Two surprising sources I’ve found that explain Secret World lore

With an unparalleled depth of world building, twisted story lines, and a motto that “everything is true,” The Secret World has no shortage of interesting lore and tales to deliver to people. But it’s also confusing as all get out, even if you have played through the game multiple times, talked to all of the NPCs, and collected all of the lore… er, “legends.” Even after playing for five years, I confess that I had little idea how all of this pieced together in the writers’ room at Funcom.

What really mystified me is that for all of the documentation of the game’s quests, there always seemed to be a lack of real in-depth explanations and explorations of the lore save for the occasional forum thread that would cover a particular topic. There used to be a wiki, CryGaia, but it went down for a good while and then came back rather bare-bones.

But recently I’ve found two incredibly helpful sources that connect the dots on lore and give me those explanations I’ve been craving. Thought I’d share these with you today. Of course, there are TONS of spoilers here, but if you’ve played through the game and want things cleared up, here you go!

TV Tropes

While TV Tropes might be best-known for its distracting trips into TV shows and movies, it also covers video games and comic books equally well. And the entry on Secret World has a lot of neat lore nuggets that clear up those bizarre mysteries and connections. It’s not well-ordered, but there is a lot here to read and absorb, plus they do try to hide some spoilers here and there.

Villains Wikia

Never heard of this site before the other day, but I did a search on Lilith and found myself amazed at reading a document that basically laid out the ENTIRE plot of the Secret World and connected everything from the scarecrows to the Filth in one place. Lots of entries here and I’m still picking through them. Awesome stuff.

Battle Bards Episode 102: Pure joy

Is it even possible for pure joy to be derived from MMORPG music? Whether or not, the Battle Bards are going to take a serious stab at it in today’s episode! Each piece is hand-picked and home-brewed to distill joy for the listener, coated in sparkling hopes and drizzled with fond memories. No matter what, you’re in for an uplifting show!

Episode 102 show notes (show pagedirect download)

  • Intro (feat. “Maple Island 1” from MapleStory 2, “Life Abundant” from Stargate Worlds, and “Farm” from Free Realms)
  • “Village Theme 1” from ArcheAge
  • “Sunlight of Morning” from Aion
  • “Plotting Our Course” from WildStar
  • “Sunnyside” from Granado Espada
  • “Party in the Shire” from LOTRO
  • “To Start a Journey” from Star Wars Galaxies
  • “Lakeside” from Cabal Online
  • Which one did we like best?
  • Jukebox Picks: “Main Theme” from Dead Space, “Hot Pursuit” from Gravity Rush, and “Grazelands Dawn” from Elder Scrolls Online: Morrowind
  • Outro (feat. “Home Sweet Home” from RuneScape)

Try-It Tuesday: Galaxy of Pen and Paper

Every so often, I break out of my gaming routine to try something new and different. These turn into my Try-It Tuesday sessions, and they are a mixed bag indeed!

I am a massive fan of the “Pen and Paper” game series that so far has churned out the two Knights games. My frothy excitement overflowed when I saw that there was a sci-fi installment coming, and this past week, Galaxy of Pen and Paper finally arrived. I’ve been getting very little else done since.

If you’re not familiar with these games, the conceit is that you’re controlling a party of real RPG gamers sitting at a table with a GM who leads you through various missions. It’s part meta and part in-universe and extremely jokey all the way through, and I haven’t seen much else like it. The little conversations your guys have as they go on missions and comment on the various ridiculous RPG tropes are awesome, perhaps more so for the ever-so-slightly off English writing (the team is from Brazil, so maybe that explains it?). There are main campaign missions as well as randomly generated ones, and while combat is the meat-and-potatoes, there’s some actual (albeit brief) role-playing involved.

Galaxy of Pen and Paper doesn’t change up the formula so much as expand and improve upon it. It’s obviously sci-fi instead of fantasy themed this time around, which means a lot of Star Trek, Star Wars, Hitchhiker’s Guide, Doctor Who, Akira, and other references peppered throughout. One big change is that combat takes place on a horizontal field this time instead of the top-and-bottom fighting of its predecessors (probably to allow the game to show off your characters more). There is also a space portion with some ship combat, although it’s not quite as engaging.

I had a hard time getting going at first, since I kept getting dissatisfied with my party and skill choices. Plus, at the start you only get a handful of characters and classes. More classes are unlocked as you play, but it was a little disappointing not to be able to customize the looks of my characters.

Eventually I got into the groove and found that there’s a lot of depth here. Each character can equip four skills total — both active and passive — but can unlock many more. So there’s a lot of choice involved in how you build your party and some obvious synergies between characters.

The pen-and-paper motif and the cheeky humor easily keeps me entertained. It might be fluff, but it’s fluff that elevates these games above the ocean of other RPGs out there. This game, like the others, is ideal for pick-up-and-play quick sessions, although the much more packed screen (forced landscape this time) makes it cramped on an iphone — I ended up playing it on my tablet instead.

Here’s hoping that it remains entertaining, has a good amount of content, and is popular enough to encourage the devs to bring us some updates!

Syp’s gaming goals for August

July in review

  • I settled down… somewhat… in my summer MMO wanderlust, but didn’t stick to my goal of giving Elder Scrolls Online more of a try.
  • However, I totally outpaced my own expectations in Secret World Legends. I was hoping to have Solomon Island done, but I blew past that and finished up Egypt as well with days to spare. Granted, I didn’t do anything other than the main story quest in City of the Sun God, but in my defense, it was City of the Sun God. I’ve been there and done that.
  • I also had a great month in Lord of the Rings Online. I finished up the Bingo Boffin series, much to my delight, and rounded out my Lore-master’s virtues to 19 across the board in preparation for Mordor. Oh, and I preordered Mordor.
  • No retro gaming this month. Simply didn’t have time with my schedule being more chaotic than usual.
  • I did get suckered back into World of Warcraft to hang out with old guildies, but I still haven’t determined if I’m going to stay or which character I should stick with.
  • Mobile gaming-wise, I’ve been playing Crazy Kings, Galaxy of Pen and Paper, and Dungeon Warfare.

August goals

  • I want to keep my Try It Tuesdays series kicking, even if just to try out a new game once a week. I’ve actually started to ramp up my internal interest on it, so good on me.
  • In Secret World Legends, I would love to get through all of Transylvania over the next four weeks. It’s a lot of content, but I think it’s pretty doable. After that? Gear up in dungeons and wait for Tokyo, I guess.
  • Obviously, the Mordor expansion will be at the top of my LOTRO priority list. I’m not in a rush to get through it or anything. I just hope that it will be entertaining and satisfying.
  • I guess I’ll keep trying to figure out what I want from World of Warcraft or whatever other game will replace it as a third slot. I’ve been eyeing RIFT, following its big patch and all, SWTOR might be a solid summer option for a sci-fi shift, and there’s always the possibility of Guild Wars 2 if the news of the expansion is sufficiently compelling.
  • I might be looking at expanding my Retro Gaming series to include brief, one-day looks at console games. What do you think?

Getting my virtues before LOTRO: Mordor launches

With LOTRO: Mordor (probably, maybe, possibly) launching today, I wanted to make sure that my Lore-master was fully ready for this lava-strewn expedition. And the only thing I really had left to do — other than perhaps whip up another amazing outfit — was to round out my virtues.

I know some people have told me that virtues aren’t worth doing, they don’t make as much a difference these days, but whether or not that’s true, it’s been bugging me that my LM didn’t have as many as my old Captain did. And beside, I ascribe to the notion that every little bit helps in some way.

I didn’t have that far to go, perhaps about 17 virtue deeds (out of 120 when Mordor launches), so I figured a few focused sessions would get it done. I drew up a list, cross-compared with what I did already, and figured out the easiest ones to do. “Path of least resistance” is my middle name.

It actually ended up being a little enjoyable, as it was yet another excuse to scoot across the world and experience it in a slightly different way. Sure, most of that experience came in the form of burning things to death before letting my lynx chew on the charred remains, but there were a few quest chains and exploration deeds to do too.

The dead garden of the Ents is always sobering to return to. Bet it would’ve been really pretty before everything turned all browny brown.

With a stack of slayer deed books and plenty of levels on my side, I was able to chew through packs of mobs quickly. Sometimes you just want to zone out while playing an MMO, grind while listening or watching something fun and enjoy the feeling of making progress or getting a task out of the way.

So how am I feeling about Mordor? Excited, perhaps not as much as I’m seeing from some quarters that live and breathe Middle-earth more than I do, but I am looking forward to it. An expansion is a huge amount of content, and five zones should keep me busy for months. I hope that the dreary landscape doesn’t get to me too much, but from the previews I know that there’s at least a lot of variety. Plus, I can always take breaks and mess around with a lowbie alt maybe.

If it does come out today, I’m not going to hold high hopes of actually getting to play it. When the Wastes opened up a few months ago, it was nearly unplayable for the first couple of days thanks to everyone crowding into one area and trying to do the same quests. Mordor literally has a chokepoint at the start, so I’m going to be flexible.

Still… I’ve gone from Shire to Mordor in 10 years! It’s quite a big step on our collective journey through LOTRO and a moment that I feel we’ll remember for quite some time.

MMOs have a “features hoarding” problem

Over the past few years, I’ve struggled with the question of why MMORPGs aren’t as easy to pick up and put down as other video games.

I know, I know, the answer seems obvious and lengthy and worthy of a #geekworldproblems hashtag, but stick with me. It probably also seems laughable coming from me, since I have this reputation of playing every MMO under the sun (which is not remotely true — it’s mostly appearances). But let me lay out what I’m feeling and see if I can’t drum up some sympathy.

So take your average video game — PC, console, mobile, what have you. One you’ve never played before. You have a few obstacles to really getting into it and enjoying it, namely price (if there is one), installation difficulties (if any), and an acclimation period in which you learn how the game functions and what it offers. Some games get you in and playing really quickly, some take a lot longer. But on the whole, there’s less mental stress and difficulty just grabbing some random title from Steam and giving it a whirl.

MMOs, to me, seem like there’s a lot of added barriers between you grabbing a game and getting into the fun. A lot of it has to do with the nature of the games — that they are much larger in terms of potential time investment, that they don’t “deliver the goods” right out of the gate, that they have the added complexity that comes in a multiplayer environment, and they come loaded with just about every feature under the planet.

In fact, MMOs seem to hoard features like the apocalypse is coming and they’ll never see a feature again. Bullet points out the wazoo. Simple concepts — armor, weapon, skills, stats — made infinitely more complex by intertwining them in systems that are dreamed up by a clever dev for this game alone. There is usually a level of commonality when you go into an MMO of control schemes and features that you recognize, but every game seems to revel in doing something really weird and different and unwieldy.

When you’re really into an MMO, its features hoarding isn’t that much of an issue. You’re used to it all; it’s all second nature. Adding another feature, why, it’s a delightful day. A present. It’s not going to overload you, because you’ve marinated in the game for a while and can see how it fits.

But take it from the perspective of a player who goes, “Hm, this looks interesting,” and then downloads an MMO to play. There is simply so much to absorb in those first few hours, while the player (me) has to mentally judge if this is a game worthy of continued play (because there is no game over and time investment is important), if the fun is coming quickly enough, if I’m playing it right, what all of these menu options do, where I should go, what I should be saving, what I should be selling, how do I find a guild, and so on. MMOs just aren’t casual fare. If you’re picking one to really get into, then you can acclimate and enjoy gradually. But if you’re flitting around, looking for a different experience one evening, then it can be mentally exhausting to get into a new (or one you haven’t played in a while) title.

Coming back? It can be even worse than a fresh start, as we’ve all mentioned many times before. You have to remember so, so much, and adapt to any changes and new features that the hoarding MMO has accumulated. The more time that passes between visits, the harder it is.

I’m often amazed that MOP’s MJ can play so many different MMOs, far more than I, during any given week. I try to figure out if YouTubers such as HiveLeader feel that mental drag from constantly picking up and putting down games. I just can’t log into an MMO and have a good time if I know that there’s little chance I’ll be sticking with it.

Thinking about all of this took me down a road where I mused over MMOs designed to be more pick-up-and-put-down casual. Your action-MMOs, like Marvel Heroes and Path of Exile. Trove, definitely. Probably anything Cryptic does. Wizard101. Maybe I should be playing more of those? There’s nothing wrong with any of them, although they’re not immune to feature creep.

I used to think of Guild Wars 2 as one of the most delightfully casual MMORPGs out there, a relaxing and not overbearing game. Just come and play and don’t worry too much about high-level stuff. But now it’s become this thing with difficult zones and jumping everywhere and raids and fractals and people freaking out about legendary weapons, and that pushes me away. I’m waiting to see if the expansion announcement will be a siren’s call of sorts to get me back, but right now I’m not feeling it.

Well, thanks for reading my wall of crazy anyway!

Playing tourist in World of Warcraft’s Dalaran

As I’ve been leveling up my Shaman through dungeons alone (at least for now), I’ve had a small chunk of free time between dungeon runs to keep myself amused. Some of that time’s been taken up with repairs and auctioning, but otherwise I’ve taken to exploring around. I asked a guildie to port me over to the Broken Isles Dalaran, as I much preferred that as a home base than Org. And while I was there, why not explore every crevasse and take many, many screenshots?

So here are a few of the pictures I’ve taken from around Dalaran that have amused me. For such a small town, there are so many nooks and crannies, and the attention to detail is pretty astounding.

For starters, the above room with the blue stained glass windows. I’d love to be reading books in a room like that.

The aquarium in the pet shop made me, once again, really wish for housing in this game. This sort of thing should be in my own living room. Also, is that a real Gnome scuba diving? I think it is!

While there’s the option to make one’s home at the factional inns, I liked the one right in the middle of the town instead. It had much more of a coffeeshop atmosphere, complete with chalkboard, espresso machine, and various characters lazing about.

This guy amused me, wearing 400 pounds of plate armor and sipping some coffee while eating snacks. You can change into something more comfortable if you’re just enjoying brunch, you know.

The toy shop really charms me. It’s got this childlike, old school feel to it, like something you’d see in the 1950s. Does Azeroth have a space program? Other than the space goats, that is.

The art gallery is probably my favorite locale. It doesn’t have a “purpose” per se, but I really dig these little bits of art, including some cubist Tauren thing. Again, why can’t I have a home of my own to hang stuff like this up in it? Reminds me so much of WildStar.

Some of the art looked at much more closely. It’s obvious that some designer had the presence of mind to pull together all of the little paintings that were created for various places in the game and hang them up in one room.

It’s worth slipping between buildings and exploring around the base of the wall. You find oddities like this weird little… shrine, I guess? It defies easy explanation. There’s this passed out critter here lying in a puddle of its own leavings (complete with flies), surrounded by alchemy stuff, a bong, a birthday cake, donuts, and a picture of some guy. Your guess is as good as mine.

A Goblin calendar in the barber shop. Weirdly, it’s the numbers and symbols here that fascinate me the most. Some look like actual numbers, some not. And what’s so important to have circled on that Sunday?

I liked the look of this undead guy in his apothecary with his beamused human assistant standing nearby. I’d like to read a book about their adventures and capers together, I think.