A really fascinating discussion came up earlier this week, as longtime MMO blogger Syp “finished” The Secret World.
He wrote a great piece looking at his time with the game, and thinking about things he would change if he was Game Director For A Day – which is interesting reading on its own.
But then Roawn Blaze, another longtime Secret World blogger, picked up on his post, and wrote a fascinating counterpost looking at each of Syp’s suggestions from his own perspective.
Have your own ideas on what you’d do with The Secret World? Or just interested to see some great game design discussion?
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Did you know there was a big Christmas event happening in The Secret World? Neither did I.
But there was! It involved Mayans, mummies, the end of the world (of course), and a fair number of ideas both great and terrible, according to Oz at Kill Ten Rats’ report:
“Funcom came up with a brilliant idea to play on the actual events here in our world. When I saw my first mummy (which actually was Xibalba, who I barely killed), I immediately got the reference. Last night, on my first trip to the Crusades Bar, which is end-of-the-world themed, I cheered. The mobs themselves were graphically fun to look at. However, the spawn mechanic needed some tweaking. Xibalba needed a serious downgrade. And Funcom needed to react to the issues players were reporting. Instead of changing the event in any way, the only response from them was they were on vacation until Jan 3rd. ”
Read more here
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We’re more about the words than the pictures here at MMO Melting Pot – but just occasionally, we’re suckers for some lovely images.
And over the last few days, several bloggers have posted fantastic, screenshot-heavy posts – so if you want your daily dose of Pretty, here you go!
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Everyone’s been running dungeons this weekend, it seems – but not, as you might expect, Mists of Pandaria dungeons.
No – instead we’ve got a series of fascinating posts looking at the dungeon experience in other games, and across all MMORPGs:
- Redbeard writes a really interesting piece recounting his experience in his first SWTOR dungeon – ” You stop worrying about damage meters and trying to fine tune your threat management; you just roll with it and do what is best for the group.”
- Rohan sums up the differences between SWTOR and WoW endgame, focused on dungeons – “I think the biggest thing is that TOR has the balance between AoE and single-target almost perfectly correct. Sometimes you AoE, and sometimes you single-target individual mobs. Crowd Control is often used, but it is not absolutely required.”
- Stubborn recounts positive experiences in the dungeons of The Secret World and Guild Wars 2, both of which have come in for criticism from other players – ” I’m really not sure why there are so many criticisms of the GW2 dungeons flying around. They’re supposed to be tough. A little chaos that requires some improvisation is a good thing. Apparently not everyone shares that sentiment, though.”
- And Gordon at We Fly Spitfires laments the death of tanking as a mechanic across MMORPGs – ” as much as I love both the playstyle and roleplaying aspect of being a tank, I appreciate the evolving nature of MMORPGs.”
Personally I STILL haven’t managed to get into a GW2 dungeon (blame a really hectic work schedule), but I’m looking forward to them – they sound like just my cup of tea.
What MMO are you playing right now, and what do you think of the dungeons/instances in it?
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A quiet day today – everyone’s busy raiding, perhaps? But that gives us time to showcase a project we’re very keen on – plus more great posts:
- We’ve been following the indie MMORPG project “Project Gorgon” by the Elder Game guys for a while, so we should mention that they’re currently running a Kickstarter to take it to the next stage – “Think Asheron’s Call crossed with EverQuest crossed with NetHack.”
- Bronte surveyed her readers, asking whether they’d advise starting Guild Wars 2 or The Secret World, and she shares the results – “I received a ton of a comments, and although GW2 seemed to be winning earlier, TSW has seemed to creep up in the number of recommendations. “
- Hunter’s Insight hates the letters you receive in Guild Wars 2 from completed Hearts, and they explain why that is – “These letters could have been an opportunity to extend lore, get a good laugh, make the world seem larger than it really is. Instead they’re boring, hit all the same notes, practically form letters.”
- Evlyxx gives us a really useful tip on how to create a “sandbox” WoW installation – “Now I could have copied my entire World of Warcraft folder to a new location and it DOES work but I will show you a way that saves you space on your HDD and will save you from having to repeat the process everytime a patch hits WoW. “
- And Lodur gives his impressions of the first couple of days’ MoP raiding under the new healing mechanics – ” Do not expect your healers to babysit you anymore, we can no longer heal stupid. You are responsible for your own survival as much as the healers, please accept your PSR. “
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The Secret World really seems to have polarised the MMO world. As we know, not many people are playing it – but the people who are seem to love the game.
Today we’ve got two bloggers waxing lyrical about aspects of the MMO which you might not have considered. Will they be enough to tempt more people to try the game? Who knows?
Syp is first – he’s talking about the game’s treatment of religion. As a person with strong religious beliefs, he was concerned about how TSW would handle religion – but as it turns out, he’s very impressed –
“Still, I didn’t especially want to be playing a game where my faith was vilified or belittled, and there could have been a real possibility of that. Instead, what I sense is that the writers are striking an interesting balance of skirting near subjects pertinent to religions but not going so far as to levy judgment on any of them. There’s this sense of sampling the most interesting elements and then weaving those together in a bizarre tapestry that still doesn’t make sense to me. It just seems bigger than what we can get a hold of, and I suppose that’s one of the goals of the game.
Plus, there does seem to be a wide sampling of faiths, including Native American, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Norse, Hindu, and probably tons of the Eastern ones over on the Dragon side. If there’s a subversive agenda at work to subtly dig at any of these, I don’t see it.
But the question of belief and faith is quite prominent in many of the characters’ lives, and the events of the game certainly uphold the notion that there are forces at work that are quite supernatural in origin. There’s a real hell in the game, for example. There are miracles. There are genuine people of faith and there are false prophets and cults (such as the Morning Light).”
Meanwhile, Healing The Masses is waxing lyrical about TSW’s unusual level of diversity in almost all meanings of the phrase –
“The environment has a small part to play, mostly though it is the rather cooky collection of characters on display. There is an amazing range of characters available that cover a fair amount of ethnicities and backgrounds which on its own is rare to see, and then you have in depth backgrounds to explore. Each of these main characters has a rich story, they have their own interests they attend to, glaring flaws, external and internal pressures they are trying to work around or with, and then lots and lots of baggage. It is a great view of human eccentricities and personal backgrounds you would never have even thought about.
It is all very inclusive with a wide spectrum of humanity included, and what’s more is they explore themes like ethnicity, gender, and sexuality well. There is no contrived token placements on offer just flesh and blood humans full of emotions. Nothing is hidden from the view of the public in mountains of lore but right there for everyone to witness. It is an epic drama of human emotion playing out for all to witness, the impact and the joy, sadness and courage that is there to make you think or even inspire.
The great story and writing feels very engaging from a character perspective but even as a cohesive whole across the different areas. The writing team has a great understanding of people and culture it seems which reflects on the immersive world. Even the story structure and themes are quite removed from the usual tropes, they are aware of them but twist and mold these to fit with the story, they are even so familiar with them they are able to poke fun highlighting the hilarity of such overused story elements.”
All interesting stuff – perhaps The Secret World will gain second wind from all the word of mouth praise? I wonder…
Might you be tempted to try The Secret World one day? If you’re playing it, do you think it’ll start gathering steam?
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Glenn Beck, I thank you. Best. Headline. Evar.
Yes, it would appear that EVE has hit the political wires. Plus, a great argument in favour of World PvP, and more:
- The Grumpy Elf delivers a surprisingly rousing recommendation for all of us to try some world PvP in WoW – “Player vs player however is the exact opposite. It encourages the MMO aspect of the game. You see a group of people being attacked, you join in. You are getting attacked, people you never met come to help you. “
- Scott Jennings brings us the news that – seriously – a major US television personality is claiming that EVE Online corp Goonswarm is a codeword for the CIA – “Glenn Beck figures out the real story behind Sean Smith’s death: Goonswarm Is Literally The CIA.”
- Spinks highlights a potential upcoming problem with MoP’s loot system – a severe lack of PUG tanks and healers – “This new system means it would be pretty suboptimal of me to offer to tank instances while I’m trying to use them to gear up for raids; I would only get tanking drops.”
- Rohan argues that WoW should never lose its combat res mechanics – “Combat resses are a “catch-up mechanic”. These mechanics allow players to recover from a mistake and keep going. Without these mechanics, game outcomes have the potential to be unchangeable.”
- And Jef Reahard gives us a really interesting look at Funcom’s history as he argues we shouldn’t worry about The Secret World closing – “You know the rest of the story, though. The game continues to this day. It’s slated for a graphical overhaul, and while it’s not setting any population records, it’s beloved by many, and more importantly, it’s turning a profit for its parent company nearly 12 years after its maiden voyage.”
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In amidst the fallout of Theramore, there’s still more discussion going on in the blogosphere. So here’s your Jaina-free post for the day!
- Optimus Maleficus discusses the State of Guild Wars, focussing on three things: Event Scaling, money sinks, and the server model – ” Representing your guild off of its main server doesn’t help the entire group, as any influence you own goes to your server’s “chapter” of the guild. If there are no leaders or officers on your home server, that influence is a complete waste. By virtue of being a guild perk, the guild bank is also tied to the server it’s unlocked on.”
- Matthew Rossi notes a small but interesting change to Azeroth seemingly as a consequence of Theramore.
- Syl writes a fascinating post looking at why fantasy settings are so everpresent in MMORPGs – “Even if it weren’t any of the above though, there still gotta be some very good other reasons why developers think the fantasy formula so safe. “It’s just lazyness” is insufficient an explanation. There’s an obvious, assumed risk so one must ask about its origins. “
- And MMO Gamer Chick checks out the frankly disturbing appearance-change options in The Secret World – “Then there’s the atmosphere, which sort of reminded me of Saw. As one of my guildies observed, the whole setting makes you kind of scared to even step in through the door.”
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And finally, in other MMO news, the EVE world is still reeling from the death of Sean Smith, and its consequences – plus more discussion of The Secret World’s woes, adventures in EVE, and Farmville failings…
- Tobold discusses the potential failing in Zynga’s business model – the fact that their games rely on messaging your friends, which falls down if you simply separate your Zynga social life from your real one – “Their business plan behind that is that this way they’ll quickly gain millions of players for each of their games, and access to a network of people who trust each other, and are thus a juicy target for advertising. Only that while real money is hard to fake, social capital is extremely easy to falsify.”
- Bravetank has entered the world of EVE, and today she writes a fascinating tale of how she ended up being led into learning some of the game’s infamously complex mechanics – “My dps was 16. I’m embarrassed typing it. I was basically dong nothing more than giving the supply ship a nice bit of therapeutic shiatsu massage – a tad painful but boy does it work the joints.”
- Game Delver thinks about the aftermath of Sean Smith’s death, and the increased public light it has shone on gaming – “What I find most interesting about this particular case is just how public and important Mr. Smith’s status as a serious Eve Online player has been. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton even mentioned his background as a gamer. “
- Lewis at Stnylan’s Musings considers the way that Smith’s death has united the EVE universe – “To be an EVE-player however is not to be divided by servers or realms, but to share in the same dangerous sandbox. It makes it easier to achieve name-recognition (Chribba and Dr Caymus, The Mittani and Verone), and even to interact with them on occasion. “
- Nosy Gamer spreads word of a fundraiser to help Sean Smith’s family
- And finally, Syp considers the woes of The Secret World, and looks at four sticking points which are hindering the game’s growth and success – “There’s a cash shop in place, and the game is segmented nicely into different world zones. So just make the first (Solomon Island) free and charge for Egypt, Transylvania, and so on. “
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Lono called for MMORPG players to support innovation yesterday by supporting The Secret World – but did The Secret World really fail because it was too innovative?
That’s the debate that has sprung up in the wake of his post today:
- Tobold argues that The Secret World would have failed just as hard without any innovation whatsoever – ” If Funcom had made the same game, just with elves and dragons instead of zombies and Cthulhu, it would have flopped even worse.”
- Syncaine compares The Secret World to his beloved Darkfall, and argues that TSW’s failure was more about expectation-setting – “The biggest difference between Darkfall and The Secret World is not levels of polish or innovation, but in expectations. Aventurine understood they were making a niche MMO, and planned accordingly.”
- And Lono asks us to play MMO developer for a while, and consider whether if we were making an MMO with real money and real people to support, would we take the risk of making a non-fantasy MMO? – “If you are a player wanting innovation in your games, you have to support games that do innovate even if they are not the best. You have to show the industry that if they innovate they will have support and get their money back.”
I’m really not sure what MMORPG developers can or should do about MMORPGs’ seemingly intractable tie to fantasy. With the exception of EVE Online, it’s very hard to think of an MMORPG that has had even moderate success outside fantasyland. Frankly, all the evidence currently points to MMOs continuing to be dominated by fantasy-based settings for the next 20 years.
**What do you think? Were TSW’s troubles the fault of its innovation, its execution, its business strategy, or something else?
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