TSW: Saint Valentine

The current event in the Secret World is the Saint Valentine event, the resurrected Massively OP website has a post with some of the details. Just like the real world Valentine’s Day there’s a heavy dose of emphasis on buying romantic stuff.

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The event vendor is in the park in London (and elsewhere in the other hubs). I can buy a ‘satchel of amorous delights’ that reward one or more pieces of costume gear at random. It costs 300,000 PAX, or one of two types of endgame token that we’ve not yet encountered.

I was hesitant to spend almost half my current funds on a lootbox style item, but while I was deliberating and taking screenshots, suddenly some giant heart-shaped fireworks went off nearby and I received new items. The other event item, the ‘bag of Saint Valentinus’, costs Funcom points in the store (1200) and gives random items to up to 20 nearby player characters. It’s rather nice that the game has these kinds of giving/sharing items and that players are generous enough to use such items in public to the benefit of others.

Valentine threads...

Valentine threads…

Unlike other events in the game there’s no new content or missions for this event so it’ll largely be a background thing as we continue to level through Egypt but some new costume items are always welcome!

Posted in Gaming, TSW | 2 Comments

TSW: evocative gear

The Secret World’s modern world setting certainly offers players a change from the usual fantasy tropes of most of the MMORPG genre.

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This extends to the weapons as well as the clothing of course.

Hi-tech assault rifle

Hi-tech assault rifle

Not all the gear is modern though, there’s some rather interesting quest-specific disguises.

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So far my favourite item in the game has been this macuahuitl Aztec-style sword.

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I’d be very happy for more Aztec flavoured gear in future. More importantly it’d be great if Funcom could add content set in Central or South America in the future also since there’s such a rich cultural mythology there to tap into (Aztec/Mayan/Incan etc).

Posted in Gaming, TSW | 4 Comments

Daybreak studios layoffs

I’ve just read some depressing news via Bio Break that already the newly renamed Daybreak Studios (Sony Online Entertainment) has announced layoffs. What’s more disturbing is that several high-profile employees are among those being let go, namely Dave Georgeson and Linda Carlson. If you’ve ever followed news about SoE or seen coverage of previous SoE Live events (which has also been cancelled for 2015 since the takeover) you’ll have read these names before.

I didn’t post about the takeover originally as I wanted to wait and see what would happen if anything to change how the company is run, I was not expecting layoffs so soon to be honest. This gives me a real sinking feeling regarding the likely future of Everquest 2 and other ex-SoE aging titles. Takeovers and restructuring like this never seems to end well, at least in the gaming industry. As Syp stated in the post linked above:

The people who made this company special are now gone, and all we’re left with is talk of bringing games to Xbox One.

If the company is refocusing on the console market and on a smaller set of titles like H1Z1 then its games aren’t going to be in my gaming future…

Posted in EQ2, Gaming | 2 Comments

EQ2: advanced solo dungeons

Over the weekend I played my first advanced solo dungeon in Everquest 2. It was an interesting experience, a solo-able version of a group heroic dungeon. This allowed me to solo a segment of the main story arc towards the end of the zone; if I’d had a ready group available I could have done the couple of relevant quests in the heroic version instead.

EQ2_000488b The dungeon was fairly easy to solo with my healer mercenary in tow. I learned a bit more  about controlling my mercenary – line of sight issues can lead to an unexpected death if you’re dumb AI-controlled healer can’t see you. He also seemed reluctant to actually fight anything unless I took the creatures to him into melee range, maybe I’m not paying him well enough?

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The boss fights were mostly easy, maybe because I’m playing a tank character at the moment with a good amount of self-healing? There was some fights with nasty or fatal mechanics, however. In the end it was easier to just read up about the fights beforehand, I don’t like ‘cheating’ in this way but I didn’t have the time to wipe-repeatedly on mechanics that weren’t that obvious by animations alone.

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In the end I got a nice enough chunk of experience and at least one gear upgrade from running the two quests in here. It also put me close to ending the zone’s story.

Solo dungeons or raids seem to be in vogue these-days. It is nice to have a choice of how to advance the storyline, I remember the painful last few months of LOTRO pre-free to play when it was nigh impossible to advance the epic storyline since you couldn’t get a group for certain lower-level quests. It seems the chosen solution for many games (e.g. LOTRO, Rift, WoW, even SWTOR now) is to have a solo option to traditional group content so you don’t miss out on story or progression when it’s a bit older and less popular.

Posted in EQ2, Gaming, LotRO, Rift, SWTOR | 1 Comment

How much does story matter?

I’ve posted in the past about the importance of engaging stories in MMOs, or at least well-written stories. Given that questing generally can be boiled-down to one of a very small number of archetypes (kill 10 rats, collect 10 gizmos, click 10 levers etc), how the devs encourage the player to do those same repetitive tasks is important. For me story isn’t just the little snippets of quest dialogue that introduce, advance and complete a quest. It’s also how that task is linked to the area, NPCs and the wider lore of the world. Little, staid tasks aren’t so boring if you feel like a larger story is unfolding before your character.

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Due to recent news items and other bloggers interest in the game I’ve poked my head back into LOTRO again. It’s the easiest of my long-term MMOs to return to since I have a lifetime subscription, I can jump back in to play the game without paying any money and without any annoying restrictions on my gameplay experience due to free-to-play account status.

Playing the game I’m struck anew by just how good Turbine are, or at least have been, at this overarching story telling. The individual quests are mostly the usual kinds, some are even more mundane tasks such as ‘pickup rubbish’ or ‘deliver a letter’, but generally there’s a wider metaplot for the zone that gives impetus to what you are doing. They also have that ‘following the Fellowship of the Ring’ thing going on in the background as an über-metaplot (to rule all the meta-plots).

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After my recent musings on Everquest 2’s issues with the lack of apparent overarching storytelling I find LOTRO storytelling to be much clearer. I have the dual-layers of metaplot clearly stated in text and video vignettes to motivate my character’s journey across Middle Earth.

Playing for a while though does remind me of certain annoyances with the game that I’ve long had. The combat isn’t quite as engaging as in other MMOs and the lack of creature variety due to the lore-guardians that approve all content can also be a downside. I’m sure this dilemma is one reason why I’ve been jumping between MMOs over the years, no game in my mind has all the pieces right. LOTRO is a game I’ve come back to more than most, however, so does good storytelling trump all other concerns in the end?

 

Posted in EQ2, Gaming, LotRO | 6 Comments

TSW: game director letter

Funcom’s Director for The Secret World has posted a letter online stating the plans for the game going forwards. In summary the highlights are:

  • Revamp of the tutorial
  • Smoothing the difficulty curve in pre-Tokyo levelling zones by reducing the time to kill of mobs and thinning their numbers
  • Revamp of mission loot including better quality weapons at key points
  • Improving rare boss-mob loot drops (guaranteed blue quality)

It’ll be interesting to see these changes, especially as we’re a lot closer to the issues mentioned (Ak’abs!) than most veteran players. It does mean we’ll never experience the later zones at the original difficulty, but we play as a trio so that’s not as relevant to us as it would be to a new player levelling solo.

The danger if the ‘nerfs’ go too far is that, for us as a trio, the game will become super-easy and lose some of its attraction. We enjoy the odd challenging fight as we follow the game’s excellent storytelling!

Posted in Gaming, TSW | 3 Comments

EQ2: clueless yet engaged in Eidolon Jungle

In my last few sessions of EQ2 I’ve had a nagging feeling that I’m somewhat clueless as to what is really happening in Norrath especially since I didn’t play the original Everquest game.

I do feel that the Everquest 2 devs demonstrate some very good and engaging storytelling in various quest arcs. Zones can (not always) feel like they have a strong and coherent story running through them. However unlike other MMOs, such as LOTRO or World of Warcraft, I often find the transition between zones to be abrupt or disconnected. If there is an overarching story to the game I’m not really following it at all.

The leveling in the 90s goes slowly, proper old-school slowly. That’s in part because I’m leveling my first character towards the cap of 100, once I have my shadowknight there all my other characters get a 20% bonus to xp gain (the so-called veteran bonus).

Despite my feelings above I’ve been feeling drawn into the story as I’ve progressed further into my current zone of Eidolon Jungle. It is pretty epic and I do remember reading spoilers about it on powerpoints from coverage of a previous SOE Live. In my last session I was rather delighted to suddenly come across these NPCs.

Cthulhu eat your brains out...

Cthulhu eat your brains out…

These squid-headed people are called Amygdalans according to the EQ2 ZAM wiki. They’re the spiritual copy of Mindflayers from the D&D rpg, the wiki mentions they’re servants of Cazik-Thule the Lord of Fear. So far it is their quests that I have enjoyed the most in how they link to the overall theme for the zone (spoiler-light version – planar crossovers and mysterious things related to several different gods).

A temple to the Lord of Fear.

A temple to the Lord of Fear.

So I’ll continue on to finish this zone and to go onto Obal Plains in order to see this story arc to its completion.

Posted in EQ2, Gaming | 1 Comment