Secret World Legends
Secret World Legends is (almost literally) an answer to a question nobody asked: what if instead of fixing issues in a standing game, the developers copied and pasted that game, changed a bunch of stuff (but left other stuff alone) and released it as a whole new game? The existing game — the one people have been playing for years and have a history with, but which wasn’t doing as well as it undoubtedly should have — would be placed in “maintenance mode”, meaning no more new features and only updates when critical. Add to that the fact that no previous progress would carry over, so everyone — everyone — starts fresh, both people new to the franchise and those who have played since launch.
Does that sound like a good idea to you? On the surface, no. No, it does not. Yet this is what Funcom decided that The Secret World needed in order to survive and move forward. The reasons are unfortunately their own, buried behind the typical marketing platitudes we get from game companies that are coy about their strategies. Even so, the anticipation for the head start for SWL was high in my timelines. People had been waiting all of last week for notification that they could download the new client, create and migrate some of their TSW progress to the new game, and log in ahead of this week’s release. On Friday, the head start began and went pretty OK as far as I could tell. On Saturday, things were also humming along quite nicely. Sunday, however, the bill came due: there was an exploit which allowed players to generate millions of units of what SWL uses for cash-bought currency. Funcom kept the game offline for most of the day in order to fix it, which raised hackles; on one hand, fuck those who used the exploit and ruined it for the rest of us, but on the other hand, the fact that people were anxious to log in a play was a Good Sign.
I’m not going to enumerate all of the changes SWL introduces to TSW because I’m not entirely aware of all of them myself. Some of the most notable ones are that the free-form character builds are still present, but much harder to get at. This is good because my first TSW character was messed up early on because I didn’t know how to use the build system. Likewise, missions in SWL now follow a more structured path, with some leading into others, others having their pickup locations moved, some have been changed into “mission-on-zone-entry” grants, and others have been done away with entirely. They’ve also added levels to the game and made the game much easier to solo. I think that all of these changes are a result of the realization that while TSW was a game that attempted to break the MMO mold, a lot of what it did to that end was simply for the sake of being different. The game never put enough emphasis on being approachable in a genre that had been trending towards making things easier to understand for new and elder players alike.
The question of why create a parallel game instead of just fixing what was in place might be answered in this light: TSW had tried many things and as a result garnered itself much baggage as far as the MMO community was concerned. I think the majority of people love the investigation missions. Others love the horror-themed atmosphere. Some even loved the EVE Online-like manner in which we could build custom characters so that not everyone was just following a class-based trajectory. But the game had many issues that Funcom struggled with over the years which cost them players and forced them from a sub to a free to play model. Along the way, they tried to update the game to repair problems or address shortcomings, but it never seemed to be enough. That’s why I can understand that SWL isn’t a reboot or even a reset, but a total cleansing of (hopefully) what plagued TSW for so long. Funcom (hopefully) took all of the feedback they received over the years and decided that there was just so much work that needed to be done — and done all at once — that it made more sense to copy the game, modify in parallel, and release as a new product with a beta phase and everything. Had they tried to make these changes to the live TSW, they would only be able to eek out changes in spurts through patches, and only to the public test center which is available for current players — and who knows the percentage of current players who opt to get into the PTR for any game, let alone a game that many believe has been on life support long before SWL was announced.
Despite having a lifetime sub to the game, I never made it off of Solomon Island in TSW so the idea of starting over doesn’t phase me. SWL is a game I want to succeed because it is unique, in setting, presentation, and content. I am liking a lot of the changes I’m seeing in SWL, although some are coming into conflict which what I expect from my days playing TSW and that causes me some confusion. I hope Funcom does well by SWL. They get a lot of shit for their games, some rightfully so, but also way more than they deserve. It’d be nice for them to catch a break with SWL because I’d sad to see it’s demise used as proof that there’s no room for non-high-fantasy, non-sci-fi MMOs.
Steam Sale 2017
It’s in full swing this week, so here’s the current body count from my perspective.
Avorion: This is another in a string of Minecraft meets [insert other genre here] games. In this one, you get to harvest materials and build space ships and space stations. It looked good to me because while the graphics are OK if you play on public servers there’s open PvP in a massive universe which could be fun — if you’re into that. There’s supposedly also a story in single player mode. The ship building uses real physics, which speaks to my inner The Expanse fan…so yes, I will be trying to build a Rocinente when I am able.
The Curious Expedition: I have it installed but haven’t played it because I think this might be a good one to stream in succession. It’s a pixellated adventure story about a group of explorers who head to the Arctic and…something.
Oxenfree: I had put this on my wishlist at one point, but never jumped on it. However, friends claim that it’s a Really Good Game, Guys! so I bought it.
What Remains of Edith Finch: Now, I never played The Unfinished Swan, but it got high marks for presentation. Edith Finch has been getting some stellar reviews, and a lot of the Steam comments say that it’s a seriously moving game. I am eager to give this a try, but it sounds like the timing has to be right for the full impact to take effect. I just don’t know when that will be.
Hidden Folks: My wife plays a lot of hidden object games that she downloads from those junk game aggregator sites. I, on the other hand, am not a fan. Usually. Hidden Folks came up in conversation several times over the weekend and is cheaper during the sale than anything you could buy at Starbucks, so why the hell not. I was immediately laughing because this game’s appeal is only partly to do with it being a hidden object game. The whole thing was hand-drawn (which is impressive when you see some of the levels), and all of the sound effects are what I assume to be the developer making noises in a microphone. There are no canned sound effects here, except whatever comes out of this guy’s mouth and that can be hilarious at times. It doesn’t look to be a very long game, but it’s relaxing, small, has a low operational footprint, making it a great game to play when you’re waiting for other games to download or patch.Read More »