Secret World: Telemarketing and truth

My adventures in South Africa continue as I use a dead girl’s bracelet to fudge my way into the Anointed section of the Morninglight compound. I honestly thought that there would be a lot more grinding and more missions in the first section, but… nope. A couple of action missions and a half-dozen petty chore missions, that’s it.

Che meets me there and gives me the next task — to find out information on something called “Foulfeather and Gideon.”

The Anointed section is definitely a step up from the third-world country look of the first part, but it’s not that much nicer. I actually preferred the cozy little shacks of the first part to the more drab and larger dormitories of the second.

Going into the Morninglight compound, I kind of suspected that there would be a ton of sabotage/stealth missions. That it took this long for one to start surprised me.

I moseyed on over to the call center, where NPCs are trying to sell people on the Morninglight. Just saying that if Funcom really wanted to pull out all the stops and if it had our actual phone numbers, it would have been a trip to have gotten a real phone call at this point with an automated message from one of these people.

There was one lady who was talking to her mom about how this wasn’t a cult. Yeah. Sure. Keep telling yourself that. You can actually start to understand through these missions how people get suckered into these places and then are manipulated to stay, conform, and believe through and through.

Also, let us not kid ourselves: The Morninglight is a thinly veiled version of Scientology. Self-actualization and all.

So I’m looking around for a terminal to access the info Che wants, and I am embarrassed to say that it took me way too long to realize that there was a door behind this shelving unit. When you’re in this room, you look at those shelves head-on, so it’s not that apparent. Well done, devs.

Below the call center is one of those basement corridors lined with booby traps that Secret World loves so very much. This time we have the addition of patrolling drones that will kill you if you make any movements when you’re inside their spheres.

One little environmental detail is that a couple of the demon hyenas have busted through the vents and were killed. What’s up with the dogs in the vents?

I’m happy to report that the stealthing part of this mission wasn’t too bad — only died once, and that was on the way out. There is a lot of interesting info that unwraps more of the John/Tokyo/Ground Zero saga. Basically, the Morninglight was priming two different people to carry the bomb and the first flaked, which led to John being the one chosen. Che was called to be his “enabler” and prime him for the task. All of it was to help the evil Dreamers, so we already know who’s really behind the Morninglight and what this cult worships.

Less than a day into this mission, and I’m ready to move on up again. Che is ticked at the betrayal he sees in these files (the Morninglight was stringing him along) but happy that I got it, so he said he’ll sneak me into the Favored section during the night. Or I could just use my angel wings and techno-hoverboard to zip over there and blast everyone. That sounds like a lot less stress.

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Craving a colorful space sim MMORPG

Space sims are getting a nice profile boost in the MMO market these days, thanks to titles like Elite: Dangerous, Star Citizen, Dual Universe, and the like. I think this is fantastic and shows that there’s a huge market for players who would be happy to trade in swords and staffs for spaceships and laser guns. I’m all for having alternatives to EVE Online’s particular style and focus.

But as much as I really would love to jump into an online space sim — and hope to do so, especially since I bought Elite in the winter Steam sale — I am not quite as enthused about this crop as I should be as a sci-fi and space sim fan. And I think it comes down to these games’ personalities — or lack thereof.

In the 1990s, I spent a lot of time diving into pretty much any sci-fi game I could find, from Star Trek 25th Anniversary to the Wing Commander series to the wacky Space Quest franchise. And thanks to the vibrant EVGA graphics and more light-hearted tone of the era, I kind of fell in love the idea that space could be “colorful.” That aliens could have really strange and memorable attributes and designs. That locales could be chock-full of branding and things to see and generally make me want to be there — or at least imagine that I was.

Even having gone through Star Control 2 for the first time last year, I was struck by just how… fun that game universe was. It could have been incredibly grim and dark with the themes, but the game designers put a premium on developing really bizarre and funny races with all sorts of personalities. I couldn’t wait to explore that galaxy and meet more of them as I grew my ship and fought the bad guys.

So if you were to ask me what pie-in-the-sky MMORPG idea I would love to see come to fruition, it’s the notion of a very colorful, very personality-rich space MMO with both ship and avatar components that carry this tradition forward. I’m tired of looking at the sleek and sterile designs of these Mass Effect-looking ships in 2018 and am feeling more and more nostalgic for the visuals and concepts of yesteryear.

This look and feel is what I chase in very stylized games like World of Warcraft and WildStar. Lately in WoW, I’ve been paying attention to all sorts of artistic details, and I continue to marvel at how much the devs were able to get out of rather simple shapes overlaid with exaggerated designs, lighting, and placement.

In other words, for me, it’s not the polygon count and high fidelity that matters, it’s the art and atmosphere. It’s the difference between going to Disney World and your average amusement park; both may have similar types of rides, but the former puts a lot more of a premium on the full sensory experience and whimsy of design.

I’m not necessarily advocating for a space MMO to be made with retro pixel art and 2-D sprites (although I would not complain), just that I would love to see a studio, somewhere, to see space as a platform for humanity, for humor, and for exaggerated imagination. We’re already getting our realistic games — maybe it’s time for a title that cuts loose a little, takes inspiration from the past, and injects some actual color (in all senses of that word) into its ships, its avatars, and its locations.

DDO: The Old Bonegrinder

Time for another happy-go-lucky adventure in the sparkly rainbow fields of Bavaria or Barovia or Bermuda or whatever this is. Today’s exciting adventure will take place in and around THE BONEGRINDER, a windmill with not-at-all ominous connotations.

Apparently two more kids went missing in this area, and one does start to wonder how any kids manage to reach adulthood in this country.

When I first arrive, nobody is helping me, but there is a line queuing up for “dream pies” made by hags in disguise and… yeah, it’s totally cannibalism. The pies are people! People!

Probably was a bit of a dead giveaway on the part of the developers that all of the peasants standing in line had weapons drawn, because I knew it was only a matter of time before they would be sent to attack me. Oh hey. It happened. Pew pew, I just slaughtered half a village of cannibals. Well, I’m going to sleep easy tonight.

I kick down the door of the windmill and wade in, firing all willy-nilly. I was kind of impressed that the devs kept this space small instead of pulling a TARDIS or something on us. It’s a rather cramped area for a battle against a pair of hags, which change forms midway through the fight. Lots of weird area effect spells with visual components that made it hard to see, but as my companions that day were an elf and a dog made of metal, I wasn’t too concerned about shooting blindly.

“Burn it,” said the ghost, and so I did. I do pretty much anything a polite ghost commands.

Off for a final fight against the last of the three hags. It wasn’t difficult in and of itself, although there were so many hold and stun effects that I felt like the encounter was cheating.

Anyway, dead kids avenged, aunt and uncle told, rewards grabbed.

And then I realized that the quest dumped me out half a zone away from the village I needed to get back to. And there was a vampire castle between me and it. And hundreds of enemy mobs, as I soon found out. Oh well, anyone up for a road trip?

Speaking of mobs, I was really impressed with the design and animation of these shadow mobs. When they move about, they flatten into actual shadows on the ground and then pop back up as 3-D models. Neat.

Even the gargoyles are against me. I’m going to have to murder this whole place in the face just to get a good night’s sleep.

Battle Bards Episode 119: Skyforge

Believe it or not, it’s the Battle Bards’ fifth anniversary! From its weirdly humble beginnings back in 2013 to our arrogant ramblings here in 2018, coverage of MMO music must continue! In today’s episode, we’ll be listening to a surprisingly good soundtrack: Skyforge. Yes, that Russian sci-fi MMO from the Allods team that lets you grow into your ego as a god. Groove on these tunes and see if there’s a new sleeper soundtrack waiting for you!

Episode 119 show notes (show pagedirect download)

  • Intro (feat. “Pioneers,” “Story Without End,” and “Wilderness”)
  • “Dreams of Aelion”
  • “Login Theme”
  • “Stronghold”
  • “Campaign Music”
  • “Aelinar”
  • “Forest Retreat”
  • “Battle”
  • Which one did we like best?
  • Listener Notes: Rafael and Mark
  • Jukebox Picks: “Breathe the Black” from Where the Water Tastes Like Wine, “Skalitz 1403” from Kingdom Come Deliverance, and “A.C.I.D.” from Into the Breach
  • Outro (feat. “Illusion”)

RIFT: Hey look! Greener grass!

It must be frustrating to be one of my characters. Egads, the uncertainty that they have to live with, not knowing day to day if I’ll grow bored or dissatisfied with them and just kick them to the curb like yesterday’s jam. There’s never any assurance, never any guarantee — the Sword of Damocles always hangs over their neck.

So one has to imagine that for a person with limited gaming time, multiple other titles for distraction, and playing on a time-unlocking progression server, I’d perhaps be persuaded not to reroll and OH HEY I DID IT AGAIN. Because, look, there’s greener grass.

I don’t even want to explain why. Long story short, I missed my Cleric, I wanted a DoT build, and… yeah.

Why not reset one’s progress when the clock is always ticking? Trion doesn’t care. Trion sends out a company-wide memo when I reroll, because that’s another month’s subscription in the can. Buy Scott Hartsman another corgi.

Anyway.

Fully aware of my foolish impulse, I determined to go all-in, at least for a while. The first three nights after rebooting my character — now named Glittersneeze — I rushed as fast as I could through the opening zone. My build was actually pretty good at juggling multiple characters, so I pulled as fast and frequent as I could. I put my brain on auto-pilot and watched some Netflix while slaughtering everything in my sight. And while I didn’t get back up to level 30, where I had left off with my Rogue, I did manage a respectable 18 levels during that time. A good start, at least.

I continued my little hobby of trying to take close-up shots of mobs’ faces and torsos, because there is so much detail that I don’t notice while fighting them with the camera typically pulled back about 15 feet. These skellys were entertaining, especially with the one glowing eye.

I also was appeased to see Trion finally lay out what it’s doing with the progression server, at least in the near future. For now, I think I have breathing room. It looks like it’s focusing on level 50 endgame stuff like raids, whereas I was more concerned about the unlocking of new zones and the expansions. I’m also glad we’re getting the summer festival, because it was a major bummer not to have the anniversary content on Vigil when that was going on.

This undead mob has the strangest face and I never really noticed it before. It’s like the head was stretched out but the face compacted in like a baby’s. No eyes? I don’t think it has eyes. And the teeth are kind of off-kilter, which is a neat detail.

It’s also surprisingly hard to get a head-on shot of your pets, because they automatically turn when your character does. I fiddled a lot and finally got this profile picture of Tweezers, my faerie. I don’t think I’ll be seeing her past level 30 for the sake of DPS, but at least she’s hanging out with me now. Put a shirt on, girl. It’s cold outside.

I… HAVE… THE GLITTER!

Not the best battle-cry, but it’s starting to irk my enemies a little bit.

Why I’ve hated World of Warcraft’s Rogues

I think pretty much all of us have classes and races in RPGs that we don’t like playing. And I’m sure we have many reasons for these: playstyles, looks, lore, better alternatives, and so on. But there are those classes you avoid, not because you have a problem with their mechanics so much as the fact that you just hate what they are and what they stand for.

For me, this has always been World of Warcraft’s Rogues.

The weird thing is, I have no problem with rogues, thieves, scoundrels, and similar types in other games. In RIFT, I think I’ve played a Rogue more than any of the other three archetypes. I’m not huge on stealthing and backstabbing, to be honest, but I get why people think that this class concept is cool. After all, assassins and thieves make up a huge population of fantasy novel heroes. They dress cool, they strike hard and fast, and they get to fill the Batman role quite nicely.

So what’s my beef with WoW’s Rogues? Why, to this day, have I never rolled one, despite suffering from extreme altoholism?

For me, it really goes back to the first couple of years of the game and the PvP scene. When battlegrounds were first introduced with 2005’s Patch 1.5, many of us who were starved for content were lured into these instances. I did my fair share of Warsong Gulch, Arathi Basin, and Alterac Valley, sometimes to have something to do, and sometimes because I was chasing some rewards. And I did a stint on a PvP-RP server because friends lured me there.

My time in these PvP settings taught me one lesson the hard way: Rogues are everywhere and they are raging jerks who are out to spoil your day. Having a class that can literally pop out of nowhere, stunlock you, and slice you to ribbons in seconds did nothing but raise my blood pressure and make me wish that I could just press a button and wipe out the entire Rogue population in the game. I’m sure I was killed by many classes, but the Rogues always seemed to be the ones that would corpse camp, that would delight in ruining your day, and that would /spit on you before dashing back off.

I made it my mission to try to strike back against Rogues, but this only was ever successful if they were in combat against someone else. In a one-on-one fight, I lost, because it started and ended on their terms.

And you know how it is — when you develop a bias against something, it’s incredibly hard to let that go. I haven’t touched PvP much since 2007 in that game, and yet I still find myself growling under my breath whenever I see a Rogue. I have no idea if they’re jerks or not, they’re probably lovely people who can’t get enough of dual wielding daggers.

I haven’t thought about it head-on for a long time now. The other day I was musing why my dislike of Rogues differed from, say, Elves. It wasn’t the creation of the writers and developers that angered me, but past actions by players that are forever associated with this class in my mind. And for better or for worse, it’ll probably stay that way. At least there are plenty of other classes to enjoy if I want alternatives.

Secret World: For the night is full of terrors and I cannot sleep

With my first day done at the Morninglight compound, it’s time for a good night’s sleep and some fearsome night terrors.

Noises wake me up, and I head outside — against the cult’s curfew policy — to see that the compound is crawling with creatures. Mainly, these people-pterosaurs and neon demon hyenas. It’s a monster jubilee, and I’m invited!

A lady has been dismembered by some of the critters, and wouldn’t you know, she was due to be promoted to Ascended tomorrow. Well, nothing to be done but mourn her short-lived life and then scavenge the bracelet off of her arm — wherever it may be — so I can take her place!

Secret World, you do take me to such delightful head spaces.

As I explore the compound after dark, what’s really weird is finding these grates in the wall separating the newbies from the higher-ups. Obviously, someone on the other side of the wall is letting these critters through. For what reason? Curfew enforcement?

“Cleaners” come by to scoop up the dead woman and put a fake goodbye note on her bed. Judging by how many of those notes I found the day before, I’m guessing a lot of people get killed at night here.

Meanwhile, I’m killing packs of these mobs like it ain’t no thing.

Before heading back to bed, I engage in a few side quests, such as graffiti…

…and shooting fireworks at flying dinosuars. Seems legit.

Out of all of the questions that this zone has raised so far, the one I want answered the most is: What is going on in this room? What are those things? Is she telling them a bedtime story?