How To Rift – Character Creation

Since the release of the Rift free to play conversion, I have had a large number of friends coming back to the game.  Previously I did posted targeting the features that have been added into the game since release.  This time around I will be targeting this series towards players just starting out in the game.  I am going to try and assume as little prior games expertise as I can.  Rift is a game full of extremely rich and complex systems, and this series of posts is an attempt to ease a new player into it.

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Choosing a Faction

Rift at its core is a game about a world torn asunder by the violent planar tears opening across the continent and causing all manner of nasty things to spill into the world.  You play the role of an ascended, essentially a being with a number of souls merged into one.  The two primary factions of the game represent the struggle between religion and technology. 

The Defiant chose to rely on themselves and their technology to contend with the planar upheaval.  The Guardians on the other hand chose to rely on faith in the old pantheon of gods that have been long dormant.  Once the decision of your faction dictated everything you did from that point on.  However prior to the launch of Storm Legion Trion released a “Faction As Fiction” patch.  This meant that both Guardian and Defiant players could group together freely, and be members of the same guilds.

This has made it so much easier for players to play whatever suits them the best, but still be able to play with their friends that chose the other faction.  This also makes the first choice you have to make during character creation completely dependant on which ever race you want to play.

Choosing a Race

HowToRift_Races Essentially there are three Guardian Races and three Defiant.  For the Guardians you have to choose from Dwarf, High Elf, and Mathosian.  On the Defiant side you have the air elemental descended Bahmi, the Eth and the Kelari.  Each has a very unique look to them, and dictates which character creation options you have.  Also each has a unique set of racial abilities.  Each has a racial elemental resistance, but it is such an insignificant amount that it is ultimately meaningless.  However the active racial is extremely useful, however some of them sadly are far better than others.  I will give you a quick rundown of each.

HowtoRift_DwarfRacial

Dwarf Racial

Dwarven Breakfast – this is an extremely good health and mana heal.  It causes the dwarf to regenerate 8% mana and health per second for 13 seconds.  This has a 10 minute recast time, so while extremely useful it is a panic cooldown.

 

HowtoRift_HighElfRacial

High Elf Racial

Angelic Flight – This ability essentially lets you target a spot on the ground and your character performs around dramatic flying lean with angel wings spread towards the target.  If you are an explorer, this ability will allow you to get some places that will be much harder for others without the ability.

 

HowtoRift_MathosianRacial

Mathosian Racial

Motivational Roar – This ability is one of the more interesting ones.  Essentially it increases the run speed of the caster and his party by 30% for 10 seconds.  It has a 2 minute cooldown and represents the only racial group ability.

 

 

HowtoRift_BahmiRacial

Bahmi Racial

Mighty Leap – This is probably my favorite racial, and the reason why I have several Bahmi.  It is a targeted flying leap that works essentially the same as the High Elf racial minus the wings animation.  Excellent for getting to places that are hard to get to.  I’ve used this so many times to explore new areas.

 

HowToRift_EthRacial

Eth Racial

Agility – This ability increases the casters movement speed by 50% for 15 seconds.  The recast time is 2 minutes and essentially gives the player a burst sprint ability, or if your class already provides one a second sprint.  This seems to be extremely popular among PVP types.

 

HowToRift_KelariRacial

Kelari Racial

Camouflage – This is another one of those extremely unique abilities.  When cast it turns the Kelari into a fox for 30 seconds.  While in fox form it greatly lowers the Kelari’s aggro radius allowing them to slip past many mobs unnoticed.  Recast time is 2 minutes, and it has the side effect of despawning your pets.

 

None of the racials are so overpowered that you will be forever harmed if you do not pick a specific one.  My personal preference is for Mighty Leap or Angelic Flight… since it adds a lot of utility for getting to hard to reach places.  If you are a serious raider type, I could see Dwarven Breakfast coming in extremely handy as it provides a fast health and mana regen that could be used mid fight.  For PVP players it seems like Eth is the natural choice since being able to move quickly on demand… always seems to be the right answer.  Unfortunately while the Mathosian racial is interesting, it seems horribly gimped when compared to the Eth one.  Sure it is group wide, but the time is 5 seconds shorter and the total speed increase is 20% less.

Choosing a Calling

Calling represents what most other games all your Class, but I can see why they chose a new name.  Rift as a whole has a much more flexible class system if you view it from a traditional standpoint.  There are literally hundreds of combinations of classes all dependant on which set of souls you choose.  However I will get into this later.  The Calling is essentially choosing between playing a Warrior, Rogue, Mage and Cleric.  Each has its own sets of souls and with them special combinations and benefits.  I will give a quick rundown of each of the Callings.

HowToRift_CallingWarriorThe Warrior is your traditional plate wielding beat-em-up class.  They specialize in melee combat and the class has the most melee damage and tanking configurations of any of the callings.  If you want to be that big guy in even bigger armor this is likely the calling for you.  Deviating from the traditional Warrior role, they have a soul called the Beast master that lets you be a plate wearing pet wielding melee class.  If you pay for the Storm Legion souls, it also adds the ability to do significant range dps with the Tempest.  It has just been leaked that in Rift 3.0 they will be adding a true healing class to the warrior with the Liberator soul.

HowToRift_CallingClericThe Cleric is a chain wearing warrior priest, and represents the class with the most healing options.  Additionally they can be extremely potent tanks and both ranged and melee dps.  It is a mana based class, and comes with all the constraints of having a limited pool of resources.  However almost each soul gives you some way of regenerating this resource.  As a Shaman you have the unique ability to giving splash healing to the allies around you while dealing significant amounts of damage.  If you are the player that always plays a healer, and only really cares about playing a healer… then this is likely the class for you… as you will have the maximum number of potential healing configurations.

HowToRift_CallingRogueThe rogue is your traditional leather armored scout class.  They are a jack of all trades and probably support the most drastically varried playstyles.  A Ranger/Marksman build can give you something very similar to a hunter or ranger pet class.  The Riftstalker gives the class extremely potent tanking potential, and the Bard is the king of battlefield support.  If you are the type of player that likes to do something different each time you play, then this calling might cure your altism.  Additionally it has two of the most interesting classes I have played.  Saboteur is essentially a mad bomber, in that you plant charges on your target and then with the use of a finish cause them to blow up.  Often times a mob can go from full health to dead within seconds.  If you choose to buy the Storm Legion souls it gives you the Tactician, which is an AOE support class that heals and damages enemies with its flamethrower.

HowToRift_CallingMageThe mage is your traditional cloth wearing glass canon with a few tweaks.  They have the most options for pure casters of all the callings.  However they have a few tricks up their sleeve.  The chloromancer is an extremely potent main healer, and the Archon is an extremely powerful support soul.   The Necromancer gives you amazing soloing power by adding in a series of typed pets covering all of the callings.  With the addition of storm legion souls, you gain the Harbinger which is an unheard of Melee Mage… using powerful magic to conjure weapons and armor.  It has been leaked that Rift 3.0 will add another role to the class allowing it to tank by using the Arbiter soul.

Choosing a Purpose

HowToRift_ChoosePurpose While the calling represents the general direction of your class, your purpose is essentially a template that represents what your class does.  You are presented a screen with a number of preset purposes to choose from.  Two things to remember… firstly the list shown on this screen is just a fragment of the total number of presets available and generally represent the easiest to play.  Once you get into game, you can open your soul tree window and see other available purposes. 

The second thing to remember.. this is just a suggestion… these are not fixed boundaries.  You can literally mix any combination of three souls together.  These combinations do not always work out, in fact certain souls work extremely poorly together.  These purposes give you a few guaranteed to be good recipes you can work from.  Each time you get points to spend, a blinking arrow will show you where to spend the points to keep following the purpose.  At any point you can deviate from the plan if you so choose.

However if you are new to the game it is generally a good idea to follow one of the predetermined paths until you understand how the soul tree system works.  The short list provided generally gives you a mixture of what has been determined are the most successful souls.  For leveling I tend to stick to a purpose that gives me a pet like the Necromancer or Ranger… or a tanking purpose as these tend to give you the best survival.  Melee DPS tends to be a bit squishy, and Ranged DPS generally involves a good deal of kiting around.

Choosing your Features

HowToRift_CharacterCreator The last step before you are ready to get into the game is to choose your features and name your character.  You can see above that Rift gives you a significant number of personalization choices.  You can choose face shape, height, hair style and color, facial hair and markings.  For the most part each race has mostly unique options for appearance so they end up looking distinct out on the battlefield.  One thing to remember while you are picking your choices that they can almost all be changed inside of the game by going to the stylist.

In the past players have felt obligated to get everything 100% perfect the first time.  This lead to spending an exorbitant amount of time on character creation, because you knew that once you hit create… you could never go back and tweak things.  However with the addition of the free to play gem shop, you can even go so far as to change your race and gender in game with an extremely simple to use stylist interface.  While I would not suggest changing your look on a whim, because it could get extremely expensive, extremely quickly… you are never completely chained to your original choices.

You’ve Created Your First Character!

There you go, now you have walked through all the decisions involved with creating your first character in Rift.  Now the fun actually begins as you are teleported into the battle as either a Defiant or Guardian.  I had initially intended to cover the user interface basics, but this post has ended up far larger than I thought it could possibly be.  As a result I am going to cut things off here.  In the coming days I will post a thorough rundown of the features of the user interface, including customization options.  Hopefully you’ve enjoyed the run down, if you make it in game, look me up on Belghast@Deepwood.

Console Advantage

Getting to the pc to write my morning blog post a little late this morning.  I have a fairly significant meeting at lunch, and as such had to do a bit more pruning of my beard this morning to make myself presentable.  I normally wouldn’t care much, but all the big wigs will be in this one.. and quite honestly I am more than a little nervous.  While I am not the focus of the meeting…  the focus is something that I feel is overly misguided.  Only time will tell how successful the meeting will go, but when you get a technical person talking to a bunch of non-technical people… cognitive dissonance arises.

Coming Soon

I have been desperately trying to get new folks to try Rift… namely some of my staunch WoW friends that have tunnel vision surrounding that game.  As a result I started kicking around the idea of a series of posts taking things from a very basic level.  Last night I began work on a Character Creation and Default Interface post, but did not get nearly as far as I had hoped before cutting into a scheduled event.  My hope is that I can finish it up this evening and post it tomorrow.  Essentially my idea is to go through some of the most basic concepts and thoroughly explain them.  I am not 100% sure how success the series will be, but I seemed to get a lot of interest from twitter.

When Rift first launched, I did the “Why You Should Be Playing Rift” series, and likely this one will be similar in focus.  I want to highlight all the cool things about the game, because as friends have started playing there have been a lot of these items that are not adequately messaged in the game but provide amazing functionality.  I am sure there are many players that do not realize they can auto sort their bags, or search them.. because it is never really explained.  Additionally one of my friends had no clue there was a “sell all greys” button, because again it is there… but not really singled out to the player.

Stalwarts

My work on the How To post was cut short when I noticed the time.  I posted a few weeks back about trying to get some of my longtime Guildies into Rift and having Mon/Weds event nights.  Since I announced the concept Monday… it was too soon to really do much of anything at all.  However last night we had a handful of people online and in the Stalwart@Deepwood channel.  We had a player that was afk and another that was PVPing so it took awhile to finally organize.  Ultimately we decided we really did not have the makeup for a dungeon group, but luckily there are several options to do in those situations.

We ended up with a 22 bard, 51 necrolock, and me a 60 psuedo tanky warrior.  The absolute best fit for a mixed group like that was Instant Adventures, so we end up random queuing for one.  We all got mentored down to level 14 and got assigned to Freemarch, and we basically ran around there all evening.  I had forgotten just how active Freemarch is, because during the time we played there were three zone wide invasions that we also participated in.  It was essentially two hours of roaming around following whatever objective we were given.

I can’t speak for the others but I definitely enjoyed myself until it just got too late for me to be conscious.  Honestly the concept was that it didn’t really matter what we did, so long as we did something as a group.  The instant adventure thing seemed to work for that, and all of us were rewarded large amounts of whatever the currency is for our individual level ranges.  I managed to get 2 planar advancement levels while we were out there, so the xp is definitely still valid for a capped player.  Hopefully in coming weeks we can get a better mix of classes and actually delve into a few dungeons.  I know Atonal had a quest in Iron Tombs that I would not mind running the place for.

Console Advantage

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One of the things I have been thinking about over the last few months since we got the game loft set up, is what exactly made me fall out of love with console gaming.  I think ultimately it is that console games at some point stopped providing me sufficient improvement over my PC to make playing the games worthwhile.  Prepare for a nostalgic trip down memory lane.  If you look at the above shots… this essentially represents the state of gaming in 1992. 

I have a good friend that is completely fanatical about Commander Keen so I will try and do this without any disrespect to the game.  However the image on the far left represents the closest we had to “console action” in the PC Gaming world with “Commander Keen in Goodbye, Galaxy!”.  The color palette was extremely limited, the sprites were very flat feeling.  The controls were a bit wonky, because the only thing we really had to play on was the Gravis Gamepad… which was not even close to the quality and responsiveness of the Super Nintendo game pad.

If you look at the middle picture, Super Mario World… it just looks and feels better.  The game was extremely responsive filled with large colorful sprites and tons of them on screen at a time.  At this time PC Gaming was really enjoyable, especially for the deep simulation and roleplaying games available for it… but it was not at all a direct replacement for the console experience.  If you jump over to the far right image… you see the infamous Mortal Kombat.  The game looked amazing for the time, and hopefully stacked up against all these images you can see that as well.  Mortal Kombat had higher resolution than the console games, and featured really cool photorealistic digitized graphics.  Essentially all I am trying to show is that while there was a huge gulf between PC and Console gaming… there was an equally huge gulf between console and the arcade.

Paradigm Shift

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Catacombs and Wolfenstein were early games in the 3d Shooter genre, but it really was not until the release of Doom in 1993 that the world stood up and took notice of PC Gaming as being a serious force.  What happened was really curious.  Instead of trying to out do the console action experience, developers started building new kinds of action games that played to the strengths of the PC.  Processing large volumes of information and building 3D maps was something that was really beyond the Super Nintendo or any of the 16 bit genre…  their systems were simply not designed for something like that. 

I continued to play console games, but I shifted more heavily into playing the new crop of “post doom” shooters, like the amazing Lucasarts Dark Forces.  Once again the arcade was still offering a much better experience than the console gaming.  It was around this time that I was regularly visiting my arcade to throw coins into Killer Instinct, Samurai Showdown, and Dungeons and Dragons Tower of Doom.  The paradigm shifted yet again in college, when I played my very first OpenGL games… and bought a Voodoo 2 3D Graphics card to attach to my diamond stealth 2D graphics card.

Mario64

While the gaming experience started to pull ahead on the PC, it still lacked the titles I wanted to be playing.  So when the Nintendo 64 came out, I was completely amped to be playing Mario 64.  It was still an experience that I could not get anywhere else.  But within a year of this being released… the PC genre leapt forward again and by the time Quake 2 came out it completely demolished the graphical quality of the 64.  The same thing happened when the PlayStation was released.  Ultimately the graphical fidelity of consoles will always be trumped by PC gaming, as it is a fixed target set at the release of the console… whereas PC gaming is a moving target always evolving each time a new manufacturer releases a new graphics card chipset.

However still during the PlayStation era…  they were providing a unique experience I could not have on my PC.  In the last decade this concept is all but gone.  The games coming out for the PC are the same games coming out for the console systems.  They have essentially destroyed console gaming as this unique expeirence that you could not replicate elsewhere.  When I look at the Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Xbox One, and Playstation 4…. I simply see PC gaming with a controller.  The experience overall is not really different than what I have had on my PC for awhile, and sadly in almost every case the PC game will look better.

The Realization

I don’t mean this to be some love song for PC gaming, but it took me awhile to realize why I have been so lackluster towards the console gaming market for so long.  They have stopped giving me something unique that I can’t get anywhere else.  Sure each console still has a handful of exclusive franchises that you can only play on their hardware… but those seem to be fewer and further between.  As I have tried to get back into the console gaming world, I have noticed that most of the “blockbusters” were games I long considered “PC Games”.  I cannot fathom people playing Fallout, Dragon Age, Skyrim, and Mass Effect series on consoles.  Yet each of those is considered a major blockbuster for the console genre.

That if nothing else was my biggest take away from the E3 show…  just how few games there were that I was interested in playing… that were not also coming out on the PC.  I guess the tables have turned to some extent…  in the beginning I played console games because they provided an experience that I just could not get anywhere else.  Today it feels like PC gaming does a really good job of providing the exact same experience that is available through the consoles…  all you really have to do is hook up a USB Xbox 360 controller.  In addition to that however it also provides an experience that I cannot really get in the same way on consoles… those games that really are not joystick friendly.  So today it feels like PC gaming provides me that unique experience.

Wrapping Up

I need to wrap things up, because I am running out of time.  Essentially I now realize why the console genre no longer excites me the way it used to.  It stopped providing something I could not get elsewhere.  For most players it will be a choice of buy a gaming machine or buy a console… but for me it never has been.  I will always have a gaming PC, because it supports the MMO gaming that I don’t want to give up.  The question will always be, weather or not consoles provide me enough of something that I cannot also get on the PC. 

The Playstation 4 looks like it might, it has a few games that are exclusive and something I also care about.  However in the case of the PS4 and Xbone… both machine are already out of date before they have even released.  I give it less than a year before the PC is regularly producing a far better looking experience than either of those consoles.  Anyways…  like I said I need to head on in to work.  I feel like todays post is extremely rambly and contorted.  Hopefully it makes a bit of sense.  I hope you all have a great day.

Recursion Loop

I’m struggling a bit with the whole remaining vertical thing this morning.  I really did not get a good nights sleep, woke up several times.  However each time I managed to get back to sleep relatively easily since I had an army of cats trying to snuggle with me.  I find it odd that while there is one whole person missing from the bed…  they all decide that the best place to lay is on top of me.  After all these years, cat logic still completely evades me sometimes…  but then again so does most human logic.

Curious Bot

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I spent most of last night hanging out on the couch, fishing in Rift while trying to clear off the TV shows I had recorded from the DVR.  I had a rather large backlog and I was only 270 fishing so I knew I could do it for awhile.  In the process I managed to push up survival to 375 and I got fishing up to 305 so that now I can at least do the daily fishing quests for the area.  I spent roughly from 7pm until Midnight my time fishing away, the majority of which was off a bridge in the canal behind Tulan on Brevane.  I managed to pull up several nifty housing items so that part is still somewhat exciting for me.

The funny thing is… throughout the night I kept seeing the same player coming by and picking up all the normally non-aggro snapper hatchlings in the canal.  They would run a little path, spamming their AOE abilities… then finally stop and skin them all… pause and continue the route.  I tried to interact with the player but received no response.  When I logged out last night they were doing it… and now that I have logged in this morning from the above screenshot you can see they are still hard at work.  At this point it is obviously a bot, but a fairly advanced one from the looks of it.

The problem is… for whatever reason the petition system is borked.  I seem to have a completed ticket stuck in the queue from ages ago… that I cannot remove to replace it.  I would have gladly reported that Lisxande@Deepwood is a bot but unfortunately the system refuses to work for me.  What I have been doing in the meantime is reporting any issues like this as bug notes… since those will actually submit.  I doubt they will actually end up in the right place, but it makes me feel like I make at least doing something.  As a programmer… I have to give them some credit for scripting a rather complex process…  but it doesn’t make me not want to destroy them.

Recursion Loop

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Have you ever had one of those television shows that you are not really into anymore… but you have been watching for so long that you feel obligated to keep up?  That is precisely how I feel about the Anime Bleach these days.  I started watching it during the heady days of WoW raiding, and I was drawn to the interesting and massive cast of characters.  Additionally I thought the whole concept of a soul reaper was extremely cool.  However I realized something along the way somewhere, every single season of bleach is exactly the same.

Ultimately something strange will happen that puts someone or something in jeopardy.  Ichigo then discovers some new and dangerous threat that uses some strange and magical new powers.  He rushes into battle and gets his ass kicked by whatever this new threat is.  Then he spends the rest of the season learning some new even more powerful power from a mentor figure.  He finally confronts the baddest of the baddies using this new power…  and barely manages to defeat them… all because of his unbridled spirit energy.

The current season I am watching feels so rehashed.  There is a definite moment of “no wait… there is this one thing that is the most powerful thing in the world that we haven’t mentioned for seven seasons yet”.  I think to some extent I keep watching it, because the characters that are NOT Ichigo are still interesting to me.  The thing that kills me however is the first third of an episode ends up being essentially the last third of the previous one.  So it feels like there is so much building with very little payoff.

It is like that those ghost and super natural shows where it sounds like they find something… but they will never actually find evidence of anything at all.  I would love to have someone cut together an entire season of Bleach as one seamless show…  and trim out all the repeated content at the beginning of the show.  My fear is that after you cut out ALL the callbacks to other things…  you would end up taking a 13 hour episode down to like 4 hours.  The positive thing however is that I have officially watched down my queue of bleach, so I can comfortably let it stack up again.

Defiance

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Additionally last night while on my fishing binge, I decided to try and catch up on Defiance.  I really enjoyed the first few episodes of the show, but by the time I had watched episode three I started to lose interest.  I am not sure what it is about the show but I have for whatever reason not significantly imprinted on the characters yet.  As a whole the series reminds me of this odd mishmash of Firefly and Terra Nova…  but with High Elves and Cathar.  There are a handful of characters that I really like, mixed in with a bunch of other stuff I cannot bring myself to care about.

I keep thinking that if I watch it enough there will be this magical moment when all the sudden it becomes amazing and magical for me.  I’ve made it through I think episode 6 as of last night, but I felt myself fading in and out of paying attention…  so I am really not sure I caught enough of some of the episodes to fully understand what was going on.  It was I think during episode five that someone popped into Rift that I started up a conversation with.  I am going to try and chew through the rest of the episodes so that I can at least say I am caught up.  I feel like maybe since I am not really playing the game, I am not as committed to the universe.

I also feel like there has been a paradigm shift in science fiction.  There was a time, namely the 90s and some of the early 2000s that science fiction shows were a rarity on television.  Since something other than Star Trek was almost unheard of… you ended up watching whatever it was because there was literally nothing better on at the time.  So I feel like there are so many science fiction shows that we view through the rose colored lenses of nostalgia.  Today however the market is absolutely flooded with science fiction shows, and we have a lot more to choose from.  As a result I find myself being far more critical of a given show, because I know there are others out there that I could be watching instead.

I want to like Defiance as a brand… I want to like the video game and I want to like the television show.  I feel like I am watching in part to help support one of my favorite companies… Trion.  All of that said while both game and TV show sound like something I would like on paper…  the result of experiencing either has been lacking something for me.  I keep feeling like I just need to give both more time to grow on me, but I am wondering at what point I will decide that “nope, it is just not for me”.  As a consolation gift… I am at least immensely happy about having my title, pet and mount over in Rift as a result of the show.

Wrapping Up

Well I have pissed away an hour of time writing this long diatribe, and need to finish getting ready for work.  I hope you all have a great day ahead of you.  Mine will be stressful and frustrating as always I am sure, but hopefully I can actually get things knocked off my list that need to.  I am constantly thankful for the awesome team of people I have to work with, I just wish I had a bit more stability in “management direction”.  I am on this vision quest to finish leveling fishing, but I am hoping to finish it up tonight.

Fish On

Here goes my attempt to write one of these posts quickly.  I am certain I will fail at it, but this morning is trash day… and as a result I need to go around the house and gather the rest of it.  I am doing a bit better than I was yesterday morning, or at least I am feeling slightly more awake.  Today is the day my wife travels again, so not really looking forward to that one… but at least this time she will be back by Friday.  Unfortunately however it seems like she is going to have shittier wifi, so that will be annoying.  Why is it that a budget hotel can give you free wifi, but a ritzy hotel does not?

Fish On

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The last tradeskills I have to level are fishing and survival, and mostly due to the hours of doing next to nothing… I have put off leveling them.  I like the fishing system in Rift so much more than I did the one in WoW, but in either situation it is still a very passive activity.  That said it was designed hand in hand with Survival, so if I wanted to be able to make nifty stat increasing foods… I figured I would have to level the two skills together.  More or less that has been the case, except that the fishing always seems to lag behind the survival level.

The fishing system is much more enjoyable as a whole than the one from World of Warcraft.  Namely they have introduced several new things into the genre.  Firstly and the most important thing… you can target the water you want to fish in.  The thing that drove me insane over in WoW was the recasting over and over hoping that you got your lure in a school of fish.  Additionally there is a mechanic for telling you if you are fishing shallow or deep water, and different things can be caught in each.  The real hook for me however is that you have a decent chance of fishing up random artifacts and housing items.

I set out last night to fish and level survival all night long.  I literally spend roughly four hours fishing last night, and in that time I went from around 200 to around 270 in fishing.  Additionally I managed to level survival from roughly the same place to 300.  During the time I got a few dozen artifacts, and four housing items that were contained in chests that also rewarded crafting currency.  There is something strangely peaceful about fishing, and I had my hotkeys set up that I could fish entirely with my g600 mouse.  It really is the perfect activity to do while watching tv… I am still shocked no one has packaged this mini-game and created it as a mobile app that lets you fish up in game rewards.

Plane of Water

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Last Friday Trion had another one of their live streams talking about the future of Rift.  You should check it out over on twitch if you are interested, but be warned… it is roughly 2 1/2 hours long.  Essentially they teased a bunch of features for Rift 3.0, the next expansion in which they showed the picture above hinting that it would take place in the elemental plane of water.  Essentially at this point all of the dragons are now dead, and the Rifts still have not stopped… so it is time to investigate the planes themselves for the cause of the tears.

The coolest thing is, that they seem to have firmly adopted the D&D model of elemental planes with the quasi-planes intact.  If you notice in the above drawing you have a glacier, ocean, giant overgrown coral forest, underwater areas, undersea caverns…  a really rich environment rather than one giant non-descript ocean.  I personally am pumped over this expansion… I think I am one of the few people that really enjoyed Vashjir in WoW and while it obviously seems like they won’t be fully underwater… I am sure there will be elements of it.  They mentioned that they will likely begin releasing small bits of underwater content to test out the tech well before the expansion release.

The thing that really caught my attention however is that they mentioned they would be adding some more meat on the bones of the companion system.  That you would be able to level them, and assign them certain tasks.  This immediately got my mind spinning… and I thought to myself…  man would it not be amazing if they found a way to merge the Pet Battle system from WoW with the Crew Crafting system from SWTOR.  If I could send my companions off to go harvest ore, craft an item, or more importantly ferry crafting materials to my bank… I would be in heaven.  I was surprised at how much I liked both systems, and I would love to see them create a new hybrid system.

Finally they announced that there would once again be four new souls.  Essentially this one was expected… in each case there is one role that a given class lacks, and they are filling in these gaps.  Warriors will be getting a pure healer, Rogues will be getting a pure healer, Clerics will be getting a pure support, and finally Mages will be getting a tank.  The concept of a tanky mage is just intriguing.  I figure they have two ways they can go with this one… they can either make the pet tank, or give the mage magical armor to absorb damage.  As far as warriors, since they already have paladin souls… I am figuring their healer is going to end up being a lot like the WoW paladin with tons of single target heals and a combo point based healing finisher system.

In any case… I am now super pumped about the expansion.  I honesty did not expect to be hearing news about it quite yet, but given that it is Trion and with their rapid development cycle… it makes sense.  I am wondering about the time frame, knowing how Trion works it could be entirely possible that this is a November/December expansion release date.  That would make for a very merry Christmas indeed… essentially they would be delivering on the promise that Blizzard has never been able to…  an expansion per year.  This is about the speed the EQ2 has managed to maintain, so it is entirely doable so long as they always have a team devoted to expansion.

Rift Nights

One of the things I miss the most by being a nomad is the constant camaraderie of the Stalwarts.  I am trying a new experiment, and not sure how well it will work.  Right now in Rift we are not in a guild of our own, but because of this it opens up a lot more doors to grouping and regular open raiding.  It also makes it hard to organize the people who are used to playing together in other games.  As a result I have decided to start a server channel that way folks connected to House Stalwart that are playing Rift again can join in and get into group activity regardless of what server they are on.  Since everything is cross server it makes life easier for getting together.

Additionally I am going to try and set up Monday and Wednesday nights for group activities.  Roughly 8pm EDT til bedtime I am going to be around and available for random grouping with anyone that happens to be in the channel.  The idea will be to grab whoever is around, and pick an activity that suits our levels and numbers.  Rift is amazing good at giving something to do with varied group sizes.  Some of the many options.

 

  • 20 Man Raids – Require 20 well geared players
  • 10 Man Raids – Require 10 well geared players
  • Elite Dungeon – Require 5 Max Level fairly well geared players
  • Dungeons – Require 5 players gear level completely open
  • Chronciles – Require 2 players gear level varies – These are essentially 2 man raids, see all the storyline.
  • Crafting Rifts – Variable group size, special crafting rift lure awards high level crafting mats
  • Hunts/Greater Hunts – Variable group size, special hunt rift lure opens up a hunt leading up to a boss fight
  • Elite Rifts – Variable group size, special elite lure opens a dungeon like open world rift encounter
  • Raid Rifts – Variable group size, special raid lure opens a raid like open world rift encounter
  • Instant Adventures – Variable group size, over world objective based event, has cool mini bosses every so often
  • Rifts and Zone Events – Variable group size, essentially rifts and zone events form all over the world all the time.
  • Conquest – Variable group size… 3 faction pvp system, similar to DAoC frontiers and feels like Alterac Valley.
  • Scenarios – Variable group size… these are essentially like WoW Battlegrounds.  Not big on PVP but willing to try.
  • Basically there are a ton of different activities and the excellent mentoring system in Rift allows us to tailor the activity so that everyone is getting benefit.  I posted this note on our forums, and social media yesterday, but it is a bit too soon for it really to kick off.  However off and on through the night we had four people joining the channel and it at least became a more friendly chatbox option.  If you are a current or former member of House Stalwart, or just someone interested in this little endeavor check out our forums.  I will be turning off forum account sign-up moderation for a few days in case folks want to check it out.  We get an inordinate amount of spammers hitting our forum, so ultimately I will be turning it back on in the future.

    Wrapping Up

    I need to get up and around and finish gathering the trash.  I hope you all have a great rest of the week, and you get whatever accomplished that you need to.  I made some serious progress on one project yesterday, but as soon as I did four others popped up in need of attention.  Right now we have thirty five active projects for three people…  so I have become adept at juggling work.  It leads however to an extremely unstable and frustrating environment for me.  Thank god I have amazing people to work with on my team.

    Sinking Sands

    Morning is being a pain in the butt today…  or at least the whole trying not to fall back asleep thing is.  For whatever reason I really did not sleep that super well last night, and as a result I am super exhausted this morning.  Seems like a pretty horrible way to begin a new work week, so here is hoping that I figure out what switch I need to flip in my brain to wake the hell up.  The worst part is, that this is going to be an extremely stressful work week, so I have to get my act together.

    The Sinking Sands

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    I spent a good chunk of yesterday roaming around in the Sinking Sands region of Everquest II.  This has always been one of my favorite zones, and I try my best not to skip it on any characters.  I have a deep nostalgia for the region in part because I spent so much time in the Desert of Ro / Oasis of Marr area in Everquest.  This zone is like a nostalgic love song to the original zones, and there are so many points of reference and mobs that make an appearance. 

    The only real negative is that the sand giants and wraiths are no longer dread worthy encounters.  I can remember the constant chorus of “Sand Giant to Docks!” as yet another one of these death machines came roaming through the zone.  Almost as a callout to that era, there is the ghost of a sand giant that paths right along the dock region named “Hatar”.  Additionally Lockjaw still exists, but this time has his own dungeon rather than being a world spawn that will decimate the masses.

    I think one of my favorite things about the zone is it is completely flush with named spawns.  Each of them drops a single type of item, in flavors designed for each type of class.  So essentially if the mob drops a ring, then it will drop one for priest, warrior, scout and mage.  It feels like they have increased the spawn rate of these champions, because I can remember being out in the zone for days without ever encountering “Dune Digger”, a armadillo that spawns near the ramp leading down to the beach.  However over the last few days I have seen him up almost every single time I have passed his spawn point.

    The Lesser Faydark

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    I had made my way through the major quest lines of Sinking Sands when I noticed I was sitting at level 51.  I checked the wiki and sure enough that put me pretty much ideally leveled to start on Lesser Faydark.  Even dating back to the original Everquest, this has been a zone I disliked.  In that game it was mostly for the fact that it was populated with lots of things that could kill you almost instantly.  In EQ2, it is mostly due to my general dislike of “elven” and “fae” zones, and that it is annoyingly three dimensional.  It feels extremely difficult to traverse it because of the constant changes in elevation, and the tunnels that are used to connect things up.

    Additionally this zone is populated with a lot of flying things… that often times do not want to lower to the ground into melee range.  Since I play almost entirely melee characters it makes it an extreme pain in the butt.  However since I have never really done the quest chain I figured I would follow the timeline guide and start with the correct NPC and follow it through until I just could not.  So far it is every bit as annoying as I remembered… since you hop around the zone wildly.

    Another reason why I tend to avoid Lesser Faydark is it is off what they call the “golden path”.  Everquest has a really robust questing system, and so long as you say on the golden path you get these blue markers on your map showing you there region for a given quest.  However for whatever reason they decided only to apply these tools to a specific number of zones that make up the golden path.  So if you choose to stray at all, you are on your own…  thankfully I also have EQ2Maps which lets me search for what mobs spawn in what region.  I think that is probably the single best improvement they could do to the game, go back through and apply the golden path treatment to ALL zones.

    At the point at which I ended my Everquest II journey yesterday I was almost ready to ding 54, which is not bad considering I started the day at 48.  Leveling in EQ2 is just a relaxing experience for me, and that is precisely what I needed yesterday.  I keep thinking I need to play the game more often, and while I always eventually cycle back around to it… I also spend a lot of time ignoring it.  I have been kicking around the notion of trying to set up a rotation of games, in that I always play this game on this day.  It sounds good in theory, but I am just not sure I can bring myself to follow a schedule.

    Wrapping Up

    This is going to be a relatively short post today, as I am still fighting sleep.  I need to get up and around and hopefully woken up in the process.  I hope you all have a great day, and that you are not nearly as drowsy as I am this morning.  I am not sure what I will be doing tonight, either venturing back into the faydark or over in Rift leveling fishing.  I have to say the patron gifts are an interesting carrot that ends up making me log into Rift every day.  If you are a patron you receive a large loyalty gift every week, and a small loyalty gift everyday.  They do not accrue over time, so you have to log in each day to receive it.  I find myself being drawn to log in each and every day for the promise of free stuff.  Speaking of which… I think I will check on that right now before I head on into work.

    Foraging Sucks

    Getting a super late start this morning because… reasons.  Firstly the bed was super comfy this morning, and after not sleeping really well the last few nights I really did not want to leave it.  Secondly I had to shower and get dressed and go acquire food.  Thirdly my wife conned me into a trip to Wal-mart explaining that it would be less busy while folks were in church.  While it might have been less busy, it was still far busier than I would have liked.  But we are now back and it is 10 am and I am finally sitting down to blog.

    Foraging Sucks

    2013-06-21_214743 I have been in a really spastic way with my new laptop and wanting to download all the games and see how they run on it.  However yesterday afternoon I finally settled into one for awhile.  When the F2P conversion happened in Rift, one of the many things I did with my bonus shop currency was purchase Foraging and Weaponsmithing for Belghast my main.  The end goal was that he would have the ability to harvest all the things, as well as be completely self sufficient in both Armorsmithing and Weaponsmithing.  The reality behind this, has not been nearly as exciting as it sounds.

    Essentially over the last few weeks since the conversion I have been foraging everything I could find as well as mining all the low level ores so I could level both of the new tradeskills.  One of the stark realities thus far is that Foraging Sucks.  It is hands down the most painful gathering profession in rift.  I have never really spent much time doing it, as I always tend to focus on the armor making professions in any game.  The amount of herbs that you have to pick to get skills raises just seems unbalanced when compared with butchering and mining.

    It took me roughly four hours of running around high end Storm Legion zones to be able to gather enough herbs and lumber to level from 350 to 375.  The problem is not necessarily the harvesting… it is trying to find the right level of herbs that give you a skill up without running into the level of herbs that are too high to pick.  Essentially the storm legion foraging spawns are really really poorly designed…  or at least poorly designed for someone trying to level.  I remember being max level in mining before I hit level 54, so as a contrast it was so much easier.

    Grandmaster Weaponsmith

    It was shortly after dinging 375 foraging that I turned my focus to all the ore and lumber I had collected in the process.  Within another 30 minutes I had finished leveling weaponsmithing to 375.  Now I need to spend a good deal of time doing the daily quests so I can pick up those epic weapon patterns.  While this is not that useful now, I am really looking forward to seeing how self sufficient I am when it comes to the next expansion.  Part of me wonders if picking up outfitting, but not leveling it… would trigger the code that causes cloth to drop faster for outfitters.

    Onwards to Fishing and Survival

    2013-06-22_214452 Now my new goal is to work on leveling my fishing and survival.  This pairing is an odd one as they seem to be out of sync.  At 160 survival I need materials from the scarlet gorge/scarwood reach area, however at 160 fishing the optimal waters for skilling up are in Moonshade Highlands.  So essentially I will be focusing on leveling the survival skills and the fishing should take care of itself.  Finding shallow and deep water in the various zones is a bit of a pain also.  The pool shown in the image above is one of the few deep water spawns in Scarlet Gorge… and they are way up by the entrance to Foul Cascade.

    I am not sure if the shallow/deep water thing is easier if you are doing the guardian zones or not, but at this point I guess both factions are merged together.  I didn’t really run into the problem until this set of zones.  I have a feeling that in Moonshade the opposite problem will occur, that most of the water you find will be deep, as it tends to have ocean and lakes.  Fishing is somewhat mind numbing, but it is a good activity to do while trying to catch up on recordings from the DVR.

    Gold Rush

    EverQuest2 2013-06-22 12-03-31-26 This week the Gold Rush promotion began over in EQ2 and as a result I decided to pop over and level in my Swashbuckler a bit.

    If you’re a Gold Member this summer (June 21 – September 21), you will have access to a special daily spell that provides bonus coin loot (increase of 15%), an experience bump (increase of 10%), and additional mount speed (increase of 5%)! This spell grants these benefits for four (4) hours each day, all summer long! This is in addition to all of the other perks you receive with Gold membership.

    You will find this spell in your hot bar or in your spell book under abilities. Look for “Gold Rush.”

    With this happy little buff I decided to take Belgrifter over to the Clefts of Rujark dungeon and run around grinding the various higher level orcs for a bit.  The xp gain was actually far slower than I expected, but then I realized that I had my AA slider set to 50%.  Honestly I still have one of those instant 280 aa tokens that came with Chains of Eternity expansion.. so I am considering turning the AA levels off completely for awhile to maximize the xp gain.  With my magical werewolf healer mercenary I was able to pretty much wreck everything in the zone.

    While I didn’t end up getting an xp level, I did manage to get 3 AAs in the time spent just from killing all the named star mobs that I had not killed before.  I will have to sort through the loot I got, but I didn’t see anything that was better than what I was currently wearing.  I found running around the zone killing mobs a relaxing experience… that is one of the things I like most about EQ2 is that the combat is so slow paced that you can be doing something… and still do it without raising your blood pressure.  It is far less twitch and far more slow and steady… and there are certain moods where that is the perfect recipe for me.

    The laptop runs the game gorgeously, probably far better than any machine I have had so far.  I can crank all the things up pretty much to the highest setting and just bask in the beauty of this aging game.  I don’t care what people say, it still looks absolutely amazing.  They do zone design better than almost anyone else.  The sheer scale makes the world feel far more real than any other online game.  The scale of mountains and valleys and monuments are often lost but this game feels immense.

    Daily Dose of Cute

    20130623_102941 We have had bunnies in our lawn for years.  I think they end up living in the hedges in the backyard, and since we don’t have much in the way of flowers… or any sort of garden… they have been a welcome addition to our lawn.  However in all this time I have never seen a baby, even though I know they must be producing several for them to survive every year.  Today my neighbor’s son was mowing our lawn, and he almost hit this little guy with the mower.  Thankfully he is a nature loving boy, and is always looking for wildlife…  he shut down the mower, picked the stunned little bunny up and brought it around to show us.

    Is that not the most precious thing you have ever seen?  Apparently at this size they are fully weaned from their mother and essentially self sufficient.  We didn’t spend too much time with the bunny, as we didn’t want our human scent to rub off on it too much.  Additionally we placed it carefully under a bush near where it was found.  The little guy hopped around happily in the shade and hopefully will stay there til our lawn is finished being mowed. 

    I really hope this little guy makes it through the summer.  In years past I have had to fish the occasional bunny out of the pool… and it is always something that tears me up inside a little when it happens.  Hopefully it will remain a relatively moist year.  If it gets hotter I might have to try and figure out a way to give them a water dish they can more safely drink from.  Because seriously…  who cannot love something this cute?

    Wrapping Up

    Well I have rambled on at length for a long while this morning.  I hope you all have a great day and get accomplished whatever needs to happen on your Sunday.  I know we likely have to run around a bit later and continue with the whole “preparing for wife to leave” thing again.  Luckily this time it is a much shorter trip, so hopefully it won’t be nearly as stressful on me.

    Lenovo Y500

    Today we return to the normal morning routine of blogging after I wake up.  Sadly this morning it just took me a really long time to get up and around.  Yesterday when I got home from work I was feeling awesome, and made all these plans for today.  This morning it feels as though the world has been dropped on top of me… and I want to do exactly nothing.  Here is hoping a revisit from my old friend caffeine will jump start my systems.  I had been trying to stay away from caffeine since I had been having heart palpitations, but this morning I need to use and abuse my old friend.

    Lenovo Y500

    IdeaPad-Y500-Laptop-PC-Front-Back-View-1L-940x475 At this point I have had roughly half a week to get used to my new laptop.  My last three blog posts were written using it in fact.  I have to say overall I am absolutely loving it.  I had been concerned about whether or not I could get used to the smaller form factor, but right now I am finding I greatly prefer it.  I loved my Asus g73sw but it was really heavy laptop… when I carried it in my backpack it was a noticeable strain on my back.  Additionally it was a pain to try and balance on my lapboard as I barely had any room for my mouse.

    The Y500 on the other hand I have worlds of room and could bump up a larger mousing surface and still have plenty of room on my lapboard.  Additionally it doesn’t feel as heavy on my legs as the Asus was…  after using it for awhile on the sofa while reclined, when I got up my thighs would be almost cramping.  The fact that the Y500 packs all of its power in a 6 lb package…  I would say 8 if you are carrying the power brick with you… is really remarkable.  This is no “ultrabook” but it is seriously compact for the gaming juggernaut it is.

    The Performance

    rift 2013-06-19 20-07-31-86

    Laptop graphics will always be slightly worse than their desktop counter parts.  This has been my experience with every laptop I have ever owned.  So if you can run the game at high on your desktop… the equivalent card will likely only be able to run it at medium in a mobile form factor.  However I have been pleased with just how well the dual video cards in this model perform together.  In the past I had one of the early SLI configurations, and I was not terribly happy with it.  It always felt like I got far better performance with just a single card and SLI disabled than I did with SLI mode engage in most games.

    That luckily seems to be in the past as I have gotten really solid performance out of all of the regular games I play.  Rift runs happily on very high settings and the game looks amazing, and I am able to run around smoothly in the content at 1920×1080.  Additionally a bellweather for me has been Star Wars: The Old Republic.  My desktop has always run the game on high settings and had plenty of graphical processing power to spare.  However the Nvidia 460m in the Asus laptop struggled with the game mercilessly. 

    I could never quite find a setting that made things feel smooth, even on the lowest of possible graphical settings.  That said I have heard a lot of problems with the 460 and that game even on desktops.  This laptop however runs Star Wars: The Old Republic happily at high settings on 1920×1080 resolution and a framerate that fluctuates between 45 and 60 frames per second.  Quite honestly every game I have thrown against it, it has done well with.  I feel like the last few days have been mostly taken up by downloading a game and seeing how it runs on the Y500.  But I guess that is pretty average when you have a new toy to test out.

    The Features

    lenovo-laptop-ideapad-y500-4side-15L

    • 12 GB DDR PC3-12800 Ram
    • 15.6” LED Screen – 1920×1080 max resolution
    • Intel Core i7-3630QM 2.4 ghz Quad Core Processor
    • Windows 8 64 bit
    • 1 TB 5400 rpm hybrid hard drive with 16 GB SSD Cache
    • Dual Nvidia GeForce GT 650M Video Cards with 2 GB DDR5 Ram per card
    • lots of other little things that wont seem nearly as important

    original

    I have to say it is the dual video cards that really peaked my interest.  The concept of a SLI setup in a laptop just seemed grossly improbable.  But so far the laptop does an amazing job of what it does.  You would think that it gets absolutely molten hot with all that processing power.  However the cards run relatively quiet and while it gets warm it is nothing uncomfortable.  This is in a large part due to the massive cooling system.  If you look in the above picture the big trapezoid shaped grill is loaded with fans.

    The panel can be removed for easy cleaning… however the Y500 goes one step further.  The other day when I was fiddling around in some of the preinstalled software, I noticed a power control system that had something interesting…  fan cleaning mode.  It is exactly what it sounds like… your system fans turn backwards for a short period of time extremely rapidly…  sounds kinda like a jet fighter taking off when it happens…  but it spins free any dust clinging to the blades.  I thought this was pretty innovative and a feature I wished I had seen in other laptops.

    The Price

    The laptop is definitely not cheap, but it is a bargain for the features included.  This performs as well as entry level Alienware laptops for like half the price.  Essentially you have two options for buying the laptop.  You can get it from one of the various discount resellers… I ended up getting mine for Tiger Direct, but you can actually get it cheaper overall from Lenovo.  The problem with ordering from Lenovo they are currently having like a one month lead time before they actually ship your laptop.

    Lenovo Y500 Series Laptop

    Additionally I decided to order my laptop refurbished.  I have always had good luck with refurbished products in the past.  Some people shy away from it, but realistically it is the only time you can purchase electronics and know for certain that thorough testing has been performed on it, and that it will be guaranteed to power on.  usually electronics are unit tested, and your individual unit may or may not have had a full battery of tests performed.  Anyways… usually buying refurbished also knocks about 100 bucks off the price… and since this was a replacement for a dead laptop… and not a planned expense, dropping the price in any way I could is a huge plus.

    This is the precise laptop I ordered, and it has actually come down in price a little bit.

    That is always the way it goes.  You buy something and it drops in price, but fortunately it was only like $50.  So far like I said I am really loving the laptop and it has been able to do anything I can think to throw at it.  Essentially if you are looking for a solid gaming laptop I would highly suggest it.  I know a few other gamers in my little circle have purchased them and had similar glowing reviews.  I never really would have considered Lenovo capable of creating a solid gaming machine, but they somehow have.  I would be interesting to see if they follow through and start releasing prebuilt gaming desktops as well.

    Wrapping Up

    Hopefully I did not just bore you with a lot of hardware review… but I thought it would be good to do a deep dive into my experience.  Also as I said I have mostly been testing the laptop rather than seriously gaming the last few days.  I hope you all have an amazing weekend and I hope I manage to get up and around and productive.  At this point I am going to go back to more testing of the laptop and maybe even a little actual gameplay.

    Bel VS F2P

    I am breaking the mold yet again tonight and knocking out a topic that I have been kicking around in my head all day.  Quite honestly the topic is not my own, it was suggested to me by Syl of MMO Gypsy.  There is a really interesting discussion on this weeks Cat Context podcast between Syl and Liore about their feelings regarding free to play games.  I started the discussion up on twitter as well, because I tend to align more to Syl’s thought in that free to play is generally a good thing.

    The Non-Believer

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    The funny thing is… I did not always have this opinion.  In fact there was a time I was pretty vehemently anti-free-to-play model.  I even believe at one point I wrote a blog post about the fact that I did not believe the industry pundits that all games would be switching over to free-to-play in order to survive.  I really disliked the thought of a pure free to play game.. and in part this was due to some bad experiences with early games in the genre.

    My first real taste of the free to play genre was with the blatant wow clone Runes of Magic.  During one of my bored with WoW phases, I ventured out… downloaded it and tried to get into it.  The problem is, the game at its core was this fairly horrific grindfest, that could only be sped up by spending “diamonds” on the in game store.  It had some other fairly egregious money sinks in that most of the mounts that were available were “rental” only, giving you it for a fixed number of hours at a time.  Some of the only permanent mounts came from… you guessed it the cash shop.

    Later on I had gotten into the closed beta for a pretty nifty game called Allods.  It was essentially a very unique looking russian/steampunky wow like game.  I played the heck out of it in beta and really enjoyed it, and was looking forward to launch.  Then towards the end of the test period they introduced their take on the cash shop.  I don’t remember a ton of details other than the fact that so many things were pay-walled behind real money transactions.  One of the mini-games i refuse to play in an MMO… is inventory maintenance… and the only real way to increase your bag space was through dumping cash into the in game store.

    Both of these games served to give me an extremely negative impression of what this whole free to play genre was.  Combine with the fact that the servers I was playing on seemed to be entirely populated with kids… aka people unable to buy their own subscriptions to games…  I thought subscription gaming was the only way to maintain a thriving community.  As new free to play conversions entered the market, I would give them a spin, especially if it was a game I had played before.  Every time I would walk away disgusted by the horrible community I found there.

    What Changed?

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    When Everquest 2 first launched its forray into free to play, I really paid no attention to it.  Essentially it held nothing for me.  Gameplay was essentially corralled off to its own dedicated server, so you could not play with your friends currently subscribed to the game.  Additionally the various tiers of access felt extremely punitive, locking away functionality behind numerous paid gates.  However after a period of time they decided to open up the free to play options on all servers.  This is the point at which I started to notice changes in the game.

    Firstly the station cash shop is pretty amazing, stocking all manner of things from nice cosmetic armors, mounts, amazing houses, and various buff potions.  With my 500 station cash a month stipend from subscribing, I was able to pick up all sorts of things that improved my enjoyment of the game.  Additionally I noticed the server populations start increasing, and these players were not necessarily the “unwashed masses” I had seen in my earlier ventures into free to play games.  Some of these folks were really solid community folks, that just lacked the ability to commit to a month subscription.

    The game was still extremely limiting for free to play players, but at least you got to play on the established servers with existing players.  The guild I was a member of saw a massive influx in recruits and at one point we had 20-30 players on some nights during the peak of this influx.  Additionally it felt like we were seeing a faster speed at getting cool features out to the players like the dungeon creator, eqemote, and new content areas like sirens grotto and skyshrine.  It felt like there was a new kind of free to play player that I had not seen before, one that just wanted to play the game without commitment and had no qualms about spending money at their own pace.

    Eventually recently they have completely dropped all race and class restrictions from free to play players, and we have seen another big jump in people in the game.  There are still some functionality locked away, but the game is at its most playable state for a subscription free player.  The game feels more healthy in every sense of the word since the free to play conversation happened.  The cities are bustling, the zones have players available for grouping, and the brokers are completely loaded with goods.

    Changing My Opinion

    Cartel_Shop_Screen_cap After watching the transformation the free to play model has had on the Everquest 2 community, and seeing the numbers released at just how much better Star Wars the Old Republic has been doing since it made its jump.  I started to turn my opinion around on the payment model as a whole.  While there are still some pretty egregious practices going on, I think for the most part these games are doing better under the new pricing schemes.  I will always prefer the option to subscribe, but having free access to my characters gives me the ability to boot up a game I have not visited in months on a whim and spend a few days without feeling the need to fire up my account officially.

    I feel like as the conversions happen, each game gets a little better at the model.  So far Rift seems to be the best conversion I have seen, in that they chose the route to give subscribers bonus “premium” perks… like increase in coin, token and mount speed.  Additionally they have taken the cash shop model to heard and provided hundreds of cosmetic armor available from day one.  Sure there are lots of questions about whether or not they took things too far… but really I don’t believe any game has come even vaguely close to “play to win”.  No cash shop has offered something so amazing that better cannot be attained in game through grinding out whatever passes as end game content.

    Ultimately at the end of the day the real question is, do you want your favorite virtual landscapes to stay alive and well… or are you willing to see them suffer just to make sure they stay away from a free to play model.  I don’t think it is about success or failure anymore… but more about survival.  These games cost a significant amount of money to keep up and running and keep staffed.  These are old figures, but it was reported that between 2004 and 2008 Blizzard spent 200 million dollars on upkeep of the World of Warcraft servers.  Dividing that out it ends up at over 4 million dollars per month in upkeep and maintenance fees.

    Granted most of the games that have gone free to play don’t have the number of servers or staff that Blizzard has, however I am sure it is still a fairly staggering amount.  If they can get 5 players that are willing to pay 5 to 10 dollars on cash shop items per month, instead of 1 player that pays their 15 dollar subscription fee, they end up well ahead and have more money to invest in the game.  The games that have gone to free to play seem to be doing well with the model, and that income gets invested in making new content.  When Vanguard made the switch to free to play, the influx of new money allowed them to invest the first month in half a decade in development.  As a result the players got the benefit in the first ever holiday event, and major server patch.

    The Last Starfighter

    WoWScrnShot_102411_170544 Right now realistically there are two subscription model games left:  The World of Warcraft and Eve Online.  Eve is kind a bubble in itself without any real competition in that space, however World of Warcraft has been losing subscribers on a regular basis of late.  After the successes of the Star Wars the Old Republic conversion, and if Rift ends up being as successful as it is looking just by the server activity and players returning with a vengence… I feel that before the end of the year we will at least hear about plans for a free to play conversion for WoW.  We know that Titan is a long ways off, and their development cycle has always been prodigiously slow.  They lack the hook of new and fresh content to keep players engaged.

    I feel like the big announcement at Blizzcon will be a conversion to some form of a free to play model, or at least a tiered payment model.  There is a huge part of me that mourns the subscription era, but I think it has been shown that the hybrid model ends up wildly successful.  The folks that want those premium features are still willing to pony up for a month subscription, whereas the folks that are not wiling to have the monthly commitment are still going to buy the occasional doodad or account unlock.

    For me the real takeaway is that whatever keeps these companies healthy, and keeps developers and support staff in their seats instead of hunting for jobs is going to be better for the players in the long run.  Right now it is seeming like the free to play model is doing that.  Rift for example has had to roll out a couple of new servers just to handle the influx of players.  Personally I have had at least 8 friends start playing the game again, with more waiting in the wings to see just how successful the first volley is.  When we are talking about MMOs that are not blizzard… we really are not talking about a lot of profiteering going on there.  Ultimately they are fighting for survival, and if the free to play model gives it to them…  I feel we are more likely to be able to keep playing the games we want to play.

    Wrapping Up

    This post ended up far more rambly than I intended it to.  I can’t say I am really passionate for or against the free to play model, but at this point I feel like i understand why it is occurring so frequently.  I love playing MMO games, it is the one thing I always fall back on.  I am in theory embracing free to play, because it seems like the most likely way for these companies to continue getting the money they need… to keep supporting the worlds I care about.  Ultimately none of these companies make these games out of the goodness of their hearts.  They need our money to make sure they can survive and grow, and at the end of the day… how ever that happens I feel is pretty much fair game so long as it isn’t done in an exploitative manner.

    Five Favorite MMOs

    Tomorrow is going to end up being a super busy day for me, as I need to run a few errands for work… so I am doing this post a little differently.  I don’t feel like I will have enough time tomorrow to bang out a post like normal, so  I am working on this topic tonight.  I thought it would be interesting to do a post about my top five favorite games and why I like them so much.  I figured i would do this in count down style with fifth leading down to number one…  of course you can just cut ahead but lets pretend it is a surprise!

    #5- World of Warcraft

    2006-04-20_182329_Resized_pic I went back and forth several times on what should be my 5th spot, but as I thought about it… for sheer longevity of me playing the game, I had to give a nod to World of Warcraft.  I have essentially outgrown the game, but it does a lot of things well.  I feel like WoW is the junkfood of MMOs…  so long as you do not think about what you are doing… it is extremely enjoyable.  I played WoW as my primary game for roughly 8 years, and during most of that was the leader of a large social guild.  I have so many amazing memories and have met so many life long friends out of the game.  All of these reasons are why it at least had to make my list.

    Best Features

    • People – WoW is still the game that most of the people you know are playing.
    • Colorful and friendly graphics and a world that matches them.
    • Lots of systems that allow solo players to engage in group content.
    • Game overall is extremely polished, they provide a consistent experience.
    • Roughly a decade of content and a wide variety of activities to do.

    #4 – Lord of the Rings Online

    ScreenShot00013 Lord of the Rings Online is one of those games that I really enjoy every time I get the bug to play it.  It is extremely immersive and brings the player into the setting surrounding the Lord of the Rings trilogy.  I love the way that you are set up in the game as characters that just happen to be in the background of the activities of the fellowship.  Each step of the way you are doing events that are helping out the world, but also keeping tabs on the activity as the fellowship moves through the novels.  They do an amazing job of bringing the world to life and filling it with copious amounts of LOTR lore.

    Best Features

    • One of the best communities – Landroval is amazing
    • Music system… you can play instruments in game, and players give performances regularly
    • Simple instanced neighborhood housing system
    • Hands down the best horses in any MMO… they move right
    • Breathtaking landscapes straight out of the novels
    • Intricate system within system… I admit it… I love deeds
    • Subscribing for one month permanently unlocks most features

    #3 – The Secret World

    TheSecretWorldDX11 2012-07-07 21-28-33-32 The Secret World is such a unique experience that I feel like everyone needs to play it at least once.  Not only it is a unique system, but it also has extremely different game play mechanics.  I have always been a fan of the whole occult and Cthulhu mythos, and this entire game is essentially a love song to H.P. Lovecraft.  It also has some of the best writing and storytelling, and additionally some of the most imaginative quests.  The only negative to me, is that it lends itself to very periodic and episodic gameplay.  Each time new content is released, I run in like a locust and gobble it up.  I believe enough in this game however that before its release I became a lifetime subscriber.

    Best Features

    • Unique setting and amazing storytelling
    • Unique classless game play
    • All players can learn all abilities in the game
    • Nightmare modes are some of the most challenging content I have experienced in an MMO
    • Does not hold your hand… almost to a cruel end.  Very difficult quests.
    • No Subscription Fee – buy the box play forever
    • Single Server Infrastructure – play with anyone on any dimension freely

    #2 – Rift

    rift 2013-06-19 20-07-48-28 Rift is likely going to be one of those games I always cycle back to playing.  Essentially it is WoW, but improved in every conceivable way.  That is probably a massive disservice to the game to say that… but unfortunately that is usually what I think of in my mind.  Since the release on a monthly basis they have improved the gameplay so that it includes some extremely innovative features.  It has really engaging content that varies from epic quests to quick fast food push a button and get into the action features.  Additionally it just went free to play, and it feels like one of the better implementations.  The cash shop has a truly staggering number of things to purchase, but all of it is completely optional.  You can pretty much experience every bit of the content apart from the Storm Legion expansion… completely free.

    Best Features

    • Most customizable out of the box UI that I have seen
    • Awesome non-intrusive add-on support
    • Awesome passive grouping content like Rifts and Instant Adventures
    • Most detailed housing system – you can literally build anything
    • Extremely flexible class system with ability to have more than 6 different specs
    • Great Wardrobe system allowing for tons of custom outfits
    • Extremely interesting and challenging raid encounters
    • Really fun holidays and in game events

    #1 – Everquest II

    EQ2_000020 The world I will always be the most nostalgic about is Norrath.  Everquest was my first real MMO experience, and it bit me hard with a vengeance.  The big negative however is it was very unfriendly to players, and caused a massive commitment of time to get anywhere.  However with the release of Everquest II, it took the world I loved and brought it into a much more player friendly frame of mind.  This is one of those games that I have played off and on since release.. and no matter where I am mentally… this is the one game I can always play even when I don’t really feel like playing anything.  I feel like EQ2 is the most underappreciated game on the market and has so much to offer players.  It just doesn’t look as shiny as other games, and the engine definitely feels dated at times.  The game takes of commitment to understand its systems, but you will not find a more intricate and rewarding game on the market (except maybe Wurm Online).

    Best Features

    • 25 unique classes
    • 20 unique races
    • Massive scale zones, dungeons, and raids
    • More content than I have seen in any other game period
    • Massive epic quest lines…  one I worked on off and on for 6 months
    • Extremely detailed housing system with the ability to have 10 per player
    • Extremely unique crafting system
    • Guild housing that actually supports guild activities
    • Antonia Bayle is one of the best RP communities – Tons of Live Events

    The Runners Up

    There were several games that almost made the list.  I contemplated Star Wars: The Old Republic… because quite honestly it had some really engaging content.  It however has probably the most egregious free to play conversion I have seen, so its exploitive nature knocked it off the list.  I thought about Guild Wars 2, because there is something undeniably enjoying about the game.  However there are an equal number of issues I just cannot get past to really find it something I want to play on a regular basis.  Dragon’s Prophet is a game I am really enjoying these days, but I don’t feel like I have played it long enough to really give it a spot on the top five list.  Additionally Vanguard is a pretty amazing game, but I just have not played it enough to really know its ins and outs.

    Essentially I picked the five games that have shaped me the most as a player.  I hope you enjoyed my little rundown and even more so I hope it inspires someone to give one of them a shot.  Of my list only World of Warcraft lacks a free to play option.  So I guess this is really telling about where we are currently in what is a viable payment model.  I find myself cycling between the two four on a regular basis.  Right now I am mostly in a Rift mode… but I am sure I will cycle back to the others before too much longer.

    I hope you have a great day, and I hope you don’t mind the change in format.  I wanted to create this post, and I knew I would not have enough time tomorrow morning to complete it all.  Additionally I am busy tonight downloading things to load up my new laptop full of games.  So essentially I had time to kill and devote to this.  I hope I get all my errands in the morning done, and get to work on time.

    Return of the Queen

    Good morning you happy people…  this is my first post without the aid of coffee.  I am trying to taper back my caffeine intake because the whole heart fluttering/palpitations thing has been back with a vengeance over the last few days.  I honestly figure it is mostly stress induced, but I am willing to cut back on a few things to help the process along.  It is not exactly an enjoyable feeling, so if I can stop it from happening…  I will be happier.  As a result without aid of coffee, I may not be entirely cogent at 6 am.

    Return of the Queen

    So yesterday was my birthday, and I have to say I was overwhelmed by the birthday messages I go from all sources.  Logging into twitter of G+ was like hitting a wall of happy birthday… it was pretty awesome.  You guys made what would have been a pretty crappy day not one.  Essentially my birthday was slotted to be pretty awesome.  I had a replacement laptop arriving sometime midday, and my wife would be flying in at noonish and I would get the spend at least half the day chilling out with her.

    I got up pretty early yesterday, and when I got upstairs to catch up with the world my wife had messaged me telling me that her flight had been cancelled.  Apparently there was “weather” in the Dallas/Fort Worth area and they were re-routing all flights.  So instead of her 7 am flight…  she was being placed on a 3:30 flight… on standby.  At this point she was not slotted to actually get back to Tulsa until 9:30 that evening.  So that left her having to do the awkward chilling out at the airport thing, and me to be alone on my birthday.

    I would have driven up to get her, since she was in Kansas City, and it is a roughly four hour drive from where we live to the airport…  but with the laptop coming, neither of us wanted to leave that out on the porch.  We have a little pack of hoodlums in the neighborhood, that have been suspected for the flurry of car break-ins that I wrote about awhile back.  Mostly they are bored teenagers with no real parental guidance to give them a moral compass, but they have been known to have sticky fingers.

    So it became a waiting game… if the package arrived quickly enough it would be possible to run up and back and get home before the flights would have.  However since my laptop arrived at 1 pm, that slotted her still getting home around 9 after you factored in both directions of the drive… and a lot of unnecessary stress in the process.  Somehow along the process she managed to get juggled to an earlier flight, and in the grand scheme of things landed last night in Tulsa around 8 pm.  It is really awesome to have my wife back, but honestly the impact has not quite hit me yet.  We got home in time for her to unpack and pretty much go to sleep, since she had been up since the crack of dawn.

    Laptop Resolution

    dsc00005dn

    Yesterday I had regaled you with the tale of the guy flaking out on me yet again, and me giving up and just ordering online.  As I said above, yesterday around 1 pm I had a doorbell ring and my laptop was there on the threshold.  Since it was too late to try and drive to pick up my wife, I decided to unbox it and play with my new toy.  First off, for having dual SLI cards the laptop is remarkably quiet and cool.  There is heat emanating from the heat sinks on either side but it is no way as hot as previous laptops have been.  I am guessing this is the massive air intake on the bottom of the laptop causing the thing to stay cool.

    I have not honestly had much time to really game on the laptop, I spent most of yesterday downloading stuff.  I got in and played a little Dragon’s Prophet and it looked gorgeous.  My previous laptop did not like that game at all, and this one funs it pretty much on high settings fluidly.  Additionally I played a little Rift as it was patching and it also looked gorgeous and ran well on ultra settings.  The sad thing about the digital age however is it still takes a long while to download multiple 16 gig game installations.  For whatever reason League of Legends was taking the longest… which seems insane considering how simple a game it is… and how low tech the graphics are.

    The keyboard is going to take some getting used to, but so far I really like it.  Keyboards are a huge thing for me… and this is as best as I can describe it a mechanical chicklet keypad.  It has the low key height of a chicklet style laptop keyboard, but you have the satisfying mechanical feedback of an old school keyboard.  It reminds me a lot of a half height version of my Microsoft sidewinder keyboard that I use on my desktop.  The important thing is it feels extremely responsive but like I said it will take some getting used to.

    The biggest feature that is going to take awhile for me to adapt to is the fact that this laptop is Windows 8.  I have to say, I still have no idea what Microsoft was thinking by defaulting a desktop operating system to the Metro interface.  I realize that I likely use my computer differently than most people…  I tend to do everything through the run prompt…  but even for day to day use… the Metro interface seems worse than useless.  The very first thing I did was download Stardock’s Start8 giving me back my start menu and run prompt.  After that it feels much like using Windows 7 with a strange skin on it. 

    I will slowly get used to the forced minimalist interface elements…  but I find the whole “we only use solid colors” movement of recent years a bit chafing.  Our graphical designer at work seems to have been bitten by the same bug… and white frankly this whole only using bright solid colors thing looks a little “Fisher price” to me at times.  All in all I am very happy however, I like the feel and form factor of the laptop, and what I have seen of its graphical powers are excellent as well. 

    Downtime Fiesta

    FFVmap-world2While I was installing software yesterday, I had my PSP going and was playing through Final Fantasy 5.  So far my biggest problem with this game is that it does a fairly poor job messaging what you are supposed to do next.  There is always a certain element of roam around until you figure it out to every mission.  Now that I am well past the point at which I had played previously… I am in virgin territory and often times struggle to follow the logic behind the game.  Luckily I have veteran resources to rely upon if I get stuck, but for the most part I have figured out things.

    I believe previously I had been just about to enter the moogle village after arriving at the second world.  Yesterday I managed to play through Castle Bal, Quelb, Drakenvale, Ghido’s Island, Surgate Castle, Xezat’s Ship, the Barrier Tower thing, Forest of Moore, and am now just about to storm Exdeath’s castle.  There were numerous difficult encounters along the way, but I managed through them and did not hit any major roadblocks like Soul Cannon was.  Atomos was definitely a pain in the arse with his huge hitpoint pool, but I managed through it.

    I feel like I have a super low maintenance party with Black Mage, Red Mage, Ranger and Samurai.  My good friend Ash that talked me into this madness has a Blue Mage… so it seems like his entire play through is dictated by trying to get the right abilities off the right mobs.  There was some madness last night about needing to have a level divisible by 3 to get some ability off some boss encounter.  Right now the biggest thing I need to worry about is keeping my characters in the best gear (which I would have done already) and grinding mobs to get job levels ((which I would have done already).  After making the swaps this party feels like my kind of party…  simple and effective.

    Wrapping Up

    Well it is that time again, I need to wrap this up so I can finish getting ready and head on in to work.  Going to pack up the laptop this morning and bring it for our noontime gaming excursions.  It should be considerably lighter since it only weights 6 lbs.  I hope you all have a great day, and I want to say again how much I appreciated getting all those birthday wishes yesterday.  Now time to return to the real world and try and finish out this week.