Archive for the ‘Rift’ Category

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All My Games Are “Casual”

May 6, 2013

NW horse

Here are the MMOs I’m currently playing:

  • quite a bit of Neverwinter
  • some World of Warcraft
  • a little Defiance
  • weekly dose of The Secret World
  • a light smattering of Rift

I used to tell myself I’m a horrible juggler and that trying to play a whole bunch of games at once never works out. Indeed, given the choice I’d prefer to be able to give an MMO my full attention, do things like reach level cap, explore the entire world, finish “everything” before moving on. The “hardcore completionist” way of doing things has always been a better match for my own personality and play style.

But since the year started, game time for me has pretty much been reduced to about 2-3 hours a night on weekdays and I’ve long come to the realization that doing “The One Game” thing isn’t going to fly anymore, especially with so many new releases that look so fun and amazing, and many older titles I still want to stick with. So…unless I win the lottery or learn how to bend time: A limited gaming schedule + MUST PLAY ALL TEH GAMEZ = everything I play must become “casual”.

The great thing is the majority of MMOs on my list now are subscription-less, and are completely adaptable to my current schedule. TSW Mondays are enough for me to do grab enough AP/SP to advance each week, and I’ve always thought Defiance is the perfect game to jump in and out of if you only have an hour or less of free time. Even in WoW, the one MMO in which I’m participating in even a semblance of an endgame, is now a lot more suitable for the more casual player; through LFR I’m still able to raid and not have the encounter take up my whole night.

It does mean I don’t get to play as much of one game as I’d like each week, but on the other hand I get to experience everything I want to — remember how I almost gave Neverwinter a pass, and looking back now I see what a shame that would have been. I’m glad I didn’t; it’s been a lot of fun so far. Cramming it into an already full gaming schedule felt like a crazy thing to do, but it was totally worth it.

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Digging Defiance

April 11, 2013

revolting hellbugs

All right, here’s the straight dope from a person who admittedly feels much more at home in traditional MMORPGs with a sword and shield in my hand, rather than staring down the sight of a futuristic firearm. It’s no secret that I’m not the biggest fan of shooters, so I won’t deny I was a little bewildered myself when people asked me how or why I ever got into a game like Defiance. So over the past week, I’ve been playing and making an effort in trying to figure this out, and I think I’ve got a few ideas.

The first is that there is plenty enough “MMO-ness” in Defiance to make me feel right at home, despite the third-person shooter perspective. It does feel a little surreal to be talking in voice chat and mulling over topics like the benefits of a assault rifle over that of say, a pistol or a sub-machine gun, and running around with a few of my friends last night, there’s a definite co-op shooter feel to the experience.

Still, the essence behind the gameplay leaves me no doubt whatsoever that I’m playing an MMO. The reason why “Rift with guns!” has become a popular tongue-in-cheek tagline thrown around by MMO gamers playing Defiance is because…well, is that because in many ways it’s a pretty fair and accurate assessment. Just as I’ve always chased planar invasion events in Rift, I readily chase arkfall events in Defiance with just as much gusto. The mechanics behind these dynamic occurrences are much the same, sometimes appearing quite randomly and in many cases only manageable with a ton of other people.

And they’re just so, so fun. I think I may even prefer doing arkfalls in Defiance more than I do planar incursions in Rift — the unpredictable movement of enemies and not to mention actually being required to aim at your targets makes the fight more hectic and exciting and simply better. Like in all public MMO dynamic events, you get the feeling like you and the others around you are involved in something BIG.

The other reason why I think I took to Defiance is because of Trion’s decision to include a hefty PvE component. PvP has never really been my forte or my preference, in both traditional MMORPGs or shooters, which is a big part of why I tended to stay away from games like Global Agenda and Planetside 2 that heavily feature team-based competitions or mercenary-style gameplay. No doubt Defiance has PvP aspects to offer as well, but thus far I haven’t had a chance to experience any of it; never had a reason to yet, as PvE content has been plenty enough to keep me occupied.

As a third-person MMO shooter, Defiance will probably find itself ever caught in the middle. However — and this is just my opinion — it does seem to me like there’s just a bit more “MMO” than “shooter” in this mix. I have a feeling that those who are more faithfully inclined towards shooters will find it more difficult to like the game, or may even spurn it; but on the other hand, those like myself who are more inclined towards MMOs might find it easier.

I don’t know if this has helped others like me who are “not into shooters” but are on the fence considering trying out Defiance, but I’ll be sure to keep updating on my thoughts as I put more time into the game in the coming weeks. Regardless, one thing I’m sure of is that Defiance has made the best out of its hybrid nature and has proven itself to be a tremendously entertaining pastime.

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Let’s Revive This Thing A Bit…

March 27, 2013

Okay, so my little break actually turned out to be a pretty long break. You know how it is when things get busy; you say to yourself, “All right, I’m just going to put this blogging thing aside for a next little while just until I get back on track.” Except 2013 has been crazy from the outset, so the obligations just keep piling up and before you know it’s been more than two months gone and your poor blog has gone from “on a little break” to flat-out neglected.

Well, I’m back to change that. Part of the reason for my absence also had to do with the types of games I was playing. In January and February, I used most of my spare gaming time to catch up with the Xbox360 titles, some of which had been gathering dust on my shelf, still enclosed in their original shrink wrap:

  • Assassin’s Creed II: Brotherhood (if you ask me, this game is where the AC franchise reached its peak)
  • Assassin’s Creed II: Revelations (I just couldn’t bring myself to do everything, so I breezed through it for the story)
  • Assassin’s Creed III (I had to give up on this for now, the gameplay proved to be grindier than I expected)
  • The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings (loved this, loved this, LOVED THIS)
  • Dishonored (I may be too incompetent and inept to ever become truly good at stealth games, but I don’t care what anyone says, I love my dark ending)

Um, yes. That would have been an overabundance of assassins.

In terms of MMOs:

  • Rift (Hey, I finally bought the Storm Legion expansion!)
  • The Secret World (TSW Mondays are still happening every week, and as always I am dressed to kill)
  • World of Warcraft (golden rule: when you’re married to someone who doesn’t have as much time to game as you, play what he wants to play during your mutual game time. WoW will ever be my husband’s MMO of choice, and I’ve been having a lot of fun raiding in Mists of Pandaria too, so I’m not complaining)
  • Neverwinter beta (very excited for this)
  • Defiance beta (with the game’s release right around the corner, you’ll no doubt be seeing me write about it now that the blog’s also been sufficiently revived)

It has been revived, yes? Yes. I shall endeavor to post regularly again. Thank you, and good night.

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How Do You Feel About One-Time-Only Events?

October 29, 2012

So I was fortunate enough to be online in Guild Wars 2 yesterday, waiting in Lion’s Arch, at the advertised time for the special Halloween event. And after all that build-up, all the secrecy, the “one-time-only” event that we were all waiting for amounted to a cinematic cutscene that lasted about 40 seconds.

Whether it was worth it or not is a matter up for debate, one I’m not going to get into here. Personally, I thought it was a wicked cutscene, followed by a fantastic encounter with the Mad King in his otherworldly lair, and that overall the ArenaNet folks did an amazing job bringing us Act 3. I was thrilled to have been a part of it.

But I still dislike the idea of one-time-only events.

Quite simply, they’re bad news, and hard to justify. Don’t get me wrong; I think it’s great that game designers are still freely experimenting with special events and timing, but when you’re planning an in-game holiday intended to be enjoyed by everyone, then 1) announcing a one-time-only event, and 2) not giving any details about what to expect is probably one of the quickest, easiest ways to alienate and piss off a bunch of your players.

Speaking for myself, yesterday just so happened to be a lazy, rainy Sunday and I had some free time in the afternoon. But I’m aware not everyone was that lucky. Australians and folks in Asia were setting alarms to wake up in the wee hours in the morning on a freakin’ work day, and a lot of East Coasters in the US were out shopping for supplies and preparing for the Frankenstorm. Come on, people, we’re living and gaming in an international community! There’s also conflicts and unforeseen circumstances that can always pop up! Crap happens! When you know full well that everyone and their mother is going to want to participate, why still consider one-shot events?

Not to mention how they often lead to not-so-fun problems associated with overloaded servers. If you ask World of Warcraft players present at the Gates of Ahn’Qiraj opening event, most will tell you about the horrific lag, and I still recall the long server queues being a hindrance at Rift’s River of Souls event last year. GW2′s event wasn’t perfect, but I do however have to give a hat tip to the team for the relatively smooth performance yesterday — though not indicative of everyone’s experience, I had absolutely no problems before, during, and after the wait in Lion’s Arch nor during my showdown with the Mad King. At least before the servers sputtered and died, that is.

But what does this all mean? It occurred to me that dynamic, truly spontaneous events with persisting and enduring consequences that will change the game world are still possibly a long ways off. After all, can’t an impromptu, extemporaneousness event which can cause our actions to alter our surroundings permanently for everybody arguably be perceived as a one-time-only event? As much as we ask for it, as temptingly awesome as it sounds, even if it were technologically achievable, player resistance will probably be a significant obstacle. As gamers, none of us like to be left out or miss anything in our favorite MMOs. And really, who can blame us?

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Rift: My Storm Legion Tour – Player Housing And Dimensions

October 25, 2012

In this final post of my tour of the Rift: Storm Legion expansion, I will talk about what Community Manager James “Elrar” Nichols showed me of the highly anticipated Dimensions feature, perhaps more widely known as Rift’s housing system. Remember how I said in my last post that I was saving the best for last? Well, while I can’t speak for others, I have to say this was personally my favorite part of my almost two-hour tour. (You can find the first part about new zones here, and the second part about dungeons and raids here.)

I confess I was looking forward to my tour of the Dimensions feature the most, and believe me when I say it didn’t disappoint. First of all, I almost feel like it could have constituted an expansion all by itself. The fact that we get this intricate housing system plus two huge continents of PvE content and the dungeons and raids in Storm Legion is just starting to sink in.

Second of all, I am beginning to get a deeper understanding of why the Rift team prefers to use the name “Dimensions” rather than the term “housing” when referring to this feature. Sure, it may also sound better for marketing, but to me the plain and simple truth is, the word “housing” just doesn’t cut it; I don’t think it’s really enough to describe the sheer scope of we’re being offered with this expansion.

For this part of the tour, Elrar took me several dimensions in order to explain how the whole system works. The first one we went to, “Elrar’s Bar”, was a relatively simple endeavor in the Stone Flask Tavern location where I was allowed to muck about and get hands-on with everything. The first thing Elrar told me to do was to look up. The surroundings clearly showed that I was in the Stonefields area, but what I saw above me was most definitely not a Stonefield sky. Yep, it was one of those things Elrar had put in to customize his own little corner of Telara. Pretty!

Here, I was shown the basics and given an explanation of the system. I was told you can own multiple dimensions, but can only have one active. As to why, Elrar clarified that this is because the feature is still so new. Indeed, testers have suggested letting players have more active dimensions, but before the team can expand the system further they have to make sure current conditions won’t crash out the system. But in the future, who knows what’s possible? This feature will continue to be expanded. I didn’t press for more information, but it seems that in the meantime if you wanted to switch active dimensions, doing so is as simple as having all your items packed up into a box before moving.

As to how to gain ownership of new dimensions, I got the impression that they work a lot like many other items in the game — some will be easily accessible, while others will have varying degrees of rarity, with the rarest dimension “keys” being highly coveted and requiring the appropriate level of investment to obtain them.

I asked Elrar when is the earliest a player can have access to his or her own personal dimension. His answer: through a quest you can get at level 5, or in other words, pretty much as soon as you complete the tutorial area. That’s pretty great news; Rift developers are aware that not everyone who will be interested in housing will also be interested in questing, leveling, endgame, etc. and their goal is to make the Dimensions feature as accessible as possible. This will also allow newcomers to the game access to a huge part of the Storm Legion right off the bat, since I was told the bulk of the new areas in the expansion, i.e. much of everything else I saw on the tour, will only be available to level 50 characters.

Next, a closer look at the controls and decorating tools. As a “friend” of Elrar, my character had access to his dimension, though each player will have the ability to further customize these options to designate who can visit, place items, or make changes, etc. In the dimensions UI, you can also set whether or not you want your dimension private or public, but more on that later.

If you look at the screenshots, you can see that the UI is very intuitive. Clicking on the wrench icon will give you access to a bunch of options, allowing you to take an item and move it along multiple axes, or rotate it, or scale it, etc. You can do this with virtually every item. In this next shot, I took a formerly normal-sized stool and shrank it into a size fit for a dollhouse. In the screenshot after that, I was playing with the height of some of the furniture. Want a bed that floats in mid air? Sure, you got it! Can’t jump high enough to get to it? Create yourself a flight of floating steps using books! Pretty much everything seems possible.

Items aren’t just limited to furnishings. I already mentioned the way you can customize the sky with a projector, and there are also music boxes to add to your dimension, letting you set the perfect mood. With a click of a button you can bring up a list of all the items in your dimension, and actually doing so was how I came across a peculiar entry called “Dimensional Bartender.” Yes, Elrar has his own personal barkeep. I stood by as he served up a line drinks and then watched with amusement as Elrar’s character promptly chugged them all down.

From what I saw and heard, I got the impression that there will be various methods to procure dimensional items, with the most common items being easily accessible and obtainable, and those rarer and more unique items likely requiring more time and effort invested in the game.

Later, I was shown several other examples of dimensions and what their owners have done to them. The impressive display of creativity and user-created content simply boggled my mind, and left me with no doubt that this feature will have a profound impact on the Rift community.

Elrar had described dimensions as being virtual neighborhoods, a social system that is easy to access, share and explore. Indeed, there were many open to the public which you can enter from anywhere in the world. I could also see that a bunch of them were highly recommended by other players using the feature’s rating system. It occurred to me that certain dimensions can even have the potential to become in-game tourist destinations (“Hey, have you seen the ____ dimension?” “OMG, you have GOT to visit the _____ dimension!”) In fact, we ran into many other players while visiting the public dimensions.

In this dimension, the decorating has started in this corner of the house. Everything seen here has been placed there by hand.

In this one, the owner built the entire second floor from scratch, just adding to the basic structure of the house provided.

This next dimension features a boat in a lovely little grotto. I was told that the boat, also constructed from scratch, is made up of about a few dozen or so separate pieces — again, all placed by hand. This is sort of what I meant when I said that the term housing just doesn’t seem sufficient to encompass this feature. This is about way more than maintaining a home in a game, it’s also about the complete freedom to build and share anything you can imagine.

To further illustrate that point, here’s another dimension Elrar showed me. The owner has made a jumping puzzle out of it! Literally, the sky’s the limit. My own personal limit here, however, would be my crappy platformer skills. By the way, did I mention that I’m notoriously bad at jumping puzzles in MMOs? Not surprisingly, I didn’t get very far on this. There will be no prizes for me.

One thing I do know for certain now: there will be absolutely no jumping whatsoever required in my own dimension when I get Storm Legion.

Here’s a couple more screenshots to show two versions of the same building structure template, but their owners have done very different things to its exterior. The second house has been cover with rocks, creating a cave-like stronghold complete with hidden entrance, and which even has an added second floor.

Here are some more examples of fun things other players have built in their dimensions. Some of it almost puts me in mind of Minecraft on steroids.

I think housing is something a lot of people enjoy and would like to see implemented in more MMOs, so I wasn’t surprised when so much of the buzz I’ve heard surrounding the Storm Legion expansion involved the dimension system. But now I know it’s also because of the lengths that Rift has gone with it. They seem to have embraced it completely, intending full well to deliver their promise of giving players the ability to unleash their creativity and transform their dimensions into anything they want.

I actually thought of the Sims at one point, and considering what a big fan I am of the building and decorating capabilities in those games, I definitely mean it as a compliment. Can you imagine the potential for roleplayers? For everyone? My mind is swimming with the possibilities.

And so ends the write-up of my Storm Legion tour, I hope you enjoyed reading about my experience and thoughts. I was initially unsure of how I was going to present all this, but ultimately decided just to write about what I saw and heard from my guide and lay out everything as they were shown to me. I couldn’t help it, though; I just had to gush a little when it came to Dimensions. If you haven’t gathered already, I was very impressed by this feature.

Again, I want to say thank you to the Rift team and Elrar for this wonderful opportunity. But of course, I must also curse them now because I’m tempted to resubscribe right away and not to wait at all to buy the expansion.

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Rift: My Storm Legion Tour – Dungeons And Raids

October 24, 2012

Continuing with the write-up of my tour of Rift: Storm Legion during the beta weekend, in this post I’ll focus on what Community Manager James “Elrar” Nichols showed me regarding dungeons and raids. To view the previous part on the world and new zones, see here.

I was told that Storm Legion will launch with seven dungeons and a couple of raids — one 20-man and one 10-man — with another 20-man being added in the first big patch. It’s clear that just because they have a huge expansion coming out soon, this by no means indicates that the Rift team will be slacking on their update schedule. New content will continue rolling in as it has always done, and players won’t have long to wait.

I’ll confess right now that this post will be image-heavy. A lot of the encounters shown to me were still works-in-progress; that and time constraints meant that we didn’t do much fighting beyond Elrar exercising his supermod tour guide powers and insta-killing the bosses so we could check out the beautiful dungeon interiors. Works for me! It won’t do well to spoil the fights for myself at this early stage anyway, so I was happy to follow along, pressing my PrntScn key every two seconds in amazement at the environmental details.

Our first stop: Storm Breaker Protocol, a level 52-56 five-man dungeon. The first thing we did was climb into a mech-like robots, giving us access to a set of cool-sounding abilities like Eradication Pulse and Rocket Salvo. We proceeded to clear trash, and I was told players will also get a chance to fight bosses in these Storm Breaker robots. Elrar confirmed that these kinds of fights are new to Rift; like many of upcoming features we’ll see in Storm Legion, they’re the result of ongoing experimentation with new ideas and implementation of mechanics by the Rift team, ultimately letting the player response guide their decisions.

By the way, I want to mention that the level 60 character provided to me was a Mage, mostly because I told Elrar I was fascinated with what I’ve seen of the new Harbinger soul. In the end, I didn’t actually get much of a chance to experiment with his abilities during the tour, but the good news is the little I did see of his conjured blades and weapons spells confirms my suspicions that this “melee battle mage” soul is as unique as it looks.

The next dungeon we saw was Empyrean Core, a level 58-60 five-man instance intended for players towards the end of the leveling experience. Some stunning bosses and sights in there. Honestly, the following screenshots I took don’t do that place justice, as I lost a lot of the nuances created by the play of light and shadow.

Next, Elrar brought me to the Endless Eclipse, the 20-man raid that will be available about a month after Storm Legion’s launch, where players will eventually get to battle Regulos. Which reminds me, I want to mention that all throughout the tour I was being provided with commentary about the game  world’s history and background information behind all these instances. There’s context in all we’ll get to do in the new expansion, and not for the first or last time, I wished I was more well-versed in Rift lore.

Here’s a few images from that place; as you can see it’s appropriately “deathy” in there. Again, I want to emphasize that it looks so much better in game with all my settings cranked up.

 

Finally, we checked out Frozen Tempest, the 20-man raid that will be available at Storm Legion’s launch. Here, players will get to battle Crucia, the power-hungry dragon goddess who controls the minds of the Storm Legion cult which makes even Regulos shake in his boots.

Got some great pics in there of the two of us getting our butts kicked, because Elrar forgot to turn on his supermod powers of invulnerability. Here he is getting stomped on by a giant harpy (and I was next)!:


Stay tuned for my third and final post in which I will talk about what I saw of the highly anticipated Dimensions feature also known as Rift’s housing system. Believe me when I say it deserves a full post dedicated to it all on its own! Not that everything else I’d seen so far didn’t look fantastic, but Elrar definitely saved the best for last during our tour. And thus, so will I!

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Rift: My Storm Legion Tour – New Zones

October 23, 2012

First of all, I want to thank the Rift team and especially Community Manager James “Elrar” Nichols for the amazing opportunity of being offered a private tour of their upcoming expansion Storm Legion during this beta weekend. This Monday, I was provided with a level 60 character, and along with the masterful Elrar acting as my personal in-game tour guide, we traveled to a variety of locations in the game so he could show me some of the features while allowing me to get in some hands-on time.

I’ve always admired Trion’s dedication to building rapport with their players and their enthusiasm to reach out to bloggers and the gaming community, and I’m really grateful to have been included. I know several have already gotten their write-ups posted, so here’s mine.

The fact is, Rift and I have always enjoyed a genial relationship; I played for many months, leveling my Cleric to 50 and continued to enjoy the game for a long time after that thanks to the flexibility of the soul system and the frequent content updates. I did stop playing around last winter when pretty much all my MMO gaming came to a screeching halt when I gave birth to my daughter, but with the announcement of Storm Legion this summer I knew I was going to be heading back into Rift sometime soon.

I just had no idea how soon. I knew I wanted to play the expansion, but my plan was originally to hold off on it until next year when my current MMO plate isn’t quite so full, but after my tour on Monday I think I’m going to have to reevaluate that plan. It’s probably safe to say that some of the things I saw shifted around my priorities somewhat, and there are more than a few features I’d definitely want to get a jump start on and not wait around for.

Elrar began our tour in Tempest Bay, the massive new cross-faction city on its own island on the map. The mechanical eldritch theme it has going there reflects a long history of its highly-advanced society. I imagine once the expansion goes live and players begin flocking to this city for their everyday in-game needs, it’ll look sufficiently more populated and lived-in. For now, from what I saw Tempest Bay positively radiates the majesty and grandeur of a central capital.

Elrar and his supermod powers ported us to various locations around the world next, exploring some of the new zones. Storm Legion will add two gigantic continents to the game world, Dusken and Brevane. Each of them will be bigger than the original game world, essentially tripling the size of Rift. Level 50s will have access to these areas in the new expansion.

Our first destination, Morban. And yes, the mood of the zone is as baleful and sinister as the name suggests; in the area called the Forest of Flesh, my guide led me by several foreboding structures nestled in a twisted wood. It’s an eerie sight to behold and yet a feast for the eyes. Rift being an original intellectual property, Elrar explained how their artists get a lot of free rein to design and theme the zones. Indeed you can see the full extent of the creativity at work here in the unique lines and forms of the architecture and biodiversity.

Our next stop was Seratos, the next zone over. My guide ported me into an area called the Pus Swamp. Hmm, flesh and pus and hey, I think I’m starting to see a pattern here! I was reminded that we’re in the realm of Regulos now; everything here has pretty much been taken over by the planes. Speaking of which, throughout my tour I was treated to many interesting tidbits of background information and the history of Telara. So, not only has the Rift team been hard at work adding content to their game, they’ve also beefed up the lore big time.

I also had the chance to visit the Kingdom of Pelladane and the Eastern Holdings on the other continent of Brevane. Along the way, I got to see how quests will be treated in the new expansion. Firstly, I was fortunate enough to experience a spontaneous rift event during my tour and was assured that rifts will continue to be a main feature and the driving force behind the game. I was happy to hear that. Of course, there will also still be quest hubs where players can show up and talk to a bunch of NPCs, but Elrar also emphasized a concerted move towards improving the flow of questing and making it feel more like a natural and organic experience.

I was shown a couple of examples of this. In one instance, I was just running around the area when I suddenly stumbled across an item on the ground with a quest indicator floating above it. In another instance, me killing a random mob also triggered a quest. This obviously is a move to encourage more exploration; Rift has always been very good at doing this, what with their artifacts and collection system and such — but now there’s even more reason to go poking your head into every nook and corner, or killing every monster you see.

Storm Legion is going to be chock-full of new features and lots of cool stuff, and there’s definitely no way I can fit all that I saw on Monday into one post. So stick around, I’ll be sure to cover my tour of dungeons and raids, and housing and dimensions in my next couple of updates!

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