The Problem with STO Lockboxes

Star Trek Online has, in my admittedly biased opinion, gone downhill in several ways. The stories are wonderful, the characters and familiar voices induce geekgasms, and in many ways it’s a wonderful game; but there’s a lot that, in recent years, leaves a bad taste in my mouth. The foremost has to be the way that Cryptic has set up lockboxes.

lockbox_blog_020712Lockboxes are currently randomly dropped from destroying enemies in STO’s missions, both space and ground. They often have wonderful prizes inside, from some simple consumables to weapons to even ships. The ships are often the most coveted, exclusive to that type of lockbox only, and hardest to get. Thing is, every time you open a lockbox, it’s random what you’ll get; you could open one or two and find that awesome super-rare ship you’ve been hunting for, or you could open a hundred and never get a ship at all. It’s all determined by an RNG. Some items, like the special Lobi crystals currency, are guaranteed to be in them, but how many crystals is random. The ships, though, and the higher rarity items, are not guaranteed to even drop at all from a lockbox.

This wouldn’t be so bad… If not for the fact that the only way to open a lockbox is with a special key, which costs 100 Zen in the cash shop or can sell for hundreds of millions of Energy Credits in the exchange. Sure, you can just buy zen for Dilithium, but the price for Zen in Dilithium fluctuates based on the player made market. And even when you have a few keys, the lockbox rewards are still determined by an RNG. So it doesn’t matter how much time, Dilithium, or Zen you spend.

lockboxThis, to me defeats the purpose of the dilithium exchange and the whole concept that Cryptic was pushing that players who want to get things through spending time playing instead of spending real money would get fairly rewarded. No one’s being rewarded fairly; it’s just an overglorified slot machine. I understand wanting to give players rewards in lockboxes, but lockboxes in their current incarnation basically make a lot of things in the game unbalanced and unfair.

b018ec67214c8de420ab42f945980eb31359050634A F2P player will have to spend weeks upon weeks of grinding for dilithium, for several hours per day, to farm enough dilithium to get enough keys to have a decent chance at getting the item they wanted in particular, with no guarantee of ever even getting it. A player spending money can buy keys relatively cheaply, but because it’s an RNG, there’s no guarantee fo how much he’ll need to spend to get that one ship he really wants.

The only “legitimate” way to bypass the whole lockbox system is with the Exchange that uses Energy Credits (EC) instead of both Dilithium and Zen. Buy a key from the C-Store, then sell it on the exchange for several million EC. Then use that EC to buy the ship you want from someone else who’s selling their duplicate on the Exchange. Personally, I consider this entire method a waste of time, because if the lockboxes were well balanced and worth using as they are, this bypass wouldn’t even exist.

Now, remember my mentioning Lobi Crystals? They’re a special currency only available in lockboxes, and which can only be spent at the Lobi Store on items that are also exclusive to the Lobi Store. All lockboxes will drop some, the only thing that’s random is the number of Lobi Crystals you’ll get. Personally, I think that having these rare ships only as completely random drops out of lockboxes isn’t working. It makes more sense to make them also as purchases in the Lobi Store; that way even if the ship you want does not drop from the lockbox, you aren’t totally SOL and can still work your way to the one you wanted. I’m okay with there being some randomness to getting these ships, but not when that randomness is all there is and it alone determines whether you get those ships or not.

I get the need to have a cash shop. I get the idea behind lockboxes. I think both can be fun and useful, if done right. But right now, the lockbox system is hugely unfair and  just an unbalanced mess.

Multiplayer Gaming vs. Social Anxieties – Am I losing?

2014-06-16_00046I think I figured out why it’s so hard for me to find a guild in MMO (Massively Multiplayer Online) games. I don’t deal well with strangers. Okay, I admit – I’m scared of people I don’t know. I’ve been taken advantage of, used, misled, lied to, abused, and mistreated a lot over the years and I’ve realised lately that I’m just terrified of people I don’t know, especially in real life.

It’s something I’m working on, but it’ll take a while. It’s not that other people don’t go through that or that I can’t learn to cope with it and get over it; I just have yet to learn how to do that, and things keep happening or obligations keep getting dumped in my lap that prevent me from doing what I need to do to cope and get over it, so now I just am too scared of people I don’t know and afraid everyone who is nice to me is just putting on a mask.

Add onto that the fact I have Asperger’s Syndrome and my related need for consistency. I can’t handle PUGs (for those not in the know, PUG = Pick Up Group; essentially it’s creating a group or team with random strangers also playing the same game and mission/quest that you are doing) because the people I’m playing with keep changing when I just join PUGs, which makes the gameplay environment I play in constantly different. I need more consistency. I need people I can game with regularly, who’s interactions I know and am used to.

It doesn’t help when so many assholes (like the dipsh*ts I found in the Neverwinter community) make up so much of the player base of these games I love to play. After all the crap I’ve had done to me that I never dealt with, I just have become automatically distrustful of people by default, both face to face and IRL. I’ve stopped playing Neverwinter entirely now because I got too angry at the destructive greed of the community and just feel it’s not worth it to be dealing with jackasses like that; I’ve moved on back to Guild Wars 2 and some Single Player/Co-Op games I never got around to finishing.

2014-06-12_00002Games are a pretty personal experience for me, and co-op is, in a way, a kind of personally intimate thing. I’m sharing with someone something that is a deep, personal passion of mine. If I ask to play a game with you, it means you are really important to me. Gaming together reveals aspects of who we are that we don’t see otherwise; we reveal little subtle truths of ourselves when we game that we all too easily hide elsewhere.

Any of the guilds I’ve been in have been pretty much made up of 95% or more people I don’t know, never met, and have never talked to. I just am very uncomfortable gaming with strangers these days. I need to get to know a person a bit before I can become comfortable gaming with that person. I need to be able to spend time just chatting and getting to know the kind of person they are, before I trust them enough to game with them.

A lot of people game just for the sake of gaming, it doesn’t make any difference to them who they game with as long as the other people play their role properly and aren’t dicks. But I just can’t do that. I need more. Gaming is not just a pastime for me, it’s a passion. People don’t realize how much they let their masks down and reveal their core when they game. I need to game with people I get along with, and can game consistently with. Most people have had friends like that they’ve known for years by the time they are my age; I don’t really have that and I just have no clue where to find it or how to build it.

Remember Me – More forgettable than promised.

I just finished playing Remember Me. I’d heard a lot of really great things about the story and the gameplay and combat, so I was stoked and ready to be blown away. I gotta say, now I’ve finally completed my first run-through, I could only say one thing…

WTF was that crap?

I have to say, I’ve never been more disappointed with a AAA game that I had been that excited to play. WARNING: There might be spoilers to the story. Read ahead at your own risk.

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Sims 3 and Origin – Examples of FAIL

The_Sims_3_Starter_Pack_FAILSo I recently got the Sims 3 starter pack as part of the Humble Origin Bundle. Unfortunately, the damn thing won’t run. I keep getting the same damn error: “There was an error during startup. Please see the Log for more details.”

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Every. Damn. Time. I’ve done EVERYTHING the support site has said on BOTH my laptop AND my desktop, and BOTH are giving me the same error. I’ve searched everywhere on the internet I can think of and nothing is working. Some of the suggested fixes were absolute bullshit. You want me to reinstall Origin entirely, EA? Seriously?!?! You want em to waste 3 days re-downloading and installing 12 games because you can’t get your shit together and fix a problem with only 1 of them?! I am finding that this same thing has been an issue since 2011. Seriously, EA? 3 f’ing years? After 3 f’ing years, you STILL can’t get this to f’ing work? FAILSAUCE. No wonder you’ve been voted Worst Company in America 2 years running. And considering that title was not limited to the video game industry, that’s saying a hell of a lot.

At this point, I’m disgusted with EA’s support and of the total lack of any real fixes for this issue, especially in all the time that has passed since it became a known issue. I’m doubting I’ll ever buy a Sims game again at this rate.

Medal of Honor – why I can’t stand most modern-world shooters.

I recently played through the story campaign of Medal of Honor and I gotta say, I was hugely disappointed. The gameplay is solid and fairly engaging, but the story was… To be blunt, pathetic. Not only was it confusing in how it kept switching between 3 different people on separate teams, but there was zero character development of any of them and I finished it in 7 hours and felt underwhelmed by the experience. Even Batman Arkham Asylum, which I also finished in about 8 hours, was a more entertaining story. MoH was nowhere near enough story to be what I consider a good game. And this is why I am not a fan of most FPS games on the market these days.

For me, story is King. Without it, it’s just puzzles. If I want to do puzzle games, I’d be playing board games, not video games. It’s why I am personally not a fan if most mobile games, honestly. Shooters are no exception. Unreal Tournament 3 even had a story to go with the gameplay, and had character development as part of that story. Games like Medal of Honor, though, I keep finding have little to know story, and the single player campaigns end up just being for people to get used to the mechanics enough to jump into online multiplayer. Sorry, not good enough for me. You want me to play the online multiplayer, then make my single player campaign engaging and inspiring. Modern-world shooters like this just don’t inspire me to play more; they bore me. I’ll stick with my Mass Effects, Dragon Ages, and Borderlands.