TSW: The Sun Rises in the East and Other Tales

Praise Ra, the Sun God, for this magnificent land! (Btw, staring directly into the sun is only safe in computer games.)

Hooray, crazy deadline week is over, and we hope to return to our regularly scheduled wall-of-text bombardment every 2-3 days. *crosses fingers*

I also cleaned out the comments spam queue and rescued a comment or two.

For the record, this blog is set to first approval then you can comment freely, so that everyone isn’t plagued by bots selling Viagra and other more interesting links. If you don’t run a blog, it’s amazing how many bots try and use flattery (“your post is fantastic reading!” “awesome, I learned a lot!”) to get their comment approved. It’s amusingly healthy for the ego to just take them at face value and still not approve any of their spam links.

For real people commenting, please try and help me differentiate your comment by forming real sentences, include a solid opinion (dissent is fine), and preferably something paragraphy or wall-of-texty, else I seriously cannot tell apart the bots and I keep erring on the side of safety. If your comment has been eaten, I apologize, please try again.

As for gaming, I’ve been stealing game time with some casual games that we’ll get around to talking about and debatably casual Civilization 5 (the game seems to be polished and simplified to make it more beginner-friendly, and I’m playing very casually for now on the wimpy default Chieftain difficulty which just lets me spread my empire across the globe – I’m an easy fun kind of person most of the time.)

I also got around to doing more in The Secret World. Double hooray!

Unfortunately, I also discovered that when you hit 999 screenshots, TSW doesn’t let you take any more, so I lost a couple of good well-framed scenic shots. Ah well. I’ve shoved them all into another renamed folder so we can hopefully begin from zero again.

I found the Brood-Witches creating Incubators! From zombies, so I guess the Draug life cycle is slightly more complicated. The question now is, what made the zombies? The fog? The filth?

Who knows.

I’m messing around in the first zone of Egypt now, having gotten tired of trying to help fairly ungrateful trailer park Indians (or to be PC, Native Americans) with an unceasing Wendigo problem. I’m sure I’ve left some quests undone, but having completed the main storyline mission, it felt right to move on and take a break from endless fog.

Trying to avoid spoilers, but the storyline mission and subsequent events were fun. It made me want to start playing another alt in order to explore the path not taken and the choice I didn’t make. Resisting the urge so far.

The reward of looking up once in a while. A hole through which the moon is visible. Love the level design of TSW. Screenshot potential is through the roof.

(Spoiler warning about the choice I made: I went for the potentially ominous ‘moar power’ from possibly Cthulhu-like Elder gods from another dimension. Just felt right for that character. I’ll play a goody goody loyalist some other time.

And about an NPC in the main storyline whose name starts with B: I’m also convinced Beaumont is Loki from all the name and phrase-dropping he did. Hope we’ll see more of him in the future.)

By some strange quirk of timing and xp accumulation, the faction special assignment mission Rogue Agent also hit me at this time (that’s a lot of Illuminati phone calls and cross-messages from Geary and the Labyrinth and other people) and I went ahead to attempt it, even though it was labeled as Devastating. Just couldn’t bear the thought of all that xp in Egypt not contributing to faction rank.

Wow. Rogue Agent Tier 5 … That was the most seriously difficult fight I ever did, if we discount the probable outlier of that one Jilted Bride incarnation. I’m not 100% sure what to make of it. On the one hand, it’s not terribly obvious at first read what gimmicks are in play. I died a couple times attempting various tactics that ignored the mechanics (rush them or kite them, basically) and decided to Google for hints.

On the other hand, there are cues for the observant if I’d bothered. The two NPC rivals that aggro along with the main uber target are obviously positioned between the two lion / dragon statues for a reason. It’s perhaps not so obvious how close you need to be to them, but when you do, a visual aura emanates from the statue and a very obvious indicator turns up over your head. If you actually read the cooldown timer that pop up like buff icons on your status bar (though it’s very hard to when you’re getting sliced up and shot at), the names hint at the function of each statue.

Shield Disruptor Shrine: Green aura, dispels his “immunity to all damage” shield buff.

Interrupt Shrine: Red aura, run near it to interrupt his “Unbridled Fury” spell attack.

Once I understood what the statues were supposed to do, then it was just a matter of practice and execution in the running back and forth. Basically, immune shield disrupt him whenever his immunity buff pops up, and when he starts casting “Unbridled Fury,” then run like hell to the interrupt shrine to break his concentration or else eat some horrible damage.

One or two attempts later (tried to kite when most of my damage is in blade skills), Mr Devastating Difficulty Boss went down fairly easily – after I just gave up sophisticated LOS-ing and dodging and unleashed blade chopity-chop in the middle of both statues, making it easier to trigger each as needed.

So long, rouge agent. Pun intended, and used to great effect by the mission voice-overs. Also, I just noticed when titling this picture – “so long traitor” and “soloing traitor” look rather alike. Random wordplay fun.

I am greatly enjoying these sorts of fights solo. The pace at which I master the challenge does not ruin anybody else’s fun or need to live up to anyone else’s expectations.

As for Egypt, I’m liking it a lot so far. The density of the quests and NPCs and storytelling has not yet abated. I went in expecting lots of sun, and of course, I arrived at night. Beautiful cool-looking (in all senses of the word) night.

Awesome vistas. Roof-climbing gave me Age of Conan flashbacks. The view is just as rewarding.

You know how much attention to detail and verisimilitude there is in this game?

I watched a moon set because it looked fantastic and colored the world in glorious dawn shades.

(I’m sure it’s prettier if I had a DirectX 10 or 11 capable computer – the last Steam hardware survey let me know my ailing system is now in a minority 15% representation, way past time to upgrade, I know, but I’m broke *sobs* – but it’s still nice.)

Then on a whim, I decided to turn 180 degrees in the opposite direction and see if the sun was rising.

It was.

Checking the map and compass in the UI, the sun rises DEAD ON in the east. And thus the moon sets in the west.

Words fail to express how impressed I am.

(You gotta understand, I come from a City of Heroes first MMO background where the sun and moon does nothing of that sort, they rise and fall but not at all where you’d expect.)

TSW: On the Believability of Mobs

Draug watching, like Baywatch, only much more gruesome...

One of the things I’ll say for Funcom, they really know how to set up their mobs for immersiveness.

Even in Age of Conan, I was especially taken with the way a pack of wolves would be feeding on a kill (before you ignobly interrupt them by walking by) or how a whole family of lion, lioness and cubs would be patroling around their territory (the same functional threat could be executed with a pack of identically skinned hyenas, or even lionesses, so why bother to model male, female and babies?)

More so than other MMOs, it seems to me, they don’t mind placing these things to make sense, rather than follow an “accessibility” or design rule that says, mobs or clumps of mobs must be spaced out at regular intervals, and all roads must be kept clear, yadda yadda.

While it makes their zones potentially more treacherous, it comes across as very believable.

The Secret World is no exception.

Clumps of zombies feed on corpses. Corpses you think are corpses will get up and vicously raven all over you.

Wendigos lay traps and ambushes for unwary travelers, yes, even along roads or paths.

Everybody knows the Ak’ab shuffle dance (step to the left! turn around! step to the right! turn again!)  and the layout of their burrows by now, no doubt. Broodmarks slow their prey along the outskirts, where hunters will come to check on them. Sentries surround their burrows, while groups of their young scurry about. And right smack in the center, their royal burrow and queen awaits. By showing, and not just outright telling, you easily understand that Ak’ab are bugs, of a very annoying kind.

Recently, I spent a good half an hour watching Draug in Blue Mountain (thanks to a ‘kill lots of them’ quest) and I was amazed at how I failed to take note of what they were up to in Kingsmouth and the Savage Coast (I always gave them a pretty wide berth, especially all the areas with brood pods and tons of incubators.)

Incubators. They’re human-sized, with a brood pod-y growth lanced through their stomachs and out their backs. In other words, they were probably humans once. Hopefully taken from dead ones, but who knows, the horror of it could be that they were still alive when the Draug got hold of them.

If you give them some unmolested time, they reach a stage of their development that makes them do this.

They squat down and… metamorphose into this.

OMG. Through all of Solomon Island, I’ve been shooting dozens and dozens of these brood pods to stop Draug from hatching out of them, but it wasn’t until I watched the entire incubator cycle that it really hit me where the hell these brood pods COME FROM.

Again, if you leave the brood pods unmolested for a time, they will promptly hatch (or is the correct term ‘emerge’ from their pupal stage) into full ‘adult’ Draug, indistinguishable from the maulers and broodwitches and so on that hang around the beach.

And of course, which most people have experience with by now, the brood pods will react to your presence (or attack) by attempting speed hatching. Destroy them fast enough and a dead newlyformed Draug something will fall out of the ‘cocoon.’

If not, then a weaker in hp version, prefixed by the words Newly Formed, Draug will pop right out and start attacking you in self-defense.

Now isn’t that a whole lot more interesting a cycle than a mob with a differently-colored skin just appearing out of nowhere and pacing all of six inches from where they spawned in?

TSW: Public Service Announcement – Directions to Blue Mountain and Council of Venice Blue Vendors

I has gud map directions 4 u! Trust me, k? LOL.

It’s become a little worrying to me that one of the major searches that land people on this blog (besides AR/Blade build searchers, to whom I hope this extremely popular post of mine offers at least -some- help) is requests for basic directions to Blue Mountain. Um, okay…

This blog generally goes into wall-of-text screenshot diary experiences and/or analysis, because I roll that way. I hope they’re not too disappointed.

But let it not be said that I do not endeavor to be helpful (while shamelessly pageview-whoring since I seem to be filling a niche.)

1. How do I get to Blue Mountain?

From the Savage Coast:

Seriously though, if you’re asking this question, I’m really not sure if you’re up to facing the zone. So please be a tide careful when you go in there.

2. Where are the Council of Venice Blue Vendors?

See Savage Coast map bit above. See Blue Mountain map fragment below. Keyword: Wabanaki Trailer Park.

I could have shown you my whole map, but that would take away your fun finding the world bosses and lair stuff cos I have map markers sprinkled all over that I’m too lazy to remove.

For the record, I’m still using QL6 green weapons that dropped while I was playing in the Moon Bog with even weaker weaponry. It’s not the end of the (secret) world if you don’t get them immediately.

P.S. Shortest post evah?