions Online) and a bit more confusing interface. Still, I found it easier to make a somewhat cool looking character than in Champions.
Running through the tutorial was pretty much the same as before, except that I noticed some changes in the user interface and that the controls in general felt more responsive than I remembered them. This was one of my main annoyances with the game when I first tried it and there seem to have been some improvements here.
Still, there is a bit of experimentation to figure out what is there and what you can do, since there is not much help or explanation beyond the basic combat interface. There is a help section, but that only tells you to contact the game support. In some parts there are texts explaining the differences between the three different player account levels (free, premium and legend) for that particular part though.
I did find how to take screenshots in the game – maybe the original version of the game had that feature also, but if it had I never found it. While some feature/functionality may take a bit of time to find, the interface is manageable.
The game itself looks quite good I think, although it would have been nice if it has used a bit higher resolution than 1280×720. I tried adjusting the screen scale option by increasing that to max, but that essentially just moved the UI elements further towards the center for the screen it seems, or at least screenshot sizes stayed the same.
I ran through some of the early missions up until I reached level 7, which is pretty much as far as I goit with some of my old characters. Not entirely comfortable with the controls yet, but significantly less of an annoyance from back in January. One line of missions led to beating up a guy named Faust, who was some soul-catching villain. The other line was beating up some minions this Brainiac guy who is the main enemy in the game for both heroes and villains.
These missions were pretty ok. A nice thing is that some of the mission objectives were updated just by being nearby the place where it happened, if another player did it – which is good when there are objects and resources to interact with. It makes it more encouraging to cooperate on the objectives.
I did have a look at the market place for the game – most of the things that were sold were cosmetic and “fun” stuff, plus a few things to expand space (inventory, bank etc), or to get attachements and money from email (if someone sent that). Premium players can get attachments from email, but not money – for that you need to buy the ability to withdraw the money. One could also buy some legends stuff, which included fighting with and against certain DC characters. Since I am not a DC fan and fairly ignorant about most DC characters that was not an area that interested me.
The costume pieces, styles and toys that were available felt a bit on the expensive side to me. A single costume piece cost either 10 SEK or 20 SEK for me, with corresponds roughly to 1.50 and 3 USD, respectively. Since we on this side of the pond usually end up paying more when there is some currency exchange in place, I suspect they might be a bit cheaper for US players.
There was nothing in the store that jumped to me directly as something that I felt I must buy and the things I could consider did not feel cheap – which is bad, since I think a good balance for the game to work commercially is to have things that makes you want to buy it, but not feel forced to do it. But I may not be the primary target audience for the game.
If there is a major annoyance with the game right now, that is the waiting time as mentioned in the beginning when trying to get into the game. It seems to be a bit of a hit&miss whether you actually get into the game itself. If there is a queing mechanic it is not indicated and I think it is just a matter of the game not quite coping that well here. I have had a couple of play sessions now and typically have had 2-3 attempts before I actually got into the game for each session.
Other than that, it feels pretty ok. Not overly excited at this point, but good enough that will probably continue to play a bit. But so far I have only played missions similar to what I played before, so there might be more and better stuff down the line.
Yesterday I decided that I should give DC Universe Online a spin on my PS3, since it did not require a subscription anymore. So I fired up the PS3 and picked DCUO from the Playstation Store – a 122 MB download.
This was just the start of course; it downloaded another 120:ish MB of client update and then when the game started it were checking its assets. Harddisk full was the message then and that it required an additional 9 GB of disk space. After looking through what I had installed it was not really that much removeable stuff space except some movie data from Yoostar2.
I realized that I did not remember how large the disk in the PS3 was in the first place. Checking in the System Information reported 37GB disk space, with 12 GB free. A bit small harddisk – new PS3:s seem to have a 320GB harddisk nowadays.
Luckily it is pretty easy to replace the hard disk in the PS3, so I bought a cheap 640 GB hard disk and backed up the existing content to a USB drive. Replaced the hard disk in the PS3 and restored the backup to the new disk. For some reason it reported that it had used twice the size of the old hard disk after restoration – perhaps there is a certain percentage of reserved space it uses on a disk for the system itself?
Anyway, now the disk has more than 500 GB free and DCUO was happy to continue downloading 14+ GB worth of assets. The download speed is quite slow through, so I expect it to be done tomorrow morning or possibly sometime in the middle of the night.
This weekend I decided to focus the playtime on superhero/supervillain activities and thus played the three superhero MMOs I have active; City of Heroes, Champions Online and DC Universe Online.
City of Heroes
In City of Heroes it was double XP weekend, so that meant that the max level characters took a rest and some of the other characters got some playtime instead. There were two characters I put a bit of focus on and that was Don Charge, my electricity hero dominator and Tsu Han, my villain scrapper (kinetic energy/willpower).
The number of MMOs I am playing right now have been piling up – currently I have been swapping between five different ones in the past two weeks or so:
- Fallen Earth
- Star Trek Online
- City of Heroes
- Wurm Online
- DC Universe Online
Each one have only had a small chunk of time (maybe a bit more for Fallen Earth), but for most of them it has worked out pretty well.
A couple of weeks ago Icarus Studios sent out an email with a come-back-and-play offer, giving a slightly reduced initial fee. I played Fallen Earth from release, but did not end up playing paticularly much, even though I really liked the crafting part. There were a few other things that annoyed me with the game and I dropped the subscription. I do not remember exactly when I left, but it seemed anyway that there had gone enough time to merit a look again.
So I jumped in and started a new character – and I have had a blast so far! While I do not remember all the details of the previous time in the game, I do have a feeling that there has been a few changes. The tutorial might have been shortened or changed a bit, I have a feeling there were some more pieces which were not there. The starting area for focus on crafting was also different. Now it was a place called Midway, before I think it was South Burb, if I recall correctly.
With todays patch update for City of Heroes/Villains came also the new Super Booster package, Superscience. As with previous boosters, this is an addon that is bought separately. These booster packages contains additional costume pieces, commands, powers and other features which are not included in the standard game. Personally I think this may perhaps be the weakest of the booster packages so far, but I am still a sucker for those packages. So I bought it.
With this update they also enabled to add more mission architect slots, as they announced a week ago. For me, creating story arcs/missions is the most fun solo activity in this game. The results may not necessarily be top notch, but I do enjoy it a lot. So I bought a few more slots here also.
The update also happened to fix some bugs that had appeared in some story arcs of mine since Issue 15, so I was quite happy to see that it now actually seemed to work as intended.
Many blog discussions and topics seem to have been centered around some fantasy games and expansions from Mythic Entertainment, Funcom and Blizzard this year. Not that many and not something I share a few others excitement for.
Next year seems to have potential for more interesting prospects though and this in the SciFi area of MMOGs:
- Stargate Worlds seems to be aiming for an early 2009 release. Based on the Stargare SG-1 TV series, one of the things they emphasize is their strong story content. They are taking beta applications, over 150000 has reportedly signed up so far.
- Jumpgate Evolution is space oriented SciFi MMOG, where NetDevil has based it on their old Jumpgate game and then work to make an improved and evolved version of it. Seems much a combat and trade oriented game with player driven economy. They are taking beta applications.
- Black Prophecy seems also to be a space oriented game, from Reakktor – creators of Neocron/Neocron 2. I have not seen much information abouth this game. Screenshots on their site looks spectacular. They are taking beta applications.
- Earthrise is a game with a postapocalyptic theme from Masthead Studios. Character development is purely skill oriented, promises player driven economy and extensive crafting and territorial PvP.
- MechScape is a new MMO from JagEx, creators of RuneScape. It will likely be a browser-based MMORPG like RuneScape
Depending on who you ask, some would also put superhero games like Champions Online and DC Universe Online as SciFi games, both which seem to be aiming for 2009. So far there has only been two games released in this area and these have been siamese twins with each other, so one may argue that they are just one game. SciFi has a broad definition, so it certainly can include these games as well, although it may not be what everyone thinks of when talking about SciFi.
Some other SciFi games being developed have not had any release plans announced yet. Fallen Earth developers says it is ready when it is ready. Cryptic Studios will likely announce a SciFi game in development in a week, which many belive may be Star Trek Online. BlackStar is the game from Space Time Studios which may still be looking for a publisher. These may not be released during 2009 though.
It does show some potentially exciting future in the area of MMORPGs, at least for us who would be very happy to play more SciFi oriented games rather than the fantasy themes that are currently dominating.
I would not be surprised if there are more games than these, but these were those that I could think of right away that I have seen mentioned.