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I was offered a gift

Last time we talked, I was playing The Secret World and making my way through the Blue mountain area. Well… I think I’ve finally been hooked to TSW and I spent most of the weekend playing and ended up tearing through the zone and finishing up the first act of the story. So now, years after buying the game, I’ve finally saved Solomon’s Island and probably the world along with it. This meant of course that my Illuminati bosses knocked me out and submitted me to a one way interrogation but such is life in secret societies.

Overall I really loved how they ended the story of the first act, especially the “Gift” part. In most games, the obvious “join the dark side” part is trying to be all subtle with your character realizing the truth and nobly refusing. Here, the big evil makes it plain as day. Join it and get tons of power but you’re working for something that is likely even more evil than the devil itself or you can refuse and get yourself a really powerful enemy.  Again it would seem an obvious choice but in the universe of TSW, it’s not so clear cut. You are after all working for a secret society than often has a very loose definition of morals.

I ended up by refusing the Gift because after seeing what the Filth did to people I didn’t want to spend a few eternities as a tentacle monster.

Kudos to TSW team for having such a good story. I now have questions that I want the answer to and the only way to do that is for me to keep playing. Well played Funcom.

Lots of MMO happened since last time I wrote about my adventures. I think this is due in part to Divinity: Original Sin having trouble grabbing my attention but I’m not complaining since I’ve been really digging into The Secret World as a result. I still did a bit of Lotro on the side but that game is moving along much slowly.

In Secret World however I managed to get myself caught up with previous characters and with the exception of the Franklin mansion, I’m now firmly in new content territory for me!. I’ve been mostly working on the Wabanaki quests and clearing side missions the past two days which leads me to the main topic of today’s post.

Into Darkness

Darkness Wars is the dungeon of the Blue Mountain zone and is a retelling of an old Wabanaki tale involving Mayan invading Native American soil only to be thwarted by the Vikings themselves. It doesn’t make much sense but it’s pretty awesome.

I went in yesterday with a group mostly made up of new players or returning ones with the exception of the healer and we happily herped and derped through the dungeon. The fourth boss gave us a bit of trouble but we killed it and there was much rejoicing. Except for the healer who threw a tantrum and quit the group, fed up with our derping. I was pretty disappointed since I could already see the group disband but I really wanted to finish the dungeon… what to do?

Well, I didn’t know it when I created my character but it seems that my weapons of choice, Pistol and Fists can make a good healing build and recently I had been picking up a few healing talents here and there to help with questing. With us short a healer I figured I could try my hand at healing, it would beat disbanding the group for sure.

Lo and behold, despite not knowing the dungeon and not being geared for it, I managed to heal the last two bosses and we saved the world for the evil mayans. I credit my healing not abjectly failing to FFXIV healing but it TSW dungeons intimidated me so much I was sure you needed top gear and builds to heal or tank them. Turns out it wasn’t as bad as I thought.

Which leads me to question whether or not I should pursue a healer build and start gathering healing gear for future dungeon runs. It’s also throwing me off a bit as far as how I see myself in MMOs. For the longest time I’ve been a melee dps or tank and FFXIV healing was an experiment that became my main role in that game. Now, I started TSW with dps in mind and without even planning for it I stumbled into healing.

It could be that I am now corrupted by the heals, doomed to roam the earth and heal butts until the end of times.

undertale

Warning, this review has some serious spoilers about the game mechanics.

I picked up Undertale during the holidays after seeing it appear more and more often on best of year lists. Up to that point I had missed pretty much everything regarding this game other than some background noise about it being a great game and I figured I needed to play it for myself. So it is with absolute zero knowledge of what the game is about that I dived in.

So did I like it? Not at all, I liked part of it but I don’t agree with a lot of the story elements and some of tricks the game uses to tell the story. Is it a bad game? It’s a great game that’s well-crafted and manages to deliver a powerful experience to the player. Something a lot of games aspire to but few manage to.

This leads me to say that Undertale being an experience is probably the best way to describes it. It’s a game about choices and the moral consequences they carry. It’s a game that tries to show you that the characters you’re fighting are more than roadblocks on your path but are actual people with stories and personalities. In essence it’s a game that tries very hard to make you feel that killing and fighting these people is a bad thing that you shouldn’t be doing.

It’s an extremely judgmental game that uses a lot of tricks, misinformation and manipulation of the player to achieve its goals.

Instead of going over the details of how it does so like I usually do, I’ll relate my experience playing the game. Close to the beginning of the game you get to fight goat mom who wants you to stay with her. I couldn’t use the mercy commands right away like I could in the dungeon before so I figured something needed to happen first. My thought was that I needed to weaken her enough and then she’d allow me to use mercy. So I started witling at her health without knowing that there’s a hidden mechanic where if you hit a monster enough time you will eventually one shot whatever remains of their health. So at around 50%, I did a mega crit that killed goat mom and that was it, my game was screwed with no way of going back.

I tried reloading but found out that the game auto-saved at that point. I checked guides to see if I was screwed and found out that yes I was and that even restarting the game wouldn’t save me entirely. So I decided to keep playing and aim for a “middle” ending, resolved to not kill any of the other characters.

Which would have been fine if the game didn’t keep reminding me that I was a bad person all the time because someone died. Even when I ultimately finished the game and restarted a new game, the game kept on reminding me that in a previous life (game) I had done bad stuff.

Another trick the game uses, is to make the characters you encounter caricatures of lonely and sad people with the hope you’ll relate to them. There’s Alphys, the awkward anime fangirl and Papyrus who is way too hype about everything to cover its insecurities just to give two examples. Pretty much every character in the game has its own sad story just to make you feel for them. They didn’t feel real or likable to me, they felt like caricatures, easy storytellers tricks to make me feel for them. Instead of writing smart characters and leave it up to me to decide if I like them or not, the game tells me that I have to like them all.

There’s an argument to be made that whether or not you like Undertale is a matter of taste. It’s a game about showing you that choices have consequences that cannot be undone with a simple reset. It’s a lesson that has merit in itself, I won’t deny that.

But for a game that is about choices, I didn’t feel like I was in control of them. Instead I was railroaded and tricked into making bad ones just so the game could tell me that I’m a bad person and that I should have known better. I hate being manipulated especially when it’s by someone who has an agenda, especially a moral one, and that is exactly what Undertale did.

 

Hello old friend, been a while since I wrote anything here but this place has always been a good one to sort my thoughts so today I’m breaking the silence to write about that joyous mess that is my MMO life at the moment.

2015 has been a very insightful year for me as far as MMOs goes. First I learned that the old hardcore guild still existed out there and that it wasn’t for me anymore. Then I rediscovered thanks to the Greysky Armada crew that a great group of people makes any game a thousand times better. I was also reminded that I’m in a weird place when it comes to raiding. On one hand I love to raid with those people but on the other I can’t really commit a lot of time to it.

Lately, the Greysky gang is split up over a multitude of games since FFXIV is having trouble at keeping our interest and I find myself without really a game to latch onto. I tried going back to WoW for a whole 20 minutes before deciding that I’m truly done with the game, Swtor failed to hold my interest past Dromund Kas, I just can’t seem to latch onto Wildstar and now I find myself enjoying short sessions of The Secret World here and there and I’ve started anew in Lotro just to enjoy a good dose of Middle-Earth lore.

So to start off the New Year and stealing from Belghast style, here’s what I’ve been up to lately.

FFXIV

That game is currently on hold despite being pretty much my favorite MMO out there at the moment. The simple truth is that I’ve run out of content to do and right now I’m faced with either leveling classes, grinding dailies, grinding for the new anima weapon or finding a raid group to do savage content with. All time consuming tasks that frankly don’t motivate me to log in at the moment. So I’ve put the sub on hold until the flame is lit again and I feel like diving back in.

LOTRO

That one is a bit of a surprise but here I am. Every so often the urge to explore Middle-Earth strikes and I find myself back in Lotro, a game that’s incredibly slow paced, has clunky mechanics and overall has aged pretty terribly. Still, it does the two things I love the most incredibly well, exploration and lore. This time around though, I’m playing without any particular goal other than enjoying the lore and it’s been a pretty enjoyable experience.

I’m currently sitting at level 12 and finishing up quests around Combe, the first area outside the human starter zone. The Blackwold gang is still messing up things after all these years and yet again brave adventurers must put an end to them.

The secret world

Speaking of playing games for the lore, I’m back again in the secret world and I’ve been having a great time, so much so that I’m real hopeful to make it past the Blue mountains this time around. I’ve even been doing the Investigation quests without cheating! It may have taken me 2 hours to decipher a bit of morse code but the feeling of doing it was awesome! Speaking of morse code, I now have a profound respect for anyone who can do it live without having to listen to the same part over and over again.

I’m progressing fast in the zones because I’m spending all that time going after lore but I’m not in a hurry so it’s all good. I’m working on finishing up the haunted amusement park of the savage coast and should move to the school pretty soon.

And the rest…

Remember at the beginning of this post when I talked about loving to raid but not having time for it? That’s still the big unknown for me. With Lotro and TSW it’s pretty clear I’m not going to be raiding anytime soon and the bug might back to bite me anytime. The best case scenario would be Greysky starting up again in FFXIV but when is another topic entirely.

I also played quite a bit of single-player games over the holidays, one of which was Undertale, a game I’m reserving a post for tomorrow.

So I was reading through Belghast Blaugust challenge post and usually I shy away from such things because I like my free blogging style but one line that caught my attention was the part where Bel says how blogging everyday breaks down walls and made him more brutally honest with his readers. To be honest, I’ve had a lot on my mind lately when it comes to my MMO playing but both Bel post and Tamrielo recent posts about levels and gear separating people  push me to talk today.  It could also be the lack of sleep but I’m willing to live with the consequences. So let’s be brutally honest today.

I’m in an awkward spot right now in FF14. Or rather I should say I feel like I’m in an awkward spot but it could all be in my mind. I’m writing this because I want people to understand that what I’m writing here is my perception of things and I could be entirely wrong.

I love FF14, I love the expansion a lot and I’ve been playing it almost exclusively since it came out. I got to 60 amongst the firsts Greysky and I’ve been plugging away at the raid content in Pugs. I’m doing all this not out of a desire to be the first or the best but simply because I enjoy the time I’m spending in game and this leads to me spending even more time playing. It’s a cycle.

But as Tamrielo points out it leads to me being farther ahead than most of the guild. I do my best to help out catch up people when I can but the rest of the time I’m most likely found in a pug doing Ravana Ex or Alexander because in terms of progression it’s where I’m at. Reading Tamrielo post, I can’t help but feel responsible for that awkward phase he describes since I’m likely creating pressure on some people to catch up. It’s the last thing I want to do but I can see how my talking about Ravana Ex might make someone who’s still leveling feels like he or she is behind.

To add to the issue most of the people I raid with on Wednesday are in a similar spot progression wise so we’re heading into the new content and yet again, it’s likely contributing to some people feeling like being left behind. Again, not the intended effect but I can see how it can be seen as such.

I’m pretty much in agreement with Tam here when he says he wish those level and gear discrepancies wouldn’t exist. I want to do cool stuff with the people in my guild, not create pressure on them.  Like I said, I do my best to be helpful to people by answering questions and healing runs whenever I can, often despite what I would have wanted to actually do. I’ve set aside my Mondays for months just so I could help out the Monday group clear T9. I do all these things because I want to give back to a pretty awesome guild and I want include people, not exclude them.

But here comes the big But, I don’t believe I should feel bad for playing the game the way I want to. I genuinely want to help out my guild but at the same time I also want to go pug Ravana Ex and be excited about it. I hate that it seems to be creating this sentiment of me being hardcore when I consider myself to be anything but. For me being hardcore means putting progress over people and I’ve always put helping people before anything else.

This is all likely a temporary situation that will partly solve itself as time goes on and people catch up. On my end I’ll keep helping out whenever I can and I’ll keep pugging things and doing the new stuff on Wednesday. I just hope that people will understand that I’m not doing that out of a desire to leave anyone behind.

Hello insomnia!

Something personal today because why the hell not! It’s my blog and I can do what I want!

I have chronic insomnia, specifically Circadian Rhythm disorder, more specifically Delayed sleep phase disorder.  TLDR: my body refuses to fall asleep at a time that is considered normal by society.  It took forever to diagnose, I had to consult with multiple doctors, psychologists, psychiatrists and other specialists before finally getting an official diagnosis on a piece of paper. I often joke I should laminate the thing and put it on my wall.

Like many disorders out there, there is no cure for it and the best I can do is manage it through a disciplined sleep schedule. It’s very important for me to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekend. This way I can train my body to sleep at the time I need so I can function normally throughout the day and do things like have a job that requires me to be up in the morning.

But sadly, even with the best discipline, things don’t always work out and insomnia will strike out. Usually it comes in phases, like I’ll have a bad week where sleep is harder to come by, or I’ve noticed that February is usually a harder month, likely due to lack of light or something like it. But there’s also the once in a blue moon sleepless night because reasons. Today though I know fully well why I’m messed up, I had to be up at 2 am because of my job and now I’ll be paying for it all week long.

So right now with about 5 hours of sleep combined over the past 2 days I’m alternating between feeling miserable and wanting to murder anything that comes within 5 feet of me.  A developer had the misfortune of submitting to me a buggy version of the app he’s working on and I decided to pass the review to someone else for fear of what I might say. I know I can’t even trust my own judgement right now and it sucks, a lot.

So what’s the point of today’s post? None really. I needed to vent and this felt more constructive than running after people with a fireaxe.

Two weeks have come to pass and Alexander, Heavensward first raid has been out since Tuesday and has been conquered in the very same day. Myself I cleared it yesterday and I took notes while I was in there so I could share them with you today. Overall, Alexander is a pretty fun raid and I can’t wait to see the rest of it. I want to say that the difficulty is on the easier side of things, at least for the first two floors but then again it’s hard to evaluate difficulty this early since the Duty Finder crowd at this moment is anything but standard. Alex F4 (or A4,still not sure on the nomenclature) is a good challenge for sure and it felt to me like they structured the raid a bit like Coils was, meaning that F1 to F3 is a bit easier and F4 acts as a gate keeper for the next part.

Alex F1

Real easy strategy that reminds me of Coils Turn 1. Nothing special there except maybe a bit of a dps check at the beginning. Took me a few tries to get a group that could pull it off despite the simplicity. I think a few too many people got in there with the idea that it was going to be Crystal Tower and were surprised when we wiped because they ignored mechanics.

Alex F2

Unending trash gauntlet boss. Really not so bad as long as the tanks are on the ball and split the adds so they don’t explode to damage. Had one of the most awful tanks I’ve seen in a long time in there and the guy had “The Final Witness” title. Sad proof that being in a group that can kill one of the game thoughest boss is not a guarantee of talent.

Alex F3

The first actual proper raid fight of the place. The boss has three phase with varying mechanics for each phase. Phase 3 in particular gave us the most trouble since there’s movement involved combined with a dps check plus having to watch tethers and debuff. Real easy to get tunnel vision, miss a mechanic and wipe the raid.

Alex F4

This is a boss that I think will become easier with an FC group. This guy deals absurbs amounts of damage and the fight is pretty much about being smart when dealing with all the incoming damage. I lucked out with this boss and got a great group on my 5 or 6th attempt but this boss actually made me reach for the Party finder and pre-made groups.