The Secret World: 80s fashion show edition


You know me and you know that I throw emoji frowny faces at the presence and use of lockboxes in MMOs. I’m not going to spend real money on them, but if there’s a way to earn them in-game or get one for free, why not? Free stuff is free stuff.

So I’ve been accruing a lot of bonus Funcom points in The Secret World thanks to my grandmaster sub. I have nothing left that I really want to buy, so those points are just sitting there, waiting in vain for the next mission pack to come along. I don’t feel bad blowing a wad of them, then, on the new retro-themed costume packs (along with a few of the other packs, just because I was curious).

I was pretty pleased to get a wide assortment of goofy costume bits, including Terminator glasses (now with glowing red eye!), a headband, legwarmers, one of the tackiest jackets ever (not shown), and my favorite, a neon fanny pack:


ALL HAIL THE FANNY PACK. It brings any outfit together.


I also got a pair of dogs — one fire rescue Dalmation and one police K-9 doggy. Considering that I still have a hypnotic C’thulu as a pet, none of these stand a chance at being used regularly, but still, nice to have.

RIFT: Clerical work


One of the greater joys of RIFT is being able to dream up your own classes, within limits, thanks to the soul system. So the other day when I switched back to my Cleric, I was pondering what kind of healer to make for dungeon runs. So far this year I have greatly enjoyed my HoT-happy Druid in World of Warcraft and Scholar’s healing pet in FFXIV.

I thought… why not try to have them both?

From concept to reality took about five minutes. I started with a blank slate on the soul tree and then invested enough points into the Druid to get the greater faerie healer (who can be toggled for single/multiple target heals). The rest went into the Warden soul, which is abundant with heal-over-time spells. It looked solid enough, even if it probably wasn’t a min-maxer type of build. It was what I wanted to play and I was allowed to make it. Makes me grateful to RIFT for that opportunity.

I took my new healer into an expert dungeon and held my own just fine. Spike damage was a little more tricky, but I’m overflowing (a water-related Warden pun) with extra heals, so I can just jam on number keys and usually save the day. The only trick is to keep one particular heal up, as you can stack that HoT up to four times and keep refreshing it every 15 seconds without having to re-apply all four stacks.


For a DPS counterpart, I made a Cabalist/Druid build, this time with an evil damage-dealing faerie. Lots of good AoE DPS with that mix, and it worked well when I joined my guild for some rifts the other night.

Thanks to the expert dungeons, I got my Cleric from 57 to 60 in practically no time at all (and even got a few new cosmetic pieces). I forgot how brutal the climb is from 60 to 65, but if I am willing to heal, I suppose I won’t have problems finding dungeons to run for the XP.

It’s been a slow and enjoyable reentry into RIFT as of late. I’m not playing it hardcore, but what time I’ve gotten, I’ve had a great experience. It’s made me genuinely want to log in every day, if even for a quick dungeon run, some more tweaking to my dimension, an instant adventure, managimg my minions, or the other five hundred things this game keeps throwing at you. Probably won’t be doing the Unicornalia event, however.


Going around Sanctum, I stumbled on a kind of really disturbing sight that I think most people just run right by. A “bounty hunter” with various goblin corpses and body parts, some still sticking in bear traps. What do they need these bodies for? WHAT MADNESS IS THIS.

Ranking the World of Warcraft: Legion class halls

With Legion coming out next week, I’ve been looking over the class halls and realizing that — personal investment in certain classes aside — some were more appealing than others. A LOT more appealing. And when that happens internally, it’s time to make a list! Here is my opinion on them, based solely on previews, and ranked from worst to best.

(Worst) Demon Hunter: Filled with 100% Elves. ‘Nuff said.

Warrior: Gah, could this hall have more gold to it? It’s like Thor’s Asgard or something. Too shiny, too garish, too impersonal. No thanks.

Warlock: Incredibly detailed and internally divisive for me. I like how some of it looks and feels very Halloweeny, but I’m definitely not crazy about the overabundance of glowy green everything. It’s almost a little too oppressive and dour, the opposite of relaxing and inviting to me.

Paladin: A cross between a cathedral and a superhero fortress. It fits the class well, don’t get me wrong, but it feels a little too sterile. Like a generic medieval castle, if Disney didn’t put in as much work. The main hall is pretty neat looking, though.

Shaman: If the Druid hall is calm, organized nature, then the Shaman one is chaotic elements all over the place. I get the theme quite clearly, but I can’t say that it appeals greatly. Storms are nice to watch for a bit, but I wouldn’t want to work all of the time in the middle of one.

Death Knight: Ebon Hold is cool and all that, but reusing it for the class hall feels… lazy. Rehashed leftovers. I never really liked Ebon Hold to begin with — it’s like a haunted house with all of the charm and fun stripped out of it.

Monk: Sure, it’s pretty enough, but it also looks like Mini-Mists of Pandaria. I’m just not that into the Chinese aesthetic from that expansion. I don’t hate it but I’m not crazy about it either.

Priest: Instead of a chapel redux, they took a page out of the Draenei architecture and created something quite beautiful. The room with the thousands of tiny candles is breathtaking and the whole of this place would be wonderful to explore.

Rogue: This hall definitely exudes personality, doing a great job getting across the rakish nature of these combat scoundrels. Got a strong pirate vibe here, and the underground environment communicates an underdog attitude (all the other classes see the sun, after all). I really, really like it.

Druid: You’re getting an extra spoonful of nature with this hall, but what did you expect? It’s very cosy and pretty, with lots of trees and organic weaves. Thumbs up for the tree forts and secret caves, and thumbs down for being a mite too similar to the early Elf zones in the game.

Mage: It’s a World of Warcraft Hogwarts! Or a nicer version of Kharazan. Either way, it makes me a little jealous that I don’t have a Mage at all. Great details, an inviting atmosphere, and plenty of magical sparkle everywhere you go.

(Best) Hunter: Trueshot Lodge is absolutely perfect for me. It’s got a down-to-earth outdoorsy feeling on the outside, and inside it’s rustic and comfortable. Very pleasing on the eyes and I can see wanting to come back here time and again.

The real world isn’t ready for a true ARG MMORPG

Over the past month, I’ve been an outside observer (with connections) of the whole Pokémon Go phenomenon. I’ve talked to players, I’ve explained it to the ignorant, I’ve read a lot of pieces on it, and I’ve tried to shield my kids from knowing about it because they are completely Pokémon crazy right now and I do not have the time to be dragged all over creation to find Squirtlechumon with my phone. I love them unconditionally, but expressions of that love should have sane, defined limits.

Anyway, I’ve been thinking of how Niantic (among others) has used the real world as its MMO setting, overlaying the game on top of reality to make an… I don’t know… augmented reality? I should trademark that. And there are obviously advantages to doing that: The real world is quite literally everywhere, it gets people outside and exploring, it turns the mundane into the magical, and I have plenty of opportunities to mess with kids who aren’t watching while biking and looking at their phones at the same time. This game I call “Pokémon Go Fish!”

But if we can be frank for a minute, there are also some pretty severe drawbacks to co-opting the real world to be a backdrop for your fancy digital game. Let’s start with the element of physical danger, which is the dangling bait of every Pokémon Go clickbait story. Sure, Niantic puts that little warning on the screen and sure, most players are totally fine, but tragedy is bound to happen when you encourage people to go wandering about in unfamiliar territory without often looking around them.

Then we have to mention the rising chorus of voices of various institutions and locations that would much rather not have gamers running about their property. It’s hard to know where to draw the line on this; as long as a person isn’t trespassing it isn’t a crime, but some places you don’t want people playing games or making noise. Locally, there’s a Michigan couple suing Niantic for putting tons of Pokémon in a park right by their home, often prompting players to run over their lawn and make noise at all hours of the night. That would bug me too.

From a game design standpoint, if this sort of technology is to be used in future, perhaps more fully fleshed-out MMOs (and I would certainly be interested in seeing that happen), probably the biggest issue is that the landscape and buildings haven’t been made by the developers (obviously) but are just being used by them. You’re dealing with a wild and woolly world that’s been designed by forces outside of the development studio, and so the solution is to make the best with what’s already there.

So instead of shaping the world to fit the game, it becomes the other way around, and that can result in an awkward and (oddly enough) unnatural game. In the digital space, the sky is the limit for what devs want to dream up and design. In ARGs, you have to make the best of the foundation that’s already been laid. It’s not ideal.

Plus, if designers are making a game for the entire globe, then they have to deal with population density, the sheer size of the world, dangerous locations, and whatnot. There’s just no way that you can hand-craft all of that, so the solution is to either crowdsource it or make procedural generation software so that a computer can take a stab at placing everything.

Maybe a more traditional MMORPG could work in an ARG setting if players were given the keys to create their own kingdoms and dungeons, although I can envision a new set of dangerous possibilities arising from that and the lawsuits that would follow. Is this dungeon I’m about to explore the basement of a real serial killer who’s found the laziest way ever to collect his victims? Are companies manipulating the game to draw in customers and increase foot traffic?

It’s not a future I envisioned, but it seems to be one barreling our way right now. And I don’t think that solutions for making these games work on a wide scale and in greater depth than throwing balls at imaginary critters will require.

The Secret World: Touring Kingsmouth while dead


I was inspired by Massively OP’s MJ’s piece on how The Secret World adds a bit extra for folks who take the time to explore the world while dead (anima form). It’s something that I’ve pointed out from time to time, but I can’t recall ever simply roaming around an entire zone in that form to see if there are any easter eggs that I hadn’t seen before. So why not now?

With a quick and painless suicide /reset, I took my Templar back to Kingsmouth and started prowling the spirit realm. I didn’t find any really new revelations, but after a half-hour of nothing but anima tourism, I did make a few observations about this alternate reality.k2

1. Living persons, zombies, creatures, and even most spirits are missing in the anima world.

You’ll see evidence of them, like campfires and blood, but unless a person or zombie has become a corpse, they’re invisible to you (and vice-versa). Really thought there’d be more ghosts, especially in this town.

2. However, you can see birds everywhere.

Birds (maybe just ravens?) are present in the anima world. I guess they can cross over? In Kingsmouth, there are the helpful birds (white ravens) and the evil birds (the black ravens or crows that become the revenants). I got a bit of a chill when I saw a trio of black birds perched above Norma’s house, looking down at her bonfire.


3. There is one person you can find.

The only human-like person in the anima world in this zone is the guy in the prison cell, who looks surprisingly normal, like he’s alive. Just, y’know, hanging out in the spirit world and staring into a corner like he’s from the Blair Witch Project.

4. It makes for great photographs.

The black-and-white filter, the grainy overlay, and the absence of atmospheric interference make for some terrific screenshot opportunities, especially if you want to get cross-town shots.


5. There is some color.

If you get really close to objects, they go from black-and-white to color. Try the Bingo cola machines and you’ll see.

6. There isn’t a lot of non-quest-related easter eggs to be found.

I was a little disappointed that I couldn’t find more than the well-known anima bits from certain quests and the bridge.


7. The covered bridge is still super-creepy.

I think it’s that one spirit who just prowls around underneath the hanging corpses that does it. And I can’t figure out why the corpses only show in anima form — they’re dead and gone, so are they hanging spirits? I guess so.

8. You can move super-fast in anima form.

It’s a great way to quickly scout a zone without any interference from the local mobs. You can see lore pick-ups very clearly, too.


9. What’s up with Madame Roget’s raven?

Is it a bad bird or a good one or completely neutral? Just kind of off-putting how it’s hanging out between both worlds right above her head.

10. Go first-person or go home.

If you do this kind of tour, do yourself a favor and zoom in so that you’re looking at things through first-person perspective and then turn off the UI. It’s calm and eerie and free from distractions. Kind of like getting to fly through a zone with developer cheat codes.