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Category Archives: Rift

Rearview Mirror

everlook.jpg

Greetings from Everlook, ca. 2007, when getting there meant something and not just to the Timbermaw…

Apparently blogging or at least the MMO blogging community is dead.  Or something.  Well, I’ve never taken directions very well, so here I am.

Ardwulf’s “What Was Lost” post caught my attention.

As Wilhelm has been blogging, our formerly-WoW, currently Rift instance group has been on a bit of a roll (or a lack of one) for the last 6 months.  As adults with various combinations of jobs, spouses, aging parents, growing children, and real life in general, having all the stars align to put all five of us online on a Saturday night at the appointed hour to partake in group content has been a rare occurrence.  This year, our score has been 2 for 24 (weekends), if I score it correctly.

And even when the gang isn’t all there, no one is spending a great deal of time in Rift.  Was not always the case.  When we were in Azeroth oh so many years ago, there always seemed to be something to do, something to explore.

Ardwulf seems to have reached the same conclusion we reached a while ago for what seems like many of the same reasons.  Lots of things in Azeroth have changed.  Many things lost, but what were those things that made it so compelling in those halcyon vanilla days?

Its a bit difficult to define what it was, but as some of the comments in his post point out, certain changes changed or radically impacted many aspects of the game in a negative way (IMHO).  So by looking at the negative impacts you can infer a bit of what the secret sauce was in the vanilla days.

Worldliness

For me, it comes down to a loss of “worldliness”.  That doesn’t mean a sandbox per se, but that the game world was a place with a sense of dimension, danger and the unknown.

Quest-centricity

Quest content was a way to experience the game but not the entire game.  That was initially a great strength of the vanilla game, providing a non-exclusive guided path through the world. Of course, we often stepped off those paths, encountered others and generally explored.  There were quest lines that lead no where.  There were side stories that were interesting in and of themselves that were utterly “optional”.

Increasing quest-centricity to the exclusion of all else migrated what was a game world in which there were many storylines to a story in which your character was largely a passive and captive participant.  By the time Cataclysm rolled around and I was budgeted with three quests at a time and I had to complete the entire zone to unlock the next zone, I was done.

Lost with that was any desire for replayability with alts.  Why trod the exact same path again and again?  I may have wanted to do so in some instances, but to be denied any choice in the matter just sucked the life out of the game.

Dungeon Finder/World Wrecker

The dungeon finder was certainly the world shatterer.  The world became a game lobby of course, we started to see that when PvP became instanced and you could queue and be whisked away.  Both travel and story were trivialized and in large part the world-based story line was mostly divorced from what was the instance based climax of those story lines.

Phasing

Another world shattering “innovation” was phasing.  The world around the character was representative of the experiential path that character had taken rather than vice versa.  Players on different steps of a quest may be in the same location as each other but in another “phase” and completely unable to see each other, play or assist each other.  Player-centricity versus world-centricity, Player wins again.

Repetitive content

Because of Blizzard’s formerly vaunted quality control to not release an expansion before its time, daily quests and associated grinds were added to bridge the gap.  An utterly immersion breaking and transparent attempt to pander to the ADD crowd.

And why create more content when you could just repurpose existing content?  Heroic dungeons were added.  What was the story or setting-based set up for these again? Oh yeah, none.

Death of Travel

Flying mounts and the demise of travel.  Worldliness is defined by the perceived size of the world.  Whether that is by some peculiar scaled physical metric (feet, miles, meters, km) or by the amount of time that it took to cross a particular zone, etc. each of those experiences created a sense of space and dimension and with that investment of time into travel, a sense of rarity, danger and a heightened risk of loss was created.

EQ did this is spades.  I remember being utterly terrified doing the run from Ak’Anon to Qeynos as a low level character in 2000.  It was terrifying and wonderful.

Risking the time invested and fighting to make progress to discover that next flight path was a great part of exploration.  As annoying as it could be on those AFK flights across Kalimdor after taking the boat from Menethil after taking the bird from Ironforge, and then running across Tanaris to get to Un’Goro, you had a very real sense that the world was a very big and very dangerous place.

And in those very big, very dangerous and remote places are often wonderful things.

Difficulty

Finally, getting through the world was not a gimme as it is now.  The world was a dangerous place and you needed to be thoughtful about where you went, the path you took to get there and how to engage mobs.  You could die, and often did.  Sometimes in very bad places which was a good thing.

Those dire circumstances created opportunities for both good and bad behavior.  One could assist someone in need or ninja their miniboss.  At least there was the opportunity for emergent interaction.

With the world no longer being a “place” and the challenge dumbed down and generally meaningless, players not can’t get through if fast enough.

Final Thoughts

Alright, enough rambling down the rough road of nostalgia.  For all that it does right, poor Rift doesn’t quite have that same sense of place that old Azeroth did, but its certainly much closer than post-Cataclysm WoW.  But frankly there really isn’t anything out there now or on the horizon that looks promising.

I truly enjoyed my time on the EQ timelocked progression server, Fippy Darkpaw, at least before SOE went down.  I even enjoy the F2P version as well and a big reason for that is the sense of place that old Norrath has accompanied by its dangers and rewards.

I see Syp has a post up about emulators keeping the flame alive and I briefly ducked into the Emerald Dream vanilla WoW private server.  As its a bit dubious, I couldn’t get completely comfortable with the whole private server thing, but if Blizzard offered one, I would pay them for it.

Until then, I guess I’m waiting for the next world to be borne.

 
3 Comments

Posted by on July 13, 2013 in Everquest, Rift, World of Warcraft

 

Fae Yule is Coming!

With Fae Yule coming up soon in Rift, this weekend was time to start getting into the spirit.  With the addition of player dimensions (housing) this year, that means just like in RL, decorating for the season.  For this year’s Fae Yule celebration, Rift has a number of pre-celebration gifts available.  All the details here.

For the price of a Facebook like, this year Rift gave away a Fae Yule Gift Pile, literally.  The Gift Pile is a dimension items that is, you guessed, a pile of gifts.  As I found out, once the code is applied to your account, each of your alts will receive the item which is not soulbound, so I used two piles in decorating my Fae Yule tree in my newbie Warden’s Point basic Defiant dimension

Charlie Brown, eat your heart out.

Charlie Brown, eat your heart out.

Rather pleased with my Charlie Brown-esque attempts at seasonality, I invited Mrs. P to come check it out.  Hence our first opportunity for a Rift Fae Yule family screenshot, companion pets included (a bit too much of art imitating life).

Happy Fae Yule from the Potshots

Happy Fae Yule from the Potshots

Of course, with the wife visiting the man-cave came decorating suggestions.  I had left off with a fairly austere series of floating platforms connected by ramps before I sort of drifted away.  I had managed to create something of a brazier effect in the sole building the dimension has using a torch and the blue vase that comes with completing the newbie dimensions quest.

Of course to her, it looked like a sauna in the making.  So, with the winter weather and Fae Yule imminent we set out to build the sauna.  Taking a lesson from EQ2 where often the backside of something is more useful that the front, a set of bookcases quickly became wood paneling for the sauna (with the added value of the parts protruding outside adding some much needed architectural features to the stone building).  Bear rug, water bucket, birch leaves and voila!  One instant sauna.

Cozy.  Too cozy.

Cozy. Too cozy.

Once complete, I of course had to inaugurate it which immediately reminded Mrs. P of why we don’t (and wont) have a sauna in our home…

Is it hot in here, or is it just me?

Is it hot in here, or is it just me?

Ahh, winter, yes, winter.

 
1 Comment

Posted by on December 9, 2012 in Rift

 

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The Storm Arrives…and Off Come My Pants

No posts for months and then two in two days? I know…

So, Rift’s first expansion, Storm Legion, launched this evening.  I managed to hop on after dinner and got patched in about an hour, more or less.  With the streaming patcher, the game was “playable” in probably 5-10 minutes, but with two accounts in the house, I decided to preserve bandwidth and let it finish before I hopped in.

Mrs. P couldn’t wait and experienced some laggish issues.  Whether that was the client chugging with the patch on-going or just catching the tail end of U.S. primetime by logging on about 8pm west coast time, who knows.  By the time I got in about 45 minutes later, everything seemed fine with no issues.

With cape installed, I headed off for Iron Pine Peaks and the portal to explore the new lands in the Kingdom of Pelladane, on one of the two new continents.

Welcome to the Kingdom of Pelladane!

Mrs. P and I were only level 47, so we were really just poking around to see what we could see and more or less could manage +3 level mobs together with her tanking pet and me doing the healing support with my cleric.  With no intention of actually focusing on quests, we just explored and managed to knock off a few world event related quests along the way.

We also managed to find and finish off one of the first gear reward quests, so I got a new set of legs.

Welcome to the Kingdom of Pelladane!

Yup, its an expansion.  On the left is the first set of green quest reward pants compared with my lowbie transplanar pants which were purchased with planarite and sourcestones.  For level 45 in the old country, they were pretty darned good for easily accessible gear, and better than most nonexpert dungeon drops.  Well, at least I had the satisfaction of completing the set before it was completely obsoleted.  Same as it ever was.

Still I got to see enough to whet my appetite for more.  Two complete continents each as large or larger than the original game is an explorer’s dream.

 
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Posted by on November 13, 2012 in Rift

 

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King for a Day

Well, I managed to actually get a character to the level cap in Rift scarcely 24 hours before the Storm Legion expansion releases tomorrow. Like Wilhelm, I went with the full year subscription option which gave you the expansion “free” with some goodies like the “Landslide” mount.

After the great pre-expansion patch soul reset, I was a bit daunted about relearning how to play my main and my stable of alts. After a few weekends with my instance group character, I think I’ve gotten the hang of my support/dps cleric but State, my warrior, had languished in the high 30s.

Kudos to Trion for solving a number of challenges with one solution–the main city Storm Legion instant Adventure. If you were checking back in to the game before the expansion, the constantly running event in town begged you to join the action. Likewise if you were relearning to play due to the patch changes to souls, here was a great, quick and painless way to do it. And, if you were looking to catch up to the level cap, the raid experience and planarite rewards rained down fast and furious.

Suffice it to say, three days later and voila, ten levels under my belt. I must have known this but forgotten it–once you hit 50, there is an instanced ceremony event to celebrate your, ahem, ascendancy. I’m sure countless thousands have described it, so if you haven’t read about it or experienced it, I wont give spoilers, but I must say its a cool way to recognize the accomplishment. Much better than a mere ding or broadcast achievement. Nicely done.

Level 50 Fireworks in my own private Meridian

So after wondering whether Rift would survive for me after the fall onslaught of releases, I’ve doubled down for the expansion. Bring on the storm.

 
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Posted by on November 12, 2012 in Rift

 

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Space: Still the Final Frontier

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still enjoying Rift quite a bit with the instance group, but I still get that Space MMO itch that just doesn’t get scratched very well. Something about the long nights of winter (even here in Northern California) calls me back to space.

Eve Offline

Over the holidays, I resubbed my Eve accounts having been sucked in by the exploits of Wilhelm and Gaff.  The intent was to play it “casually” with an alt that I had rolled up for solo piracy.  Rolling an alt in Eve is a bit of a challenge since you can only have one character training skills at a time, so although I have two accounts, I would have to forego progress on one of the “main” characters on that account to learn skills on the alt.

Also, I didn’t want to screw up the standings of our regular high sec PvE corp, so I put the alt in a separate corp.  In a fit of foggy memory, I managed to resub the wrong account, so I ended up resubbing both of my accounts.

I knew my horizon for the game wouldn’t likely extend beyond a month or so, so there was really no point in going through the rigamarole to go join Gaff and Wilhelm in 0.0.  After reading about the logistics and timing challenges, not the least of which is time zone based, I decided that was probably a wise decision for me.

Of course, that left pretty much either “dueling” pvp, high sec social engineering piracy (e.g., can flipping) or attempts at low sec piracy.  I loath all dueling and as an explorer/industrialist at heart, I really couldn’t take to can flipping unless I was going to go heavy RP.

So that’s left low sec piracy and/or ratting.  Diving into low sec, and learning the skills to survive there, has been pretty interesting.  One really never knows what could happen, so there is some excitement even when there are only a few people in a system.  You have to get used to looking over your shoulder quite a bit.

Of course, the hardest part of solo piracy is finding a mark.  Something that I’ve not been terribly good at, and given the challenges of low sec (i.e., the conventional wisdom that its “broken”) and the time required to do a good roam, I’m losing interest.

On the other hand, with my other account, I took the opportunity to check out Planetary Interaction which was introduced just as I was concluding my last visit to New Eden.  Its been reworked some, but I’ve been producing some goods off high sec worlds to get the hang of it.  So far, its a decent if minor source of passive income.  High sec worlds don’t have the density of rarer materials on them, so overall output is lower.

Nonetheless, in the course of looking for the best place to sell my PI manufactured goods, I discovered a few arbitrage opportunities which I’ve been exploiting fairly regularly.  At the moment, I have just enough isk lying around to acquire enough of a particular commodity to fill my fully rigged Iteron V industrial and make a run to Jita where it typically sells within an hour.  I’ve typically been able to make 15-30 million ISK per run which isn’t bad for sitting on the couch with a crappy laptop while watching the Daily Show/Colbert Report.

Fun in its own way, but I’m not drawn into the way other goals in Eve have caught my attention.

Star Wars: The Old Republic

Having done the beta, I’m sure that our little group would find it amusing enough.  From my own experience and what I’ve been reading, Bioware is slowly addressing some of the bugs and issues that were present in the beta.  I’ve no doubt the game will be a better experience after the first few weeks and months.  One of the main reasons we aren’t playing this as a group right now, is simply the fact that there are five of us and small group content is made for 4 people.

Even with companions, that makes for some difficult math and even more difficult shared experiences.  We could conceivably do a group of 3 with one companion and a group of two with two companions, but that kind of flies in the face of the whole group play thing.

So while I’m still very interested in SWTOR, I’d like to figure out a way (or wait for Bioware to come up with a way) for all of us to have a shared experience.  I suspect we’ll have similar problems with Diablo III.

Star Trek Online

I did the beta, I even bought the collector’s edition, but in the end, I couldn’t justify a subscription beyond the initial 30-days.  Not that there wasn’t fun to be had there, there definitely was, but there were issues that I wasn’t willing to pay for while waiting to solve.

But, STO is going free to play Tuesday, so I thought I’d at least get patched and see what has transcribed since launch.  One thing that intrigues me is the user generated content creator.  STO, like SWTOR, was always so story driven, I think I may enjoy exploring both what has been added by way of the periodic season/episode content which was added after I left as well as user generated missions.

Heck, its been quite some time since I played with a UGC module in a game– probably not since map editors for shooter games– so I may experiment and see whether that dimension is satisfying.

Like LotRO, I suspect that STO will benefit greatly from going F2P.  Its certainly a game that I would have been looking at over the last year had it not required a sub to check out.

Finally a happy accident, it turns out that former subscribers can log in this weekend.  I expected to download and patch, but not be able to log in.  Much to my surprise, there was Lieutenant Commander Skronk aboard the U.S.S. Frinault drifting in Sector Space.

As is typical with re-entering a game world, there is an almost paralyzing amount of information to reassimilate.  Even more so when the game has been patched and tweaked for more than a year AND has gone F2P.  Fortunately, I spotted the Transwarp to Earth Spacedock button (I can’t remember whether that was there before) and beamed down to Starfleet Academy (which I don’t remember existing before either, let alone being in Marin County).

Either Starfleet moved to Marin, or Marin finally went "Pro Growth"...

So, with a three-day weekend, it will be a convenient time to explore STO again and see what’s new.  Stay tuned.

 

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PotD: Gates of Meridian

Gates of Meridian

Enjoying myself exploring the Defiant side of Telara.  I only tried Guardian during beta and am liking what I see so far.

 
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Posted by on October 11, 2011 in Picture of the Day, Rift

 

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Interesting choices

A theme has been circulating around the blogosphere of late, several posts for which its too late and I’m too lazy to link back to (apologies), that have been commenting on aspects of gameplay that can be loosely categorized as requiring (or at least permitting) the player to make “interesting choices”.  I’ve been somewhat busy and remiss in commenting on them, but ultimately think they are on to something…

In some games like Rift with its multivariate soul system, that means that players get to make interesting choices about character development and differentiation.  Likewise those choices in theory permit a player to choose how to configure one’s character for a given play scenario– instanced dungeon, rifting, solo pve, solo pvp, etc.

Gordon at We Fly Spitfires and Wil at The Ancient Gaming Noob both touched on a few aspects of class design that highlighted another aspect of player choice or the (merits of the) limits thereof.  Likewise, Keen had a few good thoughts on old EQ which resonated.

My own recent experiences on the progression server in EQ which were initially borne of nostalgia and perhaps a bit of a masochistic streak have been validated well beyond the mere “lets go see how bad it was and we can blog about it” angle.

I’m having a good time on Fippy Darkpaw.  Its not easy.  There is no definitive path.  Death is my copilot.  Travel can take both time and luck…  My druid may know two dozen spells, some of dubious value, but can only equip eight at a time.  Choices.  I can’t cast them all, only the ones I’ve memorized.  A load out.

Once out of the pure noob zone, our progression has been fueled by a desire to “see the world”.  There is no definitive path.  We’ve zigged and zagged across Antonica and now to Faydwer to serve a our own goal or to build our own story.  Not a narrative that came out of a team meeting and was preordained by the only progression mechanic permitted but rather one of our own making.

There’s an interesting tension in reading about the seemingly extreme flexibility of Rift’s design paradigm and the rather rigid structure of old EQ, however both are based on creative player choice.  I wonder what problem they are truly trying to solve.

In the case of Rift, players have what appear to be myriad choices and are thus capable of adapting their characters to emergent gameplay situations.  In old EQ, its more like chess.  Or even Rock, Paper, Scissors.  Each piece(class) has certain attributes and to be effective, a player has to learn, analyze and make creative choices to be effective.  In essence, rigidity creates unique opportunity for making interesting choices and emergent gameplay.  Players are forced to solve problems with the tools they are given.  This is a good thing.

Encounters aren’t so finely tuned that there is, in essence, only one solution of player classes and actions that permits success, but rather, the opposite– multivariate solutions permit success and thus create a dynamic choice environment for players.  Iteration and innovation in situational tactics permit success on many levels.

That sounds like a bit of a high falutin’ way to describe that I tend to enjoy games that emphasize creative problem solving (given a relatively limited set of resources) more than those that restrict the “solution set” and rely merely on execution– Dance Dance Revolution writ large.  One successful strategy, one optimum group composition, etc.

More problematic, IMHO, is the fact that mainstream games like WoW have trivialized the leveling game completely removing any meaningful player choice.  Likewise, raiding (I’m not a raider) and for that matter current instanced dungeon content, only requires execution rather than tactics and strategy.  Regardless of your class choice, the optimal solution requires X effective dps, Y effective hp of the tank, and Y effective mana of the healer.

I’m probably in the minority, but I’m certainly more interested in the journey rather than the destination.  Currently, I’m enjoying the journey involved in a twelve year old game over everything offered in the current crop of MMOs.  It will be interesting to see whether the convergent trend to in essence no free will or player choice trump more open systems in the next few major releases.

I suspect I’ll be playing GW2 more than SW:TOR.

 

 
3 Comments

Posted by on March 30, 2011 in Everquest, Rift, World of Warcraft

 
 
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