Secret World Legends, A Quick Look

I spent a little bit of time Friday evening checking out the head start for Secret World Legends. I was actually surprised how many people on Twitter were downloading it. I don’t remember seeing more than a couple people express much interest in The Secret World on my timelines before.

Let me be blunt, like a politician: It’s the same game. It has slightly more action-y combat, in that you no longer have to hit the tab key to select targets. Instead, you point at the target you want to hit. (And when you point at a target, it “highlights” just as if you had tab-targeted it.) In my opinion, this does not fundamentally change the game at all. The animations are the same, the models are the same, the movement is the same.

In fact, I’m struggling to understand why they needed to wipe the player base and start over at all. The only technical reason I can think of is that they didn’t have the time or expertise to come up with a migration plan to convert a database of TSW players into SWL players.

New guy, same as the old guy. More or less.

My TSW character was shotgun/hammer-based, so of course I made a shotgun/hammer class in SWL. The shotgun in SWL is weird and nonsensical. It “reloads” with, as far as I can tell, random ammunition after every six shots. Why? I have no idea. I don’t think I’m going to use it very long.

To be fair, I’ve only played for about 50 minutes. I made an Illuminati character just like my old one. He didn’t look quite the same because the faces and hair in the SWL character creator look different. (The character creator was improved, by the way, though not dramatically so.) The character faces were updated sort of in the same way that the models in WoW were updated that one time. The same, but, slightly smoother. It is obvious that your character’s face is rendered differently than all the NPC faces.

The game sees us ingesting a bee in the same cut scenes as before. In the middle of destroying our own apartment, we get a brand new tutorial to introduce the game systems. We get a simple example of each type of mission (action, investigation, stealth, or whatever they are supposed to be called), then we go back to our apartment to finish the introductory cut scenes. A fast-talking recruiter knocks on our apartment door to invite us to New York. And off we go.

I feel like this fast-talker was new, but maybe I just don’t remember him.

I played until I got to the streets of New York (level 2), which were actually crowded with other new players. I was a little surprised, since I thought they had said they were removing some of the “MMO” from the game. Regardless, by then, I wanted to get back to Stormblood. :)

I guess the point I’m trying to make with this post is that if you’ve played TSW before and made any significant progress, there doesn’t seem to be much point in starting over and playing SWL, unless you’re just a glutton for punishment. The changes are not nearly big enough to make the game feel “fresh” again. It’s the same game, same graphics, same models, same animations, same maps, and obviously the same cut scenes and quests.

It’s one of the most illogical game development and publishing decisions I can ever remember seeing. They alienated their existing player base on the hope and gamble that they would pick up a brand new player base. It makes no sense.

The Hail Mary feel of this move suggests to me that Funcom must have been really up against the wall and had literally no other choice. It was either this, or shut down TSW completely. If that’s the case then I suppose I should commend them for trying, but wow, what a terrible choice to have to make. All I can say is good luck to them.

Still, if you haven’t played the game before, you should definitely check out Secret World Legends. It’s free after all. The stories and NPC characters are very, very good, even if the graphics and combat is a bit meh by modern standards.

If you’re a veteran who’s played through the whole game already then, um, sorry. It doesn’t look like there’s much here for you.

For myself, I played through all of the zones in the original launched game, but I didn’t play any of the subsequent Issues or get to Tokyo. There will be new things for me to look at–eventually–but I’m not looking forward to slogging my way all the way through to Transylvania again. I suppose I’ll pop in occasionally, more-or-less like I’ve always done with The Secret World, but it’s never going to be my main game.

P.S. Installing the new game also wiped out the launcher for the old game. I thought you were supposed to be able to play both at the same time, but no matter which launcher I run, I get SWL now. (Apparently there was a secret way to run both, but Funcom certainly didn’t tell anyone about it.)

P.P.S. This might be a good teachable moment for software developers: Always think about forward compatibility. Always. Always, always, always. If I were ever to teach a class in programming, this would be a very important topic. If updating the player database is going to break your game so badly that it requires a brand new launch and player wipe, you might be doing something wrong.

Secret World Legends Announced

Totally ripped off from https://secretworldlegends.com/

There is some interesting MMORPG news out! Well, “shared-world” news, that is. Some time back, Funcom mentioned in an investor report that they were planning to “re-launch” The Secret World, and Internet speculation ran rampant. Nobody knew what that actually meant. Today, we found out.

Funcom is planning to launch a new free-to-play game called Secret World Legends (the official acronym is apparently SWL, judging from my Twitter feed). This game will be a “shared-world action RPG.” You can read all the announcement information yourself on their site.

The good news is that the existing game, The Secret World, will remain untouched and work as before. The bad news is that it will probably remain untouched and neglected for the remainder of its lifetime, which might not be very long if Legends is successful. (That is pure speculation on my part.)

For me personally, Legends sounds like a good thing. Details are sketchy, but I certainly wouldn’t mind a combat overhaul to something a little more modern (possibly console-friendly?). TSW combat has always been an odd hybrid of tab-targeting and action combat, doing neither very well. I also found the progression in TSW a bit too strange so I would welcome a change there too. And, I’m completely anti-social in MMOs so the ability to play the whole game solo is a plus for me.

People who won’t be happy about this are those who have invested a huge amount of time and effort into TSW, and like the game the way it is. Funcom isn’t saying this, but I can’t imagine they are going to run and update both games in parallel, at least not for long. I could see them shuttering TSW in a year or two, although I think it would behoove them to leave a server running in maintenance mode as long as they are able to.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m definitely interested in learning more about this new game.

Progression Report – March

March was definitely a low point in my 2015 MMORPG activity, but don’t panic. This is normal for me. There’s usually one or more months during the year when I end up watching television instead. Still, I accomplished a few things.

In Rift, I continued to log in every few days to collect Minion rewards and send them out again. My bank and inventory is bursting with useless junk.

In Final Fantasy XIV, I forgot to mention that I joined the cool blogger Free Company on Cactuar. Unfortunately every time I log into FFXIV I stand around feeling like I don’t have any goals to accomplish. I do have goals, but none of them are interesting to me right now, which is a shame because it’s awesome to see so many other people *cough* finally *cough* getting on the FFXIV bandwagon.

In a surprise move toward the end of March, I created a Romulan faction character in Star Trek Online and ran around for less than an hour. I could see myself playing some STO in April because it feels “new” to me right now, but historically the game has never clicked with me.

In Neverwinter, I finally put the time in to level my Great Weapon Fighter from level 59 to 60. That took about 2 hours.

In Guild Wars 2, I played about 3 hours and finished up the Echoes of the Past story. And the most amazing thing happened: I found a staff!!

GW2-Monsoon-Staff

This is literally the first staff upgrade I’ve seen since I hit level 80 like two years ago. Unfortunately it’s a stupid useless healing staff, and I normally use an axe anyway, but just knowing that it’s possible to still find gear upgrades out in the world is encouraging. But as a super casual 3-hour-a-month player, I guess I will have to wait another two years to find another one.

SWTOR held another double-XP weekend from March 27-30, which salvaged a month otherwise completely devoid of logging in. I spent 4 hours questing in Balmorra over the weekend, leveling my Jedi Guardian from 32 to 35. (Still, I cancelled my subscription which ends on April 11.)

Now for something completely different. I’ve seen a lot of people talking about how great Marvel Heroes is, so I went ahead and downloaded it. I’m not a superhero person but it’s kind of a fun game in a super-casual kind of way. I played a whopping 12 hours and after trying a bunch of heroes, went with Colossus and leveled him up to 19.

Rawr.
Colossus practicing his skiing stance.

I played nearly 13 hours of Trove in my quest to get a character up to level 20 so I can get a free Budgie mount in Rift. My Fae Trickster is now up to level 13. I typically play just long enough to fill up that bar in the top-right corner, then log out.

Topping the list for March, I spent almost 17 hours playing Path of Exile, another ARPG which arguably doesn’t even belong here. I played most of the different archetypes but I’m sticking with the Templar as my main, who has reached the god-like level of, coincidentally, 17.

I didn’t play any TSW or The Repopulation in March.

In the single-player game department, I played mainly Banished and Civ 5 with a smattering of Dragon Age II and Legend of Grimrock thrown in.

In April I’m planning to work on a story for Camp NaNoWriMo, so my gaming time might be further limited. But I hope to continue leveling my Fae Trickster in Trove, play some more STO, and hopefully get back into FFXIV. Maybe I’ll work on my Black Mage class.

P.S. I don’t know if I can keep up this pace of monthly progression reports, I might switch to quarterly. :)

Progression Report – February

I think I’ll make this a “thing” and do a monthly progress report of all the MMOs I’m playing. I started running a time tracking program* called ManicTime so I can actually record precisely how much I’ve played every game now.

Games on my desktop

FFXIV (22** hrs). I unlocked most of the new 2.5 dungeons and World of Darkness, however I haven’t actually gone into any of them yet. (To this day I’ve only done one level 50 dungeon–Amdapor Keep for the Relic quest.) In other news I leveled my Rogue class from–you might want to sit down for this epic achievement–10 to 15.

Crazy Pirate Outfit
Got this crazy-looking pirate outfit from Syrcus Tower.

Now that Syrcus Tower no longer has the weekly restrictions, I’ve run it with my Bard to pick up more of the level 100 Amon’s patchwork pirate outfit. I only need the boots to complete the set, which of course never drops no matter how many times I go through there. I’ve also picked up over half of the Atmas I need from FATEs for the next part of the Relic weapon quest, and I’m inching closer to maxing out the Sylph Beast tribe reputation. (The only reason I’m doing that is to get that freaky goobbue mount, which is the only mount I’ve ever wanted in FFXIV.)

Just recently the Manderville Gold Saucer was added. I’ve only played a little bit of cards so far.

Guild Wars 2 (4 hrs). I finished up Dragon’s Reach Part 2, and started Echoes of the Past, so I only have to finish four more Living Story Season 2 episodes to get caught up. At every turn, there’s an annoying boss battle to get through so it’s slow going. I’m starting to see the origins of the Revenant profession now though. I try to log in every day for the login rewards but I only remember to do so every other day or so.

Landmark (2 hrs). I dropped into Landmark once or twice since I re-rolled and at least it seems like they’ve removed the impossible-to-beat monsters from around the starting area. (In fact all monsters now seem to be gone.) I like the big checklist of things-to-do that shows up on the right. I still have no clue how to reach the “underground” layers though. It’s now been, what, a little over a year since it was released to the public and it’s now looking to be about where I thought it would be back then. Onward and upward… hopefully.

The starting point of the new island in Rift 3.1

Rift (2 hrs). I started looking into the new island released in 3.1, but it hasn’t really grabbed me yet. Since my Mage is already 65 it seems a bit pointless to go through another quest chain. If you’re into lore, it seems like this new area is trying to tie the stories of the Storm Legion and Nightmare Tide expansions together somehow. I sort of feel like I can’t progress much further in Rift without joining a guild.

The Repopulation (2 hrs). A $20 edition became available on Steam so I went ahead and took a chance on it. I haven’t played much yet because the game is still pretty rough–I haven’t even left the tutorial area. (Yes, it’s so old school that it actually has a tutorial area!) The animation is a bit janky and the graphics are a bit slow. If you get it, be prepared to jump right on into the deep end with overwhelming amounts of information right at the start. If this is what Star Wars Galaxies was like, it’s no wonder people went for the much simpler WoW instead. :) (Though I don’t know what any of it means, I’m impressed by the amount of stuff in the 15.1.1 patch.)

My dude in The Shadowy Forest

The Secret World (19 hrs). My most exciting MMO development of the month was finally getting past a TSW mission that had me stuck in the Besieged Farmlands for, oh, I don’t know, the past year or so? It was the main story Mortal Sins, Tier 4–the one where you had to find a woman spying from a hilltop or something, but there was no mark for it on the map. After getting past that, I pushed on through to the end of the Mortal Sins quest line which presumably was the end of the main story at the original launch. It’s hard to quantify my progress since there aren’t any levels in TSW, but everything in Transylvania now ranges from “Normal” to “Hard.” I tried some Scenarios but I have yet to come anywhere close to succeeding at one, even on Novice level.

On a technical note, I had a major problem with frame rate hiccups in TSW, especially during combat. I thought it might have been Verizon screwing around with traffic shaping again but using Battleping didn’t help. However, when I switched from DirectX 11 to DirectX 9 the problem entirely vanished. (This was on a GeForce GTX 770.)

SWTOR (12 hrs). Last time, I reported that I had gotten back into SWTOR and re-subscribed. Well, that didn’t last long. My interest faded toward the end of January and I only logged in a couple of times a week. Not that there’s anything wrong with SWTOR. I enjoy it when I play it. But, you know, the quests are all pretty much the same, and the leveling progress is a bit slow. Kira Carsen’s witty banter can only entertain a person for so long.

Then, luckily for me, there was a double-XP weekend from Feb 13-17 so I played a lot more during that time. I usually miss promotional events so it was pretty exciting that one of my game-du-jours actually aligned with a “bonus stuff” weekend. Since my last update I leveled my Jedi Guardian from 22 to 32 and finished Tatooine, Alderaan and all of Chapter One, surpassing the progress I made with my original 28 Scoundrel who hit a brick wall in Alderaan.

Trove (1 hr). I popped into Trove now and then but I can never figure out where to find all the cool stuff they keep advertising. Still, I get a bunch of… I dunno, some kind of yellow coin thingy… every time I log in, so it’s fine.

ArcheAge was not on the above list because my patron status has run out and I don’t particularly want to log in anymore to see what abominable thing has happened to my house and farm.

And that’s pretty much all of the MMORPGs I’ve been playing. With my recent forays into survival games I’ve been thinking of re-installing Fallen Earth. And next month I predict I’ll be playing some ESO again.

P.S. My biggest time-sink was Google Chrome at 32 hours, 12 of which were spent writing and editing blog posts. :)

* I only started ManicTime on February 13. Next month I’ll get a much better sample.

** I don’t believe ManicTime on this. There’s no way I played more FFXIV than TSW since February 13.

GW2 – Heart of Thorns Initial Reactions

Guild Wars 2 Heart of Thorns

I’m pretty sure I will buy the GW2 expansion Heart of Thorns, however I’m not sure it will hold my attention for very long since it appears there is not going to be anything new to do for existing endgame characters except collect more achievements.

Masteries. “We’re reimagining progression with our new Mastery system.” I’ll need to see this before I can make a final judgment on it, but initially it sounds like more grinding, to be honest. Hang gliders are a cool concept (I loved them in ArcheAge) but if I have to grind before I can get one, that’s a lot less cool.

It’s taken me so long to post this that there is now more information from ArenaNet about the Masteries, and my reaction is a solid… um… head scratch. That post almost sounds like they are angry at their player base. “Masteries are here to stay,” it declares, almost as if they expect the players are going to balk and complain about it. If nothing else, that post re-affirms the position that Guild Wars 2 will continue to be a game that is all about collecting achievements instead of collecting stuff. Unfortunately for me, getting an achievement (otherwise known as “making an arbitrary number go up”) has never lit up the reward center of my brain very much.

Maguuma. “New adventures await you in the heart of the Maguuma Jungle.” Well, the jungles were my least favorite zones, so I guess I’m out of luck here.

More of this?
More of this?

But when I look on the map I don’t see anything but Maguuma Wastes over there by Dry Top. Which doesn’t sound like a jungle to me.

Or more of this?
Or more of this?

And ramping up the difficulty level of the environment is not something I particularly wanted either, but maybe it will be more fun than I think. (I really hope they don’t put a lot of those annoying vine-based monsters in there.) WildStar crashed and burned partly because of its difficulty, and even The Secret World is finally scaling back its difficulty.

Specializations. “With profession specializations, you’ll unlock access to a weapon previously unavailable to your profession…” Sounds cool but lack of weapon diversity wasn’t exactly a weak area in the game.

Revenant. “Channel legendary powers to slaughter foes and unleash chaos on the battlefield with our brand new profession: the revenant.” Cool beans, a new class! (It’s a class, not a profession. Come on!) Now this will get me to re-roll and play to 80 again. This will probably take up 90% of my time in the new expansion. In my opinion, the expansion should have focused more on new classes and races. If they are stamping their foot and telling us to suck it, the “journey” is the game, then it seems to me they should provide more reasons for us to re-roll a new character and start a new journey.

Guild Halls. “Work with fellow guild members to claim and grow your own guild hall in the heart of Maguuma.” Don’t really care, unless it’s something my 1-person guild can do hehe.

The big question is for me is: Are they addressing the weak points in the game with this expansion? From what I can tell, not really. It sounds like it will remain a game designed for you to have an awesome time leveling from 1 to 80, then retire or re-roll. (And don’t get me wrong, it’s awesome playing from 1 to 80.) If you’ve already leveled from 1 to 80 several times, though, I’m not seeing much that will be new. But it’s still early. I hope I’m wrong.

Mid-June MMO Status Report

Not much to talk about, so here’s a non-WildStar MMO status report!

ArcheAge. I’ve only logged in to pay the taxes on my measely 8×8 farm, and occasionally grow aspen trees. I don’t expect to play this any more until after it launches.

The Secret World. I have logged in every few days to grind through a mission or two in the City of the Sun God zone. I’m attempting to collect AP and SP so I can fill out my skills better, which will better prepare me to go back to the Besieged Farmlands and continue the main story quest, which will then eventually allow me to get to Tokyo perhaps sometime in 2018.

ESO. Subscription expired. I could see myself subscribing for another month sometime down the road, though, after they implement more changes.

FFXIV. Subscription expired. I’m almost positive I will re-subscribe sometime later, because they keep adding cool stuff to the game.

Rift. I saw that they were doing the Temporal Flux thingy or whatever again so I logged in to do the daily for that. Then I promptly forgot to log in any other days. I’m about 500 days behind on earning that currency anyway.

Guild Wars 2. Waiting along with everyone else for the Living Story Season 2. I don’t expect to do much but log in and watch the cut scenes, though. It’s kind of interesting to have an MMO where you "tune in" to see a new Living Story episode every couple of weeks like it’s a television show. I like that concept even if I don’t particularly want to play the game.

Age of Conan. I haven’t gone back since my brief foray a couple weeks ago. Now I play TSW to get my Funcom fix. (The menus in those two games are eerily similar.)

Bonus Report: World of Warcraft. I’m not planning to buy Warlords of Draenor, but for some weird reason I keep seeing people talk about it in my Twitter feed like it’s going to be the greatest thing ever, so I feel a lot of peer pressure to buy it anyway. :) It would be the very first WoW expansion I’ve bought and played when it launches, so it might be worth it just to have that cultural experience. I’m sure I’d have to buy my way to level 90 though. I’m sure it’s possible to grind my 60 Mage or 72 Hunter up to 90 by the time it comes out but that doesn’t sound terribly fun.

WildStar – PUG Attunements!

Yesterday I said that WildStar’s dungeons are too hard for PUGs, so today I’m going to solve that problem.

Okay, I don’t really know how to solve it.

But I have an idea: PUG Attunements! Or as I like to call it, "Stuff you have to do before you can queue in the dungeon finder."

In order for a PUG to even have a chance at success, you need each member of the group to know how to dodge and interrupt. You also need the tank to know how to maintain a little bit of threat, and you need the healer to know how to heal people who are running around like chickens with their heads cut off.

The WildStar Dungeon Preparation Simulation*, as I’ll call, would be a single-player instance that drills you on the skills you need in a dungeon. (I think this is something like The Gatekeeper in The Secret World, which I’ve never actually seen but only read about.) It would present a series of tests that the player must pass with a fairly high degree of accuracy before unlocking the ability to queue for dungeons. The tests should be tuned so that someone who is already "hardcore" enough can pass them on the first or second try.

The Dungeon Preparation Simulation has two main purposes: First, to train newer players in the skills they’ll need to do well in a dungeon. Second and just as important, to give players entering a PUG some confidence that whatever random group they get might actually be able to finish the dungeon.

To test dodging, I would make people run through some kind of obstacle course that throws out random telegraphs that you have to avoid. They would have to be fast enough that you could only avoid them by dodging, not simply running out of them. In order to pass, you’d have to avoid at least 90% of them. (And ideally they should be randomized enough that you can’t just memorize how to do it.)

Testing a player’s interrupt ability is a little harder because in dungeons you need two people to interrupt. But in a solo instance I might throw things at the player that they must see and interrupt quickly. Perhaps throw in some telegraphs that the player doesn’t need to interrupt so he has to decide whether to burn his 30-second cooldown or not. Perhaps have things they must interrupt while they are dodging telegraphs at the same time. Maybe that could be the final round of testing. First phase: Dodging. Second phase: Interrupting. Final phase: Dodging and interrupting.

If the player wants to tank, I would make them pass a tanking simulation. The instance might throw waves of mobs at the player and require him to grab aggro before they kill some innocent bystanders. Perhaps it might throw some extremely damaging telegraphs and force the player to pop defensive cooldowns to survive and pass the tests.

A similar situation could be created for testing healers. Put a bunch of friendly NPCs in a room taking damage while running around all over the place, and make the healer keep them alive for a period of five or ten minutes. It would have to be a long period of time to force the healer to manage his focus resource over long boss fights. The healer would also have to avoid pulling too much threat.

Now keep in mind, these tests would only need to be passed in order to queue for the random group finder tool. If you put together your own group, there’s no need for tests.

Well, it’s an idea, I’m not saying it’s a great one. But I do think it’s better than PUGs constantly disbanding after one wipe.

Of course now that I think about it, one could argue that the Level 20 Dungeons are Dungeon Preparation Simulators. Because I suspect a lot of people aren’t going to bother trying the Level 30 dungeons after getting creamed in the Level 20 dungeons.

* I swear I did not plan that to have the acronym DPS.

Friday Blues

Today I’ve got the blues. It’s been a generally lousy week. I was going to skip posting today because I didn’t have anything queued up and in the broad spectrum of life, who really gives a crap whether one blog out of a billion misses a post. Instead I’m going to attempt to rid myself of this funk by writing a little bit, because it’s Friday morning and my workplace is dead as a doornail on Fridays so I have eight full hours to kill.

Last night I finally finished watching the HBO miniseries The Pacific, which is about the Pacific Theatre of WWII if you didn’t know. I had seen the first two or three episodes way back when it came out but never got around to seeing the rest. It’s excellent, horrifying, and really draining. The point is that it has interfered with my gaming time this week, so I have nothing particularly interesting to report from WildStar or any other game. My Esper has mostly been standing around AFK while I stare at my iPad. (I don’t have a television.)

I can relate to what Elysium from Gamers With Jobs is feeling right now. I’m a bit bummed that neither ESO nor WildStar have turned out to have much staying power (for me). I’m still playing WildStar but my heart hasn’t been in it this week. Maybe I’ll perk up next week.

Is anyone else even working on a AAA MMO after this? I guess EQ Next is the next big one, but I wouldn’t expect to see that before late 2015 at the rate they’re working on Landmark. What are we supposed to do until then? Play *gasp* single-player games? Anyway, I don’t have much faith in SOE when it comes to making games.

I jumped into The Secret World for a little while this week to see if I could see anything new since the Tokyo update. However after less than an hour of playing I remembered that my character is kind of stuck in the Besieged Farmlands and pathetically under-powered. If you think WildStar soloing is difficult, you should see TSW. It’s the undisputed king of hard MMOs as far as I’m concerned. Even when I go back to the previous desert zone I get messed up if I’m not careful. I feel like at this point I just need to grind and grind and grind on easier missions so I can get SP and AP. I’ve been spending my points all over the place rather than sticking with a specific path from the beginning, so I’m sure I don’t have as many skills as I should at this point in the game. It’s not a terribly attractive prospect.

So I think this weekend I’ll be regrouping a bit. If nothing else, I hope the accursed, soul-sucking rain will stop!