achtungexplosiv: (BARCODE)
Whoops, got a bit sidetracked over the week and didn't get around to putting up my final installment of the Templar's crusade in Kingsmouth in The Secret World open beta weekend.

Draug


YEAH, SPOILERS ETC.



Teamwork: worth it? )


Parting Thought

I spent more time fighting the game's UI than I do fighting the game's mobs. FC have a lot of QoL work to do. Also, it would be nice to test some other part of the game now, like the Illuminati or Dragon startups, or any other zone that isn't Kingsmouth. Repeating the same missions in such a short time span doesn't allow for the forgetting of details which would otherwise prompt rediscovery of clues all over again and therefore replay value. I sincerely hope the final Beta Weekend (June 1st - 3rd) lets us get an updated client and something new to do. FC needs to demonstrate that they are squashing bugs.
achtungexplosiv: (BARCODE)
It's the second Weekend Beta for The Secret World and we pick up where our intrepid Templars left off: neck-deep in lovecraftian mystery in the New England. Same characters, different server - this time one with the rest of the Kingsmouth quests unlocked. Perhaps even the 'dungeon' that's been hinted at.

Rakshasa


GIANT SPOILER WARNING - oh you know the drill by now, a random assortment of gameplay explanations with some circumspect mission bits.



This one's a little shorter: more playing, less typing. )

Funny quotes of the day: anything said by the Orochi duo at the northern bridge in Kingsmouth. They're utterly socially inept to hilarious effect, and the rest of Kingsmouth is pretty sparse on humour. Not a surprise given all that the small handful of survivors have gone through.
achtungexplosiv: (BARCODE)
This is the third and final installment of my experiences in the first Beta weekend for The Secret World. I've focused principally on the Missions aspect of the PvE experience, given that it's the primary PvE activity available in the beta weekends and the game trades heavily on the strength of the immersion, investigation and puzzles presented. Our Templars are in over their heads with the ragtag survivours of Kingsmouth but we can't quit now, there's too much at stake!

Kingsmouth Zombies


GIANT SPOILER WARNING - lots of gameplay spoilers and a fair few plot giveaways.



Part Three: The eye of the storm is a bit foggy )


Amusing lines seen in the game today:

"You successfully used the Sprinting."
"Ladies and Gentlemen, the sky is falling. Not quickly - that would be ridiculous."
achtungexplosiv: (Default)
This post follows on from my previous post about my first evening playing the Weekend Beta of The Secret World, with my experiences of the first main area of the game: Kingsmouth.* Today, our brave and confused Templar foot soldiers are hurriedly packed off to Solomon Island off the coast of new England, via the mysterious Agartha, to figure out just what the hell is going on over in that god-forsaken hole...

Kingsmouth


GIANT SPOILER WARNING - I go into plenty of detail about the mechanics, character progression system and mission basics in Kingsmouth so there will be plot spoilers.


Part Two: in which I get my pewpew on. )

Funniest game quote of the day:

"This underground realm, like the great British railway system, is the very model of efficiency."


* Yes, that is an actual URL to an actual website FunCom made for the purposes of the game. The information it contains will come in handy when solving the various puzzles and investigations presented...
achtungexplosiv: (Default)
5pm BST on Friday 11th of May marked the start of the first of three open beta weekends for The Secret World. Thanks to my sterling efforts for the Dragon faction in The Secret War minigame, I had been given access to these beta weekends and in anticipation I'd even downloaded and patched up the beta client well ahead of time.


Secret World Logo


These are my experiences of this first weekend, as a newbie Templar going through the startup. I was there at 5pm BST, albeit remotely.

GIANT SPOILER ALERT - I don't give too much away about plot, but I give a great deal away about the gameplay.

I shall tuck the entry away behind an LJ cut for this reason.



Part one: wherein I find my feet )


Favourite quotes so far include:
"WARNING: Holy radiation poisoning imminent."
"Initiate the Nietzsche syntax."
"We usually lose them to Elder Gods with a name like a mouth full of cornflakes."
"Dragon prefer the medium of Interpretative Terrorism. I hear it's the next biggest thing."
achtungexplosiv: (Default)
The FunCom hypemachine is in full swing in preparation for the release of The Secret World, the upcoming modern-day conspiracy theory and supernatural MMO. The open Beta phases are coming Soon™ and the culmination of the viral internet marketing has hit with full force, spamming a social network near you.

The Secret War


What?

The Secret War is a small and simple mini-game played in your browser (well, most browsers) and you can earn freebies for the MMO including access to the open Betas, and if you're really good/lucky there's a trip to Montreal and the FC studios in it as well. Warning: requires a FaceBook account.** Also required is a FunCom account for TSW so that you have something to tie any in-game winnings to, should you go ahead and buy the MMO at some point. At least it's not as invasive as an EA account...

The idea is that you pick which of the three main factions to throw your lot in with and you assume the role of an operative for that faction. You spread propaganda in the form of exclusive screenshots and trailers, recruit people to your cause and send agents out to bring various countries (and each individual US state, presumably because FC has aimed primarily at the US market) under your faction's control. The control updates are in real time, you can deploy agents every hour and spread propaganda every 6 hours. It's all pretty straight forwards.


Who?

The three factions are as follows:-

Illuminati   The Illuminati

The US-based hypercapitalist masters of influence and control who seek to dominate the world from the shadows and drive out the competing supernatural forces that lurk behind the scenes. Not as new to the scene as their modern paradigm suggests, the Illuminati are masters of subtlety and misdirection. The colour blue, pyramids with eyes and the assault rifle are their trademarks.



Templars   The Templars

An ancient european secret society thought to be long dead but in fact still holding vast swathes of power throughout the old world and africa. Ditching their old religious dogmas, they're moving with the times to bring back the old days of glory and sanctity, and do battle with the evil forces that terrorise humanity so the world can truly be called safe. The colour red, twin pistols and the Templar Cross are the Templar calling cards.



Dragon   The Dragon

Not so much an ancient order as a collection of groups and networks from the far east that simply share a common goal: to expose the corruption and darkness and to throw off the blanket of lies and secrecy and show humanity the world as it truly is. From the change this will bring, humanity can move forward. Dragons show the colour green and are associated with the katana, and take a stylised dragon dancer mask as their sign.


The three factions are old enemies and whilst from time to time some of their number may ally with others, this never lasts long. Once you've picked a faction for The Secret War, you cannot go back, although I don't think this has any impact on what you can do in the MMO once released. Facebook friends who've picked the same faction as you become Agents you can deploy, and you do get a basic starter agent as well. Those who picked different factions become Rivals, but I haven't found that this has any impact beyond knowing who to boo at down the pub.


How?

The contributions you make to your faction in a country you click on will help determine what proportion of a country's influence your faction holds. You can direct propaganda at a country by having people click on the screenies and video links on your Facebook Wall posted from the country interaction screen. This counts as sending a one-shot agent off to that country to do your faction's bidding. The most direct method of gaining control over a country is to deploy agents once an hour.

You can see realtime faction control updates, and it's interesting to note just how far each faction can rise and fall, from dominating over 50% to scraping under 20% of the world in the space of a single day. The over-arcing reason to ensure your faction maintains a high degree of control is to unlock exclusives for your faction. Currently the race to unlock a new trailer is underway and as of writing this the three factions are very close in terms of progress.


World Map


In-game phats, you say

As you accumulate points from agent deployments and propaganda-spreading, you gain points. Once you reach a certain number of points, you unlock in-game items and advance in Rank. Items include costume bits, XP-boosting consumables and unique weapons. I didn't see anything particularly game breaking, thankfully, and there does appear to be something for everyone in terms of a wide variety of magic and weapon items. The higher the rank you attain, the more freebies you accumulate.

The ranks follow a progression from your basic unranked nobody, through Initiate, Loyalist, Operator, Infiltrator, Agent and finally Secret Agent. There's weekly leaderboards and achivements and so on, of course.

The main prize is access to the open Betas in May and you need to hit the final rank of Secret Agent to unlock that. Depending on whether you make a throwaway FB account and hook up with the relevant Facebook groups to mass-add and be mass-added by, or carefully hand-pick friends you think might actually enjoy hitting it up, it might take you a day to hit Secret Agent, or you might run it close to the wire when the game 'finishes'. There is no finishing date given, incidentally, and whilst the beta access will eventually become redundant, the game and the rest of the freebies might continue after the MMO launch.


And if I want to sign up?

Then have a shufty here (links to my recruitment portal):




** This part was initially a big put-off for me because I loathe forced social network linking (Massively, I'm looking at you too). What I didn't realise was that it links directly into a FB Game app. You know, the kind that clogs up your news feed... The fact I didn't realise this until after the game had started spamming my wall with app updates hacked me off rather a lot. I was trying to post screenshots and a video to my news feed because I thought some people might be interested, but those were restricted by the app to my own wall. Instead, the other annoying updates on my progress was what ended up going out to everyone. Nice way to piss off my friends and to hamper their own marketing strategy. Oh FunCom, don't you ever change...
achtungexplosiv: (Default)
There's a few games and updates heading our way that have caught my attention, and so I've kept an eye on how things have been developing.


Big Game Roundup
Mass Effect 3 logo Guild Wars 2 logoThe Secret World logo

Aside from the fact Mass Effect 3 is launching on the 9th of March, which is all over the internets along with the GAME/Gamestation debacle, the hypemachine is on overdrive for Guild Wars 2 now that Star Wars: the Old Republic has lost its new and shiny edge, and FunCom's upcoming The Secret World is still generating a lot of interest.


Tidbits

A recent interview with the BioWare studio founders conducted by Penny Arcade mentioned that the possibility of a Mass Effect MMO is an interesting one. There's some mixed feelings about it, given the mixed reception SWTOR got, but back before SWTOR details were known there was a good deal of interest in an MMO set in the Mass Effect universe. I have to admit that now I'm not so sure either. A single-player focused MMOFPS isn't something I'm looking for in an MMO.

My last post looked at awful customer service in the game industry, and whilst I did eventually have my Star Trek Online character restored*, my experience was very bad. The news that Blizzard has just laid off over 10% of its workforce, primarily those in support roles as it turns out, is not an encouraging sign that the industry-wide situation will improve any time soon.


Update

The buzz surrounding Borderlands 2 had been quiet for the last few months until a few days ago, a video coupled with an official release date annoucement brought peoples' attention back. September 18th, as it happens.



There's been plenty of new information about the game, from the overhaul of itemisation to what powers the new Siren (Maya) will have. Spoiler: it's called Phaselock and translates as support/crowd control with damage on that affects mobs rather than the Siren herself. The latest infodump relates to the new Assassin named Zer0, a cyborg ninja that displays numbers and emoticons on it's featureless helmet. Previous articles detail the Commando going by the name of Axton, Maya the adventuring Siren and the first character that whet folks' whistles: the gunzerking dwarf Salvador. IGN has plenty of articles that go into further detail.


Dark Horse

One game that has been overlooked is Otherland, based on the Tad Williams novel series of the same name set in a cyberpunk-genre future. It's likely to be a small, niche game and hard details about it are scarce but there is a video demonstrating themes, ideas, areas and combat. I'm definitely keeping an eye on this because that city looks fantastic and I'm a sucker for cyberpunk and Sci-Fi.



In some ways it's a game within a game: the game itself appears to show both the real world in the setting, and the various virtual Otherlands. I'm most interested in seeing how this will pan out in terms of gameplay. Speculation time: I wonder if it will combine large elements of both worlds rather than the real world existing as little more than a background affair, as it did in the old Matrix Online game?
It's pitched as being Free to Play, but there's no hard details about what is being sold for cash to fund it, be it vanity items only or power items. No surprise there, everyone's jumping on the Pay to Win bandwagon.

I'll continue to keep an eye on what's what, and might even find some interest in TSW again. FunCom has done a great deal as a company to turn me off their products and kill any enthusiasm I once had...



* After repeated support tickets and emails I eventually had an actual human email me back. He started off snarking at me and I pointed out in detail exactly why I was unable to do the things he suggested I ought to have done, such as use the ingame GM system when the whole problem was that the character could notg et in game... Eventually it was passed to a GM who took one look at the character, rolled it back to the last time it'd successfully logged in and voilá.
achtungexplosiv: (Default)
I've been keeping an eye on what's being hyped for release in the future and whilst most offerings end up being the sort of thing I'd glance at if a demo or free trial comes along, there's often a game or two in the midst of the release schedules that I pay attention to.

Right now, I've got my eye on Borderlands 2 and The Secret World in particular.

Pandora's Vault

The original Borderlands was an FPS with RPG elements and co-op play game that initially passed me by. I saw a friend play it at a Halloween LAN party a couple of years back and whilst I do like post-apocalytpic-esque settings and sniper rifles that set stuff on fire, it just didn't interest me all that much. I acquired a copy of the game on Steam eventually after various parties had waxed lyrically about it and after a bit of a rough start (I absolutely loathe the jumping mechanics in the game) I finally got the hang of the thing and decided that sniping skags in the mouth from half a kilometre away was where it's at.

Whilst it can get grindy trying to find decent weapons, the game is more fun in co-op mode than solo and there's plenty of entertainment to be had from the NPCs and antagonists even if the quests missions are the usual 'go here, pick up this item, kill that guy'. Whilst my interest in the game waxes and wanes, it's one of the more popular cross-platform games out there and when Gearbox announced a second game, there was much excitement.




The story continues where the first game left off with a new set of player characters (the original Vault-hunters are apparently lurking about as NPCs). Thusfar one of the new character types is the dwarfish 'Gunzerker' pictured above, going by the name of Salvador. It seems to be something of a cross between the berzerking close-range Berzerker and the gun specialist Soldier by going up close and personal with a pair of heavy guns. Another confirmed character is some sort of variant on the original Siren by the name of Maya, who won't have the Phasewalk ability. Further Power details haven't been released yet.

Gearbox has stated that the interactions between the players and the world have evolved, and that choices, time taken and actions performed will all have story-changing consequences. NPCs will react more, the characters will interplay (in the style of Left 4 Dead series characters) and the game equipment will be given a more differentiated look so you can tell roughly what sort of weapon it is without having to read the fine print on the stats. Screenshots so far hint at the iconic graphical style being retained and ramped up.

The game is slated for release sometime in 2012 on the PC, PS3 and the XBox 360. More information can be found here and there's a short trailer for it here.

Begin the Beta Tests

The Secret World, formerly known as Cabal and The World Online, is about to start sign-ups for beta testing and was recently one of the featured titles at Gamescom 2011. It's another FUncom game, which means I'm wary indeed: not about the storyline, which is in the safe hands of Ragnar Tørnquist, but about everything else.




The inital viral marketing for the game was quite successful with the message "Dark Days Are Coming" and a faked tourism webpage for Kingsmouth, one of the in-game locations. Pitched as a modern-day conspiracy/supernatural 'horror' MMORPG (yes, FC are trying to pimp the RPG aspect), there is much hype surrounding the fact that characters are not restricted by a class or level based system and that there are three mutually antagonistic factions they can choose from; the righteous crusading Templars, the corporate puppet masters of the Illuminati and the chaotic and mysterious Dragons. Set in various locations throughout the modern world (and perhaps the near future and near past as well), the game world focuses on battles for dominance between the three factions and at the same time in dealing with monsters, demons, parallel dimension entities and other weird stuff that the rest of humanity has no idea about.

There's plenty of screenshots and snippets of data about the game so far through the official website linked above, with interviews and community speculation about how the game play will work, and recently there has been a reveal about large scale PvP zones. Combat mechanics are unclear at this point.

Electronic Arts is going to be handling distribution of the game, which has caused some concern over a possible Origin requirement. Origin is horrid along the same lines as Games for Windows Live so I sincerely hope that this won't be the case. Still, I'll toss my hat into the ring for the beta testing because I like the premise and it'll be a long time before the World of Darkness MMO shows up or the Anarchy Online revamp hits.

EDIT: The latest TSW trailer has just been released and can be seen here:


Animations look dodgy but the setting is coming along nicely.
achtungexplosiv: (Default)
First off, this is about games I have tried at various points and for some reason have not stuck around in. They are in no particular order.

Secondly, it's a bit long. You have been warned...

Tidied behind a cut for legibility (click here) )

Future MMOS:
Everyone's going nuts over the upcoming WoW-a-like with the Starwars IP (Star Wars: The Old Republic). I know it's Bioware but I'm not convinced the gameplay will appeal to me, not being an obsessive over the Star Wars franchise. The Secret World could be interesting too with it's mostly-modern-day conspiracy and supernatural themes but it's FUncom. CCP Games may or may not survive to see the release of their World of Darkness MMO. If they do I'll be mildly curious about it, given that they've decided to revisit the old WoD rather than the new one, but I don't hold much hope. Dark Millennium Online (the Warhammer 40K MMO) might be interesting but I have only a passing interest in the setting so I won't be rushing out to pre-order it any time soon. Guild Wars 2, likewise.

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