Star Trek Online: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

Last night I finally reached Lieutenant Commander, a.k.a – Level 10. I would guesstimate that it took roughly 16 hours of playtime, so I guess I’ve logged some hours in space the past couple days. I’ve read many opinions of late and I thought I’d weigh in on the matter further, laying out the things I like and the things I don’t…in true Beta fashion.

I think I’ve seen a fair amount of the starting content, but I have yet to play the other race: Klingon. In terms of the Federation side you start out in the Beta Quadrant in the sector space nearest Earth. Your first ship is a Light Cruiser and you quickly build up a team of 4-5 Bridge Officers or BOs. As you advance you gain more and more Skill Points for both your character, as well as your BOs. You can then spend these points on various “skill trees” across the board, covering Ground & Space combat. An interesting mechanic which offers some good customization long term, but short term not so much. When I finally hit Lt. Cmdr. I had nearly all first tier skills maxed out, there were only a couple that I did not have points in, the others were all at ‘Level 9′, the highest. However, in the upper ranks there are lots more “branches” so it will not be possible to be master of all.

I enjoyed both the ground combat and the space combat, whilst leaning a little more towards the “spaceships & lazers, pew pew”. Being that this game is in space, and that there aren’t many other current MMOs in space, the majority of comparisons for STO are against EVE Online, which is I think flawed. Apples & Oranges in my opinion. EVE is very complex and meticulous in detail. You have a million different configurations for ships and skills and need to utilize strategy heavily to survive. STO is worlds apart from that. The space combat is simple at first (too simple for EVE Veterans), but eventually it grows more complex as you gain different weapons and ship skills. A direct combat session will likely only last 5 minutes at the longest (in solo encounters, not for missions overall) and involves mashing the keyboard with various “fire!” commands and adjusting your speed and maneuvering such that your various shields are taking their share of the damage and that your enemies are properly within your current weapons’ firing arcs, etc.. Ultimately I like it, if I had to envision space combat this is probably exactly what I would come up with…even if it is so simple.

Ground combat is also engaging, but much more similar to other scenarios and genres we’ve played before. If you are not in a team then you use your BO’s as support, otherwise your partners are a part of your “Away Team”. Depending upon your character creation decision of what ‘role’ you are (Engineer, Science, Tactical = Support, Medical, Weapons) you have varying abilities available to you. I chose Engineer and so I’m able to create small shield generators and phaser turrets to augment my team members abilities to heal and recharge our shields and fire the big guns at the bad guys. The missions are fairly blazay, but are varied enough to remain appealing.

I wouldn’t say that it is quite as time friendly as World of Warcraft, as some missions can take upwards of an hour to complete and there is no mid-mission saving. However it’s much easier to jump in and accomplish something than EVE Online. In addition, every single aspect of the game is instanced…everything. There is no single shard world of vast open space filled with thousands of ships…more like 10-30 other people and I don’t think that is even a possibility from the way it’s designed. The sector space map, for example, is a giant map that you navigate through normally which signifies your vessel travelling at warp speed to various parts of space. It’s big and bright and neat looking and thus gets super crowded with even 20 people, as ships and ship names cover up destinations and just adds to the clutter. The map would be simply unusable with even slightly larger groups of people.

Being that the game is in Beta, there are many rough edges and I cannot even imagine that they are thinking of shipping STO in 2 weeks. 2 weeks??? I’ve encountered so many issues I lost track. My favorite one so far is that I was stuck in space combat while in my human form. So as I would engage thrusters my character would start walking faster and faster eventually having his legs blur together he was running so fast. Eventually the client couldn’t handle me controlling my man in space and eventually took away control of my space craft and just started following the nearest enemy. Eventually I caught up to the enemy and it looked like my avatar was getting a wee bit friendly with whatever ship I was facing…monkeys & footballs if you will. So yeah, when this game goes “live” you will be effectively funding the continued beta development of this game. That’s not to say I won’t subscribe as I am enjoying my time in space and can put up with issues…as long as they aren’t game breaking. (The Klingons don’t even have basic functionality in their home port yet I hear)

I’ve read several ‘first impressions’ that wholly damn the entire game based on a couple of hours of playing, comparing it to any number of current MMOs and just throwing up their hands. I will completely agree that this game has it’s share of problems, but being Beta they are expected and I don’t think you can gauge the depth of this game in one short night of playing.

I think Cryptic would have benefited themselves if they opened the beta months ago and slowly showed progress patch after patch, but since they opened up a scant month before release they appear doomed. What were they trying to accomplish with a month long open beta? Typically the problems that arise in the full load testing phase (a.k.a. – open beta) are the big boys, the ship blockers, the ones you can’t fully test or comprehend until you have thousands upon thousands of people hitting your poor servers. Automated testing is great to a point, but I’ve never heard nor used a method that fully simulates “opening day”. But this wasn’t even a fully open beta as they limited the amount of keys that were given out. So with the apparently huge popularity of STO, (most likely indirectly increased from the recent Star Trek reboot movie last year…which was awesome) come opening day we’re likely going to see chaos. It seems to have an insurmountable amount of bugs and problems, some quite huge, like admitting to not having the server infrastructure due to poor planning numbers, this isn’t something that is fixable overnight.

Regardless I think the game has character. It’s been a lot of fun kicking the tires and enjoying the space combat. I’m not quite sure of it’s longevity (no trade skills, limited amount of ships & space, etc.) and my gut reaction is that after a month or two you’ll probably experience all that STO has to offer, but I hope I’m wrong.

So those are my thoughts after spending a fair amount of time in space. It’s kept me glued to my screen though even in its rough state, which is more than can be said of many games of late, so I’m sticking with it for the rest of beta. Now, I’m off to purchase my next class of ships, of which there are 3 (Cruiser, Escort, Science Vessel = All around, Attack, Support)…I’m thinking Science Vessel. “Who released the monkeys?!?!” (StarCraft quote of the day).

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I Boldly Went…then it crashed

Captain’s Log, Supplemental:

If you haven’t yet heard Cryptic Studios has just launched the Open Beta for Star Trek Online. After reading several reviews and thoughts on the subject, and being a closet Trekkie from years gone by, I decided I’d take the plunge.

Now, this isn’t a truly “open” beta, as you must first have a key to get in. Luckily for me I waltzed over to Ten Ton Hammer and snagged one. I then spent about 4 hours downloading the 7+ GB install package (using BitTorrent btw, I highly recommend) and then…there it sat.

I was on the edge to begin with, as I’ve heard lots of negative things so far and I really didn’t want to set myself up for disappointment. But finally this morning I felt compelled enough to fire up STO and see for myself.

The installation went quite smooth, no real problems there. When the client finally loaded I jumped directly into character creation. For the most part I enjoyed this stage and had only a few issues with it. You can tweak nearly all areas of your character, but nothing to the extreme. When I adjusted, for example, the width of my nostrils it was hard to tell too much of a difference no matter how far I dragged the slider in either direction. I guess it might make a difference if you exaggerated every slider possible, but for the most part you can never get too extreme, just subtle changes. Finally, the color selection was pretty vast/tacky for my tastes as the choices were from a giant grid of colors ranging the spectrum, but they never felt natural once applied. Anyways, just some minor details.

In the end I chose a Human: William English “Bulldog” McQueen

William English "Bulldog" McQueen

Once that was finished you found yourself aboard a starship being attacked by The Borg. The initial tutorial consisted of getting you familiar with character movement and object interaction, standard stuff for any gamer used to the genre. Overall I felt the game was a bit “sluggish” if you will. Player actions and movements were just subtly delayed and didn’t feel immediate. I’m comparing my experience to World of Warcraft and therein I always felt everything was snappy, not a huge knock on STO but one nonetheless.

The starting tutorial area is instanced, so you will see your fair share of other players, mostly named XXUberDudeXX or HelloKittyVII or whatever nonsense, but it didn’t feel too over crowded. Eventually you complete the ‘run-around’ portion and advance to the starship control section. I quite enjoyed this stage, though it’s nothing like EVE, again slow, deliberate movements and actions of your ship…but ultimately it worked. The final stage of the tutorial is an ‘Away Team’ mission where you attempt to learn to control your NPC party members and more advanced combat controls.

My major problem with the tutorial, mainly the ship control and away team sections, was that the majority of features and UI were not explained and felt clunky. There is a narrator and for the most part you can get by with self discovery, but it should be smoother than that. If they added giant arrows or made sections of the UI flash that would be a great start, but for the most part nothing is explained fully and you just have to “wing it”. It took me a few minutes to figure out why my away team wasn’t following me…turns out they were set at a ‘rally point’ and I couldn’t figure out how to ‘un-rally’ them.

Once the tutorial was finished, and you were back at Earth, you could begin to play with the character skills, missions & limited ship creation. There were several NPCs that attempted to explain these various activities, but again I think they could do a bit better job of in-depth descriptions. Perhaps I’m just rusty, because again if you play with them enough it makes sense, but there is no clear cut advancement outline. What skills depend on other skills, etc.?

Eventually I took on my first mission which was to find a lost freighter, which entailed heading out to a space map which outlines the various systems. Again, I was a bit lost on what and how to do anything. Turns out the freighter was there on the map, but actually warping to it involved maneuvering close enough to the object on the map to then interact with it. Once you dropped out of warp you had to kill a few ruffian ships and then transport down to the ship to help. At this stage of the mission, the difficulty seemed to ramp up substantially and I found myself dead, or ‘incapacitated’. A quick re-spawn found myself attempting the mission stage over again, but in the heat of battle the server crashed and here I am writing this review.

So all in all, I’d say I enjoyed my time with Starfleet. I understand that this is still a beta and things will be fixed/improved, and I will continue to enjoy the beta and who knows, I might even subscribe. Ultimately STO did an amazing job of making you feel a part of the Star Trek world, from the environments, sounds & interactions, it just felt Trekkie to me, which is a good thing. There were some subtle issues with the speed and interaction of the client (I had to turn lots of the video settings down to make the game playable, even though my video card can easily handle the maxed out settings), but again this is a beta and those are to be expected.

Ultimately I think the success of the game is going to be it’s depth. I didn’t see any semblance of a player economy or trade skills, but again they might be there and I just couldn’t figure it out or being that the server is still in its infancy those portions aren’t flushed out yet. I would hope large scale fleet encounters and player battles are possible (ah la EVE Online), but I didn’t get the feel that was part of STO. So I can see this being a fun escape during breaks from more permanent commitments (i.e. – WoW, EVE, etc.), but I’m still unsure of it’s staying power.

We’ll see how the rest of the beta unfolds!

Flame Warden Bob

Blizzard currently has their Midsummer Fire Festival event running in World of Warcraft. It runs from June 21 – July 5 and has a number of varying ‘festivities’ and quests.

I have been on an EVE Online kick for a few weeks now and am really enjoying it. Thus I haven’t logged into WoW since around early may…until last night. Now I’ve been playing since launch and have experienced most content, but WoW is slowly losing it’s appeal for me mainly because it less ‘new’ and more ‘grind’ nowadays.

I tend to be obsessive-compulsive at times and WoW’s wonderful achievement system has had its hooks in me for awhile now. Again I’m by no means ‘hardcore’, but I enjoy running around completing the achievements I can. My main quest has been to complete What A Long, Straing Trip It’s Been. Thus, every in-game event season, I have to get in and grind out the sub-achievement.

Being that I will be away for a couple weeks here soon and that Mrs. Facepalm is away on business for a couple days, I knew I had a good opportunity to get the achievement done. It was hard to get motivated, but once I got home I fired up the WoW Launcher, plugged in my iPhone Authenticator code (I used to have the fob, but upgraded to the app) and off I went.

I had completely forgotten where I had last logged out. There was a patch I needed to download, so that took an extra 15 minutes or so. Eventually I was sitting at the entrance to Stratholme, apparently I was grinding Baron Rivendare for his mount when I last logged, so there I was. As Wilhelm pointed out in his post earlier, this event is much like the Lunar Festival. You run to practically every corner of the world talking to quest NPCs and/or interacting with quest items, in this case giant bonfires. Ugh, I was definitely not looking forward to riding around all night long. Regardless, I saddled up and off I went.

I tried to map out the most efficient path to hit all the festival locations. Being that I was in a hurry I used the wonderful guide over at Wowhead. The Eastern Kingdoms was pretty quick, it took me about an hour and a half. After that I headed to Outlands where my epic flying mount and crusader aura helped me knocked that sub-achievement out in around thirty minutes. Then the part I was dreading, Kalimdor.

I’ve never played a Night Elf or a Draeni, or much Horde for that matter, so I haven’t spent too much time in the West. The flight paths are long and the running around is pretty much a pain in the arse. The festival locations where spread out pretty far in between so it took me the better part of two and a half hours to get everything completed. Finally, I hearthed to Dalaran and hit all the locations in Northrend even though they are not required for the meta-achievement and have no achievement of their own. My obsessive-compulsive side showing through yet again.

I finally tackled the King of the Fire Festival sub-achievement where you have to visit all the Horde capital cities and steal their fire. I had somehow forgotten to do this while I was running to all the festival sites. Ugh. I made it through Thunderbluff, Silvermoon, and The Undercity with no problems. Orgrimmar however proved to be another story. Being a Paladin I was able to bubble up and get to the fire, but I had a dozen or so guards on me as well as half as many Horde, needless to say I took the graveyard resurrection (since there was a festival site right next to it) and moved on.

When all was said and done, it had taken me around five hours to compelete everything minus Ice the Frost Lord, where you have to visit The Slave Pens in Zangarmarch in The Outlands to summon and kill a festival-only boss. Now, as Wilhelm pointed out, this festival can have amazing experience gains for lower level characters. I had made just shy of 950 gold on the quest turn-ins alone. A lower-level character wouldn’t make quite that much (extra gold for being max-level) but it would still be worthwhile, though it would probably take a little longer considering I used the portals in Dalaran and Shattrath profusely, plus my epic mounts and crusader aura.

It was nearing midnight, but I was able to get in a quick group to dive into Slave Pens for the final piece of the meta-achievement. This is an encounter that, for max-level characters, should be fairly trivial. The hard part comes from the fact that you can only summon the boss one time per day, per character. Unfortunately no one in our group was able to summon him, me included since I had attempted to help a lower level character with the achievement and had wiped. Finally, around 1 am we found someone to help us. Three minutes later and Bob had his ‘Flame Warden’ Title along with the meta-achievement. Being that I had waffle face from falling asleep on my keyboard a few times times I forgot to grab a screen shot, and I was really trying to remember to do that too! Argh. I promise I’ll be better at taking pictures in the future, I think it really helps to break apart these walls-of-text that I write.

Anyways, one step closer to completing the uber-meta-achievement I so eagerly covet. Bob was in Azeroth for six hours, became 950 gold richer, and was a little saddle sore, but all-in-all another successful MMO evening.

p.s. – Bob is my main WoW character in case you were wondering.

MMO vs. mMO

There has been a lot of debate recently regarding Blizzard’s announcement to regulate participation in Wintergrasp. I can’t say I’m much of a PvP’er, per say, but it’s still noteworthy enough to chime in on the subject.

Massively Multiplayer Online

Obviously one of the main draws for any MMO is the ability to make its players feel a part of something larger than themselves. To live, breath and exist in a vibrant, dynamic (virtual) world has much appeal to it. Being able to adventure with your friends, wander through fully populated cities, and participate it epic battles knowing that every character you see is another human being who is reacting, just as you are to, the situation can be truly exhilarating. There have been countless studies and writings on the subject, so I won’t bore you (any more at least) with my pedestrian point of view on the matter, but it seems Blizzard has again evoked the heated debate on what actually defines massively in an MMO.

miniature Multiplayer Online

If I had to put a number on the total number of people I could interact with in a single online situation before dubbing it ‘massive’, I would probably say 1000 players. This is quite miniature compared to what some other people would define the number to be.

It has been interesting to read about requests for battles of 10,000 players or more, and that unless an MMO can deliver that, it only qualifies as an mMO.

Clearly a healthy player base is needed to sustain a truly dynamic environment, but what is the limit? I’ve always been drawn towards systems like EVE Online that have a single, seamless world server architecture, as compared to World of Warcraft’s ‘shard’ model. Yet considering the size of Azeroth it would be an understatement to say it would be a bit crowded if all 11 million subscribers co-existed in unison.

The Point

Forgive the rambling, I’ll get to it. In theory, being a part of single situation where 9,999+ other players are all interacting directly at once truly would be massive (and bring any current client/server architecture to its knees) yet I believe the player would get the same experience interacting with a much smaller number. After all, you can only fit so many orcs on a screen at once.

“But that’s not the point! An MMO should be designed and architected to handle as many people as humanly possible. And at the same time even!”

Let’s come back to Planet Earth for a second. Data, Bandwidth, Packets and Protocols aside, a fully extensible system with an infinite number of participants just isn’t possible with current technology or infrastructure. (for the next decade at least)

Now I know we’re only talking about 200 vs. 200 Wintergrasp Battles here (as opposed to what, 300 vs. 300 that was typical on a ‘heavy’ night?), and I may be over simplifying the issue, but I think ultimately Blizzard is doing the right thing. Sure people will say Blizzard is ‘giving up’, but I hardly believe they are just throwing up their arms. They tried something truly ‘massive’ (kudos to them) and ultimately had to decide between their users’ experiences and a mere numbers game. Clearly they choose correctly. The choice between a game that supports 200 vs. 200 “miniature” battles within an amazingly detailed and dynamic (destructive) environment and one that supports 10,000 vs. 10,000 “epic” wars of stick figures in a devoid box, is an easy one to make.

Rambling continued

I believe there is more to an MMO than the ego inflating spec of how many people are supported in a single encounter. I’ve been reading alot lately about EVE Online’s ‘Great War’. The magnitude of which has never been seen before in any MMO. The mere fact that such a great event existed, with all it’s twisting plots lines, politics and drama, oh and a few epic space battles here and there, should be a testament to how far our virtual worlds have come. So what if there were only 200 vs. 200 ships flying around at a single point in time and space? I bet if you ask some of the pilots involved in this ‘Great War’ that they’d tell you how exhilarating it was, in all respects.

Conclusion (optional)

So in closing I figured I pose a question. Now I know there are far more intelligent people at work in the industry (and at Blizzard) that have already tackled this problem in length than I, but what the heck. We have some pretty intelligent guys and gals here too that wouldn’t mind chiming in. What are some of the ways you would implement or architect a solution that would enable such truly massive encounters? I’ll start off…shoot holes where you see fit. Constructive criticism is always welcome let’s just keep our eyes on the end goal.

  • In structured encounters, where people don’t come and go freely, caching all user gear and appearance before hand would alleviate some packet data.
  • Using UDP (fire and forget) messaging to transmit non-critical data to clients (i.e. – movement, animation, etc.)
  • Distances between players dictates frequency of information. If player A is 500 yards away from player B, they don’t need to know much information about them other than they are moving in direction X and speed Y. Next update is in 5 seconds or when the distance between them is less than 250 yards, etc.
  • Distances are calculated based on a global player positioning system, not between players
  • Data type prioritization. As the packet size increases, information gets pushed off. Possibly queued up for later delivery or discarded completely.
  • Fast data encoding/decoding algorithms used to package data. More data stuffed in infrequent packets or smaller packets send faster and more frequently.
  • Queued engagement system. This one is a stretch, but something like a quasi-turn based system. Like a global, global cool down that affects all players. You’re able to queue up movement and abilities, of which the top 10 will execute every 5 seconds or so. Lots of server number crunching but possibly less ‘chatter’.

Those are just off the top of my head. Again, nothing great but at least a topic for discussion.

EVEntually I'll figure this out – Part I

Now that my MMO Resume is out of the way, I thought I’d dive into a post about my beginning experiences in EVE Online.

I hope to present a truly fresh perspective on the “New Player Experience” to EVE Online since I had never spent any amount of time in New Eden prior to 6 weeks ago. The most I’d seen of EVE was a few screen-shots and random reviews at various gamer sites across the net, but I’d never actually played the game.

As I was looking for a substitute to my World of Warcraft addiction I came across EVE. After reading countless posts to the tune of “Abandon All Hope Ye Who Enter Here” for new players I was a bit put off, yet I figured heck I’m a logical guy, how hard can it truly be? So I downloaded the trial and dove in.

My first thirty to forty-five minutes were spent in the character creation wizard. It wasn’t too bad, with lots of options to tweak and contort various facial features and such. I was a bit disappointed in the fact that you could only design your face and to some extent the angle at which your characters faced as opposed to your characters physique, etc., I found the background option fairly cheesy. I was hoping to make a nice rotund pirate with a mustache, but alas I was left with a character with a fair amount still to be desired. I was eager to get to the meat of the action so I used my standard MMO naming convention and clicked ‘create’.

I then realized why there was little need to design anything but your characters face, since it was now reduced to a very static, very small thumbnail of what I just spent nearly an hour nit-picking. Ah well I thought, if in the end my character was simply going to be a small sticker image I better make it a bit more dramatic. Relog, delete said character, re-create. “We’re sorry, you must wait 24 hours before you can delete your character. Goodbye” Uh, what? Then it hit me, the masses sure weren’t kidding about EVE being so unforgiving. So there I was, knowing that I was going to (hopefully) be spending alot of time in New Eden attached to my character I’d just wait until tomorrow before official beginning his training. Until then I’d just mess around with some random’toon and get my sea legs, though I was a bit put-off by the experience.

After creating this new temporary ‘toon, I was there floating in space in my shiny new rookie ship. “Hello!” said the tutorial helper…next, next, next, close. Who actually reads those instruction manuals anyway? WASD…nothing, UpDownLeftRight…nothing. How the heck do I move around anyways? Guess I should have read that tutorial after-all, now how to get I get it back up? After a few minutes fumbling around I managed to find the tutorial again and read through the initial entries. Eventually I was slowing moving around in space.

Once I got the basics down my new EVE Mantra became ‘When in doubt, right-click’. The context-menu apparently controls the majority of actions you can perform. That doesn’t say much for user discovery, but it works I guess. I deducted that the ‘Overview’ was the meat-and-potatoes item of the UI so I spent some time getting familiar with it. I’m still a bit confused on how to save configurations and tabs, but I’ve managed to get by with the ‘Default’ setup so far.

Once I was done with the ‘Overview’ I moved on to the character pane. Without a formal explanation of the various pages the one ones that seemed the most relevant to me were the skills pane and, to some extent, the certificates pane. It wasn’t clear to me at first what good the certificates were, but then I realized it was more of a guide for standard character skill progression. Fair enough.

I then tackled the skill training queue. This was a little overwhelming given that there are hundreds of skills to wrap your mind around. Then I remembered reading in one blog post about EVEMon and EFT. These are utilities that help in skill planning and ship fitting. I skipped EFT for the moment (since I still didn’t have a clue what ‘ship fitting’ even meant) and downloaded EVEMon. I had it running earlier in the day at work but I had only given it a cursory look. Now, I figured, I’d plan out my characters skills! How grandiose a claim for such a newbie. I soon realized it was a wee bit more complicated than that. I spent nearly an hour fiddling with EVEMon and it still didn’t really make sense. It was hard for me to really see a general, set character  ‘career path’. Then I remembered that’s what certificate planning was for. But even after going over that I couldn’t surmise what it meant to be an ‘Industrialist’ for example. Ah well, in time I’ll get it all sorted out I thought.

I did a little research on the best possible ‘newbie build’ of skills and came across this post about Learning skills. This post mapped out all the skills a new character would want in order to shave down their training of skills through-out their life in New Eden. “Alright” I said, piece of cake. Makes sense I’ll queue them all up. Oh wait, this will take 40+ days to complete? Ouch, maybe not.

I tested a few builds using the newly acquired ‘Learning Build’ and saw that it did in deed save, in some cases, days of training. But what I still have trouble justifying is that if, in the long run, I save 7 days total on a skill plan that will take upwards of 6 months to complete if I have the ‘Learning Build’ all trained to level 5, it will take 40+ days just to get to that point. If I started the plan now, sure I may end up a week later than if I had the learning skills, but that would still be a net gain of 33 days. Ah well, I know it must be worth it so I begrudgingly queue up what I could of my learning skills. This was all made easier to swallow when I came across this post about a good core set of skills to work on first before you jump into the black-hole of newbie learning skills training. It helped alot, so that was the path I went down.

Back to my foray in tutorials. The other thing I discovered was the loot you get from doing them. After reading through a few pages I had some nice, shiny new skillbooks in my cargo hold. (Don’t ask how I finally figured that one out, I spent forever trying to find hot-keys for actions) So I burned through nearly ever tutorial I could find. In the end I believe I had 7 skills and 2 ships. Most of which I couldn’t use yet, which kind of torqued me off, but oh well, free loot is still free.

Eventually I found my way to a station and docked for the night. My first experience in EVE was a success, though there were some rough spots at times. The learning curve is definitely steep and even after playing for nearly 2 months I feel I’ve barely scratched the surface. The nay-sayers of the new player experience definitely have a right to complain. It just felt to me that explanations of the various game components was lacking and didn’t impart a sense of lasting knowledge onto the user. Give a man a fish, feed him for a week. Teach him to fish…you get the picture. I heard this was even the re-vamped NPE. I would hate to imagine what it was originally like. Either way, a little persistence and a good dose of patience goes a long way. In the end it was an enjoyable time, enough so that I’m still here.

That’s good for Part I, it’s probably too long as it stands already. I will share a few more thoughts and some insight into my first taste of mission running and combat in Part II, stay tuned.

MMO Resume

I guess in starting I should map out the MMO landscape that I’ve touched over the years. Where I’ve been, where I haven’t. Where I am and where I’m going.

I can’t say I’m a MUD guy, that was slightly before my time. Though I do envy the veterans at times being a part of what would eventually become what we know and love today as MMO’s. No, my first foray into the genre wasn’t through through a MUD, but with UO…Ultima Online.

At the time I had just moved into my own apartment and was going to school. School was tough, but I had plenty of time to invest into my newly found addiction. UO was amazing. And so it began…

I’ve never been a “hardcore” gamer. Sure, I’ve invested countless hours into the craft, but I’ve just never managed to be a part of anything truly greater than myself. a.k.a. – The Solo’er.

Anyways, back on track. After a few years in UO I kind of went into MMO rehab. A couple years off to get started at college, yet I couldn’t stay away forever. I missed the whole Everquest and Acerson’s Call era, though my roommates definitely did not. That piqued my interest yet again, but I was, at the time, to heavily invested in the Blizzard Trinity: Warcraft, Starcraft and Diablo, to really jump back on the MMO train. Once I heard of Acerson’s Call II however, I had to dive back in. I can’t say that game was a great success, but I was hooked for awhile at least.

I then spent some time in the beta test for a new twist on the genre, for me anyways. I was accepted to test Planetside and had a great time. The self-proclaimed “first first-person shooter MMO” it was very interesting. Lots of fast paced squad or solo action with a nifty character progression, skill-swapping mechanism. I played through the beta months but never did end up subscribing to the retail release.

I heard rumors of a Star Wars MMO in the works. This became the first MMO that I actually kept vigilant watch over its development. When the day finally came and my Star Wars Gallaxies Collector’s Edition arrived on my doorstep it was pretty hard to contain my excitement. SWG, again, wasn’t a raving success, but I played through it, though not accomplishing much. I loved the complexity of the crafting system and the theme. Unfortunately it just wasn’t polished enough for me and after about 9-12 months I was back on planet earth.

Then, as I was playing through Warcraft III, I learned about another MMO being developed, this time by Blizzard Entertainment. (Anyone still have your Blizzard notepads?) I’d always loved Blizzard games and hoped they would produce something amazing. We all know how that turned out, but anyways…

To bide my time while waiting for WOW, I turned to an older MMO that I’d always wanted to try, but was just to busy playing other games to get to. Dark Age of Camelot. Now that was a fun ride! I was a day late and a dollar short, but the time I had in DAoC was a grand one. Lots of amazing people, places and things to see. That experience brought me back to the glory days of UO and reminded me of how much I loved the genre.

Then WOW. Now I could go off here, but I’m sure many of you reading this (since it is an MMO blog) all have your own stories and experiences to match my own. So you get it. After countless hours, sleepless nights, endless weekends of playing on 2 accounts, all maxed with characters, for almost 5 years…yeah you get the picture. I fell pretty deep into that hole at times, but what a hole it was.

I tried out WAR. Bought a box and paid for 3 months. Played about 1. Just wasn’t there for me.

After weening myself from WOW I’ve moved onto EVE, though I still dabble in Azeroth at times. (I love all the MMO 2-3 letter acronyms. It should be a requirement from here on out. I could probably right a book entirely in acronyms…though the glossary would be longer than the material itself, it might be fun)

I have to say I am really enjoying my time in EVE so far. It’s been about a month and it’s just so different than WOW and nearly any other MMO I’ve played. It has so many things I enjoy and I’ll be expanding on that in a future post, but it’s definitely keeping me busy currently. What skill should I train next…hmm.

So there you have it. Again, I’m by no means a hardcore player and I haven’t experienced it all. I’d like to call myself a veteran, but I’ve missed some of the key building blocks of the genre to be able to say that. I tend to do more research and number crunching on games than actually playing them, but I get by.

So hopefully that is a broad enough overview of my history to get a feel of what I’ve accomplished. My goal of this blog, just like the countless other blogs out there, is simply to use it as an avenue to get my thoughts out there. I tend to ramble…alot, so please just interrupt me when it gets bad. I can’t say I’ll be adding anything truly meaningful to the cause, so please don’t expect any thought provoking pieces, I only wish I could contribute on that level. Alright, I hate walls of text, so let’s get onto more exciting posts (I hope) . Thanks for staying with me this far…