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

Secret World of Diversity

I am still finding it hard to believe that TSW only sold 200k, when I mentioned this little nugget of info to the guildies they were truly dumbfounded. Even though they were the same as me thinking it was a downright average mmo it did one thing exceptional well that has been echoed over and over, and that is the story. It has obviously been their main focus when creating the mmo (for better or worse) and their dedication shows in how well crafted it feels, how cohesive it is as a whole and how rich the the experience feels.

In creating a richer and more diverse environment then I have seen before the world feels far more immersive than I could have imagined, everything feels more real in a sense and it is only in part due to the modern day setting. The amazing attention to detail invites immersion, it is a world you want to explore, that you enjoy traversing. But above all that it is the wonderful characters inhabiting the world that make it something special.

Character creator

Say what you want about the many monsters you can create from the uncanny valley but TSW lets you create a rather diverse bunch of human beings, with options of ethnicity and age well represented. The different facial styles have many flaws about them but in a way it becomes more indicative of how we really are. With the slider tools in customisation it is even quite possible to create something unique or close to what you imagined is possible, it isn’t APB good but it is decent. You are even able to create many looks that reasonably resemble people from the real world, be they some celebs in your usual trash mags or the person next door. Of course it would benefit from new options but on the whole it feels more realistic and robust.

In most of the genre there seems to be an aim of perfection in many character creators, usually being delegated to creating the equivalent of gods and goddesses, or porcelain dolls (looking at you GW2). While it seems natural to appeal to the general consensus of beauty, it can get a little stale especially in a genre like this where you spend exorbitant amounts of time with the same character. You want to feel invested, attached to your character, and eventually for it to feel like an extension of yourself and a doll doesn’t encourage this. While role playing with the perfect being I often find it a lot harder to connect with them as it is often the flaws in humanity that attract us the most.

My collection of pixels

In this way it feels rather refreshing that the options i have and what i can create a far more grounded in reality with many of its nuances. In a game that focus’s so heavily on interweaving your own character into a story it feels more immersive this way… an Adonis would just feel out of place.

At the moment my main character definitely seems to have some sort of Asian heritage about her and I really like that. When you walk around meeting people or even in the big gathering spots you see that there is so much diversity in peoples appearances. It makes the world feel alive (when population is large enough obviously) and more than your just surrounded by a collection of strange but overly similar pixels.

Character Diversity

I read an article that RPS linked to a while ago and it was actually quite sobering, pointing the fact that our medium for the most part isn’t very inclusive of… Well anyone that’s not a western white guy. I really have to agree as our leading protagonists for decades have been the stereotypical western persona. Inclusion of gender, race, sexuality has been on the final frontier of gaming and relegated to the relatively niche indie crowd. If it has been brought into the general media it is usually nothing more then the token character, inclusion for inclusions sake and many times a persona that reeks of stereotyping.

We see some inclusive elements here and there such as darker skin colours in character select but often it is more of a deep tan rather than a diverse set not to mention that even in games such as Skyrim with very diverse character creator many racial options are often missing.

Love this Lady

Another issue I see a lot is that games which do broach various important subjects and themes often do so from a point removed from the subject matter in a way, as an outsider looking in and merely presenting a subject rather than exploring it. Dragon Age did this rather poorly with their elven characters; a reference to the Jews,or African Americans. There is no exploration involved just an empty metaphor, they showed a race wrapped in misery and yet they could have had a whole range of emotions involved; Strength, hope, despair, fear, and overcoming adversity would have been great to show and far more a reflection of the real scenario.

Guild Wars 2 missed a wonderful moment for gamers to reflect on with the relationship between Caithe and Faolain. It is hard to believe that everyone would be unfazed by the rather different relationship styles the Sylvari have, we have a world that has remained predominately heterosexual and then a new race with new ideals suddenly enters the mix. It would have been great to see that conflict from the other races and inherent emotions explored . They broached the subject from a wonderful lore standpoint but then leave it as a side story… Left it unexplored and were mostly playing it safe. Inclusion should be explored, not just characterized.

In TSW you have the unlikely duo of Sandy and Deputy Andy, a confession of love that is so earnest and heartfelt you can’t help but feel the emotion pouring out but it is more than that as well. They are not your stereotypical “queers”, they are fellow human beings from very different backgrounds filled with foibles and emotions. It makes you feel rather sad when you get that tinge of apprehension coming from social moors, unrequited adoration due to many factors. It leaves you thinking what if and even better than that it leaves you reflecting on your own views on sexuality and questioning them at the same time.

A rich Tapestry on TSW

When exploring through the areas of the secret world I always get the feeling that it just feels more real. It is a smaller environment than many but it is the first time I have had that feeling wherein I am not just looking at a painted backdrop with cut-out cardboard figures.

The environment has a small part to play, mostly though it is the rather cooky collection of characters on display. There is an amazing range of characters available that cover a fair amount of ethnicities and backgrounds which on its own is rare to see, and then you have in depth backgrounds to explore. Each of these main characters has a rich story, they have their own interests they attend to, glaring flaws, external and internal pressures they are trying to work around or with, and then lots and lots of baggage. It is a great view of human eccentricities and personal backgrounds you would never have even thought about.

It is all very inclusive with a wide spectrum of humanity included, and what’s more is they explore themes like ethnicity, gender, and sexuality well. There is no contrived token placements on offer just flesh and blood humans full of emotions. Nothing is hidden from the view of the public in mountains of lore but right there for everyone to witness. It is an epic drama of human emotion playing out for all to witness, the impact and the joy, sadness and courage that is there to make you think or even inspire.

The great story and writing feels very engaging from a character perspective but even as a cohesive whole across the different areas. The writing team has a great understanding of people and culture it seems which reflects on the immersive world. Even the story structure and themes are quite removed from the usual tropes, they are aware of them but twist and mold these to fit with the story, they are even so familiar with them they are able to poke fun highlighting the hilarity of such overused story elements.

A vast array of research and information has gone into creating the world and inhabitants. It is quite engaging to be involved with all these various myths, legends, cultures, and heritage. It breaks you out of your comfort and brings you information you may never even have contemplated from a point of view so far from your as to be completely alien, it is rather humbling in a sense and very interesting at times. They are just a team whom seem very grounded in reality with such a broad understanding of different cultures that could not have just come from a brief glance through a book or wiki but most likely from deep discussion and exploration.

What makes this far more though is that they seem unafraid to broach more meaningful subjects. I have seen sensitive subjects surrounding religion and culture as well as many different forms of discrimination being explored. Sam Krieg offers some of the most poignant statements regarding western culture I have really ever heard in a game, it is a complete expose of ourselves and the families we come from.

And then we have beautiful stories about love and about family. The Dracolesti in Transylvania are a heartwarming bunch that although may argue and fight occasional love each other unconditionally and would do absolutely anything to protect each other.

Breaking the Stereotypical Molds

Everyone you meet has a story to tell from their own point of view guided in part by complex background. A myriad of internal, external and environmental pressure that have exerted themselves to make them who and what they are. They have their own interests to attend to, with wants and needs which reflect their situation, in this regard it is far easier to understand them and make more informed decisions regarding these characters. It is no longer just a quest giver your meeting but a reflection of something real, a person with a name.

My adoration goes even further though as they have extended this by having a diverse collection of people from a variety of backgrounds. They have strayed so far with what and who is your typical person, hero, and villain that they take on a life of their own, even when some do embody the norm you have an understanding of the underlying factors. They have then used this inherent understanding to deconstruct some very common stereotypes.

Scrapyard Edgar is a very good example of this and the part of the Redneck is played so well that I have even read of people swearing off his dialogue and skipping cut scenes. He is very crude and has a harsh in your face attitude but in the end you come to realise he is merely a product of his experience. Some very tragic events while young, a mother and father whom had abandoned him, and then a town that has ostracized him because of who he is. While at first you may not think he is upset about any of it the cracks start peeking through the more you hear. An emotional torrent comes out of anger at abandonment and discrimination, of sadness at being abandoned and left out, and then just being thankful at those whom treat him well. I feel so sorry for him at times and wish I could give him a pixelated hug, and then I am uplifted at the courage he has shown to make it this far.

I also really like the story of the Transylvania secret lovers, Emilia and Octavian. They exude so much warmth towards each other that it makes you soo happy. The have found their soul mate regardless of what of the social rules regarding age, it just doesn’t matter to them enough for it to break them apart. They have however kept their love a relative secret as social pressures are obviously playing a part, her father is very insistent of her not spending time with the old man and his stories. He doesn’t even know and although it is not enough to keep her from seeing him it is enough to keep their live contained to a cabin. Milosh claims Octavian only want her companionship for her beauty but she is not convinced of this and it is clear in his voice that his caring is far more deep.

Emilia and Octavian sitting in a tree

One of my favourite points about TSW right now though is the abundance of powerful women.. its just so refreshing. We have Sheriff Bannerman being in charge of survivors, Carter whom although overwhelmed is embracing her gift and gaining courage, Maya the fierce intelligent leader of a guerilla force, Ampario Osario leading the forces of the Council of Venice and many more great characters from different backgrounds. They all have strong personalities that have enabled them to break through social stigma even though it is an ever present pressure. And bringing these characters to the fore shows a commitment to breaking down the tired trope of woman being meek, needing saving, or some sort of sexual symbol is just brilliant… Kudos.

I guess after all that this is probably a shameless plug for TSW, it deserved better than it got and although it doesn’t have an epic IP or large scale mass appeal it is a great game to play. It is a hard sell though as to really enjoy it you have to just take your time, giving it an hour here and there.. play it like your average mmo and your very likely to burn out. The story is probably worth it regardless of whether you like mmo’s but when you are putting down that upfront cost plus the monthly expense it becomes a rather difficult decision as there really is so much else out there and coming out that is also worth the purchase and may have more entertaining gameplay. Whatev’s

Link Dead Radio

Once again the interwebz beams in treasure troves fully of wacky and amazing stuffz… Lol cats not included of course since they’re always amazing and hardly require the invariable searches through the pixelated back alleys.

GW2

  • An interactive GW2 map featuring many cool options including crafting ingredients, juvenile pets, and various points of interest.

TSW

The August SotG address is out and although it very much tries to sell the service it does come of as quite honest in some respects. The main focus being calming the masses, that business is continuing as usual and what makes TSW special

The Important Bits

There’s a ten-person raid in New York scheduled for October, and it’s not like any raid you’ve ever played before. We have a bunch of auxiliary weapons on the way, and more character customisation improvements. We have a huge and exciting new feature pencilled in for Christmas, which ties into the achievement system and gives a lot more meaning to the usual ‘Kill 1,000 Vampires’ goals. (After all, who hasn’t wondered what it would be like to have some vampiric abilities to play around with?) We’re creating intermediary decks with brand new clothing rewards; we have a ton of new missions and storylines in development; and we have a huge new adventure zone scheduled for next spring, bringing players back to Tokyo’s Ground Zero, to face brand new threats, meet new characters, play new missions and explore an intriguing urban environment unlike anything you’ve ever seen in an MMO.

also Ragnar himself addressed the masses regarding the SotG

You’re right, there was no mention of either, but we will definitely be expanding on both the PvE end game and PvP in the near future!

I didn’t cover every upcoming feature in my SotG, although in retrospect I probably should have mentioned both of those.

In terms of PvE, we’re working to improve and expand the lairs, as well as incorporate more outdoor raid-type encounters against ‘world bosses’. I’m also hoping to see more challenging content being introduced across the world, to keep players on their toes and to make the world feel dynamic and unpredictable.

As for PvP, there are ongoing discussions about what we’re doing next, but for the short term, we’re introducing a bunch of changes and tweaks that should make the PvP experience a lot more fun and dynamic. More about that very soon, I hope.

My apologies for not addressing these topics in my SotG, and thanks for pointing it out!

Ragnar

So the good news seems to be that they are very much still sticking to the pre-release game plan with lots of things coming our way. It also seems great that they are fleshing out the world a bit more with events and epic boss fights as these types of things are so much more fun than spamming chat in Agartha for another dungeon run. And the more I hear about the new zone coming in the new year the more excited I get to see it, they definitely make great environments and a large city setting would be amazing.

Other Bitsies

  • Starbound – Looks like a Terraria like space galaxy exploration and Sandboxy type thing.. In other words pure unadulterated awesome
  • Clockwork Empires – steam punk city building and management. From the makers of Dungeons of Dredmoor
  • And if you haven’t already go to YouTube and pleasure yourself on Planetside 2 goodness, the NDA has dropped so there is heaps to see and probably a lot more in days to come.

Marketing TSW: Critique and Comparisons

There was a Post on the TSW forums is a little old now but really quite intrigued me at the time and I have been meaning to squeeze my brain dry on the subject. The poster was asking the question of “Does TSW market to the wrong crowd”. It really is quite in interesting proposition and while the initial post really doesn’t elaborate much past his own “yeh it’s way cool” dude speak, it brings up the question of how could or should TSW market itself considering the current market, and even how MMO’s in general could benefit from a more varied approach.

The main issue I see is that the mmo crowd in general has very strict expectations as well as a large breadth of experiences that govern thought. We play our chosen game type a lot, more so then most genres so it is understandable given the amount of time, that we have grown familiar and overly dismissive with generic mechanics. The more time and energy you invest into a hobby, the more attached you’re likely to become to it. MMO players tend to spend a LOT of time on our hobby, and so we manifest the same tribalism that other people do… only we do it about our games, and we do it quite strongly.
-Rambling Ahoy>

Secret Environmental Delight and Build Diversity

AAh.. I am so close to rounding of the zones and have just finished the Shadowy Forest but with GW2 opening up their servers tomorrow.. OMG SQUUEEEEEE WOOOOOOOOOO… will mean that the Secret world will be taking a break from my play schedule so maybe I will finish it off in the coming weeks. In fact I think everything is off that list now. I will definitely be going back though as I have enjoyed my time immensely, even though it all comes of as a solitary experience and not much in terms of an mmo it is a wonderful experience and the world contains so much depth in terms of characters and environments.

One thing I really enjoy about these zones is that there is no harsh intersection between the different parts within an area and the zone as a whole. The changes between parts are so incremental that you barely notice the change as it’s happening, just slight tricks and changes in the environment. A change of hue here, density of the environmental characteristics, lighting changes and subtle changes in the terrain. Before you know it your in some magical mushroom kingdom and it really does make for an enjoyable experience, it just seems much more intuitive as well as inviting your own sense of immersion

Decaying Forest

Mushroom Castle

Fungus Swamp

It may not look like much but when changes like this are happening even over just a small part of an area it makes a big difference. The extent of extra work this would have required even though it is just a small out of the way part that only one quest takes you too is amazing.

The difficulty of the monsters is ramping up a lot now and i am actually finding myself struggling for quite a few of these quests. Many of the monsters have varying degrees of buffs now requiring more thought and interchangeability put into your build choices. Some of these monsters can even punish you quite severly for using certain types of attacks like affliction, hinder and penetration.

Build diversity has become a huge deal, and it seems as though it is even a requirement to at least have 3 or 4 more builds you can change around with. I have only really just finished my second build which is entirely unoptimised and took me some time to design. There seem to be a lot of people running around with blade so that might be my next choice as it seems to offer a good mix of damage, aoe and defence. I did find one quest though were my build got to absolutely shine as there is this one particular monster you have to kill who requires snares and such. The Mother Ent is immune to damage and it requires you to hinder the spirits following who are channel the immunity shield and then kite it outside of there area of effect. It really is a wonderful use of mechanics as it requires timing of skills and lots of movement to accomplish, I was doing this with a questing buddy and we actually cheered upon completing it.

Home of the Ent Mother

There was another quest I came across in the Shadowy Forest which was just a simple side quest and was utterly enthralled by, in terms of questing mechanic it was just go here, use that, go to the next spot etc.. but it was the well done effects that made me and my questing partner laugh with delight. It created a great conversation point and was one of those special quests to me now that I will probably remember for a long time, I even saved some mushrooms for later. It is great to think outside the box in terms of quest designs and although I haven’t come across many in gw2 but I will remember that whole truffle hunting quest for a long time… just great design.

Oooh, Purty colours.. Follow the rainbow

It really is hard to explain the diversity of quest options available, it is the best variety I have ever seen or played. While the investigation missions are an entirely different beast altogether the rest of the mission, in essence all come down to the kill, collect, protect that mmo’s have been doing for a decade but it is the little nuances that make it special. It could be the difficulty and specialties of the monsters, elements of stealth, small puzzles, great story and dialogue, or certain special effects but it all ends up just being something special.

Link Dead Radio – GW2 edition

Once again I bring you more gw2 pvp related links of amazing. It really is quite funny what you do to kill time when your not woring and how many hours a day really contains.. I miss Centrelink benefits and bludging on my ass

  • Eternal Mists is looking like the start of a great community site for pvp related info and videos.  while it doesn’t have much yet it has many big name guilds in the pvp circuit on board so you can probably expect things to pick up relatively soon
  • Guild Source, another YouTube channel dealing in the competitive e-sports gw2 scene. Great format with multiple viewpoints and very in depth commentary as well as an in-depth section at the end highlighting certain builds strengths and usual playstyle.
  • Buildcast. While I find GameBreaker to be a bit dodgy and very ad heavy they really do seem to go over some great stuff. Nice conversation and discussion on the games mechanics, professions and just general info and hints. It seems as though the format will be about a certain topic each week as well as focusing on video and build they received each week and critiquing it’s implementation and use. Some nice info bitsies here and there.
  • StompCast for all those podcast needs. In depth discussion on pvp news, mechanics and professions. Big name teams guesting in as well to give their own point of view answer questions and tips.
  • GW2WvW a site dealing with all your WvW needs. They have plenty of guides available for the newbs and experienced alike and a very handy WvW map where you are able to pin markers, edit info and export in many formats. Create your strategies and share.

OOH and TSW Orochi Corporation jokes for the bored

TSW Gamescom Presentation and Raid Reveal

I have to say that this all looks amazing and it seems that this time Funcom have a very good vision for their game and what the direction of it is going to be. I get the feeling I may indeed be playing this for a long time and may even be jumping into dungeons and raids more often, not to much for the gear treadmill aspects but just to further immerse myself in the world.

The first half talks more about their philosophy and the direction of content as well as a timeframe. We will be heading to Tokyo in the near future with early 2013 being recorded, with all the myths and legends it contains and there are some great but very creepy future monster concepts. I also like there tagline for the new area of “Escape from New York meets Outbreak“, looking forward to it. It is also the city which contains the Orochi headquarters and all those shiny droids and such with what seems to be a great Japanese inspired futuristic look. It also shows the first auxiliary weapon, Rocket Launcher in some depth as well as customisation options

Orochi Mecha and cute face emotes


 

Next Half we have a sneak peak at the new raid and I just want to say WOW at the absolute  amazing and design and I love there philosophy surrounding what they are trying to do with the  raids. It looks like an utterly amazing zone with plenty of detail and lots of hidden areas to explore, I can see me now trying to find lore while my group mates are yelling at me to hurray up or even worse that I should start healing. The zone looks to rival anything I have seen previously in terms of detail and look, trumps Crisis hands done in terms of the visceral and aesthetic feel. Well it will be coming out in October apparently and we will be going Back to the Future or some such thing and exploring the story of the initial outbreak in New York.

 

Can’t Wait. RAAAAAAAAAAAAWWWWWWR… awesome boss monster

The Toxic Gaming Community

This isn’t my own writing and is ripped off the Tera Forums from around the start of the year but with the way things are going with so many big names duking it out in the mmosphere lately it seemed apt to post it. Not to mention the really rabid “people” posting filth which has been highlighted over at Diminishing Returns and In An Age. It seems as though something needs to change and fast before we all rip each other to shreds and give ourselves a bad name to those looking in. Our gaming community really is sitting quite precariously on the edge, not that violence isn’t fun but lets leave it for the battlefield
-Word Spam Ahoy>