[TSW, SWTOR, WoW, CK2] Well, it’s certainly been a week.

I thought today I might sum up some experiences I’ve had in games recently. This is mostly a quick fly though, just to demonstrate how incredibly /different/ some games which are nominally similar can be.

The Secret World

tsw

The Secret World had a free weekend, and sadly I didn’t have as much time in game as I had hoped. Partly due to watching the Olympics (on TV) and spending a day out in London (not to go to the Olympics because I didn’t have tickets), and also partly due to getting roped into some raids in SWTOR. So these really will be first impressions.

I like the game a lot, and as other people have said, the setting and storytelling is very engaging. For me there was a disconnect between “secret masters of the world. conspiracy theories.” and “welcome to Kingsmouth, here’s your shotgun. Go kill some zombies.” There is even more of a disconnect between the clever and immersive world building and a public channel full of “LF2M tank and healer”.  I’m also not sure whether I find that the combat fits neatly to the storytelling parts of the game – it’s common for RPGs to have this disconnect but the stylistic difference seems stronger in TSW. It just is a very disconnected game. All the individual bits seem good in themselves, but I liked the RPG/investigative parts so much more than the combat. Partly for that reason, this is absolutely a game that sings “single player or small group only” to me. Even more so than SWTOR.

But for all that, it IS immersive and engaging and I enjoyed how Funcom use the environment to drop clues to the player, as well as the usual “quest person marker” details.  I also always wanted to be an Illuminati, so there is that too. I also get a kick out of ‘take a shortcut through Agartha” and similar funky occult daftness; I love urban fantasy which this game does in spades. I didn’t have much of a chance to really check out any of the riddle quests so I’m still unsure whether I have the patience for that type of play or would get frustrated too quickly.

The screenshot above shows two of the other things I did really enjoy with the game.

  1. Blue hair. Apparently this is more of A Thing than I realised, since a lot of my twitter crowd mentioned that their characters also had blue hair. I do think it’s cool though. I also like how my character is holding the shotgun in the shot, her hands/fingers are actually closed around the weapon. Also was amused at being told I had good aim when I shot something. I am not a firearms person (to say the least) but I feel that using a shotgun at point blank range may not be a big aiming challenge.
  2. This shows a tutorial for the talent system. It’s a voiced video that steps you through how things work. Please could more games do this, it’s great.

Whilst I did get a good first impression from the weekend and would definitely like to spend more time with TSW, I can’t justify a sub at the moment. I just don’t have the time free in my gaming schedule. Maybe in a few months time. But I do want to go back.

SWTOR: All my raiding comes at once!

I think there’s a hidden switch in the communal mind of a new raidgroup that suddenly decides you are good enough (or needed badly enough) to be included in the main team. So I’m guessing all my practice with the Consular and generally being around and genial in guild chat has made a mark; this week I was invited to join the guild for runs in two Operations that I haven’t seen before: Explosive Conflict (Denova) and Karagga’s Palace. The raid leader was also really nice about explaining the fights, and the raids were friendly and patient. And we did clear them both. It was just a great gaming experience.

denova

These screenshots are from Denova, which is a very solid raid in my opinion. The encounters are interesting and well designed, there’s a nice mix of content, and they’re challenging without feeling that you are hitting your head against a wall. Bioware have done a good job with the raid content. Karagga is by far my least favourite of the Operations. The first and last boss are both thoroughly annoying (last boss might have been more fun if I had been on dps rather than healing).

My feelings about SWTOR seem conflicted at the moment. I do genuinely enjoy the game, but I’m not sure about its future. Whatever happens, I’m thrilled to have gotten the chance to play it, and to have met such nice players on both the guilds I’ve been in. This may affect how I view the SWTOR community in general, but even my PUG runs have generally been cordial and friendly. Dropping WoW last December to play SWTOR instead has been a really good decision for me.

In any case, this means that I have now seen all of the PvE content in the game, although there are harder modes for the Ops which we haven’t done yet. I’m not really sure what my next goals are, I enjoy raiding with the guys so will plan to keep doing that though.

Warcraft: Back for more abuse

I picked up a Scroll of Resurrection this week, and thought it would be a good opportunity to drop back into WoW and see whether absence makes the heart grow fonder. (The answer is: no, but it does give a different perspective.) My first impression on logging into Orgrimmar was of overwhelming chaos, noise, people all over the place, randomness on general chat. There’s so much going on and where is everything and heck, there’s so much of it. Like I say: overwhelming.

From what I can gather, the only new content since I last played (in December) is that the Darkmoon Faire has its own zone now. It looks cool and a bit foreboding and the music is good. The new Faire is (as with the rest of WoW), busy, noisy, overwhelming. There are quests which grant tradeskill improvements as well as rewards, and some minigames. None of the minigames looked especially interesting at first glance. There’s only so much designers can do with ‘whack a mole’ or ‘steer the vehicle into the other vehicle.’ This is a shame, because I would have thought a fairground would be ripe for actual vehicle minigames.

It was of course great to chat to my guildies again in game. They are a really good bunch, and have been the one thing I really did miss from not being in game. I did think it was a bad idea to agree when someone suggested queueing for one of the most recent heroic instances. This proved to be the case, and the complaints about poor dps started very soon into the instance. I do think there’s an issue with the game where everyone is studying your dps the whole time in groups using real time damage meter addons, even when they don’t need to. Anyhow, I didn’t stay long, I suspect my dps would have been OK but that’s not an atmosphere you want to learn new fights in.

This, incidentally is where WoW is utterly failing at the moment. If a reasonable, average player cannot learn a new fight in LFG and guild groups are unlikely to form (due to people either preferring the convenience of LFG or being tired of the group content) then your group game is basically dead. I’ve heard arguments that this will be better at the start of a new expansion when the content is new to everyone. I don’t entirely buy it; this may be true … for a week or two.  If Blizzard want to break this chain then they need to a) make the LFG instances easier, no complex boss fights that require a page of tutorial to explain the tactics or tightly tuned dps races and b) give players a chance to practice the fights on their own first. (I’m not arguing against hard instances, but I don’t think they are good LFG content.)

Before being put off grouping altogether, I then thought I’d queue for one of the original Cataclysm heroics. These are instances I’ve run several times in my character’s current gear before taking a break. There were no dps issues, but after one wipe the tank aggroed a pack of mobs while everyone else was running back (which led to another wipe). Here is a snapshot of the conversation that followed:

Me: Could you wait for everyone to get back before starting the next fight?

Him/ Her: No.

Me: Why not?

Him/Her: *pause* Because I like doing things wrong.

Me: OK, have fun then. *leaves group*

Maybe it’s because I’ve just spent time in SWTOR where I haven’t had a single bad group, but two poor PUGs in a row isn’t cool and shouldn’t be the norm. Anyhow, I will be hanging out in WoW for the next month or so. Partly because I feel I’d like the guy who sent me the SoR to get his (ugly) mount, and also because it’s good blogging fodder to come back with fresh eyes and gauge how WoW might feel to other returning players. Right now, I feel that I could happily never run another PUG in WoW ever again.

One thing to note for returners: Your spare justice or valor tokens are still useful, Blizzard regularly upgrade the gear you can trade them in for.

I feel I haven’t said much about good first impressions yet. WoW has an INCREDIBLE sense of being an actual world.  It’s buzzing, chaotic, there’s a lot going on and huge zones to explore.  So I went back to a quieter zone to do some daily quests that everyone else is probably bored with (or even forgot by now) to chill out and chat.

wowreturn

Crusader Kings 2

This is such a big bonkers game, but it’s the best gaming crack since the original Civilisation. How can I be so drawn to a game which I am so bad at playing? My latest ruler did actually manage to win some wars, but I think I could happily watch the game play itself out without me really doing much. Still, I continue to read up about it and try different things in new games. I wanted to mention CK2 in passing as I’m still only scratching the surface but it takes a special sort of game to engender this kind of love from poor players.

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20 thoughts on “[TSW, SWTOR, WoW, CK2] Well, it’s certainly been a week.

  1. Got to check out the investigation missions in Kingsmouth this time, they’d been disabled in the last open beta weekend. None were too hard, but still had to get a hint for one or two parts and I thought some of the leaps in logic were a bit too wide of the mark. Generally they were satisfying and engaging. It wasn’t just investigation missions but even some of the side missions had some more contained puzzles that were just as fun. Straight up combat missions are really dull in comparison. Probably the most interesting part of the game for me is the mythology, was reading about people’s ideas on who is Cassandra King really, and that the women in the Dragon’s storyline is a nine-tailed fox in human form, that could have possibly eaten the player’s liver while in the throws of ecstacy.

  2. Yep, it’s really a sad thing that you didn’t get to experience more of The Secret World.
    The starting zone, like, well, every starting zone ever…is where the combat is the dullest thing ever. You haven’t got enough AP accrued (which accrue at a flat rate, forever – 40k XP to 1 AP) to have unlocked anything more interesting than:
    * Build 5 Resources,
    * Spend Weapon 1 Resources
    * Spend Weapon 2 Resources
    * Lather, Rinse, Repeat.

    Like most MMO combat, it improves quite a bit as you go – mostly as you start realizing the hidden synergies in the wheel that make you laugh with joy when you find them.
    “Hey. This one is lays a DoT on Hit. This one is ‘Get a stack of Penetrate Rating when you lay a DoT’. This one is ‘Get a stack of Crit Rating when you lay a DoT’. This one is an automatic crit against targets with a DoT. That’s gonna make stuff go boom nicely, I bet.”
    So you spend a day questing with your ‘old’ spec while earning AP and spending them on stuff for your ‘new’ spec. Then you try it on.

    And it makes stuff go RIDICULOUSLY boom. =)

    I’ve heard it said over and over, and I believe it myself.
    The Secret World shows Bioware what they SHOULD have made.

  3. Secret World was probably the best MMO I’ve played recently, even with the somewhat predictable combat system, but I decided not to subscribe because of the broken quests. Two characters, each stuck on a quest in the middle of a chain because the mob or object wouldn’t spawn and no way to drop the quests was enough. Great game but if things in the first and second zones are that broken I’m not really eager to invest more time looking for fixes – or reroll a character and hope that this one isn’t stuck. If they resolve the technical issues I’d go back.

    And on the ‘openly fighting zombies in Middle of Nowhere, ME’ part? Fits in perfects with the popular conspiracy theories about Area 51, FEMA concentration camps, and the rest. I’d say they hit that meme dead-on.

    You are, unfortunately, correct on WoW. Big world, lots of things to do in it, one of the worst player populations going. I’d like to say that this will improve but that would require that Blizzard grow a spine and enforce a clear set of policies designed to police the population. Given the cost (both financial and publicity) I don’t see that happening any time soon. I’ll keep playing WoW for the rest of the content but I’ll only instance in older runs or with friends. I hope that the 3-player scenarios will be better but given that there seems to be a statistically significant number of people who queue just to grief I’m not really expecting much.

    The interesting thing to see will be the GW2 effect. I’m on the fence with that game but given there will be no direct recurring fee I’ll likely try it. My WoW characters hope that the trolls and morons run off to the new toy but the (maybe Sylvari, maybe Norn) character I’ll roll there hopes they stay in WoW. I’ve not been deeply engaged in GW2, have they posted a policy on player conduct and enforcement? GW1, when I played years ago, was not that much better than WoW – you could just escape into an instanced area.

    • With WoW, I’d rather the community grow a spine and enforce their own policies, since different players have different priorities. Purely random PuGs are the problem. You can still use LFD, but the more people you leave to a roll of the dice, the worse it can be. And completely or partially forming a group yourself is a great way to build your friend’s list. if you take the easy way out, be prepared to deal with the consequences.

      Perhaps giving very skilled people stuff to do like Challenge modes, or less skilled people interesting alternatives to LFD like scenarios, farming and pet battles will improve the quality of random PuGs. We’ll have to see.

      • Trouble is that you get to a point where most of your friends list either like the ease of LFG (so they’ve already done their dailies by the time you ask), are busy with alts (extra points if they always want to bring really undergeared alts instead of their competent characters), or are burned out. You need a critical mass of people who prefer using friend lists to make this work, and that seems hard to make. It’s also much harder to build a friend list when you don’t see the same people all the time. You could stand in a capital city and call out for people, true. Or you could just skip the whole thing.

        I do think it would be easier without cross server queues, and I also think LFG never used to be this bad so things do seem to have gotten worse, to me.

        Will keep experimenting over the week, if I have the mental fortitude. Talking about more or less skilled I think obscures the issue, people a) would prefer not to group on content they’re already bored with (and especially not to teach people they consider beneath them) and b) want to get their daily tokens as fast as possible. So if you give people the option to get tokens via solo daily quests, a lot of players (both skilled and less so) will prefer that to having to group with randoms.

      • Truthfully, I don’t think it’s “bads” in LFD/LFR who are the problem necessarily – I’m more inclined to think that new players or those with lesser skill actually want to learn, and my experience seems to mete this out. The problem is the self-entitled asswipes who think they’re better at the game than they really are.

        Send me your RealID and I’ll give you a good grouping experience. :D

      • Thanks for the offer, Zell. It would be fun to hang out sometime.

        Some of my guildies did take me through the first of the latest instances, and I accidentally got into another when I thought I’d queued for ‘Cataclysm heroics’ and it threw me into one of the new ones instead. So although it was a bit of a trial by fire, I’m actually feeling a bit braver about LFG at the moment.

        There are a ton of encounters to remember in 5 man instances though, if you consider all of them. It’s a wonder any of us can, let alone people who haven’t been playing for awhile ;)

  4. Not concerning myself with gear, I’ve (in wow) have gotten back to dungeons in normal modes. I have not had a better experience since vanilla. Everyone was friendly, took their time. there was even (*gasp*) friendly banter between total strangers… IN WOW.
    So nice players do exist in that game, just avoid any place that gives any sort of needed loot.

    • It seems that normal mode dungeons at level cap are the best ones to run in. I’ve had hit-and-miss scenarios in the leveling instances, and I’ve not the desire to run Cata heroics. I know we’re not the only ones to do this, Dwism, since I regularly hear from other L85s whom I see in Cata normals are “I like normals better because there’s no jerks in them”.

  5. Welcome back to WoW, Spinks! I too have plunged back in (for two months, shhh don’t tell anyone) but it’s a nice change of pace from SWTOR (whickh. Also, I’m glad that so many folks are having fun in TSW … I’ll be honest, I played the beta and was thoroughly unimpressed, but then again horror/present day games have never really been my thing.

  6. Nice to see you reporting from Azeroth so I don’t need to go there. ;)
    Nah, honestly, there are moments when I think I wouldn’t mind popping in there for a little. But then I remember what a timesink it is and decide to stay out of it. It’s great to hear though that Darkmoon Fair has gotten an overhaul. Long time needed you could say!

  7. I finished my exploratory return run in WoW. But I didn’t have the heart to run any dungeons.

    What I discovered is that I wasn’t that younger person who was new to mmorpgs anymore. It was like trying to go back to High School. It can’t be done.

  8. WoW reminds me of the busing area in our downtown during rush hour: chaotic, jumbled, full of people who simply don’t give a damn about someone else. This is even now, when the servers I’m on are running about 45-55 people in the evenings in the capital cities. LOTRO and TOR, by comparison, feel more mellow, even though my computer groans when there’s 200+ people at the Republic Fleet in an evening. (I can’t speak for AoC, since most of the in game activity is with the big guild houses, and I’m pretty much running solo.)

  9. Youre so right about that feeling of disconnect in TSW! I hadn’t really been able to put my finger on it these past 2 weeks, but I think I agree with you: the combat just somehow doesn’t fit AT ALL with the core gameplay. Yet the game is extremely well done and is quite possibly the best questing MMO out there right now. Great voice acting …the game is a winner dispite it all. I just hope something can be done in the future to connect the disparate parts of gameplay. Id be content to never have to do a fight in a game like TSW, because the world and gameplay lends it self to player roles outside of that. Puzzlers and killers alike should be able to choose their playstyle and not be forced into either.

    The last time I was in WoW, I felt a little bit sad about the state of the game. I logged in and my toon was in Ironforge. I almost immediately had flashbacks of a large crowd of dungeon crawlers standing outside the bank, preparing to go to Blackrock Mountain. I rode to the military district and could almost see the crowds of fighters awaiting their turn for combat in battlegrounds. Heading to the League’s Library I could almost see roleplayers crowding the various shelves and tables, speaking about lore, making up adventures.

    *sigh* The game wasnt all that populated so I didnt see that many players (it wasnt empty, mind you, but it wasn’t buzzing). I think all the hub bub is in SW these days. Anyway, great summaries here. You completely nailed the feelings I have about at least these 2 games this week.

    • The combat in TSW is extremely mediocre. Everything else is great, imo. I tried it during this past ‘free weekend event’ and enjoyed it much more than I thought I would, given that the setting really isn’t my thing.

  10. I liked The Secret World quite a bit but there is no reason at all on any level for that to be a MMO. Even more than SWTOR it feels like it’s intruding on my single player experience.

    Also, Everyone is Rogues. Which given that even the WoW devs admit combo/energy is their best designed class mechanic I’m suprised more people haven’t ripped it off.

  11. @Spinks
    “So if you give people the option to get tokens via solo daily quests, a lot of players will prefer that to having to group with randoms.”

    This is where MoP is headed. VP for dailies, dungeons and challenge modes. Different mixes of solo, group and elite group play. I think is a better solution. Design the game so people will accomplish their goals doing something they are in the mood for, rather than forcing everyone to accomplish their goals in a way they either don’t like or are burned out on.

    So now instead of just kicking horrible players, we can tell them to “go back to doing dailies” :)

  12. Pingback: Cry of the Ravens | Welshtroll

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