Picture of the Day: Howling in Neverwinter

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TSW: Revisiting Egypt

egyptLong-time readers of Bio Break might recall that my journey through The Secret World hit a wall of frustration around Egypt, a sticky spot that I eventually powered through the main story and skipped a lot of the other missions just to get to Transylvania.  As a result, my experience there was swiss cheesed, and so I’ve resolved to go back and complete all of these main quests (and as many side ones that I can find).

It’s not been an unpleasant time, I must say.  I think having better gear, a couple strong builds, and a more capable grasp on how to play my character helps.  I plowed through pretty much all of the missions, only sticking on one sort-of buggy action mission in the Orochi camp.  I even soloed Eye of Horus without pause, and if you’ve been through Egypt than you know that this is the mission that makes gamers spit unintelligable hatred.

Part of me feels like this is a waste of time.  If I’m running missions for AP, well, Transylvania and scenarios are so much better for that than Egypt.  The gear isn’t helpful and there’s no other significant reward or goal involved.  But mostly, it’s reminding me of the best part of the game — the missions.  While dungeons and lairs and scenarios can be fun to do with friends, they’re just not as captivating or challenging as missions are.  Plus, the story.  That right there is its own reward, and you get that front-loaded.

I’m still not a fan of the zone design, particularly in the City of the Sun God (oh, the canyons… the sand… the depressing atmosphere…).  I don’t think any MMO is going to win me over to loving desert zones.  I guess I can be glad that Egypt wasn’t three zones in the end, because there’s only so many talking idols that I can chat with before going slightly mad.

From here I’m going to do the same tidying up in Transylvania.  I’m gradually working on getting set for nightmares, but I’ve got four more elite dungeons to run and a gatekeeper to kill, and scenarios seem like they’re more important these days in regards to getting augments.

I guess I just can’t wait for Tokyo.  I really wish that I could take Guild Wars 2’s “every two weeks” content pace and substitute TSW instead.  New missions every two weeks would be incredible.  Barring that, a new zone is something that a lot of us have been waiting for, and I hope that new ones past that won’t take as long.  Stalling tactics like scenarios and augment grinds and events and endless dungeon runs don’t cut it when the real meat of the game is on the grill.

GREAT MOMENTS IN MARKETIIIIING

Listen, I don’t work in marketing.  I think I took one class in college for it, and I realized I had too much of a soul to do that sort of thing (zing!).  But if there’s anything I do know, it’s a not-good idea to create a promotion that’s going to give your detractors an easy opening to scoring all sorts of points.

Such as a famous bank that’s embroiled in scandal and bad loans deciding to host a Twitter ask me anything for the whole world to see.  It got so bad for JPMorgan Chase that this whole story will probably be on next year’s university financial fails exams.

Or perhaps a pretty popular MMO that wants to attract new players asking folks to record themselves pledging allegiance to that game with a script.  Tongue-in-cheek even so, this is a forehead-slapping bad move if you know anything about the internet community.  This… this is an outright dare to have people mock your game and company while giving them the tools with which to perform the act.  Like, it’s structured and everything with fill-in-the-blank insults.

Seriously, this whole story has my eyes doing a weird thing where one is squinting, the other one is bugging out, and my eyebrows keep twitching.  I cannot imagine why this got greenlit.

Listen, a sense of humor in marketing is great.  Creativity is great.  But you have to take a few minutes and ask yourselves at the end of every meeting, “Just how badly can our enemies take and use this against us?  Just how badly could it bite us on the butt?”  If that answer is “D’oh!” then perhaps drop the pledge of allegiance and cringingly awful taxi videos and do something cool with Asura instead.

Battle Bards Episode 16: Aion

Fresh off their Lunatic Lutes World Tour, the bards have decided to do one encore presentation (until the next show, that is).  The topic du jour?  It’s Aion, baby!  Your ears will thank us when this hour is over and you’ve experienced the exciting, lovely music that’s contained herein.

Episode 16 show notes

  • Introduction (including “The Still, Sad World” and “Solid State Battle”)
  • “Utopia 3.0 main theme”
  • “Tower of Eternity”
  • “Song of Katalam / 4.0 login”
  • “Fortress of Gods”
  • “Death Waltz”
  • “Steel Rake”
  • “Canyon”
  • Which one is our favorite?
  • Mailbag
  • Outro (“Marks of Dark Wound”)

Listen to episode 16 now!

Special thanks to Tesh for the Battle Bards logo!

Intrigued by Trove

troveYeah, I got to say that I’m adding Trove to my list of most anticipated games.  It definitely was an out-of-left-field announcement, especially considering that Trion’s been having a tough year of reorganizing and whatnot, but a pleasant surprise even so.

So Trove is… kind of a mish-mash of a lot of popular ideas and fads going about the MMO and larger games industry these days.  It’s a retro-themed voxel sandbox MMO that revolves around the concept of continually new worlds (mostly procedurally generated) to offer unlimited adventures.  Trion says that it’s a game where you use creation tools in adventuring just as much as destruction (i.e. fighting), which is where it got my attention.  And there are a lot of neat ideas, like having a “cornerstone” home travel with you from world to world or player creations possibly being incorporated into the game’s future worlds.

It’s been compared to Cube World, at least visually, which I guess I can see.  It’s not quite the same game at all from what I can understand, although Cube World has enough ardent defenders that Trove got some insta-backlash from the get-go.  I don’t get that, nor the attacks that Trion isn’t being original.  First of all, Trion has a great reputation with RIFT for creating a polished, fun game and getting new content in it regularly.  That’s a wealthy bank of goodwill that it’s built up with me.  Second, what MMO is completely new right now?  Any criticisms aimed at Trion on this should be aimed at studios everywhere.

That aside, I just like the indie-ish feel going on with this and the willingness to try something different.  My gut tells me that, yes, this is something I’d be very happy to play right now.

Alpha access can be attained by becoming a “supporter” of the game, which is structured exactly like kickstarter reward tiers except that there’s no overarching dollar amount that Trion has stated. Your mileage on how much of a shameless moneygrab this is may vary, although what I’m seeing here is nothing different than the aforementioned kickstarters or, say, EverQuest Next Landmark’s pre-order deals.

I’m mulling this one over. There are a lot of tiers here, starting with $5 for beta access and a couple of frills.  The $50 is tempting for the soundtrack, because I’m a sucker like that, although I probably will just go for the $20 package to get alpha in order to satisfy my curiosity.

Anyone else intrigued by Trove?

State of Decay impressions

stateBefore the madness of Helm’s Deep’s launch, I got a couple of nights in with State of Decay, Undead Labs’ zombie survival title that recently came to the PC.  I’d been wanting to play this as a substitute for the PvP-centric DayZ.  Heard good things, decided why not?

State of Decay throws you into the shoes of multiple survivors of a zombie outbreak in the American west.  It’s not a zombie shooter (although you can shoot zombies) and it’s not an adventure game (although you do progress through a storyline of storts), but it’s mostly about building up a base, going out to forage for supplies, and dealing with zombies with limited resources.

I think the resources aspect is where this game shines.  You not only have melee weapons (that break) and ranged weapons (that run out of ammo and draw every zombie in the ZIP code to you), but you have limited medicine, limited vehicle use, limited backpack space, limited health, and even limited stamina that dictates how much you can run and fight.  It’s kind of terrifying to be in the middle of a fight and have your character get totally winded while there are still three zombies to take care of.

Because you can’t carry everything and because you want to build up multiple characters in case one gets killed (since there’s permadeath), you have to keep returning to base, swapping out characters, and generally raising the morale of everyone.  If you like the whole Walking Dead motif — angry survivors that can’t seem to completely get along — then this is right up your alley.  It’s a little forced and awkward sometime, especially in regards to the voice acting, emotes, and lip synching, but it does the job.

I haven’t quite decided whether or not this game has real depth to it.  So far it’s certainly pretty fun to skulk around, pillaging houses while dispatching zombies as quietly as possible.  I like that there’s a gradual unfolding of the map (you can get to a high place to “survey” possible locations to check out) and that you can’t just shoot your way out of hordes of zombies.  Having a sense of danger, a sense of limited resources keeps everything tense.

I had a pretty funny story from early on that I’m guessing isn’t too unique.  So I’m leaving the intro area in a station wagon with my team, driving as fast as possible so we can get by the mobs, and I promptly plunge off of a bridge that’s out before I can stop.  We crash in the revine and the noise brings down the wrath of 10 or so zombies on our heads.  Getting out of there was a fun challenge, all the more so because I couldn’t just reload a previous save.