I need to play less, create more.

I’m not sure what public significance this has, other than perhaps putting myself under a bit of peer pressure to get this done.

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So, Borderlands…

… is pretty awesome.  Gearbox basically takes all their know-how about making a satisfying FPS and marries it to a surprisingly good understanding of what makes satisfying in-game loot and quest grinding.

My only critique against Borderlands would be one that applies to nearly any game: if you play it long enough, it’ll bore you.  The thing is, the game has a lot of retread, bringing you back through the same areas to overcome the same procession of things that want to kill you.  If you love shooting stuff – and the FPS/RPG fusion in Borderlands assures it’s a pretty entertaining activity – then all this repetition won’t bother you, but once the gameplay wears thin what you have is something thoroughly predictable: a grind.

That said, I’m not regretting spending $50 on Borderlands.  Gearbox has done the right thing to stave off the grind by spacing out the game elements in good intervals.  It’s plays a bit like an MMORPG with better-than-usual-pacing, the satisfaction of a good first-person-shooter, and an addictive loot balance.   I’m completely willing to overlook the 4 player cap on the grounds that I don’t particularly need other groups competing for my content anyway.  Besides, you don’t have to shell out $15 a month for the privilege of being able to fight your way through Borderlands’ expansive world.

Sagging Tights

What I do regret spending $50 on (plus $99 for a discounted 6 month subscription) is Champions Online.   Burnout reached true fruition two weekends ago and now I can barely bring myself to look at the game.

Blood Moon was a potentially saving grace, but it turned out to be fairly underwhelming.  Zombie Apocolypse was a batch identical public quests with timers so long it just caused the players to bunch up and completely steamroll them from the population involved.  The Werewolf versus Hunter event was just a shoddy meaningless PvP kill tally quest – more of a chore than anything else.  I don’t get it, they seemed to understand population flow in City of Heroes?

Ultimately, they should have spent less time working on making Champions Online look spooky and more time fixing their broken game.  The number of genuinely useful (not replaced with better alternative) powers in the game is somewhere around 25% of what they’re offering.   I’ve been dealing with Rituals dispelling Circles for almost a month.  Little problems like these are tearing the players away from the game bit by bit.

Blood Moon’s real legacy is that they’ve hemorrhaged a lot of players by setting the wrong priorities, and I really hope the game is able to stay afloat.   Judging by the free weekend they’re conducting, they seem blissfully unaware of the shaky ground they’re operating on right now.  The game’s about two months of hard game balance tweaking from what I’d want to show anyone.

What’s worse, it seems the spirit to do the innovative over the easy seems to have left them.  They have a Public Quest and Queued Instance architecture, what the hell are they doing wasting their time adding inferior “kill 100 x” quests or mere door missions, respectively?

Of course, this isn’t the first time a game I followed for months turned out not to pan out.  Here’s hoping they catch a second wind before my 6 months are up, or there’s probably not going to be a Champions Online there to renew my subscription to.

New Hero MMORPG, Old Habits

I’ve been working hard on burning out from Champions Online so that I can get back to work on my game and, while I have not quite reached this goal, I have at least reached the level of familiar alt-a-holicism.  Today, I go over my various experiments with character concepts, so you don’t have to.

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Champions Online Launch: Not That Bad

The Champions Online launch has not been going super swimmingly, but it could be a lot worse.

Cryptic has moved well to counteract most of the damage.  Any character generated prior to the launch day patch will be allowed to rebuild their characters for free.  The day you couldn’t play is not being counted against your subscription.

However, the nerfs remain.

The primary thing adjusted were the passives – powers to be slotted and forgotten as they enhance your character in some vital area.  Those who leaned heavily on their passives are now very much feeling the pinch.  Passives are now somewhat between 40% to 60% less effective as they used to be, and consequently heroes who rely on them for survival are dying 40% to 60% faster.

I feel the nerfs were certainly necessary, as the game was quite trivial before, but the severity of the adjustment was an over-reaction.  Many players claim their heroes can no longer even survive a fight against 3  henchmen – a number whose importance is derived from Jack Emmerts previous declaration that being able to fight 3 minions in City of Heroes is an ideal balance.  It’s a fair argument – even at the most basic level, heroes should be capable of doing this fairly reliably.

It turns out that the over-severity was deliberate,  as apparently because that’s how Bill Roper sails:

The biggest thing you have to do when you’re piloting a ship this big is that you tend to have to make big course corrections.  I think the thing that players always talk about is ‘Well, why don’t you make smaller changes?  Just change it like a little bit, then a little bit.’  The only problem is, when you have a big ship, when you make a lot of small course changes you have to make a lot of them and it’s hard to see.

Where the good ship Champions Online was previously listing dangerously to Starboard, it’s now listing somewhat noticeably to Port.   As of today, developer posts reveal them working diligently to make an even more acute course correction.  Soon after launch, they raised a test server in play to get a little feedback on the kind of fixes they’re doing before just rolling them on the server.  Soon, we expect they’ll even have their patch messages half-decently documented.  It seems the developers are well underway to switching their mindsets from beta to retail.

In the meanwhile, if you were wise/lucky enough to stumble across my guide and follow it prior to launch, you’re probably doing just fine.   This is because my guide walked you away from the idea to taking a bunch of attacks, and instead focused on getting a diverse set of powers instead.  Such a move fairly assures that simply nerfing the passives wouldn’t have killed your character.

All things considered, Champions Online’s launch could have been much, much worse.  When Anarchy Online launched, it was so laggy and crash-prone that it was unplayable for weeks.  Even World of (Bloody Successful) Warcraft had to shut down sales of the game temporarily because the servers were being completely overloaded and unplayable near launch. A day of being unable to play and characters with passive power dependencies encountering difficulty is comparatively nothing.

That said, I’m definitely looking forward to that free respec.  Sure, my character plays well enough, but I think I could find an entertainment benefit by rebuilding my character in a more novel direction.  Thus, even in these trying times, there’s a certain silver lining in that I’m being granted an opportunity I would not have otherwise.

"City of Heroes 2" Announced

Okay, it’s actually called Champions Online, but it’s functionally everything Cryptic wanted to do with City of Heroes if they were remaking it.

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