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

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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!

happymasks

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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!

Posted in Gaming, MMORPGs, The Secret World

Halloween 2014: The Secret World Brings Awesome Back

 

TSW_The-Cat-God

The Secret World is currently 66% off on Steam! That’s $10.19 for a buy to play, no subscription MMO. You have nothing to lose if you’ve never tried this game before!

 Existing Players! 

Get three free t-shirts for your characters! Go to this URL and enter these three codes:

  • HALLOWEEN2014TEE
  • TSWCSICONTSHIRT
  • TSWBUFFEDTSHIRT

Okay. All announcements aside, Halloween just wouldn’t be right without creepy events from The Secret World. Being that it’s a horror MMO, Halloween is like TSW’s Christmas in terms of content release. And that’s the way we like it.

The Tricks

This year, we saw all content from the previous two years return – The Cat God is back and Spooky Stories abound on Solomon’s Isle. Super Jack is back, along with Incognito and all the creepies from the previous years. We also get a brand new event called The Broadcast, which centers around mysteries of old-timey number stations and short wave radios.

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Jack is back!

I won’t say anything to spoil it for folks who haven’t played yet – I’ve yet to complete the event myself. But the amount of stylized voice acting that went into this event is mind blowing. It seems there’s a shortwave radio in each zone, and I believe each one is playing its own broadcast. Think radio shows like War of the Worlds and you’ll get what I mean.

These broadcasts sound exactly like what you’d expect something from the 1940s to be like. Syn and I hovered around one for a while just to hear the whole of the story. I’m going to assume that each one has its own strange or spooky broadcast to tell, and there is one located in every zone (or so the accomplishment says). When I talk about radio show, I mean a full-on 10-15 show, too.

Last year, we had a lot of great stories to read. This year TSW tells us the stories — if we’re willing to sit by the radio and listen. I know that we weren’t the only ones standing around to hear the tales…

Get in on the event chat channel by typing /chat join event   For even more information about the event, see this great webpage!

The Treats

While Vets got the neat skeleton jumpsuits, there’s a ton of cosmetic fun to be had this year. From new makeups, to hats, to outfits, and even new pets – you have a chance to earn them from the bags given at the end of quests or from boss fights. The nice thing about the cosmetics this year are that they are all tradeable, which means you can sell them, or trade them for other cosmetics you want if you get a duplicate.

You can also purchase bags in the in-game store, which is actually what I did to get my cosmetics this year. Purchasing the Party Bag and opening it around a group of other people will award up to 20 folks holiday gifts, and give you an achievement that unlocks the new Thriller Dance. Seeing that as a lifetime member I have more FC points than I ever know what to do with, I popped a Party Bag in the crowd at Agartha. It was very satisfying to get thanks from unsuspecting folks just standing by, and I also got the Bloody Wolf pet, and the dance, out of the deal!

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New Wolf Pet

The basic store-only cosmetics (wings and hats) are all pretty cheaply priced, too. Overall, it seems like folks are having a great time opening bags and working on event quests.

If you’ve never tried out TSW, I highly recommend it! You can’t beat the current sale — the value of the stories and quests in this game are well over the $10 admission price. 

Posted in Bragtoberfest, Gaming, MMORPGs, The Secret World

Bragtoberfest: Progress in The Secret World

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Last week marked another accomplishment for me: After two years, I have finally finished the Egypt zones in The Secret World. 

What took me so long?

Well… I picked up TSW at launch (I’m a lifetimer), and really fell in love with everything it does well. This game, its world, its blend of real-world lore, its stories… these are things that have to be savored. Not something you can just rush through. It’s also something I have to be in the right mood to play. Fall, with Halloween on the way, tends to put me in that mood.

A little over a month after TSW launch, Guild Wars 2 released. I was sucked up into GW2 until about November/December that year, though I did visit in on TSW’s Halloween events because… well… the Cat King! I think I was finishing up Blue Mountain about that time, maaaybe just starting on the first Egypt area.

When the Buy 2 Play conversion happened later that year, I hooked my sister and Syn up with a copy of the game. We all started playing for a while, so naturally, I returned to replay all of Solomon’s Island with them as they worked through the story and missions. Somewhere during this time, I ended up maxing out my Templar status, even though I’d never seen the later reaches of the game. I still have a lot of work to do on filling out my skill wheel, but I’ve made good progress in playing the early stages all over again.

We put the game down for a while, and picked it up around Halloween last year. Did some leveling through golden weekend and such. All that time, my progress was still stalled in Egypt.

Finally, Syn caught up to me, and we started making progress through Egypt. Again, we put the game down for a while, and only returned to it recently. Last week, we finally finished up The City of the Sun God, officially passing me on to Transylvania for the first time!

I love the moral choices you're prodded to make in these between-the-zones scenarios.
I love the moral choices you’re prodded to make in these between-the-zones scenarios.

We’re continuing to have a good time watching the lore and story of this zone unfold, though it seems the challenge is ramping up for us. I really need to find a better build with my blades. Suggestions are welcome!

Can’t wait for Halloween in TSW! They always put on a good show.

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It’s that time of year again!
Posted in 7 Days to Die, Gaming, MMORPGs, Sims 4, The Secret World

Game Deluge! Sims 4, The Secret World & 7 Days to Die

If I’ve been silent here on the blog, that means one thing — I’ve been busy playing games! I’ve been heavy into Sims 4, and dabbling in TSW and 7D2D. Today is the ArcheAge launch, which I’m going to attempt to join casually, and next Tuesday sees the launch of the new Gauntlet, which my gaming group has already pre-purchased.

It’s a game deluge!

Sims 4

Want some Final fantasy shirts? Click the picture above!

I continue to enjoy my time with Sims 4, watching the amount of mods and custom content slowly growing. I’m plotting up a full storyline for my Sygnus Sims. I’ve also experimented with modding hair colors and making my own geeky line of custom content clothes.

I’m planning what CC I’m going to make to give away for Simblrween — the Halloween celebration for Sims players on Tumblr. I’ve clocked in over 50 hours in this game, and I don’t see myself putting it down any time soon.

I’ve been pleased with how the development team for the Sims 4 has handled the concerns and often biting comments from the gaming community. I may not agree with all their choices, but working in the software industry myself, I understand that sometimes sacrifices have to be made in order to put the product out the door on time, or in favor of a completely different feature. But that’s a discussion for another time and place.

The Secret World – City of the Sun God

Syn and I picked up TSW for the first time in many months. I don’t know what it is about the oncoming change of seasons that always makes me get the urge to play this game. Maybe I associate TSW with Halloween, or maybe I associate it with late summer and early fall since that was when I first played the game the year it launched.

Despite picking up the game at launch, and playing only one character, I’m still only in Egypt. I can happily say, however, I’ve graduated from the Scorched Desert to the City of the Sun God now! I’ve been somewhat stalled in the Scorched Desert for over two years now. Part of this was due to helping other folks through the earlier content rather than pushing ahead through the story. Seeing this is one game I’ve never rushed, I always have just as much fun going back through old missions with friends as I do seeing new content.

Rocking the City of the Sun God
Rocking the City of the Sun God with Hemitneter and my Kellas Kitty

I heard a lot of rough things about the City of the the Sun God – how it had a poor, claustrophobic layout with far too dense an enemy spawn. How most people just want to get in and out of that area… or they skip it and head to Transylvania instead. So I was kinda balking the idea when I realized we’d finished all our quests in the previous area, and were being ushered head-first into the city. Especially so, since we haven’t played in forever and were quite rusty.

Instead, I found we were caught up in some of the most enjoyable and cohesive storylines that I’ve experienced since Kingsmouth. Here we have the lost city of Amarna, the site of the prison for the Black Pharaoh, Akhenaten, who seeks to restore his dark god, Aten. Note all those links head off to Wikipedia, since all this “lore” is in fact based on real historical events of our own world. This always delights me… so often we feel like we have to delve into a fantasy world for amazing stories. Our own world has so much “lore” we don’t even know about! TSW always open doors to our amazing history for me.

What is most gripping to me about this area is that the vizier Ptahmose and his children (some who were/are literally just children) act as your allies. For all this time, they have watched over this city, sealing the darkness and kept it secret away from the world. The vizier’s children, the first of the Marya, are young spirits sealed within statues placed throughout the city. They now act as eternal Sentiles who struggle to maintain their watch and keep the darkness sealed away.

As we came to learn about each statue, they took on lives of their own, with their own personalities and well-acted voice-overs. All of them were young, some only children, who never knew a life outside of this eternal servitude, and it shows through their character and the quests you carry out for them. Some have grown weary of their tasks, some impatient, while others carry their burden without complaint.

These stories connect the zone as a whole in a way that’s pleasing to a story lover. This is no old city of dust, stone and mere statues once you understand the plight of this family and invest in their emotions.

The Secret World never disappoints when it comes to holding my imagination through powerful writing and characters. I’m looking forward to making more progress through this zone.

7 Days to Die – Patch 9.3

Checking the Damage After the Feral Horde
Checking the Damage After the Feral Horde

When our group is in the mood for zombies, we’ve been playing and testing through the newest patch in 7D2D. Update 9 brought the amazing randomly generated worlds. Patches after have done a lot to address bugs, balance spawning, fix issues with farming, and overall make the game even more amazing to play.

The other night, our team finally played long enough to experience our first Day 7 Feral Night Horde. Yes, that’s in caps. It needs to be in caps. Our little bunker build held out really well against the massive swarm of zombies. They came from everywhere and they were relentless! We had a few player fatalities, but overall, defending our base was a lot of fun!

With over 200 hours sunk into this game since July, I highly recommend this to zombie survivalists who enjoy their zombies with a side of building. I’ve got more than my money’s worth out of this game, for certain.

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Bonus Picture! Dead zombie with a stake through the butt. You know you needed that! 🙂