Space: Still the Final Frontier

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still enjoying Rift quite a bit with the instance group, but I still get that Space MMO itch that just doesn’t get scratched very well. Something about the long nights of winter (even here in Northern California) calls me back to space.

Eve Offline

Over the holidays, I resubbed my Eve accounts having been sucked in by the exploits of Wilhelm and Gaff.  The intent was to play it “casually” with an alt that I had rolled up for solo piracy.  Rolling an alt in Eve is a bit of a challenge since you can only have one character training skills at a time, so although I have two accounts, I would have to forego progress on one of the “main” characters on that account to learn skills on the alt.

Also, I didn’t want to screw up the standings of our regular high sec PvE corp, so I put the alt in a separate corp.  In a fit of foggy memory, I managed to resub the wrong account, so I ended up resubbing both of my accounts.

I knew my horizon for the game wouldn’t likely extend beyond a month or so, so there was really no point in going through the rigamarole to go join Gaff and Wilhelm in 0.0.  After reading about the logistics and timing challenges, not the least of which is time zone based, I decided that was probably a wise decision for me.

Of course, that left pretty much either “dueling” pvp, high sec social engineering piracy (e.g., can flipping) or attempts at low sec piracy.  I loath all dueling and as an explorer/industrialist at heart, I really couldn’t take to can flipping unless I was going to go heavy RP.

So that’s left low sec piracy and/or ratting.  Diving into low sec, and learning the skills to survive there, has been pretty interesting.  One really never knows what could happen, so there is some excitement even when there are only a few people in a system.  You have to get used to looking over your shoulder quite a bit.

Of course, the hardest part of solo piracy is finding a mark.  Something that I’ve not been terribly good at, and given the challenges of low sec (i.e., the conventional wisdom that its “broken”) and the time required to do a good roam, I’m losing interest.

On the other hand, with my other account, I took the opportunity to check out Planetary Interaction which was introduced just as I was concluding my last visit to New Eden.  Its been reworked some, but I’ve been producing some goods off high sec worlds to get the hang of it.  So far, its a decent if minor source of passive income.  High sec worlds don’t have the density of rarer materials on them, so overall output is lower.

Nonetheless, in the course of looking for the best place to sell my PI manufactured goods, I discovered a few arbitrage opportunities which I’ve been exploiting fairly regularly.  At the moment, I have just enough isk lying around to acquire enough of a particular commodity to fill my fully rigged Iteron V industrial and make a run to Jita where it typically sells within an hour.  I’ve typically been able to make 15-30 million ISK per run which isn’t bad for sitting on the couch with a crappy laptop while watching the Daily Show/Colbert Report.

Fun in its own way, but I’m not drawn into the way other goals in Eve have caught my attention.

Star Wars: The Old Republic

Having done the beta, I’m sure that our little group would find it amusing enough.  From my own experience and what I’ve been reading, Bioware is slowly addressing some of the bugs and issues that were present in the beta.  I’ve no doubt the game will be a better experience after the first few weeks and months.  One of the main reasons we aren’t playing this as a group right now, is simply the fact that there are five of us and small group content is made for 4 people.

Even with companions, that makes for some difficult math and even more difficult shared experiences.  We could conceivably do a group of 3 with one companion and a group of two with two companions, but that kind of flies in the face of the whole group play thing.

So while I’m still very interested in SWTOR, I’d like to figure out a way (or wait for Bioware to come up with a way) for all of us to have a shared experience.  I suspect we’ll have similar problems with Diablo III.

Star Trek Online

I did the beta, I even bought the collector’s edition, but in the end, I couldn’t justify a subscription beyond the initial 30-days.  Not that there wasn’t fun to be had there, there definitely was, but there were issues that I wasn’t willing to pay for while waiting to solve.

But, STO is going free to play Tuesday, so I thought I’d at least get patched and see what has transcribed since launch.  One thing that intrigues me is the user generated content creator.  STO, like SWTOR, was always so story driven, I think I may enjoy exploring both what has been added by way of the periodic season/episode content which was added after I left as well as user generated missions.

Heck, its been quite some time since I played with a UGC module in a game– probably not since map editors for shooter games– so I may experiment and see whether that dimension is satisfying.

Like LotRO, I suspect that STO will benefit greatly from going F2P.  Its certainly a game that I would have been looking at over the last year had it not required a sub to check out.

Finally a happy accident, it turns out that former subscribers can log in this weekend.  I expected to download and patch, but not be able to log in.  Much to my surprise, there was Lieutenant Commander Skronk aboard the U.S.S. Frinault drifting in Sector Space.

As is typical with re-entering a game world, there is an almost paralyzing amount of information to reassimilate.  Even more so when the game has been patched and tweaked for more than a year AND has gone F2P.  Fortunately, I spotted the Transwarp to Earth Spacedock button (I can’t remember whether that was there before) and beamed down to Starfleet Academy (which I don’t remember existing before either, let alone being in Marin County).

Either Starfleet moved to Marin, or Marin finally went "Pro Growth"...

So, with a three-day weekend, it will be a convenient time to explore STO again and see what’s new.  Stay tuned.

SWTOR: Parting Shots from Final Beta

As fate would have it, Bioware picked me for the apparently more limited beta weekend this past weekend.  As it turned out, there was only something like 6-8 servers made available rather than 40-ish from the previous weekend.

The previous weekend, I had rolled four different characters on two different servers.  As it turned out, only one of those was in this weekend’s list.  After a very long day on Friday, I sunk into the gaming cave and decided that it would be interested to see what the Jedi Counselor had to offer at higher levels.  Unfortunately, my level 6-ish JC was not on the one server that made it to this last weekend’s test, so I had to reroll.

I don’t know how much of it was a result of my fatigue or the grudgingly slow pace of the low levels, but I lasted about 40 minutes before I wanted to pull my head off.  After a good night’s sleep, I reassessed and decided that I’d continue playing the one character that made it in to this beta– My empire bounty hunter which fortunately is the empire side mirror image of my current favorite class, the Trooper.

As loyal readers will recall, Oswald, the bounty hunter, was the character that I used to try progressing “old school” or as I should probably say, in Bhagpuss fashion, eschewing questing and just exploring and killing as I saw fit.

For this weekend, I decided that I’d primarily follow the class story line.  Fortunately, the Bounty Hunter class story is a pretty good one.  A bit of what you’d expect, but then again, that’s the point– he needs to feel all Bounty Huntery.

A quick trip through the story line on Hutta and that sent me on to Dormund Kaas where the fun begins.  Two additional bits of info gleaned from general chat put some wind in my sails– rumor (confirmed) that classes get “sprint” at level fourteen; and when you complete your class quest, you get your ship.

Now that was a goal worth working toward.

Continue reading SWTOR: Parting Shots from Final Beta

SWTOR: Follow up impressions

Ok, after I queued up yesterday’s post about my generally ambivalent if downright negative impression of the early SWTOR experience, I decided to soldier on (literally) in the waning ours of the beta to push my Trooper on to Level 10 and get off that god forsaken rock that is Ord Mantell.

I finished the slogging and class questline just shy of level ten.  I leveled on the turn in and got my promotion to Lieutenant.  With level ten, I received my first companion.  I’ll leave out spoilers but the basis for the companion was explained in the dialog.  As a result, he just showed up when I leveled rather than STO’s shopping for bridge officers.

Promotion in hand and lackey in tow, I was directed to report to Coruscant.  To reach Coruscant I was to hop a shuttle from the Republic fleet.  Shuttle to fleet and there I was.  After navigating through the station to the Coruscant shuttles, I was offered the alternative to take a more luxurious accomodation aboard the Esseles though the trip would be more dangerous.

I was just about to log out and say Sayonara to SWTOR for a while but I thought since I’m an explorer at heart I should see what Corscant looks like.  I was just about to take the solo shuttle when I decided to throw caution to the wind and take the Esseles.

The Esseles is the Republic-side version of the first instance or “Flashpoint” in the game.  Its group content with 2 or more recommended.  Without a meaningful LFG tool, peeps were relying on the old school “LFG” or “LFM” chat in general.

I was quickly able to assemble two other hardy adventurers– a level 10 Jedi Knight and a Level 12 Smuggler.  With my level 10 Trooper we decided to go without a healer.

Bioware’s earlier trailer does a good job of describing the general experience.  After having now played through it successfully, I would say its fairly accurate.  The story line works and the conversation mechanic fits in well in the plot and environment.

We quickly got into the flow of things and progressed our way through the beleaguered ship.  Of everything I’ve experience in SWTOR to date, this is the closest to what I imagined it would be with a movie like character.  A cogent and story driven plot driving the mission at hand, an emergent situation to deal with and a goal to seek in the confines of a large space vessel.

The enviroments were right sized to the action so running around wasn’t an issue.  And what running around there was made sense in the context of the plot.  The action culminated in several tough boss fights that were steeped in Star Wars goodness.

If you’ve gotten this far, you’re probably thinking, isn’t this exactly the opposite of what you were whining about in your last post?  Well, you’d be right.

If the flashpoints are as well done as this first one, I’d say that is how the game should be driven.  Everything that was annoying in the open world was made much better in the more compact and more restricted flashpoint experience.

The overall instance took us about 1-1.5 hours to complete.  It felt a wee bit long, but was satisfying.  I went in as Level 10 and came out 11+ so I felt like real progress was made both in terms of basic character advancement as well as plot development.

So am I changing my mind about SWTOR at this point.  No.

I still think that the rough patches of the starter experience can be smoothed and should culminate with this sort of flashpoint plot device.  If only the rest of SWTOR could be like this first run through The Esseles…