Stinky old cheater!

Yeah… that would be me!

I cheated, it’s true.

Whats more, I’m proud of it!

I cheated, and I’d do it again. I’m unrepentant. I’m also incorrigible, curmudgeonly and irascible, but we’ll leave my hygiene out of it.

What did I do?



I played other MMOs this weekend while BlizzCon was going on.

Hells yes I did!

This last weekend was open Beta testing for Champions Online, and I scored a beta key from Fileplanet, downloaded and installed the software, and fired that sucker up.

Anyone that has played City of Heroes would have felt right at home… it is, after all, a superhero MMO by Cryptic Studios that shares a lot of the same design team.

Overall, I quite enjoyed it.

I created three different characters, prowling around in the creation process. Then I played each one a little to ease into the various different feels in archetypes… and then I played one all the way through the big starter event and into the next chapter of the game, where you get to upgrade your character with new powers.

So, I saw a good bit of Champions Online, and the first thing I noticed was, for a Beta, that sucker felt rock solid on my system. I had one crash, which took me to an integrated bug reporting system. It happened when I was changing screen resolution and graphics settings on the fly, not when I was actually playing.

I also played Dragonica, which went live last week. Umm, I’m sure Dragonica is a good game, but it didn’t do anything for me. It’s free to play, so by all means try it, but I had a hard time getting used to the 2D gameplay without mouse use. Kinda had a fun old school fighting game feel, but it’s not what I was in the mood for at the time.

As far as Champions, I have mentioned before that I liked City of Heroes a lot when it came out, so Champions Online excited me. I was really grateful for the chance to try it out. I tried to do all sorts of things and interact with it a lot, give it a chance to succeed or crash. 🙂

Character creation left me feeling a little… well, odd. On the one hand, when compared to City of Heroes, it’s a success. It continues the theme of customization, and added even more neat options. Things like flowing capes and such are clearly integrated and available right from the start, but even more than that, some costume choices are accompanied by graphic animations in the game.

A spoiler; at level 5, you gain new powers. You gain one new power of your choice in your archetype… and you can select a travel power. At level 5. And I don’t mean the “hover as fast as your granny walks”, I mean teleportation, super-leaping, and 5 or 6 versions of flight, where you take off like a bat out of hell. The versions are various graphics associated with your choice of flight, like flame body, or ice surfboard and contrail, or just flight, or rocket boots, etc. And super-speed running, etc of course.

Well, there are many various types of wings you can choose when you create your character. If you’d like, anyway. Butterfly wings, beetle wings, angelic, draconian, demonic, etc, plus of course you choose colors and stuff.

Well, I saw level 5 characters that had selected wings, and when they used a flight power… the wings flap very realistically. Yes, those wing choices at character creation animate when using flight powers. Very, very cool.

After a while, though, the sheer number of options left me feeling irritated.

You could craft a custom made character with some insanely cool appearances… but in order to do so took hours of planning, testing, choosing and discarding options, and trying to find where in the massive list of variations what you hoped to find was lurking.

Yes, I am grateful that you can make a great personalized character. I had a lot of fun doing so. But there were also random buttons… and let me tell you, when you’ve got THAT many different choices that are outright wierd, like peg legs and skeleton limbs and demon faces and bug faces and stuff, plus every color scheme in the universe, hitting random leaves you with nothing but muddled crap.

I know it sounds like I’m complaining… and I guess I am. I think when you’ve got such a powerful tool, there should perhaps be a tutorial about how to use it… OR, perhaps a basic mode that let’s you choose a basic archetype, where each individual option that is tied to another can be selected as a kit.

What am I talking about?

If you choose a skintight chest costume, you can choose various theme designs. One of those is a fairly nice flame theme.

Every other costume piece also has that same design option nested somewhere in a menu… and if all you want to do is have your entire costume use that theme, you have to dig through various menus trying to see where they are all hidden.

Being able to select the basic “skintight flame” package, and then choose accessories like goggles, finned boots, a cape and a color scheme would have cut a half hour off the process.

Why mention it?

You don’t even want to know how hideous most characters I saw in the game looked. Damn, Bozo, lose your balloons? Aren’t there some kids and a pony you’re supposed to be terrifying somewhere?

Anyway, as far as gameplay and quest design and controls, I was delighted. You could see how they’ve learned from other MMOs what works, what doesn’t, and chose well.

The combat scheme is more fast paced, it incorporates the ability to block attacks like a very lightweight fighting game, you can interact with the environment as you play, and if you choose to fly you can even swoop in and use ranged attacks from overhead while hovering in place. Very fun.

At one point, as I fought two mobs of slimy aliens, my son noticed that I was standing next to a mailbox, and a little clickable message had popped up asking if I wanted to pickup the mailbox.

I clicked it, and my character reached over, picked up the mailbox, and my attack bar changed to buttons that let me start wailing away, pounding on the aliens with the mailbox until it broke.

My son was a BIG fan of this. He began directing me to go grab things to smack aliens with. Like lampposts. And cars.

A function very like Questhelper is built right in. When you get a quest, you can see on your map green circles showing you where on the map is the area where that quest can be completed… you mouse over a green circle on your map, and the name of the quest pops up, too. No in-game arrows, but you can keep track of quest routes fairly well.

I made three characters, a power armored robot death machine, a black panther claw wielding brawler, and an archer.

I hated the power armor, using powers felt slow and clunky, awkward. The claw brawler was fun… but stuff died too fast for me to feel in control. I’d right click, and auto-attack would have a target dead before I got a chance to try any abilities out.

The archer… the archer was a lot of fun. Ranged sniping was okay, but the power attack, an arrow you can charge up, was like wielding a cannon. You had a fast barrage of arrows that was like hitting a bad guy with wasp stings, and a slow attack that used energy up, but the longer you held the attack and charged the arrow, the bigger the boom when you released. It lent the feel of strategy… when to ping and when to pound, and for how long.

Really, giving you the kick ass travel abilities at level 5 also really felt grand.

My only complaint… my ONLY compaint about the game (assuming you ignore my bleating about character design), is that it felt a little cold, and it was all battle, all the time.

What I mean is, when you are in WoW, you have many places you can travel where you are simply exploring, or hanging out, or chilling and relaxing. You can sightsee in Azeroth undisturbed by mobs or encounters. The single biggest place for this are the capitol cities, where there is no PvP, and there are no mobs.

In Champions, much like City of Heroes before it, the city itself is a war zone, and all areas you travel to are besieged at all times by goons menacing civilians. You cannot travel 15 feet in any direction without some encounter waiting to happen, some villain to beat on, some citizen in distress.

I don’t like the feel that logging into the game is placing you into an ever-present war. I like being able to walk down the street of a city and not have to think, “No thank you ma’am, you’re on your own. I just saved 400 citizens this morning from being mugged, buy yourself a can of mace and shut the hell up.”

Of course, the alien invasion may have been a special event and the normal city of Champions will be much more peaceful. Or maybe most people DO like the constant havok. It was just a little thing.

But I do know that after I logged off Champions, I logged into WoW, and took my Troll Hunter to the coastline, and peacefully watched the sunset. Just me and my raptor sharing a quiet night looking at the stars. And I found more fun in that moment than I’d had all day.