Why can’t I get into SWTOR’s housing?

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The other day I was talking with MOP’s Jef, who was saying how he had just spent a few hours doing nothing but customizing his SWTOR house. I don’t find the concept of playing virtual dollhouse odd at all, but it made me think about how little I feel the urge to get into SWTOR’s housing system, even though I’m usually a housing nut.

I mean, housing drives 80% of my activities in WildStar. I run daily challenges for decor, I quest for money to pour into my house, I fight mobs hoping that a FABkit or a housing item will drop. I love flitting back to my private island and customizing my pad.

Then again, what is appealing in one MMO isn’t necessarily going to appeal in another. I don’t universally like all MMO pet classes even though I’m drawn to those types. Some games just feel off or aren’t satisfying. I loved dungeon running in RIFT but will never do it in WildStar because the combat and difficulty is different.

So what is it about The Old Republic’s housing that turns me off? Why am I not more into nesting there? I don’t think there’s any one reason but instead several, ranging from nitpicky to serious:

(1) There’s no convenient “go to house” button on my screen.

Yes, this is the epitome of laziness, but the fact that I have to open up a menu and then click another button to teleport to my house keeps home visitation off my radar. In LOTRO, RIFT, and WildStar, that house warp button is right on the screen at all times. Why can’t we have an ability that does that in SWTOR the same as the other teleports?

(2) I’m not the biggest fan of the hook system.

Listen, it’s great that SWTOR added housing, and you will not get any argument from me that its version of hook-type housing is better than what LOTRO did. There’s more wiggle room to position stuff, to be sure.

On the other hand, it’s still a hook system with far more limitations than an “anything goes” system that I’ve enjoyed in RIFT, WildStar, and EQ2. And having hook squares only allowing certain types of decorations to be placed annoys me greatly. This is my house, and if I want to put a couch on the ceiling, I should be allowed to do so!

(3) I never get housing drops while questing.

Where does everyone in SWTOR get all their housing stuff? That’s what I want to know. It certainly isn’t from questing and killing mobs, because I think I’ve only seen one or two housing-related drops ever since that expansion came out. I would have thought that housing stuff would be great quest rewards, but again, never see them.

Instead, I’m guessing that most everyone either buys stuff off the vendor, the cash shop, or the GTN. That’s practical, I suppose, but it takes the fun away from the game randomly handing me a fun item and then prompting me to go add it to my house. Plus, I’m never even reminded that I *have* a house when there are no drops.

(4) I still think of my ship as “home.”

Yes, I understand why BioWare couldn’t allow us to customize the interiors of our ship for cutscene purposes, but I say that the devs were short-sighted in that regard and should have made it work anyway. For my character and for me, my ship IS my home. I have a convenient teleport ability to get there. I use the ship all the time and enjoy its practical services, such as accessing cargo space. It’s small and neat and the place I always go between missions.

That’s the home I want to decorate with my trophies and gadgets.

My apartment? It’s like a summer cottage that I occasionally visit but don’t really need. Sure, I can throw in some interactive services like mail and whatnot, but there’s nothing it can do for me that fleet can’t. I’m not so ostentatious that I feel that I need a second home in a game.

Anyway, I told you these were piddly reasons, but if I’m being honest, they’re why SWTOR’s housing gets very little interest from me. I’m not writing it off entirely; I should invest some time in sprucing up my pad at some point. It’s just not on my radar.

Update: Ack, I totally forgot a major pet peeve, so consider this #5. The interface to select housing items is really, really wonky to work with. You can only see a few items per page and have to wrassle with filters (hook type, etc.). I just want a BIG HONKING LIST of what I have at my disposal in an easy-to-read format.

The Park repackages The Secret World’s amusement park — and I am 100% OK with that

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Yesterday Funcom announced the secret project it’s been working on — no, not another MMO, but instead a single-player horror game called The Park coming in October. A single-player horror game that is set in what looks like The Secret World’s haunted Atlantic Island Park.

It’s not my imagination, either. The page and video shows the exact same ferris wheel, rollercoaster, and “octotron” that TSW players know so very well. However, the park also looks different, more fleshed out and with a slightly different layout (a ring of water around the Octotron, for example).

The official description is definitely giving off a Silent Hill vibe: “Funcom is thrilled to announce ‘The Park’, a unique horror story and the company’s first single-player experience since its award-winning adventure ‘Dreamfall: The Longest Journey’. Releasing on the PC in October this year, ‘The Park’ puts you in the shoes of a mother whose son goes missing. When night falls and the lights go out, what follows is a short, but intense horror story set against the backdrop of an amusement park where a dark and sinister secret is just waiting to be uncovered.”

The studio said that it’s creating this game as an experiment to see what it can do with its existing properties and churning out non-MMO titles: “The Park is an experimental project meant to gauge the market and to develop the team’s ability to create different types of games, and as such the Company does not expect this game to generate significant revenues.”

Another quote from the report: “Funcom has built The Park around The Secret World IP, utilizing a location as well as characters and story elements from the MMO. Funcom’s ambition is to further explore how the Company’s established universes can be drawn upon in other projects outside the MMO space.”

I really did not expect to see any sort of TSW spin-off, ever, but I’m actually kind of excited over this. It’s funny — just a week ago I asked the MOP community if they’d like to see The Secret World preserved as a single-player game, especially in light of Funcom’s dire financial situation. My feeling was that (1) I love TSW’s unique setting and story so much that anything to preserve it in the case of a studio shutdown would be welcome and (2) TSW’s adventure game nature lends itself better to a theoretical single-player conversion than most MMOs.

And more TSW, even as a spin-off, is welcome. I think the choice of the haunted amusement park is a good one, as it’s one of the most memorable settings from the game (and that is saying something, especially for Kingsmouth). There was a lot of potential left in that area, and I would be excited to see an expanded version of the park.

Now I’m thinking that this is most likely a prequel to the events of the MMO. The description makes it sound as though the park is in active operation — after all, the mom brought her son there for a fun day — and the screenshots do not show it as decrepit as it’s become in TSW with the decades’ long shutdown and the influence of the Fog.

Another thought is the possible connection of the Bogeyman and the park’s attacks on children. Anyway, pleasantly surprised to see this coming and I can’t wait to try it out!

Need a hit of MMO healing nostalgia? Try Little Healer

healerI’ve been downloading a lot of mobile games lately, mostly because there have been quite a few anticipated releases. However, there was one little free game that caught me off guard last week that is worth discussing — Little Healer.

The concept here is that you’re the sole healer for a 15-person raid that’s tackling a series of bosses. You don’t see the bosses at all or even your party — in true MMO healing fashion, all you can see are the health/status bars of your raid (along with your mana bar and the boss health bar).

You get a choice of four skills (healing, buffing, cleansing). There’s also a limited talent tree. And that’s it.

It’s an incredibly difficult game, let me tell you. Might not seem that hard after the first fight or two, but it ramps up fast. Knowing which spells to bring to a fight and how to use them is essential, and I still can’t crack the fifth encounter.

As someone who has healed in MMOs extensively in the past, I have to say that this is eerily spot-on with the juggling, stress, mana management, and battlefield triage. It feels unfair in a way that healing sometimes does, where no one else in your group is dealing with the pressure that you are, and if you mess up there goes the raid.

Anyway, interesting download to pass on today!

WildStar: View from the end of the world

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After a long, drawn-out journey, it feels as though my WildStar Engineer Syppi Tsunami is nearing the end of her youth. Last night I went through the Lone Guardian instance and was treated to more backstory about the core world mystery, Drusara, the Entity, and the Elden.

The instance was horribly bugged, however. Apparently it’s been like that for quite some time and hasn’t been fixed yet. I had to restart it three times due to various glitches that left me unable to proceed. My favorite one, however, was when I was fighting the end boss and he knocked me up so far that my character was stuck inside the floor of an observation room. I had to do a /stuck suicide to get out and try that again.

I’m on the verge of level 50 and have since moved on from Malgrave to Southern Grimvault. By now I have a very fixed build that’s the most efficient in terms of pumping out good DPS on a smooth rotation, which is kind of a shame because I wish that there were other builds as good to have some variety.

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Gotta say, I love the Strain as a foe. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but the bizarre monstrosities, random eyeballs, mouths everywhere, and purple infections are quite memorable if nothing else. That giant maul up there has a mouth on the side of it, although I can’t imagine that being helpful in a fight.

Increasingly my goal is to continue to acquire as many costume pieces and housing items. I’m torn on my Engineer as to whether I’ll stick with her well-decorated but relatively tiny house or to expand to a bigger (but not huge) one. I have so many FABkits right now that I can’t plug a fourth of them in, but that should change with this fall’s patch.

Eventually I’ll pick back up my Spellslinger again (Syppi Widdershins). She’s doing a few challenges every day to accumulate dyes, housing decor, and money. I have a really cool Iron Man-like costume that I recently dyed bright purple and yellow. I might actually like fighting on her better than the Engie and she has the Settler path too, which I enjoy more.

It’s great to see more and more people both talking and playing WildStar out in the blogosphere. The excitement for this fall’s F2P transition is building and considering how far the game’s come in a year, it’s a good time to come back to give it another shot.

5 great books I’ve read lately

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It’s been a good while since I’ve done a book report, so here are five pretty great books that I’ve read lately:

(1) Knight’s Shadow by Sebastien De Castell

The second of the Greatcoats series is — if anything — better than the stellar first entry. This is a fantasy remix of the Three Muskateers set in a land ripped apart by political divisions and war. Every chapter kept adding on more surprises, twists, and cool plot developments as the three Greatcoats go on a mission to try to secure the throne for a very young queen. There were at least two moments in the novel that had me literally standing up and cheering, they were that good.

(2) The Liar’s Key by Mark Lawrence

This is the second book of the Red Queen’s War, which is in turn the follow-up to the Thorns trilogy. I’m not sure if I like this series better than Jorg, but it’s heartening that the journey of slippery Jalen and stout Viking Snorri continues, even if the point of the trip seems a little flimsier than the last time. Lawrence seems to love protagonists who aren’t good guys but have moments of redemption, and I will say that there were a couple of moments here that surprised even me.

(3) How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth by Fee and Stuart

I’m on a big hermeneutics kick lately and have fallen in love with this textbook that aims to clearly explain how to read, understand, and properly interpret scripture. It’s more of a high-level overview than a weighty, in-depth tome, but there’s a lot here that I’m even learning, years after seminary. I’m also looking forward to perusing the follow-up, How to Read the Bible Book by Book, at some point.

(4) Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Holy carp, this novel bowled me over with how incredible it is. A girl gets ripped away from her village life to spend several years in the service of a grumpy wizard who is waging a one-man war against a malevolent forest nearby. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book — apart from The Ruins — that made me genuinely disturbed and afraid of plants the way this does, and I was entranced by how much character development and plot there is. Seriously, this is like three or four books crammed into one. Cannot wait for the sequel.

(5) The Providence of Fire by Brian Staveley

Wow, seems like I’m reading a lot of second books here! This is the second part of the Chronicles of the Unhewn Throne, a fantasy saga about three children of an assassinated emperor who is — supposedly — using them from beyond the grave to save the kingdom from destruction. Each of the children (the monk, the fighter, the leader) have really interesting stories this time around, and this massive book went by in the blink of an eye.

Battle Bards Episode 57: Blade & Soul

blade_and_soul_conceptart_B4TtXSyl finally realizes a long-held dream to cover Blade & Soul on Battle Bards. Truly, this is the highlight of her life, the apex of her existence, and the sunshine beams through her kitchen window. It’s pretty groovy for the rest of the bards, too, as the threesome enjoy this Asian soundtrack and vie for their favorite picks.

Episode 57 show notes

  • Intro (featuring “Main Theme” and “Cheerful Festival”)
  • “Silverfrost Mountain/Main Theme”
  • “Little Shepherd”
  • “Boss Gorilla”
  • “Black Pirates”
  • “Shadow in the Sunset”
  • “Kun Theme/Character Creation”
  • “The Pot Thief”
  • What one did we like best?
  • Mail from Rory: Taylor Davis
  • Jukebox: Destiny (“Excerpt from Hope”), The Sims (“Verisimilitude”), SWTOR II (“The Final Battle”)
  • Outro (featuring “Fly Into the Sky”)

Listen to episode 57 now!