I Am Pavlov’s Dog

A thing happened to me while playing The Secret World last night – I have realized how much I have been conditioned by the titles I have played over the  years – and I feel dumber for it. I restarted Kingsmouth quests with a new weapon that seems to fit my play style better (assault rifle) and while doing some of the beginning quests I stumbled upon a side quest. Anyone who has played it will probably remember it. It has to do with a dead cleaner and a cell phone hint.

Sounds easy enough. I am an effecient quester so I checked my map and noticed that I could complete this quest on the way back to the quest hub, I had two other ones further away. So I went out and completed them, then headed to the church.

Except I forgot the hint. I checked my quest log for more detail but it didn’t provide that much, so I had to hoof it back to the cleaner’s corpse and recheck the message. Note to self, pens and paper are handy. My first difficulty was actually finding the rock. It said “in front of the church” and I was clearly in front of the church, but there was no glowing icon or giant arrow/indicator of where this rock is. I had to look around all by myself. Terribly inconvenient! Then, it asked for the code. Now I was prepared for this because I knew TSW did some different things with questing and what not – and I was going to sort this out on my own. This is a starter quest, how hard can it be?

“The code for the keypad is the first song he planned to sing on Sunday”

Simple. Let’s go talk to him. Talking with him brought some insights and other quest options but nothing about a song. I remembered reading that there was an in-game browser so I opened that up – I haven’t been to church in 10 years (don’t judge!) so maybe there were a few standard starting hymns typically used. No dice. I searched around the church for a while looking for a pamphlet, something, anything on the ground. In the pews. I couldn’t find it. After 10 minutes of looking around for chat bubbles or glowing objects (the looking around was already 10x longer than the getting there in the first place…) I gave up and googled it. And there was the answer, staring me in the face the whole time.

The song was listed exactly where songs are listed in church – I do remember that from when I went. I didn’t look up once, I didn’t check the scenery. This is when I realized how incredibly trained I have been in MMO questing to look on the mini map, or for the glowing object on the ground, or the NPC to talk to. I stopped looking for the “right way to look” or the sensible “what would I do in real life” to find the answer – I defaulted to the tips and tools that I have been taught to use in my MMO gaming the past decade.

Good news is that now that I realize I can – and should – think freely while questing in TSW and it may allow me to engage in the game in a different way. Hopefully I can unlearn some habits.

11 comments / Add your comment below

  1. Oh yes. I remember this quest for exactly these reasons. I’m not a traditional church goer, so I had no idea that song numbers were listed in a church like that. ><

    Luckily, I was questing with someone who did know that, and she was quick to point it out and educate me on it. I've honestly learned a lot from these little things in TSW.

    And yes, expect lots of this kind of thinking in this game. I tend to use the site that offers quest hints (can't remember which one does) when I get stuck to see if it can prod me in the right direction rather than give me the answer outright.

    1. I’m excited to see what else it brings. The joy of not having an end game to get to is that I can literally smell a lot of roses in TSW. I hear there are an awful lot of them, too.

  2. When I was playing around launch I must have heard someone ask about that quest on average once every third minute. It seemed to be the first point where players would run up against the idea that he game wasn’t going to lead them through each quest by the hand.

    I’m not actually a great fan of puzzles, in or out of games. Or, rather, I am not a fan of getting stuck on puzzles. I apply my general rule of “if its not fun, stop doing it” by going to a walkthrough at the first hint of frustration. I always found TSW hit a good balance in allowing me to get through quite a few steps before I needed to look anything up.

    1. I don’t mind puzzles if they are designed in such a way to not be a roadblock for the sake of a roadblock. If it is interesting and clever/thoughtful, I’ll give it a whirl. I am in your camp though that if I have a two hour play session, chances are I’m not spending 30 minutes to solve one that has me stuck.

      It’s hard not to with the internet always available, more so in TSW with that in game browser.

  3. That was one I happened to know, having spent my first 35 years or so going to church every Sunday. Others, like the art question that led to Dr Bannerman’s computer password, I have had to look up. I like that TSW contains enough of the familiar that one can get by on general knowledge. I think most MMOs are set in worlds that are different enough from our own that one needn’t expect to have a body of knowledge to draw from prior to playing.

    1. True, it is the only atmosphere that supports modern day “common sense”. Still, would be interesting to see a fantasy game do the same sort of thing for the time setting. I bet we are intelligent enough creatures to sort that out.

      If not, there are always an abundance of poo quests! =P

  4. Oh how I loved the questing design in TSW. Was rather funny having a notebook by the computer to constantly jot down information but it always felt so much more engaging and rewarding.

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