TSW: Halloween 2014

It’s the most wonderful time of the year — if you’re a fan of The Secret World. The long-awaited third Halloween event is at least upon us. This event stumbled a bit getting out of the gate, but as is usually the case with TSW, it’s worth it once you get into the actual content.

My Dragon atop Jack-O-Lantern's tree during The Secret World's Halloween eventBetter late than never:

Unfortunately, there was a bit of a damper thrown on this year’s festivities before they had even begun. The start of the event was heavily delayed, and it didn’t end up launching until the day before Halloween.

So we now have a Halloween event that takes place almost entirely after Halloween, and that just doesn’t feel right. It’s like that period of several years where The Simpsons kept doing their Treehouse of Horror episodes in the middle of November.

I’m used to delays at this point.  I’ve spent a lifetime as a Blizzard fan, and I’m used to pretty much everything in TSW coming out at least a week or two (and sometimes much more) after when it was supposed to. For the most part, I don’t let it get to me. It is, of course, frustrating, but I know the devs are doing their best, and it’s usually worth the wait.

But a holiday being delayed this much just strains my patience past its limit. You can’t put back the real world holiday, so delaying the in-game holiday just gets messy. A Halloween event that mostly takes place in November is no more acceptable than a Christmas event in January would be.

Aside from which, since Halloween is so important and iconic for TSW, I really thought this was the one thing we could count on. For a while there, it seemed like things were finally improving and Funcom was starting to put out new releases at a healthy clip again, but if they can’t be on time with something this publicized and important, that reflects very poorly on the game, and it makes me once again worry for TSW’s future.

My Dragon investigating a graveyard during the new Broadcast Halloween event in TSWAt least they didn’t cancel holidays outright like a certain other MMO I could name…

The Broadcast:

As is now tradition in the Secret World, this year brought back the events of the last two years, but also included an all-new one: The Broadcast.

It’s just one mission, but it’s a very good one. The player is contacted by paranoid conspiracy theorist Dave Screed, who has learned of a twisted plot involving number stations and mysterious radio broadcasts in graveyards all around the world.

What follows is the kind of surreal, twisted mind-frackery we’ve come to expect from TSW.

It all culminates with a chilling journey into a haunted Soviet bunker, and no, that’s not as scary as it sounds.

It’s worse.

My Dragon confronts the Presenter during The Secret World's new Halloween event, The BroadcastEach Halloween event seems to be better than the last. Though short, the Broadcast was a truly excellent mission, and the ideas it raises are both chilling and awe-inspiring.

Like Tyler Freeborn’s story from last year’s event, it touches on some of the more bizarre yet intriguing ideas within TSW’s lore: the concept of information as a force and an intelligence unto itself. It echoes concepts already touched on by the Buzzing, the Black Signal, and the Facility. The end result is a story that works brilliantly on its own, but also feels a logical part of the Secret World’s greater mythos.

It also featured some pretty cool old audio dramas from around the 40s and 50s, and my understanding is that if you complete one of the holiday achievements, you get an in-game item to listen to them again whenever you want. That’s the sort of clever and awesome thing you only see in TSW.

Glorious loot!

It is perhaps a sign that I have become a hopeless MMO design geek that the thing I find most interesting about this year’s Halloween event is not the content, but the way the rewards are set-up.

All of the new rewards for this year’s Halloween — and holy crap there are a lot of them: make-up, clothes, pets — are random drops from bags earned through the new content, but they can all be traded, and you can buy more bags through cash shop should you desire.

My Dragon demonstrates his new /dance_thriller emote in The Secret WorldWhat this means is that there’s basically no risk of being screwed over by RNGesus. You can swap items you don’t want for things you do. You can buy stuff at the auction house. If you’re one of the rare people who doesn’t care about cosmetics, you can sell them all for massive profits.

It’s a fantastic system that needs to be industry standard for MMO events right the Hell now.

Something else that’s very clever is you can buy another type of bag from the cash shop that gives you loot just like the others, but also grants loot to up to twenty players around you. Hit enough people with your loot-splosion, and you get an achievement that unlocks the new /dance_thriller emote for your character.

This is, again, a brilliant idea. This is encouraging socialization in an MMO the right way.

So often, attempts to get players socializing are akin to the developers holding people’s heads together and demanding, “Now kiss! KIIIISSSSS!” But here’s something that rewards generosity and encourages players to get together in a fun way.

The one downside is that the plethora of new items makes me hate flares more than ever.FLAAAAAAAAAARES!!!!!!

WoW: It Was a Good Day + Unconventional Game Heroes

Monday was a day of rather absurd good luck for me in WoW. I’m sure I’ve used up all my luck for months to come, and I’ll have nothing but bad drops and fail groups for the foreseeable future, but it was worth it.

My warlock completing the warlock green fire chain in World of WarcraftPrepare yourselves! The bells have tolled!

As with every day at this time of year, I began my time in WoW by running the Headless Horseman holiday boss. I started with my warlock, planning to then do it again on all my other max level characters as is my tradition.

And then it happened.

The mount dropped.

Oh. My. God.

After five years of grinding, I’d pretty much given up on ever getting it. Hell, there are people who’ve been playing since vanilla who still don’t have this thing. But there it was, cheerfully smiling up at me from within my bags.

*Happy dance.*

I love this mount. Partly because it’s an awesome mount — it’s a fel-fire wreathed horse that flies without wings — but also because it’s a reminder of how cool the Horseman is.

My warlock riding my Headless Horseman's steed in World of WarcraftIt always amuses that a fairly silly pop culture reference of a holiday boss actually has a better and more lore-appropriate backstory than most “serious” bosses.

I fought for you!

I fought in vain!

Now scatter, scurry, shriek in pain!

No mercy this night abides!

On Hallow’s End, when the Horseman rides!

But that was just the beginning of my good fortune.

Reaping the Black Harvest:

Earlier that day, I heard some random commenter on WoW Insider mention that the final boss of the warlock green fire quest had been inadvertently made much easier by the 6.0 patch, so I decided to give it one final try, having failed repeatedly whenever I’d tried in the past.

Sure enough, old Kanrethad was a lot weaker than before. The main difference is that his health seems much lower, even taking into account the effects of the item squish. It was still a bit tricky, and it took me several tries, but in the end, I managed to burn him down.

I’m actually not that fond of green fire, so I’ll probably turn it off before too long, but it was nice to get it done.

My rogue drains the fel energy from Kanrethad Ebonlocke at the conclusion of the green fire quest chain in World of WarcraftSurprisingly, the feat of strength and its associated “____ of the Black Harvest” title are still available. Most thought they would be removed after 6.0, but it turns out they’re still valid until Warlords of Draenor launches.

Getting the title is what makes me really happy. It just sounds cool, and considering it’s only going to be available for a few more weeks, that’s some good timing on my part.

Sure, I probably don’t deserve it since the fight is now clearly much easier than was intended, but… screw it, I don’t care.

But wait! There’s more!

Conqueror of Orgrimmar:

To cap off the day, I hopped on my rogue and tried out the new premade group finder in the hopes of taking advantage of the guaranteed heirloom off Garrosh until WoD. After being rejected by about a dozen groups, I found a heroic (formerly normal) group willing to take me that was already on Garrosh.

We wiped a few times, but in the end, we managed to get him down with minimal trouble and only a little dickishness and douchebaggery on the part of my fellow raiders.

My rogue's new heirloom dagger and Conquerer of Orgrimmar achievement in World of WarcraftI got myself my heirloom dagger — a major improvement over the heroic scenario drop I was using before — and a warforged belt.

This also earns me the “Conqueror of Orgrimmar” title… although I still think “Hordebreaker” has a better ring to it.

Not bad for one day.

* * *

New article:

My latest article for ADANAI is Top 10 Unconventional Video Game Heroes. Covering those who do not fit into the stereotypical mould of beefy, gun-toting white guys.

This was a strange article to research. It’s actually easier to find good female video game heroes than I would have expected. Obviously, they’re still a minority, but it’s not as vanishingly small as you might think.

Nilin in Remember MeI also found that the majority of non-white video game heroes are of mixed race, usually with one white parent. I’m unclear on whether this speaks to a desire to be progressive by refusing to conform to rigid racial structures, or an attempt to “soften the blow” by giving them all a twist of whiteness.

Most non-white heroes also seem to be female.

The most underrepresented group seems to be LGBT characters — not surprising considering the virulent homophobia that dominates the gaming community.

What really surprised me is how incredibly hard it is to find unconventional male heroes. If you want to play a game where the hero is male, but not a steroid-abusing white guy, your options are shockingly slim. Non-white men and men who aren’t mountainous brutes seem to be almost unheard of.

Since I don’t find anything identifiable about muscular man-bulls, it is perhaps not surprising that I tend to play female characters so much. I mean, the vast majority of people playing games are probably wimpy little geeks like me. Why can’t we have some heroes who are more brainy than brawny?