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!