I had a long post written as an intro to The Secret World, which I picked up as a gaming present for myself this past December (and because Amazon had it marked down to $15), but since that was covered already, I figured I’d write about the recent event TSW had. Considering the impact on the game, it’s well worth a post.
As you may be aware, assuming you have spoken to at least other upright mammal in the past month, the Mayan calendar recently finished a cycle. This cycle lasted nearly 6000 years. Of course, any logical person would point out that due to the many changes to both calendar and timekeeping methods over the years, pinning an exact date out on a 6000 year old calendar would be inaccurate, as well as pointing out that every other cycle on the Mayan calendar repeats, but why get in the way of a good panic? In any case, a rather poor movie and any number of disaster speculations have been made about the end of the world that was supposed to happen in December of 2012. If you’re still reading this, it didn’t happen. However, TSW is a game allegedly set in the shadows of our own world – almost a “what went wrong” version, if you will. If any game out currently had a perfect real-world setup for an in-game event, this is it. And the folks at Funcom knew it. Unfortunately, Casey was at the bat.
Before getting into what went wrong with the event, let me first say that many parts of it, by far the vast majority of it, went great. Really great. However, what went wrong really went wrong in a style normally associated with Mr. Magoo’s driving. First off, the timing of the event coincided with a massive push of new players due to the subscription change. TSW went on sale at several retailers and added to it. This meant the newbie areas were flooded with people doing the initial quests. Newbies who are, by nature, fragile, and were running about the zombie infested countryside doing newbie kill ten rats quests by the boatload. One of the most unique mechanics of the event caused an undead Mayan (“Servant of One Death”) to spawn when something dies. These Mayans were fairly tough for a newbie, and once they died, they spawned another, slightly stronger Mayan. Repeat until you get to a 300k Mayan with a fairly vicious AE. Unfortunately, a lot of TSW’s attacks are AE in nature, so you’d get random Mayan agro quite frequently when you accidentally winged a groaning Mayan which would lead to your untimely demise. There was no opt-out for the event, so everyone was involved. While the lack of opt-out makes sense, it would have been prudent to exempt the newbie area from this event, or at least the area close to the first town.
Secondly, the event itself had a contest tied to it. You would get 1 point for opening the loot bag the Mayans dropped, with the top 1000 people getting a title and top 100 getting a special non-combat pet. These bags dropped infrequently off of the lower level event mobs, and in multiples off of the higher level ones. This led to many Mayan farming events, many of which were fun, fair, although crazy. One I did was well off the beaten path in a place designed to avoid bothering anyone else. We killed non-stop spawning Mayans for 2 hours netting a rather large amount of experience, loot, laughs, and a few new friends. Incredible AE healing was involved. Many happened next to zone in areas, which led to cries of loot stealing. And some happened at several places in the world where there were world objects that insta-kill mobs that get near them. These are set up for lore and quest based reasons, and will by nature kill any mob that touches them. You could, with minimal effort, lead the Mayans to these by the truckload for very easy loot and experience with almost no chance of death. And people did. By the tens of thousands. There were other ways to get the points, such as doing the themed dungeons, but getting the loot bags was the preferred and best method. The loot bags dropped top level consumables like heal and buff potions, top level equipment, and coins to buy the event rewards. A prudent person could easily stock up for end game with what was being passed out like candy, and many did. Many people did almost nothing but kill the event mobs for days on end, both legitimately and questioningly, because it was fun and profitable, with the RvR scale tipped firmly in the players favor.
There were a few quests with the event, but they were minor flavor on the side, however the quest starter achieved legendary status. This zombie, Xibalba, would pop up randomly on a death. Unlike the other zombies who would wait for you to hit them, Xibalba would jump you. And he hit HARD. So hard that top level geared people who went AFK in a safe area died to him. Woe the poor newbie who, having been slaughtered by Mayans before, carefully avoided AE only to have a Xibalba knock his teeth in after he finished (or didn’t finish) killing that quest mob. In addition to the quests, there was a string of achievements, most of which were bugged. To get credit for most of them, a GM ticket was needed. I felt quite happy when I dropped one of the Harbingers (a giant roach-like herald of the end times) and got credit for it. Many in my raid were not as fortunate.
Funcom came up with a brilliant idea to play on the actual events here in our world. When I saw my first mummy (which actually was Xibalba, who I barely killed), I immediately got the reference. Last night, on my first trip to the Crusades Bar, which is end-of-the-world themed, I cheered. The mobs themselves were graphically fun to look at. However, the spawn mechanic needed some tweaking. Xibalba needed a serious downgrade. And Funcom needed to react to the issues players were reporting. Instead of changing the event in any way, the only response from them was they were on vacation until Jan 3rd. A little mitigation would have done so much for this truly unique event. Instead, on January 7th they posted a slightly oddly worded, perhaps due to translation, apology for the event and announced everyone would get all awards. This message was replaced today with a more English-friendly version, complete with perky exclamation marks. The decision to give it all away was pretty much a fait accompli due to their non-action during the event, sadly. It likely chased away at least a few people, but since they did pay for their box copy, I suppose it’s not a total financial loss for Funcom. Myself, I find the investigation missions as well as the writing and voice acting (Tim Russ doing a Star Trek joke was hilarious) with full cut scene animation quite good so I will likely play for a bit more. I was, however, reminded of why I left my last Funcom game long ago. There was a patch shortly after release of AO, late on a Friday, that made NPCs into demi-gods for the weekend. Despite fevered petitions and dozens of board threads, no action was done until Monday. Many subscriptions were lost that day, and it took the game itself some time to recover from the blow. History repeats? Perhaps. Although it could just be the start of another cycle. I’ll check my Mayan calendar.