Star Trek Online – First Impressions Beta (part 2)

Well I sunk an additional three hours into the online beta last night and had an improved experience once I discovered a few more areas and received a few additional ‘looted’ items and visited some areas previously unexplored.

By the time I logged off, I had climbed to level 7 and with a few additional away-team and ship skirmishes under my belt, things began to get a bit smoother and fall into place a bit more.  So like yesterday’s post here is my findings:

  • “Memory Alpha” is not a completed area/zone yet, with many NPC’s standing ‘idle’ until game launch.  Here is were you can and will be able to turn in some of that space ‘loot’ for ship component upgrades.  I was still missing a few pieces to turn in for anything noteworthy, but now I understand the ‘recipe’ and ‘crafting’ component of the game a bit better.
  • Some additional missions afforded me some ingame rewards, and since I’ve found the mix so far to be more ship than ground based missions, I opted for the ship upgrades: 1) I found that any component that can increase your ships turn rate is beneficial.  Being able to rotate more quickly means being able to bare weapons more readily.  2) Proton mines are a better bet than an aft phaser.  3) Found a new wider-arced forward disrupter/phaser.  Even though DPS may be a bit less, a 90 degree firing arc is better than a more powerful 45 degree arced weapon.
  • Visited my bridge again just to make sure I didn’t miss anything, and still can’t figure out what to do with it. (Edit: Went to the forum and looked up ‘bridge’, and most comments and threads were of a similar nature, like basically “WTF do we do with this?”.  That’s a bit disapointing and one can only help but pray that the Dev’s have something up their sleeve further down the line, perhaps in an expansion, or a piece of the game that they are working on, because right now, it’s worthless.
  • Unlocked another bridge officer slot and was rewarded in mission with a new officer of my choice.  Still a bit difficult to understand certain advantages of each race, class, etc. without a manual.
  • Missions were a bit more varied and last night I think the mix improved just a tad to 75% space missions and 25% ground missions.
  • Ground missions are interesting, but away team A.I. and formation can be a bit annoying.  It’s a tad of mass confusion when you away team counterparts are all doing their same thing.  This seems like a hold over concept from City of Villains, and I can tell you CoV does it better so far.
  • I sure hope that ground mission backdrops and tile sets become a bit more varied.  I already have encountered the same ‘props’ at diffrent ground locals.
  • Ground mission animations seem a bit ‘off’.  I’m sure this will get refined later on, but it looks a little odd right now and not 100% that collision detection is spot on.
  • Random space encounters are a bit annoying.  You stop on the overall galaxy map to get your bearing, check out where the next mission is and requirements, and then suddenly the screen is ‘loading’ for a random encounter.  And these usually don’t bode well for the single player.  This has happened to me at least three times now, and each time, the odds are overwhelming against me.  I’m slaughtered within seconds.

Taking this all into account and once again reminding myself this is a ‘Beta’, I’m struggling if I want to play or not.  It was very hard for me to let go of CoH (as a matter of fact I looked at it last night to see two new expansions have been released, but not sure they are enough to get me back in.  It’s hard to let go of a character that I spent so many hours investing in and building up, but towards the end of the game, many of the missions just felt very repetitive, and thus I hadn’t played the game in over six months….and I’m not sure I missed it.)

STO is a fun game and I’d lean to playing it if I hadn’t done the whole CoH thing before.  I hope there are going to be some additional content, variety, exploartion, etc. in the developers future.  As of right now, someone on the boards said it doesn’t feel like Start Trek as we expect it to, but a space naval battle simulator, and I think I agree.  If it were just that, I’d give the game a thumbs up, but once you tack on the Star Trek franchise, your expectations automatically go up and you expect more of that experience, and I’m just not sure you get it.

Last night when I was done, I really began to think if I could get my money back and/or do I want to pay a monthly subscription fee.  I kept thinking that Star Wars: The Old Republic is still over a year away and it was just announced there may be a Fallout MMO under development for beta by the end of the year.  I may play on a trial basis for at least 2-3 months and hope that the dev’s are cooking up some more depth, if not, then my tenure as a Federation Starship Captain may be short.

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Star Trek Online (Beta) – First impressions (prologue)

After some initial wishy-washy, going back-and-forth within my own head thoughts, I plunked down a bit of cash to secure myself a copy of Star Trek Online when it releases in a few weeks, and thus also securing myself a spot in the current ‘open beta’ test the that currently going on for the next few days.

So why this MMO?  Well, Bioware’s “Star Wars” is at the very minimum a year away, and as these things go I won’t be surprised if it is delayed even beyond that.  Of course, with Bioware backing that one and it’s history of great RPG styles games going on for over a decade, everyone has their eyes salivating for this one.  Could SW:TOR be the first ‘real’ challenger to WoW?  We’ll see.  I’m pretty confident that it will be much better than SOE’s attempt at the Lucas’ universe that Star Wars Galaxy: An Empire Divided will ever be.  That has to be my own biggest personal let down in gaming.  I had such hopes for that one, and pretty much from day one it was plagued by bugs, major sweeping gameplay changes, and not delivering on promises it made, it left a sour taste in my mouth.  What’s left of that game today (SWG) looks nothing like how the game was introduced years ago, and I can’t help but think how much money I threw away on a subscription that just wasn’t fun to play anymore.

The last two MMO’s I’ve been playing is the aforementioned Blizzard’s “World of Warcraft” which is fun, yet can be a grind most of the time (and to be honest, fantasy genre’s aren’t my favorite) and NCsoft’s (aka Cryptic) “City of Heros/Villains”.  When CoH first came out, practically 5 years ago, I loved it almost immediately.  I really took to my first created character and was proud to work on his backstory and build him up, level by level in Paragon City.  Then came the expansion CoV which was fun in it’s own right, although one could say it was very similiar in premise to CoH (I guess one could argue, “Why wouldn’t it be?”) with just some re-skinning of powers and costumes, but it gave players the ability to live out some sort of muted sadistic and anarchistic fantasies in classic comic book faction.

However, after a couple of years, it just seemed to lack any further innovation.  I give NCsoft/Cryptic a lot of props though: they actually opened up a new genre (superheroes) instead of the tired and overplayed orc, dwarf, goblin stuff that every other developer for a time thought players wanted.  Yeah, it just got a little stale after a few years, and while they added things like bases and lairs (which never worked out the way developers intended), a ‘crafting’ element, and new badges….the graphics and missions/quests began to seem dated, and the game resorted to the same ‘world eveents’ at regular intervals, and at least to me, began to feel like ‘been there, done that’ most of the time.  They did have some awesome instances and Task Force missions, although a bit long at times to have a whole team stay intact until the very end.

I won’t even get into WoW.  Most of you know what’s that’s like, and I still play it, but I’m currently on break from it right now until I get the urge to get back into it again.  That too can become a grindfest at times, and I’m pretty tired of some of the missions.  Although my main Paladin is only lvl 74 right now, even after owning Lich King for a year.

Anyway, I’m getting way off track here.  Back to Star Trek.

So after seeing some online movies of the game in which the space battles and ship models won me over, I began to read a few player takes on their beta experiences and I was intrigued.  The idea of a space based genre MMO in an established franchise by the developers who did CoH/CoV and Guild Wars pretty well mitigated the risks of it being really ‘sucky’.  Most, not all, but most games based on Star Trek tend to blow and I’m not sure why.  There is so much potential and lore and characters and created history, I can’t begin to understand how many developers in the past blew it…or just didn’t get Trekkers/Trekkies.   Dare I say that the Star Trek experience goes way beyond just big ships and Klingons?  It is about exploration, strange new worlds, new civilazations, etc., etc.

Now will STO capture this?  Hard to say right now only having played the beta a few hours (more on that later).  I can see the potential, but there are parts that already feel like re-skinned WoW or CoH missions.  But the space battles are HELLA cool and very pretty.

NCsoft/Cryptic/Atari also went full out on the pre-order exclusives.  There are a ‘TON’ of varying exclusives depending on where you made your pre-order.  Tribbles or Targs for pets….”KHANNNN” emotes….exclusive uniforms or ship equipment….Borg as a playable chracter…and of course if you got from GameStop/EB you get yoru grubby hands on the original Constellation class starship (of which Kirk’s Enterprise was).  Out of all these choices listed (and not listed), I went for the Constellation class starship and look forward to piloting a retro-enterprise in my adventures.

So I plunked my dollars down at GameStop and was granted a ‘beta’ key that I rushed right home to begin downloading….Mafia Wars and FarmVille be damned!!.

One thing right at the start, that was forgotten but quickly remembered, was how wonky the “signup/account creation/login” process still is with NCSoft.  After a few false starts and having to reset my password reset and resent to my mail account at least twice for who knows what reason I was able to enter my ‘key’ and begin the download process.

The download was over 7GB in size, and I’m sure so many people were hitting it up that evening along with my local ISP bandwidth issues after 6PM (as everyone is getting home to jump on their own PCs) it took right around 3 hours to download.  Thankfully the checksum was right on, as even though it was a lengthy download, I encountered zero problems so far.  The executable took another 10 minutes to unpack and install, and to my chagrin as soon as I got excited to begin my adventures and hit the ‘Play’ icon, of course another 800MB beta patch now needed to be downloaded and applied…..another few minutes.

Next: Initial impressions…..

Personal gaming journal #5

It’s been a really long time since I did any updates on the games I enjoy playing, so I’ll just give a quick synopsis of where I’m getting my feet wet again.  That is to say, I’m going a little retro lately, digging out some of my older 360 games, and even a much older PC game.  Why?  Well, I just can’t justify all the new $60 games these days and I know if I wait around long enough, they’ll eventually drop in price to something a bit more attractive to the pocket.  There are just so many big titles I’d like to get my hands on, but I am definitely discovering that ‘Platinum Hits’ is where it’s at.

  • Was able to pick up Guitar Hero: Aerosmith for $29.99 a few weeks back.  I can’t say I’m a big fan of them, actually, there are a few songs of theirs I don’t like at all, but there are plenty of tolerable ones plus the addition of other artists like Joan Jett and RUN DMC make it palatable and fun.  I’m about 1/2 way done on ‘medium’ difficulty and so far have racked up quite a few gamer points.
  • 1 vs 100 (Xbox Live) – I like trivia, and this beta has been going on way too long lately, but the gameplay is addictive and when it finally goes Live (gold) to win real MS points, I’ll be all over it.  I suck at sports question though, and up until those are being asked, I surprised how well I’m doing against other players.
  • WOW – Taking a break…need to recharge my batteries, but I think the frozen north is calling my name again.
  • CoH/CoV – Also taking a break. 
  • Fallout 3 ‘The Pitt expansion’ – Pretty good expansion with a few neat weapons.  There were some tense moments with the Trogs as they have the ability to seemingly jump out of nowhere and you need to be much more aware of your ammo supply than before.  A nice diversion, but really looking forward to getting ‘Point Lookout’ DLC.
  • Saints Row 2 – Not playing as much as I’d like because of the ‘mature’ content and my daughter hanging around way too much.  Fun little sandbox version of GTA4 I picked up also for $29.99.  Looking forward to playing this again soon.
  • GTA4 – Same as above with the daughter.  Was getting back into it and finally making some progress on the game just to put it back on the shelf until I get some alone time.
  • Brothers In Arms Hell Highway – Played the demo and I really like it.  I may pick this up soon as it’s currently going for $24.99. 
  • Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2010 – Lovin’ it.  I may give this it’s own post soon enough, it warrants it and I’ve barely scratched the surface of the content.  I jumped right into tour/career mode and working my way up.  Wind can be very frustrating to me if it’s over 15 MPH, and some holes just seem very random, but overall it takes me a good hour to play 1 round and I have some nail biting moments and get very excited when I do a fabulous shot, and very hard on myself when I shoot a crappy one.
  • Railroad Tycoon 3 – Totally retro Win 98 game I’m really getting into as well.  Graphics are a little dated at this point, but who doesn’t love playing with trains?  Deserves it’s own post as well.

E3 2009: Ubisoft Impressions

I’m a little late in making any E3 posts as I have to tape the live shows and watch them later in evening when I get home from my regular day, so while today is Wednesday, the Ubisoft press conference took place on Monday this week.

Instead of tackling games per platform, I’ll just offer up some highlights and general notes on games and developments (in no particular order) showed during Ubisoft’s presentation:

  • Commented that ‘tween’ demographic is one of the largest growing segments in gaming right now, mostly appealing to young girls and that many companies follow their lead.  They place a heavy emphasis on their ‘imagine’ line of games for DSi, Wii, and PC.  Of course you can expect to see more ‘Petz’ titles this year as well as some new fashion orientated games that allow players to mock up pictures they may take with their DSi camera’s.  Players can also trade pets and/or data using the DSi’s built in WiFi.  Ubisoft calls this ‘inter-connectivity’, and finally metioned the ability to create items such as jewelry, and then pruchase your creation online, and then have an actual physcial item shipped to your.  The example they used was a necklace in which a young girl designed it via her stylus and DSi, and then finished product was shipped to her home.
  • U-Play: Ubisoft seems to want to make a more interactive web/forum experience for those that purcahse their products.  U-Play looks somewhat similar to the new X-Box experience, by having 4 ‘blades’, each having a specific purpose such as  walkthrough/hints, store, etc.
  • Assassins Creed 2: I never played the first one, but I understand it was one of the best new and fasted selling IP’s of 2007.  Expect them to expand on all the previous features including swimming, new stealth based kills, larger areas, and new characters.  They seem to be taking this one pretty seriously, and the trailer they showed was stunning.  Now that the original has dropped in price as a platimun hit at $19.99, I may go back and pick it up in preparation for the sequel.  Ubisoft claimed thay have over 400 people working on this title!
  • Raving Rabbid’s Go Home (Wii): Looks like this franchise is departing from it ‘party-game’ format into something a bit more structured and customizable.  There is now a plot in which the rabbid’s want to get off the earth and make their new home on the moon….but how do they get there?  Well, they feel the need to take ‘stuff’ and build a tower of random junk that will lead to the moon.  There are some open sand-box play fields and some mini-games as well.  You can also customize the individual looks of your rabbids and unlock additional items as you progress.  Of course a lot of silly humor goes into this over the top cartoon stylized game and it appear there may even be some co-op gameplay.  This is worth a closer look as more details will come and looks like a cute, smash, fun time-sink game.  Probably good for kids and non hard-core gamers.  Because of the open play field, story-mode, and campaign, this may breathe new life into this IP.
  • RUSE: They showed a pretty intense trailer that led one to believe it would be a real time and epic military strategy game that looks akin to something in the Tom Clancy universe, but instead of controlling individual people, it looked more like broad units, platoons, brigades, etc.  Kind of like a very detailed game of Risk they uses ground, air, & sea elements.  Not much was said, just the trailer.
  • No More Heroes 2Desperate Struggle (Wii): Long awaited sequel in the works from the surprise adult-orientated wacky Wii title.  Will help fill the serious gaping gap that hardcore Wii users are so frustrated about.
  • RedSteel2_BoxartRed Steel 2 (Wii): Utilizes Nintendo’s new Motion Plus controller and another adult themed title that again addresses Wii’s lack of hardcore software for the more serious player.  The showed what looked liek a very nice opening cinematic trailer and then about 10 minutes or so of actual gameplay.  Looks very nice, both in graphic style and art direction.  I was amazed how well the sword handled with the Motion Plus and nun-chuck controller tethered on.  While the first Red Steel never lived up to its once-hyped potential, I have a feeling this one will deliver.  RS2 and NMH 2 may give me a compelling reason to but a Motion Plus accessory.  Will be out in December of this year and no multiplayer mode.
  • Splinter Cell – Conviction:  Oh my!  Looks just as awesome as some of the others AAA titles coming out and a welcome return for Sam Fisher.  Ubisoft looks to be on a roll this year at E3 and Conviction should be out Q4.  The gameplay demo’d look fantastic.  The art direction and lighting has come so far in this franchise.  The devs emphasized that while stealth is still very important to Sam Fisher, this will be slightly faster paced, and Sam will be relying much more on both the actual environment and low-tech objects he finds.  The devs also are introducing some great story-telling methods in the game with the use of real-time flashbacks….hard to explain, but you have to see it in action and it will maek sense.  Objectives also are displayed during game within the game in a new twist, ala, Fringe (FOX TV series).  Lastly, Sam uses a new combat mechanic that allows him to ‘mark’ shots in a queuing sequence before he takes action.  Again, you have to see it to undertsand, but it’s really slick, looks easy to use, and really pumps up the adrenaline factor in this stealth based game.  Most likely a ‘must-buy’ for me.

Delayed Dell

LG 22" 2252 LCD

LG 22

As I mentioned before, it’s been over six years since my last home PC purchase and it’s been long overdue for a new one.  I think my registry is pretty much ‘borked’ with junk…enough junk where it slows my system startup to almost a crawl these days, and good luck trying to launch Outlook Express in under 2 minutes.  I even notice with around 768 RAM, I can’t usually have more than 2 programs open at a time without the PC taking its sweet time chnaging between programs.

So I ordered my XPS630 on Aug 28 and it was supposed to ship on September 5th.  Well, it didn’t.  My new ship date was updated until September 12th which of course bummed me out.  The thing is, I cannot figure out ‘why’ the delay, unless it was related to hurricane Gustav and getting parts out to TX (where Dell’s custom assembly plant is).

I called Dell on Sunday and requested more information on the delay.  I was a bit surprised when the lady told me it was the battery.  The battery?  What battery?  I didn’t order any UPS?  She asked me if I was getting a laptop?  A laptop?  Damn, I gave her my order number and everything and clearly I ordered no laptop.  Needless to say, now I’m getting a little skeptical.

She finally found the correct order and aplogized and said they would upgrade me to next day air.

Finally my PC shipped yesterday, the 8th, and on my online account it does indeed say ‘Next Day’, however, the tracking order is Ground, and as of this morning, it’s sitting in a FedEx center still in TX with a new estimated arrival date of this Friday, the 12th.

Don’t ask.  I have no idea.  But so far, while they didn’t screw up my order, but my Dell experience this time around is about a ‘B/B-‘ if I were to grade it.

In the meantime, Best Buy put its LG LCD monitors on sale.  I couldn’t resist the sale on the 22″, so I bought one which will indeed replace my 17″ this weekend.

Here’s the specs on the LG 2252:

  • 2 ms response time.
  • 10,000:1 contrast ratio; 300cd/m brightness.
  • 1680 x 1050 resolution.
  • DVI-D w/ HDCP input along with standard VGA input.
  • 16:10 aspect ratio
  • Energy Star compliance.

So I figure this weekend will be re-intsalling WoW, CoH/CoV, Quick Books, and email.

Dude, I’m getting a Dell

Coming to my own personal Azeroth soon.

Coming to my own personal Azeroth soon.

So I finally plunked down the cash after over a year of putting it off on buying a new Dell computer.

This will be my third Dell, as I purchased one for my father about 3 years ago, and my personal PC is now approaching six years old, if not actually older.  Overall, I’ve had good luck with Dell PC’s and I always stick with the minimum 1 yr warranty (I don’t undertsand paying so much for the 2 – 3 year extended warranties, since I’m not a PC novice anyway).

I’ve built my own computers before.  I’m even A+ certified, but really…I have no desire right now to buy things piece-meal anymore and configure and build and cross my fingers.  Sure for a few extra bucks, I’d like something to work right out the box anymore.

My current PC is a Dell 4550 Pentium 4, 1.9 GHz with 712MB Ram, and a 6GB (yes, six) hard drive.  I’ts been slowing down the last few years, despite how clean I try and make all my installs and what not.  I’m sure the registry has a lot of abandoned keys, and there are some start up programs I haven’t used in years.  I basically play WoW on it now and gave up play CoH strictly because of slow load times and disk caching.

I have some family pics, some business docs, personal papers, and mostly MP3’s.  So after 6 years, I’m not up to a full 6GB.  You can’t even buy a computer today with anything less than 250-300 GB hard drives today.

So my new rig is far from being top of the line.  I am on a somewhat of a budget, but at this stage of the game, anything today will blow my current system out of the water.  Since I plan on only playing games on it and never watching movies or hooking my TV up to it, I don’t want….or need…the ultimate entertainment machine.  Besides, I still have my 360 and Wii for gaming.

Here’s my new rig:  a red bezzeled XPS630, 750 watts, 320GB HD, Core 2 Q6600 (8MB L2 cache) , 2GB DDR2 SDRAM @800MHz, 2.4 GHz, 1066FSB and a nVidia 512 MB GeForce 8800, 7.1 surround sound.  And that is probably a minimum spec’d mid-range 630.

I’ll probably upgrade my monitor as well, but at a different time.  My current LG 15″ LCD is okay for now…but I’d like to get a 19-20″ in a few months.

The biggest task will be re-installing CoH & CoV, WoW and getting all the updates along with them.  Plus changing to my gaming keyboard and installing all my extras like my printer, but now that I plunked down the money, I’m totally psyched to get it in about two weeks.  There may be a day of hooky coming up soon as all this will take quite a bit off time to do.

Games I’m looking forward to: WoW Wrath of the Lich King, Spore, Diablo III for starters.

Personal Gaming Journal #3

So I’m kinda excited that my OXM subscription kicked in yesterday and I recevied my 1st issue.  It’s a pretty good deal to get the magazine along with the disc for $24.95 for the whole year as opposed to paying $9.99 an issue at the grocery store or bookstore.

I’m happy to see some offical pictures of all the new Rock Band 2, Guitar Hero World Tour, and Konami’s Rock Revolution peripherals (well Konami only showed the drums kit, and it looked a little strange).  The nice thing is that Konami stated that both RB and Gh’s guitar will be compatible with their game.  I’m getting pretty psyched that these will start launching next month, and I’ll have a whole new bey of songs to play and download.

Ion is introducing there own uber drum kit for the Rock Band series which just looks crazy mad.  By itself, it’ll be $300, metal, and ships with 4 drum pads, 2 cymbals and kick peddle.  For even another $50 you can buy yet a 3rd cymbal!

Harmonix’s new Stratocaster looks pretty sweet, and they promise it will be much more sturdy than the original, meaning overdrive sensor and strum bar, plus it’s wireless.  A fine addition to my colllection.  However, RedOctane’s new axe for World Tour may be the one to get.  Also wireless, it has an additional touch sensitive neck for hand sliding and an oversized ‘star power’ button (thank God!) so you won’t have to tilt your guitar to achieve star power.

I played RB last night for a bit and tried multiplayer online play.  I experimented with both ‘Tug of War’ and ‘Score Duel’ modes and had my as handed to me all four times, but it was fun.  I have to get out of the competitve mindset and just enjoy it playing a song with someone else.  The problem for me is that Tug of War is very unforgiving…miss one note and it’s very difficult to recover against the other player.  This resulted in a True Skill point value of ‘1’ for me, even though on medium I was pulling perfect solos and completing like 97-98% of the song.  Seems a bit harsh to ever recover and be motivated to continue playing…you find yourself praying the other guy misses one note as well just to give you a chance.

I may need to buy a new HD soon with all the songs coming down the pipeling.  My 20GB drive is already 75% full lest I remove some other games and demo’s.

On the horizon for me: Force Unleashed, Rise of the Argonauts, GH WT, RB 2, Too Human, Fracture, GoW2, Lego Batman, CoD 5, Clone Wars (Wii) and a few others.  Man, I don’t even have time now….or money.

Speaking of money….I was so planning on buying a new PC today.  A new Dell XPS system to replace my 5year +, but then my wife told me yesterday she is behind on bills.  Dammit.  Well, there that goes for now.  I was eyeing a 2.4 GHz system with 3GB memory, plenty of L2 cache, and a 20″ widescreen monitor for my WoW and CoH habits.  Looks like that’s put on hold….yet again.  ::Grumble::

Been getting back into my PSP again too…playing Metal Gear Solid Ac!D and enjoying it.  My coworker was showing me his new God of War PSP slim and gameplay and it looks pretty sweet as well.

Wii: Okay, so my store didn’t get the Wii Fit today, but I also have an alert from Amazon.com sent to my phone.  If any Fit’s become available, they send you a TXT message to whcih you simply reply ‘Buy’, and they send one to you based on your Amazon account.  Well imagine my surprise when I got my alert today (WooHoo!!) at 10:17am saying they are available.  I reply at 10:20am with my text.  At 10:22am I receive a reply back saying they are now ‘unavailble’!!!  DOH!!  WTF?  So between the time I received the alert and I responded (3 minutes!) they were already sold out again.  What….did they only get 2 in stock?

Ah well, there’s always next week.