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Wrapping up 2011

January 1, 2012 Comments off

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:

Earthrise

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.

Wurm Online

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.

Star Trek Online

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.

Champions Online

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.

Rift

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.

Star Legends

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.

DC Universe Online

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.

Anarchy Online

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.

Forsaken World

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.

Black Prophecy

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.

Star Wars Galaxies

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.

Gods & Heroes

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).

City of Heroes

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.

Star Legends growth

September 11, 2011 2 comments

The SciFi MMO Star Legends for the mobile market seems to continue to grow. For Android it has passed 500K installations from the Android Market,  this after it has been released for about 1 month. I do not not know how many installations the iPhone/iPad version has – it only been out for about 2 weeks for the Apple devices.

There has been one new content release after launch which raised the level cap 5 levels and another one which will likely be available next week and that will raise the cap with another 5 levels, so they seem to have a decent schedule for providing new updates to the game so far.

I have been playing the game a bit every now and then, in some short sessions on my Eee Pad. My main character is a level 15 engineer – within seconds you can be in a team doing a mission, or just shooting stuff. That the game is offered for free with an item shop certainly helps with the installation count – the MMO Order & Chaos online has much smaller installation numbers, but do also require an upfront payment for the game – I believe they also have a monthly fee, although low.

Vendetta Online is another SciFi MMO which is available for Android. You can try that one for free for a limited time and after that you need to pay a subscription fee. The game is available for Windows, Linux and Mac OS and not a game specifically made for the mobile market. I have not tried that game on Android yet, but tried it a long time ago on Windows.  It was fairly ok back then and perhaps there is time for a test drive at some point. It is quite large for a mobile app, around 250MB.I am not sure how many of the 50000-100000 that have installed the application that also subscribed to the game?

WIll have to try it out at some point and see how it works out on the Eee Pad.

Categories: Star Legends

Star Legends officially released

August 11, 2011 Comments off

Star Legends has been in open beta for a bit over a week and has now been officially released, at least on Android.

Spacetime Studios submitted the iOS version of the game initially to Apple for approval about a month ago. Initially they said they intended to release it at the same time on all platforms. However it seems they changed their mind and decided to release on Android before it had been approved for Apple’s app store.

One issue that the approval process of a certain platform had was that Spacetime Studios wanted their virtual currency that people buy, platinum, should be possible to use in all their games. I.e. if you buy platinum in Pocket Legends you can also use it in Star Legends, if you play both. This was something Spacetime Studios had announced was their intention. However, it seems that this was not ok with that app store and a change had to be made; a recent update made the platinum game specific.

That of course upset a few players that wanted to use platinum they had bought in Pocket Legends in Star Legends. As that platform’s app store did not allow for a one-off transfer between games like some players suggested, Spacetime Studios instead issued 30 platinum for Star Legends to every single player who had bought platinum at some point after they had made the first announcement about shared platinum. That seems to have totalled to about 1.5 million platinum. Since I had bought a small chunk of platinum just prior to this I also ended up with 30 platinum extra. I think it was a nice gesture of Spacetime Studios.

The number is also interesting since it shows indirectly how many players have bought platinum since they made that announcement a few months ago; 1.5 million/30 = 50000 players. Each of these players have spent at least $5 on the games and in many cases probably more. They are probably doing ok financially.

Categories: Star Legends

Blasting in Star Legends

August 7, 2011 4 comments

When I got back home this weekend I noticed that Star Legends was now available on Android Market. The game seems now to be in an open beta stage. I did not really like Spacetime Studios previous mobile MMO, Pocket Legends, but with a SciFi theme I thought I should check it out and I downloaded it to my Eee Pad.

You have 3 different professions to choose from; commando, operative and engineer. There is of course gender selection and some basic hair and face customisation for the character. This is a quite action-packed game. You start out with a quick and simple tutorial to save the day and after that you will enter the UCS Blackstar. This ship acts as a kind of lobby area with various facilities – auction house, crafting stations, guild management area, some bounty lists (PvP? not sure), space hangar and also vendor stations and mission NPCs.

Initially I must say I did not quite like it; I had some trouble with camera movement because I tried to swipe in a different way than the game expected, but once I figured that out it worked out better. Some of the store interfaces were also not intuitive to me (swipe the list to select what you buy, not press on it).  I also died quite a lot in mission fights. But after a while it did grow on me and now I must say I quite like it; it is good fun and you can jump in for a few minutes to play quite easily.

The mission system is an instanced approach with automatic teaming, so people will jump in and out of your mission instance all the time. From your quest panel you can select to jump to a mission in your quest list, or there is also a general list with ongoing instances that one can choose from. Or you can just select an area to choose a transporter from Blackstar in some cases to go there.

Throughout the mission areas there are boxes with loot and regardless of who opens the box it seems everyone gets something. The first few missions were pretty simple “go kill stuff” type of missions, with some boss fights. Later missions introduced some simple puzzles also. There are also various enviroment considerations – there can be toxic waste or toxic gas in some areas, so you need to get an anti-toxin first. There are vents which may spew fire from them from time to time and there are different items that can be shot at so they explode and possibly hurt things nearby.

One will earn cash (gold) from fighting enemies and doing missions, plus also selling loot that you pick up in the missions. Some items and in particular stimpacks (recover health or power) can be bought with those. But you are not earning huge amounts of money. So there is of course also an item shop in the game, where you buy things with platinum, which is a higher value option – 1 platinum corresponds to 100 gold.

Some items are available both through platinum (game store) and through gold (vendor machines), but with the exchange rate it seems to favour buying directly using platinum, e.g. buying 25 stimpacks cost 3 platinum from store, but 625 gold from vendor machine. Some items are only available in the game store, like enhancements, which boosts a number of things – XP, armor and damage for a while.

Platinum prices vary depending how much you buy – the larger amounts you buy, the cheaper it is per platinum. The most expensive option is the smallest amount you can buy, 30 platinum for 5 dollars. But if you are willing to put up 100 dollars directly, you get 2000 platinum. And then there are a few other platinum package options in between those extremes.

I think Spacetime Studios have done quite a good job with the game; it is fast-paced and fun and playing together with others is really quite easy. The installed game itself allows for four accounts to play – this is most certainly with tablets in mind, which probably would be shared devices in a family.

For Android the game should work on anything running Android 2.0 or later. I have not tried it on my phone yet. For Apple devices it seems that they are still going through the approval process with Apple and once that is done it should be available for iOS devices also.

Categories: Star Legends
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