Archive for July, 2012

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Screenshot Of The Day: My Life Is Now Something, Something Complete

July 18, 2012

I know this blog has been inundated with other topics lately, but I am subscribed to Star Wars: The Old Republic and still playing. My heart therefore weighed heavily upon me yesterday with the news about another round of layoffs at BioWare Austin, and the departure of the game’s executive producer Rich Vogel. My thoughts are with those affected by the restructuring.

It does sadden me and worry me a little that things seem to be falling apart over there, with the numerous cuts and falling sub numbers. I don’t know about you, but as a SWTOR player I feel in great need of a pick-me-up right about now.

For me, it’s this:

Ever since last June when we first found out about Blizz, obtaining an adorable Jawa companion had been one of my ultimate goals. In a way, it sort of reaffirmed my decision to play a Bounty Hunter.

For the last couple months, playing my BH Xavindria to level 50 has been my project. I think I mentioned recently that she’s on Hoth right now, a bit shy of wrapping up Chapter 2. Well, I still haven’t finished, but what I did manage to do was complete the planet storyline, and you know what that means — I was finally able to unlock Blizz as a new crew member!

I wish SWTOR all the best. But no matter what happens, I know I’ll be okay.

‘Cause I’ve got my own little tanking Jawa. I’ve got Blizz. Xav’s life is now complete.

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Quote Of The Day: Judge Not “The Secret World” By Its Beta

July 16, 2012

While first glances make TSW appear to be just another MMO with a horror theme, the reality is the game is much deeper and varied than most of what we have been playing over the last several years.  It was then that I realized I had made a huge error in beta.  I had judged TSW far too early.  I had done a disservice to Funcom as a tester, and almost bypassed what was looking to be one of the best gaming experiences I had had in years.

Paganrites

For the sake of full disclosure, I would first like to say I did not play The Secret World beta. TSW was the first MMO in a long, long time where I consciously and explicitly made the decision to forgo beta, opting to plunge in blind at launch and play with fresh eyes instead. Of course, those paying attention will remember that I caved during the last beta weekend and played for a couple of hours (dammit, I’m so weak). Still, as it was for such a short time and only barely a week before early access, I’m thinking it hardly counts.

Regardless, lately I’ve been reading up on the game a lot. My research around the net has brought me to many a gaming blog or community forum where I often see a reason commonly repeated by people who have decided not to play TSW, usually something along the lines of “I tried the beta, and I didn’t like it.” This is why this blog post by Paganrites caught my attention today (and also because I noticed that several of my Twitter messages make cameo appearances).

In a nutshell, it’s basically an earnest declaration of love for the game from someone who had originally been bitterly let down by beta. The title pretty much says it all.

You could say that I too judged TSW a tad too early, specifically the combat which I initially described from my brief beta experience as clunky and unintuitive. In live, however, it felt smoother and more fluid, and this was only five days later. At first I thought I’d gotten used to the combat; it didn’t occur to me that vast improvements might have been made to the final build, which appears to be the case. I say most of the time, what we see in beta is pretty close to what we see in live, but according to Pagan, those judging TSW by its beta could be doing the game and themselves a disservice, as apparently the difference between the final product and even the later test builds is like night and day.

Just some food for thought, especially regarding what he also says at the end of the article regarding not participating in any more beta tests. Understandably, most people I know prefer to “test drive” an MMO before making the decision to buy, and lately, so-called beta tests have become the way to do so. Still, there is something to be said about waiting to do quests and instance encounters in a new game for the first time during launch — there’s that wonderful shared experience of learning the fights together with others (even if it does mean dying over and over), and allowing yourself to discover the game as a blank slate and be surprised by things you never knew.

It’s the whole reason why I decided to stay away from TSW beta in the first place; even from the beginning it felt to me like the less I knew about it, the better. Ultimately I think it was the right call, as not knowing what to expect — especially in this game — definitely has its advantages. However, as difficult as it might be to resist, going forward I too will probably try holding off on any more beta tests on general principle. No telling if I will succeed, but I just have a feeling it might bring me more enjoyment in the long run.

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The Secret World Of Laeyn The Vain

July 12, 2012

Inspired by my post from yesterday, I have to say that one of my favorite things about playing Barbie Dress-Up–I mean, The Secret World is the many looks I can come up with for my character. It’s not enough that the game’s missions and the theorycrafting potential of the ability wheel can keep me busy for hours; I probably head to London’s Pangaea every other day just to buy new outfits from the in-game clothing vendors there to fill up my dressing room. I am embarrassed to even think about how much Pax Romana (TSW’s in-game currency) I have spent on clothes alone.

And let’s not forget the other sources of clothing items. For the fashionistas like me, here’s a list of clothing rewards you can obtain from quests, achievements, etc. so far. I have not even had to spend any real world money in the store, and don’t think I even need to.

I’m going to echo my cabal leader’s sentiments here and say that probably one of wisest choices Funcom made for this game is allowing you to progress your gear through the use of talismans without affecting the outward appearance of your character and clothing you choose. Even then, for the weapons and focuses whose models you enjoy, I hear tell of an item you can buy from a vendor that will allow you to copy its mold to use with another item’s stats so you can maintain the look as you upgrade. That makes me happy, as I am completely enamored with a badass sword I picked up over the weekend and would love to keep being able to look at it for a good long while.

I change my clothes every day. Sometimes even twice a day. Anyway, enjoy the glamor shots, because I can’t be “Laeyn the Vain” without being content with just showing off my outfits in-game. And if you’d like to share links to your own fabulous outfits in the comments, please do! (Psst…I think cowboy hats are sexy!)

Aforementioned badass sword Laeyn.

Templar Laeyn.

Casual Laeyn.

“Couldn’t care less” Laeyn.

Hot pants Laeyn.

“Just woke up and put on her boyfriend’s shoes co-ed” Laeyn.

By the way, what I would give for a real life version of that Innsmouth Academy baby blue hoodie…

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Not My Style

July 11, 2012

Note: This post has actually been sitting in my drafts for a while, but then thanks to The Secret World I’ve been waylaid by fighting zombies and solving mysteries for the past couple weeks.

When it comes to MMO characters, I think we can all agree that your avatar’s appearance matters; pretty much every discussion anyone has ever had about games and character customization is a testament to that. But there are also important things that go beyond things like face type, hairdos, and make up — what my character wears. Like, I don’t even want to talk about how much in-game pax I’ve spent on new outfits in TSW.

In a completely different way, another game that really underscored that for me was TERA Online. By the way, this was a game I held off on getting for a long time, but finally caved when it went on sale for 50% off last month. You’d be amazed at how quickly my willpower crumbles when faced with a new game at half-price.

Well, I must say the game itself is very fun. I discovered my affinity for the combat mechanics and controls, which surprised me. Getting used to them was what I initially thought would be the biggest obstacle preventing me from getting into TERA. Alas, it was not.

What really distracted me at the beginning, and continues to do so even now, are the character and costume designs. Don’t get me wrong, I mean I think they’re gorgeous, and just about everything in the game is too. But every time I look at my character, I just think UGGHHHHWEJJSAGAG.

UGGHHHHWEJJSAGAG.

This discussion isn’t just about the hyper-sexualized clothing in the game (though it certainly doesn’t help) as plenty of people have already voiced their complaints about it (and they’d all be right). If only it were just that. No, when it comes down to it, this is about me not wanting to run around the world looking like a fashion crime and not having enough choices.

I’m talking about the general style of the models and gear, which obviously has a huge cultural component. Ironically, I spent most of my life growing up in Asia being bombarded with this highly caricatural art style often featuring a pastel palette, elaborate hairdos and ostentatious outfits on animated characters, but I must say it’s never really rubbed off on me.

Anyway, leaving aside the fact they’re completely impractical for adventuring and monster slaying, the clothes in TERA look ludicrous! I can’t even look at my character or some of the NPCs both male and female and think this is someone I can take seriously, rather than that they belong in some early 80’s glam rock band. By the time I got around to looking like a fool in my third pair of “half-pants”, I’d just about had it; I didn’t think I could look at one more person running in five-inch stiletto heels (a personal pet peeve of mine) or yet another exposed shiny male-elf navel while keeping a straight face.

This is the sort of stuff that falls into the same category as my dislike for the over-large and cumbersome shoulder pieces in World of Warcraft, or the fact I like to hide my helm on my SWTOR Jedi Consular so I don’t look like a BDSM enthusiast or a milkmaid. You might think, “Geez GeeCee, they’re just clothes in a game, as long as you’re wearing some, what’s the problem?”

Well, the problem isn’t as trivial to me as I thought. Maybe, there’s just too much of the old RP’er in me? I tend to like to do things like name my characters in accordance to the game world’s conventions, and likewise customize their appearance to fit the personalities I give them.

I’m sure you can argue that clothing items like half-pants and weird abs-revealing-armored-jackets are considered “normal” in the world of TERA, but still, is it too much to ask for the things I wear to look good but also make sense, i.e. like I actually dressed myself this morning without being under the influence of LSD? Not that other MMOs don’t have their fair share of incongruities like armored thongs or ridiculously over-sized weaponry, but out of all the games I’ve played recently, I think TERA takes the cake. I mean, freakin’ half-pants.

In the case of TERA, I understand the art style is culturally influenced and may come down to a simple matter of taste. And I’m just sorry to say it’s not for me. To a lesser extent, I think I also felt the same way when I played Aion, which could be another explanation as to why that game never stuck.

It’s a shame, because the dynamic, kinetic combat in TERA is the most fun I’ve had in an MMO in ages. I also find the creature designs unique and amazingly detailed, and I can’t tell you how refreshing it is not to be beating down on yet another wolf or common bandit in a fantasy game. Like I said, the graphics are incredible too, and I am awed each time I log in to survey my surroundings.

I never thought something as superficial as art style or the clothes my character is made to don would affect my enjoyment, and in a way that galls me about myself. But then again, people have left MMOs for much less.

I can’t deny that I’m torn. I like the gameplay of TERA very much, am glad I gave it a chance and want to keep playing, but at the same time the art style frequently becomes too distracting. At times, my brain also cannot handle the dissonance created when one moment I’m looking at my boobs practically popping out of my chestpiece and the next I’m staring at something so sickly sweet and cuddly like a Popori or Elin. It probably doesn’t help that I’ve never truly understood the appeal of kawaii.

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Don’t Look Back In Anger

July 9, 2012

It was the summer of 2008, and I was sitting down to another session of Age of Conan, only to be bombarded with a whole host of problems ranging from minor graphical glitches to game-crashing memory leaks. After the third time I had to reboot my computer to restart the client, I said to myself, “ENOUGH!” and promptly switched over to play another game instead. Two weeks later, still getting problems and no fixes in sight, so I calmly logged into my AoC account and canceled my subscription. Anyway, that’s the story of me /rage quitting, guys, or the closest you’ll see me get.

Have I ever been pissed off by a broken game feature or mechanic? Of course I have. Have annoying issues ever made me stop playing? Sure. But has it ever made me lose faith in a developer completely? Hmm.

I don’t know, maybe I’m just too lenient, and it’s entirely possible that I’m not picky enough. If things get fixed, I guess I’m always willing go back. Or if they ever end up making a new expansion or game that catches my fancy, sure, I’ll check it out.

Which is why a couple years ago, I picked up AoC’s Rise of the Godslayer expansion at launch, and again — surprise, surprise — same problems. I was able to play a new Khitan character, but was unable to experience any of the new zones with my level 80 without crashing to desktop within five minutes.

Anyway, one would think I’d learn. When The Secret World was announced, yeah, I had my reservations that it was Funcom. I generally like what I see from them, but I’ve been burned by them in the past; in my case it was a myriad of technical problems and game instability during the early stages.

Still, as you know I did end up buying and playing TSW. Okay, so it’s not without its problems. I did have a few freak-outs especially at first when the game kept asking me to update my already updated drivers and starting up in a distorted window, and I still stumble upon little bugs and glitches, like this weekend when we had a complete meltdown of the chat servers. But hey, unlike my experience with AoC a few years ago, at least the game is playable. I’m immensely glad that I lucked out there.

When it comes to bungling companies, I guess I subscribe to the “I’ll never forget, but I can forgive” philosophy. And the truth is, I’m glad I keep giving Funcom chances because if I didn’t, I would have missed out on TSW. I don’t think I’ve had this much fun in an MMO in ages.

I hope they continue to fix any issues, because currently I feel they’re the biggest drawback. For instance, it’s hard to enjoy an investigation mission when you’re not sure if you’re just too bloody dense to solve a puzzle or if the quest itself is bugged to hell.

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Screenshot Of The Day: I’m A Townie!

July 7, 2012

You complete the achievement “Town Council” in The Secret World when you finish all the missions from the survivors in Kingsmouth, and receive the Honorary Townie Cap as a reward. Out of all the clothing items I could get so far, this is one of my favorites.

Yes, those are fishing tackles attached to the side. I love it. It’s so hideous, yet so awesome at the same time.

Well, I guess that’s one way to keep my hair out of my face.

Also, /jazzhands.

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The Secret World: Little Photo Album Of Horrors

July 5, 2012

Note: While none of these screenshots are going to be terribly revealing, I have to say this anyway to cover my ass: some of the following images may contain itty-bitty elements of spoilers. If you have plans to play The Secret World and would like to head in with completely fresh eyes, you may wish to avoid this post. I have also ordered the images from least to most spoilerific.

Wish you were here!

Nick: Look Dear, what a nice, quaint looking town sign.
Laeyn: Oh, oh! Let’s take a photo in front of it together like the annoying tourists that we are!
In the distance: BRAAAAAAAIIIIIINNNNNNNS…

Zombies and fire, not good bedfellows.

Excerpt from the Templar’s Guide to Zombie Defense Training:

Always exercise caution when encountering a zombie on fire. Flames do not affect the undead as it would for humans in that it unfortunately acts as a poor deterrent; however, given time the zombie will eventually be neutralized due to the normal processes of combustion. In other words, flaming zombie kabob. While not necessarily an unwanted result, it’s what occurs in the interim that poses the biggest problem.

This does not bode well…

Kingsmouth town is full of disturbing images like this one, leading you to wonder what might have happened to the poor, hapless bastard who lost all that blood.

Yes, that WTF expression is completely justified.

The denizens of Kingsmouth — or those who survived, anyway — are a pleasant folk, just trying to make do the best they can in a bad situation. Unfortunately, I think being holed up in the middle of a zombie apocalypse has made a lot of them a little loopy. Though in the case of Scrapyard Edgar, it is entirely possible that he might have been like this to begin with.

I hope to hell that you’re not contagious.

Here’s an interesting article about Ragnar Tornquist and how his film background may have influenced TSW’s direction, which I found very enlightening (thank you to @PaganRites for originally pointing me to the link). From the cinematography and high production values evident in the game’s cutscenes to the quality of the script and talented voice work — it all make so much more sense now.

Mommeeeeeeee!

One of my favorite screenshots, not only because it is visually arresting, but also because the quest itself almost made me wet my pants.

Tarantella: “I’m sure ‘Not waving blades around in aircraft’ is on something like page 2 of The Templar Health & Safety Manual, Laeyn. Didn’t you read it?” Hmm, evidently not.

Guest screenshot from fellow cabal member Solaris, from our all-guild run of the instance Polaris (for quest Dead in the Water). Not much to say about this shot that wouldn’t be a spoiler, so I’m just gonna leave you with “Can you say, Cloverfield moment?”

I call this pic, “The Stand.”

Another shot of our heroes: Thermic, Tarantella, Laeyn, Solaris, and Dutty facing down a boss in Polaris. Being specialized for damage but possessing even just the wimpiest of defense abilities immediately elevated me to the position of main tank. A promotion on the battlefield, as it were. Taking a more focused path to tanking may be in order, but what impressed me was how quickly I was able to move some stuff around and still perform quite decently.