I like having a storyline to follow in an MMO.

The first one I played, Asheron’s Call, didn’t have that. In contrast, the second one I played, Guild Wars, did and I really enjoyed it. I liked advancing the plot, I enjoyed the missions; same with the expansions Factions, Nightfall, and Eye of the North.

Fast forward a bit to LoTRO and it’s lengthy storyline. I love that. In fact I’m looking forward to starting on a new server and progressing through Vol 1 Book 1 to …checks wiki… The Legacy of Durin and the Trials of the Dwarves.

ESO also has a storyline, multiple storylines actually. There’s the original main quest of the base game (starts with Soulshriven in Coldharbour), a storyline for each zone, a storyline for each guild… plus the usual boatloads of side quests.

FF14 has a very long MSQ (main sequence quests) that leads you through the game. In fact you need to go through it to unlock feature like mounts, airship travel between cities, the ability to return to an aetheryte crystal, joining a Grand Company, the ability to swap classes/jobs… Heck entire zones are unlocked as I found out. I tried to run across the Dravanian Hinterlands to get into Idyllshire early to buy some armor, but that doesn’t work because you can’t get in until you, you guessed it, advance the MSQ.

Another MMO with a great storyline that I’m not currently trying to juggle into my rotation is Secret World, oops I mean Secret World Legends. I got stuck and couldn’t pass a mission to advance the plot and rage quit after trying a half-dozen times. Well partly rage quit – I didn’t delete my characters and then rant on the forums. I just stopped playing. Maybe I’ll try again…

Changing Game Tastes

I’ve noticed my gaming tastes changing over the months/years. Currently my MMO playing is ebbing while other games are not.

I still do play though. I’m taking a break from SWL because I was stuck on a ridiculous blocking storyline quest and can’t advance without passing it. Whoever thought that was a good idea is… well they’re just wrong.

I log into LoTRO a few times a week to grab daily rewards and quest a bit. But that makes for glacial progress and thus Spessartina, my hobbit minstrel, is still in the Rivendell/Trollshaws regions and a few levels away from starting the next storyline quest. Scarlatina, my hobbit warden, is likewise still in the Lone Lands. That’s fine though, I always do enjoy coming back to LoTRO and playing a bit.

In ESO, I decided to start a new char after migrating to the PS4. In order to play something different, I picked stamina nightblade. Since Redguards get racial stamina bonuses, I went with that. I’m not too far along, having completed the Morrowind tutorial and then immediately sailing back to Stros M’Kai in order to work through the original storyline. I’d rather play in the order the game released in!

What I have been doing more of is playing single player open-world adventure-style console games, like Rise of the Tomb Raider. I take advantage of Redbox and rent some games too (Monster Hunter World, God of War) with an eye towards checking a game out before buying it. I really like God of War but I can also wait for a sale since I have a backlog. 🙂

I hit level 15 in Ingress, almost 2 years after I started to play. It’s still fun and easy to work into playing bits and pieces as time permits.

Recently I was in Hawaii on a family vacation, and had an afternoon or two to myself. So I got some exercise and walked around doing some banners/mosaics. Again, missions involve visiting various points of interest and doing something (typically hacking the portal). A series of missions that together form a picture is called a banner or mosaic. And I like doing those. Here’s the 3 I did:


Top 3 rows are “Iolani Palace”, middle row is “Legend of the Menehune”, bottow rows are “Aloha, Waikiki”. Not a bad way to enjoy a walk around town!

I’ve also been playing a lot of Pokémon Go. Yes, there isn’t a whole lot going on in the game… or is there?

The fundamentals of “collecting all the pokémon” is still the driving force, but Niantic has been slowly adding more and more things to do in the game.

There is a rudimentary quest system, which currently leads to finding legendary pokémon (so far: Zapdos, Moltres).

You can have a buddy pokémon that gains candy when you walk certain distances, as well as hatch eggs, so when I walk or run with my phone I leave it on with pokémon running. Every candy helps!

There are medals which grant catch bonuses after getting certain numbers. I’m still working on a few (e.g. 156/200 Steel type, 136/200 ice type, etc.)

They revamped the gym battling system to encourage more turnover, and as a result I’ve been working on getting gold on gyms I live near (when you attack or defend a gym you gain points on it, and rank up bronze to silver to gold. Each higher tier yields more stuff when you spin the disc, you also get more stuff when the gym is your team) since that results in the most efficient farming. 😉 I have 13 gold gyms and am close to #14 and #15.

A recent addition are community days where one pokémon spawns in abundance for a 3 hour period. I missed the first few, but have participated in last month’s (Mareep) and yesterday’s (Charmander). I met up with 3 friends and we walked around Rockville town center, seeing dozens and dozens of other players, catching every charmander in sight and evolving Charizards with a special event-only move (Blast Burn). We joined in raids for the Legendary Ho-Oh and I am happy to say I got one:


A bunch of players gathered for a raid as the event was winding down, but it turned out to be a Latias. Luckily I got that one too:


The thing about Legendary raids is with enough people, you will defeat the boss.  All your pokémon may faint and you might have to re-enter, but enough people will do it unless they are horribly underleveled (using low combat power pokémon). The hard part is catching it afterwards. Each player that participates get a number of white premiere pokeballs to use, that are only available from winning legendary raids and they don’t carry over, but there are bonuses for the team that does the most damage, for defeating the boss, your badge level at the gym, team that controls the gym. So when teams form, usually Valor (red), Mystic (blue), Instinct (yellow) will try to form their own group – not being exclusionary per se, anybody on any team can still hop in, it’s just more beneficial to you if you are raiding with others of your own team since you really want those extra premiere balls. That’s because legendary pokémon are ninja dodgers, and they are also very good at breaking out. So more premiere balls is better.

Over time I’ve switched to a curve-ball style throw (wind up in a circle before a throw until you get sparklies, then throw at an angle and the ball will curve left or right depending on whether you wound up clockwise or counter-clockwise). I don’t know the specific numbers but especially for a legendary Pokémon you want to use your best berries (golden razz berry) with a curve ball throw and ideally get a nice/great/excellent hit (how well you hit the circle target)… and even then there is a large chance the legendary will break out. I had 2 Latios (the blue clones of Latias) escape after raids because they I missed or they dodge half of the time, and broke out of all hits – as I recall it was roughly 25 chances over 2 raids and nothing. Argh! To a degree its a random chance you can attempt to raise, so all you can do is have the opportunity to catch one, which is what happened yesterday and I am thankful. 🙂

For the Latias raid, I counted 35 players. Yes, almost 3 dozen people across all age groups and genders, standing on a street corner split into multiple raid groups, all wanting their chance to catch a Latias. It was awesome in many respects!

One thing I haven’t really gotten into is analyzing pokémon stats any deeper than the builtin appraisal system. But the serious players are all about pokémon IVs (individual values; the stamina, attack, defense stats) and move sets (fast and charged; attack and defense). There is of course a massive amount of stats info google will turn up, and it is kind of mind boggling since IVs can’t be changed and move sets are randomly assigned (however there are in-game items called Technical Machines that can change fast or charged attacks). There are also apps that help analyze these things so as a first step, I bought PokeGenie and started analyzing all my high CP wonder pokémon. I may change up what pokémon I keep, what ones I evolve and power up based on the next level of stat analysis. 😉

By and large I’m mostly a “collector” player, just trying to fill out my pokedex. I swap buddies to get candy for evolving, fight gyms here and there to make them Mystic (my team), leave pokémon to defend gyms for badge levels and coins, and so. It isn’t the most sophisticated game ever, but for a low key mobile phone game, I’m finding it social and fun.

SWL – Stuck in Tokyo

I’ve hit an interesting situation in Secret World Legends – I’m stuck on a quest.

The mission is Contract Killers and I’m stuck specifically at the “reach the top floor” portion. What’s in the way of success are… demonic little girls. The barrier they provide is if you leave their line of site, you are killed. Must be something along the lines of “see no evil”, but reversed.

I couldn’t figure out what to do so I looked up the quest. Now knowing what I need to do, I still fail the mission at the point where there are 2 of these girls – keeping both in my line of sight, walking backwards to the next part… I haven’t been able to do it.


That little girl with the green eyes – I can get by her, it’s later when there are 2 I keep dying.

On the one hand, I do like how SWL sometimes throws these sorts of challenges in. Ones that you just can’t fight your way through. Ones where your weapon level, gear level, etc. don’t really matter.

On the other hand, this is a storyline mission and I can’t get to the rest of the Tokyo story, and thus presumably can’t get to the South African content that is coming, unless I complete this mission. Plus, how are you supposed to figure out what to do other than by looking it up? That’s kind of annoying. I’m all for puzzles and challenge but this one feels a bit out of place.

So yeah, I’m on the verge of rage quitting the game. I’ve got a large backlog, why be frustrated here?

SWL – Tokyo Arrival

Well I’ve been slacking on the blogging. Part of that is I haven’t been playing MMOs too much, probably half the days I just jump in to LoTRO and/or SWL and grab the daily login reward.

But, I did progress in SWL, zipping through Transylvania (Besieged Farmlands, Shadowy Forest, Carpathian Fangs) following the storyline. Now I’m in Tokyo!


I also hit level 50 somewhere along the way in Shadowy Forest or Carpathian Fangs.

I’m enjoying the storyline but I do have a few (minor) criticisms about the game.

One is that many quests are overly padded. A typical quest in this category had this template: perform some task X times, say 5, where 2 or 3 would be just as good and not merely drag out the mission. Examples include Venice Is Sinking, where much like the Last Train to Cairo mission that bridged the storyline advancement between major zones, it was a lot of repetitive “pursue/run/climb, fight, click gizmo, repeat 4 more times”.

In Tokyo one offender is Hell of a Blow, where you plant 5 bombs, which is concurrent with The Right of Way, which is double tier repetitive mission because for tier one you have 4 mini-boss fights to get to tier two where you have 5 or 6 “pursue, fight, get by puzzle, click gizmo, repeat” sequences to get to the final showdown.

Usually after finishing one of these type quests I stop for the day, needing a break.

The other is that combat is a bit dull, however that may be due to my build. I’m a pistol main with fist secondary, but I typically only use 3 skills during a fight: Controlled Shooting, Trick Shot, which are bound to LMB and RMB; and Kill Blind, my stun/interrupt. So it’s a lot of dodging/kiting while rhythmically clicking the mouse, and occasionally using a heal skill (Clean Slate). I’m going to mix it up and take 2 fist skills (Beserk, Feral Growth) to make better use of my secondary.

So I’ll try Beserk, Feral Growth, Kill Blind, Controlled Shooting, Trick Shot, and maybe Ricochet. Ideally I’d start using more skills per fight and use fist abilities more often as well.

My third criticism has to do with gear advancement. I now have all purple gear and I’m seeing the complaints from other players about how tedious it is to advance/grind up. It takes 2 max level green items to make a blue item, 2 max level blue items to make a purple item, and so on for purple->orange, and orange->red.

Multiply that by 2 weapons, 7 talismans, 9 glyphs, and 6 signets (I think) and you’ve got a massive amount of stuff required to advance.

I get the need for a throttle, but a side effect here is you are effectively locked into a weapon past a certain point, since switching from say a high purple or better weapon means a serious amount of stuff just to get back to where you were.

And one thing I miss from TSW is the variety of skills available and builds possible. Granted many builds weren’t effective but now with 2 purple weapons and around 30 skills total to pick from for those 2 weapons, I’m kind of locked in going forward. Which is why I want to revamp my build from 6 skills that I only use 3 of 80% of the time.

I’m not sure how much more storyline there is but I’ll be one of those players that takes a break after reaching “the end” since Funcom hasn’t released any new content yet.

SWL – Black Pharaoh

It has been a busy time but I did manage to squeeze in some advancement in SWL. I hit a level block – the last few missions in the “Black Sun, Red Sand” storyline required level 45 – so I did a few quests around City of the Sun God. I was level 44 so it wasn’t too far to catch up.


Why yes, I do think I can fight a god!


The Black Pharaoh fight wasn’t too bad, although I did have to try it 2 times before succeeding. He uses a skill that you need to run to the edge of the room to avoid, except the 3 available bridges disintegrate as the fight continues. First time I took the bridge I entered the room on and fell to my death (i.e. repeat the fight). Second time I panicked and ran to one that was dissolving. Argh. The 3rd time I planted myself with a good view of 2 of the bridges, and whenever I had to run, I did a quick scan to check I was going to a solid bridge.


Later in the “ice floes” world I was given another choice, pray for forgiveness or fight the messenger. I chose to kneel and pray – truth is I’m not really sure what I did in the first place, but I figure I might as well go along with what the mysterious beings want. Later after I get the knowledge/power, I can backstab them. 😉

The Black Watchmen

I like the puzzles and alternate reality vibe of TSW/SWL. Granted I don’t always solve an investigative mission (at least not every step) but the mechanic where you have some information and need to think about the clues plus use information outside the game or even external websites created for the game (e.g. appeals to me.

A friend of mine sent me a link to The Black Watchmen, which has all of these features! I played the tutorial missions and really like it so I bought it and did mission #4. In return I made it a Christmas gift to the friend who sent me the link and another friend who expressed interest.

Anyway, this game is in the vein of SWL’s investigative missions without the MMO part.


SWL – City of the Sun God

Moving along in SWL, instead of working for a mummy I’m now working for a family of statues.


I think in the relaunch FunCom revamped the flow of this city. Players used to complain about how annoying it was to move around, but now, when you accept a quest from on of the statues, there is a portal just steps away that takes you to the new location. And when finishing, there is a portal to take you back. I get the feeling that previously you were stuck criss-crossing the map and that can be tough/annoying since this city has cliffs and canyons all over so you might find yourself stuck at an unclimbable wall. (I don’t seem to take any falling damage in SWL, I just jump right off various heights and land with no problem).

The new quest flow for the main storyline is essentially find each god’s statue around the central ring and do a quest for them.


One of the early missions was to free slaves, accomplished by freeing a golem and them helping them beat down enemies. By the final stage I had 3 helper golems fighting with me, and that’s pretty fun.


It’s not an MMO until you fight a giant spider. 😉

Anyway, I’m almost through the “Black Sun, Red Sand” storyline mission… I should be advancing soon.


SWL – Annoying Quests

I advanced in the Scorched Desert, catching up to where I left off in TSW.


This is the exact spot where I logged off my Dragon character in TSW, to resume as a Templar in SWL. From here on out everything will be new to me!

The storyline has me working some errands for Saïd, who is… a mummy. He wears modern clothing, uses a cell phone, hangs out under an umbrella on top of a hotel, but all the same, he’s a mummy, just one that wears a white suit instead of bandages. I kinda hope we get more background on what’s going on.


One task he set me to, which is required for advancing the storyline, is the quest “A Time To Every Purpose”. The summary is you travel back in time in order to clone and steal a relic for him, in exchange for information.

Except this quest is broken in addition to being annoying. If you are spotted by guards, you are sent back to the start which means 1-2 mins just getting back to where you can try again. The broken part comes from the crafting portion, where you craft a fake relic in order to substitute in.


I tried a half dozen times but couldn’t get the “assemble” button to work. I got the various ingredients again, moved everything around in the crafting area, tried adding the central piece first/last… finally I gave up and googled. And I found a reddit thread of players complaining about how broken this quest is. I tried the /reloadui quick fix but that didn’t work for me, so I followed the steps in the top post and was able to craft the ancile, thankfully, otherwise I’d be stuck unable to advance the storyline.

Now I’m just stuck with an undeleteable “umno” leftover from the quest, but at least it is in the mission inventory instead of my regular inventory.

I kept going, eventually reaching the Last Train to Cairo mission. It involved fighting on a train, dodging obstacles, and was easily 300% too long. As in, 2/3rds of this mission could be chopped out with no loss, because it is so repetitive.


I was more relieved than excited to advance by the time I kicked Abdel from the train.

Anyway, I’m level 40 now, and the next tier of the storyline is entering the City of the Sun God!

SWL – Scorched Desert

I’ve been lollygagging in SWL but I buckled down and reached the Scorched Desert. Again, if you count my previous char in TSW. 😉


After defeating Beaumont I was transported to the ice cave, which I think it cool and atmospheric. There are some memories you can trigger, and the narration for each is all about power – what true power is like and how you can have power if you just accept the gift…


And I said heck yes! If some mysterious group is offering me untold power, I’m going to take it. 😀

What exactly I’ve done isn’t revealed yet – perhaps it will come clear in the future storyline. For now, I’m back in the furthest zone I’ve been to in TSW/SWL, and I’m determined to keep going.


To get here, I decided midway through Savage Coast to just beeline the story. I did all these quests already and will come back later to finish off the achievements for exploration and questing. I reached level 30 during the Blue Mountain section of the storyline, which is what I needed to advance so I kept on going, and am now level 31 newly arrived in Egypt.

I still plan to advance the storyline as much as possible. It gives good AP/SP rewards, plus I’m sure I’ll hit a level barrier soon. I plan to keep the side questing to a minimum in an effort to see more of the game and story.

SWL – Jack

SWL is running a Halloween-themed event, consisting of login rewards, Jack raid (single room boss fight similar to the bird event), pumpkin reward (open a pumpkin every time you kill Jack), and some sort of Catgod Cats quest that I haven’t figured out yet. I’ll look around.


Here is a group waiting for the event to begin.

Anyway, I find these kinds of events fun. Low time commitment, regular schedule. So I try to participate at least once a day. SWL gives a buff so characters of all levels can participate.


The fight is one of those chaotic events where everybody just spams their rotation until the boss dies. The skill effects in SWL are colorful and sometimes I’ll zone out while fighting and watch the fireworks created by everyone else. It’s fun and the rewards are decent for the time spent!

Anyway, as much as I like to complete zones before moving on, I decided to skip the last third of Savage Coast and just move on to Blue Mountain. I’ve done this before in TSW and want to get to the Scorched Desert and start seeing new stuff. Back in TSW I barely made it to the Scorched Desert and probably only did 25% of the quests.

I’m higher level that the minimum for the tier I’m on (level 25 to enter Blue Mountain and I’m level 27) so after the Halloween event I’ll follow the storyline until I need to level up.

SWL – Lockboxes

Lockboxes seem to be a current topic. Implementations may differ between games, but I’m coming to view them rather skeptically in Secret World Legends. In that game, the lockboxes are known as Infernal Caches, drop randomly from enemies, and can contain a variety of items: cosmetics, pets, mounts, weapons, potions, and distillates. What are distillates you ask? Ah, think of those as injectable XP for your weapons and/or talismans.

The enemies in SWL don’t drop much loot that I’ve noticed, other than the occasional infernal cache. You get random items, experience, and currency by completing missions (a system I do like) and as I mentioned previously, you feed XP into your weapons and talismans to level them up. This is similar to leveling a legendary item in LoTRO, with the huge difference that deconstructing a legendary in LoTRO gives you some random amount of experience back, but does not in SWL.

So if you level up a green item, fuse it to blue, level that to max, repeat, then find something you’d rather use (say it has different/better stats for your preferred role), your previous item is treated like nothing special when you assemble or fuse. The UI does give a warning at least.

I’ve found infernal caches reliably give some currency (shards), potions, and distillates. I’ve always received shards and distillates, the other stuff appears to be much lower chance. Those distillates are a major portion of the item improvement system, so being able to open these infernal caches is important.

But they require a cache key, and those are on sale for about 150 Aurum. In real money, each key is around $1.50. I say around because when you buy Aurum, you get a slight bonus buying larger amounts.

I’m not 100% sure if cache keys are obtainable in game, from dungeons/lairs/raids or what have you. I think they can be purchased at auction, but what is the source? Are they like EVE Plexes which can also be bought/sold but if you trace back to the genesis of the item, somebody bought it with real money?

Patrons (subscribers) get 1 cache key per day, and since I’m a Patron via previous grandmaster status, I get my cache key per day and use it. It isn’t a problem to find an infernal cache – I don’t even play that much per week and I am sitting on 40 of them, after opening 10 from keys I bought plus 1 every day, just from questing around Kingsmouth, the starter zone!

I think it’s fair to say that on average, I get an infernal cache from a random mob I had to kill while completing a mission. So they aren’t exactly rare since mowing through the enemies for a typical mission will result in at least one cache. As far as improving items, a cache is about as much as a mission reward – roughly, as caches tend to drop distillates while missions reward items.

There were missions (Appetite for Destruction, defending against waves of 20+ mobs) where the monsters dropped 4 caches, as in the pic below:


It wasn’t uncommon to kill a group of 4 zombies and find 2 caches from them:


I don’t mind supporting games I like, so I bought 10 keys and worked down my pile of caches. However, I’m not buying $60 more keys to open the other 40 caches.

I get that companies need monetization strategies, but tying RMT to item quality improvement (the only way to an item’s quality, for 2500 Aurum i.e. $25 per item) and throttling the opening of the reasonably common infernal caches to 1 per day for Patrons (without buying more keys) just doesn’t sit well. The distillates that are basically in every cache are a huge boost to item advancement!

I’ve seen complaints about advancement tied to gamble boxes, well I can see and understand the issue now. I’m not sure what other games do but I’m used to the random boxes from LoTRO, they are rare drops indeed. And the LoTRO gold/silver daily rewards are fairly minor as well. I think there would be an uproar if locked boxes started falling 20% of the time and each one included heritage runes. Oh, keys are for sale in the item store and subscribers get one per day. Because that’s kind of the system in SWL.

I mean, you can get by ignoring them but all your gear, both weapons, all talismans, won’t advance and nearly the same rate without distillates.