Archive for July, 2012

The Secret World is free to play – over the weekend

July 29, 2012 1 comment

Funcom has announced a few activities and events to celebrate that the game launched a month ago during the next weekend, the first weekend in August. This includes the first post-launch content update, some free fireworks in the store and an option to get some in-game stuff if one solves at least 30 missions and a leader-board for the 100 that solves the most amount of missions. Not sure if that is a good idea, at least the 30 mission limit is a bit high if one want to encourage people and enjoy the world. There does not seem to be any rewards to get on the leader-board, so that one may be for the achievement-focused crowd with a lot of time on their hands.

A key event though is also that anyone, whether they have played the game or not before, can try out the game over the weekend.

In todays MMO market with many titles being “free-to-play” in some way, it makes sense that they provide other options to allow people to try out the game. Of course, at some point one would expect that Funcom will provide a proper free trial option that would allow people to try out the game when it works out for them.

I guess though at this point they might be trying these very temporary free trial alternatives, perhaps to see how this supports or affects word-of-mouth marketing and perhaps evaluate that against regular free trials. There could be a point here in that every time they do that in that case it becomes some kind of new item, resulting in that people write about it on new sites or blogs – like this one.

Good for them if it works and I can definitely say that the game is worth trying. A weekend may not be enough for a proper evaluation, but certainly a step in the right direction compared to the 24 hour buddy key.

If you do not have an account for The Secret World you can create one right away, no need to wait until next weekend.

Categories: The Secret World

Final pre-launch peek in Guild Wars 2

July 22, 2012 5 comments

This weekend was the final beta weekend for Guild Wars 2 prior to its launch at the end of August. Some of the new features included in this beta weekend were the two remaining races; the Asura and the Sylvari. My main goal with beta weekend participation has been to take an initial peek at the different classes and races available, to get an idea what I might want to try out and start with.  Essentially do some of my initial altoholic experimentation before launch.

So during this weekend I played one Sylvari character for a couple of levels (5) and two Asura characters. I also revisited the other races briefly to check out how some of the personalized stories  might differ initially with some different choices. Finally I also took a peek at the two classes I had not tried out before, Warrior and Guardian -and had a visit to WvWvW zone.

Sylvari dreams of tree dragons…

Initially I created a Sylvari character. Being plant/tree creatures they do not quite look like a typical fantasy humanoid, different enough that one would not constantly think that they were elves in disguise – which is a good thing. I like the initial fight with the shadow of a Dragon (above), but the zone after that felt a bit lacklustre and uninspiring to me, even though it looks quite nice with the tree background. I did generally like the character models though, but will probably not play this race in the beginning.

The Asura starter area was more interesting I think and the initial area very much reflected a bit of the mad scientist trait of the Asura. I found that pretty enjoyable and will most definitely create one or two Asura. I have not quite decided on class though.

My jump into the WvWvW area was somewhat interesting, but only to get an idea what the area was all about. In fact, during the time I was there I only encountered players from the same side as myself and some of the NPCs, so there was not really any PvP going on at that time. I can see though that it could potentially be fun once it gets a bit more populated.

Fulfilling some mission objective – I am sure there is a target there, somewhere.

What I found a bit irritating was to play during the initial rush at the start of the beta weekend. While the game technically worked much better this weekend that my previous visit, the fact that there was a rush of a lot of players at the same time caused many mission objective to become some kind of zerg. This was not really fun and it was more interesting to play with a bit more limited numbers – this was the case when i jumped back into the game on Saturday morning. Even though I have pre-ordered the game I might not jump in right away when available, or perhaps go in during off-peak hours if possible during the first few days. The initial locust swarm of players may have moved on a bit by then.

I tried the two classes I had not tried before also – Warrior and Guardian. These two were the ones I was least interested in based on what I typically perceived them to be and what I have read about them. The Warrior ended up being a bit more fun than I expected it to be, which was primarily due to the variation provided by the different weapon types. The Guardian class secured its place at the bottom of my list though; it did not appeal to me at all. Perhaps with a bit more time with some more weapon types this might change, but for now I will not really play a guardian at launch. Necromancer and Mesmer are my primary choices, followed by Thief. Engineer has slipped down a bit, it used to be in the top 3 for me.

One other source of annoyance for me has been the powers that either switch randomly or switch to a different power because of a state change caused by a previous invocation. The first power used by the Mesmer is such a power. The irritation here comes from that I had trouble figuring out what some of these other powers actually did – in some cases they are only visible for a short while and that might not be enough time or a good opportunity to get a mouse-over text to figure out what they do – especially since my mouse pointer is typically somewhere else on the screen. I could not find them in the power descriptions under the hero panel either.

I like the game, but I cannot say that I am particularly excited about it. Despite its premise of a quite different approach to missions and doing stuff, it still feels similar to a more traditional fantasy MMO which quests and such. Part of that comes from the in-your-face exposure of these various hearts, points of interest, vistas etc. These elements are a bit too visible for my taste and detracts from the more organic experience I was looking forward to. Perhaps this will be less evident after the initial areas, hopefully.

Compared to The Secret World which I am playing now also, Guild Wars 2 feels less like a world to explore than what I have seen so far in Solomon Island. The TSW mission/dialog writing feels much better also, although the target audience is perhaps slightly different. Given that the target demographic for GW2 likely covers a lot more than TSW is aiming for, this would also likely put some restrictions on what they will write.

Still, Guild Wars 2 seems to still be better than most of the other fantasy MMOs, so I will play it initially and it will probably be a good fallback MMO.

Categories: Guild Wars 2

Player-made villains added to Champions

July 19, 2012 Comments off

In a recent update Cryptic has added a number of villains from a create-a-villain contest that was held before. These villains have been added as villains to defeat in the Alert system that has been in place since April.

I think this is quite neat that they do add characters created by the players; some may say it is about time. If one plays the game I think it is fair to say that many of the most interesting character creations are made by the players – many of the Cryptic-created villains are somewhat bland IMHO, at least the early ones. Perhaps that is a heritage from the pen&paper Champions game, I think the developers have been at least a little bit more creative with some of the later content.

Many player characters look more interesting than the villains.

Categories: Champions Online

It’s a kind of magic

July 14, 2012 Comments off

This week I have not really played any MMOs at all, not even TSW. This is primarily due to that I have endulged in another interest of mine, that of magic and mentalism.

This week the 25th FISM world championship in magic took place in Blackpool in UK, which I attended – as a visitor, not a competitor. This is only a hobby of mine.

It has been a fantastic and inspiring week overall, even though had both its ups and downs. Earlier today we got a couple of new world champions in various areas of magic performance, with two Grand Prix champions for stage and close-up magic:

Yu Ho-Jin from South Korea in Stage Magic and Yann Frisch from France. While there are no video clips for their actual performances in Blackpool, I did find some video clips from performances which were similar to what they showed at FISM.

My contratulations to both of them!

FISM is done for now and next will be in 3 years in Italy. Now it is back to the normal stuff at home.

Categories: Other

The Secret World first State of the Game

July 11, 2012 3 comments

Ragnar Tørnquist has posted the first State of the Game for The Secret World and it contains a lot of goodies. Updates are planned to come on a monthly basis, with the first update coming on July 31st.

It is great to see that new missions are going to be released on a monthly basis and that all zones will get new missions. This is precisely the type of updates I like to see – there will always be reasons to go back to zones one has visited before.

Also cool to read is that they are working on two new zones – to be announced (not released) in August.  New weapons will be announced also, although this is referred to as auxilliary weapons. So perhaps something like the junkyard flamethrower, but perhaps a bit more useful?

Raids, PvP dungeons, more pets, clothing (including those that are in-game rewards) and a few other things seems to be in the pipeline.

Ragnar refers to this as free updates, since it will cost nothing extra for subscribers. To me that is market speak, since part of the subscribtion fee would presumably be going to development costs and we all pay for it. No additional charges is what I would call it rather then.

I am happy to see that they possibly have a fair amount of good content in the pipeline and with regular frequent updates planned that is not just item store stuff. In today’s MMO market if you are subscription-based and your name does not end in “Warcraft”, that is probably needed.

Categories: The Secret World

Inventory management challenges

July 7, 2012 4 comments

Inventory in The Secret World has some nice features, but is still missing some useful features, especially when it comes to different managing builds. But even with current shortcomings it is good to use what is there today for a bit better organisation.

The inventory view in The Secret World has a nice features which allows you to create your own custom bag areas. Just add another bag and one can then re-size to a suitable size and shape, put some useful name on it and then place at a good spot on the screen. In addition, if one locks the bag it will be open permanently, even if the inventory itself is closed. Any bag that is not locked, will open and close at the same time as the main inventory – it is not possible to open and close them individually.

Personally I have organised my inventory space with a few different bags:

  • One locked bag at bottom of screen which I use for consumables
  • One bag for my gear – talismans and weapons. I have 3 columns with 7 slots for space for all 7 talismans of the three different categories (protection/tanking, healing and attack/damage). Two extra columns are included for weapons (probably more than needed)
  • One bag for the four types of crafting material to make – water, dust, fire and metal. One column for each grade/quality – one for base, one for imperfect and one for normal currently. Each row has the same type of material.
  • One bag for all the different runes to make glyphs from. Similar organisation as the crafting material above, although columns and rows have switched roles – fits better with the screen layout
  • One bag for actual glyphs
  • One bag for various toolkits
  • The main inventory window for the rest, whatever that may be

Currently my screen looks a bit like this with inventory open:

My current inventory structure

The bag windows have been distributed so that I can open the character view including gear manager and also open crafting view and still see everything, after putting crafting view in a batter spot.

Unfortunately there are a few shortcomings and not everything works as well as one could hope. Using a locked bag for consumables is not quite as good as a proper hotbar – it is not enough with a single left-click to use a resource. It could be improved here, since the intention with the lock feature was to create extra hotbar(s) for inventory resources.

Also the current Gear Manager becomes a bit cumbersome to use, since it is rather dumb and it messes up the inventory organisation. Every time you change a build, you end up doing some manual swapping and moving around of weapons and talismans. Everything that is swapped out when a new build is loaded ends up in the main inventory view.

Still, it works better than no organisation at all of the inventory content and you have a fair amount of freedom to organize contents the way you want it. It just needs a bit more polish to work great.

Categories: The Secret World

Funcom gives TSW buddy keys to current players

July 7, 2012 1 comment

Funcom has announced that they are giving out buddy keys to all current players (who have registered their game keys). The offer is valid until Sunday July15th and it seems the buddy key itself is valid for 24 real-time hours from the moment of the first login.

24 real-time hours is not so much, but at least it does not start when downloading and installing the game.  I assume they are going to send an email to existing players about this; the announcement did not say exactly how players would get the key to give away.

Update: The buddy key is available through the account page, there is an “Invite a buddy!” link under the Recruitment headline.

Categories: The Secret World

Dead in the water and Hell’s angels

July 5, 2012 Comments off

Last night I picked up the mission Dead in the water from the Orochi Group scientists in Kingsmouth (Blake and Radcliffe). This is the mission for the first 5-man instance in the game, also known as the Polaris instance. Together with a couple of fellow cabalists we jumped into the instance; for four of us it was the first time in that instance.

It was quite a fun run, which I enjoyed very much. The instance itself was quite to the point and not long-running in time. My guess is that we spent somewhere between 30 and 60 minutes there. I did not check the time, neither at start nor at the end, so I could be totally off here. But the content itself was rather focused – not much trash mob killing at all. There was mainly a few learning steps with some initial mobs, things that would be repeated later with some boss fights. Most of the enemies were similar to some of the enemies encountered along the coast in Kingsmouth, but still different. There were also some other additions.

Heading towards the Polaris wreck

Read more…

Categories: The Secret World

The Secret World has launched

July 3, 2012 5 comments

Today is the official launch day for The Secret World, although in practice the flood gates opened already yesterday. The Early Access has been going on for a few days now and it has been quite smooth for the most part – some glitches and issues, but nothing that I have encountered has caused any major concerns.

Funcom has also released a launch trailer on YouTube:

To me the game seems to be the kind of game that I think Ragnar and the others at Funcom envisioned when they created Anarchy Online originally. Back then they had the adventure game experience, but lacked experience with developing MMORPGs and online games (as many others). Developing and running Age of Conan helped them with building and tuning the tools (Dreamfall engine etc). Now almost exactly 11 years after the Anarchy Online launch they release a game that looks as if it is the result of that vision combined with years of hard earned experience in developing MMORPGs.

One comment that a number of people have written goes along the lines of “seems ok, but I wait until the game goes F2P, which it inevitably will“.  While I can predict the future in some cirumstances, I cannot say for sure what Funcom will do down the line. But most Western MMOs that has converted to some “F2P” model has converted to some kind of hybrid where one still has to subscribe in most cases if you want access to the whole game. In fact, Funcoms previous MMO titles have significant portions locked away behind subscriptions. If Funcom changes the business model at some point it will likely be a glorified trial with restrictions, e.g. like the beta weekends.

Personally I am considering buying a lifetime subscription for the game. Even if I would end up not playing the game long enough to gain a monetary benefit from it, I would happily provide that as an incentive to a developer that I think is about to revitalize the genre.

Categories: The Secret World

The Repopulation Kickstarter campaign successful

July 3, 2012 Comments off

The Kickstarter campaign for the SciFi sandbox MMO The Repopulation has ended now, reaching quite far above the original $25000 goal. With over $53000 in funding they have added a number of additional goals along the way for what should be added to the game from the original target.

This included a number of additional character customisation options, mountable turrets, major interface upgrade, an underwater city (!) and an NPC species. The last one based on votes from people who funded the campaign.

I am glad to see that the campaign was successful, good luck to the dev team here! It is also interesting to see the added goals set up since it may possibly indicate a price tag for the amount of effort in making something like this with the HeroEngine toolset. Probably not the whole truth though, especially when it comes to NPC species and underwater city.

Categories: The Repopulation