I am not interested in playing ANYTHING!
That’s an exaggeration, of course, but it’s not that far off. Over the past week, I’ve had some rough days at work. So, I’ve come home feeling like relaxing, I sit down at my PC, fire it up, and then I do…nothing. I check the Book of Face or Twitter or some random article that catches my attention. The last thing I’ve wanted to do is game. This is not like me, but then, we all go through these downtimes.
To be honest, I have felt a bit burned out. Take The Secret World’s augment grind as a reason for burning out, for example. Those scenarios are just brimming with decent loot and ability points, but they do get old quick. I mean, as Joel Bylos said in the latest November 2013 Game Director’s letter, Scenarios are really tuned to be an epic end game grind. I haven’t done all the full calculations yet, but my preliminary calculations are showing me that, oh dear lord, a grind is an understatement. And there is nothing wrong with that. A grind really works for MMOs. Games that theoretically never end should really never have an ending. So if you do every quest, every dungeon, and explore every corner, there should still be something there to strive for. Plus, I think people secretly really like the grind.
But not me. I’ll generally grind if there is a specific item to grind for, and then once that item is attained, I’ve always found my desire to play satiated. For example, last year I was all about playing the Winter content in Star Trek Online. I even got the big fantastic Breen ship that you acquired after running the same daily mission 25 times! And you know what I did with my new ship? Absolutely nothing. It’s still sitting there unopened in my bank. So this year, Star Trek Online brought back the Winter zone, with all kinds of fun new extra things, and my want to play it is nonexistant. Not to say it wasn’t fun last year. It was a good time. But I know I’ll put in all that effort, get the ship… and then it, too, will languish in my bank. I might log back in to check it out, check out the new Dyson Sphere, the dinosaurs with fricking laser beams, the new Worf mission, etc… just as soon as the mood strikes. … Anyday now… Whenever you’re ready mood…
So what else is there? I’ve been checking out a bit of my other purchases, like Final Fantasy VII, picked up in Steam’s latest Autumn Sale (Oh yea, I haven’t been in the mood to play anything, but yet, that hasn’t stopped me from buying more games… I really do have a problem, don’t I…). I never played it the first time around, and it’s been fun so far. Also, Humble’s Weekly Sale had a title that I couldn’t resist dropping a few bucks for: Manos: The Hands of Fate.
Yes, based on THE Manos: The Hands of Fate. If you don’t know it, the good people have given the IMDB’s rating of the movie a more than generous 1.8 out of 10. It’s not just bad, it is phenomenally bad. The movie is so bad, it TRANSCENDS it’s badness. Mystery Science Theatre 3000 fans will look back on it fondly, though. The MST3K riffing of Manos: The Hands of Fate on IMDB has an 8.8 out of 10 rating. Freakzone, the developer, decided to use the awesome source material and turn it into a pretty awesome old-school platformer. For the low price of “whatever the heck you want to give them”, it’s a decent platformer. So far, I’ve found it challenging, easy to play with a controller, and bug-free. A total win. Available for the next 4 days and change, check it out.
Also, although I’m not as prolific a reader as say, Mogsy, I have also delved back into B.J. Keeton‘s NIMBUS. Also the author of Birthright, 1st of his trilogy mixing sci-fi and fantasy elements, B.J. just released yesterday the 2nd installment, Lineage! Do me a solid and check it out. And oh, seeing as how B.J. is an avid MMO player, you might see a heavy helping of MMO influence in there, too.
Alright… enough rambling. Game on, my friends.
When I was younger, I attended more than a few rock concerts. I loved them. Especially the long, all day, 20+ band affairs. You name it, pretty much every rock band of the 90′s I’ve seen. So now here I am, in my early 30′s, an adult, an avid gamer, and, well… let’s just say I didn’t escape some permanent damage from all those concerts. My wife just asked me if I could bring up her smartphone, but I clearly heard her say “Can you bedazzle my trombone”. Yeah…
Also, in any given social situation, if the level of ambient noise reaches a certain volume, I completely lose the ability to hear someone even a foot away from me. Combine this with my inability to read lips, and I might as well have stayed at home. I haven’t lost all of my hearing, but it’s definitely not as sharp as it could be. That’s why, being a gamer, a fan of live music, and having some hearing damage, this new Kickstarter I came across really looked like something I’d be into.
It’s called Woojer, and it looks like it’s going to be a necessary addition to my gaming habit. Woojer is essentially a “woofer” you attach to your clothing and headphones that allows you to physically “feel” sound. It has, at it’s core, a proprietary polyphonic transducer that “plays” these low frequencies. When you hear the audible sounds from your games, and then feel the corresponding vibrations from Woojer, your brain picks up the slack. Using Perceptual Inference, the ability for your brain to essentially make up what is not there but what it thinks should be there, it translates the two stimuli as one. So when you listen to music, it feels as though you are at the concert. When playing a game, that helicopter will feel like it really just passed over you.
As Neal Naimer, one of the people behind Woojer, states in this PA Report interview:
The principle of operation is perceptual inference, or auto completion. The product simulates the sensation of live music or a very strong sound system. Using a Woojer on a single point on your body is enough to convince the brain that the entire body is receiving sound…
Placing Woojers on your body makes the sensation even more immersive. Imagine adding an augmented reality device such as Woojer which transforms any audio signal into silent, harmonic tactile sensations that resonate throughout the body to other existing immersive devices like the Oculus Rift VR headset.
I’m not a huge fan of putting on any extra headwear to experience more immersive gameplay. I already wear glasses, so adding an extra layer in front of them feels a little awkward. However, wearing a simple device that I can attach to my shirt? Done. I’ve already signed on as a backer, and since the Kickstarter has successfully funded, I hopefully WILL be receiving one of these fantastic devices next Spring.
The Kickstarter funding period will conclude very soon, in about four days, at 10:10 AM EST on Friday, December 6th. So if you want one, you better hop on it while discounts are still available.
This won’t obviously cure my already damaged hearing, but if what the site says is true, I may not have to keep my headphones turned up that loud, either. So more immersive gameplay, more intense music and movies, and not having to keep it at levels that could further damage my hearing? This sounds like a huge win all around.
Recently on the forums for the upcoming Shroud of the Avatar, Starr Long, one of the game’s executive producers and previous Project Director of Ultima Online, busted out details on upcoming available skills for the new game. I’m still trying to wrap my head around it, to be honest. It’s quite the information overload, and without the game, out-of-context, it’s hard to picture. However, using other games we have played, we can make a few general assumptions on what we can expect.
Firstly, Starr explains that there will be two kinds of acquired experience: Crafting experience and Adventuring experience, which will give skill points. This makes sense. In Guild Wars 2, making hamburgers and salads somehow made you a better fighter. People found this awesome as they had an alternate method of leveling, which is always good, but if I go home and make 200 sandwiches, I’m not suddenly going to be more effective in a fist fight. Having Crafting experience separated from Adventuring is a good step.
He then goes on to explain that there will be no classes. Similar to The Secret World, Skill points earned in each discipline can be used to buy any skills you want, with more powerful skills needing the prerequisites underneath them. So, for Ranged weapons, you first pick up the basic skill Aimed Shot, which then forks to Active skills Disabling Shot & Piercing Shot, and the Passive skill Eagle Eye. Skill trees are found everywhere in almost every game, so this should be nothing new to anyone.
Physical combat has 8 specializations: On the offense there is Blades, Polearms, Bludgeons, and Ranged, and on the defense there is Light Armor, Medium Armor, Heavy Armor, and Shields. These seem pretty straight-forward, very Oblivion-esque.
Magic, too, seems like the style of Elder Scrolls. So far, there are 9 different styles: Sun, Moon, Earth, Air, Life, Death, Water, Fire, and Chaos. Every magic skill, apart from Chaos, appears to have it’s opposite style represented.
But throughout the post, he drops hints that combat itself might be something different than we are use to. For example, on spending Skill Points on Active Skills:
Adding skill points to Active Skills increases the number of copies of that skill the player has therefore increasing the frequency that skill will appear during combat.
Wait… what? “Increasing the frequency that skill will appear”? The wording he uses here is interesting. He doesn’t say “will decrease the cooldown of the skill” or “reduce the time in between attacks”, he says adding skill points to Active Skills adds to the “number of copies of that skill the player has”. I don’t know about you, but this is sounding a little like a card game style of combat.
There is a skill in Chaos Magic, too, which adds to this deck/card game style combat idea, the aptly named Tabula Rasa skill:
Tabula Rasa: Instantly discard all skills and replace with new skills
Discard and replace skills, huh? Okay. So far, then, we know Shroud of the Avatar’s combat will include copies of skills, which adding points to will increase the frequency that they will appear, and a magic skill to completely discard all skills and replace them with new ones.
Also in Chaos, there is the skill Chaotic Confusion which says it “randomly rearranges target’s skills”. Woah. This skill doesn’t seem like it would be very powerful in, say PvE, as the computer doesn’t care where it puts its skills, but in PvP, just imagine being thumped with an attack that completely rearranges your skillbars. In every game we play, that would feel pretty overpowered, unless your skills themselves are also being changed out consistently.
So are they somehow going to fuse the third-person 3D world that we are use to, with a randomized skill deck style of combat? I am intrigued, to say the least. Combat would feel very dynamic and fast-paced, especially if you’re not exactly sure what your next upcoming attacks may be.
Starr then goes on in the post to talk about Crafting and the skill trees that will open up, and how recipes can be purchased, traded, or discovered, which seems similar to Guild Wars 2. The crafting disciplines of Gathering, Refining, and Production, though, sounds like Lord of the Rings Online.
All in all, comparing a game’s system prior to launch is, in a sense, an exercise in futility. We may see signs of what it may look like, but in the same way we know the different parts of a car’s engine and how they interact, the feel of driving is something else entirely. This concept of deck-style randomized skills, though, sounds intriguing, and I’d love to see it in action.
I’d highly suggest giving Starr’s post a read, especially if you have any interest in Shroud of the Avatar‘s development.
P.S. – Of course, I could be reading it the wrong way and be WAY off, or it may change completely before now and release… but speculation is kinda what we do, yeah?
So, these new Issue #8 scenarios, they are something else, huh?
On the day of release, I, like a great number of my Secret World brethren entered the next step of the game’s evolution. And, like a great many other players, got my virtual behind handed to me in a sling. The first night I played the only scenario, Seek and Preserve, and the only one I didn’t fail was the Hotel, with only one survivor left. Despite going in with my all blue, QL 10 DPS, elite-level gear. I couldn’t keep the mobs from rushing the survivor groups and I couldn’t keep myself alive long enough to stop them, but my gear was of high enough quality to do so. So, it was me. Totally me.
Something needed to change, and that change was an entirely new build. A build that would allow me to survive longer, be able to heal myself, and grab the mobs attention quicker.
Here is the build that I was using, a very fun DPS Elementalism/Pistol build, a build that didn’t need a lot of survivability as mobs would fall quicker. Only one health talisman was necessary to stay comfortably alive:
Active: Hair Trigger, Shootout, Anima Charge, Blaze, Lightning Manifestation, Ice Manifestation, Overload (Elite), and Dragon’s Breath (Flamethrower)
Passive: High Voltage, Increased Focus, Mad Skills, Elemental Precision, Mind Over Matter, Aidelon, Big Bang (Elite), and Searing Magnesium
This is a fun build that piles on the critical hits, and is good for groups and single targets. For single targets, the high damage from Shootout, mixed with the high critical chance of Blaze, caused them to not last long. For groups, Ice Manifestation and Overload cause hinder, which keeps the mobs out of arm’s length, and then Lightning Manifestation and Big Bang bring them low very quick. But it’s a terrible build for these scenarios.
So, I started with TenTentacles advice, and then took a look at the Illuminati Goon tank deck (Blade/Hammer) that I already had unlocked. I find that, in this game, you should at least unlock a build of each style, DPS/Tank/Healer, as you never know when those would come in handy. It worked, it had the survivability, and mobs jumped off the groups easier, but it’s AoE damage output just wasn’t up to snuff. I could do better. So, I switched out the Hammer and replaced it with Elementalism, something I already enjoy and have experience with, and started rolling with this Blade / Elementalism build:
Active: Forking Paths, Steel Palace, Lightning Manifestation, Fire Manifestation, Martial Discipline, Point of Harmony, Silver Streak (Elite), and Dragon’s Breath (Flamethrower)
Passive: Perseverance, Enervate, Regeneration, Agitator, Riposte, Chain Reaction, Sixth Sense (Elite), and Assiduous Burn
This build has a lot of defense in damage reduction and glancing, and then punishes the attacker for glancing as well. It draws AoE damage with Lightning Manifestation, Steel Palace, and Forking Paths, with the Fire Manifestation adding a bit of burst on single targets. Every attack heals, and Point of Harmony gives a dedicated self-heal, too.
So far, my success with this build, with 4 damage talismans, 2 health, and 1 heal, has given me a Gold rating in both the Hotel and Mansion scenarios, and a Silver in the Castle scenario. Booyah. It also has started allowing me to crank out these Hard missions in Transylvania I’ve been avoiding, too. I’m still not a fan of using the Sword (personal preference), but boy does it work.
So my big suggestion is if you are having trouble, take a tank deck of your choice, and then tweak it to your liking. It’ll work wonders, at least for the first Seek and Preserve scenario. I’m sure the other scenarios are going to require different tactics, though.
As you can see, this is one of The Secret World’s strengths. If you want to only use one character and tank, heal or deal damage, you can. And that’s awesome. But with the ridiculous grind necessary to create these new augments that drop in the scenarios, having multiple characters and making progress on all of them is quite a tall order.
Rowan… I don’t know how you do it.
P.S. – Have any fun builds you designed yourself? Go ahead and post them! Share! (I really think there should be a way to view and vote on builds INSIDE the game, as any reason to check a wiki or look outside the game can be better designed, but I don’t think that’ll happen anytime soon).
I have been having issues lately with the communities that are in these MMOs that we all play. Namely, it’s been very hard for me to avoid the creme de-la-creme, the bullies, those that consider themselves the saviors of gaming: the elitists. In general, I tend to avoid them like the plague, but lately it seems I can’t avoid them, and I seem to be encountering them at every turn, even to the point where I find myself reticent to post an update for fear of elitist retribution. Fear.
Fun fact: I don’t accept fear. I approach fear as just another obstacle to overcome. I had a fear of heights once. To get over it, I went skydiving. Is there a better way to deal with a fear, any fear, then bringing it out into the light and squashing it where it stands? I don’t think there is, so instead of running away, I want to shine a big spotlight and delve into this issue: namely, dealing with the elitism we find in MMOs.
First, lets define this gaming elitism. A good starting definition of Elitism:
The belief that certain persons or members of certain classes or groups deserve favored treatment by virtue of their perceived superiority, as in intellect, social status, or financial resources.
Now, let’s think about the different types of gamers that we debate about constantly, the “casual” vs the “hardcore”. In my opinion, casual gamers are loosely defined as those that are more relaxed in nature, those that enjoy the journey, that are willing to stop and smell the roses, are more striving self-improvement, and are not necessarily striving to be the best, but just to have a good time. Hardcore gamers, on the other hand, are competitive in nature. They play these games so that they can be the best, they take the most efficient paths to obtain the most power, even if it entails rather sterile methods of getting there, like repeating the same content ad nauseum, power leveling, farming, and skipping any annoying story. Of course, it’s not just black and white, we are all some combination of the two, but generally lean one way or the other. I, if my blog’s title isn’t evident, identify more with the former.
Casual and Hardcore gamers factor heavily in this discussion because we both occupy the same gaming space and or motivations often clash. MMOs are one of the best forms of gaming entertainment out there because, no matter your tastes, there is something for you. Want to be told a story? It’s there. Want a challenge? It’s there. Want to dominate others in PvP? You can. Want to cooperate and strive toward group-oriented goals? It’s there. Want to play the game solo? You can. Having multiple types of players, all playing for different reasons, and all jockeying for the attention of the developers, creates conflict.
Finally, let’s look at the third most important factor: player skill. Player skill is hard to quantify. Skill is a combination of many factors including past game-playing experience, knowledge of the game’s mechanics, and application of those mechanics to achieve the best results. Skill is easy to graph, though, as it is assumed it resembles a normal probability distribution. In other words, a bell curve.
Players with very little skill (who still play, and usually stand in fire for the majority of it), represent the far left portion of the curve, and gamers with a significant amount of skill, those that are famous and whose names are revered and known, are on the right. For those in the center, some are better than others, but in the great scheme of things, a great percentage of us fall within this region.
# of Players v Skill Level
But let’s go back to that earlier definition. There is a big key phrase in there that sums up a lot of the conflict: perceived superiority. We see it time and again. Those generally with an above average amount of skill, and those that identify themselves with the more hardcore spectrum of players, feel that they are the ones who know how to play, and if you’re not playing their way, or by their standards, then you’re playing wrong. What are you doing in their game, anyway? Just wasting space and developer resources. If the game wasn’t targeted to the dirty casual players, it might actually be a challenge! All they have to do is just play better! Damn noobs ruining the game for everyone!
Sound familiar? Elitism is primarily a trait of hardcore players, but I don’t believe it falls in the same normal distribution that skill does. I believe it to be variable depending on a players skill. Bad hardcore players will think that they’re good, and will have a negative attitude toward others to compensate. Okay and average hardcore players know their standing, and know what they need to do to get what they want, they generally show less elitist behavior.
Good hardcore players is where the problem lies. Good players will start demanding obscene levels of others above what is called for. They’re the ones you see demanding ridiculous gear levels just to run a dungeon with them. I saw a post in the Looking For Group channel of The Secret World the other day where someone said that if they didn’t like the looks of your gear from the character website, they wouldn’t even acknowledge your request to join up. They’re good, but they’re not good enough to assure success, without a perfectly optimal group around them. They’re insecure, and so compensate by acting superior.
Good Hardcore players will tend to have the “I’m better than you, so you need to listen to what I say” attitudes, whether it’s justified or not.
The truly skilled, excellent players, though, their level of elitism is much lower. They don’t need a perfect group to still achieve success, and they don’t demean others who don’t live up to their ability, as they would hate everyone. Their excellence is shown in their actions, not in their demands. A great saying I once read was “A rich man doesn’t have to tell you he’s rich.” They just are, and it shows in their demeanor and lack of insecurities.
Casual players, though, their levels of elitism, though still there, is by far not as pronounced. Bad, okay, and average players know their skill, but they enjoy the game for other reasons. Good and excellent players may demand a little more from others, but it feels more in the realm of assisting those around them to be better. A failure here and there isn’t going to affect them, as their end goal is more about self-improvement and having fun rather than being competitive.
Casual players, overall, tend to be less demanding of the other gamers around them.
So that conflict: it lies in the space between elitism levels and crosses the hardcore/casual behaviors. Over time, those of us who are veterans of the MMO genre, who have seen this same pattern play out many time before, are use to it by now. We adapt by finding groups of players who think like we do, hardcore or casual. We don’t love the games we play less because the other groups exist, we can coexist as we’ve done for years now. We do sometimes feel the conflict when we see special developer attention paid to the opposing groups, and if a game opens that plays more to our own nature, we might gravitate toward it more. It’s just human nature.
The shaded area represents the conflict between those who demand others play their way, and those that just want to enjoy the game.
But the next time you feel compelled to tell some noob how they should be playing the game, or you are at the receiving end of some vitriol aimed at you because you’re not in full epic gear and feel depressed or angry, I hope you take the time to think about why you’re feeling that way. Look at how it might not make a difference in the long run, and how the end-goal for all of us should be striving to be a better community.
We live in a civilized society, after all. We may as well act like it.
When I was a kid, I was totally into Halloween. I’d dress up in some costume, and my parents would take me and my sister out trick or treating, and, like any other kids, we’d go from door to door and collect a big haul of bite-sized candy. And life was good. But then I grew up…
In college, Halloween took on a whole new meaning, it went from being about dressing up and candy, to getting hammered and hooking up with cuties in costume. There was one time, the student house I was living in, which was affectionately called the Love Shack, had a Halloween party so big that it not only encompassed our house, but our neighbors house as well and although we weren’t in any fraternities, we had many offers to join some that night. We turned them down, of course. Our parties at the Shack were more legendary than anything they could muster up. But then I grew up again…
These days I spend my days working, and my nights in hobbies and hanging out with my wife. When Halloween comes around, we generally grab a drink, have some traditional White Castle, put on a movie, and kick back and wait for trick-or-treaters to come to the door. Our tastes have changed over the years.
So what does this have to do with MMO’s? Well, you see, my gaming tastes have also changed since I was a kid, too. Now, I could be playing World of Warcraft, and go trick or treating. Or I could go play Guild Wars 2 and get dressed up in costume and brawl. And this is fun! It takes me back to those times when I was a kid, and dressed up, and went from house to house trick-or-treating.
But as an adult, I want more. I want something that doesn’t feel like it’s aimed at a much younger demographic. I mean, these are MMO’s, they not only take a time investment, but they also take a significant monetary investment, too, and so MMOs naturally have more adults playing them. According to this site, and this doesn’t sound that off, the average age of MMO players is 26 with a third of players married, and half working full-time. We’re not kids anymore.
I played the Guild Wars 2 Halloween content. I zerged and attacked giant monsters made from candycorn, because that made sense. I climbed the clocktower, and helped smack down the whiny Prince Edrick. I even opened trick-or-treat bag after trick-or-treat bag. I carved pumpkins. It was pretty much everything one would expect for Halloween… and yet it didn’t really scratch that Halloween itch.
Then I played The Secret World, and my Halloween itch has been thoroughly scratched. Finally, here is a game that doesn’t just treat us like kids. The Cat God mission, the main event of the holiday, is a tough investigative mission involving possessed cats, family crypts, creating pungent incense, performing ancient rituals, and defeating none other than Baron Samedi himself at the home of Halloween, Stonehenge, as he attempts to rend the veil between worlds.
Then this year, they topped it by adding the amazing Stories of Soloman Island, a collection of horror short stories, penned by Joel Bylos and Joshua Doetsch, that are pretty amazing reads. Here’s a quick sample:
So, the winner of Halloween 2013, in my own humble opinion, of course, is easily The Secret World. Instead of playing with the commercial versions of Halloween, of costumes, candy, and decorations, it shows the more mature meaning behind Halloween: that we enjoy exploring our disturbing side. We like the macabre, we enjoy the chills down our spine. We celebrate the unknown and embrace the supernatural. But you can already tell that Funcom gets this, the supernatural runs through the very blood and fabric of The Secret World.
So, MMOs take note: the bar has been raised. We’ll see what they come out with to top themselves next year.