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MechWarrior Online debuts community warfare beta

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It’s the moment that many of the original founders of game MechWarrior Online has been waiting for.  PGI finally released what they are calling a beta of community warfare.  This community warfare allows planetary capture, adds the new dropship mode to the game and adds 2 new maps. The first thing you have to do is align yourself with a faction.  This can be as a temp contract such as a mercenary or become a loyalist and pledge pure loyalty to the faction you wish to join.  While you are doing small contracts you earn less loyalty points than if you commit to bigger contracts.  So far though loyalty points have no true meaning in the game but something we will see in phase 2 or 3 of community warfare.

 

I pulled up my Techgeekdad account to see if I could in fact join community warfare with an account that has pledged no money to the game.  Some folks say that community warfare is only mwo faction mapfor those dedicated players and not for the casuals.  So I’m expecting to have a bit of a challenge considering the game requires 4 mechs to drop with and this account only has a few heavies on it that I earned with Cbills.  Again I don’t play this account and spend most of my time on my main account so we should see if a new player could in fact play community warfare.  First thing I noticed is that I wasn’t pledged to a faction.   When going to the faction tab of the game it will prompt you for a faction.  I went ahead and signed a 7 day contract with house Steiner just to see what would happen.  After joining the faction I took a look at the star map to see what was there for me to join.  You don’t have to fight on a planet specifically for the faction that you pledged for.  You can earn other faction points by fighting on other planets.  For instance in my drop I went to a FRR planet that the clans had been taking over and participated in a counter attack match where our group was going to try to fight back for the planet.

mwopowergridEven though I didn’t have the 4 necessary mechs to participate in the fight I was able to use trial mechs.  There were about 8 trial mechs that I was able to choose from and the game initially choose two lights and two mediums for me.  I ended up switching them out to one light which was a Jenner, a medium Centurion and I picked two heavies a Cataphract and a Dragon.  I knew that dragon trial mech had some long range weapons on it such as 2 larger lasers and a gauss rifle.  From playing on my other account I knew that in order to attack the gates it was easier to pop the power grid with the large lasers than the medium that came on most mechs such as the Jenner.  I still came out first though with the Jenner to do a little scouting and taunting of the opponent.  The other interesting thing is the planet I decided to counterattack on was occupied by Clan Wolf which in battletech lore have better mechs, weapons and pilots.  In MechWarrior Online of course the clanners can equip more weaponry than their Inner Sphere counterparts but balanced in other methods such as extra heat and longer burns on lasers.

If you are the attacking force you must break through the gates by destroying the power grids that control the gates.  You then must push to an orbital cannon and destroy it.  Recently a mwo gate openchange was made were there are shield generators for the cannon.  You must destroy all three generators before attacking the cannon.  This change was made to prevent a group of lights racing in and speed capping everything.  The enemy will normally be on the other side of the gate taking shots at you to prevent you from opening the gate.  Once the gate is open you could rush in force and stomp the enemy.  Once you destroy an enemy mech he must respawn if he still has available mechs.  Just be sure to not be waiting on the drop off point as the drop ships do attack back and have been known to kill mechs attempting to get in quick hits on the enemy.  The defender has an easier job as they can either win by lasting 30 minutes without the cannon being destroyed or they can destroy all enemy mechs to end the match quicker. If your mech becomes disabled or weaponless you now have the option to eject from your mech so that you can grab your next available mech. If you run out of mechs then you get to go back into spectator mode to watch the match.

So now with this new mode it appears that MechWarrior Online has breathed some new life back into the game.  Some of the inactive players have been showing up to play with their teams and help capture a planet or two.  The forums have been fairly active too now that the faction warfare has excited some of the players.  The only downside I have seen in Community warfare is that I cannot join with a  group of friends to drop unless we are all in the same unit.  The best we can do is agree with which planet we will be on and queue up for the planet and hope for the best.  I’m hoping that in the future PGI will add an option to allow you to join with folks that are in the same faction to help organize the battles faster since some of the queues for planets can still last 10 or so minutes causing many to stay out of community warfare until a better matchmaking system is in place.  PGI has made some changes to let you know how many attackers and defenders on the planet but there’s not a way to tell how quickly you will be in a match if you join that planet.  Then again as PGI said this is beta and they did rush to get it out for the holidays.  I suspect in the next few weeks we will see some new fine tuning of the system.  Until then see you on the battlefield.

 

 

Blizzard to allow appearance changes of WoW equipment

Blizzard announced Wednesday that they were going to add a new feature called transmogrification which basically alters the appears of armor or weapons on your character.  For years many players had complained that if they were finding the best itemized pieces for their characters they would normally have to break up sets of gear that were designed to work together which of course would make the character looked mismatched.  Blizzard said that this feature should be available in patch 4.3 along with some other features.

Now it appears that if a player earns a new piece of armor they can make it appear as the piece of equipment that it’s replacing which will allow the set to still look complete.  This will probably excite a lot of the raiders that like to proudly show their new gear in their hometowns.

This will also have some benefits in PvP as well know that you can make your character appear to be wearing pure PvE gear or perhaps even low quality gear to fake out your opponent.  Some PvP players have stated though that they judge a player’s quality of gear more on health than on what they look like.

According to Blizzard’s own website:

Placing an item into the Transmogrifier interface will offer a preview of how the item will appear once the change is applied. However, not all item pairings are compatible with Transmogrification. In general, only items that have stats can be used in the transmogrification process. You must also be able to wear both items when using this service. Ethereals don’t have much in the way of ethics, but allowing someone to appear as if they’re equipping unusable items crosses the line. Similarly, they won’t allow you to change weapon or armor types. Sneaky death knights can’t make that breastplate look like a cloth robe, and you can’t make a one-handed axe look like a two-handed axe, or transform a sword’s appearance into that of a mace. Guns, bows, and crossbows will be the exception to this rule. You will finally be able to retain your dwarf’s racial gun bonus while appearing with all the splendor and elegance of a bow wielder (or at least the relative silence of one).

Placing items into the Transmogrify interface will increase the gold cost of the process, and clicking the Transmogrify button (assuming you have the necessary funds) will put the appearance change into effect. The process can be reversed by clicking the undo icon on each item, and then hitting the Transmogrify button once more to save the changes. Any item that’s transmogrified will have text indicating it’s been altered by the process for all to see, similar to the item tooltip callout for reforged items.

Star Trek Online a month later

My son and I have been playing Star Trek Online now for about a month. We started out in beta and went ahead and purchased the game to continue trying things out.

 

 

Some folks have already maxed out their characters and then complained that there was nothing for them to do but that pretty much serves them right for racing to the end of the game when it was already known that there was no endgame content yet.

 

 

We created first our Federation characters since you have no other choice but to start out on the federation side. We went ahead and leveled our federation characters to level 6 which then unlocks the ability to create Klingon characters. The klingon play is focused mainly around PvP. There really isn’t any quests like on the federation side where you could go explore worlds or systems and have PvE missions to do. Klingons had a few space battle PvE missions but that was pretty much it as the only other action was PvP against the federation or against other Klingons.

 

 

A brand new Klingon character gets a bird of prey which isn’t too shabby and decked out pretty well with decent gear. You get the cloaking ability which gives the Klingons a slight advantage in the begin levels of PvP for levels 6-10. At level 11 the Federation then get’s science vessels and cruisers which gives them a little more survivability. In fact most Klingons believe that the federation actually has the upper hand in PvP for levels 11-20 (also known as Lt Cmdr or Tier 2). Klingons still win a lot of the PvP matches since most of their combat they encounter is only PvP type encounters while the Federation plays a lot of PvE missions for leveling, quests and loot. The computer AI in the missions are not that challenging and many of your abilities work very well on them. When the federation then faces seasoned Klingons in combat they get a rude awaking. I started to think that perhaps Klingons were the overpowered ones and I got my group of friends to then level up their Federation characters to level 11. I picked up a science vessel, my son an escort and another friend picked up his cruiser. The three of us could actually work pretty well together in 5v5 combat. The cruiser would focus on healing, the escort would focus on DPS and I would focus on disabling subsystems such as shields, engines and help do some damage.

 

 

I think if nothing else we proved that teamwork trumps gear and ships. It helps when you are using a chat program like ventrilo and are able to coordinate your attacks and pick out your targets instead of having to type them. You are also able to call out for help as well.

 

 

The thing that I’m unhappy with right now with Star Trek Online is the fact that if you make a mistake in picking out skills in their hard to understand skill tree you have hurt your character since there is no way of changing out skill points. They still haven’t discussed how they are going to do this and are being real vague about it along with many other things such as the future of Klingons in the game. Klingon play seems to have been slapped on at the last minute and most of the design of the game is based around Federation so if you want to experience more go Federation. If you only care about PvP and don’t want to do quests you may enjoy Klingons more as you will find more seasoned players there. If you want a good challenge though try some Federation PvP but make sure you find a good group.

 

Star Trek Online Beta review

I got the opprotunity to participate in Star Trek Online’s Open beta and I figured I would share my experiences with it.

 

First off Star Trek Online is a new MMO that will be officially released on Feb 2 however folks who pre-ordered may start playing on Jan 29th. They just closed their open beta on Jan 26th so let me fill you in on what I learned from playing it.

 

First off for those trekkies that are curious what timeline the game takes place according to their own website the events in the game take place 30 years after the events in Star Trek Nemesis with the year being 2409. Evidently there is now a war between the Klingon Empire and the Federation which then becomes the two opposing factions in the game. In beta you could only start off with a federation character but after hitting level 6 you could then start a Klingon character. It appears that with Federation characters you can do either Player vs Environment (PvE) play or Player vs Player (PvP) play and Klingon characters were mainly PvP.

 

Now I mentioned level 6 being the level that you need to play Klingon but you won’t find a level called level 6. In Star Trek they do levels a bit like military you have a rank and a grade. So actually you hit Lt. Grade 6 before you start a Klingon but once you hit grade 11 you get promoted to a Lt. Commander Grade 1. When it’s time to start your Klingon character you actually start out at a level 6 instead of level 1 so at least you don’t have to level up but can go straight into some action after a few training missions.

There is two types of action in the game with one being space missions where you pilot your ship and ground missions where you beam your away team somewhere and move your character around. Space missions normally include you engage in some sort of ship vs ship encounter although some times you are sent to explore, investigate or scan stuff. Most of my missions to go explore or scan normally ran into resistance from enemy forces that I had to destroy before I could finish my exploration. On the Federation side they start you out with a Miranda class light cruiser which seems to be a decent ship and can handle your missions unless for some reason you seem to be facing 5-6 ships firing on you at the same time. On ground missions you might beam into a ship in distress or perhaps a planet and will probably spend a lot of time engaging enemy ground forces as well. If you are playing by yourself you can beam down with an away team that is comprised of your bridge officers and some random security officers. You can control their actions but I generally let them do their own thing.

I guess I should mention that you have three careers to choose from which is Engineering, Science or Tactical and you get different abilities based upon which career you pick and what kits you happen to equip you character with. I liked how gear worked on characters in Star Trek as it seemed different that many other MMO’s. When playing World of Warcraft each gear piece added stats to your character such as strength, intelligence, stamina and more but didn’t do a lot more other than increase your abilities. Star Trek gear does not affect stats as there really aren’t any stats. Instead your gear affects your abilities directly or affects your resistances to your enemy’s attacks. You can equip two weapons and switch between them if you want. So a Klingon might have a ranged weapon and then his famous melee weapon to strike down his foe in close combat.

 

I had already burned out on World of Warcraft and the kiddies that seem to enjoy talking trash more than actually playing the game and it appears that Star Trek online has very few of these type of people. In fact I might of seen random general chat but when it was time to do missions and combat I saw little gripes or complaints from team mates if anything folks used chat to *gasp* communicate what needed to be done or organize the team into focusing on the same objective. That satisfied me as a father that my son won’t be exposed to the idiotic pointless banter that goes on in World of Warcraft and rarely moderated unless someone reports it. I think Star Trek Online will attract a different group of folks as the game play is different.

 

The game play and missions makes it appear that you can play this game casually if you want. Most missions only takes a couple of minutes so if I only wanted to play for an hour I could probably accomplish several missions and call it a night. Since I want to limit my play time compared to what I did back when I was in World of Warcraft and participating in raids and other long instances I think this game will fit my play style more and I think I will more comfortable sharing this game with my son.

 

There is a lot to cover with this game and this post was just a quick overview and I can go over more detail in future posts.

Playing MMO’s with my son


As I wrote in the previous article I mentioned how gaming had evolved over time. One of the major changes to gaming was the birth of Massive Mult-player Online games also known as MMO’s. The first few MMO’s I was introduced too were very casual based gaming such as I could spend as little as 15-30 mins and actually accomplish something in the game.

MMO’s normally have a client-server relationship where your computer has the client software installed however you must log into a server in order to access your characters. The good part of this is your characters and assets are backed up by the server provider so you don’t have to worry if your computer crashes that you will loose everything. MMO’s usually come with a cost of anywhere from $10-$15 a month. There are some free ones out there as well but the norm is you pay to play.

In the initial MMO’s I looked at there wasn’t really any real pressure to spend a lot of time in the game to level up because there wasn’t much else to do once your character reached maximum level. Most folks then enjoyed a slow pace to actually enjoy the content of the game. The games I was playing at the time had a strong community that worked together to accomplish goals. In one game known originally as Horizons: Empires of Istaria the game had a lot of crafting in the game where players would make weapons, armour and eventually could build their own houses from the ground up. Most of the people I encountered were very well tempered and helpful so I introduced my son to playing along side me.

Eventually over time we grew tired of the game and looked forward to playing something new that I had beta tested. The new game was developed by Blizzard which had always been known before on launching good games which didn’t have heavy system requirements, easy to play and very few bugs. This new game of course was known as World of Warcraft and it was Blizzards first attempt at getting into the MMO industry. I ended up purchasing accounts for each family member and we each picked out characters and started to develop them.

As the game progressed and updates were made Blizzard realized that there were many parents that wanted to have more control over their children’s access time. Some kids actually have a computer in their bedroom and could wake up and stay up into the early morning hours playing. To counter-act this Blizzard allowed parents to have their own special password to their child’s account so that they could set a schedule of which days and time the child would be allowed in the game. If the child tried to sign in during the forbidden time they would get a message letting them know they were not able to sign on at this time.

Blizzard also had a strong customer service department and put language filters into the game. Any attempts to circumvent the language filters would be a violation and you could have your account suspended. I registered my sons account to one of my email addresses so he could not reset any passwords and any communication from blizzard would be sent to me. I ended up getting an email once from blizzard with a copy of the chat log showing my son telling someone off and cursing. I then of course was able to show him the evidence so he couldn’t deny it and show him how inappropriate his behavior was.

In MMO’s you normally join an organized group known as a guild. As a guild you are able to communicate as a group, organize events together and gain recognition. However different guilds have different rules. I wanted to make sure we had a family safe guild so I in fact organized my own guild and started recruiting people who wanted a family safe environment to play in. Any cursing, vulgarity of hostility wouldn’t be tolerated and those people would need to find a guild that would fit their behavior. Since I was the guild leader I had the ability to remove people who didn’t fit the behavior patterns me and my officers approved of.

As the game evolved more by adding more content and introducing Player vs Player in gladiator arena style the game started to take a turn and including mine and my sons attitude towards the game. The player versus player environment could create hostility among other player, friends and including family sitting right next to you as the adrenaline was pumping and failure was costly. It got to the point that I realized this game was not really a casual game anymore and required too much time to be dedicated to be successful in it. It also would cause arguments between my son and me so I later decided to pull the plug on World of Warcraft and move on to other things that perhaps wouldn’t be taken so serious.

Next time we’ll look at Real time strategy games and how they work and what your exposure is.

Onlines gaming then and now.


Growing up I was heavily into video games but it seems the newer generations are far heavier gamers than my generation was. Sure my generation would play many hours but it wouldn’t necessarily become a lifestyle like gaming has evolved into today.

There are many different levels of gamers from the casual player to the truly hardcore that seem to never leave the house. Things are also different with gaming today that before due to the fact that the Internet is available which allows people to game with one another from long distances.

I originally grew up on console games like the good old faithful Atari 2600 which basically would allow 1-4 players (certain paddle games could have 4 players) to play a game together. Console games today can log into the Internet and now you can play with anywhere from 1-32 some players from your living room.

Some of my first PC games were text based or had some low level graphics and were single player games. Some of the first multi-player games I played were either locally played multi-player or played online through a Bulletin Board System (BBS) which was completely text based. We used BBS’s before the Internet was actually available and of course this was done on dial up and most BBS services limited your session to 30 minutes so someone else could log in. Today’s gamer on the PC can network multiple PC together or link up with friends over the Internet for many small type multi-player games such as First Person Shooter’s (FPS) or Real Time Strategy (RTS) games. Gamers can also play Massively Multiplayer Online games (MMO) where thousands of players can interact with one another.

Communications regarding games have changed quite a bit as well where as before you relied on magazines or user groups to find out information but now many gamers log into forums where they interact with one another to give tips, brag or sometimes humiliate one another.

FPS and RTS games are normally hosted by one of the players so the games are not monitored by anyone and there is the danger of running into some really viscous characters that will be vulgar or verbally brutal to other players. There really isn’t much you can do as a parent with these games other than to monitor them and glance over their shoulder every now and then to verify that your child isn’t exposed to anyone brash or vulgar.

MMO’s are a little different since the servers are hosted by the provider and you sometimes have to pay a monthly fee. Part of the monthly fee goes to pay for customer service reps that are actually in game so that if you are having a problem with someone you can report them. There are also normally tools to filter out vulgarity and you can /mute or /ignore people that are bullying your child. Some MMO’s have parental controls that allow parents to set time limits that will force the kids off if they go over their time limit such as bed time or time to go to school.

Many online gamers use voice chat servers where they are not online talking via text but are also talking to one another via voice. These are almost never moderated as in many case they are being hosted on third party servers. I have seen a few cases where the voice chat is integrated into the game but it’s not normally the norm.

I’ve just dumped a lot out there and there are far too many options to explain safety tips on all of them in one post so this post is more of a summary and in the next few posts I’ll give some examples of the different kinds of games out there and what to expect as a parent.

More to come on the next post.