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

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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.

Stressed

So I am getting a super late start this morning, as it is my birthday and I milled around the house rather than get ready and do my normal routine.  I took the day off from work because the intent was to pick my wife up from the airport as she was flying in at noon.  Unfortunately however that flight was cancelled due to weather… and she is not slotted to get into Tulsa until 9pm.  This kind of puts a huge dent in the enjoyment of my birthday as I was expecting to get to spend at least half of it with her.  However I got pinged over IM from a friend with this message… you think you get to take the day off from blogging just because its your birthday? So I guess I need to hustle along with my morning post.

Laptop Strikes Back

So when I last spoke about this yesterday, I was a bit chipper as the laptop guy had gotten back ahold of me and apologized for not responding.  He said he had been selling his car and busy dealing with that, but would be able to meet up Monday after he got off work at 12:30.  So we arranged a meeting and I took a late lunch to go meet him at 1:30.  I was feeling kind of crappy yesterday… extremely dizzy but I drove out to meet him and upon pulling into the parking lot I feel my pocket buzz.  When I pull out my phone I had received a message from him.

Hey man.  I can’t sell the laptop anymore.  Sorry for wasting your time.

So after all that hassle… the little fucker flakes out on me again.  If you have been following me for a long time… or read the link I posted to an old blog post…  I went through this exact same shit last time I tried to buy a laptop for myself on craigslist.  However we can seem to buy stuff for my wife anytime we want without major issues.  I feel like I am just cursed, and I have simply learned my lesson faster this time.  I flipped a big finger to the process of buying a laptop for myself through craigslist and went searching online.

To be truthful I had done a bit of this already when I thought the guy had flaked out… and found a slightly better version of the Lenovo y500 for a bit more and yesterday after talking to my wife I went ahead and placed and order.  The funny thing is… when you are spending $1000 on something… that $25 for over night shipping seems like a pittance.  Based on UPS tracking it shows that my new laptop is out for delivery, which usually means it will show up on my doorstep around noonish.

Everything about the laptop looks to be something that will hold me for another 2-3 years.  Honestly my Asus would have been just fine if it did not start having unexplained power issues.  It looked like it was going to cost around $300 as it was going to be the motherboard, and it just seemed silly to throw that kind of money at a machine that was already 3 years old.  Quite honestly the concept of SLI in a laptop blows my mind… I am so interested to crack it open and see what it can do.  Having had SLI before, I know it is not always the best choice and some games perform better using only a single card… but the 650 is still an upgrade over any video card I currently have.

Stressed

I have been super stressed this past week for so many reasons.  Work has been extremely wishy washy and uncertain, with our deadlines and goals changing on an almost hourly basis.  Put on top of that all the technical issues I have had with computers malfunctioning, and the fact that the acquisition of a new laptop had been a drama filled mess.  Compound all of that by the fact that I don’t really handle change well, and the absence of my wife has been probably the largest stress inducer, and I think my body is rebelling against me.

Yesterday I felt extremely horrible.  I took my blood pressure at one point and it was extremely high, I was super dizzy…  realized I had only had about 500 calories for the day… and also realized I had not actually had anything to drink since my early morning coffee.  Instead of coming back to work after my late lunch meet up I drove to the house and remote in, so I could sit in my quiet serene office in the dark and try and calm the hell down.  Additionally I drank about 32 oz of water and ate something for lunch.

So right now my goal for my birthday day… is to try and think as many calm thoughts as possible.  This may or may not happen since my wife is essentially stranded at an airport right now.  I am really hoping she ends up with an option to get home before 9pm.  Honestly we don’t really know WHEN she will be home… since the 3:30 connecting fight is on “Stand by”.  Again…  I need to think happy non-rage-inducing thoughts.  So the question is… what can I do that is super relaxing.

Leveling Crafting

So far my plan is to farm materials and finish leveling Foraging and Weapon Smithing in Rift.  For whatever reason I find this activity calming.  I have always liked riding around picking herbs, harvesting nodes and skinning bodies.  There is just something serene about moving around a pretty landscape with a nice orchestral soundtrack.. and those little nodes on the map give you just enough of a reason to be there to keep it interesting.  At this point I am in the level 50 zones working on Carmintium and the assorted herbs.

My problem is that I don’t quite remember what the sweet spot for ore and herbs was.  I roamed around Iron Pine Peaks and it didn’t seem all that great, so I am thinking today I might go out to Ember Isle.  At least there I have a shot at the various rare mobs that drop pets and such.  Hopefully the activity will be just as calming as I seem to need it to be, and hopefully before long there will be a knock on my door with a new toy to set up.

I hope you all have a great day, and I want to thank everyone for the warm birthday wishes I have received over twitter and G+.  I play a little game each birthday, to see who is the first automated bot to wish me a happy birthday.  This year it was the WoWAce forum, which now that I think of it… might have been the winner last year as well.  It is just interesting to log into email and see a flood of automated happy birthday messages.  I have to say the experience of G+ and their birthday messages is a bit odd as well..  when you click the message saying you have birthday greetings it gives you a huge page of ALL the greetings.  Surprise ninja greetings!!  Anyways… maybe now Chuck will be satiated… I have blogged on my birthday.

First Retraction

This morning I am really struggling at the whole getting my act together thing.  I slept well enough and had a warm purring cat snuggled up against me all night.  Since my wife is out of town she has taken to sleeping on her pillow and curling up against me.  I really appreciate the company, because for whatever reason this summer convention season has been the roughest for me.  I think it is because I no longer have the busywork that came with leading a large guild to keep me occupied.  Whatever the reason I am having a lot of “low mental health” days, and am having to fight pulling the covers over my head and forgetting the world exists.

First Retraction

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So I have to warn you…  sometimes when I say things I am just talking out of my ass.  I should have done a bit more research on the Ice Strider mount.  It showed up in my mailbox on the day after the queues got completely maddening.  Upon opening my mailbox I saw everyone and their brother riding the thing in Meridian and just assumed it was a peace offering from Trion because of the patron queues.  Apparently that is not entirely the case, but it was a peace offering of sorts. 

Basically from what I have been able to glean…  the Ice Strider mount is a freebie for anyone who purchased the “Storm Chaser Edition” of Storm Legion… aka the whole pay for a year of Rift get the expansion and some other goodies for free.  Since all of us that did that still have several months of sub left before that deal runs out… they gave us a unique version of the 1350 gem mount for free and an additional $50 in gems as a “we’re sorry we went f2p but we aren’t giving you back your money”.

I am completely fine with this, I just wish they WOULD give players a pet or something for the insane patron queues.  Much the same as when The Secret World went f2p, I felt like the rewards they give lifetime subscribers were more than enough to make up for the initial cash outlay…  I also feel like the perks that Rift gives patrons are more than enough to make up for the cash outlay. 

The only thing I would still like is I feel that patrons should get some kind of a monthly gem stipend.  Every MMO F2p/Hybrid model has this BUT Rift.  My station cash accrues station cash at 500 per month if I am just sitting there doing nothing with it.  I feel that as a patron I should be getting some sort of similar perk here.  It is not enough to riot and burn down the city over…  but it would be nice.

More Laptop Woes

Well the guy I was trying to buy the laptop from has gone completely unresponsive.  Making it worse he has reposted the laptop this morning on Craigslist.  I have no clue why he decided he did not want to sell it… I am guessing he was holding out for the original price listed… since I did talk him down a little bit.  Would have been nice for him to just say “look I really need the X dollars” and see if I was willing to counter.  I get the impression I have been dealing with a teenager, just based on sentence structure.  At this point I am looking at options through traditional retail venues for the same laptop.  This whole process is maddening.

Four Job Fiesta Begins

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Last night the FF5 Four Job Fiesta event kicked off, or at least Gilgabot started responding to assignment requests… and as a result everyone was off to the races.  It has been literally years since I have played this game… I originally played it when the English translation hack first became available for the SNES rom version.  This was back my junior year of college in 1996-1997 ish.  So I remember almost nothing about the game, but I remember I never actually beat it.  One of my best friends has been pestering me for years to join in the bandwagon… so I have.

You can follow my progress and assignments on my player page on the website: Belghast.  If you are interested in participating yourself… I think you can still sign up.  Check out the rather arcane twitter based sign-up process here.  So far I have been assigned the Wind Crystal job and the Water Crystal job.  My first job was the Black Mage, that I was fairly happy about… since the black magic tends to be the workhorse of ANY Final Fantasy game.  My second pick… not so much…  Red Mage is probably in my bottom 5 of all jobs available…  probably absolute zero is the Bard… but Red Mage is close.  I have no clue why… but I have disliked Red Mages since Final Fantasy 1.  They always seemed to be not quite good enough at anything…  to make them a pick worth having.

I will continue playing later, but I am doing the play through on my PSP using the Gameboy Advance version.  So far I am really impressed with the way the GBA ports work.  If I ever find my GBA… I will totally pick up official copies of these games.  I do however own the ps1 ports of all the early final fantasy games… so I feel far less dirty about emulating them.  I have to say… given my spastic play style… the emulators are the way to go.  Save states are a godsend for when you need to set down the game and go do something.  Sadly this is only something that really works well in emulators… quick saves are nice but still take several screens before you can walk away.

 

I hope to make some serious progress today, because happy Final Fantasy music does a decent job of making me forget just how depressed I am.  I mean seriously… who cannot be happy while listening to the Chocobo theme?  I get bummed about the current state of JRPGs… but this golden age will always make me happy.  There will likely never be a time when I don’t have one of these on my phone or somehow accessible easily.

Wrapping Up

Well today is Fathers Day, so hopefully you all have a great one.  I know I am slotted to have a late lunch/early dinner with mine as a combo move to celebrate Fathers day and preemptively celebrate my Birthday which is this coming Wednesday.  I will still pick up the check… because that feels like the proper sonly thing to do.  I am not sure why… but I get a warm fuzzy feeling when I pick up the check.  I like taking care of people… and I think that feeds into that protective instinct.

The Laptop Saga

I realize it is super late in the day for me to be doing my normal morning blog post…  but it’s a weekend and I also do not have anyone else here in the house with me to help me gauge what time of the day it is.  Additionally I did a ton of amazing and awesome things last night and this morning… and I can talk about absolutely none of them.  So that leaves me scrambling for things to say that do not break some NDA somewhere.  I know I am not setting this blog post up extremely well.

The Laptop Saga

When last we visited my laptop, it was having intermittent issues with the power cord.  I took the laptop to a repair guy who told me that it was most likely still the power cord… but I had just bought a shit one for cheap from amazon…  which I did.  I went through the trouble and found an OEM power supply from Asus… same model numbers and everything and it arrived on Thursday.

I have to say all day Thursday I was super pumped about going home and being able to game on the couch again.  I get the magical cord out of the box… hook it up… and the same damned thing happens.  So screw you laptop… and screw you guy that told me it was most definitely the cord.  No really I am sure he was just trying to do the least invasive thing first.  Now I have no clue what is up with my laptop… and at this point the repair guy doesn’t think it is just the power socket and would more likely be something motherboard related.

Enter New Laptop

I had been drooling over a laptop that was posted a few weeks back on Craigslist… so when it seemed like a working laptop was not imminent I decided to text the guy.  Sure enough he still had it, and I was able to talk him down in price a bit.  The laptop is a Lenovo Y500 with Dual Geforce 660 video cards in a SLI configuration.  Pretty much everything about the laptop is drool worthy, and it is a massive upgrade to both my desktop upstairs and my previous laptop.

I ran to the bank and was able to get the cash that night, and text the guy…  he said he was busy at the moment but would text me back when we were able to meet up.  We agreed upon a local QuikTrip.  Apparently he had some car trouble and was in the middle of switching out an engine… and it ended up taking far longer than he had expected.  So as a result Thursday night didn’t happen.

The Delaying Game

We had set up to meet Friday night at 4:50 at the same QuikTrip.  QT is pretty much a common craigslist meet up spot, because you can go there are 4 am.. and it will still be extremely busy… with a pretty regular police stopping by factor.  I go there just ahead of the allotted time, and wait…. and wait… watching the highway getting almost excited every time I see a car that matches his description drive by.  At 5:30 I get a series of back and forth texts saying that he is having to work a double shift, because they are super busy.

I fully understand that, stuff happens…  he was supposed to text me back whenever he could meet up.  As of 1:15 the time I am writing this… I have not heard a word.  So at this point I am pretty much assuming that the deal has fallen through.  I am having flashbacks to all the hell I went through trying to get my last laptop off craigslist (I even blogged about it) before finally saying fuck it and ordering it from amazon for full price.  I personally like not having to take the initial value hit, and we buy quite a bit of stuff off craigslist for my wife… but it always seems to go to complete shit when it is something for me.

Hopefully the guy will text back with a firm time to meet up, but at this point I am not really holding my breath.  I have looked online, and I can do pretty much what I did last time and get the same configuration from an online retailer for a bit more.  However I just hate doing that.  It feels like we have a few good purchases again, and it restores my faith in humanity… then when I want something I end up dealing with nothing but flakes.

Rift Re-Launch

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I seriously hate thinking of this as a re-launch, but this term keeps getting used over and over recently.  Quite honestly however as a player it does feel like in many ways we are returning to April of 2011 and the launch of the game.  There have been some pretty significant queues on all of the servers.  Deepwood has been running around thirty minutes for Patrons, and Faeblight I have heard is around an hour and a half.  Trion has taken steps to try and alleviate this, however in their traditional “good guy fashion” they have done something to apologize to the players.

Pictured above is me riding one of the new cool mounts they added to the game with the opening of the store.  This normally goes for 1350 gems on the store, and from what I can tell has been selling pretty well.  However as an act of contrition, Trion has given every single patron a unique version of this mount… with a slightly different color pattern as a way of saying that they are sorry for the hassle of queues.  It is this kind of thing that makes me love Trion the company, and why I have stayed subscribed even when I was not actively playing the game.

If there is any company that deserves to be doing well… it is Trion.  I love supporting them because they really feel like they are one of the good guys.  As evidenced by my choice of topic yesterday, I am seeing so many players coming back to the game that I have not seen around since the original launch.  The game itself is in so much better a place than it was back then.  So hopefully a good chunk of these players will still along and chip some money in to support the game.  Based on the reports SWTOR has been doing insanely well since the F2P switch… and based on the first few days it seems like Rift has even more players.

Wrapping Up

Well like I said… so much of what I would want to talk about I cant.  So I really don’t have much else.  I am extremely ready for my wife to get home.  The house feels insanely empty without her.  My office gets super cold during the summer, as it is the first stop on the air exchange path… and has two vents.  I think this makes the cats not want to spend much time here… so without warm fuzzies to keep my company I am really just limited to my friends on mumble.  I am so ready not to be the only person in the house.  I hope you guys have a great weekend.

Telara Tourism Council

One of the things I was thinking about last night… is how much has changed in Rift since its release.  I know I spend a good deal of my time explaining things to my friends that are just starting the game, but last night I had a friend come back to the game after not playing since shortly after release.  There has been a lot of changes in that time, an almost staggering amount.  I thought I would take a few minutes this morning and outline some of the ones I find important, or think are easily missed.

Rift Mobile Client

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This one is often missed, and Trion itself does a fairly lousy job of promoting it.  Basically there are two applications tied to Rift… the mobile authenticator and then the mobile client.  What the client gives you is access to guild chat, direct player messaging, a handy invasion tracker and the most important feature… the “Lootables” scratcher cards. 

There are three types of cards available by default…  Planar Invasion shown above that rewards planar currency, Crafty Critters that rewards random crafting materials, and Shinies! that well… gives you a chance to win random artifacts from all the sets.  Occasionally there will be a fourth card that is tied to whatever world event happens to be going on, and will reward seasonal event currency.  The cards accrue once every hour, for a maximum of 6 cards stacked up at any time.  I tend to log in sometime during the morning and sometime during the evening and play all six cards at the same time.

IPhone Client DownloadAndroid Client Download

 

Planar Goods Vendors

Now that you a stash of planar currency that you have won from the lootables game… you should probably visit your nearby neighborhood Planar Goods and Rare Planar Goods vendors.  These will be located in all Mathosian leveling zones and sell a variety of goods for that hard earned Planar Currency.  The Rare Planar Goods vendor will sell several pieces of level appropriate gear, and the Planar Goods vendors tend to focus on Planar Essenses.  If you end up with an excess if purple quality currency, there is even a way to convert it to planarite by buying planar caches.  I find the combination of the lootables app and the planar goods vendors an excellent way to keep a character outfitted as you level.

Planar goods vendor listing from Rifthead

Instant Adventures

One of the most interesting features of the game is the ability to jump into essentially a group quest from anywhere in the world.  When you make it to Meridian, you get the option to enter Instant Adventures through a quest giver, however you can jump into them at any point prior to that by clicking the |> symbol on the menu bar and choosing Instant Adventures.  Essentially you can think of them as quest rifts…  in that it is a rolling group activity where you are asked to complete group objectives.  Every so many rounds you will be presented with a boss of sorts, that gives you a shot at planar gear caches.  The Adventure will continue on indefinitely… teleporting you to different areas of the map.  It is the perfect “I want to do something” activity, because you can hop on the adventure train and leave whenever you get tired or bored or decide you want to do something else.  A word of warning… you end up leveling extremely quickly through Instant Adventures.

Cross Server Chat

At some point along the line they opened up the lines of Cross Server communication.  You can talk to players on other servers by addressing them by this pattern  <Username>@<ServerName> so to talk to me, that is Belghast@Deepwood for example.  Additionally you can add people on other servers to your friends list, and see when they are on and in what zone they happen to be in.  Additionally you can join server channels for other servers by typing /join <channelname>@<servername>.

Cross Server Everything

This opened up some new possibilities… and they didn’t just stop with communication.  Basically you can do almost anything cross server these days.  The unofficial Cross Server event channels are CrossRaids@Faeblight and CrossEvents@Faeblight by joining these you can get in on action going on with any server.  If you join up with a cross server group, you can right click your portrait and choose “Teleport to Instance” and this will not so intuitively…  teleport you to the server the event is going on with.  This allows you to freely group with any player on any server at any time.  When you are done with whatever activity you are doing, you can right click your portrait and choose “Leave Instance” to get back to your own server.

Chronicles

At some point over the last two years since launch, they added in a new kind of small group based activity called Chronicles.  Essentially a Chronicle is a 1-2 player version of a raid encounter, designed to give you minimal loot, but let you experience the storyline told through each of the raids without the need for a large raid group.  There is a daily chronicle quest in Meridian, and doing it rewards dungeon currency.  More importantly it is a nice casual activity designed for two friends to complete.  They are pretty quick to complete and offer minimal trash mobs, and you get to fight the various boss encounters of the dungeon… but with far more forgiving mechanics.

Conquest

Conquest is essentially three way faction based PVP in the style of Dark Age of Camelot.  You are teleported into a map with multiple objectives, and you need to seize and hold as many as you can for your chosen faction.  The factions themselves are completely arbitrary, and you will likely end up playing multiples of them as the game tries to auto balance.  This was brought in with the “Faction as Fiction” patch, allowing you to freely group Defiant and Guardians together.  It seems to be on roughly an hour timer, so most avid players queue for this before starting their daily quests.

Faction As Fiction

Since I just mentioned this… and it is a pretty massive change in the game…  I thought I should make its own bullet point.  Defiant and Guardians are no longer diametrically opposed to one another…  you can now freely communicate, group, and join guilds with either faction.  This was a massive improvement, because to me faction walls always feel super artificial and just get in the way of my enjoyment of any game.  Previously Guardians and Defiants would work together by the use of /say to communicate… but this just made it all work better.  You are still restricted in the ability to go into guardian or defiant held areas like Sanctum and Meridian… however you can have both factions in the same guild.

Addons

These were not there at release and it took quite a bit for them to be added in, so I thought I would say a quick word or two.  Rift has pretty solid add-on support but they do it in a way slightly different than World of Warcraft does them.  Essentially you can make an add-on do almost anything, but it has to be an additive process… you cannot overwrite any core game functionality with your own features.  The prime example is Imhothars Bags… it gives you a Bagnon style single bag interface, but instead of overriding what your default bags look like… it simply creates a brand new window.  This admittedly takes some getting used to.

Some addons I use regularly are…

  • King Boss Mods – yup you guessed it… this is the DBM for Rift essentially
  • Rift Meter – simple single player dps meter… only shows your own damage output for diagnostic use
  • RareDar – alerts you when you might be near the spawn point of a rare mob
  • BananAH – this is the quintessential auction house mod, makes posting items much easier
  • CarnageBook – shows you which carnage quests you are missing for a given zone

Server Transfers

Having trouble finding the right server?  Unlike other games… Rift allows the player to change servers freely.  The restrictions are that you have to be level 15 to change servers, and that you can only do it once per character every seven days.  However these restrictions are pretty loose considering the value this gives players.  If they decide a specific server community is not to their liking… or if a guild dries up and they want to go play with some other friends…  this is completely doable and doable for free.

Crafting From Bank

This one was huge for me when it went in.  Essentially when you are crafting, it will give you access to all materials that are in your bank.  So you can stock pile materials in your bank, and craft up items as needed.  This will save most players a lot of bag space as they are roaming around the world.  My only wish is that someday they might segregate the crafting bank off and make it account wide… and do some kind of deposit construct from anywhere in the world.

Auto Sort Bags

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This was another huge one for me when I noticed it existed.  If you look in the image above, there is a little icon that has been added to the right-hand side of your bags.  This basically will sort your bags filling your last bag first, and sort your items by item type.  So it will sort all your gear together, crafting materials together, and other categories together.  This makes life so much better, and there is a similar feature added to banks allowing you to sort your bank bags as well.

Searchable Bags

Also in the above image you notice there is now an icon to the left-hand side of your currency window with a little magnifying glass.  This allows you to search items in your bags for a specific string.  You can also access this by hitting the default windows search hotkey Control+F.  The currency window becomes the search box, and any item that does not match the pattern you have typed in gets greyed out in your inventory, making whatever you are looking for nice and bright.

Wrapping Up

I need to get on the road, but I think these are most of the major items that have changed since patch that at least were extremely important to me.  I hope players that are new to Rift and players that are returning to Rift find them useful.  I hope you all have a great day and a great weekend.  I am extremely thankful that the week is almost over.

F2P Done Right

This is one of those mornings that I don’t really know what to write for the intro.  I am blaming it on feeling groggy and the excess amount of asthma medication I have been taking to get over this rough spot.  I ended up having to go into work after all yesterday, since there were events happening that I had to deal with personally.  I managed to get through most of the day by taking a double breathing treatment and just dealing.  Ironically it was going to lunch that killed me…  we went to a new BBQ joint around the corner… and I did not factor in the “bbq smoke” factor. 

F2P Done Right

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If you have been playing Rift for awhile, then yesterday was like Christmas morning.  Upon logging into the game yesterday I was greeted with so many patron benefits.  There was this huge graphic ticking down all of the loyalty points I had received and an odd burst of onscreen confetti.  Essentially I was roughly halfway through the purple tier of loyalty, and therefor got all the rewards leading up to that.  Additionally I had roughly 32,000 gems waiting on me to spend.  I was like a kid in the candy store looking through all the possibilities that I could purchase.

Essentially it seems like almost everything that required a significant platinum outlay is now purchasable with gems.  This includes wardrobe slots, extra souls, extra bank vault tabs, 2 new extra bag slots, mounts of all speeds, dimension goodies, wardrobes and equipment.  Just through loyalty bonuses, it seems as though I got two extra roles, as I now have my 5th and 6th role available.  One of the coolest rewards that I have yet to get permanently gives your player portrait the circle of red thorns that denotes an elite mob.  Trion has put in so much work on making this something really awesome for all players.

The Store

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One of the changes that I was not fully expecting is the fact that every single vendor UI in the game has been updated.  This has several sweeping effects on the gameplay in general, almost all of which for the better.  The screenshot above shows one of the recipe vendors in Meridian.  You will notice there is now a built in preview window so that simply clicking on an item previews its appearance.  Additionally if the item can be purchased with multiple currencies…  platinum, special currency or store gems the prices are all listed out separately.

The big change I was not expecting is the fact that you can open this store pretty much anywhere in the world, and purchase almost any faction specific item.  If the item requires a specific faction, it will be listed as well.  I have never been able to remember which vendor sold which item, especially when it comes to the various faction locked dimension baubles.  This gives you one extremely powerful, searchable and filterable UI for accessing all of these vendors.  Additionally this also means that you can purchase your raid and dungeon mark gear from anywhere in the world… including inside of that dungeon.

The thing that has overwhelmed me is the concept of just how much stuff is now up on the store.  In the wardrobes section for example…  there are literally several hundred outfits to choose from, including some new premium outfits.  Essentially it seems that pretty much any graphical appearance that exists out in the world somewhere… can be purchased through the store.  The other thing I noticed is that you don’t have to buy just completed outfits…  if you farmed your little arse off to get some appearance but were missing the boots…  you can just pick up said boots.

The Pricing

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So far the pricing model seems more than fair to players.  I want to say last night I saw that $20 bought you roughly 3200 gems.  So many of the items I actually wanted were well under 1000 gems.  This included 150% speed mounts, large dimensions, almost all of the wardrobes.  The bank vaults and two inventory tabs were fairly expensive but still within the 1000 gem range.  The one intriguing item to me was the trade skill slot unlocks.  Apparently you can now have up to 9 trades kills on a single character and it is 1200 roughly per unlock. 

I’ve essentially blown through all the gems that they gave me for extended loyalty, but I managed to get so many things that I felt I never could have.  I am horrible at farming currency in MMOs… it is just not a thing I enjoy doing at all.  I have a love/hate relationship with daily quests, and I have never been one to touch the auction house other than to purchase items.  The concept of acquiring money through any way other than the random and constant killing of monsters just feels tedious as fuck to me.  So as a result I always felt like I lacked the cash in game to do the things I really wanted to do.

Last night changed all that…  with the freebie currency I

  • Purchased the Moonshade Pools Dimension
  • Picked up several random Dimension Items Packs
  • Picked up two Large Houses for the Dimension
  • Bought the spiffy black gothic wardrobe outfit
  • Upgraded my mount to 150%
  • Bought the two extra bag slots
  • Bought most of the new bank vault tabs
  • Bought 3 new wardrobe slots
  • Bought an assortment of the Deeps boxes
  • Bought 2 Trade skill slots so I could add on Weapon-smithing and Foraging
  • Various sundry other little things…

I feel like I got massive amounts of quality of life things for the gems, things that I had always wanted but never had the platinum to pick up.  Essentially every thing I saw last night felt extremely reasonable price wise.  There are no $20 dollar pets or horses there… even the most expensive mounts would have been maybe $10 in gems.  This combined with all the nifty loyalty perks… like a 1 hour timer teleport to Tempest Bay made last night an extremely exciting night for me.

Patron Queues

The negative side effect of all this goodness.. is the fact that it has brought back queues for Rift with a vengeance.  Patrons aka subscribers cut to the front of the line… but on most servers there was still a significant queue for Patrons.  On Deepwood we had a roughly 20 minute patron queue, but on Faeblight they were up to an hour and a half at one point according to friends.  This is going to frustrate a large number of players, so I hope there is something they can do to alleviate the server load at least temporarily. 

I think it is awesome that pretty much everyone is coming back.  I have friends who had no interest in the game previously, patching back up their game clients to log in and check it out.  The real test will be whether or not the players stay.  Rift is one of those games that I would absolutely love… if I had a stable group of friends that wanted to play it.  Since our release guild fell apart as folks got bored with the game… I have essentially been flitting back and forth between guilds trying to find a new home.  The group I am with now is super nice, but it just isn’t the same as playing with the Stalwarts.  Fifteen years of assorted friendships cannot be replaced that quickly with new ones.

I feel like these changes however have lit a new fire under players to come back to Rift.  There is so much good happening in the game right now, so many amazing systems to play with.  I am overwhelmed by just how good the store implementation is.  I was expecting Trion to dip their toes in the water, but instead they turned on the fire hose.  The real challenge will be whether or not they can keep adding new and interesting reasons for people to spend money to the already significant catalog of items.

Wrapping Up

I need to wrap up and get on in to work.  I hope you all have an amazing day out there… and if you find yourself checking in on Rift, make sure to add Belghast@Deepwood and Belgrave@Deepwood to your friends lists.  I know I will be spending quite a bit of time in game in the coming weeks, and those tend to be the two characters I play the most.  I have a lot of friends starting up or getting back into the game, so here is hoping we can get some grouping going.

Computer Blues

Over the last few days I have been having what I term as “bad mental health” days.  I’ve been super stressed about various sundry things at work, and combine that with the fact that I just do not handle change well.  Every time my wife goes away during the summer for a conference, I go through this massive adjustment period.  So much of my life is intertwined with hers, that when she is gone… there is just a void.  I try my best to manage this “funk” but now and then it gets the better of me.  I am thankful that I have a lot of friends who are willing to cheer me up.

Computer Blues

It seems like over the last few days… my computers have been betraying me.  I have been having issues with my gaming laptop, where it is intermittently losing its power connection.  Fiddling with the cord brings back the connection for short periods of time, before going out.  I initially thought… this is likely a power supply issue so I did what I always do and went on amazon… found a replacement and got it shipped through prime.  I got the new power supply and it worked even worse.

After much research it seemed like the g73 model has had some issue with the power port getting lose itself.  After watching a few videos… I decided this was not something I wanted to undertake myself.  It involved pretty much a complete teardown of the laptop, de-soldering one port and soldering back in another.  I am essentially a software guy… I build my own PCs but that is mostly just assembling a bunch of parts that were designed to go together.  I have done soldering work before, but it was nothing I was ever extremely comfortable doing.

After digging around I found what appeared to be an extremely reputable guy here in my town that does this sort of thing.  He owns a “Nerds: We Can Fix That” franchise and as such is primarily a mobile pc repair truck, so we agreed to meet so that I could have him look over my laptop.  After doing various sundry tests his though process was that it really was a bad power supply.  After looking around he showed me a spot in the power connector one where of the prongs was most definitely crushed.  His suggestion was to find an original Asus power supply and try that.

After much digging I finally was able to get a real Asus power supply ordered… but unlike the speed I am used to with prime.. it wont be here until Thursday at the earliest.  As a result I am without my laptop and my ability to hang out downstairs while playing games.  I know I have blogged about this before… when I lost my Gateway FX laptop, but I never really appreciate how amazing that is… until I can’t do it.  After a long day it is so nice to just chill out on the couch with my laptop and half play games and half watch stuff off the DVR.  I am nervous however that this will not really be the issue, but I am willing to try it… and it is far less invasive than other possible solutions.

Another Betrayal

Last night I get home, and go upstairs to begin the evening ritual of playing something.  I get on mumble to talk to my friends… and in the middle of booting something up my gaming desktop locks up hard.  In fact at first I can’t seem to get it to boot…  which I later find that it is simply booting exceedingly slowly.  I go into diagnostic mode trying to figure out what exactly is wrong.  Everything seems to be operating as expected… voltage looks good… hard drive tests fine… memory tests fine.  So after much fiddling I am basically at square one as to what might have happened.

A lock up is common enough, but a lock up followed by not wanting to boot afterwards really floored me.  I am not talking windows booting… I am talking slow bios posting.  I am going to have to keep and eye on things, but last night switched from a gaming night… to a do maintenance on all the things night.  I went ahead and patched everything that could possibly be patched, updated all the drivers that could be updated… and did some registry maintenance.  Given my “bad mental health” state… having both machines down at the same time was a state I was almost unable to cope with.

I realize that these are all first world problems… and rather petty…  but having both machines potentially down at the same time sucked.  Luckily through all my fiddling whatever happened seems to be not happening now.  When a problem mysteriously goes away… it bothers the hell out of me though.  I am not sure what happened, have no log evidence of what caused the lockup/slow boot scenario and ultimately no evidence of what seems to have cleared it up.  My desktop is three to four years old at this point, so it might simply be aging hardware issues. 

Now that I think of it… it might be older than that…  I got it when we we were still raiding Wrath of the Lich King content in World of Warcraft.  It has been a trusty machine that has pretty much run anything I have thrown at it for several years.  It might in fact be time to upgrade…  but I would much rather do it on my own time than having a box just up and die on me.  Here is hoping that I have at least temporarily staved off whatever occurred.

Killing Psychos

I finally was able to get my machine in a state I was happy with around 9:30 last night.  At this point I got back onto mumble and decided to join some friends in Borderlands 2.  It was me playing Axton, Ash playing Zero and Rae playing a super bloodlust infused Maya.  Quite frankly the combination of Rae and I riding around in a vehicle together is probably a bad thing.  Especially when it comes to doing quests that have non-standard objectives.  There may or may not have been a few objectives we almost failed at… because we were both too busy shooting things to notice that was not the goal.

When the game first shipped for whatever reason I was not able to hook up with the crew playing it.  As a result I have pretty much only played single player borderlands 2 content.  Last night was an absolute blast, and having players to rez me…  really helped when I tried to play “tank” and bull rush a bunch of mobs.  I need to find some better weapons… because right now my assault rifle is a tap to fire model that seems to always need reloading at the wrong time.  I picked up an amazing sub machinegun last night, but it seems to go through bullets like water… and I am always scavenging to find more.

The combo of Axton/Maya/Zero seemed extremely formidable… but I think if you put ANY combination of different classes together you would have had the same results.  Looking forward to maybe getting back in tonight and finishing the quests we were doing.  Honestly I don’t really care if we even do quests…. I was just in the mood to roam around and kill things to satiate my “computer troubles” induced bloodlust.  Borderlands 2 is a really good game for that kind of mindless violence.  It is like the Saturday morning cartoon of death.

Rift Update

The other big thing going on today is the fact that it is the launch of the Rift Free to Play conversion.  It will be interesting seeing how this improves or damages the community.  My hope is that by lowering the barrier of entry it will be easier to get folks to try the game.  Additionally I am hoping for a path through the cash shop to pick up some dimension goodies… because quite frankly I have been way too poor thus far to really experience the dimension content properly.  In any case it will definitely be a massive change to the game… and as such interesting to watch unfold.

Additionally… it is really hard to type with a cat trying to balance on your arm.  I guess I should take that as a queue to wrap things up.  I hope you all have a great day, and that you are in a better mental place than I have been.  I think my body is betraying me as well.  This morning I am additionally having a “bad lung day” in that my asthma and allergies have decided to make my life hell.  Trying to decide if today will be a stay home and take breathing treatments all day occasion or not. 

Sony: Best Troll Ever

Last night was a truly odd occurrence for me.  I played a quick league of legends bots game with friends, and piddled around for a bit in Dragon’s Prophet managing to get level 20.  All of this was essentially “busy work” as for my inner circle of friends, the main event of the evening was the Sony Entertainment Pre-E3 stream.  After seeing it… there really is not much else I can talk this morning other than just how amazing the show was when contrasted with the Microsoft presentation earlier in the day.

Throwing the Xbone

 

Thankfully we have a lovely abridged version of the Xbox E3 conference that arrived on YouTube over night so I can link here for you all.  Basically the Microsoft conference was a massive improvement over the reveal event and its obsession with television.  They actually seemed like they might care about games… but then unfortunately they presented me with a bunch of titles I really don’t care about.  All of their big reveals seemed extremely unexciting.  While I am watching this I am desperately scanning the list for that one game that makes me want to own a console system.

Out of all of the games shown… the only title that stuck out for me… was Killer Instinct.  Don’t get me wrong, the idea of a new Killer Instinct game is pretty massive, as the original one was probably hands down my favorite fighting game ever.  I was like a kid in the candy store a few months back when I managed to successfully get the Killer Instinct emulator running and got to revisit the original arcade experience.  The problem is I just don’t feel like this is enough of a reason for me to spend $500 on an ugly black box.

Coming away from the presentation I still got the feeling that Microsoft doesn’t really care about games that much anymore.  I still feel like they intend this to be some convergence device that causes people to change the way they interact with television.  That is fine, but I already have a Roku… and it cost me way less than $500.  Most of their killer features just are not that killer for me.  I could give a shit about sports, and I never really seriously watch live television.  So combined with games I don’t really care about… and making a big deal out of games that have been on the PC for over two years…  I just really do not feel like Microsoft’s vision is where I want to be.

The Next Generation

ps4

I saw a tweet last night that essentially wondered what it was like to be Sony yesterday, having an entire day to soak in the Microsoft E3 presentation… all the while knowing that you were just about to nuke them back into the stone age.  It certainly must have been an amazing day for everyone involved with the PS4 in any way.  For as awkward and confusing at times as the Microsoft conference was… the Sony PS4 event was that much polished and keyed to the demographic that matters to them…  gamers.  There was an obligatory section giving someone floor time from the Sony entertainment division, showing off the movies and music libraries…  but every other component of the show was about their serious line up of games.

For as nonplussed as I was about the Microsoft Lineup… I saw game after game that I want to play right now.  The Order was this amazing steam punk meets diesel punk meets Victorian monster hunter game.  The demo that was shown was an in game engine rendered trailer, and that really doesn’t matter… because it looks far better than most fully CG trailers today.  In fact that was a huge theme with the show as a hole.  Almost everything took painstaking effort to mention that what you were seeing was in game or in engine rendered footage.  The end result is almost movie quality animation and brilliant special effects, there was just an unbelievable amount of eye candy being shown.

The Bumps

This is not to say that the presentation did not have its share of hiccups last night.  Ubisoft decided to go completely blind and do their demos as a person on stage actually playing the game.  They demoed both Assassins Creed VI and Watchdogs this way… and in both cases… AC especially they had some freezes in gameplay.  Watchdogs however that has been in development far longer… had a few moments of slowdown but no lockups.  This is the risk of actually doing anything live, because anytime I have had to demo software…  it never goes 100% smoothly.  I know the feels the guys on stage were going through… so to some extent this softens the blow of the fact that they had lockups.

Additionally there were some pretty awkward presenters…  but nothing nearly as awkward as the Microsoft “trash talk” examples… and the really bizarre rape analogy as the man and woman were playing Killer Instinct together.  Seriously Microsoft… what made you think it was okay to say something like that?  At first I was like man… this is awesome an actual woman on stage playing a game… that is not a super model.  Then you reduce her to a whipping boy as some jackass trash talks her and tells her to lay down and it will be over soon?  Xbox One:  The Console of Choice for Date Rapists everywhere!

Sony: Best Troll Ever

 

Anyways… essentially none of the bumps in the road for Sony were anything nearly as egregious as what we have seen from Microsoft.  The big takeaway for me from the Sony conference is the fact that the games look like they are going to be amazing.  Sony took every possible opportunity to troll Microsoft and make them feel bad for their current choices.  The above is a great video highlighting one of the biggest features announced last night.  Essentially you will be able to trade games for the PS4 the same as you could for any console previously.  No awkward restrictions… you can buy used games and swap titles with your friends the same as you have been up to this point.

This is a huge boon for Sony, as the lack of used game support was likely to completely rule me out of this generation of consoles.  I hate Game Stop probably more than most people, and I refuse to give them any business at all…  however I still buy most of my console titles second hand.  Very rarely is there a title for the consoles that makes me want to go out into the store and spend $60 on it day one.  Instead I love the scavenger hunt that is going to pawn shops, and more equitable secondhand game stores like Vintage Stock, Game Xchange and Half Price Books.  So the ability for a modern console to still give me that hunting for a bargain experience… is a huge boon.

Additionally the PS4 does not require an internet connection to work… however admittedly a lot of the features they were showing off in games were connected features.  The console though has been designed to work in a connection agnostic state, which is again is a huge boon for Sony.  There is no creepy Kinect eye always watching you, and with the recent flood of security concerns…  giving Microsoft a box in your house that was always passively watching what you did was more than a little dystopian for me.  I think Sony embraces the concept that actual gamers really don’t care much about minority report gimmickry… they just want to play the damned games reliably.

The biggest troll of the evening however was announced towards the end of the evening.  The PS4 looks like a better console in every possible way, and have far better developer support with new and interesting titles.  Playstation Plus is still far superior to Microsoft’s crappy gold program.. even after the announcement of getting 2 old titles per month.  All of this goodness… and Sony drops the bomb in that it is $100 less than the Xbox One.  While still expensive… the $399 price tag, and all the games that I want to play on it… really make this a buy for me.  I may not get it new at launch, but I will definitely be picking it up eventually.  I almost felt at the end of the night… that Sony should just drop the mic after the announcement and walk away…  because they schooled Microsoft in every conceivable way.

Best Thing About The Show

 

While I am experiencing a massive resurgence of console gaming right now and am really looking forward to the next generation of console games…  I am still very much a PC gamer at heart, and namely an MMO Gamer.  Last night Sony got a major coup in that they announced that Elder Scrolls Online was coming to the Playstation 4 and would be available Spring 2014.  Almost immediately Bethesda started in with the damage control and released the trailer above… showing that it would be coming to PS4, Xbox One, PC and Mac all within that Spring 2014 time frame.  Elder Scrolls Online is the game I am looking forward to the most of all the titles on the horizon… and we finally have a projected timeframe.

The new footage looks absolutely amazing, and it includes some really solid first person game play.  I’ve never had a problem with the idea of third person… and when playing Skyrim I switch back and forth between first and third regularly depending upon the situation.  Having first never really seemed like a must have… but this is a huge boon for the Elder Scrolls purist crowd.  Additionally the first person graphic for that Dragon Knight chain attack thingy looked amazing.  This only further cements my desire to play one…  I want to be Scorpion from Mortal Kombat.  I wonder if like WoW… I can find an add-on that says “Get Over Here!” every time I press the attack.

Wrapping Up

I really need to get on with my morning.  Today is trash day, and I have to finish gathering it, as well as give my cat some medication… and get on the road.  The broad takeaway for the night is that Sony absolutely obliterated Microsoft.  There is next to nothing they can do to recover in my eyes from the brutal beating they received at the hands of the Playstation 4.  I want to start stockpiling cash now… so that I can pick one up in December when the console launches.  I hope you have an amazing day… and I hope I did not offend any stauch Microsoft fans out there.