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“Hump Day Randomness” or “A Central Theme be Damned!”

February 1, 2012 Leave a comment

I had quite a few ideas for a post today. but as I cleared out my Google Reader for the day, things kept popping up that I wanted to talk about. Eventually I decided I should just make a crock-pot, hodge-podge post that is equal parts random and lacking a clear focal point.

RIFT is going F2P

Well, sort of. They are doing essentially what WoW did. RIFT will be free to play up to level 20. You can access the capital cities, several zones and play on any server, and there is no time-limit cap. I played RIFT beta in a limited capacity. I have always been fascinated by what I read about the game from other bloggers, but I never felt an adequate amount of compulsion to go out and purchase the game to figure out if I like it. This simplifies that. I can simply try the game, and it’s various classes, and see if this is something I see myself playing long-term.

Analyst Predicts Elder Scrolls 6

As a journalist IRL, sometimes I can’t help but wonder why people choose to publish such content as “news worthy stories”. The title of the story is all the new information you need. The rest of it is either a backgrounder or a filler. Not to mention the fact that this is stating the obvious. It would be like me predicting that the sun would rise tomorrow over Europe. Or that Peter Molyneux’s next game will be another over-hyped letdown. Or that despite the “WTF Pokemon?” camp, people will return to WoW in droves come patch 5.0. Seriously. Stop that. You are wasting your time, and mine. And I got nothing of any significant worth from the story.

Well actually it did lead to the creation of this section of this post.

But that’s it!

Markco got Banned from D3 Beta

This was ridiculous. Markco has reigned supreme on the gold-making strategy throne for quite some time. He shifted his focus from gold-making in WoW to gold-making in D3, but with disastrous results. His strategies started netting him in the excess of 11,000 gold an hour, while operating perfectly within the confines and mechanics of the game. However, it seems that making too much gold can be labeled “exploitative”. No offense Blue, but if you think making too much gold by using in-game mechanics, that are available to every player, is exploitative, than perhaps you shouldn’t have introduced RMT for digital items in the same title.

Why we Need More Fights Like Ultraxion

I recently started reading posts from The Grumpy Elf, who looks suspiciously like a Worg. He recently put up ten reasons why we need more “pure DPS, less dance” fights like Ultraxion. It is a pleasure to read, and gives you some perspective on why fights like Ultraxion can actually be good for you, your guild and the WoW community at large.

“Rift: Who Wants to be my Friend?” or “You Want That Ember Steed or Not?”

July 22, 2011 4 comments

Alright, so Trion has rolled out a recruit-a-friend program for early adopters (founders) of Rift, and you can gift a free copy to one of your friends, and Ascend them.

For every friend you gift, you get Courage, a (vanity?) pet, then a spiffy hat for the second, and a kick-ass mount called the Ember Steed for your third. You can find additional details here.

So: who wants to be my friend?

Categories: Rift

“Quit Opening Rifts in My Heart!” or “The Perfect MMO Formula?”

February 4, 2011 3 comments

Apologies for the unintended hiatus, a lot was happening at work and I had literally no time to myself. I promised a quick review of Rift beta 4, and here it is.

Trion Worlds, quite possibly has figured out the ideal way to make an MMO: perfect and improve existing systems and norms without delving too much into new, experimental and risky ideas. This is the essence of Rift, it looks, feels and even plays like the most popular of MMOs, but incredibly polished, detailed and well-thought out. And if the above isn’t making much sense, just know this: Rift is an incredible amount of fun, without departing too significantly from core MMO ideologies.

I had a chance to play Rift Beta, albeit briefly, this weekend. I had some initial hiccups, notably the download rates and then connectivity issues, and blogging about said issues even incurred the wrath of an irate commenter. What set the tone for the following play session was a comment posted by a member of the development team over at Trion World, profusely apologizing and offering his help in whatever manner possible. The beta also got extended by a day, and I finally got a chance to play it on Friday night.

Rift is very simple at first glance, with a hidden level of complexity and depth beneath the seemingly innocuous surface. There are two factions of powerful beings, Guardians and Deviants, the chosen ones if you will, that represents the light and dark side respectively. Although the juxtaposition is not quite as black and white and more of a matter of perspective. I gravitate towards lawful good, so naturally I went with the Guardian faction, and the only race choice available was dwarfs. (Yes I know there are others, but as a life-long dwarf player, the other races practically don’t exist for me.) I also chose a class from four separate classes, and I went with a warrior. The final character was named Bronte, and looked remarkably like the stubby dwarf I have had playing WoW, I took a deep breath, and plunged into the world of Telara.

Nearly three hours later, way past the time I was planning on trying out Rift. I had to peel myself away because some of us have that called a job, that requires you to be well-slept and partially functional when you’re at it!

The UI is very familiar. The character, target portraits, the minimap, the action bar, the chatbox were nestled in comfortable, familiar positions. It looks like WoW, it feels like LOTRO, it plays like Aion, and I have a momentary sense of trepidation as the flaming wagon of countless WoW clones, most notably the Alganon wreck, flashes before my eyes. Gingerly I take my first steps and take my first steps. The quest log is familiar. I get my first weapon and open the character portrait to equip it. The character window feels familiar. I find a collectible book, and right clicking it simply files it away, and I can’t figure out how to access it, but it’s a nifty ittle mechanism for driving the lore.

And then I am asked to pick my specialization. This is when I realize that only four classes is extremely misleading. There are multiple sub-roles within each class and each one of these has it’s own detailed soul tree (more on this later). I went with a Riftblade Warlord, and the resulting combination, though initially confusing to wrap my head around, was astounding. Combat is fresh, furious, responsive and fluid. My only gripe is that it feels too easy. I am taking on multiple mobs at my level and wiping the floor with them, while my health is negligibly dented.

The whole experience seems very on-rails, and I don’t mean that in the negative sense. The first few quests had me kill a few mobs and collect some items. By the time I had finished doing that, I looked up and saw myself at the next quest hub, practically 10 feet from where I was supposed to the turn in the quest to Borrin Gamult at Thantic’s Fountain. I haven’t played the game enough to know if this is the exception or the rule, but it happened more than once, and that, to say the least was impressive. I was gently and subtly guided from mini-quest hub to mini-quest hub, and I didn’t even realize it.

I was also pleased with the sheer volume of options and tweaks you could make. The UI, is completely customizable, much like in LOTRO. Some of the most time-saving and useful little shortcuts are present, such as auto-loot and a quest tracker, and the options menu is well populated with little snippets for perfectly customizing your player experience. There are some other little things that I found useful. Pressing the ‘v’ key, for instance, flips the camera 180 without turning your character around: a handy tool if you really want to see the terrifying monstrosity that is hunting you down! The graphics look gorgeous, I experienced some lag, but that could be simply because I refused to play at anything below the ultra settings to enjoy the world of Telara in all it’s digitally rendered glory.

I called it a night when I reached level 6, which I know is very low, and I didn’t even get to experience the major selling point of the title: the rifts themselves. But I have an invitation to beta 5, and I will be sure expand on my experiences in the world of Telara. But all in all, I (surprisingly) had a blast, and look forward to get in some more playtime this weekend.

Categories: Beta, Rift

“Tore Telara a New Rift” or “Superheroes Squabble” or “Battlestar Galactica: In-browser”

January 28, 2011 4 comments

RIFT

The new Rift trailer kicks a lot of (rift) ass. The battle between the Ascendants comes full circle, birds get caught on fire, and it is revealed that if you have giant tusks, you can kick some serious ass! Seriously though, it is the most ambitious trailer for Rift to date and although my work schedule not permitted me to play at all, I was really glad to hear they were expanding the beta window to Saturday. That implies I can squeeze in a few hours and hopefully get a good idea of what Rift is all about. I will have a full write-up over the weekend, as soon as I figure out whether the NDA is in effect because there seems to be conflicting information on this. (Perhaps you can answer this one Scott?)

Let me also say that I was very pleasantly surprised that a representative from Trion Worlds actually responded to my ill-advised gripe about installation and launch problems I had with Rift. Not only that, he actually offered to help and look into the matter. I don’t quite know what I like / dislike about Rift just yet, but I have to say, they’ve got mad customer service skills yo!

Watch the new trailer embedded below:

Superheroes Squabble

DCUO launched mid-January. The game seems to be doing fairly well, considering new servers are being added to the game days into the launch. Champions Online also went F2P, and I don’t think anyone has any confusions about their decision to announce a launch date right around the launch of DCUO. I am going to try my hands at Champions Online again. I have had my reservations with the game, but it has been out nearly a year and a half now, and I am hoping most of the bugs have been filtered out by now. And if Patrick’s post is any indication, the launch went a lot smoother than the disaster we faced on the original launch day back in September 2009. The option to play F2P is also quite welcoming, despite the fact that Massively.com doesn’t think the locked archetypes are a true representation of what the game may have to offer. If you want to know anything and everything about the revamped title, you can read Massively’s write-up here.

Will I try DCUO? Not yet. I’ll give it a few more months. The initial response is, admittedly, enticing. But I don’t want to get burnt again by spending my heard-earned doubloons on a sub-par game because I got sold on the hype.

Battlestar Galactica: In-browser

While we are on the subject of trailers, the folks over at Big Point have released an in-game trailer, crafted from 100% in-game footage, and now with more Vitamin C! I have to admit, despite my initial reservations about a Farmville-esque botched attempt at re-creating the fantastic universe, I am a little surprised at how detailed, graphically rich, and accurate an in-browser game can look these days. Am I confused? Did they decide to go with a full-blown 3D engine and I missed that memo? Or are those graphics a little ridiculous for an in-browser game?

I haven’t yet, but I will sure as hell sign-up for the beta now! Take a look:

“Gaming Updates” or “Fable 3, WoW: Cataclysm and RIFT Beta”

January 26, 2011 9 comments

Fable III

I can’t play this title any more. I have had a blast playing Molyneux’s latest title, but to a point.

Relationship Quests: I discovered that nearly every NPC in the game had a unique name (though not a unique personality) and several factors determined whether they loved or despised me. This revelation led to figuring out how every single NPC had quests for you, provided you improve your relationship level with them. This was exciting, but also incredibly anal, time-consuming and repetitive. I think it is a great idea, and it breathes new life into the concept of a living, breathing world, but the repetitive nature greatly detracts from the concept. After a few relationship quests, I was just tired of the whole thing, especially after having the dog dig through the 16th random dig site for a small piece of who-gives-a-shit-anymore.

Weapon Leveling: Halfway through the game I found how the weapon upgrade system worked. I was excited. I picked up Briar’s_Blaster, and went about finishing the three objectives required for improving the weapon (earn 10,000 gold from jobs, kill 150 men, complete 30 quests). When the gun wad finally fully upgraded, I realized I had no idea what I was supposed to do next, or where in the storylines had I misplaced myself. Mind you, this wasn’t a “that was so awesome, I completely forgot about the story” moment. This was more of a “all that work for a lousy +12 damage, and now I don’t even know where I was” moment.

Collection Mini-game: Of course the icing on the cake was the collection mini-games. You had to find and shoot 50 gnomes scattered all over the world, in addition to silver keys, the highly elusive gold keys and corresponding chests. Then there were the Demon Doors with their own criteria, as well as rare flowers, and all those damn books. Having collected nearly 70% in each category stated above, I realized I had been spending all of my in-game time collecting these items and getting aggravated when I couldn’t locate something in a particular area, instead of pursuing the ultimate goal: having fun!

I love Fable 3, and I have had a blast with what I have done so far. It will remain as one of the very few games that I actually enjoyed to a point, but never actually finished, thus going against my completionist nature. But I am done with it, now and forever, and I am OK with that.

WoW

Cataclysm has been a blast so far. There are a million things to do, and with all the changes to the game, I continue to find new things in the UI that I had not seen or experienced before. Juet yesterday I realized that you could see a ton of information about guildies via the drop down menu button in the top right corner of the guild management window. Who knew?! You did? Well then, go have a cookie.

Professions: My cooking is at 525, but that wasn’t difficult to do because I can fish for hours on end when I am catching up on my weekly shows. The caught fish simultaneously raised my fishing to 525, and cooking it took my cooking to 525 as well. I tried my hands at Archeology, but after getting the raptor mount try as I might, I just cannot bring myself to do it any more. It is just… exhausting. I dropped Alchemy as a profession halfway through Wrath of the Lich King, and picked up Blasksmithing. It is now stuck somewhere in the mid-hundreds, and feeling utterly neglected. I should probably do something about that. My enchanting is now finally at 500, and although that is a ways to go yet, I am sure I will get there by the week’s end.

Auction House Master: I am back to playing the auction house. I have been back at WoW for merely two weeks and have already added closed to 50K to my coffers. You might think that is exceptional, but it really isn’t. I don;t normally bag that much gold in such a short amount of time. The prices for reagents and goods in Cataclysm have, let’s just say, skyrocketed past the Cathedral’s steeples in Stormwind. Just the other day I saw Maelstrom Crystals go from 1K a pop to 7K a pop (thanks to the alchemy nerf!). I also discovered the joy of a wonderful new mod called Trade Skill Master. It is too complex to explain here, suffice it to say it is bloody brilliant, and you should look into it on Curse or WoWInterface.

End-game Content: Uh, I haven’t done any yet. Honestly I haven’t even completed all the normal instances, let alone the heroic ones. Part of the reason is because I have only so many gaming hours in a day. But part of it is because, well, I am scared. Everyone in Cataclysm keeps talking about how hard dungeons are in Cataclysm. Hell Ghostcrawler himself admitted that dungeons were hard, yo. I keep meaning to try heroics, but my timings are so much different from everyone else in my core group of WoW friends that it rarely, if ever, works out. My goal is to complete every dungeon on normal, and every dungeon on heroic by this week’s end. Next week I will will start working on Glory of the Cataclysmic Hero.

RIFT

So I finally got in the beta. Sort of. It took two days to download because the download rates, despite a kickass connection, were abysmal. When the game finally downloaded, patched, updated (rinse repeat the last two a few times), it wouldn’t launch. It kept givingme some error about how servers were not available. When the game finally launched, I kept crashing at the character creation loading screen.

This morning, when I was finally able to re-create a Guardian Dwarf Warrior and enter the game, the game crashed again. Too disgusted to try again, I shut it down and punched a kitten in the face. I made up the last part, but I was a little too frustrated to try it again for a while. I know this is the beta, and there will be some inherent issues, and I should be more understanding. I will be eventually. Just not now, after struggling with the game for two straight days.

Thought of the Day: “Delayed Boss Battles” or “Rift Lovers Pay Attention”

January 14, 2011 3 comments

RIFT has rifts; cool idea, seemingly impressive execution: elementals will pour on from dynamically generated rifts and destroy anything they can find in their path.

Here is a thought. What if:

  1. The elite units coming out of these portals got increasingly powerful the longer they went unchecked
  2. The longer you wait to take the elites down (thus allowing them to become more powerful and tougher to take down), the better rewards you get
  3. (optional) If they are separated from the elemental plane for too long, they eventually begin to lose their power (so we don’t get infinitely powerful enemies)

The point being what if the player base was in a competition to see who would let the Rift survive the longest to reap better rewards, instead of bum-rushing the elementals every time there was a rift opening up in an area?

Categories: Rift, Thought of the Day

“Why I Hate Not Being in Rift Beta” or “So Many MMOs, So Little Time”

January 12, 2011 4 comments

Unlike some other folks, I am not happy that I didn’t get into the Rift beta. It also doesn’t help that everyone and their mother is in it!

While I agree with Syp in that betas really tend to ruin (or at the very least dilute) launch day experiences (I am going through that with Cataclysm at the moment – everything is new, except I experienced it all in beta four months ago), I am increasingly aware of how little time I have on my hands these days. I have a blooming career, I got engaged recently, and I am writing for both this blog and a local magazine. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day.

So keeping that in mind, it would be very beneficial to be able to experience betas of an upcoming MMO, both because I am very good at providing constructive feedback, and because it will clarify for me whether of not I want to invest in the title when the final (hopefully polished) title launches. And this applies to every beta out there, not just Rift.

Which side of the fence do you lean on? Would you rather get in the beta? Or avoid it for the launch day experience altogether?

Categories: Beta, Rift

Weekly MMO Crockpot: “APB, RIFT, WoW” or “LOTRO, GW2, and a Very Secret World”

January 11, 2011 6 comments

Every once in a while I accumulate too many things in my reader that I want to talk about, but there simply aren’t enough hours in the day. Most often I just end up deleting those things after a week or so, and other times, I just mash them together in a crockpot and put up this post. Now granted this isn’t a weekly segment by any definition, but it helps me square away a plethora of information that I think is important enough to share.

APB Closed Beta Information

APB was a great, ambitious project gone horribly awry. Mere months after launch it was shut down due to a wide range of issues and acquired by GamersFirst. The game will now ship as an F2P MMO titled APB Reloaded. A twitter post last week claimed that closed beta could begin as early as February. You can sign up here. I avoided this title because of… well… I suppose you could call it intuition, or sixth sense. Some prefer to call it lessons learned from open beta! I played the game for a few level pre-launch, and I knew right there and then that it needed some serious re-tweaking. Milamber tried it, I don’t think he’s too happy about the eventual outcome. That’s a good amount of money down Realtime Worlds’ bankrupt gullet!

CEO Bjorn Book-Larsson, in his latest blog post claims that nearly 20,000 people have signed up for the beta, and they expect to leverage the input from 6,000 to 8,000 players during the first round. Bad news for fans/players of the original title though: nothing will carry over from the original game, even if you had the highest level character. Sorry! Here’s to hoping the second time around will be met with boast-worthy success.

RIFT Launch Date and Design Principles

Rift will launch on March 1, 2011. WoW. I did not expect that. Given that they are just going through their closed betas, I honestly expected the game not to launch any point before the summer. I guess they are a lot more ready than I imagined. More accurately, they believe that they are a lot more ready than I imagined. So Rift hits in March. Will it be the next WoW-kil- oh forget it!

There are countless unwritten rules for creating an MMO world that successful designs in past games have impressed upon the entire industry. No monsters on the roads; never stop the player from questing or doing what he plans to do; group content should always be separate from solo content. While I will acknowledge that these sorts of rules of thumb are the guidelines that we designers live by, challenging them is where we have found a lot of success in RIFT.”

- Will Cook, Trion Worlds’ content designer for Rift (RIFT?), RIFT challenges unwritten rules of the genre in a new dev diary, Massively.com

1. We like it when you surprise us. We don’t it when you surprise us with something that we can’t even wrap our heads around.

2. Is it Rift or RIFT? And wasn’t it Planes of Telara at some point? Or Excalibur Tractor or something?

What the WoW?

In shocking news of the week (not really though), Cataclysm sold 4.7 million units in one month. That is ridiculous. But also curious. If WoW has 12 million players worldwide, does that mean 7.3 million people were simply not impressed enough by the game to actually buy the expansion? 60% of the alleged WoW base never actually bought the expansion. Is it me, or is that just a little strange?

Either way, nearly 5 million active WoW players in Cataclysm is impressive as hell, especially when you consider Cryptic was ecstatic over 200,000 players in Star Trek Online.

Second, as is the case with all systems in WoW, the Dungeon Finder tool was met with resounding success and was one of my favorite additions to the game. It seems Blizzard isn’t hanging up the old towel, and is at it again to further improve the dungeon finder tool.

“Groups could benefit if they knew they didn’t wipe because the healer didn’t manage mana well enough, but because the DPS wasn’t high enough, or boss adds weren’t properly rounded up, etc.”

- Zarhym, Dungeon queue should be performance-based

Now that is smart. Educating the player why their group failed will go a long way to alleviate the tensions in pugs. As someone who has played a Holy Paladin for over six years, I actually breathed a sigh of relief when I heard this. That is fantastic, let’s finalize that and put it on live servers ASAP!

Three Times the LOTRO

Turbine tripled their revenue by going with the Free-to-Play model in Lord of the Rings Online. You hear that Afrasiabi? *sigh*

Make Love, Not Guild Wars

10 years of Guild Wars have passed if you include the development of the title as well. The team has come a long way, and some of their most glorious and touching moments are highlighted in this short and sweet video that goes over the last 10 years.

The Secret World, as Forced Upon us by Ragnar Tornquist

I hate you Ragnar. Months of wait for some but of information My face lights up when I see the title mentioned in my feed reader. And what do I get? EA will be co-publishing The Secret World. That’s it. You suck Ragnar, you suck.

It does take one red flag though. EA has previously published The Sims Online, Motor City Online, Earth and Beyond and Hellgate: London. Do you know how many of those were successful? I’m nervous now.

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