Monday, August 31, 2009

Morning News

This is what happens when I don't look at gaming and comic news on the weekends:

FYI: This story is pure bullshit.

http://kotaku.com/5348199/cryptic-microsofts-behavior-means-no-champions-this-year

Cryptic was telling us during the testing back in February/March that there wouldn't be a 360 version of the game this year. They knew for 6 months it wouldn't happen. They also used this as their excuse to not support the 360 controller on PC, saying they wouldn't support it until the 360 version was available.

Disney buys Marvel Comics

http://kotaku.com/5349341/disney-spending-4-billion-on-marvel-comics?skyline=true&s=x

Well, I wonder how Gemstone feels about this?

MMOs for the Common Man, Part 3

I close up with the final pieces of advice.

4) I’m not upgrading or buying a new computer for your game. The days of Killer Apps are gone. The only time a game drives hardware sales are on consoles when the consumer has already determined they will buy one, but not which one, or the fanatics who just have to have it (which seems to be almost exclusively Final Fantasy and Halo fans). I’m already paying $50 for the game, $15 a month for a subscription, don’t then demand that I fork out $150 for a new graphics card and $30 for another stick of RAM. Why don’t you try making your game run on more common hardware?

4a) If you plan on selling a game at a major retailer, like say Walmart, why don’t you also make sure that they sell hardware that will run your game, just in case someone gets the wild idea of buying a computer just to play your game.

4b) If given the choice between 2 new games I am interested in, but one won’t run smoothly on what I have and one will, I’m going to buy the one that runs smoothly. Be aware of the requirements of other software launching around the time you are.

5) I don’t want to buy a game on launch day, then wait until the next day to start playing because you had to rewrite the entire game between the time the discs were pressed and you actually opened the servers. In other words, have your testing done prior to shipping to manufacturers. It’s Ok to have a small patch at launch, but not anything that will take me more than say a half hour to download.

5a) Don’t use the launch period as a third stage of Beta testing. I Beta test games, I like doing it. I get to see things ahead of time, provide some input, and maybe make the game better. I don’t like paying for the privilege of Beta testing.

5b) There are certain things that are not only expected, but should be considered mandatory in an MMO, like working social interfaces and an accurate mapping system. They should be in the game at launch, and when your beta testers are telling you those don’t work, or need to be fixed, you may actually want to listen to them.

6) Don’t make a game based off an existing property if the property brings nothing to the table. There is a World of Darkness MMO coming out sometime around 2011/2012. The problem is, that is will be about a year after 2 similarly themed MMOs (Secret World and Dark World) about the hidden world of magic creatures in the modern age debuts. So what is the property bringing with it? And we aren’t exactly at the height of WoD’s popularity anymore.

6a) If you do base your game off of an existing property, you have to do it justice, not just use the name and abandon everything that attracted people to the property to start with. For an example of doing it right, see Lord of The Rings Online, for examples of doing it wrong, see Dungeons and Dragons Online and Champions Online.

6b) If you feel that doing justice to the property you are basing a game off of would stop you from making the game you want to make, you have 2 questions to ask yourself, Is the game you want to make really that good? Do you really want to use the property? Either way, it is time to rethink the direction you are going.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Bill will give the President the power to shut off the inetrnet

http://news.cnet.com/8301-13578_3-10320096-38.html?needawtftag

Wonder what would constitute a Cybersecurity Emergency? We already know President Bush used the Homeland Security Advisory System as a political tool, and Democrats are trying to shut down and avoid debate on health care.

This passes, it immediately becomes a tool to violate someone's 1st Amendment rights.

MMOs for the Common Man, Part 2

Continuing my advice for MMO makers if they want to start attracting more players.

2) If I can’t pick up your game and figure out how to play in 5 minutes. I’m not going to do that first bit. I read for 2 reasons, enjoyment and to learn something worthwhile. A 100+ page game manual is neither worthwhile nor enjoyable. So I’m not going to bother with it. Give me the low down in a tutorial, and make it quick and simple enough that I’m not having to constantly refer back to documentation of spam chat for help. I have a college degree, a tested IQ north of 130, an MSCE, scored in the top 5% in the nation on the SATs, and I am a trained and experienced systems analyst. If I can’t figure out your game quickly and easily, you have failed as designers.

2a) I have a full time job, a wife, 2 kids. I also have a nice hobby that occupies me 3 or 4 nights a week. I like to take my family to lunch on Sunday and let the kids spend their allowance, and maybe go to the YMCA a couple times a week. You know what that means? I don’t have time for 8 hour raids and marathon sessions for the off chance at the phat lootz. If I can’t pick up your game and be rewarded with some sense of accomplishment in less than an hour, I’m not going to pick up your game.

2b) Have a free trial or a majorly reduced cost trial, or an unrestricted Open Beta period. If I can’t try before I buy, I’m probably not going to buy. Just because I can afford too, doesn’t mean I am going to drop $50 to just try out your MMO.

3) Don’t do something just because WoW did it. I got news for you, WoW is not a game. WoW is a force of nature that exists outside of any logic or reason. You will not steal players from WoW by being like WoW. And those of us who don’t play WoW? Well, the reason we aren’t playing WoW is because we don’t like WoW, so being like WoW won’t attract us either.

3a) Just because WoW did something, don’t immediately discount it. Despite my personal feelings, WoW did do some interesting things and does have a lot going for it. I know it sounds like I am contradicting myself here. But if you look at WoW, it is easily playable and highly addictive. Two things an MMO wants. My problem with WoW don’t stem from the underlying systems of the game, but that’s a different set of posts.

3b) Don’t promise features you won’t/can’t deliver or won’t support. I don’t want to hear about your super new system that will revolutionize game play if it isn’t going to make it into the final game. Don’t demo the systems to the media and at conventions if it won’t be in the final game. That’s called bait and switch, and in any other industry, that could land you in jail.

Next time, I finish this up.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Return of GI Joe?



I've been impressed with the return of GI Joe. The comics from IDW, along with the reprints of classic Marvel Joe in trade format, have been very good. The new toys have been almost good enough to force me to collect (since Heroclix has shut down and I am a serial collector), and then they knock me over with the figure pictured here.

Agent Helix, featured in a recent comic one shot about an agent sent under cover to investigate Cobra. The comic was Meh. The actual character of Helix was so under developed I failed to care. I know they were going with a Snake Eyes mystery feel with her, but her depiction just came off as a Final Fantasy reject.

But the fact that they went out of their way to make a toy in the style of the movie toys, that impresses me. That level of commitment to the property makes me feel good about GI Joe and the direction it's going.

I hope my eventual son will have the warm place in his heart for it that I have.
Image from Toys R Us's website.

MMOs for the Common Man, Part 1

“I got this great idea. I’m going to make an MMO based off of Iain Banks’s Culture series.”
“What?”
“Yeah, we can have Idirans, Changers, Culture Humans, and other aliens.”
“What?”
“Players can work with space pirates, deal with Eaters, and explore Schar’s World.”
“Ok, almost all those words were in English, but to you, they obviously don’t mean what I think they mean, so let’s start again.”

So you think you have this wonderful idea for an MMO, some exciting idea or unused property that will draw an audience. You have a vision of what the game should be like and play like. You have secured rights, opened a web site and hired developers. Things are running smoothly, but there is one thing you forgot to think about. Customers.

Customers seem the be the most over looked part of MMO development, which is odd considering they are the most crucial part of the MMO cycle, you build, they play, you build more, they play more. With out the “They” portion, you have a few million in development gone to waste.

And considering that I am exactly the demographic that video games and pop culture in general seem to target (adult male between 18 to 34, with multiple computers and game consoles, a household income well over the national average, and plenty of disposable income and credit), it is amazing how often my opinion appears to be discounted in MMOs. They do a good job on targeting press releases, banner ads, and box art to me (Ozzy Osborne, boobs, Mr. T, boobs), but actual game play seems to be targeting the unemployed hermit with no social skills, love of repetitiously engaging in the same series of button clicks, and who happen to have multi thousand dollar computers that they meticulously update with the latest hardware and software on a monthly basis.

Granted, I’ve been on enough MMO message boards to know that those people do exist. But how many of WoW’s 11 million plus accounts belong to those people? Is it really enough that companies can afford to alienate other players by catering to them?

Apparently, there are, based on the MMOs I’ve tried recently. I’ve been playing MMOs since Everquest in 2001, kind of a late adopter, I know. But I’ve been through a lot of them, EQ, Sims Online, WoW, City of Heroes, Guild Wars, Dungeons and Dragons Online, Age of Conan, Runescape, Matrix Online, Star Wars Galaxies, and a nameless mass of free to play or microtransaction based MMOs. I’ve also beta tested Tabula Rasa, Lord of the Rings Online and Champions Online.

I’ve tried so many at this point, I know who copied what off who. I can play a few minutes and tell you which other games the designers had a hand in. And I know within 1 hour of play whether I’m going to like a game or not. As such, I’ve got a set of guidelines for future (and current) MMO developers who want to target me, a guy with cash, but who also has the stuff that makes cash possible, like a job, bills, a family, and a hobby or two that doesn’t involve the phrases LFG and WTS.

This looks to run a might long, so I’m going to break it up into parts.

1) I don’t care about your “Vision”. Yeah, this one is pointed directly at Cryptic and Jack, I couldn’t care less about what your inner artist believe is compelling and speaks to the inner nature of man. I have a very nice art museum a few blocks from my house for that, thanks. Anything you add or remove from the game that does not go directly to “Fun” or “Playability” (which seem to have become alien concepts to developers recently) just to fit your Vision, you need to reconsider. And if after reconsidering, you want to keep it, go back and reconsider again, and keep reconsidering until you realize we only care about having fun with the game and dump things that are not either “Necessary” or “Fun”.

1a) The following do not fall under the category of “Necessary”:
Time Sinks
Fighting any member of the rodentia family or the equivalent there of
Time Sinks
Death Penalties
Time Sinks

More coming soon

Friday, August 21, 2009

Why aren't you reading...Power Girl?

While I am a bigger fan of Marvel comics, DC has done a much better job of putting out comics that are just plain fun: Suicide Squad, Secret Six, the relaunched Doom Patrol/Metal Men combo, Green Arrow & Black Canary, and this book. One that doesn't get as much recognition as it deserves.

Power Girl exists within the greater DC Universe, but avoids the over seriousness that plagues Batman and the Green Lantern series right now. The stories are a throwback to the kind of plots you would see in silver and bronze age comics. The first arc featured the Ultra-Humanite deciding he wanted to be a hot woman and attempted to blackmail Power Girl into giving up her body by levitating Manhattan a few miles up and threatening to drop it.

Unlike other comics which feature exaggerated and impossible physiques, Power Girl is very self aware, without breaking the 4th wall like you would find in She-Hulk. She know what she looks like and it is played for humor.

Artist Amanda Conner is doing a great job here. The art work is clean and detailed, but without being distracting. It's not photo referenced or photoshopped, which adds to the charm of it's bronze age feel. It looks like and feels like classic George Perez work. I'm not normally a follower of a particular artist, I usually follow writers, but her work is such a relief after the heavy, overly stylized or realistic look that most main stream comics have these days, I'm going to keep an eye out for other comics with her name on them. I also have to say that the coloring job is fantastic as well. It looks digital, but feel hand colored, again, adding to the lighter, fun feel of the comic.

Finally, the comic is accessible. It starts with Power Girl trying to build up her secret identity and with issue #4 it adds a POV character in the new Terra, who's learning the ropes of being a super hero from Power Girl.

Check this comic out, it's worth it.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

New Zombie Nations

Foreignpolicy.com has an article on the theoretical rise of zombie states (interesting because 20 Small and I both read World War Z recently and kind of discussed this).

Here is the article:http://drezner.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2009/08/18/theory_of_international_politics_and_zombies

I say screw the politics, Re-kill the bastards and let your deity of choice deal with the logistics of classification and placement.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Champions Online Review Part 3: What You Need to Know if you actually play

First, ignore the name Champions Online:

It maybe called Champions, some Champions characters appear (no Seeker though), you may see some familiar looking words like STR, DEX, ED, PD. But they don't mean squat. They don't work like in PnP. It's worse than DDO, which at least used the 3rd Edition system as a base and the deviated. They didn't even try here.

You build Mana up:


Mana, Endurance, Stamina, whatever you want to call it, don't think of it like a traditional MMO. Think of it like a Rage or Aggression bar from a fighting game. Every character starts with an Endurance (End) Building power, and End Building can be added to other powers (this is called Accelerated Metabolism). You build End up, and then expend it using other powers.

Also, End isn't always End. You will see End and Energy used interchangeably in the game, both referring to the same thing.

You can only have 1 passive power and 1 block power active at a time:


You can take multiples and as you level you can create multiple “Builds” based on the role you will play in a fight, but only 1 passive can be active at a time. This maybe the feature I hate the most, as it really stops you from building a quality tank. It also makes you waste powers. By level 20 you will have your character built, 1 End builder, 1 powerful melee attack, 1 powerful ranged attack, 1 AoE attack/Nuke, 1 travel power, 1 primary defense, 1 block power, and 1 click buff. You may sub out some Crowd Control or Healing or extra buffs and debuffs. So, you now have 20 levels worth of additional powers to take, maybe you would want to fill those out with say some Regen or Damage Mitigation or additional block abilities. You can get them, but you can only use one at a time. So if you have a block that works well against Energy and one against Physical, you better know which will be better before the fight starts, because you can only use 1 and you can't switch on the fly thanks to the build systems cool down timer. Got both Invulnerability and Regeneration, only get to pick one at a time.

Memorize where the “Z” key is:

You will use it a lot. Pressing the “Z” key while an enemy attempts some kind of CC on you will help minimize it's effectiveness. Also, the “Z” key is the default interaction key for world object and NPCs. Don't hit it too much though, you can skip things you need by doing that.

Problem is, if there are multiple things around you that can be interacted with, the Z gets confuzzled. Was that bad guy hitting you with a hold and you were pressing Z to resist it, but a park bench was nearby? Too bad, you are now held holding a park bench over your head.

Know what BAM, BOOM, FOOM, KABOOM mean:


You will see these word appear over enemies' heads as they charge up major attack powers. Actively Blocking (hold SHIFT) when these attacks go off significantly reduces the damage you take.

BANG: Single Target Attack
BOOM: PBAoE Attack
FOOM: Cone AoE Attack
KABOOM: Targeted AoE Attack
FREEM: Single Target or Cone attack that invokes a status effect as well as damage

Look at you mission status area, you may just have stumbled into a mission:


The game has “Open Missions” missions that are occurring over and over in a given geographic area. Once you enter that area, you get the mission and your share of the experience and rewards is based upon how much you contribute to the mission.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Champions Online Review Part 2: Breaking it down

Graphics:

The graphics in this game are good, but inconsistent. This really detracts from immersion and is a distraction. The actual character models are well detailed, animate smoothly, and look good. But they look plastic. It's like someone took an Alex Ross cover and ran it through the Plastic Wrap filter on Photoshop.

Some enemy models are highly detailed like the character models, the Foxbot enemies and the Super Villains. Others are barely detailed to the point that they should just be faceless, formless blobs. Background run from the extremely detailed desert landscapes to minimalist art deco style buildings you would see in Batman the Animated Series. Both are fine on their own, but again a lack of consistent art style detracts from the game.

This is also true with the environmental objects. Things like billboards are super detailed high tech, slick and bright, but cars are little more than noir shaped outlines.

Gameplay:

If you've played WoW or EQ, you've played Champions. The only difference is the End builder mechanic, and it isn't different enough to distinguish game play in anyway.

Sound:

Through most of the Beta, sound didn't work at all on my primary computer due to a bug where the game would crash if you had a 64-Bit processor and ran Realtek sound drivers. When sound did work, it was generic and often didn't match up with the action on screen, being delayed like a bad kung-fu film dubbing.

When it did work, it was servicable.

Fun:

Taken by its parts, CO is kind of fun. But it's pretty mundane. There is nothing here you haven't seen already. Playing for more than an hour at a time, the contact grind and time sinks begins to wear on you. The problem is that to have any sense of accomplishment you really need to be playing for 2 or 3 hours at a sitting. This means it gets old pretty quickly.

In Game Systems:

Crafting: Almost useless. You will have better items from missions and random drops than you can craft at all points. You also have to harvest resources, and what you harvest is random. You also do a lot of “research” on items you find, which allows you to reclaim resources from them as well as increasing your crafting skill. The only time I really used crafting was to build consumable health packs.

Social: Didn't work. Teaming didn't, Auction House didn't, Ignore didn't, Search didn't. Multiple testers advised them that these features needed to be top of the list. Instead we got Winamp and I-Tunes integration.

PvP: You want to PvP? Do you want to PvP to win? Get a flight, get invulnerability, get a charge up ranged attack power. Make sure you have more of those than the other guy. You've just won. Every, and I mean Every, PvP match I participated in was won by the side with the most ranged attackers.

Combat: A lot of promises were made about combat, almost none were kept. Environment affecting combat was promised, didn't happen, enemies can shoot through cover, can super jump to the top of buildings, and almost every enemy above the basic “henchman” level has a ranged attack power that shuts off your travel power. Dynamic combat was promised, didn't happen. Target mob, press 1 for auto-attack, when End is high enough, hit your stronger attack. That's it. There is active blocking, but almost all MMOs have that now, so it is hardly awe inspiring.

Controls: Standard MMO.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Champions Online Review Part 1: Background on Champions Online

One of the many graphical glitches in the game that the Devs ignored
As Champions Online (CO) turns the corner into Open Beta and the NDA is lifted it's time to talk about the game. I joined Closed Beta back in December and the game was literally an unplayable mess until about April. And since then, it has come a long way. The first thing I had to to when I wrote this was vent about the Beta itself. This is the 3rd closed Beta I have been part of, and it was the worst. It was the worst when it came to the actual quality of the game they presented to us, worst when it came to the beta staffs responses and responsiveness to the testers, worst communication between the staff and testers. Which is made even more annoying because it had the best Beta testing community when it came to knowledge, providing feed back, and helpfulness. So, I vented, I won't bore you with my venting, so that's been edited out.

CO is creatively Bankrupt:

Sorry to say it, but it's true. It's one giant pop-culture riff, mocking, and rip-off, and not a funny one like you would get from a classic MST3k or Airplane!. It's like watching Scary Movie or Meet the Spartans over and over. A good chunk of contact and story line is ripped off from some other movie, game, or book. Despite how much I love the movie, did we really need 2 contacts based off of “Big Trouble in Little China” and multiple story lines taken from it? Did there need to be two mission arcs based off of “Apocalypse Now”? Was it necessary to have a reference to obscure SCTV characters that most players won't recognize in Canada? And I can go on: Kill Bill, Anchorman, Blazing Saddles, They Live, Braveheart, Hellboy, and Pokemon all get used in the game. The entire Canada Crisis zone is a riff on Lost, a good chunk of the Desert is Westworld. For the love of Jack Kirby, there is a mission named after a Judy Blume book.

Even the systems are a rip off. If you do a pallet swap from WoW grey to blue, you have CO. The UI, the mission system, the dialog boxes, mission reward selection. All of it is straight WoW with little to no modifications.

And it's very easy to see that Jack “Statesman” Emmert had a hand in this. Signature costume pieces from CoH are blatantly copied here (I have seen some awfully familiar crab like back pieces in this game). What makes that even sadder is that despite the huge advancements in character scaling and coloring CO has over CoH, you actually have less costume options when it comes to the actual clothing your character wears. I will give them that they have a greatly expanded selection of mecha and angel/demon costume pieces. Of course this leads to a different kind of creative bankruptcy. If you stand at the entrance to the tutorial on a night when a batch of new beta players are allowed in, you invariable see a parade of Led Zepplin and Meatloaf album covers interspersed with a little Manzinger and Robotech. Hell, if you stand in Renaissance Plaza you'll see more winged characters than a demo of Aion. It's not just costumes, it's enemies as well. They even included Chinese Ninja Sorcerers that teleport.

Finally, if you played CoH you should remember a few years back there was an April Fools press release about adding visual sound effects like “Bang” and “Freem” to the game. Jack liked the idea so much it is actually an integral part of the game mechanics. Yes, you will see “Freem” popping up over enemies heads. Frequently.

Don't Listen to Jack Emmert:

Jack is either completely ignorant of the development of the game, or has been purposefully leading a media misdirection campaign this entire year. Either way, you can pretty much ignore everything he has said about the game this year. I won't go start pulling quotes, but it's a pretty good rule of thumb. If you look at his recent interviews with Kotaku.com, his comments on what the testing community was saying are the opposite of what we were saying.

One of the most important and talked about features of the game is not officially supported:

That would be playing with an Xbox 360 Controller. Every video you see of public play tests, every appearance on G4 TV revolves around the use of a 360 controller. The initial control design of the game didn't even have keyboard turning built in because it was expected that you would play FPS style with a 360 controller. The G4 MMO report even once mentioned that “If you aren't playing with a 360 controller, you aren't playing it right.” Well, the controller isn't officially supported and the developers refused to respond to issues with the controllers.

Another important feature just didn't make it:

Remember when they talked during the early development of the game about not having cool down? Once the animation was over, you could hit the power again. That's not right. Some powers have cool down and some might as well since they made the animations excessively long.

The Game is Cheap:

Remember playing old Nintendo Games and it would seem like the game “cheated” to make it harder on you? Well, welcome back to that old feeling, CO does that a lot. Enemies will suddenly develop travel power like abilities to chase you down, they will move into areas you can't follow or hit them in, but they can hit you. They will chain juggle you like a Killer Instinct combo. They have no limit on their use of powers that normally cost Endurance to use. Their sight and attack ranges are huge, much bigger than yours. And powers that require charging, well, they can be charging the second one up while the first one's animation is still finishing.

And PvP is cheap. Ranged attacks, flight powers, invulnerability and healing are all over powered for PvP, and playing on a game pad or 360 controller presents you with a major advantage over keyboard play in PvP. PvP matches boil down to this: The team with the healer wins, and the most flying ranged attackers is the tie breaker.

Instanced missions were added as an after thought and it shows:

They are very short and under developed, and most appeared during the last month of testing. A lot of missions that should be instanced aren't. There is one mission where some bad guys have taken a lab and infected the staff with an experimental mutagen. You have to get there, get the stuff to make the antidote, and save the scientists. Would make sense to have this happen in the lab, nope, you do this all from the parking lot.

Some incredibly odd choices were made during development:


Twitter integration, control of I-Tunes and Winamp from within the game, useless Chibi-Style vanity pets were all added to the game, to be fair we have been told that a programmer did the Twitter thing in his off time, but it's there. They did this instead of fixing: bugged mission, invalid costume pieces (for that, they just don't let you create the character if the pieces make an invalid costume), broken features, bad text, fixing the Respec system, and other issues that got reported to them. You can also tell that they spent a large amount of time on the Foxbat enemies, giving them very detailed appearances and special animations and effects that no one else had, but ignored most other enemies.

Basic features for a social game were also ignored. The Grouping UI didn't function. The Ignore feature didn't function. The week before Open Beta started, a tester asked about setting it so you would not accept dual, team, or trade invites. A developer told him the chat slash command for doing some of this, as they didn't plan of putting it into the UI.

The game is not Alt friendly and there is very little in the way of repeatability:

Everyone gets the same contacts and the same missions, and you will do them the same way and in the same general order. Most enemies are a palate swap of other enemies, and those that aren't are horribly over powered (Atomic Reanimators and Foxbat robots, I'm looking at you). The game requires little to no strategy, and there is only one way to accomplish each mission. There is no stealth in the game. You can't Crowd Control your way to victory. It's just straight in your face combat.

Here is how you will play the game: Make a character, do the tutorial, this will take you to lvl 5 or 6 depending on if you do all the side missions in the tutorial. Choose a Crisis Zone (Desert or Canada), this zone will take you to lvl 9 or 10. Do the regular version of your zone, this will take you to 13 or 14, then go do the lvl 11-14 content of the other zone, then go to Millennium City (MC), and then the game is straight line play from there with little to no deviation, with occasionally hops to other zones. It'll be that way for all characters, you pretty much have to do every mission to level, so there isn't a lot of options, and there is only one solution for each mission. Play through twice and you have seen it all.

They also expect you to pay via Microtransactions for extra character slots. 1 Server, 8 characters. Want anymore? You gotta either delete one or buy another slot for “Cryptic Bucks”.

The game is what was left over from Cryptic's attempt at a Marvel game and was cast aside for Star Trek Online:

Despite Cryptic assertions to the opposite, you can still look around and catch glimpses of what was almost Marvel Online. The travel powers of Swinging and Rocket Boots copy the poses of Spiderman and Ironman (I'm not talking similar, I'm talking dead on like they studied the movies). MC's design looks more like New York than a rebuilt Detroit. Open up the big map of MC in CO and look at a road map of New York and Detroit, and see which one this looks like. The city may have been rebuilt, but large bodies of water don't move.

Also, Cryptic claimed that resources were not diverted from CO to ST:O. We know that is bull because one of the diverted community liaisons posted a good bye to us on the test forums when they got sent to ST:O.


Everything you hated about Everquest is back again:

95+% of the content is open world, by the time I had completed 100 missions, I had only been through 3 instanced missions. Most of the missions involved killing a certain number of spawns, killing a named spawn, or interacting with a clickable or multiple clickables. Almost all of them involved waiting for a respawn or refresh of something. And this was during Closed Beta with a very small amount of players.

Oh, and welcome back spawn camping, we missed you too. With the limited number of spawns for some missions that require you to interact with multiples of the spawn, it's easier to spawn camp than to actually search for what you are looking for.

And while you can't Ninja Loot, you can Ninja mission spawns. This happens a lot, even in the Beta. You can also do the good old dick move of waiting for some one to aggro a mob you need for a mission, ping it a time or two, and then walk away and let that guy do the work for you. You've now gotten mission credit with no risk.

Crisscrossing zones, only I trainer access per-zone, having to zone in/out to get to the trainer. Crafting stations placed in inconvenient and sometimes remote locations. Missions scattered across a zone, far from the mission giver. Ahhhh...Time Sinks.

You will have trouble finding your friends:

There is only 1 “Server”, on the server are the zones. As a zone fills, new instances of the zone are automatically created. Depending on the zone, you can have between 50 and 200 players in it before a new instance will be created.

Just a little math, Cryptic is shooting for 100,000 customers. Let's say 10% play at any given time. A single zone, MC, allows for players from level 13 – 40. So, a conservative estimate says half the people online will be in that zone. That's 5,000 people in MC. At 200 a pop, that's 25 instances of a single zone. And there is no “Global” chat channel at this time, only Zone wide, and that does not cross instances. There is a little section of the zone list that tells you how many team mates and friends are in each instance, but it wasn't much use in Beta.

And the zones are huge. Massively huge. Bigger than any zones I have seen in other games.

You will have trouble finding your Enemies:


Missions and objectives are not always marked, some are mis-marked. They are often also not near each other or near the contact that gives the missions. Also, the markings that do appear on the map don't exactly tell you much and multiple marking can be used for the same mission types.

A new feature that they implemented are missions where a citizen will run up to you and report a crime in progress. Cool right? Well, these missions are pretty good, but where the citizen finds you and where the mission is are usually on opposite sides of the zone, and the mission is timed, so good luck if you are involved in something else or on a team. Then the fact that the citizens usually interrupt you during a fight, popping up a huge blue dialog box in the middle of the action does lead to problems as well, usually death.

Of course, they planned on you dieing so much that there is no death penalty, instead you get a bonus for living. And no, that is not a joke. It's the Hero Point system, and the more missions you complete, the more combat bonuses you get. When you die, you lose some of these points, but you never go negative.

Despite this, Cryptic managed to pull together something kind of fun at the last minute:


July 24th, 2009. That's the day they released the update that made the game fun. The problem is, it isn't that fun. Had this been an entirely Microtransaction based game, it would be the best game of that type I have seen. As a game that is based on a monthly subscription fee plus Microtransactions, it's decidedly about 5 years too late on content. Of course, the next updates made it worse and stability and load times took a nose dive, but it was fun for a bit.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Champions Online Review Prelude:

Cryptic could have taken the easy way out. Updated CoH with this gen graphics, tweaked game play, added a new feature or 2 and bam, off and running. But they did something bold and daring. Something I don't think anyone suspected. They took an award winning, super solid, popular concept and idea and totally abandoned it. Cryptic was truly unafraid to suck.

There is one caveat as we enter this: I was unable to test the last 2 sessions of Closed Beta. Cryptic, in their infinite wisdom, decided to REDUCE the times the server was open. Which is Ok, really, as their patching system was malfunctioning, and entire zone needed to be shut down for an entire play session, and the forums indicated there was serious stability issues those two days.

I had planned on showing you some screen shots from the game, but the only ones I have are old or showing graphical glitches. I had planned on logging in the last day of Closed Beta and grabbing screen shots, but, well, you saw that up above.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Champions Online Review - The Preview

When I started writing this review, it was a multi-part epic review. Was it too much? Could I express myself more succinctly? After 5 pages of typing, I decided to sum the game up in just 50 words:
Kind of fun, nothing new here, good for a couple months play.

District 9 Review

This is complex. It's two different movies posing as a single entity. It starts as a study in prejudice and man's inhumanity. It's classic science fiction, presenting social issues in a manner that is more accessible and palatable to the audience. It will make you think and it will make you feel bad.

About an hour in, it shifts gears into an action film. The action is very realistically depicted and very visceral, not over the top, not cartoony.

In the end it briefly shifts to a love story.

Overall, it is very well done. It has heavy CGI usage, but it is never distracting, George Lucas needs to watch this before he makes his next film. It's occupied by all unknown actors from an unknown director, but everyone does a very good job.

I recommend that you see it.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Health Care Reform Bill and You

The Health Care reform bill has tucked deep in its recesses a variety of projects only tangentally related to health care. Let's take a look at one:


SEC. 1904. GRANTS TO STATES FOR QUALITY HOME VISITATION PROGRAMS FOR FAMILIES WITH YOUNG CHILDREN AND FAMILIES EXPECTING CHILDREN.

It starts on page 838 of the bill.

If you just skim the bill, you will see this is called a “Voluntary Program” and you think, oh, that’s ok, I just won’t volunteer for it. You’d be wrong. It’s voluntary on the part of the States to join the program, not the citizens.

If your state joins the program they can make home visits to:

-Tell parents what is appropriate in the education of their child (page 844 line 22)

-Tell you how you should be parenting your child (page 845 line 9)

So a representative from your state can come to your house and tell you what and how to teach your children and how you can raise them.

And, they will generate statistical profiles based on race, gender, religion, and age on parents (page 848 line 10, and 849 line 14) to determine who is and is not following the programs.

The program also makes the assumption that if you are being visited you are mistreating your children (page 849 line 9)

Annually, Congress will be briefed on this program so that they can focus on communities that are not responding to the program (page 850 line 11)

That happens to be a violation of the Constitution (the First, Fourth, Fifth, maybe the Ninth and Tenth amendments).

Don’t take my word for it though, or anyone else’s. Read the bill yourself:

http://big.assets.huffingtonpost.com/AAHCA-BillText-071409_2.pdf

Both sides are lying to you about what this bill contains. This is not just about health care and insurance, and it isn’t a eugenics project. But there is some fairly outrageous material in this bill, attacks on civil liberties and the rights of citizens in here.

Friday, August 7, 2009

GI Joe the Movie

Ok, the movie isn't winning any awards. The plot, while decent, is very superficially developed, but has an interesting, if obvious twist. There are some continuity issues (Which ear does Heavy Duty have pierced exactly? Snake Eyes is cool with his girl flirting with someone else?).

But forget that.

In the name of Larry Hama, this is good. It's mindless, goofy fun. Great action sequences with a plot that is just enough to movie you along from action scene to action scene. It's what Michael Bay forgot when he made Transformers. We just wanted to see transforming robots kick each other's asses. Steven Sommers gets it. We want to see kick ass fights with cool costumes and gear, and he gives it to us. Straight through the eyehole and into the primal part of the mammal brain responsible for recognizing awesome when you see it.

Everyone does a good job here, even the cat fight sequence is done better than most cat fights. Go see the movie.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Green Lantern...Playa?


The image over there -> is from DC Comics Justice League Cry For Justice 2. Now, I got issue 1, and then stopped, because it sucked. But this panel has caused an uproar. Apparently, good cop Hal had a drunken threesome with two members of the Birds of Prey, maybe. And that upsets a lot of people. How dare DC has such a cavalier attitude towards sex? How could they have a hero use alcohol to obtain sex? It goes against the characterization of both Hal Jordan and Huntress.

20 Small thinks you could look at this multiple ways, since sex is not directly implicated. She also doesn't think it's a big deal even if they did, because they were all consenting and single adults.

I think "Way to go Hal."

Analyzing...Flo


The picture to my left is of our subject "Flo" (pic courtesy of Wikipedia). She is an employee of Progressive Insurance. Based on Flo's awkward mannerisms, hyper-fixation on a single subject, lack of understanding of basic social rules, and odd mannerisms, it is probable that she falls somewhere on the Autism-Asperger's Spectrum.

Flo is capable of holding down employement, but it appears that it must be done in a very sterile and non-stimulating environment, indicating that she also probably suffers from ADD-HDD, which is not uncommon in Asperger's cases.

I am concerned about the amount of supervision she receives. There does not appear to be any management or supervisors in Flo's workplace to guide her interactions with customers and the other staff members. She displays inappropriate behavior at work (openly flirting with customer's who want to purchase motorcycle insurance and engaging in conversations about paranormal abilities with other customers). She is also oddly fixated on both her name tag and the rate display in her workplace. Without supervision and guidance, these fixations could be detrimental to Flo.

I believe that Flo may also be under some peer pressure at home. She does not seem to show the kind of interests or aptitude to fashion her hair and make-up in the style that she wears, indicating that there is another party, probably a close friend or family member who has studied Cosmetology, doing this to her. They should be informed that Flo does not work on a street corner and they should stop doing her make-up like a whore.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Champions Online Open Beta

Still now word on if we are getting extra keys for OB.

Fileplant premium members are getting an Open Beta key, they can download the client starting tomorrow and enter on Aug 17th.

Monday, August 3, 2009

You don't plan to fail...

Unless you're Cryptic. Cryptic is using Beta Access and bonus items for Star Trek: Online as a selling point for Champions Online.

http://www.champions-online.com/exclusive_specials

Much like Microsoft did with Crackdown and Halo 3, using beta access to sell a game they know will fail.

Sigh.