Secret World Legends; MasterxMaster; Ready Player One
Secret World Legends
Last night a few of us folks from the Combat Wombat Discord and Off-Brand Outlet actually managed to carve out some time to meet up in Secret World Legends to run the first dungeon, “Polaris”. This was a relatively easy mission as we were all above or on the upper end of the suggested level range for the event. I hadn’t done this dungeon in many, many years and it was fun to go back to, although I’m hoping that with the renewed interest in SWL that I can actually see more dungeons in this game this time around.
Master X Master
This is a weird game. A few folks I know had expressed interest, so I jumped in thinking it would be the next Skyforge or Trove: A game I liked just fine, but which would never be my “go to” game.
Thing is, MXM is really a weird game. At first glance, it looks like a MOBA because you have a whole wall of characters that you can unlock and play as. There is a MOBA mode which plays like a traditional MOBA. But that’s not all it does. MXM has a single player element to it; you can run random zones which all end in a boss fight. You can participate in multiplayer arenas. And there’s an active social zone in between.
The game gets its name from your roster, who are referred to as “Masters” (of combat and such), but the duplicate use of the word informs you that every time you enter into a scenario, you get to take two characters with you. At any time (after a short cooldown), you can switch between them at will. Needless to say that if you thought getting good with a single character in a MOBA took practice, you’re in for double the fun.
I’ve been jumping in almost every night to deal with the daily missions for rewards used in upgrading my roster, and to gain the currency used to unlock additional characters. So far I have at least three — the two you get by default (whom I have been using almost exclusively at this point because I like them) and one character I got for free during the tutorial, whom I do not like. Interestingly, because it’s an NCSoft game, there’s crossover from other NCS games like Blade and Soul and Guild Wars 2, a la that “other” MOBA people get all breathless about. And yes, this is the game that pissed some people off by including characters from the ill-treated City of Heroes.
Ready Player One
You can stop here if you don’t want to see me getting ranty, but otherwise…carry on.
I picked up Ready Player One because no, I hadn’t read it up to this point. And going forward, I can solemnly say I will not be reading it because, for me, this book is a terrible experience.
It reads like someone got ahold of the Wikipedia entry for the entire decade between 1980 and 1989 and decided to make a novel out of every single pop-culture bullet point mentioned therein, embedding references as if the novel would turn into a speeding bus that exploded if everything that happened or was produced during those years wasn’t mentioned at least once. Reading this book felt like being at a party and having to listen to that one douche who injects himself into every conversation and does nothing but name-drop every time he opens his mouth so people know how much and who he knows. I call this condition “Crichtonitis” after the late Michael Crichton, an author who creates characters strictly to serve as a mouthpiece for the author’s enthusiastic relay of what he learned while researching his subject. Hell, I’d rather read a textbook.
Whew! OK, that was the sarcastic criticism portion of this entry, so let’s calm down a bit. Earnest Cline is a good writer. I liked his prose; it was easy to read and flows naturally. At this point, the subject is probably kind of dated. It’s somewhere between Wargames (which is mentioned in the book several times, if you see what I’ve done there) and Sword Art Online. Maybe a poor-man’s Snow Crash that aspired to be Neuromancer with a dose of Internet age attitude. That’s not a knock, because I understand that ideas are eternal, and there’s always going to be overlap and levels of engagement in any product.
In a surprise twist, I am kind of interested in the movie treatment. A lot of the grief I am slinging here is due to the fact that the protagonist has to tell us what’s going on, why, and how he’s dealing with it because it’s actually kind of bizarre: a billionaire recluse dies and leaves his fortune and company to anyone who can solve his 1980’s themed adventure mystery, all/most of which happens inside the virtual reality world that he had created. I mean, under other circumstances I could totally get behind something like this, but the wall-to-wall 80s references are just way overkill and really, really put a hard stop to the book for me. I suspect that because of what a movie has to keep and what it has to cut that the live production can let a lot of those overt references fade into the background, which is kind of true to form. Having lived through the 80s, I recognized the majority of references made in RPO, but they were never as in-your-face as they are when someone is trying to make you see them. In reality, they weren’t artifacts or stand alone references we pointed at and identified by name; they just were.