« Cloud Party's Virtual World Islands Offer Declaration of Independence from High Second Life Land Tier | Main | Awesome Large Hadron Collider Machinima is Awesome »

Wednesday, July 04, 2012


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Veritable Magic

Very good summary. Kinda disagree on how much you can customize the character at start up. And I totally agreed with you on the "milking the cow" thing until I played the game after beta. You can buy things to upgrade your look with either type store. *rl money vs ingame currency* So you really can avoid that whole spending additional if you choose. And I believe consumers are at fault for all the greedy tactics going on with businesses these days. So, to me, if you want to make a point. Dont spend extra money in the store. If you dont care that they are "milking the cow" go right ahead.

So far your gameplay, even your "look" arent severely affected by whether you spend additonal dollars on the game. So far.

Eddi Haskell

So the entire point of the game is to kill things?

Darling Monday

Great review Iris :). I agree with most of what you said here and I'm enjoying the game so far! I'm pretty sure I won't be playing that much when GW2 launches though lol.

Rin Tae

Great review! I played it in the beta and very much agree with what was written. Including the part about playing GW2 once it is out instead of secret world ;P

However apart from the need to pay up front AND subscription it was the lack of immersion that made me decide to not play it. I mean. for a 'secret' world a lot is happening in plain sight and there are surprisingly many armed people running around the cities. The character customization (a very important thing for me) was limited too, but even then I guessed that it only was because of the beta-nature of the game. That they obviously released the game without upgrade to the system is ... strange

And don't forget the single player instnaces that break up any team ....

It was a fun game but from what I have seen I would rather see it as a free to play title. A freind of mine said after seeing it .. it might be free to play within a year but I guess even then GW2 wins for me :D


@Eddi, yes. And look good while killing things.

This is why game designer Jonathan Blow is considered such a heretic. He wants to make art.

It's worth a look at "The Most Dangerous Gamer" about Blow's disdain for the industry that made him rich.

But I'm a snob. I skip paying $$$ for the summer blockbusters and watch something nutty like "Putney Swope" on DVD instead.


I have to disagree with some of your impressions about TSW. I agree with some of what you presented though, so I guess I'll start with that:

I agree that the limited number of missions of various types, definitely does help to keep one's focus on the story of what they are doing, instead of just plowing through the content like a shopping list.

I also agree that the build management systems in the game are woefully inadequate, and do not accomplish their goal (to make switching builds easy). On top of the issues you pointed out with failure to allow easy updating of builds, the gear management system is also amazingly buggy with gear (even when you go through the tedious steps of saving it right), and more unforgivable, it dumps the gear that you use in any build you're not currently using into the general inventory scattered amongst the trash loot. This makes it extremely easy to sell off your prized gear. (Suggestion: put all your best gear into it's own inventory bag, and manually change your gear out, and then use the recently player-made mod for managing your ability loadouts.

I also agree that one of TSW's greatest strengths is that it's not trying to be a "WoW killer", it's going in it's own unique creative directions and ignoring many market conventions. This makes it less intuitive and easy to get used to playing, I've seen some avid wow players hate it for being alien to their UI sensibilities. But it's worth the effort to play something that is very much NOT yet another flavor of wow.

Now the disagreeing:
"...avatars in The Secret World are, from what I've seen, way more diverse and interesting than in any other MMORPG."
No. Just No.
Not I don't think so, not I disagree, just flat out No.
Your unique and diverse character (present in your screenshots) looks identical to my main character in every way except hair color. And what's sad is that our characters constitute about a quarter of the population looking pretty much exactly like that (same face & hair).
There are NOT diverse face options. There are 8, 2 african, 2 caucasian, 2 indeterminate hispanic or arabic, and 2 asian. That is all. If you have a particular race in mind for your character, there are a whopping 2 options. Almost all of the adjustments you can make to the faces are actually just replacing the basic nose/mouth/etc. with the same artwork after being deformed slightly by a smudge or skew tool. The result is that all of the other options, other than the original basic ones, look malformed. And so we all, the entire game population, pretty much just chooses a face, and ignores all of the really bad facial modifying options. So literally, there are 8 faces of each gender, and that's it. Then there's hair... must be about a dozen styles, but they're all short except for one which is a bun. Most of the hairstyles look butch or unnatural. The super-short pigtails even slant outward at an extremely awkward angle to try to avoid clipping any gear or clothing options. If you want long hair, you're screwed. For women, if you want "non-butch-dyke" hair, you have like 2, maybe 3 options.

Every character is the same height (either gender). every character is the same build. there are no geometric (mesh deformation) sliders in the game at all. Just 8 faces, and 2-3 passably decent haircuts.

Quite literally, you could come up with more diversity or uniqueness of appearance in EQ1 or DAoC (1999 or 2001). And Lineage 2 (2003 release) simply blows the secret world out of the water as far as character looks. And I'm specifically mentioning early genre games with 'meh' character design, just to drive the point home. TSW has the most backwards, uninspired, generic, badly drawn, and creativity-strangling character creator in any mmo of the past decade. Your generic clone of everyone else in the game is rendered beautifully in DX11, and can sport a wide variety of clothing, but the character creativity itself is a disaster.

Mind you, I'm speaking of the faces, and the standard unchangable body. The clothing system is actually very nice. You can mix & match clothing in a manner which is very agreeable, allows for a lot of customization and creativity, and everything actually 'fits' well (due in large part to the standardized body shape). The clothes are great. But the character wearing the clothes is a generic clone of everyone else in the game, and probably 4 faces (total, for both genders) account for 95% of the population.

In beta we were told to wait for the miracle patch, that there would be great character creation 'soon'. But this dev team's idea of "great character creation" is not even remotely close to anything of the sort.

There is the promise of further options and an in-game capability to change existing characters' appearance sometime in august... but frankly, after 2 rounds of sitting through "ok HERE is the super great creator, infinitely better than the last one!" in beta and headstart, I'm not convinced the devs know a creatively satisfying character creator from their own behinds. And I'm saying that as someone who 'likes' the devs. The creator is not going to improve in very meaningful ways because they've painted themselves into a corner with the design of the creator, and the player avatar coding. They approached it with character customization (apart from clothing) being less than an afterthought, and they made design choices which will not now allow it to be anything better than an afterthought now. Obviously I have not seen what is in store for character creation/modification in august, but at this point they are the little boy who cried wolf, and I'll believe they actually have a passably decent character creator when I see it (and I'm not holding my breath).

Anyway, that one point more inspired me to reply than anything. TSW's character creation is so very very remotely far away from "way more diverse and interesting than any other mmo". I can only conclude from that idea, that you haven't played many mmo's outside the "wow & clones" set. Get on youtube and search character creation in Aion, City of Heroes, Champions Online, DC universe online, star trek online, Tera, etc. Even Age of Conan (TSW's predecessor from funcom) had a noticeably better character creator than TSW, and AoC was no industry yardstick for mmo character creators.

Ironically, the rest of the things I disagree with, are positive about the game.

cash shop... it's for cosmetic items. and that's all. really. It really is "fluff", and there are enough cosmetic items in the game that you can earn through achievements or buy with game currency, that there is no real restriction imposed by opting not to spend any real money on fluff. Presumably, they presented the cash shop as a way to pay for a full time cosmetic item creator, to ensure a large body of diverse appearance items, pets, etc. This logic basically works for me... but I understand if it doesn't work for everyone.

Keeping track of what missions you can accept without dropping your current mission is actually pretty easy. And you will get used to it quickly. That's not really a 'con' for the game, it's purely a matter of getting used to the game's approach.
You can accept up to 3 side missions (often 'gopher' oriented). These are almost always found out in the field, and generally involve finding something which leads you towards some type of action.
1 dungeon mission... hard to confuse that one. Bear in mind that if you join a dungeon group, you'll automatically get the mission for that dungeon when you enter, so the only time you really need to mess with it, is to re-take the mission to re-set a dungeon for multiple runs (and/or to see the mission-giver's cinematic).
1 primary mission (action missions, sabotage/spying missions, or investigation/puzzle missions) aka 'everything else'.
you get used to it fast, it's not really a con.

The investigation missions are not an 'ugly' feature. They simply aren't. They're extremely hard, and extremely satisfying to solve. They are basically the 'fun part' of any challenging point&click adventure game, ported into an mmo. If that's not your cup of tea, that's fine. But they are for the most part a spectacular addition to the game for myself and many others. It really took me a couple days to fully appreciate the fact that I was playing an MMO... and in a few days it was asking me to use my brain more than my job does in a few months. Obviously some will hate that. I love it.

Going to split my disagreement on the investigation missions a little though. There are times when they are flat-out tedious. Where instead of forcing you to rack your brain for hours, exploring and trying to have a stroke of genius to solve it (good)... they just present you with "busywork" (bad). Some of the egyptian ones are especially bad about this, where there is no difficulty in figuring out the trick of the thing, but immense difficulty in manually translating the coded cyphers and such. I have found myself maintaining integrity on the 'how' of solving things, but throwing in the towel on the tedious manual labor of transcribing things once I've figured out how to do it. Example, I figured out a code, confirmed it by translating the first word of a message, and then went to look for spoilers because lengthy transcription work itself isn't my favorite pastime.

But the hymn mission you mentioned, that's one of the easy ones. And it's quite common for hymns to be displayed in the front of the church as such. And the pastor's optional dialog will even tell you which hymn you're looking for, if you happen to chat with him a bit... it's great design. But yeah, the graphics settings issue with the readability of the plaques is a known bug if the game is set at low settings, it's an mmo launch, there's bugs.

The morse code mission... simplest way to solve it (all while staying in character), is to download a morse code translator ap for your smartphone, and play the message while holding your phone up to your computer speakers. I mean, your in-game character has a smartphone... it fits. But uh... yeah, honestly I didn't think of that. I sat there with pen & paper, cussing at the code which played too fast, and eventually I went and grabbed the sound file in the game client and played it at slow speed in my own audio program, so i could jot it down (less 'in-character', but not quite spoiler territory). It's annoyingly fast though, agreed. And in that vein, 'some' of the investigation mission content is annoyingly difficult for the wrong reasons.

"Right now, I'd kill to move the Genius feature from iTunes into The Secret World-- Look at what I have now and suggest a couple things I can get that would work well. Is that so much to ask?" yeah, to my thinking, it kinda is too much to ask. I mean, min-maxing in an mmo is a puzzle game unto itself. It's something which spurs much debate, controversy, discussion, etc. Personally, I love this aspect of mmo's, and I devote a substantial amount of time to theorycrafting game builds. Asking for the game to tell you what you need to add to compliment your current abilities? that's like asking for a crossword puzzle that's already been solved. I think you're completely missing the point of all that diversity of build options.

In spite of my feelings on the matter, the game developers HAVE taken pity on those who don't enjoy such theorycrafting and scouring parser data... they have the pre-made 'decks', such as Thaumaturgist, etc. There are over a dozen of them, catering to a variety of play styles. they are basically a set of abilities which work well together. And if you collect all of the components of a deck, you unlock a themed outfit unique to that deck. That's been around since very early beta. Just stick with one of those, until you understand why the parts of it work together, then you can extrapolate from there, or build another deck to try another playstyle, and unlock another outfit. I don't think the pre-designed decks are the best possible combinations in the game, but they're effective. so... yeah. They kinda have a feature for that.

Overall, it's a very likeable game, with a few glaring flaws. I find when I play it, I don't get enough sleep, because it makes the time fly, and keeps you thinking "just 5 more minutes.." which is a very good indicator of a quality game. The game's sense of atmosphere is amazing. And on a much smaller budget, they show bioware how voice acting and cinematics in an mmo should actually be done. And the writing... it puts the writing in aion to shame, and aion's writing set the gold standard. There's been a couple plot twists in TSW that I never saw coming, hollywood hasn't pulled that off in a long time. Plus, the single-server technology means you can log in and play with any other TSWer, anywhere in the world, on a whim. I'm a bit of a fangirl for TSW, but I'm not drinking the koolaid. There are some rough edges and flaws. I'd give TSW a B+ as-is, and it could still be improved into a solid A. Some people whine about it not being F2P, but AAA mmo's never launch as F2P, that's something which comes much later in an mmo's life cycle. I know guild wars 2 is touted highly right now, but the hype is *definitely* way beyond the reality of the game. I'm looking forward to owning GW2 as well, and playing both games. But the hype? In a nutshell "you get what you pay for".

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)

Making a Metaverse That Matters Wagner James Au ad
Please buy my book!
Thumb Wagner James Au Metaverse book
Wagner James "Hamlet" Au
Wagner James Au AAE Speakers Metaverse
Request me as a speaker!
Bad-Unicorn Funny Second Life items
Dutchie Waterland House slideshow 01112023
Juicybomb_EEP ad
Making of Second Life 20th anniversary Wagner James Au Thumb
my site ... ... ...

PC/Mac readers recommend for SL:

Classic New World Notes stories:

Sander's Villa: The Man Who Gave His Father A Second Life (2011)

What Rebecca Learned By Being A Second Life Man (2010)

Charles Bristol's Metaverse Blues: 87 Year Old Bluesman Becomes Avatar-Based Musician In Second Life (2009)

Linden Limit Libertarianism: Metaverse community management illustrates the problems with laissez faire governance (2008)

The Husband That Eshi Made: Metaverse artist, grieving for her dead husband, recreates him as an avatar (2008)

Labor Union Protesters Converge On IBM's Metaverse Campus: Leaders Claim Success, 1850 Total Attendees (Including Giant Banana & Talking Triangle) (2007)

All About My Avatar: The story behind amazing strange avatars (2007)

Fighting the Front: When fascists open an HQ in Second Life, chaos and exploding pigs ensue (2007)

Copying a Controversy: Copyright concerns come to the Metaverse via... the CopyBot! (2006)

The Penguin & the Zookeeper: Just another unlikely friendship formed in The Metaverse (2006)

"—And He Rezzed a Crooked House—": Mathematician makes a tesseract in the Metaverse — watch the videos! (2006)

Guarding Darfur: Virtual super heroes rally to protect a real world activist site (2006)

The Skin You're In: How virtual world avatar options expose real world racism (2006)

Making Love: When virtual sex gets real (2005)

Watching the Detectives: How to honeytrap a cheater in the Metaverse (2005)

The Freeform Identity of Eboni Khan: First-hand account of the Black user experience in virtual worlds (2005)

Man on Man and Woman on Woman: Just another gender-bending avatar love story, with a twist (2005)

The Nine Souls of Wilde Cunningham: A collective of severely disabled people share the same avatar (2004)

Falling for Eddie: Two shy artists divided by an ocean literally create a new life for each other (2004)

War of the Jessie Wall: Battle over virtual borders -- and real war in Iraq (2003)

Home for the Homeless: Creating a virtual mansion despite the most challenging circumstances (2003)

Newstex_Author_Badge-Color 240px
JuicyBomb_NWN5 SL blog
Ava Delaney SL Blog