• MMO/Gaming

    The Secret World: Scenarios

    Since launch I don’t think The Secret World has ever disappointed me. The story is incredible, the game is challenging without being stupidly hard, the voice acting cutscenes are some of the best that I have ever seen in a game, and the world is engaging and immersive. I don’t do nightmare modes or endgame content, but have been content with just doing quests, playing through new issue content and generally enjoying the world. I usually play solo, and have soloed through all content in the game without much trouble.

    Scenarios are the first thing that has really disappointed me. I’d been so excited about Issue 8 and new content, but after playing the the one scenario that was available to me prior to being able to purchase the content, I’ve decided not to buy this issue. And that is something that I never thought I’d say about this game.

    My gear isn’t the best – mostly green QL10 stuff with a nice neck from doing dailies in Transylvania. I have a fair amount of room to play with builds, as I have 46% completion on the ability wheel. I don’t play consistently, but I have a few builds that I am satisfied with and can play decently with. I don’t think I suck…but perhaps I do.

    I get slaughtered on Hotel solo normal mode. I haven’t finished successfully even once. I’ve switched builds, I’ve researched and tried builds from the forums (I think the one that I presently have active is one of those frankenbuilds – normally I go with a solo/survival AR/fist build that I am comfortable with). Nothing works. As the encounter ramps up, I can’t take the roving packs down quickly enough, people start dying off, and the whole thing turns into a huge monsterfest. Not a hope.

    I don’t want easy games, I do like challenge…but I would expect that a “normal” setting could be accomplised by any reasonably capable player in normal gear. I’m not loaded with purplez, I don’t raid or run nightmare modes…am I no longer the type of player that base-level challenges are tuned for? Very disheartening, as I genuinely love this game.

    The worst thing is that successfully running the scenarios is a prerequisite for having access to Tokyo, and I very much wanted to experience that content – and with that, I move from disappointment to outright pissed-offness. I really, truly hope that the TSW devs re-think and re-tune at least the normal mode for scenarios. I would hate to be locked out of the rest of the game because I simply cannot get past this gate.

    Fingers crossed…

  • MMO/Gaming

    Gaming: Going Home

    I’m one of those bitter, disillusioned players who still haven’t received a WildStar invite. I check mail every time an announcement goes out that they’ve sent out another 30k invites…and taste the tears of disappointment every time as I go uninvited. Damn you, Carbine.

    Games I’m still playing:

    The Secret World, which I play sporadically. I started to level a Templar alt and then couldn’t face throwing away the 49% completion that I have on my Dragon. Playing without a guild or friends, though, is getting boring and I don’t know anyone who is still playing that is both EU-based and also playing Dragon. *sigh* First world problems…

    Rift, extremely sporadically, both because I don’t know anyone still playing and also because it is so damned painful trying to get past the huge cockblock of grind called Storm Legion. Phil and I had been playing a bit, and then lost momentum knowing that those alts we were levelling were going to have to face the SL content eventually. Bah.

    Defiance, which is much better now than it was in beta – much more polished and less buggy. It is very much a console-type game, however, and I can only last for so long before I log in irritation at having to fight the UI to do anything. Transport especially – I’ve always sucked at driving games and I suck just as much at getting from Point A to Point B in Defiance. I run into trees, rocks, people, hellbugs and huge frickin’ elite Volge roadblocks. Arkfalls are a lot of fun – the few that I can actually get to before it is over, that is. Like I said, I suck at driving.

    GW2 is still there, and I log in now and then. Same thing…I don’t know anyone who is still playing. Pfft.

    I have been revisiting Warcraft and actually enjoying it a lot. Warcraft was my first MMO and going back to it always feels a lot like going home. You are very happy to be there at first, all warm-glowy with nostalgia, but if the visit lasts too long you start to get antsy and bored. Part of my problem with WoW is that it is very much a game geared around endgame gear-progression raiding, and I’m done with that. I spent over two years raiding heavily and I’ll never go back to doing that in any game. Five nights a week, 95% attendance in order to keep your spot? Not in a million years, baby.

    I moved my 90 warlock to Argent Dawn, which is the server I would like to move all my characters to if they ever made it sensible financially to do so. My 90 hunter main and level 85 priest, paladin and shaman all still sit on the old server. I had a level 70 Horde hunter on Argent Dawn which I’m having fun playing, just dinking around and taming various rare pets. I must have spent an hour or so trying to get Spirit of the North on her: it flies out of taming range in the area outside of the Nexus which is patrolled by elite dragons.

    Solution: there are other methods of doing this, but this is what worked for me. In front of the Nexus and a bit to one side is a building with an elevator that you can see from outside. To one side, on a front corner, is a very tall, spiky rock – fly up to the tip of this rock, positioned so that you can slide down the side when you are dismounted by casting. Shoot it when it gets within range, slide down the side of the rock, and enjoy an easy tame once you get to the bottom. :)

    Some of the pets that I have on my main hunter are no longer available: the Oil Stained Wolf, the Grimtotem Spirit Guide, the Spirit of Atha hydra and so on. Looking forward to levelling her mainly just for the pets. :)

    My gaming habits have changed a great deal with the influx of extremely high-quality free to play games – I’ve become an MMO nomad, a floozy who can’t commit. I stay for the night and leave in the wee hours, shoes in hand, tiptoeing in my socks. I’ll be back, but you’ll never be able to trust me to stay. And yet I dream of finding love. I miss that new relationship feeling, I miss wanting to spend every waking hour of the day in a new world.

    So, WildStar, about that unrequited love…stop turning me down!

  • Personal

    Looking Forward to 2013

    I hope everyone had a lovely holiday. Ours was quiet as usual (being across entire oceans from my family and friends) but still nice. Phil got me a Kindle Fire HD, which I love to bits – it’s my preciousssss. We’ve been very lazy, have eaten a metric buttload of holiday food (and isn’t that a lovely image), and had some guilt-free game time. I even had some time to work on the graphic strip that I’ve been thinking about for ages. (More on that later – it’s still not ready for prime time.)

    As far as gaming goes, this is actually a great time for MMO gamers. There are a couple of very solid and enjoyable MMOs that have gone pay-to-play (with varying degrees of success) and Rift had a solid expansion. This is what I’ve been playing:

    I re-subbed for two months and haven’t played a great deal. I saw some of the new areas, but got involved with other games for a couple of reasons. One reason was that although the expansion was up to Trion’s normal high standard, it felt a lot grindier than it used to. Mobs hit a lot harder so questing is slower, and on one day I’d played for almost two hours and went from being 48% through that level to 51%. This was while using the Veteran’s 50% XP potion as well. I don’t like flying through content, but this just felt hopeless so I became less and less enthusiastic about logging in.

    The positive part of the conversion to pay-to-play was that the story (so far) was offered for free, without restriction. The rest of it pretty much sucked: 20-30% XP reduction along with a host of less catastrophic, but no less annoying, restrictions such as not being able to sprint for ages and having to pay to remove your ugly hat. I’m still planning on working my way through a number of storylines, but am currently sidetracked by…

    The Secret World:This is my current game of choice. I can’t convince anyone I know to play, so it’s a bit lonely, but I’m still enjoying it. I must say, though, that I hadn’t realised how non-solo-friendly areas of this game are (I’d levelled my first character in tandem with Phil). It can be a harsh game, and you’ll become quite familiar with anima form. Add in the miserable freakin annoying Mayan zombies that are currently plaguing new players right now, and death becomes a regular thing. (They seem to be coded to spawn when you’re at death’s door, or when you’re doing a wave event such as the one in Edgar’s scrapyard where you’re AOEing down lots of mobs.)

    Guild Wars 2:
    I haven’t played much GW2, as I needed to let my anger at ArenaNet and their community managers cool. This relates to the Great Bot Problem, when they were not addressing bots because they were too busy deleting and locking community threads where players were complaining about said bots. Now, a couple of months later, they’ve finally started doing something about the bot armies and goldspammers, but I still think they’re jerks and don’t want to support their game. Hey, I’m a mature adult, which is all about cutting off your nose to…well, you know. :)

    I’ve been thinking about finding a guild, once I decide on a game to settle down in. I don’t think I would ever think about raiding again, but a group that does a bit of everything would be great. A mature group of people who don’t think that everything is “gay.” Non-elitist types. Hmmn, must do some research.

    I’m looking forward to 2013, and hoping for a year of positive things. I wish you happiness and health and all good things as well.

  • MMO/Gaming

    The Secret World Goes F2P

    Well, it must be the end of the world because The Secret World just went free to play. Buy once, play forever with no subscription. That was a shock. It’s quite possibly a good move, but f2p always makes me nervous in story-driven, content-rich games such as this one.

    Unlike Star Wars, it sounds as they are going to be reasonable and ungreedy in the conversion. Joel Bylos was quoted as saying “First and foremost, I need to represent what I feel is the best route for the players, both current and future. I feel like the business model we have landed upon is a great platform for anybody even remotely interested in the game. I don’t want to treat *anybody* who plays The Secret World as a second class citizen and I think that this business model allows everyone to play the game without any sort of restriction.” Nicely said – and that should relieve many of the worries that fans of the game would have had about it going f2p (especially after all of the bad feeling towards Bioware/EA over SWTOR).

    I could be wrong, but I honestly don’t get the impression that this is a panic move designed to save a failing game. It seems well-reasoned and timed with the sense of black humour that permeates the game and its marketing (“We’ll all be dead soon when the world ends on the 21st, so we’re not going to rip players off.”) Selling content packs has done well in other MMOs, and as long as Funcom doesn’t fill the cash shop with P2W items or beat f2p players into subscribing (which I don’t think they will be), they should do quite well.

    So, if you haven’t yet tried The Secret World, you should. It’s a solid game with a great storyline, and also some of the best gaming moments I’ve ever had. (Black House. That’s all I’ll say. Being dead in there genuinely scared the hell out of me.)

    Sub and membership information here, on the Funcom site: Subscription No Longer Required!


  • MMO/Gaming

    Roleplay in MMOs: On Becoming a Person

    I rarely do any proper roleplay in games, although I prefer to roll on RP servers and I’ve very much loved the light or just-for-fun roleplay that I’ve done with guilds. I’m respectful of roleplay, I walk when necessary, dismount before entering a building, etc. I will respond in kind if someone initiates roleplay with my character…but I usually will never initiate it myself, I would feel like a tit.

    That said, I’m always “in character” – it’s why I play MMOs. I’ve written before about finding it difficult to play characters longterm if they don’t click for me as characters in their own right. My Warcraft hunter Kitsune had a backstory and a personality from the moment I created her, and I loved her enough to have her name in kanji tattooed on my spine. If that’s not being serious, I don’t know what is. :)

    Ravven, my character in The Secret World, hadn’t clicked for me as a person until I hit the lighthouse in the Savage Coast and listened to the author’s cut scene on Life Imitates Art. Even given the extremely basic character creation tools, I’d managed to create a look that I could deal with. I had reserved my favourite name. I’d spent tons of cash in Pangaea putting together outfits for her. But I didn’t know who she was until I watched this:


    That is Ravven. She is an ordinary person who worked a shit job until the world fell apart. She’s a bit like Thelma in Thelma and Louise in that it took a horrible event to make her realise who she was born to be. Just as Thelma discovers the outlaw living under the skin of the mousy housewife, Ravven discovers that what she was actually put on earth to do is kill, efficiently and coldly, without enjoyment but with a fierce desire to right an upside-down world. First it was survival, and then it was an avocation.

    I rolled her as Dragon, and that fits with her emerging persona. You may think that the Dragon are anarchists and terrorists, but they are actually creating order out of a chaotic world using seemingly random events to shape and guide the future. Ravven is a force of change and the destruction that clears the field for healthy growth. She doesn’t know, and doesn’t need to know, what the grand overall plan is. She is just doing what she was put on this earth to do.

    And yes, she is well aware that if she hadn’t been thrust into this broken world she would have been “another rat stuck in a race with a dead end job, living for a paycheck and the weekends, one long booze-soaked slide towards the dark and cold grave.” (Such gorgeous storytelling in this game!) She finally has her place in the world, a purpose, and a passion.

    This is why I play.

  • MMO/Gaming

    Personal Story: Cutscenes in MMOs

    I’ve really been enjoying The Secret World. As you get farther into the game, the story becomes deeper and deeper. The writing and voice acting are some of the best that I have ever seen, although the character animations let it down a bit. If you’re one of those “rush to end game, skip quest text, skip cutscene” type of gamers, you will really be missing a wealth of stunning material.

    So far, the early access and launch have been silk-smooth. There were some initial problems with loading screens (one of the usual culprits) and quests, but those bugs seem to have been smoothed out. I would have let Funcom DIAF without bothering to piss on them after the Conan launch, but they have almost entirely redeemed themselves with The Secret World. If you haven’t tried it yet, you should. If you have an interest in writing or story you definitely should.

    When you look at three recent MMOs that have featured cutscenes as a method of telling story, you see some interesting differences. (Warning – these videos will contain spoilers if you haven’t played through these bits before.)

    Star Wars The Old Republic:

    In SWTOR the story was focussed on your character, and I would rate it the highest due to the immersion of watching your character act out their part. Smooth, well-written, and voiced by some of the best voice actors in the business Steve Blum and Xanthe Elbrick are two of my favourites. It was fun seeing the same scenes playing out differently depending on the choices that your group makes. All in all, this is my favourite treatment of cutscene video used in storytelling. Below is an excerpt from the series I did on Andronikos Revel (such a sexy pirate).



    Guild Wars 2:

    Guild Wars 2, in contrast, feels stiff and artificial to me. I confess that I do skip many of the cutscenes not involved with personal story in GW2, as they aren’t immersive or involving. I know that the art team made some possibly controversial choices in order to keep them in line with the “hand painted” look of the game, but the characters stand stiffly and never look at each other. It’s a shame, as this is an amazing game.



    The Secret World:

    And now we come to my current love, The Secret World. The scene below shows my character in a conversation with the guy in the junk yard. It’s profane, very funny, and features tons of spitting. He’s one of my favourites, although to be honest it’s quite difficult to choose just one – they’re all well done, smart, occasionally hilarious, and very well acted.


    The Secret World (at least at this point, not having seen the entire game) is more about the world story than your personal story. Star Wars was very heavily about your own personal story. Both approaches are done well, and both are enjoyable to play through. Guild Wars 2? Well, unfortunately for one of the games that I am most looking forward to, it doesn’t work well for either. Perhaps that isn’t meant to be a strong point of the game.

    “Shut your pie holes, boys!” I’m still laughing over Edgar in the video above. Isn’t that one of the best game characters ever?

  • MMO/Gaming

    TSW: Heading for Faerie. I mean Arcadia.

    Wow, I’ve been really bad about keeping the blog up – I’ve been busy at times, but not enough to warrant not having the time to write. Must be attributable to epic fail-ness at blogging.

    Yesterday morning I said on Twitter that it was my off-the-wall (haha) prediction that ArenaNet would announce the Guild Wars 2 launch date that day…just as a fun poke at the jersey crowd. And you know what? I totally nailed that sucker.

    And today is the early-access launch for The Secret World. I’m looking forward to it, actually. Partially because I really, really need a fantasy world to escape to (it’s been a long time since I’ve been really immersed in a game) and partially because it has improved greatly over the course of months of the closed beta. I was very luke-warm about the game but in its present state it is a very playable game. Will I sub after my free month? Probably not…but one never knows. Part of that will depend on the community that I find there.

    I’m rolling on Arcadia, which has been designated the RP server dimension. Originally it was called Faerie, which I was totally in love with, but due to Funcom bowing to pressure from homophobes it was changed. My first thought was that I haven’t had much respect for Funcom since my Age of Conan days and this really lowers it. My second thought was “why are people like that rolling on an RP server?” If I see people roleplaying bigoted assholes, spouting anti-gay rhetoric in chat, I’m going to have a problem with it. I can understand the PvP-centric fourteen year old boys not wanting to be known as “those Fairies,” but one would think that they wouldn’t be caught dead on the roleplay server.

    In any event, Arcadia here I come. As a Dragon, sowing chaos and watching the resulting changes. Be warned.

  • MMO/Gaming

    The Secret World: Latest Impressions

    I’ve been on The Secret World beta for a long time, and quite honestly had been thinking about cancelling my pre-order. After an original week or so of playing and providing feedback, the shortcut has been languishing untouched on my desktop – it just hadn’t been fun enough to continue playing, and as normal for very early beta testing, the game was rough.

    When Funcom debited my credit card for the pre-order (not pre-purchase, mind you) I was furious. For two people squeaking out a living on very sporadic freelance work, a new game is a huge purchase. It has to be something that you really, really want to play. Double or triple that if it is a subscription game. The Secret World just wasn’t going to be one of those games.

    Recently, though, I went back and played during the open beta and the game has greatly changed. The combat system still feels disconnected, and the skill system isn’t very intuitive, but there is a lot of new polish and more content in the game. It feels more like a real world. Although I’m still pissed off at Funcom for prematurely (and possibly illegally) debiting the money, I think it is worth the purchase price. The game is enjoyable now, enough so that I am actually looking forward to launch.

    One of the things that they haven’t changed, unfortunately, is the butt-ugly and limited character creation tool. For someone who will twiddle face sliders for ages, that is unfortunate. However, my character does manage to actually retain her hair rather than going bald upon entering the game like my original one, which is a big bonus. More clothing choices would be great. But definitely, definitely, please put some work into character creation! I totally admit that that was one of the reasons why I couldn’t get into LotRO – my character was just so damned ugly.

    I haven’t seen much of the overall conspiracy theory plotlines – in the beginning, you mainly kill zombies. Lots and lots of zombies. But I look forward to experiencing the mystery behind the world. And you know what? I am really looking forward to this game.


  • MMO/Gaming

    Possibly the Best April Fools Post Ever

    Possibly the best post ever. I *heart* these guys!


    The Secret World Shifts to Fantasy Setting

    “After several intense rounds of closed testing we have identified that people just love orcs and elves,” says Senior Producer and Creative Director Ragnar Tørnquist. “Helicopters, assault rifles, government conspiracies and real-world monsters of myth and legend are simply no match for the sword-wielding knights of old. After much internal debate we have decided to move away from the modern-day setting and head in a pure, high-fantasy direction. I am particularly looking forward to playing my Illuminati night elf.”

  • MMO/Gaming

    Secret World Trailer (old)

    This is old news, of course, but I’d missed it when it was first released. Can’t wait for more info on this game. I’ve been looking forward to a good non-fantasy MMO, and I love the idea of there being a horror element to the game.