Online? Online!

I’ve been pretty wishy-washy lately on what games I want to play. I’ve been giving trials and demos a fair shot, and I’ve been enjoying myself for the most part. It’s nice to be able to have even a temporary reprieve from the stress that comes from being an involved groom.

Aside from all that, my gaming attention has been directed at two specific games for the immediate future: Ultima Online and Champions Online.

I’ve spoken at length about how much I loved Ultima Online back in the day. I wish that the game I love still existed in an official capacity, but it does not. Instead, in 2003, some enterprising minds in Europe decided to open a free server community called Defiance. I had toyed around with Defiance in the past, and it was fun and relatively populated. Now that I am yearning for some good, open PvP, I don’t think there is a better option for me to spend some time in.

On top of that, some of my WoW friends have moved over there and ran a relatively effective recruitment campaign. See, to me, the social aspect of an MMO is the drawing factor. Since Ping and Helly play on Defiance, I was able to convince my roommate to join; he also happened to be my partner-in-crime when we played UO years ago. So we set up shop and began training our skills (which have faster gains on Defiance than OSI, but not so much so that it’s trivial).

And then it happens. While we’re out training Wrestling behind a random cabin, we get PK’d. I was so happy about this. A roving band of three “reds” came up and simply murdered us! Unfortunately, I had to take my roommate’s story of the encounter because I had already gone to bed that night. But that’s something that hasn’t happened to me in an MMO in years. We had to finally be careful about how and where we chose to train.

Now we’re sitting with a few skills at max (grandmaster or GM), and we’re working on the rest. I certainly hope the server keeps being fun and will help us get back even a few hours of the best MMO experience we ever had. I decided to make our start a little easier and tossed the server a $20 donation for 50,000 of each reagent used in Magery training, but that will likely be the extent of our microtransactions with Defiance, unless one of us decides to splurge on ethereal mounts for the duo. (I vote him since I bought the regs.)

Once we finish our characters’ templates, we’re going back to our old griefing/PKing ways. I rolled under my old moniker Damien Wyrmsbane, and my roommate is Ethan Stormfire once again, just like we were on Lake Superior years ago. Anyone who wants is welcome to join us. We can always use another Flamestrike/Stun Punch/Paralyze/Poison/Whatever in the middle of a ganking situation. The more the merrier!

In other MMO news, I preordered Champions Online. I had been debating whether or not I wanted to, but I finally gave in because August is my “light” month in that I have the middle two weeks off work. I have summer orientation for my freshmen this week, and then faculty orientation the last week, but the middle two weeks are perfect for catching up on my writing, reading, and gaming (when I’m not out and about wedding planning somehow, that is). With the CO beta starting in just a few days, I figured that it would be okay to preorder the game since I had planned on picking this one up anyway.

I decided to go through Gamestop for a couple of reasons, but the most important was that I will get a digital copy of the game in advance. I hate waiting on preorders to be shipped, and Gamestop gave the option for not only beta access, but access to the “head start” which means I will be able to login to the live game a few days early, which led me to conclude that I will already have access to the client instead of having to wait an extra day or two to get the box in the mail. Gamestop also said that players who preorder there get flight at an earlier level, so given that I don’t know how hectic my schedule will be in a few weeks, I figured I’d go ahead and let myself take it easy since it’s my “light” month.

I’ve never been a real fan of the superhero MMO; City of Heroes just wasn’t my kind of game 5ish years ago when I tried it. I always mean to reinstall when they email me telling me my account has been reactivated, but until recently, I’ve been kind of sucked into World of Warcraft. Now that I’m looking for something new, Champions Online really has me interested. I like quite a few of the features, and even though it is, at heart, a “kill 10 rats in this questhub” MMO, there are enough quirks to it that make me think it will hold its own better than other niche MMOs like Warhammer Online.

You see, I love Warhammer Online. I think it’s a great game that suffers from having a lackluster population, and that’s the main reason I am not playing it right now. WAR had to merge servers once the “tourist” population left because so many servers were so underpopulated that Public Quests, instances, and PvP/RvR just could not happen. Even after the merge, the servers feel like a wasteland compared to what it was at launch, and that makes me sad. I don’t like wasting 20-30 minutes doing quests or something equally boring just to jump into some PvP.

Luckily, Champions Online will never have to suffer the bad press WAR did because CO will never have the option of merging servers when initial “tourist” populations drop because there is only one server, divided into instanced zones like Guild Wars (which has me worried a little because GW never felt like an MMO to me, but I’m keeping a very open mind here). This single server setup has many benefits I can see, but the most meaningful is that the server will never feel desolate and empty like many in WAR do because there will always be other players around for PvP and/or grouping. Not to mention never having to reroll to play with any friends, unless Cryptic does something like make EU/NA restricted servers, which will make me sad because I have plans of trying to recruit friends from other continents to play with me. You hear that, Gordon? I’m coming for you!

I’m also very interested in Champions Online’s PvP. There are a lot of interesting systems in place so far, and I’m very interested specifically to try out Bash, basically a CO version of WoW’s Lake Wintergrasp. I loved WG in WoW except for the timer, so I like the idea of a persistent zone in CO, but we’ll have to see how it’s done in practice to see if it works. I don’t mind the idea of having a hotspot for PvP because in games like Ultima Online or even Warhammer Online, there are places where PvPers gather and beat the unholy snot out of one another for days and weeks on end. It just so happens that CO is telling us where that it from the get-go and rewarding us for fighting there (here’s hoping it’s not an “honor grind” as in WoW). And the PvP should be meaningful because it’s not like WoW where battlegrounds are instanced and one fights against faceless masses of “tauren druids” and “human paladins” whose names don’t matter. With a single zone on a single server, CO has some potential for PvP.

If done correctly, I can see myself spending a great deal of my free time in Champions Online. If not, well, there’s always Defiance.

By B.J. Keeton

B.J. KEETON is a writer, teacher, and runner. When he isn't trying to think of a way to trick Fox into putting Firefly back on the air, he is either writing science fiction, watching an obscene amount of genre television, or looking for new ways to integrate fitness into his geektastic lifestyle. He is also the author of BIRTHRIGHT and co-author of NIMBUS. Both books are available for Amazon Kindle.


  1. Personally, I loved the instanced zones of GW. But that is the techie in me. From an IT standpoint, and the way server load is handled, it is a brilliant model.

  2. I think the world will have "huge open zone" instances, like Aion, Guild Wars 2 is probably going to shoot for this system, too.

    Champions Online also allows players to have the same name, and having ONE instanced world has advantages over having ONE world divided up in multiple servers.

    I could play with you, with everyone. Is it not always heartbreaking if a friend or someone you want to play with plays on another server of your game?

    I am not convinced of the game itself, unfortunately. I do not see why Champion Online's PvP should be better than that of Aion? I still prefer Ultima Online's world and mechanics and hope for a remake, but Aion offers an excellent blend of pve and pvp, much better than WoW and other DikuMUDs that I know.

    I wish you much fun on Defiance!

  3. I just worry that CO might end up with the feel that GW had for me. I like the idea, but the impact of the system made it feel very sparse and that it wasn't an actual "world." I never felt in GW that I was making a difference because everything was so instanced and only the towns gave me the level of interaction I wanted.

    I think this has a lot of potential in a more "pure" MMO like CO, and I look forward to trying it for no other reason than to, like you said, play with my friends when I want to.

    And yeah, John, the technical aspect is fantastic. I just hope they integrate it smoothly and it doesn't feel "tacked on."

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