A thoughtful and personal exploration of games

Posts tagged “Star Trek Online

Custom Chimera

This weekend I sucked it up regarding the rubberbanding I experience and hopped back into Star Trek Online.

Immediately I felt a little overwhelmed. Although they’ve released new content for the game in recent months, I just didn’t have much interest in it. When I had stopped playing last year, I had a side project I was working toward. Namely, I was going to use the Chimera-class Heavy Destroyer to mess around a bit with a new concept. See, I recall hearing about how some people didn’t know what to do with the Chimera because it comes with a built in beam attack but as an escort people were using cannons. My idea is to slap on both the Nukara Strikeforce set and the Nukara Appropriated Munitions set and run a bunch of refracting tetryon beams and have a ricocheting beam boat.

I came up with the idea back in August and it’s just stuck with me, nagging me as a possible thing, but ever far away because of the sheer volume of Nukara marks I’d have to gather up. Thanks to the current event and it providing a choice of marks allowing me to get 40 or so every now and again, I can make a dent in it.

I’m not sure what else my Chimera will run though. I don’t know if I’ll be using any torpedoes (in addition to the web mines). Maybe I’ll horse around with some stuff on a website somewhere.

Anyway, that’s what’s been bouncing around in my head today and I’m going to be thinking about it more.

Until next time!

– Elorfin

Gaming Outside of my Comfort Zone

Last week I discussed gaming inside of my comfort zone and now, well, let’s step outside for a bit.

I started with single-player games and therefore, by definition I suppose, multi-player games are somewhat outside of my comfort zone. That said, the local multi-player games, such as arcade cabinets or LANs or shared/split-screen situations, are some of the most fun I’ve ever had. Much like dining, local gaming is very much a social occasion that I enjoy thoroughly. Inspired by this (and voice chat), in recent months I’ve endeavored to talk more to people I don’t know in online games. It paid off most recently while playing Lord of the Rings Online last week. I’ve discovered that it’s always nice to have someone to talk to while wandering the dark paths of Mirkwood or even the well-lit, but wolf-infested trails of Enedwaith.

Outside of socialization, there are some types of games that just always fall outside of my comfort zone. Some I eventually do play, like hidden object games that I used to feel were such a waste of time, but now see the virtue in a decent hidden object game (hint: it has a story that’s fun and appeals to me). In this case, I can recommend The Clockwork Man and its sequel The Clockwork Man: The Hidden World. Both are on Steam and are short diversions with some replay value if you like that sort of thing (which I apparently do).

Some games start in my comfort zone and then just fall out of it, waiting for me to come to some decision. For example, I used to play a lot of real-time strategy games. They were all the rage for a few years and the market has shifted to more action-y, MMO-style games. As a result, I played StarCraft, WarCraft 2 and 3, Star Wars: Empire at War, Age of Empires, Empire Earth and so on. The latest RTS I can think of is StarCraft 2 and I have zero desire to play it. I’m not entirely sure of the reason since I truly love the story and the setting, but I’m just not feeling it. I’m quite literally not comfortable playing RTS games any more.

Occasionally a game pops into my comfort zone without dragging any others along for the ride (like RTS games did). These days there are some very popular games classified as MOBAs (multiplayer online battle arena). Spawning from edited maps for older RTS games, today they’re marked by the extremely well-known League of Legends (a game I have zero interest in aside from the impact it has on the gaming community and marketplace as a powerhouse of popularity) and similar games (Dota 2 springs to mind and, before you ask, I also have zero interest). These games never appealed to me to begin with mainly because I’m not extremely fond of player versus player combat. I’ve always had anxiety issues with such confrontations (even in local gaming situations for example, Street Fighter) and in the MMO setting I’m not fond of how I was treated in past head-to-head situations by some people in Star Wars Galaxies. So you can imagine my surprise when I started playing Awesomenauts. It’s a 2D MOBA done with bright colors, humorous dialogue, unique characters, a plethora of potential strategies, and a practice mode so I don’t have to go head-to-head (or team-to-team). The thing that attracted me to it was even more surprising: the fact that it’s designed in the vein of a Saturday morning cartoon. The theme song slays me every time. That said, I maintain my zero interest in other MOBAs.

That player versus player thing is always something I’m uncomfortable with. Duels in games, even to just test our mutual capabilities (like the exercises I would run with my friends in Star Trek Online), they stress me out and make me extremely anxious. Clammy, shaky hands accompany every PvP situation I take part in.

Another situation I’m not extremely fond of making myself do (but will if compelled/convinced) is raid gaming. You know, find 12 or so people and pray you’re all able to go do this big boss fight thingy. Yeah, in my experience, it’s an exercise in futility and I’d rather spend my time doing easier things and enjoying the ride than throwing myself up against a wall. That also stresses me out a bit, but not as badly as PvP. Also, if I’m comfortable with the people that are going on the ride, this is much more fun for me. Small events like the small fellowship missions in LOTRO or the flashpoints in Star Wars: The Old Republic (not the crazy ones) are built for me and my close friends to hurdle, and those are often pleasant experiences. I still don’t seek them out very often.

It’s worth pointing out that if a game starts feeling tedious or like work, it immediately falls out of favor, but not necessarily my comfort zone. For example, Deus Ex: Human Revolution is an amazing game and the thing that pulled me in was the cyberpunk style setting with the potential for playing without killing anyone (or at least, without killing MOST everyone). After a fashion though, I just felt it was too tedious. I still like the game and have every intention of going back to it (when that will happen is anyone’s guess) and it holds up as an example of an FPS that doesn’t make me motion sick.

I suppose you could say that in all these situations, I need something to entice me to leave my comfort zone. In the case of online games, it was my desire to associate with my fellow gamer. I wouldn’t have played The Clockwork Man if it wasn’t for its promise of an eventual steampunk connection with its story. With Awesomenauts, you have a game that doesn’t take itself seriously by design and it’s quite enjoyable in its occasional aggravation (I’m not exactly that good at it which is part of why I confine myself to the practice mode). With big group missions (or at least small group missions) I need to see the reward that’s being offered and I need to feel assured that the group is capable of getting there.

In the end, gaming outside of the comfort zone is, to me, all about expanding the comfort zone to include new things. It requires a draw of some sort. Just… I won’t play sports games. I’m sorry, but they do absolutely nothing for me. There’s nothing to pull me in at all. I’ll watch friends play Madden every now and again, but I don’t watch any sports for real and I’ve no desire to pretend to play them when I could be slaying goblins with magic swords (too generic?) or being a beautiful siren who sings people to their deaths (I’m planning on playing this in a tabletop RPG sometime soon and it’s WAY outside my usual character type).

Until next time!

– Elorfin

P.S. “… the only thing we have to fear is fear itself…” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt (because, really, that’s what it’s all about)

Gaming Inside of my Comfort Zone

I was going back and forth yesterday on Twitter with a friend of mine and the concept of playing outside of one’s comfort zone came up. That said, I want to talk about playing INSIDE the comfort zone first, so I’ll get to the outside part next time.

There are a lot of games out there. The ones I feel most comfortable playing are the ones I can pick up and just run with without a second thought. When I sat down to play Dragon Age: Origins, for example, it was like pulling on a new pair of shoes that looked and felt extremely similar to my last pair. I still needed to break them in, but I was already familiar with the process and it was pretty quick since I wound up doing a lot of walking in a very short period of time.

So there are games that are, in and of themselves, within the comfort zone. For me, it’s a space flight simulator, a turn-based strategy game, a Baldur’s Gate derivative. These are the kinds of games I grew up playing.

Well, what about the games that don’t fit inside the comfort zone automatically? I can still be in my comfort zone even then, given the right opportunities.

For example, I love playing self-sufficient characters. My favorite D&D character was a Psychic Warrior who, with proper power choices, I was able to fight effectively, defend myself against a myriad of potential harms, and heal myself. To this day, I still play that way where I can. My Captain in Lord of the Rings Online is one such character. When I played Star Wars: The Old Republic as the Smuggler, I chose to be the Scoundrel and went straight down the healing tree. I did the same thing as a Mercenary Bounty Hunter and a Commando Trooper.

If I don’t have just one character, I believe distinctly in the balanced party. While Dragons Age is wholly within my comfort zone, I maintained a solid party of a rogue (for lockpicking primarily), a mage (for healing), a warrior (for tanking), and anyone else (for DPS). Yes, that restricted my play a bit, but it made decisions really easy when I went to make party choices. In XCOM: Enemy Unknown, I always had the four types of soldiers represented and then the two extra soldier spots would be where that particular playthrough was different from earlier ones. I’ve had those two spare slots taken up by a heavy and a support and an assault and a support before and that allowed me some considerable latitude in play style.

In Civilization IV, I set up the environment if I can so that my civilization is totally contained and secure before spreading out and taking new lands. I focus on infrastructure so that I can develop a powerful military at the drop of a hat and a few turns. In Star Trek Online, I chose a ship type that can take a lot of damage, then I proceeded to make it deal a lot of damage and be able to handle every situation that could come up. A long time ago when I played the Yu-Gi-Oh! card game, I built a deck that was affectionately referred to as “Whatever you do, I stop and make you regret it” or something like that. Essentially it was a balanced deck that countered many things the other player could do and then could crack them on the knuckles for doing it.

For me, it’s all about the balanced approach. Mixed arms and combined tactics to provide a well rounded and quality experience. I suppose I’m the kind of guy who likes to dip into every style to ensure an approach that can respond to every issue that might arise. In some games it’s just the simple “just shoot them” strategy. In others it’s more nuanced. My particular comfort zone playstyle is a kind of go-with-the-flow thing and it totally works for me.

The real trick for me is finding that comfort zone in each new game I pick up. Sometimes I’m lucky, like with Borderlands 2 where I started playing the Mechromancer and was pleasantly surprised how it flowed with my playstyle. Other times I’m not so lucky, like with Neverwinter where I played a long time as a Cleric before realizing that the Guardian Fighter was where it’s at for me.

An odd little thing: the Mass Effect series started in, I think, 2007 (yup). When that game came out, I played it for a week straight and loved it. Truly loved it. Turns out, I’d played its predecessor, a little game from 1986 called Starflight. Now, it’s quite a stretch to go from Starflight to Mass Effect, but the ship shape was kind of similar, the ground vehicle was (aside from armaments) was remarkably similar, and the stories I developed for my Starflight crew in my head was rivaled neatly by the stories developed for the crew of the Normandy. Look it up. Starflight inspired Mass Effect. Mass Effect has essentially been in my comfort zone since I was 4 years old. How about that, huh? Oh, I beat ME2 and ME3 each in a week as well. I’m that kind of gamer, just can’t put a good game/book down.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with finding and playing inside your comfort zone. It allows you to kick back, relax, and just play.

Until next time!

– Elorfin

P.S. There are no quotes I could find quickly about the benefits of staying in your comfort zone because everyone’s trying to be all inspirational on the internet and encourage people to do stuff that’s new and “outside your comfort zone”. I maintain that you need to be aware of what your comfort zone is prior to stepping outside of it, hence why I started with this piece instead of the next one. If you know your comfort zone and you stray from it, you always know where it is for when you need to get back to it for whatever reason.

The Snap of the Rubber Band

This past week or so I’ve been frustrated by a single issue that keeps popping up time and again in places where I kind of expect a little problem, but not to this extent.

I’m speaking of rubber banding.

To clarify, I’m not talking of snapping your wrist with a rubber band or anything like that. I’m speaking of what happens when there’s a brief disconnect between your computer/client software and the server. Essentially, your computer keeps going and the server goes, “Wait, hang on…” and when there’s a reconnection, the server bounces (or snaps) your character or ship or whatever back to where it last had you on your computer. This is rubber banding (don’t let anyone tell you otherwise… it’s a network issue, not hardware or whatever).

So, knowing this isn’t a hardware issue (I can tell because my frame rate is perfectly fine), I looked into potential connection issues. On the one hand, I’m on a wireless network. On the other, after several routing tests, there’s no problem between my computer and the router (regardless of the number of devices handling it). So, where’s the problem? If it’s not local, what’s keeping me from playing Neverwinter, Star Trek Online, and Diablo III without incident?

I’m honestly not sure. I think it exists outside my home and has to do with my ISP’s agreements with other local port providers closer to the server locations.

As a result, I stopped playing Star Trek Online this week shortly after getting back into it. I stopped playing Neverwinter after a day or two of play. Last night, I rubber banded so frequently and badly (it resulted in a slowdown in loot dropping from a Treasure Pigmy and then it disconnected me as soon as the loot dropped) in Diablo III that I refuse to play that for a bit too.

I’m looking around and wondering how many of my games require internet connections to play (not just DRM net connections, I’m talking forces you to be constantly in contact with a server for playing) and I’m really disappointed in myself. A majority of the games on my computer require that constant connection. I played some Awesomenauts, some Civilization IV: Beyond the Sword, some XCOM Enemy Unknown.

Today, I feel fairly restless. I want to do what I want to do and I feel like I can’t without becoming inconvenienced. Ugh.

Here’s hoping my ISP sorts things out soon.

Until next time!

– Elorfin

P.S. The definition of rubberbanding on the Urban Dictionary site is spot on.

UPDATE: Here’s a thread on the STO forums that explains kind of what’s going on.

Stepping Back Into MMOs

Until this past weekend I’ve been mostly playing single player games. That ended as I jumped back into Star Trek Online.

My current project is to make my Chimera-class Heavy Destroyer a fully functioning ship that I have fun breaking out every now and again. The first job is building the three parts to the Nukara Appropriated Munitions set, followed by building the Nukara Strikeforce Technologies set. I recognize that they’re not the best sets in the game, but I’m here to enjoy myself and I’m turning the Chimera into a beam-boat, so nyah. Also, it’s going to take a while to build up enough dilithium for all the parts I’d like to put on her. I’m currently uninterested in working on fleet projects, so that works in my favor. Once this is done, I think I’ll be able to focus on the fleet again. Side note: I’m going to be naming her after my dearly departed dog, Terra, once she’s done and ready for deployment. Durable, fast, and powerful… that’s Terra.

I’ve also had a bit of an itch to hop back into Neverwinter. I haven’t had a chance yet to see just how amazing it looks on this machine, but I did hop in briefly to max out all the settings when I installed it. Shouldn’t be anything short of spectacular looking.

I’m craving some DC Universe Online as well. I made a Power Girl facsimile (Power Girl is my favorite) and I’m hoping to get back to her soon. She’s so satisfying to play!

Other MMOs on my machine right now are Star Wars: The Old Republic, The Lord of the Rings Online, Champions Online, and Uncharted Waters Online. Multiplayer only games are Mechwarrior Online, ME3 Multiplayer, Star Conflict, oh, and Warframe (which I have very little opinion on right now since I’ve barely played it and I’m just not willing to spend time there yet).

If anyone has a recommendation for a fun free-to-play MMO that I could step into and check out, I’d appreciate it.

Until next time!

– Elorfin

P.S. Instead of a quote, here’s a helpful article for Star Trek Online players who might be new or at least not entirely aware of all the things you can do in the game.

A Little Gaming Here, A Little Gaming There

I’ve finished Mass Effect 2 and I’m making steady progress through Mass Effect 3, but that’s not all I’ve played lately. I’ve also played some Splinter Cell: Conviction, ME3 Multiplayer, Mechwarrior Online, DC Universe Online, and Sid Meier’s Ace Patrol.

Once I’ve finished this playthrough of ME3, I’m expecting to cut loose on a few games, namely I’d like to get back into regularly playing Star Trek Online instead of occasionally looking at it wistfully while I do my schoolwork. Further, I’d like to settle into a bit of Neverwinter, some more Star Wars: The Old Republic, and I think I’d like to play some more Diablo III before the expansion comes out.

Oh, I’m very very excited about the upcoming expansion for XCOM Enemy Unknown. Entitled “Enemy Within“, it’s going to include new enemies, new options for soldiers, and I’m hoping some more council missions. I mentioned it in a P.S. a couple of weeks ago, but as it gets closer to release, I get more excited about it!

I’d also like to share my excitement about the new Tex Murphy game coming soon thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign. The game will be called “Tesla Effect” and takes place after the last game, Overseer. Check it out. I grew up with Under A Killing Moon and came to love its dry humor and film noir style approach.

Anyway, I’ve got things to do, so until next time!

– Elorfin

P.S. “All I’ve ever needed was a soft felt fedora, a well-tailored overcoat and a comfy pair of sneakers. Some people know what they like and they stay with it.” – Tex Murphy, Under A Killing Moon.

Resisting a Popular Build – Star Trek Online

A while back I asked for help building up the Iowa so it was much better (and it is now!) and one of the two options I received was for a build called Aux2Batt. I turned it down because it’s super popular right now and I’m expecting the developers to visit some balance updates upon it, if you get what I mean. I also turned it down because I’m not a fan of dumping all my auxiliary power…

Hang on, I’ll try to explain what’s going on here.

There’s a bridge officer ability in Star Trek Online called Auxiliary to Battery (or Aux2Batt). What it does is it drains your ships auxiliary power subsystem and distributes it equally to your weapons, shields, and engines. For every 5 auxiliary power that you have, you get +2 to weapons/shields/engines. It lasts about 10 seconds and has a cooldown of about 40 seconds.

It’s a nice boost of power to your other subsystems in exchange for dumping your auxiliary power. For the record, auxiliary power is used to determine the effectiveness of other skills like Hazard Emitters, Transfer Shield Strength, Auxiliary to the Structural Integrity Field, Tractor Beam, Tachyon Beam, Gravity Well, and several others.

Now, here’s where things get interesting. There’s a duty officer that has an ability that kicks in whenever Auxiliary to Battery is triggered. Technicians say that the recharge time on all bridge officer abilities are reduced by a set percentage (based on the DOFFs rarity) whenever Auxiliary to Battery is used. The highest amount is 10% and you can have THREE of these duty officers assigned.

This particular combination allows a near constant (or at least very frequent) uptime of a lot of valuable bridge officer abilities such as Tactical Team and Attack Pattern Omega. Further, with appropriate management, you can maintain maximum or near maximum power levels for weapons, shields, and engines in any ship you use this build.

Now, all that said, this isn’t advised if you’re a healer or exotic damage dealer in a science ship since auxiliary power dictates the efficiency of a lot of their abilities, but I did just read a thread where both escorts and cruisers are using this to great effect. As I’m a cruiser captain (with a few escorts in my spacedock) I’m obviously interested to see how others are doing things.

The way I’ve chosen to do things, though, allows me to keep my auxiliary power and to take advantage of auxiliary based heals. I’m using Emergency Power to Shields and Emergency Power to Weapons to boost the systems I care the most about and 20% of the time my Warp Core Engineer kicks in a +25 to all power settings for a few seconds. In a way it’s very similar to the Aux2Batt builds in that it’s all about boosting power to vital systems. My build just doesn’t sacrifice the power I have in auxiliary. I’m very happy with my skill and duty officer arrangement and it’s working very well for me. So well in fact that I was able to take on two of my friends at once and they just couldn’t kill me. Seriously. They tried to vary their strategies and such, but I wasn’t going down. I made a couple of mistakes here and there (Heavy Graviton Beam, your windup is dangerous to me!) but overall it was a stalemate.

I’ve built a sturdy ship and I’ve collected and trained a skilled crew I should be proud of. I AM proud of. I’m not about to change things right now. Good luck to all you Aux2Batt builds!

Until next time.

– Elorfin

P.S. “And how exactly is weapons at maximum going to help the situation?” “The audience isn’t going to know, but they love weapons at maximum.” – Daniel Jackson to Martin Lloyd, Stargate SG-1

A Return to Trek – Star Trek Online

The last few posts I’ve been focused mostly on other games. In the background I’ve been popping into Star Trek Online here and there to help a friend work on STFs and mark grinding and so forth. This past weekend though, I dove in again because we’re pushing a bit on our fleet holdings and I’m a major contributor.

So, come with me as I go to handle a new upgrade for our oft ignored Embassy holding…


I typically log out at Starfleet Academy. It’s a pretty out of the way place (more or less) and the cafeteria corner is a favorite because it’s even more out of the way but close enough to all the services I like to use. Let’s beam up.


Ah, good old Earth and Earth Spacedock. No, I don’t know who that Odyssey is beside me. I’m just here to transwarp to my station.


And here we are… home. Let’s dock and I’ll show you what I’m attempting to do right now as I write this post…


Well, I guess it won’t let me show you any windows with the good old print screen function (and I don’t feel like opening FRAPS), so here’s what’s going on: the Embassy upgrade for its Recruit facilities requires 116 common duty officers. Our fleet personnel officer allows us to purchase random common duty officers for a few fleet credits. Therefore, I’m going to tap my vast stores of fleet credits (a side effect from being the top of the leaderboard for all three of our current holdings – not bragging, just a sign of my lack of a life) in order to get this done quickly.

At any rate, there’s a lot of grinding and contributing that needs doing and I’m quite good at it. As of right before this duty officer thing, I’m sitting at 2,291,038 lifetime fleet credits for the Starbase, 228,753 for the Embassy, and 791,248 for the Dilithium Mine. Mind, this is a small fleet and I’ve spent more time playing STO than most of my members. In fact, I got most of my friends to play STO with me after I’d been playing for a month or so.

I’ve also recently finished the most comprehensive overhaul of the Iowa to date, replacing all but one of her weapon systems, her primary systems, and several consoles as well as updating others. She’s fighting fit and a joy to fly in every situation. I’m toying with the idea of overhauling my Delta Flyer, but I’m still wondering what to do there (doing both Borg equipment sets is very tempting and I’m leaning that way). In the meantime, I’m taking advantage of the Iowa to help fund a lot of what I want to do with the fleet holdings (obviously with a considerable amount of help from my fleet mates).

Well, nothing for it… I’d best get purchasing and contributing duty officers! Today I also expect to spend a lot of time getting marks and dilithium.

Until next time!

– Elorfin

P.S. “I’m not good in groups. It’s hard to work in groups when you’re omnipotent.” – Q

Three Times More Fun Than Expected – Triple Town

If you’ve been paying attention to it, the Steam Summer Sale is currently slashing prices on all kinds of games. Some of these games are so inexpensive now that it’d cost more not to buy them (in a way).

Browsing the sale list the other night, I found a little gem: Triple Town. It’s a tablet game port to PC (so no micropayments) and I grabbed it for about 4 bucks. I’ve been playing it nearly non-stop since I got it. Essentially it’s a match-three style of game but there’s some sort of strategy because when you drop the third item, it replaces all three with an upgraded object. If you’re trying to get higher end constructs, you need to plan way in advance while using the limited space provided.

Honestly, it came along at just the right time for me. I spent this last Thursday, Friday, and Saturday doing copious amounts of Star Trek Online in order to help a friend get marks and set pieces and so forth for his ship. It helped me too, but it was more exciting to help him finish out a set. So come Saturday night, I was getting kind of burned out and then I saw the Sale going on and figured, “Oh why not?” I stumbled upon Triple Town and basically lucked into a relaxing little game with a complex mechanic that’s easy to play around with. Essentially I’ve been on vacation the last 24 hours with this game.

I can’t recommend it enough. I’ve taken to playing it while I upload my daily let’s play videos. With this game, I experience the “one more turn” syndrome that I developed while playing Civilization, so I need to be careful lest the whole day is gone. I highly recommend this game.

Until next time!

– Elorfin

P.S. “You really reach a point where you’re like “I think it’s actually more expensive for me not to buy this”.” – Burnie Burns

Quiet Fronts – Gaming Updates

Well, the lack of obvious updates. Let me explain a bit…

Mass Effect 3 is done. There aren’t going to be any more updates to multiplayer and there aren’t going to be any more DLC packs.

Star Trek Online has constant, almost quarterly, updates but in between there’s massive bug fixes and the wait for more content feels pretty long. That said, Legacy of Romulus was HUGE so I totally get waiting a while for the next pile of stuff.

Neverwinter transitions from Open Beta to “live” on the 20th of June. We’re expecting the first module but they’ve been pretty tight-lipped about a lot of the contents. I’m hoping for the Ranger class, but honestly, at this point I’ll take any class.

Diablo III doesn’t seem to be getting an expansion any time soon, which I think it sorely needs. I think Blizzard focused mostly on porting it to console and that’s a great idea, just it feels like things are a bit lacking in the mean time.

XCOM Enemy Unknown is supposedly getting a DLC sometime in the future, but I have no idea when that would happen.

So, it’s all quiet on the western front… as far as I know.

Anyway, I’ve had a busy day recording more XCOM and messing around in other games. I’m going to get back to that.

Until next time!

– Elorfin

P.S. “They never taught us anything really useful, like how to light a cigarette in the wind, or make a fire out of wet wood, or bayonet a man in the belly.” – Soldier in the film “All Quiet on the Western Front”

Heavy Duty Focus – Goal Reaching in Star Trek Online

This past week has turned from bouncing between Star Trek Online and Neverwinter to almost exclusively playing Star Trek Online. I’m primarily focused on overhauling the Iowa and changing my play strategy to reflect some of the current winning tactics from the forum gurus. I even started my own thread asking for advice on the forums and managed to develop a new build.

It’s going to take time though. I need to build up a lot of Omega and Romulan marks for the equipment I intend to use, all while building up a whole hell of a lot of dilithium. Let me put this in perspective…

For the equipment I have yet to gain, I will need 15,000 dilithium each for the Omega Plasma Torpedo Launcher, the Experimental Romulan Plasma Beam Array, the Romulan Hyper Plasma Torpedo Launcher, and the Zero Point Energy Conduit. That’s 60k right there. Then I need to get my hands on three mark XII Romulan Plasma Beam Arrays, each valued at around 28k for a total of just under another 90k. Then I need to build myself a Mark XII MACO set which… I don’t really remember how much dilithium it needs, but probably another 15k each minimum for another 45k. So, that’s 185k dilithium. At approximately 480 dilithium per 15 minutes of play, that’s over 96 hours of play only working on dilithium gain.

On top of the dilithium gain, I need to get those marks. For the Romulan equipment, I’ll need a total of 1500 marks which should be pretty quick considering all the stuff I can do to gain Romulan marks. For the Omega equipment, I’ll need 500 for the torpedo launcher and then another 1000 per piece of MACO. That’s 3500 Omega marks. At an estimated 45-57 per hour of the three baseline space STFs on normal difficulty, that’s between 61 and 77 hours of play.

Also, there’s the 8000 dilithium per day refinement limit, so there’s that I get to deal with.

That all said, each normal difficulty space STF gives 480 dilithium. If I just focus on that for a while, I’ll be double-dipping my Omega marks and dilithium gain, so that will certainly streamline my play.

There’s a lot of work to do yet to get the Iowa to her new loadout, but I’ve already pushed forward on some changes. The first issues addressed were my bridge officer skills. I’ve swapped out a pair of officers, changed up almost my entire stable of abilities, and I’m prepared to respec my own captain’s skills. I’ve also changed out my Duty Officers and I’ve pulled away from my rapid fire torpedo plan. I’ve swapped out an aft torpedo launcher for the Kinetic Beam and I’ve replaced my phased tetryon beam arrays with plasmas for use in the interim.

It’s strange abandoning a build I came up with on my own. I’m a little scared, but hey, I think there’s bigger and better things in store for the Iowa and change always comes with a bit of struggle. I think this is going to be a lot of fun and well worth the effort. I just need to pace myself.

Until next time, I need to get to work!

– Elorfin

P.S. “Nothing valuable can be lost by taking time.” – Abraham Lincoln

Cryptic Time Domination – STO and Neverwinter

This past week has been Star Trek Online and Neverwinter all day every day. With the introduction of Legacy of Romulus, my friends have recently been playing STO. I started playing STO again a few days before Legacy dropped so that I could get things going again (building up reputation marks, dilithium, and personal desire to play the game).

In Star Trek Online I’ve been focused on my main, Vyris, and the U.S.S. Iowa-B. Mainly I’ve been concerned with the reputation system. I only have a few more days left of work to top out the New Romulus and Task Force Omega tiers and I’ve made significant headway into the Nukara Strikeforce tiers.

In Neverwinter, I finally got past the hump in playing my Cleric (had to get help from a couple of friends) and plowed through Rothe Valley. I’m just starting Mt. Hotenow and I’m told it’s harder than the previous zone, so I’m understandably nervous. Further, my Guardian Fighter is now level 47 or so and is a lot… well, not necessarily EASIER to play, but I make significant headway whenever I play.

I keep using the gateway almost every day to push along all my characters professions. It’s quite a lot of fun for me as I enjoy that sort of stuff.

A note on the Romulan content: It’s amazingly well done. To compensate for the fact that the Romulans and Remans aren’t able to be a full faction in the sense that the Federation and the Klingons are, they certainly have considerable uniqueness about them. It’s well executed and I’m pleased with how it turned out. This does mean that the Romulan faction won’t be getting anywhere near the ship numbers that the other factions have, simply because there’s less there to work with. That said, they don’t NEED the ship numbers because, holy crap, have you SEEN their ships?

That’s where I am these days. Star Trek and Neverwinter are my games of choice… at least for now.

Until next time!

– Elorfin

P.S. “Games lubricate the body and the mind.” – Benjamin Franklin

A Little Here, A Little There – MMO Free-to-Play Cash Shops

There’s quite a few games I enjoy that are now Free-to-Play and have the a la carte system we commonly call a “cash shop”. On the whole, this mechanic is optional, yet most choose to throw in some cash in order to take advantage of the shiny things they like to hide behind the pay wall. Some games do it right, some games need some help.

A game that does it right is Lord of the Rings Online. Their LOTRO Store accepts Turbine Points and makes them readily available in small amounts as you normally play the game. Kill 30 goblins in the Shire, gain 5 TP. Kill another 80 wolves and gain 10 TP. Do some stuff over here that takes a bit of time and get a few more. It’s pretty nice. Since TP go to your account, you can do that same stuff over and over and over again until you have all the TP you want. Of course, it’s your time to spend.

Further, the things available in the LOTRO Store make a lot of sense: extra character slots, account bank space, removing the money cap, costume slots, extra inventory space, even the expansions and adventuring zones are available with an investment in the store. Play enough of the game (and if you’re lucky there’s a sale going on) and you can actually get entire zones of quests added to your experience. Not too shabby. Everything’s pretty reasonably priced too.

Star Trek Online is where I fear things start to get a little hokey. They converted from their Cryptic Coins to the Zen of their parent company, Perfect World Entertainment. As a result, things feel more expensive, but the conversion rate is a bit kinder to those of us who want to know what things cost at a glance. Oh, 500 Zen for that? That’s $5.00. Pretty straightforward. That said, a new ship in STO that you get through the Cryptic Store can go for 1500 Zen and ship packs of three have been known to go for 3000. It’s understandable (I guess) since these ships are the primary mechanism for playing the game. They’re your home away from home. I know that as soon as the Regent-class Assault Cruiser Refit dropped, I paid money to get it ASAP. Also, the Andorian Escort pack. Thus far though, those are the only ships I’ve really dropped money on because I was looking forward to playing with them and I feel I’ve gotten my money’s worth. It’s a mixed bag depending on what you’re looking for in the Cryptic Store.

Neverwinter’s cash shop is a different kind of beast though. There’s things in there that are really worth it like 500 Zen for two character slots (not bad at all) and you can easily drop 500 Zen on a decent mount that can be redeemed account wide for any character high enough to use it. Those are really nice. The things in the cash shop that really get my ire going are the companions. They’re single character purchases, but they’re all in the 1000-3500 Zen range. The 3500 Zen one? A Honey Badger companion. While I get that it’s probably pretty cool and all, that’s THIRTY-FIVE DOLLARS for a SINGLE companion. It doesn’t apply to your account, just ONE character. That just doesn’t feel right in any sense of the term. While I’d love to have a Galeb Dhur (spelling off the top of my head) companion, I’m not willing to drop 30 bucks on it. It’s just not worth it to me.

Further, something these games all have in common are the availability of lockboxes. Lockboxes are these loot items that drop and have random things available in them if you have a special key to open them. In STO and Neverwinter, you must purchase the key for 125 Zen (individually) or 1125 Zen (for a pack of 10… buy 9 get one free?) or buy them from other players on the in-game Auction Hall. In LOTRO? Lockboxes drop, sure, but so too do the keys. Just not as frequently as the lockboxes. I think that’s really clever. It’s like… here’s a lockbox and if you want to wait to open it, it’s going to take up valuable inventory space until you find a randomly dropping key OR you could throw a few Turbine Points at it to make it open NOW. Your choice.

STO and Neverwinter could take a page from LOTRO’s book. That random drop key is CLEVER.

As an aside, Star Wars: The Old Republic also has a cash shop, but there’s a different issue than just the price of things there. Some of the stuff they put in there is perfectly fine (thank you for the character slots!), but the problem is with the permissions that you have to pay to unlock if you’re not a subscriber. I mean, I’m a 6-month subscriber, collector’s edition pre-order player, but I think that the things my friends who are Free-to-Play can’t do without purchasing some kind of permission is pretty darn harsh. Some make sense like limiting the number of space and PvP and other special types of missions. I get that. There’s other permissions that feel like unfortunate decisions. One friend told me that she can’t open lockboxes with credits in them, even if they’re quest rewards because she doesn’t have permission. That’s just insane. You can’t apparently buy that permission a la carte either, you MUST subscribe (I think, don’t quote me on that). I’m tempted to log in, open her lockboxes for her, and then hand her all the money inside. As is, I’m going to see if I can get her some cool stuff with my Cartel Store stipend since the game is being mean.

I certainly appreciate the cash shops. It gives me something to browse through, like a SkyMall catalog for my game, and it definitely has some useful things every now and again, but it’s also full of things that make me question their usefulness. Kind of like the “slippers with headlights” of cash shops… not sure I need them, but I can envision a few times where they might be handy. I think the devs are on the right track most of the time, but sometimes they need to have a reality check.

How about a survey on the goods in your stores? I’d be more than happy to participate in a value studies survey on the contents of your cash shops. With Neverwinter it’ll be easy since they’ve got a lot less stuff in there right now compared to the more established games.

Until next time!

– Elorfin

P.S. I might have used this one before, but it’s wildly appropriate here: “Everything is worth what its purchaser will pay for it.” – Publilius Syrus’ Maxim 847

P.P.S. It occurs to me that I might not be allowed to open my friends lockboxes if they’re bound. That’s… unfortunate.

P.P.P.S. Apparently she can’t receive credit lockboxes at all since they’re subscriber only. VERY unfortunate.

Gaming Diet

My gaming diet has been pretty sparse lately.

I’ve been really enjoying Civilization IV and just starting a custom game and playing as a random civilization. It’s quite a lot of fun and I highly recommend it. Typically I get bored around the time where I have to win though. The build up, the expansion, the struggling to make a civilization that can stand the test of time is where all the fun is for me. Sealing the deal, winning, is just unnecessary at that point.

The other day a buddy and I got in some Diablo 3 and that was a pleasant change of pace. I do enjoy playing my Wizard, but he’s a mite fragile. I kind of have to be in the mood to kite enemies around to play him.

I’ve also been playing the occasional couple of rounds of Mass Effect 3 multiplayer. I’m almost through with the Sentinel and I’m considering which Infiltrator I’d like to play.

I’m holding off on playing any Star Wars: The Old Republic until Rise of the Hutt Cartel drops (and even then I might hold off because it’s going to be CROWDED). SWTOR isn’t a game I just pick up and play because it’s a serious time investment… also my computer has the occasional issue with running it.

I’m also holding off on playing any Star Trek Online until the new expansion lets us play as Romulans in May. I’m very much looking forward to that. It’ll be crowded too, but STO is a game I’ve whupped pretty well and it’s easier for me to just pick it up than SWTOR.

Yesterday I knocked out Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge for my next Let’s Play. I’ll start posting them this Wednesday. I was surprised at how quick the game was considering how I hadn’t played it in a number of years and I couldn’t remember most of it.

Anyway, not much going on here, so, until next time!

– Elorfin

P.S. “I’m a mighty pirate!” – Guybrush Threepwood

Star Trek Online – A Review of the Andorian Escorts

Recently I mentioned that the new Andorian Escorts were a thing and a very pretty thing at that. A few days after that post, the escorts became a reality and I purchased them without a second thought.

Right away, I chose the engineering variant (the Charal-class) and mixed and matched the Mark X Andorian Phasers from the three ships to get an array of weapons to try out. I also combined all three special consoles on the ship and borrowed parts from my other ships to get it up in the sky for a test flight.

After a significant amount of trial and error (about two or three days of changing things out and trying new things) I finally settled on the right equipment and skills for me. Just last night I was able to change out the last two normal Phasers for Andorian Phasers.

The I.G.V. Hybor (named for the were-rabbit of the Andorian homeworld that becomes feral when exposed to low temperatures) is currently able to run through daily missions in quick order. I’m still getting the hang of it, but I have particular strategies that work for me.

On the equipment side of things, well, I have a screenshot that I can easily explain from top to bottom.

I.G.V. Hybor Equipment

I.G.V. Hybor Equipment

I could take a bunch of screenshots and cut out the relevant information, but it’s easy enough to just list it here.

Fore Weapons: 2x Andorian Phaser Dual Heavy Cannons Mk XI [Dmg] [Acc]x2, Quantum Torpedo Launcher Mk XI [Acc] [Dmg]x2, Andorian Dual Phaser Beam Bank Mk XI [Dmg] [Acc]x2, and Kumari Phaser Wing Cannons [Dmg]x4

Deflector Array: M.A.C.O. Graviton Deflector Array Mk XI

Engines: M.A.C.O. Impulse Engines Mk XI

Shields: M.A.C.O. Resilient Shield Array Mk XI

Aft Weapons: 2x Andorian Phaser Beam Array Mk XI [Dmg] [Acc]x2

Devices: Some shield batteries (I never use them unless things are REALLY bad)

Engineering Consoles: Rare RCS Accelerator Mk XI (+35% Flight Turn Rate), Uncommon RCS Accelerator Mk XII (+35% Flight Turn Rate), Rare EPS Flow Regulator (+70% Power Transfer Rate), Rare Neutronium Alloy Mk XI (+17.5 Kinetic and All Energy Resistance Rating)

Science Consoles: Rare Field Generator Mk XI (+17.5% Maximum Shield Capacity), Tachyon Induction Relay (Andorian Assault Set)

Tactical Consoles: 2x Rare Phaser Relay Mk XI (+26.2% Phaser Damage), Wing Cannon Platforms (Andorian Assault Set), Phaser Dispersal Array (Andorian Assault Set)

The cannons (the dual heavies and the wing cannons) all have a 45 degree arc of fire and the dual beam bank and torpedo both have a 90 degree arc of fire, so the goal was to bring them to bear as often as possible and take advantage of this significant firepower. The two RCS Accelerators taken together increase the base turn rate of the ship by a total of 70% taking it from turning at 16 degrees a second to about 27.2 degrees a second. This means that the former 11.25 second 180 degree turn is now 6.6 seconds. This ship turns QUICK. The Alloy allows for it to absorb a bit more damage than usual and the Flow Regulator allows for its power settings to come back faster after significant drains or when I’ve messed around with the settings. A flat bonus to shields and phaser damage rounds out the consoles.

My strategy when approaching combat in the daily missions is to throttle down to half impulse speed at approximately 10.1-10.3 kilometers out to promote time on target for my forward arc. I typically stay at one-half speed on approach for my main weapons, then once I’m forced to do a lot of turning to fire, I throttle up, get some distance, and then drop to half speed again once I’m ready for another pass. I usually go full speed to get away from exploding ships too.

I use my tactical skills as often as possible with slightly different strategies for taking on single targets versus groups. For single targets, I start with High Yield 2 and prepare Cannon Rapid Fire 2 once I’m in range for it to fire. I will also likely use the Wing Cannon Overload or the Tachyon Burst attacks from the set to add a bit of something extra to the strike. For groups of enemies, I queue up Torpedo Spread 2 and hit Cannon Scatter Volley 2 as soon as I’m able to fire. That said, if I’ve already used my primary skill, I’ll switch to the other one to speed things up.

Overall, the Andorian Escort is a joy for a tried and true Cruiser captain to fly. Typically I don’t turn very fast in my Iowa, but then again, I don’t have any 45 degree weaponry. It helps change things up for me, which is the reason I maintain four ships in-game. The goal here was to make this ship have all its own equipment so that I wouldn’t have to keep swapping it all around. For the most part I achieved that (I borrowed the M.A.C.O. set, alloy, flow regulator, and field generator from other ships).

I highly recommend the Andorian Escort for a great looking and incredibly fun way to tear through your enemies.

Until next time!

– Elorfin

P.S. Andorian Phasers are blue when fired and actually do more damage than their normal orange counterparts. At least, that’s what I’m seeing in comparison between my old Phaser Beam Array [Acc] [Dmg]x2 and the Andorian Phaser Beam Array [Dmg] [Acc]x2 weapons listed above.

P.P.S. And now, the obligatory quote. “I feel the need, the need for speed.” – Top Gun Tagline

The Lure of Shiny Things – Updates and Addons and Expansions, Oh My

When it comes to online games (and some single player ones as well), sometimes I’m a fair weather friend. I have to be in a certain frame of mind to pop in for a week or two. For example, I need to want to drown in glorious storytelling to pop into Star Wars: The Old Republic. That said, when something new comes down the line, it catches my eye.

This past Friday, the brilliant folks at Cryptic released a high resolution screenshot of the new Kumari Andorian Escort and it is SO AMAZINGLY AWESOME LOOKING. The moment after I saw that picture, I was opening Star Trek Online.

Lovely, isn’t she? I’m exceptionally curious about the statistics, but more details are said to be forthcoming sometime later this week.

This event has allowed me to notice this trend in me, where an expansion, update, addon, and so forth pops up for one of my games and it rekindles immediate interest. When the Slingshot DLC came out for XCOM Enemy Unknown, I was there. The 1.0.7 patch for Diablo III dropped and I was ready. Sometimes I’m up for a night of play and by the next day I’ve got my fix and I move on. Other times (like with XCOM) I’m in for a full week or four of all out gaming.

Thanks to the beautiful Andorian ship above, I’m currently in the middle of scratching my STO itch. Last night I got some Diablo III in though for variance.

What do you call a person who bounces from game to game in an indeterminate fashion?

A gamer.

Until next time!

– Elorfin

P.S. “Shiny, shiny! Gau like!” – Gau, Final Fantasy VI

Whacking Things With A Stick – Satisfaction In Gameplay

There are days where I just want to hit stuff with a stick. Seeing as that’s not entirely socially acceptable, I poke through my catalog of games to find the experience that fulfills that desire best. Sometimes I come up with a winner, sometimes I don’t. Here’s a short list of games that I find give me that great “hitting someone” satisfaction in order of most to least satisfaction.

Mass Effect 3 multiplayer – Seeing as I’ve finished the single player game, the multiplayer component provides replayability and a pile of stuff that I still need to improve upon. Oh, and my favorite weapon, the M-37 Falcon, is a micro-grenade launcher. Satisfaction guaranteed.

Lord of the Rings Online – My captain has a variety of abilities that just FEEL good. He screams and does damage, he swings his halberd and you hear the slicing, cracking, crunching of contact. Yeah, it gets tedious, but by then, my thirst for whacking things with a stick has been sated for at least a couple of hours.

Diablo III – On my Wizard, it’s just satisfying to voip people. Yes, that’s the sound things make when you just erase them from existence. That said, it’s more satisfying to do this during the earlier difficulties as Inferno has a habit of pissing me off repeatedly in a 30-minute period.

Awesomenauts – It’s starting to get up there, but there’s something eminently satisfying about playing Leon and popping out of stealth to land a killing blow on some unsuspecting ‘naut. I mostly enjoy playing Raelynn though. Sniping has never been this fun for me. It’s a bit of work and sometimes I cry out in frustration.

XCOM Enemy Unknown – The satisfaction of crushing an alien squad is quite palpable. Delicious even. That said, XCOM games are pretty cerebral and I always feel a little removed from the “satisfaction zone”, so these games (new and old) are fun, but less viscerally satisfying. Strategy games on the whole share that same removal sense, so that’s nothing new.

Star Trek Online – I don’t know what’s wrong with me these days, but I just have no drive to play this right now. I don’t know if it’s the high end grinding that’s in the game or anything, but I just haven’t been in the mood to command the Iowa lately. Thus, the satisfaction of playing has dropped. There is something to be said for lots of torpedoes, but that’s a bit of a gimmicky approach and isn’t practical in the long run (says the guy who has a character with a Caitian carrier that has nothing but torpedoes up front and turrets in the back; verdict: hilariously fun, but gimmicky as all hell).

Star Wars: The Old Republic – Right now it’s not super satisfying to play, but I’m building up a good craving and waiting until it turns into an out-and-out need to play the game. I’m thinking I’ll play a Knight soon because I love hitting things with Lightsabers, but also because the day I got the game I made a Knight and turned to my Mom and went, “Mom, I’m a Jedi Knight!” So, yeah. It’s not satisfying NOW, but it will be.

This list is forever in flux and I’ve left a few games off to help keep it short. Games will go up and down the list as my whims dictate. This is just a snapshot of my current thoughts.

Right now though, it’s the deciding which stick to whack on what target that’s the tough part.

Until next time!

– Elorfin

P.S. “Enough is as good as a feast.” – Joshua Sylvester

A Seeming Lull in Game Development

Is it just me or does it seem like we don’t have much to look forward to in the near future regarding AAA game titles?

It’s certainly understandable… this year saw the wrapping up of the  Mass Effect trilogy AND Assassin’s Creed “trilogy” with their penultimate installments. Further, Star Wars: The Old Republic has just finished its first year (bumps and all), XCOM Enemy Unknown finally launched and became PC Game of the Year, and the next “super game” isn’t going to drop until 2014 at the earliest (Star Citizen).

I know we’re to look out for more in the Mass Effect franchise (a fourth installment has been announced) and I’m thinking it’s a safe bet that Assassin’s Creed isn’t entirely done yet. For me though, the near future is kind of empty on the game release front.

I’m looking forward to more SWTOR updates and I’ve already pre-ordered the expansion that’s set to drop in Spring 2013 dealing with the Hutt Cartel and adding 5 more levels to the cap and more storyline for every class. Star Trek Online has a story heavy Season 8 coming up with apparently 9 new ships ready to go by February (some are fleet variants though, so that number is probably 5 actual NEW ships).

I haven’t heard anything about the next DLC for Mass Effect 3 or XCOM Enemy Unknown, but I know they’re on the way. Further, I haven’t heard much about the game Neverwinter, I just know I’ve got beta access eventually thanks to my lifetime STO account.

It feels… quiet on the gaming front. Too quiet. I suppose every company is taking a bit of a break after they finally dropped their big titles and everything’s running kind of smoothly. Maybe.

Until next time!

– Elorfin

P.S. “The future will soon be a thing of the past.” – George Carlin

F2P MMO Cash Shops

I’ve played several Free-to-Play games that have what I colloquially refer to as “cash shops”. These are in-game interfaces that take some kind of currency that can typically only be obtained by an expenditure of real world money.

Thus far, my favorites have been The Lord of the Rings Online, Star Trek Online, and Star Wars: The Old Republic. Each of them has something I like.

For The Lord of the Rings Online, you can purchase piles of Turbine Points for use in the LOTRO Store, or you can acquire TP through finishing optional deeds in the course of playing the game. Kill 30 wolves here, get 5 points. Use a skill 150 times, get 10. Finish this much of the storyline, get 20. Also, you can do them again and again courtesy of having multiple characters which allows you to effectively grind these points. Grinding is right, as many of these deeds are tedious time wasters. You often get a bigger bang for you buck if you just buy the points outright or even subscribe for the monthly stipend. I love this alternative way of getting points though. Further, they consistently add wonderful items to the LOTRO Store like extra mounts, cosmetic equipment, and more. Some of the more straight-forward purchases are in fact things that I think should be available from every cash shop such as character slots, more inventory space, and convenience skills/items. This is pretty much the ultimate example of an in-game store (it could be better, but not by much).

In Star Trek Online, you can purchase Zen (used to be Cryptic Points) to spend in the Zen Store (used to be the Cryptic Store). You can acquire Zen in another way though… by selling refined dilithium to other players via the dilithium exchange. The rates change based on the demand, so keep an eye on it if you want to make a bundle. You can also sell Zen in exchange for refined dilithium, so it does go both ways. Refined dilithium can be made in a variety of ways in the game, but it’s a primary ingredient for a ridiculous number of game mechanics and I know I’m forever running out. The store offers my favorite staples like ship costumes, extra character slots, extra room for bridge officers, ships, bank, account storage, inventory, the list goes on. Further, you can buy whole new ships with special abilities and unique appearances and many of them are Zen Store specific. My favorite purchase to date has been the Regent-class Assault Cruiser Refit. The developers are regularly adding stuff to this store, so it’s often a joy to keep an eye on it.

Star Wars: The Old Republic has had its Cartel Store for a very short time, so it’s got plenty to grow into. I’m disappointed that it didn’t have spare character slots for sale since this would appeal to my friends. Further, I’d like to see a wallet increase (F2P has a 200k credit cap but if you throw some money at the game you get a 350k cap for being “Preferred Status”) and I think they could make a good business out of offering stacks of companion gifts through the store. Thus far, they have a few cool suits of gear (no set bonuses unfortunately) and some of the more standard purchases for the F2P crowd (extra inventory, weekly passes to flashpoints, etc). At this stage, there’s two really cool things that the Cartel Store allows. One is that you can preview the gear from the store on your character without leaving the store. Very nice. The other is that you can spend Cartel Coins on other parts of the game like expanding your bank or inventory normally but also on anything on your Legacy perks pages. This allows your lower level characters to get some of those fancier items without having to have a huge pile of credits on hand. That said, I’m holding onto my pile of Coins until I see some things I just can’t live without. So far the only thing that’s remotely appealed to me has been the Carbon Freezing Chamber animation and that’s more whimsy than anything else.

So, there you have it. Cash shops are here to stay, but they certainly add something fun to the game. Plus, when I have some down time I love to go shopping. It’s fun to see what’s available. All the developers need to do is frequently add more stuff to the store. If they ever stop and the store stagnates for too long, well, they’re in trouble.

Until next time!

– Elorfin

P.S. “The use of money is all the advantage there is in having money.” – Benjamin Franklin

Looking Forward-ish

In recent months I’ve typically had a game release to look forward to. A year ago I was looking forward to Star Wars: The Old Republic, Mass Effect 3, Diablo 3, and XCOM Enemy Unknown. Now, all those games have been released and I’m looking around and wondering what to look forward to next.

Tomorrow (Tuesday, November 13th), Star Trek Online’s Season 7 comes out with a new sector block, a new mechanic (the reputation system), and a new holding for fleets.

In a couple of days (Thursday, November 15th), Star Wars: The Old Republic goes Free-to-Play. Included in this transition is the release of the Cartel Store and I’m going to get a pretty big pile of Cartel Coins.

On November 27th, there’s a new single-player DLC for Mass Effect 3 that handles the Cerberus takeover of Omega from Aria T’Loak. I’m guessing I’m going to help her get it back… which I have absolutely no problems with.

In the near future, XCOM is going to get a DLC called Slingshot which includes a short series of scripted missions and allows for earlier gain of the Blaster Launcher (an upgrade to the Heavy’s rocket launcher). They’ve also announced a second DLC along the same lines but no details have come forth.

Also, there’s the incredible Star Citizen game by legendary Wing Commander creator Chris Roberts that I’m looking forward to see through its development cycle. I would’ve contributed to its fundraising if I could have. Honestly, I would’ve thrown $10,000 at it if I had that kind of disposable funds. I’m probably going to have to get a new computer for this one, so I’m happy to wait for it.

So, there ARE things to look forward to on the gaming front, but nothing very long term. I’m pretty happy with the games I have now. I’m logging into STO pretty regularly for Duty Officer stuff, I play Mass Effect 3 to get some headway on the challenges (I finished Assault Rifle Mastery last night and I’m pretty thrilled with that), I’m doing a Story-Only Let’s Play video series on SWTOR as a Bounty Hunter, and I’m holding off on starting a new XCOM game until Slingshot comes out.

Until next time!

– Elorfin

P.S. “Can one desire too much of a good thing?” – Act IV, scene 1, line 123 of Shakespeare’s “As You Like It”

Gaming Catchup

With Hurricane Sandy in the neighborhood, I thought I’d just talk about some of the things I’ve been doing in the games on my desktop. It’s an elite crowd: Lord of the Rings Online, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Star Trek Online, Mass Effect 3, Diablo 3, and XCOM Enemy Unknown. There’s Civilization IV, Champions Online, and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, but I haven’t touched those in a while.

The other day I beat XCOM Enemy Unknown and since then I’ve been yearning to play more. I haven’t because I’m waiting for the new downloadable content that is supposed to be coming sometime soon. I’m slightly aggravated because they haven’t said specifically WHEN they’re releasing it but also because you can’t take advantage of the new DLC without starting a new game. Kind of sucks, right? Oh well. It’s just, I know what mistakes I made during the game and I’d like to remedy that.

I haven’t really touched Diablo 3 since 1.05 dropped. I have updated it, but I’ve been called by other games more.

I also haven’t really touched Lord of the Rings Online since XCOM came out. That one’s obvious though.

Last night I participated in the weekend event for Mass Effect 3. They’ve shifted from the big community wide events to more individual-scale events. This past weekend’s event rewarded me with a chance of getting a different N7 weapon in all future commendation packs. I didn’t feel this was a bad thing and it was easy enough to achieve, so no problem there. I spent several maps gleefully shooting things with my N7 Valiant sniper rifle and, I’d like to think, a little better with it. I’m still a pretty horrid shot, but I’m getting pretty good at killing enemies with shots to the lower extremities.  With the introduction of the challenge system, I’m interested in playing more.

Star Trek Online has been my go-to game of recent months. With the new Season 7 just around the corner, I’m excited. The new reputation system will remove the silly random loot drop system for the end-game equipment. Also, there will be an embassy holding added to the holdings system for our fleet. Speaking of our holdings: I’m about ready to say “screw it” regarding the special projects. They cost 200k dilithium and they don’t contributed enough now. I’m tired of grinding day after day to make nearly no progress on our starbase, so I’m thinking I’ll start pushing for people to contribute to the standard projects and to hell with the fish tank.

I’ve been playing a consular in Star Wars: The Old Republic lately and I really enjoy it. I’m getting ready to do a story-only let’s play video series of one of the classes. Someone requested that I play the bounty hunter and, as it’s the only request thus far, I’m bouncing around ideas of what to do. I already know I’m going Mercenary for my advanced class, but do I play a female? Do I play a Chiss or a cyborg? Do I go light side? Dark side? Something in between? Yesterday I was messing around and I made a female Chiss bounty hunter and I think I might do that.

So, that’s what I’ve been up to lately in my games. I’m looking forward to Season 7 for STO, 1.5 for SWTOR, and the Slingshot DLC for XCOM. Also, they’re currently developing new DLC for Mass Effect 3 that’s scheduled to come out in late November (27th I think) and I’m always interested in that.

Until next time!

– Elorfin

P.S. “Multitasking? I can’t do two things at once. I can’t even do one thing at once.” – Helena Bonham Carter

Playing Defensively – Star Wars: The Old Republic

I had a full weekend of Star Trek Online, but I’d like to talk about Star Wars: The Old Republic today.

Last night I hopped into SWTOR to play my level 19 Jedi Sage (level 20 now). I’m walking through the Republic Resettlement area on Taris, throwing rocks and other stuff at some Rakghouls on my way to a quest or three when someone comes over the chat complaining about the game.

He said something along these lines, “There’s 50 levels in this game. You don’t get a speeder until level 25. You waste half the game just walking! This game sucks!”

My response? “Suck it up. Some games started with NO MOUNTS AT ALL.” That shut him up.

Yeah, it’s true, you can’t get the first speeder piloting skill until level 25, but let’s see here… how much of the game is left to play through AFTER you hit level 25?

Content it takes me to get to level 25: Starter planet, factional capital world, first open world, and maybe the first parts of Nar Shaddaa.

Content after hitting level 25: The remainder of Nar Shaddaa, Tatooine, Alderaan, second open world, Quesh, Hoth, Belsavis, Voss, Corellia, and  Ilum.

Half the game? HAH.

Also, there’s a point to doing a lot of walking… it’s called playing the game. I often find myself walking instead of using my speeder because I’m bouncing from resource node to fight to resource node to fight and so on. There’s stuff to do and you can only do it on foot! Oh, also, you shouldn’t be blitzing through the content so fast. The point is to enjoy the experience, not to “beat the game” or “get to 50 as fast as you can”. The point of gaming is in the playing, not in the finishing. Progress is important, but when a game is as savory as SWTOR, you enjoy every little morsel.

Okay, there’s more than just this little thing though. I’m quite tired of people complaining about the games we play. I get it, they’re not perfect. They don’t meet up with your expectations 100%. If you’re that disappointed, why are you playing the game?! It’s all well and good to have a complaint and many of them are entirely legitimate, but seriously folks, a lot of people wind up beating a dead horse in the chat about how the game doesn’t do this right or that particularly well and man it totally sucks.

I’ve had it. I’m going to start telling people to suck it up and deal or quit the game. I’m tired of people ruining my experience just because they’re cranky. These are my games and I enjoy them far more than I don’t and I will share my good experiences with my cautionary ones as a way of sharing my whole experience. Emphasis on the GOOD EXPERIENCES because I want people to share those experiences, not shy away because of some petty issues.

Did Star Wars Galaxies change drastically in 2005? Yup. Did a lot of people leave? Yup. Sucks to be them. They missed out on a great FIVE MORE YEARS.

Do some things not work right in Star Trek Online? You betcha. Is there a work around? Mostly. The developers are working on the game and, as far as I’m concerned, are earning their pay.

Do you have to walk a lot in Star Wars: The Old Republic? Yup. You eventually get speeders, but I like my worlds large and this is the price of doing business. Oh, also… many games didn’t start with mounts of any kind. When I started playing Star Wars Galaxies, I had to walk EVERYWHERE and I didn’t know where anything was. Not only did the “wiki” not exist to guide me to where things were, but also, there was only the forums for communication outside of the game. We also didn’t start out with any quests of any real substance, we didn’t have any skill planners. We had a run skill that took 5 minutes to cool down. We didn’t have levels. We had enemies that didn’t have levels either so you had to “consider” them to determine if you could survive or not. No one knew much about crafting. My first couple of years of play, I was a tourist! I had nothing to do and I had no idea what I could do.

So, before you start complaining about how things are SOOOOOO inconvenient, remember where we came from. Remember that the developers need to balance things a bit. Remember that this is a game and you’re here to have a good time. Remember that others are there to have a good time as well and you should be thoughtful and considerate.

Oh, and don’t be a dick.

Until next time!

– Elorfin

P.S. “People who are intolerant, categorize and over-react… should all be dragged against a wall and shot.” – Arthur M. Jolly

Game Jumping

In a form of Quantum Leaping, I managed to jump from MMO to MMO to MMO this weekend with a minimum of fuss and a maximum of fun. I’ll cover what happened yesterday, but this has happened effectively three days in a row now.

I started with Star Trek Online. We need dilithium for our latest fleet project that will station security officers throughout our starbase and I kicked us from 22% to 30%. I was also invited along on a Khitomer Accord Ground Elite run and we successfully finished it. That was exciting and definitely new for me. There’s a lot more for me to do in Star Trek and with Season 7 just around the bend, I’m excited to see what’s coming up.

I moved into Lord of the Rings Online. I’ve been hammering Moria lately, trying to get to the other side, but there’s a short series of quests that had me going back and forth between two places and it’s just plain irritating. Last night I thought I’d finished it, but I was wrong and I need to go back to this area between the places. So, I stepped out of Moria and basked in the sunlight of Middle Earth as I built up Turbine Points so I could afford the Hurried Traveler trait (it makes my milestone skills cooldown in 30 minutes instead of the default hour). I was thrilled to finally get it.

I wrapped up yesterday with a bit of Star Wars: The Old Republic. I’ve been playing a Consular lately, a Sage.  She hit level 15 last night as I plowed through the Black Sun portion of Coruscant. I designed Aikyria and I’m quite proud of her since she’s very lovely. I’ve got quite a crush on her. All that aside, it’s really fun throwing rocks with the force.

I’m very much looking forward to the upcoming release of XCOM Enemy Unknown and I’ve ordered a replacement for one of my sticks of RAM to help out here. Turns out I have two sticks of RAM: a 2 GB and a 1 GB. I’m replacing the 1 with a 2. With that single swap, I’ll have 4 GB and I’ll be meeting the recommended system requirements and I should be able to run the game well. I’m also getting a replacement heat sink since my fan seems to like making a sound every now and again (well, three times in total this week).

So, yes, plenty going on and great things happening.

Until next time!

– Elorfin

P.S. “All of time and space; everywhere and anywhere; every star that ever was. Where do you want to start?” – The Doctor

Grinding Gaming

Yesterday I spent a fair amount of time doing the same three missions over and over again in Star Trek Online. These three missions were designated “Special Task Force” missions, or Player versus Environment group missions. The three in question are called “The Cure”, “Infection”, and “Khitomer Accord” (not that I expect the names to mean much but just in case I mention them by name, you’ll know what I’m talking about).

I intentionally did these missions over and over again. Each time I did them, I netted a particular item (known as an EDC) and when I had enough I was able to procure some special stuff for my ship. That said, this article isn’t about Star Trek Online so much.

I’m talking about repetitive gameplay and the threshold for that repetition. At what point does doing the same thing in a game over and over again no longer feel rewarding? I often refer to these Korean “grind-a-thon” games (my exemplar for this category is Ragnarok Online and it was made in Korea) and I’m not always so glowing in my reviews of them. After a fashion, all these games feel the same: you start at the beginning, you get quests you’re feeling good… and then… nothing but monster killing for HOURS before you realize that this is all there is and all there will ever be unless you find SOMETHING to give you purpose.

When I was playing Ragnarok Online, I was playing with friends. I had a build in mind and I was going for it. I spent time looking for particular equipment and loot. In retrospect, it was mind-numbing and today I have little tolerance for such things. So, why was I okay with grinding STFs in STO yesterday?

STFs have a 1 hour cooldown, so you can’t immediately do them again. There were three of them and I was doing them one after the other (sometimes having to wait a bit for cooldowns to finish). I was doing them to get some particular equipment that, comparatively speaking to the Omega and MACO/Honor Guard equipment, was relatively easy to get. I was doing this for me because it was to ensure I would have fun later on. I wasn’t doing this because I felt an obligation to do it. I wasn’t doing it because it was for the betterment of the group or any equivalent nonsense. I just sat down and had a pretty damn good time messing around.

I do have to mention that I was laughing a bit during my STF run yesterday. This was brought on by the revelation that I was shooting “Fruity Pebbles” since I’m using turrets of nearly every energy type for fun. That’s right, I’m doing less damage to have a more visually entertaining experience. I’m also flying a ship where I don’t have to do all that much: the Kar’fi Battle Carrier. I have four frigates that I maintain and they do most of the work.

ANYway, I’m not a fan of grinding for little reason. I need a story to pull me along, to compel me. Lacking a story, goals need to be obviously attainable. By this I really mean that I need to see progress with every little thing I do. I don’t want to feel like I’m scaling a mountain (like with some of the Starbase projects when you’re the only one contributing). When I get to my goal, I want to see drastic things. I just completed the Borg Set and so my ship looks very different and has some cool abilities now as a result.

Grinding for cause, awesome. Grinding because that’s the only way to get anywhere at all? Blech. Or maybe that’s the same thing just with different points of view. I love Star Trek Online and I love my ships. I was never into Ragnarok Online much and I only played it because of my friends. Tenuous reasoning at best.

I think I’m going to go play some more Star Trek Online.

Until next time!

– Elorfin

P.S. “A monotonous and unvarying order was established in my whole economy. Everything unable to move stood in its appointed place, and everything that moved went its calculated course: my clock, my servant, and I, myself, who with measured pace walked up and down the floor. Although I had convinced myself that there is no repetition, it nevertheless is always certain and that by being inflexible and also by dulling one’s powers of observation a person can achieve a sameness that has a far more anesthetic power than the most whimsical amusements and that, like a magical formulary, in the course of time also become more and more powerful.” – Søren Kierkegaard, “Repetition, A Venture in Experimental Psychology”