Posted in Gaming, MMORPGs, The Secret World

TSW: Meet Hedgemouse


I bought The Secret World at launch, and even have a Grandmaster’s pack that I picked up shortly after that. The game was enthralling to me because it opened up questions and possibilities of lore in our own world. No other game to this date has sent me to wikis researching things like Ak’ab or Wendigo or Irusan.

But as much as I love the game, I’ve never been able to get past Transylvania. We were stuck in Egypt for about a year or so, too. The stories are great and the NPCs are top-notch, but when I set the game down, I tend to set it down for long stretches of time.

I also have a few alts lying around that I’ve done nothing with for years. I always wanted to explore the game from the view point of something other than Templar. So, I have an Illuminati and a few Dragon, but none of them got into Kingsmouth for whatever reason.

Rerolling that Alt

I’ve wanted to explore what the revamped new player experience is like in TSW for a while. I also wanted to re-roll one of my alts because I made them so long ago (mostly to save the nickname) that the newer faces and hairstyles weren’t available back then. Since I never got very far with any of them, it made sense to just reroll from the start.

I didn’t know exactly who I wanted to make. I only had the nickname “Hedgemouse.” But as I messed around with the character creation  process, a personality appeared.

A young woman. Of Irish heritage. Pale freckled skin. Red hair. Piercing blue eyes that are perpetually locked in this OMG expression.



She is Flynn “Hedgemouse” Flanagan, and she has no idea what the heck is happening to her. I love it!

In fact, she’s far more expressive and even better looking than my main character. With the limiting features of TSW character creator (sorry), it’s hard for me to make a character I really like… but I like Flynn. I even spent time looking up Irish names to pick something relevant (both her names mean some sort of “red”).

She should be, by all right, a Templar. But Dragon got to her first. Poor dear. At least they apologized to her later for the rough handling.


I did decide to play through the opening tutorial since it’s been so long since I’ve seen it. I also struggled to pick a good weapon combination because if there’s anything I suck at, it’s making builds in this game. My main character started with Blade/Pistol, and did just fine. But in the later game (Transylvania), either because I’m just not getting the build system or the talisman system, I feel like she’s struggling.

So I wanted to try something new with Hedgemouse… but I’m stuck to Blade it seems. I just love the way it feels and find it very hard to play without it. This time, however, I picked up Assault Rifle secondary and hope there’s something I can build that can get me through the game solo.

Tips are welcome!

I got her through the Dragon’s intro (shudder) and into Kingsmouth where I left her up top the sheriff’s office with Andy. Figure she’ll be safe there until I can get back to her.


I’d like to put a little time into this game at least once a week, finish a few quests and make some progress. It looks like there’s all kinds of experience boosts to my account now for being a Grandmaster. And, of course, I gave her the horse mount, since I unlocked that purposely for my entire account.

Now, I just have to decide on what she’s going to wear. 🙂

Posted in FFXI, FFXIV, Gaming, Minecraft, MMORPGs, Nintendo 3DS, The Secret World

Weekend Gaming Highlights: TSW, Minecraft, FFXI, FFXIV, LoZ!



I did quite a bit of gaming this weekend, and have already got to work on some of my May gaming goals. Most of these will need their own posts, but I wanted to consolidate them here so I don’t forget what I did! 😀

The Secret World

I’ve wanted to roll an alt character in TSW for a while, ever since they changed the new player experience. I like to go back to these things and see how they’ve changed. I also haven’t played the game from anything but a Templar point of view, so I wanted to see what differed between the factions. I only just got to Kingsmouth, so expect more blogging about this in the future. 🙂


Did you know that until this weekend, I was one of those people who had never played Minecraft before? Yeah. Believe it.

I’m only playing single player to learn things at this point, but having a great time. Expect more blogging on this in the future for sure!

That little Minecraft shack everyone builds their very first time.
That little Minecraft shack almost everyone builds their very first time.


I’ve been leveling my Dark Knight, trying to make the goal of level 30 before the month is out. I started at level 4. Had her to level 22 before the night was out in very little time. I’m shocked at how fast solo leveling is in this game now.

I also activated what looks to be some sort of storyline quest that came with the expansions I picked up this weekend, which I need to investigate.

Level 22 Dark Knight!

Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds

I am happy to report that as of last night, I am no longer stuck on the boss of the Desert Palace. That boss was tough for me! It didn’t help that I didn’t yet have the net (for some reason), which means I couldn’t carry around fairies in a bottle to revive me when I died. So, I went and got that rectified.

It took me three tries, but I finally nailed it. Woot! Progress and one of my May goals complete! 😀

“Thank You” is a good place to start.


I’ve taken a bit break from FFXIV for a while, so yesterday marked a grand return of sorts for me. Syn has been overseas on a work trip, and away for work before that, too. She just got back, and had it all set up to have a sort of “Celebration Day” for the FC when she did. A lot of folks are hitting milestones IRL – Finding new jobs, getting apartments, completing finals, and having birthdays (me, soon!).

Funny thing was, I’d almost forgotten it was also the FC’s 2nd Anniversary. So it all fell in place. Syn was (literally) buying any FC folks who wanted pizza gift cards to pizza places. They were pretty shocked that she was serious about it. XD

Aside from the FC birthday, I also healed the Crystal Tower Trio on my Scholar for the first time this weekend. That was a learning experience! Syn said I did well, but I feel like I still need a lot of practice. It’s been a while since I’ve healed a raid, and last time I did it, it was with White Mage. We ran a few of those towers with full FC groups, so it was less stressful if I messed up. I also hit level 51, and I’m seriously considering putting some more time into leveling Scholar at this point since I do find it a lot of fun.

Aside from that, I went back and cleaned up all the unfinished job quests I’ve left lying around on Zuri. That included two level 50 quests for Scholar, two level 45s and two level 50s on Summoner, a level 54 on Dragoon and a level 50 and level 52 on Monk. Whew. I’ve been lazy… but I got them done, finally!


Feeling accomplished!

Posted in Gaming, MMORPGs, The Secret World

TSW: New Thoroughbred Horse Mount


I’m such a horse nut, you knew I knew I’d have to spring for the new Secret World horse mount. The horse doesn’t look particularly happy to be there… not that I blame him.

I keep thinking that I need to re-roll one of my TSW alts just to play the new player experience from the start again. I’ve never really done anything with my alts, and I have so much content I’ve never done yet, which is a shame.

Posted in Gaming, MMORPGs, Steam Challenge, The Secret World

Steam Challenge: The Park

Game: The Park
Time Played: 2.3 hours

It’s another game that shouldn’t be listed as a Steam Challenge, since I purchased and completed The Park all on the same day. So it’s not a backlog game, but I’m still dropping it in the same series. XD

The Park is a game I’ve been waiting for. It takes place in haunted amusement park in The Secret World MMO, a game that I’ve played and enjoyed since launch. Being almost Halloween, it seemed like the perfect fit. Plus, I really respect the designers and writers for The Secret World, and I’m all for supporting FunCom.

What is The Park?

The game describes itself as:

Set in a creepy amusement park hiding a dark and sinister secret, The Park is a first-person psychological horror experience focused on exploration and storytelling.

This does a good job at summing up the game.

I’m going to throw this out there right now. The Park is about a 2 hour long experience. I’ve heard some gnashing of teeth about cost vs. time, so that’s something to consider.

Some folks have described it as one in the “walking simulator” genre, and they wouldn’t be wrong. The whole point of the game is to explore the environments, investigate the items (notes, newspaper clippings, etc), ride the rides (mwahahah), and ultimately learn the story behind the main character, Lorraine.

There are no puzzles (aside from navigating a few mazelike rooms), there are no enemies that act as a threat to Lorraine. There are a few jump-scares, but most of the fear-factor comes from the heavy sense of dread and unease that fills the park.

You play Lorraine who has lost her young son, Callum, in the Atlantic Island Amusement Park. Or has she? Hmm…


Though it’s based on a location from TSW, and will be that more rich to players who are familiar with the park’s history already, playing TSW is not required to enjoy The Park. I will say, however, that I learned a lot more from the clippings and notes in The Park about this location and what was actually happening here than I did from all the quests I played in TSW. I guess I was more worried about beating off insane carnies in the MMO environment.

What Is The Park, Really?

Warning: Mild spoilers. 

It’s just impossible to talk about this game without going into the themes the game represents.

At first, the game appears to be about the park itself. The objective is to find Callum, Lorraine’s lost son. While walking through the creepy amusement park, you can prompt Lorraine to call out to Callum. Very often, Callum will respond, urging his mother to follow. Though sometimes, the response you get grows more and more disturbing.

The game sets up the dark atmosphere and history of the park perfectly. The place looks fantastic, and the rides, which are familiar to me from TSW, are great to see again. In fact, I got a hankering to log into TSW while exploring the park and learning about it.

About halfway through the exploration, the game starts to shift. It becomes less about the park (though the dark and twisted powers that are at work in  the park loom over every aspect of this story), and more about Lorraine. More about exploring her loss, and delving into some dark, dark thoughts dealing with parenting, depression and mental illness.

I won’t lie, it gets disturbing. And it’s up to the player to determine what really happened in the end… and why.

Who was to blame? Was it the twisted influence of the park that shredded everything these people ever loved and turned them into something they couldn’t recognize? Or was there already a darkness in their hearts, something that loss and abuse fostered, that prompted them to become what they did? Maybe a bit of both.

This is a slow game. Don’t expect horror, running, and things leaping out at you (often). Though it has a few jump scares, it very much focuses on the story and character.

This isn’t the  kind of game that you say “I enjoyed.” Perhaps it’s better to say “I appreciated” what The Park was attempting to do. To be completely honest, I went into this game expecting one thing – a scary game about a scary park – and came out of it with something totally different – a disturbing story about the loss of innocence and darkness.

I don’t know why, but I get the sense that this game started out as one thing that eventually morphed into another. The story wants to tell us about the freaky history of the park. The story also wants to tell us about the struggles of Lorraine. The story wants to try to layer and intertwine these two together… and I feel how well this works for you will determine how much you enjoy this game.

For me, I liked many of the storytelling and world building elements (oh that clever rubik’s cube!). Some parts were more engaging than others. But I still felt there was something missing in my connection to Lorraine and Callum as characters. It could be that I’m not a mother myself, so I can’t identify with the gripping fear of losing a child in a dark scary place. Though as sad and horrifying as Lorraine’s tale is, I just found it hard to feel a connection to her, especially by the end.

I think I just kept repeating to the monitor, “Oh, man. What did you do?”



Your Mileage May Vary

Posted in FFXIV, Gaming, MMORPGs, The Secret World

Weekend Highlights: On a FFXIV Spree, Troving Again & Secret World Mounts

Fate Train! Woo woo!
Fate Train! Woo woo!

It’s funny how only a few weeks before the FFXIV Heavensward expansion the Fate Train in Coerthas is really ramping up. I was in the mood for some open-world frolicking, so I jumped on board with both feet with my left-behind White Mage while Syn was leveling Lancer and Marauder for the final Dragoon transformation.

I don’t know why Fate running is one of my favorite things to do… as long as there’s enough people out there to do them. I find it strangely exciting to follow a huge group of people from one event to another around the map, just burning down mobs and bosses. When there’s a big enough group running out there, experience really flows, and I was able to bump my White Mage from 34 to 39 over the weekend. This made me happy since I was a bit grouchy with the time I spent leveling Scholar to 38, since I’ve decided to main White Mage as a healing class.

Since I did put the effort into leveling Archanist to 38, I went ahead and unlocked Summoner and picked up the Ifrit and Titan Egis. I don’t know that I’ll ever play Summoner that much as the playstyle of the DPS mages in this game don’t mesh with me well, but I may as well do something with it!

Unlocking Summoner
Unlocking Summoner

ffxiv_06072015_191454On the crafting front, I’m still slowly getting my crafting classes to level 50. I was stoked to finally make it with my first class – Weaver – with several lingering in the level 49 area. After taking the advice of a high-level crafter friend, I dropped a bunch of gil on the beginning of gear upgrades. I poured over some guides and learned how to unlock the Master books, as well as the books for crafting my own glamours (yay!).

I now have the cute chocobo apron, but discovered that now I need to meld some materia into it. I’m not sure if I’m willing to put that kind of money into this gear, especially with Heavensward soon to be released. From what I understand, there will be new crafting gear and a less grindy way of achieving it once the expansion hits. So, as long as I’m able to do decent crafting, I’ll be content with the gear I have.

I also managed to score another 10K cactpot yesterday, which gave me enough to purchase the Gambler Boots for Zuri. Her outfit is coming along! And now that I can start crafting my own glamours, it’s not nearly as expensive to get the look I like.

Almost the whole Gambler set!
Almost the whole Gambler set!

Other than that, I broke out the Tai-tank to assist with a Garuda normal mode run for a FC member. It’s been months since I’ve actually attempted to tank something, but I’ve been piecing together some tank gear for him. That’s when I noticed that the Paladin ilvl 55 pants are nothing but white boxers…

These are Tai's tanking boxers. Any questions?
These are Tai’s tanking boxers. Any questions?

Need to get those replaced! XD

At this point, I’m actually considering leveling Dark Knight on Tai come Heavensward. I’m not sure if the playstyle will fit what I enjoy, but it sounds pretty cool from what I’ve heard. A tank that can DPS and leech for MP (and possibly some heals)? Heck yeah! I can see myself soloing some of the old dungeons just for the fun of it.

Trying Trove Again

2015-06-08 025041
Preparing to fight a boss

I picked up Trove back when they had a $5 alpha package sale in August of last year. I’ve dabbled with it every now and then, playing when they released in Beta and a few times here and there out of curiosity. I’ve been struggling with a personal goal in the game, but was encouraged to try the game again by Ironweakness’ Trove article series at Waiting for Rez.

With the game launching officially tomorrow, I thought it was worth a time to make good on my $5 purchase and explore through Trove some more. Even since the last time I’ve played, the game has changed quite a bit. With a stronger tutorial, more small and large dungeons on maps, larger maps with new and unusual biomes, and many new classes to work towards, I certainly feel like there’s more to do in the game than when I left it. I also crafted the deconstructor for the first time and stepped into the wide, wild world of collecting styles (which I never understood or unlocked before).

This game is geared for casual collectors, builders and explorers, with a bit of battle on the side. While I don’t think Trove would ever be a main game for me, I’m totally enjoying putting a little more time into learning what it has to offer. More articles are likely to come!

Dark Days in TSW

Somewhat inspired by my recent motorcycle get in The Secret World, Syn and I decided to visit Transylvania this weekend for a little while. We actually haven’t played the game since before the new player revisions, so it’s been a while. We were happy to discover that a quest that was previously kicking our tails before the changes has been toned down just enough that it still provides challenge while not slaughtering us. This was pretty encouraging, and we managed to round up a number of smaller quests and get those cleaned up.

My new bike!
My new bike!

With Heavensward early access coming on the 19th, we’re in that state of pausing end-game activities while trying to finish up lower level stuff at the same time. Going to be exciting times very soon, though!

Posted in Gaming, MMORPGs, The Secret World

The Secret World – Did You Know: Kingsmouth Website

kingsmouthChatting in comments on Isey’s new post about The Secret World reminded me of one of the things I love most about the game. The lengths the devs went to, both in game and outside game, to take advantage of the modern day elements.

blueridge-poster-3-copyBecause TSW is based in our current time, things like websites and browsers come into play. In fact, some quests require you to seek answers and information on outside websites, such as that of the Orochi Group. I was tickled when I discovered the in-game browser and ran across clever missions that put your Google skills to the test. 🙂

One thing that some folks may not know about is that Kingsmouth, one of my favorite zones in the game, actually has it’s own official website. I remember finding this back when the game first launched, and I puzzled about the very authentic, small-townsy, amateur web design style. I wondered at first if there really was a Kingsmouth… until I got to the Activities page that had a poster for the Blue Ridge Mines. 😉

If you’ve never taken a moment to check out this site, it’s a fun little trip. Especially since those who are familiar with Solomon’s Isle will understand all the references… which always give me a chuckle.

Posted in FFXIV, Gaming, Guild Wars 2, MMORPGs, Nintendo 3DS, The Secret World

Weekend Snapshot: FFXIV, Cactuar Kitty, GW2, TSW, Majora’s Mask

The Crystal Tower of FFXIV
The Crystal Tower of FFXIV

This weekend saw a lot of various things going on for me in the gaming world. Just a quick summary!

FFXIV: Further Progression

Zuri finally got her Atma!

I’m still trying to make some progression with Zuri before the Gold Saucer sucks all my time releases next week. I finally finished her set of ilvl 100 armor, and completed her Atma bow. With all that done, I’ve been at a loss for what I want to work on with her (though I have a million things).

Not running dungeon roulette has helped significantly with the burnout I was feeling for a while. I cut those out and have started working on beastman dailies, including focusing on building faction with some tribes I haven’t completed for Zuri yet. But when it came to running hunts and unweathering her armor, I’ve kinda decided to take a break on that. I also considered working on getting armor for my healer class (I’m very, very slowly leveling Scholar and have a level 32 White Mage), but I also chose to take a break instead.

Tai's not so sure about this new armor...
Tai’s not so sure about this new armor…

I did run through the final Hildibrand quest so that I was up on story for most of that series. Those are always fun. I haven’t yet tackled the Battle at the Big Greg (as I like to call it), because looking up the fight, it seems really complex, and I just wasn’t in the mood to deal with another Ultros type fight this weekend.

I’ve focused my hunts and dailies on Tai instead, working to piece together his ilvl 100 weathered dragoon armor set. I don’t like the way it looks very much (sorry), and really miss my wyrm gear. He doesn’t even look like a dragoon anymore, and the armor is shaped so oddly. I doubt I’ll put the money into glamoring it, though, because with an expansion on the horizon, I don’t know what’s going to be happening with armor progression in the future.

Tai is still working on gathering all his Atma (he has half of what he needs now). However, Syn and I worked through the quests to finally unlock Crystal Tower (I also did this on Zuri). We haven’t run it yet, but it’s an option to explore later.

FFXIV: Cactuar Kitty

I’ve been reading about the fun many blogger folks on Twitter have been having by rolling on Cactuar and joining a very nice FC there. I’ve been trying to resist the call of Cactuar for a while (because of duties to my FC on Midgardsormr), but it was really something I wanted to be involved with. I discussed it with Syn this weekend and she encouraged me to try. So I rolled another alt on Cactuar to hook up with the fine blogger folks at <GREY>.

My new Cactuar kitty, a semi-Zuri clone!
My new Cactuar kitty, a semi-Zuri clone!

I was indecisive for a bit on what race and class to roll (though I knew I’d use my Aywren name for sake of easy identity), and ended up just taking Zuri’s base design and giving her a different haircut and freckles. I’m too attached to Zuri, and no matter what I tried to roll, I kept coming back to my moon kitty. 🙂

So my Cactuar Kitty was created, I hooked up with fine welcoming folks, and started burning through content. This isn’t very hard for me, seeing this is the 4th – 5th time I’ve rolled a character in Gradania (due to restarts, alts, etc). I chose Archer/Bard again because it’s my favorite low-stress class.

I pushed through to 15 so that I could complete the Valentione’s Day quests (which I did). Ended up at level 20 at the end of the weekend. I blasted through the first two story dungeons with really strong PUGs. With my eyes on my mount pretty soon, I’ll be continuing to speed-level whenever I have time.

It was somewhat refreshing to roll completely fresh on a new server for a change. It makes you appreciate what you have on your main, though! 🙂

Thanks to kind folks for giving me a home on Cactuar! 🙂

GW2: Level 80 Again

Finally, my mesmer is level 80!
Finally, my mesmer is level 80!

So I’ve been loyal in logging in just about every day to earn my daily rewards in GW2. This weekend, my mesmer, SoYa, whom I’ve been leveling since 48 on daily rewards alone, reached level 79-and-some. I have other characters who are in more need of the free level tomes, so I decided to grind out the last of SoYa’s level through personal story instances (which I’ve hardly even touched on him).

Once that was done, I spent some time kitting him out with nice armor, working on the Lazy Mesmer build, and finally equipping him with that Bonetti’s Rapier that I’ve been holding on for him for over a year or so now.

Next up for daily leveling tomes will be my engineer, Kip, who has a ton of cosmetics taking up storage as I wait for him to reach end game before I give them to him. Since I already have a level 80 engineer, I find it hard to want to do all that over again, even if engineer matches him best as a class.

Sometimes I really do miss those old Living World events, back when they used to allow sub-level 80s to uplevel and take part in them. That’s how I used to level most my alts. Since they’ve took that away, and my interest in grinding events has dropped, I’m thankful these dailies provide an alternate leveling path for my stable of alts who would otherwise never get leveled.

Ah well.

TSW: Long Road Ahead

Syn and I decided to pop into The Secret World for a short bout this weekend. We were so happy to see that a mission we’d sent a bug report for back before Halloween was fixed, and we could finally complete it. However, trying a “hard” mission in the Besieged Farmlands knocked it home for me that my so-called build is super lacking, and that blades is not supposed to be a DPS weapon. 😦

We started looking around at builds, and I found something more tanky that I’d like to try, but I’m severely lacking on AP and SP to achieve it anytime soon. Especially with the super casual way I play TSW.

The good news is that with upcoming changes to the pre-Tokyo content, I may delve into this game more often to build up those points and make a more solid build. I’m really looking forward to all the changes that are coming. And I bet if I could get my character to the point I want her to be, it would be even more awesome!

Zelda: Majora’s Mask

zeldamajoramaskFriday saw the release of Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask for the 3DS. I never played this game when it was first released, and actually never finished TOOT, either. But both have been on my lists of to-finish since I now have them on my 3DS.

Majora’s Mask has been somewhat of a curiosity for me. I remember when it first came out, I wrote it off as strange looking, a bit creepy, and some weird spin-off of TOOT. So I didn’t give it a chance.

My real interest in this game came from the Majora’s Mask creepy pasta and ARG that took place a few years ago online. I got really, really engrossed in this while it was happening, and I still shudder when I see one of those statues of Link. So, when I heard this was being released for the 3DS, one of the few newer-gen systems I own, I knew I had to try it out!

I’ve been really impressed by what I’ve seen of this game, both story and mechanics-wise. I knew that people said it was a good game, but so far, I’ve found it to be much better than I even expected it to be. I’ve completed the first cycle of 72 hours, and working on puzzling through the second at the moment. I like how the game just dumps you in the world and expects you to figure things out on your own. At the same time, it does a good job of balancing out information for someone totally new, like me. What I thought might be overwhelming (the time limit), really wasn’t once I realized I could go back in time and keep reliving the series of days over and over until I achieve the things I want to do.

In fact, this was a really genius way to framework a game and story. I love how you slowly build on your achievements, so even though you’re going through the same three days again and again, you always have different objectives.

Anyway. Great game. Looking forward to puzzling this out – I’m going to have to make some free time for it!


Posted in FFXIV, Gaming, Guild Wars 2, MMORPGs, The Secret World

MMOs & Story: Accepting Mediocrity

The Michael Bay version of GW2. Do we really want that?
The Michael Bay version of GW2. Do we really want that?

In my previous post about GW2’s “Point of No Return” episode, I explored the issues I had with the plot and character development. I wasn’t sure what kind of response I’d get, though I did expect some people to speak in defense of the game (which is fine). What puzzled me, though, were responses that told me that players really don’t expect a good story from the game, so they aren’t disappointed by what little the game provides.

Bhagpuss states:

Well, I guess because I have really, really low expectations of the storytelling in any video game. In thirty-five years of playing them I can’t recall a single example that goes beyond the standard you might expect in an example of a middling genre narrative in another form and even that would be the exception.

Mostly, video game writing, particularly when it comes to character development, is about on a par with the old Saturday Morning Cartoons. If a character gets two personality traits instead of one that counts for depth.

While The Mystical Mesmer similarly said:

I’ve long since come to terms with ArenaNet’s “variable writing quality.” I guess as a hobbyist writer it’s easier for me to ignore the majority of those fingernails-on-blackboard moments. I’ve been dealing with my issues by iterating on my own fictionalized account of my main character’s involvement in the story until I reach a point where it makes sense. Sometimes that takes a while.

I just want to note that I’m not here to try to tell anyone how to enjoy their game. I was really interested in the fact that these two bloggers, whom I respect as fellow writers, choose to selectively ignore mediocre writing in order to get enjoyment from a game.

Not an MMO, but this game made me really feel!
Not an MMO, but this game made me really feel!

I wonder to myself, though, why? Shouldn’t we, in a time when gaming is becoming a more mainstream form of entertainment, hope to get enjoyment and at least a pretty solid story along with it? If we choose not to expect anything from the story in a game, if we remain content with what we’re given, then why should the writers/developers ever need to strive for better quality writing in MMOs?

I know it can be done with the gaming media. I’ve played plenty of games that have brought me to tears, made me laugh, frightened me, made me truly love the characters, and took me on a wild ride of imagination. I don’t expect award-winning writing in MMOs, but I do think that when a game touts something like a “Living Story” with… you know, the word “Story” being part of the title… that something like a logical story (maybe) would be an important focus.

Being a Professional Writer

I’m not writing this pretending that I’m the best writer in the world (I’m not). I’m also not writing this believing that I know anything about what it means to be a professional story writer on a game development team. But I do know what it is to work daily as a technical writer for a software development team, and I believe that the basic structures and expectations are fairly similar.

When I write something, there are a lot of expectations for my work to not only be factually accurate, but to present information in a way that is customer-friendly and easily understandable, even for a low-end user. I have expectations from the devs, testers, training, support, sales, public relations, my editor, my boss, my boss’s boss… and lastly, most importantly, from the customers themselves.

If I fail to pass the expectation check with any of those people, I don’t just shrug it off and put the writing out there. No. I revise until I get it right. Especially if it’s a customer who has a beef with the content.

That being said, I have to wonder what kind of process MMO writing goes through before it hits the screen. In the case of GW2, they’re pushing to release content so fast that I’m curious the kind of deadlines the writing team faces. Afterall, the writing has to come before art can be fully implemented and voice acting can be recorded.

How does the creative process work? Do the writers have the freedom to write whatever they think works best? Or does someone dictate the overall plot and tell the writers that they have to figure out how to get from point A to point B? Are there reasons the story is the way it is that are out of the writer’s hands?

Where’s the editor in all this? Certainly a full team of professional writers and editors can see illogical plot choices and forced character development… if us gamers can identify these things!

I wish I knew the answers to these questions and where things are getting snagged up. Because I know MMOs can do better.

Story Matters

gw1Again, I’m not looking for award-winning writing in my games. But I know solid writing is out there.

Guild Wars 1. Okay, so it doesn’t have the flashy, up-to-date graphics and amazing explosive cut scenes that GW2 has. But the story (with the exception of the Kormir issues in Nightfall) was overall solid, logical, and made the player character the central heroic focus (especially in Prophecies). I’m not going to say it was perfect, but I rarely had the kind of issues with GW1 plot that I do with GW2. Given the game’s age and the time in which GW1 was released, it really worked to build the gameplay around a strong, central story, which was something I appreciated.

For example, GW2 writers could have looked at Shiro Tagachi to see how to build up a bad guy you feel some sympathy for, yet hate at the same time. Sure, some of the Factions story execution was rough around the edges, but it wasn’t the huge Mary Sue mess you got with Scarlet that left many people just sick of seeing her in every new episode. She became more interesting to me after she was dead, and that’s a problem.

hildibrandFFXIV. You do have to get used to the flamboyant language, but it’s one of the better written MMOs, in my opinion. Of course, you have to deal with the quirks that come with Japanese storytelling, but having been a FF fan for years, this doesn’t bother me. What you do get is a logical plot, decent NPC representation, and a story that knows how to highlight the player character as a very important hero in a world of adventurers.

Once I realized this game doesn’t take itself too seriously, I was okay with what was going on. The addition of side stories, such as the Hildibrand quest lines, are some of the most fun and well-presented cutscenes I’ve experienced in a while. It’s almost like playing through a quirky TV show. Even the holiday quests have a small plot line, which is usually quirky, but quite often has a progression where your character helps an NPC work through an issue or come to an understanding of some sort. That’s something I really appreciate about this game.

secretworldmonsterThe Secret World. When discussing story in MMOs, I can’t leave out one of the obvious champs. The writing is an acquired taste: dark, edgy, experimental… has been known to leave internal shivers in my mind and send me to wikis to learn more. Developing story and a world with amazing NPCs is a central focus in TSW, and it’s the thing that keeps me returning to the game eagerly. It may not be for everyone, but the environments and characters are memorable to me, and I’m more than willing to overlook a rather rough combat system to indulge in the secrets the writers weave through their world.

In Conclusion

We’re seeing a shift in entertainment media, such as television, where a strong story and good character development are becoming recognized and appreciated. I feel this is a good thing. Many indy games see promise in what a strong story foundation brings to their games. And slowly, I think we’re seeing story becoming more important to MMOs, too.

Players aren’t entertained by fetch, kill and fedex quests anymore. Building a living world where player characters matter in the overall big picture is becoming important. I don’t think gamers, or MMO writers, should settle for mediocrity simply because that’s what’s always sorta been. I feel MMOs need to step it up and continue to strive for excellence in all aspects of writing: a balance of solid plot and character development.

Maybe GW2’s living world is a start of something ambitious that just hasn’t quite come together for them yet. It’s the first time I’ve seen an attempt to release fairly regular story elements on such a tight deadline. Maybe quality is suffering because they’re pushing to release content so quickly, which is another argument for why an expansion type release may prove better.

I’m sympathetic to this, but I’ll also call it as I see it. I know if I were the writer on this team, I’d WANT to know what I needed to fix. I wouldn’t be content just to throw forced plot and character development to my customers and call it a story update.

Posted in Gaming, MMORPGs, The Secret World

Flashback: The Secret World Gangnam Style Video

About a year ago, The Secret World introduced the Gangnam Style dance emote. I took it upon myself to create a video of my character dancing in different locations and next to my favorite NPCs. I didn’t know all the NPCs in Transylvania at this point, since I’ve only moved into that zone recently, but it was a lot of fun to record and piece together.

Just found this video again when sifting through old Tumblr posts, and decided to do a flashback dedication post to this awesome dance emote!