Thursday, April 28, 2011

Series Cancelled!

On the day that Action Comics #900 came out, I cancelled by subscription to DC Universe Online. OK, it doesn't run out until the middle of June, but its not being renewed.

I've given the game a good go and I think it has amazing potential, but at the moment thats all it is - potential. It doesn't seem to have hit the multi-faceted nature of play that I look for, and indeed, need, in a game like this. To whit, the game has exceptionally limited linear content. You do 1-30 and then you grind tokens for gear to get better at grinding tokens for gear. Readers of my WoW playing woes will remember that this is an aspect of a game that I detest with a passion, especially when I am grinding tokens to grind tokens without my friends.

The endgame grind simply does not hold the same attraction to me as the exploratory beginnings of WoW way back in the day and the feeling of group achievement. The DC game suffers exactly the same. Its too fast and too easy and then WHAM! its all grouped and grindy. Not even world PvP 'counts' which is a crying shame.

There are many many good things about this game but in the end, as per usual, when the chips are down my very insular definition of the term 'multiplayer' dooms it to failure.

ho hum.

Saturday, April 23, 2011


Whilst I am nowhere near the game buyer I used to be when I was a kid, I will pick up a new and innovative system if it gets a decent sounding online. Sometimes this doesn't work (Reign) for me and sometimes it works very well (Mouse Guard) and sometimes its absolutely revelatory. Ladies and Gentlemen, Smallville definitely falls into the third category.

As I'm sure you are all aware, Smallville is the reimagining of the Superboy mythos thats been on our screens now for nine seasons. Personally, until I picked up the game I have not seen one episode of it and now I have only see half a dozen shows from S1. Thats not important really as I know a fair bit about DC mythology (yeah, you can stop laughing at the back...understatement of the century) and I know how US teen drama works. Anyway, the real reason I wanted to pick up the book was that it has been raved about online for two mechanics.

The first is the character generation which is powered by the group generation of a massive, intricate relationship map which brings characters, NPCs, groups, locations and more important than all those together, relationships, are there at the beginning of the game. Sure, there are some mechanical bits but this, this is amazing. It does everything I ever wanted it to do and more. We did an experimental chargen session and it rocked. Four characters, all interlinked, dripping with potential. I'd love to do it again, with a proper game idea in place and some real intricate consideration of some of the decisions and answers. It would make for an amazing game.

The second thing is the mechanics of the game which centre around the 'why' rather than the 'how' of actions. So instead of saying 'I hit him with my sword' and then describing the mechanics of the situation, you say 'He stands between me and the woman I love and I cannot see her insulted in this way again!'. Thats very different  from the games that I have played before - even some of the 'indie' ones - and I want to explore that and see whether it drives a different kind of play.

We may never play Smallville - we just have so many potential games and so little time - but I think some of the lessons that the game brings will stay with us and be incorporated into our evolving metagame. Thats a great thing in my opinion.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

The Other Side

Due to a complete lack of action on 'Reality Lost', the EU PvP server for DCUO, I have rerolled onto 'Death and Glory', a US PvP server. What a difference!

First, there are obviously some possible issues playing on a transatlantic server, but they haven't materialised. Lag is non-existant and reactions seem just the same as on the EU servers. Second, the PvP aspect simply makes the game better. One of the most frustrating parts of playing on a PvE server is that a superhero game has a natural, in-built, factionalised PvP bias. Heroes stop villains, right? They don't stand by and watch them do their crimes. Now, as a villain (as I am on this server) you are watching your back all of the time. Its so much better. Sure, you get ganked occassionally and no, I am not a great PvPer, but it adds a certain something.

The new character, 'The Untouchable', is a gadgets/dual pistol/Joker character and a totally different kettle of bananas to Pele (a Fire Tank). The addition of bona fide CC to the arsenal makes for a very different game and then there is stealth which is simply delightful for PvP. The class is more like a WoW Rogue, but with the addition of thermite and implosion bombs, handcuffs, backstabbing and the almighty Bomb! its a right handful. Great stuff to play.

I've even managed to ... (you may need to sit down here) ... talk and play with other people! I know, I know, its amazing but its true. I even did an instance with another person (the Mr Freeze one) which was a lot of fun. Still unsure about the longevity of the game, but its had a new lease of life with this little server distraction.