The Houseguest

This morning I am getting a late start as I took Friday off.  It didn’t really make sense to go back from the fourth for one day… only to be gone for a week after that.  I was fairly exhausted by the time I made it to bed last night, and it was only through the nudging of my wife that I got up and around this morning.  Just as a warning this is probably going to be one of the most real life posts I have made in awhile.

The Houseguest

We have a really unique relationship with one of our neighbors… it long ago transcended friendship and moved into the adopted family territory.  When she was run over by her Ex-Husband… we were the ones that rushed to the hospital.  When I had my insane arterial spray bleed out incident…  she was the one we called and while we were in the hospital she did what no one should ever have to do…  cleaned up the CSI inspired mess.  So essentially we will do anything for the other, it is just the norm.  We’ve been in each others lives for roughly fifteen years.

All of that said… her kids are essentially like our kids too… or at very least like a niece and nephew.  Roughly a week ago there was a simple fight that escalated into something bigger… he went off in a huff saying he was moving out.  The problem being… he is a High School junior… and while legally an adult he has no facilities to survive on his own.  As a result he has been couch surfing since then, staying with whatever friend would let him for the night… and from the looks of it… not really sleeping or eating much.

Initially we were planning on having him stay in our house as a house sitter while we were gone next week.  But after seeing him yesterday and how rough he looked we essentially told him to come in… take a nap and that he could stay with us until we left for the trip.  Apparently we are a safe place, because the second he laid down he was out like a light.  The only problem is our house is not really equipped for guests.  You essentially have the option of sleeping on a couch or a loveseat.  While he was napping we ran several errands, one of which was to go get a blow up mattress to at least give him something vaguely resembling a bed.

My hope is that we can act as a neutral ground and that while we are gone the he and his mom can reconcile the differences.  This way staying with us… we at least know he is not out “getting drunk, getting high or making babies” as my wife put it.  He is a good kid, he just makes some phenomenally dumb decisions at times.  This is the same kid that was notoriously losing his bike… because he forgot who’s lawn he left it on.  He does not have a malicious bone in his body, but my fear was the longer he was out there the worse things he would have to do to survive.  Additionally we know at least his mom can rest a little easier knowing he has a safe place to stay for the time being.

The Flood

As a result of having a houseguest, one of the things on my to do list that I had never gotten around to was changing out the apparatus in the tank of the upstairs toilet.  This is something I have done a few times before, so was not something I had the least bit of hesitation about.  I turned the water off at the wall, drained the tank, undid all the fittings and swapped out the apparatus.  All of this took about 20 minutes or so.  After hooking everything up… there was a leak.  I tightened the plastic nut to make sure it was not coming from the tank.

I didn’t feel like I could really get it tightened enough, so I ended up running around the corner to home depot to get a tool better suited for the tight space.  Finally I toweled everything off and verified that it was not coming from the tank.  Instead it looked like it was coming from the braided hose that connected to the wall.  I began trying to tight that up a bit… and the plastic collar of the hose essentially disintegrated in my hands…  and the result was a gushing torrent of water going everywhere.  I managed to get the water shut off at the wall quick enough… but the floor and me that was laying on said floor… was completely drenched.

At this point I feel like I have left my depth of home repair know how…. not that I had much.  Apparently my penis was not fully programmed with all the knowledge it should have about how to fix things.  After all since men always have to do this sort of thing… it must come pre-programmed out of the factory right?  I know to take care of what is wrong, we will have to shut off the water outside in our front yard.  But know we are getting into actual plumbing… because it seems as though the current cable is essentially JB Welded onto the pipes.  Actually it looks like it is stuck on with games workshop “green stuff” which I have heard is actually a plumbing compound.

I feel as though we should probably just call a plumber, but for the time being we are down to one restroom.  That said we have essentially been down to one restroom for a good 6 months…  since the tank upstairs has been wonky at least that long.  We have one more day before we leave for a trip… so this all may be something we just deal with afterwards.  After that point we will no longer be trying to share a restroom with a houseguest.  I just hate the concept of rushing around trying to fix something right before we are going to leave town.

Stealth For Me

rift 2013-07-04 23-00-30-83 When things finally calmed down I collapsed into my comfy spot on the couch and decided to play some Rift.  Of late I have really been enjoying my rogue Belgrave on Deepwood.  Some time ago I wrote about trying out the Granpa build that PK suggested.  I cannot swoon enough about how awesome the build is, and just how much it has improved the fun of playing a rogue for me.  The most interesting thing about it for me however… is that I am actually enjoying playing a stealth class.  This is however I think because it works drastically different than most stealth classes I have played in the past.

Always in the past it felt like you were at a great disadvantage if you were not constantly stealthing around in game.  Stealthing in games like WoW feels much like race walking… equal parts awkward and frustrating… and just not that enjoyable.  I hate the construct that moving in stealth makes you move slower, and until now the only stealth class I had really enjoyed was my Dirge in EQ2… and that was mostly because thanks to bard songs… I could move faster stealthed than most classes did on mounts.  The moving through molasses aspect of rogues in the past has made the class seem overly tedious.

Rift on the other hand with the Nightblade has made stealth a temporary buff that lasts at most 30 seconds.  As a result this completely changes how you use stealth in the first place.  It ceases becoming a tool that lets you skip content, and starts becoming a strategic resources that you employ to open combat, or at most to sneak past a single mob that is overly tough like an elite.  Additionally this short term stealth buff does not slow the player down…  so the combat feels just as fluid as I stealth up just before I enter combat. 

Additionally the build I am using gives me essentially no downtime… so I can roll from mob to mob or even packs of mobs… stealthing quickly between them to get my next opening off.  The feeling is extremely awesome, and gives me whatever was lacking from a rogue in the past.  This is not a prodding game of shadows… this is feels more like fast paced ninja assassins.  Otherwise… I feel like Rift does rogues in a way that traditionally warrior style melee players can enjoy.  Unfortunately I figure it is probably lacking for the folks that like poking along through  content at the pace of a snail.

Wrapping Up

Now you have a rundown of all the major shifts that have occurred in my life over the last 24 hours.  Hopefully we have made the right calls, and hopefully we can act as a neutral ground as mom and son reconcile.  Additionally… hopefully we have not just delayed the process… and or inherited a semi permanent member of our household.  I hope you all have a great day… and I hope that you don’t have any awkward decisions on the horizon.

Original Norrath

The big hullabaloo at work ended up going far better than expected… however since the meeting time was at 1 pm I spent most of the morning in an overall sense of dread.  I am a “rip the band-aid off” person, not peel it back slowly… as a result I detest suspense.  I want to get the pain over with so I can get on with my life.  In class I usually volunteered to give my speech or presentation first so I could get it out of the way and relax.  But I survived… and now I am on vacation for awhile.

Original Norrath

eqgame 2013-07-04 09-23-34-47 Thanks to my Everquest 2 account and having station access I have had the ability to play the original Everquest for some time now.  For whatever reason I never really took advantage of this.  From time to time I would boot up a copy of the game playing one my favorite emulator server, but I had no real interest in ever returning to the real thing.  On a whim I decided to fire up the game client and see if the game experience had improved as a while.  A few months back I did the same for Dark Age of Camelot, and was surprised at how well the game actually stood up against modern titles.

The Good

eqgame 2013-06-30 10-55-46-78 Honestly many of the features of the game have been drastically improved since I last played it on an older emulated copy.  Firstly most of the NPC models I encountered had been drastically improved, but honestly I never had an issue with graphics… I play minecraft afterall.  The problems I always had with the game were just how bad the user interface was.  Luckily this has been improved a lot, and they seem to have fixed the horrible mouse look system from the early days.  For the most part it controls out of the box like you would expect any modern MMO to control.

Additionally they have completely gotten rid of the corpse recovery aspect of the game.  This was the biggest sticking point with me, and the cause of lots of marital strife for myself and my friends.  The inability to simply disconnect without dire consequences caused many a fight, and I can still remember getting a call one Sunday afternoon begging me to come home right away and resurrect someone because they got stuck in a bad place and were about to lose all the gear on their corpse.  All in all there was nothing positive about that system.

What happens now is if you die you respawn back in a safe area with all your gear just like modern MMOs.  After level 10 you begin to lose experience just like you used to in the old game.  From my understanding you still can lose levels through death, but this is acceptable I suppose.  Temporarily losing progress on death is something you can deal with, permanently losing everything you have spent years acquiring on your characters… that is not something you can deal with.

Additionally they have added in a return to bindpoint functionality that lets players rapidly get out of an area.  This was another huge problem with the game as a whole, the inability to safely leave the game at a moments notice.  Things happen, and you cannot always plan when you might need to leave a game.  Modern MMOs have taken this into account, but it is nice to see they have gone back through and added this functionality into what was always the most painful game on players.

The Interesting

eqgame 2013-06-30 14-17-20-14 The thing that I find most interesting is all of the ways that they have essentially “hacked” modern features into an extremely old and limiting engine.  The name Everquest used to always be a joke, since for the most part the game itself had very few “quests”.  They have remedied this by adding in a full quest journal system, and through some clever scripting given you an overarching quest for each area that essentially leads you by the hand to the other quest givers.  This way players at least know who to /hail to get the quests in a given area.

Additionally they have incorporated new features, like treasure chests that are commonplace in other games.  They had no real way to do this in the traditional sense… but instead creatively created ground spawn stationary mobs that look like chests but don’t fight back.  So by destroying this “chest” the player can then loot the contents.  I have to applaud the devs for coming up with extremely creative solutions around complex problems and limitations of their game engine.

Additionally I find it interesting that they have come to a point where they expect mudflat ion to occur and that players need certain stats to be able to survive.  Through the tutorial quests you manage to get a really nice set of gear, probably better than I had in my 50s in the original game… and include with it the ever important 10% haste item.  This was a must have item, and I remember hours spent farming various drops for the guild to make sure that every dps player had at least the most basic of haste items.

The Bad

eqgame 2013-06-30 12-56-54-66 Today’s post was essentially spurred on by one of my friends blog post yesterday.  Over on West Karana, my friend Tipa posted an article called “Why I Stopped Playing Everquest”.  Her commentary could almost exactly double for whatever I am about to say, because the same things that do not appeal to her… are what I noticed indulging this whim.  Ultimately it is honestly the same problem I had with Dark Age of Camelot as well.  The game play is to slow and prodding… and quite frankly boring after being used to today’s MMO standards.

I played a Cleric in the original game, and my little circle of healers used to joking refer to the game as AFKquest, in that we spent far more time alt-tabbed or talking than actually doing anything active on our characters.  Unfortunately playing a melee is not much better.  I have reached a point where I just cannot handle passive and slow combat, and literally doing nothing as your character auto attacks down a monster.  The above golem took a good 15 minutes of waiting on my character to slowly chew down its health.  I alt-tabbed and caught up on my news feed, tabbing back between articles to see if it was over yet.

This is not what fun game play looks like anymore for me.  At one time it was, but more so it was because it was the only thing that gave us online character development and progression.  The game holds up on many levels, but the slow pace of the game and the absolute passivity of combat guarantees that it will never be more than a passing novelty for me again.  Sure I got the tingles of nostalgia as I heard the opening theme again, but I have the same nostalgia playing Everquest II, which for me at least is a much better game in every possible way.

I feel like I have always looked at my time playing Everquest through rose colored lenses… but after playing it again for a short period of time… I started to think about all the things I didn’t remember.  All of the hours spent standing around doing nothing, while other players drug mobs back to the party and killed them… somehow never taking enough damage to make it worth casting a heal.  Quite honestly the game involved way more waiting around than I would like to remember.  Waiting to break fear, waiting for everyone to log in and show up for an event, waiting to get enough faction to turn in a specific quest item, waiting for that one magical super rare monster to spawn needed for someone’s epic.  I simply don’t have the patience for that much waiting, or at least I have come to value my time a bit more and I am simply not willing to squander it.

Wrapping Up

Overall I was surprised at just how well Everquest had updated itself to compete with modern games.  However after playing for a very short period of time… I remembered all the bad things about the game and they pretty much toppled the nostalgic good things.  I am going to file the game in the “not for me anymore” category.  I might visit occasionally since it is free for me to do so, out of sheer nostalgia, but it isn’t something I could ever really get into again.  The gameplay overall is just not what I am looking for out of an MMO.

Since this is the big holiday weekend in the United States, I wish all my fellow Americans a happy Independence Day.  For my dear friends in the rest of the world… I apologize… because for the next 24 hours you will hear about nothing but our Fourth of July celebrations.  I still hope you all have a great weekend.  We have a bunch of stuff to do to prepare for our vacation and a bunch of cleaning to do for our house sitter.  Guess I need to get up and be productive.

Other MMO Wants

This morning is going to be pure hell on wheels for me.  Not only is this my last day before our vacation…  but also about 10:30 last night I got a nasty surprise when I checked work email.  Apparently there is a big impromptu meeting going on today, at which I have to represent the department and speak intelligibly about everything we do.  How do you cram a million things into a quick talk that doesn’t bore all the non-technical people.  Also as a result I had to scramble around the house to find a pair of slacks that actually fits me.  Dropping 8-10 pants sizes in a few months tends to deplete the stock of clothing you don’t wear often.

Basically this morning I need to bang out this post as soon as possible so I can get into work and prepare for the event.  As a result I got up and around this morning at 5 am rather than my normal 5:30… here is hoping the time can be spent wisely.  I would normally just skip posting on a morning like this… but I am afraid that if I skip a day my routine will unravel and usher in yet another one of my 4-6 month lapses in posting. 

Other MMO Wants

On Monday I made my Ten MMO Must Haves  post and it kind blew up… as in it seemed to get far more traction than most of my posts do.  The only bad thing about it all… is as soon as I posted I thought of a few more items that I should have put on the list.  Listing Beards in the final slot was maybe not the most well thought out thing I have ever done… but in reality it is a metaphor.  Every player I know has one feature that they look for in the character creator.  My friend for example is always hunting for actual blonde hair… instead of the orange mess that most MMOs have.  That is one of the most important things to her, and just like me and beards… if it is not there she does not feel as close to the character.  Here goes a quick stab at the rest of a list.

1 – Mentoring

This one is huge, and I have no clue why I left it off the list.  I did the list as a whole on the fly Monday morning as I thought of things that I really want in every MMO.  Essentially those who are not familiar with the term, it is the practice of allowing higher level players to drop down to the same level as lower level characters.  The first game I ever experienced in was City of Heroes… and I felt it was absolutely revolutionary.  Eventually Everquest 2 added it in, and now Rift and Guild Wars 2 also have similar systems that have improved upon the base concept.  Essentially I want a way to be able to play with my friends… no matter how high above them I am.  I have a mantra that “anything that keeps you from playing with your friends is bad”.

2 – Single Server / Cross Server Architecture

Back to the mantra of “anything that keeps you from playing with your friends is bad”..  the traditional server structure is way too restricting.  If you have a small group of friends that all organize at exactly the same time… and pick one server ahead of time..  it is no big deal.  However if you have many different pools of friends, that you feel constantly torn between..  servers are pure hell.  This is the case with me… at any given point I have groups of friends playing a dozen or more games and on each roughly a half dozen different servers.  I have to unfairly pick and choose between who I play with.  Stop making me choose.  Let players communicate and group freely with any player who is playing your game.

3 – Single Account ID

This one has been massively controversial, but I have warmed to it over time.  If you scroll back far enough, there are even posts of me rallying against RealID, but again I got used to it.  The thing I want is the ability to create a single account id, like the later BattleTag system that is not connected to your real world identity.  Then let me choose which players to give that ID out to… and in doing so they magically get to see every character I have regardless of where I am playing.  Additionally it would be amazing if the system also allowed for friending single character names… for those individuals you need to have communication with… but don’t want to give them everything.  It is such a pain in the but to send your friends a long list of a dozen alts for them to add to their friends list each time someone new joins the game.

4 – Multiple Paths of Advancement / Endgame

The answer to the endgame should not always be Raid or PVP.  There should be something else… something a player who does not have the time to raid, or does not have the penchant for pvp can do to constantly better their character in game.  This could be something like the Alternate Advancement and Planar Advancement systems in Everquest 2 and Rift… or could be a series of epic quests that allow your character to obtain very slowly raid like gear like TSW has implemented.  There needs to be a way for players to feel like they are constantly evolving their characters.  It is when characters start to feel stagnant that players lose interest with a game and leave.  Help me not get bored with your game, by giving me lots of things to do when I hit maximum level.  Daily Quests are fine… but they are not a solution to anything.

5 – Alternate Leveling Paths

This is something that has mutated over the years, and I really wish there was a way to undo it.  When Everquest launched it had a distinct leveling path for each race in the game.  While some of them quickly merged together once you hit the second or third zone… they still started out as unique experiences.  When World of Warcraft launched, you had roughly three leveling tracks per race… and this still ended up giving you a fresh way to level your alts.  Now in games like Rift and SWTOR… there is a single track for every member of a faction… and as a result by the time you level your alts… you have nothing really to look forward to.  Give us multiple ways to get to the end of your game… do not penalize players for wanting to jump around and try new content paths.  I realize multiple paths of content takes more development time… but it also improves the quality of your game for players in the long run and makes alting far more sticky.

6 – No Faction Wall

This is a concept that needs die in a huge inferno.  This is without a doubt probably the worst seemingly permanent lineage of World of Warcraft.  The concept of setting up a red and a blue faction that are diametrically opposed and can in no way communicate is just a shitty way to create a game.  Again back to the mantra of… “anything that keeps you from playing with your friends is bad”.  If your friend has to sacrifice what he wants to play… for the greater good.. he will always regret at least somewhat the path not taken.  Additionally it is very easy for two friends who joined the game at different times to end up on opposite sides of the battle field. 

Everquest and Everquest 2 had the best faction systems in the game… in that no only could you communicate with any player freely, but if you so chose to… and with copious amounts of work.. you could raise your faction and be able to function as a member of those societies.  Additionally in Everquest 2 they gave the option of betraying your faction through a serious of quests and permanently changing your allegiance.  Faction Walls are just a non-creative solution to the problem of setting up PVP.  Rift probably did the best decision it ever did when it released the “Faction as Fiction” patch, making it so that both Defiant and Guardian could group, communicate, and guild freely.  Additionally they set up 3 new factions that were not connected to either of the original… which recruit players to fight battles for them.  This gave you three way pvp without having to make life restricting to your players.

Wrapping Up

This one is going to be extra short today.  I’ve spent thirty minutes digging into six more items on the cutting room floor that MMOs should have.  I need to finish getting ready and get into work so I can prep for the event.  I hope you all have a great day, and maybe this will jiggle loose some other ideas you have about what a “best of breed” MMO needs to have.  Tomorrow I am off, so my intent is to try and finish up the second part of the “How To Rift” series.

Microsoft’s Turn to Troll

Last night ended up nothing like I had expected.  Since it was extremely nice out here in Oklahoma, we ended up batching up a bunch of errands we needed running.  As a result I did not end up getting home until well after 8 pm, and when I did get home… I was too out of it to really get into much of anything.  I seem to have acquired a need for sleep over the last few days.  For now I am indulging this insane fancy and going to bed at a decent hour.

Dendrome

rift 2013-07-01 20-44-18-06

I am well behind the curve content wise in Rift, as last night was the first night I really spent roaming around the Dendrome.  I have had this vision quest of sorts and have been hell bent on finishing leveling fishing.  At this point I am around 340 and the rest of the journey is extremely slow and painful.  I have been setting my goal on completing the fish exchange in Tulan each day… which ends up giving me several levels in the process of fishing up 12 rare fish.  Unfortunately I do not yet have the patterns, for the lures that speed up each variety of rare fish.

I have to say I really like Dendrome so far.  It reminds me a lot of Ember Isle… but far less brutal for players to break into.  Everywhere I look there is another piece of a quest, so it feels like it would take me ages just to reach a point where I felt like I could do dailies here.  Once I start a carnage quest… I tend to get distracted and have to complete it while I am in the area.  I would not want to try and do the repeatable quests until I had cleared a good deal of these shiny objects from my view.

While I was out in the zone, I managed to get in on an Air Invasion.  The first stages went by so quickly that I cannot even tell you what the objectives were… but I managed to make it to the final boss fight when it was around 80% health.  It was one of the nastier zone bosses I have encountered… in that it spawned 3 of those flashing red bubbles that have become so ubiquitous with instant death in Rift.  These bubbles then proceeded to path randomly through the group knocking players back and dealing large amounts of damage.

I actually got insta-gibbed as I rolled up on the fight as not all of the effects had loaded in for me yet.  The completely insane part was that for killing one zone boss I managed to get 330 Infinity Stones.  Granted at this point I am struggling to find things to spend them on, and I would have far rather had Empyreal Slayers Marks… it was cool nonetheless and would help out someone needing gear badly.  So far I think I am going to like Dendrome as a whole, and I look forward to exploring it in time.

Microsoft’s Turn to Troll

 

Yesterday one of the big stories that caught my attention is that Microsoft Announced the first months title for the XBox Gold free games program.  In the conference that I have linked above… Microsoft said…  to kick off that program I’d like to share just two of the titles we’re going to offer over the next few months – Assassin’s Creed 2, and Halo 3. So obviously… players… media outlets.. essentially everyone was expecting the title announced to be well… either Assassins Creed 2 or Halo 3.  Instead they dropped the bomb on us that it would be Defense Grid:  The Awakening.

This is the equivalent of saying you get a .99 app store title for free.  No offense meant to the makers of the game, I am sure it is a perfectly fine title.  Tower Defense games however are a dime a dozen, they are the new Bejeweled… everyone and their brother has created a “priced to own” clone.  So there is absolutely nothing exciting about this announcement.  Even if you like Tower Defense titles, which I do not… no one in their right mind can put this title in the league of Assassins Creed 2 and Halo 3 as far as player appeal.

What I don’t really understand… is how Microsoft can not think these are bad moves.  They keep doing it over and over again… and then doing the equivalent of standing there with a shocked face as people rage around them.  I am just flabbergasted as to how they could ever think most of the calls they have been making would play well with the gamers.  Essentially Microsoft Gold is a horrible deal… it has always been a horrible deal… and giving away appstore titles is not going to change the fact that it will likely always be a horrible deal.

If Microsoft Gold existed in a vacuum it might be considered a good thing… but when you compare it against Playstation+ it is a phenomenally bad deal. Gold costs roughly $60 per year and Plus costs roughly $50, so pretty comparable what you get there.  However with Plus you end up getting instantly a dozen ps3 titles ready for download… and they cycle in new titles and cycle out old ones on a monthly basis.  Additionally you get the ability to demo the full version of any game in the PS3 library… that means if you purchase it.. your save games still apply.  Additionally you get a significant discount on any games you purchase through PlayStation plus, and they are currently running some crazy steam like sales.  In the first year… they gave away 64 titles through the PlayStation plus subscription.

So as I sit back and look at this… I cannot fathom how Microsoft feels like Gold is a deal… and that they are somehow sweetening the pot by giving away a single game a month.  All the service really does is give you access to features that should have been included in the console in the first place…  like Netflix.  The whole bait and switch over talking about AAA titles and giving players an AppStore title instead only serves to make the deal even worse.  I feel like Microsoft needs to re-evaluate their entire stance on gaming… and collectively “pull their heads out” for lack of a better term.  Feinting ignorance only works as long as you are willing to stop doing stupid things…  at this point they need to completely rethink their strategy.

Wrapping Up

Well today is trash day and I need to finish gathering it.  I hope you all have a great day… and I hope my tone has not been too ranty lately.  I’ve just had various things that I feel passionate about on my mind.  When I start talking about them… I tend to come out a bit more harsh than I intend to.  I am sure that lately I have come off as a PlayStation fanboy…  but I am just supporting what I feel like is the better deal.  I own both an Xbox and a PS3 and have games I play on both regularly.

Ten MMO Must Haves

This morning I got up roughly 15 minutes before the alarm went off… and decided to that rather than be groggy later… I would go ahead and get up and around.  Right now I am kind of questioning that decision, since the bed seems like a really amazing idea.  I had a really spastic yesterday as I never could really decide on a game to play.  Since Final Fantasy beta was closed by the time I got up and around I ended up cycling through Everquest, Rift, Vanguard, and Defiance never quite sticking in any of them.  As a result I don’t have much excitement to talk about… and I am nowhere near finished with my second part of How To Rift… so I am going off in a completely different direction.

Ten MMO Must Haves

Basically over the years I have noticed several features that I expect most MMOs to have, and when they are not there it greatly harms my enjoyment for the long run.  I keep cycling back to the ones that do have most of the list.  Granted this is in no way a complete list, as I am sure there are things I have omitted for the sake of a clean number, but these are definitely all things I would prefer to see in an upcoming title.  These are not necessarily in order of importance… but more the order in which I thought of them.

1 – Random Events

Nothing breaks up the monotony of questing and killing mobs like a random army invading the countryside.  I have always liked when random things happen in games, I even like random loot so long as it is not something I need to progress forwards.  In the post Rift MMO world, I feel like random things happening in your world is an absolute must have.  When it is missing, the game feels extremely stale to me.  When it is done well, you forget what you are doing and follow along the flow of what is happening in a specific zone.  This should be events chosen from a long list of potential ones… not the same event happening over and over like in Guild Wars 2.  Their implementation did not serve to make the world feel alive, but instead made it feel even more like a carnival ride resetting itself every so often.

2 – Passive Grouping

I should be able to help other players out, and they help me without having to worry about whether or not I tagged the mob first.  Grouping should be something you do to hang out with people, not something you feel obligated to do constantly just to get through game content.  I feel as though simply touching a mob should give me credit for whatever that mob is required for.  Rift and Guild Wars definitely do this extremely well… but when I go back to a game that does not have it… I become a kill stealing asshole.  I just forget that mob tagging is an actual thing that is still in games.  If you do not have passive mob tagging… you are bad and should feel bad.

3 – Puzzles and Collectibles

I have the tendencies in me to power level myself to the cap and then get bored feeling there is nothing left to do.  If your game has little puzzles and collectible bits it helps to make me stop and smell the roses.  I feel for other players this becomes a meta game all in itself.  These systems all seem relatively simple to implement, but it seems like there is a greater return on investment as far as gluing a player to your game.  Rift and GW2 both have amazing examples of puzzles, and EQ2 has probably the most extensive collection system I have seen in a game.  I greatly prefer there to be something for me to always be on the lookout for, that offers interesting gameplay and forces me to stop quest grinding.

4 – Moveable UI Elements

This one is huge to me.  Essentially I will if given the option set my UI to look the same from game to game.  I like certain windows in certain locations because it helps me not have to think about where things are.  When you play lots of different MMOs this becomes something extremely important.  Additionally I find myself setting up all my hotbars the same… 0 is the interrupt key, 7 is my combo point dump, 5 is charge/deathgrip, etc.  As a result I really hate your game when you force me to play with your idea of how the UI should look.  No matter how much research you have put into your UI, it is not ideal for everyone… and as a result you should never force players into your chosen UI design box.  Make the windows unlock able and moveable  either through the default UI like Rift or through Addons like WoW.

5 – Map with User Defined Waypoints

This is another big one for me.  Navigating your world should be easy for the players.  I should be able to open my map, click a point that I want to travel to and then get some kind of directions as to how to get there.  This can be as simple as an Icon on the edge of the mini-map showing you the direction of your destination, or as complex as some sort of golden path or arrow pointing the way.  Additionally it would be really amazing if your system allowed player defined permanent waypoints.  That way we could actively mark whenever we found something cool in your world.  TSW does an amazing job of this.. and I have tons of little markers scattered through all my maps pointing to nifty things I found.  This is definitely something all games should emulate.

6 – Sortable/Searchable Bank and Inventory

First off let me say.. that the concept of physical bags with limited storage is something no one should ever do again.  I greatly prefer one big inventory space because usually with that comes the ability to sort, filter, and search the contents of your inventory.  Rift does an interesting hybrid model, in that they still have physical bags, but they have a sort and search functionality that makes up for the fact of having to juggle multiple containers rather than just one.  Trying to find things in your bags should not be considered a meta game… and you should help players out so they have to spend as little time doing this as possible.  There have been times I have logged into EQ2… looked at the state of my bags and logged out immediately because I did not want to spend the next 30 minutes clearing them out.  That game is the worst case scenario… but I have had similar happen in many other games as well.  Make your inventory system help the player rather than hinder them.

7 – Sell All Junk Button

If your game drops junk items from mobs aka “Greys” and you do not have a sell all junk button… you are a horrible person and should be drug out into the street and shot.  Nothing is more frustrating than going through your inventory and having to manually sell a bunch of trash items that have no real purpose for existing other than to give you some cash.  Better yet, don’t even drop the trash items and give us additional gold instead.  I think the running theme of the last two should be that Inventory Maintenance is not a fun meta game.  No one enjoys it, and all it does is make the player feel like they have just completely wasted their time.  I am completely fine with getting additional cash in lieu of junk, but if you do have junk… for the love of god make a sell all crap button.

8 – AOE Looting

Thank you Rift for creating this construct… and thank you modern MMO developers for having the common sense to say “damn, why didn’t we have this” and adding it to your games.  Nothing is more annoying than trying to select that one corpse from a pile of corpses that still has loot on it.  My OCD will not let me go without searching all the bodies… it is like I knew that if I missed one… that would be the one that dropped some rare epic item.  Again this is a cousin of the whole inventory maintenance is not a fun meta game…  neither is looting.  Better yet… all corpse interactions should be AOE as well… where the hell is my AOE skinning.  The first company to give me AOE skinning, herbing, and mining of corpses… will be a god in my eyes.

9 – Full Character Appearance System

Now when I say this… I am not talking about Transmogrification.  I could go on an hour long rant about how horrible that system is and how it is a half assed version of the good appearance systems.  What I am talking about is additional sets of character doll slots that allow you to directly override the appearance of an item with another item.  Rift has probably the best implementation overall right now, since you can have something like 12 wardrobe slots with ready to switch to outfits on the fly.  The only gotcha there is due to their own constraints they had to implement a shitty “transmog” like system for doing the weapons.  Players should never have to run back to a vendor to change their appearance…  stop making them do busy work.  I would love to see developers emulate the way the system works in EQ2, because you can literally change your appearance to anything in the game… no class restrictions.

10 – Facial Hair

I had a few other items I considered putting on the list… but honestly to me personally this one has to be here.  If your game does not have the ability for me to give my character a nice beard, especially a moustache and goatee combo…  I will hate your character creator and likely not play your game.  I have no clue why this is so important to me… but it is.  Namely I have seen the lack of facial hair in the Asian MMOs… but I struggled to find a look I could stomach in Guild Wars 2 as well.  Additionally I cannot stand the “pretty boy” appearance that some games have…  but I won’t go into that right now.  Please for the love of god when you design your character creator… make Facial Hair a slider…  not something that is attached to another attribute like hairstyle.

Wrapping Up

So there you have it… my ten must haves for a modern MMO.  Like I said, I am sure that it is not a complete list at all… and as soon as I post this… I will think of another 10 things that should have been on the list.  These however are the things that immediately came to mind when being frustrated with MMOs that do not have them.  I would be curious to hear about what your list is, and whether or not I have hit your key frustration points.  I hope you all have a great day, and I hope I manage to stay fully conscious all day long since I got up so early.

Sense of Humor

Be warned… this is one of those mornings when I just don’t really feel like doing a blog post.  It isn’t necessarily that I don’t want to write… it is that I don’t feel like I have anything really exciting to share with the world.  But several months ago I made a commitment to blog every morning or evening, and I have not dropped that promise yet.  Though quite honestly the timing of the evening posts has been a bit odd and something I need to work on.

Searching for Something

Most of yesterday was spent in some fashion roaming around town.  At first I was on a mission to hit a bunch of used bookstores, namely the largest ones here in town looking for something I could not quite describe.  Essentially I am doing a lot of pre-writing for my attempt on NaNoWriMo this year.  I am one of those people that I don’t feel like I can write about something, without knowing more about the world itself.  The world I have built in my head is extremely intricate and as a result I am having to do quite a bit of research.

The only problem is I cannot put my finger on exactly what I am looking for.  I have been searching for ethnic folk tales, lore, and even role-playing game books that are set in non-European/American settings.  I feel like in those two realms I have a fairly firm grasp on the classical lore, mythology and cast of creatures.  Where I am really lacking is China and the countries of the former USSR.  Additionally I could definitely use some more information on the creatures of the African continent.  I know some of it, but not nearly the clarity I would like.

Essentially I am trying to build political struggles, kingdoms and relationships between various groups of magical creatures.  I have a lot of things in place, but I want more resolution and granularity of who lives where and  controls what.  The irony about this whole thing is… that the story I will likely weave through this world will only touch a tiny tiny bit of it.  But I feel like I need to know what the topography of the world is like before i can populate any part of it with characters. 

This is also why I am getting started this far ahead of November, trying to weave together a world that makes sense to me.  One of the things I hate about a novel is when it feels like there was no master plan to the world, or that when a big reveal happens. it is a massive let down because it doesn’t make much sense.  Since this is a hang-up of mine… I feel like I have to build the world first and then write about it.  I thought that maybe I might stumble onto a collected book of folklore or something like that, but at the end of the day I pretty much came up empty.  I got one very thin children’s book that collected some non-traditional mythology… that will mostly be a point of reference as I look up all of the tales it mentions online.

Sense of Humor

ffxiv 2013-06-29 09-23-50-26 The one overarching thing about Final Fantasy is that at no point can you really take yourself too seriously.  For a good chunk of yesterday when I was not out and about searching for whatever I was looking for…  I ran around looking like this.  This is one of the few times I wished I was colorblind…  this was all bought off the same vendor mind you.  Not sure how a red horned helm, green hauberk, pink gloves and white/yellow pants go together…  but man is it colorful.  That is the thing that makes  Final Fantasy so different that most of western games, is that it is over the top absurd at times… in the character designs, the bosses and monsters, and even the dialog.

To some extent this makes the game play more enjoyable because you are unable to get completely focused in on the mission at hand.  I find I have done a lot of “stopping to smell the roses” in this game so far as I haphazardly roam around the countryside looking for whatever I happen to need for a quest.  There are a ton of intricate systems in this game, and most of them are not well explained to the player.  I stumbled onto a hunting system that seems to involve you killing a certain number of mobs with a “cheese wheel” icon on their head.  These are lumped into ranges and there is some kind of reward for completing a difficulty tier.

Additionally I figured out that the “Golden Pretzel” Icon I kept seeing is actually anytime you are gaining experience.  This is no lie… I seriously kept trying to figure out how I could spend all those pretzels I was gaining.  Upon second look… I am guessing it is probably a golden cherry blossom or something of the sort.  But to me it looks like a pretzel.. and the advance dialog icon still looks like an ice cream cone.  I can tell this game as a whole was not designed for western eyes.  Like I am sure not everyone sees a pretzel when they look at that icon, that for someone else it would make a lot more sense.

Story Quests

ffxiv 2013-06-29 14-33-37-24 One of the other cool things I stumbled onto was what I am calling Story Quests for lack of a proper term.  Essentially every so often you will get a quest that involves you going to investigate something.  When you do it will launch into a short cut scene, and then usually a pretty epic battle that is sometimes assisted by NPCs joining your fight.  From what I understand these are unique to your class, so that the ones I am getting are for marauders alone.  They remind me a lot of the SWTOR class storyline in that you have an opening cinematic/dialog the fight itself and then a resolution cinematic/dialog after it is over.

ffxiv 2013-06-29 14-32-33-13 Some of the battles like the one above are just absolutely insane.  Essentially me and the party of NPCs had to deal with wave after wave of giant crabs, each wave including smaller mobs and big boss mobs.  From what I can tell the secret seems to be.. focus on the smaller adds and let the NPCs deal with the big guys for you.  Once they have solid aggro and you have finished off the trash waves, you can help them burn down the big guys.  I’ve done three of these so far, and that seems to be the rule for each.  How you can generally tell is if the boss type mob is a significant number of levels higher than the trash mobs.

Wrapping Up

So far I am still enjoying myself playing the beta.  I still feel like there is a ton that I just do not quite understand yet… but overall that has not prevented me from enjoying the game as a whole.  This is one of those games that is deceptively simple at face value, but seems to have a ton of different and intricate systems once you get engaged with it.  This should help to keep players hooked on the title for the long haul.  I did not experience the 1.0 version of Final Fantasy XIV but the 2.0 version seems like it is something that western audiences will really enjoy.  I hope you all have a great weekend, as right now I am cutting this off and going to go play some more.

Chocobo Nostalgia

Good morning you happy people, or at least I am trying to view the world as happy people.  In the process of waking up, and I have just munched on a wonderful sausage roll.  My wife is back safely from her trip, so honestly it is a pretty good day.  Later on we are going to go out used bookstore shopping… essentially I am looking for reference material for my process leading up to a run on NaNoWriMo.  I am doing a lot of pre-writing and world building to give myself a base to build a story upon.  Nonetheless it should be a pretty leisurely welcome back to town activity, since we are both bibliophiles.

Chocobo Nostalgia

ffxiv 2013-06-28 20-30-24-75 Last night I got the opportunity to play Final Fantasy XIV a Realm Reborn for the first time.  I went into this process a little sceptical based on the horror stories I had heard about Final Fantasy XI and the original revision of this game.  However Square Enix has spent lots of money and many years making the title over for this relaunch and it shows.  I have an odd relationship with the Final Fantasy franchise.  These are among some of my favorite games, but something happened along the way.

After Final Fantasy IX it seems like they change the style of gameplay.  They went from lots of open world exploration to mostly “on rails” action sequences blended between a ton of cut scenes.  I have never been a huge fan of the whole “interactive movie” experience…  I want to play a game… not watch it.  So as a result I have fallen fairly out of love with Final Fantasy and the vast majority of JRPGs.  However recently I have been replaying my favorite games in the series… namely Final Fantasy 4,5 and 6.

Final Fantasy XIV seems to be a call back to this noslagic area of the game, and I am completely fine with that.  The setting is magical and steampunky at the same time… and there is an ever present evil empire component to the storyline as told through the opening vignet.  I had flashbacks to the opening sequence of Final Fantasy 6 as I saw the same magitech walkers here.  Additionally there are chocobo stables sprinked throughout the world and this really gives the overall feeling that you are back in the classic area of Final Fantasy.

The Character Creator

ffxiv 2013-06-28 21-47-24-19 Character creation is an essential part of any game, in that can you create something you want to play.  Normally I have this problem with asian mmos… for whatever reason I can never create a character I like the appearance of.  I have never really gone in for the “pretty boy” appearance that they all seem to want to give you.  Final Fantasy however strikes a good blend between that standard and the rough and tumble western ideal.  Essentially you can choose between playing humans, elves, gnome like Lalafel, big ogre-like race, and finally the mi’quote the cat people.

Oddly enough after playing with the character creator a bit I found that I really liked the appearance of the Mi’quote so I ended up rolling a cat person.  I am not really sure how to quantify it, but they feel far less like a “gag” race than this concept normally is.  I felt like I could make a really interesting looking character that felt roguish and tough in spite of the fact that it has a tail.  Essentially they are more “Thundercat” and less Popori from TERA, and since I have always dug the Thundercats… it works for me.

The big improvement of this game and their character creation over most of the Asian MMOs is that they have facial hair.  This probably is not a big deal to most of the population… but for me…  all of my characters have facial hair.  One of the biggest problems i have with Dragon’s Prophet for example, is that I had to choose between one of two looks…  Handlebar Moustache or Unruly Man from the North.  There should always be steps between, and all games should have a nice clean moustache and goatee combo.  To developers out there… the fastest way for me to not like your game… is to not have a facial hair slider.

The Combat

ffxiv 2013-06-28 21-06-55-39 I had done some research ahead of coming into the game, and at the suggestion of friends that know my play style tastes… they suggested that I play a Maurader.  It is essentially a semi-defensive two handed wielding warrior.  I only managed to get through level 8 last night but I had several things in my arsenal at that point:  a standard strike, a sunder armor type attack, a cool short term defensive buff that has an animation similar to “Shell”, a damage over time ability, and an ability that causes the next attack to heal me.  Essentially all the trappings of the ideal high survival off-tank.  I will be curious to see if they become more tanky over time, but I am pleased to know it really does fit my play style.

Combat itself is deceptively simple, in that you could mash buttons and kill mobs relatively effectively.  However there seems to be some form of a built in combo system.. so that pressing one button will highlight the next attack in sequence.  Doing the attacks in sequence ends up dealing a very significant amount more damage.  Essentially the rotation I started doing was opening with my damage over time, refreshing my defensive ability if it was down, hitting my main strike and then hitting the sunder to complete a short combo.  By then I at most would need another basic strike to finish the mob off.

The other thing that feeds my bloodrage is the chain system.  Essentially after killing two mobs in a row it starts a timer in the lower right hand corner of the screen.  The game keeps track of every kill you make after the initial two, and at the end of the timer you are awarded bonus experience based on a multiple of the number of mobs you are able to kill in that timeframe.  While I have not tested this out, I think this will mean that grouping and keeping up a chain will be a far more efficient way of leveling.

The Quests

ffxiv 2013-06-28 20-40-35-30 This was admittedly the biggest barrier I had to the game at first.  After slogging through a truly excessive amount of cutscene that is not skippable… and requires you to keep clicking the “ice cream cone” icon to progress the story…  you are planted down in a port down and forced to run a ton of fed ex missions for the towns folk.  The positive is that the dialog is extremely well written and often times laugh out loud funny.  The negative is that there appears to be NO voice over at all.. and as a result the game feels extremely quiet.  It is funny how we have gotten used to some measure of voice dialog feedback.

Some of the quests are actually interesting… like there is one where you have to try and cheer up a pirate captain… and it walks you through the usage of common emotes.  So you have to /rally at one point to bolster her spirits.  Additionally it is nice that all quest items seem to be instanced, in that everyone gets their own copy of whatever clickable item needs to be clicked for a certain quest.  Again however, if your tolerance of fed ex style chores is minimal you will struggle with this phase of the game.  However it does reward a ton of money for doing it.

What I found out after the fact from my friends is that you can essentially just leave town and immediately start doing combat quests.  This is probably something I would opt for in the future… because after all the slogging through cut scenes… the last thing I really wanted to be doing was more cut scenes as I accepted all the townsfolk quests.  Supposedly if you go out and start the combat quests, you catch up in level extremely quickly and there is really no need to ever do the work for the townsfolk other than to get money or as a way of touring the town.

The World

ffxiv 2013-06-28 22-39-10-94

This is hands down the best part about the game… the world is completely gorgeous.  Everything about it just screams careful art direction.  The buildings are huge, the countryside rolling and open…  this feels every bit the part of a modern Final Fantasy game where everything is pretty and filled with activity.  Additionally it runs amazingly well on my laptop.  All of these shots were taken last night as I played and I was getting roughly 60 frames per second the entire time.  In certain ways the world reminds me of older MMOs, in that there are lots of little dungeons appearing all over the place… without actually declaring themselves dungeons.

There are so many things that exist just to exist and I have not found quests associated with them.  The game definitely seems to lay things out in a way as to encouraging exploring your way across the countryside.  Additionally I like that there are “revenge mobs” in the middle of leveling areas that you need to avoid.  In an area with level 2 and 3 mobs for example, there are giant roaming level 13 grass ogres that you have to be aware of.  Granted at this level they are non-aggro but I am sure that will not be the case eventually.  I have to admit I have great nostalgia for the fear that the Sand Giants in Oasis of Marr induced in players… and I look forward to seeing this progress as I move through content.

The Rundown

ffxiv 2013-06-28 20-10-00-55

Final Fantasy XIV feels like World of Warcraft got lucky with Final Fantasy XII…  and this offspring was the result.  Final Fantasy XII always felt like a single player MMO to me… and this game takes that concept, adds addditional people, fleshes it out and borrows a ton of polish from World of Warcraft.  It has better written and more creative quests, but there is no real innovation in that department.  If you hate WoW questing you will likely struggle here as well.  It has extremely simple and satisfying combat, but again no real innovation.  If you struggled with traditional MMO combat, you will also struggle here.

The real selling point of the game is that it proves an extremely polished final fantasy MMO experience.  Everything about this world screams final fantasy, from the opening sequence, to the way everyone dresses, to the UI feedback sounds and orchestral fill… all proudly say this is a final fantasy game.  If you always wished you could play a Final Fantasy game that was like World of Warcraft…  bam you have your ideal title right here.  I found it extremely enjoyable and pretty much as soon as I finish writing this review I will be booting back up the game and continuing my journey.  This game is proof that you don’t always have to innovate to make something enjoyable.

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.

howtorift[1] 

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

commander-keen-4-secret-of-the-oracle_6super-mario-world-2Mortal_Kombat

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

Bleach-Ichigo-Hollow-Wallpaper-1920x1200

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

defiance-tv-series-cast1

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.