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:

The Secret World Beta: Reaction And Mini-Review

did not loadYolari and I jumped into The Secret World beta this weekend, and as I secretly suspected, my reactions were mixed. Overall I was pleasantly surprised, but as others are saying, this game is high quality but also a little sketchy in the bright lights of “primetime”–a release in a couple weeks. I’m not going to write a lot. I haven’t gotten that far.

The Positives.

The Secret World delivers a lot of surprises. Humor is especially present in the Illuminati intro. The Templar intro is maybe the best. The Dragon intro tries to be thought-provoking and Matrix-like. I wanted it to make sense. I’m not sure it did.

The game art is gorgeous in a creative way. The music is wonderful. The combat is fast-paced and slick, although I had fatal lagging with the double-tap dodge feature. The game was loading slowly, so on a few occasions I saw both ladies and men buck naked. These issues might be due to my underpowered CPU.

The graphics are really nice, as you’d expect for a game with steep system requirements. TSW looks a better than Rift and SWTOR on my machine. It isn’t low-end friendly. I’m working on getting a new gaming computer as of today. I do want to play this game.

The most fun I had in the beta was making a character that I liked, pictured at the above left. (I suspect she is one of those beta characters that you fall in love with, but can never quite duplicate in the actual game.) Yolari also liked her character except for the fact that she looks 30-something. There’s nothing wrong with that, but that’s not what she was going for. (See her avatar below–that’s from an un-retouched screenshot on LOW settings.)

TSW gives you a first name, last name, and nickname (handle). This is a nice feature. You can be named Joe just like a hundred other Joes if you want, while the handle is natural and immersive instead of meta like your account handle in Champions (maybe they changed that since launch–I don’t know).

There may be issues when all conceivable nicknames have been used. In the beta alone, I was unable to get my first five or six attempts at nicknames, including “Silver, “Silverangel”, “Rainie”, “Rainy”, and “Junebug”.

There were a lot of scruffy guys running about, and bikinis seemed more popular than my own lovely business attire. The clothing overall seems more Saint’s Row than Secret World to me. It was announced that the store will sell clothing. This seems like a good note to go to the negatives.

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The Negatives.

The worst part of the game in the beginning is not the cash shops to buy clothes–it’s a shortage of immersion. This is caused by three things: the NPCs, the character creator, and a lack of background.

The NPCs in TSW are actually great, and the full voice-overs are amazing. On the other hand, almost all of the NPC’s are serious, prickish intellectual types, and they tend to be forgettable. None of them are your friends. In fact, the first NPCs you meet tell you that you’ll never see them again. So. You can forget about them. They aren’t just forgettable–they are literally forgettable.

If you played Vampire: Bloodlines, you surely remember Smiling Jack. You’re a fledgling vampire in that game, and Jack is your early mentor. He smiles. He shows you the ropes. He calls you “kiddo” and makes you feel warm, fuzzy, and full of tasty blood.

The introductions in The Secret World really need Smiling Jacks. By the time I’d played through the three intros to the merging of everyone into Kingsmouth, there wasn’t a faction that felt like a happy home or like any organization I’m dying to join, and no NPC who felt like he or she cared about me. It’s better than the Age Of Conan escaped slave with amnesia, but I had no idea who I really was or who the factions really were, which leads to the next points.

Character creation is underpowered compared to Age of Conan. According to what I’ve heard, the betas have some fraction of what Funcom will offer at launch, otherwise this feature might lose more players than anything else. For example, I thought it was hard or impossible to make a very young or old-looking female or a good-looking (Asian) Dragon female. The sliders were also kind of a pain.

I also didn’t feel the intro sequences got me into my character. Like the Illuminati trainer, Director la Guardia, says–he doesn’t know how or why I have these abilities–the important thing, more or less, is to use them to kick butt. Yeah, no. I wanted to know more than this about my character and the world. A Bioware bushel more, preferably. I was called upon to jump in and start saving the world, but I didn’t know what the world was.

The Templars actually do a decent job of helping you figure out what the snap is going on, and all that with smashing British accents. Maybe I’m missing a massive in-game lorebook that I need to be reading. I click lore things and they disappear. No icon. No idea. No debuff icons on monsters either. This is a longstanding pet peeve, along with the tooltips that literally say things like “Does a lot of damage, plus a damage over time“. That’s wonderful. Is a “lot” more than a bushel, or less?

I haven’t done a lot of combat and character development yet, but as I’ve mentioned in other posts, I’m not sure seven active skills will hold interest. You use builders and finishers. I’d like to use a sword with magic like my old Vampire: Bloodlines character. This is apparently possible using the “deck” system, for example the Ninja and Gunslinger decks have both physical and magic attacks. That’s still only 7 skills to choose from in battle.

I kept having the nagging feeling while playing the Secret World beta that this game is what I’d like World of Darkness to be. Sadly, these factions are apparently vampire-haters, especially the Templars. The Templars are an arrogant, self-righteous faction who apparently look down on non-human races as abominations to be purged. The bottom image is from the Templar blade training. Yes, that’s a living creature that he’s having Yolari hack on for practice.

We’re thinking about roleplaying vampires undercover in the Illuminati–as a consolation prize for no playable vampires (that I know of). I have no idea why these otherwise civilized factions are compelled to kill each other en masse, but if you’re a Templar, the kitties will see you PvP-side. We’ll see who bleeds.

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Wow Item Creator

The Wow item creator site has been around for a long time. I was inspired and played with it tonight. If you haven’t ever seen it, it’s worth looking at. Note that the site may not be censored much for adult content, like WoW itself. Haha.

In other news, I finally got a beta invite today–just like everyone else who has ever registered for The Secret World beta. Between this and trying to get my Captain to 75 in LotRO, there’s a big gaming weekend on the way. I just hope I can run TSW. The words “equivalent AMD CPU” don’t help me much, but if my computer finally melts, it’s a perfect excuse to buy a new one.

If you would like a free preview of The Secret World during its final open beta weekend, you should know that it’s not too late, per the FAQ. You just need to register by this Friday! (Notice that I used an exclamation point, so either I’m excited or I’ve been reading too many LotRO store advertisements.)

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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