[STO] Look Around You


I am still enjoying my slow and rather casual explorations of Star Trek Online. No matter that the rest of my fleet were zooming around in their Tier 2 or 3 ships when we tried some fleet action last weekend, no matter if other people I know have almost reached the level cap, I’m still having fun pottering around in my little Miranda class starship.

One of the interesting things about trying a new MMO, and especially when you are used to something as heavily modded as WoW is that you can’t always rely on addons or quest helpers to let you fly by instrument. In fact, ironically because STO is one of the few settings where it would be totally in character to fly by instrument, I end up doing a lot of looking around me to find quest objectives and crafting nodes (I mean, space anomalies.)

For example, the screenshot above shows my ropey old starting cruiser heading towards an anomaly in space.


I’ve highlighted the anomaly here.

They’re really not hard to spot, but it feels like a reward for keeping your eyes peeled and actually looking at the world around you.

More than just scanning your minimap to find nodes.

I find this setup to be very immersive. I love to feel rewarded for paying attention to the game world, even if it’s just that I can spot the anomalies quickly. I also enjoy that an automatic map or addon won’t do this for me. There is a breakpoint at which it gets frustrating to be looking at a screen of wallpaper trying to spot the little dots which are your quest mobs (this reminds me of pouring dutifully over my little sister’s photos of a cricket match she once saw where she was so far away from the action that all you could see were tiny white dots on a big green field). But despite that, there’s still some fun to be had from spotting things for yourself, even if the game falls over itself to make it easy.

In PvP of course, looking around you is not so much a neat bonus as a way of life. You must pay attention to the surroundings. In high end raiding, the same applies. And of course, shooter style gameplay is all about looking around you, targeting, figuring out how to use cover, and so on.

On Immersion

I have pondered Wolfsheads post about Immersion. And all I can respond with is … that I think gameplay is becoming more immersive, I think story is becoming more immersive, I think character motivation is becoming WAY more immersive.

For example, STO makes it very easy to justify why your character is taking orders from the Federation, and all the missions do actually explain why you are helping with Federation goals. There’s nothing that involves a random quest dude asking you to kill ten rats, it’s all wrapped in more plausible character motivation than that.

In Wrath, I have no doubt at all why my character wants to kill the Lich King (something that was notably lacking in earlier expansions.) And if MMO gameplay is moving towards a twitcher, more shooter style, perhaps that’s also more immersive in its way.

Of course, none of this means that gameworlds can’t have convincing weather patterns, geography, and ecosystem. I like to think that maybe it’s just a matter of time before the different types of immersion all synch up.

STO: Welcome to Star Fleet, Here’s Your Tribble

Yes, another flimsy excuse to post more screenshots from Star Trek Online!

The first headstart weekend has been very busy, and servers have been heavily loaded. There have been long outages of the login servers, and Cryptic have put in a server queue which may mean more time waiting around.

Other than that, my experience with the game so far has been very smooth. Once you are actually logged in, it plays well and has handled the heavy load gracefully. I’ve played a few MMOs when they first went live and at the moment, it’s as good as any of them.

I’m not really hitting the peak US timezone, though, which is probably where the heaviest usage occurs. We’ll just have to see how the game copes when it opens up to the non-headstart players too.


This is the USS Brunel in action. I was tempted with ironic Culture-esque names for my starship but in the end I decided to honour one of my all-time engineering heroes.

If only I could dress my character like Brunel. I think they share a few points of similarity though …


Separated at birth? Well, maybe not but I’m sure IKB would have liked tribbles too; they make authentically adorable cooing noises when you pet them.

I don’t think it will take too long until the entire population of STO has a tribble. You can acquire one either from a friend (thanks, Longasc) or as a drop from a mob in a ground fight, because Klingons apparently like tribbles too.

Once you have your tribble, you have to decide what to do with it. If you equip it into one of your equipment slots then you will haul it along on ground missions. This means that you can take it out from time to time for a cuddle. Tribbles like being petted, and will even give you a handy short term combat buff! But if you pet it again too quickly, it will make a disgruntled eek noise.

Or you could store it in your inventory. But be careful, if there’s any food in there then the tribbles will start multiplying and you can quickly run out of inventory space.

They come in different colours and patterns. I’m not saying that I am running a tribble breeding program BUT so far I’ve seen white, black, cream, spotted (shown in the picture) and striped. I’m currently trying to pimp them to the rest of my fleet because I’m oddly reluctant to actually destroy any to make more room.

Haggis, it’s what’s for dinner?

Space combat and ground combat are two very different games in STO, so it makes sense that they require different kit and consumables. As you’d expect, drops you get from space combat are useable for space combat, and the same applies to ground combat.

Consumables for ground combat include hypodermics which function as healing potions, and food items. Amusingly, although there are a wide variety of food items in the game that will be familiar to trek fans, they aren’t restricted to dropping from appropriate races. STO denizens are a cosmopolitan lot who like to try each other’s cultural delicacies.

Here’s a thread from the boards, listing items that people have looted from dead klingons. Hot Chocolate, Haggis, tribbles …

The haggis is notable because it’s the one sole food item in my inventory that even my tribbles would not eat.


Also my character reached the dizzying heights of rank 6, which meant I was allowed to create a Klingon side character. I went with the Orion Pirate Queen and this screenshot shows my character hanging out with some of the girls. The NPC next to me is indulging in some witch elf cosplay.

I was initially sad that I could not take to the bridge in a space bikini of my own (you can spot the player character in this shot because it is the one with clothes on), but on reflection, I need the male crewmembers to be focussing on their duties.

I plan to recruit a crew of hunky male Orions and then CONQUER THE KNOWN GALAXY!

Star Trek Online – Beta Roundup


Star Trek is surely one of the best loved IPs of all time. It has spawned numerous TV series, films, books, comics, conferences, theme pubs, university courses, RPGs, computer games, Barbie dolls, and assorted other merchandise. This is the IP that INVENTED slashfic.

Let’s pause and think about that for a moment.

Ok, done. And now, thanks to Cryptic Studio’s latest efforts with Star Trek Online, the Federation is all set to expand into MMO space. But is this game for you?


My Thoughts in Summary

Plus Points:

  • Visually stunning. The game is an absolute pleasure to watch. The character animations while on ground missions are also smooth as silk – your character will dive into a roll, drop to one knee to take aim, shoulder a phaser rifle as they run – it looks good. It is also easy to take great screenshots, even for graphical nonentities like your truly.
  • Space combat is very different from the standard MMO model. Positioning is important. So is watching the other guy’s shields and keeping an eye on your own. I enjoyed it very much. If you’ve been on the lookout for a space dogfighting game, this will be worth a look.
  • Open groups. It’s very easy to end up teaming up with other people productively. If you zone into a planet on a mission and others have the same mission, you will automatically join them. We weren’t very organised in beta, but you did feel like a team.
  • Some of your abilities in ground combat depend on your weapon. So if you are equipped with a phaser, you’ll automatically get the option to fire or to stun (i.e.. set phaser to stun). It’s a neat and intuitive mechanic.
  • Interesting use of bridge officers to add extra customisation. In an intriguing mechanic, you can train your bridge officers to give you extra ability options in space and extra backup on ground missions.
  • One virtual server. You’ll be able to play alongside people from all over the world, without being separated by continent.
  • Great Star Trek audio flavour. All of the sound effects and the music screamed Trek, the team has made great use of these assets. Using established Star Trek actors for voiceovers is also great, but it was the sound effecstobeta_5ts that dragged me in.
  • Excellent character and ship customisation. This is one of Cryptic’s signature strengths and they do not disappoint.
  • What is more impressive is that players are herded neatly towards creating thematic characters. So there’s a lot of freedom, but it’s hard to make something that looks completely impossible for the setting.

Minus Points:

  • The different skills and abilities on offer look complex at first sight. Your character can train different skills, your bridge officers can train skills, and you can also customise your ship’s loadout with different abilities. It isn’t easy to figure out what some of them do or how they might be useful. This feels like a complex game with a lot to learn – whether that’s because of depth or just because there is so much stuff I’ve yet to really fathom.
  • The ground missions are not as engaging as space combat. It isn’t bad per se, and did improve a lot with the latest patch, but the majority of ground missions I tried reminded me strongly of CoH instances. Wander around, collect stuff, rescue people, or explore the area, and shoot groups of enemies when you run into them.
  • “Grindy, Repetitive Missions.” I put that in inverted commas because it’s an MMO, dammit. If you enjoy flying your starship around and fighting other ships, you won’t find it dull.
  • Uninspired chat and guild systems. The chat system is workmanlike but nothing more, similar with what we saw of guilds (fleets). Allowing fleets to build a starbase to use as a centre of operations is something I’d love to see in future.
  • Is there enough game and enough world for a subscription? It’s fun, but is it fun enough to spend £10 per month on?
  • Two character slots (three if you include Klingon). If you are an altaholic, this might be a red flag.
  • Writing is serviceable but none of the NPCs really come to life. There’s no Frodo or Picard, or even a Thrall or Antonia Bayle. There are people who give you missions, none of them with striking personalities.
  • Rubbish maps. Sorry Cryptic, but the area map is not useful to the point of why bother, it’s easier to just look around and eyeball the area.
  • Why is it so hard to actually sit in the captain’s chair on the bridge?


So why is the space combat so cool?

Your ship has four shields (fore, aft, port, and starboard – although Cryptic wimped out and called the latter two left and right), and so does the enemy. Your goal is to punch through the enemy’s shield with torpedoes and follow up with blasts of phaser fire to actually damage his or her ship. They will be trying to do the same to you.

So it is important to keep an eye on your relative positioning and which of your weapons are facing the enemy and ready to fire. Ideally ships will circle each other, trying to get off the space equivalent of a broadside. You can fire all weapons simultaneously using spacebar, or if you want to show a little more finesse, you can fire them separately as they come to bear. Bridge officers may also have expertise in space combat which manifests as short term cooldown abilities that you can use. For example, the tactical officer might be able to boost torpedo damage for 20s, or the engineering officer might be able to boost shields temporarily.

Because you are in space, there is also a 3 dimensional component. You can fly over the other ship, or underneath it. It’s not a true 3D fight, because you don’t have shields above or below to worry about, nor do you have top mounted lasers.


For example, here my ship has blown a hole in the enemy shields. You can see that one of the barriers has gone. So hopefully I am in the process of trying to turn neatly and blast him with both fore and aft lasers simultaneously just where the shield is weak.

What you end up with is an interesting style of combat with plenty of manoeuvring and tactical interest. I’m told it gets deeper later on into the game as you get a better ship with more options available. But I enjoyed it right from the start.

Is there enough content to justify a subscription?

This is a question that you can rarely answer in a beta. But still, is there going to be enough? Between the long missions (episodes), open group actions, limited crafting and PvP, will there be enough to keep players occupied?

There is little of a virtual world feel to the game, much of the content is instanced, and the space stations themselves are fairly perfunctory. Crafting is Guilds Wars style, which means that you collect materials when you are out adventuring and then give them to an NPC to be made into equipment. There is the obligatory bank and auction house (was anyone else disturbed that you can apparently auction your bridge officers?).

But the game will often feel like a group based space/ground fighter with a bit of character advancement thrown in for fun. To me, it felt like a model that might have worked better as free to play, and then charge people for the missions, fluff, and extra content. Still, Cryptic have an ambitious update schedule, with borg attacks, group ‘raidisodes’, more PvE action for Klingons, and more Space locations to explore.


And finally, is there enough Trek?

Star Trek is a moving target. The Trek of the original series is very different in theme to Deep Space 9 for example, and Voyager, The Next Generation, and Enterprise are different again.

STO has a strong Trek feel. The space combat in particular with it’s more stately pace and attention to shields, orientation and power assignments feels right. The actual world in which you fight – perhaps not so much.

There’s little room here for the strong themes of exploring new worlds, showing mercy to your enemies, and being a force for harmony and growth. That’s ditched in favour of shooting Klingons. STO is probably a better game for it, but this may not be the Star Trek that diehard fans were hoping to immerse themselves in. Then again, the franchise itself is moving away from the idealism of the original series that caught so many hearts and minds in the first place. Here’s a great post by Mitch Wagner on the tor.com blog discussing how the latest film takes a different tack, and possibly not a better one.

Why Star Trek Online needs lots of combat


Note: The image above is my beta character right at the beginning of the tutorial. I’m hoping to have some more time with the game over the weekend, with a view to writing up my own impressions next week.

Star Trek Online is well into open beta when I write this. Syp has compiled a long list of various blogger’s first impressions if you are curious as to how the game is being received, but one comment that I have heard from fans is that … Trek shouldn’t be a combat centric game. After all, in the episodes, the crew are much more likely to be brokering diplomatic treaties, discovering cures for space lurgy, or just messing around with Q.

In response to this, an anecdote from my pen and paper years. As an undergraduate engineer, we were all sent off to a one week course in a factory in Birmingham to teach us to use machining equipment (it was considered essential that all qualified engineers know how to use a lathe, grinder, arc welder, and other machine tools — even software engineers). So there we were, staying in a pretty rough area where the nightlife wasn’t, and it wasn’t safe to wander around late anyway. One of the group had brought his Star Trek RPG books with him so we got a game together to pass the time.

It was great. But every time anyone did anything cool, they got court martialled. My character got court-martialled once for setting her phaser to kill even though she didn’t shoot anyone with it. That is the Star Trek universe if you play it according to canon. The hijinks that the crew of the Enterprise get up to in the TV series will get YOUR character court-martialled. And they were mild compared to the antics that a group of player characters (PCs) will typically manage.

So if Cryptic choose to stir things up by declaring all out war all over their background, it should be considered a great boon for immersion. Why? Because in times of war, even Star Fleet will actually let you kill people and generally take part in the sorts of mad derring-do that people play games for in the first place.

Don’t get me wrong, a more canonic version of the Star Trek ethos would be fun, and would probably work great in a single player game where you can really play up the inter-character drama and interesting choices that players might need to make. (I’m thinking that a Star Trek themed game like Dragon Age would be terrific fun, but we do have Mass Effect 2 coming up for those who want to get their Bioware Sci-Fi game on). But when you have lots of players milling around in your world, especially when said world has largely negated the need for crafting or currency, you probably do need to let them shoot things.

Or else instead of Star Trek Online, you will end up with Star Fleet Court Martial Online.

These are the Voyages of the Starship Tribblebuster


Star Trek Online is (still) currently due to launch on February 2nd in the US and the 5th here in Europe, less than a month from today. And as is customary, the NDA for press has been dropped before the general punters in the beta test are officially allowed to talk about their experiences.

The open beta is due to start next week, on Jan 12th, where everyone who has preordered will get a chance to see a) if they feel that they’ll get their money’s worth and b) to try to snag some variant of the name USS Enterprise which will be pointless because beta characters get wiped before the headstart, but people will forget this fact.

Cryptic have provided for a wide range of pre-order bonuses, depending on which purveyor of digital entertainment you choose to grace with your custom. These are nicely gauged to draw in the Trekkies (Constitution Class starship, mirror universe costumes, pet tribble, etc) without actually affecting the gameplay in any way. Whatever you think of this type of trick (bribe the punters with cute pets and cosmetic outfits!), it works. Or at least, it works on this punter. Bring on the tribble!

And now I just need someone to tell me how long the ship names are allowed to be so I can decide whether USS Justifiable Homicide is a go or not. Or I could wait until next week, when I will hopefully be able to file some reports from deep space in person.

Still, how are the initial preview reports shaping up?

Gamespy features a three part preview, where Gerald Villoria focusses on explaining what it’s all about (at least in the parts I have read, maybe he brings his conclusions in at the end.)

Wesley Yin-Poole at Videogamer.com likes the game and says that when it is good it is very good, but it feels grindy in the closed beta, and he finds it painfully slow paced. (My comment: Grindiness is something that is easily fixed in a tuning pass if it’s an issue, so that’s not necessarily a roadblock. But I do appreciate that he played the game and gave his genuine impressions – that’s what I like to see in a preview.)

Nick Kolan describes the opening mission in impressive depth (wonder if he played it much longer than that) at ign.com.

Anyone else planning on Star Trekkin’?

Sharing predictions, and looking forwards

This is the time of year where everyone traditionally makes some predictions for the next year, so that we all can laugh at how wrong they were in 12 months time.

Here’s a few links to bloggers who are putting their necks on the line:

The big trend in 2009 was the rise and rise of social gaming via facebook games. They’re not strictly MMOs, although massive numbers of players are involved and they are online. But a lot of investor interest is focussed again on online gaming, so I’m sure this will have some kind of knock-on effect on more traditional styled MMOs. We’ll see more effort next year put into translating the fantastically successful social networking, gift giving, strategy/ resource focus and virtual goods buying mechanisms into other gaming areas. And we’ll probably see more of this type of approach in non-gaming sites as well.

Many of the new MMOs of 2009 seem to have disappointed fans and pundits with their subscription numbers. Champions Online in particular has seemed like a flash in the pan from where I have been sitting. I’m still intrigued that so many people were happy to line up to pay for a lifetime subscription though, and I think that’s a trend worth noting.  Aion has been fairly successful but again, the pattern of excitement at launch followed by a few months of disillusionment (with the grind, on this one) is repeated. People will simply have to revise their expectations for how new MMOs behave at launch — they won’t actually revise their predictions though.

Free Realms is one that I was predicting to possibly take a slice of the WoW market. I liked the game when I tried it, but the non-existent social side failed to hook me in. SOE have struggled with their free to play model here, and shifted to an ‘all pay after level 5’ model which isn’t the same thing at all. I hope they see more success with the game in 2010 and find their audience because it was nicely executed.

Darkfall launched to a finely targeted hardcore PvP audience and has flourished, despite criticism. But this largely on the basis of catering to their core audience (not a bad idea for any business, really) rather than aiming to be something that they are not.

Fallen Earth surprised a lot of players with its focussed old style crafting and scavenging post apocalyptic playstyle.  Again, it’s a game that is focussed squarely at a core audience and aims to make those players happy.

Another trend (this is another gimme) will be the rise of gaming on smartphones. I don’t think the iPhone will take over the world, and it might be that cross-platform games will be the biggest success of 2010. It may come down to the social networking in the end and not wanting to be restricted to playing with people who use the same model of phone, rather than the better graphics you could get by tailoring to a single hardware platform. There will be some big game that uses location based technology and maybe even augmented reality — it may look better in demos than in practice but it will get vast amounts of press attention.

And the last trend I wanted to highlight was the snap sales we have seen on Steam and other online digital vendors. The sales have been very successful, and the unpredictable nature of them and the huge discounts has gotten a lot of player attention, even though there is now a good chance that you will feel like an idiot if you buy any game at full price only to see it at deep discount for one day only a couple of weeks later. I think we’ll see MMOs trying to experiment with a similar model, and maybe even occasional sales on 3 or 6 month subscriptions to keep interest up (in sub games at least).


Much of the remaining Icecrown Citadel content will be dazzling.  Players will love the cut scenes the first time they see them and will generally agree that the raid encounters are as fun as anything Blizzard ever designed — at the same time as complaining that they’re too accessible. The hard modes will have a better difficulty ramp than TotGC (ie. more people will get past the first boss) to give midcore guilds something to aim at.

The Oculus will be blown up in one of the pre-Cataclysm events.

A few months down the line, it will be generally agreed that the  dungeon finder is more successful in the EU and Taiwan than in the US. No one will dare to comment on why this might be, except to bitch that the rest of the world is cheating by having a less individualist culture.

Cataclysm will launch in Q3 2010. All the people who quit WoW in the first six months of the year due to boredom at having nothing to do with their pimped out characters will return to create new worgen. The updated Azeroth will be widely lauded but everyone will complain again as soon as they get to Outland. They will mess up the tuning again and return to the harder dungeon instances of TBC, which will be nerfed again after lots of complaints. But people will never be sure whether the dungeons actually were harder or whether players had just forgotten how to handle hard content.

People will get bored with the new expansion quickly. The guild changes will be successful but too late to save the shattered social fabric of the game. WoW players will continue to devastate other new games, but now they’ve also failed to learn standard dungeon etiquette (ie. stay till the end of the run, work with the rest of the group, play nice with loot, etc etc) in favour of hopping in and out whenever they want to and complaining if an instance takes longer than 10 minutes.

There will be at least one major unexpected announcement before Cataclysm that will throw the hype machine into overdrive. Possibly solo instances or something that involves more solo content. Hopefully also they’ll sneak in some extra ideas which won’t garner so much attention but will make seasoned gamers happy (like cosmetic clothing).

Then there will be the expected announcements about underwater zones, dance studios, and lots of pictures of female worgen.


There will be another expansion in 2010 but it still won’t be Rohan. Turbine will start playing around with more methods to help players catch up more quickly. The game will chug along happily and although they will make tuning mistakes, the players who like it will mostly be pleased with any new additions. Zombie Columbus will continue to delight with every new design he gets involved with.

Other new games

Star Wars won’t release before Cataclysm, even if it means delaying until 2011.

Star Trek Online will meet with more success than Champions Online. It’s hard to call this one without having seen the beta but I was intrigued by the demo that I saw, there’s plenty of interest in the IP, and I think many players would like a space combat MMO that isn’t EVE. The longevity of the game will depend on social factors rather than solo content.

Final Fantasy XIV will do very well, surprising the pundits who forget how many fans the Final Fantasy franchise has, and that FF gets a shot in the arm with the release of FFXIII towards the beginning of 2010. Their separation of crafting and fighting classes will make a lot of crafting fans happy. If they are able to release before Cataclysm, they will have a huge influx of bored WoW players looking for something to do before their world resets.

Torchlight will release an MMO (or at least a beta) before the end of the year. Everyone will exclaim that it is fun, and then move on to Cataclysm.

Guild Wars 2 won’t release in 2010.

Neither will Diablo III.

CCP will announce their Vampire MMO which will go into beta in 2010.

Mass Effect 2 will be amazing. Voice acting is the new black?

Blizzard will still not announce anything about their next MMO because they actually threw away the current design this year and are starting again from scratch.

Neither will Jumpgate Evolution (it makes me sad to write this because I was looking forwards to that game, but we really haven’t heard much about it.)

Although there will be a lot of talk about free to play models, there will be a better understanding of how and where that model works. WAR may try to convert from subscription to F2P, but it won’t help (again, makes me sad to write that). AAA developers will continue to push the payment model of subscriptions plus virtual goods plus anything else they can think of. However, extended trials will be more common, and maybe even WoW will offer the first 10 levels free as a Cataclysm enticement.

I think 2010 will be a better year for MMOs than the past one, we’re moving out of a recession for a start and lessons of the last year will also have been learned. The games I am mostly looking forwards to are the final fantasy ones, both single player and MMO. And if buzz from the STO beta is good, I’m also jonesing for a good space fighting game so I hope that one will fit. Because there isn’t much else in the pipeline.

Do you have any predictions? Anything you are particularly looking forwards to, gaming wise?

Space, the Final Frontier. Hands on with STO.

Captain’s Log, Stardate 9842.1:

I was alerted at 12.00 hours by a Starfleet request that we investigate an anomaly on a planet in a nearby system. A system claimed by the Klingon Empire …

I was able to sneak a few minutes with the Star Trek Online demo at the Eurogamer Expo last week. It wasn’t really long enough to get a good feel for the game, but the demo let you fly your ship around in space, get into a dogfight with some Klingon birds of prey, and wound up with a firefight on a planet that looked suspiciously like an old quarry.

The game looked very slick on the souped up demo PCs, and all the visual clues … from the interior of the ship, to the facial shot of your comms officer relaying messages from Starfleet, to the gloriously over the top beauty of space, to the uniforms worn by the away team down on the planet surface … all of it screams Trek. The demo felt like a Star Trek episode (albeit rather a shooty one), the ship felt like a Star Trek ship, and so on.

Initially, you’re on the bridge of your ship. You can call up other stations on board to get reports from your officers, or to buy/ sell stuff at the replicator.

I did enjoy the brief burst of ship to ship combat. If only because all that time I spend playing Sid Meier’s pirates finally came good. It does feel slower paced than a typical MMO fight, and more dependent on positioning of your ship relative to the other ships.

There are shields which you can power in different directions. Your lasers have different arcs of fire. The idea is to avoid taking an undefended broadside, with the result that ships end up trying to circle each other. Or you could do what I did and spin on your axis wildly with one finger on the space key which signifies “fire all lasers” and trust the automatic targetting to do its thing. Although the lasers do lock on, you will still need to manoeuvre your ship, and from the short time I had with the space combat, I’d be keen to see more.

Planetside, the combat plays out in a more standard MMO style, although it felt very fast paced. Imagine a shooter which had tab targetting. I haven’t played Champions Online but I’ve heard that described in a similar way.

As I said, my experience with the game was very brief and I don’t have any idea what the MMO aspects are like. But I did like what I saw, I think that ship to ship combat looks good fun and I got a good Trek vibe from the game. Here’s another view from Eurogamer, about the same demo.

And one thing they have got very right is the Star Trek feel. If you are the sort of person who grins when you pull up the replicator window and sees that the first thing on the list is “Tea, Earl Grey, Hot” then maybe, just maybe, this one will be for you.

Is Champions Online on the ropes?

Eric@Elder Game reckons that CO has about a month to determine whether or not it will be able to survive for a couple of years or not. (It’s worth reading his post partly because he’s an insightful writer with some industry inside perspective but also because this one has a funny story about a profanity filter.)

I’m not a great fan of superheroes but even so, I had noticed that I’ve heard very little about CO in the blogosphere recently. There was an upsurge of interest when the game launched, with quite a few people picking up lifetime subscriptions and explaining what they enjoyed about the game. But I haven’t heard much recently. I’d assumed that the people who played were settling down quietly to do just that, but Eric has a different view.

We know that CO was not a huge hit. We also knew that Cryptic were planning to launch a second AAA MMO within a few months – Star Trek Online, which is a much much bigger IP. Eric wonders if this will put more pressure on the CO team within the company.

This is very bad news for Champions players. Champions has been relegated to the role of red-headed stepchild… it’s that crappy failure of a game that keeps stealing resources from Star Trek Online, which is the game that’s going to save the company.

But here’s the thing. There are certainly publishers who run several successful MMOs at once — mostly free to play type games like Aeria Games, or social games like Zynga (creators of Farmville, Mafia Wars, etc). But these are much less demanding games (in terms of artwork, music, coding support) than the lush top of the line subscription MMOs that Cryptic is producing.

Will they be able to sustain both CO and STO without one game losing out in the long run? Because if one does lose, it won’t be Star Trek. How many people who took out lifetime subs for CO are still happy with their purchase, I wonder.

Feeling bored? Cool stuff to check out

  1. Sita Sings the Blues. This is a brilliant animated telling of the Ramayana, interwoven with the narrator’s own story. It’s funny, clever, heartbreaking, and utterly utterly charming.
  2. Bored and want something to play? Rock Paper Shotgun points you to some Dwarf Fortress ultra tutorials. (If you have never played it, Dwarf Fortress is a scary game that takes the Angband style to whole new fortress-building levels. Kiss goodbye to your weekend.).
  3. Nerf the Cat has found a really cool web comic, based on the goings on in her own server and using screenshots to tell the tale. I think this is great and wish people would do it on my server.
  4. On the WoW tanking front, Allison Robert wrote a very good article on WoW Insider which sums up the current state of play and how we got here in the first place.
  5. Tipa@WestKarana lists the things she loves from what she has heard so far about Star Trek Online. You get to recruit, train, and level your own bridge crew? I’m intrigued.
  6. I’m fascinated by the history of fandom. And Larisa@The Pink Pigtail Inn reminisces here about her experiences as a fanzine editor in the ’80s.
  7. The Escapist goes Hands-On with the new CoH mission architect. This is the functionality that will let people design their own missions and instances for other players.
  8. Gamepolitics.com reports on a clever feline way to avoid those annoying EULAs.
  9. via MTV MultiplayerA Rabbi (Micah Kelber)who is also a gamer reviews Call of Duty: World at War – it’s an interesting, thoughtful read. But mostly I’m wishing that I’d ever had a gaming Rabbi.
  10. Muckbeast writes an insightful post about where he thinks questing has both succeeded and failed in MMOs.

Also, if you like puzzle games, World of Goo is available on Steam for $5 at the moment. It has the Spinks seal of approval, I love it. Highly recommended.