Posts Tagged ‘Zones’

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Planetary Album

November 29, 2011

Ever since the NDA was lifted for the Star Wars: The Old Republic beta, my guildies in the Republic Mercy Corps/Imperial Mercenary Corps have been trying to pool together our media and share them with each other. There was a wealth of screenies to go through, mostly because a few of my fellow RMCers have been in testing for almost a year! Some of the gorgeous images I saw gave me the inspiration for this post.

It’s so hard to really say which planet in SWTOR is my favorite. They all appeal to me for different reasons — I love the colors of Nar Shaddaa, I love the beauty of Ilum, I love the history of Taris, I like how BioWare has captured the atmosphere of Tatooine, etc. etc. etc. Thanks to my friend Maric for allowing me to use some of his screenshots here.

Edit: Mild spoilers about the planets, but no spoilers regarding any of the stories.

Coruscant

A Republic character’s first destination after they finish their respective starter planet. The first time I saw Coruscant, I was stunned. After years of playing mostly fantasy MMOs, it’s a nice change of pace to see the hustle and bustle of a sci-fi city.

Funny story: A lot of people I’ve talked to have admitted to “pulling an Anakin” on Coruscant, immediately or soon after they arrive. That is, jumping over a railing to free fall off the side to see what happens. Yeah, I confess, I tried it too. Sadly, no, you don’t get to land safely in the cabin of a hover car.

Dromund Kaas

The Empire city. It’s a little odd coming right off from reading the new SWTOR book Revan and reading about how this planet was shrouded in mystery and far off into the unknown regions of space. I was pleasantly surprised to see that it wasn’t actually as creepy as everything made it sound. See the lush wilderness and pretty waterfalls!

Taris

Such a treat to land on Taris, to have all the memories from playing Knights of the Old Republic come rushing back…even though it looks nothing like it did before Malak’s orbital bombardment. I liked how there were plenty of opportunities for players to relive the planet’s history, though it feels like you spend forever here, if you’re Republic. Sith get to come here later, and get their own “instance” of the planet.

Nar Shaddaa

Nar Shaddaa has gone through many changes, and with each beta build it seemed to come back seedier and tackier. Huge gold statue of a Hutt in the middle of the Promenade, anyone? There are drunken NPCs playing in the yellow water of the fountain around it, for God’s sake. And all the holo-dancers (though, you would think people would prefer the real thing)!

Nar is still pretty cool though. The first planet where the Republic and Empire get to go head-to-head in the neutral areas, the RMC spent much effort cleaning up the Promenade of Imperial griefers/gankers during that one time almost everyone’s PvP toggle was stuck on permanent flag.

Tatooine

Let’s just put it this way: for me, the sight of the two suns on the horizon was enough to trigger a nerdgasm.

For a desert wasteland, there’s actually quite a lot to see and do on Tatooine. You get a wide stretch of open space for the first time, the Dune Sea being the perfect venue to hold our RMC/IMC Friday Night Fights and naked dance parties on the slow-floating balloon.

Funny story: many players make the pilgrimage out to the north Dune Sea to see the great Sarlacc. Maric and I encountered a level 16 who made it all the way out there, dodging elite mobs 10 levels above him just to hurl himself into the pit and sacrificing himself to his Sarlacc gods. After we rezzed him, the whacko went off in search of a Rancor. Good luck, crazy dude.

Alderaan

Everywhere you turn is another postcard moment on Alderaan, that is when some disgusting bug alien thing isn’t constantly stepping into your frame and ruining your picture. Oh, and you get to ride thranta between the taxi points. So sad, to know that this planet will be blown to smithereens in another few thousand years. Enjoy these alien-free shots:

Balmorra

Empire characters get to come here right after they leave Dromund Kaas, but Republic folks come here much later, and we get our own “instance” of the planet.

Quesh

Probably the smallest zone in the game, and you breeze through it in about a day even at this higher level. Can’t say I was too upset about that — though some parts of Quesh can be pretty, when you think about how it’s all the poisonous gases in the atmosphere, that’s pretty nasty. That, and I was itching to get to Hoth, so I was even more relieved when I found out there wasn’t a bonus quest series.

Hoth

I was dying to get to this planet, and I don’t know why. Maybe because I really wanted to see a wild tauntaun with my own eyes. Hoth is like Tatooine in that it’s huge with wide open spaces, except everything is covered in ice and snow. You get to do some really fun quests on this planet, even enter into some fragile alliances with the other faction, albeit grudgingly.

Funny story: everything’s so blue, I discovered that trying to find quest items or lore objects that are on the ground with the blue sheen on them is a nightmare on this planet!

Voss

There’s something very Trollshaws (if you play Lord of the Rings Online) or Azshara (if you play World of Warcraft) about this planet. It’s SWTOR’s own autumnal zone with the fall theme and fiery foliage. And the creatures on this planet tend to be vibrant shades of blue or violet, setting off the contrast. Very pretty. And the first time I met a Voss (the native humanoid species), it was wild.

Belsavis

Or the “moldy ball of cheese” planet as I like to call it, as that’s what it looks like from space. Not exactly an ice planet, Belsavis has got little pockets of jungle nestled amongst its glacial cliffs. There’s something very “Lost World” about this place, with all its strange plant life and creatures.

It’s also a prison planet, which makes it a pain in the ass to navigate unless you follow the roads, because everywhere you go is another huge wall or fence. Not to mention the transportation technology they use here. A very “beam me up, Scotty!” type of thing.

Corellia

The future birthplace of Han Solo was not what I expected at all. It’s pretty much a bombed-out craphole in SWTOR, but at least the trams are still working great! That is, when they weren’t bugging out and leaving me dead on the tracks, it’s like a fun rollercoaster ride through the city. Not much of a view though, sadly.

Ilum

I ditched Corellia and came here as soon as I reached level 50, and came to enjoy the ice-locked twilit landscape. The mobs seemed to hit harder here, and were more difficult to kill. I also stumbled upon a whole area to the west which was devoid of any hostiles or NPCs, and figured this might be a future zone for PvP.

It might have been a whole lot of nothing — at least when I went there — but I think out of all the planets in SWTOR, Ilum is the most beautiful.

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SWTOR Beta Test: The Obligatory General Impressions Mega-Post

November 18, 2011

The time has finally come — you know, where I start assaulting you all, my poor readers, with my impressions of Star Wars: The Old Republic from general testing over the last five months, now that the NDA for testing has been lifted.

I do have plans to expand upon much of the following in future posts (as if only one gargantuan wall-of-text won’t be enough, right?) But there are quite a few thoughts I do want to toss up on here first. I took a bunch of notes throughout my testing experience, which are a mess right now and which I should really try to consolidate into something coherent. While I love the game and had a lot of fun testing, much of this ended up being the basis for the “constructive criticism” I offered up during feedback, so hopefully this impression piece will come across fair and balanced. I aim to be completely honest.

Overall Thoughts

You’ll probably hear this a lot, but it’s true — the first thing that came to my mind when I first played SWTOR was “Knights of the Old Republic Online”. That is, if I was forced to reduce my description of the game to a diminutive label. I don’t like to, but if I must.

I get the feeling that BioWare determined their target audience early on, and that was how they approached the game. What I mean is, this is an extremely linear MMO and it is never going to be anything but a theme park, so if you are into sandbox type games, it is not for you. Likewise, if you loved KOTOR and came to this expecting to recapture exactly the same single-player experience, it also won’t be for you. Despite what you might hear, SWTOR is a massively multiplayer online game. You can play this solo, but if you want to get the most of it, at some point you’ll have to interact with other people.

I think too many people will expect this to be an revolution and the next step in how MMO games are made, but if so, you’ll be disappointed. SWTOR is simply another iteration of the MMO, taking many things that work and making them better, but it’s by no means a complete redesign of the MMO philosophy. BioWare set their sights on one thing and went about to do that one thing very well — and that’s story. The focus isn’t so much on gameplay, but on the interaction behind it.

Now, with all those caveats out of the way, I’ll say this — I’m a gamer of fairly flexible tastes, and I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed every minute I had with this game. Despite some nitpicky issues I had, in general my overall view of SWTOR is extremely positive.

Character Creation

I’m happy to say I found it adequate, though customization options are still not as robust as I would like. APB or Age of Conan this is definitely not, but there will still be plenty of choices available for you to fiddle around with to make the chance of you running into someone else looking exactly the same as you very, very slim. You can also have apostrophes and hyphens in your character name — a small, trivial detail, but it made me happy nonetheless.

UI

Not a big fan, personally. But then again, I was coming off from playing Rift (which came with a highly customizable and flexible UI right out of the box) and for a couple months this year, World of Warcraft: Cataclysm (whose UI I modded up the wazoo). While I played, I yearned for more action bars and a way to move my modules around, and other little things like see-target-of-target. For now, it serves its purposes though, and I give it that it’s very neat and clean.

Advanced Classes

Each class branches off into two paths, and you choose one to follow once you reach level 10 or so. Your Advanced Class is a permanent choice that then determines your role for the rest of the game. I tested both ACs for the Trooper class, and I’m pleased to say the two paths offer up very different and varied styles of play. As a Vanguard, I also wasn’t only limited to defense and tanking; I could also choose to be more damage-oriented if I wanted. Same deal for the healing-capable Commando. It depends on how you allocate your skill points, and this part can easily be respecced.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been praising SWTOR for the flexibility in their class roles — that is, the astute and observant player can quickly access a situation — say, in a flashpoint — and offer whatever support is needed despite the role they’ve been invited to play. You can be the DPS Jedi Guardian but still be a halfway decent tank on the fly, if it was suddenly required of you. The “hybrid” ACs enjoy this perk. I find the two that lack this advantage, however, are the straight-DPS Gunslinger and Jedi Sentinel, and I hope in the future BioWare will give them more utility in group play.

Combat

If you’re an MMO veteran, I’m sad to say you probably won’t find combat during the first 10 or so levels very exciting at all. To be fair, BioWare no doubt calibrated difficulty and complexity to balance the experience for gamers of all backgrounds, and to be honest, I would rather them err on the side of caution than risk frustrating newcomers to the MMO genre. So the bad news is, combat doesn’t feel “heroic” right off the bat, and some might even find it boring.

The good news, however, is that as you level up, the combat gets a lot more interesting. By the mid 20s, I was really getting into it. And by 50, I was having a ton of fun. The XS Freighter Fly-Over FTW.

After you choose your Advanced Class, more abilities become available to you. A lot of them play off each other, and depending on the points you allocate to your skill trees, you can start to vary your strategy a little depending on the situation. Say, your tank’s health is low and your healer needs some time to catch up? My Gunslinger, even as a ranged DPS, never passed up the chance to run up to a mob just to kick him in the balls. It buys the group a few seconds, and while I was in melee range anyway, here’s a blaster whip and a cheap shot to the face too! A smuggler never wastes a good opportunity.

Crafting

It’s very…interesting. For better or worse, I can honestly say I’ve never experienced a crafting system like this. The great thing is, you can order your companions to do the grunt work for you, and so I can be happily questing to my heart’s desire while 3-4 crew skills are ticking away (at higher levels). Of course, this also means the process is less hands-on.

I’m generally not big on crafting in most MMOs, however, and in SWTOR I have to say I’m still not seeing a great incentive to do it, other than the fact I can keep working on it while I do my usual leveling. Plus, mission crew skills eat up your credits really, really quickly, so it’s something I still might want to save for later when I’m all leveled up.

Questing

Your class has a main story line, but there are also general planet quests that everyone else can get.

Class quests are the cream of the crop. These are integrated into your story, and this is where the innovation is, and what makes SWTOR so unique. Here, the choices you make will determine whether you are, say, praised by your commanding officer (in my Trooper’s case, this was General Garza), or get majorly chewed out by her (and boy, can she be a real nag). These quests are crafted to your class story, so they often turn out to be the more interesting, humorous, impactful ones.

Then there are the general planet quests, which I have to admit are similar to those in any other themepark MMO — but on steroids. Voiceover and cinematography makes these otherwise mundane quests so much more immersive. Unlike other MMOs where I have to read a wall of text, I never had to force myself to focus on a quest in SWTOR. It just happened effortlessly and naturally, because the objectives are always delivered with context and emotion. I actually cared about the reasons why I had to rescue 5 nexu pups from the dirty pirates, or salvage some poor refugees’ lost belongings. And at the end if I get to make a light side/dark side choice out of it, SCORE!

On top of these, there are also the “Bonus quests” which are almost always of your kill-ten-rats variety. They are scattered everywhere, and pop up around the same area where you are doing your quests. But they are labeled “bonus” and hence are completely optional. Often, you’ll find you are doing it and completing it while working on the main objective anyway. It’s extra experience, and no harm to you if you find you can’t stomach the grinding and decide to skip them. You’ll probably want to skip them anyway, if you find you are in danger of outleveling content.

Interesting thing I observed though — as much as you hear complaining about the tediousness of kill-ten-rats quests, every single group I’ve ever played with in beta always insisted on completing the bonus — even after the main objective was done. Never underestimate the desire for more XP, or how deeply the instinct is ingrained in us to be completionists, whether you hate KTR quests or not.

Dark Side/Light Side

Not all decisions are black and white, which I was surprised to see. Some definitely are — but it also greatly depends on whether or not you want to roleplay your character, and if so, what class you choose.

I will say one thing though — going full dark side is freaking tough. Nothing makes you feel more like a bag of crap than screwing over a group of orphans, so congratulations to you if you can find it in yourself to soldier on through the tears or berating you get from your quest giver afterward.

Planets

In a word, they are HUGE. So huge, you will be crying tears of joy by the time you get to buy your first speeder. Quest indicators on the map are almost a necessity; otherwise, the game is so big you’d never be able to figure out where to go.

They are also gorgeous. Even wastelands like Tatooine and Hoth are places of beauty, and BioWare has captured the atmosphere of these and other Star Wars planets very well. Other, lesser known planets like Belsavis and Voss are also given the same detailed treatment. Every planet from Nar Shaddaa to Corellia has its own unique charm. There’s plenty to explore, especially if you’re into hunting down datacrons. Most of them you won’t come across while playing, the majority will be off the beaten path and you really have to poke around the entire planet to find them. And that’s the easy part! Then you have to figure out how to get to them…

PvP

I admit, I didn’t do a lot of PvP, other than a warzone here and there. I did play on a PvE test server, however, and so that’s probably why my opportunities to engage in fighting other players were minimal.

Still, my beta guildmates who were involved in a lot more PvP had much to say, and one who has a lot of experience and enjoys PvP gameplay immensely thought it was lacking in SWTOR compared to most other MMOs. To quote him, “3 warzones and 2 open world PvP areas makes SWTOR PvP worse than Warhammer which was head and shoulders above SWTOR PvP.”

I’m no expert, but from the handful of times I’ve PvPed in SWTOR, I would also have to admit it’s nothing very special.

Space combat

Didn’t like it. Well, okay, maybe “didn’t like” is too strong a term. Let’s just say I didn’t “feel it”. I test it once every build, and never really go back to it. BioWare has made many changes and improvements to it over the past few months, but I came to the conclusion very quickly that it just wasn’t my thing.

Don’t get me wrong; it’s great for what it is — a little side-game designed to be a fun distraction to the main game. While it’s on rails, it’s also fast-paced and quite challenging (but you can upgrade your ship to help with that). If you feel like varying your activities a little, you can always jump in, grab some space combat action, jump out. The problem is, I enjoyed my class story and the planet quests way too much, and often that was what I’d rather do. To be honest, this to me is a good thing — it’s what I call a “happy problem”.

Grouping

There were concerns that “story-mode” would make players feel like playing a single-player game, but I really didn’t get that feeling. On top of group quests and flashpoints, BioWare has added a lot of features that really encourage grouping. I just adore the social rank feature, for one. Being in a group conversation and involving yourself in “convo-loot” rolls will rack you up social points. Get enough social points, you gain social ranks. With social ranks, you buy social gear and goods. I came across a Jedi Consular one time decked in a full Leia gold-slave-bikini outfit, and it was awesome. Yep, social gear. So fans of vanity and cosmetic items will probably like this. Not to mention being in conversations with others is a lot more fun than expected.

Doing a CLASS quest with someone else can get a little tedious though. The most you get to be is a spectator, watching your friend go through their cutscenes. It’s almost like living their story vicariously through them, so if you don’t want spoilers, take this time to grab a drink or take a bio break.

Flashpoints

Most impressed I have ever been with an MMO’s instances. Still, not all FPs in SWTOR were designed equally, that’s my feeling, but I do have a few favorites — Esseles, Maelstrom, etc. It’s not so much the boss fights and the combat (though, as I’ve alluded to before, that can be quite interesting in a full group) than the execution and presentation. The FP isn’t just another instance you zone into and clear, it’s a self-contained story you become personally involved in. The ones I liked best were the ones that also gave you a ton of opportunities to make light side/dark side decisions.

Meanwhile, things are constantly happening around you, like exploding consoles or crashing ships. It’s an environment that’s hectic and alive, made even better by high production values — graphics, sound, cutscenes, cinematography, music, etc.

Another reason to do FPs — for the stories that are part of the game world. In your mid-30s, there’s a couple great FPs that shouldn’t be missed, and I won’t say anything more because it’s a big ginormous spoiler, but those who enjoy Old Republic lore will be very pleased.

Companions

They are a joy to have around! I was initially worried about seeing a ton of other Corso Riggs or Bowdaars running around the world ruining my immersion, but honestly, after a while that just fades into the background. It almost becomes like seeing someone else with the same combat pet, which is sort of what they are but also so much more.

You end up with five companions (not including your ship droid) by the end of your class story line, and classes don’t all receive them at the same point in the story/on the same planets. Each has different skills, and you are free to switch them in and out depending on what your situation calls for.

With most conversations you’ll have a chance to gain affection with your companions. I like how gaining it is easier than losing it, i.e. I often receive 15-20 points when I do something my companion approves of, but when I don’t I only lose 1 point (unless I really piss them off, in which case I can lose hundreds, but you see it coming a mile away). They each have their own history and personalities, and become a big part of your character’s life. You can please them or you can mess with their heads. In the case of Vette, my Sith Warrior kept the slave collar on her and generously zapped her with it all the way into the mid-20s. She never did warm up to me, as you can imagine.

Romances with your companions are also possible, and I heard from several of my buddies they even got to marry theirs at high levels (my husband wasn’t too pleased to hear that). Corso and I never got to that point, but we did become a “couple”.

Story

I saved the best for last. This is where BioWare’s forte is, and what they have accomplished here is phenomenal. And looking around, that seems to be the general consensus.

I was sucked into my class story right from the start, and it just gets better and better the deeper you get into the game. You’ll probably hear me say this again and again over the next week — but I can’t get over how well done my Smuggler’s class story was, from level 1 all the way to level 50. As in, I wished I knew the names of the writers for my Smuggler’s story, so I can send them each a personal thank you note telling them how much they have enriched my MMO experience. They made me laugh. They made me rage. They made me giggle with girlish glee, they made me gasp in surprise and ask out loud “Holy crap, did that actually happen?!”

You should have seen me freaking out to my guildies in guild chat when I was around the mid-40s, going, “OMG OMG OMG the best thing ever just happened to my Smuggler but dammit I can’t tell you because it will spoil!”

Much more on this topic in the future, but all I’ll say now is this: kudos BioWare, you have officially proven that story truly does matter.

Hope you enjoyed.

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All’s Fine In Telara

August 12, 2011

Control your pet, Mage, or I'll do it for you.

I thought perhaps it’s time for an update on what I’m playing, because I wouldn’t be a very good “MMOGamerChick” if I didn’t play MMOs, would I? At this time, there are a few titles on my plate, but this summer has been all about Rift. Mostly because the devs at Trion are on the ball when it comes to frequent updates and constantly adding content.

Also, my husband’s interest in the game seems to have been renewed ever since I got him a new gaming rig for his birthday early last month. I can’t blame the guy for really getting into it again, now that he’s no longer playing on the old laptop and dealing with lagtastic combat and turned-down graphics that look like ass. It’s a whole different game once you go from “low” to “ultra”.

And as anyone who is one half of a gaming couple knows, wherever your spouse goes, you go. Still, I draw the line at being his pocket healer whenever he feels like going on one of his all-night chain Expert-T1-T2 grinding binges, so I instead settled for transferring my Rogue alt from Estrael back to Faeblight, in order to level with his new Mage.

What’s amazing to me is this new partnership is more formidable than I could have ever imagined, perhaps offering even more survivability than our past combo of Healer Cleric/Tank Warrior. With me going Marksman with some Bard elements, and him going Elementalist/Chloromancer, we essentially have two tanks and enough incidental healing to keep us all up until the end of all time. Not surprisingly, the levels have been racing by at an absurd pace.

If there’s one thing I’m looking forward to, it’s heading into Moonshade Highlands. It’s a beautiful zone, but for some reason we traded all its lushness and green for the Droughtlands on our first time through Telara. Silly us. In any case, it’s always a treat to be able to quest in a zone I’ve never done.

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SWTOR: Utinni!

June 8, 2011

I didn’t follow E3 as closely today, playing some catch up with my work instead (on account of all the time I puttered away yesterday, watching all the presentations). I did, however, catch a couple of Star Wars: The Old Republic live streams and features.

One of them was a live demo session hosted by Daniel Erickson from the show floor, answering fan questions and showcasing a Bounty Hunter questing on the planet of Tatooine. The video can be viewed here.

My interest was piqued immediately, for not only is the Bounty Hunter my class of choice, BioWare had also been teasing Tatooine for a couple weeks now and I was really looking forward to seeing it. Everything sort of fled my mind, however, the moment they revealed Blizz the little Jawa companion. Tally another point under the “Reasons to play a Bounty Hunter” column, please!

Oh em gee, will you just look at how cute and cuddly he is. Though, I almost choked to death on my Coke when someone actually asked if he was romance-able (he’s not, thank god). Sorry, but that’s just wrong. Sooo wrong.

They’ve done a wonderful job on the environment; despite the lowered graphic settings for the live stream, everything still looked very beautiful and Tatooine-y. Oh, and massive. Something tells me I’ll be extremely grateful for my speeder “mount” for traveling. Other highlights — a med probe ability that acts similarly to the Rift “soulwalk” when you die, unlimited inventory space for quest items, ability to switch out your companions on the fly for convenience while soloing or grouping, and many other quality-of-life features.

You can’t sell your companions, which was sort of obvious to me, but I still couldn’t help but be amused by Erickson’s answer of no slavery in the Old Republic — if only because it reminded me of how long I’ve personally pondered the ethics of selling, trading, and even sending your bridge officers through the mail like some kind of human chattel in Star Trek Online. Heh.

The other live stream I watched was the short interview on SWTOR raids (which they call “Operations”), as well as the trailer for the Eternity Vault encounter on Belsavis:

You know what it reminded me of? Oddly enough, Episode II. Yep, Attack of the Clones. Battle of Geonosis. The scene where Padme finally professes to Anakin that she truly…deeply…loves him (like, really?) before they and Obi-Wan are hauled off to become creature food, and Mace Windu and his 212-member Jedi strike team have to step in at the nick of time to rescue their asses. The scene where, outnumbered 50 to 1, the Jedi fight to the end in a charlie foxtrot of running feet, flying blaster bolts and flashing lightsabers, utter chaos exploding in every corner of the arena.

In short, Geonosis was a complete gong show and it was the first thing I thought of. Not that that’s a criticism of the above trailer, however. On the contrary. Large-scale battles like that should be messy, they should be chaotic. I thought some of the game footage they showed captured that vibe very well. That said, there were glimpses of what appeared to be boss fights, but also many encounters where the players split up to engage multiple enemies — the latter is what I hope we’ll get to see more of. In any case, I don’t know what else to make of SWTOR raids yet, with still so little to go on.

I did also manage to catch the Nintendo unveiling of the WiiU this afternoon. This year seems to be all about the possibilities for me. The possibility of me actually using a Wii product again for something else other than exercising and work out games if I got the touchscreen controller. The possibility I might actually be drawn into the world of handheld gaming by the Playstation Vita. The possibility I might finally have enough reasons to get a Kinect. All prospects, but nothing really jumped out at me.

My main interest still lies more in MMOs than in consoles or anything, though I’ve enjoyed every minute of the coverage over the last couple of days on games like Skyrim, Batman: Arkham City, Mass Effect 3, Assassin’s Creed Revelations and even Neverwinter.

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Rift: Over The Stonefield Hump

May 3, 2011

So it’s been one week since I wrote about my Rift alt and loudly proclaimed I was going to actually try to work on the character and not abandon her to a fate of lowbie purgatory. Yeah, not going as well as I’d hoped. It’s not that my resolve is flagging, but it’s always difficult trying to go against one’s nature, and I find myself always tempted to work on my main instead.

Last weekend was also a pretty crappy one for gaming; April showers bring May flowers and all that, but what all the poems and songs neglect to mention are all the and grass and shrub and weed growth that also happens, and I spent the bulk of my Saturday outside toiling on yard work. After a long day, I came back into the house, looked at my computer and decided I just wasn’t in the mood to face Stonefield.

Then the realization hit me — it’s not me, it’s Stonefield. Every game seems to have a “blah zone” like that for me, i.e. one that I can’t wait to get the hell out of. I don’t know what it is about that place, but I’m just not that into it. I wouldn’t say it’s an ugly zone, but it’s far from being one of the prettiest. It has its moments, but for the most part it’s a dreary place, and the quests aren’t very exciting. It’s also caught in that awkward “in-between” place, if you know what I mean, hitting you right after that initial high of learning a new class and new abilities has gone down…but right before the more interesting and “advanced” content can roll out.

Rift has a variety of higher level zones as questing paths begin to branch out once you get past Scarwood Reach. I wish Trion had done something similar for the mid-20s to 30s zones too, especially since this ennui is more likely to turn me away at the lower levels when I haven’t invested so much yet.

I have a feeling progress will pick up again once I get past this “Stonefield hump”. The wonderful thing about playing a Rogue is, you level so damn fast.

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Riftshot Of The Day: The New Kidney In Town

April 5, 2011

So I’m sitting in my mid-40s in Rift at the moment, and just finished up with the Droughtlands. Boy, what a barren wasteland that place is. It’s desolate, bone-dry and crawling with Centaurs.

You’d think I would have had enough of the desert after that, but no. I had the choice of a couple other zones like Stillmoor or Iron Pine Peaks, but I decided to press onwards into Shimmersand. I liked the name and thought I would be greeted by a tropical paradise and stretches of white beaches…but instead, I got more desert. I don’t regret the decision though; in fact I think Shimmersand is the prettiest zone I’ve seen so far. I didn’t expect it to be so colorful, but numerous oases dotting the landscape and their nearby tented settlements do offer a vibrant charm.

The biggest hub in Shimmersand is Fortune’s Shore. I ran around once I got there and picked up my quests and talked to the NPCs. It didn’t take long for me to figure out that Fortune’s Shore is a pretty shady place. But I had no idea, really, just how shady.

That will teach me to go wandering into some dark and lonely cave all by myself.

I have seen quite a few humorous debuffs in this game so far that have made me giggle. This was no exception. Still, when I saw this, I was like, wow, kinda harsh. I mean, to his dog? TO HIS DOG??!?!

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Postcards From Telara: On The Other Hand…

February 8, 2011

I notice there has been a downbeat pattern in the tone of Rift posts lately, making me debate whether I should write about my own Rift beta 6 experience. I don’t know if I had an overly positive or negative experience either way, but I do know is I like to keep my sights forward, maintaining a realistic if not always an optimistic point of view.

Here’s the thing — there are so many ways to tackle an MMO, so obviously players are going to have very different experiences from one another. That said, one thing I did notice is that I seem to be further ahead than a lot of people, currently sitting in my 30s with my Defiant Mage on the Wolfsbane server. So I was reading Pete of Dragonchaser’s post earlier today, and thinking to myself, Hmm, I don’t think I had any of his problems this weekend while I was playing in the zones of Scarlet Gorge or Scarwood Reach…

Now, if you can smell a big “but” coming at the end of that statement, you’re absolutely right! I spent half of my time in Rift this weekend leveling my character, but I also spent the other half playing with my husband whose Warrior is in the late teens, going back to the previous zones helping him catch up. And with regards to my experiences in Freemarch and part of Stonefield, I have to say a lot more of Pete’s criticisms are spot on.

Could be just me, but my point is I do feel a marked difference between the rifting experience pre-level 20 versus late 20s and above, at least so far. I don’t think it’s so much a matter of the actual difficulty of the rifts; instead, I tend to think my experiences were affected by the nature of the social interactions I encountered at each level bracket. It really matters in the world where you are and how much player support you have around you. Not surprisingly, when I went back to Freemarch I found a lot more players than I did when I was questing in the Gorge or Scarwood, which probably had a lot to do with why trying to “rift” with my husband was such a downright pain in the ass.

With so many people running around, finding rifts was a challenge in itself at this point, and they did feel considerably easier when none of the invasions lasted very long and rifts were sealed up before my poor mount-less husband could reach the area. Finally, I took pity on him and just gave him the money to buy one. The experience actually convinced me to upgrade my regular pre-order of the game to the digital collector’s edition. The extra bag space was already very tempting, but now with the mount changes where you can ride one as soon as you can obtain one, that two-headed turtle pretty much sold it.

Note, however, that I am planning on doing a lot of rifting right off the bat. I don’t think having a free mount from the start is necessarily a requirement, but given how zone-wide events can cover huge areas, and not to mention you’ll probably find yourself in public groups where many of the members will have one as well, I do personally believe it would be an advantage.

To continue my point, I guess reading Pete’s post just made me consider how much difference 10 levels, or even 5, can make in beta right now because of the number of players in each level range. If I had to play rifts in the earlier zones all weekend, I’d probably feel a little jaded with the experience too. But then I got to swing on back to Scarlet Gorge, and ha! It was back to running for my life again, back to being swamped by invaders, back to dying over and over again, back to a situation where we regularly failed the zone-wide objectives, unable to stop enemies from establishing footholds and overrunning our hubs. Many times, I even felt rifts got out of hand.

Life at around level 30 felt much more precarious. People seemed a lot more cooperative at this point, especially when invasions often get to be just too much for any one person to handle. Many times I found myself in a scenario where it’s just you and one or two other people trying to quest in an area where there just so happens to be an inconvenient major enemy foothold right smack dab in the middle of an objective. When there’s a lot fewer players at this level, grouping up and helping each other stay alive just makes sense, not to mention we can gain the experience and reputation together.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, give the rifts and public group system a chance to find their stride.

On the other hand, I think ultimately this growing pains process is also going to be the cause of major problems when it comes to balancing. As I mentioned before, I notice the number of players seem to be an important factor. The implications of this, of course, is how is this going to affect the rift events at launch when the lowbie areas become saturated? Will Trion take steps to counter the effects such a huge surge will bring? What about a couple months or even a year down the road, when populations stabilize, will they scale it back? Because right now, it doesn’t seem like it takes much for things to feel too easy, nor much to make situations get this mind-bogglingly ridiculous, as seen in the screenshot below:

Anyway, I suppose that’s a good lead-in as any to the “postcards” part of this post! Hope you enjoy these screenshots from Scarlet Gorge and Scarwood Reach:

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