Back home and WordPress

I’m back from the long AFK and ready for some catchup gaming, it’s been a long fourteen-odd days without any MMORPGs. Over the last couple of days I’ve started sifting through the massive backlog on my blog-reader.

I also notice that WordPress.com has pushed ahead with yet more annoying dumbing-down tweaks of the default UI. It’s now even harder to get to the standard admin page and thus the proper post editor, the lobotomised ‘New Post’ form really annoys me so much as it has so few options. For the record I’ve just found the Admin page is still accessible from the little Cog icon within the square for the blog on the ‘My Sites’ summary page. It’s still my prefered blogging platform, but like my MMOs, I can only take so much patronising simplifications before I start to think of moving on…

I’ll get on with some gaming and post more updates over the weekend.

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AFK

I’m now away with work for some time, and will certainly have little time for posting for a week. Hopefully I’ll start catching up the week after. In the meantime dear readers enjoy your gaming wherever you find it!

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EQ2: Nights of the Dead box ticked

Just before I go away I wanted to at least poke my head into Everquest 2 to have a look at this year’s Nights of the Dead live event (wiki guide). I’ve done some of this event in previous years the past though never delved into it that deeply. I’m often away in October for work and this year is no exception so again I’ll miss the majority of the event.

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Looking at my quest log and the guide I headed to Loping Plains for one particular chain of quests that I knew had a new addition. For some reason the NPC decided I hadn’t done the penultimate quest despite it being in my completed quests log. Anyway it was a fun ‘plants vs zombies’ setup though the end fight is pretty nasty!

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I then did the rather trippy follow-up quest by finding some ghosts to talk to across various zones. It’s a fun quest with lots of world travel – something I’m always happy to do in Everquest 2, more than any other MMO I’m happy to be riding, flying, hoping or whatever across Norrath.

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To finish off the session I decided to have a go at the Ghost Hunter competition outside Qeynos. It’s a timed “race around running over items” quest, similar to others at other times of the year. Enjoyable enough and not very time-consuming. I scored well on both attempts to buy a new scarecrow plushie for my house.

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I decided to play my old main character, the inquisitor, for this session since he’s got the most Nights of the Dead housing items already and it’d been a long while since I’d played him. It’s nice that so much of the live event content is level-agnostic so you can choose to play alts or lower level characters.

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Secret World: progression update

We’ve been gorging somewhat on The Secret World of late since it’s our new game to play. Progression is more nebulous though as there’s no big level number to mark it as in most MMORPGs.

Play session have been mostly a mix of mission types, we save the Story missions (the game’s overarching story) for playing with our trio friend, but there are so many missions packed into the zones we’re spoilt for choice. certainly doing everything is an option but then if we eventually were to create alts it’d be better to have some missions untouched, maybe I need to do a list…

Progression could be measured by percentage completion of the skill wheel. It could also be evaluated by average gear level. How experience is awarded seems to be somewhat opaque since my character has only been played in a party of two (or three), always with my partner’s character. Yet for a while his skill wheel completion was about one per cent ahead of mine; now after the weekend of giant golden mushrooms my percentage has zoomed to 1.5% ahead of his. Does that reflect build or play effectiveness? Is experience not shared equally as is the norm in most MMO party activities?

The only visible effect of this progression is in the game’s evaluation of mission difficulty (e.g. easy, hard) and the equivalent colour dot marker for monsters to warn if they’re likely to be a challenge. So as we wander about if we see red monsters or very hard missions we know to slow the march through the zone and maybe fill in some gaps in the map that we missed. It all feels pretty free and organic as a ‘questing’ experience.

The game has atmosphere oozing out of every pore. It is well worth playing with headphones as you might miss some of the lavish and carefully placed ambient sounds. Also some areas and missions probably benefit from playing them with the lights off if you like immersive gaming or scary movies!

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Secret World: Golden Weekend and Gilded Rage

This weekend (09-13th October) has a special bonus weekend in the Secret World. Currently Ability Point (AP) rewards are doubled, this can boost character development significantly as you play. We have played a couple of investigation missions, which generally take more time to figure out than say action missions (killing stuff) but reward a lot of XP and thus AP when you crack them.

The second aspect to this weekend is the presence of random world boss spawns in zones. So far we’ve only joined on the one boss fight in Kingsmouth. At first it didn’t seem as though enough players would gather to take down this raid-level monster but someone called out at the Agartha nexus and the zone quickly flooded with those coming to help out.

Flee the gilded mushroom monster!

Flee the gilded mushroom monster!

Inspecting some of the other players gathering before the fight began we realised as relatively new characters (gear quality mostly 3 or 4) we might not even be able to hit this monstrosity. Certainly in World of Warcraft for instance you can only fight world bosses realistically when you are at the level cap. In most MMOs that are level based you would automatically miss a raid level monster if you weren’t at least max level.

Thankfully Secret World seems to have a much shallower gearing-curve. Despite our relative newness we were able to hit and damage the beast, and my partner’s character could heal the other players. The fight was incredibly laggy so dodging the telegraphed circular attacks was problematic, I died twice since my poor character is a melee/tank spec. I swapped to an improvised pistol build after the second death and proceeded to shoot at the monster from maximum range to give me more dodge time.

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It was a fun fight despite the fact we weren’t really contributing that much. I’m really pleased there’s the chance for us to take part in these events from the get-go. Completing the fight gave us an achievement and a random loot bag, I was lucky and got this ‘stylish’ golden bow-tie to wear!

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Do you take gaming with you when away?

Today is one week out from the latest (and hopefully last) business trip of the year. Travelling with my work is usually hectic – long days that start early and finish very late. So gaming is sadly not usually possible, at least a proper gaming session. This is doubly annoying as it’s a great way to unwind and it would be a way to spend some time with my partner and friends even when away from them.

These days a week or two abroad doesn’t just mean missing out on dungeon runs or some levelling fun. It can also mean missing those daily tasks that more ‘needy‘ MMOs give us. Neverwinter has the invoke mechanic, the daily reward isn’t that special but the cumulative rewards can be – I’m still working towards getting that angel companion (wiki link) for my 360th invoke. Also the rewards from running professions at least once a day can soon build up, astral diamonds are always nice to have when saving up for more purple companions.

I’m never one to keep up with gearing for raiding in other MMOs so I don’t feel the pressure to do dailies for some gear tokens that such games have at end-game (this last expansion WoW guildmates were forever talking about “capping valor points” for the week)

Logging into Neverwinter for 10 minutes to invoke on characters and maybe sort professions is one thing, but actually running dailies on characters is something else. I’m working towards getting 60 of the daily reward tokens in Everquest 2 now to buy a rent-free Luxurious Kromzek Keep (Zam link). I’d love to make some progress on that while away but hotel wifi is often laggy or unreliable.

I do draw a distinction here between work trips and holidays. When I’m away with work something to distract me from the stresses of the job is always welcome (though rarely is there time for it!). When I’m on holiday I actually relish ‘unplugging’ from gaming for a week or more. Do you take gaming with you when away from home? Do MMO dailies tempt you to log on still?

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Hyperbole in gaming discussions

Two unrelated things came together in my blogging brain yesterday. I’d been musing for a few days about the usual hype->disappointment->hysteria cycle that affects MMO discussions and is currently afflicting Wildstar. For once I’m on the outside of this burst-bubble. I’ve been on the inside of it for Allods Online, Rift, SWTOR, and to a certain extent Guild Wars 2. As a blogger I tend to follow forums and news posts about the games I’m interested in, so I’m exposed regularly to this hype->disappointment->hysteria cycle. It can be draining to see the stratospheric hype and hope for this new ‘WoW-killer’ (the MMORPG having been dubbed such by the community not the developers) fail to deliver on all the promises, real or imagined, and then to see the community split into those defending the game and those declaring it already a failure.

Then today I read this post over at the Guardian (a UK daily newspaper) written about hyperbole on the Internet. The article is primarily about a music concert and how fans of the artist over-hyped a come-back concert to extreme levels. Taking out the specific references to a music concert it sounds exactly like people talking about MMORPGs before and soon after launch.

Reading about Wildstar last week or so reminded me of exactly the same sorts of ranting discussions about other earlier games. Thread upon thread of heated debate whether SWTOR was or was not KOTOR 3.0. Flame-filled arguments about Free-to-play being the doom of LOTRO and Everquest 2 (both are still here). The hope and despair of Guild Wars 2’s attempts at ending the trinity and quest-hub content model (the jury is still out on those two).

I find myself reading forums, Reddit, Massively article comments and more even though they are often full of this kind of exaggeration; not because I enjoy tabloid style rants but because amongst the dross there are some very well worded arguments and valid gameplay improvement suggestions. There are still plenty of diamonds in the rough. But I certainly would be happier if, in general, people were slightly less extreme about gaming. I’d much rather read a “10 things I’d like to see improved” thread rather than “this game is doomed!” thread. Really there needs to be a reminder to “Keep Calm and Carry On (Gaming)” as part of every forums header…

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