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The above link is my Flipboard magazine -- a currated collection of articles, tweets, even videos about console gaming, MMOs & DragonCon.  Over 2000 viewers and growing.


History: This blog is the third incarnation, and started as a paper RPG & desktop gaming blog.  After starting the MMO City of Heroes days after its launch in 2004,  It developed into one dedicated to that MMO, as it remained for nearly eight years. On November 30, 2012 that MMO was shut down by the company NCSoft despite an outpouring of fan support and community outrage.  Starting In December 2012, I'm going to be opening up the focus of the blog to cover ANYTHING gaming I'm playing, be it PC, XBox 360, iPad, Dragon*Con, etc.

That being said, their will be images from various games posted on this blog.  No claim here is made to the games, and no intent to infringe on any copyrights are inferred.   Copyrights are property of the respective companies.


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Mid Summer Blues

I'm still getting over a chest bug which knocked me out for the better part of a week.   Nasty thing that had quite the kick.   It gave me some time to play , but it was Skyrim mostly since Champions was still blocked by the Subscription bug.  

I had a couple starts, but finally decided to play a Nord battlemage.   I tend to to a lot of Skyrim as a Nord.  It just makes things less complicated.    Female this time.   I went with darker hair -- Anyone else feel compelled to do blond Nords?   Simple white war paint over one eye, and made the eyes light grey.  She ended up being called Fridina Ice-Eyes.    I got to play a little of her last night -- and ended up with a level 34 character.   She's primarily Destruction, Conjuration with some Restoration/Alteration.   Her magics are up in the Adept to Expert range.   She knows some Alchemy, and is Expert in Enchanting.  Currently wears the Archmage robes with lots of Destruction enchanting gear.   Now Destruction magicka costs are completely nulliified.   Dark Brotherhood has been destroyed, the Stormcloaks have won the civil war.   I've been crowned Thane of Whiterun, Falkreath, Morthal, & Windhelm and have a house in Windhelm. I've not gone after the High Elf Embassy, so much of the main quest is not yet active.  Smithing is only up to the sixties, working up the light armor side.  Light armor has been raised mostly by training seeing as she wears robes.  But I hope to end up in Dragonscale.  Eventually.

Champions finally got fixed and I got a few levels in on Flagborn, Bellringer, and Bobcat.   Bobcat finally got into the Young Sentinels.   Flamewing is waiting on contact from Nexus Academy -- but I've yet to see any action on that.   I've got several characters now in the low twenty range, and Bobcat is tied with Psideways for the top billing at present.   Some of the groups seem that some of the older character seem dead -- with no one around, and only a handful of people having been on recently.

Work is getting weird with projects looming.  I'm hoping that it won't interfere with Dragon*Con this year.  I've not gotten pre-registered yet -- and it is too late now for a discount.   I'm thinking about ordering some shirts for Dragon*Con -- I've seen some Atlas Park 33 designs that would be so cool to wear and see if anyone catchs it.   Things like that are big conversation starters.   So if you go to Dragon*Con and see a balding guy with a cane wearing a City of Heroes or AP33 shirt, it will probably be me.

Due to the bug, I've not been to see a Movie since Lone Ranger.   Still want to see Despicable Me 2, Pacific Rim, Turbo, Wolverine, among others.   Anxious also for the Flashpoint video release at the end of the month.

I've been taking pics in Champions of other player characters.  I hope to start some daily toons to intersperse with covers.   Maybe I can keep daily updates going for  a long stint until we hit the convention....


Its an Im-Perfect World..

I've been playing a lot fo Champions lately.  Up until Sunday night that was.  The game was virtually unplayable because several disconnects was occurring, sometimes several in a half hour.   Its tough to do anything when you find yourself suddenly at a location you left 5 or 10 minutes ago.

Monday the proverbial stuff hit the fan.   My account was reverted to Silver (free-to-play) for the second time in 2 weeks due to a bug in their billing system.  All my existing characters are GOLD characters, and as such blocked -- even if they are something a free-to-play could make.   I'm left with 2 empty slots that I could make NEW toons with instead of playing the characters I've been working on.  I'm one of dozens on the forum boards now reporting the problem.  But Perfect World and Cryptic have the WORST support page imaginable -- unhelpful, confusing.  It took me forever to find a way to enter a ticket.   I could not find any DIRECT phone numbers listed at all until I wandered through the forums I couldn't find a number to call.  Not that it does any good.  If you're lucky you get to listen to a few phone rings before it starts its "all representives are busy helping other customers" and then directs you to the web page or to call back later.   Then it hangs up.  Elapsed time 80 seconds tops.   WHO does a support line where you can't WAIT at least a few minutes on hold?   Are their lines THAT bogged down with people needing support?

I've gotten some email responses back on the ticket, but they are simply acknowledged it.   What makes matters worse Is that I've started a red-white& blue character again, aka Flagborn, and they are opening up Flag Speed for the holidays -- patriotically themed travel power.  I was hoping to earn it.  But it requires you to go on a mission within the period of July 1 thru 8th.  I have NO confidence they'll get this fixed before that deadline is over.

Looks Champions will take a back seat for a while until this gets solved.  


RIP - Ascendant

One of the players that made a name for himself in City of Heroes was the one behind Ascendant.   Ascendant was a character, blond  in a white and blue costume, very traditional.    But what set him apart was the use of the bind tools provided to set up a self refreshing script.    He would stand in front of a pay phone and have conversations with his agent.  Even though you only heard one side, if you happen to run through Atlas and catch him running of them they would be a riot.  Well written and tight, they would be the bizarre side of heroing.  The agent would have his action figure equipped with gear he never used, riding dinosaurs and such.  Or putting his equivalent of Green Kryptonite in every box of his Ascendant-O's cereal.  These became so legendary, Ascendant showed up in the City comic books that were put out.  Even Paragon Studios gave him a nod when occasionally a NPC you passed by would be answering their phone "Ascendant, who? I'm sorry, you have the wrong number."

Over the years I've run into him a handful of times.   Frequently at the Atlas Park train station.  In later years a couple times at Pocket D events, at least one of the Golden Age Festivals the Gods of the Golden Age put on. 

Sadly the word is circulating that the player behind Ascendant has passed away.  I first ran across this on a a supergroup website.   Tuning into THE CAPE, they were running a memorial of sorts.  Further searches show the story popping up on Twitter.   Even an article in OnRPG has to be seen.

Strange that he touched so many people he never met in person, and that despite the absence of that game, the word has still gotten out so quickly.

I leave you with another one of his phonecalls -- of sorts.


Or more traditionally

Ascendant: Hello, are these the offices of Saul Rubenstein, Agent to Paragon's Elite?
Ascendant: Great. Can I speak to him? I'm a client.
Ascendant: Ascendant. No, with an A. D-A-N-T.
Ascendant: Ok, I'll hold.
Ascendant: —lor said "Brandy, you're a fine girl, what a good wife you would be, but my life, my love and m—
Ascendant: Hello, Saul, it's Ascendant.
Ascendant: No, the one with an A.
Ascendant: I'm glad you asked. I've been going over these products you've sent me—
Ascendant: Right, for the merchandizing campaign...
Ascendant: Well, no, they aren't. That's why I'm calling, actually.
Ascendant: I'm not really happy with them.
Ascendant: Well, for starters, there's the breakfast cereal.
Ascendant: Right, Ascendant-O's.
Ascendant: Ok, it says here on the box, "Includes Xenonite, the Secret Source of Ascendant's Power."
Ascendant: Well, for one thing, Xenonite is NOT the secret source of my powers.
Ascendant: No, Saul... No, it isn't. Trust me on this.
Ascendant: Saul, Xenonite TAKES AWAY my powers.
Ascendant: Yeah, it does. In fact, if I'm exposed to it too long, it could kill me.
Ascendant: I dunno. It's got something to do with radioactivity, I think.
Ascendant: Anyway, I poured a bowl of Ascendant-O's yesterday to see what they taste like and nearly died before I could finish adding the milk.
Ascendant: Well, if the cat hadn't come along and eaten it all, I would have, Saul.
Ascendant: My point is that we aren't going to be selling Ascendant-O's...
Ascendant: Because, Saul, I'm not putting on a lead suit every time I have to go to the cereal aisle in the grocery store.
Ascendant: I don't care if you have already have a lot of pre-orders for it.
Ascendant: Really? How much?
Ascendant: From who?
Ascendant: Ok... Right... Yeah... Uh huh... Him, too? Really?
Ascendant: Yeah, well the problem here is that all those guys you just mentioned are supervillains, Saul.
Ascendant: Yes, even him. I just beat him up like an hour ago for trying to poison the city's water supply.
Ascendant: I don't care if his check cleared, Saul. That's not the point...
Ascendant: Well, of course they're going to use it to try and kill me, Saul.
Ascendant: Why else would a bunch of supervillains want a kid's cereal laced with the one rare radioactive element I'm vulnerable to?
Ascendant: No, I don't think they just want a well balanced breakfast.
Ascendant: Ok, as far as I'm concerned, this is a dead issue, Saul. Big NO on Ascendant-O's.
Ascendant: Moving on: The Ascendant action figure.
Ascendant: No, I'm very disappointed, actually.
Ascendant: Well, for starters, it comes with a laser sword and a talking dinosaur that I supposedly ride into battle.
Ascendant: I don't have either one of those things, Saul.
Ascendant: I don't care if the focus groups thought it would be cool.
Ascendant: That's utterly ridiculous, Saul.
Ascendant: Yes, it is. For one thing, where am I going to get a laser sword? Or a talking dinosaur, for that matter?
Ascendant: Fine, whatever. Anyway, I'm also a little concerned about the fact that it features "Burning Halo Action..."
Ascendant: Right, but aside from the fact that I don't actually have that power—
Ascendant: No, Saul, I don't.
Ascendant: I'd know it if I did, Saul, trust me.
Ascendant: Aside from the fact that I don't have anything like a Burning Halo power, do you really think it's a good idea to sell kids an action figure that can spontaneously burst into flame?
Ascendant: I see... Well, we're going to hold on that until I approve a redesign.
Ascendant: Moving on. The Ascendant Cave Action Playset.
Ascendant: Yeah, I actually like this thing. It doesn't look anything like my apartment, but it's pretty cool, I guess.
Ascendant: What do you mean they changed the name so it could fit on the box?
Ascendant: Well, sure, I guess Ascendant Cave Action Playset is a little long, but couldn't they use a smaller font?
Ascendant: Fine, so what do they call it now? The Action Cave? Ascendant's Lair? What?
Ascendant: The A-Hole?!?!?!
Ascendant: Why on Earth would they call it the A-Hole, Saul?
Ascendant: Yes, I understand the A is short for Ascendant, you moron, but why not call it the A-Cave? or the A-Lair?
Ascendant: Uh huh... Yeah... I see...
Ascendant: Well, we're NOT calling my secret headquarters the A-Hole, Saul, and that's final.
Ascendant: Because I don't want people to hear the word "Ascendant" and immediately think "A-Hole."
Ascendant: Ok, moving on. The Ascendant Action Hour TV Show.
Ascendant: Right. I actually like the opening animation of me that you've put together.
Ascendant: Right, the one where I'm sheathed in a burning halo of flame, riding around the city on a talking dinosaur, hitting bad guys with my laser sword and eating chunks of raw Xenonite.
Ascendant: I mean, that's still not anything remotely close to real life, but I guess it looks pretty cool and the theme song is pretty catchy, so I'll let it pass for now.
Ascendant: It's the rest of the show that I have problems with, Saul.
Ascendant: Well, for one thing, outside of the opening theme part, the show itself is apparently just old episodes of Nightline, except every time someone says "Ted Koppel," you dub over it with "Ascendant."
Ascendant: I don't care if each episode only costs $22.50 plus shipping to make, Saul. In fact, I don't think you can even legally broadcast it.
Ascendant: What offshore Pirate transmitter?
Ascendant: Saul, that's a federal offense.
Ascendant: Yes... Yes, it is.
Ascendant: Yes, someone WILL care... They've called the FCC, Saul.
Ascendant: Look, Saul, I've got to fire you.
Ascendant: I don't see where you've left me much choice, Saul.
Ascendant: You're selling cereal that can kill me to my archenemies, you've made my action figure not only ludicrous but potentially lethal to kids, and you're committing felonies by broadcasting illegal transmissions of Nightline from off shore.
Ascendant: Oh, and I almost forgot, you're selling an action playset which proudly proclaims on the box that "Ascendant stores all of his most precious items inside his incredible A-Hole."
Ascendant: And worst of all, my name is stamped all over all of this, Saul... I'm the one who's going to be sued, or killed, or arrested... Maybe in that order, too.
Ascendant: Saul...
Ascendant: Saul...
Ascendant: Stop crying Saul...
Ascendant: Look... I know you tried your best.
Ascendant: (Sigh)... Ok, Fine...
Ascendant: Look, Ok, but just one more chance, Saul....
Ascendant: Just don't do anything more until we can have a meeting, Saul.
Ascendant: No... For the last time, NO Broadway musical! Don't even MENTION that idea again.
Ascendant: Ok, bye.



Champions -- again?

I have to admit, my gaming has been in spurts -- I do several days if not weeks of  Skyrim, then move on to something else.  Right now, its been Champions.  And I've been finding out things -- finally.

I tried the other day a freeform character -- something you can do if you have a Gold (paid) account.  I was inspired by a costume contest that wanted to do various earth themes.  I tried to make an ice/earth weilding characte, essentially a tank, with some of both.   It worked surprisingly well and I got it up to the low teens relatively easy.  I teamed with a friend for a while , being sidekicked.   She was playing a pure ice character it seemed, and was doing a massive ice bombardment when I was doing an earth eruption via the Tremor powr.  It made a hell of a mess.     One of our missions was saving a bank -- between the two of us we were taking the villains down, but must have been doing a lot of damage "saving" the bank.

I played around with a British themed character, but could never get it right.  Costume is good, but the name and powers never fit.   One approach had a toggle buff power that was all oriental symbols & guestures.   Not something that makes sense on a character like that.

I'd tried psychic  characters before , but then never really felt good.   The canned TK is more of a healer and less a fighter.   They've plenty of Telekinetic powers though.  I hit on combining Force Field and TK on a Freeform.  I decided to use an old CoH character name I'd used -- Psideways.   That's him in the donut above.  Not the same as the one in Faultline.  

Playing Psideways has been a blast.   The first day I got him up to 18 -- Today I got him up to 20, and he looks to be on his way to becoming my main character.  I even go 6 covers done for him so far.  I'll be posting them this week.  I'm hoping to get him into a particular supergroup, once I finally link up with the leadership in game -- and it has ties to City of Heroes.  More on that if it goes through.

I'm seeing a lot of Superman clones in the game.   It never fails.  Every superhero movie and they come out in droves.  Strangely enough they are doing the CLASSIC Superman with the briefs and yellow belt, rather than the all blue outfit with the red belt.   Old habits die hard I guess.

One thing -- I've not yet even placed in a Costume contest.  Not even an honorable mention.  Despite several attempts.  I did win some trivia questions -- done to pass the time while they judge each category.  Enough to get 26Gold on a lvl 9 hero.   I just wish I knew what was doing wrong.  I think my costumes are good but apparently not the judges.



The fight goes on...

Gaming wise I've gotten back into Skyrim lately a lot.  I started another few characters , each unique.  But some of it is getting old.  The Elder Scrolls online game can't come out fast enough.

I even tried a little bit of Fallout3.   I used to play that to death -- but it now seems clunky and dated.   Not as bad as Oblivion or Morrowind.  Try as I might, I still can't get into Oblivion due to the interface.  I can't make heads or tales out of what is set or not -- so I don't know what is going on. Listing to Elder Scrolls Off The Record podcast it sounds liike I'm missing something in not playing the games.

Picked up Gunslinger (Call of Juarez) -- cheap but fun so far.   Tricky , lots of cliche's.  Like the way the work stuff in to the story by having the storyteller have to work against the dime novel versions of the story and show BOTH ways the story would have played out.  

Tried a little of Defiance and Champions.  Neither is really pulling me in.  Maybe ESO will break the MMO blight I'm suffering from now.

That being said I've come to a realization on the NCSoft actions versus City of Heroes.   It hurts, but  I think I see what THEY see.

They want as many BIG titles as they can in their roster.  They want big numbers.  Not just profitable, but something that brings in the money.  World of Warcraft numbers of old are a Holy Grail as it were, and probably aren't doable because there aren't that many MMO players in existance.  Or at least not enough that actually have funds. 

I think that when DCUO and Champions hit the market they expected City's numbers to fall, and then they could get rid of it.  But that didn't happen.  To NCSoft the numbers weren't high enough to justify a sequel, but not low enough to outright cancel.   I think they expected City to fade away to the point they could get rid of it easily.  But City proved to be the game that would not die.  It had a high equilibrium of numbers that didn't fall far enough for NCSoft to declare the party over.

Paragon Studios probably helped with that.  Ultra Mode graphics and stuff made the engine less dated and the game look far better.  At least to the point it could contend with more modern games.  I have to wonder if NCSoft was clear on what they were doing.  The end result gave the game more life.

I think the Free to Play approach was something else NCsoft probably thought was a game-ender.  But there was too much that made you want to pay to play DESPITE it being free.  Vet awards, new content, and other perks kept people paying and playing.   How many Free To Play players came in that way and eventually started paying so they could join in on that fun?   And even for those not paying, they were in the form of micro-transactions so they could get those precious costume pieces.   It kept that level of profitibility high enough that it was't a superhit -- but it wasn't a failure either.

I suspect that NCSoft desired to get rid of it and try something else better suited for success.   Look at their current offering.  Wildstar excepted, it is ALL variations on a theme.  I don't hold much hope for Wildstar.  Unless it goes superhit, under NCSoft I expect it to be axed in under 3 years.  Maybe even 2.

So we get to the point last year -- NCSoft finally decides to get rid of City.  They can't publicly say why becaus that would show how easily they could justify the termination of ANY game.    They can't sell the property because it has a history.  There might be legal implications -- Remember Cryptic had owned it originally, and other companies got involved when comic books were made.  And Novels.  The cost of clearing everybodies hold on the property might up the cost of selling to the point it would lose them money.    But selling it might mean that someone else could remake it into a superhit.   A non-NCSoft City of Heroes 2 would have been a night mare for them if it got popular.    Can you imagine them explaining stock holders that a new competitor is using their old product against them?   So City gets an "execution" date, less than 2 paragraph of say-nothing nonsense as "explanation", and that's that.  Right?

Not so.  The Unity rally a week after their annoucment spawned the 33 zones of Atlas Park. in hours.  Despite the somber last days of the game, people still played up to the end.   I saw more people on that last day that I've not seen in years than ever before.  

But now we have Heroes & Villains, The Pheonix Project, Missing World Media, Icon 5, etc. all focused on bringing together a new Super hero MMO in the likeness of City of Heroes.  And it looks like they are further along than I would have thought -- going strong.   We might just one or more of these things seeing the light of day. One can only hope. 

Most of the people I knew in City have shown up in Champions.  While not the same as City, it is the closest of the two remaining Superhero MMOs. I've seen several characters inferring City concepts quite cleverly.  There is a City of heroes global channel on Champions that is ALWAYS busy with ex-City players talking away.

And if you go to social media like Twitter, check out posts involving @NCSoftGames.   You'll find it MOSTLY posts by City supporters who do not support NCSoft, and still daily demand their game back or the IP released. Such steady negative publicity against NCSoft is not going to go over well indefinitely.   Check out #SaveCoH #CityofHeroes #AvengeCoH and others.  People aren't happy and still demand to be heard.   

How long can NCSoft ignore it?   They tried the MMO equivalent of a Scored Earth policy to make sure this game was history.  And expected players to accept that.  And that in itself is the problem.  If you make these artificial worlds you are obligated to keep them running until it isn't possible.  NOT until you don't feel like it.   City was the game that wouldn't die -- so they tried to bury it.  Alive.    They've got to be confused if not appauled that it is not only still kicking in its own way, but that it is spawning NEW properties they don't control.

Eventually I expect NCSoft to speak out again.  Whether that is in defense of its actions, to quell complaints and anti-NCSoft commentary, or to sue someone for use of their property, I do expect them to come out again.   I expect the players to continue to revolt against them.   I expect NCSoft to become less and less a big name in the business and more a pariah to be left alone and not touched at all.   In essense, trying to kill City only started them down a path to their own corporate demise.   At the very least I expect them to DITCH the now stained NCSoft name and come up with a new name & logo, hoping they can hide behind that mask.

I don't see anything working for them now.



Nine years ago...

Nine years ago I first logged on to City of Heroes.  Thanks to a snafu with my credit card, I couldn't get online until then, even though I was ready and trying 3 days previously.  I had not been in the beta so it was completely fresh to me.

Thinking back, it was a different game.  For one, the max level was 40.  Nobody knew any tricks, so leveling was SLOW.   No capes were there -- even the flag on the Atlas Park City hall was rigid and static.  No one did costume contests back then -- there was no market, no inventions, no Architect missions, No Pocket D, No villain player characters, no badges.  No veteran bonuses -- so everyone had to get to level 6 and get that prerequesite travel power and work their way to 14 before they could TRULY fly, run, or leap.    I remember the strain it was to get enough influence to buy enhancements for my powers.  Those beginning characters were eternally broke.

I do remember the wonder of it.   The first time I was in King's Row and saw someone superleap away from me.  I remember the frustration of people trying to hover up the sides of King's Row buildings, moving ever so slowly.  I remember my first trip into Perez Park seeing Circle of Thorn torture fire circles inside the trees.   I remember one of my first characters, Cyrex, a half alien Illusion/empath controller, getting Invisibility and wandering around upper level zones.  I took screenshots standing next to groups that could have easily killed that toon. But it was SO much fun.

It seems a pity that NCSoft took the action with the game they did.  

Players are celebrating this week, according to Massively, so keep an eye on Twitter.



City in the News Again - Shutdown Buzz & Backlash

The Gamasutra article, Behind the Scenes at the Paragon Studio Shutdown,  has been mentioned multiple times at several different sites or at least spawned new articles & discussion about City of Heroes and its closure. --> Polygon, Kotaku, Escapist Magazine, PCGamesN, French Tribune, VG247, ShackNews, DragonConMMO News.

Is it strange this MMO gone nearly half a year is still garnering such coverage? If anti-NCSoft and Negative publicity continues to shine on them, can they stand it?   The brand is so tarnished now, I would half expect a complete logo and name change for NCSoft to try escape the stigma they've now garnered as a canceler of so many MMO games.  So far Dungeon Runners, Auto Assault, Tabula Rasa, Exteel in addition to City of Heroes. Of the others I heard a few wistful remarks about Dungeon Runners sense of humor (Cardboard weapons?).  And of course I heard some press from Tabula Rasa due to a lawsuit Richard Garriott brought against NCSoft.   While some of the other game closures may have been justified by poor performance and low player count NCSoft actions have been questionable in the past.   City still seems to have caught the gaming community as a whole by surprise and to this day doesn't seem justified. 

I can imagine NCSoft is wondering how long can the Shutdown backlash continue?  Stockwise their shares are worth about half as much as they were last August.  They clearly expected us to shrug our shoulders and move on and are hopelessly baffled that we aren't behaving anything like that.  

In just a few weeks is the anniversary of the release of City of Heroes ..  I always looked forward to it.  Usually something would happen, like a new issue.   At least a new badge -- and some player spawned events to celebrate.    It won't be the same this year.