Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Secret World hates you precisely this much

No, really, it's quantifiable.

Ah, TSW. If only this game were a complete failure in every way. If only they'd have the decency of ruining it altogether so I can abandon it. Yet every now and then, through all the bugs, clumsy interface, theme-park grind and nonsensical, extraneous or useless features, they manage an endearing show of originality or attention to detail.

In Ibaraki's Lair for instance, a location which forces you to skip between our dimension and Hell to overcome various obstacles, you end up climbing a winding staircase in Hell only to get chased back down by a giant rolling rock, like some raider of a lost ark or something. So you switch dimensions to get past the rock and start climbing again... only to get chased back down the stairs a second time by a second rolling rock. Why? Because if you're going to use an overused pop culture reference, you may as well double down. Hilarious.

And you know, sometimes it's the little things that can make your day. For instance, accustomed to every game scrambling to lower its ESRB rating to Ned Flanders levels, I did not even consider for a second the possibility that in TSW, my pet dog might be granted a penis.

That stuff's window dressing though. TSW's combat mechanics are an unfortunate abortion of a potentially very flexible and nuanced system, cluttered with redundant and useless filler abilities, ruined by a pointless attempt to shoehorn PvP into a blatant PvE game and too severely limited by a lack of limiting stats (mana / stamina, etc.) but one of the system's high points is its refusal to let the law of averages reduce randomization to full predictability. Though you have thousands of hit points, it's often that extra ten or a hundred which will make all the difference.

And sometimes, the randomizer just gets in your face and gives you the finger.

1970 is the base unbuffed amount of hit points. Given that most boss abilities' damage ranges either in the hundreds or several thousand, rendering extra hit points either needless or pointless, it's very common for everyone except the tank on a team to run instances completely defenseless. Which is wonderful until some jackass hellspawn decides he's going to crit-pen you for precisely your last hit point, just to show you who's boss.

I miss this. I haven't seen close calls in MMOs since WoW's release. EVE was wonderful for this sort of thing, with your ship often limping out of a fight in flames with its last bar of hull points screaming in agony. Most games however, with exponential increases in player stats every level, trivialize numeric values. City of Heroes famously even refused to show players the numeric values on skills for years, for fear the scary, scary numbers would drive them screaming in terror. When it finally released that information NCSoft tried to put a marketing spin on it: this was the "real numbers initiative" because of course it takes initiative to remove the smokescreen over the numbers which have always been there.
Well, maybe it does. Everyone else is handing players decision-free stat systems in which min-maxing is the only way to go. Though TSW does as well to a great extent, hey, credit where it's due: it took some cojones for Funcom to risk frustrating and confusing its playerbase with near-misses and wiggle-room, at least once in a while.

So yeah, anatomically correct puppies, running gags and significant figures. It may not sound like much, but within the MMO market which has fostered such abysmally low expectations, even these can count as saving graces.

No comments:

Post a Comment