Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Secret World, not so secret.

I'm currently playing The Secret World and I wanted to put some of my opinions down about the game.

These are my thoughts after the first few day of actually play:

I enjoy the game.  It is graphically spectacular and the game play, for the most part, is pretty flawless.  Not having to worry about levels as you would in any other MMO makes running around doing stuff a lot more fun.  You get Ability Points via experience but I have also found that I get them randomly from completing quests or as the game calls them missions.  It has a very different feel from your typical MMO. I tend to lose track of time as I venture around in Kingsmouth.  Even repeating some of the quests is fun especially since I get to kill zombies and Cthulhu inspired creatures.  The launch for the most part, compared to Funcom's AoC, has been pretty smooth.  Lag has been spotty if at all for the first week, which is great in a newly launched online game, just ask Diablo 3 fans.  I even ventured into the PvP area where I was quickly schooled on the need to stay together as a group or you'll get eaten alive by those that do.  Still I had a lot of time there, which is very unusual for me in a newly launched game since PvP to me is secondary at best.

Now these are my thoughts a week after launch. 

I think that once the newness has worn off, people should always go back and give maybe a second opinion about a game.   Sort of a behind the looking glass kind of look because to be honest, all games have issues.  People might not put them at the forefront of any fan based blog so I wanted to at least give both sides of the coin.  Why?  Because I believe that people who love a game might over look the 10% of the bad parts of a game because they are in love with the other 90% of the game.  I'm not going to do that due to my ability to be pessimistic from time to time. I don't want to sugar coat things for those who read my blog because someone might just go out and purchase this game based on someone's glowing report and their failure to point out some issues that can completely drive people bonkers.  Yes, I am aware that games that newly launch have issues and that developers need time to fix issues, especially when they didn't anticipate the over enthusiastic reaction to their game, as is the case with The Secret World.  I know this because just about everyone on my Twitter feed is playing the game now and that is based solely on word of mouth.  However, I again, don't want to sugar coat if for people.  I want them to know that the game has issues and I'm going to list a few of them that have completely driven me batty.

1.  The chat system is currently borked.  Let me explain.  If your in a guild or as they say, Cabal and you zone, die, teleport back to your spawn point or get kicked from the game your also kicked out of the cabal chat.  You have to then go back, resubscribe to that channel, then tell the chat window that you now want to talk in the cabal channel.  Lucky for me, they had the same issue with custom channels, however they have fixed, for the most part, that part of the issue.

2.  The game has fantastic sound cues.  When you enter combat or an area with a specific monster your after the music will crescendo and you'll know that something is about to happen.  This is great except a lot of the area in Savage Coast isn't working correctly so you get a lot of broken sound cues from the game.  Also you'll hear music and then it will stop suddenly when you move to a new spot.  This is annoying and takes you out of the atmosphere of the game, which to a lot of people is one of the selling points.

3.  The graphics look fantastic, except they seem to have issues with DX11 and the lighting of the game.  Its not consistent.  If there is all this great spooky shadowing going on, but it disappears when you look up from the ground.  The zones all have a night fall but sometimes it doesn't work well because the lighting is just off.  Now this is not bad in the first zone, but in the second, Savage Coast, it gets pretty bad.  Its almost like they spend a huge amount of time getting Kingsmouth done right and then just put one coat of polish on Savage Coast. I also wanted to add that I originally had my system set on DX11 but found after the first couple of days I was getting a weird bug.  Anytime I exited a solo instance or zoned, my game would experience very bad video lag.  If I logged and came back it would go away.  A friend suggested changing from DX11 to DX9 and I have not had that issue again.  I don't think the game is optimized for video cards.  Something I feel is a must for any game that relies on its visual presentation as a selling point.

4.  Speaking of Savage Coast and the lack of detail.  Just about anywhere in Kingsmouth you can pick up a side mission.  Your allowed 3 active side missions as you work on a main mission and a story mission.  This keeps you active and keeps you from filling up your journal with a lot of missions you just won't ever get too like WoW or EQ2.  But once I moved to Savage Coast and let me say, Savage Coast is huge.  I'm not sure how much larger than Kingsmouth it really is, but its big.  Anyway, I would have expected more side missions in Savage Coast considering how big it is, but was sorely disappointed that there just wasn't a lot of side missions to do.  Yes, I can repeat the ones I already have but in Kingsmouth there are maybe 12 or more, in Savage Coast I've only seen maybe 4.  It could be that I've not found them yet or they work off a trigger, i.e finish this main mission and it unlocks all these side missions, but why use that in Savage Coast when it wasn't used in Kingsmouth.  I'm a little concerned about this moving forward.  I did hear from a guild member that the update at the end of July should add more missions to Savage Coast.  To me, it seems like a missed opportunity not having it in there at launch.  I understand not having end game content, but people want cool missions as they move through the game that is really the only thing driving people since "Levels" don't exist.

That is basically it.  Even though there are flaws in the game, I still am happy with my decision to purchase it. The game is a nice escape.  The world is fun and interesting and it can scare the crap out of you if your wearing headphones.  I did my first group instance last night and it was a blast.  Lots of interesting strategies and some very unique bosses. It helped having someone with us who was a pro at tanking and healing.  I still have lots of hope that Funcom will fix some of the issues I've listed, but they aren't game breakers for me.  I listed them because I feel people should know what they are in for when purchasing a game, good or bad.  Gamers shouldn't be blinded by their love of a game, they should tell the truth, beautiful or ugly so that other gamers can make an informed decision.  Games aren't cheap and most gamers I know aren't rich.  

Don't sugar coat it, fanboys, tell it how it really is.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

The irony of blogging

Last blog post basically stated that I wasn't not going to be persuaded by others to get involved in playing The Secret World.  During the beta weekend TSW did not excite me at all.  I wasn't remotely interested in picking it up and nothing would change my mind.  I just wasn't addicted to it, nuff said

This post is about me playing and subscribing to The Secret World.

I was bamboozled I tell you.  I was forced and nagged and cajoled into playing.  I had a spell placed on me by those that I follow on Twitter and G+.  They forced me to endure endless ravings about how the game was fun and different and wasn't like any other MMO they had seen or played in a long time.  They posted pictures and video that I could not turn away from and in the end I had to succumb to the peer pressure.

Yes, I am in fact human and I can be seduced to the dark side of gaming... and I am glad for it.

The Secret World is in a word Fantastic.  The setting is great.  The way the game is played is different and unique.. well it is to me.  I will bore you later with details but suffice it to say that I do not regret giving in, to lowering my resolve, to letting peer pressure drive my decision.  Now let me try to convince you.

The games graphics are fantastic.  The setting or backdrop of the game is sort of a zombie apocalypse meets the love child of Stephen King and HP. Lovecraft.  The sound is fantastic.  As your slipping around town trying to either hunt or avoid the zombies, you can hear the gun fire off in the distance or the moaning of a creature so horrible you dare not turn around to see.  I have to say that the launch went really well for an MMO.  I haven't had any serious issues with broken missions or lag.  Mobs respond they way they should and the spawn rate isn't crazy fast or super slow.

The game doesn't force you to group and if you help your the stranger in the street, who's dealing with a bunch of brain thirsty zombies, you get some credit for the assist, especially if its a zombie you need for a mission turn in.  The missions are pretty varied and you have an indicator of what kind of mission your taking by the symbol. Some are walking around missions, where you have to go from place to place, some are simple ones like deliver mail to Mrs. Robinson and some are puzzle missions. You can have one main mission and 3 side missions no more.  If you want to pick up another main mission in the middle of the one your working on, you'll have to drop it, but the mission in effect will be paused and you can pick it back up later from the mission giver, but this time any part of the mission you've already completed won't have to be repeated, if its paused.  You can repeat most if not all of the missions as many times as you like, however they are on a timer, so you can't do them again right away. The missions don't feel tedious or silly like "go kill 10 rats in my basement".  

. They vary a lot in style and what you have to do to complete them.  Your also expected to use the in game browser to help with clues on some of the harder puzzle missions.  Its hard to explain but when I play, I feel more like I'm playing an RPG game than a straight up MMO.  Your quest isn't to level up, but to unlock abilities which give your character options on how to play.  Allowing you to switch up what weapons and abilities you use and give you a variety instead of saying this is "who" you are from the start.  There are choices you have to make as you go along.  I tried one type of weapon and decided that it wasn't for me, so I unlocked another style of play and worked on that for a while.  Nothing is set in stone.  What I get from the game is that the developers don't want you, the player, to ever regret a decision you've made in their game.  The game just has a different feel a different concept than other MMOs.  I don't know if its new and innovative but it is change.

If you want to stay in, as I call it, the stage 1 area, then you can do that till you've done all the missions or repeated all the missions a few times.  I've actually ventured into the stage 2 area or Savage Coast, but I went back to Kingsmouth, that would be the stage 1 area, because I just like it and I'm not finished doing all the missions there yet.  I've unlocked a ton of abilities but I don't feel like the monsters in that area are beneath my skill level yet.  It's just a very open game.  Give me a week or two more and I'll be recommending it but for now lets just say that I'm glad I gave in to the peer pressure.

Monday, July 2, 2012


I am currently not playing The Secret World.  I must be one of a handful of the people on my Google + circle that isn't and I can't really tell you why.  Maybe I'm just not ready to commit to another MMO after trying to make Tera work and finding that people soon jumped when Diablo 3 came out or whatever the next shiny of the month was.  Hell, I was just as guilty as the rest.  I switch games faster than.. well just insert something here and think of it as ironically funny, but I do game hop a lot.  

So why no TSW as the young kids are calling it?  I really can't tell you.  I thought the beta was pretty good.  No issues with the game, the setting or the puzzle questing.  I did find one or two minor things annoying but nothing that would really stop me from picking it up.  The only thing I can think of is that it didn't seem addictive.  Let me see if I can explain.

With Tera, my last attempt at a subscription MMO,  I did not want to leave the game.  The combat was fantastic, different and exciting.  Learning how to target heal by reticle instead of clicking on a hotbar which was a lot of un.  From the moment I stepped foot in the beta I was addicted.  I spent as much possible time as I could in the testing the game and found myself at the end of the beta weekend hooked.  I did not feel that way with TSW.   Hell, I've not even felt that way with Guild Wars 2 but sad as it might be I'm still going through with my pre purchase because I have hope that eventually I will become addicted to it.  

Odd how that sounds, but for me to really enjoy a game I need to be addicted to it or I won't really keep me coming back.  I was addicted to Uncharted the second time I picked it up and that addiction compelled me to finish the game.  If it hadn't been addictive I'm pretty sure I would have just set the controller down and moved on to something else.  When I upgraded my PS3 recently, the first thing I downloaded was Infamous 2 thinking that could be a game that would keep me entertained, addicted but alas it did not and I've not touched my PS3 since.

I guess its all about the addiction factor. I was never addicted to WAR, LOTRO  or SWTOR so I never got very far in then.  I wasn't addicted to Rift during the beta so I didn't close the deal at launch.  People say addiction is a bad thing but if you don't get addicted to a game then you have apathy and the game just sits while you look for that next addiction, the next shiny, trying game after game till you end up returning too.. yes.. WoW, which I confess I did over the weekend.

Addiction is what gamers need, its what they crave.  We need to be addicted to a game or we won't ever finish it or stay with it.  I guess Addiction is at the heart of every successful game.