Going Without

I’m just a touch early with this, but I’m gonna be busy and/or hungover the rest of the weekend, so I’m posting it now.

 

Nim over at Ankh=Life posted a Blog Azeroth Shared Topic that works rather well for me, so I just had to respond to it. She asked what other people do when WoW is unavailable. Over the summer, after introducing Sharon’s mom to, and subsequently addicting her to WoW, we started having latency problems. Just one of us on would sometimes see lag near 1k ms, with all three of us on it would sometimes spike to 2-3k ms. This pretty much made WoW completely unplayable, and lasted for 3-4 months. Those months sucked, however we found ways to fill our massive amounts of newfound free time.

 

For starters, my Xbox 360 stopped filing missing persons reports on me. Found myself playing a fair amount of World at War, Modern Warfare 2, and Dragon Age. It also sparked an interest in finding 360 games that Sharon and I could play together with local multiplayer. Soul Caliber 4, Forza Motorsport 3, Left 4 Dead 2,  and Guitar Hero have all been tried, haven’t found one yet we can agree on, besides GH.

 

Netflix watch Instantly. Our lag issues were problems with response times and timeouts, not bandwidth, so we were still able to watch movies and TV on Netflix and other streaming video. Let’s see, there was just about all of the new Dr. Who, Penn and Teller’s Bullsh*t, all of Battlestar Galactica, various stand-up and documentaries, various zombie movies, Behind the Mask(awesome, awesome movie), all of Whitest Kids U Know, and all of Weeds. Finishing an entire tv series(or at least up to what had currently been aired) and going “So, now what?” was not an uncommon problem.

 

Learning to play the guitar. My in-laws are both guitar players, and have a fair few kicking around. With all of that extra free time on my hands, I decided to try picking up guitar. Used a website called guitartricks.com, and it worked fairly well, although I’ve stalled out on it recently due entirely to my lack of finding time to practice. I’m likely going to pick up an electric from a pawn shop and see about taking some actual lessons in the near future.

 

Develop a social life. This one has actually had long-term effects, aka friends. Before the Dark Time of no WoW, going out with friends and whatnot tended to be scheduled around raid nights. Sad, I know. Now, playing WoW is happening around hanging out with friends, and it’s definitely a change for the better. I’m even having a party tomorrow night, and there will be people there who…wait for it….aren’t in my guild! Craziness! As a side note, screw turning 30.

 

And, finally, doing all of the above spending time together, facing each other. This one more or less speaks for itself. Playing WoW together was kind of “our thing” that we did together. However, sitting across from each other, talking on vent with guildmates, probably not the healthiest together activity in the world. Don’t get me wrong, we still do it, but it’s not primary anymore.

 

Jesus, this almost seems to have come across as a WoW Anonymous type of deal. We do still play, and I enjoy it very much, it’s just that a break from the game seems to have given a bit of perspective on it, and a bit more moderation.

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I return! And a review of Star Trek Online

And so, crawling from the deepest muck-filled tubes of the internet, I return to the blogosphere. What kept me away so long, other than my proven track record of not posting with anything resembling regularity? A combination of things, really. Moving out of state, moving in with my fiancee’s family, massive lag issues keeping me out of WoW for months, but mostly, a lack of anything to say. Thankfully, for the two of you who will read this(I can be optimistic), now I have something to say.

 

Space: the final frontier. To boldly go where no other MMO has gone before, and make it just…so…blah.

 

We’ll start with the good. Space combat is fun, if a tad bit much spacebar spam, and some tactics do come into play, especially(but not only) during space combat pvp. It would be nice if there were multiple classes of the newb ship, or the grind to get to the second tier of ships was shorter, but hey, very minor thing.

I absolutely love the concept of having a built in 5-man group using bridge officers and security(red shirts) while soloing. The AI is decent, and you have the ability to control the NPCs to some extent.

Aaaaaaaand that’s pretty much it for the good. Sadly, and with heavy hearts longing for our one chance to bring the wonderfully vivid, imaginative world of Star Trek interactively into our living rooms, we move on to the bad.

 

Sector block travel, the way you get from system to system, is painfully slow. I understand there needs to be travel time, but it just feels sluggish and boring.

Ground missions, and really most missions in general, are extremely cookie cutter. Go here, kill guys, collect loot, beam out. Go here, interact with five objects, beam out. And when the missions aren’t repetetive, they’re downright annoying. Go here, talk to planetary representative. They need 10 shield generators. Have fun wading through possibly multiple sector blocks to get the needed items.

And, quite possibly the worst offender, the Briar Patch. This is a system filled with explosive gas that makes full impulse(fast movement, major penalty that takes time to diminish to attack, shields, and auxiliary power which affects turn rate, some special abilities), impossible. You have to take out ten turrets and some enemy ships, then storm a base. Gas clouds spawn all over that, if any weaponsfire happens near them, causes them to explode for ridiculous damage that bypasses shields to anything within 4km, which is kinda big(max weapon range is 10km). At times useful for taking out turrets and ships, more often than not you will find yourself blown up. And sent back to the entrance, because regardless of the map being somewhat large, and slow to traverse, unlike many(most?) other space missions, you have only the one respawn location. Just terrible mission design, completely lacking in polish. And the only way to really do the mission in any reasonable amount of time is to fly above the gas clouds, where half the turrets can’t target you, which just feels cheaty.

Murder, Death, Kill. So many of the missions involve busting a phaser cap in Klingons, or Klingon allies, it’s frigging ridiculous. Yes, we get it, the Federation and Klingon Empire are at war. But outside of a tiny number of scripted events, all space combats are to the death. No opponent, even non-Klingon enemies such as pirates, fight to the death with no survival instinct to flee, even if just to recharge shields. There is such little diplomacy in the game that it’s negative amounts. Every time you complete a mission, a war breaks out in a third world country. For realz.

Polish. It’s what’s helped to keep WoW the top MMO ever. This game? Very little. It feels slapped together, ground combat is awkward at best, mere days before launch and there are still what appear to be placeholder NPCs(from Champions Online) in dialogue options. The game is being rushed, it shows, and unless Cryptic has some major patching planned for very early, I think it will be the death of this game.

Instancing/Zoning. There is no contiguous feel to the game world. It’s so split up into system zones, and sector block zones, with instance caps of 50, and in some case 5 players, that it barely feels like an MMO.

 

Now, I may seem like I’m being harsh, but none of these issues are unfixable. Two more months of development, beta testing(with controlled numbers, and not open beta access being used as a marketing tool to sell preorders), communication between testers and devs, and this game would have a much better chance. It would be a pretty awesome game, one I would definitely play. Sadly, this is not going to happen. The bottom line is being put before producing a quality product, and it’s going to sink it.

I want this game to be good. I love Star Trek, and wish desperately that this game would live up to the awesome IP it’s based on. And there’s some just downright cool stuff. Being able to design your own, right down to the game mechanics influencing racial traits(think D&D 3/3.5 feats)? Brilliant. Leonard Nimoy voiceovering sector overviews? Incredible. But these are just small things, awesome by themselves, but not nearly enough to overcome the incredibly meh gameplay with it’s many issues.

 

I guess, then, there’s just one thing left to say. Help us, Bioware, you’re our only hope.

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