A thoughtful and personal exploration of games

Posts tagged “Star Wars: The Old Republic

This thing is still here!

Hey everyone!

I know it’s been a while, but apparently I’ve been missing writing large blocks of text about games, so here I am!

A lot of life has happened in the last 6 years since I uploaded a post here. In that time, I’ve moved a couple of times, I got married, I got a betta fish who lived, died, and was replaced by a couple of snails, and I have a dog and he’s now almost 3 years old. Currently, I’m in the middle of a D&D game and writing this around my friends taking their turns while we fight a large water elemental rather ineffectually. I’m playing a rogue for the first time in a long time and so I’m extra ineffective.

Oh, there it goes, we finally killed it.

Anyway, I’m still playing games, still wondering why I like the things that I like, so there’s still some writing to do.

Lately, I’ve been playing Diablo III again. I know, old classic, but I’ve also dipped into Anthem, Octopath Traveler, Final Fantasy XIV, Star Wars: Squadrons, Elite Dangerous, and did some Until You Fall in VR the other day.

Oh, riiiight. Things have changed! I retired my laptop in June of 2019 and now have an Aurora R8 Alienware desktop and a big monitor, so yeah! Several years ago, I cancelled my sub to SWTOR and 6 months later picked up FFXIV. No regrets at all and that game has become almost a second home to me. I acquired a refurbished Oculus Rift VR headset in early June 2020 and I’ve been using it off and on to play Beat Saber and other games like Star Trek Bridge Crew. I’ve also acquired a HOTAS setup so I can play Squadrons in VR and have the full experience.

Anyway, our game is still going on, so I’d better focus on it!

Until next time!

– Thomas

P.S. “How in the world does a 33 Acrobatics check put me in the water?!” – Me, just now, in my D&D game.

It’s Been A While

Hey there folks, it’s been a while since I’ve had much of an opportunity to write. I haven’t been gaming exceptionally much of late and life is keeping me extraordinarily busy.

What I will mention is that in the last couple of months I’ve very much enjoyed the Diablo III update, the housing update to Star Wars: The Old Republic, and I’m playing Dragon Age II again.

On the D3 update: my character feels stronger than ever. My wizard is a joy to play and I’m often playing at Torment IV. The new equipment I find really encourages good strong looks at the stats and I appreciate tough decisions at high level regarding equipment.

For SWTOR: The housing system is a lot of fun. I spent an entire evening just decorating my main stronghold (the Nar Shaddaa sky palace). It’s really expensive to expand these strongholds and the Tatooine one is exorbitantly expensive. One of these days I’ll get back into it, I hope.

Tuesday, Borderlands The Pre-Sequel releases and I’m hoping everything goes smoothly regarding the free copy I got at PAX East back in April. I’m really looking forward to the story as well as the new characters and gameplay mechanics.

Later this month, Civilization Beyond Earth is dropping (on the 24th) and I’m very excited for that as well. I’m intentionally avoiding the videos and streams they’re releasing so that I can figure this stuff out on my own. Probably not the best idea I’ve had, but I don’t have much time for watching gameplay videos right now.

In Arena Commander, I’ve been spending time lately trying to improve my piloting skills. I’m pretty terrible, but I feel like I’m getting better all the time. Then again, when you’re the worst, all you can do is get better. I’m a bad shot with the gimbaled weapons removed from my 300i trainer, but I’m figuring it out. The main issue is that the Vanduul will change directions randomly after I fire, so it looks like I’m going to hit and then… nope. Oh well, like I said, I’ll figure it out eventually. I just want to get good at this game because when Star Citizen drops I want to be decent enough at it so I can get beyond the starting areas and out into the universe at large.

Speaking of universes, I’ve been considering investigating roleplaying games to see what their populations are. For example, older games, because of the limited space and capabilities of their platforms back then, have smaller observable and implied world populations than modern games. In Final Fantasy VI, there’s about 15 cities but maybe only a few hundred NPCs you can interact with and an implied few thousand actually in the world. In Star Wars: The Old Republic, there’s many thousands of NPCs and an implied number of millions or billions on some worlds thanks to the draw distance and such. I feel like saving the world or the universe is much less impactful when the world/universe isn’t very big or populated. Just a thought that’s been bugging me for a few years now.

However, it’s back to not blogging for a bit. Balancing school, work, and a social life takes up a significant portion of my time these days and I don’t necessarily have something to write about. Therefore, expect me when you see me.

Until next time!

– Thomas

P.S. “A wizard is never late, nor is he early, he arrives precisely when he means to.” – Gandalf

Coming Up

I’m going to have issues in the near future keeping up with everything that’s going on. Namely, gaming is going to have to take a back seat to work and school. Here’s what’s going on…

Currently I’m working nearly 40 hours a week, 9 to 5, Monday through Friday. Starting this Thursday, every Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday will have an evening class going from 7pm to nearly 10pm. I’ll have an indeterminate amount of weekly homework to do and my “social obligations” to keep up. As a result, I’m going to be having less and less time to game. All that said, here are the things I’m very much looking forward to…

Civilization: Beyond Earth

Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel

Any and all updates for Star Wars: The Old Republic

The upcoming patch for Diablo III

Now, the two game releases are coming in October and I’ve already got my copy of Borderlands coming to me (courtesy of the free copy I got at PAX East from the fine folks at 2K and Gearbox) and I need to pre-order Civ on Steam.

The upcoming things for SWTOR and Diablo III are big content updates that excite and thrill me (namely Galactic Strongholds and patch 2.1.0 respectively).

Anyway, I’ve got plenty of things to look forward to and in the meantime, I can’t guarantee having enough to talk about here. If I miss a Monday here or there, I hope it’s understood I’m just busy and very possibly have nothing to share.

Until next time!

 – Thomas

P.S. “Better to wear out than to rust out.” – Bishop Cumberland


Customer Service Follow-up

This past Thursday I submitted what I thought was a second customer service ticket in Star Wars: The Old Republic. Basically it solved my issue.

It turns out that the same bug that ate my cartel coins also probably interfered with my ticket submission. So, waiting until Thursday to file a second ticket probably wasn’t the best of ideas.

That said, Friday morning I had a response from customer service. They had refunded me my 600 cartel coins and informed me about what had probably happened to my first ticket.

I’m so glad that I was able to get through to CS after a while. I understand that they’re hardworking people and they don’t get a lot of gratitude (mainly because there’s not any real feedback they can get unless they hang out on the forums and that place is the land of negativity). I love how quickly they were able to resolve things for me and I really appreciate the help. I didn’t want to be frustrated with SWTOR and I’m glad I’m no longer.

I went and bought my 13th character slot on Saturday and then went and bought an unlock for a friend… and totally forgot that it takes a day and a half to cool down before I could trade it. Oops.

Anyway, I’ve been playing my Trooper Vanguard in SWTOR lately and I’d like to bang out some more of Taris tonight.

Until next time!

– Thomas

P.S. “Delighted customers are the only advertisement everyone believes.” – Ron Kaufman

The Customer Service Tango

I was poking at Star Wars: The Old Republic this past Saturday, and I decided that I wanted to mess around in the character creator without deleting any of my people. Well, as it turns out I had 12 characters and had to buy a new slot. Not a problem. With my monthly stipend of 600 cartel coins, a new character slot was only a few clicks away… or so I had thought.

I opened the Cartel Market, found the Additional Character Slot unlock item, and clicked Buy Now. I got a tiny error message (that I don’t remember what it specifically said) and then nothing happened. Except I still lost 600 cartel coins. There was nothing in my Unclaimed Items page, nothing in my inventory, and I still had 12 character slots. I was confused.

So, I logged out and back in. No change. I switched characters. Nope. I poked around a bit longer but then filed a customer service ticket in game. Alas, upon submitting the ticket, it vanished. Apparently there’s a bug that makes your tickets disappear from your Help Ticket History upon submission. I don’t know if it went through and I don’t remember exactly what I said. Lovely.

Let me say that I absolutely love Star Wars: The Old Republic. I have a six month subscription and I’ve had it since the game launched back in December 2011 (well, technically since January 2012 but that’s because I got a free month with the collector’s edition). I understand that bugs happen and it’s okay. I also understand that customer service may have not gotten to my ticket yet or it may have been eaten by the system. These things happen from time to time and I’m not sore about it.

However, I did pay for something that I didn’t get and that irks me on a more visceral level. So… I think I need to make a forum post tonight about it. I gave them Sunday and Monday to get back to me about it, so now it’s time to hit the forums and see what happens.

Watch as they get back to me as I write my forum post.

Until next time!

– Thomas

P.S. “The best customer service is if the customer doesn’t need to call you, doesn’t need to talk to you. It just works.” – Jeff Bezos

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…


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.

For the Sake of Chaos

There’s a bunch of games now where you can be either a “good guy” or a “bad guy”. Like in Dragon Age or Mass Effect where you can treat people pretty poorly or in Star Wars: The Old Republic where you can fight for either the Republic or the Empire and then choose to be either Light Side or Dark Side with your conversation choices.

What an odd age we live in where we can consciously choose to be good in conversations and then walk a few feet away and hack innocents to bits in the name of a few gold pieces and some experience points.

I was playing DC Universe Online last night as a villain working for Circe (initially) and part way through the game I started to wonder why the “bad guys” were still being bad when there’s a supposedly global invasion by Braniac going on that threatens everyone. I mean, I understand the whole power struggle going on between the goodies and the baddies, that’s pretty straightforward, but why is Harley kidnapping Robin when there’s obviously more important things to do? Are the villains just more willing to take advantage of any opportunity for personal gain over the heroes? Furthermore, why are the heroes spending so much time dealing with the villains? I can totally understand the Gotham City PD asking for help with drug dealers by the docks, but why are the “main” characters so involved?

I suppose a fair portion of the game is building up your powers so that you’re on par with the major threats the heroes want you to deal with eventually. The occasional run in with the heroes is just them going about their business and responding to situations and “hey, you’re new so I’m going to give you a hand with Bane” or whatever. The villains though just boggle my mind. Circe takes on Doctor Fate and the Teen Titans in order to break Trigon out and unleash him on the world… but why? Is Trigon going to contribute more to fighting Brainiac than the heroes you beat up to free him? Can his contributions even be guaranteed? Or is this because Circe just loves to mess things up and really doesn’t care about the welfare of the world as a whole? If the world is a smoking ruin, would she still have any interest in it or does she have somewhere else to go to muck about?

It’s possible that I don’t really fathom chaos for the sake of chaos. I see the point after a fashion, but I’m limited. I enjoy rules and restrictions (after a fashion as well) but chaos at the expense of everyone and everything is wasteful to my eyes. It’s like the self destructive nature of the Sith Empire. When you sit down to play as an Inquisitor or a Warrior in SWTOR, you can see the issues at their core: you have an elite order who considers everyone but themselves expendable and, even then, considers anyone in power to be useless the moment someone else apparently exceeds their power. It’s exceptionally depressing to wear the mantle of a Sith only to realize that you can’t ever just kick back and enjoy life for a moment lest someone decide that you’re entertaining a weakness and has you killed. I feel like that’s the only reason I never truly enjoyed playing as my Inquisitor: all her “friends” feared her or were plotting to kill her once she let her guard down and so weren’t really her friends. I didn’t get that personal attachment to my companions that I had as a Bounty Hunter or a Smuggler.

Maybe I’m not supposed to understand it. Fear for the sake of fear? Chaos for the sake of chaos? I can comprehend causing fear as a tool. There’s that fear of punishment to keep people following the laws after all and in D&D, intimidate is a skill that can be a great tool in a variety of situations and relies primarily on fear to get things done. I can get behind a little chaos since 100% order is infringing and irritating but 10% order just isn’t enough.

Maybe it comes down to that adage about everything in moderation. A little chaos here and there isn’t too bad, but in the DC Universe you have these people dedicated to a life of making chaos for everyone: poisoning the water supply, stealing the money from the bank, blowing up the train tracks. They see it as amazing good fun, all that chaos, never seeming to recall that they also drink the water and deposit money in the bank and rely on the train for access. In Star Wars you have the Sith offing people just because they’re irritated or what-have-you. It’s certainly not as extreme in Star Wars as it is in DC and mainly because DC characters are exaggerations of these things. Superman is a paragon of do-gooding and the Joker is the king of chaos. Or probably more like the trickster god of “putting something toxic in your drinking water just so you’ll die with a smile on your face”. He’s niche like that.

Is it the whole “live fast, die hard” thought process? Living in the now, with zero considerations, for tomorrow we die? I don’t know.

Anyway, I’m not sure what my point was with all this, but these were some of the thoughts going through my mind last night as I was converting people labeled “innocent” into demons for Trigons’ army. Their screams really bothered me (as do all screams of pain), but I pushed past it so I could get onto other things. Regardless of my personal qualms with the goals set before me, I’m having fun with the fairly visceral gameplay of whacking things with a giant two-handed weapon.

Until next time!

– Elorfin

P.S. “So that was Gotham’s East End. It’s a dark and dismal place… and I hope you enjoyed touring it!” – Booster Gold

Gaming Outside of my Comfort Zone

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time!

– Elorfin

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

Gaming Inside of my Comfort Zone

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time!

– Elorfin

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

A Whole New World… of Warplanes

This past week I’ve been hopping in, flying around, and typically getting shot down in the recently made live game World of Warplanes.

Developed by those folks who brought you World of Tanks (I have yet to try it, but give me time) and who are working on World of Warships (LET ME LOVE YOU LIKE YOU DESERVE! Ahem), World of Warplanes is a very very beautiful, quick to pick up, extremely difficult to play PvP game.

Matches are typically 15 v. 15 and you can fly with and against planes from any of the five nationalities provided: U.S., U.S.S.R., Germany, Japan, and U.K. There are currently three general categories of planes that play pretty differently from each other: Fighters, Heavy Fighters, and Attack Aircraft. Every nations planes flies differently from each other and each generation of planes is also different from those that came before.

It’s pretty friendly to start. I started with a Tier 1 biplane from each nation and was able (through some trial and error) to figure out what to do and how to get things done.

Also, my friend ridicules me pretty regularly about my affection for the Imperial system of measurement when he’s so used to Metric. I just prefer my way to his, so nyah.

I shared some things about the game in the first part of my weekly video, so that’ll be in the P.S. portion below. The last portion of the video is the recent release of Galactic Starfighter for Star Wars: The Old Republic. It plays kind of similarly.

Well, I’d like to go get shot down a few more times… oh! Let’s see what my stats are after playing the game for a week.

WorldOfWarplanes 2013-12-09 15-09-28-09

Yeah, I wasn’t kidding about getting shot down most of the time. I currently have a 23% survival rate. That goes with my 57% win rate. I’m not the best pilot by any means, but for some reason I’m having fun, so it’s a win for me!

Until next time!

– Elorfin


Stepping Back Into MMOs

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time!

– Elorfin

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

A Little Gaming Here, A Little Gaming There

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

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

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

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

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

– Elorfin

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

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!

My Let’s Plays

I’ve really been enjoying my Let’s Play videos. It’s a fundamental nature of who I am though. I love to share my experiences, either by showing people what I’m doing or by relating the story of what happened.

With my Let’s Plays, I get to let the game speak for itself. You get to experience things with me as I’m experiencing them (more or less). My reactions are absolutely genuine.

Thus far I’ve done several Let’s Play series. Let’s have a look:

Star Wars: The Old Republic – Bounty Hunter Story-Only: This 84-part series is my entire experience playing as the Chiss Bounty Hunter Saya’fida in Star Wars: The Old Republic. From beginning to end, every Bounty Hunter specific story mission and all the companion conversations. I made a real bond with this character and the experience of making these videos is something I really enjoyed. Sometimes I like to sit and play through a few videos now and then. The memories in video form are something that I treasure.

Star Wars: Republic Commando: This 38-part series is an entire run through of Republic Commando, one of my most favorite squad-based first person shooters. The story is wonderful, the combat straight-forward, and the characters are my brothers in arms. I even got to express my gratitude to Raphael Sbarge at PAX East 2013 for his portrayal of “Scorch” in the game and got his signature.

The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition: A 25-part series of the classic introduction to the Monkey Island series by beloved LucasArts, I didn’t provide much commentary because I genuinely believe that the game speaks for itself. A real favorite of mine.

Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge: A 23-part series of the sequel to The Secret of Monkey Island, I had a bit more fun with this one as I couldn’t entirely remember it like I did the previous installment. Also, I used a walkthrough. I’m not sorry.

Currently I’m doing a Let’s Play of XCOM Enemy Unknown, the 2012 update to the 1994 classic that helped define my gaming experience growing up. I’m thoroughly enjoying myself and to date I’ve uploaded 39 episodes. They’re not in playlist form yet, but as soon as I’m done with this playthrough, I’ll be making a playlist and sharing. For fun, here’s the traumatic Episode One.

I’m still contemplating what to do a Let’s Play of when I’m done with XCOM. I have a couple of horrible ideas (I don’t think anyone wants to sit through a Let’s Play of Civilization IV or Sins of a Solar Empire) and a couple of ideas that might work out (Star Trek Online, Neverwinter, another story-only of Star Wars: The Old Republic).

I truly enjoy doing Let’s Plays and I wish I could make that a full time job or something. Alas, I don’t think I’m interesting enough to swing a Rooster Teeth style experience. If you have any recommendations for a Let’s Play that you think I might enjoy or something, leave a comment and I’ll consider it!

Until next time!

– Elorfin

P.S. “Shared pain is lessened; shared joy, increased — thus do we refute entropy.” – Spider Robinson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time!

– Elorfin

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

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

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


Burnout is defined on Wikipedia (I know, reliable source and all) as a period of long-term exhaustion and diminished interest in work. It occurs most frequently in me when I play a game too much in too short a period of time.

As of late, I’ve burned out on two games: Star Wars: The Old Republic and Neverwinter.

On SWTOR, it was a total burnout where I just have zero interest in playing the game right now. With Neverwinter, it’s a lesser burnout where I’m willing to hop in every now and again to do professions (thank you Gateway for making this less of a hassle) and to play around a bit here and there.

Neverwinter is still a fun game but I find myself getting lag locked in places. Lag lock is the term I’m coining here (yes it’s mine now) to cover that situation when you’re moving through a zone and your character stops and can’t move due to loading or lag. It also covers when I’m trying to rotate my camera and the game just won’t go because there’s so much going on. Lag lock can occur pretty regularly to me in Neverwinter, especially in the Protector’s Enclave around the Market, Sgt. Knox, and the invoker lady. It’s one of the contributing factors to my burnout because I get rather frustrated with having to fight my way through it.

I’ve experienced lag lock in a wide number of games over the years including (but certainly not limited to) Star Wars: The Old Republic, Star Wars Galaxies, Mass Effect 3 multiplayer, and Star Trek Online. It regularly occurs when there’s a great number of players around, so heavily populated areas can cause this lag lock. It’s probably happening more today thanks to my old video chipset (AMD has stopped releasing driver updates and are now popping out individual issue patches that I’m not interested in as yet).

This comes down to a conclusion that I was afraid of: it’s about time I get a new machine. Fact is, money’s tight (when isn’t it?) and there’s two kinds of machines I’m interested in: one is a pie-in-the-sky “desktop replacement machine” that’s going to cost a lot but will last me a long time and the other is what I’m calling the “compromise model” where it’s kind of the midpoint between what I have now and what I really want. The “compromise model” is plenty good enough to do what I want while not lasting nearly as long as the pie-in-the-sky model. My current laptop has been kicking around for almost five years under my deft fingertips and she’s certainly seen better days. Also, my warranties run out in less than two months.

Turns out that I’m not the only thing that can experience burnout. If I can get a new machine soon, I will. If not, I’ll try to get by like usual. I am, in fact, quite tired of just getting by though. I deserve to see these worlds at maximum settings, to play in beautifully rendered settings and watch the digitally created grass blow in the fictional winds of whatever world my avatar has set foot on today. I deserve to have SHADOWS and WATER REFLECTIONS. My “make do” engine is nearing its own burnout.

We’ll see what happens.

Until next time!

– Elorfin

P.S. “I would rather be ashes than dust! I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry-rot. I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet. The proper function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them. I shall use my time.” – Jack London

Sprinting from Start to Finish – Star Wars: The Old Republic

Last night I hit level 51 and the end of Corellia AND the end of the Sith Inquisitor storyline in Star Wars: The Old Republic. It was good fun.

Seriously, I had a lot of fun playing my Sorcerer. By the time I finished my storyline, I didn’t have any companion storylines finished, one companion had yet to be around for 1000 kills (I was having trouble staying alive so, sorry Talos), and I’m pretty good at the whole “lightning lightning everywhere” approach to combat. So, while there’s still stuff to do (Ilum, Makeb, etc.) I need to take a break from the daily gameplay.

I started Ni’luri’aria on Tuesday, April 16th, and finished her on Sunday, April 28th. So, 51 levels in less than two weeks. Sounds about right, considering I hit level 22 in two days and after the first couple of worlds the level curve slows quite a lot.

I was disappointed (but not entirely surprised) to find out that the devs had removed the advanced gear quests that gave a free set of level 50 equipment. Well, one gave a free set of PVP armor and the other gave a free pile of Tionese crystals so you could buy a full set of PVE armor (almost, they gave 99 and you needed 100). So, I’m cool with this, I just needed to start saving my planetary commendations earlier than I did. I needed about 154 to fully trick myself out in the new level 50 item modifications and I had 68 last night. What I did was I maxed out both my focus and my lightsaber, my belt, and my bracers. Then I hit the auction hall and bought some pretty well priced armorings (10k per? Yes please!) for the rest of my equipment and hunted down some other mods (mods are always unfortunately priced on the Galactic Market so I didn’t get any). Oh, I also grabbed a pair of level 50 lightsaber crystals.

Speaking of equipment, I must’ve been in the mid 20’s when I decided to focus on critical rating. At level 51, my critical rating is such that I currently critically hit about 40% of the time (I think it’s 40.81% right now). When I DO critically hit, I do an extra 77% damage. Not going to lie, it’s super nice.

My strategy with the equipment was to go for all custom stuff early on and just replace the item modifications as I went. It worked remarkably well since they piled all the planet specific commendations into the same “planetary commendation” pool. Also, they kicked up the max you could carry to 100, so that’s a great thing. This allowed me to take the equipment for my companion of the day as the quest reward or the commendation if that choice wasn’t available or sucked really bad.

A small note on the ending of the Sith Inquisitor storyline: while it’s really awesome to become… what I became (hah, no spoilers here!), it has a much less sentimental finish than say the Bounty Hunter or Smuggler ending. At the end of those, I was proud, excited, and sad all at the same time. At the end of this one though, I was mostly proud, but determined and feeling like there was still a ton of work to be done. I’m not going to miss my Sorcerer’s companions the way I definitely miss Mako and crew (also Corso and crew). It’s weird.

While I’m glad for the experience of playing a Sorcerer beginning to end, I’m kind of relieved it’s over. I need a break from SWTOR again and it’s just in time for Neverwinter to become available to the masses tomorrow. Also, I need to start another Let’s Play and I’ve chosen XCOM Enemy Unknown as my next self-inflicted injury. I’ve decided that I’ll play through on Normal difficulty and with Ironman mode active. I think I’ll make the videos about 20 minutes long (30’s too long, 10 too short for XCOM) and we’ll see if I lose or not. I hope I win. I’ll either start recording today or Wednesday (since Monkey Island 2 ends on Thursday).

So, until next time!

– Elorfin

P.S. “I am the future of the Sith Order, and I intend to reshape it in my image. The Empire and the Sith belong to me.” – Ni’luri’aria, aka Darth Occlu

P.P.S. By the way, I finished the game pretty neutral but leaning light side. Net total, positive 550 points or so. I actually hit light side 1 at some point, but that changed pretty shortly thereafter.

Inquisitor? I’m still getting to know her…

Since Tuesday afternoon, I’ve been playing one character in Star Wars: The Old Republic – my Sith Inquisitor turned Sorcerer, Ni’luri’aria. She’s a Lethan Twi’lek (red skinned) with tattoos on her face and lekku (head tails) and she has purple eyes (to match the lightning coming from her fingers). Here, have a picture from earlier in her career…

swtor 2013-04-18 13-15-34-85

She’s level 34 now, so obviously this was taken a few days ago. Also, as you can see, I have the graphics turned down because my computer is old. Apparently my three most recently played characters all have apostrophes in their names, are female aliens, and are all Imperial. Huh, how about that.

My first real Inquisitor (I’ve had two others that were kind of false starts), she’s been a ton of fun to play and I finished Chapter 1 last night. I’ve been training her up the Lightning skill tree, so there’s lots of double-firing of abilities going on. Further, she’s been using mostly orange equipment (customizable pieces) so that I could save money on that sort of stuff. I’ve been taking advantage of the newly revised Planetary Commendation system and purchasing armorings, hilts, mods, and enhancements as needed. So, while her appearance isn’t changing much at all, she’s definitely keeping up with what her level allows. Also, thanks to the pre-order bonus for Rise of the Hutt Cartel, she’s able to train in the field courtesy of the holographic Hutt trainer, Dr. Oggurobb. This drastically minimizes the wait on keeping up with my skills and reduces my traveling around to hit up my class trainer.

I’ve been playing her with a fair amount of whimsy. When a light or dark decision pops up, I choose whichever one floats my boat at that time. Thus far, she’s been stuck in the neutral realm of things. Last I checked she was leaning light but only barely with something like 2000 light side points but 1850 dark side points or whatever (it’s narrowly above a net zero score). It’s fun and I’m looking forward to seeing which way she eventually winds up. I don’t especially care about going fully one way or the other, I mean, being Sith, it’s mostly whimsy as is.

I’ve just arrived in orbit over Taris (last night) and so I’m looking forward to finding out first hand what this ruined world has in store for me. Me, I hope I can handle it. From her perspective, well, best get out of her way or you’ll receive a mighty shock (she doesn’t have much in the way of patience for people who beat around the bush or are generally annoying and that includes most NPCs that you can fight).

Until next time!

– Elorfin

P.S. “Murder and mayhem await!” – Ni’luri’aria

SW:TOR-ing It Up

This past weekend I jumped back into Star Wars: The Old Republic. No, I didn’t really touch the new content of Makeb, but I did collect some of the new commendations (that replaced all the old ones), I maxed out my crew skills on Saya’fida (Slicing, Treasure Hunting, and Scavenging), I ran around some planets getting lore entries and collecting achievements, and I finally was able to do the very last space mission, The Ascendancy Barrier/The Impossible Sector and I’m able to do it reliably.

The sense of relief late Friday night that I could do that final space mission was palpable. As soon as I finished it on Saya’fida, I switched to my other 50, Zyphus, and did it for him. It was GLORIOUS and the daily reward is WORTH IT: a lump of experience, an item for the new reputation system, a pile of fleet commendations, and FOUR of the new Classic Commendations (which will certainly help get me new equipment).

A note on the new legacy achievement system: it’s not entirely without issue. They have some tasks they need to remove from several of the space achievements in order to make them, I don’t know, DOABLE. There’s some objectives that cannot be done at all, and no, this isn’t just because I can’t do them, there’s literally no way to do them. There’s no communications tower in Fondor Escort to blow up, so unless they add one (unlikely), they’re going to have to pull that line out of the achievement requirements.

Also, all of the exploration categories per planet seem to have a higher cap by 10 points than what’s currently able to be done. For example, getting all the lore, bestiary, datacron, and location entries would net you 70 points while the category maximum is 80 points. I’m not sure if they did that intentionally in order to leave room for more stuff or if that was just an accident.

Oh, they could give achievement points to the Pets category, that’d be cool. Also, if they could make the PAX 2012 Taun Faun available to those of us who weren’t paying attention or were unable to attend, that’d be great. I’m a bit of an achievement hunter when it comes to MMOs, but I gravitate to the ones that are easier to get more than not. I do recognize that I’m going to need to take advantage of my last couple of character slots to make new characters and grind out the starter planet kills. No problem as I enjoy it and the new characters would benefit from the experience points and loot more than my level 50’s would. Also, some lore entries and several achievements are only available to certain classes in the game, so you do have to play every class in order to get all the achievements. Some classes more than once (I’m looking at you, Sith Warrior).

Anyway, I’m excited by the new achievement system. It’s really comprehensive and once they iron out the existing issues (probably in a patch later this week if we’re lucky) I think my achievement point score will bounce up overnight. Oh, a small thing… certain achievements award a few cartel coins! That’s ALWAYS welcome since they started adding cool things to the Cartel Market that I actually want!

Oh, and the space missions? So much fun for me. Grade 7 space equipment for the win!

Until next time!

– Elorfin

P.S. “Corrected an issue that could cause a crash to desktop directly after clicking “Play”.” – 2.0.0a Patch Notes for Star Wars: The Old Republic, dated 4/10/13.

Gaming Diet

My gaming diet has been pretty sparse lately.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Elorfin

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

Whacking Things With A Stick – Satisfaction In Gameplay

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time!

– Elorfin

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

Deciding on a Game to Play

Now that I’ve finished my Bounty Hunter playthrough of Star Wars: The Old Republic, I’ve been a little lost as to what to do next. I’ve got a lot of great recommendations from my viewers, but I’m torn. Here’s a few of the ideas for what to play next…

Planescape: Torment – brilliant idea. I’m just not sure if I’ll be able to put up with it long enough to beat it. I remember it being kind of hard. I’d be willing to buy this again.

Baldur’s Gate – also a great idea, but I’d have to buy it again and I’m not sure I’m willing to do that. I beat this back in the day.

Star Wars: The Old Republic – this time as a Male Jedi Knight or a Male Sith Inquisitor. That’s a great idea and extremely tempting, but there’s a spoiler concern I ignored when I did the Bounty Hunter that I’m feeling a lot more these days.

Mass Effect – this is another brilliant idea, but I would probably trim out all the side quests. Stick to primary story and stuff. I’d have to pay even more attention to what I was doing though because, well, things aren’t as clearly defined as they are in SWTOR. Hey, it’s either that or have a full 40-80 hours of gameplay put up on YouTube… and that’s just the FIRST game.

Lord of the Rings Online – not a bad thought, but I’m not willing to make a new character. I did the first part of the game TOO MANY TIMES. That’s my fault, but hey, that’s how it goes. If I do show anything, it’d just be me doing random things at level 66. I highly doubt that would be interesting.

The Secret World – I see the allure here of wanting to see a bit of Let’s Play here, but again, it’d be a spoiler issue AND I don’t own the game.

Civilization – Uh… no. *laughs*

Blood Bowl: Chaos Edition – I don’t like football enough, sorry.

Those are all the game requests. There was one for a series of snapshots of different games until Neverwinter comes out (uh, that’s going to be a while) and there was one request for reviews on books, shows, movies, etc. and that’s also a perfectly valid desire.

I’m leaning toward a couple of these and I’m far from making up my mind.  Maybe SWTOR, Torment, or some other game. Mostly I’m just thrilled that I have viewers that give a damn about what I put up. In the meantime? I guess I’ll talk to my camera.

Until next time!

– Elorfin

P.S. “The difficulty in life is the choice.” – George Moore

No Disintegrations – Finishing a Bounty Hunter in Star Wars: The Old Republic

Back at the tail end of October 2012, I started posting a series of videos of me playing my Chiss Bounty Hunter Saya’fida. I only shared the Bounty Hunter’s story missions and companion conversations. Now, all that is over, at least until the Hutt Cartel expansion comes out in a couple of months. I have a few thoughts to share about finishing up the Bounty Hunter though…

I wasn’t entirely thrilled with how Mako’s story ends. I kind of thought there would be a bit more closure than there was. Instead we get a bit how Izak wants to talk to Mako later and then the very next (and last) conversation we have with her is about how cool we think each other is. I really hope they flesh out the tail end of that conversation soon. I’d love to find out why there was more than one Mako running around and what was up with Project 32 or whatever it was called. Mako is hands down one of my favorite companions in the game and she was a joy to have on hand for my adventures.

Now that I’m playing end-game content (Flashpoints and Operations), I realized that I really should have gone up a different skill tree. In hindsight, all the fights were taking a lot longer than they needed to because I wasn’t set up for all out DPS (damage per second) but more focused on staying alive. It worked out okay, but now that I’ve since respecialized Saya’fida into a DPS build, she’s exceptionally deadly. I have a couple of friends who I play with now and she’s really shining.

I’m thinking of either showing how to get the Datacrons in the game or soloing some Flashpoints just for the opportunity to show off how she is now. There’s maybe seven flashpoints she can easily solo and there’s a few that I’ve never done. I’m actually feeling like I’d enjoy recording a Black Talon run today.

All that said, now that I’m done, I’m not sure what else to do. I would like to play through the game with the Force-using classes in the game and overall I have 6 classes left to beat the game with (seeing as I beat it with the Smuggler prior to the Bounty Hunter playthrough). Right now I’m having a bit too much fun playing my awesome Saya’fida though.

When the current Let’s Play series is over (the final episode goes up on Wednesday) I’ll play around with making a playlist out of it all. Then… we’ll see. Saya’fida won’t go away any time soon. She’s a joy to play and I’m proud of what I’ve done.

Until next time!

– Elorfin

P.S. “You may not know how to handle a blaster, but you’re prepared to die for what you believe in. That’s good enough for me.” – Saya’fida to Supreme Chancellor Janarus