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12:10pm on Monday, 1st October, 2012:

The Secret World Secret


I cancelled my account to The Secret World today, as I wasn't getting any more out of it.

I quite liked TSW. It has a strong atmosphere to it that you don't find in many MMOs these days; there were some locations with a great sense of place to them. I also liked the way it took a chance with innovations such as removing levels in favour of skills. The quests were the usual fare, but dressed in very classy narratives (made all the more remarkable because your own character never says a word in any of them). I much preferred the characterisation in these to those of Star Wars: the Old Republic; I'm not actually a fan of the concept of narrative quests, because of their railroading effect; if you're going to have them though, Funcom's writers have raised the bar. Overall, TSW is a compact world that asks for more thought from its players than most MMOs, which in my view is a good thing.

It's too small, though, and the end-game reverts to type. There's only so many times you can run nightmare mode Polaris, Darkness War and (5/6 because the last boss fight is painful) Hell Raised before you feel you can do them in your sleep; that's if you can get a group, of course, which I couldn't on many days. PvP is hit and miss (I must have contributed to the deaths of 50 players but I only got credit for 10 — oh, the travails of being a healer); lair missions are just grinds and although signet quests can have some challenging combat to them, again they get repetitive. If the innovation seen elsewhere in the game had been applied to the endgame, it could have been really something. Perhaps it'll come in time.

Where they really missed a trick (and I told them this in my why-I-quit message) is in the store. This is a game set in the modern era. The characters look lifelike. You can buy clothes for them. People really seem to like buying clothes for them — or at least looking for them. The problem is, there isn't a lot of choice. I'd go into the shop and see 5 female avatars for every male avatar looking to buy something, but the selection was rubbish. There are different colours of the same model of clothing, which rarely actually go together (the shades clash, for example). Much female clothing assumes the character playing it will be a lascivious male, which means it's often skimpy or impractical (lots of hot pants and miniskirts but even the "business attire" can't manage a knee-length skirt). I mean, look at this stuff. Where are the dresses? Where's the hosiery? I know the models exist because I see NPCs wearing them. If Funcom really wants to make some money from TSW, then adding clothes that people might actually want to be seen wearing is the obvious first port of call; it's a no-brainer (somewhat ironically for a game packed full of zombies...).

I guess, my having said that, you want to know what my female character looks like now? Sigh...

Her name's Mareigh as Polly was taken. (If you click on that link, by the way, you'll see her solo questing gear listed — her group healing gear is far, far superior).

As a general point, TSW is yet another MMO where the names for spells bear no relation to what the spells do. If I have a spell called "exsanguinate" that works by sucking the blood out of something, it shouldn't work if that "something" has no blood, for example it's a pylon or a mound of earth or a plant. Likewise, if you have settings in temperate (New England), hot (Egypt) and cold (Carpathians) areas, would it really be too difficult to reward people for wearing approproate clothing? If some individuals want to run around dressed in their underwear in Egypt, OK, well local customs aside they should be fine if they have a gallon of sunblock on them; if they run around like that in the snows of Romania, why isn't there a debuff? Similarly, if they wear a warm coat and a hat and gloves and snug boots in Romania, great, give them an "appropriate clothing" buff — but not if they wear the same outfit in Egypt during daytime (and it's always daytime in TSW).

Hmm, I'd better stop before I get into a full rant here, which might give the wrong impression of what I think about TSW. As I said, it has much to commend it and if they don't abandon it but let it build, it could turn into something special. It's already a breath of fresh air. It just needs a little more care and attention.

Oh, and while I remember: maybe if you put something that means "nice" versus "elite" in your LFG panel, people wouldn't spam the chat in Agartha so much either begging for a beginner group or boasting about their high attack rating.

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Copyright © 2012 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).