Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Champions Online: So what has be so enthralled?

The last month and a half I have been casually playing Champions Online, instead of WoW... When I first tried it I was unsure if I would play the game past the first month's subscription with the game.

It first tempted me over Halloween, when they had their first content patch and seasonal event. Blood Moon. I never got to see the actual content, because I was stuck on the tutorial zone... which was in itself very active and lively. An alien race was invading Mellenium City, and all around you explosions were happening, people were fighting and trading deaths on the front lines, alien spawn eggs were popping out of the ground and so forth.

I had trouble with one of the first quests, because it involved learning this "Block" command... being trained on WoW and CoX, you just tap a button and it's suppose to work. Not so in this case, which brings me to the first feature... Champions Online is very much an action oriented MMORPG. Every hero has a block option which needs to be held down to work... it is often the only way to survive big animation attacks from enemy mobs. But as I explored more, powers had several different functions depending on how you control them.

Many powers have an option for charging the power for a bigger effect. Some have combo effects when you tap it multiple times, some powers even have healing effects and damaging effects depending on who the target it.

The second feature I found to love, after playing with the game some... and which took my head some time to wrap around is the power sets. Unlike many games, the character creator bombards you with several options for starting powers... including a custom build that lets you mix and match. However each power set seems rather limited with how many choices you get... that is until you realize that every power set is open to you from the start. The only real penalty is that you wont unlock all your main power tiers early... each power teir requires X number of powers from your main set or X+2 general powers. That means anything is possible for character creation... you wanna mix fire and ice? Go for it... Super Strength with lazer eye beams? Why not!?

The third most interesting part, which has many new players confused is the open class system... in essence there is no power sets that are required for tanking or damage or even support... While it is true there are only limited healing sets, a support character doesn't always heal. Each power set has crowd control properties, and holding a mob in place so it goes down faster can sometimes be just as good as healing.

Every player has 4 builds to choose from, they generically alter the stats of your character to preform better at a specific job. Guardians are the standard unmodified base. Protectors have enhanced HP, Higher energy regeneration when blocking, but lower attack power for tanks. Avengers can crank out the damage with higher damage output, but lower HP. Sentential are the support role, with increased effect to heals, holds, and debuffs, and increased energy... but lower HP and Damage output.

You can change the roles every 45 seconds, but just slapping on the role doesn't make you an instant tank, support, or DPS monster. That is where the custom power sets come in handy... you need to choose powers that compliment the role you wish to play. But you can have just about anything... not always inline with traditional roles. You could have a firecaster be a tank, a fast pace ninja who can dodge anything, a mighty robot in power armor. The other half is equipment. Fortunately equipment is only about 45% of your overall stats, making it important, but not the be all and end all. Your powers have primary buffs that help their effectiveness, but every stat is important in it's own way... a super strong hero can still gain huge benifet from intelligence to lower the energy costs of his attacks. Presence helps healers primarily, but fire hurling DPS machines get some threat reduction from presence as well.

So that is a brief primer on Champions Online... I suggest giving the game a try if you're after a more action oriented casual game... involving super powered beings... with a bit of freedom, both in character creation, powers, and roles.

Monday, December 14, 2009

I'm back! And more super then ever!

Hello true believers,

The Ursine Master is up and at them again. After a lengthy return to the World of Warcraft, and re-shelving of my account... I've been giving a new game a shot. Champions online. I'll go into more detail tommorow... but needless to say, the Ursine Master has taken a new turn for the side of "good"... his unreliable minions replaced by robotic creatures and his crude pistols replaced with a sonic blaster!
Aberrant New World of Darkness conversion has bit jumped into overdrive these last two months. My ultimate goal now is to make a published book of the rules including some new photoshoped graphics like the one to the right. Obviously due to copywright laws, it wont be a widly published rule set... cafepress.com can do print on demand with perfect binding and a full color cover... to which I can sell at cost to a few people who might want it.
Before I get to that stage, I'm going to have to heavily play test it first. My usual crew will probally start up again in January... I've also had some inquries from the bear community in the twin cities... and also some possible interest in the Madison Area, which last weekend I traveled down to to experience a tottally different LARP experience. Serenity: The Signal Wars.
So stay tuned as the Master gets back into the grove of writing again.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

When it all comes down to it...

The thing to remember about online games is that it's the people that make it fun. CoX may not be the most technical game in the world, nor the most graphically advanced. But it is a great sandbox that easily allows you to play with friends. Add to it the Ventrillo server we purchased for a year, and you can have an fun night of stress reduction with good friends.
The above photo consists of 2 Dominators, 3 corruptors, and 1 master mind... In many games this combination wouldn't be able to do anything... however durring a canister delivery mission, we could easily waste large groups of longbow (those super jerks). Me and the other dominator would hold them in one place, while our corruptors would rain down firey, staticy, and explosive AoE attacks. One of our corruptors also is an accomplished healer, (and rest of the group can accomplish some healing messures), and for those pesky lutenents we have zombies rush in to tank. It was alot of fun to see how many groups we could take at once. We made comments, we laughed, and everyone had a great time... which is once again, the essence of the MMO game.
Thank you CoX for making so many options that allow for ease of teaming up with your friends... and keep up the good work.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Who Watches the Watchmen? Me apperently.

Over the weekend I had my first taste of the Watchmen franchise. Not knowing anything about it, I thought the director did an excellent job. From the comic pages I've seen, it appears that they were very faithful to the story (san the change to the ending of course). I also liked the obvious problems that each character had as a result of their "powers"... I relaize that only Dr. Manhatten was the only obvious superpowered being, but each had transended basic human limitations... giving each character a few levels of Mega-Attributes (as per the Aberrant game).

Dr. Manhatten is an excellent inspiration for any Terrigan character, as he moves beyond humanity, even though he cares for them in a sense, he clearly knows to be above them as a god... his aberrations are many and obvious... it's little wonder he goes off the planet to create new life... which parralels Divis Mal in Aberrant... who will later leave earth as well to go create his own universe.
Silk Spectre and Nite Owl are realitivly "normal"with a few minor mental quirks, but have weathered crime fighting really well.
Ozy has my favorite line in the whole movie, "Do you think I'm some comic book villain? That I would tell you my master stroke if there was a remote chance you could stop me? I triggered it 35 minutes ago." Defenatly a Megalomanic who's good at it. His power had a higher price.
Rorshach also a defantly potent human with several mental issues... the price for justice often can lead to madness when you see the worst in humanity all the time.
Overall, I recomend the film to comic fans... it was well put together and kept me guessing to the end... and the "villians" plan was quite brilliant. The violence and sex were done just well enough in contrast with some off color music that clashed with the scene to a point (but we're well chosen). It reminded me of the idea I heard from a friend in High School who would start a movie with the "Cola Wars" between Pepsi and Coke, with one side raiding the other and shooting gangster style with "Everything is Beautiful" as the backgroud music.
As a secondary opinion, it's nice to see the taboo of male nudity being challenged in this film... I found it far less distracting after the first time it happened then other films that use every trick in the book to cover up bits and peices... Beowulf comes to mind in that example... Fighting grendel was an awsome fight, but the convenetly placed table or arm or cup or whatever just got to be distracting. It worked for Austin Powers, because it was a comedy... but for Beowulf it just got to be too much. With any luck directors will take their R rated films or NR films and not try to work around bits and peices like they have in the past and just move on to make awsome films.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Aberrant v1.4 Rules

After another rousing adventure of Aberrant with my testing group, a number of issues and confusion came up... as well as some new content dying to come to the four front... so it's time for me to buckle down at work and go over some new issues. Here is the primary list
1. Look at all Resistance specs to powers
In the NWoD system there are three kinds of actions... Instant, Extended, and Contested.
Instant are generally an Attribute + Skill + Equipment - Modifier... A single successes is all that is needed to beat the challenge. These represent something simple like making the jump from building top to building top... or picking a simple lock.
Extended are similar, but generally require a number of successes to achieve the final goal.. such as crafting a sword could be 5 successes for a simple crude weapon up to 25-50 for masterwork... or doing research on a werewolf for weaknesses that aren't just folklore.
Contested compare successes when two people are competing in the same objective, such as a hacker and system admin fighting in cyberspace over a system... or two people running a marathon.
Combat gets sticky though... most challenges in combat have been reverted to instant actions, which tends to make things go faster without contested actions every time someone throws a punch... but some powers in combat are not well suited for simple actions... So my task is to go through and see what type of action makes the most sense. This is going to be the messiest part.
2. New Power: Body Modifications...
This power in the old aberrant system was a power bought once at a specific cost and had a permanent effect... such as gills allowing you to breath under water, wall crawling abilities, or extra arms... I have to decide if I want the "power" to simply be a merit based (by once and forget) or a level 1 power (Giving the Nova an equipment like bonus for certain situations).
3. Quantum Power Level chart
The current chart appears pretty weak with little incentive to raise it (except to shoot past 1-5 to 6 where you become able to purchase level 4 powers) I plan to raise the regeneration of temporary quantum pool for each level... I might tinker with the max temp pool... and most importantly, I'm going to take a hard look at the degeneration penalty.
Characters have a morality scale, which keeps them in line from doing horrible monstrous things... the theroy with the super heroes is the more potent they become, the more separated from humanity they are... however the degeneration penalty seems quite harsh... to get a similar effect with separation with humanity I think can fall into aberrations forced upon the nova's when they hit Level 3, 5, and 8 (out of 10).
4. Node Background Negatives... which are similar to Quantum Power Level chart... it has the same problem. To fix this, I'm tempted to add a low level derangement at level 2 or 3... and progress to the more sever derangement at 4 or 5... the thought is the Node is a lump of grey matter in the Nova's brain that allows super powers. It starts as the size of a peanut, but can grow to be the size of a softball... which puts alot of pressure on the brain in ways not necessarily healthy. So it's up for scrutiny.
5. Chrysalis... one of my players is starting to get quite tainted on purpose... the Teragen see taint and aberrations as evolution... but dangerous. Their leader has developed a process of controlled evolution called Chrysalis. Using a deep philosophy guild in their process... they acquire taint points and channel it during a hibernation/cocoon period. This can lead to new powers, changes in aberrations, and a deep set attitude change... But how will I implement it in my game... as it's got a great potential for role play... but it also serves as a potential game breaker mechanically.
So I've got my work cut out for me... There are a few more powers that are floating around in my head that a unique enough that they warrant their own page in my book... but my main focus is clearer now.
More updates to come.

Monday, March 23, 2009

The brothers are back

The picture today is of Jacob Lux and Oswald Smith...
Two characters that were created for a werewolf LARP about 6-7 years ago... but have been a constant blast to play and has inspired several written stories and several game sessions encompassing the range of emotions and situations.
Oswald (a bear changer - on the right in the picture), was my character who has had a lingering online presence in both WoW and CoX... WoW was a Bear Tank Druid of course... and in CoX he's a brute (the current make is Shields and Super Strength)
The player of Jake, has since followed me to CoX and created his time tested Get of Fenris (Battle Axe and Invincibility Brute - on the left in the picture). Which has given CoX a nice revitalising shot for me. We once again get to have more exploits and adventures as our two favorite characters. Back in the werewolf game, we were in essence saving the world... but we were hardly considered "heroes"... so the villain side is a perfect home for Jake and Oswald.
Even better is in CoX is the fact that we are forever "packed" in a Leveling Pact. After a few months of playing with another friend and leveling pacts... I gotta say that I love the feature.
To review: Leveling Pacts are a bond created between two characters under level 5. It then takes all experience and divides it equally between the two toons to make sure they are always the same level and experience level. This includes if the other character is offline.
This includes if you create a pact at different levels. A level 5 toon would simply donate all experience gained to his pact mate until they were caught up.
In experiencing this, I've run into only one minor inconvenience and several benefits.
It does take twice as long to level a character if you solo alot... however for the ability to have the same level toon to play with when your friend is around is great. I've noticed also that it's a great way to grind money and prestige for the super base... since only experience is divided... you get full money for each mission and kill. More missions and killing mean more money.
The other great benefit for altoholics... like my friend... we have two separate pacts started... Oswald and Jake are Group A and His healer/blaster and my Stalker is Group B
He will often play his healer character with Oswald tanking... and while we are earning more experience in a group (divided by half)... we are in fact leveling 4 toons at once and making some good money in the process (since you always get more xp and money in a group)
The system is pretty good, but obviously has some room for improvements...
1. I would like to be able to form a pact with toons higher then level 5... even if they make it so that I can only form the pact within 5 levels... that would be a nice touch for my old characters who were leveled partially before Issue 13 came out.
2. Leveling pacts with a group bigger then 2 - I have about 5 friends all online in CoX now... and it would be truly awesome to set up a super group that all stay the same level... divide the experience 5 ways... it shouldn't unbalance the game any... So I hope they are able to implement it after Issue 14 comes out. (which in itself will be awesome too)
The brothers live again! Now I just gotta convince my in character brother Walter to join the dark side.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Slouching in the updates... but for good reason.

Between mining mindlessly in Eve online, funding our new Super base in City of Villains, and most importantly, testing out the open Beta for issue 14 Architect in City of Villains... I've been quite busy.
Architect is quite a bit more robust then I first thought it would be... for those not in fully up to day on City of X issues... Architect allows players to go to a content studio in game, and create full fledged missions. You can then publish them and other heroes/villains can try them out and get Experience and "Tickets" (like skeet ball tickets) to turn in for digital goodies.
It uses the natural mission randomizer already in the game, which uses your character level, Difficulty level, and number of teammates you have in your party to dictate what level the mobs/bosses are and how many pop up. You can direct the difficulty somewhat, but changing the difficulty to be easy at first and ramp up as you move along, keep it even through out, or start off with the hard baddies and have them get less difficult as you progress. But all that in consideration, you have a surprising amount of freedom in creating missions...
You can set as many objectives as you like, being grabbing objects, killing everyone, killing a boss, or escorting someone around. But with a little pre-emptive thinking, you can chain a series of objectives together to make a compelling scenario. There are a number of advanced objectives like adding an ambush or a surprise ally who turns evil... even a mob who's a friend to no one (he/she will rip apart NPC mobs as much as you)
I also enjoy the freedom in creature creation. You can use any of the several NPC mobs groups as bad guys, or create your own complete group from scratch.
Personally I'm borrowing a chapter from the old Werewolf the Apocalypse LARP, and creating the Monkey King Pack and Elder Black Spiral Dancer (the latter who gave a legitimate challenge to my character). The creator allows you to create various levels of bad guy, from regular boss to epic, to arch villain... much like how they are situated now in game. You can choose how experienced they are (which dictates how many powers they know in a specific powerset). And of course a primary and secondary power set. You can mix and match to your heart's content... combine the gun totting power of assault rifle (from the blasters/corrupter)... with the invincibility of Invincibility (from the tankers/brutes). Or give a full fledged self healing power to your high DPS brute... and of course, flight is an option for everyone. Not all combinations are equal, but you have a wide variety to play with and easily edit later.
The map list is pretty extensive, and once this version is live, the next step in creation is to make fully custom maps. But the range of map size is and variety is good enough for most missions.
The last aspect I really like is the nitpicking, customizing almost every aspect of the encounter and the text revolving around the mission. Down to the text that it gives you when you are interrupted in collecting a quest item and what the NPC boss says when he/she flees at 25% health.
Hopefully any bugs found are quickly ironed out and the system is found to be stable on the servers... so we can get this gem of a feature out on live servers asap.