Rants tag

Rants, ruminations, and rambling remarks from my mad, muddled, meandering mind.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Beyond the Veil: TSW Fashion Show

Last night, Beyond the Veil kicked off a week-long celebration of our First Anniversary with a fashion show staged in the Crusades Night Club in Ealdwic, London. I've never judged a contest before, and it's kind of nerve racking. I wanted to be fair to everyone, and I hope I was. Luckily, I was only one of several judges, which basically was the cast of BtV. In any event, we had a lot of fun, and I hope all the participants did as well.
The winners received rare in-game swag from WeLoveFine Tees and Funcom points to spend in the Secret Store, as well as RL dog tags, from the folks at Funcom.

We have several more creative contests leading up to our big celebration next Wednesday. Details on the creative contests can be found at Holosuite Media. There are some pretty awesome prizes up for grabs; so if you have a creative streak, I encourage you to check them out. Wednesday's special Anniversary webcast will include an ARG and in-game Investigation Mission put on by the BtV crew. Join us in-game and on Holosuite Excess at about 7 p.m. EDT, July 3. We'll give details on whom to meet up with during the webcast.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Through Every Rift of Discovery . . .

. . . some seeming anomaly drops out of the darkness, and falls . . .
~Edwin Hubbel Chapin
Last night, my lovely bride and I returned at last to Rift, over which we bonded, and during our original run-through became engaged and got married. Rift, for many such reasons, will always havea special place in my heart.

That's my rose-tinted theory of Rift. In practice, though, we both lost interest soon after reaching max level in the autumn of 2011. I dabbled a bit in it after that, since I'd a paid 6-month sub right before, but we never really played seriously again.

As you probably know, Rift went free to play a couple weeks ago and was inundated with lookie-loos. Scooterz and I held off. Between RL busy-ness and other games, we didn't have time for queues. Then last night she decided it was time to jump back in and see what had changed. Much like Syp, we decided to start new Defiant characters to get our "Rift-legs" back. I went with a Cleric and she, a Rogue, falling into our old Callings (archetypes) and roles.

A significant difference from when we first started playing was that, rather choosing a first Soul (sub-class) after reading about them early in the tutorial section, you pick a trinity role—called a Purpose—as part of the character creation process. This purpose fixes your initial three souls right off the bat. Then, as you level up, that Purpose provides guidance for picking abilities and talents. If you want to deviate from that suggested build, you can. But you get a warning that it will invalidate your Purpose. It has a bit of "training wheels" about it, but I suppose there were enough complaints from bewildered new players during the past couple years that at some point they decided they needed training wheels. I just went with the suggestions rather than go off on my own. After all, if I wanted to do my own thing, I could just play my formerly max-level Cleric.

Even though the intro cinematic is still the same, reflecting that nothing from that past has changed, the tutorial itself has been greatly streamlined. They've reduced the number of different quests, and therefore the time spent in the tutorial; while at the same time increasing the XP received for completing the quests that remain. So your character is still roughly the same level upon leaving the tutorial as at launch. Also, whereas before there were some hostile mobs (that will automatically attack when you approach), now you don't encounter truly hostile mobs until you happen to be following an enormous overpowered golem.

All this streamlining was vaguely disappointing, perhaps only because I know what had gone before. I even wrote the longest single vignette I've published on this blog based on my experience with the original Defiant tutorial. A lot of understanding of the world—at least from the Defiants' point of view—is lost. On the other hand, with the changes to the in-universe politics (thawed relations between the factions) and apparent defeat of the Big Bads, maybe some of that lore is no longer necessary. By the time I was done with the tutorial, it was pretty late, and I was already pretty tired. So that may have affected my opinion of the process.

I didn't get very far past the tutorial before needing to hit the hay last night, but I saw enough to know that the former "welcome area" quest hub is largely vacant, as well. I'll continue on at least to Meridian (the Defiant capital) to see what else has changed and to see if it's an improvement. The Instant Adventures are intriguing, they sound somewhat like the Renown (heart) Quests of GW2, a looser style that (hopefully) helps get the player involved in the local story in a more organic way than traditional MMO quests.

More to come. . .

QOTD: Loxbox Redox

That's what I think is important for offering random boxes. It's not as exploitative if you're still getting your money's worth on each pull. It's when the common result in the box is less then the cost of entry that it starts to get sleezy.
~RJ, commenting on Rohan's "Gambling and Lockboxes" at Blessing of Kings
Honestly, Rohan's entire post is an interesting analysis, but RJ distills my own opinion fairly well. If the minimum value of such boxes or packs is actually worth the cost of the key, then I don't have a problem with them. Of course, YMMV. However, when the minimum is nil or virtually nil, I feel it has no place "my" game.

Seriously, Blizzard created the Sparkle Pony for (I'm guessing) less than $1,000US, based on models they already had in the game. They made something like $75 million from THE FIRST DAY! Even though I didn't personally think it was worth it, I don't have a problem with that, since everyone who plunked down their 25 bucks knew what they were getting for their money. It's not that hard, Devs.

Whew! Sorry, that almost turned into another rant . . .

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

QOTD: On Being Called Heroes

We may get called Heroes, but we're more Bucky than Captain America.

I must confess, I did not participate in GW2's dragon Bash. I haven't played for months, even though I like GW2 a lot, in principle. Nor am I normally one to say I want to be the hero of the world. But it did get annoying that the NPCs seem to get all the credit, after I've done all the legwork. In any event, after helping some guildies finish off their hero storyline with the final group instance (which was pretty cool, to be honest) I had no motivation to finish my own, and I lost focus.

After Three Years, I Write Like . . .

A few years ago, MMOGC alerted me to this site, and had it analyze my blog posts. On Beyond the Veil the other night (podcast link), we were discussing writing styles and writing analysis. And I wondered if my style has evolved any after being at this blogging thing for a while, not to mention other writing I've done lately in my real life responsibilities.

So for my basic essays and back and forth with folks on the blog (carefully sampling my own words and not quotes), I write like

Ursula K. Le Guin

For my recent in-character fiction, I write like

Cory Doctorow

But for the lore pieces I've composed for Beyond the Veil, I still write like

Dan Brown

I'd still be interested to see the algorithms or criteria they use to analyze the writing on that site. I'm sure it's more than just vocabulary, but I'm no writing style expert.  I can almost pinpoint why it says I write like Mr. Brown since I am most familiar with his work. I have a tendency to cliff-hang my Lore pieces, much like the vignettes I used to write more often.

Anyway the site is called "I Write Like"; and you, too, can Analyze your writing!

Rift: Bobbing Along

My good friend Belghast, over at Tales of the Aggronaut, has really kept me abreast of recent and upcoming changes to Rift. In his latest, wherein he covers several topics about what he is doing, he also talks about a webcast from Trion Worlds that happened last Friday on Twitch. What he said made me want to watch it to see what additional details I might glean. I'll have to schedule some time to watch it this week. The show runs about 2.5 hours, so consider yourself warned.

In any event, Belghast shared some details from the webcast that intrigue me greatly about Rift 3.0, which he speculates could drop just in time for Christmas.
A Wave on the Shore http://www.prx.org/pieces/81638-180-where-does-water-come-from
The first is that it apparently will be centered the Plane of Water. Only it won't simply be underwater—which honestly will deter some people. Guild Wars 2 has the best underwater implementation I have seen, though I know there are still some who limit their time in the water as much as possible. But there are many possible environments dominated by water, such as "glacier, ocean, giant overgrown coral forest, underwater areas, undersea caverns." It would be interesting to see how they implement that.
Rocky Mounains http://www.noaa.gov/features/monitoring_0209/watersupply.html
The thing that got me really excited was the new souls Trion is adding to each archetype. When I played Rift, I mostly played a Cleric (as is my wont, though I did dabble in all four archetypes.) Right from the beginning, the Cleric could fill almost any role, both melee and ranged DPS, Healing—of course—and even Tanking. The Rogue was almost as versatile, though the Bard soul that was supposed to heal got nerfed pretty quickly. The Mage and the Warrior both got the shaft, to be honest, since there was no tanking soul for mages (and the healing soul also got nerfed) and no healing souls for warriors. So much for their "bring the player, not the class." All that will change with 3.0 apparently, with the Warrior finally getting a healing soul, and the Mage finally able to Tank.
Coral Reef Near Fiji www.guardian.co.uk
I've long thought it was silly from a lore standpoint that Mages in any game would not be able to hold their own in a pitched melee battle. In stories, wizards are always extremely powerful and more than capable of protecting themselves. In the rock-paper-scissors world of MMOs, that all has gone out the window, in the name of balance. On the other hand, newer games, like GW2 and especially TSW, while not always making every character equal in every instance, at least provide enough versatility that most if not all characters can fulfill all roles. These new souls in Rift will add to the versatility of each Archetype, while having to choose them will maintain roles in any given fight.

If Trion is taking suggestions, I think there should be a Plane of Music making incursions into Telara. Tell me it would not be Totally Excellent to fight a Guitar Rift!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Beyond the Veil Take 46: The Count’s gone Crazy (Leaked Contest edition)

Hooray! I got this one out in a reasonable amount of time after Feii finished it and Xander posted it. Beyond the Veil Take 46 is now available for download. Join us as we discuss our favorite weapons, the politics of medieval Wallachia, and some upcoming contests and prizes we're running as part of the 1-year celebration of both TSW and BTV. You can also subscribe through Holosuite Media's RSS feed or through iTunes.
You can also catch the live show Thursdays at about 7p.m. EDT (4p.m. PDT) on Holosuite Excess.

Friday, June 21, 2013

BTV: Night of the Living Anniversary!

As you may know, I am part of the Beyond the Veil talk show hosted by Holosuite Media. We've got an anniversary show coming up in less than two weeks: 7 p.m. EDT, Wednesday, 3 July 2013.

During the next two weeks culminating in our celebration of the 1st year of Beyond the Veil and The Secret World, we have creativity contests leading up to the big anniversary show, where we'll have in-game contests for those who come and celebrate with us. Celebrants can win prizes from Funcom and WeLoveFine Tees, as well as Razer and Tritton Audio. Visit Holosuite's Celebration Page for more details. We hope to see you there to help us kick off another exciting year for The Secret World and Beyond the Veil.

A Whole Herd of Dead Horses Now: Lockboxes

Think about this the next time you see some player character in truly Epic Pixels strutting their stuff in Orgrimmar, Destiny's Reach, or Meridian: Despite what may be months or even years of raiding, learning strategies and tactics for epic battles against nigh invincible foes, everything they're wearing boils down to good luck on some random dice rolls.
The basic assumption being that cash shops may cause players to lose control of their spending, getting addicted to a luck-based system looking to relieve them of their money. . . such as a slot machine with very random outcome (I do not know how many people get ruined by this rather than card games).
Syl, MMO Gypsy, "Free-to-Play vs. Gambling"
Syl, I think you'd be surprised—nay, shocked—by how many gambling addicts are doing just that, feeding money to one-armed bandits. This article from U.S. News and World Report online, March 2013 describes some of the pitfalls of gambling addiction amid growing availability of casinos in the U.S. There certainly is an element of skill and strategy to games like Poker. They're also played out over a relatively long period of time, with opportunities to judge played cards, odds, etc. "Professional" gamblers gravitate toward those types of games.
Photo by Jeff Kubina. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.
Slot machines, as Syl pointed out, are completely random, resetting every time the arm is pulled or the button is pressed. I dislike loot boxes (and extremely rare drops from kills) for specifically that reason. There are people who'll spend hundreds (maybe not all at once) without realizing they have, and with nothing to show for it in the end.

Many gamers are already manifesting an addictive personality in subscription games. Think about how many times people run the same dungeon or raid over and over, hoping that that epic sword will drop and that they'll win the loot lottery against any other raid member who wants it. With cash shop keys, now you can bypass the dungeon grind and yank on the slot machine straight away. Y'know, that's kind of Tobold's arguments regarding bypassing unpleasant aspects of a game to get what you want. Carry on then.

Maybe there are other ways to obtain those Epic Pixels. I hope so, at least then you can assess how many keys are worth buying. But then, if you knew Epic Pixels were being sold for, say, $25, you might not be willing to spend $50 on lockboxes. And the games company can't have that. So more often than not, there is no direct equivalent in the cash shop. You have to infer the value.

I hope it is clear from my other posts that I have nothing against cash shops. Heck, when STO was young, I'd spend cash in the store on top of the subscription I was paying every month. I also spent real dough for minipets like Lil K.T. in WoW. I think pay-optional games are a great way for game devs to close the consumer surplus from "potential spenders" to whale-size spenders. But some items seem slightly underhanded.

Don't think that I am blaming players here, at all. I've been known to spend money on lottery tickets and slot machines—and even a loot box or two—when hope overpowers common sense. I've even won $$ occasionally. But . . .

I don't think loot boxes should be part of any game. You may have guessed that, like Tobold, I believe in working for the things I have, in game and in real life. I favor steady earning of currency for Epic Pixels, over random chance of gaining said pixels.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Beyond the Veil Take 45: The Rise of Katzu…

I'm beginning to think someone needs to send me an email when they drop these episodes. Beyond the Veil Take 45 is now available for download. Join us as we welcome Katzushima to the BTV Crew. You can also subscribe through Holosuite Media's RSS feed or through iTunes.
You can also catch the live show Thursdays at about 7p.m. EDT(4p.m.PDT) on Holosuite Excess.

More Dead Horses: Money May Equal Time, But It Will Never Equal Commitment

Having given it some more thought and reading Chris' comments below, here is my post, distilled: Time spent on a thing does not equal Commitment to it. Commitment to a thing leads to Time and Money being spent on it.

This morning, jim, who also commented on Rohan's A Disconnect on F2P, shared his point of view with me on yesterday's post.
Without time spending there can be ABSOLUTELY no commitment on your behalf and therefore it is not possible to care for the game. Spending money is not the same as spending time because it lacks the connection that time spent involves.

One cannot replace spending 3 months farming for mats,gold and gear with 100$ or even 300$ because it is just not the same thing. The first case you end up with the game grown on you and the second has no emotional after effect whatsoever.

I for one do not have the time needed anymore but i would prefer a slow progression on a game that rewards my dedication rather than a game that has no possible way to make me empathize with it and my characters within it's world. Get teh damn 3-monthers' out of our way please!!!!!
I thank you, jim, for your input. I must say, you certainly have a passion for MMOs. You didn't mention what games you are playing right now, but I have to assume they are based on subscription revenue. I wonder if you have actually played any games that are F2P, because you seem to have a prejudicial notion of what F2P item shops actually offer.

I am committed (or not) to a game within a couple hours of starting it. If it compels me, I will continue to play. The "farming" you describe is irrelevant to my commitment to my characters. Nor am I advocating that "pay to win" items like high-end gear be sold in an item shop.

I, too, prefer slow progression. As mentioned in my post, I have never taken less than five months to reach max level in any MMORPG. However, I beg to differ that "grind" is the way to develop commitment in a player population. On the contrary, "grind" is boring by definition, the antithesis of what devs want associated with their game. I will admit that "farming" can be a relaxing way to spend an evening. So is knitting, but I don't have needles and yarn.

What I have seen in my own life is that a subscription led to a sense of obligation to a game, or rather, an obligation to myself to get the most possible "value" out of my monthly payment. That also made it difficult to break away and play other games (MMO and SP) that may have been just as good, or even better. This was also a time in my life that I needed a good escape from my day-to-day world. But I devoted almost all my free time to the game, and it probably wasn't healthy. Sure I made friends, I even met a few for lunch or dinner in the real world. But now, I have a social life outside the game world—though I still spend plenty of time playing games.

Many people see subscriptions as an economic equalizer: we all pay the same per month and then devote time to the game, those who devote more time advance faster than others, whether we're talking about leveling, professions, or in-game wealth. However, that sub/time scenario is no more an equalizer than the time/money one. Many players literally do not have the time to devote to a game others may, because of commitments and obligations in the real world.

Playing games that don't have that subscription obligation is literally freeing. Do I want to play TSW or STO tonight? GW2 or Neverwinter? Maybe I should read a book or watch a movie instead.

Are there annoyances? Sure. The constant announcements about l33t ships and mounts coming out of Cryptic's lockboxes are annoying as hell. But most of the time that there is a cash item shop in those games that I play, it is not obtrusive. Also, except for GW2, all the games I play are hybrids with both subscriptions and F2P options.

The elitism inherent in your "3-monthers" epithet is a bit distasteful, to be honest. They're not any more in your way than PvPers are in the way of end-game raiders. The idea that the way someone else chooses to spend their time in game affects you in any way—excepting griefers, of course—is preposterous. In fact, that sort of insular elitism—the attitude that "the rabble" are ruining your game—is what poisons many a game community.

Looking at your argument a slightly different way, anyone who's ever purchased gear—or anything really—in an in-game auction house is cheating, because they didn't spend the time necessary to gather the mats and create the gear themselves, or run to dungeons and yank on the loot table slot machines.

"That's ludicrous," you may say. "The auction house is part of the game." /shrug So is the cash shop. It's a way to stimulate the game economy. And it also stimulates the Developer's economy.

In the end, I cannot disagree with your statement that without spending time there is no commitment. However, ultimately it is only a game, and very ephemeral at that. All the personal time and commitment in the world won't stop your favorite MMO from becoming the next Star War Galaxies or City of Heroes. And then where will you be?

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Dead Horse Discussions: F2P Rears Its "Ugly" Head

Hugh Hancock, over at MMO Melting Pot, has his finger on the pulse of the gaming blogosphere: Today, he rounds up three posts about the headaches of Free-to-Play. Rather than rehash his rehash, I'll just redirect you to it. However, I'll put my two cents here (having already them put on Rohan's Blessing of Kings.

A discussion arose in the comments of Rohan's post about the time it takes to get through content, and whether it makes more sense for the typical player to subscribe or to pay for amenities in a cash shop.

I have never taken less than five months to reach max level in any game, between real world obligations and severe alt-oholism. However, I really only jumped on the F2P bandwagon following my experience with GW2. (Yes, I realize GW2 is not pure F2P.) I spent years plunking down 15 bucks a month (sometimes less with longer commitments) for each game I played. I still haven't gotten to see ALL the content in any MMO, whether I've played for a day or for over six years, because of the weekly time commitment required.

In the case of WoW, I came to resent having paid for content I would never see. This demand from players to see what they've paid for actually drives what the self-styled hardcore gamers among us refer to as the dumbing down of the game. For me, it's not that it's behind a pay-wall, but that it is behind a time-wall. With F2P, I can buy what I need, or decide that I don't need.

Also, I may have a higher tolerance for it, but I haven't played a game I think is as intrusive as what Kleps describes in his post. Most of the time, some additional feature requires a special currency to unlock. As it turns out, this currency is available through an exchange of RL cash. But is that any different from other special currencies in the game that you have to earn through dungeoneering or short-term events? Remember the Time=Money equation. I don't have as much time as some folks, but I do have a little extra money. I don't mind spending it on something I feel directly benefits me.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Revenants, Love Triangles, and Mysteries under Kingsmouth and London: TSW's Black Weekend

(OOC) So this past weekend was Black Weekend for The Secret World. For about 72 hours from Friday morning through Monday morning, players could pick up three free potions from the "Secret Store" (Thanks Ocholivis) item shop that are good for a total of 24 hours worth of double XP for kills, once every 24 hours. They also had black buckled boots (what I would call tanker boots) available for free. I picked up a set for LoneStarBelle, but forgot to log in to collect them for Dortmunder and Poppyshock. Lastly, I couldn't be sure, but it seemed like during the entire 72 hours players would double black bullion in Nightmare Dungeons. I didn't get any, as I don't have a character ready for Nightmares.

Beware, possible SPOILERS:

Guard Duty
(IC) Talk about mopey! Emo kids have nothing on Callisto. Pining over a girl I don't think he's seen in a thousand years! Anyway, clearly he missed the point that she chose Vlad over him. For once I agree with KG, what a sap. I hadn't been to the Carpathian Fangs before receiving an invitation from Zander and his crew to meet this Callisto fella. Figuring out what was going on was half the fun though. But it wasn't the strangest thing that happened this weekend.
Don't dig too deep, Preacher.
The Lumie-obsessed preacher in Kingsmouth was rambling on about underground catacombs in the town, and my curiosity got the better of me. Why does it not surprise me that the intrigues of the Illuminated Ones would bite them on the butt every so often. I almost laughed aloud though at the karmic justice of Solomon Priest's post mortem fame, at least in Maine, while his murderer faded into obscurity. KG was of course evasive about the literal skeletons in Lumie closets.

While back at HQ, I received an assignment from The Voice (that's what I like to call him) to retrieve a sword from the Mithraeum in London, right from under the noses of the Templars. Much as I would like to have "failed" this, it was crucial to becoming a Chief Agent. If I am to make any kind of change to this organization, I have to get into the inner circles. However, I wonder how much or how often I can compromise my ideals in the short term, before they are compromised in the long term.
Didn't anyone tell her smoking is bad for you?
Anyway, while I was in London I decided to stop by that Haitian Restaurant the folks from Hart Security had raved about. Try the Tchaka, by the way; it's to die for. Some crazy lady—Mama Abena, I think she called herself—accosted me in the street, talking about prophets and ancient London, the London not of Brick and Mortar, but of Myth and Magic. She suggested I should learn more about this Secret War I am fighting, what's really at stake. Following her advice, I made my way down to the park, where a vagrant with a puppet was weaving a tale of ancient Rome and the roads that lead there.
Telling Tall Tales?
Even as a uniformed Lumie, I am not challenged in Ealdwic. The heart of the Templar's playground, and they are still bound by the Council's edicts. The very bricks of Ealdwic are far more ancient than I had realized, as is the tree in the park, the one with the outdoor stage.
A Face in the Crowd
Strange things occur in the sewers below London; strange creatures lurk. They are mostly harmless, as it turns out, but creepy, nonetheless. Apparently, the Romans knew more about the Secret World than is in the History books. I guess the Templars did their job covering up Illuminati influence there. Though I think a perceptive student can see Lumie fingerprints all over Rome. Little did I realize that all roads truly do lead to Rome, by way of the World Tree.
What the hell is going on with my hair?
I returned to Transylvania and, at the behest of a blind werewolf named Traian, provoked a rebellion of werewolves against their vampire overlords. A very smart man once said that starting wars "is a prestigious line of work, with a long and glorious tradition." I suppose so. But I don't like getting my hands so dirty. I decided not to cross paths with Traian in the future if I can avoid it. I got a little turned around in the Fangs, why do I always forget my Agartha Stone when I need it? Anyway, I wandered into an abandoned cabin.
They're actually quite good.
Inside, I found these watercolors made by a child. I bent to pick one up, and it triggered what I can only describe a vision. This wasn't like the dreams I had when the bees first visited me. It was more . . . personal.
They Mostly Come at Night
I'd seen her before, on the Cairo mission with Saïd and Nassir. I'd thought she was part of the Council cleanup crew. The girl told me of a creature that haunts her dreams, a creature I have encountered before. And she was so matter of fact about it. That may have been the hardest part of her tale: that she's learned to view such horror as commonplace.
In my journeys since joining the Illuminati, I have encountered zombies and cultists, mummies, vampires and werewolves. But nothing has shaken me quite the way this little girl did—or rather, her memory. She's in trouble, and I have to help.
No Sledding
And what is it with revenants and playgrounds?
(OOC) Yesterday was a fairly frustrating day in terms of getting massive amounts of XP. I'm sure I got a lot more than I normally would have. However, I don't know if it was the most efficient use of my time. The Lumie Rank 10 "London Underground" mission is both timed and complicated, with little killing (which is what the XP boost was for: killing creatures). It took me many tries even after consulting a guide. Interestingly, this morning while looking for some background for the blog, I found another guide that didn't require the same level of muscling through what was supposed to be a stealth mission. Oh well.

I had been geared out for DPS/Support on LSB, with as much attack power and hit as I could get. "London Underground" required me to boost my Health in order to take a little punishment from some powerful weapons. Once I did, it became far easier, though I still had several more tries before I got the timing right.

The "Dogs of War" mission ended up meaning another round of fiddling with my weapons and abilities, as I switched to the longer range Assault Rifle and exclusively single target abilities to take down the final boss. That took some doing, as well, since I kept getting attacked by werewolves, and Mr. Vampire kept healing himself. Then suddenly something clicked, and he went down like a punk.

"They Mostly Come at Night" explicitly requires you to equip an Elementalist voodoo doll, and I have no skill points devoted to that weapon. Luckily, the doll can be equipped without any skill. And I do have the inner wheel filled out on LSB, so I could equip some abilities. Again in hindsight, I realize it does not actually require any Elemental abilities, but you'd have to have all your actives be on the other weapon. In my case, I was using the assault rifle, for leeching. That took several tries, as well, even after I was informed by another player about equipping the doll. I wish I could remember the player character's name. THANK YOU, anonymous passerby!

On an old post from MMO Melting Pot, I took a commenter to task for not understanding the importance of not becoming hidebound by her(?) "pet" build. Different missions require different approaches. This does not mean cookie-cutter, flavor-of-the-month builds. Of course, Karma is a cruel taskmaster, and my own condescension bit me on the butt this weekend. After much trial and error and frustration, I was able to get through all those quests, but I wonder if my XP rate would been higher if I simply gone back to Egypt where the fights are easier for me. I would have had to kill more creatures, but I would a far easier time of it, and perhaps boosted my XP per hour that way.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Lookin' for Lore: Shambala & Agartha

We’ve all heard of Shangri-La. The term was coined by James Hilton for his 1933 novel, Lost Horizon, where Shangri-La is described a mystical place of peace and healing. You may remember that in the 2008 film Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, Rick O’Connell is healed by waters from Shangri-La.

Many scholars believe that Shangri-La is based on Shambala, a mythical kingdom in Tibetan Buddhist tradition, sought by both Eastern and Western explorers.

Early Soviet leaders became interested in Shambala, and planned various expeditions to find it, though most fell apart before anyone left Russia. The Nazis, with an enthusiasm for all things occult, were also interested in Shambala, where they hoped to find an ancient master race similar to the Nordic race, but unspoiled by Buddhism.

Photographer: Philipp Roelli (2005) released under the GFDL by creatorShambala appears in several science fiction stories of the 1930s, a clue to its inclusion in The Secret World. In Tibetan Buddhist and Indian Buddhist traditions, Shambala is a mythical kingdom hidden somewhere in Inner Asia. Early records may have referred to a real place.

Whether or not there ever was a real Shambala, the realm came to be seen as a Buddhist Eden, a fabulous kingdom whose reality is visionary or spiritual as much as physical or geographic. It was in this form that the Shambala myth reached the West, where it influenced non-Buddhist as well as Buddhist spiritual seekers — and, to some extent, popular culture in general.

Agartha pic obtained from HURGANDO EN LA MITOLOGIA blogDuring the late-19th century, Theosophical Society co-founder HP Blavatsky alluded to the Shambala, giving it currency for Western occult enthusiasts. Madame Blavatsky, who claimed to be in contact with a Great White Lodge of Himalayan Mystics, mentions Shambala in several places, but without giving it especially great emphasis. She also referenced Shigatse in Tibet and Luxor in Egypt as being centers of Theosophical wisdom.

According to one story in Tibetan Buddhism, Shambala is actually located inside the earth, closely related to the underground realm of Agartha, another legendary city that is said to reside in the earth's core. It is related to the belief in a hollow Earth.

The concept of a hollow Earth recurs in folklore the world over and as the premise for subterranean fiction, with such varied proponents as Dante Alighieri, Jules Verne, L. Frank Baum, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Lewis Carroll, and the Wachowskis. It is also featured in some present-day pseudoscientific and conspiracy theories.

It was theorized by 20th Century Theosophists that "ascended masters" of esoteric wisdom inhabit subterranean caves or a hollow Earth, perhaps in Antarctica, the North Pole, Tibet, Peru, or Mount Shasta in California. Interestingly, London, Seoul and Brooklyn are not mentioned as having such spiritual connections to Agartha.

TSW’s Agartha is occupied by the World Tree, which is another story.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Beyond the Veil Take 44: Things To Come…

Well crap! We just did a live webcast of Take 45 this evening, and I haven't even done the announcement for Beyond the Veil Take 44, now available for download. You can also subscribe through Holosuite Media's RSS feed or through iTunes.
You can also catch the live show Thursdays at about 7p.m. EDT(4p.m.PDT) on Holosuite Excess.

Ding! Vice Admiral Starblanket

(OOC) The day has finally come. I maxed out a character in Star Trek Online. Appropriately, it was the one I started with, Rowan Ashayam Starblanket, my half-Vulcan, half-Canadian First Nations Medical officer.
Ladies and Gentlemen, The GLOW!
Starblanket Personal Log: After the harrowing evacuation of Deep Space Nine, I was summoned back to Sector 001 for a debriefing. And, as it turns out, a promotion. My new orders are to head up an expedition into the Gamma Quadrant to try to bring reasonable proof of the end of the Dominion War to the out-of-time Jem'Hadar occupying DS9. Much of the crew is being transferred to other ships, the details haven't been worked out quite yet. I still have to go over personnel with Tarah and the department heads as to whom we want to keep, and who needs the chance to spread their own wings. I am sure there will be tearful farewells as Peregrine and the Templar depart for other sectors.
Congratulations, Admiral.
Meanwhile, I, and who ever remains on my crew, will be returning to the Bajoran Sector, in what is both our new home and, in a sense, an old friend.
I am I, Don Quixote.
The U.S.S. Quixote, NCC 91511
The ship is even long and lanky like Don Quixote.
Dedication Plaque: “One man scorned and covered with scars still strove with his last ounce of courage to reach the unreachable stars; and the world will be better for this.”
~Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote de la Mancha
Shakedown Cruise
(OOC) Quixote [kee-HO-teh] is an Odyssey Class, with a Teal Corvus paint scheme. I seriously agonized over the paint job for a good hour. I'm stupid like that. I also spent a ton of time with Rowan's new admiral's coat. I almost gave her a skirt, which would have been completely hidden by the coat. The Odyssey class was the second anniversary ship reward, I believe, with no possibility for hull modification. I don't have much experience with a heavy cruiser, I'd like to deck it out with high-end turrets, which I'd heard was pretty effective. That's really old info, though. For now, I've mostly just cannibalized components from Rowan's two prior ships.
These Are the Voyages . . .
So these will be the voyages of the Starship Quixote. . . May it be that we bring chivalry and civility to the galaxy, and are not simply on a fool's errand.

Monday, June 10, 2013

The Secret World: Syp Is So Demanding!

So Syp has "finished" The Secret World, or at least his Templar character has completed the Story and Main missions, through the Carpathian Fangs, the current end zone. He mentioned starting a Dragon and doing things a bit differently, and more power to him. I personally like the different flavors of each faction.

Anyway, Syp has some things he'd change about TSW if he were game-director-for-a-day:

1. A better way to team players up to do missions
Some of my most enjoyable evenings are when I realize that another player is doing the same mission and we gravitate toward each other to help out. It makes doing them a breeze and, y’know, adds a social component.
Between playing together with my lovely bride, and having friends from both Mercy Gaming and Beyond the Veil, I generally do not lack for companions as I run around in TSW. I am also one of those strange people who would just as soon solo my way through an MMO as play with strangers, though I am happy to help out random people I come across. However, for those who have different schedules but still want social interaction, I can see how a good open-world LFG tool would be important.

For me, a simple "I'm open for grouping in this area" tag would be sufficient, or something like the system in GW2 where everyone gets credit for "quests" regarding of grouping status.

2. Bring the slash commands in with the industry standard
It’s always felt clunky to me, and I hardly ever emote because it requires diving into a menu to do so.
I have to agree, it can be clunky. When I do use it for emotes, I usually type /help to get the list, then scroll through it. You can also type the beginning of the command (e.g., /da ) then Tab to get a short, selectable list of commands that begin with the letters you typed. It's still a bit clunky, but then I never knew more than a few /emotes in WoW or any other game, either.

3. A way to earn blue Q10+ gear that isn’t PvP/Dungeon related
I’m so not interested in running the endgame dungeon treadmill just to gear up. It’s not just something I tend to avoid in other games, but it also seems to go against TSW’s strengths [emphasis mine].
Hear, hear! My friends at Beyond the Veil are all about gearing up for "Nightmare" dungeons by farming Elites. I don't mind running dungeons more than once to help people out, but a major reason I left WoW and every other MMO I've left is the prospect of yet another gear grind at the end of my level progression. And make no mistake, they may not be discreet "Glow" moments, but TSW has a leveling game just as does every other MMO I've played. If you doubt it, just try walking through Savage Coast or even the eastern portion of Kingsmouth Town just after completing the tutorial.

Like Syp, I hope the Scenarios in the recently announced Issue 8 will provide an alternate gearing path to the current dungeon grind. On the other hand, Sylow pointed out in a lengthy comment on Syp's post that there is not much need for gearing up past QL10 green gear if you do not intend to run Nightmares and Raids.

4. A better crafting system
I wish that, if TSW had to have crafting, that it just went with the traditional recipes.
I gotta say, I completely disagree. I didn't realize just how sick I was of the "standard" MMO crafting system until I started crafting in TSW. Much like the various internet guides for solving investigation quests, outside resources help, they are not absolutely necessary. As long as you have an example (call it a template) to work from and the right level kit, you can make just about anything in the game. (I am seriously a broken record on this topic.) For the first time, it's about my skill (or memory) as a player and not the fact that my character spent however long at a forge making copper pants. On top of which, there are missions right in line with the story that require the use of the Assembly Window. Brilliant! The only other systems I am really OK with are the "Fire and Forget" systems of SWTOR, Neverwinter, and STO, where you send minions to complete the crafting tasks you need. Much like Syp's complaint about the dungeon treadmill, the crafting systems in other games are just grindy, imho.

5. Agartha overhaul
The further you get in the game, the longer you have to travel in Argartha just to get to the portal you need to use.
I agree with this one, too. There are "cheats" whereby you can jump off the main Agartha platform to reach the branches leading to the more advanced regions of the game. However, you run the risk of missing the target repeatedly, to the point where it would have been quicker just to slide along the branches. Was that what Tørnquist and crew intended? And what happens when they finally open Tokyo?

6. Housing
It would be so awesome to have an apartment or house in your home city that you could equip with the goods and trophies you find along the way.
I couldn't agree more here. I have never played a game that had any real housing feature (when I was playing), and I think I would jump into it whole-hog. One of the reasons I am looking forward to Wildstar is the promise of functional housing. I thought the ship interiors in SWTOR were going to be like that, but they ended up being set pieces for cutscenes and nothing more. Quite a few players seem to clamor for a decent housing system in every game I play, and I think Funcom has the talent to implement one for TSW, though it may cost us. ;)

Well, it looks like Syp and I agree, more or less, on four of his six points. I'm neutral on one point and strongly disagree only with the need to change the crafting system. Anyway, that's my take. Joel, get'er done.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Pics of the Day: Dancing Like a Sir

Last night, the Beyond the Veil crew moved our webcast from our traditional milieu in Agartha to the Carpathian Fangs, as we were discussing the recent news about upcoming Issue 8 and Issue 7, which takes place in the CP. Of course, no Beyond-cast would be complete with a dance party. And we even had passersby join in on the fun:
I also recently purchased what may be my final habitual outfit for Dortmunder, the Industrial Revolution suit, to go with my Bowler (Derby) hat. Because no matter whether you take your brandy in a pub or in a marsh, you should always be fashionable. Cheers:

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Lookin' for Lore: The Iele

IELE (pronounced sort of like "YEH-leh" except the "Y" is held a little longer than normal English pronunciation).

Not much is known of this mysterious figure in the middle of the Shadowy Forest. The Templars thought they were extinct and are fascinated by her faerie nature, even though her father was Alexander the Great, an Illuminati Leader of Old. The Illuminati themselves, in the figure of Kirsten Geary, do not seem to realize the Iele’s parentage; nor her importance. The Dragon are, of course, aware of both.
The Iele are a fixture of Romanian folklore, inhabitants and protectors of wild places. Similar to Greek Dryads or Nymphs, they are normally nude or almost nude, and tend to seduce men with their dancing.

Unlike the wild child we see The Secret World, they often have specific names, either personal names or nicknames based on their characteristics or activities. An Iele’s name is powerful magic, and can be used by witches to cast spells. If our Iele is indeed the daughter of Alexander, then she is one of three sisters: Catrina, Zalina or Marina.
Iele, from the Romania TV page.
The Iele are wild creatures, and while not inherently evil, they do exact revenge on those that offend them. Our Iele is angry at the spread of the Filth in her forest, and blames the Secret Societies for that corruption. Those touched by the Bees do well to appease her by culling the Fungal manifestations from the forest. In the real world, the people dwelling in Transylvania and surrounding areas have appeased the Iele by dedicating festival days to them throughout the year, and performing their own ritual dances.

Iele are normally found in groups, often dancing the Hora. Witnesses to this faerie dance are driven to delirium and madness. Those who perchance to hear the siren voice of the Iele’s song are instantly struck mute.

The State of My Game. Or, Catching Up with Fellow Bloggers

Man! This week has been busy, and not in a good way. Well, I suppose it is good. I have a job, right? But the busy means I haven't been able to get as much done with the games I play. And tonight is another Webcast of Beyond the Veil with my friends from Holosuite Media. Xander, Antida, Feii, and Galactrix are a blast to hang out with on Thursday evenings and chat about The Secret World.

Fellow Mercy Gamers MMOGC and Syp have coordinated top five lists of the scariest and creepiest places in TSW. I wouldn't have minded hitching a ride on that blog train, but I need good screenshots that I just don't have on my office computer.

Belghast is having a blast with his cadre of Elite dungeoneers in TSW,  as well. After a months-long hiatus, they've been gearing up a friend for the Gatekeeper encounter and readying themselves for nightmares.

UPDATE 7Jun'13: After I posted this, I read Psychochild's post about the diminishing population of (MMO) bloggers. Happily, I was doing one of the things he suggested: cross linking to fellow bloggers.

Meanwhile, after a quick boost of fun in Neverwinter, I have picked up STO again with the launch of the Legacy of Romulus expansion. Last June, it seemed overwhelming when I jumped back in to try out the duty officer system and see how other things had changed. I guess I just needed another new Captain (or Centurion) to get used to the Space battles and such. In any event, I am having a blast again with Admiral Rowan Starblanket, and my new Rommy Commander, D'Valon tr'Soturi, a.k.a. Valon. It's also great seeing old friends in STO like Harbinger Zero, Scarybooster, and Talyn. I even managed to run a mission with Adventure Historian the other night.

I don't think I've fired up Neverwinter since getting back into STO. But I haven't given up on it yet, which is more than I can say for Defiance. I played for a couple hours a couple Saturdays ago, during Trion's free play weekend through Steam (for which I finally started a Steam account). It wasn't too hard, but the controls are clearly geared more for a console controller than a keyboard and mouse, even with my Nostromo. With TSW, STO, and Neverwinter all on my (theoretically) active game roster—and all with TPS reticle perspectives available—I don't have the energy or interest to adapt to another control system for a game I only find mildly interesting.

Of course, between those games and Real Life Busy-ness, my progress in TSW has slowed tremendously after a strong push through Egypt and the first two zones of Transylvania. And I don't even have a lore piece ready for tonight's webcast.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Beyond the Veil Take 43: The Gatekeeper

Beyond the Veil Take 43 is now available for download. You can also subscribe through Holosuite Media's RSS feed or through iTunes.
You can also catch the live show Thursdays at about 7p.m. EDT(4p.m.PDT) on Holosuite Excess.

Monday, June 3, 2013

No More Anonymous Commenting For You!

I tried allowing anonymous commenting and was flooded with spam, with no legitimate anonymous comments. So now I'm back to requiring at least an OpenID login. I'm sorry if this causes any inconvenience, but dealing with spam has been an inconvenience to me with no benefit.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Star Trek Into Darkness, Reviewed

SPOILERS!!!! Consider yourself warned.

Much like Pumbaa, I'm a sensitive soul, though I seem thick skinned.

The first time I cried at a movie was 1977, when Tigger was blackmailed to stop bouncing by Rabbit in The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. Mean Old Rabbit!
The first time I remember crying at a movie was 1982, Spock's death scene in Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan. "I have been, and always shall be, your friend."
Today, I was brought to tears again; when Kirk and Spock found their roles reversed, and Kirk made the ultimate sacrifice.

"[You did w]hat you had to do, what you always do. Turn death into a fighting chance to live."

Kirk goes through (hopefully) some character development and maturation. But, as with his experience in the Kobayashi Maru scenario, Kirk simply does not accept defeat. And his ship and crew are his family, for whom he would do anything. Spock is not the complete robot he attempted to be in the Original Series and early films. The destruction of Vulcan has affected him profoundly, making him more relatable, IMHO. Don't get me wrong, I love Leonard Nimoy's portrayal of Spock. But Zachary Quinto has made the role his own, as has Chris Pine in the case of Kirk.
Yes, there are big-splosions and lens flares. And I rolled my eyes at certain character beats, missed opportunities, and some basic physics errors. But Star Trek has never really been diamond hard sci-fi, despite what some people think. I'm pretty sure it was Gene Roddenberry himself who said when asked what powered the Enterprise, "Imagination." As for the exploration-vs.-action debate, this is thoroughly an action movie, but then I don't think J.J.Abrams is that far off from Nicholas Meyer or Jonathon Frakes in his Star Trek style.

I also think if people were to really look back at the Original Series, they would realize that there is a lot more potential than execution in that show, especially in the last season. If this reboot series is not the best of Trek, it is certainly better than a significant portion of the total Trek canon, including all the movies and spin-offs. If I sound a little defensive or petulant, it simply because I am tired of certain comments I see over and over again regarding this and the previous film.

I don't care whether Star Trek Into Darkness is good Trek, It's good Kirk, and it's good Spock. It moved me. I actually do think it's good Trek, because it's affective (yes, I spelled that correctly) storytelling. However, I do agree with Tor's Chris Lough:
There’s no denying that Star Trek has successfully gone back to its roots. Now it’s time to move ahead.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some STO to play.