Learning by reading
Both MJ and I teach, and she knows as well as I do that different people respond better to different learning styles than others. Creating an environment where many of these styles are in play results in a wider array of folks getting invested and growing more knowledgable and capable about a subject. For example, I actually learn the most when I'm tasked with teaching someone else a topic. So it is, I believe, in The Secret World
One of the most typical ways that we learn is by reading (and hearing via lectures). Unlike many MMOs, where the lore is completely disconnected with our actual reality, The Secret World
boasts a contemporary setting and interest in conspiracies and mythologies that have a lot to do with our world. Did you know much about Aten
, or Agartha
before you stepped foot in this game? I didn't, but my exposure to these topics through quests, places, encounters, and bee lore have opened my eyes to these subjects and led me to do a little after-game reading on the internet.
Instead of becoming a lecture hall professor, TSW
prefers to drop a few tantalizing morsels in its gameplay and then trust that gamers who have had their curiosity stimulated will go on to do the rest of the research on their own. Honestly, I wouldn't have done all of that studying about the Phoenicians
hadn't intrigued me with the hints and activities of this purply faction.
Learning by doing
Remember what I said about different people responding to different learning styles? Take that and apply it to another aspect of the game: the different mission types. The Secret World
has very specific types of missions
that offer up different experiences -- and different kinds of learning. Each type pulls and tugs on different parts of our brain, refusing to let us fall into a boring, complacent routine. If you look at missions as puzzles, then action missions challenge you to use your combat skills to overcome obstacles, sabotage missions challenge you to use the environment to reach your goal, investigation missions challenge you to use your brain to get to the end, and side missions can be any of the above.
The 25 or so investigation missions in the game are often praised, deservedly, for their heightened challenge and "hands off" approach to guiding you through them. Sure, you could go to a guide for the quickest route, but I've encountered so many players who take pride in never doing so because it's ultimately more satisfying to finish one on their own.
I love investigation missions because you never really know what you're going to get and what you'll end up learning once you've finished it. Sometimes they challenge our research skills, having us delve through websites and books and texts to find the answers. Sometimes they pull upon real-world systems and hobbies, such as Morse Code, GPS locators, or origami. But no matter what, I walk away from those missions having learned a thing or two while having fun doing them.
Learning by adversity
I'm still not sold on the fun factor/necessity of scenarios, but if you love them, then more power to you. One thing that the inclusion of scenarios and Joel Bylos' comments on them
made me realize is that there's a very conscious effort by the dev team to constantly throw challenges our way and keep us from getting comfortable in how we play. In other words, the devs want us to be learning, always learning, and they're willing to hurt us to make it happen (in-game, at least).
The Secret World
isn't the type of MMO to coddle you -- teach you, yes, but not coddle. You're free to create a build that's absolutely horrible and equip yourself with the worst combination of gear and be totally miserable as you fail missions again and again. Learning how the skill wheel works, how synergies are set up in the game, and how to best outfit yourself make up the first great milestone of adversity. By Blue Mountain you're either getting it or you're going to have to go back to boot camp for a while until you can figure things out.
As you progress the mobs get trickier, with all sorts of special buffs and debuffs and tactics that require you to create multiple builds and pay attention to what you're fighting. Creating multiple builds is a necessity by Transylvania unless you've found that rare do-everything build that I've heard allegedly exists but have never seen it in action.
Then there are the challenges of instances, which require specializing in roles yet remaining flexible dependant on the boss fight in particular. With Issue 8 came scenarios, which required yet another examination of our builds and how best to plow through these sessions. Bylos has already mentioned how the AEGIS system is coming with Tokyo, and by all accounts that sounds just like another layer of required learning and strategic flexibility that will be required for our future progression into the game.
I won't lie: Sometimes I really hate that TSW
is like this. I hate that it just won't play nice and easy like other MMOs. But part of me grudgingly admits that I appreciate how it's made me into a better player, one who doesn't get stale and has to remain on his toes to deal with each situation as it arises. I may grump about learning. I may fight it. But I'm going to do it because I love this game, and I like where that learning takes me.
Conspiracies, paranoia, secrets, and chaos -- the breakfast of champions! Feast on a bowlful with MJ and Justin every Monday as they infiltrate The Secret World to bring you the latest word on the streets of Gaia in Chaos Theory. Heard some juicy whispers or have a few leads you want followed? Send them to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org and they'll jump on the case!