The Secret World and New Player Experience

There have been a lot of changes incoming for The secret World that were outlined among the the recent blog, chief among those the Enhanced Player Experience, aka a nerf bat raining down upon the lands. There has been a bit of criticism around this decision as well, TSW is about the difficulty in a way. It’s about learning the skills and creating the right kinds of builds. It is a process most people are meant to go through.

The mmo player in me that’s prone to hardcore bouts of grind and utter devotion from time to time balks at such a thing. Having a certain amount of challenge in these mmo’s is a point of pride. it gives that sense of achievement for me and, it’s one of the primary things within these games that makes me strive for better. Without this element and mmo loses a great amount of appeal, or at least the average mmo does.

For TSW, I’m not so sure. This is the one game I could go casual for, and want to go casual for but there is so much getting in the way. TSW is just not a game I think you can devote yourself too entirely, their just isn’t enough interesting, and engaging content and mechanics to keep your time and with how much they update it never will be. That’s not a bad thing though as what they have their is good enough to make me want to repeatedly come back to try and enjoy but not enough to get through some of the other elements.

The difficulty has never been it’s strong point, in fact, it’s often a point of frustration. I can get by just fine within the game, I enjoy the skill building aspects but all those elements of difficulty and complexity get in the way of the game I want to play. I really don’t care about the combat in the slightest, it is rather average and is rather boring. No, what I enjoy within TSW is the story. It is by far the strongest part of the experience so why they wouldn’t want to create a greater ease around this aspect is beyond me.

In my mind there efforts to balance the game a bit more in regards to skills, time to kill and difficulty of the combat elements is a very good thing. I believe it will bring a lot of people back in who hit that difficulty wall before rather early in the game and then gave up. This way it gives people a chance to get hooked on the narrative first, to get immersed and involved with it. To give enough time and space to learn about the skills, passives and the inherent complexity there without being overtly punished. The difficulty is still there for end game content too but if you have gotten there your probably invested enough to continue at that stage.

TSW has been struggling for some time, Funcom has been struggling, you can see it in their financial reports each time. They are working on a razor thin margin their for running their games and hopefully this will bring people back to the game and keep Funcom going with creating this wonderful title.

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Rekindling a Secret Flame

It has been a long time, so very long but I’m finally jumping back into The Secret World. It has been an absence of a few months now and as time has gone on the pull towards the world has gotten stronger. And on the weekend I caved, the mmo junkie went back for a quick story hit and it was wonderful.

I had tried to get back in a couple of weeks back, loaded it up and promptly felt over and underwhelmed all at once. I had no idea what I wanted to do, I tried something of which I did poorly and quit. This time though I took my time getting into it. I didn’t try any missions and just spent what felt like a couple of hours spending my Funcom points on lots of new purty outfits and then went about designing the new look. It felt right starting it this way as I was reconnecting in a more personal way with my character, learning about them once again such as who they were and who I wanted them to be. The wardrobe makeover was also a way of molding my character for the future. Once this was done I was once again feeling more immersed, but still not quite ready for random questing.
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Purty Pics of the Week(s)

Sorry I completely forgot to do a round up for these little pics sooooo… better late then never.

Enjoy!

Firefall
Firefall Roadsign FirefallClient 2013-02-17 21-33-52-37 FirefallClient 2013-02-21 19-12-00-62 FirefallClient 2013-02-21 18-55-46-88
Secret World – Savage Coast
TheSecretWorldDX11 2013-02-24 15-14-02-41
Planetside 2 – Middle of Nowhere
PlanetSide2 2013-02-25 20-05-52-95

Guild Wars 2
Gw2 2013-02-27 22-33-54-74 Gw2 2013-03-09 20-14-32-91 Gw2 2013-03-29 11-23-27-93 Gw2 2013-03-31 17-28-06-85 Gw2 2013-04-07 18-46-45-24

Secret Sunday: Congruence in Character relations

I should be nearing up on completing most quests in Transylvania now although the completion will include going back and forth a bit as I skipped some in the earlier areas prematurely. I also want to read all the npcs in the main cities which will include creating characters on the other 2 secret societies which will probably keep me busy in game for another month at least, hopefully in time and ready for the new zone.

There are some amazing characters throughout Transylvania, some of my favourites now as well and it’s good to see the quality of the writing and depth of the characters has continued all the way through. Not that I doubted them at all but I have seen the quality of writing and design taper off in the higher zones of others games like by then they run out of ideas. Right now I’m just looking forward to filling out my knowledge on them and maybe collecting all the lore. I never really bothered looking for the lore so that little goal should take me some time. From what I have read so far on the lore pieces which actually isn’t much, they are quite well done and explain a lot of the setting in new interesting ways.So much amazing story and so little time to absorb it, sometimes I wish it was all written down in pdf or paperback form so I could but alas.

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Secret Sunday: New additions and Long term aspirations

Finally got around to the Tyler Freeborn missions and they are definitely  an amazing collection of events, cutscenes and mechanics that keep you engaged.

It’s nice that even after all this time they are still giving people a reason to visit the earlier areas. Even without having numerous areas, when people have finished leveling these lower zones always turn into a ghost town but here I still see people running around who are quite obviously well geared doing the rounds. It makes each area feel more important, busier and like your not alone playing a supposed mmo when you can’t play as often.

The new update once again has us visiting older areas. The end of days event had everyone traversing the world and the Templars home town, and exploring the disappearance of Tyler Freeborn. These updates have been well planned to involve people in the entire game world as well as different parts of the map. I would really like to see this aspect taken on by more developer, give people a reason to go back even just for a silly event because constantly having it in the same place neglects the rest of the world… Not to mention is rather boring.

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End of the World… or Maybe just a change in Payment Styles

I don’t usually cover these big news events since you probably have already heard them like a million times already… How much could I add to the collective conversation, I’m also usually later with my reply than others, so which is worse, old or iterated news because that’s the way these things go. But this time I feel the need to ramble a little as I actually have a few points to add they may or may not be interesting to some.

TSW is changing up its payment style in record breaking time, which although I am a little sad about as it points to the monetary failure of the mmo I just can’t say I’m surprised. I love TSW, that should be plainly obvious by now. I have written a bit about it with some of my best rambles being related to the many things it does exceptionally well but I knew of it’s many failings as well. When I was being particular critical of TSW I noted that it was a pretty poor mmo and likened it more to a single player RPG as it shares a similar focus in some regards. In the comments the other day Merecraft said it felt like a very schizophrenic game, he was talking about the story elements but I think its more that. You can see a kind of conflicted approach conflicted approach in many of the mechanics, mmo tropes being crammed into areas they just don’t fit. Single player aspects in their obliviousness to constantly breaking apart groups for certain instances missions as well as a story that is best when given time to enjoy.

The biggest conflict between the two approaches has to be the leveling system, you have a strong sense of customisation with skill decks with many of the beginner options being comparable to the outer wheel. There is also the ability to quickly mix and match your focus to suit the challenges ahead and a system that let’s you theoretically get end game gear without levels holding you back. But then it turns around and has a huge power difference of monsters between zones, a system at the beginning that can block off gear acquisition (AP), and the fact it is a complete gear grind at the end with it all being mostly bind on pickup. Their mission statement at the start was excellent and then somewhere along they may have experienced some pressure to compete or just plain forgot, whats clear though is that near the end of development they chickened out and added mechanics that just don’t belong here. The good news is they seemed to have realised the error of their ways as there has been very little power creep, even the new raid is left pretty accessible to anyone who has required minimal dungeon gear.

The other issue I think was that TSW was incredibly content light, what was there was of incredible quality and a very focused experience but it did little to impress an mmo crowd who expect hundreds of hours of gameplay (no matter how terrible or repetitive though) and got maybe a quarter of that. It all added up to a non mmo feeling mmo but one in which I think very much suits it’s new payment model. It has the focused experience of a single player which now is available for a good price without the need to sub and their model with updates of being regular packs of new missions.. ie issues seemed to be tailored from the start to be bought as DLC… hell $5 for one of those issues is freekin amazing, I was expecting about 10 and considering there is quite a few poo games out there selling map packs for far more it is very very reasonable. End marketing Plug… I swear I’m not on the take <_<…>_>

If they get a bit more active making new and interesting costumes, pets, theatre props and other fluff items they could possible do ok out of the change, at the very least they will do better then they are now as the influx of new purchases looking to have a try will maintain the game for a little while to come. Sadly while I love the experience and will probably remained subbed to TSW’s until it’s last dying breath I don’t see it becoming some smash overnight hit and with the cost of maintaining servers and such as well as developing new content it just isn’t possible to pull an Eve and eek out a meagre existence until you can gain a decent following. A great loss for the industry.

Well anyway all I can say is pick it up like right now and play the ever living hell out of it although take your time, forget the sub par combat and just stop and contemplate the world, read the amazing dialogue (it really is that good), and really think about the themes and morals that it weaves throughout.. then thank me later.

Wish you the best of luck Funcom and all of the TSW developers who have had a part in the development.. you have made one fan for life from me and no matter what happens in the end just remember that even if you didn’t create the best game or even mmo you created one of the best gaming experiences out there.

Secret Sunday: The Beginning or the End

I was finally able to drag myself away from PvP in GW2 and Planetside long enough to have a decent amount of time in The Secret World. I had a mission this time, I have been dragging my feet around for a while with doing random quests and such, soaking in the sights, and just generally screwing around but now it was time to get things done… Time to finish the story quests.
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Secret Sunday: Just Screwing Around

For a long time now I have had the weirdest graphical glitch that I haven’t been bothered to bug report just because it always seems to amuse me upon logging on. I forgot which dev it was that said something along the lines of non game breaking bugs being part of a games character but in a sense he is right, every one hates bugs that inhibit play but those little graphical annomolies always seem to amuse me regardless of how common. I know that an mmo will never be perfect in terms of bugs and i would always rather them focus on the real issues rather than something which annoys a few … Plus I’m bald and it looks funny.

Well it was time to finish off the Halloween quest and the first clues set me off towards London, what I didn’t realise though was that the Halloween event had ended so after spending quite some time trying to figure out the first clue to the mission (and then googling the answer) I spent another hour or so aimlessly roaming around parts of London trying to find the location and then circling the market district looking for the next part of the mission. It wasn’t all bad though as i once again I got acquainted with the gorgeous London and i had forgotten how great it is to just wander around in these main cities.

I also got to check out the new hair options at Ockham’s Razor and they have added a lot of new great styles, in fact the styles available are exactly what is missing from the guild wars character select as they have a more modern edge and appeal to them. It really is a rather well done Barber shop with some nice detail but the odd calm of somewhere a serial killer inhabits… and the fact they all look identical, just a little creepy.

I played around a while with the options looking for my new look which usually revolves around some sort of casual and sleek style and i found a few new contenders that I was happy with and settled on a longish swept back look. There still isn’t any styles that could be considered long which is a little annoying but it is a good selection nonetheless, the makeup styles on the other hand are still rather limited and mostly leaning towards outlandish or garish.

Afterwards I finally got around to exploring the final area Carpathian Fang, the frosty mountain region and I found it an oddly relaxing zone to run around. The cool tones and textures as well as the more natural look to most of the area is very grounding after dank depressive feel of the shadowy forest. It doesn’t have the small and large changes in aesthetic like some of the other zones but it does offer a rather nice calming cohesive look. It is a well designed “end game” zone in a sense as because of the feel and look I could spend a large amount of time here without it sending me insane (ORRRR!).

Transylvania is probably the best out of all the zones in terms of long term play, Solomon Island makes you depressed with its bleakness and it has Ankh, and Egypt is mostly a stark wasteland. Transylvania just offers a nice range of environments and an overarching relaxing feel…It’s da shiznik. And I can run around the many paths that intersect the area without a single mob annoying me or barring the way.. in fact I did for a few hours and saw some lovely scenic views.

Secret Sunday: Trials of the Cat Kind

Why hello to you too Kingsmouth long time no see, and may I say your looking particularly atmospheric today, and my how beautiful you are with my new lappy. Its funny as right now i think TSW beats GW2 in the aesthetic department, there is just something about the areas that creates the perfect atmosphere for the direction they were taking, just walking around for the morning I once again felt those little goosebumps popping up now and then. There was nothing inherently scary but it is the surroundings and audio that just couples together to get under your skin… I missed it and it was a nice change of pace coming from GW2’s happy go lucky and more cartoony feel to TSW’s grim Dark world.

Even the current halloween event in GW2 really doesn’t invoke that creepy and cooky vibe and is more cutesy than anything (but very wonderfully done).. but going by some of the games, aesthetic, and monsters (love the candy cane mobs) that was their attention so as to appeal to a younger demographic. TSW has a direction that just appeals to the mature gamer in a way as there is no attempt to hide any of the unpleasantries, Madame Roget’s scene regarding the Halloween event is proof of that with it’s gory detail of cat mutilation.
-Word Spam Ahoy

A Secret Look Into the Future

The next TSW state of the game type article is out and I have to say it’s making me want to play again. It is very refreshing to have an mmo being so open as to its direction, they don’t avoid talking about the hot button topics and systems/mechanics in development. I get the feeling I am respected more so than other companies.

I also really like Joel Bylos, he is a dev that just feels more natural and real than any other I have seen. Watching those ToR dev vids always made me squirm a little as they were strongly constrained by a PR approach, then we have Joel Bylos who exudes familiarity. He seems like the quintessential gamer, and seems similar to myself.. minus the penis of course. He is passionate and enthusiastic about gaming, and when you see some of the developer playthroughs of him chugging back a beer you get the feeling he understands gamers in a certain way because.. well he is one. Ragnor never really exuded thus at all and seemed like the savant locked in his basement trying to create “art” so I think this changeover is going to be a good fit.

I am definitely heading back soon but there is so much that I have missed and need to catch up on so what’s better than a list.

-Word Spam Ahoy