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Anti-Aliased: A Cryptic opinion


So, wow, what a set the last week and a half has been. There seems to be a very strong theme going on in my inbox recently, and that's, without a doubt, Cryptic Studios. I've read unflattering comments about my integrity as a journalist, the usual statements of how this site is Cryptic's lapdog due to all of the Star Trek Online and Champions Online coverage, and, even more oddly, people want to know my opinion of Cryptic's recent actions -- specifically Star Trek Online and Vibora Bay.

Well, I was never one to shirk from the truth. I've been wanting to give my personal opinion on these events since Vibora Bay hit, so I might as well dedicate this column to my evaluation of Cryptic Studios. But, before we get to Cryptic, I have a few ground rules that I want to go over with you guys. Some facts that I'd like to set straight for, oh, I dunno, the fifth time.

For the love of cake, the idea that we're being paid by Cryptic is stupid

That's right, I just invoked the power of cake. That means that I mean business this time. Let me once again point you, dear readers, to Massively's mission statement. And I quote, "We don't accept stipends or travel expenses and we don't do score-based reviews."

Most of the time I end up buying both the game and paying the subscription fees as well. I pay for that -- including Champions Online. If we get any swag or things from a developer, they go into your hands via our many contests. Very few developers offer us review copies of their games or comped subscription fees. In the case of Cryptic, we've received beta access from them to play their games before launch.

Some of you might already be opening your mouths and screaming about how we're amassing ginormous amounts of funds in advertising revenue. You can just stop right there. The only way I know if someone's advertising with us is when I see their ad on our page. I don't know the numbers or how much they pay for our space. I don't know when they come or go. Our editorial departments here do not answer to our sales department and vice-versa. We're separate entities.

So, anyway, back to Cryptic...

Now that I've gotten that out of the way (for the last time, hopefully, but I doubt that) let's get to the meat of the subject -- Cryptic. While I still enjoy Champions Online as a game (I'm a fan of the graphics, the storylines, the character creator, and the combat system) I'm not so sure about Champions Online as an entity. I feel the same way about Star Trek Online as well, although I'm not as fond of it as I am Champions. (I'm not a Trek fan, so the lore of that game goes right over my head.)

It's not even the microtransactions that are making me unhappy with Cryptic's recent performance. I still stand behind microtransactions as a legitimate source of income as long as the things involved are either service items (like the respec or name change) or unique cosmetic items (like CO's costumes.)

No, I can pinpoint my dissatisfaction down to two things: the nature of the microtransactions themselves and the lack of transparency.

Microtransactions as repairing content

I think Champions is more guilty of this than Star Trek, but as I said above, more of my expertise lies in Champions. CO is a fun game with storylines that I personally enjoyed, except there just weren't enough of them. There seems to be one path in Champions that you must follow, instead of allowing that branching aspect that many other games in the genre utilize.

So when Vibora Bay was announced, I was pretty happy. I'm not level 37-40, but I totally wanted more options in the future. I wanted to be able to take Seraphina one way in her travels and Lace in another direction. But then to announce it as content that you have to pay for? That struck me as more than just odd.

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