Thursday, March 29, 2012

Weird Science

Wolfshead Online had a pretty good article on SWTOR and MMO's in general, and the problems besieging the genre. Well, I thought it was pretty good.

Meanwhile Champions Online has been patched twice and, most tragically, some whiney twat reported one of my characters as "vulgar" and so the hilariously named "Sperminator" will have to be renamed something much less clever. Which is a damn shame, because it was the perfect name for him.

I mean come on, it's not like he's a giant chode or anything, he's a giant single-celled gamete who crash landed on earth after missing the moon, which he mistook for an egg. Who'd be offended by that, I ask you? That shit's hilarious.

Probably nobody legitimately, is the pisser, because I've only brought him out to participate in costume contests, which he's won 3 out of 4 of so far, meaning he'd only be seen by other players at said costume contests or in route to them. And probably not even in route to them, because he tunnels (See? Hilarious!) invisibly underground. Meaning, some jealous turd got mad that nobody was impressed by their 14th Lord DarknessBloodDeath costume and reported the guy who beat them with a legitimately original (and hard to make, dammit) costume out of sheer spite or some weird puritanical objection to macroscopic cells.

I mean, I still have the character, but somehow "Tadpolinator" kinda kills the joke, dunnit?

Anyway! When last we left our hero, he'd been the only witness to Defender's latest massacre of justice and was making his shell-shocked way across a bad part of town to talk with an oddly-named policeman.

I don't know this town at all, and it takes a good hour just wandering the streets before I find where I'm supposed to go. Strange, this part of town looked totally different from up at the Renaissance Center... huh. But finally, I find the police station, and try to find this Juno guy. ... Juno? Denali? Yukon Cornelius?

Oh, right, Kodiak, okay.

Actually, I'm a little excited to be working for this guy. He appears to weigh about seven hundred pounds and drives a monster truck painted like a squad car. His powers appear to involve having ape feet and being huge. Not quite sure why he's named after a region in Alaska, but I'm willing to go with it.

I walk up and start to chat with him, and after suggesting that we should go out and beat up kids sometime (no, seriously) he gets right down to business and lets me know what needs doing. Apparently he's making an effort to take Westside back from the gangs that essentially run it, and he's actually going about it in a fairly logical, if oddly brutal, way.

First off, patrolling the restaurant district to put a stop to shady protection deals. Done and done, that's proper superhero work if I've ever heard it. What else?

So, next, he'd like me to wander around on my own and bust a few New Purple Gang heads. That's it. Police authority to go pick fights one-sided fights with gangsters and demolish them physically to put the fear of God into their companions. I get the odd feeling that I'm on an episode of The Shield, but then I remember that I loved that show and have been meaning to get the DVDs ever since it was canceled, so I decide to go with it. Alright, step one, run around like a maniac and beat the living hell out of gangsters. But while I'm at it, he'd also like me to... steal their clothes?

I'm already picturing how this will go if another police officer sees me doing it. Hopefully "Kodiak told me to" is an answer they'll accept around here, because I don't have another good one for "why did you accost those men, beat them to death, and then strip them naked?" But then, the whole point is that the police are stretched really thin around here, so if I stick to the alleyways, hopefully none will see me. I'm off!

I make my way to the neighborhood called Little Italy where, sure enough, some intimidatingly large guys in purple suits are hard at work harassing the serving staff of several sidewalk cafes.

I walk up and have a word with them.

Despite the fairly horrific carnage that they'll have to mop up, most of the restaurant owners thank me profusely, and soon the entire block is clear of gangsters. I'm actually starting to feel pretty good about this! I spend the rest of the evening wandering around picking fights with anyone I see in a purple suit and leaving them broken in gutters in front of various businesses, and before too long I have a full purple outfit of my very own. I assume that this will wind up being a good thing. The crumpled clothes over my shoulder, I head back to the police station to talk with my new boss and see what the heck he wants these things for.

Apparently, he wants me to disguise myself as a New Purple Gang member so that I can walk into the workshop of a guy named Wayland Talos, described to me as "a deranged genius notorious for making weapons for the highest bidder" and take him down. While that's all well and good, I'm not sure that dressing in a purple suit is going to fool anybody, given that they won't recognize me as one of their own, and the small bit about my skin having the same approximate texture as a polished car bumper. But I guess worst case scenario I can always bludgeon my way in, so I put the outfit on, walk across town to the address he gives me, and fight my way into holy crap it works.

I walk right past about a dozen guys who see my purple hat and just nod and smile. I don't understand it for a second, but Kodiak, you're a genius.

Talos' workshop is in the back, and I'm pretty sure I recognize him right away. He's got a giant robot suit with some kind of power transformers on the back, though not nearly as giant as Black Talon's. I do what I always do when presented with an unfamiliar opponent of unknown power levels and punch him.

He blasts me with some sort of electrical weapon in the suit's hands, but it doesn't seem to do too much to me, and as soon as he realizes this he throws his hands up and surrenders. This, I'm actually completely unaccustomed to. I stop beating on him and listen to what he has to say.

Apparently, he's working for a guy named Kevin Poe, whose evil plan is to take over all the street gangs of Millennium City by having Talos supply them with bad weapons while giving good weapons to the New Purple guys.

It somehow seems to me that this plan won't exactly help one to take over all the gangs of an entire city. I mean, I can see it giving them an advantage in a couple of fights for a little while, but how long could it actually take for word to get around that Talos isn't to be trusted as an arms dealer anymore? Like, two days? Three? I must be missing something.

Anyway, I put my "disguise" back on and go report what I've found to Kodiak. Apparently some more info has come in since we last talked ten minutes ago.

Somehow in the time it took me to walk back from the warehouse, Talos called Kodiak and told him all about he and Kevin Poe's secret plans. This is pretty surprising on it's own, but Kodiak's just getting warmed up: apparently Talos had been building some kind of giant superhero-seeking psychic bomb that would wipe the minds of myself and everybody else with superpowers throughout the city... oddly, skipping the people that would logically have no defense against such a device entirely. Three guesses who's going to have to take care of it?

I'm beginning to think that this is going to be one of those gang wars that takes more than one evening.

Up Next: Iron Will, Psychic Bomb Squad?

Monday, February 13, 2012

Reboot again!

So there's been yet another massive patch to Champions Online that's rewritten the map. Near as I can tell it's a good thing; Westside looks to be quite a bit less monotonous, and the Power House got a kind of cool kind of weird facelift to appear more like a boutique at a mall somewhere, rather than a storage room on a spaceship. It's um... well, it's a choice.

The downside is that, once again, Cryptic seems to have something against adding new content without deleting old content and risking people having choices. Given that the small scale of the game is it's main drawback, at least in my seldom humble opinion, this practice makes very little sense to me. With all the time they've spent making minor tweaks and remodels to the existing character path, they could have made an entirely new one and allowed two different characters to not have to do the exact same thing as each other at a given level. Instead, they merely move the single path around somewhat. This works out nicely for players who only play one character a time and only make a new one every year or so, since the game plays differently each time; however, for people that would spend enough time playing the game to actually bother to spend money on it, which seems like the group they should be catering to, the game's the same size as it always was.

For example, they changed up the Tutorial so that the admittedly kind of silly Clayton Griswold mission doesn't exist anymore, and they've eliminated the save Kinetik mission which, while less silly, begged the question as to why this guy was considered a superhero. However, they've replaced both of these with absolutely nothing, simply shortening the tutorial zone by removing completely optional quests, and giving the player LESS to do. Huh?

Another casualty of the recent patch is, perhaps unsurprisingly, the entire park mission set that I spent the last two entries describing. Which was also a bit odd, but at the same time, those missions were things that you could do in the game, which has been replaced by nothing; the player is now simply sent to Westside, which HAS had some new stuff added, but which used to come after the park bit. Which, in turn, used to come after the desert bit or the Canadian bit. So now, for the second time, the point Iron Will has reached in his adventures is the point that a new player can START at, if they skip the tutorial.

None of this is to say that the changes they've made have necessarily been bad ones; indeed, they've added two new power sets that are pretty awesome, cleaned up Westside, and put a tailor in the powerhouse so that players have one major spot to go and change their characters (if they added some crafting tables, it would be one-stop shopping for everyone) all of which seem like improvements. But it'd be great if they could add new stuff without getting rid of old stuff and like, you know, begin to approach the scale of a respectable MMO. C'mon, Cryptic, let's make genuine expansion a goal for 2012, no?

Anyway, I'll be back with an actual entry with screenshots and a doofy narrative in like... some... time. Yes. Promise.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Sewer Surfin'

Am I the only one who still hears the level's song whenever I hear that phrase? No? Alright, then.

The second I slip through the vents I fall about twenty feet and land in a cavernously large room that could comfortably house approximately eight families. These, I suppose, are the Millennium City Sewers. Fortunately, there are a lot of good hiding spots where I can wait and see who comes to pick up the money drop. Even more fortunately, I can hear them coming already, no less than half a second after I've breached their sewer. What luck!

Rather than a wallet, however, a pair of comically large sacks emblazoned with giant black money signs come tumbling down from the vent above. This flower company apparently not only considers a full disguise a standard-issue uniform, but it's employees carry their money around not in wallets or even in cash boxes, but in giant sacks the size of my torso. I'm more suspicious of the flower company than ever before, but resolve to put off my investigation into their nefarious activities until after I've dealt with this extortion problem.

Moments after hefting the bags, though, they spot me, presumably because I'm highly reflective and standing upright less than a dozen feet away behind a pile of garbage half my height. The chase is on! They lead me through a quarter mile of ludicrously oversized tunnels and enormous subterranean rooms, making no effort whatsoever to disguise their path as dozens of other gang members in their assorted purple uniforms are simply standing around down here and move to stop me. I get shot approximately three hundred times, but if we're being perfectly honest I barely even notice.

At this point I'm fairly certain that sustained fire from a gatling gun would feel more or less like a shower head with a massage setting used to, and these poor guys with pistols can't really injure me at all.

So naturally I walk up and exchange blows with them as if we're on anything approaching equal footing, causing severe and horrific tissue damage and internal bleeding if not subsequent death. Super heroic!

Eventually, I come upon a guy in a purple suit telling a little guy and Steven Seagal to close a big steel door behind him, warning that I'm coming. By name.

How the heck does he know my name? I shouldn't even be known in Millennium City; all I've done so far is beat up some guys in the park, and I didn't tell any of them my name. It's possible that the news mentioned what I did in the desert or Canada or something, but even then, I've completely pulverized (Rehabilitated!) every poor sod who's seen me since I came down here, so they shouldn't even have a description of me, much less my name. ... Unless...

Socrates! It's the one that sent me down here, claiming it had information from an "anonymous caller". It's the one that sent me down here to investigate some simple wallet-stealing, only to find a labyrinthine subterranean tomb filled to bursting with assassins and with no possible way to get help. I've walked right into a trap!

Thankfully, I'm significantly tougher than I used to be; probably significantly tougher than Socrates has calculated. I won't be dying down here today. But what to do about Socrates...?

One thing at a time, I suppose. Best to play dumb for now... if I play my hand too soon, there's no telling what Socrates could do to the city and the people in it before I've managed to completely dismantle it's network. Best if I collect more evidence and get some other superheroes in on this first. The Champions are pretty useless, but if I can convince Ironclad, he might know some others we could bring in. I could talk to some of those ludicrously optimized arena heroes that handed El Fierro his ass a couple nights ago to like, net or hold or freeze or in some other way immobilize Socrates' network and then run away. If I can get in contact with Chief Surhoff he'll probably be able to help come up with a plan, and that POW from the desert would probably be able to handle any job I have for him if I can find him again. Maybe get Justiciar to monitor the radio or something and tell him that's really important. Yeah, this could work, I've just got to play play dumb for now and hope Socrates' death traps don't get significantly more effective.

Oh, right, the purple guys. I guess I killed both of them while I was thinking about what to do with Socrates. The genius has the door code written on a piece of paper in his pocket, so I manage to bypass that particular security layer pretty quickly and find myself in a big room with a ladder up to the surface. Aw, hell. Did the guys with the bags get away? I have a feeling Defender won't be satisfied with the dozen or so dead ones scattered throughout the sewer behind me. ... In fact, I probably shouldn't tell him about them at all, come to think of it. Up the ladder I go!

I come out in a generic shady-looking warehouse of some kind. Or at least, it looks that way at first glance, but I find that it's architecture is actually a bizarre maze of rectangular storage rooms connected seemingly at random by long hallways that seem to leave a vast majority of the floorspace either walled-off or completely filled in with brick. The place seems to be filled mostly with cardboard boxes and assorted tanks of explosives. Yikes.

Oh, and more Purple Gang thugs, I should have expected that. I decide to punch one of the exploding tanks for no other reason than because it seems like something a superhero would do, and voila! The thugs go down from the intense heat and pressure of the explosion, and I remain completely unscathed but for a new layer of burn on my jean-rags, which are becoming sort of like a medal sash for the various horrible deaths I've shrugged off. Onward!

Finally, I make it to the security console. Which, I guess, was a goal? That I didn't know about? I can use it to shut down their security system, though, which sounds worth doing. It's mere presence sort of alarms me, as it means they probably have video of me casually strutting through the sewer and whistling while breaking the limbs and organs of their friends, but at least now they won't have any MORE incriminating footage of me. Little victories are still victories.

I'm just pondering whether or not they'd be able to sue for excessive force when every shot should show them discharging deadly weapons at me first, and whether the fact that said deadly weapons are entirely nonlethal in my case would hurt an aggravated assault in self-defense plea, when Defender hails me over whatever weird ear implant thing I have.

Apparently this whole time I've been wading through liquid feces and being shot at repeatedly, Defender's just been chilling by the front door waiting for somebody to unlock it. Now that I've done that for him, he's actually willing to help me take care of this gang problem of his and not mine. Hooray!

Well, at least he's looking cooler than the last time I teamed up with him, somehow. Armor upgrade, I guess? Maybe got an anti eat-shit-in-the-first-five-seconds-of-a-fight-and-not-get-back-up device? We'll see, I suppose. I prepare to do absolutely everything by myself and continue forward.

The random goons I run into in the hallways seem to be getting more varied as I make my way through the bizarrely mazelike warehouse. In addition to a few more Purple Gang members, I run into some more bikers like the ones I beat up in the park, and then at one point a colorful squad of 80's movie ninjas. What the heck is up with this warehouse?

Finally, I come out of the twisting hallways into a giant storage room that seems to have been rigged up like some kind of council chamber. Some tables are arranged in a circle, each one of which has some shady-looking guys in oddly thematic costumes sitting at it. I see purple gang members, bikers, what look like punk rockers but might also be clowns, and mimes. They're all sitting listening to a speech from a man in a dress who seems to be making fun of Chinese people with a clearly caricaturish accent and an extended joke about how Asians have trouble with L's.

No, seriously.

It takes me a few minutes to realize that this isn't some bizarre back-alley comedy show but a legitimate criminal gathering. The guy making fun of Asians is also talking about uniting the Westside gangs in the wake of the Qularr attack that's significantly weakened the Millennium City Police Department's ability to effectively control crime in the area. By the looks of it, he's got at least five oddly thematic gangs at least partially convinced. I've got to warn Surhoff!

The racist comedian seems to finally notice me and panics for some reason. With a snap of his fingers, he disappears in a puff of smoke along with several of the people sitting at the centers of the tables, presumably the leaders of the various gangs. From across the room, I can see Defender charging into the crowd, the members of which have already turned on each other and are descending into a chaotic brawl. Time to go to work, I guess!

My main problem at this point is how to gently take these guys down without accidentally crippling any of them. I mean, it's all well and good out on my own when they're actively trying to kill me, but it seems like the objective here would be making arrests, and the leader of the Champions is staring right at me. I'll have to be really careful to use the bare minimum amount of force necessary to-


Defender definitely just shot an unarmed man in the chest with a missile from a launcher that just popped out of his shoulder.

"Hey... listen, man, I get that we're outnumbered, but do you have to..."

He doesn't seem to hear me, and continues gleefully cutting down the fist and knife wielding gangsters with some kind of cutting laser and a minigun. I kind of just stand there. I don't really know what I'm seeing.

Most of his friends dead, one of the brightly colored ninja guys flees, noticing me and running towards me with pleading eyes, for protection, for a hostage, for answers, I don't know. He doesn't reach me, though. Defender unloads several dozen rounds from a shoulder-based minigun into the small of the fleeing, unarmed man's back, so close to me that I'm spattered with blood.

Wh... what the... I don't... What...

Defender struts over to me and nonchalantly discusses our next move, not even addressing the dozen people he's just murdered, some in cold blood.

Right... sure. Nip it in the bud. Gotcha.

He tells me to meet up with someone named Kodiak in Westside. Kodiak, like, the town in Alaska, I guess? I'm not really sure. I can't think. I step over a dead man, unsuccessfully trying to avoid touching the widening puddle of blood underneath him. Air, I need air. I stumble to the door and throw it open.

I'm in a warehouse district in a bad part of town, the clear blue sky a little pale with haze. Away to the left is the giant wall that keeps the Renaissance Center, home of the rich and the super-powerful, separated from the living spaces of the poor. I take several deep breaths, trying to clear the coppery smell of blood from my palate. Right. Kodiak. Nip gang alliance in the bud. Save the MCPD.

I've seen how Defender acts when confronted with a superior foe, and I've seen how he acts when confronted with weaker ones. He'll probably be impossible to avoid altogether, but I think I'm done taking orders from that particular superhero-cum-war criminal.

Let's see what this Alaskan person's all about.

UP NEXT: A Marginally Less Horrific Alliance!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Back to the "action"!

At last, our hero Iron Will makes good on his promise to the heroic Defender to go and bother people in the park! Action! Adventure!

Okay, so as an official I'm-not-sure-what-my-job-title-is, my first job is to go and bother suspicious-looking characters in the park for the leader of the world's premier superhero team, who's too busy standing in the middle of the sidewalk about a quarter mile away to do it himself. Fair enough, I suppose, I'm the new guy. Let's get this done.

I'm not really familiar with the various gangs at large in Millennium City, but judging by the matching vests and the fact that one of them has no fewer than ten knives clearly visible on his person, I'm guessing Defender means these guys. They're kind of just hanging out in the park at night minding their own business, but I suppose I might as well do as I'm told and question them.

I approach one in as non-threatening a manner as possible. "Excuse me..." says I.

He immediately stabs me with a combat knife while his buddy starts shooting me in the chest with some sort of a large calibur handgun, both resulting in an anticlimactic series of metallic clinking sounds.

Now, I consider myself a relatively patient person in general, but their use of deadly force in lieu of a "hello" back has brought me around to Defender's way of thinking in regards to these particular citizens hanging out in the neighborhood park. What if KIDS were playing here, man? Some kids die when you shoot them ONCE!

So I go about bludgeoning everybody I see with a certain kind of vest on to death with weighted steel fists. Superheroically.

About half a dozen utterly one-sided clobberings later, they finally deign to talk to me.

Huh. So apparently, some guy I've never heard of told them to back up some guys in purple against cops or superheroes.

My keen detective mind is sensing a clue here. Having had no idea what the other gang might look like until a few seconds ago, I wander through the park in search of some guys in purple, and find them over by the fountain, again mostly minding their own business.

Once again, I'm treated to an alarmingly sudden attempt on my life.

Several minutes of ineffective gun violence and horrifically effective fisticuffs later, the purple gang agrees to give me the time of day too.

Once again, somebody I've never heard of has told these guys to come here and not fight with the bikers. Near as I can tell, this means approximately squat.

The important thing to focus on, though, is that I, not unlike Batman, have successfully beaten up bad guys and intimidated them into giving me information. Swaggering a little, I head over to the nearest Socrates terminal to report my findings.

Socrates claims that it has information from an anonymous caller that the Purple Gang, which is apparently the gang's real, chosen name, is extorting money from the local vendors in the park. Naturally, they're careful never to do so when a police officer or superhero is around, so they don't have any hard evidence. What Socrates suggests I do is disguise myself and see if I can get them to do something illegal in front of me.

I have my suspicions. First, an anonymous call doesn't seem like a very trustworthy source, and second, Socrates doesn't seem like a very trustworthy source. Still, I did just spend the last ten minutes in open warfare with these guys and came out of it with nary a scratch, so I suppose that in the worst case scenario I'll be discovered and shot at ineffectually. Fair enough! I head back across the street to the park to see about finding a disguise.

"I need your clothes, your boots, and your flower cart."

I talk to one of the flower vendors across the street and ask if I can borrow a uniform. He tells me that he has a family and a business to think of. I insist I'll protect him. He says the gang members know where he lives. I tell him that's almost certainly a bluff. Finally, he agrees to give me a spare uniform so that these guys will rough me up, too. Score!

I was expecting a simple vest and hat, but bizarrely, the uniform comes complete with pants, shoes, a wig, and enough Caucasian skin-toned makeup to cover every inch of exposed skin. I um... I have no idea what this flower company is about, but I'm fairly certain that I'll have to start investigating them almost immediately after I'm done investigating the purple gang. But either way, it's one of the most undeniably effective disguises I've ever seen when I'm done.

I certainly wouldn't recognize me.

Almost as soon as I get back to the park, one of the guys in the purple suits waves me over, calling me "new guy". Here we go!

He tells me to put my profits in my wallet and walk over the sewer grate to the west of the fountain, then to drop my wallet. And, of course, to remember that he knows where I live.

Alright, that's all the clue I need. I haul off and cave in his sternum with a right hook, and somehow in the process not only tear my new uniform to shreds but also slough off every inch of makeup I'd so carefully applied earlier.

See, this is why I can't have nice things.

Alright, that done, I head over for to the fountain and look for this sewer grate. I figure if I can squeeze through it (or, more likely, smash through it) and wait at the bottom, then I should be able to find out who's been collecting all this money. Brilliant plan, if I do say so myself. Just as I'm about to pry up the grate, though, I get a call from Defender.

... Oh. Good. Defender's coming with. That'll make this way less annoying.

I sigh, plug my nose, and drop down into the sewers beneath Millennium City. It's all for a good cause, I keep telling myself.

Up Next: Showdown in the sewer! Good enough for the ninja turtles, good enough for me.

Sunday, November 13, 2011


More Iron Will coming soon (probablymaybe) as I'm finally done, as of about thirty seconds ago, with grad school applications. Still gotta go to Kinkos, photocopy some manuscripts, send some pre-addressed envelopes and letters to some recommenders, but by and large I should have significantly more free time this coming month than this last month.

In the meanwhile, two superheroes-in-video-games related things have happened.

ONE, the famous (or at least it used to be) MMORPG City Of Heroes has gone free to play after more than seven years running.

TWO, the wishes-it-was-famous MMORPG D.C. Universe Online has gone free to play after... erm, nearly ten months running.

At first, I figured I'd try them both. I'd already played City Of Heroes a few years back, and only really stopped because the subscription price wasn't worth the amount I was playing, so I knew it was at least entertaining. At just under four gigabytes, the download took most of a day on my connection, but it wasn't anything I couldn't handle.

DC Universe Online, on the other hand, wants a whopping 30 gigabytes of hard drive space, which not only would take my connection about a week to finish, but would require that I delete every other game that I have and probably a decent chunk of my music too. So, for that reason, I didn't get around to trying DCUO until I was at one of my friends' houses who already had it. More on that later.

My short-for-the-sake-of-short review of City Of Heroes is...! I forgot how very slow this game is.

That's really the only bad thing I can say about it. The character creation isn't as good as Champions', but it's also five years older, and it's still pretty damn good. The graphics aren't great but aren't terrible either, and it animates smoothly, which is more important than detail level, personal opinion. I was a little annoyed that I had to choose a class to pigeonhole my guy's roll into, but again, that's pretty much industry standard for MMO's and it's only because I'm used to the freedom of Champions character creator that I found it constrictive.

But when you actually get into the game and start playing, everything slows down. I logged back in on my old Centurion and spent the better part of an hour working my way through a single warehouse and beating up maybe twenty guys.

See, City of Heroes' combat system is based entirely on cooldowns. You have an array of moves... how many depends on your level, in Centurion's case about five... that you click to activate, no real surprises there. And then they go grey until the cooldown wears off. The thing is, you can go through all five before the first one has cooled down, and the ones that do a respectable amount of damage take four or five times longer. We're talking literally ten or fifteen seconds, here.

Not only that, but there's an energy bar that using your powers eats up. A lot of games have the same thing, of course, but unlike Champions or the rage bar in World Of Warcraft, though, the energy bar doesn't replenish itself when you use your "regular" moves. You literally run out and have to sit there and wait for it to fill up enough to hit the guy again. So even when the cooldown of your decent move is over, sometimes you can't use it if you've been doing anything but waiting in the meanwhile. This effectively limited me to fighting one enemy at a time, or two weak ones, because otherwise the majority of the fight would be spent waiting to build up the nerve to punch them while they just ineffectually flailed at my head.

On top of that, the HP damage of your powers is pitiful. The Centurion, here, is level 28. The level cap, I believe, is 50, so he's mid-range by this point. Most of his powers still do less than ten HP of damage, and the average opponent has north of 200 HP. He has some better ones that do 30 or 40, but those are the ones with the ten second cooldowns. So what you wind up with is a comedically slow-paced fight in which two guys square off against each other... one an invincible flying superhero, the other a low-level enforcer in the mob... and punch each other every three or four seconds until finally, after being hit a dozen or so times, the regular human guy folds.

Now, maybe not an enforcer for the mob, but I can bring a guy down in a dozen solid punches to his vitals IN REAL LIFE. With the super power of ten push-ups every morning. Presumably this sort of combat system would work in some sort of boxing match MMO, but I felt less superheroic playing this superhero game than I do after replacing a flat tire.

Although the flight's nice. You seem to fly significantly faster in City Of Heroes than in either Champions or DC Universe Online, which, while not enough to make the game entertaining on it's own, is a pretty important ingredient.

Anyway, I tried my best to make an Iron Will in the City Of Heroes costume editor, but it just doesn't look right. Here he is chilling with The Statesman.

But he's shiny! He's shiny like Will. That's something.

And here he is waiting around for his next chance to punch one of the alien circulatory system guys. It'll be about two more seconds.

So, while I did like City Of Heroes back in the day, it struck me as insufferably slow this time around, for whatever reason. Maybe I just don't have the attention span that I used to and the concept of playing the same mission in a video game for an hour is more repugnant than it used to be, but I can't really picture a non half-asleep/baked state of mind where I'd want to focus on this.

So, I moved the desktop icon into my "half-asleep/baked" folder and set my sights on DCUO.

The character creator in DCUO is oddly less impressive than either of the others (the others being Champions and City of Heroes) but still a few steps up from the "pick your face, pick your hair" ones that many MMOs get by on. The way they organize your options is really irritating, though. Like, for a male hero, you really only have three body types: giant hunchbacked monster, vaguely human, and creepy alien/cartoon child. However, since they don't let you alter their dimensions manually at all, they give you large, medium, and small options for each, making it appear as if you have nine body types to choose from. The problem persists in the details sections: you can't, for example, select a beard and select dreadlocks, you have to scroll down through afro, afro with sideburns, afro with goatee, afro with beard, afro with soul patch, crew cut, crew cut with sideburns, crew cut with goatee... until you get to "dreadlocks with a beard" some forty redundant options down.

They also only let you have three colors for your entire costume, and then you get to pick which costume pieces get which color. On the one hand, it makes for good looking matching color schemes whether you could have made one on your own or not, but on the other hand, let me make my goofy rainbow character if I want to, game.

Nevertheless, while more limited than either other superhero MMO, it had more or less the costume parts I was looking for to remake The Centurion, and while it wasn't quite as close to the mark as his Champions incarnation, he still looked pretty badass.

Alas, there were no options for a non-comedically-small-head other than the one where he looked like an alien, but overall I'm pretty happy with the look, allowing for most games' disheartening lack of corinthian helmets.

The power selection was also disappointing. Like really, really disappointing. There are only five powers to choose from, and they all seem to be some variety of "shoot energy in various directions and patterns" powers. I could be an ice guy, a fire guy, a magic guy, a nature guy (the animation had vines whipping around, which could be kinda cool but totally doesn't fit) and a gadgets guy, and that was it. Super Strength, by far the most common superpower in the entire DC Universe and the primary power of more than half the Justice League... isn't an option. So for some dumb reason, The Centurion had fire powers. I rolled my eyes, changed his backstory to being a newly-powered Centurion cosplayer rather than the Centurion himself, and went with it.

Problem is, I couldn't name him Centurion. Or The Centurion. In City Of Heroes I had to make do with "The.Centurion", but in DCUO that's illegal. No punctuation, no extra spaces, no creative ways around the fact that there's only one server (well, two, one for pve and one for pvp) on which every decent name has been taken for months. After several minutes of intentional misspellings and then even different names I made up on the spot, all of which (including "Allthegoodnamesaretaken") were taken, I just named him AGLKJSF so I could play the damn game. That wasn't his original random jumble of letters name, of course... ASDFG was taken.

DCUO starts out, like City of Heroes and Champions before it, with an alien invasion. I dunno, it's an easy way to get everyone going, I guess. 'Cept in this one it's Brainiac, and you've already been abducted, and have to fight your way out of a ship by repeatedly clicking with your mouse.

That's kinda where it loses me. See, DCUO is pretty obviously designed for a console controller. Running around with the left stick while mashing the A and B buttons to repeatedly punch the bad guys is the kinda thing that I'm used to on a console, but repeatedly clicking the left and right mouse buttons seems more obnoxious. Add to that the lack of auto targeting and the fact that the enemies move around a lot, and you have to drag the mouse to keep facing them while at the same time clicking both mouse buttons over and over again. It would work with a little joystick and separate buttons, but it's mostly aggravating with a mouse. None of the enemies were terribly challenging, so I still made it through, but I spent most of my time re-aiming AGLKJSF at the enemy units rather than punching them.

Then Superman busts in and helps rescue you from the ship, though, and you feel a little bit better about everything.

This is a particularly proud moment for me, as The Centurion's first mission ever, written in a spiral-bound notebook at the tender young age of seven, I think, involved him fighting back-to-back with Superman against kryptonite-wielding robots. Th...The fact that they had kryptonite weaponry meant that Superman needed help from a non-kryptonian superhero, see! The Centurion always had comparable strength and speed to Superman, but his lack of heatvision, freezebreath, x-ray vision, etc. put him clearly behind the Man Of Steel in any legitimate contest of skill. Even back then I knew it was lame to try to one-up established protagonists.

If Captain Marvel had burst in within the next couple seconds, I would have deleted my other stuff and downloaded this game immediately. (The three operated as a trio at least twice, see.) Alas, he did not.

Back in Metropolis, the graphics continued to impress, and I admit that I spent a good ten minutes flying around the city whilst looping John Williams' Superman Theme, but the combat controls were just too awkward, and I couldn't get past the fact that The Centurion's... pardon me, AGLKJSF's... main attack was a burst of flame.

I think the game could have some potential, mind, with a different approach. Namely, a console controller and a desire to play an energy-projecting character. I'd have tried it out with a few different characters if it had been my own computer, and tried to get used to the constant clicking while trying to reorient with the mouse. But, coming in with a specific character concept in mind, it was quite disappointing.

The costume editor did allow for a decent Iron Will, though.

Not quite as good as the Champions one, due largely to the weird torso anatomy (not optional, thereby not my fault, remember!) and limited clothing options, but pretty close, I think. And gave me an excuse to check out the other starting city, Gotham.

... Coooool...

Anyway, next week or two, back to Champions. Unless something unforeseen comes up with all the paperwork. So probably. Maybe. Possibly.



Monday, October 17, 2011

Descent Into The Night Club Scene

I'm not sure just yet, but it appears as if Cryptic has fixed whatever issue was making the launcher fail to load every time and I can play the game again! Either that or one of my random little computer tweaks somehow made the stars align just right so that it would work again. Either way! Where were we?

A superhero nightclub, eh? Well that's a uniquely Millennium City bit of nightlife culture. I decide to go check it out.

... Maybe I'm a bit underdressed for this.

I head back to the tailor standing all of thirty feet behind me to see if I can't get some clubwear. The tailor's selection is amazing! She's got full suits, ties, vests, formalwear, businesswear, business casual, etcetera... there's clothing here for every occasion...!

... I realize about halfway through picking out an outfit that I really only have enough money for a new shirt or new pants.

Considering that my current pants are the same shredded pair of jeans that ice demons have gnawed on, mutants have microwaved, a building has collapsed on top of, and have been within a quarter mile of a nuclear explosion, I figure that they won't really go with any new shirts I could pick out and opt for a new pair of pants and some actual shoes instead. I don't really get cold since I turned into metal anyway.

Avoiding the eyes of the customer behind me, who would just happen to be the best dressed man in Millennium City and seems visibly offended by my very presence, I wander back over to the nightclub, hoping that the bouncers will let me in as I'm in half compliance with the shoes and shirts required rule.


So I'm standing in an intentionally dimly lit hallway leading up to a large poster of the same woman whose picture appears above the door, presumably Caprice herself. The hallway seems to branch in two directions, one towards a lounge and one towards a dance floor.

Well, I'm here, might as well check out both!
Club Caprice has two main areas, a crimson-colored lounge with a fountain, and a large dance floor with two bars. There's a significant aesthetic difference between the two, but mechanically, neither one has anything special going on. Both exist primarily as empty spaces in which players can interact with each other, and both contain a smattering of NPC characters who will talk amongst themselves or dance, depending on the room.

There's really nothing to do in either room except talk with other players, which can be fairly entertaining or entirely dull depending on the night. Sometimes there are friendly people around who want to get into an in-character conversation for the diversion, and sometimes there are a bunch of people standing around mostly silent or small groups of friends talking amongst themselves and largely ignoring the room. In my experience, most of the time it's the latter. And of course, if you show up as a female, more people will talk to you, but that's kinda just weird. ... So, in other words, they've done a nearly perfect job of recreating the experience of going to a bar or dance club by yourself in real life. Nicely done, Cryptic!

Well evidently being made out of metal doesn't make it any easier to make friends at a nightclub than before, or at least not a nightclub that caters specifically to superheroes. I have a few drinks and wind up dancing a while on the dance floor near some other folks, but I start feeling awkward and leave after a little bit. I might have better luck in a club where a living statue is the most interesting thing to walk in in a given half-hour period, but this is not that place.

Alright, back out into the fresh air. The night's still young, after all, and there's no reason to spend it all being awkward in the corner of some dance club. Besides, I keep thinking there was something I was supposed to do.

... Oh, right. Save the world from dastardly park strollers.

I suppose I'm all out of excuses to procrastinate this any longer. Time to go be obnoxious to some guys that haven't done anything yet, I guess.

UP NEXT: This superhero thing is a walk in the park.