Friday, December 29, 2006

Voyage Century Online: First Look

While playing Urban Dead today, I stumbled on an advertisement for a classical-nautical MMORPG... I'm a sucker for that sort of thing. And looking into it, Voyage Century Online was FREE to play! This both encouraged me AND set off warning bells... as my recent experience with Space Cowboy Online reminded me you usually get what you pay for. Nevertheless, I entered their open beta and downloaded the client, a svelte 1gb zipped up.

After a little effort, I got the game installed and created a character, who I named Blackjack_LeGatt, since underscores seemed to be allowed while spaces were not.

However, upon entering the game, I found to my consternation that the vast majority of the text of this game is much, much too tiny to be legible. Add to this that the resolution of the game is uncompromisingly 1024x768, and, well, there wasn't a whole lot I could read.

Fortunately, the controls were pretty easy to learn... left click to do something, right click to go somewhere, camera controls were a little clunky but a far cry better than, say, Neverwinter Nights.

So, after managing to decipher a little text, I set about on a newbie quest to build myself a small boat.

It took me a good 15 minutes to find the stupid boat builder guy, who was all of 10 yards from my position.

Anyway, I eventually got it done. And, shortly thereafter, a bit of blind stumbling and a few more pages of illegible text and I had somehow joined a Pirate-hunter NPC guild, trained myself to shoot a flintlock pistol, and managed to stomp a harmless turtle to death. I also discovered that it was far more lucrative to just collect shells that were lying around on the beach than to actually kill critters for their... well, whatever it is that critters drop.

One thing I will say for the game, they're generous with tutorials and startup cash for n00bz. I had plenty to get me started, though I could only understand half of what was going on because the text was smaller than this. Oy. Smaller than that by a factor of about 3.

The models are all beautiful, incidentally, and the outfits are nice and the towns have a really immersive feel. If only I could communicate in letters more than a millimeter high.

The game appears to be rather robust, with both personal and nautical combat, adventuring, exploring, sailing, cannon-blasting, critter smushing, and tradeskills. Indeed, when I stumbled into the suburbs of Athens (yes, Greece... that's the city where I started, incidentally), I found all kinds of people going about their crafting ways, including three people chopping away at a never-falling tree. The streets were jammed with players who had set up vendor stands to sell things that other players might want, provided they can read what the hell they are.

Are you sensing that the size of the text is grating on me a little?

I noticed a few humorous glitches, like the tendency for the sun or moon to suddenly scramble across the sky like a stage actor who just realized he was supposed to be stage LEFT, not stage right.. and when that happens, all the shadows of the players and objects crane around rapidly like the heads of a Wimbledon audience.

Anyway, after an hour or so of wandering through town oogling pirate chicks in their undergarments and getting the feel for things, I decided to see what it was like out on the high seas. The process of joining the anti-pirate league or whatever seemed to provide me with a 2-masted ship, so I headed to the docks to figure out what to do from there.

A couple clicks, and I was offshore of Athens. The controls seemed easy enough, until suddenly I found myself anchored. It seemed to happen right as another ship materialized inside MY ship... he sailed off, but it took me a full 5 minutes to figure out how to get moving again.

Anyway, the sea is beautiful, and after a few little growing pains, control seems easy enough... so I sailed around looking for something to do.

I couldn't figure out much offshore of Athens (though I found a shoal where fishing could be done, had I the proper equipment)... so I sailed back IN to port, and then chose to sail directly to the "high seas"... which then zoomed me out into a quasi-corny map that reminded me a lot of FF7.

I managed to gain 2 levels in seamanship just floating there while I typed the above sentence. I continued to screw around until I was forced to return to port for provisions. Restocked, I sailed out to the high seas again, determined to find something to blast with my four tiny little cannons.

At first, it was hard to find anything, but as luck would have it I stumbled upon what appeared to be floating debris in the water. It turned out to be mostly waterlogged cargo, and some cannon balls. How I managed to find FLOATING cannonballs, I'll just let you figure out.

I finally managed to find some Crete pirates, but after exchanging one broadside, they just kept sailing... guess I wasn't very interesting. A second encounter yielded much the same result, and I was starting to wonder if I was doing something incredibly dumb. But I persevered, and managed to catch up to the ship by cutting slightly more to the wind (he was sailing directly upwind, the dummy)... a few minutes of swapping cannonfire, and he eventually sank into the briny. I wheeled around and dragged in the wreckage to find 3 pounds or tons or palettes or whatever the unit of measurement is, of Dates. And it only cost the lives of around six of my crew :P For some reason, my ship repaired itself immediately at the end of combat.

In high spirits, I sailed my way back to Athens, my hold slightly LESS empty now, with the dates I dredged from the smuggler I sank. Imagine my chuckle when the half-drenched crap I pulled from the random debris sold for around the same amount as the dates. And even put together, it didn't match the amount I spent on provisions and how much cannonshot I flung out into the Mediterranean sea. 3 minutes gathering shells on the beach seemed to clear as much profit at the end of the endeavor. Ah well, I'm sure I'm just not doing something right.

Well, all in all it has the potential to be an interesting game, especially for free. Better than SCO anyway. If only they'd do something about the TEENY TINY chat font. But what the hell... free game, right?

Rating: C. And that's the word from bandit camp

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Thursday, December 28, 2006

Vaporware of 06

Wired has published their list of "Vaporware of 2006", and while I don't often read the trite periodical in question, I must admit this column piqued my interest. And I had to chuckle at who got the number one spot on the list yet again.

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Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Merry Christmas

Tidings of Comfort and Joy to you, yours, and everything else. I'm back from vacation. Hopefully I'll have some good stuff to talk about here soon.

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Friday, December 08, 2006

Oh Hell Yes.

Firefly has been licensed for production of a MMORPG based upon it.

I just hope those netscape nutscrapers don't screw it up is all.

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The Problem with CoH/V

So I've been playing City of Heroes (well, villains really) for a while. I've gotten a few characters up into the higher parts... and while I still enjoy playing it immensely, I find that I am not making the amount of tangible "progress" I feel I should. The combat still feels innovative and action packed... but even the best action movie out there knows there has to be a payoff at the end.

So, I guess what I'm saying is I feel like I'm levelling too slowly.

And that leaves me with the question of, what am I levelling FOR? I can't stand playing with other people, by and large. This precludes me from the endgame big "raids." The PvP, while a charming diversion, is not something in which you can make a long investment, a la DAOC. Really, what it boils down to is that when you get 50, and you get all your "hammy enhancements" or whatever... what's left? Start a new character. That's it. And while I enjoy the first 25 or so levels, the thought of pushing through 26-50 again at half of what the rate of exp gain SHOULD be, the sweet taste of (in)justice turns to ashes in my mouth.

And that makes me sad, because I REALLY like the character customization in this game.

I haven't cancelled my account yet... Maybe the new patches coming up will do something for me. As I play villains mostly, the latest (mostly hero-oriented) expansion "issue" didn't do much for me.

Oh, and I got a look at the new costume options too... it's like Cryptic went over to the Matrix Online prop department, filled up a cart, and ran away as fast as they could. The new sunglasses, the trenchcoats, etc... all scream "TEH MAYTRICKS!" as loud as digitally possible. Well, at least they did a good job with the glasses, and some of the new costume patterns are good... and the "trinity" female trenchcoat is kinda neat too... but I am disappointed in the look of the trenchoats for male characters. I was expecting Sam Spade. Peter Gunn. Humphrey Bogart. What I got was a longsleeve vest with a flowing, lightweight cape tied to my ass. With the right color, it still looks passable... but I wanted Bogey, dammit.

And that's the view from Bandit Camp

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Wednesday, December 06, 2006

So where have I been?

No, this blog isn't "falling by the wayside" for me. I've just been busy. Oh, I've still been gaming, too, but nothing really new... because there's really not been all that much new come out recently that was WORTH playing. I will, of course, update my faithful (imaginary) readers as soon as there are.

Maybe I should go down the list of what I passed on and why...
Eh, forget it. I'm too busy at work these days... but it pretty much can be summed up in two words:
I mean, Dubbleyou Tee Eff? We need another goddamn tycoon game? And running a coffee shop. Could we be milking this franchise ANY HARDER?? I haven't seen a dead horse this savagely beaten since Madden. It's disgustipating.
Anyway, I'm busy. A radio station doesn't keep ITSELF from burning down and exploding.

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