Posted in General

TSW: Funcom starts to listen to reason

There was a lot to digest in yesterday’s Secret World newsletter, and I want to echo Ocho’s analysis by saying that these are very welcome quality-of-life improvements coming to the game.

TSW has always been on the… hard side of the spectrum, which isn’t bad when it’s “ok, that’s fair” hard but is hair-pulling annoying when it dips into Nintendo-hard.  Ninja Gaiden III hard.  That’s why I’m doing a little jig that some of my long-standing complaints are being addressed, particularly time-to-kill (which will come down for everything pre-Tokyo), kicking Ak’abs with nerf boots (deservingly), smoothing out the jump between Savage Coast and Blue Mountain, better and more appropriate quest rewards, less mob density, and a stronger tutorial.

In my opinion, this was ALL needed.  TSW is such a terrific game in so many respects — storytelling, characters, world building, build freedom — but its brutal aspects have served to shy people away who got frustrated early on and didn’t want to stick out what appeared to be just a zombie MMO.  None of this stuff is flashy or will really help me now that I’m in Tokyo, but I’m glad it’ll be there so that newer or lower level players can start having more fun and be less frustrated going forward.  Sounds like Funcom’s going to be doing a major push to get new/returning players in around that time as well.

I am intrigued about our journey into the Orochi tower, especially how Joel says that it’s going to be a bit roguelike and randomized for more replayability.  Of course, I got really excited back when he announced scenarios, and that ended up thudding so hard it left a crater, so who knows.

I’m possibly more excited that Tokyo will be wrapping up — not that it’s been bad, but because I want to know where we’re off to next and what’s going to happen with the main storyline.  We always knew Tokyo was coming, but past that has been a huge unknown sprinkled with a few hints.

13 thoughts on “TSW: Funcom starts to listen to reason

  1. Also really stoked about these changes. My character still hasn’t finished Transylvania – not due to difficulty (I made it through okay), just due to time and distractions. Anything that can get me closer to Tokyo is welcome.

    I’m also tempted, just a little, to try playing with a brand new alt once this goes live just to test the game out from the beginning. Also to experience the other two factions. 🙂

  2. I’m rather nervous about the changes. I’ve got nothing against easy games, but there are already SO MANY MMOs where enemies drop dead from a dirty look that it is incredibly refreshing to play a game where monsters are something more than a minor speedbump. For those who want to one-shot everything they see and never have a chance of dying, we already have WoW, Rift, SW:TOR, Aion, Dragon’s Prophet, and so on and so forth.

    It’s an important part of TSW’s story and atmosphere. TSW is a horror game, but it wouldn’t be scary if enemies didn’t pose some kind of threat.

    Now, I’m very much in favour of them improving tutorials and the new player experience. TSW is a very difficult game to learn, and that should be improved. But also straight-up nerfing the difficulty in addition to that seems like overkill.

    They can quote statistics how average kill time goes from seven to twenty-four seconds from Kingsmouth to Blue Mountain, but all that proves is how bad the learning experience is. I guarantee you no one with a decent build and appropriate gear was taking twenty-four seconds to kill a mob in Blue Mountain. That problem would be solved by teaching people how to play.

    I’m worried all this will mean is people will be able to stick with bad habits for longer and get even more pissed off when their pure elementalism crit build with no self-healing can’t solo Transylvania.

    With that said, Funcom doesn’t often screw-up (at least where TSW is concerned), so I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt for now. If it’s a relatively minor adjustment like the recent Tokyo nerf, it might not be such a big deal.

    Otherwise, everything previewed sounds good. Orochi Tower sounds like it’ll be very cool, and the introduction of a normalized fast travel system is way overdue. A bit sad there’s no word of the new aux weapon, Sidestories, the lair revamp, or the Pangaea update, though. Those are all way overdue by now.

  3. This is awesome to hear. I’ve never made it past Savage Coast specifically because of that difficulty jump (and got really frustrated that the solution was “run really fast to Blue Mountain to pick up a high-level weapon”). After these changes go in, I’m definitely coming back to give it another shot. Still got the best storytelling and atmosphere of any game.

  4. Always felt that the feed back from combat was really poor in TSW – some fights you slaughtered things the next you were dead (as a newbie) without any understanding what changed or was it even something that you did as a player.

    The mobs took too long to kill by far, I’m all for tough fights where thinking, dodging and skills are tested (but not trash mobs please I get brain fatigue) but just having the same abilities to use over and over while you slowly bash away health isnt a great design.

    So much of TSW I really enjoyed but aside from the character animations the biggest push away for me was not knowing if I was making a viable character until I hit a wall and was stuffed. Telling your players to go back and repeat all the newbie content again to get enough AP/SP to fix your mistakes is asking them to log off and not come back imho.

    will watch these changes with interest.

  5. “For those who want to one-shot everything they see and never have a chance of dying, we already have WoW, Rift, SW:TOR, Aion, Dragon’s Prophet, and so on and so forth.”

    Just to offer a different PoV, I don’t ever remember thinking mobs were too easy in WoW or Rift, and definitely not in SW:TOR. To me, action RPGS like Diablo or Marvel Heroes are the only games where you are one-shotting a bunch of mobs. And quite frankly, it wouldn’t bother me a bit if more mainstream MMO’s adopted that mentality with mob difficulty.

  6. Unless you’re deliberately setting it to a very low difficulty, Diablo is definitely harder than your average MMO. Elite packs are actually pretty scary. Mobs in WoW or its myriad clones present no threat at all unless you’re extremely low level or using gear wildly inappropriate for your class.

  7. Count me among those who found Blue Mountain as enjoyable and productive as repeatedly slamming my face into a cinderblock wall. I quit less than a week after getting there.

    The salt in the wound was their exit poll. “You said you left due to difficulty. Did you join a good guild?” Because mandatory grouping is a reasonable requirement for walking across a low-level zone?

  8. I was really excited to read about the Orochi Tower. Love that it will be re-playable but a little different each time. On nerfing the difficulty below Tokyo I have a mixed reaction and will wait to see what it really produces. Yes, the transitions between KM and SC and SC and BM were hard. But, they became less so once one studied a few build variations. I fear that the smoothing of the curve will allow even a greater number of people to avoid experimenting with different builds. In that case, they will still not be prepared for Tokyo mobs. And btw, I don’t think Joel said Transylvania would be reduced. He said Trans is now 25. I believe it will stay 25 but the jumps up to it will be smoothed out.At least that was how I read it

  9. I just made it to Savage Coast again recently on one of my alts and I was brutally reminded of the difference. Found it nearly impossible to do anything around the Akab forest. It was so jarring that in the end, I simply logged off.
    There are better ways to spend my free time than hitting my head against the wall.
    Which is what it felt like.

  10. I actually got mixed feelings on this. I mean, i am all for getting new players and more revenue. The game absolutely needs that. But some points they “fix” i just don’t agree.

    I mean, i fully understand that the tutorial and introduction of a new player have to be improved a lot. I have watched videos on youtube where players try TSW and make it through Kingsmouth without really understanding the “builder/consumer” concept and thus are far away from ever understanding the benefit from a second weapon. I have watched videos where people had no clue how passives can be combined, that they can be used from other weapons than “the one” you have picked and how great an idea it is to at least cherry pick a few passives (some for just 1 AP!) from other weapons.

    Thus i fully agree that new players absolutely need a better introduction into the game, the current start just does not cut it. I mean, all the information you need actually -is- in the tutorial videos you get when you pick your first weapons, but face it, most players just don’t watch any tutorial video, they require to be force-feed essential information and this to even be repeated, to actually get it. (Along one of the Hollywood rules, which states that anything that is really important to the story needs to be repeated twice so the average viewer gets it. And there the viewer doesn’t even have the option to skip it. )

    On the nerfs, on the other hand, i have mixed feelings. I don’t know what they actually plan to do to Ak’abs, but the only “reasonable” way to reduce them would be so decrease their density in the forest a bit. And even then, all that happens is to delay the learning a little. If people don’t learn to move and dodge there, they’ll just have to do so in a later area, unless you want to easy-mode all the later zones, too. It might be just me, of course, but i found that people who actually -played- through Solomon island, instead of using the “get better gear, then tackle it” method are the better players. I at some time asked several members of my old Cabal how they played through Solomon island and i found that those who played it the “traditional” way also performed significally better in movement-heavy fights in dungeons.

    Admittedly my sample size was rather small, just a bit over 10 people, so from a mathematical point of view the significance is low. I also cannot say if those who played traditionally just were the better players in advance and thus did not need the crutch or if playing the traditional way made them learn better. There may be other factors of influence. But i still “feel” that Ak’abs are “the” school for mobile fighting in TSW.

    Thus the nerf of Ak’abs might make the game more “accessible” for some players, but i think it’ll just delay the result. The same type of players will now just run into another “impossible” enemy in a later zone and quit the game for that. I find that Ak’abs are quite comparable to Murlocs in WoW. Those were -the- enemy to teach you about the games AI set to a higher level. Yes, people hated Murlocs, just as they hate Ak’abs, but they learned to handle them. Would they not have existed, some other enemy would’ve done the “teaching” later in the game, albeit at an even higher frustration level. After all the player was pampered for a longer time and then hit with the challenge, so it would’ve hurt much more. I really believe that some challenge already as the early game is the better choice, so the player gradually improves instead of slacking through the first half and then being hammered down by challenge.

    Similarly i think that nerfing Blue Mountains is a very mixed bag. Of course, i have seen people who went into BM with a setup so terrible that it hurts. It’s no surprise that Joel mentions that mission rewards will get adjusted and the tank-talismans will be removed from the rewards. Indeed i have seen too many players with over 10k health in green QL5 talismans in BM. Due to the high health and minimal attack rating, their fights indeed took a very long time. So it seems like unfortunately some people really require the removal of the option of self-nerfing. I find it bad news that options need to be removed to make the game more accessible, but i have encountered enough examples of those people that i understand why it needs to be done. I’ve also seen people who somehow still went through SC and still in BM used only one weapon. when i asked some of them for their build, they also revealed a selection of passives which did not match and some of them often did nothing at all any more for their setup, as they replaced the ability which the passive actually boosted with another one, but left the passive ability slotted.

    So here again my question is: does the game really do those people a service by making BM generally easier? Doesn’t it just pamper them by telling them “yes, your setup is utter crap, but i will ignore that for now”, just to make them hit the very same wall even harder at a later area, where gear cannot be used any more to compensate?

    I mean, i know i am an extreme case. I played through all of the game “in order”. At the end of SC i had some more AP than other players at that point as i ran the missions in the academy twice, once with each of the two friends i started with, but i doubt that these few AP made that hell of a difference. During my play even in SC i evaluated and improved my setup, so when i arrived at BM, my performance actually was quite well and for most of it i did not run into real problems.

    The only thing which really hit me hard there was, when a mission sent me into the Quarry. But alas, in a mix of QL5/QL6 gear, all green, i was even able do soldier myself (solo) through the Quarry. This left me with an almost complete set of QL10 gear, which i only was able to use quite some time later as i didn’t have the skills for them yet. So yes, at this point we might be at the ” Nintendo-hard” or “Ninja Gaiden III hard” you mentioned in your posting. Thus nerfing that one definitely is all right, if your setup is not rock solid, entering that area indeed is the crowbar over your head, and having a regular mission sending you in there was an absolute terribly mistake.

    But next to that one corner of BM, i found that having learned to dodge telegraphed attacks in SC and bringing a good setup really made the difference. My time to kill was not that much higher as some people (and now even FC) claim it to be. So i personally think that nerfing things is the wrong choice. With a reasonable setup, those mobs never were a problem, so why should they now be adjusted to people who refuse to bring a reasonable setup at all?

    In my eyes, what the game really needs are better tutorials and many, many more pointers towards a good setup. Instead of hitting the player with brick to the face when running into difficulty he is not prepared for, the game should rather put a lot of info on the same brick and hit the player with it several times in advance, so the player is prepared for the new difficulty.

    In my book things to do would be:

    – A the training grounds much more information about the available weapons have to be given.
    – The training grounds need to make people pick a second weapon before even letting them go out again.
    – For optimal use, they need to give the player enough of the inner wheel to have consumers of the second weapon, too, but should only put the consumer of the second weapon on the action bar, while keeping the builders stored, so the player is not overwhelmed with several builders.
    – When the player has two weapons equipped, he has to do at least 3 cycles of build/consume before being allowed to leave.

    This passage would drive home more of the very simple build/consume concept of the game, which according to many “trying out secret world” videos on youtube show that the players never understood.

    – The decks in the skill wheel need to be massively reworked.
    – The current starter decks, while being not bad in themselves, do not clearly state for what they are build and how they work. I have seen too many people run around in a starter deck which is built do be a dungeon tank or even dungeon healer (albeit with a little offense) and fare badly. The information what this deck is supposed to do has to be slapped into the players face. Currently you have to read the flavor text and then guess from it, what the deck is supposed to do, which you really can’t expect a new player to do. Quick and direct information there is essential.
    – The game should even during weapon selection give the player pointers towards the starter decks. And not the information that they exist, but also what they are useful for.
    – Intermediate decks need to be added. They should build upon the already existing starter decks, but enhance them in reasonable (and cost efficient) ways.
    – These intermediate decks should break free from the current deck-misconception that passives are used only from the two weapons selected. This limitation is acceptable for starter decks, as the new player will be busy enough with the inner wheel of his first two weapons, but the high tier decks we currently have are terrible for exactly this limitation. Thus it needs to be broken as soon as the player gets out of the first starting setup.
    – The game needs to bring the pointer towards the intermediate decks several times, when the player reaches certain AP totals.
    – The current advanced decks need to be scraped. Names and outfits can remain, but replace their skill setup with something more effective. Again break the self-imposed “passives from only two weapons” limitations and instead include essential passives from other weapons, too. This would turn those decks from pure “collect for an outfit” into the intended tool of giving players helpful pointers.
    – Also the new intermediate and the reworked high tier decks would need much more clear information what they are supposed to be used for.

    Additionally to this, the game should at some time, when the player runs into problems, slap him with some pointers on how to improve. Among those are:
    – If he keeps dying and has no self-healing, be it active or passive, suggest this to him. In case of doubt, just point him towards Lick Your Wounds and Immortal Spirit.
    – If you really want to be nice, give them the two AP for those abilities for free at that moment. Two AP make no difference in the long run, but really help a lot at the moment.
    – If he keeps dying with active or passive self-healing, check how much heal rating he has. It is low or even nonexistent (there are enough players around who use those mentioned healing passives with zero healing talismans and are surprised that they don’t get any significant healing), hit them with the information that one or two heal rating talismans would really help them.
    – To again save some trouble, at this time give the player a pair of free heal rating talismans and point it out that they just received them for free.
    – When survivability again suffers and the AP total is over a certain limit (like, 80 or 100), give the player the pointer towards debilitation. Giving them the complete inner wheel of shotgun for free to get to 12 gouge might be over the top, but pointing out the strength of this passive might be helpful.
    – Trickier would be how to help players with low damage output. The game can also track the average DPS of a player. If that value constantly is low, the game can produce some information on how to fix that. Keep in mind, triggering this information should be after a longer time of low DPS. Any player can at some time be caught in a heal-kill-heal circle where DPS is very low, but still the fighting style and setup are perfectly fine. In case of doubt, better do not deliver the information than berating the player. The real problem is on what information to deliver to the player. While there are a number of great passives to help your damage output, many of them depend on the complete setup. For example it’s of very little use to point the players towards exposure if his chosen weapons do not include one which can be used to expose targets. Thus pointers for “better firepower for more enjoyment” would have to analyze the setup of the player. While this would be nice, i think it’s likely to produce wrong results and thus might be contra-productive.

    This combination of methods would provide the new player with lots of information and would even slap him with it so hard that he could not really ignore it any more. (If he still does, he has chosen to fail, there is no way to help that.) Implementing all of them might be some work, but it would provide more “educated” players, who are actually capable of doing things. Of course, just nerfing some stuff probably is the easier way, but it also does not solve the problem but only delay it to a later zone, where it then in turn hits the player that much harder and makes him even more likely to quit.

    Mind that i do not say “nerf nothing”. There are some things, like the quarry in BM, where a nerf absolutely makes sense. But a general “nerf all of BM” is the wrong move in my eyes. The lessons have to be learned at some time. If the game completely gets dumbed down to “win without even trying” level then i hope that FC manages to attract enough people of that kind years after launch, as it would drive away people like me, who like to be challenged.

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