Star-Fired Beef


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The Secret Lore – The Black House

See all the Secret Lore here.

Ahhhh, the Black House. One of the creepiest places in the Secret World. The best thing about it? I’ve heard that if you are in a group when you explore it, then your party members can experience conflicting versions of events. One person might be seeing the walls bleed, one person might have a door slam shut on them and not be able to escape while for the others the door stays open. I just wish there were more missions to do in or around it.

The Black House

Our wisdom flows so sweet. Taste and see.

TRANSMIT – initiate New England signal – RECEIVE – initiate the burning cadence – EXIT HERE IN CASE OF FIRE – initiate the forgetting mantra – WITNESS – The Black House.

Come with us.

To the abandoned house, at forest’s edge, not far from the Overlook Motel.

Come with us.

Ravaged by fire thirty years ago, it hunches in blackened, twisted agony, charred like an ant husk under the searing sadism of childhood. The house is quiet, an ugly aftermath. But we can read the writing of scars.

Initiate the Trauma cadence.

A bad thing happened here.

Do you see what we see?

Fire burns away so many guilts, but the ashes remain.

Do you see what we see?

No one goes to the Black House. Kingsmouth still feels the guilt, and the guilt has a name.

Have you heard the story of Carrie Killian, sweetling?

She came to Kingsmouth and built the house in 1974. She worked from home, offering consultation and help through pagan practices. In those days, everyone liked her.

Malefactor detected! There, in the pattern of the ashes. Eye and Pyramid. Do you see what we see?

Carrie Killian was no fraud, but an independent practitioner of magical arts. This concerned the Illuminati. They did not like the way she observed the Innsmouth Academy.

Fire is a powerful tool, your first technology, sweetling. There were meetings in darkened rooms. It only takes a spark. Conniving lips manufactured rumours and planted them in smalltown ears. Fire spread. “She’s a bad influence on our children.” Bad will and bad mouthing, and Carrie Killian suffered on, still offering her services to the hypocrites who asked for help with one face, and spoke ill of her with another. Fire can get out of control.

Rumour mongering became ostracising. “Fraud” became “freak” became “devil worshipper.” “That handsome house” became “that den of evil.” A shrieking primate finally gets the courage to poke the curiosity, before running back up the tree, and soon all the talking monkeys are grabbing sticks.

Sometimes fuel gets spilt on the fire.

In 1987, several guests disappeared from the Overlook Motel. Those conniving lips whispered new rumours. The investigation proved Carrie Killian innocent, but the seed was already planted in the simian brains of the townsfolk. We visited a few of the mundanes, hovered over their beds and tried to warn them off the coming disaster, but they saw us and lost their simian minds.

When two mangled children were found near Ms Killian’s house, it was too late. The torches. The mob. The intent to frighten away, warped by the compiling misunderstandings. The roar of fire out of control. The screams of a woman. The shocked silence of a mob that sees hell reflected in the flames.

Guilt distills into stories until it is palatable. A story formed in every mouth by the time the fire died. “House was already on fire when we got there, and she was at the window, cackling,” mumbles a man over his drink. The city council arranged a quick funeral. No mourners showed. Carrie Killian was cremated and buried beneath a cheap gravestone.

The Black House still stands. No one wants to tear it down. No one wants to pick at the scab of their guilt. They cover it up with stories of wicked witchcraft. We listen as the sweet children sing the name Carrie Killian in their jump rope rhymes, the way they used to sing about the Black Plague.

Ashes. Ashes. We all fall down.


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The Secret Lore – Innsmouth Academy

See all the Secret Lore here.

The Innsmouth Academy is one of the major hubs of interest in the Savage Coast. Its history and relationship with the rest of Solomon Island is endlessly fascinating, and the missions that either originate in or incorporate the Academy are some of the more interesting ones in the early stages of the Secret World. I am sure that I have missed some cool stuff about it even though I’ve been back a couple of times. It’s also the first time you encounter ghosts or spectres in the Secret World, and I really appreciate the different design of these could-have-been-bland mobs.

Innsmouth Academy

Our wisdom flows so sweet. Taste and see.

TRANSMIT – initiate New England signal – RECEIVE – initiate the erudite frequency – YOUR JOURNEY TO SUCCESS BEGINS HERE – initiate Montag syntax – WITNESS – Innsmouth Academy.

Can you detect nostalgia as an olfactory stimulus, sweetling?

The meat of your memories records school time as a series of scents – crayons, paste, paint, playdough, dry-erase marker, construction paper, pencil shavings, sweaty gym shorts, ammonia, chemical sawdust and vomit, dust-burning heaters, sulphur in the drinking fountains, grass, hot recess asphalt, the metal-wood breath of the band room, formaldehyde, dissection, old books, candles, chalk dust on the ritual circle, brimstone, pickled ghoul flesh, wendigo bile, the burnt hair smell of an angry wraith.

These are a few of our favourite things.

In Kingsmouth, nostalgia has teeth, and memories are hungry. Welcome to Innsmouth Academy. Built in 1798, the school has been rebuilt and renovated several times since. The Colonial Georgian main building, erected in 1906, dominates the grounds today.

There is a grumbling, in the discontent frequencies, from the vocal organs of some Kingsmouth folk. While Innsmouth Academy students enjoy the luxuries of a privately funded boarding school, other children must commute off the island. Some find it hard to accept that the only school on the island is restricted to the rich and the spoiled. The envy and dismay built and culminated in a petition to the State Board of Education, with claims that the school took bribes in exchange for grades. The investigation found no proof of misconduct, and the case died away.

Such a picturesque institution, such an integral part of the short, but intense, history of Kingsmouth. It offers the town a boosted economy, attracts scholars, and bestows academic prestige. Only gifted children are admitted, under very strict entry exams. Students rank at the highest aptitudes of natural science, history and archaeology. The academy is considered one of the premier prep schools in the United States.

Public faces are so very pretty. Initiate the secret faces. Gaze through the half-light.

Powerful wards lace the outer walls of the school. Chalk outlines form ritual shapes on the blackboard. The shelves are lined with the sorts of books that one might have been burnt at the stake for, only a few centuries ago. The young doodle in notebooks, dreaming of bright futures in the secret cabals.

Along with mundane curriculum, seasoned magi teach spellcraft, alchemy, and occultism. One faculty member is fond of his yearly demonstrations of cephalonomancy, the art of divination via the boiled head of a donkey. Another scent haunts the halls.

Once only the children of the Illuminati studied here, but the children of Eye and Pyramid have since migrated to New York and Washington, D.C. These days aptitude carries more weight than affiliation.

News clippings fall like dead leaves, hinting at the supernatural events the Kingsmouth population is exposed to. Louder still is the rustling of the clippings that could have been. Protecting the citizens from the paranormal, and covering up the traces, is a full time labour for the faculty of Innsmouth Academy.

A dead leaf turns. During the Overlook Motel incident, the headmaster at the time and several of the staff closed a hellish portal in the motel and worked powerful spells to dissuade the curious from the premises.

A dead leaf turns. A student broke school policy by using magic to kill a wendigo. The psychic flux of the portal attracted the beast. Two Kingsmouth boys became its food. The screams. The epileptic grind of tooth on skull. The faculty cleaned up the mess.

A pile of dead leaves scatter. Due to its Illuminati affiliation, the academy endured several attacks over the years. Thrice it fell. Thrice it was rebuilt. The signs and the hiss of the leaves point to Templar involvement. In 1852, it burnt. In 1904, a ritually conjured earthquake rent it asunder. In 1967, an accidental application of dimensional portals along the then theoretical “Escher Curve” destroyed the elementalism lab.

For all this, student/faculty casualties always fell under acceptable levels. But none of the magical defences could stop the fog.

Initiate the now.

The current headmaster wanders the halls. The poor sweetling. We saw him when he was just a boy. Such a studious child. We were there the day he read a Yazidi death curse from a book, accidentally killing his mother and eleven others. We whispered in his ear before he turned himself over to the police. Now he is all grown up, in his suit and blue latex gloves, keeping dedicated vigil over a dead school.

The Academy lies empty. A discarded hermit crab shell. It is enough to make one wax nostalgic for simpler times, when life was all lunch boxes and dissecting revenant crows, and passing notes to your would-be sweetheart while procrastinating from memorizing the ninety-nine syllables of a Babylonian demon’s true name for tomorrow’s quiz.

 


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The Secret Lore – Samhain 2013

See all the Secret Lore here.

After reading about the League of Monster Slayers, it’s a good time to take a detour into some seasonal content. For Samhain 2013, Danny Dufresne, on behalf of the League, asks you to collect some spooky stories from around the island. You have to go searching for them, guided only by the hints collected in a notebook left in the League’s treehouse. I thought it was a great, interactive way to tell some spooky stories for the holiday, and this summary by the Bees is enough to give me chills even now.

Samhain 2013

Our wisdom flows so sweet. Taste and see.

TRANSMIT – initiate Samhain signal – RECEIVE – initiate the wicked gourd cadence – OH, GREAT PUMPKIN, WHERE ARE YOU? – initiate urban mythos procedures – NINE, TEN… NEVER SLEEP AGAIN – initiate the Stingy Jack beacon – WITNESS – Samhain and the Tree House Horrors.

We relate to memes, sweetling. Living stories. Data with agency. Let us introduce these stories ten. They’ll come knocking on your skull, these tales with teeth from the gourds that grin, saying, “Little pig, little pig, let us in!”

Once upon a time, there was a groundskeeper. Ask him what’s in his flask. So many windows to stare through at the Innsmouth Academy. “O, Donnie Bedloe, Donnie Bedloe, Donnie Bedloe…” Say it into the reflecting panes of glass. Those gormless, bovine-jelly eyes… Not quite looking. He’s not quite looking at you right now.

Once upon a time, there was a hermit. Knock upon the birch coffin: one-two-three. Did an echo knock back-back-back? In the night, if you think you hear a noise, and you call out to a loved one, and their voice answers back – “all is well” – and you still feel the disquiet, then listen. “All is well.” Did you hear chewing? “All is well.” Did you hear crunching? “All is well!” Did you hear grinding? Oh, sweetling, fly-fly-fly!

Once upon a time, there was a bath tub. There was lipstick. There was a mirror. There were words. The red-stained ice cubes clinked. You know the story, or so you think. There are devils in the details. There are ghosts of guilt haunting the silence. Miss Chen, Miss Chen, O won’t you confess?

Once upon a time, there was an email. Is information distilling into a super-weird substance? Can it grow every time it transmits? Can data develop feelings? Can those feelings be hurt? Hell hath no fury like a meme scorned. That’s silly! Right? From our personal experience, sweetling, it is not.

Once upon a time, there was a note, written on a page torn from the notebook in a dead man’s pocket. Yo-ho. Yo-ho. Mister Hills, Mister Hills, O won’t you confess? Wait! Who are you? Why are your innards so purple?

Once upon a time, a story started with love. Then the black rider came. Love was covered over in pox and lumps and pustules. Good fortune is sometimes ugly. The dead do not take kindly when the living beg for beauty. Sometimes vanity smells like sizzling flesh.

Once upon a time, there was Stingy Jack. Heaven and Hell barred their doors. Be careful how many lanterns you gather. Never know what you’re guiding in out of the dark. The story has three layers, to hear dearest Andy tell it. He’ll leave out the bit about his urine-soaked pants. Surely he will. Who is that selling pumpkins? Who dies? Who lives? You get what you give – you get what you give – you get what you give!

Once upon a time, there was a diary. Opening a book is opening a door. Opening a book is making a promise. You should be wary of more than paper cuts. Eh, sweetling?

Once upon a time, there was a frustrated writer. Before him, there was a scared little boy. Both of them did a deal. Never mind the ritualistic particulars. They each agreed to write a story, and each received a head full of undead whales. Who’s that peddling tentacular memes? His fingers bleed ink and his nails gleam.

Once upon a time, there was a hiker. 3am pavement is a kind of purgatory. White lines blur by like souls screaming silently to perdition. O, Chloe Mercer, Chloe Mercer, Chloe Mercer. To die will be an awfully big adventure.

Everyone is a story, sweetling. The question is, who is reading you?

 

 


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Recent Loot Haul

I wanted to give a nod to the Steam Summer Sale in the title, but it’s winter here so it felt odd. And calling it the winter sale is weird too. Plus, I actually bought less games from the Steam Sale than other sources, so even highlighting Steam felt silly. Anyway…

From Steam

I managed to not go overly crazy, only spent around $25 and got some great deals. First up, I got the Forced 4-pack. I am not sure when I’ll dive into that, but it will be epiiiiiic! Startopia has been one of my sim/management must-haves for ages, so I finally snapped it up. Tomb Raider for $5 seemed too good to pass up. Satisfied my adventure point-and-click urges with the Blackwell Bundle, which contains four of the five games: Convergence, Deception, Legacy, and Unbound. Finally, picked up Polarity because a) Portal-lite, and b) it was only 19 cents, so I should make a profit on the trading cards.

Oh, and that $25 included a full copy of To The Moon (game + soundtrack) as a gift.

Bundles

Yeah, I ended up diverting Steam Sale money to a couple of bundles. I bought the Humble E3 ticket Bundle for a few bucks simply to get Wildstar, in the anticipation of having certain options already unlocked when it goes F2P. The bundle came with a bunch of other stuff I don’t care about (military shooters, cosmetics for games I don’t play, etc) or already have (Psychonauts).

The other bundle I bought was the Bundle Stars Nightmares Bundle. I am not really sure why I am attracted to some of the horror games out there, as I honestly don’t like horror very much at all. Maybe I’m saving them for a time when I have someone to whom I can turn and hide my face against. Who knows. The games in this bundle were the adventure games 1Heart, The Samaritan Paradox, and Kraven Manor; the “walking simulator”s Montague’s Mount, and The Moon Sliver; an FPS action adventure called  Betrayer; and The Path, a cool-sounding take on the Red Riding Hood tale. 

Just Call Me Sisyphus

So in a week and a half of temptation, a lot of my hard Steam Challenge work is undone. I’m finding that a lot of the games I consider the most seriously are starting to tend towards the story-heavy ones, such as adventure games and RPGs. I’ve spent a couple of hours whittling down my wishlist too, as having nearly 500 games on it was starting to become ridiculous. I’m down to under 350 at the moment, and I hope to get that under 300 before I reach the end of the list.

Warning: NSFW

The Tea Party – Temptation


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Tuesday Maintenance – Blizzard Edition

Not much to report this week, as I spent a few days in hospital and haven’t really been up to spending long periods playing games. Hoping that things will pick up this week.

This thing

Most of my gaming time this week has been taken up with Heroes of the Storm. I finally reached level 25, which makes trying out new heroes a little easier as all the skill options are open from the start now. It looks like I am going to be able to afford Nova after all, since I have 8 of my 10 required heroes for ranked, and almost 9k gold saved. Nova costs 10k, and I still have a couple of 4k heroes I can buy to finish off the roster. I’ve now been on the receiving end of Nova ganks and it is not a nice experience. I can’t wait to dish it out for once.

I am getting better at figuring out which heroes click with me quickly. I was super excited to try out Chen, a warrior who is all about smashing kegs over enemy heads and then breathing fire on them. But the reality is that he is a lot more subtle than that, and I am finding it difficult to adapt to his actual playstyle rather than go kegsmashing with abandon.

I have started playing against player opponents, finally, now that I have hit 25. Need that practice. I’m finding that there are two kinds of opponent so far: either I can fence with someone and sooner or later bait them into overextending; or, they are a really good player and I get my arse handed to me. I did manage to hook up with Murf and Jasyla last night, which was great! Our results weren’t great, but at least one of the games we lost was a hard-fought, intense match that I thoroughly enjoyed.

That thing

Alongside HotS, I picked up Hearthstone again after a month-long hiatus. I gave the new Tavern Brawl mode a whirl, and I love it! My friend sent me a Warrior Grim Patron build which is super cheap as long as you have Death’s Bite from Naxxramas and the first wing (I believe) of Blackrock Mountain unlocked. It was touted as a deck that is easily capable of making Legendary rank, but I somehow managed to lose my first game at rank 22 against a new Mage with just bog-standard starter cards. I had to go and lie down for a bit after that.

Those other things

I gave Wasteland Angel a try, it isn’t bad but controls feel awkward as is so I’ve sent it to the “later, when I have a controller” pile. I also attempted to play Avencast, an ARPG, but the dialogue and writing actively hurt my brain, and the graphics are fairly dated. It went straight to the “maybe later” pile.

I ended up playing through the free DLC “minisodes” for To The Moon, that take place after the main story. The second one allegedly contains a small bridging plot to the sequel that is supposedly in development, so I’ll be interested to see how that pans out. Neither of the minisodes were as tear-jerkingly sad as the main story, but neither were the doctors anywhere near as obnoxiously annoying. So, net gain, I guess.

Downsyde – Life Speed


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The Secret Lore – League of Monster Slayers

See all the Secret Lore here.

You are introduced to the League of Monster Slayers in the form of Danny Dufresne, a teenager holding his own in a fortified skate park in Kingsmouth. At first you are not sure what to make of his worldly assurance and competence regarding the supernatural. But as you discover the pieces of this lore, you start to realise just how innocent the youth of Solomon Island really are. Aren’t. You know what I mean. I didn’t start to appreciate the history of the League until I found the treehouse in the Savage Coast zone. It’s very cool.

League of Monster Slayers

Our wisdom flows so sweet. Taste and see.

TRANSMIT – initiate New England signal – RECEIVE – initiate adolescent frequency – KEEP OUT OF REACH OF CHILDREN – initiate the pinky promise protocol – WITNESS – The League of Monster Slayers.

There is an old tree house – not far from Red’s Bait and Tackle, in the forest north of the Black House – grown large on years of additions. It is a boyhood place, filled with boyhood thoughts, bittersweet as September, built on mismatched wood planks, on bullfrog catchings, on mason jars filled with dead fireflies, on hoarded Halloween candy, hidden recollections of lingerie catalogues, and spiral-bound notebooks filled with yellowing pages of nearly three decades of adolescent wisdom on the paranormal.

Many of these pencil-scribed occult secrets are inaccurate, but it’s the thought that counts. Well. No. It is not always the thought that counts. Very often, the thought cannot keep cannibal teeth from ripping away the sweet meats of the little ones. Hidden amid the happy recollections are treacherous, shrike-beaked memories – dead things crucified on thorns and barbed wire – faint screams from the past – the epileptic grind of fangs on skull.

It all began with William Dexter. In 1983, at ten years of age, he led the local boys as far from town as they dared. They built a tree house away from the eyes of girls and parents. The League of Monster Slayers was born.

The only way to join the League was the endorsement of a current member and the nomination of one departing. We saw the boys, such serious boys, during their initiation ceremonies – pledges of undying loyalty to fellow slayers by dark of night and bouncing flashlights.

Time passes – first with the turning of comic book pages and then in the endless dialogue of what to do in the inevitable zombie invasions. The fire pit is filled with ashes still soaked in a thousand ghost stories. It was all fun and laughing screams, but in the secret world, childhood games can sharpen to razor poignancy.

Innocence died when two mutilated boys were found in the forest, in 1987. The adults consoled each other by repeating “animal attack,” but children are less removed from the mesozoic swamp of the womb, closer to the feverish, hardline connection to communal memory and the paleolithic wisdom that says humans are tasty, and the dark is filled with tasters.

The League gathered improvised weapons – sling shots, wooden stakes, firecrackers – and set out to earn their name. It was still a game, until the Wendigo attacked. All their meat would have been food for a monster’s belly, except for the secret abilities of one of the boys.

Jackson Miller, 15 years old, broke all his oaths as a student of Innsmouth Academy by using magic off campus and among civilians. Panicking, he released lethal energies upon the beast. In the confusion, screams, and firecracker smoke, the other boys did not see what occurred.

The smoke settled. The wendigo lay dead. In victory, the boys convinced themselves that they and their weapons were special. When the others went home to brag of their exploits, Jackson Miller returned to the Academy, hid his toy weapon, and confessed.

The faculty of the Innsmouth Academy are no strangers to covering up the supernatural. They incinerated the beast’s carcass in the school’s boiler room. Jackson received official reprimand, but among his fellow students, he became legend – the boy who killed the wendigo.

No one believed the boys of the League when they spoke of their monster slaying. They stopped speaking of it and made a pact to keep their secrets. The years proved them wise, for time passes – first in months, and then in decades – and the childhood stunts of the past become the behavioural conditions of the present, and troublesome boys are gagged with pills to dull those paleolithic wisdoms.

The League’s “No Girls!” policy was changed the summer of Nika Vasquez. Nine times she asked for membership and was denied, with jeers and spitballs. The tenth time, she showed up at the tree house, demonstrating an erudite knowledge of comic book lore, and throwing a severed finger – too long to be human – at the feet of the gaping boys.

Generations later and the League of Monster Slayers remembers. They pass on their stories mouth to mouth and in secret notebooks. Every inexplicable incident gets scribbled in.

Danny Dufresne leads the current League, but the fog came, and the other members disappeared. Danny remains, the last monster slayer of Kingsmouth.


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Steam Challenge – Rochard

This is part of my Steam Challenge Series (the full list is here).

Time played: 7 hours

I quite liked Rochard. It is one of those games that should be held up as an example to any budding designers or studios as to what a solid game looks like. The production values are quite high, with a very smooth and responsive control scheme, good UI and guidance, decent writing and quite good voicework, and very good level design.

There is nothing I can complain about with Rochard. The length of the game was pretty much perfect, it ended just as I was threatening to get bored or feel like I was slugging through it. The difficulty was fairly constant throughout, no nasty spikes that created a barrier to progress. I liked the colourful setting, the different mechanics presented via manipulation of gravity, and although the story was predictable, it wasn’t obnoxiously so.

As much as I like it, however, I find that I can’t say Rochard is a great, stellar, must-have game. It does everything really well. I am glad I played it. I just won’t be looking back and wishing that I could revisit it, nor am I hanging out for a sequel. Strange? Yeah, but that’s how it is. Sorry, Rochard, I wish I could give you more.

The Superjesus – Gravity


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The Secret Lore – Morninglight

See all the Secret Lore here.

To be honest I am not sure what the Morninglight are doing in The Secret World. They are supposedly a rising cult that seem like they are based on Scientology, but the hints are that they are a cover for…something. Something Not Good. You encounter them early on, in the Kingsmouth zone and in London, but after that initial buildup they seem to have been tossed aside in the narrative. Perhaps they will resurface in Transylvania or Tokyo?

Morninglight

Our wisdom flows so sweet. Taste and see.

TRANSMIT – initiate the self-improvement signal – RECEIVE – initiate the recruiting cadence – LOOKING FOR SOMETHING MORE? – initiate the Anti-dream prayer – ISN’T IT TIME TO WAKE UP? – initiate the shivering star frequency – I HAD NOT THOUGHT SELF-HELP HAD UNDONE SO MANY – flip the Ace of Ruin – WITNESS – The Morninglight.

“If I told you, you could get a better job, a higher income, and a more rewarding personal life by following just a few small steps…is that something you might be interested in?”

It begins this way. Then there are smiles. Then you are tested, to gauge how many obstacles lie between you and your potential. Your signature. Your initials. Products. Credit card number. Collecting others’ signatures. More smiles – there are always smiles. Welcome to the Morninglight.

Their posters and stalls adorn every city. Their pamphlets blow through every street. In the wind and the flutter the pages say…

“Ready for the truth? Ready for change? Become who YOU always wanted to be!”

“How bright is YOUR future? Talk to us and find out.”

“Release your inner potential and disrupt the harmful cycle of modern life.”

“Discover YOUR beauty within. We are all made of stars.”

“The end is night! But the end is only the beginning. Walk with us into the sunrise.”

Welcome to the Morninglight. Initiate the public face.

The fastest growing spiritual movement in history. A self-help empire gaining traction in all corners of the globe, supplanting political parties and religions. Morninglight offers to liberate humanity from its shackles and reach a new pinnacle of evolution through the shining light of the sun and the guidance of the ecclesiastical leader of the moral revolution: Philip Marquard.

The philosophy of the movement is change – necessary change – mental and metaphysical change for the better. Mankind stagnates in the quagmire of modern civilisation, the literature boldly proclaims, but humanity is ready for its next level of existence. Morninglight presentations, lessons, and products dramatically accelerate the parishioners’ spiritual journey up the ladder to infinitude. To progress to the next age of humanity, something drastic must happen.

Initiate the hidden face.

Past the pamphlets, the booths, the meetings – into the higher levels of the converted – change morphs into anarchy – philosophical change mutates into physical. Radical cells organise violent protests, terrorist acts, and aggressive rituals nurture chaos and uncertainty, to drive people away from the established institutions and into their loving arms. “It is time to wake up!” the practitioners chant, but their message does not seem to be directed at one another. Where then? They attack corporate buildings that have a particular loathing for the Orochi Group. Why is that?

Initiate the secret histories.

This new religion tastes older, much older, into the deep time, as if…

Signal disruption! Something rips our data-weave flesh, dims our incandescent eyes. What protects them?

Seek alternate subject. Initiate analysing scan: Philip Marquard.

Look, sweetling. See the pretty picture: the charismatic leader of Morninglight and his beautiful family, a symbol of the new era of humanity. The patriarch, Philip, handsome and earnest of smile. His wife, Elisa, equally photogenic. Their two children – Alexandre and Katherine, eight and eleven years old, pretty little replicas of their parents. And, of course, there is a beautiful, purebred dog. A lovely portrait. But the photo album pages are stuck together with blood and worse. Down in the basement…

Signal disruption! Our particle wings tear. What protects them?

Seeking alternate subject. Initiate analysing scan: Betty.

We like Betty. She is a plump sweetling, with a big smile. Betty once had self-image problems, but she overcame them. A Morninglight poster decorates her wall. Much-read pamphlets sit in her bathroom. Philip Marquard’s audio book on self-actualisation plays in her earphones. Fresh signatures fill the forms on her clipboard. Bottles of Morninglight dietary supplements and nutrient pills fill her medicine cabinet. By her bed is an autographed picture of Philip Marquard, the one she secretly kisses before going to sleep. Every night she dreams of freeing herself from her mortal shell and ascending into the cosmos to soar with the whale-mollusk gods.

There are new recruits chained to Betty’s walls. She has their signatures. They tested as having self-image problems, as she once had. Smiling, she tells them they are all beautiful. She opens them with a knife, shows them the beauty inside. “Look!” she says, tears streaming. “We are all made of stars!” Then she practices eating stars, waiting for enlightenment to take hold.


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Tuesday Maintenance: The Startening

So it seems that not only am I a bandwagon jumper, but it turns out that I like to wait until said bandwagon has done a few blockies before I jump aboard. Just to be certain that it’s not, like, one of those “free candy” bandwagons or anything. Thus, welcome to the inaugural edition of my (weekly, fingers crossed) wrap-up of what the hell I’ve been doing with my life playing. This first post will cover more than just the previous week, I’ve been dabbling in a number of games over the last month or two.

This thing

I’ve been putting a fair bit of time into Heroes of the Storm since it went into open beta (and then official launch). I am now up to player level 22, although I’ve only ventured into player-vs-AI games so far. Once I hit level 25 I will start doing full PvP in Quickmatches, in preparation for ranked play when I reach level 30. Until then I’m more interested in learning the different heroes and how they play, so I don’t go into ranked totally clueless. Just mostly.

I’ve bought most of the cheapest heroes with gold, so I only need two more to qualify for ranked play. I really want to get Nova and specialise with her, but that will come later. I am comfortable with at least one hero from each of the four roles now, which was my main concern as a beginner.

I could never get into League of Legends, which is the only other MOBA I have played, and I like Heroes precisely because it has eliminated the two things I hated most about LoL: last hitting and item shopping. I also appreciate the fact that I don’t have to learn the strengths and weaknesses of over a hundred different characters in order to feel vaguely competent. Thirty-something is quite enough as it is, thankyouverymuch.

The Spider Queen narrator is already getting on my nerves. Starting to dislike that battleground because of it.

That thing

The main game I finished recently is a great little 2.5D puzzle platformer, Rochard. It’s a very nicely polished game, and I thoroughly enjoyed every level. I’ll be doing a write-up for it sometime soonish. I’m not sure that it received a lot of hype, but it is definitely worth playing.

I spent quite a lot of time getting my Heroes of Might and Magic fix, via HOMM Online, a browser-based free to play version of the franchise. It’s faithful to the series, in the mechanics anyway – I never really paid any attention to the storylines, plus I haven’t played any of the games since HOMM 4. It’s the usual time-gated play you’d expect to find in a F2P game, but as a solo, casual player it really isn’t much of an imposition. You can group up with other players, both in open world battles and in special Raids, and I believe they have just implemented some sort of guild-exclusive feature that sounds like a private stomping ground. I’ve sated my cravings for that kind of game for the moment, though, so I’m no longer logging in daily as I used to.

Oh, and I just (like, half an hour ago) finished To The Moon – oh mah feels! Write-up for it on the way.

Those other things

I’ve been a lot quicker to drop games that I can’t see myself longing to play. Some of them, like Canabalt – apparently one of the original endless runners – I played long enough to get some easy achievements and the steam trading cards. Runespell: Overture is a lot more polished than I expected, and the combat system is an interesting twist, but ultimately it bills itself as an RPG and the story was not good enough to catch my interest. The writing wasn’t bad, just bland. I put it aside to maybe come back to later, when I have nothing else to play. (Hah. Hahahahahahahah.)

Nightsky is a great little physics puzzle game that I put some time into for a while, but have reached a tricky bit which led me to set it aside for a while. It’s just hangin’ out with the dozen or so other puzzle games I’ve got ready when I feel the need to give my brain a workout.

I finished another episode of Strong Bad’s Cool Game For Attractive People, this one being the Baddest of the Bands. I admit to resorting to walkthroughs a lot more quickly in this series than with others – mainly because the real attraction of it is the humour, not the puzzles. I do so love the Homestar Runner universe!

What else? Oh, yes, I’ve had the Nightmare mode of Orcs Must Die 2 sitting there uncompleted for a couple of years now, so I finished that off and can now set it aside as completed. I haven’t uninstalled it though, as I am sure I’ll get an urge for some mindless ultraviolence someday, and endless mode is perfect for those times. Plus, co-op is a possibility too.

Finally, I pottered around in The Secret World for a while, finishing up Egypt. It feels like I’ve been in Egypt forever, so I was super glad to get back to gloomy London. Deserts are amongst my least favourite biomes. The whole City of the Sun God storyline was really sad, which made it even harder to be pumped about logging back in regularly. I want to do a proper post about my thoughts on TSW lately so I’ll just leave it there for now. I’m right at the beginning of the first Transylvanian zone, and I am really looking forward to seeing the cool stuff that is undoubtedly ahead of me. I’d like to get to Tokyo this year.

Things to come

More HotS, obviously. After Murf’s NBI Screenshot Safari, I am developing a longing to get back into LOTRO and maybe see if SWTOR is not too obnoxiously limiting. FFXIV is still calling me, but unfortunately I am still short on the funds needed to upgrade replace my computer, so I’m unwilling to drop the $70 needed for the complete pack (including Heavensward). Even $20 for the base game is not that attractive until I have a better machine. I’m also a little nervous that I’m leaving it too late, that everyone I want to play with will be gone by the time I get in and catch up.

I said in my Wander post that I’d keep logging in regularly to see how things improved, but after getting Griffin form and struggling with the flight mechanics, I gave up. I’m still keeping an eye on updates, and I might jump in every so often to putz about, but I have a bad feeling that the changes I need to see are a long way off.

Now that I’ve finished To The Moon I will likely try to knock off a “medium” sized game from my library, but I haven’t decided which one yet. Probably Wasteland Angel, a Mad Max-style-driving-around-shooting-things-up post-apocalyptic funhouse. That’s the theory, anyway.

Architecture In Helsinki – Do The Whirlwind


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The Secret Lore – The Polaris

See all the Secret Lore here.

The Polaris is the first group instance in The Secret World. It’s also the only dungeon I’ve managed to find a group for. I got a sweet pair of laser pistols which then immediately disappointed me by having the same gunshot sound as the revolvers I already had.

You access the Polaris via the Orochi roadblock on the bridge at the outskirts of Kingsmouth. The agents there recruit you to go and investigate the wreck, find out what happened, and retrieve some classified material. Naturally, that all goes out the window once you get there…

The Polaris

Our wisdom flows so sweet. Taste and see.

TRANSMIT – initate hel-blár signal – RECEIVE – initiate the Vampyroteuthis Infernalis frequency – STOP ROT BEFORE IT STARTS – initiate the Nørre Nærå Runestone lexicon – WITNESS – Draug Island.

Listen, sweetling. The seagulls scream.

“Draug! Draug! Draug!” The seagulls are agitated. They are accustomed to eating the bloat-rot flesh of the drowned dead. They are not accustomed to such food walking.

There squats a tiny island, accessible by rowboat, not so very far from Kingsmouth. Red seaweed chokes the rocky shores. Pods pulsate, full to bursting with vile nativity. The fog covers all in a claustrophobic embrace, swallowing sound to near silences occasionally broken by hungry moans.

The seagulls scream.

When the fog came, a gargantuan container ship lost its way and ran aground, spilling its cargo over the beach. Men became monsters, either lurching as the walking dead, or breaking out in barnacle sores as the draug – the again walkers – also called draugur and draugar and aptrgangr.

The corpse of the ship still rests here. See what lies in its hull.

The seagulls have gone quiet. A crawling shape intrudes. It blots out all reason in inky black madness.

The Ur-Draug.

Not even seagulls dare to scream its name.

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