November 4th, 2012

house of leaves

"So take this night, and wrap it around me like a sheet." [x∞]

Cold here in Providence. No, actually, really, truly cold. Not just what I call cold. A low of 31˚Fahrenheit tonight. But sunny today, so I try to take some solace in that.

And here I am once again on Caitlín Standard Time (CST), for the ninth consecutive year.

Yesterday, I wrote 1,067 words on "Whilst the Night Rejoices Profound and Still." And found THE END. The story will appear in Sirenia Digest #83, accompanied by a new Vince Locke illustration. I'm happy with the story. It's soft spoken, the language economical, despite its subject matter. Spooky likes it. It was good to be back on Mars.

Now, I'm staring down the barrel of finishing Fay Grimmer (fucking terrifying popcorn, terrifying to write). But first, another section of "The Interrupted Bone Sharp," which means trying to briefly and clearly explain the rules of zoological nomenclature in such a way that nonprofessionals can easily understand it. Hey, that's not half as easy as it sounds.

Spooky and I are spending almost every night now watching House and playing The Secret World (and stsisyphus, where are you?). This game, it's either the best bad MMO I've ever played, or the worst good MMO I've ever played. I can't decide. Wow, I said that well.

It undeniably has it's good points. It's great for RP, and at least some players are taking advantage of that. It's an interesting and well thought-out world. The cut-scene writing and voice acting are superb, among the best I've ever heard in any game. There seems to be a lot of older players, compared to, say, WoW or even Rift. You don't see much in the way of "lol" or "nom nom noming" or fucking "face palms" on the forums. It's oddly compelling, despite a very steep learning curve (though no where near as nightmarish as that of City of Heroes and Villians). So, yeah. Good points.

But there are, alas, a lot of bad points, more than the good. The unnecessarily difficult learning curve, for example. Also, being able to master a total of 532 abilities, but having an ability tray that will only hold seven active and seven passive abilities at a time (!!!). What the fuck? Sure, you can create something like seven builds, and switch back and forth, but that actually only seems to garble the situation even more (and you still can't ever use most of those abilities). By turns, it's moderately solo/duo friendly, until it decides to be utterly solo/duo unfriendly. For example, a duo (or trio, or quartet) can take a quest, then in the last of five stages, it switches to a solo instance, splitting up the group, and healers suddenly have to become tanks, tanks find a way to heal themselves, and so forth. A good example is "Ami Legend" in the Savage Coast region. This is, I think, the greatest failure of the Secret World, and a goodly number of players appear to have quit over it. It had me apoplectically fucking angry night before last, to the point I almost stopped playing forever.* Also, the cut scene animation is horrible, ca. 2001 horrible. Character rendering, especially fabric textures, is likewise hardly state of the art. Leather, for example, looks molded from licorice or PVC. A lot of the player character animation is just plain awful (as with the cut scenes), though some of the emote animations are inexplicably smooth. Also, the much lauded lack of formal leveling is actually illusory, but I'm not going to get into that. Oh, and if you screw up and place your skill points poorly, well, you're screwed.

In short, I want relaxing fun and a game that looks good, not the unpleasant experience of brain-wrecking tedium and number crunching, compounded by inferior visuals.

So, yeah. A very, very uneven and often infuriating – yet oddly addictive – game. I will likely stick around, if only for the RP potential. My RP addiction trumps my good sense. Spooky, I should say, recognizes most of the same strengths and weaknesses I do, but still enjoys it much more than I do. So...there you go. I'm going to settle for calling it the best bad MMO I've ever played.** But unless it goes F2P, it's likely doomed. Currently, EA/Funcom says there are no plans for it to go F2P. I should also note that while ~1.5 million people took part in the beta, it seems that only a tiny percentage of that number followed through with subscriptions/purchases. Popularity in no way equates to quality (just look at WoW), but it has a great bearing on the game's future.

Talks A Lot,
Aunt Beast

* Fortunately, people are posting lists of these quests, so that they can be avoided.
** mizliz13 says something that echoes a comment made by Spooky: "It's sort of like Second Life with quests." Yup.