A thoughtful and personal exploration of games

Posts tagged “Star Wars Galaxies

A Follow-Up on Player Housing

Recently I made a post talking about the player housing announcement in Star Wars: The Old Republic and what my minimum expectations were for such an expansion. Let’s address my list now that they’ve made a much more detailed announcement, shall we?

You can only have a place on either Coruscant or Dromund Kaas (obviously faction specific)

Obviously this has been addressed. You can have a place on Coruscant, Dromund Kaas, AND Nar Shaddaa. Since it’s legacy wide, you can maintain all three, but obviously faction specific delineations are present so you can only visit your faction restricted locales. No problem here, but I hope they introduce other locations for residence such as Alderaan or Corellia.

You can’t decorate/move objects around the interior/add objects to the interior at your whim

According to them, you will be able to decorate. I’m not sure as to the versatility of the decoration functions, but we’ll have to see. Right now they say we can personalize our strongholds.

You will be allowed to have amenities in your player house, but you’ll have to pay cartel coins or vast amounts of credits to get them (like on your personal ship and they’d be the same thing just paid for separately, so you’d have to buy the mailbox for your ship separate from the mailbox for your house)

No comment on this, but since there was a mailbox in the background of the initial trailer, I’m going to assume that this is the same as I predicted until proven otherwise (like the mailbox is a fixture everyone gets for free or whatever).

The place will cost a certain amount of credits or cartel coins to purchase and will cost credits to maintain (another of the credit sink locations in the game)

Yup, they’ll cost credits or cartel coins. “You will be able to purchase ownership of Personal Strongholds with credits you earn in-game or with Cartel Coins in the Cartel Market.”

There will be special housing locations you can purchase via the cartel market that aren’t available to people who don’t have cartel coins (maybe not)

No word on this yet, but the Nar Shaddaa Sky Palace is a special location available to people who are subscribed as of the 11th of May.

This will allow for new cartel market items that add stuff to your player house that do nothing but appeal to the part of the player base that loves collecting things from the boxes of stuff

No clue on this one either.

The player house will be impractical to access and therefore will lose a lot of its value to a significant portion of the player base upon its release (there will be much scoffing and derision thrown around about this)

Also no clue. It IS legacy wide though, so it makes it more practical than previously expected.

You won’t be able to interact with the scenery outside of the already existing emotes (by which I mean there won’t be any scenery interaction like laying on a bed by clicking on it, you’ll have to jump onto the bed and use the lay down emote like in LOTRO)

No word on this either, but it’s a safe assumption based on the limited interactions characters can have with scenery right now.

Further, there are some other things to note on their announcement page:

– “Invite Your Friends – Show off your latest collection to friends as you take a moment to relax before your next big adventure.”

This implies to me that you can bring your group to your stronghold (much like you can bring them onto your ship) and you’ll have a variety of objects you can populate the space with.

– “Gain Prestige – Increase your character’s “Prestige Score” each time you add a decoration to your Stronghold – earn top ranking on the public Stronghold Directory and make a name for yourself among the galaxy’s elite.”

Okay. A new metric for measuring my stuff against another’s. Great. That said, this is a good incentive for a decorating community to grow (something I mentioned I missed).

– “Legacy Stronghold Storage – Unlock access to a new type of storage that is shared across your entire Legacy!”

THIS RIGHT HERE is lovely. Shared storage across your whole legacy? Brilliant way of making it practical. I’m sure it’s going to have a credit/cartel coin sink to increase its capacity like all the other storage in the game, but that’s par for the course.

Now, one more massive kicker…

“You will earn a set of starter decorations when you purchase your first Stronghold. Many decorations will be available on existing vendors throughout the game as new rewards for Reputations, PvP, Crew Skills, and more. While some of these decorations will be available for credits and other currencies, many will require components created by crafters. Decorations can also be obtained as loot drops from Flashpoints and Operations. Finally, a variety of unique decorations can be purchased with Cartel Coins on the Cartel Market.”

THIS. THIS IS WHAT I WAS WANTING. All we need to see now how versatile the interior decorating mechanic is and BOOM, I’m sold.

A side note: they’re introducing Guild flagships to the game. I’m not sure what the plans are for the future and they don’t seem to have much in the way of function, but this is already one step farther than Star Wars Galaxies was able to get. Mainly, I remember a rumor back in SWG’s heyday that we were going to be able to have guild flagships, but it never came to fruition. Basically what we got was a special group mission where you invade a rogue Imperial Star Destroyer and fight your way through it to either blow it up or capture it or something. I never did it, but I remember when it launched.

All I can say now is… I can’t wait to see how this all works out. Well, that and, “When can we decorate our starships?”

Until next time!

– Elorfin

P.S. Here’s the latest trailer:


Player Housing and Great Expectations

Before I say anything of any real quality, you should watch this trailer because it’s what’s inspired me today.

Now that you’ve watched it, allow me to elaborate on what’s up here…

WE ARE GETTING PLAYER HOUSING IN STAR WARS: THE OLD REPUBLIC!

Ahem. Pardon my excitement, but I’m always thrilled to have something branded as Star Wars actually welcome me home. Makes me kind of misty eyed.

My first experience with player housing was actually in Star Wars Galaxies. It was a rather robust system too. You could form player cities with mayors and city planning and so forth. I remember fondly my Mustafarian Underground Bunker on Rori (it’s a moon of Naboo, look it up). I had set up the bar area as a kind of hunter’s lodge thanks to a bunch of quests on Kashyyyk giving beast heads as trophies. I even set up some sets of old armor and had a couple of rooms that were nothing but artwork from the game. It took a little work, but I was proud of my home.

I have a house right now in Lord of the Rings Online. It’s a nice little two room hobbit hole across from my kinship house. It serves my needs for having a place to call my own in a game and it’s got a small chest for storing items in it (which is always nice). However, LOTRO’s decoration system is nowhere near as robust as SWG’s system. In LOTRO you have hot-spots where you can place an item and rotate it and whatever, but certain things can only fit in certain spots. In SWG, you could put ANYTHING ANYWHERE in your house. You could dump your entire inventory in one spot. You could build a pixel perfect TIE Fighter out of nothing but blaster rifles and armor plates. You could hang a painting in midair. They also had houses shaped like all kinds of things. Want a Jedi Meditation Chamber? Would you prefer a Sith one? What about an AT-AT or a Sandcrawler? Or how about a house that floats and looks like Cloud City?

You could also have a variety of structures all owned by the same character. So, on my commando, I had the Mustafarian bunker. On my trader, he had access to the bunker and used all his 10 slots for harvesters and factories. Kid you not, I would put down a harvester to mine so I wouldn’t have to sit there all day and then if I had a series of things I needed to build that all required the same components, I’d throw down a factory and pop in the schematic and all the resources it needed and let it rip. Log in a few hours later, tidy up, and go about my business. Each character had 10 “lots” and each structure took up a certain number of those lots. Some structures, because of size, would take up more lots than some and would also have a higher maintenance rate.

Anyway, I’m obviously excited for housing in SWTOR. Unfortunately, I don’t know what the options are going to be. I really hope we can have homes on different worlds and not just the capitals of each faction. I wouldn’t mind being able to have multiple homes either. For example, I could have an apartment on Coruscant, a bolt-hole on Nar Shaddaa, a nice house on Alderaan, and a safe-house on Corellia (just to name a few). I have no idea who would want to live on Hoth or even Belsavis, but I wouldn’t knock it if it was done right. Further, I hope they allow for a robust decorating system. Don’t just give us the place and then not let us make it ours, like with our ships. If I could decorate my ship, I would be SO HAPPY. If I could treat my XS Light Freighter like the home-away-from-home that my old YT-1300 in SWG was for me, I would be so thrilled. In my eyes, customization is king when it comes to player housing. I’ve said it a couple of times now on Twitter, but if they give us the SWG decorating system, I’ll be over the moon with joy. If they don’t and it’s closer to the LOTRO hot-spot decorating system, I’ll be cool with it, because it makes sense and it’s easy to learn. The thing that will hands down tick me off will be if we can’t decorate or move anything at all in these locations. A player house that can’t be decorated is useless to me. Oh, and the player houses HAVE to have a practical thing to them. Maybe they’re conveniently located or you can port to them or maybe they count for getting rest exp. How about extra storage? Does it help foster the community in any way (like everyone in the tower of apartments belongs to the same HOA and they all can hang at the pool as a perk)? Can you sell your deed on the auction hall or trade it to other players? Can you add permissions for other players to come in and therefore have a guild apartment (like a frat house I guess)? Will we get deeds for housing as quest rewards? Will free-to-play accounts have access to this system or not? Will it be stripped down if F2P does have access? Whoa, my questions started ranging there.

I remember fondly the old interior decorating competitions the community would have in SWG. I think if they do it right, there could be an amazing opportunity to do something similar in SWTOR. It adds a level of playability and roleplaying. I’m not just there doing quests, I’m earning credits so I can buy that set of lights that would really compliment my decor or I’m earning these area rugs that will make my new place feel much more warm. I’m hoping this happens, but I’m not expecting it because I’ve learned to keep my expectations kind of low these days, lest I find myself as bitter as those people who hate the Star Wars prequels.

Oh, and if they make it so people can craft housing items (like the aforementioned lights or rugs) or even receive housing items as quest rewards sometimes, well, be still my beating heart.

So, here’s hoping they put a lot of work into this housing system. I’m really hoping for a lot, but I fully expect to have the following happen:

– You can only have a place on either Coruscant or Dromund Kaas (obviously faction specific)

– You can’t decorate/move objects around the interior/add objects to the interior at your whim

– You will be allowed to have amenities in your player house, but you’ll have to pay cartel coins or vast amounts of credits to get them (like on your personal ship and they’d be the same thing just paid for separately, so you’d have to buy the mailbox for your ship separate from the mailbox for your house)

– The place will cost a certain amount of credits or cartel coins to purchase and will cost credits to maintain (another of the credit sink locations in the game)

– There will be special housing locations you can purchase via the cartel market that aren’t available to people who don’t have cartel coins (maybe not)

– This will allow for new cartel market items that add stuff to your player house that do nothing but appeal to the part of the player base that loves collecting things from the boxes of stuff

– The player house will be impractical to access and therefore will lose a lot of its value to a significant portion of the player base upon its release (there will be much scoffing and derision thrown around about this)

– You won’t be able to interact with the scenery outside of the already existing emotes (by which I mean there won’t be any scenery interaction like laying on a bed by clicking on it, you’ll have to jump onto the bed and use the lay down emote like in LOTRO)

Some of these predictions are obviously pessimistic and I hope they’re wrong. Some of them (the credit sink bit) is unavoidable because that’s how the dev team does things (I recall them explaining in a community meeting once): if they introduce a new way of making credits in the game, it has to be balanced with a way to spend credits, and I think the opposite holds true, but I could be wrong.

I hope so hard that things are better than I’m expecting, but by keeping my expectations low, I won’t be disappointed, just sadly justified.

EDIT: A quick note here – in order to get the players invested, you HAVE to make them feel like they own what you’ve given them. You need to allow them to feel like it’s theirs. With allowable customization of the environment that can be suited to the players tastes, you allow that player to take possession of the house or ship or whatever. It encourages them to show it off and say, “check out my sweet pad”, among other things. You want your players to love the house and to keep coming back. You want them to buy into it. The best way to do it is to have as robust a customization system as you can manage. That’s what makes SWG stick out to me even years after it was shut down. That’s why my Iowa in Star Trek Online is my love, because I poured my heart and soul into making her mine with painstakingly chosen components and abilities. That’s why I’m having fun in Diablo III with my Wizard and tweaking his skills and equipment. That’s what sticks with me and gives me stories to share: it’s all about the customization. Give us that and you have my sword, my bow, my axe, and my heart.

Until next time!

– Elorfin

P.S. “There is no place more delightful than one’s own fireside.” – Cicero

P.P.S. This is too good a thing to leave with just one quote, so… “‘Mid pleasures and palaces though we may roam; Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like Home.” – J. Howard Payne, Home Sweet Home.


Hunting Rare Loot

I’m sure I’ve shared in the past a couple of stories of how I would hunt for rare loot and how that’s changed over time. Mainly my policy on rare loot hunting is…

DON’T.

Seriously, just forget about it. If it drops, awesome, if it doesn’t, oh well, just don’t worry about it.

Rather than hunt down my old pieces on it, I’ll just relate it all again because why not.

I used to play Ragnarok Online with some friends many many moons ago. Ragnarok Online had one of those mechanisms whereby loot would drop at a percent chance off of particular enemies. You could get this item 50% of the time, this item 49% of the time, this item .9% of the time, this item .09% of the time, and lastly, that rare one for .01% of the time. You get the idea. Well, I had my heart set on the Fin Helm. In the official version of the game, it dropped .01% of the time, but on the server I happened to be playing (it was a private server), loot dropped at x5 of the base rate, so it was .05% for a Fin Helm. I wasn’t happy with the chance, but part of the game was grinding for rare and rare-ish items, so I played along. At the time, they only dropped from one creature which spawned with great regularity on one level of this one dungeon so I felt my chances were better than average. I spent a month there, slaying everything in sight and not a single Fin Helm dropped for me. At the end of the month, I had built up such a level of frustration that one of my friends insisted that I was no longer allowed to search for it or any equivalently rare loot ever again. I agreed, since being that cranky for that long doesn’t exactly do wonders for health. I never did find a Fin Helm of my own but I haven’t played any Ragnarok title in over 5 years now.

So, later when Star Wars Galaxies implemented their Collections system, I participated cautiously and was right to do so. Firstly, some awesome stuff was available through the collections, but some rare items were required to complete a few of them. Jedi and Sith holocrons were among some of the most frustrating things to find and you needed 5 of each of a particular type in order to unlock two separate rewards. One of these coveted items was the Jedi Waistpack, a wearable storage item that only Jedi class characters could use and allowed them to have additional inventory space while wearing their robes (which removed the ability to wear the standard backpacks that everyone else could have). I spent a while looking for the last holocron I needed (I think it was Jedi Holocron #4 of that type, but I honestly don’t recall) and after a fashion, I gave up on it. I even changed classes from Jedi to Commando so I would never need it. The game shut down in December of 2011 and I never did finish that collection or receive my Jedi Waistpack.

These days when I’m hunting for loot off of a particular enemy, I look maybe three times total. If it drops, awesome, if not, I’m able to cope. I existed without the rare loot before I found out about it, I can exist after knowing about it. If that makes sense, you deserve a cookie.

In games like Diablo III or Borderlands 2 where specific enemies have a greater chance of dropping a specific item, I just don’t really bother. I made a half-hearted attempt at finding The Bee shield in Borderlands 2, but I leveled beyond it to the point where I’d have to find it in Ultimate Vault Hunter Mode for it to be any good for me. It’s okay though. I played before I knew it existed and I can play without it.

It all comes down to deciding if it’s worth the stress. Do I want to bother with the search? I think some games with rare loot grinding as a mechanic should say, “Don’t bother hunting for rare loot if you get frustrated hunting for your car keys.” It’s really up to you to determine if you can handle such a search. For me, I’d rather not.

Until next time!

– Elorfin

P.S. “My mother used to tell me: “God knows the age of every tree and the color of every flower. And he knows just how wide your shoulders are. And he’ll never give you anything to carry that’s bigger than you can handle.”” – Mack, Babylon 5, Season 5, A View from the Gallery


Free-to-Play Spaceflight – Star Conflict

The last week or so I’ve been playing a well made game called Star Conflict, available free-to-play via Steam right now. I highly recommend it.

It’s like playing an updated version of Freelancer without the story or the single player mode. Also, there’s three factions and it’s primarily Player-versus-Player. So, a very streamlined version of Freelancer. Kind of.

One thing I can say with absolute certainty is that it’s filled a gap in my gaming desires that I didn’t realize I was missing until I played for a day or two. I haven’t been playing any flight simulators in recent years, what with Star Wars Galaxies going away and the flight mode of Star Wars: The Old Republic being a rail shooter and I’ve been missing the sense of speed, breakneck maneuvering, and missile locks. I’ve really missed the sense of freedom such a game can provide. I know it’s not open world like Star Citizen will be in a few years, but it’s definitely scratching the right itch.

I’ve discovered that I’m okay with PvP content as long as I don’t get penalized too harshly for losing. In this game I’ve been making a fair amount of credits per loss; more than enough to cover my expenses (repair and rearm) and to have some left over to save up for upgrades or new ships. Some play modes have unlimited respawns, others are conditional. It’s very well thought out and I do have to say, I haven’t had this much fun losing a game in a very long time. Seriously, even when I lose a match, I genuinely don’t feel bad most of the time.

Now, past my perceptions and desires and what-have-you, the game is pretty well built for a late open beta release (version 0.8.3 dropped recently). You pick your faction (which is changeable somehow), you equip a ship (over time you’ll gain a variety of vehicles), you queue up for either PvP or PvE (there’s one PvE mission right now and I expect there will be more available in the future), and you do your best to survive while achieving the objectives with the group you’re flying. There’s a lot of ways to play but none of them are guaranteed a win. I’ve seen more than one team go down in flames after a great start and conversely some teams starting poorly have shown amazing recoveries.

There are three types of ships in the game. First you have interceptors: light fighters that are small and nimble and are by default pretty hard to hit sometimes. Then you have fighters: heavier ships that have more firepower and less maneuverability compared to the interceptors. Last there are frigates: large vessels with very poor maneuverability offset by potent firepower and incredible durability. Within each class of ship, there are other roles like Recon Interceptors, Gunship Fighters, and Engineering Frigates. Pick your poison and hope your opponents choke on it.

Thus far I’ve been enjoying riding fire in a Covert Ops Interceptor as a member of the Federation of Free Worlds. I’m not the greatest pilot or even the best shot, but I’m having a ton of fun and I’m picking up stuff as I go.

I hope you give it a try. It’s worth a look for all of you who are fans of flight simulators and spectacular explosions.

Until next time!

– Elorfin

P.S. I’ll let the trailer for the Beta Launch of Star Conflict be my quote for the week. Enjoy!


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


SWG and SWTOR – One Game Ends, Another Begins

With the end of Star Wars Galaxies only a few days behind us and the launch of Star Wars: The Old Republic a day ahead of us, I find myself experiencing a mix of emotions. There’s a strange sense of expectation… but it has been tempered by experience. It’s hard to explain so I’ll attempt to approach it a game at a time.

A short time after Star Wars Galaxies shut down, I wrote the following…

It’s over. I don’t quite know what to say about it, but I’ll muddle through it.

Earlier today I told my mother that the game she had given me for my 20th birthday was going to stop working soon. She laughed and so did I… but for me it was a sad sort of laughter. She had pre-ordered it for me for my birthday and I waited patiently for almost seven months for it to finally come out. Through the last 8 years, SWG has been there, resting on the desktop of three different laptops, with the promise of wide-eyed wonders that I never really tired of seeing. Even in its final hour, my friend showed me two things I had never seen before: the enclaves on Yavin IV for the Light and Dark Jedi. I was awestruck.

It’s like that feeling you get when you finish a fantastic book filled with camaraderie and the overcoming of struggles where you close the book slowly just to savor the feeling of satisfaction and belonging and then you look at the book and wish it could’ve lasted just another chapter, another page, another word. If only you could have just one more adventure with those characters who you’ve come to appreciate and hold so dear. All you need is just a few more moments…

I ended it on my terms. I refused to sit still and wait for the end. I flew into a dogfight in my red-and-gold-painted X-Wing starfighter and pounded on some enemy fighters. I cried out triumphantly with each victory and when all was done and the game returned me to the character select screen I said my final farewells to those small portions of my identity. Every character I make I invest with a portion of me. Each of those characters was a part of me and I will forever remember them as they were: a small Bothan Spy, a tall Human Commando, a Smuggler-turned-Jedi who I role-played as a Private Investigator, a Medic-turned-Munitions Trader who churned out the best weapons anyone could reasonably expect in an hour apiece, and a Jedi-turned-Commando who always held the line against impossible odds.

I will miss them all quite terribly. If only I’d had just a few… more… minutes…

I kept my promise though: I was there when they turned the lights off.

And now for my thoughts leading into the full launch of Star Wars: The Old Republic…

As I said above, my expectations have been tempered by experience (also reason). I know this is a new game and that Bioware is trying new things. I know that things will not work perfectly and will be adjusted as time goes by. I know that my computer is 3 years old and is at the low end of the spectrum they designed for. I know that I can deal with the chop and the occasional lag. I know this is Star Wars and it’s my sanctuary. That said… I’m worried about putting too much pressure on myself here.

Allow me to attempt an explanation: I’ve got my own guild and my friends are all involved in playing the game. Pretty much it’s all we talk about these days because it’s new and fresh and so forth. There’s this part of me, however, that is forcing me to slow down, to take it easy. I mean, the game isn’t going anywhere any time soon, right? Let’s take it easy! Unfortunately, that’s not so simple. You see, I have this condition called “being male” where it makes me innately competitive. I hate it, but it’s hard to deny that I want to do things before my friends, be better at those things, and show them how much better at said things I am than they are. It’s ingrained in me and the more I resist it, the more frustrating it becomes when they shoot past me and do all those things to me: they’re doing things before I can, they’re becoming better at those things, and they’re showing me how they’re better. I’m trying to go my own pace, but really, it’s all I can do to keep from just logging on one character and blitzkrieg-ing the game as best I can.

What I did, in an effort to streamline my experience was to make 8 characters as soon as possible – one of each class. Then, as I feel like it, I’ve been getting them off their starter planet to their factional fleet, up to customs on their capital planet, and then parking them in their fleet cantina to be used as needed. Recently I was derided for building all my characters and doing this since I can’t start at level one with everyone else if they want to try something different. Really? *headdesk*

Anyways, there’s the sadness of losing one entirely unique experience and the pressure of handling the new experience with my friends. Maybe I’ll be able to communicate this to them, but I don’t know if it’ll come out right. Honestly, I’ve got no idea what to say.

Until next time,

– Elorfin

P.S. “There is a certain relief in change, even though it be from bad to worse; as I have found in travelling in a stage-coach, that it is often a comfort to shift one’s position and be bruised in a new place.” – Washington Irving


Star Wars Galaxies – Final Days

As some of you may know, the game Star Wars Galaxies is being shut down at midnight eastern time on December 15th. I intend to be in the game when it shuts off. Here are some observations and criticisms I’ve made of the game in the last few days of playing.

I prefer it when I go to an area in a game that I get more than one quest at a time for said area. Put another way, when I get quests for a zone, please give me more than one at a time! I don’t appreciate going back and forth between the quest giver and the quest zone multiple times because sometimes the quest zone is a long way away and aren’t there short and long range communication devices in Star Wars? Galaxies did not start with quests built in. Well, it did, but they were these little quests that didn’t necessarily work all that well and there wasn’t a quest tracker. So, aside from those little quests, the game was devoid of story content until… oh, around the time the Rage of the Wookiees expansion hit. Probably a little before. Anyway, when they did the legacy quest series (a long connected series of quests that eventually take you from Tatooine to Naboo to Corellia, Talus, and Rori) they kind of just did a single series of quests and on planets like Corellia and Talus you can occasionally grab a side quest or two for the dungeon or building you’re about to raid, but for the most part you’re only there for one quest and the chances are pretty high that if there’s a follow up quest for that location, you’re going to have to travel the tens of meters to tens of kilometers back to your quest giver to move the series along and then head all the way back to continue. It just doesn’t feel all that efficient to me.

Also, I feel they got kind of sloppy at the end of the legacy quest series by making it connect almost directly into the Meatlump Themepark. Themeparks are the term that refers to a particular series having a theme and starting out of the same general area. For example, there’s the Jabba Themepark that runs out of Jabba’s palace, the Rebel Themepark that runs out of the Rebel base on Corellia, the Imperial Themepark that runs out of the Emperor’s Retreat on Naboo, and Nym’s Themepark that runs out of Nym’s palace on Lok. Later on in the game, they added the Meatlump Themepark which is essentially a series of repeatable quests in and around the city of Coronet on Corellia (I think… it’s been a while since I’ve done it). Personally, I never found much point in doing this particular themepark. I’ve never been a huge fan of repeatable quests because I’d much rather push on and keep on going than hang around an area for days.

Space needed some love. I understand, when you develop a space combat system and it’s wildly successful, how do you upgrade it? They added more ships, they took the tier system and made it linear, they added a couple of more zones (after Rage of the Wookiees added Kashyyyk space, they added some Ord Mantell space for master pilots). They redid the duty missions so they gave commendation tokens as well… and that’s about it. They never redid or added to the skills each piloting profession gave (Rebels, Imperials, and Neutral pilots each had their own skills). They never overhauled the zones we flew in. After you get master pilot and you tackle the few quests that actually take you into space, aside from Ord Mantell, Kessel, and one other place, there wasn’t much to do in space and my ships became glorified shuttles. Space combat could have been so much more. The players had dreams of guild capital ships where we could launch our own fighter squadrons in guild wars. It would’ve been amazing… but it never happened. When we were told they were developing an Imperial Star Destroyer for the game, we thought it was a guild ship or something… and then they gave us the Imperial Star Destroyer instance for ground combat. It’s not bad, it’s just a little disappointing when they could’ve done so much more.

A little bit separate from the “no love” bit above this, but space combat could be some of the most frustrating in the game. You could be fighting a significantly lower tier ship than yours and still have trouble hitting it because it maneuvers like a drunk bee. However, if YOU maneuver like a drunk bee, the computer controlled enemies can definitely peg you. Further, when you start to lose, you can finish losing really quickly. There’s an eject function in your ship when things go downhill really badly, but your ship has to SIT STILL until you eject. Seriously? That’s absurd. I get it for jumping into hyperspace, but come on, haven’t you seen Top Gun? I’ve been blown up in the process of ejecting before. It’s very lame.

Last night I started doing the Kashyyyk ground quests again. You can’t get into the Etyyy Hunting Grounds without doing some space quests (and some of them are downright hard – you need to be prepared and maybe bring a friend) but that’s not what I want to talk about right now. No, for some reason I was under the impression that there needs to be a feeder quest (a quest that feeds you into the next zone or area from the last one) for new areas and Kashyyyk doesn’t have one. Neither does Mustafar really. I remember when they went live and you just kind of went, “Hey, I guess I’ll go try out that new place,” and you start talking to every NPC that has an icon over their head in an effort to pick up as many quests as possible. Essentially Kashyyyk and Mustafar are overgrown Themeparks with mini-themeparks all over. Just… last night when I set foot on Kashyyyk I felt LOST. I didn’t know who to talk to first or where to even really start. Luckily my friend didn’t have such compunctions so he went ahead and started talking to NPCs and so forth. I don’t know why, but for the first time ever I felt like Kashyyyk was poorly built and arranged. It’s kind of sad but that’s how I felt.

So, I’m still playing Galaxies, at least for now. For the next few days I’m going to be playing every evening and then on the 15th I’m intending on being on it all day. Currently my external hard drive’s power cable is damaged (yay wear and tear?) and so I may or may not be able to record the final days of the game. I guess we’ll see. My hope is that I’ll be able to make a video of each of my old characters before they go away. First my Jedi and Commando on the Flurry server, then I want to build something with my crafter and show off my Mustafarian bunker… and last, I want to hop in my X-Wing on my favorite character just one last time and I want to go to Kashyyyk space and fly around. When the lights go out, I want to be among the stars. My final memory of the game being in an X-Wing I busted my ass to get, to equip, to set up just right for me… the X-Wing that took me nearly a year to get (I screwed up my pilot profession once upon a time in February of 2005) on the one character that I’ve mastered being a Rebel pilot.

Whatever my criticisms, whatever makes me cranky in this game… this was still my first subscription MMO and I will always remember it quite fondly. I said a long time ago, I’d be there till they turned the lights off (ala Zack Allan in Babylon 5) and it looks like I definitely will.

Until next time.

– Elorfin

P.S. “Experience the greatest saga ever told…..yours.” – Star Wars Galaxies tagline


Discussion – Irritating MMO Conventions

Last night I was playing Dragon Nest when I screwed up my free respec on my Cleric. I got so fed up that I thought of this article topic. Allow me to point out some really stupid and highly irritating conventions in online games (and possibly some single player games) to me.

– When allocating skills, there’s no room for error

Seriously, I’m tired of this. It’s been around for a very long time and it always ticks me off. A good early example of this is Diablo II. If you weren’t sure about allocating that one skill point per level, you could let it sit, but if you spent it accidentally, there was NO way to get it back. At all. Today, Hellgate Global (well, Hellgate: London in general) and Dragon Nest leap to the top of my thoughts when I consider this shortcoming. If you spend that skill point, you’d better be damn sure that’s the skill you want to improve because there is NO going back (unless you throw money at the game in the case of Dragon Nest). Star Trek Online has a slight issue with this, but it’s got a much more forgiving respec system than most games. Essentially, when you get your skill points, you can allocate them and they’re spent, but when you go to respec (and they give you a free respec per rank – Lieutenant Commander, Commander, Captain, Rear Admiral, and Vice Admiral I believe) you can add and subtract your skill points willy-nilly to see what you’d like to do and only when you’re ready and have spent all your points can you hit the Apply button. For a possible remedy, I want to see plus and minus buttons so I can fix things just the way I like it before hitting the apply button and making things permanent. Leveling up my character should not be an exercise in frustration.

– Marketplace/Auction Hall/Exchange prices are too high

This is a classic case of people not understanding how to price things I think. I mean, what Lieutenant Commander has 1 million credits and will spend it on ONE Mark IV Phaser? I didn’t and I don’t expect other people to as well. I price things to SELL, not to sit on the Exchange for days as a thing for people to laugh at and then be outsold. In Dragon Nest there’s a 30 item limit per week with a max of five items up at a time (without throwing money at it, I think). The downside is that I’m seeing items that are going for 5 gold when I’m lucky to have any gold after buying one pesky item off the marketplace. The over pricing problem is rampant and is very obvious when the stacks of 20 Crude Onyx used for upgrading Rare Level 16+ equipment is going for 65 gold AT MINIMUM. Yeah, I’ve never seen that much money and I don’t really ever want to because then I’d have spent way too much time playing a game where the max level is currently 24. It gets to the point sometimes where if I can’t find it myself, I don’t worry about it and I just make do. I don’t think this is as big a problem in Lord of the Rings Online, but still, it can rear it’s ugly head if you’re looking to buy your class quest items so you don’t have to go into Carn Dum and Urugarth. For an example of a possible remedy to this, Star Wars Galaxies has always had (I think) a 200k credit limit (maximum bid) in the Bazaar, however you can price things however you’d like on your personal vendor.

– People spamming the chat with inane crap (mostly gold sellers)

This one’s an obvious one, but a goodie. Dragon Nest currently has an infestation of gold sellers and there seems to be at least three in every instance of Carderock Pass. I remember in Star Wars Galaxies making my Commando unsearchable because at least that way I couldn’t get private messages from other people advertising their billions of credits for cash. I don’t care how hard it is to make money in an online game, I’m going to make this statement: I NEVER HAVE AND WILL NEVER BUY IN-GAME MONEY FOR REAL MONEY. There’s a caveat and that’s only if the company who makes and maintains the game decides to make a cash-shop that has a money tree or something in it. I could see it in Lord of the Rings Online, but just barely. However it goes, I really want to club these chat spammers to death every time I walk by them and their chat bubbles. If people are having a stupid conversation, I’m willing to look the other way. At least in that case the chat box is being used as intended. As a possible remedy, I’ve seen used in games a (not sure what it’s called) repeat chat limiter that prevents people from saying the same thing too many times in a row. It won’t stop spammers, but it will definitely make them talk less often.

– A lack of a Buy Back option in NPC stores

Lord of the Rings Online did something smart here. They allow for the last few items you’ve sold to be bought back in the same session you’re playing in (I think it’s the last 20 items sold). Sell too much at once or log off and log back in and you’ve lost your chance to get back some of your stuff. Dragon Nest? You sold it, you lost it. I think it was the same with Ragnarok Online too. Star Wars Galaxies had a similar issue where if you accidentally sold something you’d have to file a help ticket to get it back and even then you might not get it back. Eventually the developers for Galaxies popped out this device that sits in everyone’s datapad and allows for personal rescuing of items accidentally sold. Star Trek Online has a buy back mechanism as well and even allows you to reconstitute things in the replicator that you accidentally threw into the recycler. Some developers seem to be catching on here, but really, I need to pay more attention when selling stuff in my inventory. Wish the item locking mechanism from LOTRO could be used in other games. I like it. For a possible remedy… well, just add the buy back function!

– Players crowding around particular NPCs

This is a problem in every game where there’s really only one NPC for a particular thing. LOTRO attempts to remedy this by providing multiple Auctioneers and Vault-keepers where they can, but from time to time it’s really irritating to go to click on an NPC and wind up trying to figure out how to get rid of a pop-up menu for interacting with this other player that you don’t know. In Dragon Nest I’ve noticed something here: if you’re in a group around, say, the blacksmith and you need to click on him, move the mouse over the NPC and it turns into the NPC interaction cursor. Basically the game ignore people in the way. I like that. Not quite sure how they did it, but it definitely makes the crowds seem more manageable. Star Trek Online seems to manage this issue by increasing the range of talking to some NPCs I think (it might just be my imagination). I think to handle this issue, possible solutions may be to increase the interaction range on certain NPCs or whatever. Expanding the zone of interaction would allow for more people to get in there and such. Another possible solution here is letting the player hold a key or something that fades player characters a bit or completely and keeps the NPCs or environmental interactions in full color and brings them to the foreground (so to speak).

I think that’s enough for today. I don’t expect these issues to go away overnight, but sometimes just airing them out makes them feel more manageable from a player’s perspective. I’m not a developer, but I’ve tried to offer solutions where I could.

Until next time, keep your eyes open.

– Elorfin

P.S. “Only through observation will you perceive weakness” – Charles Darwin


Discussion – Sharing Memories of A Galaxy Far, Far Away

There’s this person on YouTube who’s been asking me if I could share some of my Star Wars Galaxies memories from before the Combat Upgrade and after and I’m doing my best to accommodate, but there’s a few issues. Let me explain…

1) I’ve been playing this game off and on since it launched. Some of my memories have been lost to the ether between brain cells over the last 8 years.

2) Some memories are extremely personal… especially a couple from the last four years or so. Galaxies entered my life and became a part of it so much that when bad things happened out here, they had effects in there.

3) If I share too many memories too quickly, I’ll be compelled to stop all other projects and stuff and to throw myself into the game again. Just how I am.

So, anyways, for dealing with my “complaining”, here’s a little story of how I’m a massive idiot sometimes. This may be shared on my YouTube channel later today and I might wind up relaying the information a little differently courtesy of memory.

When Jump to Lightspeed came out back in… oh, October 2004… I dove back into the game with a vengeance (I had recently been away thanks to only having a 56k modem connection and we had JUST gotten cable internet when this expansion came out). So, anyways, I didn’t realize that they kept your character around even if you cancelled your subscription, so when I logged back in and saw a naked character in place of my normal guy, I deleted him, thinking I’d been away too long. Alas, I found out later that everything was still there. Oh well. Instead I made my main character Elorfin Thendt on the Corbantis server and another character Vyris Tykin on the Lowca server. Elorfin was made a Rebel pilot and I wanted that X-Wing so badly. So when February 2005 rolled around, I FINALLY got my sweet X-Wing. Unfortunately, this was the time where the developers had to mention that now space alignment was connected to ground alignment and I misinterpreted this information and accidentally quit the Rebel faction, losing ALL the progress I had made in my piloting and losing access to my sweet ride.

I filed a help ticket, but SOE said it was my fault and that there were warnings in place. Unfortunately for me, the warnings didn’t make sense to me at the time. Oh well. Anyways, I got to Master Rebel Pilot by June that year, had my X-Wing back AND had better equipment because of it. I suppose it worked out.

Until next time, read the warnings!

– Elorfin

P.S. “Experience the greatest saga ever told…..yours.” – Star Wars Galaxies tagline.


Discussion – Star Wars Galaxies: The End of a Game

I’m sure some of you have heard by now that one of the big name MMOs is closing shop later this year. The news was broken just a few days ago in time for SWG’s 8th anniversary: SOE is shutting down Star Wars Galaxies on December 15th. I have… difficult to explain feelings on this, so allow me to attempt an explanation with significant backstory.

Back when Everquest was new, I turned to my Mom and told her, “The only game I’ll ever pay to play will be Star Wars.” Little did I realize that shortly there would be a Star Wars game coming down the line (also that I’d pay to play other games). When my 20th birthday rolled around in 2003, my Mom preordered a copy of Galaxies for me and I was ecstatic. I patiently waited until it came out (they bumped it a couple of times, but yeah, it came out eventually) in June of 2003. I was severely limited in playing it because I had a relatively crummy laptop and only had access to a 56k modem at the time, but I was thrilled to be a wanderer in Star Wars. I spent a lot of time in the wilderness on Rori by Restuss (back then an actual town instead of the ruins it is today). I spent a huge amount of time being just a tourist, enjoying the views of the falls of Theed on Naboo, the twin suns of Tatooine, and the seemingly endless plains of Corellia. I took off about six months until we got cable internet for smoother playing.

In October 2004 I got a copy of Jump to Lightspeed and my 6 month hiatus from the game was over. I made new characters and Elorfin Thendt was born into Star Wars Galaxies. I made him a rebel pilot and worked really hard to get myself an X-Wing. When I finally got one, I was thrilled. Then I proceeded to accidentally drop my pilot profession and I had to start all over again. It took me several more months to get back to where I was (yay life?) and then I had even better equipment to work with. Overall, pretty awesome. Plus, some of my friends were getting into it.

Fast forward a bit… Rage of the Wookiees and the Combat Upgrade came out in time for Revenge of the Sith to hit the theaters in May of 2005. Kashyyyk was added to the game and it was awesome. I managed to preorder it and it was good times and new content for all. Later that year, Trials of Obi-Wan came out in conjunction with the New Game Enhancement (which redid the profession system to an archetype system and gave us 80 combat levels to work with). It also introduced more high level content with Mustafar and I fortunately preordered it and landed a desert skiff that could sail over the lava flows on that hellish world.

I have memories of the pre-NGE world. They’re of struggling to get credits, kill monsters by myself, and so forth. The NGE made it so I could solo enough of the game content that I could have a good time on my own for a bit and become more familiar with the game. Further, I was able to ENJOY myself for the first time in a long time. Oh, and also, with all the adjustments, they got rid of the ability queue system so you didn’t wind up sitting around waiting for things to go off. They got rid of the Mind statistic on the HAM bar (Health Action Mind). The downside? Medical centers became entirely useless. I fondly remember spending hours sitting in a med center healing people’s wounds and socializing. It was fantastic, but short lived. Anyways…

The NGE made it so I could finally be competitive in the game. When it hit, I was working on the Force Sensitive skill boxes and so I felt entitled to converting my character to a Jedi. He was a Jedi for quite some time actually, but he kind of stagnated at level 64 while I played a Jedi on another server (Lowca server I believe). Once all my friends quit or left for whatever reasons, I went back to Elorfin on Corbantis. Within a few minutes of just poking around, I met a lovely character and she invited me into her guild. With a grin I agreed and she proceeded to tell me how to rapidly get to level 90. That was 2007 I believe.

To this day, I’m still a member of the guild (Remnants of Mandalore) even through the server transfer to Chilastra (if they still exist, but they did in October 2010). Unfortunately, I’ve been lacking a desire to play the game. I’ve got some personal reasons for that which I won’t go into here, but there are some game related issues I want to point out that have also made me reluctant to play. First, there hasn’t been a significant addition to the game since 2005 with Trials of Obi-Wan. That added a WHOLE PLANET and changed the game entirely. Even Jump to Lightspeed changed how we played the game… it added SPACE and CUSTOMIZABLE SHIPS! Now THAT was CONTENT! Since 2005 we’ve gotten a card game, some holiday mini-game festivals, some PvP stuff, some high-end PvE stuff, tweaks, updates, modifications to existing things… and that’s really it. No guild capital ships (unless you count the collection POBs). No new planets since 2005. No new abilities for space. No new single player ships for space (except high level ones and they tended to be either super fast or game breaking or both, depending on your perspective). So, I got to level 90 and had a jolly good time with my guild, but then newer games came out with new graphics and new mechanics. I started to play Galaxies less and less. I haven’t touched it since October 2010 and I feel bad. I feel it could’ve been so much more than it was. I had a history professor who once told us to look around our campus and note all the new construction and renovations and to remember that if there weren’t any new construction or some kind of renovation going on, that the school was dead. Galaxies felt dead to me after a while and I suppose I was reluctant to let it go… still am. Mind you, I don’t hate the game, I don’t dislike it or even think it sucks, I just wish there could’ve been… more.

Galaxies is no longer the only game I’d pay to play. Galaxies is no longer the only MMO I’d play. Pretty soon, Galaxies will be no more and maybe my guilt or sadness or disappointment regarding the game will be gone, but I doubt it. It’s like saying goodbye to an old friend that you know you’ll never see again. I think Galaxies gave me a thirst for online gaming, where I’m not entirely alone in my adventures and where I only have to speak up to find a friend. I find myself, today, as a better gamer because of my experiences with Galaxies.

A while ago… probably in October 2010, I had returned after a very long period of time of not playing. My guild mates were shocked to hear that I’d never actually cancelled my subscription, I just was busy doing other things and they were thrilled to see me on. I told them that I’d never really leave for good and that I’d probably be there when they turned the lights out someday. Well, I intend to be there on December 15th. I want to say farewell to a world of friends, adventure, possibilities and my character Elorfin Thendt. No, not a world… a galaxy.

Until next time, go and explore those new worlds and strange lands. Maybe you’ll find a galaxy waiting for you.

– Elorfin

P.S. “I figured I’d be here ’til they turn the lights out.” – Zack Allan, Babylon 5: Sleeping in Light

P.P.S. “Every Story Has A Hero, Every Hero Has A Destiny, Every Saga Has An End.” – Tagline for Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith


Discussion – My Burgeoning Lack of Self-Preservation

I believe that we’re constantly developing… as individuals and participants, as thinkers and conceptualizers, as gamers and creators, as introverts and extroverts. We’re an amalgamation of attributes with a little of this and a lot of that (or maybe it’s the other way around for you).

In my early days of Star Wars Galaxies, I couldn’t stand it when my character died. It wasn’t just the inconvenience of cloning or the death penalties or even the detriment to my equipment’s quality. No, it was, I think in retrospect, the break of my immersion in the game that ticked me off the most. It made little sense to me for me to die in combat in Star Wars. I don’t rightly know how else to put it, but it certainly rubbed me the wrong way.

This feeling of wrongness has extended to other games in recent and not so recent history: Guild Wars, Dungeons & Dragons Online, Splinter Cell: Conviction, X-COM: Terror from the Deep, and there’s a few others I can’t really think of right now. Is it always a break of immersion? No, sometimes it’s just out and out frustration with the game crushing me or putting something in front of me that I try to deal with and am quickly shown incapable of handling or whatever. Essentially it’s when the game slaps me in the face saying, “Hey idiot, you’re doing it wrong,” when all I’m trying to do is do it right the way I know how. It’s this sense of personal failure at something I KNOW I should be good at handling or doing.

Recently I’ve been noticing this sensation slipping away bit by bit. It’s where I’m sitting with my friends and I tell them, “Hey, I went for a run into Angmar and knocked out Book 7 all by myself. It’s easy enough to solo, you just have to get up to Gath Forthnir…” and then I go on about how I have a bunch of the difficult “Fellowship Recommended” or “Small Fellowship Recommended” quests. By the way, when I say “recommended”, I really mean “REQUIRED”.

It’s not just there, I think it was slipping away as I was working on Eregion last week. I knocked out all but ONE quest there in just a couple of days. I just… WENT. I didn’t worry about difficulty, I just jumped into every quest and tackled it with everything I had at my disposal. The other night when I was running through a portion of Eregion, I stupidly attacked a level 49 Rare Elite Warg that had about 9k hit points… I got it about halfway down and it killed me, but my thoughts afterwards? “Meh, I was stupid to think I could take it on without a buddy to help. Oh well. What’s next?” In the very recent past, I’d have gotten pissed and probably rage-quit in the process somewhere.

Is this the development of apathy or is it just the maturation of my character? Somewhere in my thought processes, I can dimly recognize some sort of “picking battles” where I try to limit stress and strain through… well… picking my battles. I mean, sure, it’s inconvenient to die in LOTRO and sure, I have to spend a lot of money on equipment repair as a result of “retreating” and yes, I’ve got a 2 hour cooldown on the Revive so I can’t afford to die a lot and still expect to make progress, but it’s almost like it’s losing its meaning for me. In-game deaths are offending me less and less and are becoming an “Oh well” moment or even a “well, crap, guess I’ll do something else then”. It’s a sign I’m overreaching somewhere or that I need to compensate for something elsewhere.

It’s a fascinating experience, developing like this. Will I ever be completely over the sense of personal failure that accompanies loss in these circumstances? Probably not, but it’s interesting to sit back and notice this shift in perspective, however minor. It’s a big deal for me!

Until next time, stay calm and respawn.

– Elorfin

P.S. “Growth is exciting; growth is alarming. Growth of the soul, growth of the mind. ” – Vita Sackville-West


Discussion – New Content in Games

It’s an interesting thing, looking at how my interests in games have shifted away from console games to MMOs for my timesink. Here, let me explain…

Before there was Star Wars Galaxies, I got into Final Fantasy games and similar RPGs on the console. I got my first console that was all mine back in 2001 when a classmate got a PS2 for Christmas and just gave me his PSX and his copy of Final Fantasy VIII. From then until 2003, I played a lot of RPGs and even after Galaxies came out, I still played console games a lot. It was only until this past year that my MMO playing has superseded the console game playing. I think I have an explanation for this and I think it’s related to the constant release of new material.

When it’s a game I’ve never played, the new material is just on the next screen, but after a while, even that feels a bit stale. Star Trek Online just wrapped up another Featured Episode and each component of it was new and fresh and different. Lord of the Rings Online has these new zones that I’ve never been to and they have new and different creatures with new and different quests.

I’m not sure that this is entirely the case though. As I no longer have regular access to a 360, I no longer have a real desire to play it and the associated games (gah, I still want to play and beat Lost Odyssey and Final Fantasy XIII). I’ve been tempted to go back and replay Final Fantasy XII because I genuinely enjoyed it, but I’ve got more work to do in LOTRO and there’s more awesome to experience in STO.

I suppose the constant release of new content is one of the many reasons that has shifted my attention away from console gaming. I’m sure there’s a few other reasons floating around somewhere. Having friends playing too is a good one.

Until next time!

– Elorfin

P.S. I wasn’t exceptionally motivated to write today, but I did come up with this article on the fly.

P.P.S. “The times they are a-changin’.”  – Bob Dylan


Discussion – An incomplete approach to my fear of failure and gaming

I have a fear of failure. It keeps me from doing some things in my day-to-day life, it drastically reduces the number of risks I take (in or out of games), and it makes me question whether or not I want to continue doing certain things once I’ve achieved a certain level of progress but feel like I’ve hit a brick wall.

Connected to this fear of failure is a big amount of stress (it’s stressful trying to avoid failure) and I hold myself to (occasionally) absurd standards that just invite the stress and the sense of eventual failure. Yay self-perpetuation, huh? This further causes a strong sense of restlessness when I just want to kick back and enjoy myself only to find that the things I typically do are filled with strategies and methodologies that are designed with an eye towards avoiding failure and sometimes I just want to PLAY without fear.

There are very few ways to reduce the fear of failure. One of them is a save/load mechanic. Seriously, I save a lot. My father taught me that a quick way to keep that soldier from dying is to save at the end of every turn and if things worked out okay by the time my next turn rolled around, save on a different spot at the beginning of the turn. If things didn’t work out, reload and see what you can do to fix it. Rinse and repeat.

Another method to reduce my fear is the game design. Honestly, if I can pick up a game quickly and it just comes easy to me, I’ve got no worries. I’m not afraid of screwing up Final Fantasy Tactics because I know the game very well (and I know when I need to prepare… Riovanes Castle SUCKS!… also, I was taught some nifty tricks that help me be prepared). FFT comes EASY to me.

I suppose when it comes to my fear of failure, preparedness helps. I keep a notepad next to my computer so that when I play games, I can jot down things I should remember. When crafting in Galaxies, I would hand write the list of resources I needed and manually go through my resources to see which ones were the best for the job at hand (and I would figure THAT out by using a bit of math that required a calculator). When playing LOTRO, I keep a list of the tasks for a region at hand so that I know what I need, how many, when I can turn them in, and when I can’t turn them in any more. I love strategy guides that help me prepare for what’s ahead with little tips like “you should make sure to purchase plenty of potions for this next part: FAIR WARNING” or something like that.

If we want to get into the psychology of it all, I suppose it’s a fear of the unknown, a fear of failure and a fear of loss that are all interconnected to bring me here. I’m a sore loser, sure, but that comes from those fears. I do what I can to face these fears in the context of games and I feel that it helps somewhat. The other day I was playing LOTRO and running a quest that took me into the Misty Mountains (a place I have NO right to be in at level 33). I was scared out of my mind, but I kept moving. I didn’t know what was ahead, I didn’t want to die and have to run out there all over again, and I didn’t want to lose progress. I pressed on, hoping I wouldn’t get screwed over by a level 43 Warg (or whatever was there). I eventually finished the quest, but my hands were shaking.

I guess you could call me a coward. I’m working on it though, slowly but surely. I also love it when things come easily to me and I don’t like to beat myself up just because I’m focusing on the easy stuff. I have a friend who refused to call Diablo II finished until he’d defeated it on the highest difficulty setting. I beat it on two of the three settings and considered it a win. I don’t understand making things hard on yourself when you’re trying to have a good time. Why wouldn’t you try to swing everything in your favor when playing games? Why wouldn’t you approach a quest at a slightly higher level with good equipment if you could? Why wouldn’t you do everything possible to ensure victory the first time around? Why would you do something that you feel you’re going to screw up at over and over again? I suppose I give up too early, but I just don’t see why I need to stress myself out over the failure that I know is coming. Occasionally I can pull a win out of a near loss, but it really scares the crap out of me.

So, I have these fears and I’m working with them and around them as best I can. I suppose that’s all anyone can really do or expect from anyone else.

Until next time, relax a bit!

– Elorfin

P.S. “But he had hardly felt the absurdity of those things, on the one hand, and the necessity of those others, on the other (for it is rare that the feeling of absurdity is not followed by the feeling of necessity), when he felt the absurdity of those things of which he had just felt the necessity (for it is rare that the feeling of necessity is not followed by the feeling of absurdity).” – Samuel Beckett, Watt


Discussion – Games that feel like work

In all the time I’ve been playing games I’ve come across a few that feel more like work than play. It’s a dawning realization, the moment you recognize that you’re doing something that feels way more laborious than is fun. We each have our own thresholds here, so your mileage may vary.

One such game for me is Disgaea and all Disgaea-style games by Nippon Ichi/Atlus/whatever. The game is sound, the mechanics are good, the story is fun and interesting, but it’s not enough to keep me playing against the feeling that I’m spending a lot of time grinding. Maybe it’s just me being a silly completionist, but I like the concept behind leveling items… unfortunately it’s a ton of work… too much work for me.

I suppose I feel like I should take advantage of such a thing and that’s why I’ve stalled out in playing the game. I’m not entirely sure. After a fashion though, some games just stop being fun.

A classic example of this from my own experience: I used to play Ragnarok Online (on one of the many free servers out there). RO is a massive experience grinding game with little to no quests available, further, loot drops and experience gain in the pay-to-play game is extremely low (let’s just say that the reason I played on a free server aside from the free-ness is that the experience gains were typically 10x the original and the loot dropping was typically 5x higher). It was through RO that I realized I have a lack of patience for long experience grinds. That’s not really the point of this example… there’s an item called the Fin Helm. It’s a lower face item slot that adds to your defense and typically only Knights and Crusaders can wear it (Swordsmen too I think, but don’t quote me on that). So, I set out to find one for myself (because there was no way I could afford the 10 million zeny it would have cost me to buy it off another player). Well, there’s only ONE monster that drops this Fin Helm. That monster spawns reliably in ONE location. I spent an entire month (I think it was June several years ago) doing pretty much nothing but killing this one creature in this one location. I maxed out my level in Crusader while there and nearly maxed out my base level. I never found the item. The BASE drop chance of the Fin Helm is .01%. On a 5x drop server that value increases to .05%. In a MONTH of hunting I NEVER found it. I was therefore forbidden (by friends) from searching for things that were so rare and since then my stress levels during games have been rather manageable.

Taking this lesson to heart, I stopped my search for the Jedi Holocrons that grant the Jedi Waistpack in Star Wars Galaxies and even changed my profession from Jedi to Commando. I don’t bother hunting for exceptionally rare loot (and sometimes even just rare loot) that drops from monsters in games any more. I don’t really see the point in stressing myself out over a random chance drop and I’d rather do other more productive things in the game. Essentially, if I can’t find it easily enough, I’ll move on with only slight regrets that eventually go away.

More or less, I’m not concerned with getting rich or having the best equipment or the highest level any more. I just want to play the game, to experience the story and the mechanics and to come away with satisfaction. If a game feels like work, I’m robbed of that satisfaction and I’m left just feeling tired. I suppose this is why I take a break from Final Fantasy games after playing them regularly for a while. The game isn’t going anywhere and I can always pick it up later.

One more supposition and I’ll end this: I suppose I’m just not a fan of needless effort. Don’t get me wrong, if I can get to the highest level and rack up the most cash and get my hands on the best gear for my characters, I will, but if I have to go millions of miles out of my way to do so and if I get frustrated and flustered while doing so, is that worth it? Isn’t the point of a game to have fun? To have a good time and enjoy myself? So, that’s what I do now. If I seem to always take the easy way out in games, well, that’s because I believe the stress just isn’t worth it. It’s part of knowing myself and looking deeper into why certain things make me happy or unhappy. No sense in stressing myself out over just a game, right?

Until next time, keep cool.

– Elorfin

P.S. “We shall never be at peace with ourselves until we yield with glad supremacy to our higher faculties.” – Joseph Cook


Discussion: MMO Pricing Models

Today I’m going to talk about something that stirs up a lot of feelings in a lot of people all over the net: pricing models.

Here’s the three different primary types here:

Free to Play

Microtransaction

Subscription

Allow me to explain…

Free to Play is just what it says: Free. To. Play. Seriously, you download the game, you install it, you set up an account, and bam, you’re ready to go. It’s that simple. Examples of these games are Champions Online, D&D Online, Lord of the Rings Online, and several of the games I’ve previously mentioned like 9Dragons and ACE Online. For future reference, I’m abbreviating this as F2P.

Microtransactions (I may have explained this in the past, but humor me) are where you throw a few dollars at the game here and there. Typically this goes hand in hand with a F2P model. The point is to purchase in a cash shop of sorts a few extraneous objects or such that you don’t normally get with your usual account. An example of the things that are usually available in such a shop are extra character slots on the server, additional character classes or capabilities, costume items that have no effect outside of changing your appearance, experience bonus items, and so forth. Frequently the company running the game invents some sort of point system that goes with the shop. Champions Online and Star Trek Online both have their C-Store (Cryptic Store) and they take advantage of Atari Tokens. D&D Online and Lord of the Rings Online are both run by Turbine and they each have very similar shops with points named differently (DDO Points and Turbine Points, respectively). Sometimes the company running the game doesn’t even bother to do point transactions. In the case of games like Star Wars Galaxies where there’s a separate card game built into the game, you just buy booster packs and such using your credit card or whatever. Sometimes these points are easy to get (in LOTRO, you can gain Turbine Points by accomplishing deeds that award 5, 10, or 15 points and you can save them up), other times you can only get them by buying them (Star Trek Online), and still other times you can get a stipend of points per month for subscribing (D&D Online and Champions Online each offer 500 and 400 of their points per month, respectively). All in all, you’re typically not spending a lot of money at once (if at all), hence the term “microtransactions”. Me, if I like a game well enough, I’m cool with throwing twenty bucks at it (like LOTRO).

Subscriptions for MMOs have always been a touchy subject but most frequently they’re priced around fifteen dollars a month. Some games (once again, LOTRO) offer the occasional discount to ten bucks a month and a few games out there are five a month (I believe Dungeon Runners used to do this). Sometimes if you buy a bunch of months in a row (like 6 or 12) you can get a discount. $120 bucks a year changes your subscription to ten bucks a month instead of fifteen… which isn’t bad if you intend to play the game for the whole year. Like I’ve implied, subscriptions can run monthly, annually, bi-annually, or whatever. Also, some few games offer lifetime subscriptions where you pay one large lump sum (often enough to buy an XBox 360 or a PS3) for permanent subscription services for as long as the game is up. I recently acquired a lifetime subscription to Star Trek Online for the paltry sum of $300 (hah, paltry) and there’s really no difference between a normal subscription and the lifetime (except for a few nifty concessions). Once upon a time, I said (upon discovering Everquest was fifteen bucks a month) that I would only truly pay to play a Star Wars game. Well, I’ve been proven wrong (DDO, LOTRO, STO and now another SW game is coming out soon).

Admittedly, those are the primary models above, but companies love to mix and match to their own delight. A prime example of this is in what Turbine and Cryptic have  done to their games. Let’s take a look at D&D Online and then Champions Online:

D&D Online offers a free to play model. There is a cash store where you can buy points and spend said points on objects you want. There’s also a variety of subscription options (monthly, 3 months, 6 months I believe) available for those who want free access to all the restricted content that’s available for purchase in the store (more or less). Further, for those who subscribe, you gain 500 DDO points per month of your active subscription. If you allow your subscription to lapse, you downgrade to a “Premium” account which has more benefits than a regular Free account, but considerably less than a subscription. In this case, if you’re playing a class (like the Monk or Favored Soul) that is specifically given to you because of your subscription, you lose access to that character until you purchase the class in another way (via favor or money).

Champions Online has recently gone free to play. There’s a cash store where you can buy points and spend them on objects you want. They also have subscription options, but they also offer a lifetime subscription with additional benefits on top of the standard subscription. The entire game is available to play, but certain quest trees are unavailable except to those who subscribe or purchase said quest packs. For subscribers (lifetime and otherwise) you gain 400 Atari Tokens a month. If you are no longer a subscriber you revert to a “Silver Player” (as opposed to Gold) and lose access to all the things that Gold Players get specifically (you lose access to your Freeform characters and quest packs) until you subscribe again.

Personally, I’m a fan of these combination models. I feel that they appeal to wider audiences and in many cases allow people to try the games until they feel like they want to spend money on it to get the extra stuff (like me with D&D Online, Lord of the Rings Online). Champions Online is now a current favorite for me and I’m highly tempted to get a lifetime account with them.  Don’t worry, I make myself come up with three good reasons before I splurge on something so expensive.

When looking to invest in a game, it’s encouraging that so many are going free to play with subscription options. I’m certainly a fan of being able to try stuff out before buying (like test driving a car). I have a hunch that subscription-only games are going to be phased out in the future and “choose your own pricing model” games will become the business standard.

Regarding the lifetime subscriptions: personally I like to buy and not worry about things any more, hence why I’m a fan of these. Further, Star Trek Online has held a lasting appeal for me in the last six months and I felt it was a worthwhile investment. Also, STO is still a growing game. It’s been around one year (celebrated its one year anniversary the first week of February). If Galaxies had a lifetime subscription option, I’d buy it in a heartbeat.

Until next time, choose wisely so that you can have a great time!

– Elorfin

P.S. In hunting down links to put up above, I found something particularly awesome that some friends may or may not appreciate. Neverwinter.

P.P.S. I was right about the Dungeon Runners subscription. Booyah.

P.P.P.S. “Everything is worth what its purchaser will pay for it.” – Publilius Syrus


Discussion: My feelings on Star Wars Galaxies today

I’d like to share something that’s been bothering me lately: my drive to play Star Wars Galaxies is pretty much gone. I’m still paying to play it, but I just would rather play other things (new or old). I’m going to try to explain this as best as I can, so bear with me.

Let’s get something straight first: I WANT to play Star Wars Galaxies. The issue I’m having is that, well, I’ve already done everything I wanted to do in the game. I want to do more than there is. Star Trek Online is fascinating to me because they’re constantly releasing new content. Galaxies kind of stopped doing that. If you will, they decided to focus more on the in-game card game than the game itself. They haven’t developed a new planet since Trials of Obi-Wan, they haven’t released genuinely new content since Halloween of 2008 (I think) with the release of Death Troopers and the zombie problems on Dathomir.

I think what I really want is something that SOE is unlikely to give: new life to the game. Maybe it’s a change in pricing model (Free-to-Play/Premium/Subscriber/Lifetime seems to be the way things go these days with a couple of games). Maybe it’s the addition of locations that would give a huge amount of variety into the game like Nar Shadda or the ruins of Alderaan or maybe a genuine visit to locations like Hoth (instead of PvP instances)… or how about giving guilds capital ships that they can craft or adding more to spaceflight and space combat? No, the latest update to the game just adds another quest series to Dathomir with the Witches and a revisit to the Officer class that was sorely needed. Last time I played, they had added the Rare Loot system…

I’m frustrated because I want to play. I’m sad because there’s nothing left for me to do aside from these extremely difficult to solo (or even handle with group) quests. I’m genuinely disappointed and I wish I wasn’t.

It’s almost like there’s this approach to games from the stone age still out there… that developers want a “fire-and-forget” game that they can release onto the market and not have to bother patching or releasing updates in the age of high speed internet and discerning consumers. I suppose they ask “why keep investing in one project when we can make so many more that can get us more money?” I thought the point of an MMO was to keep investing to develop a loyal player base that continues to purchase all the expansions and add-ons that you create? There hasn’t been a TRUE expansion to Galaxies SINCE late 2005 and that was the New Game Enhancement and the Trials of Obi-wan release.

Star Trek Online’s developers at Cryptic get it. Every once in a while they release a weekly series of episodes that are fresh, new, and fun. This keeps me coming back, wanting to be prepared for the next series of episodes. I’m looking forward to the eventual release of the Romulans as a playable faction (fingers crossed!) and the ability to eventually craft my own Delta Flyer. I can’t wait to go toe-to-toe with whatever menace is lurking over the horizon, my friends and their ships ready to go. Galaxies has lost the spark it once had and I think an overhaul of approach is needed. I will admit that if they ever offer a veteran reward or an option to purchase a lifetime account, I’ll be the first to jump on it. Seriously though, I’ve been paying to play Galaxies for so long that I think I’ve EARNED a lifetime subscription. I can only hope that good things happen for Galaxies and I hope I’ll still be there to see them. In the mean time, I’ll be playing Champions Online, Lord of the Rings Online, Dungeons & Dragons Online, and Star Trek Online while I occasionally glance at the icon for Galaxies and feel that pang of sadness.

Until next time, here’s hoping everything gets better and better!

– Elorfin

P.S. “There can be no rainbow without a cloud and a storm.” – John Heyl Vincent


What makes a great game? – Part 10: Familiarity and Belonging

Today’s discussion is about a sense of familiarity and belonging in games. This is something of an extension on the discussion of a sense of home in games, but it’s a more general sensation. Here, let me try to give you a few examples of what I’m going for:

Reading a book you’ve read before

Playing an old game you used to play as a child

Wandering a museum you’ve been to before

Hanging out with old friends

Visiting with family

Hearing a song you used to listen to all the time

These all invoke a sensation of the familiar. A sense of belonging in that time, place, whatever. Some games draw people in because of the inherent familiarity of the surroundings. Some games keep you playing because of a genuine sense of belonging there.

This topic basically struck me as soon as I started playing the Lord of the Rings Online Free-to-Play Beta a few months back. I’ve read The Lord of the Rings once in my life, but it’s something that sticks with you. I’ve read The Hobbit several times though (it’s way shorter and mostly a travelogue). Anyways, when I first set foot into the LOTRO version of Middle-Earth, I felt that I was already familiar with the world. As I made my way through the Bree-Lands, I managed to orient myself and discover those locations in the books that I wanted to see for myself. I’ve been to Weathertop, I’ve wandered the Shire, and I walked some of the same paths that the original 13 dwarves walked with a confused hobbit and a wizard of implied repute. I battled goblins and barrow-wights as I made my way through the world that Tolkien imagined and I never felt that anything was amiss in that.

Another game that gave me the same sense from day one was Star Wars Galaxies. I already knew so much about so many things in the Galaxy Far, Far Away that when I set foot into Galaxies and was shown the waterfalls of Theed or the Lesser Sarlacc of Dathomir, I was amazed. I recall spending several months just as a tourist (of course, I had a 56k modem when I started playing, so that’s all I really could do). I was so familiar with the things in Galaxies and to this day I still say I belong there. Elorfin Thendt, Commando, at your service.

Something that definitely contributes to the sense of belonging in games (especially online ones) is the guild. It may be called by different names (kinships in LOTRO, fleets in Star Trek Online), but guilds are lasting groups of player avatars that allow for a much easier association between players. It encourages trade and group play amongst the guild members and it gives the players something to belong to and work for that is larger than themselves. In Galaxies, I belong to the guild Remnants of Mandalore and whenever I log in (which is less frequently than I’d like) I’m always welcome. I’ve been a member of ROM for almost two years now and I’ve never had a chance to regret it.

I suppose it’s a draw for a game to be set in a familiar world. Where the player is dropped into an existing world that they’ve experienced somehow, somewhere before. I was excited when I heard about Star Trek Online coming out. I wasn’t so much about Tabula Rasa (rest in peace). I’m looking forward to Star Wars: The Old Republic and Stargate Worlds, but not so much The Exiled Realm of Arborea (TERA) or Black Prophecy. That’s not to say I won’t give the ones I’m not exactly looking forward to a try later on, but I suppose I’m just a big fan of the stuff I know already. Games that players get to participate in a familiar setting tend to do a bit better than original settings with no connections to other things. I’ve played several games that define standalone (pretty much every Final Fantasy game fits there, with the only real connection being the title of the game and maybe some of the connected themes like crystals or a guy named Cid who makes airships or a boss named Gilgamesh) but I’ve also played a lot of franchise games. Of course, belonging to a franchise doesn’t mean the game is going to be good (most Star Trek games are way too difficult to be any fun and some Star Wars games are just terrible) but at least they have something going for them to get more copies out to more players.

Still, like picking up a favorite book or listening to a song I used to overplay, some games just have that sense of familiarity and belonging that I love. A warm sensation that says I should stick around a while, pull up a chair, have a drink, and go on another adventure. Yeah, that’s what I’m talking about.

I recently picked up an old educational game I used to play as a kid: Super Solver’s Midnight Rescue. Holy crap it’s an educational game with playability! Playing it now, I’m fascinated with how simple yet how captivating the game was. It is a SMART game and it is a FUN game even today. I remembered how to play right away and I remembered what I was doing. It was fantastic. I picked this game up after not playing it for something like 20+ years and I did pretty darn well.

Anyways, I’m going to leave you there. I’m intrigued by this Black Prophecy game (plus the trailer they have is cool), so I’m going to check that out (I registered for the Closed Beta while writing this). It’s probably an EVE Online clone, but I’m still interested in seeing what they’ve got going on.

Until next time, cultivate that sense of familiarity!

– Elorfin

P.S. “Familiarity is the thing — the sense of belonging. It grants exemption from all evil, all shabbiness” – E.B. White


Discussion: When is a game completed?

A recent project of mine has been to list all of the games that I’ve played in my lifetime. No, not board games or card games, but computer and video games. When I started this project a few days ago, I began by listing the name of the game, the platform I played it on, and whether or not I finished the game or left it incomplete. Later I added the genre of the game in another column. Earlier today, I was asked if I had a count of how many of the games I had listed had actually been completed and also, what constituted a completed game? There are some games that just never have a solid ending (city-building games like SimCity or online games like World of Warcraft) and other games that have more fluid endings (like Civilization). When do I declare a game finished?

For the purposes of city-building games (SimCity, SimCity 2000, SimCity 3000, SimCity 4, Afterlife, Caesar, etc.) I declare the game to be “finished” when I have finally hit upon a self-sufficient city design and I’m happy with it. In the first three SimCity games I managed to achieve that. Self-sufficient is defined for my purposes as, well, I could technically walk away from the keyboard for a few minutes and not worry that the city will blow up in my absence. It’s got a positive revenue, I’ve built up my planned design, and there’s not much more improving I can do… yeah.

For the purposes of games like Civilization, Sins of a Solar Empire, Master of Orion, and similar strategy games with no tangible storyline, they are “finished” when I have completed a beginning to end playthrough once. That’s all it takes. When it comes to these games though, sometimes it takes several days. It could also be on the easiest difficulty, like in my case, I happen to enjoy playing Civilization IV on the easiest setting, but occasionally I crank up the difficulty a step or two. I never leave a game like this alone after beating it once.

For the purposes of online games (Dungeons & Dragons Online, Star Trek Online, Star Wars Galaxies, World of Warcraft, etc.) I say they are “finished” when I have taken at least one character to the maximum level available in the game. Therefore, Star Trek Online and Star Wars Galaxies are classified as finished whereas Dungeons & Dragons Online and World of Warcraft isn’t. Further, there’s nothing to say I can’t keep playing a game once I’ve classified it as “finished” on my list, it’s just a barometer for how far I’ve taken a particular game (especially MMOs). This is regardless of the storyline in the game.

Other games are definitely done if I feel I played the hell out of them like I did Super Smash Bros. Melee or Super Mario Kart. Or if I finished the storyline like in Final Fantasy VIII or IX (I remember finally finishing those in the same weekend after not playing them for 6-8 months or something like that… VIII on a Saturday and IX on a Sunday, bam, done). The Sims? Right, I labeled that one as finished because I got one Sim all the way up to the Chief of Police in my game once upon a time (way back in fall 2002) and since then that file has vanished into the ether between electrons. I do distinctly remember such a thing happening, which is why I classified it as “finished”.

Mind, this is my personal measurement of completion. I have a friend who believes that Diablo II: Lord of Destruction will not be truly beaten until he’s beaten it on the hardest difficulty setting. I called it a win when I got through Nightmare. Different strokes for different folks, I suppose.

Now, a fair portion of my list is classified as incomplete. This could refer to any number of reasons:

1) I didn’t like the game after trying it

2) I didn’t own the game and played it at a friends house

3) I no longer own the game

4) I can’t remember ever finishing it

5) Any permutation of the above

Oh, also, I’ve played some games on multiple platforms. Chrono Trigger hasn’t changed much (if at all) from its SNES roots to the Playstation port to the current DS version, so I marked that I’d finished the game (which I have, several times over) but that the platform is DS. Maybe later I’ll expand the platform box to allow for all the versions I’ve played of a single game, but I’ve only marked it once. For the record, I haven’t beaten Chrono Trigger on the DS yet, but I beat the Playstation version and I beat the SNES version on ZSNES (emulation) several times.

For Lunar, I played and beat it on SEGA CD at a friend’s house a long time ago, I got it for the Playstation and beat it (and subsequently lost my copy or loaned it to someone), and according to my GameSpot listing I have a copy of Lunar Legend somewhere (which I recall beating, but I can’t find it anywhere) and now I have the Lunar Harmony version for the PSP. The differences between Lunar: The Silver Star and Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete were incredible (harp to ocarina anyone?) so I counted them separately on my list. The differences between Lunar: SSSC and Lunar Legend were less so, but there was a drastic graphical change, so I marked that one too as a separate game. Lastly, there was also a huge change between the GBA Lunar Legend and the PSP Lunar: Silver Star Harmony, so that one was counted separately too. So… on my list of games played in my life, I’ve counted Chrono Trigger once (even though I’ve played it on four different platforms) and Lunar four times (because of the differences between the remakes). If any of that made any sense, I owe you a cookie or something.

I have this bad habit of playing a game almost all the way to the end, realizing that I missed something WAYYYYY back near the beginning, starting again and then getting a decent way in and stopping playing for about 6 months to a year. With Final Fantasy VIII, IX, XII, I eventually went back and beat them, but with games like Star Ocean: Till the End of Time, Legend of Dragoon, and Harbinger, I might never go back because they’re too old or something equally silly. I haven’t touched Legend of Dragoon in so long and I remember being so close to the ending, but because I don’t remember how to play, if I do pick it up again I’ll have to start a new game. Also, some games tempt me to pick them up again. I’ve been having this urge to play Chrono Cross again and, lately, Star Ocean: Till the End of Time.

I included some expansions as separate entries. In the case of Starcraft, Brood War was practically its own game. Likewise with the expansions to Wing Commander 2, and a few other games. Sometimes the contributions of an expansion weren’t ever significant enough to me, so I didn’t count it (Empire Earth, Age of Empires II, and a few others).

Oh, here’s my key for the genres of the games. This is mostly just for my own purposes, but I’d like to get the key put down somewhere.

AADV – Action Adventure (includes combination games that display elements of both Action and Adventure games) 22

ACT – Action (includes scrolling shooters, light gun games, third-person shooters and any sports games) (yes sports because I don’t really play any so they don’t get their own category) 49

ADV – Adventure (includes graphical adventures, text adventures, point-and-click games) 64

ARPG – Action Role-Playing Game (for hack-and-slash games) (any Diablo game or clone thereof and games similar to Marvel Ultimate Alliance) 28

EDU – Educational (mostly games I played as a kid) (Super Solvers Midnight Rescue! got a humorous response out of a friend last night) 6

FGT – Fighting (Mortal Kombat and similar games) 16

FPS – First-Person Shooter (Duh.) 19

FSIM – Flight Simulation (I played a lot of these growing up) 29

MMO – Massively Multiplayer Online (These too) 30

PLT – Platform (games where you jump from platform to platform) (I’m not especially good at these, but I haven’t quite learned my lessons yet) 20

PUZ – Puzzle (Yup.) 13

RACE – Racing (I’ve played a couple) 7

RPG – Role-Playing Game (My first real experience here can be summed up in one word: Starflight) 82

RTS – Real-Time Strategy (Remember when you didn’t know what this was? I do.) 30

SIM – Simulation (includes any city building simulation) 29

TBS – Turn-Based Strategy (this includes computer board games like Star Wars Monopoly) 47

TDS – Tower Defense Strategy (Addictive little games) 2

If there’s a combination of things, like in X-COM Apocalypse where you can pick real-time or turn-based, I’ve labeled it as TB/RTS or similarly for the other categories as needed to accurately define it for myself. For those, the breakdown goes like this: ACT/FPS 1, ACT/PLT 2, ACT/SIM 1, ADV/PLT 1, ADV/RPG 2, PLT/PUZ 2, PLT/SIM 1, PUZ/RPG 1, RTS/RPG 1, TB/RTS 3. 15

Mostly, this is to get things straight in my head. As of this writing, the list contains 508 separate entries detailing my experiences with PC (288), MAC (2), SEGA CD (2), Dreamcast (2), NES (8), SNES (7), ZSNES (22), GameCube (13), Wii (26), SEGA (4), SEGA Game Gear (2), Commodore 64 (1), Arcades (6), XBox (5), XBox 360 (22), Playstation (14), Playstation 2 (26), PSP (15), GameBoy Advance (17), DS (22), Atari 2600 (2) and the Nintendo 64 (2). This list includes 261 “finished” and 247 “incomplete” games. Mind, these aren’t hard and fast necessarily as I focus on my memories and remember which games were on one of the three desktops or three laptops I’ve owned in my life or if they were on the “not-long-for-our-home” Commodore 64. In fact, as I write this, I think I only ever played Might and Magic II on the C64. Guess I’ll change that later… PC -1, C64 +1.

I checked the math on each of my three metrics, they all add up to 508. Anyways, maybe sometime soon I’ll figure out a way to share this list. In the meantime, I need to get to bed.

Until next time, every game is an experience that you can count on!

– Elorfin

P.S. Experience is not a matter of having actually swum the Hellespont, or danced with the dervishes, or slept in a doss-house. It is a matter of sensibility and intuition, of seeing and hearing the significant things, of paying attention at the right moments, of understanding and coordinating. Experience is not what happens to a man; it is what a man does with what happens to him. – Aldous Huxley

P.P.S. Every experience is a paradox in that it means to be absolute, and yet is relative; in that it somehow always goes beyond itself and yet never escapes itself. – T.S. Eliot


Discussion: Death Penalties in Games

Okay class, today’s discussion is covering the penalty associated with getting whacked, slain, or otherwise killed in games. Dying or death is an issue in a majority of games and a great deal of mechanics center on preventing it from happening. There are a lot of games where there’s no character that dies, so there’s a moment of defeat that the player has to struggle to stay away from like in Tetris or Bejeweled or any number of today’s “casual” games. I’m mostly going to talk about games that have a character that can be killed or subjected to some kind of incapacitation in this discussion.

This is sort of the flip side of the coin from making progress in a game. I mean, what would stop you from making progress at all? Yeah, being dead can kind of cause a bit of a problem there. Just a bit. Anyways, games tend to throw a roadblock in front of the player and if the player fails to pass that obstacle, there are penalties like death to deal with. Let’s pick out a few examples of this.

Many platformer games (Sonic the Hedgehog, Super Mario Bros., etc.) have the controlled character with a few hit points and when these two or three run out, you’ve got to restart at your last checkpoint or at the beginning of the stage. Some games had save points (Super Metroid), but those are essentially the same as checkpoints and some games let you have a lot more than two or three hit points (again, Super Metroid is a great example of this), but it’s essentially the same. If you run out of hit points, you are killed or defeated and you either reload or respawn or retreat (depending on the terminology the game is using) to the last safe point you found. The object is to go for as long as you can without being forced back to that checkpoint by death and the game sometimes gives you little items to help stave off this penalty for as long as you can. In Super Metroid (I suppose I’m going to keep using this as an example) you get more energy canisters that increase the overall amount of health you have, you get special suits of armor to help in resisting particular types of damage, you’re given new weapons to help with defeating enemies faster and more efficiently and you’re given new ways to prevent falling down pits or to keep you from getting stuck in certain areas. In a simpler example, in Super Mario Bros., Mario (or Luigi) is given mushrooms to make him large, enabling him to jump higher, break blocks, and take one more hit before falling. If you grab something like a fireflower, you are given the ability to shoot fireballs and you can take another hit before dying.

The above mechanism is constant through a lot of game genres. Essentially, it’s the same for platformers, role playing games, first person shooters, even racing games. Let’s take a look at a Final Fantasy game. Here you have three or four party members, each with their own abilities and so forth. If your party dies, you’re kicked back to the load screen so you can pick which save you’d like to start from. If you die in a Final Fantasy game, you lose time spent towards progressing the storyline and the development of your characters. Overall, the penalty for death in a lot of these games is lost time, lost investment. I recall playing Final Fantasy XII through the Necrohol of Nabudis and I was trying to get to the monster called Chaos (he becomes a summon, but he’s completely optional). So, here I am, entertaining the completionist part of myself, and I spend a long time trying to get to this one point. Mind, the last save point is literally a 20 minute walk away at this point and the bad guys will respawn in the dungeon, so I’d have to fight through them again on my way back after saving. I got killed in the fight with Chaos when I ALMOST had him. I dropped the controller, shut off the game, and didn’t touch it again for a year and a half. Mind, I didn’t play because I got killed in an optional area. Yeah, I’m a sore loser sometimes. I eventually went back and just beat the game, but every now and again I get tempted to play it some more.

With the introduction of online role playing games, death penalties are something of a point of contention amongst players. Here’s a few examples of the differences between games.

In D&D Online, the death penalty consists of 1) damage to all of your equipment that you need to repair for a small cost per item and 2) reduced experience payout for the quest you’re doing. That and you kind of need to catch back up to your party if you accidentally resurrect back at a tavern or something.

In Star Trek Online, there’s  not really much of a death penalty at all. If you’re in space, your ship blows up and you’re forced to respawn back at the nearest respawn point that you flew by (these respawn points are not obvious and are often the beginning of the zone where you entered). If you’re on the ground, you’re knocked out and you can be brought back by a teammate or an NPC crew member if they’re still alive. No tangible penalties unless you increase the difficulty setting for the missions you’re running. Then you need to deal with injuries on your captain and injuries on your ship which can be removed if you have minor/major/critical regenerators or components in your inventory.

In Star Wars Galaxies, they changed the death penalties a bit either when the Combat Upgrade hit or the New Game Enhancement, I forget which. The original death penalty was that your equipment would take damage (you could insure your equipment so instead of taking 5% damage, I think, they took 1% damage) and you had to “clone” (basically respawn) where you had stored your cloning information (saved your character). Also, you had wound points to deal with in each of your three damage taking statistics: health, action, and mind (referred to as HAM). You had to go to a medic or a doctor in a medical facility to heal the health and action wound points and to an entertainer in a cantina to heal the mind wound points. Wound points essentially reduced the maximum amount of health, action, or mind your character could have until they were removed. The more deaths you experienced (and in some cases, the more fighting you did), the more wound points you would have in each category until one hit could probably kill you. They later removed the wound point system, the mind bar, and the deterioration of your equipment. These days if you die you get a 5 minute death penalty status that makes it so you have only a percentage of your maximum health and action (making it really easy to die again). Getting rid of this status is possible in three ways: have an entertainer remove it, pay the medical droid in the cloning facility to remove it, or wait the 5 minutes for the penalty to go away on its own. The cost of paying the medical droid scales with your level, but does not exceed 5000 credits at level 90. It’s mostly a minor inconvenience and many players just ignore it and do what’s called traveling by cloning. Essentially, you can now clone anywhere on a planet regardless of where you saved your cloning information. You can still only go from planet to planet if you’ve saved yourself at a cloning facility on another planet from the one you’re on, but now if you’re at the top of a planet and you want to get to the bottom and there’s a cloning facility there, instead of driving or walking the 12 kilometers, you just die and BAM, you’re there. It works pretty well if you can’t find a place flat enough to call your Instant Travel Vehicle.

Like I said up above in the intro, preventing death is what a lot of games focus on. In Star Trek Online, my captain can focus in shield skills that keep his shields regenerating in combat or that allow me to quickly heal my hull as it takes damage. In D&D Online, I can wear armor to help prevent getting hit to begin with or I can carry around healing items that fix the damage that I take from getting hit. In Star Wars Galaxies, every character comes with his own personal healing skill that gets better as they gain levels (Commandos still need Medics to back them up though… 4500 from a heal every once in a while is NOT enough).

I mentioned that this topic is a point of contention amongst players and it really is. I’ve read long forum threads decrying or supporting the use of a death penalty in games and I recall a great deal of complaining being made by crafters in Star Wars Galaxies that the removal of the damage to items from the game has made it harder to sell stuff to players (why buy a new pair of shoes when the old pair never wears out?). It’s definitely changed the economical standpoint in the game, but players are still buying stuff like crazy and even more now because you can have an appearance (essentially an overlay costume) that covers your actual equipment. I can almost guarantee that if you look for it, you might find a forum thread somewhere discussing the merits of harsher or softer death penalties in just about any online game. The fact remains that the players have a skewed perspective: some are there to have a good time and others are there for a challenge. For some, those are both the same thing. It’s up to the developer to determine at what point is the game killing players so frequently that it’s just not fun any more. Case in point, I find the Crystalline Entity in Star Trek Online to be way too hard a fight to be worth fighting. I tried it once and died in a single hit three times in a row and I vowed to never do it again. Some of my friends have come to the same conclusion. It’s not worth the effort and time to attempt to do that fight correctly for us.

Rare is the game with a “hardcore” setting where if you die, you can’t play that character any more. I only know of two games that have that… Diablo II and Hellgate: London. That’s a box I never check. I get kind of attached to my characters.

Ah, speaking of perma-death (that’s the “technical” term for it), the tabletop game of Dungeons & Dragons is really where you grasp the concept that your character, that extension of you and a major investment of your time, could die quite easily. It’s a precarious balance between making sure you can do damage to enemies and keep them from hitting you long enough for your party healer to get to you to fix whatever ails you. We had a game the other day where one of our party was hit all the way down to one hit point and she just shrugged and we were all confused. Apparently, she had armor that could heal her all the way back up to full if she ever dropped below one hit point. She was laughingly upset when the fight ended and she still had one hit point, so we all offered to crack her character upside the head to trigger the heal.

Games tend to trivialize it, but no one wants to have to start all over every time they die. It’s the human condition to wonder about death and those who play games happen to deal with it rather frequently without much thought. It’s a rather morbid topic, but addressed in a wide variety of manners by our games and our religions. I think it would be nice if we had a save and load function in our lives or maybe a few extra coins for continues.

Until next time, don’t forget to save often (if you can) and pay attention to your hit points!

– Elorfin

P.S. “I have no terror of Death. It is the coming of Death that terrifies me.” – Oscar Wilde

P.P.S. I really like this: While on a journey, Chuang Tzu found a skull, dry and parched. With sorrow he questioned and lamented the end to all things. When he finished speaking, he dragged the skull over, and using it as a pillow, lay down to sleep. In the night, the skull came to his dreams and said, “You are a fool to rejoice in the entanglements of life.” Chuang Tzu couldn’t believe this and asked “If I could return you to your life, you would want that, wouldn’t you?” Stunned by Chuang Tzu’s foolishness the skull replied, “How do you know that it is bad to be dead?” – Zhuangzi


What makes a great game? – Part 5: Home

Home is where the heart is. Home is where you hang your hat.

Cliche, but true. Home is that place we feel safe and secure, where we can rest, recuperate, relax. It’s where we reflect on what we’ve done, what we have yet to do, and for some it’s the only place we call our own. I’m going to touch upon a few of these “homes” I’ve picked up over the years in games (not specifically computer or console games though, as you’ll see shortly). Oh, yes, spoilers ahead. If you haven’t played these games yet, sorry. Deal with it.

One of the more recent (comparatively) homes I’ve picked up is the SR-1 Normandy. The nexus of all the events in the first Mass Effect game for the XBox 360 and PC, the Normandy was where I spent a great deal of time talking to my companions. In the ending of the game, she really shines. For the record, Joker is awesome. Spoiler warning for those who haven’t played the games yet (but if you haven’t, you should get around to it): the SR-1 Normandy meets her demise at the beginning of Mass Effect 2. It doesn’t matter how many times I see it, I will forever feel horror watching her break apart, watching my home get destroyed by some unknown aliens. Pour one out for the SR-1 Normandy, boys.

The SR-2 Normandy managed to be a more than adequate replacement for the original. Just watch the spoiler heavy introduction of the ship here on YouTube. That ship and my crew have been through a lot together. At the end of Mass Effect 2, the ship is really beat up (more or less depending on how much you upgraded her). It doesn’t matter how many times I go through the end-game, I always sit on the edge of my seat as the Normandy takes a beating… but dishes out a more serious one. I feel that the SR-2 was much more of a home than the original mostly because of the random conversations you could hear just walking past people. Further, the interactions between the two engineers are absolutely hilarious as well as the interaction between Joker and EDI. I reiterate that Joker is awesome. Just putting that out there. Both Normandy’s gave me a sense of security, a place to catch my breath, regroup, and get to know my fellow crew members. It’s where romances flourished and moral issues discussed. Where loyalties were secured. The Normandy had better be in Mass Effect 3 or Bioware is in for a world of hurt. I look forward to my next unique trip to this particular home… but in the meantime, a third play through of Mass Effect 2 is in order.

Ahh, the Ebon Hawk. The fastest ship in the galaxy that I happened to “acquire” on Taris about 3996 years before the Battle of Yavin. In Knights of the Old Republic, I battled the Sith while discovering the location of the Star Forge. I built up a group of incredible warriors and lasting friends. In fact, I even benefited from her in Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords when I “inherited” it from the Peragus Mining Outpost shortly before said outposts’ mysterious destruction. Except for a couple of times (invading Sith troopers, little gizka running all over the ship, the occasional Nar Shadda gang member) the Ebon Hawk was my place of refuge. It was where I could get grenades from Zaalbar, computer spikes from T3-M4, security spikes from Mission, or later, it was where I talked galactic economics with G0-T0 and helped Mandalore rebuild the Mandalorian people. The Star Wars universe was and still is a dangerous place and the Ebon Hawk was my one safe place in it. Got to love the Dynamic freighter.

Changing course just a little bit, the capital city of Naboo, Theed, became something of a home to me while playing Star Wars: Galaxies. It was where I got my start in the game and the universe and where I always aspired to hang out when I had a 56k modem. The hospital was always full of players needing wound points removed, the cantina was always full of entertainers and players looking for groups, the palace had quests, the hangar housed my starfighters, and everyone always knew where things were. Today, the legacy quest takes you straight through the city and the experience, while changed, is very similar. No longer is the hospital full of players, but the cantina is a recognizable waypoint on the path to getting the buffs necessary to survive many a quest, and you can still find people clustered out in front of the hangar, preparing to tackle their next space mission. There was a point not too far from the city (in fact, not far from the perspective of the above screen) where I sat and looked upon Theed in wonder. In 2003, the graphics cranked up, I saw a handful of waterfalls and, through the mist, the massive palace and just sat there for a minute going, “Holy crap, I’m there.” Why do I keep going back to play Galaxies every now and again? Because I can go THERE and see things that were once only in the movies or in the books and my imagination. However dangerous the wildlife outside the city of Theed, I always find a moment to look back in wonder whenever I’m there.

Shifting back to space craft for a bit longer, the Mon Calamari MC80 Star Cruiser Liberty was my home for the latter (and larger) portion of X-Wing Alliance. It’s where I spent many hours in the simulator tackling TIE Fighters to see how many I could swat from the sky in 20 minutes (got up to 186 after a lot of practice, with the first three minutes being 10 kills per minute). It was where I could stop, dry my hands, grab a drink, and prepare to dive into the next mission, the next skirmish. It was where I learned to make the X-Wing truly dance and where I learned to appreciate the raw speed of the A-Wing. The last of the Star Wars locations, I promise.

Speaking of flying, I spent a fair amount of time serving in the Confederation. Specifically, the Terran Confederation of Wing Commander. I count as my home every carrier I ever flew off of, especially the TCS Victory and the TCS Intrepid. I will, however, speak a little on each.

The TCS Tiger’s Claw, home for the first installment in the Wing Commander series. I didn’t fly from her until college, but the missions were as important as ever, required as much skill if not more than the later games. Safe speeds in an asteroid field were something I paid a great deal of attention to. I was thrilled to get the upgrade from the Hornet to the Scimitar, and even more so to experience the Rapier.

The TCS Concordia was where I encountered the extremely ornery Tolwyn (which gave context to my experiences in WC 3 and 4). Wing Commander 2 was a thrill to play, especially with all the controversy surrounding the Kilrathi pilot on board by the callsign of Hobbes. Later, when sabotage showed up and when I could finally prove to Tolwyn the existence of the Stealth fighters that trashed the beloved Tiger’s Claw, I experienced an amazingly deep and complex world where my home was constantly threatened by those pesky Cats.

I spent an inordinate amount of time on the TCS Victory. Better known as “Tin Can Sally”, I came to appreciate the varied pilots under my command and the amazing forward firepower of the Thunderbolt VII (with its “Sunday punch” torpedo). When Hobbes betrayed everyone, I was legitimately upset. I came to trust completely in Captain Eisen and reveled in an opportunity to show Flash exactly how we roll on the front lines of the conflict with the Kilrathi. I came to look forward to one day visiting Vaquero’s cantina and I valued the friendship of the cardshark Vagabond. Oh, and Maniac quickly became a favorite annoyance (“I bet you stay up late nights just polishing it huh?” “No, in fact, I get Majors to do that for me.”).

Wing Commander IV was an amazing ride that gave me two carriers to call home. The TCS Lexington wasn’t much of a home, so I’m not going to talk about it… mostly because it was my torpedo that took her out. I felt kind of bad about putting the girl down, but hey, Captain Paulson was a bit of a jerk about replacing Captain Eisen. Now, the BWS Intrepid, that was home for the game. When I wanted a lively discussion, I’d sit in on Panther and Hawk or watch Maniac and Dekker have it out. I loved flying the Banshee (Four lasers… where have I benefited from that array of weapons before?) and the Dragon was like a cheat code unto itself. The final cutscene where I flew into Washington, D.C. itself was incredible and I really felt sad that Tolwyn had fallen so far.

In Wing Commander Prophecy, I found myself calling the new supercarrier, TCS Midway, home. The fact that Maniac was still around was a bit of a plus, and humbling him was a bit of a pleasure. I still feel bad about not being able to save Dallas. This felt less like a home compared to the Victory and the Intrepid because there were only a couple of places to go on the Midway for a mere pilot. Specifically, in Wing Commander, there was the bar, the bunkroom, and the briefing room. Likewise (I think) for Wing Commander 2. Wing Commander 3 had 7 locations on the Victory I could visit (including the briefing room) and Wing Commander 4 had on the Lexington and Intrepid 5 locations each. Hm, I guess now that I think about it, Wing Commanders 3 and 4 were the anomalies. Oh well. By the time I was done with the Nephilim, the Midway and all her crew was home and family.

To round out the space faring ships for this truncated list, I introduce the USS Sovereign from Star Trek: Bridge Commander. The picture is of the Enterprise, but they’re the same class of ship. In Bridge Commander, I was originally in charge of the USS Dauntless, a Galaxy-class vessel similar to the Enterprise-D. After a short while, you’re transferred to the Sovereign and there you stay for the remainder of the game. You really don’t go anywhere in the ship aside from the bridge (a pity) but you come to rely on your crew after a fashion and find that your first officer isn’t so much of a cranky princess after a while. Fighting off the rogue Cardassian threat was an incredible introduction into the post-Next Generation/DS9/Voyager world of Star Trek. At least we didn’t have holodeck problems while we tried to figure out why stars were going nova a bit early.

Continuing on, I’ve included a location that I’ve never spent much time in, but I fought to preserve anyway. I’m referring to Vault 13 from Fallout. You spend the entire damn game trying to ensure the security and health of the members of the vault and in the end? You’re kicked out by the Overseer because you’re “tainted” by the outside world. *rolls eyes* That guy’s a real punk. Oddly enough, Fallout works perfectly on a Vista machine. Works without the CD too if you did a full install. Oh, and by the way, the Mutant threat? Closer to Vault 13 than anything else on the damn world map. *laughs* I remember reading somewhere that it was supposed to be the vault with the extra water chips instead of an extra Garden of Eden Kit. Whoops. By the way, the Vaults? Nothing but a terrible social experiment by the guys who built them. Yikes. Still, it was home back in the late 1990’s.

Another location that was introduced to me around the late 1990’s was Candlekeep. Located on the Sword Coast about halfway between Baldur’s Gate and the northern border of the nation of Amn, Candlekeep is one of the only locations in the Forgotten Realms where entrance can be secured by offering up a rare book. This was where I learned to play the game and I was grateful for the opportunity. This was also where I learned what THAC0 meant, as well as several of the ins and outs of the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons system. It’s also where my character lost their adoptive father and started on their quest for vengeance and understanding. If you will, this was my actual first introduction to Dungeons & Dragons and today, well, I try to find excuses to visit Candlekeep.

Next on this list is another Forgotten Realms location, Silverymoon. Silverymoon is often dubbed “the Gem of the North”. It is one of the few civilized places in the middle of the rough and untamed wilderness that is the North of Faerun. It has a rich cultural life and is renowned as a meeting place for all races that are morally inclined towards good. Why is this a home for me? My favorite and legendary Dungeons & Dragons character, the Psychic Warrior Juan Moore, lives there. He and his party of adventuring friends settled in Silverymoon and are well renowned for their capabilities. I won’t go on for long on this place, but whereas we don’t spend a lot of time AT home, I don’t think we could’ve picked a better location. All the amenities we need are right there in Silverymoon or just a “short” trip away to Waterdeep in the west.

Lastly, another D&D locale, the city of Stormreach in the setting of Ebberon. In Dungeons & Dragons Online, this is the epicenter for all of your quests and it’s where everyone winds up anyway. Can’t play the game without running through the streets of Stormreach. I’ve been around the Harbor and Marketplace so much, I can probably navigate them in my sleep. Some of the lower level dungeons are ridiculously well known too. *laughs*

These are some of the places I’ve gathered throughout my years of playing games. I’ve spent a great deal of time in each of these locations and I’m attached to some more than others. If I had to pick my favorite Wing Commander carrier though, it’s got to be the TCS Victory. Out of all the others, the Victory is more of a home to me, I know the people, I know the place, I’ll scramble in an Arrow any time to shoot down attacking Kilrathi Paktahn bombers and I’ll be more than happy to take out the offending Skipper missiles. Plus, it’s the only game where I can fly the Thunderbolt… and I love love loved having SIX forward guns.

For our homes, we’ll step up and fight, and nowhere like in these places have I ever been given such an opportunity to protect the home that shelters me… but for the most part, these ships can’t fly themselves. It’s the crew, the merchants, the characters that help the locations have personality and cause the personality of each one to come forth. When Colonel Blair reminded Admiral Tolwyn of this in Wing Commander 4, Tolwyn replied, “Quite, quite right. It is the men, isn’t it?”

Now for a last word on home: “The pleasant converse of the fireside, the simple songs of home, the words of encouragement as I bend over my school tasks, the kiss as I lie down to rest, the patient bearing with the freaks of my restless nature, the gentle counsels mingled with reproofs and approvals, the sympathy that meets and assuages every sorrow, and sweetens every little success — all these return to me amid the responsibilities which press upon me now, and I feel as if I had once lived in heaven, and, straying, had lost my way.” – Josiah Gilbert Holland

Until next time, never be afraid to go home again.

– Elorfin


Star Wars Galaxies: You can go home again

So, I haven’t made it a secret that I pay to play Star Wars Galaxies. I’ve been doing so since its release back in 2003 and I’ve not had cause to regret it.

Galaxies is a very unique game that I keep going back to over and over again (hence why I haven’t stopped paying for it). The attributes that keep bringing me back are part of the reason I’m doing this little project here. I find it funny that a lot of people just hate the game because of all the changes that have been foisted upon it. A long time ago (in my house, not in a galaxy far, far away) I told my Mom (after I’d tried Everquest at a friend’s house) that the only online game I’d pay to play would be Star Wars. It IS the only game I pay to play (my DDO account isn’t technically paid by me, so it still holds true). Even through the adjustments the gameplay has received over its long run, the game still keeps my interest and whereas I appreciate all the perspectives of those who’ve complained about said changes, they weren’t enough to shake me from continuing to enjoy the game. Sorry guys, but in my book, you’re pansies for quitting. Deal with it. (Disclaimer: for those  of you who just got bored with the game, that’s a perfectly valid reason for leaving and I appreciate the time you spent enjoying it. To everyone who’s left the game, I hope you remember it fondly because some of you are still talked about even today as legendary characters.)

In no other online game have I been able to have a house that’s part of a town where I can store my stuff that accumulates over the years. No, I’m not talking like Second Life or anything like that. I’m talking quest rewards and veteran rewards and crafted items. Every item in my house (the Mustafarian Bunker, actually) has a story behind it. What’s up with that suit of Katarn Armor? How about those animal heads mounted on the wall? Where’d you get this cool painting? Hell, even the house has a story (I got it as part of a preorder for Rage of the Wookiees).

Further, in no other game have I witnessed a mayoral race or even bonuses for having your house within a town’s boundaries (my home city provides a bonus to crafting while you’re in it).

Something else that keeps me coming back is the crafting system. It’s almost absurdly complex. First, you need to see what ingredients/materials you need to build what you’re building. Then, with “shopping list” in hand, you need to hunt down those ingredients either by surveying/sampling/harvesting or by purchasing from other players or (in some circumstances) building/buying components for the object you’re trying to build. While you do this, you need to ensure the quality of the ingredients as they relate to your finished product (resources all have statistics of their own with varying caps on those resources depending on what type of resource they are). Don’t forget to get some crafting buffs from an Entertainer and to eat/drink some food buffs! THEN you get to put the resources and components together  in a very nice interface (either click and drag or double-click). Next there’s the experimentation/prototype/schematic stage… this is where you can tinker with the object in production to make it better, turn it into a production schematic for a factory, or just build the damn thing. Lastly, some objects can have custom paint jobs and name changes. After all that, you can sell your products to other players on the in game bazaar terminal or through your own vendor or use the items yourself.

I love this crafting system. I’ve been using it for about a year now (out of my nearly 7 years playing the game) and I LOVE building weapons for people (especially ranged weapons). I’ve been called the “best weaponsmith in the guild” before, which I’m sure isn’t really the case. I like to credit my work ethic and my turnaround time. I ONLY take custom weapon orders and I’ll only build level 90 weapons (with very very few exceptions). I ask a lot of questions to ensure that the weapon I’m building them will actually be used and appreciated and that the customer will be pleased with the product. Depending on how much work I need to do, it takes me anywhere between 20 minutes to an hour to start and finish building a weapon. Part of my process is going through my stockpiled resources (metals, gasses, crystals, organic materials, etc.) and determining which ones I’m going to use via a mathematical formula that looks difficult but is actually rather easy to use. Hell, I made a forum post somewhere explaining the process to my guild members! I may repost it here in the future if only for my own posterity.

I take crafting for my customers very seriously. I appreciate the money they give me (I have a chronic under-charging issue, so I’m working on remedying that) and I appreciate the desire to have something hand made. I actually found I have to limit the orders I take to just a few in a single day because of how stressful it can be (I put myself under a lot of pressure to finish as quickly and efficiently as possible). I write down my shopping list and keep track of the resources I pull out of storage or the ground in order to keep everything straight. Honestly, this keeps me more interested and excited than combat most of the time.

One more thing that keeps me coming back? Space flight. I’m an X-Wing fighter pilot and I LOVE to fly in Star Wars. Recently they adjusted the space slayer collection system so that instead of hunting through every sector to find the kills I need to get the collection complete, I can just run a mission and they’ll come to waypoints that I get in my datapad. Then all I do is go to those designated waypoints and BAM! time to fight! I’m proud of my X-Wing, even though I know it’s not the BEST ship out there. Hey, it’s my baby and I’ve spent a lot of credits and time working on her. Even got her a custom paint job of red and gold. Whenever SOE adds something to the Space portion of the game, is precipitates a return from whatever hiatus I’ve been in. The last couple of days have been a balancing act between DDO, Galaxies, and Lunar thanks to the latest update.

I may go away from Galaxies for a couple of months at a time, but then I get this urge to play again. I say hi to my old friends (who are some of the best damn people in the world) and we get cracking. I churn out a couple of weapons, I fly a few missions, hell, I even run a few quests with the guild… and then another game or something from life steals my attention away and I disappear for a few weeks. I’ll always come back to Galaxies… it’s my home and I’ll keep paying to play until they turn the lights out (like at the end of Babylon 5, where Zack Allen says “I figured I’d be here ’til they turn the lights out.”).

I’m looking forward to Star Wars: The Old Republic (a hell of a lot, I’m excited!), but Galaxies is always going to be special to me and will always be worth an evening of play. I want to thank the Remnants of Mandalore (formerly of Corbantis, now on Chilastra) for being an amazing guild and for always welcoming me with obvious joy every time I return from one of my random vacations from the game. I’ll always return home, don’t you worry.

Until next time, may the Force be with you!

– Elorfin


The Approach – An Internal Dialogue

Okay, how in the world am I going to approach these games?

I think maybe I could do a couple of days of gameplay of the ones I can’t remember all that clearly. Some of these games I really haven’t touched in a long while (see Dungeon Runners… ooh, how am I going to write about that one?).

Hm… well, there’s a short list of games I definitely don’t want to play again for a reason or two (like I played it to death and the game makes me want to beat myself senseless if I tried to start a new character). Okay, there’s really only one game that makes me feel that way and that’s Ragnarok Online. Nothing against it, I just OVERPLAYED it. There is definitely a point where you just can’t play any more of a game… ugh… that was just… yeah. I’ll talk about that more when I get around to discussing Ragnarok Online.

I’m having issues figuring out which one to talk about first. Maybe I’ll just do them in alphabetical order (like that convenient list I put up, how convenient!). In choosing which order to talk about the games, I won’t play favorites (except when they actually ARE a favorite – see the ones I pay to play).

It’s going to be hard to get past the whole “honeymoon” period of gameplay for a couple of games. By that, I mean, there’s a sweet period where everything’s new and interesting and happy. Since I have actually tried these games before (well, except LOTRO) I should be able to skip the honeymoon period and just get right down to discussing what I like. I’d expect a turnaround time of about 2 days minimum in order for me to fiddle around enough with the game to experience enough of it to discuss. Oh, and I do have games I play with friends relatively regularly, so I’m going to be interspersing gameplay of these “review-ables” with my usual gameplay of Galaxies and DDO. Gotta get my money’s worth!

I think I’m going to start with 2Moons as soon as I can remember my login information and get it downloaded/installed/running okay.

For the record, it’s hard to watch YouTube clips while writing this. I should do something about that.

– Elorfin