Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Defiant Pose : TSW

I kind of tired myself out, writing the last two lengthy EverQuest posts, which is why I skipped a day yesterday. I have several ideas for posts in mind but they all involve a lot of writing, possibly some research. Not sure I have the energy for that right now.

God put the sun there just for me.
Still, I don't want to get in the habit of skipping days. I was casting about for something short and succinct, when I thought of a post Mailvaltar put up about clothes and stats in The Secret World. By co-incidence, I recently swapped my desktop background to pull images from my folder of Secret World Legends screenshots, which reminded me just how great that game looks and how much I love my character there, as well as her fore-runner in its still-extant but almost forgotten predecessor.

Ripped jeans and mirror shades. My Sunday-go-to-church look.
Unusually, I really I only have the one character in each version of the game. I have tried to make others, not least so I could experience the world from the viewpoint of al three factions but it just didn't work. When SWL replaced TSW I remade my character as closely as the new options allowed.

What have I got in my hand? You'll never know.
As I've mentioned many times, I'm not in the habit of making characters in games that represent my self-image, at least not physically. Not in the way that, for example, Belghast would. I do create characters to stand in for certain personality traits I perceive myself as having or which I would like to believe I have, but I no more look like one of my Asuras or Ratongas than I ressemble a random toy plucked from the playbox.

Although playing TSW was Mrs. Bhagpus's idea in the first place, she never took to either the mechanics or the setting. I felt her character always looked a little uncomfortable.
The Secret World is very different. It's one of the very few MMORPGs I've played where I found a character that looked like me staring out of the screen at creation. If I was a few decades younger and female, that is.

I've got an itch.
We all probably carry some core identity inside us that remains broadly unchanged as we age. It would be precocious, precious even, to claim this was mine, what with me being a cisgender male, but where some of my other characters feel like me, my Secret World character looks like me, too. The me I might have been, anyway.

This is exactly how I would sit in real life. Cross-legged and on a roof.

It's not something that would have found expression in the kinds of video games I normally play. The heroic archetypes of traditional fantasy settings don't really lend themselves to any look I'd choose. Even futuristic worlds don't seem to provide the right templates. It requires something more contemporary. If I wasn't concerned about showing my age I'd say something more rock'n'roll.

"Inappropriate footwear"? Come here and say that!

As I said in a comment to Mailvaltar, "Clothing in TSW is just better-looking than any other game I’ve played and, extremely importantly and unusually, individual pieces fit better with other individual pieces than pretty much any other game." This is really significant. In most games I've played, if you want to put a look together that works you need to source most of the pieces from some kind of pre-designed set. It's restrictive and formulaic. (Ironically, TSW has those, too, and they're almost universally bad).

What did you say? Sorry, I had a crick in my neck.
Very skilled players can always circumvent those restrictions, go around them to find combinations that work. Mrs. Bhagpuss is brilliant at it. I'm not.

Are you following me, cat?
In The Secret World and its successor, the designers have done the prep for you. Very little you can wear clips or clashes or conflicts. Not everything you throw on is going to look good with everything else you're wearing but it will almost always look like that's because you don't know how to dress yourself, not because the clothes you've chosen conform to the physics of some alien dimension.

Excuse me, have any of you Jawas seen my droid?

The choice is amazing, too. As far as it goes. As Mailvaltar says, it's a great shame Funcom didn't choose to double down on what has to be one of the great strengths of their game and fill the cash shop with a torrent of new season designs every couple of months. Guild Wars 2, whose clothing options aren't even a pale shadow of TSW's, has been making bank on that for close to a decade now.

Well, if he didn't want to be stared at...

The clothes aren't the only reason I find my character so personally connectable and convincing in The Secret World. There's something about the way the characters inhabit their environment. It's naturalistic in a way that's subtle and unforced. They have body language that connects to some level of my understanding in a more nuanced manner than most games.

Yes, officer. I can walk in a straight line. I'll prove it to you now.

When I look at my character and at those of the players around me, it's not that they look normal or familiar or weird and outré. It's rather that they exude a heightened sense of reality. Everyone seems to be cooly conscious both of how they look and of how others see them. Every character seems to be the star of their own, private show.

It was this big. And it had wings...
 The game's camera colludes with the characters' self-awareness. I'm not sure I can think of another game where posing for screenshots seems so effortless, so inevitable. I have hundreds of shots with my character stage center, perfectly poised, holding the eye. These are the kind of poses I strive and struggle to strike in every game, often with sparse success, but in TSW everything seems to fall instantly into place.

The character animations, particularly the idling gestures and movements, are exceptionally rewarding in still photographs. Many of the shots look as though I'd triggered a specific emote to get the mood just right but no, it's not that. My character just knows the right moves. Also, I swear the at rest action stance is modelled on that iconic photograph of Patty Hearst.

One of the first songs I ever wrote was about Patty Hearst.
Anyway, I said I wanted to keep this short and I've already run on longer than I intended. The pictures tell the story.

I really ought to revisit The Secret World, too. The real one. I miss my true self.


  1. Are you allowed to not write for a day?

    1. Not according to my internal governor, apparently. I blame the pandemic.

  2. All of this, and also if you ever dive into the emote menu the selection is downright dizzying. Not just dramatic stuff like dances and headstands, but subtle poses and even facial expressions: https://superiorrealities.files.wordpress.com/2017/05/second-dragon-end-28.png

    It truly is a screenshotter's paradise.

  3. There's always one guy in his undies with some fancy accessoires, isn't there?

    I love what you did with all the idle animations here.
    Until now I'd always found the magic weapons' idle stance to be pretty cool, but from now on I'll probably always have to laugh when I see it...

    1. P.S. I can really recommend playing the original game. The servers seem to always be up and run absolutely smoothly.

      Yesterday I was even picked up by a group and ran a couple of NM dungeons again. The dungeons in this game are so great too, I'll probably have to do a post just about those.

    2. I'm planning on logging back into the original TSW just as soon as I can work out what hard drive it's on. It doesn't seem to be one of the ones inside the case so I'll have to check the spare ones in an enclosure.


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