The Secret World revisited?

It’s because I changed the site theme last week — going through my old screenshots and uploads for the random header made me remember how utterly cool (and occasionally extremely creepy) The Secret World was, and how much fun I had in it even if some other shiny pulled me away.

And then there’s Syp over at Bio Break doing his return to TSW posts, and that was the final nail in the resistance coffin.

Even with our crappy internet it only took *coughcough* a couple of days to download the 19G client. The question now is do I start a whole new character, or do I pick up one of my old ones? Decisions…

Aside from that I’m good to go. Which means I’m 95% sure the servers will be down for patching or maintenance or something.

Sunset on the Savage Coast
Sunset on the Savage Coast

WoW – drood powa

I used to get annoyed at druids in PvP in WoW, because the little buggers are unkillable, sort of like paladins only more moonkinny. Then again, I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with droods. I made one early on and never really played her. Made another and never really played her either – and so on. Each time I’ve come back to WoW I’ve made another druid (to start fresh or some such smart reason) and never played her.

Last year, however, I finally made one as a hermit char and played her up to 60, which took about 17.4 seconds with the new levelling and a couple of heirloom xp items. (For those who don’t know: a hermit character is one nobody else knows about so you can play them when you’re not feeling sociable. Of course, the whole e-mailfriends WoW thing, whatever it’s called, puts the kibosh on that because they can see you’re online no matter who you’re playing, but that’s okay; I’ve only got 2 of those and we don’t bug each other a whole lot.) And then she sat there for a few months, gathering rest xp and dust, until I brushed her off again during the Xmas break.

into the wild blue yonder

Now, while I don’t particularly want to gush… OMGWTFBBQOPSMASHRIPRIP! Druids are fun, especially feral druids when it comes to my own playstyle. Sneak around when you need to, claw-shred-rip the crap out of stuff when you want, heal when required, claw-shred-rip some more, rinse repeat. I’ll grant you it doesn’t require a whole lot of keys and it’s not all that varied, but none of that matters in the face of shredding the opposition before they even know what’s hit them.

So my little druid is now 70 and claw-shred-ripping her way through the aptly-named Northrend. I don’t want to like her more than my hunter, who is my day 1 character (hell, Eloise is a remake of my beta character so she’s like a million years old in MMO years), but… well… who needs a pet when you can be your own pet? And flight form rocks, especially the faster purple flight form.

I’ve also been indulging in pet battles. I’m still shocked at how addictive those are if you let them be, especially when you get complacent about how good your main team is (mechanical gnome, nexus wyrm, flayer hatchling) and then one of the battle masters hands you your ass; not once, but three times. After the third time I realised it was time to a) level my guys a little and b) find some team members who weren’t going to be insta-roasted by the Shadowmoon guy’s horrible little flame elemental.

There’s something for me about WoW that other people report finding in GW2, which is uncomplicated fun. I’ve logged in to TSW a few times and though I still love the game, it just demands too much thought from me at the moment. So I’m dabbling in TSW for brief, cogitation-laden sessions and then going back to WoW to relax. I’m just glad I have several games I can hop around in and only one I need to be paying for.

TSW and Noël

Today I logged back into TSW for the first time in, uh, some months, and it made me wish I hadn’t neglected it so. After some pretty strong disorientation, that is. I always get that going back to games – what’s this skill? How do I do that? Oh crap, the B button isn’t Bags, it’s Browser here (something I remapped immediately). How do I walk and talk, let alone chew gum or kill things?!

Still, it was fun. I instantly spent a bunch of freebie lifetime member points on a snazzy new outfit, then I went off in chase of the End of the World quest, which I’m still working on since walking and talking was proving to be such a challenge. Oh, and because I decided to work on a Blade/AR build I’d been pondering months ago before I stopped playing.

Anyway, it was a day without work, which has been pretty rare of late and thus makes it great and fun by definition. Also it’s Christmas Eve, which rocks, since that’s traditionally when presents are opened in France. One’s Christmas expectations seem to be formed in childhood, so I’ve never really got used to the whole wait-for-Christmas-Day business. Fortunately the spousal unit appears to endorse any option that means opening presents earlier.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Joyful Oh-The-World-Didn’t-End – whatever it is you celebrate or don’t, be nice, be kind, and have fun.

waiting_small

Shocked, not

This just landed in my inbox:

We’ve just made a major change to the business model of The Secret World in that we no longer require a subscription to play, and have instead introduced an optional Membership. As a lifetime subscriber this will only affect you in a positive way, read on for all the changes to our game!

The Grandmaster Pack continues as a powerful and lifelong commitment to the game for those with true dedication, and contains all the benefits given to members and more [etc etc.]

I doubt anyone else in the blogosphere will be surprised. I’m not disappointed, bothered or offended either – when I bought my lifetime sub it was as much to support the idea of the game as to get a lifetime sub, and I was well aware the game would be free-to-play fairly quickly (though I’ll admit, I didn’t think it would be this quickly).

I’ll get a bunch of goodies points and whatnot, which is fine by me since I like fluff and goodies. In fact, that one email was enough to make me bust out the launcher and start the (long and stupidly laborious, with my internet connection) process of getting the game patched and up to date. It’s probably been about 3 months since I last did that, so I should be ready to play around Christmas.

The shiny new feeling of Pandaclysm is wearing off, too, though I’m still having fun there when I have time to play, so maybe I’ll poke my head back into creepy-land and take on a bit more challenge than WoW offers a non-raider.

It’ll go well with the insanely creepy-scary nightmare I had a couple of days ago, about which I will say nothing except “lunch truck full of cannibal kids”. You can imagine the rest for yourself; it was more Stephen King than SAW, but it was still scary enough to make me extremely relieved when I woke myself up from it.

There you go, a little personal anecdote for free. Now back to work for me!

The (wo)man with two games

While I haven’t been able to even log into The Secret World in about a month (work, travel, yadda yadda), I did at least get it properly updated yesterday, even if I didn’t actually find any time to play.

And today, my best intentions to the contrary, the spousal unit casually says “You know, those Guild Wars 2 reviews are looking pretty good. Maybe I would like to play it after all.” Since it was his lack of interest that managed to hold me back from pre-ordering (well, that and work, travel, yadda yadda), we immediately headed out to the store* and picked up a couple of copies. It’s not like I’d been drooling over all the screenshots and reviews from fellow bloggers – not to mention Twitter and Facebook updates and actually seeing the game on friends’ computers. Nope. I was resisting. I was being good. It’s all his fault.

It’s installing as I write. I’m not sure how I’m going to find the time for GW2 when I don’t have the time for TSW or WoW or the Sims or indeed anything other than 5 minutes of FreeCell here and there, but it’s a NEW GAME!!!11oneone and, even bigger bonus, it’s free to play. Since TSW is essentially subs-free as well, that’s like Two Good Things all at once.

I know TSW isn’t actually free to play, but the lifetime sub already paid for itself in my view. I’ve probably played maybe 70 hours total, counting futzing around on characters I abandoned and not counting the many hours spent in Beta, so we’re already talking less than $4/hour. Whichever way you slice it, MMOs are still a damn sight cheaper per hour of entertainment than, say, movies.

So now I’m like the woman with two manstresses, or whatever you want to call it. Both are low-maintenance, neither of them is going to get pissy with me if I don’t have time to devote to them, neither of them requires to be taken to dinner, and both will be there whenever I fancy a bit of fun. God only knows how (or if) I’ll find time for Mists of Pandaria when that comes out in a few weeks…

* In the interests of full disclosure I should note that we got a new car last week, that it’s more car than I’ve ever had in terms of power AND bells and whistles, and that we’re jumping into the car and going for a drive on the slightest of tiny excuses. I’ve probably run more “errands” this week and done more mileage than in the last 6 months combined.

Wheels and ladders

Two things.

First, this: Drakkashi’s Ability Wheel for The Secret World, shamelessly stolen from Sheep The Diamond on whose post I found it.

I haven’t logged into TSW in two weeks, for various reasons to do with work and other exploratory procedures (small world, since Dragonchasers seems to have gone through a very similar experience just recently). On the bright side though, I haven’t had that little Subscription Gremlin sitting on my shoulder telling me I should be playing to justify the cost of my sub. In that respect the lifetime sub is very liberating – I realise I’m still paying and that it’ll take a while to actually ‘pay for itself’, but psychologically I don’t feel any pressure to play simply because I need to justify the expense.

For me at least, a single (admittedly large) one-off payment has become a thing in the past and now I’m playing the game for ‘free’. Which means that when I can’t or don’t log on for whatever reason, I’m not feeling as though I’m wasting my monthly fee.

I still miss the fact that I haven’t had time to give the game I’ve waited so long for, but I also know it’ll be there when I have time to pick it back up. And of course the first monthly update should hit tomorrow, if they’re still on schedule. I admit I also haven’t been checking forums.

Second, this: Zubon’s post about Asheron’s Call allegiances and patronage. AC was my first MMO and I’m always interested in posts about it, but I think Zubon may have represented only one side of things. The comments section for that post is rife with “eww, this is creepy!” type reactions, and I’d like to show the other side of that.

In a nutshell: In Asheron’s Call, allegiances were pyramidal. Every player in an allegiance had a ‘patron’ (the player ‘above’ them in the hierarchy) except the ‘monarch’, who sat at the top and was effectively the guild leader, and any player could have ‘vassals’ (players directly ‘below’ them in the hierarchy). Vassals passed up a certain amount of experience to their patrons who would pass up some of that to their patrons and so on up the “chain” all the way to the monarch. There was an equation for it, so it wasn’t a simple 1 for 1 or even 10 for 1, but that’s the basic system.

The allegiance setup is odd, looking at it from the outside now, though coming in to my first MMO I had no clue and it seemed perfectly normal to me. Yes, there were allegiances set up explicitly to wring as much xp out of the system as possible for the maximum possible pass-through. But the vast majority of allegiances I knew were really bog-standard guilds with a different name and slightly different mechanics.

The guild I joined in Asheron’s Call is still the guild I’m in these days, even though we’ve long moved on from the game. Joining was about playing with like-minded folks and NOT about how much xp you could generate for the shark-like gestalt. Effort were made to match newbies with like-minded patrons if they didn’t already have connections, to make sure they’d be tied to someone whose playstyle and availability matched their own. It’s about as casual and laid-back as a guild can get, and even in AC there was no talk of having to produce xp or needing to do X, Y or Z to be considered useful.

In any case, how is this substantially different from raiding guilds who require their players to be online on certain days and for a certain amount of time in order to run certain raids and obtain whatever loot it is they’re after?

Personally I’d rather be passing up virtual xp to a virtual patron than have to give my guild my real-life phone numbers so they can make sure I’m adhering to my raiding schedule. Now that’s creepy.

TSW – Tell me, have you seen…

I could really batter a piece of cod right about now.

More screenshots added here for those who like other people’s holiday snaps.

In other news, trained swords on Sunday and was suddenly much happier with my char. I think the problem has to do with the fact that I couldn’t find the #&*^@*% fist-AoE builder – I’m sure there is one, or there used to be in beta, but I played through almost 50 skill points without a single bloody AOE (not counting the 20-second cooldown one) and it wasn’t fun.

Actually, maybe I just wanted to go back to having a sword. I like swords, even though my newest one makes a drudge board look good. The plan was to also train Assault Rifles just to see how that works with Blades, but at the moment I’m enjoying my Blade/Blood combo so I haven’t put anything into AR yet. Time enough… whenever.

If you can remember it, you weren't there

How quickly we in the MMO world forget.

Monthly content updates aren’t something The Secret World invented, though I’m ecstatic that they’re planning to do them. Asheron’s Call at the very least used to have them, and we took them as part and parcel of our subscription deal. I’m not talking about bug fixes or minor balance changes, though those were there too, of course – I’m talking about something new every month or almost every month.

EQ, I recall, did things differently with its gazillion expansion packs and whatnot. I didn’t play that game long enough to see if there was any kind of content added on a non-paying basis, so maybe I’d be unfair to say that knowing SOE, I’d be surprised. And then came WoW.

The thing is, content updates don’t have to be these ginormous things that require you to BUY a whole set of new content. I can understand that large additions should be charged for and I’m okay with that; it takes time to design that stuff and I don’t begrudge paying for expansions if they’re worth it. But there’s a whole lot to be said for trickle-feed, smaller updates on a more regular basis – that also happen to be free.

It’s what made AC patch days fun as well as fickle (patch days always being what they are, in all times and in all games), reading the patch notes and waiting for the servers to come back up so we could run around experiencing the new stuff.

A number of games do something of the sort at the moment, but off the top of my head it seems to be mostly festival-type events. They get patched in, they last a few weeks, and then they’re gone – and they’re almost the same every single year (vide WoW’s multifarious achievement mills). There aren’t many games that just add a little bit of stuff on a regular basis: a few quests here, a new dungeon there, other nifty stuff.

Or when they do, we have to pay for it in cash shops (EQ2, I’m thinking about your new furniture and critters right here). But that’s a rant for another day; I have nothing per se against cash shops, except when the normally-available stuff is gross (EQ2 furniture!) and the only decent stuff costs real money on top of my monthly subscription.

Anyway, I’m looking forward to The Secret World’s monthly updates. Maybe patch day will be fun again.

(Last but not least, the clothing on TSW’s shop kicks ass. I haven’t spent any real money yet – well, not counting the cost of the game and the lifetime sub – but oh, I am tempted. I am very, very tempted. They need to put in gift certificates so I can ask for some for my birthday – not that my family would have the faintest clue what the hell I’m asking for. Money? For clothes? In a game??)