The Illusion of Choice

Before this past week, I had not really followed the news about the Mists of Pandaria expansion apart from a mention here or there in my RSS reader.  So now that I am leaving the wow-free zone that I have created for myself, I am trying to catch up on all the tidbits of progress.  I admit, when I first got wind of the expansion I was just as bitter and cynical as the rest of the “kung-fu panda and pokemon” complainers.  I am not sure if it is the long leave, or the news I am reading itself but I am looking forward to it.

Never a Real Choice

One of the big complaints that did manage to invade upon my fortress of wow-less solitude, was the “dumbing down” of the talent trees.  When I first heard the news, like a good chunk of my friends, I was full of rage over them needlessly simplifying a process that already worked “just fine”.  I bemoaned switching to a system that gave up choice in favor of “hand holding”.  My talent trees should be tall and full of many widgets to click on, the way they always were!

I have come to the realization that despite the “illusion of choice” and multiple options, in each tree there was really only one viable path.  There are roughly 68 DeathKnights in my guild, and apart from  no more than a 5 talent difference, each us has almost the exact same blood tanking build.  For each class, and each tree, there has always been one spec agreed upon by the community to be head and shoulders above the rest.  So while it always felt like we had tons of options, in reality if we wanted to play on any serious level, we were going to go with the agreed upon path.

The thing is, this has been the case in every game I have played that has some sort of a talent system.  Rift added a bit more depth to the system, but the same winning combos were there as well.  This was so much the case that between my times playing it, they have added this nifty system that tutors you through speccing into one of these agreed upon paths.  This was a breath of fresh air, since with 9 potential talent trees to juggle per class, plotting a course became extremely arcane.

Freedom to Fail

The point of view I have eventually come around to is one that I would have argued until I was blue in the face a few years back.  In the end, all having a talent tree does is really give a player a chance to screw their character up to the point of being unplayable.  I had a friend, who shall go unnamed that decided to try and build a “Jack of all Trades” hunter in vanilla WoW.  Instead of focusing on one tree and then some secondary talents, he spread his points out evenly trying to pick up the best all all the early talents.

The end result was a character that had no glaring weaknesses, but no real bonuses either.  He could solo just fine, but when it came to running dungeons he lacked the raw damage output needed to support a team effort.  Believe it or not, I have seen many people make this mistake over the years.  The freedom of picking talents, also gives you the freedom to make characters that simply don’t work.  Ultimately the designers have intended us from the start to try and reach those top tier talents. As such when a winning hybrid spec exists it usually gets “fixed” to restore the balance.

Less is More

So in returning to what outraged myself and others, at face value the Deathknight talents are going from 41 points to only 6 points.  Initially like everyone else I thought to myself, my god they are watering these classes down.  Last night I copied my Deathknight out to pandaland and quickly found out that my assumptions were completely wrong.  In truth the new system is going to give us far more personalization while still remaining viable.

Just like with Cataclysm, when you first open an empty talent tree you are asked to choose a specialization.  Previously this just gave you whatever the signature ability was for your class.  Keeping with the Deathknight analogy, choosing Blood gave me Heart Strike, Veteran of the Third War, Blood Rites, and Vengence.  However my talents gave me all the other abilities that made tanking as blood viable, namely all those handy “oh shit” cooldowns.

What it took me a long while to understand, is that in Mists of Pandaria, when you choose a specialization you are essentially receiving with one single click that previous “optimal spec”.  Instead of getting those signature abilities from before, I receive 17 active and passive abilities that made up the golden path everyone chose.  What this really does, that has never existed to this point is set a clear baseline of abilities that one can expect every possible spec to have.  This completely takes the guess work of whether or not a player has some critical ability out of the mix.

Fluffy Goodness

Basically the talent points are now a series of decisions that occur at level 15, 30, 45, 60, 75, and 90.  Each of these decisions changes the flavor of your abilities, or adds new functionality to your class.  When I switched my Deathknight from Human to Worgen, the thing I really missed was the Every Man for Himself racial.  Previously in Wrath it was not terribly difficult to build a viable tanking spec that included the ability Lichborne.  However in Cataclysm, you had to give up some high threat talents and utility to get it.

With the MoP talents at each level you are basically making a choice and in essence sacrificing other abilities.  Most of the tiers, for the classes I have seen all are similar abilities with a similar theme.  In the case of Lichborne, I can take it as my level 30 pick, but I am giving up on having Anti-Magic Zone and the brand new Purgatory ability.  None of the choices really take away from my viability, but each shapes the flavor of my character.

So while at face value it looks like you have less freedom, in reality I personally feel like I have more than ever.  I cannot count the number of times I have respecced just to change one or two points.  That was the only real control I had, and in general I have had less than 5 points that could realistically be juggled.  This time I am getting to make 6 choices, each of which has some pretty significant ramifications.  I can be a tank with Bladestorm, or a Deathknight with AOE Deathgrip (Gorefiend’s Grasp), or Combat Rogue with Shadowstep.  I get to make these fun choices knowing that I am not trading my viability for flavor.

Ode to the Trinity

I have to say I am honestly shocked after writing this all out, that I am really looking forward to the expansion.  I made as many catty comments about it as the next person, but the more I read about the changes the more I like.  The funny thing is, I know I am contradicting things I have said I wanted in the past.  I have seen enough of the “post-trinity” games that I know that I don’t really enjoy them.  At the end of the day, I really like having clearly defined roles.

The main problem I have had with abolishing the “trinity” is that without them I feel like I have no purpose.  While this is great for soloing, grouping in games like Guild Wars 2 has been sheer and total chaos.  The classes that generally get hurt the most are the melee, and those are the only thing I have ever been interested in playing.  I cannot be happy unless I am sinking a weapon in monster flesh.  Playing a “finger wiggler” just lacks the visceral quality that I crave.

So when I would try and take on a difficult/elite/etc encounter with group members, this little scenario would play out.  I would run in and begin to attack, sword and board in hand.  Sooner or later I would pull aggro, and begin trying to back out.  Ultimately I would fail at shedding aggro and die while trying to heal myself.  The fighting to stand up would fail as well, since we are fighting a big monster and not easily killed by throwing stones at it.  At this point I rez, and try and run back into the action which may or may not be all the way across the current map.

Even in games that have blurred the lines a bit, without going into battle knowing your role it feels like every bad pvp experience I have had.  “Lets all run in and throw ourselves at the enemy, I am sure they will fall to one of our flailing bodies.”  I like knowing who is the tank, who will be providing dps, and who will save all our asses by healing us when we do something phenomenally stupid.  A well balanced party was the key to pen and paper RPGs and honestly it still makes sense for MMO grouping.

Solo Friendly

I think the nugget at the center of every “post-trinity” argument however is pretty simple.  Everyone wants to be viable in both a group and while soloing.  SWTOR tried to solve this by giving everyone companions that essentially turned you into an instant somewhat balanced group.  WoW has added in a lot more self heals, and other ways to save yourself when things are going wrong.  Ultimately, everyone wants to be able to play the way they want to play and still be viable doing so.  For me that is usually tanking, which I guess places me firmly as a pillar of the trinity. 

This post has rambled on a lot longer than I had originally intended.  I guess in hindsight I should have broken it into multiple posts, but at least in my mind all of these things are connected. I am still pretty shocked that I am looking forward to roaming around Pandaland.  What I have seen of the areas, I have enjoyed.  I will go on at length another time, as to why I feel Cataclysm failed whereas Wrath and Burning Crusade did not.  Suffice to say, I feel Pandaria will be a return to the world building experience of the first two expansions.  I am looking forward to exploring this new and beautiful world.

Rediscovering Dungeons

Here in Oklahoma it has been insanely hot and by Thursday it is supposed to be in temperatures over 107F.  As a result, I have been actively trying to avoid leaving the comfort of air conditioning.  This meant that this last weekend, I spent the vast majority of it logged into Argent Dawn in World of Warcraft.  The game still has a pretty firm resurgent hold on me.

Am I Really Back?

WoWScrnShot_062512_060314Honestly at this point I am still not 100% sure if I am really back, but I have moved from seven days of free time to actually paying for the first month.  I had planned on doing this anyway, just to make sure my friend got his mount, but I have to say I am already finding myself making plans for the future.  Right now I have a stable of sub 85s, and I admit I am looking forward to leveling them.

I spent the largest portion of the weekend working on Exeter, my Paladin.  This was actually my very first character in World of Warcraft, and I had grand ideals about playing it as a main.  Due to not being able to keep up with my friends, and the failings of protection paladins early on in vanilla, this never quite panned out.  But nonetheless the character has always had a special place for me.

When I last played the character over a year and a half ago, I had just started on Vashj’ir and decided to swap from Retribution as I played in Wrath, to full on protection.  With some minimal ability swapping, I was able to pick up the character pretty quickly and continue on questing.  I have to say the Cataclysm Tankadin is a blast to play.  I have given paladins crap over the years, even on this blog, but the gameplay is extremely infectious.

WoWScrnShot_062512_064918Over the course of the weekend I finished Vashji’r, quested through Hyjal, mined my way across Deepholme and finally reached 85 while doing the first few quest chains of Uldum.  I have no clue how many actual hours of play it took me, but with all the perks granted by a level 25 guild, it seemed like it just flew by.  Instead of watching my xp bar I found myself just following along the quests, and before I knew it I had hit the cap.

While I have complained about “kill ten” quests before, I have come to realize that at the end of the day I really do prefer them.  Having a traditional questing structure gives me a sense of purpose as I check things off my list.  When I have played more open ended games, like Guild Wars 2, I have felt like everything I did lacked that same sense of purpose.  As much as I had complained about the disconnected feeling of Cataclysm, the quest flow is pretty nice and has enough other kinds of quests to break the monotony of the kill tasks.

Grouping Should Be Fun

Screenshot_2012-02-22_22_19_17_638583When I left WoW originally it changed my game play deeply.  I went from being the center of each group as the main tank, to actively avoiding grouping all together.  I had developed a phobia of being needed at all, since I had spent the previous seven years responsible for the happiness of so many others.  I grouped when I absolutely had to, but the rest of the time I was off by myself and seemingly happy.

With the release of SWTOR, I gave grouping another try.  However choosing to level as a dedicated duo, left me feeling chained to having to play whenever someone else was online.  When it came time to run flashpoints, I just found them not as much fun as I remembered dungeons being.  I think in part, I just didn’t like the design of the Star Wars hard modes.  I don’t mind hard encounters, but I have always felt that they should be an endurance game, not twitch reflexes.

Many of the SWTOR hard mode flashpoints, just felt cheap and irrationally punishing.  Colonel Daksh in Maelstrom Prison for example, goes into this phase where you have to avoid getting in line of sight of him.  Essentially 2 or 3 times per fight, everyone in the group has to do an intricate dance avoiding being seen.  If you are seen at all, it is essentially a one shot death.  If you aren’t dpsing him fast enough, you also die from the incredibly short enrage timer.  As we wiped over and over to one thing or another, the attempts just ceased to be enjoyable, and given time flashpoints were just something I completely avoided.

Remembering It Can Be

image00211Thanks to the coaxing of my friend, coming back to WoW I have been grouping again.  I eased into it by duoing some old raids, until I built back up my tanking ability to some extent.  Once I got back into the swing of a heroic, including the “new to me” hour of twilight five mans, it felt like coming home.  Unfortunately it seems like we can only muster full guild groups on Friday or Saturday nights.  But those last few nights, have been some of the most enjoyable gameplay I have experienced in years.

Friday night we gathered up to work on various achievements, that each of us had outstanding.  We knocked out a couple still remaining from the Icecrown five mans, and then moved on to the redesigned Zul’Gurub.  ZG has always been one of my favorite places in Azeroth, and in vanilla I spent hour after hour there both tanking and healing it.  When I heard they were removing the raid and making it a heroic, I was extremely disappointed.  However, considering they went from a raid to a five man, they’ve done the zone justice.  While none of the fights are exactly the same, they each feel very similar in nature and still have a very epic feeling to them.

In an hours time, we had knocked out every available Zul’Gurub achievement.  While there really wasn’t much in the way of gear upgrades for anyone involved, we had a complete blast doing it.  I am remembering the side of gaming I used to love so much, but the circumstance of having to be both guild and raid leader robbed me of.  Running around with my friends taking down baddies, has re-awoken a piece of my inner child I thought was too jaded to ever feel this way again.

Well Rested Return

One of friends, mused that I just needed some time away from the game to get my perspective.  I think that honestly might be the case.  Too much frustration had built up, over too many things not directly related to gameplay.  Coming back now, I have a new pair of rose colored lenses and my buffer of bullshit has been emptied out.  I never thought it would be WoW I was returning to however.  I really thought with my recent return to Rift, that it would be the one that held my attention.  As much crap as we have all said about “pandas and pokemon”, I think the upcoming expansion will breathe some life back into the game.  I just hope that my return, others will be willing to give it a fresh start as well.

Nostalgia Wins

Of all the topics I thought I would be blogging about, it is pretty safe to assume this is the last one I ever expected to be writing.  However over the last couple of weeks I have been giving in to my nostalgia, and I feel like I need to come clean about it.  About a week before my birthday, I found my way onto the guild mumble, in the guise of helping a long time friend test their mumble connection.  It was not long before a few others showed up, and we had a lively little discussion going.

When you get a bunch of old friends together, sooner or later they are going to start talking about the “good ole days”.  While none of us were actively playing it, those cherished times were all raids in World of Warcraft.  Over the last year and a half, since leaving the game, it has pretty much been my regular whipping boy.  I’ve said so much, and blamed so many things on the game and its players, but at the end of the day we really did have some amazing times there.  It wasn’t long before I found myself accepting a Scroll of Resurrection, and reactivating my account.

Sealing the Rift

2011-03-15_062142 (1)I expected that much like reactivating Rift, this was going to be one of my short lived whims.  I had a good deal of fun wandering around Telara for about a week, before the same feeling from before had set in.  Rift is without a doubt technically superior to every game on the market.  It has every feature I could ever possibly want in an MMO.  The problem is that once again I find myself not really caring about the world of Telara and its two warring factions. 

What hooked me on MMOs all those years ago, was this always on and deeply intricate fantasy world to explore.  Norrath will always be my first love, with its interesting races, brooding gods, and vast landscapes.  I can remember spending hours, reading quests, trying to gather up every little tidbit of this rich world.  Years later I developed the same connection to the land of Azeroth.  The setting was already familiar to me, and knowing a little bit about it already, made World of Warcraft and its lore all the more addictive.

For reasons I don’t quite understand, I just can’t seem to develop the same connection with the races and world of Telara.  The game does everything right, and has every bells and whistles I could ever want in an MMO, especially now that they are adding mentoring.  At the end of the day however, I just don’t really care about my characters the same way I normally do in these games. 

Home is never the same

WoWScrnShot_061412_232732So in a fit of nostalgia I have been playing WoW once more, and I have to say I am enjoying myself quite a bit.  I think it is a testament to just how good a game it is, that I can return after almost 2 years, and a ton of frustration and bad feelings towards Blizzard, and be able to have fun.  I honestly had the intention of never playing the game again.  I had mixed emotions about trying to “return home”, and the ramifications that it might mean.

So much has changed, the guild I spent seven years building up is very similar, but it is definitely not the same guild I left.  Little things have changed, gone are a good number of the people I cherished the most, and with them some of the easy banter that used to go on in guild chat each night.  However, there are moments, especially on raid nights when some of the veterans show up, that things return back to “normal” for a bit, or at least the normal I remember.

In addition to folks that have moved on like I did, there are tons of new names and faces that I don’t know.  I used to pride myself on trying to know everyone in “my” guild, but truth is from the moment I passed on the hat that guild stopped existing anywhere other than my mind.  I think this is all the more noticeable by the fact that Argent Dawn once again is going through the pre-expansion doldrums.  The guild is still a great group of people, just not as outwardly friendly as it once was.

Normal is a moving target

WoWScrnShot_061712_000107I’ve hit on this multiple times, but the truth is while it feels like the guild has changed, it might simply be because I myself have changed.  When I was last wearing the green and black of House Stalwart, I was a burnt out Guild and Raid leader, unable to stand the thought of playing the game anymore.  I have realized that a good bit of that frustration that built up was because my reality was changing around me. 

When I built up House Stalwart into what it was, I was a relatively unhappy code monkey, working under a boss with a penchant for passive aggressive micro-management.  Nothing I did was ever good enough, and I felt like I had no control over my work world.  At the same time there was a good deal of turmoil in my personal life.  During a five year stretch, we lost something like 15 family members.  The first and worst of these was the suicide of my nephew.

Everything simply felt wrong, and out of control.   I think in a way I built up House Stalwart to be this stable, safe environment to hide out in.  Over time my life started to shift back into normality, I didn’t need my support structure as much as I once did.  I changed jobs leaving the constant stress, feelings of inadequacy and that horrible boss behind.  The problem is, I had built a guild full of great people who had come to need me that I did not want to let down.

The more responsibility I had thrust upon me in the real world, the less I wanted to deal with it in the game world.  So when I moved jobs, to one I had more of a direct role contributing to, I pushed back against being the main tank.  When I had a coworker leave, and have to pick up the slack and essentially do two jobs at the same time, I pushed back against raid leadership.  As I picked up some management responsibilities, I pushed back against guild leadership eventually left the game.  So it seems impossible to separate the frustrations I had with the game, from the changes I was going through outside of it.

Am I really back?

WoWScrnShot_061612_233953So over the last week I have been getting adjusted to the game again.  I find myself actually looking forward to going home and playing at night.  More than anything that is something that has been missing for awhile.  While I have found enjoyment in whatever I was playing, the actual drive to log in and play has been gone.  Now I think ahead about what I might accomplish each evening, and it is refreshing.

There is a question my friends keep asking that I don’t have an honest answer for yet.  I am not sure if I am really back, or honestly what being back even means.  I figure if I am actually playing a month from now, then chances are I will be playing for awhile.  I am enjoying this present trip down memory lane in the meantime.  Last night I soloed most of AQ40 and AQ20, then later duoed a good chunk of the Black Temple.  I am enjoying the experience of rediscovering this game I used to love so much, with no expectations.

I am having a blast playing my Deathknight, probably more than I have since originally leaving the game.  I am not really sure how to quantify it, but World of Warcraft does melee right.  I’ve played melee characters in roughly a dozen games since leaving wow, and in every case they didn’t quite feel right.  They either were too simplistic, too slow paced, or somehow didn’t truly capture the fun nature of swinging a weapon at a monster.  I have to think that it is all the attention to detail and smooth animations that make playing a melee just feel correct.

Future uncertain

Right now I am not sure what my gaming future will bring.  There are so many big games on the horizon, and I am sure I will play several of them. I am not sure if WoW will stick, or if I will just float along to the next big thing.  Currently I have access to WoW, Pandaria Beta, Guild Wars 2, The Secret World, Diablo 3, Rift and Everquest II.  So far however, the only two I am actually logging into are WoW and EQ2.  In each case, those are the two universes I am most nostalgic about.  I guess that no matter what I say or do, I will always love Norrath and Azeroth.  It has been just as shocking to myself, as it has been to my friends that I am back in WoW.

Rift: A Comfy Chair

This weekend I have spent most of my time reacquainting myself with the world of Telara.  While much has changed, it very much feels like sitting back down in a comfy chair, much the same as returning to Everquest II always has been.  A year has been a pretty long absence from the game, and in that time many changes have taken place. 

2012-06-03_214729The most subtle thing, is the fact that it seems the entire world has been given a face lift.  Granted the above screenshot doesn’t exactly show it off to the highest state, since I have been playing mostly on my laptop.  Everything from the character creation screen, to the world itself feels different from my memory, and from the screenshots I still have from earlier.  I’ve talked with Scopique off and on throughout the weekend and he felt exactly the same thing, otherwise I would have thought this just an artifact of not having been in game awhile.

The game as a whole is the same basic game it always has been.  It is a “wow-like” at it’s core, and is still the basic quest driven adventure it always has been.  However I have to say, everything Trion does, is carried out with the utmost of attention to detail.  So while the experience feels like a throwback, in terms of the games on the horizon and in beta, it is without a doubt the absolute best “wow-like” experience out there.

Bring on the new

2012-06-03_203556

I am not exactly sure how to quantify it, but the game as a whole feels much more fleshed out than it did at launch.  The game world back then, felt extremely spartan.  There are far more constructs in place to add some additional depth to the game.  Instead of leveling with some arbitrary soul choices, that you make through a series of quests, you are asked to choose a predetermined path.  Each of these paths offered, highlight some of the more common and well designed builds, but give you a feeling of purpose. 

Personally on my Guardian Warrior, I chose the heavily Reaver-centric tank build.  Each time you gain points to spend, the game makes suggestions of the best possible path to gain abilities.  So far, as a result it seems like I always have exactly the abilities I need, at the level I begin to need them.  I got my shield throw ability, right about the point I started needing to split up pathers.  On my high level defiant Rogue, I picked the Huntsman spec, and it ended up giving me a far more capable Ranger spec than I ever managed to create for myself.

Basically this seems to make the game far more digestible as a whole.  I’ve personally found myself spending a good deal of time on the two new trade-skills, Fishing (as seen in the image above) and Survival (think cooking).  This really was something missing at launch.  There was no functionality for creating crafted food, which forced you to rely on vendor bought food just to survive.  Not only is the food better and stat granting, but it has been a good cost savings as well.  At level 17 I have roughly 3 platnium, which is far more money than I can ever remember having in the past.

The mind numbing and annoying

One of the interesting things that has changed since I last played is the fact that the game is now apparently free until level 20.  This has had some pretty negative effects on the community, or at least what passes as a community at low levels.  As is custom in Rift, players are placed in a level gated “general” chat.  The level 1-29 chat channel is packed full of children, and with them mind numbing annoyance.  If the channel at all represents the future, we are royally screwed.

Luckily I managed to get into a very lively guild, The Gaiscioch Family.  So now my screen is filled with friendly green spam, and it is far easier to ignore the rabble.  I can imagine that paying customers long for the day they ding thirty, and move up to the next chat bracket.  On my high level characters, defiant side, the community seems very healthy and friendly.  So I am hoping that this is just something we can chock up to the fact that there are a large number of “non paying” customers at the low levels.

On a whim

2012-05-31_203839I re-subscribed to the game on a whim, and in response to news this week of the expansion.  After looking at the long list of features that had been added since I had last played a year ago, intrigued me, and with it I chimed in for a 3 month subscription.  I’ve had quite a bit of fun this weekend playing it, but I am sure as the week comes on I will go back to playing a good deal of Everquest II and Diablo 3 again.  I plan to play the game off and on and experience the Guardian content I never got to see.

The guild I am in now, seems really nice and always in action.  So I could imagine that if I leveled up I could experience all the expert content and even some of the raids if I so chose.  The big question is, that since I pretty much renewed my subscription on a whim, what exactly do I want from it?  I am generally happy to quest along, and do the occasional rift, so I assume that bring my happiness once more.

While the core mechanics work the same as when I got bored with it before, it feels like they have beefed the game up in the fluff department, which is what had been lacking for me before.  With the expansion comes player housing, and with the next patch mentoring.  Right now I am finding the Rift mobile client pretty addictive.  Through playing the scratch-off game, I have managed to win 10 or so of the purple rift currency.  So as a result I have all the best gear you can buy from the rare planar vendor.  So while it is a viral gimmick, you can actually really improve your gameplay just by playing it every hour.

A year later

A year after I left Rift, it has become a pretty great game.  Everything about the game, from the maps, to the nameplates, to the mobile client just exudes polish.  It is always funny to listen to general chat, and year people complaining as is the case with any MMO.  I think to myself, anyone complaining about the game that has tried to think of everything, clearly has never played a game with a roughly cobbled together UI and little planning.  I think much like Everquest II, the game is in its most playable state since release.  Unfortunately, just like EQ2, the people that hold a grudge against the game will likely never give it a fair shake.  Here is hoping that the expansion can rekindle the game for others.  I luckily have the ability to feed my whims, but it will take a bit more than that to bring in the folks that can only play a single game at a time.

Bring On The Storm Legion

It is the beginning of a new month, and with it closes the #NBIMMO fun.  As a result Syp has posted a poll for the NBI Awards on Bio Break.  You can cast your vote in categories like “Promising Star, Game Specific” and “Most Interesting Angle”.  The categories have narrowed down the field with five blogs competing for each award.  I am not really sure how long the voting is set to run, but get over there are show all these new blogs some love.

Entering the Storm

There had been some rumors circulating about this, but yesterday Trion dropped a 100 megaton bombshell on the community announcing their upcoming feature rich expansion: Rift: Storm Legion.  The announcement of a new expansion is never that huge of a surprise. We have come to expect them roughly a year after release. However this is one of the most ambitious and feature packed expansions that I have seen in recent memory.  Some of the features include:

  • Two huge new continents, reportedly more than tripling the size of the existing game world.
  • Dual-faction island city of Tempest Bay.
  • Four new souls, one for each of the callings
  • Level cap raised to 60
  • Ability to “Instant Adventure” your way from 1-60 if you choose.
  • Greater variety of onslaughts, rifts, and events.
  • Seven new dungeons zones.
  • Three new raid zones.
  • A new single player Chronicle.
  • Massive colossus battles that supposedly effect the world in ways we have not yet seen.
  • Personal dimensions:  Guild and Player Housing.
  • New “Cape” inventory slot.
  • New Grandmaster tier of crafting.
  • New puzzles, artifacts, collectables, achievements, mounts, pets, titles and more.

The Past Year

screen_img3A little less than a year ago, I made on post on this blog titled “It’s Not You, It’s Me”, where basically I admitted to cancelling rift and outlining some of my reasons for doing so.  There are multiple reasons, some of which I have come to realize really were about me, and my lack of wanting to commit to doing any form of organized gameplay.  I can’t hold any game responsible for that, because honestly it has been an evolution I have gone through, from very serious raider, to very serious casual player.  Since then I have played a ton of EQ2, LoTRO, gotten bored with SWTOR, and been dabbling in Guild Wars 2 and Secret World betas.

The primary problems I had with Rift, was the lack of “fluff” the world had.  Nothing in Telara seemed to exist, just for the fun of it.  All things seemed to be tied to some purpose, or needed by the single questing patch per faction.  I enjoyed the game, but just ran out of things I felt worthy of doing.  There were plenty of collections and achievements that I could have gone after, and I had many factions I could be running dailies with, but when I ran out of quest storyline, I just ran out of things I was interested in.  Rift events were a blast, but after a point they also became old.

Trion Listened

screen_img5I can’t say that Trion listened to me, I don’t have the ego to even imagine that, but what I can say is that my entire guild seemed to go through the same gradual leaving that I did.  We went from having 50 active players, to 10, to 5, to none.  So while they may not have listened to me, I can tell they heard the community as a whole that wandered off, because in the last year they have been insanely busy.  I stopped actively playing the game sometime last June.  Here is a list of some of the major content achievements as taken from this amazing “welcome home” thread, for folks coming back to the game.

  • PVP Rifts.
  • Cross Server Looking For Group.
  • 3 “Sliver” 10 Man Raids.
  • Chronicles Solo/Duo Instances Added.
  • Planar Attunement Post 50 Advancement System.
  • Master-Mode Dungeons.
  • Support for player made Add-ons.
  • Ember Isle – New questing zone for level 50 characters.
  • Instant Adventures – LFG open world adventures.
  • Cross-Faction Auction House.
  • Rift Mobile App.
  • In-Game Character Weddings.
  • 6th Role Slot.
  • Crafting from bank.
  • Mercenary System to balance the sides in PVP Matches.
  • New Fishing and Survival Trade-skills.
  • New “Seal” crafted Inventory Slot.
  • Nameplates for mobs and players.
  • Streaming Client.
  • Guild Finder system.
  • Leaderboards.

Expansion before the expansion

screen_img6So in one year they have added an entire expansions worth of content already.  I’ve always respected the folks at Trion, and thought given time, they would turn the product into a really amazing place to be.  I subscribed for roughly a years time, even though I only played the game roughly 4 months.  I had faith in the team, and figured my subscription was a “donation to the cause” of sorts.  Seems like that “donation” has been repaid in massive amounts of hard work.  Even before the expansion proper launches, 1.9 is waiting in the wings and seems to fill up any of the remaining gaps in the game.

The two big things for me that are coming in 1.9 are Conquest Mode, and Mentoring.  Conquest promises to take us back to DAoC style 3 faction PVP.  I have long held the opinion that what is wrong with PVPin general, is the fact that games focus on the Red Vs Blue mentality.  I can remember in DAoC, the factions to some extent self balanced.  If one team was a bit stronger, the other two would temporarily gang up to even out the odds.  I think the Conquest mode will be a shot of adrenalin to a languid PVP culture.

If you’ve read my blog at all, you have heard me go on and on about mentoring and how great it is.  Literally this is the one feature that I think every game needs.  Being socially focused, it gets frustrating when new friends start and you can’t really help with out without absolutely steamrolling content for them.  This is really no fun for anyone, for you laying waste without consequences is boring.  For your friends, they end up just following you around aimlessly never actually learning how to play their classes.  When you can mentor down to your friends, and run the content for real, you get to relive the experience and do so with your buddies.

A Pat on the Back

It is so easy to focus on the negative things in the game industry.  Trust me there are plenty, and I have been a bitter ass for a very long time when it comes to the flaws in games.  That said, I feel that it is all the more important that we point out what is going right in the industry.  With the expansion, Trion will have added in every single one of the “must have” features I could even muster.  On top of that, it triples the size of its game world, and with that comes a flood of new content for players to experience.  Essentially they have answered the challenge posed by all of us who unsubscribed, and have done so in really heroic fashion.

I still very much love Norrath, and am having a blast still in Everquest II, but I almost feel like I need to resub to Rift just to applaud them for their efforts.  At this point I have been gone long enough that essentially I will need to completely re-roll to remember how the hell anything works.  That said I think I will be doing just that, and taking a tour of all the changes first hand. 

I had already decided that I would not really be playing Guild Wars 2 or Secret World anymore until the launch.  I played enough of the games to realize I liked it, so I don’t want to wear off that new game smell.  So between the ever present EQ2, Rift, Diablo 3, and piddling around with SWGEmu… I think I will have plenty to do for the foreseeable future.  It needs to be said:  Great job Trion.