Three may keep a secret, if two of them are dead.

melmoth, mmo, the secret world 8 Comments »

Undead doesn’t count, I’ve checked.

Just a quick update to present my character, who has been working tirelessly to keep secrets through the naturally occurring persuasive properties of the shotgun and dual pistols.

And yes, the astute amongst you many have noticed the subtle badge on her jacket. I am indeed playing a Templar, and just in case any one was wondering why, I suppose I’d better post this again:
Templar Forever
I have to say it’s been an incredibly smooth launch by Funcom so far. There have been a few understandable hiccoughs due to the initial server load, with ‘pre-order’ items taking a while to turn up in one’s inventory, and the servers throwing the occasional thread-fart, but otherwise it’s been a surprisingly painless initial sortie. Such has been my experience, at least.
Now, back to keeping those secrets. So many secrets; so many keepers who aren’t me. I’m going to need a lot of ammunition.

Posted by Melmoth at 2:17 pm

All that is not eternal is eternally out of date.

guild wars 2, melmoth, mmo 5 Comments »

That’s right folks, the Date of Dates is upon us: we now know for certain that September 28th is the date when huge sections of the MMO community will be whining that they’re bored and are desperate to know the release dates for Firefall and Wildstar!

Posted by Melmoth at 2:24 pm

Go stick your head in a pig

h2g2, zoso Comments Off

From the opening bass slap of a cracking version of Pink Floyd’s One of These Days, the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Radio Show Live! was a fantastic evening. At its heart is a good chunk of the original cast plus very able support, enhanced by a band, live Foley artists, a wonderfully animated Marvin constructed from audio equipment, and a Guest Book (Clive Anderson in Woking, other books to include Phil Jupitus, Terry Jones and Neil Gaiman).

The first half follows the fairly common-across-versions tribulations of Arthur losing his house and planet and the resulting journey to Magrathea; I can’t get the jingle of Sirius Cybernetics out of my head at the moment, hence the post title, after singing along to it, conducted by a Nutrimatic Drink Dispenser. The second half is a touch disjointed, chucking in random (and indeed Random) elements of the latter books/phases, though a pleasing wibbley-wobbley timey-wimey device fits everything into such canon as is possible within Adams’ stated aims that each adaptation should contradict the previous one, and any lack of cohesiveness is made up for by set pieces like the mixing of a Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster and the cast busting some deeply funky moves to the 1981 disco classic Marvin.

Two Sub-Etha thumbs firmly up; if you’re a Hitchhiker’s fan and can get to one of the shows you really should. If you can’t, and you’re in the UK, each show is available for £9.99 for 7 days. I’m rather tempted to get one with a different Book for a bit of a change, but can’t decide which one…

Posted by Zoso at 12:27 pm

Once I make up my mind, I’m full of indecision.

melmoth, mmo 10 Comments »

Melmoth’s rules of altitus:

  1. You can only ever be satisfied with your character’s appearance or class, never both.
  2. If at any point you consider yourself satisfied with both your character’s appearance and class, it is guaranteed that in the next five minutes you will see another player whose appearance or class appeals to you more than your current one.
  3. During the pre-launch hype for a game, the more certain you are that a class is right for you, the more certain it is that you’ll end-up playing an entirely different class altogether come launch.
  4. Finding yourself happy with both your character’s appearance and class for any length of time is a strong indicator that you’ve picked the wrong faction.
  5. It’s never too late to re-roll for the superior beard option.
  6. Nobody is playing class X until you switch to it, and then everyone is.
  7. If you’re a tank, then your guild is ninety percent tanks; if you’re a healer, then your guild is ninety percent healers; if you’re DPS, then there are no tanks or healers in your guild. Any attempt to rectify the situation automatically invokes rule 6.
  8. All classes are the best class ever for the first twenty levels.
  9. You’ll always think of the perfect name for your character after you’ve been playing for quite some time, but well before a paid character rename is justifiable.
  10. Altitus is an affliction in the same psychological family as inveterate shoe shopping, trying to pick the fastest line at the checkout, and deciding which sweet to pick from a tin of Cadbury Roses.
  11. New race or class in an expansion? Alt. Hit a bit of a levelling hump? Alt. Logged-in to the game today? Alt.
  12. The secret gateway to altitus is opened with the magic phrase “This is definitely going to be my main character, guys”.
  13. In the extremely unlikely event that you’re entirely happy with everything about your character, you will invariably make the mistake of reading the official forums, thus learning all the myriad ways in which your character’s class, faction and beard choice suck horribly compared to everyone else.
  14. Altitus is most often contracted when receiving the seventy fifth incremental upgrade to a rarely used utility skill.
  15. Alternativa, Goddess of Alts, is a harsh mistress who will only grant an extra character slot upon the ritual sacrifice of one of your existing stable of characters.
  16. They’re not alts, they’re the pixelated vahana for my chronically fractured personality.
Posted by Melmoth at 9:25 am

McHeroflake’s adventures in MMOland.

maim, melmoth, mmo 5 Comments »

This week, on McHeroflake’s adventures in MMOland…

Mr J Neric (MSc, PhD, NPC): “Ah, Sir Lord Precious McHeroflake, thank goodness you’re here!”

McHeroflake: “Don’t thank goodness, thank the level-gated predestinated quest hub system!”

Neric: “Righhhht… Anyway, we need you to infiltrate a secret society of secret secretness and discover…”

McHeroflake: “Whether condensed milk comes from really small cows?”

Neric: “Ye-! No. We need you to discover… their secret!”

McHeroflake: “You hear that Mr. Anderson?… That is the sound of inevitability.”

Neric: “Who’s Mr Anderson?”

McHeroflake: “Someone who would have just loved MMOs.”

Neric: “…”

McHeroflake: “You wouldn’t know him.”

Neric: “Ha, well, I don’t know many people, really; I mean, I haven’t left this precise spot in seven years. There’s just Colin, way over there, and that’s about it. ALL RIGHT COLIN?!”

Colin: “VENDOR IT UP YER ARSE!”

Neric: “Hah hah, RIGHTHO COLIN! Colin went a bit mad several years back after an adventurer discovered that he sold a certain item for less than he paid for it. He was exploited for days before it was discovered, and was sore for months afte–”

McHeroflake: “Fascinating! Now, about this secret society…”

Neric: “Right! Sorry! Right. Well, I’ve no idea *how* you’re going to find them, but we did receive several reports from unlicensed members of the deck department of passing merchant ships, reports which indicate that the secret society operated somewhere near the cliffs south of this village. Unfortunately all the messengers died of poisoning shortly thereafter. Yes, [shakes head sadly] many boatswains died to bring us this information.”

McHeroflake: [Behind hand] “(That’ll only work if they know how to pronounce boatswain)”

Neric: [Behind hand] “(They’ll have to look it up)”

McHeroflake: “Well, I don’t hold out much hope in finding them, then. But I will take your quest, little man. I will take your quest… for honour! For justice! And for a small armour upgrade which will probably look garish and hideous when I equip it. Could you just mark the place on my map?”

Neric: “Certainly. There you go.”

McHeroflake: “Excellent! And could you just hang a small glowing neon arrow in front my head which points the way?”

Neric: [sigh] “There.”

McHeroflake: “Very well, now – to adventure!”

[several hours later]

McHeroflake: “Well this is the place on the map; now to see if I can ingratiate myself with the locals and discover the precise whereabouts and operations of this secret society. Hmm, there’s a gaggle of people standing in the middle of that field over there, I’ll start with them.”

McHeroflake: “Hoy! I say! You there, with the name over your head [squints]… ‘Secret Society Bruiser’. What are you doing standing around aimlessly in this field? And do you know anything of a secret society around here?”

Secret Society Bruiser: “Dieeeeee!”

McHeroflake: “Eeep! I don’t want to fight! I was just trying to find some information… [runs]”

Secret Society Bruiser: “You can’t escape me! I will chase you forever! To the ends of the earth, I will hunt you until the end of days! You cannot hide from me, you ca… Oh buggerit, I can’t be bothered [runs back to the field]”

[later]

McHeroflake: [Creeping tentatively back] “I– I say. Secret Society Bruiser.”

Secret Society Bruiser: “…”

McHeroflake: “Hoy! I’m talking to you. Yes *you*! Coo-ee! [Waves] Hellooooo!”

Secret Society Bruiser: “I can’t talk to you!”

McHeroflake: “Well clearly you can…”

Secret Society Bruiser: “No, I mean, I can’t talk to you. You’ll need to get a bit closer.”

McHeroflake: “But we *are* talking, are we not?”

Secret Society Bruiser: “Well, yes but–”

McHeroflake: “So why would I need to come any closer? I can talk to you just fine from way over here. Sound waves travel quite some distance in air, you know.”

Secret Society Bruiser: “Just a little closer, that’s all. If you could just come within, oh I dunno, five yards of me…”

McHeroflake: “Five yards, you say? But wouldn’t that put me inside the big red circle that you’re standing in the middle of?”

Secret Society Bruiser: [Looking guilty] “Maybe…”

McHeroflake: “And if I step inside that circle?”

Secret Society Bruiser: “I’ll probably talk to you.”

McHeroflake: “And by ‘talk’ you mean …?”

Secret Society Bruiser: “I couldn’t possibly say.”

Will McHeroflake get close to the Secret Society Bruiser?
Does the Secret Society Bruiser know anything about the secret society?
Will Colin ever say anything nice ever ag–

Colin: “TRASHLOOTINGFEKKERS!”

Yes, thank you Colin.
Join us next week for another exciting episode of: McHeroflake’s adventures in MMOland!

Posted by Melmoth at 11:59 am

Manicdotes.

manicdotes, melmoth, mmo 5 Comments »

KiaSA presents: another amalgam of Melmoth’s disjointed thoughts for your delectation and edification.

Tired of it

I was guiding an NPC through one of Tera’s many fields of Death and Blood (they never want to go to the fields of Fairies and Fondant Fancies, do they?). It was the usual story: he was an archaeologist whose hobbies included ‘exploring local ruins’ and ‘being eaten by the local wildlife'; I was a ripped half-dragon with a greatsword and a penchant for the wholesale slaughter of anything with a pulse. Together our names spelled out ADVENTURE! If ‘adventure’ had a few more ‘s’s in it; and an ‘h'; and was spelled ‘shitstorm’.

It started off ordinarily enough, with him walking blithely into huge groups of angry beastmen, and then looking shocked when they proposed skinning and eating him. I would wade in at that point, offering a sharp six foot steel rebuttal to their proposition, and the archaeologist would stand to one side doing nothing. Well, that wasn’t strictly true, because it was while I was buried beneath a particularly insistent group of beastmen, who were arguing –with great vehemence and stone axes– that I should let them eat my escort, that the archaeologist offered his input on the debate by stretching, looking around in a bored fashion and then… yawning.

Yawning is it? Right then. Right. Then. Thus, I put my final argument to the current group of beastmen, to which they showed their assent by lying down and dying, and then I moved off in the opposite direction to the archaeologist. It took a while for the quest to fail, and I can only hope that it was as a result of the beastmen taking their time to devour him.

Then I went back to camp, waited for him to re-spawn, and sent him off again, while I cooked popcorn over his camp fire.

Expressive

There have been some recent patches for The Secret World which have markedly improved various aspects of the game, but I’m still waiting for the patch that adds in more character facial expressions than ‘ambivalent shop dummy’ and ‘surprised inflatable sex doll’.

Hold still

Speaking of The Secret World, as more proof of developers not learning from easily corrected mistakes of the past, we have yet another example of my old favourite: having the character model fidget randomly during creation. For goodness’ sake, it’s like trying to wipe the mouth of a toddler.

Head back, please.
Look at me. Now head back.
No. Head -back-.
Your other back.
Thank you. Now we just need to do wipies…
Keep your head still.
Still!
And -back-!
BACK!
Look at m… Jus–no… jus… ove–back; please will you look at me and–no don’t look at the… the cat doesn’t -need- wiping!
Great, now I’ve managed to wipe the food into your ear. Put your head on its side so I can get it out.
The side.
N-no, that’s putting your head… [through gritted teeth] back.

I’m tempted from now on in MMOs to simply pick the most mismatched garish combination of make-up and facial options I can find (the ‘applied make-up on a rollercoaster’ look) and when anyone asks I’ll just say “Oh, she wouldn’t stay still in the character creator”, to which I expect them to nod in sad understanding and say no more.

Fly! Bye!

Turbine have released a new promotional video for Lord of the Ring Online’s next expansion, Riders of Rohan. As if to prove categorically that I’ve reached a point where their development of LotRO no longer interests me, the video turns out to be a fairly generic fly-by of Rohan’s landscapes and villages.

The windmill is at 0:32, by the way, for those of you playing at home.

Posted by Melmoth at 10:48 am

Achtung! Gerschtompen

games, mechwarrior online, zoso 5 Comments »

Excitement over Mechwarrior Online has been on a cautiously low simmer since last year’s announcement. From the details that have emerged it sounds quite similar to World of Tanks in both gameplay and payment structures, only with Battlemechs rather than tanks as you’d hope, otherwise something would have really gone wrong in the design process. I like World of Tanks, I like Battlemechs, so that’s big robo-thumbs up from me.

An interesting snippet from E3 was Razer announcing a concept controller for the game, the Artemis, finally something to rival the fabled Steel Battalion controller as the holy grail for setting up your own mech cockpit at home; I’d be lying if said I wasn’t tempted, but with Razer charging £120 for a *mouse*, chances are it’ll be cheaper to build a time machine to hop forward to the year 3049 and rip the console out of an actual mech.

More practically Piranha games announced Founders packages for sale yesterday, a chance to pick up some bonus in-game currency and, on the more expensive packages, Founders Mechs. The game will initially launch with North American servers only, but Russ Bullock, president of Piranha Games, posted “Yes you can buy the Founders Package and you will never be blocked from continuing to play on the North American servers. Also if we are able to set up servers in your region you will be given a onetime opportunity to transfer to those regions servers taking everything you own with you.” It’s something of a gamble, but I rather regret not taking up a similar offer in World of Tanks, so I’ll probably bite the bullet (or AC5 shell, as appropriate).

Posted by Zoso at 10:17 am

Overheard in /LFG

waffle, zoso 6 Comments »

“LFT for dungeon”
“LFT? What does that stand for?”
“Looking For Tank”
“I don’t think so, sunshine. This is a flexible game, a utopia of endless choice, free from the pigeonholing that bedevils other systems and their restrictive roles, we’ll have none of that nonsense.”
“Oh, all right. LFP (Looking For Player) for dungeon…”
“That’s better”
“… WHSSAASTTATATAOMTBTAHFSSAACBAACOAAWTATTAOAMOTDTWSRFTAAWDOBOFSIEIATATFSGOAA.”
“Huh?”
“… who has selected skills and abilities such that they’re able to attract the attention of monster-type-beast things, and has further selected skills and abilities, complemented by an appropriate choice of armour and weaponry, that allow them to absorb or avoid much of the damage that would surely result from the aforementioned attention with damage output being of frankly secondary importance, except insofar as to achieve the first-specified goal of attention attracting. PST.”

Posted by Zoso at 8:52 am

Manicdotes.

manicdotes, melmoth, mmo 7 Comments »

It’s in the Diogenes

“There are many men in London, you know, who, some from shyness, some from misanthropy, have no wish for the company of their fellows. Yet they are not averse to comfortable chairs and the latest periodicals. It is for the convenience of these that the Diogenes Club was started, and it now contains the most unsociable and unclubable men in town. No member is permitted to take the least notice of any other one. Save in the Stranger’s Room, no talking is, under any circumstances, allowed, and three offences, if brought to the notice of the committee, render the talker liable to expulsion. My brother was one of the founders, and I have myself found it a very soothing atmosphere.”
                         — Sherlock Holmes in The Greek Interpreter.

A club which, it struck me, seems evident in many MMOs, and to which I must confess I have occasionally found myself a member.

Episodic levels

I took to listening to episodes of the Cabin Pressure radio comedy show whilst pottering around in Dungeons & Dragons Online. So far I’ve finished two whole series, and still haven’t made it from level seven to level eight. It may be the case that I’m ‘doing it wrong’, but with a Lesser Tome of Learning (permanent XP gain boost) and a knowledge of the dungeons I was running, I think that perhaps two series of a comedy show is too long per level. I’m more of a three-episodes-per-level sort of chap, or perhaps two reasonable length podcasts.

I’ll be interested to see how many Cabin Pressure episodes it takes to gain a level in Guild Wars 2, especially as I believe that the claim was made that each level in Guild Wars 2 should take about the same amount of time. Eighty levels, at three Cabin Pressure episodes per level, sounds like… a lot of comedy, still. Perhaps one for the MMO examination board?

Question 14. If an MMO has eighty levels and takes a minimum of three episodes of Cabin Pressure per level, at what character level will the player be able to recite the entire first three series verbatim whilst drunk at an MMO guild BBQ? Show all working out.

For a bonus mark: How many episodes of Monty Python would be equivalent?
Note: You may use the standard unit of Mighty Boosh to convert between episodes, but must show your working out.

If you like a lot of schadenfreude on your biscuit.

Upon finding myself a member of the Diogenes Club in an MMO, one of my pet hates is players who seem to follow you around for no apparent reason other than to nab whatever mob or gatherable item you are after. Sometimes it seems like deliberate griefing, and other times you’re simply the victim of the harmless coincidence of MMOs requiring every unique and special heroflake to be original and different in exactly the same way, in exactly the same location.

I was playing an MMO recently and had been suffering the attentions of one of these folks; I was rapidly coming to the conclusion that it was neither naive innocence nor a noble desire to come to my aid which was driving their actions. I trotted down the road to put a distance between myself and this other player, and happened to notice a glowing canister lying on the ground. In my curiosity I decided to click it, and got a message that

“This can of gasoline will detonate in 3 seconds… 2 seconds…”

I quickly ran away from the object and looked back in time to see Mr Me Too! run up to the same canister (ignoring all the other glowing canisters in the area), whereupon it promptly detonated, taking fully half his health bar away. He stopped following me after that.

And now I’ll forever be disappointed in any MMO where I can’t booby trap the clickies and gatherables.

Posted by Melmoth at 11:01 am

I never worry about action, but only about inaction.

ddo, guild wars 2, melmoth, mmo, tera 1 Comment »

Oftentimes my thoughts are a sparkling variegated cloud of fractured conceptions and convictions, a myriad array of crystal-shard fish which attempt to coalesce around a central conclusion, but continually billow and implode as sharks of uncertainty dash with writhen voracity through their midst. Contemplating the whole is to draw a conclusion from the ideas reflected in a mirror ball of madness, yet picking out one thought is to isolate it from the rest, where its now-muted rainbow facets are more easily considered, but also more readily exposed to the gape-mawed predations of incertitude.

This certainly describes my state of mind when contemplating action combat in MMOs, specifically when contrasting the forms of combat found in Dungeons & Dragons Online, Tera and Guild Wars 2. I think I like Tera’s version best, then GW2’s, and finally DDO’s, but when I try to formulate a reason why, I end up chasing a conclusion around my head as a kitten chases a spot of reflected light, where each attempt to grasp it is more frantic and furious than the previous one, until at last I am so confused and demented by my fruitless efforts that I inadvertently attack myself and burst, in carpet-tearing panic, from my place on the floor. And later, Mrs Melmoth has to coax me out from behind the sofa with a scrap of cooked chicken.

It seems to me that what we mean by action combat in MMOs can be pared down into a few constituent forms: targeting, movement and reaction. Sometimes these forms overlap: movement out of an area of danger is often combined with the reaction of responding to an enemy’s telegraphed attack – the archetypal dodge mechanic. My kitten-like flailings around the topic were no closer to reaching illumination, as all three games provide similar combat mechanisms. There’s also the fact that I feel I don’t have enough experience with Guild Wars 2’s combat to compare it fully to Tera or DDO, because I’ve yet to try PvP or dungeon instances in GW2, in which I expect movement and reaction will be required to a much higher standard than in the early levels of the game.

I do think DDO –although still fabulously refreshing compared to traditional rock ‘em sock ‘em MMOs– loses out somewhat to the other two. It was the first of the three, of course, and thus has the disadvantage of time and technology having moved on, but I think its biggest constraint was that it had to marry action combat with the traditional dice-based system of D&D – more a shotgun wedding than a marriage of common interests.

Thus I’m still not sure why I prefer one style of action combat over another, what with them sharing similar core mechanisms. Perhaps, in the end, it’s ‘the whole package’ which sets one system apart – that it has become more than the sum of its parts in some ineffable way. Still, I’ll take comfort from the fact that I know one thing for certain: I really enjoy action combat in MMOs. I should probably try to experience other fine specimens; I’ve never bothered to play Vindictus, to my shame. Maybe with greater experience will come greater understanding, or maybe it will just be adding more fish to the shoal of my confusion; either way, I’m rather excited to see how this area of the MMO genre develops in the future, because, for me at least, it feels like a step along a new and exciting path.

Posted by Melmoth at 11:10 am
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