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4:33pm on Thursday, 1st August, 2013:



I was playing The Secret World last night and signed up for the first nightmare instance, Polaris. I usually sign up for this, although not because I particularly like it (the final boss is particularly tedious, because you can do nothing wrong and still wipe from bad luck). No, there are basically three reasons I choose it.

Firstly, its first two bosses are so easy that even a rubbish group can kill them, so I'll get at least a few of the black bullion end-game gear tokens I need to upgrade my character's equipment.

Secondly, most of the groups are rubbish. It's where tanks learn to tank and DPSs learn to damage per second. Healers are in short supply. I'm geared for healing, so it helps the game if I choose Polaris over the other early instances.

Thirdly, if I repeatedly run the same instance, I can size up the other players' experience fairly easily and get a sense of who's playing the game.

OK, so last night someone invited me to join a group to do the first few instances. This often happens, so nothing special there. I thought it a bit odd that the tank who invited me then invited some DPS players he knew. Why hadn't he invited a healer he knew? Oh well, not a problem.

The first boss went down the fastest I've ever seen. The DPS were doing mad amounts of damage. The same for the second boss, the same for the third and all the other bosses. Before they could pull out their tricks to make us perform their dance, they were dead. I did actually need to do some healing, but not a lot. The only real life-saving heal I did was on myself on the penultimate boss, because the DPS were using different tactics than normal (standing right up against the boss) so I attracted every area-of-effect attack going instead of just the occasional one. If you know the boss is going to evaporate in a hail of bullets, I guess standing next to him to avoid AOE makes sense.

Of the previous six times I'd run that instance, only once had we actually completed it. New-to-nightmare players tend not to know the fights and to be under-geared (after all, they're running the instance to get geared). The group yesterday cut through it like a hot samurai sword through butter.

We went on to the next instance, Hell Raised. It was the same story: everything went down extremely fast. Again, the tactics were a little different to what I was expecting in places because everyone knew they could kill anything that came near them. The last boss in this instance is extremely wearisome, with a lot of luck involved in the fight. That didn't help him...

The third instance, Darkness War, saw our first wipe. There's a boss there who does an irritating carpet-bombing thing, which I suck at avoiding (although not as badly as I used to). I knew by this time that I was the weakest link in the group by far, but it was encouraging that I wasn't responsible for all the wipes. The tank and at least 2 of the DPS were clearly in a completely different league to me, though.

After the Darkness War we had time for one more instance, Hell Eternal. I hadn't actually run this since last October, so I was somewhat rusty. The tank invited me to a Teamspeak channel to explain it. When I arrived, he explained to another person with whom he was chatting at the time that I was an English player in his group, which struck me as odd because I'd never said I was English, but whatever, he brought me up to speed with the bosses. There were a couple of wipes as we progressed through the instance, fortunately not down to me but down to misfortune (one of the players has to kite some adds around for the entire fight but their behaviour isn't entirely predictable and you can get caught). The last boss, I remembered from last year, is awful. I'm not sure I've even killed him in nightmare mode. I made three separate mistakes, each of which led to a wipe.

Then I made a bigger mistake.

In TSW you resurrect in a little circle when your character dies and you can't get out until the fight ends. There's a button there that you can use to effect repairs, though, which I usually click. It would appear that last night I didn't click on the "repair my stuff" button, but on the adjacent "take me out of the instance and don't let me back in until tomorrow" button. I don't know exactly what did happen as my equipment was indeed repaired, but whatever, it meant that I was unable to participate any more. The four remaining group members would have to find a replacement — almost impossible for the final boss. I'd basically screwed up the entire instance for them.

Unless, of course, they could just 4-man it. So they did.

It was as if I'd been a ball and chain slowing them down the whole time, a division 2 player playing in the premiership. By now, I was certain that there was something very weird going on.

It turned out that the tank, called (rather ironically) Newbie, reads QBlog and recognised the name of my character, Mareigh. He invited me to his group because he likes the blog. Ha! I knew that writing it would pay dividends eventually!

This is actually the very first time anything like that has happened in all the time I've played MMOs. I've never encountered any player who knows who I am in real life (because why would they?). I don't make a secret of my character names, but it's not as if I have thousands of QBlog followers or anything. It'll probably never happen again.

So if you're reading this, Newbie, hi! I was indeed who you thought I was.

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Copyright © 2013 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).