Are you hanging on the edge of your seat?
And another one gone.
And another one gone.
Another sub. bites the dust
Hey, will we get WoW too?
Another sub. bites the dust.
I’m not sure that giving your players the equivalent choice of playing for a month or fixing their broken character is entirely sound business acumen.
There may be a very good reason (if tax avoidance is ever a good reason) why game companies in general seem to use point systems to price their virtual goods and services, but from at least one perspective it looks like nothing more than a weasel wrapper attempting to obfuscate the real world price.
After the long and drawn-out interactive electronic entertainment drought of the summer, where the bounteous river Gaming is deprived of content and dwindles to a mere trickle maintained only by the delta of hype tributaries that continue to feed it, we now begin to see the autumnal deluge of new releases, which rained down on the Beta mountain ranges not so long ago, slowly gather speed as they wend their way down the steep slopes and out onto the flood plain of launch titles. And as the river Gaming begins to regain its strength, returning life to the dishevelled and starved media that line its banks and drink deeply of its waters, the native inhabitants of the river begin to return; here and there gamers frolic once more in the seemingly illimitable expanse of the rejuvenated river, their joyous cries to one another filling the Autumn air with the sound of rapture.
PC and TV screens flow again with the neon light of the river as it streams out and lights-up the faces of gratified gamers across the wide expanse of the world.
Or in short: new games, woo yeah!
Champions Online has now set ‘engines to power, turbines to speed’ and is battling with the evil forces of General Release, where it seems to be winning on the whole. Certainly it’s been a smooth launch for a vast majority of players as far as I can tell, and my experiences with the game so far have been almost entirely positive, with Lord of the Rings Online being the only other MMO springing to mind that has done so well on its opening few days. Still, the game is not without its issues – as is the remit of any true MMO at launch – and Syp reports on at least one rather game-stopping issue for some people, this one regarding frame rate frinkiness.
As for me, well I’ve made it out of the character creator for long enough to get my main character to level fifteen and have thus made my way through the first two introductory zones and into Millennium City and the game proper. I do intend to post a lengthier disquisition on the game, but for now the important thing to say is that this isn’t City of Heroes 2.0. No really, it isn’t. Yes, there are a lot of ideas that have been inherited from City of Heroes, clearly there are. In fact there are some audio assets that seem to be exact copies, for example the ‘vomit’ attack sound of the Qulaar aliens you meet at the very start of the tutorial area are, to my ear, identical to the Vahzilok vomit sound effect from CoH. The character creator is also evidently a spiritual successor to its CoH counterpart, but if saying that a few ideas taken from CoH and improved upon make Champions Online nothing more than CoH 2.0, then we must also say that WoW is nothing more than EQ 3.0. Champions is a very different game to CoH in many fundamental ways. Take combat for one: in CoH you press an attack, wait for that power to fire, then press another attack. If an attack is on cool-down you can queue it up and wait for the power to recharge, at which point it will fire and go back on cool-down. It’s a very traditional PC MMO system, whereas Champions is, as has been pointed out elsewhere already, a Console MMO system: it is fast, it is furious and it is a lot of fun, assuming you aren’t set in your PC MMO ways. As one example of the difference between the two, many attack powers don’t have a cool-down and therefore you can mash the attack as fast as your keyboard and latency will allow, which is, to Cryptic’s credit, really pretty fast and very responsive. In fact, people should really be quite impressed with just how responsive the attack system is in Champions. It’s one of the things that I secretly (not so secretly now, of course) think made WoW great: you press a button, you get a response to that button press. Straight away. Not when some special internal cool-down occurs. Not when the game feels like fitting you in to its diary. If the power is on cool-down, you can’t use it, if it isn’t on cool-down then you can use it Right Now. It’s probably my biggest issue with combat in LotRO at the moment – at least with my Champion, the Warden seems less effected – in that I can press an ability and then seemingly have to wait an age for it to activate. Maybe it’s based on the swing timer, maybe it’s an internal timer, I don’t know, but it makes having an interrupt ability that is used in response to an enemy’s attack nigh-on pointless. Champions also requires you to actively block enemy attacks, you can get away with not bothering to do so with their standard attacks, but if you see the enemy winding up a big power (as indicated by a comic-style BLAM icon above their head) then you’d better get those shields up, Captain. It makes the game more like an arcade beat’em-up, and as far as super heroism goes, it feels a lot more true to the genre than standing on the spot and pressing ‘1’ in CoH. And maybe a bit of ‘2’, just to spice things up. With the occasional excitement of pressing ‘6’,’7′,’8′,’ALT-1′,’ALT-2′,’ALT-3′ and ‘ALT-4’ if a mob knocks all of your toggle powers off. Of course CoH isn’t really as staid as all that, because they managed to make the fights hectic enough that it feels as though you’re doing a lot. As a final thought, another MMO which tried to mix the combat up a bit and went for a more frenetic option was Age of Conan, also slated to be a console MMO at one point, and again the combat in that game was a lot of fun if you were open and receptive to that sort of thing. More on Champions once I’ve had a chance to play my character to a higher level.
Other new games that are now causing a quite audible ping on my game radar are Aion, which I ordered some time ago on a whim and am not sure I will get a chance to play for a while; Batman: Arkham Asylum, about which I have heard what can only be described as the unrestrained screams of orgasmic release; Section 8, which has been pimped quite heavily by Rock, Paper, Shotgun, and seems to be gaining momentum in the blogger hive mind; and last but not least Dungeons & Dragons Online: Unlimited, which I have yet to look into properly but would like to return to at some point, having played the original on release. I think it would need a decent static group to make the most of it though, so I’ll probably dabble in the free section of the game and then determine where to go from there.
The only problem is that until recently I’ve been happily subsisting in the isolated ponds of LotRO and WoW, those enduring habitats that remain a watering hole of gaming life when all other options have dried out. I’m not entirely sure I’m prepared for the rapid influx of fresh gaming waters, and I’m probably at risk of being swamped by the oncoming wave of new ideas and thoughts, sights and sounds. I need to anchor myself, and I shall do so with the next post, where I’ll talk about my ongoing adventures in LotRO, and my recent return with Tiger Ears to the lands of Azeroth, for one final fond tour of its lands before they are sundered by what one imagines is the wrath of a development team who, after being labelled the ‘Blizzard B Team’ for so long, have finally reached their enrage timer.
Day forty two. Still stuck in the character creator. Johannson has abandoned us and struck out on his own. I fear that Smedley-Brown will leave next, and then I don’t know what I shall do; I was going to kill and eat him so that I didn’t have to leave our base camp to fetch food. On a brighter note I have completed my Automata clone:
He will sit nicely alongside my Stupendous Man, along with all the others.
As I write this, Smedley-Brown is leaving. I’m alone now. All alone. Like that man in Silent Running with all his robot pets.
Oh, now that would make a great character.
Character creation, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the Bizarreship Melmoth. His five year mission: to explore strange new worlds. To seek out new character models and new costume pieces. To boldly try to create a female character in Champions Online that doesn’t look like the hideous love child of David Gest and a cheap inflatable sex doll.
Good grief I’ve seen some freaky looking female characters in this game so far.
So just a bit further down this post is Normal Girl, my attempt to create a female face that doesn’t make me do that “Wooahaahhh sweet mercy AHHHH!” thing. It’s pretty difficult too: Champions is, like Everquest 2, one of those MMOs that allows you Total Customisation[TM] of your character. You can change every aspect of their face, oh yes, anything at all, as long as it makes the thing look more hideous, you can do it. I imagine the problem is that having a head model that allows you to tweak facial details to any great extent means having a framework that is somewhat flexible, and therefore the modelling artist is, conversely, very restricted in just how they can shape that framework into something even vaguely human. I’m not saying that every face should be Aria Giovanni-esque, but if we could have a few more standard female avatars that didn’t have mouths that looked as though they were perfectly adapted to connect to a vacuum cleaner attachment, that would be nice. Unless you’re creating the Stupendous Suctioneer, in which case fair play to you.
As I said, it isn’t terribly easy, and I’m not claiming that Normal Girl there is a work of da Vincian greatness – attractiveness is terribly subjective – and she’s a bit more Mary Poppins than Poison Ivy, but if you see potential in what is presented there, you should be able to save the comic cover image (keep the file name, I think it may contain information that the game needs), pop it into your Champions Online screenshots folder, and then load it into the character creator. If nothing else it might give an initial point of reference from which to work.
Another quick tip for the more classically attractive comic book heroine is to turn the ‘muscle’ slider in the body options all the way down; by default it’s set about half way, which isn’t enough to encourage the tool to create strong muscle definition, and as such you instead get a sort of strange bulging shadow that looks incredibly like cellulite. Hey, maybe it was deliberate and Champions Online is the first game with truly realistic body options, although if that is so then they do seem to be missing the ‘beer belly’ and ‘ear hair’ options for the male characters.
So far Champions Online has proven to be a lot of fun, more on that soon.
Here’s Normal Girl MkII. The trick to this one was to select Determined from the Moods section of the character creator, then going back and editing the face based upon that setting. For some reason this isn’t saved in the character data or on the character selection screen, but it is maintained between logins. So if you load this file, you need to go to the Mood section and pick Determined before it will look like it does in the screenshot.
Or: Two quick things to potentially improve your Champions Online graphical experience.
I’ve had a very short time to play around with Champions, what with other games and that Real Life thing proving somewhat stalwart distractions, not to mention Champions crashing on me for the first four attempts to get through the character creator when I did have a chance to play; I shalln’t be saying much until I’ve had a chance to make a nice scalpel incision, insert a pair of Melmoth’s patented stainless steel game spreaders, and have a good old rummage around in its innards.
However, I’ve read a fair bit about how the current crop of ‘testers’ have not enjoyed the graphical style of the game, and I have to say that it is something that immediately grated with me. Perhaps I’m used to CoH’s smooth and elegant style, albeit a little dated now, or perhaps my eyes just don’t like being made to witness the computer generated equivalent of the BBC’s Willo the Wisp as viewed through a hazy drunken stupor whilst wearing your friend’s hideously strong-prescription glasses.
In short: I hate Bloom.
I don’t know what Bloom does, or why developers insist on putting it in their games and making everything turn a slightly trippy shade of woah, but I wish they’d stop. Or turn it off by default, so the three people out there who like that sort of thing can be the ones to go and find it buried in the video options and then play around with its settings.
Case in point: my character, a remake of my Thief of Socks from City of Heroes, had a bloom effect applied to his head that was so strong you couldn’t actually make out any of the detail beneath his hood. Not without looking really closely, and then having those strange spots in front of your eyes for the rest of the day that get stronger when you blink. I think perhaps ‘bloom’ is the name of that effect, you know, when you look into the sun and then blink and see the sun spot behind your eyelids, and the quicker and harder you blink the more powerful the effect, and each time it strobes it goes ‘bloom’. Bloom. BLOOM. Like some sort of Spielberg alien trying to communicate directly through your eyes and into your brain.
Where was I? Oh yes, BLOOM. So I turned the bloom effect off and had an instant improvement: I could see my character! So there you are little fellow, tucked away beneath that big blob of bloom! However, having done this, the rest of the world, having been ensconced in, and possibly entirely formed of, bloom, was now so dark that I thought I’d entered an instanced mission, possibly called Attack of Emperor Emo. The solution to this, after a little bit of fiddling, was to turn off Post Processing. I won’t be entirely convinced about turning off Post Processing until I’ve tried a few areas with various lighting effects, it may just be that the starter area is incredibly gloomy due to the prevailing invasion.
It’s all entirely subjective of course, and I feel that everything is still VERY SHINY OW MY EYES, but I thought I’d share my findings in case others also found that these settings also dramatically reduce their occurrences of expeditious eyeball evacuation.
To find the options mentioned, press Escape and then select Options.
Go to the Video tab and tick the “Show advanced options” box.
Go to the Effects section and use the Bloom drop-down to turn Bloom off.
Post Processing is a radio on/off button just above the Bloom setting.
Never let it be said that KiaSA consists of nothing but puerile persiflage.
Mostly puerile persiflage, admittedly.
But please, take it on faith, whichever ones we choose to put in will be great! So buy a lifetime subscription now. What’s the worst that could happen?
“In other news, gamers across the globe continue to lay siege to the headquarters of game developer Cryptic Studios tonight, in protest at the ‘Shelf stacking’ and ‘Paper folding’ power sets, the only two power sets currently available in the company’s recently released MMO, Champions Online. A spokesperson for the gamer movement described the power sets as a ‘steaming pile of Kryptonian Vrarg dung’. Ouch. And now it’s over to Diana for a summary of the weather.”
As its final release draws ever nearer m’colleague and I are allowing ourselves to become ever so slightly interested in Champions Online. Picture, if you will, Champions Online resting on the corner of the metaphorical office desk of our collective mind, with Zoso and myself seated on swivelling office chairs that represent our interest in the game. We would both now, perhaps, be twisted ever so slightly towards the game, with our hands still firmly on our computer keyboards and our faces directed straight at our monitors, but we are definitely now able to observe the vague form of the game’s packaging from out of the corner of our eye. One foot might be placed firmly to the side of the chair, poised and ready to launch us in a squeaky wobbly trajectory towards the game should its pull prove too much for us to resist.
As such we decided to engage the services of our industry mole to go behind the scenes at Cryptic Studios and dish the dirt. As moles are wont to do. He returned with a hastily snapped picture of a development board which listed many and varied powers. Some of the super variety, some less so. We present to you here the ones that were crossed out and therefore, we assume, will not make it into the final release of the game:
- The power to undo really tight knots in shoelaces.
- The supernatural ability to avoid damp sticky patches on the floor in the kitchen at night when barefoot.
- The ability to lick your own elbow.
- The travel power ‘Scooting backwards on an office chair propelled by one foot’.
- The mutant ability: levitate birds.
- The power to know immediately which is the right way round for a plain t-shirt with no label in the neck.
- The ability to never ladder tights.
- Supernatural resistance to semolina pudding.
- The ability to summon fifty starfish at will.
- The mutant ability: gigantic growth when in a confined space.
- The inhuman ability to sneeze with your eyes open.
- The power to cross one eye at a time
- The travel power ‘Running behind a shopping trolley with a wonky wheel and then pushing yourself up on the handlebar and free wheeling until you crash sideways into a large display of baked bean tins’.
- The power to toast bread at will.
- The mutant ability: launch a destructive beam of red laser fire from your genitals when you expose them.
- The ability to produce a really good paella out of thin air.
- The power to transform any person into Beryl Reid.
- The mutant ability: rapid fingernail regeneration.
- The ability to see clearly at night during the daytime.
- The uncanny talent to not smack your lips in disgust after licking a postage stamp or envelope.
- The power to walk up the down escalator.
- The mutant ability: spontaneously combust at will.
- The power to be faster than a tall building and able to leap speeding bullets in a single bound.
- The ability to breathe beer.
- The mutant ability: super speed when on slippery surfaces.
- The power to give everyone in a fifty foot radius the power to give everyone in a fifty foot radius the power to give everyone in a fifty foot radius etc.
- The preternatural ability to predict when somebody is on the other side of a solid door so that you don’t reach to open it only to have them open it first and you grab your chest and go “bwah!”.
- The mutant ability: indestructible body hair.
- The ability to eat soup that’s slightly too hot.
- The astonishing power to wear skin-tight latex with breasts smaller than watermelons.
- The power to shout incredibly quietly.
- Supernatural resistance to itchy underpants elastic.
- The ability to quote the average county score of any Middlesex batsman from 1952 to 1986.
- The mutant ability: prehensile penis.
- The group travel power ‘Running around in a snaking line of people to the tune of Yakety Sax’.
- The inhuman strength to open a really tight jar lid, but only if someone else has loosened it a bit first.