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To game or not to game... that is this the question.

So what is this blog going to be all about? Well mainly reviews of games that I am currently playing or beta testing. It will also house some ideas I have about the video game industry, and my views on where gaming is headed.

Author: kackilos

Feeling a bit nostalgic: a look back at the games that made us gamers.

Posted by kackilos Tuesday September 7 2010 at 10:50AM
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The other day my friends and I got into a conversation about our favorite arcade games. With little or no hesitation my mind drifted to the times my family went with friends to our favorite pizza joint. This was our favorite place as the pizza was cheap and the beer was plentiful for our parents. Also this place had an amazing childcare facility called the down stairs arcade.
The arcade had many classics ranging from mortal combat to the candy crane game, but there was one game that I always wanted to play. Turtles in Time was the best game on the floor. It had everything I wanted. For starters it had my favorite childhood action heroes, it offered coop play with my friends, and I was pretty good at it. My friends and I would play for what seemed like hours or seconds until our pizzas arrived and my sister was sent to gather us up…until we kicked her out and someone’s father game down to get us. At which point we would relinquish the joysticks and let some undeserving noobs behind us take over which was the same as signing a death certificate for our favorite mutated adolescent reptiles.  
Thinking back about the game really got the childhood memories flowing. I remember the suspense and drama that occurred during a boss fight when a friend ran out of lives and had to sprint back and forth between the change machine and the game just to activate a continue. I remember fighting splinter for the first time and being the sole survivor and basking in the roar of the crowd as I threw that last bad guy at him.  I still use that victory to taunt my cousin when we inevitably get into a heated, but friendly, conversation.
So take a second out of your day and chat with your friends about the games of the past and the memories you have of them. To those players looking for a game to relive some of those side-scroller memories I suggest you look at castle crashers on xbox live.
As always this article and more can be found at Afk.Alt.Tab: your home for articles written by gamers for gamers...and burritos...mmmm burritos

Motion Control in the MMO world: possibility or still purely Sci-Fi?

Posted by kackilos Monday July 19 2010 at 8:55PM
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With the onslaught that was E3 over (and comic-con around the bend) and all the new shinies out an about to keep us gamers titillated late into next year, one aspect was the prettiest girl of them all...Motion Control.
So what does this mean to the PC gaming and MMO world? Is it a glimpse into the future or is motion control purely something that will not make the cross over?
Here is how I see it. Motion control is like trying to get the hot girl bartenders attention. It requires patience, creativity, and most of all inventiveness. Without these three you might as well have just stayed home. The same goes for motion control in the MMO universe. Most MMOs follow the skill bar/action bar style to activate moves. So the current combat system as it stands is not conducive to motion control. So how would MMO's use a motion control device?
Well one demo during the Sony show at E3 got me thinking about that very aspect. The game Sorcerer showed the potential of The Move device to do simple and complex actions. As I watched the demo of a rather wimpy looking spell slinger dispatch goblins with a variety of spells it got me thinking about how the PC and MMOs could adapt that style.
For those that remember Lion Head Studios: Black and White, the mechanic for using spells was to move your mouse as if it was a pencil to draw out shapes to activate an ability. That mechanic combined with motion control could be implemented to PC gaming.  Example time
Say my priest needs to cast Heal on a team member:
Step 1: a simple rotation of the hands to form the casting circle.
Step2: Followed by moving my hand up, down, left, right to form a cross thus activating the ability.
step3: Now all that is left is to fling my hand at my target and boom, the heal is off and my tank is feeling like his old self.
The same concept can be used for melee or even physical range classes, with probably even more ease.
As much as I would love this concept it all falls apart without the ability to accurately and efficiently navigate my character around the world. Personally I would love it if the technology actually captured my whole body and I was literally forced to walk from point A to point B. Forget going to the gym Ill just run to the next village in my new MMO.
Motion control is interesting and clearly is going to be expanded on, much like 3D. Myself and many other gamers out there are interested to see how this technology, if even possible, is going to adapted to the MMO genera. 

community and guilds

Posted by kackilos Tuesday June 8 2010 at 11:23AM
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So what is the one reason you keep coming back to a game? Perhaps this is the same reason you stuck it out through the patches, the nerfs, the glitches, and the hot fixes. For me it has always been the community a game has. That circle of friends that you can’t wait to trade good natured insults with while clearing content. The sense of achievement as your guild downs that mob or owns it up on the battlefield. Many players have two sets of people they play with. These groups generally are the real life friends and the in game friends. Personally, most of my friends stick to the consol systems so the majority of people I play MMOs with are total strangers by the standard definition.
Community in my mind ranks top three in my things I consider when that free subscription time starts to dry up. I personally play MMOs to team up with other people to not only clear content but to also socialize. For the most part I completely ignore general chat (since most of comments are from trolls and gold spammers), but party chat and other channels can really give a player the sense of community and belonging.
Perhaps belonging was the wrong word. When a player feels that not only are they advancing their character but also advancing the community around them players are more likely to keep coming back to the game. When players start to feel that they are impacting the players around them a sense of pride and worth is formed.
It is that feeling of accomplishment which is a major driving force behind the formation of guilds.
So why is it that people form guilds with people they know nothing about? Enter the internet and its anonymity. Being able to “meet” a person via in-game chat, forums, or over Vent/TS removes the anxiety and tension in opening up to a new person. This anonymity breaks down walls people generally have up when meeting a new person. With the internet acting as this wall it allows people to share information freely with the general feeling of safety.
The anonymity of the internet also makes sure that if you never want to speak to a person again it is very easy to disappear into thin air or simply make a new addition to your ignore list. It is these reasons that I feel why most guilds end up with very like minded individuals making up their membership. Also most of the people in the guild tend to get along…for the most part. There is always some person in the guild that just rubs you the wrong way.
*pre-stops potential rant*
Personally I have been a part of a gaming community for six nearly seven years. I started playing with this community in what I call a hybrid FPS/MMO: Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy. I wandered onto a server and started joining in the fray noobing it up as best I could, Hell I beat the campaign on hard I knew what I was doing. After firmly getting my saber handed to me I figured I should stick around and learn a few things from these guys. Six years later we still all play together even if just for a clan event that is held every Saturday.
So my question to you is, “Why do you join Guilds/Clans”?

Is sportsmanship dead in gaming?

Posted by kackilos Tuesday November 3 2009 at 5:40PM
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Quick YouTube angry halo kid, or kid gets WoW account cancelled. Are these really the ambassadors we as gamers want? I would hope not, as the majority of gamers are very respectful…and sane. It is these few examples that make their way onto the internet that makes people look at our community as a bunch of angry…angry little children that lose their temper over something so trivial.

Is this behavior just an example of monkey-see-monkey-do? Is the gaming youth looking at these videos and considering these responses as socially acceptable? Sadly I do believe many people see these examples on YouTube and think, “well that must be what all gamers are like”. When children see these examples it is very easy for them to imitate and accept these reactions as correct responses.

Just play Halo or Call of Duty for more than fifteen minutes and tell me who is using the most profanity or “colorful” language. Most the time it is kids who have not even had a chance for their voices to drop (believe me I had a lot of different word choices to end this sentence). I remember back in the day if I was talking like some of these kids I would have gotten a swift smack to the back of my head by my grandmother.
It just makes me wonder if these children are really investing so much of their lives into these video games. It seems like they are as each time they get killed or lose a roll on some loot it is like a loved one was murdered in front of them, to which they must inform me on my headset how displeased they are with the outcome.

Friendly banter and competition is just fine, actually I encourage it in many cases. It builds character and teaches children valuable social skills. Looking…and listening to some of the conversations on popular games I seriously worry that these children are not being instructed on how to properly interact on the internet.

Not to sound all high and mighty, when my good friend and I lace up the gloves for some Fight Night Round 4 there is some trash talk, but it never comes to actual fist fighting or breaking of things (regardless of how many beers we have). Then at the end of the round there is always the customary “good fight” exchanged between the both of us.
Now think long and hard about the last time you said, “good game”. Or even heard the opposing team say it? Have we as gamers fallen so far from grace that we cannot even acknowledge a good competition between two sides? ….. sigh rant over.

Growing weary of fantasy MMOs.

Posted by kackilos Wednesday October 28 2009 at 12:56PM
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Call it being snooty or picky… or even high maintenance, but I have become increasingly bored with the fantasy genera. By fantasy I mean the spell slinging, monster hacking, sexy elves “fantasy” games. My recent boredom with this genera has gotten me thinking about the reasons for my new found boredom.

It could be the overexposure as most MMOs that flood the market are based on the fantasy genera. Yes I know there are many games that fall into this category, but I am specifically speaking of the games that have the before mentioned fantasy elements. I know I am not as seasoned as some vets that play games today, but I think starting with EQ and playing nearly every mainstream MMO gives me a bit of a background. Another factor is that perhaps I am finally recognizing the type of gamer that I am.

I adored games like Planetside (stoked they are making a Ps 2, sad it is being developed by SoE) and Tabula Rasa (even though no one else seemed to). Although this is the case, I do not consider myself a FPS addict. Yes I have played Counter Strike, but then who hasn’t? Yes I own all of the Call of Duty’s, but fantasy MMOs have always held a space on my hard drive and my credit card.

Perhaps what I crave is depth, or an interesting story that I actually want to play out. I know what I am describing is your typical RPG, but then again RPG makes up a lot of what MMORPGs are about. Maybe I should just create a story and follow it while I game…but then there are no quests, and more importantly no rewards for my made up material (unless we are playing CoX). I am dying for a game that does more than assign me some quests, but rather gives me a reason for doing it. For example, say my character is traveling from the starting area to another town. Along the way I come across a village that is being attacked by demons. It makes sense for my character to get quests that directly or diversely related to that village’s demon problem. Give me choice or give me… well another game. Let me impact the world around me, beyond the auction houses prices. Let my actions directly relate to the world I run around in. If I wipe out that pack of demons attacking the village I expect something to actually happen. Let that village rebuild and allow me to shop and talk to the villagers about my heroic acts. Then again if I side with demons and burn that mother to the ground, I don’t expect it to be standing there next time I enter that zone.

Yes I do realize these options are simply not available in an MMO because how would other players experience the content I just finished or destroyed? It is just purely wishful thinking on what I view as a crucial thing MMOs are missing.

Now I am no developer nor are my views correct, but there might be a way for people to experience content and make it unique. Make special areas like the before mentioned village instanced. By instancing areas a player could experience the content how they see fit. If I, or my group, come across this village and decide to go all pyro on it we should be able to. This choice could take us to the demon lair to speak with the demon lord. If we decide to kill of the demons and save the village, the group would be taken down a different path that ends up with us at the demons lair only on less than friendly terms.

After completion of the mission the mark on our world would be evident through our choices. Either there is a village to return to, or there are the burnt remains of our destruction. Each choice takes the player down similar paths but the end result is unique to their choices.

Modern big name RPG titles have built up my expectations in what I expect a game to deliver story wise. Games such as Fable, Mass Effect, and the KoToR series may have ruined many games for me (shakes fist and yells like Stephen Colbert). These series have altered the face of RPG gaming through their ability to weave choice and story together to completely immerse the gamer. This action of making the gamer feel they are in control of the games direction plays a great part of what made these games successful. So why are fantasy MMOs not delivering this feeling of immersion into their games? Sure many games claim that you get the sense of your player growing stronger as they level, but in how many games do you really feel that your character is a grade A bad mofo? There is a difference between fighting one mob at a time and running into a stronghold and unleashing your awesomeness on any mercs that happen to be in your way.

So is it even possible for MMORPGs to take the community, social interaction, and vastness of their worlds, and weave it together with the story and immersion of RPGs? Maybe one day… maybe one day there will be a union between these two and they will produce the first coming of “epicness” we all crave.

Till next time, remember we are born gamers…it is not a choice.

Aion Review Part2

Posted by kackilos Friday October 23 2009 at 12:11PM
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Aion Review part 2:

In this part of the review I will cover some of the important factors both good and bad about Aion.

Game play:
Aion does not offer anything that most MMO gamers have not experienced. What Aion does do to make it a solid game is that they incorporate many popular MMO ideas flawlessly into their game play. So why bother playing Aion if it’s more of the same? Well because there is just enough difference in Aion to make the game an original play.

1) Flight – although it is limited in use this feature is a nice perk with many uses. Many people use the “glide” feature to help get around zones that are restricted flight zones. This feature is used to quickly and elegantly travel around, also it’s a pretty good run-away tactic should your character become overwhelmed.

2) Flashy and interactive combat – The combat is engaging and keeps the player paying attention rather than just mashing through a rotation. I will cover combat more extensively later

3) PvPvE end game – Although I have not experienced much pvp, beyond an asmo wondering into my territory, PvP is a large part of the end game. Large scale battles take place between the two factions to control valuable landmarks that buff the current owner’s faction. For anyone who has played Planetside I hear the sieges are very similar in nature, minus no one is shooting scifi-bullets at you. All while these battles are taking place there are instances that can be ran by either faction. Normally I am a PvE player, but I am excited to see how this mixing of PvP and PvE will go.

Aion offers some interesting combat mechanics that focuses around two key elements, movement and skill chains. Movement is a big part as you character’s skills are impacted by how you move your character. For instance if your moving forward your character gains a 10% boost to damage, but also suffers more damage if hit. This mechanic is huge if you, like myself, are playing a ranger (go go gadget jumpshot!). The other mechanics are that if you are strafing(moving left or right) you gain a boost to avoidance, backwards a boost to blocking, both of these mechanics also come with a decrease in damage output.

Skill chains: skill chains are Aion’s version of a rotation. A good way to picture what a skill chain is to view them like a chain on a bike. The chain on a bike starts with a link just as a skill chain starts with a skill. As you progress down the chain each link/skill must be set up correctly or the chain/link breaks making the bike no function. The same is true for Aion’s skill chains. You start off with skill that links to another that must be activated before its timer runs out or the chain is broken and most be started again.
Combining Skill Chains and Movement Aion forces players to actively engage in combat rather than be a spectator.

Once you filter through the gold spammers the community in Aion is… well… talkative. Former WoW players will get a feeling of “barrens chat” which is only missing the Chuck Norris jokes, which I kind of miss at times. The before mentioned problem of gold spammers is problem #1 that NCsoft is dealing with. For those people, and there a lot of them, that rage about the gold spammers clearly have never played a game during its first few months off the shelves.

There are a number of people always in the LFG channel looking for tanks, dps, or healers, so finding a group is generally pretty easy. There are also a number of legions (guilds) actively looking for members to join their ranks. Between the legions looking for people or groups looking members to run difficult content finding a hunting party is never hard. On the other hand through , most of Aions content is solo content. I find myself soloing all the time as my Ranger, mainly this is because my class can solo extremely well with little or no down time. When my toon hits the levels in which there is strong group play I generally always look to clear the group content. This both lets me interact with other players and also lets me test out my toons grouping capabilities, and the XP and items are worth it.

One aspect I really enjoy within Aion’s community is a chat channel dedicated purely to your class. This allows you to discus nearly everything that applies to your class. This is a great way for players to discuss their class in game without having to consult the forums. Mainly the people that respond in the channel are helpful… and some are well those kids to borrow a term from Tim over at CAD the  (squeakers) that chime in with their words of wisdom.

The economy is driven by the crafting system in Aion. Items are pretty rare as most quests just reward you with cash and utility items like potions or scrolls. So most the time to obtain new weaponry or armor you are either crafting your own or buying them from the auction house. This typically isn’t a problem if you are upgrading your items every 3-5 levels. Overall you will find that hording your cash is always a good strategy, that and if you don’t use it sell it. Just remember as easy as money can come in, it can be gone just as fast.

The crafting system is much like every game. You obtain raw materials and turn them into a finished product. As you level your skill you purchase new recipes to practice. Aion does throw some curve balls at ya that you might not be expecting.

First thing first there is the option to fail making a product, not only is this frustrating it also eats materials. Along with failing in crafting there is also criting a recipe. Normally this will result in more items produced or an item of a higher quality. Now you don’t have to worry about leveling independent gathering skill as one skill handles everything from food to ore.

Aion also allows crafters another way to raise their skill beyond harvesting raw materials, work orders. These work orders are the quests for crafting. They provide you with a few raw materials and a design for you to accomplish. Provided you have the cash this is a good way to level a skill.
I have not invested a lot of my time into crafting as I generally find that mind numbingly boring. I did tinker with it enough to get an understanding of the system through.

To finish this lengthy review off, I just want to note that Aion is a great game for people looking for something other than WoW to play. Beyond that Aion does not offer anything new and exciting to the genera, but like stated before it does not do anything bad either. Aion is a solid game to play, so if your curious pick up a copy and start flying around.

Till next time, remember gaming is always evolving and will continue to I suggest you do the same.


Aion Review part1

Posted by kackilos Thursday October 15 2009 at 3:06PM
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After watching a few videos and reading some… spirited reviews on Aion I decided to wait a bit after launch to give this game a shot. So during my waiting time I did some research on the classes and the basics of the game; crafting, leveling, skill usage, grouping, etc. I highly recommend doing recon on a game before you actually jump into the swing of things. This avoids asking some questions and allows you the gamer a faster understanding of game mechanics.

I felt coming into the game that I had a fair understand of what the game was like. Boy was I wrong, the game was far more polished and immersive then I had originally expected. The first thing that caught me off guard was the voice acting by some characters. Although its nothing to special and there is no user control on what these NPCs will say it is still a feature most Korean crossover games lack. My favorite ascetic right now has to be the mini cut scenes that occur with some quests. This feature just adds a little some thing extra to the gaming experience that most MMOs lack.

In Aion you play a war hero who has lost their memories in a great battle. As you level your character your past is unraveled throughout a very long epic quest chain. This “recovering memories” is the main quest arch but is accompanied with hundreds of quests that are sure to both advance your character and prepare you to move into the next area.

Aion does at the start have a steep learning curve for new players. Personally I felt most of that curve disappear past level 10. At 10 you select your final class and start advancing down your final class’s skill tree.
Always keep in mind that Aion is a new game and some bugs and annoyances (gold spammers) will take time to fix. Aion does not shatter the MMO molding that most gamers are custom to. What Aion does do is combines many favorite aspects of the fantasy genre to produce a game that while not revolutionary still provides enough new material to keep gamers entertained.

In part two ill break down major aspects of the game and give them a point-by-point review. As always thanks for reading and remember when it stops being fun… it’s no longer a game.


Content Discrimination

Posted by kackilos Tuesday September 29 2009 at 3:44PM
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Let me first start this off by saying that I have the highest amount of respect for MLK Jr and his work. I just found that his famous speech would help land home what I have to say.


"Let us not wallow in the valley of end game content, I say to you today, my friends.

And so even though we face the difficulties of the early level grind, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the gamers dream.

I have a dream that one day we gamers will rise up and live out the true meaning of content: "We hold these early levels to be self-evident, that all content is created equal."

I have a dream that one day in noob starting areas, the sons of hardcore raiders and the sons of casual gamers will be able to sit down together at the computer of immersing content.

I have a dream that my toon will one day live in a MMO where they will not be judged by the speed in which they level but by the content they have completed.

I have a dream today!"

As of late through I have noticed I have been committing content discrimination. I have been completely ignoring early level content. I normally don’t even bother to read low level quests or attempt early level dungeons/challenges.

I know many players are like this as they attempt to speed through the content so they can reach endgame. To these players I must ask, “why not slow down and enjoy the journey.” I have slowed down in my current game, Champions Online, so that I might enjoy the content that the developers worked so hard to create. To which  I must say I am pleased with this choice. Me and good friend log on for about 1-2 hours each night to finish some quests and beat some instances. We are enjoying the journey to end game and are in no real rush to get there.

I now read the quest lines to get the background story, to feel the excitement, and to feel like I actually accomplished something.

So in closing I ask both the gamer and developer to strive for that dream that finally lets us all scream out, "Fun at last Fun at last thank the lord almighty the content is Fun at last."


- oh btw SW:ToR beta sign up started today for those that didnt know

Hardcore VS Casual gamers

Posted by kackilos Sunday September 20 2009 at 1:23PM
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How does an MMO satisfy the needs of both the hardcore gamer and the casual one? This is both a question for the developers as well as the people assigned to marketing the game. Sure a game can have great graphics and an immense world, but if the content in that world is lacking the game is doomed from the start.

Both of these players crave essentially the same thing. They both desire content that is immersive and also challenging. While the hardcore gamer typically blows past lower level content to reach the challenges at endgame. The casual gamer on the other hand expects the early level content to be just as engrossing all while being able to log off after a solid 30-60 mins of play feeling that they have accomplished something.

I know personally that I exhibit some of both the casual and hardcore qualities. I typically blast past early level content so that my character gets stronger. The stronger my character gets the more likely I am to continue playing. I enjoy the challenges of testing out a character learning the ins-and-outs of the class and mastering the content. I also don’t have 3+ hours to sit at my computer and grind. Back in the day, which was like four months ago, I could log in some solid hours to gaming. Now I generally get about two solid hours of gaming each night. In the time that I get in I expect my game to provide me with some challenging quests and test my character and my skills.

It is all about entertainment, keeping the player involved in the game from character creation to end game content. Here are some other aspects that I find keep players entertained and informed about thier games.

Integrated character development web page : site that shows gear, stats, achievements, progress, skills. Over all just a site for players to look up their character and compare themselves to other players.

Guild web pages – mainly a forums so that guilds can communicate and organize offline.

Use social networking as other mediums: IE facebook twitter etc. keep the players updated and allow for feedback, even through it might just be flames and trolls.

Free content upgrades – I say boo to expansion packs. Anyone who ever played EverQuest knows the pain of having to pay for expansions that should just have been free content.

Friend/guild offline status - a tool that would allow you outside of the game to see if your friends/guild mates are on.

To accommodate both types of players devs must create content that from day one challenges the player. They also must make players feel powerful from day one. No more of the all too common slaying rats in the courtyard BS. Lets get out there and let the steel and spells fly from level one. Provide content that gives players a great experience at both the start of their career and their one year anniversary.


CO week after launch

Posted by kackilos Wednesday September 9 2009 at 8:37PM
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So it has been a little over a week since Champions Online launched. It has been a relatively smooth launch week. Sure the game had some issues with login server errors but what game doesn’t have those issues at launch. CO devs and customer service reps have done a very good job with bug fixes and account problems. Numerous bugged missions got fixed before launch which really makes the opening levels much smoother.
The overall play in CO is still up in the air for me. This is mainly because I don’t play MMOs to solo. I generally play these types of games to team up with other players and complete instances/missions. Almost all the missions in CO (at least up to lvl20) are solo open world missions. These can be annoying at times as people are constantly competing over spawns so they can finish their missions. Many fans of CoX were expecting CO to bring in a radio/door mission style that is extremely popular in CoX. To me personally this would be a great move by CO as it would bring the community together and force players to learn group play.

Since most the missions are open world missions that are meant for a person to solo the balance of these missions can be a headache. At times you will run into a problem when you run out of missions that are in your characters ability to finish. I ran into this problem at around level 17 as all the missions in my log where 19s and 20s. It is during these times that the ability for a person to join some groups and do instanced missions to level would be greatly appreciated and needed.
One shining point of questing in CO is the already present “Quest Helper addon” in the game. As soon as you get a new quest a green circle is placed on your map to help guide you to the correct area.

Like in any game that is still in its fledgling state there are bound to be balance issues. My favorite thing to see is people complaining about teleport in PvP. All I can think and say, sarcastically, is, “Wow balance issues in a game this old”. Although I do understand that some powersets are extremely strong and need Ye old nerf hammer, while others desperately need a boost. I have completely avoided PvP for this reason, that and I am mainly a PvE player.

To anyone that feels their class is lacking power or survivability there is a strong chance your powerset will be getting a boost. Then again if you are breezing through mobs 3-4 levels higher then you should expect the nerf hammer. The best thing I can tell potential new players is that you need to pick up defensive skills early. These skills are improved block (if your set has one) and a defensive ability that benefits your class. For classes that have a lot of Dex go lighting reflexes as the benefits directly impact the skill. These defensive skills generally are the difference between life and death.

CO is a tough game to learn as it has what can be at times a very steep learning curve. Figuring the ins-and-outs of your powerset can be confusing at times. Luckily CO offers a way to respect your toon completely, for a cost. They also offer the ability to test out your powers before they are set in stone. This is quite nice as it gives you time to test out a skill and get a feel of how it should be used in the field, or if you even want that power at all.
All and all CO is a fairly solid game with a lot of potential. If CO brings together its community and gives the people, like me, a chance to group up with other players I feel the game will get a larger following. Still the chance to create your own superhero with whatever powers you want is CO biggest selling point. For those of you sitting on the fence about this one make sure to pick up a trial version when ever cryptic releases one.