The Secret World is a deeply splendid game which brings with it some intriguing game-play elements, but it also remains a little bit buggy in places, as is the Funcom way. Certain quests are particularly susceptible to bugging-out, quite often when more than one player is trying to activate a step or solve a problem at the same time.
Investigation quests are one of the more interesting elements of the game, requiring players to use lateral thinking and powers of deduction to solve a chain of clues and riddles in order to resolve a mystery. Some of the answers to this particular type of quest are really quite obscure, and often require a significant leap of intuition on the part of the player.
But the really fun part comes when, after hours of increasingly more ludicrous attempts at solving the problem, with one’s character hanging upside down from a street lamp by one leg, with underpants on its head, candles in its ears, and its naked body covered in marmalade, one gives up in frustration and looks up the solution online, only to find that the quest is bugged and that the correct solution was, indeed, to simply put the key in the lock.
There is a hard disk in my PC which is a graveyard for MMOs. An incredibly large and ponderous device, it is the ghostly oil tanker devoid of life, which drifts in an eternal bank of fog, whose hold is filled with an abandoned cargo of games past. The swift and nimble Zodiacs I use for the day-to-day traversing of the great gaming sea are both small and light, and thus carry only the bare MMO necessities—those few games which I currently play.
Upon entering the graveyard of MMOs, every folder is a beige pixel-hewn tombstone, every directory name prefaced in my mind by ‘Herein lies…’.
“Herein lies Lord of the Rings Online.
Long time friend.
Who got a bit boring and greedy
sometime near the end.”
I let my mouse cursor—virtual fingertip—wander across the surface of these hierarchical graves, tracing the memories captured in the names written there. Often I must resist exhuming a game, the swelling tide of happy remembrance threatening to breach the weakening resolve of my cynical defence against emotional floods. Usually I can content myself with browsing through old screenshots, as perfect as the day I took them – our picture albums no longer fade along with our memories.
Rarely do I attempt to resurrect a game from its magnetised mausoleum, but often I wish myself a Frankenstein of files, able to take a perfect piece from this crypt, some small segment from this other, and thence hammer and hew, stretch sinew and stitch, until my meisterwerk takes form. Would it be a monster? Would it be misunderstood? Could the best of what has come before be combined in a such a way that it still formed a whole, one which was greater even than the sum of these mighty parts? Perhaps Vanguard’s quiet lonely lumbering at the edge of MMO society has already answered this.
I dragged another vault to the graveyard of MMOs today: farewell Tera, I have fond memories of what you were, and sad thoughts of what you could have been. Now my Zodiac is loaded with The Secret World and Guild Wars 2, and as I push myself away from that leviathan of expired MMOs, before opening the outboard of my enthusiasm, I bask in the feeling that I won’t have need to return for quite some time.
Play the game, not the UI
Now, you might be thinking, “Hey, game designer! That’s about the stupidest thing ever typed.” And it kind of is. How else are you going to play the game? The way we mean it is: Since we are creating a living online world in which you heroically spend your time, we want you to viscerally experience that world.
Ben Miller, Game Designer, ArenaNet.
I know a certain set of MMO developers think that all players are dribbling innocents whose pretty little minds are preoccupied throughout the day by nothing but kittens and lollipops, but players have been talking about this for some time. No, really.
Respect the player
We respect you—as a player, as a human being.
“We think you’re clueless. But we respect you for it.”
It’s wonderful that you’re making a game for players, ArenaNet, truly. But could you stop making out that you’re single-handedly re-inventing the genre? When what you’re actually doing is implementing various features that players have been requesting (and subsequently been ignored over) for years.
What we have are these ‘buttons’, and you can ‘press’ them to activate ‘abilities’. We want you to be able to intuitively control your character’s actions using the input device of your PC.
Okay, okay, I made that last one up.
Melmoth—resignedly awaiting the invention of the device which allows ArenaNet to patronisingly ruffle one’s hair over the Internet.
I wonder if Funcom should start a timer running when the end-user license agreement pops up on the patcher for The Secret World. I’d like to know the average time a player spends reading it.
I managed “End-user Agreement. PLEASE READ CAREF—” before the natural instincts of my index finger, honed over years of MMO quest accepting, and moving faster than the speed of thought, slammed itself knuckle-first from the top rope onto my mouse button while screaming “WHATEVER!”. I think that’s a new record of endurance for me.
The nice thing about accepting quests in The Secret World is that the nature of the game encourages you to stay a while and listen. Clues and hints, as well as atmospheric snippets of lore, are contained in the dialogue, and although the pertinent quest text is always included in the player’s journal, there are often still very useful titbits to be had by listening to the whole story from the NPC quest-giver. Not to mention the fact that the stories are simply compelling.
For me, the difference between The Secret World and Star Wars: The Old Republic is that the conversations in TSW seem bigger somehow. Most quests (outside of the main story) in SWTOR seemed no more than idle incidental background to excuse getting the player to kill ten womprats, whereas every quest dialogue in TSW seems to be part of a greater whole—part of a connected universe. Yes, even the ones getting you to go and kill ten zombrats. Ragnar Tørnquist has always been a great storyteller; whether you enjoyed The Longest Journey series as a game or not, it’s hard to deny that an epic tale is told within. I think a lot of Tørnquist’s talent shines through in the overarching story of TSW, which is revealed as much through the amalgamate of minor tales divulged with every quest, as it is through the main story quest; something which makes this small world feel more authentic than an entire galaxy of quests, far, far away.
The Secret World once again puts the lore in explore—one of the aspects of play which I’ve been missing in MMOs for quite some time.
Undead doesn’t count, I’ve checked.
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:
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.
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!
Melmoth’s rules of altitus:
- You can only ever be satisfied with your character’s appearance or class, never both.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- It’s never too late to re-roll for the superior beard option.
- Nobody is playing class X until you switch to it, and then everyone is.
- 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.
- All classes are the best class ever for the first twenty levels.
- 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.
- 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.
- New race or class in an expansion? Alt. Hit a bit of a levelling hump? Alt. Logged-in to the game today? Alt.
- The secret gateway to altitus is opened with the magic phrase “This is definitely going to be my main character, guys”.
- 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.
- Altitus is most often contracted when receiving the seventy fifth incremental upgrade to a rarely used utility skill.
- 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.
- They’re not alts, they’re the pixelated vahana for my chronically fractured personality.
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.”
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]”
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–
Yes, thank you Colin.
Join us next week for another exciting episode of: McHeroflake’s adventures in MMOland!
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.
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’.
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.
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.
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.
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.