Captain’s Log: What the…?

A strange thing has started to happen in STO — I’m actually enjoying ground combat.

I don’t even think I’m doing it right. I love my Engineers, but seriously? Their ground combat abilities are almost completely unappealing. Yay, I can build a bunker anywhere I want! Go forth, my little drone! Who cares. An emphasis on turtling and attrition draws out ground battles far too much. What I really want is to expose my enemies quickly and then disintegrate them with my split-beam rifles.

(In STO, there are few noises more satisfying than “AAHHH–WOOSH” noise of a vaporized enemy. In my heart, only the angry Klingon computer reporting that my enemy’s shields comes close.)

In this regard, I’ve come to appreciate two kit-based engineer abilities — Weapons Malfunction (an expose attack which disables an opponent’s weapon) and Quick Fix (which grants a significant boost to ranged damage output for a short while). Unfortunately, only one Engineer kit has both of these abilities, and its confined to Lt. Commander rank.

My solution? A team of science officers (and several Weapons Malfunctioning engies) expose my enemies, while I crouch and Quick Fix-it-up. It’s a one-trick pony, but it’s damn fun. Especially because my ugly Reman bridge officers creates an inordinate amount of exposed states. I guess his terrible looks frighten the enemy into submission?

But at some point, I should really consider making a science officer.

Mass Effected Out

Mass Effect 2 is a fine game – one might even say a great game – but as I planned to load up my save the other night, it occurred to me that I just didn’t want to play it.

I’ve recruited every member of my team except Tali (and Legion, who I technically shouldn’t know about yet?), and have run six loyalty quests (in order: Zaeed’s, Kasumi’s, Jacob’s, Mordin’s, Garus’, and Thane’s). As I prepared to saddle-up the Normandy for yet another go at saving the galaxy, in my mind’s eye I saw what the next half dozen loyalty quests held for me:

  • They’ll want revenge and/or find a family member.
  • I’ll have to make a tough moral call about what the correct course of action is.

And you know what? I hate both parts of that paradigm.

Look, I’ve really enjoyed very specific loyalty quests – Kasumi’s mission is one of the best video game experiences I’ve ever had, and I appreciated that during Thane’s loyalty mission, I didn’t have to punch anyone, and only fired one bullet. But seriously – this crap is getting old. I’m getting tired of having to talk down my team members from murder, especially when the person they’re pointing the gun at (Sidonis, Ronald Taylor) really deserves to die. And I resent being stuck between a rock and a hard place, even on normal quests.

I miss Wrex, and the ‘simplicity’ of the first game – we were the good guys, going to go save the galaxy. Hell, I even loved the f-ing Maco – and I got to drive it into a mass relay to boot! This time… I’m an undead abomination working for a terrorist organization, recruiting a ship full of maladjusted psychopaths. We fly around the galaxy settling personal scores by killing the members of one of three mercenary organizations. <sarcasm>Fun times were had by all.</sarcasm>

This comic gives me hope, though – maybe Wrex Grunt and I will go get drunk together and kill something big.

Crippling Self Doubt

Decisions

I’ve got a confession to make: I have sabotaged my own character progression in STO.

It’s true. One of the main reasons I have two characters stuck at Lt. Commander 6 (level 16!) is because right after I hit that level, I’m overcome with a wave of self-doubt. Have I chosen the right class? The right race? Maybe I want to play a different type of character?

There are four axes my decisions are torn between:

  • Gender: male or female? The vast majority of my characters are female, and sometimes I find that peculiar. I think about starting a male alter-ego, but then I remember they’re all ugly – that dumb five o’clock shadow all the males of STO seem to possess doesn’t help matters. Not the biggest kernel of doubt, but it’s there.
  • Class: Engineer or Tactical? I love dealing massive damage, but Engineers are wicked survivable and fun. BUT I love my Science bridge officer powers most of all – should I make a Science officer, to benefit from the skill points I’m already investing in that area? And heals are nice!
  • Speccing & Ship: Even if I decide on my class, do I want to invest in the Astrophysicist trait? Do I want to fly a Science vessel with beams, or an Escort with cannons?
  • Alien vs. Waiting: I want a Cardassian. I’ve wanted one since the game launched. I know they’re coming. They’ve got to, eventually. Why they haven’t come out yet is beyond me. Do I go ahead and make an Cardassian-looking Alien, or do I wait patiently? (Yes, having ‘Cardassian’ as my creature type, rather than ‘Alien’, really does matter to me.)

I think it all comes down to the fact that I’m probably, well-and-truly, a min-maxer. It’s not that I inherently want to be a min-maxer – if anything, I’m drawn toward strange-but-fun character builds (blaster-wielding Jedi in KOTORII, go!) – but what I really want is my character to be efficient, to get the most bang for their buck. Plan on making a Science-oriented character? Well, clearly, I should scrap my other characters and start over with a Joined Trill.

I want everything – I want to deal high damage but be survivable, I want to be able to solo yet be a ‘credit to team.’ And the best way to do that all, I think, is be a well-rounded Engineer.

But I don’t know. Cause being well-rounded means you suck at everything.

What I really want is a Cardassian.

RE: Mistakes

I’ve been thinking more about what I wrote earlier this week, on Quintin Smith’s pulled Eurogamer review. A few things have changed, granted: the actual review has been reposted elsewhere, Kieron Gillen commented on my blog and challenged my opinions (in a good way!), and the baleful gaze of RPS turned toward my humble little site.

The more I think about it, the more I realize that what I first wrote about Smith’s piece was unfair. I straight up accused Smith of not understanding the context of his subject material. Having not read Smith’s full review, my stance on the subject can be summed up as “ironic” if you’re generous, “hypocritical” if you’re not.

Because, in context, Smith’s comments make alot more sense. He admits that he’s not a current AoC player and that he knows little about the franchise. He sums up alot of the bewilderment a new player who has suddenly been forced to play a max-level character – just what do all these rows do? I’ve also heard that writers don’t get the chance to make the captions for their articles, so that those asinine “Conan vs. Communism” and “East is Worst” comments might not have been Smith’s doing.

But this isn’t a mea culpa on my part, because the fact is, I’ve still got issues with how the review was handled.

No editor in their right mind would assign a review of a World of Warcraft expansion to someone who has not seriously played the game before. Why, in God’s Green Earth, is it acceptable to assign an AoC rookie to cover the game’s expansion?

There is one good answer, and it’s one that Smith calls on: alot of people with little-to-no Conan knowledge are currently thinking about (re)subbing to Age of Conan. In this regard, Smith comes across as the Everyman, the “I’m-new-at-this-too” reviewer.

The problem is that what Smith has been asked to review isn’t new player content – he doesn’t make a new character and play them through Tortage, and into the new Gateway to Khitai zone, and then into the level 80+ zones. He’s given a pre-made level 80 character and told to run around some. On a beta client, for that matter. No wonder he found the game simultaneously boring and confusing.

Repeating my sentiments from the first piece, I think that MMOs should be reviewed in a significantly different way than other video games are. The best analogy I’ve been able to conceive is the difference between movie reviews and television reviews.

Movies are short, self-contained and discrete experiences, not unlike most video games. Granted, videos games can run anywhere between twice to ten or more times as long as a movie, but I think that’s a difference of degree, not of kind. Sometimes movies, like video games, have a sequel; sometimes they develop into a franchise.

When compared to movies, television series are long-term affairs, and their viewing experience is spread out over months. When a new show is released, alot of attention is paid to the pilot; if that pilot fails to entertain, that’s a black mark on the show’s record. But shows undergo change over time, getting better (or worse) with each subsequent episode. And when an individual episode is reviewed, it’s discussed on two different levels – its own merits, and how it can be integrated with the experience-at-large of the television show as a whole.

A new season premier offers viewers and newcomers a chance to come together, to start things over – just like MMO expansions. But the one thing a good newsite definitely should not do is have a novice viewer review the second season premier, a novice whose only knowledge of the show was its crappy first pilot.

And I think that’s what happened here, with Eurogamer and Rise of the Godslayer.

One last thing, before the comments of “tl;dr”. I don’t know why Eurogamer took the review down. The review has problems, sure (IMO, obviously) – but they are problems endemic to trying to release an MMO review the day before the game goes live. I disagree with Smith’s opinions, but at the end of the day, his opinions make sense and can be argued for.

Is it censorship, like Mário Figueiredo states? Well, in so far as it is Eurogamer censoring itself, yes. But I think Figueiredo’s wrong to say that the article was taken down simply because of a page of comments calling for its removal – it’s the internet, guys, and people say mean things on it all the time.

I think that Eurogamer was burned by its coverage of Darkfall, and is understandably wary of claims that a reviewer didn’t “do his research.” But that isn’t the case here, and it’s unfortunate Eurogamer ended up making the news the news when they pulled it down.