Category Archives: Secret World

Returning To Rift: It’s For The Boys

did not loadTrion invited former Rift players back this weekend to have a look at their Storm Legion expansion. I was excited to see Rift on my new computer, so I re-installed on my sleek SSD (Solid State Drive).

My first adventure, while the game updated, was to click the ad on the launcher for the sexy black “Submit” T-shirt. Who hasn’t clicked that link, right? So. All of the shirts are for guys. I think it’s great for guys to submit to Crucia, and it’s even greater to have a powerful female antagonist in an MMO expansion, but this is a typical situation for Rift. I’ve blogged in the past about the sexist female outfits *in* the MMO. Irony! Or something. Moving on.

After updating, I started a new character just to get the feel of things. Trion changed the start of the game quite a bit, so I stopped and made a few changes to my Rift newbie guide here on Kitty Kitty. First of all, the new “purposes” in character creation seem like a nice idea.

New players can get into the game more quickly by clicking a button instead of having to choosing souls, but I honestly liked picking a soul combo in the old days. When I make a character, I want to know everything about every class. This may be a habit from D&D and other games that lock you into one class and/or role, of course. Rift doesn’t really do that. Anyway, I hadn’t played five minutes before I was Googling to figure out what to do.

So I checked out Freemarch and Meridian with my Defiant warrior. My console controller worked great, without re-configuring anything different from LotRO. I didn’t like my skin color and re-made my character, only to realize that the lighting is vastly different in character creation than in the ark rooms where you spawn. It was a similar situation at launch, without going into boring details. Dear devs everywhere, this is not good.

I was prepared to see graphical wonders in Rift, but it was a mistake to think Rift would be the best looking game on my brand new computer. Rift vs. LotRO on ultra settings seems like overall a wash. Rift has better polygons. LotRO has equal textures, with better distant landscapes and definitely better skies and water, at least from what I saw. Rift interiors and definitely surfaces are better (bump-mapping?). My Bahmi’s skin looks nice up close.

At first I thought my hi-res textures for Rift hadn’t loaded properly, because even my armor was bland. I checked the performance settings on my Catalyst panel. I found a forum thread on this topic. I ended up verifying that my new warrior outfit textures did match up to screenshots of what they should be on the highest settings. So that was that.

I then went to check out my main, a L50 mage. I decided that rebuilding even one skill tree to use was going to take a lot of time. I grabbed my mail instead and noticed a quest to investigate a wrecked ship, so I sallied forth with a few simple fireballs and chloro heals in my pocket, noticing that my quest said that I was to speak with a queen.

I was intrigued. Who is this Queen Miela? Why did her ship wreck right there off of Shoreward Island? Where did she get that beautiful outfit? And those shoes!? I still don’t know. I spoke to her, and she didn’t have time for questions or a proper introduction. She said the situation was pressing, and I was to man the scatterguns and hop on the anti-aircraft batteries because some hordes of monsters were coming.

Right then I nearly collapsed from a series of terrible World of Warcraft flashbacks. This is typical game writing for both WoW and Trion. Action first, ask questions later. I guess most players will get impatient without something to kill. This is why I quit WoW. I had no clue what the story was in Northrend. It was endless questing and killing with no purpose. No characters.

Characters are the heart of fiction. Is fiction the heart of an MMO, or action? I can get endless action in Diablo 3 or any game. I have always said that characterization is a weakness in Rift. What is the motivation of the NPC? What are the emotions? How does the NPC react to you? An NPC reacting to your character is like a double-bonus in writing quest text. You get two characters characterized (yours and the NPC) for the price of one, and a triple-bonus if the conversation happens to be about someone else.

At that point, I noticed the queen checking out the skimpy brassiere piece of my traditional Ethian dress, and even managed to grab a screenshot (the pic above). My heart skipped a beat. The queen was attractive, emotionally vulnerable in that moment, and probably rich. I wondered if we had a chance together, and regretted that I’d slotted points into Pyromancer and nothing in my Domination soul.

I decided that her name “Miela” was derived from the Spanish word “miel”, or honey, which is lovely, and not the vulgar “mierda” stuff implied by this thread in the Rift forums.

Ah, but I’ve just given myself away. Yes, I did log out of the game at that point so I could go back to Google. I want story, immersion, and fiction. I want roleplay. I don’t want to man the scatterguns. Seriously. And worse yet, per that same thread, the queen may be possessed and controlled by the dragon goddess Crucia, so a date won’t work out after all.

Undaunted, I quested onwards on the internet, trying to find something besides heavy artillery to get me interested in spending money to resub in Rift, buy the expansion, and spend the rest of the weekend wiping my skill bars and starting over. That’s a bit of headache and dinero.

I found a Youtube video of a Storm Legion dungeon. I liked the original Rift dungeons, and the dungeon finder tool is the best ever. Unfortunately, the devs were showing off a big mech with yes–more artillery and flame throwers, plus a cool jumping ability. And a *double jump* trick. Wow. Sorry, Mario. I also found the official trailer that claims massive battles with even more massive mech-y monsters.

Rift is a great MMO, and I’ll jump back in those waters at some point, but not today. Rift requires a lot of time, and I still need to finish Rohan in LotRO. This kitty may be sling-shotting from here to a F2P SWTOR installation this afternoon, however.

I’m supposed to be boycotting SWTOR due to their removal of LGBT content, but I’ve still got a holiday season new-game itch that maybe SWTOR could finish scratching. My foray into Secret World was short-lived for several reasons. I don’t want to bore even more, but these reasons are the lead-in to my punch-line.

I don’t want to solve puzzles using Google. It was frustrating in Secret World trying to solve puzzles. I tried. I wasn’t a big fan of the short, spammy skill bar either, and the skill wheel had broken tooltips that plain said the wrong thing–for over a month, at least. Maybe Funcom fired the guy who could fix tooltips, but still, every new player during that key horror/Halloween promotion period was misled and had to use Google to figure out how to put points in his or her skills.

I was simply not immersed. My character looked good with nice outfits, but she was kind of a robot. When I got my first call from the boss, I thought I’d get a promotion or something would happen to my character but no–they just wanted me to do XYZ and go back to questing. I killed over 1000 zombies. That was fun, and I don’t want to kill more zombies. I don’t want to blow things up with big guns.

I just want the queen’s shoes–those magical snowflake-colored shoes she was wearing.

Building A Seaworthy Vessel Bound For The Secret World

One of the largest collections of Salvador Dali art in the world is found in the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida. This is an amazing collection of paintings and history that is worth a visit if you’re in the Tampa area.

The largest painting in the St. Petersburg collection (or it used to be, anyway) is The Discovery of America by Christopher Columbus, which is a magnificent surrealist painting over 14 feet high, full of symbolism and historical and religious references.

For gamers, discovery and exploration is a big part of our enjoyment of games, and I’ve really been wanting to explore The Secret World. So I set forth with my credit card (things are easier these days than in the fifteenth century) on Columbus Day (it’s a New World thing, for you European readers) a few weeks ago.

I went to the CyberpowerPC website. I prayed for deliverance from my current computer’s sins. I prayed for forgiveness for my gross first world excess and I ordered a new gaming machine. It was delivered yesterday. (I’m not a big fan of the word rig. “Rig” seems to be applied to computers as a man-power term, as if referring to a big gnarly boat motor.)

I took advantage of a holiday sale that looks fairly typical for CyberpowerPC. I decided that I couldn’t really build the computer myself for less than they’d do it for me, plus give me a warranty. I had to have Intel of course, and I also got my first real video card, a Radeon HD7850, which is twice as powerful as my old 5770.

I don’t really need that much power as a non-hardcore, rarely-raiding gamer, but I do like ultra-high resolution textures because they make my outfits look good. And the trees, which are important since I mainly play elves. So.

I admit that the real reason for getting this now wasn’t The Secret World–it was Windows 8, its app-focused design, and the Windows store at launch where you can buy the extras you want for extra cash. Supposedly there is also a non-removable Microsoft watermark on the desktop–per some forum guy. So DLC at launch and corporate interests built into the interface, unchangeable. Sounds like games these days, except it’s your operating system.

Who knows–Windows 8 may well be great, and I’ll upgrade. Windows 7 now installed, moving on. My old computer with the AMD dual core 2.0 GHz CPU is a champ, but I’m sure she’s as happy that she is retiring as I am. See the pic below–that’s called “cable spaghetti”, I think. Yes, that’s really a bare internal hard drive sticking out of the front because it wouldn’t fit.

My new ark has proved seaworthy out of the box. I pushed LotRO to ultra settings, and I don’t think this computer even noticed. I love the HAF 912 case. The free Razer keyboard and mouse are functional and fine, but I’m not sure if I’ll be using them as my go-to units when I set sail for The Secret World this winter.

Forth, Eorlingas! For the Illuminati!

Old, Trusty HP Computer:

New Computer Of Wonders +5:

A Pox On One-Bar MMOs, And Other Thoughts On A Crazy Day In Game News

Today was a crazy day for game news. Massively posted a rumor of an Elder Scrolls MMO announcement coming in May. We’ve known Bethesda has had a secret project going for a while, but few thought it would be Elder Scrolls. It’s such a weird option when your strategy of rolling out single-player zones of Tamriel is already so profitable.

Then we had the Diablo 3 announcement–release date May 15. We also heard a semi-exciting announcement from Overhaul Games at Baldur’–they’ve got a new, updated and expanded version of those two grand old classics coming to the PC. Also in the old school genre, Wasteland 2 has garnered well over one million dollars in a couple days via Kickstarter. Massively has an interview with Brian Fargo on this here.

I will plan to play both Baldur’s Gate and Wasteland 2. Wasteland, the spiritual predecessor for the Fallout games, was a great favorite of mine back in the day when these party-based games were popular. These games aren’t so popular any more–they require some tedious party-based play commands, pauses, and inventory management.

Maybe we have Bioware to thank for a revitalization of this genre, although Bioware notably simplified Dragon Age 2 after almost making a mockery of their assertion that Dragon Age: Origins was a spiritual successor of Baldur’s Gate 2. It wasn’t really close. BG2 had like a hundred spells. Multi-classing among several classes.

Yes, everything else was there in DA:O, but shortly after buying it on release for PS3 and playing, I was at the forums ranting. I was disappointed that I was playing a dumbed-down console game in comparison to BG2, which was supposedly the inspiration. I haven’t bought a new console release since then.

That’s a perfect segue to the main topic of this post–WTF Secret World? Massively had an article up this morning that pulled me in like a girl in a candy store with a reference to lesbian sex, and it only got better with the description of a classless system with 500 available skills.

Your skill loadout is only seven active skills, though. Seven? And here I was thinking that my main objection to playing Guild Wars 2, after playing GW1 to the original campaign cap and experiencing the system, was having to use only one skill bar with about 10 skills.

Yes, I understand how there are weapon-based skills in GW2, and I assume you can swap these in combat. Maybe I’m spoiled by LotRO with 5-6 12-slot bars all full of wonderful things, but I just can’t grasp how seven or even ten skills at any given time is going to hold my interest.

You can argue that I’m way off base here because you have a lot more skills you can swap in and out. Still. Great combat is like poetry, and it’s no fun to write poetry with only seven words. Did you ever write a haiku, like back in high school? It’s a five-seven-five structure. Let’s try writing a haiku with only seven words.

Slash, Gut, Interrupt.
Buff, Trip, Overhead Smash, Poke.
Slash, Gut, Interrupt.

That’s right. Even with a haiku, my darling orc-slaying comrades, we had to repeat words to make a haiku because our words were not epic polysyllabic. Now consider a sonnet. Now an epic poem. Would you more enjoy writing haikus for a couple hundred hours if you had thirty or even five hundred more words that you could switch out, but you could still only use seven at a time? No, not really. Only an obsessed poetry freak would enjoy that.

Secret World has been mostly dismissive about plans to go console. Maybe they are wary about the time frame–the current consoles are near the end of their lifespan. Maybe it’s their game engine and mature subject matter. Guild Wars is more ambitious. They have more like 10-12 skills on their bar, with the advantage of the available skills tied to weapons you can swap. I don’t know the exact number. We kitties have appplied to the SW and GW2 betas, but we are not yet invited.

I’m not necessarily pontificating that GW2 or Secret World are dumbed down compared to LotRO and WoW, but they look that way. I know there are nuances of the Secret World system that I’m missing here, and I’ve watched the GW2 videos on Mesmer combat and the tricks seem interesting, but you’re still using the same skills and rotations over and over, even if someone else’s skill is combining to catch your skills on fire or coating them with space dust or something.

It’s just a wee bit disappointing. That sounds so geeky and disappointment posts are so stale, but I want these MMOs to be amazing and wonderful as much as anyone. I also heard from Keen that Diablo 3 removed skill trees. Too puzzling? Too complicated? Too tedious? Let’s use ellipses for this one. …

Diablo 3 skill tree discussion. Bashiok on said discussion. Secret World is scheduled for release on June 19th. Still no date for GW2, but pre-orders should be available on April 10. I admit that I’m a little excited for both of these titles, which are bringing no shortage of great and interesting things to the table besides skill bars. I bought Rift at launch because I played the beta. Same situation here. I want to see the betas.

Further Reading:

NowGamer Interview with Secret World content designer Joel Bylos