Steaming

I never thought about it before, but ordering a MMO through Steam presents problems. Case-in-point I was expecting to log into the Star Trek Online head start with little incident Friday night after getting home from work. I had made sure I downloaded and patched the client through Steam after removing the beta client I had downloaded through Filefront. That was a massive mistake.

Initially I thought a new patch had been deployed for the head start and was disappointed that Steam was downloading something that was going to take approximately 3 hours. That was until I started looking through the STO community forums and found a plethora of scathing threads spitting venom at Steam, Cryptic and the world in general. After donning my hazmat suit I began digging through the threads and the cause of why Steam was downloading a 10gb file became apparent.

You see, Steam has this little nervous-twitch which rears its ugly head because Steam is OCD at removing corrupt files. When I patched the STO client through the STO launcher, that caused a red flag to be raised as the checksum of the files Steam thought were there had changed. Thusly Steam removed this corruption and when I clicked on my STO launcher Steam began downloading the entire client again. /facepalm.

Fortunately through all of the steaming hatred and threats of litigation there were a handful people that were helpful in providing a solution. That solution entailing the disabling of Steam updates for STO and running the STO launcher directly. It solved the issue for me once the client had finished downloading again and I haven’t had an issue since. Supposedly Steam and Cryptic have already resolved this issue and Steam no longer deems the client corrupt, but I’d still be weary of any future STO patches and how Steam handles them.

So while Steam fucked up the head start launch day for Steam users, Cryptic wasn’t without issue either. I’m baffled over the decision to make preorder bonuses unavailable until Tuesday. For some this meant that the head start was pointless if they had planned on playing as a joined trill. I decided to just play as a regular trill as an extra 500 skill points didn’t end up being a deal-breaker for me. I was anxious to get in-game and get going in earnest on becoming a cruiser captain.

My goal is to reach Lieutenant Commander before the game officially goes live. I’m about halfway there as I reached Lt 5th grade last night despite my limited game-time so far. My impressions of the game haven’t changed much but I have to say that I’m impressed with the server stability so far in the head start. There has been some lag, but other than a random disconnect I haven’t had much issue with being able to play the game.

Now once the game does go live on Tuesday all bets are off. I’m still preparing myself for days, if not weeks, of server stability issues which is one reason I want to reach Lt.Commander by Tuesday. By setting my expectations so low I hope to avoid being disappointed and giving Cryptic a chance to impress me with the game not being a disaster upon arrival. Star Trek is a very popular IP and I’m sure that the servers will take a severe beating on Tuesday.

I’ve committed to giving STO at least a month to grow and develop and I am hopeful that eventually STO will be an awesome game all around. There’s a ton of potential with the game and I’ve only seen very little of what the game has to offer. I can’t wait to jet around in a cruiser and kick some dominion arse. You can expect many more updates involving STO for the coming days and weeks. I may even go into detail of my in-game endeavors as I once did with Final Fantasy XI when I started this blog.

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Cataclysm

So there is a lot of leaked information out there, so I figured I’d chime in with at least some of my thoughts revolving around WoW: Cataclysm without going into each and every single detail. Nothing has been confirmed or denied by Blizzard at this point, but that doesn’t mean anything. I do, however, have faith that much of the leaked information is true if only because Boubouille over @MMO-Champion hasn’t steered us wrong in the past and would only post information that he had been sitting on, (at least according to Stompalina via the Rawrcast podcast/site) after someone else “leaked” the information first.

It might seem that I’m prefacing my comments a lot in this, and that is only par-for-the-course. As of right now, the leaked information is only speculative rumor … possibly founded from a legitimate source, but with the recent inclusions of “false” or “funny” information for dataminers to find could serve as a basis for all of this information to be false and that Blizzard is only playing a cruel joke (and/or trying to nail down leaks within their organization) on us all.

BUT, and that’s a very big “but,” I’m going to go out on a limb and state that I believe most of what is up at MMO-Champion to be factual. There is supporting evidence to at least there being a huge catacylsmic event coming to Azeroth, and you only need to take a trip into the Halls of Lightning to see this evidence.


Kalimdor as seen in Halls of Lightning (Click to Enlarge).

Blizzard has gone on record as stating that they like to pre-seed hints of forth-coming content and mechanics, etc within the world before they’re officially announced. The data-mining and semi-clever cover-up of the new Halloween masks could support this, but nothing supports this more than this screen shot of the Kalimdor continent in Halls of Lightning (it can also been seen in Ulduar evidentually). The globe is obviously Azeroth with a vortex of energy between Kalimdor and the Eastern Kingdoms but I never gave it much thought before.

Now it is possible that this globe that is present in Halls of Lightning has been recently updated, either in 3.1 or 3.2, but I think I vaguely recall this globe and Kalimdor appearing like this predating back to 3.0. Should this devestated Kalimdor be true, and I think with almost certainty that it is true, it adds a lot of legitimacy to the entirety of Boubouille’s post. Fortunately we won’t have to wait long to find out as Blizzcon’09 is only a few days away.

We know the userbase is clamoring for their flying mounts to be usable in old-world Azeroth, and what better way to actually accomodate this by actually having a lore-related reason to rebuild Azeroth to include the ability for flying mounts? It makes a lot of sense from a game-design principle and putting all of this work into reworking old-world content sensible from a business sense. Which alludes to something also mentioned on the Rawrcast podcast …

Could WoW: Cataclysm be more or less treated as a stand-alone “expansion” in that all prior content will be included in Cataclysm in one sleek package for new users and existing users alike? If Cataclysm was the only thing you needed to buy to get into World of Warcraft and have all prior content included (TBC/WotLK mechanics) it’d make it incredibly easy to attract a brand new audience for WoW.

It was also tossed around that Cataclysm in a way could be World of Warcraft 2, and if the “stand-alone” essence of this expansion is a reality, it is almost a virtually seemless sequel to WoW. This is pretty “far-fetched” from a game design standpoint and there’s a lot of logistics that aren’t cleanly addressed with this, but it does make sense.

So what else is there that has me excited and/or disappointed if these leaks come true? Well I’m going to be really annoyed that Taurens will be able to become paladins, (I’ll instantly reroll my poor-still-level-30-BElf-paladin as a tauren if it is true) and I’d much have rathered playing a troll druid instead of a tauren druid, but that’s not to say that Blizz doesn’t have one more card up their sleeves.

Yes, that’s right … I am alluding to Blizzard finally allowing FULL re-customization of your existing toons by allowing you to change their race. Before you get too up-in-arms over this, I think it’ll also come with another new gameplay mechanic where you can choose racial disciplines so that you can get the racial-abilities you want, (likely still limited by the existing racial groupings) but play as the race you want. Now unlike Boubouille’s post my feeling is a pure gut-feeling and has no basis on reality or sources … but if it does come true, I’ll happily take credit for calling it.

Moving on I’m also perplexed by the Horde being left in the hands of Garrosh Hellscream. I love Thrall and not looking forward to Garrosh throwing the horde into full-out open war with the alliance (even though they’re evil and stink). BUT, if this is what it takes from a lore-standpoint to include Wintergrasp world-pvp zones in Azeroth, I’m all for it. Maybe I’ll even get back into my gnome-punting ways … ^^;

But you have to weigh these negatives against the positives, and fortunately there are a lot of them. Revamping old-world content to make leveling purposeful and more immersive is a great thing. WotLK showed me that Blizz CAN make quest-content that plunks your toon into the lore and makes you feel like you have an influence on your environment. Phasing technology has made this possible and I’d expect a LOT of phasing in the next expansion, (which will make my computer cry … lol).

I am also looking forward to the old-world finally getting the attention it deserves and being fleshed out more and more. There will still be tons of new content in the expansion, so arguments about Blizz being lazy and reusing content hold no water with me. Granted retuning old dungeons for max-level heroics will seem like taking the easy way out, but fortunately WC is being completely redone and hopefully won’t be as completely confusing as it is right now.

There are also plenty of places within Azeroth that have gone undone: Uldum, Hyjal (present-day), Grim Batol, Gilneas, Undermine, etc. So there won’t be a lack of brand-new zones to explore and grind up in. Which brings me to the new level cap: 85. THANK YOU Blizzard, I really really wasn’t looking forward to rerolling and grinding to 90, AND hopefully all of the epic-loot I’ve been lootho’ng won’t be replaced until I’m at the new end-game in Catacylsm.

But, with the cap only being nudged up 5 levels, I don’t think we’re going to see massive talent tree upgrades/reworking with the next expansion. I doubt that we’ll see 56 pt talents in the new expansion, but I could be wrong. Rather it’d make sense to just keep the trees virtually as is (there are still a few bloated trees that could use some streamlining) and allow us to plunk another 5 pts into our secondary tree without making a 51/25 combination broken.

All in all if all of these rumors turn out to be true I already cannot wait. Thankfully we still have the biggest raid in the game coming in 3.3 to keep us satiated until then.