The Secret Adventures: Purple imposter (Kingsmouth #9)

(You can follow my playthrough of The Secret World on Bio Break’s projects page!)

ellisRunaway Lights (action mission)

  • Wow, are we to our final Kingsmouth mission NPC already?  I guess so!  This one here is Ellis Hill, who is (spoiler) not Ellis Hill at all.  The shovel-and-dirt trail leading into the airport hanger is one clue about this purple imposter.
  • “Ellis” is concerened that the airport generator is starting to fail, and even though my character refuses to shake his hand, I guess I’m the best one of the job.
  • Said job involves running through the various tunnels under the runway to check on the wiring and then knock out the mechanical golem that’s guarding the generator.  Doing this proves a little challenging, as some of these rooms are almost sabotage-like with environmental hazards.  The toxic water room and its narrow passage is the worst.

genThere’s Something About Ellis Hill (side mission)

  • A dead body by the airport generator clutches a note suggesting that “Ellis” isn’t who he says he is.  Now, I know the truth, but let’s pretend otherwise and go on a morbid scavenger hunt for clues!
  • The shovel in the hanger has a trail of dirt leading from it… and that dirt goes to the truck parked outside.  Inside is a plot-convenient GPS that traces a route back to the bike track.  Dunno why this guy needed a GPS to guide him all of a quarter of a mile, but oh well.
  • At the track, I find a semi-buried body of the real Ellis Hill.  Poor guy, and an Iraqi War vet too.  Geary suggests that this imposter is one of the Phoenicians, and I’m inclined to agree.  I really wish I could confront him about it, but nothing doing.

golden Dead Air (investigation mission)

  • Man this “Ellis” guy creeps me out, especially how he’s always poised to attack me when I come in the room.  I’m kind of wondering how such a huge guy was able to fit into the smaller real Ellis’ coveralls, but I should stop asking questions.
  • “Ellis” talks a bit about reception and moans about how it’s all static… when the radio starts chattering.  He switches it off in a hurry and rushes me from the room, which is all the invitation I need to go Scooby Doo mystery solving on his butt.
  • I take a quick break to join the rest of the server as they pile on one of the golden golems nearby.  Nice AP reward and it gets me a pair of fiery eyes.  Noice!
  • After checking out the radio mast at the airport, it looks as though it’s a little broken and in need of some “McGuyvering.”  There are a lot of parts lying around, so I pick them all up (I only need three, but I like picking stuff up in MMOs), go back to the mast, and fix ‘er up real good.
  • That’s when this investigation mission gets interesting.  The antenna receives a message in Morse Code, which contains the location of the next part.  Figuring this out either requires (a) abnormally good Morse Code skills, as the code goes by quick, (b) an app to hear and translate the message, or (c) a weak will that leads one to a guide solution.  I think I did it honorably the first time around, so you’ll forgive me if I was a little weak here.
  • The drop site that the coordinates lead me features a large box with a very ticked-off creature inside and two Phoenician troops trying to contain it.  Kill kill, dead dead, mission over.

copBadge of Honor (side mission)

  • With all of the Kingsmouth main quests out of the way, let’s wrap up the side missions before we return to the central storyline!
  • This mission was always a little disturbing to me, mostly because it’s about piecing together a story from its aftermath.  A short, gory story involving a busted-up police car, a blood trail, and some Draug down by the water.
  • After getting the dead cop’s badge back, I have to run it alllll the way back to the sherriff’s.  Man, I haven’t been here in a while!

mailNeither Snow nor Rain nor Zombies (side mission)

  • I should have done this one a while ago!  It’s almost, almost literally a FedEx mission — I find a post office truck and decide that, hey, everyone might be dead, but that’s no reason that I can’t impersonate my favorite Kevin Costner movie!
  • You can actually do this quest three times in a row, delivering packages to three different locations.  No sweat.

bodyThe Body (side mission)

  • There’s an “unfortunate corpse” underneath one of the bridges.  All corpses are unfortunate, in my opinion, although this one looks to have been murdered prior to the fog — he’s been chained to an engine block and thrown in the river.
  • A clue on his corpse leads me back to Edgar’s Scrapyard, where I poke around in trunks until I find a photo showing the man and a whole lotta money.  I’m not really sure what went down here, and I kind of would like to know.  Oh well.

The Slaying of Dixie Bull (side mission)

  • Another mission I missed that I should have gotten a while back.  There’s a black gravestone on top of a hill that belongs to a very dead pirate… well, he used to be dead, and then Kingsmouth happened.  So now he’s roaming around and as the duly self-appointed Pirate Patrol Posse, I need to put him back in the grave.
  • If you didn’t catch that, it’s Syp vs. an undead pirate from the 1600s.  Taking any and all bets!
  • Okay, yes, that was the easiest fight ever.  He didn’t even look very piratey!  /disappoint

Trapped (side mission)

  • There’s a dead Draug on the beach, which is always a cause for celebration, although it’s odd that it died from apparent bear trap wounds.  Well, my interest is sufficiently piqued as to who not only has access to a large collection of bear traps but is deploying them against sea zombies.
  • It’s time for another follow-the-trail mission (TSW has a lot of mission sub-types).  The traps lead me to the fake Ellis, which all gives me another reason why not to invite him to my Christmas party this year.

What should WildStar do with its business model?

squirgDue to recent developer comments that they’re “watching” player discussions as to the business model and the general state of the game, it’s safe to say that the business model of WildStar has come under scrutiny not only in the community but most definitely inside Carbine/NCsoft as well.

My general feeling on business models is that there’s no one best one, but the right one for each game.  With a small-to-modest player population, we must ask, is the subscription model the right one for WildStar?  Undoubtedly, the execs at NCsoft and Carbine were hoping for a World of Warcraft-like success with a top-notch product.  And while I’ll agree that WildStar is a great game, it’s no longer 2004 and subscription-only MMOs are in the vast minority.  Players have far more options that don’t demand a monthly fee, and they are exercising those options.

So going forward, what should WildStar do with its business model?  There are three main options:

1. Stick to their sub guns and do nothing

I see sites like WildStar Core in a mild panic as of late that Carbine might indeed be changing its business model, because for some folks subscription-only offers a perceived level of quality that’s “untainted” by free-to-play options.

“Baffles me how people so down-trodden on #WildStar’s quarterly dev cycle think going F2P will give studio funds for same quality content,” they retweeted, apparently ignorant of everything else in the MMO industry.  But that right there is the key argument for keeping it sub — that any other option will result in an income decrease and that the game’s quality will suffer.

It was foolhardy for WildStar to launch with a sub as a brand-new IP in a crowded field and up against much bigger names in 2014, and I maintain that today.  If WildStar does stay sub, it’s going to become even more niche than it is today, CREDD or no.  But… if they do stick with it, at the very least they need to implement a permanent trial (say, to level 10 or 15) to allow folks non-pressure time to get to know the game before buying into it.

2. Go free-to-play/hybrid

In my opinion, WildStar actually does have a good setup for a potential free-to-play conversion.  Whether or not this was being discussed at Carbine, it’s not as if we haven’t seen sub-only MMOs make the switch from 2009 on.

I would look to games like RIFT for inspiration for this model and continue to offer a premium subscription that includes bonuses and currency.  I would give away all of the gameplay content for free with no artificial gates, but instead focus on selling some of that much-ballyhooed customization.  Costumes, mount pimping, housing items — players love these sorts of things and they have little impact on power levels or competition.  Sell those.  Sell boosts if you must.  The upside is that this would encourage more development of cool customization options, which the game needs anyway.

The biggest advantage to this path is that it would completely eliminate an initial financial barrier with no initial or ongoing fee.  The biggest disadvantage is the perceived stigma of free-to-play and the “this game is dying” PR hit that sometimes comes with the transition.

3. Go buy-to-play

I think that WildStar would greatly benefit from looking at its cousin Guild Wars 2 and taking a cue from it.  Continue to sell the boxes, but make the rest of the game free with very optional microtransactions and sales.  The whole premium currency market could be translated into WildStar thanks to its CREDD system.

Otherwise, a lot of the same free-to-play pros and cons and ideas would stay the same.  Lockboxes would be a definite drawback, as it seems that B2P and F2P games can’t resist them (although different MMOs emphasize them differently).

So if you were in charge of WildStar and wanted to ensure its financial and operational future, what business model would you pick?

The Secret Adventures: Edgar and the Trash Can of Fire (Kingsmouth #8)

(You can follow my playthrough of The Secret World on Bio Break’s projects page!)

heliBlack Helicopters (sabotage mission)

  • As Blake Harrison walks out of earshot, Ann Radcliffe pulls me aside to say that Orochi’s been operating black helicopters out of the area and that, ahem, I should go investigate.  She’s one of the few Orochi with a conscience, I guess.  Good for her.
  • So guess where we’re going?  Yup, that’s right, back to the airport.  It’s pretty much ATC part II.  In fact, you get back into the same prohibited Orochi area by stealing the same uniform and using the same code (739241 will forever be burned into my mind because of these quests).
  • From there, it’s more sneaking around to access three laptops.  The last one is really tricky, since it’s inside one of the side rooms where an Orochi is looking.  Fortunately, I find a fire alarm, pull it, and watch her run out.
  • The big revelation of this quest is that the Orochi are experimenting on the draug corpses, but then, we kind of already knew that.

squidThe Tentacle Trail (side mission)

  • Before heading to the next mission NPC, I do a quick suicide port back to town and sell off my inventory.  Oh hey, somewhere along the line I got a cool Illiminati gas mask!  Gotta put that into an outfit.
  • I begin the jog to the scrapyard when I find a squid truck (a truck carrying boxes of squid, not a truck made out of squid nor a squid that fused with a truck) that’s been vendalized.  Time to follow the box trail!
  • TSW doesn’t always hold your hand — sometimes it expects you to use your brain and observational skills.  So with a quest like this, you aren’t given an on-screen pointer, but told to follow the boxes visually.  Kind of like the Hunger earlier on.  The boxes lead to a giant Blodugr Lord (a mini-C’thulu, as I call them) and an easy fight.

I Phone Home (side mission)

  • Right across the bridge from the tentacle monster fight is a damaged tablet that belongs to Danny’s dad.  Well, he’s dead, but I still have to jog over to his home anyway to fulfill that quest requirement.
  • Oh hey, he’s not home.  Guess I need to go to the skate park to Danny I COULD HAVE TOLD YOU THAT FROM THE BEGINNING, QUEST!

defScrapyard Defence (action mission)

  • We’ve got a lot to do at Edgar’s Scrapyard.  Edgar may be somewhat slow in the head, but he’s a brilliant mechanic who — and this is always important in Kingsmouth — is still alive.
  • Edgar’s a hoot, all rough around the edges but plenty lively.  He’s working on turning a school bus into a “Zombi-Waster” to get out of town.  You know, out of all of the survivors in Kingsmouth, I’d put my money on him.  I would love to see a cutscene of him crashing this bus through the Orochi barricade and laughing all the while.
  • Edgar wants me to set up some defenses around the scrapyard in the form of explosive barrels. I love this mission!  It’s three rounds of picking up and putting down various types of barrels, then taking out waves of zombies as they come in.  There’s some setup strategy, but it’s not that hard to do.
  • Some of the zombies are called “Tar Man,” which is a nice call-out to the famous zombie from Return of the Living Dead.

golemFull Metal Golem (action mission)

  • Edgar laughs derisively at the thought of me being a hero.  I get that a lot in these cutscenes, people mocking me as a hero even though I do help anyone I can and I don’t get to say a word in my defense.  It’s like the game wants me to feel defensive about having such notions.
  • He mentions how work on the bus is not going well now that piles of scrap metal have started up and walking around to become fearsome golems.  Out of all of the weirdness in Kingsmouth, I’m at a loss to explain the golems.  Is there any reason given?  Is it related to the mechano-organic nature of the bees?  I’d love to hear your thoughts on it.
  • Getting parts from four separate golems isn’t particularly hard, but it does make for interesting encounters.  First of all, the golems have a lot of broad telegraphs (albeit slow ones) that require some footwork.  Second, once you down them to about 75% of their health, the big golems shut down and several small ones attack.  You have to kill the small ones and then extract the part from the big guy before he powers back up again.  No sweat, though.

notebookIt Takes Two to Tango (side mission)

  • The highlight of this rather boring escort mission (in which you’re escorting a dog from the scrapyard to the airport) is a peek inside of Edgar’s notebook.  I love that he chronicles that the one night’s growling noise was his belly and not the fearesome creatures of the dark.

 Tango & Cash (side mission)

  • I’m really, really kicking myself for not remembering to do this side mission at the same time as Scrapyard Defense.  It’s basically free AP for killing the mobs during the assault, and if there isn’t anyone running that quest, you have to start it up to finish this side mission.  So, oh well, might as well do both like I should have in the first place.

floaterFloater (side mission)

  • What?  Whaaaat?  You’re reading this on Bio Break, might I remind you!
  • This innoculous toilet coughs up an Orochi drone that requires a little escortin’ back to the bridge.  No sweat.  Just make sure you wipe properly afterwards, little drone.

Poll: What fall MMO expansions are you planning to play?

There are no less than six big MMO expansions coming out between now and the end of the year, and I’m curious which — if any — you’re planning to play.  Let’s take it to the polls and vote for as many or as few as apply:

Absentee Report: Guild Wars 2 and LOTRO

beorningI always wonder and occasionally fret if Bio Break readers keep track of what I’m playing — and what I *was* playing and am currently not, especially if that’s seen as an indictment of those games.  It’s a silly worry, especially since the reality is that I return to old favorite MMOs all of the time.

But in case any of you were wondering why I’ve stopped talking about Guild Wars 2 and Lord of the Rings Online, I’ll be up-front about it: I’m not playing them at the moment.

Guild Wars 2 is a spectacularly fine game that isn’t that “sticky” for me.  I like it when I play it, but the living world story (even in season 2) is not very compelling at all.  I haven’t played it since the September feature patch dropped, and can’t even speak much to how that impacted the game.

I don’t feel as though there’s much more in terms of gear to get without serious grinding (kids, just say NO to legendaries) and I’ve done the world exploration bit and then some.  Right now the game’s between major releases anyway, so I’m not even being tempted by the “every two weeks unless we say otherwise” cadence.  I’ll log in to collect the living world updates when they happen, but right now I’m letting my interest in the game go fallow so that it might revitalize in the future instead of burning me out on it entirely.

Lord of the Rings Online is an MMO I should play and one that I’ll undoubtedly return to — and perhaps soon.  Gondor is a generally excellent questing area, and I hear that they opened up the Dead Marshes with the recent 14.2 patch.  But right now I’m at the limit of 3 to 4 concurrent MMOs, and I am fine with taking a break from LOTRO for them.

I am pretty interested in seeing how the new Beorning class will affect the game; heck, I might even roll one.  Probably the one thing I miss the most is my awesome kinship, which will make a future re-entry that much easier.

Never enough time.  Never enough time.  I wish that I could freeze all of these games and their communities in their current state so that I could rotate through them without the passage of time pressing in.

The Secret Adventures: Monster slaying with Danny (Kingsmouth #7)

(You can follow my playthrough of The Secret World on Bio Break’s projects page!)

eyeInto Darkness (Illuminati sabotage mission)

  • Around this time, I get a call from The Eye summoning me back to the Illuminati Labyrinth.  I take it and port back to NYC, then muddle my way back into the HQ.
  • The Eye tells me that a meeting at a parking lot nearby went bad and, hey, I should go investigate.  Another good TSW tip: If a mission ever sends you into a parking garage, bring a change of underwear with you because you will pee yourself.
  • Having done this one before, I know to fear no night but blitz through it while screaming at the top of my lungs.  It’s still hard not to be freaked out by the combination of oppressive darkness, the confinement of the parking structure, and bad guys popping out at you.
  • There’s a big fight with a super-wednigo and a macabre discovery of my fellow Illuminati agents.  I’m sure there’s a story behind this, but I just wanted to get out of there as fast as possible.  My “run like a chicken” strategy worked really well and I only had to fight a couple of times.
  • I gotta say that The Eye is one of my new favorite characters, even if he is just a disembodied voice with a penchant for memes.  “Who’s awesome?  You’re awesome.”  Yes I am.
  • I take a well-deserved break to jaunt over to London and buy a ton of clothes.  Who looks awesome?  I look awesome.

Men in Black Vans (investigation mission)

  • I have this weird relationship with Danny.  On one hand, I really love the League of Monster Slayers in this game — a group of teens who are fighting against the forces of darkness that their parents are ignoring (like the novel IT).  And Danny is the current last living member.  But on the other hand, Funcom cannot seem to make teen or kid models in this game that aren’t 100% creepy and off-model.  Danny just looks weird.
  • I’m also curious how he’s still alive.  Danny doesn’t have any firearms and his flamethrower is busted, yet he’s set up camp inside a skate park with very few natural defenses.
  • Danny mentions seeing “men in black vans” rounding up the draug, which is our cue to meet the Orochi — the organization that specializes in dying horribly all over the world.
  • The black van in question is crashed off of the side of the road and the laptop inside requires a password.  This is where some out-of-game sleuthing is required, as players have to poke around the Orochi website to figure it out.  It’s actually a clever way to get players to read up on Orochi without shoving lore in their faces.  Someone put a LOT of work into this website, and many of the Orochi subsidiaries are seen in the background of the game (such as Sycoil gasoline).
  • That password nets me a tracking device for the doohickey that Orochi is using on the draug.  This tracking device is another TSW mission staple — it’s basically a “hot or cold” minigame where you listen to the frequency of the radar pulses and figure out where the object is.
  • From there, it’s just a matter of deactivating the device.  Even though I know the correct sequence, every time I do this mission it always screws up once or twice, sending a monster my way.

dragATC (sabotage mission)

  • When he isn’t using his remote controlled spy plane to check on Cassie, Danny’s been trying to see into the airport where the Orochi have set up a perimeter.  Their EMPs or whatever keep taking the plane out, so he wants me to go in there and disable the tech-tech.
  • I like his mention of his history teacher: “Of course, he’s a zombie now.  But he’s still Mr. Rosen.  And still wearing those way-too-tight underpants.”
  • After doing a flyby of my own and confirming that, yes, the EMP generators will down a tiny plane, it’s time to covertly run in like an idiot, get zapped a thousand times, all in an attempt to shut them down.
  • This is impossible to do if you don’t steal an Orochi uniform off of one of the dead guys’ bodies.  Trust me, it’s not as if there are a shortage of Orochi corpses in this game.  That uniform has a longer lifespan of your average corporate employee.
  • Even with the uniform, going into the guarded airport section requires keeping as wide a berth as possible from the drones and guards.  Get too close and you get zapped, requiring you to start all over again.  Yup, this is exactly the sort of mechanic that drove me to frustration in later missions in the game.  This one isn’t simple, but it’s mostly a learning exercise.
  • Long story short, Danny gets his pictures.  So long, Danny.  We’ll be in touch.
  • So why doesn’t Danny just go to his clubhouse?  Or to the Academy?  Maybe he just really, really likes to skate.

gasEvolution of the Species (action mission)

  • Now that I’ve finished infiltrating the Orochi and helping Danny to spy on them, it’s time to head over to their temporary HQ and offer my services.  My position as a hero is very ambiguous in this game; I’m more like a mercenary for hire with a boss that’s cool with me doing whatever.
  • The two Orochi leaders, Ann and Harrison, are actually pretty neat to listen to.  Just go up to them and hang out for a while — they have several conversations back and forth.  Ann is a hoot, especially when she gushes over me being a “superhero.”  Also, catch their “confirm or deny” game.  I think that they’re a cute couple.
  • Harrison Blake is voiced by Star Trek Voyager’s Tim Russ (Tuvok), which makes his later “red shirts” comment all that much more hilarious.  Ann is voiced by Tara Strong, AKA Twilight Sparkle from My Little Pony (among many other things).
  • The Orochi want me to help shore up their perimeter, which sounds pretty standard until you really think about it.  First of all, Harrison makes a big deal out of the company being there to observe and not intervene — in other words, they’re not there to help the civilians from being slaughtered.  Second, the Orochi are blocking the only bridge back to the mainland, which effectively cuts off an overland escape route.  Now, they may be doing that to contain the situation and because the fog would kill anyone going over the bridge, but to me it still seems heartless.
  • I go to my work of diassembling the draug, piece by piece.  It’s nothing special, although after a while the mission tells me to assemble a homemade bomb (gasoline), which made me wonder why I can’t just go to the Orochi and ask for a grenade or something.  Man, I would love grenades in this game.

redshirtsHulk Smash (action mission)

  • Ann is worried that the Condition 17s — the zombies — are mutating inexplicably in the location of the nearby Priest Island.  Since I’m a willing red shirt, to the island I go!  Once again, I’m grateful for the low tide.
  • So weird thing that I sometimes do is to stop and watch the NPC idle animations.  You’d be surprised what devs do with these.  I got a chuckle out of this one zombie who just kept kicking this tree half-heartedly.  Stupid tree.  Always getting in the way.
  • ANYWAY… Priest Island is full of three things: zombies, hulking zombies, and Filth pools.  Guess we know why there are mutations.
  • I have a somewhat enjoyable time running around killing zombies and plugging up holes with boulders.  That’s how professionals deal with dire world-ending threats: plug them with rocks.

What the Tide Brought In (side mission)

  • This side mission is a good one to run parallel to Hulk Smash, as it asks me to pick up and return five Orochi cannisters on Priest Island.
  • It’s easiest to just stick to the beach, since I can find all five relatively quickly this way.  Easy AP!

journeyThe Captain’s Playlist (side mission)

  • This is probably the first side mission that woke me up to the fact that side missions in TSW can be as involved as main missions and as challenging.  This one is like a mini-investigation quest — I find a note telling of a captain’s buried treasure, but the coordinates are certain lengths of 1980s pop music hits (Safety Dance and Don’t Stop Believin’).
  • I’m so willing to bet that this was some older designer’s attempt to get the younger generation to at least listen to some of these classic tunes.  In any case, it’s a neat real world-secret world crossover.
  • The treasure box is alllll the way on the other side of the map, and after finding it (it’s in shallow water), I was really let down when the quest didn’t even tell me what was inside.  Fiddlesticks!

Evaluating WildStar’s scientist path

sciProbably my biggest regret in WildStar is that I ended up comitting to the scientist path for my main character.  It’s far too late to reroll, so I’m stuck with it.  Sure, I could just ignore it, but I have a hard time doing that since the rewards are decent and it would drive the completionist part of me crazy.  But if I could go back in time, I’d try to convince myself that the settler was far more for me… or anything else, really.

So let’s write up a report card for the scientist to see what I like and dislike about this path!  At least that way I’m getting a post out of my bad choice.

Path aim

The big selling point for the scientist path is to be treated to more of the game’s lore and get a fuller sense of the world.  Since I was planning on this character being the first to go all the way through the game, that made sense to me that I’d want to really get to know more about it.

In reality, this “extra lore” angle has boiled down to three things: forcing me to get every datacube (which is annoying but fun to hear), the very occasional pop-up that elaborates on a species, and unlocking text files that I’ll never take the effort to open up and read.  So for its aim, I think it fails.  I don’t get much more of a sense of the world than I would have otherwise.

I would have liked to have been treated to cutscenes or more audio logs for completing scientist missions, or even been given special pointers as to how to manipulate the world and use scientific knowledge to my advantage.

World interaction

Occasionally but not frequently the scientist path will offer some additional interactions with the world that can be benificial.  These include opening otherwise-locked doors, triggering plants for heals, fixing up broken patrol bots, and making some things explode to hurt enemies.  I’d love to see a LOT more of that, to be honest.

Difficulty

The scientist is not the easiest path to pursue.  While I’ve not gone the explorer route, I’ve heard it said that the scientist is actually tougher to locate places in the world because it’s not spelled out for you with giant floating neon arrows.

I’ve had a few scientist missions that were challenging to complete, mostly because I couldn’t find the last clicky in a region.  But probably the toughest part is finding every darn datacube in a zone.  I’ve mentioned before how I have to pull up a website to help me do this after I finish a zone and do a lot of cross-referencing to find the handful of cubes that I missed.

Rewards

First of all, in a game without vanity pets, having a floating scanbot (that’s customizable!) is a decent substitute.  It goes really well with the image of an Engineer and the class’ bots.  I’m not a fan of how you have to resummon the scanbot and other bots after every mount ride, but still it’s nice to have.

I’ve been pleased with the rewards from the path, particularly the group summon skill that’s come in handy to get folks together for a project.  The port to the capital city is certainly nice to have if the standard port is still on cooldown.  And the outfit (especially the headpiece) is spiffy.

Identity

While I certainly identify with my class choice of Engineer, I can’t say that I see my character as a scientist in any way.  It’s another set of mission objectives to fulfill, but it’s mostly observation with no experiments or scientific breakthroughs.

It has potential to be an interesting path, and it’s my sincere hope that Carbine decides to devote an upcoming drop to giving all of the paths a huge revamp in order to fulfill this potential.