The Secret Adventures: The Lady Margaret (Kingsmouth #10)

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

margaretDawning of an Endless Night (story mission, tiers 3-6)

  • With all of Kingsmouth’s missions done (yayyy!) I’m finally freed up to concentrate on the main story mission.  Let’s go take a look at this famous ship, the Lady Margaret!
  • This is the fishing boat that brought the fog back to the town, so it’s key to unraveling the mystery of what happened here.  I find the vessel covered in red seaweed and listing in the low tide of the harbor.  On board, a zombie captain attacks me (because of course he does, what, is he going to invite me to tea?).  Silly zombie captain, brains are for kids!
  • He drops a log that mentions talking to Doc Bannerman (the sheriff’s husband), so I head over to the station and have a little chat.  He mentions that he left his files in his clinic, so that’s my next step.
  • While nothing bad happens in this house, can I just say that Bannerman’s clinic creeps me the heck out?  It’s one of my most hated places in this game and I can’t tell you why.  Just got a bad feeling about it.  It could have something to do with the smears of blood, the medical instruments everywhere, and the zombie corpses.
  • I hack into his computer (the password hint is pretty obvious if you know anything about classical music) and read his files.  The report on Danny mentions the Mr. Rosen underwear incident, which netted me a chuckle.
  • The computer also talks about three of the sailors that came back and the Doc tried to treat.  Since we already know that one is in the station, I’m off to find the other two!
  • Bad news, doc.  The one guy is zombie food, while the other…  Hm.  His house is empty but there’s a trail of green slime leading to a sewer.  Time to call in the Ghostbusters!
  • Sewers and secret tunnels underneath an island… how low or high is the water table here?  This place is larger than the London Underground.  Why aren’t all of these places flooded?

joe

  • After a little exploration and a fight against a “broodmother,” I find Joe Slater.  Poor Joe is far, far worse for wear.  He’s still somewhat human, but he’s definitely being transformed into a Draug.
  • Joe dumps a lot of backstory on me about how the ship got stuck in this red sargasso sea, how they never thought they’d get out until he grabbed a “blade of pure light” and followed the siren song out of there.  Of course, their escape meant Kingsmouth’s doom, so that was a bad move on everyone’s part.
  • I leave Joe to his misery — poor guy, I do feel for him — and follow the siren song myself.  This is the eerie little melody that sticks with you long after this quest is done.  I think it’s pretty, even if it is a little creeptastic.
  • The song — represented visually as well as aurally — leads me back to the same tunnels that Cassie took me through a while back.

loki

  • Speaking of Cassie, I find a back room and hide in it, only to hear Cassie and a guy named Beaumont come in, expositing all over the place.  Beaumont (an “evil sorcerer,” as per Cassie) has a “magic sword” and is in control over the undead on the island.  But he’s missing something, something about a lock, and he’s angry about it.  There’s some talk about “rebooting the world” and Tokyo and an endless night, and then they leave me to poke around some more.
  • The mission tells me to investigate what Beaumont was looking for, and since his notes mention taking a scenic flight over the island looking for a “black heart” or somesuch, the airport is our next destination.  There I find a map with a circle around a house in the Savage Coast, and Geary chimes in that Beaumont has been around for a long time.  The 1600s-sort-of-long-time.
  • And that is officially it for Kingsmouth!  Next time we’ll be taking our first steps into the Savage Coast.

WildStar: Jem and the Holograms

After getting some TSW and RIFT time in yesterday, I had an hour or so before bed to check in with WildStar’s now-activated MEGASERVERS.  MEGASERVERS must always be typed in all caps.  Do not stare straight into the MEGASERVERS.  If the MEGASERVERS begin to leak, quickly back away and contact the nearest authorities.

In addition to taking away any old and unused names/characters, Carbine deemed it necessary that everyone on the new MEGASERVERS had to pick a last name to go with their first.  In a way, it was much like launch day, with folks scrambling to get their nomers.  I actually prefer MMOs that allow us two names — there’s less worry about naming conflicts, and it’s oddly easier to come up with good names when you have a pair of words.  After locking in Syp and Syppi Tsunami as well as Thursday Next, I decided to fiddle with the character creator for a bit.  Why not make an Aurin?  They’re silly, but I hadn’t really experimented with their looks all that much.

By the time that I discovered I could have large pink spikey hair and paired that up with the Esper class, I knew that I had to go for a concept.  I’d become Jem Hologram, based on the best 80s cartoon ever.

jem1OK, it’s not a perfect replica, but I’m pretty happy with it.  Jem’s a mishmash of three elements that I haven’t played in WildStar to date — an Aurin, an Esper, and a Soldier.  Figured why not.

About an hour later, I was yelling into our guild’s teamspeak, “WHY DIDN’T ANYONE TELL ME HOW AWESOME ESPERS ARE?”  I hold the world at large accountable for this oversight and certainly not my own ignorance.  I guess I had written off Espers early on because they looked a lot like floofy, nature-loving mages.  What didn’t click — but certainly did last night — is the “psychic attack” aspect of the class.  By around level 6, I had a set of incredibly fun abilities including a temporary pet (why did no one tell me they had pets?).

jem2The tail might drive me to distraction, but I was more fascinated with the hologram-like show that Jem put on.  I know that early on, every class in WildStar feels pretty overpowered as the mobs die quick, but even so I felt like a reaper carving my way through all of the opposition.  You look at me funny?  Here are a quick succession of psi-birds to peck off your FACE.

From my perspective, the whole MEGASERVER thing launched really smoothly.  Thayd was reportedly crowded and the channels were all hopping.  My guildies had a lot of fun chatting while we sorted out the new lay of the land, and I was entertained by all of the new two-name characters I encountered, like Matt Damon, Chocolate CHOCOLATE, and (of course) Theodore Roosevelt.

Merges made sense at this juncture in WildStar’s run, and I hope that getting this tech in will pave the way for a stronger future.  In the meanwhile, I’ll be truly, truly, truly outrageous.

WildStar: Saying goodbye to Evindra

Last night was our guild’s — and our server’s — last night on Evindra before today’s megaservers happened, so being the fun-loving group that we are, we threw a huge party to mark the occasion!

party1I had never been to our guild home before, so I was in for a treat when I arrived to see an absolutely mammoth structure that took up most all of the plot.  Our designers didn’t opt for one of those pre-fab homes, oh no.  They built everything from the ground up to create a sprawling multi-level fortress with a dance room, a control room, a courtyard, and this impressive lobby.

party2I hung out and danced for a little while before taking laps around the place with my hoverboard.  Again I was reminded of just how robust WildStar’s housing system is and how creative players can get with it.  I’m doing good if I get a wall up at a 90-degree angle.

party3As for the megaserver, I’m fine with it.  It’ll be nice to have more folks around, and I can adjust with not playing today (WildStar wasn’t on the schedule anyway) and having a last name.  I like two-name characters in MMOs anyway.  Plus, Carbine did good with giving out 30 boomboxes and a day of game time to everyone — that will be appreciated.

Now on to drop 3!

How to make Guild Wars 2 more “sticky”

stickyBack when Guild Wars 2 was behind closed doors and ArenaNet was only letting little peeks into what this game would be, I remember taking these snippets and letting my imagination romp all around the possibilities of the sequel.  A mini-game in a city was mentioned, and I wondered what it would be like to have an entire world full of such encounters.  The personal neighborhood was teased (but not detailed) and I was excited about the notion of dressing up an entire town.

What I think my mind likes to do during the nebulous, information-scarce pre-launch times is to speculate on all of the ways that an upcoming MMO might stick with me and I with it.  I don’t see it as being naive, but hopeful.  I want games to be good enough so that I’m enjoying them just as much on day 600 as I am on day 1, and a lot of that has to do with how “sticky” the world is.  In other words, how attached and involved I get with the game and its systems.

Today, over two years after Guild Wars 2’s release, I have to say that while I love and admire the game for various reasons, it is not sticky — at least, to me.  While there are no financial barriers to be overcome now that I purchased it nor excessive demands on my time (as most everything can be done in little bite-sized sessions if wished), I can and have floated away from the game without feeling a compulsion from it to return.  I probably will one day.  But I’m not feeling any sense of loss that would go with some other titles I’ve played and left in the past.

So how could Guild Wars 2 conceivably become more sticky for me?  Four key areas come to mind:

1. We need real personal housing, and we need it now.

The instanced neighborhoods are as much of a joke as Trahearne.  Not only did they not change as much as we were led to believe based on the pre-launch talks of the personal story, but they’re pretty much useless.   Oh, you have a candy corn node in there that you can mine once a day.  That right there makes life worth living.

It’s so baffling to me that ArenaNet decided to eschew personal housing and even now, two years later, has yet to move on this.  This is a company that had terrific and useful guild halls in the first game.  Dudes and dudettes, your 2005-era game shouldn’t be eclipsing you here.  Star Wars: The Old Republic shouldn’t have beaten you to the punch on this.  Especially for a studio that does customization in other areas (in particular wardrobe) so well.

Give us homes.  Real homes that we can use, decorate, throw parties in, and make our own.  Give us space in Tyria that is truly ours to design and tailor so that we have the game’s perimission to plant roots.  And, oh yeah, give guilds homes too.

2. Allow players to design and run events.

I’m still not sold on the living story as either engaging content or decent storytelling.  If it was a novel, I would have already tossed it aside in favor for something less bland.  So while my confidence isn’t the highest in ArenaNet’s writers to pull us out of a narrative dive, I would have more hope that there would be one or two players out there who could do better.

Remember those zone events that used to be the big selling point for the game and are now just getting in the way of running to the next heart?  Those were not bad ideas.  I think ArenaNet needs to double-down on “dynamic” events, not by making more and increasing the rotations, but by inviting the community to assist and giving them the tools to do so.  Don’t make it free-for-all, but invite people and guilds to apply to be event creators.  Work with them or give them what they need to make a three- or four-event chain that could tell a fun story across a zone.  Have a dev team review it to make sure it’s in line with the lore of the game or whatever, but then release it with as much honor and fanfare as any other patch.  That could be potentially awesome.

3. Examine to other MMOs to see what fires up the playerbase and then shamelessly copy those ideas.

There are so many good ideas in other MMOs, past and present, that have gotten players really excited and worked well.  Players still yammer on about how much they love the music system in LOTRO — copy that.  Or allow us to have a Mists of Pandaria-style farm.  Or consider allowing us to gain minions (dare I say, heroes?) to help us and go on missions for us.  Or invest in a player-generated mission system.  Or give roleplayers better tools with which to do their thing in the world.  Guild Wars 2 doesn’t have to always be a unique rogue; it can be a shrewd thief instead.

4. Honor guilds with better support and systems.

Guilds are an essential part of the social backbone of any MMO, and yet I feel that they are still not supported as they should be in GW2.  I’m not just talking about a lack of guild halls (althought that’s part), but more robust tools for the officers.  An in-game guild finder.  A guild calendar.  Guild projects that could involve everyone pitching in together instead of grinding out legendaries separately.

And here’s something that would stick me to the game more — a way to chat with my guild outside of the game through an official app.  It’s 2014, people.  We have the technology and know-how.  Even if I’m not in the game or currently playing it, having constant contact with my guild would increase the chances of me returning.

RIFT: Dancing with blades

bladeIncreasingly my favorite soul as a Rogue in RIFT isn’t the Tactician, but the Bladedancer.  I got convinced to give it a serious try thanks to a post on the official forums outlining all of its virtues.  After having played it as my primary build for the past week or so, I have to say that it lives up to that post’s hype.

There’s something exhilarating about being a whirling dervish of death, a fighter who’s more focused on precision, speed, and agility than brute force and sneak attacks.  The Bladedancer’s greatest strength is her extreme flexibility that allows for on-the-spot adjustment to different battle situations thanks to a set of powerful 24-second buffs.  She can pour out strong single-target DPS, shift into more of a defensive posture for tough fights, or activate one of a pair of AOE attacks for groups of mobs.  The life leech from the Assassin line helps to keep me from dying too quickly.

Probably the biggest downside to this build is that I don’t have a lot of “oh crap” buttons — no emergency shields or heals or anything like that.  I try to keep some health potions around, but usually it comes down to a DPS race between me and a lot of very disgruntled mobs.

I’ve been tearing through the Droughtlands in my early 40s, hoovering up quests left and right to do.  It’s not the most visually dynamic of zones — it’s kind of an Arizona-looking place — but it’s well laid out so that I don’t have much running to do to get to the quests.

As I’ve been striking blows for justice left and right, I’ve enjoyed (at least in my head) the feeling of being valiant.  We toss around “hero” as some sort of player/developer aspiration in games, but that’s too generic and non-specific for my liking.  Heroism comes in many shades and flavors.  Some days I don’t want to save the world, I just want to perform acts of service for those in need.  Escorting refugees and helping a widow get justice aren’t going to shift the geo-political balance of power, but it will make those lives better.  Or, it would if those were real.  But hey, it’s part of fantasy to play-pretend at being valiant.

I did get a little Skrit hellbug pet from one of those Defiance crossover rifts, which made me pretty happy.  I’ve also upgraded my planar focus to the full version (2 greater/4 lesser essences) which is allowing for more customization.  So slowly but surely I’m charging toward the threshold of Storm Legion, and after that, Nightmare Tide.

Let me just check my (play) schedge

schedI was strongly toying with the notion of adding SWTOR to my play schedule (curse the allure of expansions!), but I don’t think I can in good conscience try to tackle more than four MMOs at a time.  While mulling over this, I sat down and sketched out a schedule to try out in order to balance the four games I do want to be playing (taking out STO and subbing back in LOTRO), with a play emphasis on WildStar and RIFT.

The idea is that every day I usually get at least two hours of playtime — sometimes a little more, but usually two.  Two divides by two easily, so I’ll focus on giving two games a day one hour apiece, which is my usual play session length anyway.  If I end up with more than two hours, the rest is free for whatever.  Here’s what I’ve come up with:

  • Sunday: WildStar / LOTRO
  • Monday: RIFT / TSW* (*weekly play group)
  • Tuesday: WildStar / LOTRO
  • Wednesday: RIFT / TSW
  • Thursday: WildStar / LOTRO
  • Friday: RIFT / TSW
  • Saturday: WildStar / RIFT

RIFT is the quickest game to jump in and out of, and TSW is the longest, so I think that those will balance well.  I do want to get back into LOTRO to go through the Dead Marshes, prepare for central Gondor, and perhaps do a new Beorning class.  Plus, this gives me one fantasy and one scifi/other MMO every night.

Saturday, the “extra” day gives both RIFT and WildStar an equal boost to play time.  Although I’m a little bummed that I’m giving up Star Trek Online for the time being, I feel pretty good about this schedule.  We’ll see how it pans out.