Monday, October 31, 2022

Easy, Igor...

What's the proper greeting for Halloween? Anyone know? 

Clearly not "Happy Halloween" but "Have a Horrific Halloween" doesn't sound quite right, either. Why do holiday salutations have to be alliterative, anyway? I know, I know... no-one said they did. I mean, "Happy Easter" isn't. Nor "Merry Christmas", for that matter. Or, indeed, "Happy New Year". In fact, now I come to think of it, none of them are.

I'll go out and come in again.

Here's wishing you a Spooktacular Halloween!

Yeah, that'll do it.

Okay... I've been sitting on this one for a while. It's a really great cover of the quintessential Halloween party-starter. Enjoy!

It does absolutely everything a perfect cover should, reinventing the song while leaving its true essence intact. Alex has such a warm voice, too. Just the thing for a cold, October evening.

So, I had that one cued up but I really didn't know what else I was going to run with. I figured maybe I'd double down on the monster theme and do werewolves, vampires and ... mummies? Is that the Big Three? 

There are lots and lots of songs about both werewolves and vampires, metaphorical and literal. I spent a couple of hours sifting through some yesterday and barely lifted the coffin lid. In the end I decided I'd just pick one of each. You can have too much of a good thing, even when the good thing is a bad thing. (Monsters are bad, right? Or is that old thinking?)

When it comes to songs about werewolves, there's really only one choice.

I have always loved that song. Even when I haven't heard it for years, sometimes the chorus will just pop into my head, while I'm out walking or just sitting quietly at home. When that happens, you just have to howl it out. Seriously, you have to.

There was a time I howled at the moon quite often, if we're playing Never Have I Ever. It's really thrilling if you get a bunch of people doing it, more disturbing if you're on your own. Haven't had a good howl for a long while. Too long, maybe. Tonight'd be the night for it, I guess.

Not that I ever actually believed I was a werewolf. Or a vampire. People do, you know.

Which is fair enough. I mean, if you identify, you identify. We're all on a journey. Who's to say where it ends?

So, songs about werewolves and vampires was easy, just like I knew it would be. Mummies, though? I mean, you see the problem there, right?

There are more than I thought there would be, I'll say that. Are there any good ones, though, that's the question.

Well, kinda ... although no-one takes Mummies seriously, do they?

For bonus bandage points, try this. Bet you want to see the whole movie now, eh?

Hollywood monsters and high camp are all very well but some people like to be truly terrified for Halloween. If you're one of them, try this next one. It scared the bejeezus out of me and I'm not kidding. It's that smile that does it.

Props for going with "Happy Halloween", though. Maybe it does work, if you give it enough spin.

Just one more and then we're done for this year, I think. Not sure I know how to categorize this one so I'm not even going to try. It shows you don't have to pick a season-appropriate song, though. You can just get all dressed up. I hear people like to do that around this time of year.

Five million views on that one. I guess someone's heard of them before. I hadn't. It comes from a Halloween Special. They do one every year, apparently. All they do is other peoples' songs, too. I'm amazed they've never come up in a YouTube prompt before, given the number of times I've searched for covers. Just goes to show... something. Not sure what.

While we're on the subject of Halloween Specials, since I gave Wednesday a whole post to herself yesterday, let's end with the rest of the family. I watched this all the way through last night and found myself wondering the same thing I always wonder, whenever I watch the Addams Family, namely just what is Gomez' deal, anyway?

Answers on a gravestone, please.

Sunday, October 30, 2022

You'd Be Prettier If You Smiled.

For reasons that now escape me, back in February I decided to post the first season of Adult Wednesday Addams. I must have been having one of those weeks...

I was complaining in the interstitials about how the web used to be more fun. I asked people to recommend ways it still might be, in the comments.

No-one did, of course.

I also asked if someone would be kind enough to remind me to post Season Two for Halloween.

No-one did, of course. I remembered, anyway.

At the time, I mentioned how surprised I was to see these dark gems still gleaming, up on YouTube. I'm doubly surprised, today.

I thought the imminent arrival of Tim Burton's Wednesday might have hammered in that final nail. Apparently not.

Wise move, Tim. You wouldn't want to tick Wednesday off, now would you?

Friday, October 28, 2022

The Enemy Of Good

has an excellent post up about Disney's new Star Wars show, Andor. In her opening paragraph she articulates precisely something I've been sensing of late but have struggled to define:

"I'm perhaps not the most discerning Star Wars fan, which is why I don't really get it whenever people get super upset about not liking some new piece of content. I'm generally happy if I derive some sort of enjoyment from it, even if it's not perfect, and I'm okay with not everything being good or appealing to me personally."

For a while now I've been wondering why so many people seem to get so upset when TV shows or movies or games don't manage to be perfect or even excellent. It reminds me of Garrison Keilor's Prairie Home Companion radio show, with its unforgettable tagline:“That's the news from Lake Wobegon, where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.” 

The Lake Wobegon Effect, as it's now known, is something of a mirror image to the better-known Imposter Syndrome. While it is, somewhat surprisingly to a non-mathematician, technically possible for a majority of a group to be above average, plainly not everything can be. Why we seem to expect such a level of perfection from our entertainment media baffles me.

It's similar to the widely-held belief that "Good enough is not good enough", a ludicrous perversion of language that figuratively makes my teeth grate. Good enough is, by definition, good enough and good enough is what most TV shows, movies and games are: good enough to function as intended, hold the attention for an appropriate period of time and leave the audience at least moderately entertained.

To expect everything to be worthy of a five star review makes a complete mockery of the entire process of evaluation although it might be a straw man argument to suggest that's the prevailing mood these days. Things aren't quite that bad - yet. Four stars still count as a recommendation in most quarters. I have, however, heard it said on multiple occasions that a three star rating means something's not worth bothering with. It's supposedly the mark of the mediocre and we should all have more respect for ourselves than to waste our valuable time on anything so commonplace.

That seems to me more than just shortsighted and unreasonable. It seems smug and smugness is something that always raises my hackles. (No-one likes a raised hackle, least of all me.) At the risk of sounding like someone from a 1970s network TV adaptation of a Laura Ingalls Wilder novel, as a general principle I'd prefer to focus on what I like about something rather than on what I think is wrong with it, although I freely admit it's often a lot more amusing to do the latter.

I'm also not suggesting there aren't many egregious examples of poor quality, conception or execution that fully deserve to be called out for their laziness, ineptitude, incompetence or odium. When something genuinely needs to be cut down to size, by all means bring the sharp knives.

I'm just saying there needs to be some sense of proportion. A sitcom with a half-baked set-up that "would never happen" hardly needs to be treated as some kind of crime against culture. Spin-offs and sequels that show familiar characters in an unfamiliar light don't need to be torn to shreds as divergence from holy writ. I think it goes without saying, even though I appear to be saying it anyway, that nothing in popular fiction or entertainment justifies a death threat.

With all that said, it's still not always easy to be sure where to take a stand. Azuriel also has an interesting post up this week, entitled "Commercialization of Evil", in which he discusses the growing tendency for IP owners to make the fullest use of all of their assets by re-purposing characters traditionally known for their villainy in more appealing and therefore potentially lucrative roles.

As I mentioned in a comment on Azuriel's post, I was somewhat taken aback this week to spot, in the children's department in the bookshop where I work , a book called Arkhamaniacs. This little gem features a cast of Batman villains including The Joker, Killer Croc, Bane and Scarecrow, sociopathic mass-murderers all, as the kind of "colorful and wacky characters" little kids love.

By all accounts I've seen, it's a well-written, beautifully drawn, nuanced and satisfying take on the familiar characters we all know from the regular comics. I'd read it. On the other hand, as Azuriel says of the ongoing Disneyfication of Disney's own rogues' gallery, "whatever cautionary tale might have existed in these characters’ stories becomes muddled and unrecognizable through the commercialization process".

Azuriel also observes "We probably should not be relying on Disney movies to teach morality to children in the first place", which is something of a discussion point in itself, one that reminded me of a conversation I had at work this week about Alan Moore and his recently reiterated belief that an interest in superheros can be "a pre-cursor to fascism."  

Deconstructing that would be a whole other post but it's curious to note that Alan actually specifies adults who demonstrate such an interest as the danger, not children, his point being that entertainment more suitably directed at "12 year old boys" is infantilizing when consumed by grown-ups. 

Alan Moore, despite his deep connection to the form, has always been at best ambivalent about superheroics, so nothing he's saying now is either new or surprising. Some of it may even be true. If so, the problem began well before his groundbreaking, genre-busting work on Marvelman and Watchmen

It's tempting to examine that further but before I get sidetracked into a ten thousand word essay on the ironies of an artform that began quite specifically as a means stirring up anti-fascist feeling morphing into a seedbed for future totalitarianism, I'll pull back to the point I wanted to make and the reason I brought all this up in the first place: I believe much of what I consider to be my own personal morality to have been formed by the superhero comics I read as a child.

These things do have a profound influence on the way we think, or at least they can. I grew up reading superhero comics in the period when most of the heroes tried to do the (Socioculturally) right thing most of the time. Sometimes bad things happened but never at their intent. Sometimes they went against the established authorities but only when those authorities were undeniably corrupt. It wasn't far off the days of the Hollywood Western, where you could tell the good guy by the color of his hat.

As I noted in a post about the DC series Titans, things have moved on since then. I was thinking about that only yesterday, as I was watching my current obsession, Veronica Mars

Veronica Mars, as I'm sure almost everyone reading this will know, is a TV series from the late 'aughts starring the wonderful Kristen Bell as the titular Veronica, a high school student who also operates as a private detective. 

I own all four seasons on DVD and I've been meaning to watch it for years but of course it was only when it turned up on Amazon Prime that I finally caught up with this seminal show. As Shintar says about her new favorite, Andor, enjoyable though it is to be able to watch a lot of shows casually, it's even better "to not just enjoy something, but to truly be a fan".

And I am definitely a fan of Veronica Mars. I love the writing, razor sharp and frequently metatextual as it is. The acting is all round excellent, with Kirsten Bell and Jason Dohring especially, pretty much note-perfect. The ensemble cast and the increasingly baroque plot remind me strongly of other shows I love but with the exception of Buffy I'm not sure any are better. I guess I'll have to wait 'til I've seen all four seasons to be sure.

The thing is... all of the characters are arguably just as morally problematic as any superhero. Everyone's choices are always guided by personal ethics, never by collective morality, and the ends are always considered to justify the means. As for abiding by the tenets of civil society, absolutely no-one in the show, hero or villain, hesitates for one second to act outside the law whenever it suits their purpose, even for trivialities.

Veronica herself frequently feels bad about some violation of privacy, breach of trust or plainly illegal act she's engaged in - but only ever after the fact and usually only when it goes wrong and rebounds to her personal discomfort. Worse, experience never stops her doing the same thing again. And she's the exception in being bothered by conscience at all. Most of the rest of the cast barely seem to register the ironies involved in engaging someone to spy on a lover, friend or family member. So long as they find out what they believe they need to know, it's all good.

I'm not exactly sure why I began to notice all of this so definitively. It is the default position for just about every private detective show ever made, after all. I think maybe it was the sheer incongruity of the high school setting combined with the relentless reliance on extra-legal processes required by every investigation. Once I began to notice just how intrusive the actions of the supposed heroes were, how willing they were to lie and steal, break and enter, pass themselves off as officials, create and use false credentials and basically do anything at all to get what they wanted, I couldn't help but notice how very grey the boundaries were becoming between them and the villains.

Even by the standards of these kinds of narratives, the underlying assumption that the law only matters when you're using it to get the result you believe to be right seems jarring. I'm used to seeing the good guys bend the law or even break it but Veronica Mars and her crew barely seem to acknowledge it exists, except when they need a cop to read someone their rights after they've been exposed as a murderer or an extortionist or a fraud. My hope is that all of this is leading, eventually, to some kind of moral epiphany at least for some of the cast. It's a smart enough show for that not to seem like a forlorn hope. And I am only six episodes into Season Two...

Perhaps because I love the show so much, once I'd started to notice these ethical inconsistencies, it set me wondering how common they were in other media I rate highly. The uncomfortable answer is "very". I'm not going to make a list but my feeling is most TV shows and almost all mmorpgs I've enjoyed lately wouldn't hold up to even the gentlest of moral examinations.

And why should they? If we oughtn't to expect all entertainment to be good, why should we expect it all to be.. erm... good? If I don't have a problem with some entertainment media being culturally worthless, why should I balk at its being morally vacuous?

I guess because badly written, filmed, photographed, scripted or acted entertainment doesn't really do much more than waste someone's time, whereas bad role models can ruin someone's life? Then again, who says who gets to be a role model and who decides which role is bad? And does anyone really follow role models, anyway.

Is Veronica Mars even a bad role model? I'm not sure. Yes, she does a lot of things that make me uncomfortable, but she's self-aware, loyal to her friends, always trying to do what she at least believes is the right thing... There are worse ways to be, especially when you're in your teens. And you can cut someone a lot of moral slack after her boyfriend's dad's locked her in a freezer and set it on fire.

I'm not coming to any conclusions here. It's more that once you start noticing this stuff it's hard to stop. Far from making me shy away, though, it makes me want to dig in deeper, which is one of the saving graces of all popular fiction, regardless of quality; the closer you look, the more you see. 

Maybe that's why not being the most discerning of consumers, paradoxically, makes me one of the most invested. I commit very easily, something that makes most of my viewing, gaming and reading experiences more satisfying than perhaps the objective quality of the material deserves.

I'm still playing Noah's Heart, by the way. Every goddamn day.

Thursday, October 27, 2022

I Wouldn't Start From Here...

Coming back to New World after a long layoff, it's obvious a lot has changed but perhaps the one thing that stands out beyond all else is how much "easier" the game is now. It's not just parts of the game, either; it's all of it.

I'll leave it to someone who knows the mechanics far better than I do, maybe Belghast or Heartlessgamer, to go into the details. I've been dipping in and out of Aeternum for so long now, I find it hard to remember just what was added when. All I can say for certain is that the whole game feels like someone's oiled the bearings. It's a much smother ride than it used to be.

The point of this post isn't to examine in depth exactly how New World has changed. It's more to ask the question why did it need to change at all?

The obvious answer is the loss of more than 90% of its players over the course of the first year. That's the kind of precipitous decline that necessitates some kind of drastic action. Mmorpgs that fall as fast tend to throw a couple of Hail Mary passes, converting to Free To Play being the favorite, before either settling in for a long, slow retrenchement to a tiny, insecure niche or giving up and closing down.

New World, of course, has the benefit of a megacorp standing behind it. Like EverQuest II in the days of Sony Online Entertainment or Final Fantasy XIV before A Realm Reborn, funds can be diverted from elsewhere to ensure a flagship product doesn't tarnish the brand by its abject failure.

That's not the part that interests me. What I found myself wondering, as I pounded across the glorious, floral countryside of Edengrove this morning, was why mmorpg developers constantly and consistently overstimate their target audience's tolerance for nuisance, inconvenience and annoyance.

As devotees of the genre, we hear an awful lot about what's supposedly wrong with mmorpgs. For years the narrative has revolved around how everything's been made too slick, too simple, too damn easy. I couldn't begin to guess how many blog posts or comments I've read extolling the virtues of slow travel  or bemoaning the prevalence of quest trackers or map markers. I may even have penned a few myself.

The mantra for many a commentator has been the same "The journey not the destination". We've talked up the early days of the genre as a Golden Age, when players had time to sit around the campfire, getting to know each other, when reputations mattered and actions had consequences. Kickstarter and the less-celebrated funding platforms have echoed to the sound of promises to bring back the good old days, when everything took longer but mattered more.

Did it, though? 

Well, yes, for some it undoubtedly did. There was the whole "not knowing any better" thing going on, to be sure, and the novelty angle as well, but I wouldn't attempt to pretend there isn't a true demographic that genuinely does prefer to walk uphill in the snow both ways. There may even be enough people willing to pay for the penalties to make it commercially viable to cater for them, although that's yet to be proven.

What's less in doubt is that the history of just about every mmorpg you can name contains an observable, measurable drift from harder to easier or  - more accurately - from awkward to convenient. Every game I've ever played eventually sands off the sharp corners and raises the speed limits. Often the changes go under the rubric of "Quality of Life" but the quality in question is a saving in both time and effort.

If every mmorpg eventually ends up with faster, cheaper, more frequent, more widely available travel options, to take a specific example, what I'd like to know is why don't they all start with them? Is it Blizzard's argument (Mainly with itself.) over the addition of flying mounts to the game, one of the rare examples of a developer deciding the needle has swung too far towards "Easy" and needs to be pulled back.

The logic, presumably, is that if you let players zip around the map at will from the get-go, they'll skip all your lovingly hand-crafted content, get bored sooner and quit early. It sounds convincing until you remember that most mmorpgs of recent (And not-so-recent.) times have hemorrhaged players in a matter of weeks after launch. It seems a bit precious to be worrying that players will rip through your content too quickly, when the real problem is persuading them to stick around long enough to see much of it at all.

New World started out with very few fast travel options. Those it had were relatively inconvenient, rather expensive, gated by lengthy cooldowns; sometimes all three at once. In addition to having minimal instant travel, the game had no mounts. It didn't even have sprint. 

For players like me, those were plus factors. I like to level slowly and see all the sights. If the sights are worth seeing, criss-crossing the map on foot just gives me more opportunity to take great screenshots. New World worked very well for me on that level.

Since I was running everywhere anyway, I didn't really mind the separate local storage and trading posts, either. Not being much of a fan of story in mmorpgs, the lack of a coherent narrative didn't bother me and neither did the absence of obvious quest hubs. Slowish levelling and even slower gathering and crafting just meant the parts of the game I most enjoyed would be there for me to enjoy for longer.

New World, as it was when it launched, suited me quite well but, as has been pointed out to me many times, I am not the typical mmorpg player. Often, the things I like just piss most players off. If I was designing a new game with the intention of appealing to a large audience, my own personal taste would be just about the last point of reference I'd use.

As far as I can tell, no matter how much players may say they like to do all the work themselves, what the majority really want is for the game to do it for them. They like on-screen quest trackers that guide them right to their objectives, which can be clearly seen on mini-maps. They like questgivers to be placed in high-traffic areas, grouped conveniently so all the quests for an area can be scooped up at once and finished as fast and efficiently as possible. They like busy auction houses where they can buy anything they don't have time to get for themselves.

For Western audiences, auto-pathing may be a step too far but pretty much anything short of having the game literally play itself is likely to be welcomed. If there's any doubt, just look at the kind of Add-Ons that gain traction in games that allow or encourage them.

All of which makes me wonder why developers almost always seem to wait until shoals of players have left for more clement waters before retooling their games to play more comfortably. If QoL changes are so universally popular and demanded, why not bake them into the core design and have them in place at launch?

Had New World launched a year ago in the exact state it's in now, would it have been more successful? Would those concurrencies, once pushing a million, have remained in the hundreds of thousands? Would Amazon have had the big hit they were looking for, not just for a month or two but for years to come?

I have no idea. Until a major Western developer launches a triple-A mmorpg with all the conveniences ready and waiting for the first players, streamers and reviewers to experience on Day One, there's no point of comparison. Maybe that would drive players away even faster, who knows?

Not me, but I'd love to find out. Maybe New World's fresh start servers, when they finally arrive, will serve as a straw in the wind. More likely, though, the moment has passed and the best Amazon can hope for is a slow and steady recovery to mid-range respectability. 

Whatever happens, will other developers learn from New World's example? I very much doubt it. No-one ever really does learn from anyone elses' experience, do they? It's about as much as you can expect that they'll learn from their own. At least Amazon seem to have managed that.

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Sticking To The Shallow End - Soloing The Main Story Quest In New World


I guess I'd have to mark New World's latest attempt to claw back lost players a success, for me at least. I seem to be playing the game regularly again, not to mention posting about it. 

The big draw is obviously the well-received, well-reviewed, massive new zone, Brimstone Sands, along with a completely revamped new player experience, a much-demanded new weapon in the Greatsword and a whole bunch of quality of life improvements to add to the many already implemented in previous months.

One of those QoL upgrades came last Spring, when the entire Main Story Quest was re-tooled to be solable. Or so the publicity handouts and patch notes claimed.

Unfortunately, as I mentioned in passing in yesterday's post, not every questgiver seemed to have read the memo. Back in 2021, I gave up on the MSQ when I reached the second, mandatory dungeon run with a quest called Into The Depths

This level 40 quest required an item from the final boss of an "Expedition" known as "The Depths". At the time, there was no automated dungeon finder and since I was well behind the levelling bubble and playing UK hours on a US East Coast server, ad hoc pick-up groups looking to do that particular dungeon were thin on the ground.

Not that I was looking very hard. I did the first, unavoidable Expedition at around level 20 and while it wasn't a horrible experience it wasn't something I'd have chosen to do for fun. New World's dungeons aren't entirely disimilar to Guild Wars 2's as far as gameplay goes. They're not quite as chaotic but they definitely don't have the comfortable, organized, predictable feel of dungeon-focused mmorpgs like FFXIV or WoW.

Main Story Quests are hard to miss these days.

The MSQ in New World doesn't really gate access to many, if any, other parts of the game so I had no problems simply abandoning the story and carrying on levelling up on side quests, gathering and general slaughter. I took my time getting to sixty but it felt a whole lot more enjoyable than being stuffed down a hole in the ground with a bunch of strangers to kill some crazed sea captain who could snap me in half without blinking.

When the big Heart of Madness update dropped at the end of March this year, buried deep in the extensive notes was this: "New soloable quest options are available for the MSQ to allow players to progress without running certain expeditions." I took that as an invitation to return to the game after a break and pick up the storyline where I'd left it, outside the gateway to The Depths.

Unfortunately, when I checked my journal, nothing had changed. I tried dropping and retaking the quest but when I spoke to Warden Scout Titus a second time, he had nothing new to say. 

It occured to me there might have been some kind of glitch in the patch, something comon enough in any live service game but pretty much a given for New World. I gave things a few days to settle then tried again but still nothing had changed, at which point I decided the whole "Soloable MSQ" idea had been nothing but hype. I muttered "Sod you, then" to myself and moved on.

I didn't really care. I was already max level and drifting away from the game anyway. It suited me fine to file New World under "Good housing. Holiday events worth checking out." and leaving it at that. 

That's what you call "thinking" , is it?

Had I been more motivated, I could have found, as I did today, that the particular quest I was stuck on had been reported and, eventually, acknowledged as a bug. As Tyler Edwards confirmed in a comment to yesterday's post, almost the entire MSQ can now be completed solo, although as he also points out, the very end, the climactic battle with Isabella, aka The Tempest, does still demand a group.

Armed with all this new information, this afternoon I went back to Titus to try again. And it still didn't work. Or at least I thought it didn't, at first.

The fix that's been applied is something of a kludge. When you speak to Titus, he still runs through the same speech about going into the Depths with a party. There's no other option but to accept his offer or leave. 

I tried leaving to see if that made him change his mind but he just started to rant about what a coward I was. It wasn't until I'd done yet more out-of-game research that I found out what I was supposed to do. It's far from intuitive and that's putting it politely.

To get the solo option, which does indeed now exist, you have to accept the group quest then speak to Titus a second time. If there's any in-game dialog or hint to make you aware this option exists, I didn't see it.

When you re-open a dialog with the questgiver he comes up with a new and really not very convincing plan: why not challenge Captain Thorpe to single combat? Well, perhaps because he's a fricken dungeon boss? Might that be a reason?

I don't know. Could you?

Don't worry your pretty little head about that, my dear! Just trot halfway across the map to some entirely different location where apparently the bad captain hangs out when he's not entertaining in The Depths. Then "challenge his lieutenants" until he gets so riled up he comes out to fight. Then kill him. Job done. Easy peasy.

And it was. It helped that I was twenty levels too high, of course. It helped even more that when I got there another level 60 was waiting for Thorpe to respawn so the unfortunate villain barely managed to shuffle out of his portal before two max level characters had hacked him into tiny pieces. 

The fight took about five seconds, some improvement over the full group version, which I imagine probably takes half an hour on a good day, not counting recrutiment time if you don't have a premade party.

With that done, I rattled through the next eight or ten steps in a matter of minutes before GeForce Now timed out and I came here to write up my findings. In the firm knowledge that the MSQ really is, finally, soloable, my next goal is to follow the plot all the way through to "A Selfless Nature", the stage that appears when you're around level 58 and triggers the next set of quests in Brimstone Sands.

It's been a stuttering recovery but I think we're finally there. I'm playing New World again. For how long, I wouldn't care to say but it feels like it could be a while. 

Then again, doesn't it always?

Monday, October 24, 2022

Getting Into Brimstone Sands

I didn't find any time to play New World over the weekend but on Friday evening I braved the GeForce Now queues (250-350 people; 15-20 minutes.) to finish up the access quest for Brimstone Sands so I could at least take a look around the new zone. The access quest itself is very straightforward. or at least I found it so, although now I've read the walkthrough I realise I might just have been lucky.

When I logged my level 60 character in for the first time in months, she happened to be in Ebonscale Reach. All I had to do was look at the map to see if anyone had a quest there for me, go to the marker, speak to an NPC by the name of Soulwarden Tomas Kovalenko, have a brief chat with him and agree to do what he wanted. And then do it, obviously.

I didn't realise until I read a couple of guides this morning as I was prepping for this post that each of the three factions gets its own version of the quest. The questgiver is always the same person and he wants you to do exactly the same thing but for some inexplicable reason there are three of him, one in Ebonreach for the Marauders, another in Cleave's Point for the Covenant and a third in Mountainhome for the Syndicate.

All these settlements are in different zones but as far as I know none of them have any particular, permanent or lore connection with the factions concerned. Why it was deemed necessary to triplicate the quest and clone the questgiver beats me. It seems like a wholly unecessary complication. I don't know. Maybe I'm missing something.

Whichever flag Tomas happens to be flying, all he wants you to do is come up with three Frostcliff Berries and two fish oils so you can brew something called a "Desert Cerate", which is a fancy name for sunscreen. Yep, it's that simple: you're going to be out in the sun a lot; you're going to need to moisturise.

This is a game set in a fantasy world, though. If you choose not to follow health and safety advice, don't expect to get away with a painful sunburn now and a potentially life-threatening melanoma thirty years down the line. If you cross into Brimstones Sands without applying the cerate you'll drop dead on the spot. 

Or so they tell me. I didn't test it. I did as I was told, followed the quest marker to the bushes so I could forage the berries, looked up how to get fish oil because it's been a long time (Salvage a fish.), crafted the potion at an alchemy sation and used it on myself. Job done.

It must be one heck of a sunscreen because you only have to apply it the one time. Once done, it lasts forever. I have to give the Amazon Games dev team props for resisting the temptation to make it a consumable you need to keep crafting and using. I think most mmorpgs I've played would have made you do exactly that but these days AG definitely seem to be all about making the player's life easier.

With that done, all that remains is to jog on out to the zone line. It's quite a hike, too. One of the oddest things, coming back to Aeternum after a time away, is the absence of any form of transport other than shanks's pony.  How many fantasy-based mmorpgs can you name that have no mounts whatsoever? 

It's an anomaly that's due to change at some point, although no-one's putting a date on it just yet. The news was broken by megastreamer Asmongold a couple of months back and confirmed a few weeks later by AG, all of this in videos and livestreams I have no intention of linking, let alone watching, so you'll just have to take my word for it. Not that anything's likely to happen soon. As has been pointed out, Guild Wars 2 took five years to add mounts, so it could be a while yet.

In the meanwhile, we do at least have that amazing 10% speed bonus for sticking to the roads. It makes such a difference, especially when there's a guardpost every couple of hundred meters with a couple of musket-wielding heavies just itching to take potshots at passers-by. It's a good thing I was wearing my padded jacket.(Irony doesn't always come over in print, does it?)

By the time I finally cleared the last sentry point and saw the great, ruined gateway leading to the sands loom up ahead of me, the moon was out and night had fallen. Everything was shaded an eerie, atmospheric blue, not least the vast sweep of dunes stretching all around.

My first and only plan was to explore the new region and find out what it had to offer me. I wanted to see the sights but I also wanted test the waters, to use a highly inappropriate metaphor. I wasn't convinced I'd be able to do anything in the zone other than die, most likely a lot. My character has the number 60 next to her name but in every other respect she's entirely unfit for endgame.

I haven't finished the main storyline nor spent a single second upgrading her gear. She's wearing a mix of whatever she's had as drops or quest rewards, together with some pieces from the Winter Convergence Festival. I can't remember her gear score exactly without logging in to check but it's bumping along near 500; the bare minimum for endgame is said to be 600 at least.

I was concerned that even the lowliest creature in the desert would see me as easy meat but a few encounters with wild dogs and giant scorpions soon convinced me I had nothing to worry about on that front. I even launched an unprovoked attack on a pair of bandits and beat them, albeit by an uncomfortably slim margin.

Somewhere along the barely visible track I picked up a quest to kill a lion with an unlikely predilection for poultry. The lion had an appropriate nickname: Featherbane. I do realise Aeternum isn't Earth and thereby operates under its own, idiosyncratic rules but it seems lions occupy a very different ecological niche in New World, somewhere between foxes and ferrets.

After some minor detours I located Featherbane's lair, a cave where he (Or it might have been she. I don't remember seeing a mane.) hangs out with a couple of lesser lions and a slew of peacocks with an insane respawn rate. If you want to farm feathers, this is your spot.

My first attempt ended with the minor lions dead and Featherbane close to joining them but I couldn't quite close the deal. I respawned at the nearby camp, all wagons and pennant flags, and ran back for a second try. I lost my way (Sand pretty much all looks the same.) so it took a while. When I finally found my way back into the lair there were three other people there already and Featherbane's corpse was being skinned by a fourth.

We all waited for our target to respawn, a phenomenon that for once is at least covered by the lore of the land. I passed the time by skinning peacocks and looting the big chest at the back of the cave, from which I took a significant upgrade to one of my items, making me feel quite optimistic about the secrets of the sands.

In no more than a few minutes Featherbane respawned and I just about had time to get a few whacks in with my hatchet before we sent him back to his very much non-eternal rest. After that it was off to do the hand-in and pick up another breadcrumb quest, one which it turned out I couldn't finish.

At the time, I thought it was just because I couldn't find the NPC, although I would have expected the location to be marked clearly on the map and on the overhead copmpass. Now that I've read the aforementioned walkthroughs and guides, I believe it may be a problem with that unfinished main storyline quest I mentioned earlier.

The quest I outlined is called Strider of the Sands and it is indeed mandatory, if you want to enter the zone without immediately burning to a crisp. All of the guides also make it clear you need to be max level - level 60, which I am.

As the more detailed of the guides explain, however, if you want to do more than just wander the desert, looting tombs like some kind of cut-price Indiana Jones, you also need to have completed the main sequence quest stage "A Selfless Nature", which opens up at level 58 and apparently involves a boss-like battle, for which you need a group.

I jacked in the main questline long before that. I was pissed that all the PR hype about making the thing soloable came to nothing. Quests that swerve from solo to group always tick me off but claiming it's going to be fixed then not fixing it ticks me off big time.

Consequently, unless something changes, I won't be following the storyline into Brimstone Sands. It's a pity, if only because New World's storyline is quite interesting. On the positive side, there seems to be plenty to do in the new zone without bothering with the plot - ruins to explore, chests to open, side quests to pick up and many new crafting and gathering opportunities to discover.

And lots and lots of screenshots to take. The desert is strikingly beautiful in places and suddenly terrifying in others. I was taking a nice landscape when a giant sandworm tore out of the ground not a hundred meters away. I think I'll be able to find enough to do without plodding through the plot.

One thing I can affirm for certain - New World remains as intensely playable as it ever was. Whatever its faults, it has a gameplay loop that just flat out works, or it does for me. As with Valdheim, I could easily lose hours, days, just wandering around, admiring the scenery and picking stuff up.

And until something better comes along, I plan on doing just that.

Friday, October 21, 2022

Lifting The Veil On New World's Halloween Holiday

Halloween, as I'm sure I must have mentioned many times, is not my favorite holiday. Just calling it a "holiday" seems weird. No-one gets time off from work to celebrate, do they, except maybe witches and warlocks. Except isn't it their busiest work day?

I guess we could do with a new word for these sorts of quasi-historical affairs that have been hijacked by the manufacturers of cheap plastic tat. Festival, celebration, plain old event... none of the regular labels quite fit any more.

Where I come from, Halloween didn't really become much of holiday (I'm sticking with that for now.) until I was an adult out of college, although perhaps it would be more accurate to say I never saw anyone celebrate it until then. It certainly existed before that as a cultural moment, not just an archaic throwback. There was a xenophobic attempt to deny it as an American import following the success of E.T., but that movie didn't even introduce trick or treating to these shores, let alone the rest of it.

I had heard of Halloween before I grew up. I think I first came across the concept in an Agatha Christie novel I read when I was in my early teens (I forget which one but it was written in the 1950 or '60s.) and I vaguely remember someone in my primary class having a Halloween party, to which I don't believe I went. I just didn't know it as anything anyone paid much mind.

When I was a child, it was mostly our local holiday, Guy Fawkes Day that was an absolutely huge deal around that time of year. Second only to Christmas in anticipation and excitement and falling on November 5th as it does, it tended to eclipse Halloween to the point of invisibility. Over the decades, the two adjacent celebrations seem to have equalled out to a large degree, with Halloween taking over as the smaller, more personal option, all parties and kids out with their families after dark, while the myriad back garden bonfires of my childhood have retreated to municipal parks and sports grounds for organized displays, taking with them most of the intimacy with danger that made bonfire night so thrilling in the first place.

Elsewhere, Halloween rules unchallenged and supreme. Every mmorpg has to have its own version, often the biggest in-game holiday of the year, almost always at least the second-biggest, after whatever they call Christmas in imagineland.

I've done most of them to death by now, EverQuest II's "Nights of the Dead" and Guild Wars 2's "Shadow of the Mad King" especially. I'm not saying I no longer have any interest in them at all but I certainly don't feel any stirring desire to log in and run through the card all over again.

I'm always up for a new take on the old themes, though, so when I logged into New World and saw the orange, autumn leaves, drifted into piles in all the corners of the town, along with the inevitable, obligatory carved pumpkins carefully placed in prominent positions, I knew I'd have to take a closer look. Then Tyler Edwards dropped by the comments to let me know there was a Halloween World Boss and people were zerging it, which put the witch's cap on things for me.

I logged in for an hour last night to figure out how things might work in Nightveil Hallow. I was quite optimistic. Amazon Games seem to have a good handle on how to do seasonal and holiday events. The last couple I've visited have been well-designed - fun to play and rewarding as well.

This one appears to buck the genre trend in that it's relatively small and compact. Unless I've missed something, it consists of a single, introductory quest, which isn't even mandatory, and the aforementioned World Boss, the demonic "Baalphazu, Marquis of Terror".

Baalphazu spawns, repeatedly and quickly if last night is anything to go by, in any one of half a dozen mid-high level zones, Brightwood, Ebonscale Reach, Weaver's Fren, Great Cleave, Edengrove, and Mourningdale. I only saw him in Ebonscale, where he's confined to a specific, partly enclosed area. I imagine it's much the same in every zone where he appears, making the fight quite localized and unlikely to disturb people going about their regular business.

This guide recommends grouping up and people were forming parties in general chat but there's no requirement to do so. I picked up the quest from Salvatore, standing next to the giant, bubbling green cauldron in town, then watched the map until I saw the icon appear to say Baalphazu had landed.

It took me a while to get to him. Fast travel is trivially cheap now but the locations are still fixed and not always convenient to where you need to be in a hurry. The fight lasts a few minutes, though, so there's time to get there before it's all over. 

My first time, there weren't that many people. Those who were there seemed nervous to begin but after a bit we got started on the supporting cast, pumpkinites of various kinds and strengths. Killing a bunch of those seemed to agravate their Lord, who materialised in the center of the clearing and launched into whoever was closest.

The fight was a bit of a blur. I was trying to take screenshots - always a mistake - and as a melee character I had no option but to get in close. I didn't actually die but I had to retreat out of range far more often than I closed in to attack, to the point that when the boss finally fell I got no credit.

I wasn't bothered. It was just a recce to see how things worked. The next time Baalphazu arrived I was much more aware of his attacks and the need to dodge them but more importantly someone was putting out an impressive amount of AE healing, meaning I didn't have to rely on my health potions and their lengthy cooldowns.

I wouldn't say the fight was fun, exactly. It was a typical world boss zerg battle - a couple of dozen players in a scrum at the feet of a giant creature you could barely see for the light show. I like those kinds of fights so it suited me. It lasted about eight minutes, something I can say with a certain precision because it just so happened I got the ten minute warning from GeForce Now just after it began. 

It certainly added another layer of tension, knowing I was going to be forcibly excluded from the server when the on-screen timer reached zero. Fortunately, we had our target on the ground with a couple of minutes to spare. I just had time to check that, this time, my quest had updated and then I was back at desktop.

I left it at that for the night but this morning I logged back in and did the hand-in. The rewards were crafting patterns, gold and event currency, but also  - much to my surprise - all of the reputation required to buy anything in the event store. I was expecting to have to grind that rep out somehow, something that's been a longstanding feature of the game, including previous holiday events, but apparently rep grind is another thing we don't have to worry about in Aeternum any more.

I was also very surprised to see how affordable pretty much everything in the store is. It's true, you'd need to kill a lot of Baalphazus to earn the tokens to buy everything but after just the quest and one kill I already have enough to buy literally any one of the things on sale. 

There's some good stuff in there, too - GS 600 weapon patterns that would be a huge upgrade for me, for a start, plus some striking outfits and a house pet I'd quite like. Enough to persuade me to zerg the boss a few times more before the event ends, for sure, although it's true I never need much persuasion to join a zerg.

The real problem, as I found out when I went to make a hatchet from one of the patterns I got out of the loot chest, is that you need 150 skill in the relevant crafting discipline. Mine's nine. Bit of work to do there, then.

What I'll most likely do is buy the patterns I want and stash them. I did the same for the winter event. One thing I'm not short of in Aeternum is storage so hording is always an attractive option. Then, if I ever get back to playing regularly, I'll have a handy, moderately achievable goal to work towards in raising my crafting skills.

Whether I ever will play regularly again is a matter that's largely out of the hands of the Amazon Games development team. It's going to have a lot more to do with how much time I can find for any games at all. Free time seems to be at a ridiculous premium right now for someone who only works a couple of days a week but that's how its.

All in all, though, Nightveil Hallow looks like another good holiday event for New World and another solid Halloween effort for the genre. In other New World news, I also completed the access quest for the new zone, Brimstone Sands (It only takes a few minutes.) so that's where I'll be going next.

Read all about it here, I imagine, but not until next week. I'm taking the weekend off  blogging because, sadly, I'll be working instead.

Thursday, October 20, 2022

Silver Linings And Lemonade

One of the major advantages of playing on North American servers from the United Kingdom is that, other than in times of truly exceptional hysteria, grown adults staying up all night to play video games, skipping work the next day, leaving their computers running when they sleep, if they even do, their characters still logged in, butting their heads against the walls to keep from giving up their place to one of the thousands hammering on their keyboards, I don't often have to worry about queues. 

Similarly, one of the major advantages of using a cloud streaming service to play games is that someone else does all the patching. The game is always up-to-date, always ready, always waiting. I'm convinced it's the future even if Google's not.

Yesterday, when I decided on a whim I wanted to see New World's Brimstone Sands, the latest miracle patch that's set to save the game from oblivion and bring ex-players thundering back in their tens of thousands, like the great herds of buffalo crossing the plains of the old west, all I had to do was remember my password for GeForce Now

Of course, GeForce Now comes with queues of its own, or it does when you're too mean to stump up for the paid version. That's where another major advantage enters play - the advantage of being semi-retired and able to play video games at times when most of the population is out at work. In the evenings and at weekends, non-paying users of Nvidia's excellent service can expect to wait anything from a few minutes to the best part of an hour as dozens or even hundreds of other spongers line up ahead of them for their free turn.

On a weekday morning, though, there's no-one waiting. It's a green flag and go right in. Even in the afternoons, wait times are measured in single minutes. Yesterday there were thirty or so people ahead of me. The line cleared in less time than it took me to make a coffee and then there I was, having fun.

I must have had a good time because the hour just flew by. When it was over, I throroughly enjoyed rehashing everything I'd done in a blog post, something that took me almost exactly four times as long as actually doing it had, but for once I did feel a little peeved that I was writing not playing. I would have preferred to carry on further with the storyline, which was beginning to get interesting, something I certainly wouldn't have said about the one it replaced.

Unfortunately, by the time I'd finished posting, had tea and walked the dog, it was dark outside. People would be home from work even on the US East Coast and queues on both sets of servers would be filling up and stretching out. I opted to leave New World for a new day, when all would be quiet and empty once more.

This morning I woke up late to a prospect of several hours of heavy rain (Which, in the event, never arrived. Thanks, Met Office.) There was a even a helpful comment left by Tyler Edwards on yesterday's post, letting me know about an opportunity in New World's Halloween event, Nightveil Hallow, I really ought not to miss. I had nothing special lined up and no particular place to be so it seemed like the ideal opportunity for a lengthy session, exploring the newly-revamped island of Aeternum and all it newly had to offer. 

I took Beryl the dog out for her necessary requirements, brought her home and let her go back to doing what she likes to do best in the mornings, namely sleep. Then I logged into GeForce Now and...

Game down for maintenance. Ah, yes. Giant update yesterday, should have expected nothing less, of course. Even the longest-established, most stable mmorpgs often take two or three bites to digest a major patch. New World could be hiccupping for a month after a blowout like Brimstone Sands.

GeForce Now was unhelpfully vague about the details, telling me only that the downtime would be "several hours" but not mentioning when the clock began ticking. Steam, luckily, was much more precise, saying the patch had begun at 3am Pacific and was expected to last four hours. 

Even after all these years I'm still never quite sure about doing time zone conversions in my head. I thought the US West Coast was nine hours behind me, but that would mean the update wouldn't even have started yet. Oh, well. It obviously had, so that was the morning out.

While I was there, Steam popped up a window reminding me The Sims 4 is now free to play. I'd read that somewhere but immediately forgotten about it. I've never played a Sims game but I've read an awful lot of very entertaining blog posts by people who have, so I thought I might as well grab that and give it a try, now I had the morning free.


It was a substantial download so for something to do while I waited I thought I'd get today's blog post written. With luck, by the time the new game was downloaded and installed, I'd have finished typing and be ready to give it a run.

Well, it has and I have and I am but also so has/is New World. I have no idea what or why or how but as we all know, time works differently in Aeternum. The green "Play" button is smiling at me and all mention of delays and downtime have disappeared, so I'm off to do what I wanted to do in the first place.

Better yet, I've finished my blogging for the day and I've got a new game to blog about another time - so that all worked out very nicely, didn't it?

Don't you just love serendipity?

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Yet Another New Direction For New World

The big mmorpg news of the moment has to be the much-hyped and even more highly anticipated launch of the Brimstone Sands update for Amazon Games' floundering flagship title, New World. There's already been a flurry of posts in my blog roll from people who haven't yet played it and this is going to be another.

Oh, wait! No, it's not! Because I have played it! Well, some of it. A tiny sliver, a taster, a teaser. The merest trifle. One hour, precisely or, rather, imprecisely. Fifty-seven minutes, timed courtesy of GeForce Now, my preferred portal for playing games that make my PC chug like the little engine that really rather wouldn't, thank-you very much.

In light of the surprising revelation that I have some hands-on experience to work with, I think I'll mothball the post I was going to write, a rather stuffy extrapolation of the kind of huffy, borderline passive-aggressive comments I've been leaving on other people's posts, where I've been making (Entirely justified, in my opinion.) comparisons between the Year One development paths of New World and Guild Wars 2, in favor of some good, old-fashioned Very First Impressions . I took a lot of screenshots; I might as well use some of them. (Oh, no you won't! Ed.)

So, let's begin at the beginning: character creation. Okay, that's not exactly the beginning. There's still the moody cut-scene that dates back to when the game was going to be called Conquistadors and Cutlasses (No really... or was it? No, it wasn't. Should have been, though.). At least, I'm guessing it's the same cut-scene. I hit Escape about three seconds in when I saw it coming. I must have sat through it at least ten times now and while it was impressive enough at the start, I think I've had about as much of it as I can take.

The rest of character creation seems much as I remember although I'm not going to swear nothing's changed. Once again, I couldn't summon up the enthusiasm to go through all the options one at a time yet again, so I hit "Randomize" a few times until it kicked up an image I liked. I'm now a green-eyed, raven-haired, somewhat piratical wench with a Veronica Lake 'do. It's a look I'd never have made for myself but it's striking and I like it.

I say "raven-haired"... It depends on the light. It was jet black in character creation but on the deck of the ship in the storm-filled cut scene that followed, it turned electric blue. Since then, my hair's been almost auburn and a weird kind of subdued pinky-purple. Maybe it's the residual magic draining out or maybe I'm a superhero and just don't know it yet. (Not as unlikely as you might imagine, given what's coming later.)

The next part on the beach is about the same as it ever was, although I think it's been beefed up a little to make it feel more dramatic. The tutorial hammers home the basic commands in more merciless fashion than I remember, too. The fight with the Captain who throws fireballs at you has definitely been upgraded to last longer, although it's still scripted to have you lose no matter how well you seem to be doing. 

After that, it's back to the campfire at the beach like always. I didn't get any choice on which settlement to start at, a change I think was made long before the latest update. It's Monarch's Bluffs or bust, now, it seems, because that where the King Arthur stuff happens and you wouldn't want to miss it.

Speaking of choices, I wasn't able to pick the server I wanted, Themyscira, home of Wonder Woman and Belghast, because as Bel's already discovered, the doors have closed. The sign says it's only temporary but I obviously wasn't going to wait. I picked one of the servers that was flagged light blue, Heliopolis. In a moment of madness, I also named my character Sarsparilla Flynn, a decision I'm sure I'll come to regret if I end up wanting to play her for more than a few sessions.

Thanks to New World's annoying one character per server-cluster rule, this is actually the first time I've made a new character since launch, although I made plenty before then. It's been so long since the last time, I really can't say what's changed, if anything, about the opening stages of the main questline, which in any case used to vary slightly depending on which settlement you washed up near.

The parts where you make a skinning knife, kill and skin some boars and make yourself something to eat seem roughly as I remember them, although I think maybe it used to take more than one boar to satisfy the Warden. After that, though, there are significant improvements.

And, yes, I do thnk they're improvements. I was happy enough with the old version, where you went foraging among the wrecked ships along the beach for various supplies, but the new version, which has you meeting a feisty pirate captain (I think she supposed to be Irish although it's not always easy to tell with some of the voice acting in New World, most of which is surprisingly ramshackle for a project of it's size and budget.) and cutting a deal with her to recover items from a ship's manifest as well as her own lost possessions, feels much more urgent and exciting.

Someone is going to pop into the comments to tell me none of this is new, I just know it. Even as I type, I'm getting flashbacks of doing all this stuff before. I think what they've done is keep the bones of the previous tutorial and zhoosh it up a bit but exactly how much is new I couldn't say with any authority. Whatever the truth of it, the current version is slick and satisfying and just like the early stages of every other mmorpg, so job well done there, guys!

There's also been some thought put into the rest of what you see and do in the opening minutes. One of the quests rewards you with a blunderbuss, the newish weapon that featured in another major update not too long ago, and there was a greatsword lying right in my path as I followed the quest marker to one of the shipwrecks. The greatsword, in case you haven't been reading the memos, is the featured weapon of the moment, introduced in this very update.

Naturally, I picked it up and started using it. Even though we never made it to Thermascyra, my character nust have the strength of an Amazon, judging by the ludicrous size of the thing. It's an ultra-low-level, grey item but it's still one of those crazy ironing-board shaped planks so popular in just about every fantasy game for the last twenty years or so.

It's fun to use, hitting slowly but hard, as you'd expect. I would love to train it up and see what tricks you can do with it, which I imagine is the idea. Even so, I was much more excited with the drop I got from a Drowned Sailor, a sword with a wicked curved blade that glows green!

There were a few other interesting bits and pieces lying around, all of which I scooped up. It made for a good opening impression but whther any of it was new with the update I couldn't say for sure. I definitely don't remember getting a green sword before, though.

One thing that absolutely, unequivocally is new is the voice that talks to you incesantly inside your head. Every time you do anything of even the most trivial import, some disembodied supervillain starts yammering away about how you've spoiled their nefarious plans and, man, you are so going to get it. 


Given they're talking to a bedraggled, confused survivor, who's barely been able to drag herself out of the waves and is now desperately trying to dress herself in rotting rags stolen from walking corpses even worse off than herself, it doesn't say an awful lot for the supposed authority of the speaker, who I take to be the mysterious "Isabella" from the before-times.

Nevertheless, it does certainly give the whole experience a more gamelike tone, as do the new static cut scenes done in the style of a superhero comic. I rather like those. I took a whole load of screenshots to show here but of course I forgot I was playing on GeForce Now so none of them saved anywhere I can find them. They're probably on a server in some in Nvidia bunker by now. I'll never see them again, that's for sure.

Fortunately, someone's already uploaded the whole thing to YouTube so here it is. And I can filch a couple of stills from it forto replace the ones I lost, too! Thanks Flex!

I also took a lot of shots of new quest dialog (All lost now, naturally.) some of which archly pokes fun at a few of New World's long-standing problems, such as what the hell Aeternum is supposed to be and how the whole eternal life thing is meant to work. I found them quite amusing but then I like a bit of metafiction in my mmorpgs. I imagine it will class as immersion-breaking for others.

Experience is supposed to have been ramped up to make the journey to cap faster but I think that probably kicks in later. The first ten levels always seemed to whip by and they did today but I can't say it felt faster than last time. That said, I was level 8 when I logged out and as I said at the top, I only played for just under an hour. That does seem quite speedy, now I come to think of it.

Overall, I was moderately impressed. The stuff I'm sure was new all seemed fine, even if tonally much of it felt completely out of kilter with the game as it used to be. The new version seems to be aimed far more squarely at a typical - maybe I should say younger - gamer audience. Back at launch, as I said many times, New World really had much of the feeling of old school EverQuest about it but i don't think that comparison would come readily to mind now.

And that, I imagine, is something Amazon Games would be very pleased to hear. They started out making a survival game, switched to some kind of hybrid and now they appear to have ended up with a full-blown, mass-market mmorpg. It's not exactly a WoW Clone but if it had tab-targetting it wouldn't be that far off, particularly when it comes to the questing.

I hope to start over for real when the Fresh Start servers come up in a few weeks, so I don't want to burn myself out before then, but I really enjoyed my hour today. Maybe I'll carry on and see where the plot takes me next. Or perhaps I should take my Level 60 into the new, high-level zone, Brimstone Sands itself. 

Hmm. That sounds like a better idea. I'll do that. I'll be sure to let you know how it all turns out.

Wider Two Column Modification courtesy of The Blogger Guide