The Secret World First State of the Game

Many thanks to Sente for the information – good thing some people are keeping up with things!

TSW’s first State of the Game. Snippet:

We’re going to be releasing fresh and tasty new content FREE to our subscribers on a regular, monthly basis. The first update is due on Tuesday, July 31st, and we will be releasing more details about that particular update later this week — including a couple of fun surprises. (You’re going to love it.)

Go read it. Then tell me what it said. I have too much work to do; if I’m lucky, I’ll get some time to log in on Sunday. I are a sad panda.

Too much smiling in the cube

I should have seen the warning signs – except there weren’t any. Just a request email on Monday night from an old client, one who pays his invoices on time, which makes him something of a star in my book. And suddenly I’m going to be translating somewhere around 25,000 words this week – means nothing to most people, but it’s a lot.

I don’t have a boss, but I’m sure Sod was out there looking after me.

This / is me this week.

If you’re playing TSW or GW2, I hate you.

Signs of life – LOTRO, FF XIV

Finally, some time to play! Cue much happy sighing and wondering if I’ve forgotten some work I should be doing. When you’re really busy, playing can seem like a bit of a guilty pleasure – which only enhances its appeal as far as I’m concerned.

LOTRO remains very fun and will always be exceedingly pretty to look at. I don’t think I’ve taken so many screenshots in years, but since most of them are landscapes and the like I won’t inflict them on you (much).

Speaking of you, hello and welcome to the nice new people stopping by! Thanks to those who haven’t abandoned me for greener blog pastures — not that I can blame them, an un-updated blog is like cheese with no wine.

So yes, while I don’t have any deep thoughts about MMOs for the time being — wait, hold on. I do. I have some thoughts about FF XIV but since they’re based on hearsay and not personal play, I’ll keep them to myself for the time being. (Mostly.) Nonetheless, FF XIV really throws into sharp relief the fact that we don’t play the games we want to play but rather the games we’re given. If the designers decide that everyone should have purple hair, that’s how it’s going to be. If the designers decide that the only way to advance is to stand on your head and recite the Bhagavad Gita, that’s how it’s going to be too.

I really don’t like the idea of being told how much I can play for xp before I get slammed by penalties and how many quests I can do in a given day. Which still doesn’t obviate the fact that I play as I’m told in every other game too — I just don’t dislike it. The difference is my approach, not the fact that we do — whatever we may think — for the most part play the game that’s designed for us. They make the mazes and we run through them.

This isn’t a bad thing per se. Games need rules. I don’t play Monopoly using Scrabble rules (though that might be interesting now and then) and I don’t play poker using canasta rules – if I did, I’d be playing canasta, not poker.

So before you start yelling at me that actually we play the games we want and not the games that are designed for us, I’m not painting a dark developer conspiracy. I don’t do that and I’ve spoken against it before (somewhere here, find your own damn links).

We are the conspiracy. We get used to expecting certain things and when those things are designed differently, we usually react — at least initially — with dislike. As I’m doing with FF XIV, sight unseen. I never did get a chance to get the patcher working and check out the open beta, work being what it was. However, Pete at Dragonchasers has some interesting writeups so check that out if you’re on the fence about FF XIV as I am.

In the meantime I’ve been faffing around Middle Earth, mostly on my own, sometimes with the spousal unit, and it’s been fun. The No-Quests week really did remind me that even though the maze may be created for me, I do get the freedom to decide what particular path I want to take through it — which is a not inconsiderable freedom and one we might want to make use of more often. There is nothing that says I have to hit level X by day Y, or that I have to do Activity A instead of Activity B. Most MMOs, however theme-parkish, still don’t insist that you do the same thing all day every day; that’s usually our choice.

So I’ve been harvesting and selling and mooching around and visiting places I may be just a little too high for — and it’s been a lot of fun. There are so many quests to do in most of the established MMOs these days that you absolutely can’t do them all while they’re still challenging. (Not unless you can level-lock, which some games like EQ2 allow you to do.) But since I’m not a gigantic challenge-chaser anyway, I’ve been happy to visit the Barrow Downs even though the mobs were mostly conning green and pale blue — and, in contrast, to run through Evendim and suddenly realise that everything was conning either red or purple and that I should probably watch my blithely mining step.

Maybe Heloyse and Mortormur will visit the Barrow Downs — they’re already a little high for most of the Old Forest, at 17, but the Downs should still be quite the challenge. Even I like a little danger now and then.

As I said, I’ve taken a ton of screenshots. I’ll throw some up because they’re fun – to me, anyway – and hopefully illustrate how atmospheric LOTRO can be and how profound the attention to detail is in almost everything you look at. (For instance: the snowy landscape around Thorin’s Gate has beaten-down, mulched-up areas where people take shortcuts through the snow. It took me a while of seeing those to realise how natural they looked and how much they contribute to the illusion of a world where stuff does go on whether your character is there or not.)

If you’re lucky I’ll be able to post a little more regularly now. Or maybe that’s unlucky.

The brightest stars fade more slowly at dawn
Do want! (The map table, not the men.)
Creepy old Barrow in the creepy old Barrow Downs...
Obligatory Weathertop pic

What I want isn’t what I wanted

The spousal unit and I were both in the Lord of the Rings Online Beta a few years ago, but we decided against getting or playing the game at launch.

Why?

I’m not really sure. It just wasn’t our thing back then; maybe the crafting wasn’t hardcore enough.

Now it is (our thing; the crafting still isn’t hardcore). Well, mine, anyway, and I’m trying to talk him into playing too on the rare occasions we both have some free time – which have been rarer than the jackalope this last month, so I think we’ve been able to log in together maybe twice so far. But the new Free to Play model makes it easy, and you don’t feel pressured to log in to get the most of your sub or trial time.

I’m subbed up though and will stay that way. There are too many useful perks to being subbed. That said, the LOTRO F2P model does seem quite well done, without too many “I can’t do this!” frustrations and without too heavy a stick beating you about the head telling you to spend money. In contrast, I get the feeling SOE pulled out their biggest stick when designing EQ2X, but since I haven’t actually tried the latter — and really don’t want to right now, they’re not in my good books — I shouldn’t comment.

The point being: tastes change. Requirements change. Free time amounts change.

In my 20s, I could spend hours and hours hanging out with my friends, shooting the shiz and fixing the ills of the world. Beer was a bonus but not obligatory.

These days, I have neither the time nor the inclination to do stuff like that very often. I have a schedule. Responsibilities. Stuff to do (rather than just talk about). And besides, it just isn’t as thrilling to talk about stuff all day when you’ve already spent 20 years talking about said stuff.

My gaming life hasn’t been all that different, though offset by about 10 years. In my first few years of MMO gaming I was perfectly content to spend hours and hours hanging out with my friends, shooting the shiz and fixing the ills of the game. And I don’t mean hanging out in the same chat channel – we actually hung out in (virtual) person. Did I mention Asheron’s Call didn’t have very advanced chat capabilities?

Those truly were halcyon days — both my 20s and my early gaming years — and part of me always looks back to those when I look for something new to play or wonder why I’m not perfectly content in what I’m currently playing. But the plain fact is, we change.

I grew (not up, necessarily). I want different things from games now, but part of me will always judge games (or social gatherings) through the lens of my early experiences. Sometimes those games don’t look right through the lens and it takes me a while to realise they might actually be fun for who I am now not who I was 10-20 years ago.

That’s it. No point as such, just the observation of something I only needed 10 years of gaming to notice.

So yeah. I’ve been working. A lot — no, let me rephrase that. A LOT. Apologies to readers old and new (hi Alarron!). I’m trying to take a few days off, though some dumbass accepted work for today (/e slaps self on back of head). I will most likely spend those days playing, not blogging — though it’s good to see that the old urge hasn’t quite abandoned me yet.

I love you guys, but there’s no way I’m going to make time for blogging when I’m getting up at 0500 and working till 1900, even if my gameroom is my office is is my blogging desk. I’ll make time to play something first. Speaking of which, it’s time for my self-prescribed game-hour.

~

Quick chars/servers update. I’m mostly on Elendilmir right now, because the queues on Landroval were too high for the spousal unit (not paying, doesn’t get to jump the line). So even though we haven’t really played as much as we’d have wanted to, it’s where I am.

Ysharros the Man-Captain (/raisebrow) is now 23, has a faster horse and better armour, and owns a deluxe house in Falathlorn. To the manor born, I tell ya.

Heloyse is the duo-with-hubby-hunter who hasn’t had much screentime yet.

And… err… I think Aethinviel (tbc) is the Lore Master I made in a fit of OMG MUST HAVE AN ALT!!! She hasn’t been played much either.

Someone actually contacted me yesterday in game, asking if I was the Stylish Corpse Ysharros — as far as I know there’s only one other person who occasionally uses the handle and she’s in the UK — and that was really flattering. I’m sure the big bloggy types get that all the time, but as far as I can recall it’s only ever happened to me once or twice. It’s pretty neat.

This many goblins!*

*I lie. It was all Elrohir. I just cut him out of the picture.

Mea maxima culpa

So, one whole week into September and I have to break my promise. The one where I said I’d post every day.

I could do it, but it would be BS postings with no substance and none of my trademark waffling length. I have too much work right now — my days are starting at 5:30 AM and I’m still working (well, posting, but supposed to be working) at 6:15 PM. The situation is likely to continue for a few days and I a) haven’t had time to log in to a game since last week — not even FF XIV, which is a real shame dammit — and b) haven’t got anything non work-related to say that isn’t along the lines of “Nnnngh… Guuuhhhhng.”

Sorry. Normal service should resume shortly — I’m freelance after all, no work spike lasts forever.

Now if only I could get these people to pay their invoices…