Let Not One Damn Cur Pass By

Yesterday I had logged in to Rift to do my daily crafting quests and maybe knock out a little bit of leveling.  A couple of hours later I had been through one of the largest, most epic, impromptu battles I have ever had the pleasure to be sucked into.

One of my crafting dailies is completed in Moonshade Highlands.  I planned on ending there since that is where Athnamas’ quests currently are.  Knock out a few quests, turn them in, pick up some shinies and, oh, a notice that there’s a death invasion coming.  I mention it on vent but am overridden by an invasion in Shimmersand.  So most of our 40s and 50s are off to that zone.

Oh well.  I’ll do what I normally do, close a rift or two on my way to the closest wardstone and guard it until it falls and the invasion is lost.  Since I’m in the second Defiant quest hub I head for the rift just inside the area held by the Fae.  After one or two tries I do get it closed off.  I check the map and notice that virtually all the marauders are heading for one wardstone, the one just outside the are with the Fae.  I mount up and head out for the eventual slaughter.

Axes flash, broadsword swing, Shining armour’s piercing ring

I get to the wardstone expecting to find it overrun.  What I see is completely different.  A fellow OTGer, whose name eludes me Broot, standing up to no less than 3 groups of marauders!  I hop off my horse drop a Grave Rot then call Devouring Shadows to take care of the minions before helping him focus down the remaining leaders.  We manage to take them down but he’s a tad worse for wear.  Though he’s a cleric he’s clearing set up to tank.  I drop my Necro/War souls for my Chloro focused soul because without healing we were going to be toast.

Horses run with polished shield, Fight Those Bastards till They Yield

There was a rift nearby that we could close.  Just as we headed towards it the horns blared, more marauders incoming!  One wave, then another, and another, and yet another!  He picked up each wave in turn and I did as much healing and damage as could while he was dogpiled by wave after wave of the walking dead.  All told we figure we fended off 11 waves.  The wardstone still stood.

Midnight mare and blood red roan, Fight to Keep this Land Your Own

We moved on the rift and were able to knock out most of the first stage before it spawned two more groups of marauders.  We dropped them plus a few more waves from the other rifts.  At that time we took stock.  25 invaders defeated?  Oh hell yes, a long time ago!  Rifts closed?  1 of 10.  One!?  I closed that one!  Was anyone else even fighting in this zone?

Sound the horn and call the cry, How Many of Them Can We Make Die!

We rushed back to the nearby rift and kicked out the first stage and worked on the second.  We finally had some help.  A lone Guardian Rogue.  With his help on the edges (he couldn’t get close to our wardstone) we finally closed that rift.  We checked the status.  2/10 rifts closed.

Follow orders as you’re told, Make Their Yellow Blood Run Cold

That’s it, we’re alone.  The wardstone was being attacked again so we fended off another onslaught of the walking dead.  Fine, we’ll do it ourselves!  We work our way north to the next closest rift.  This one is near the shared quest hub in Moonshade.  First we clear it of the death foothold.  Then we start working on the stages, catching any outgoing marauders.  We lost the Guardian Rogue but picked up a Defiant Pyromancer.  Twice we had to clear the nearest wardstone and once we had to ride back to the last remaining wardstone and keep it from falling.

Fight until you die or drop, A Force Like Ours is Hard to Stop

As we’re working on this we get word on Vent that the invasion in Shimmersand was lost.  People are trying to figure out what to do next.  We two OTGers in Moonshade drop not-so-subtle hints they could high-tail it here and help out.  We check the rifts closed.  2/10 still.  One voice says he’s on his way.

Close your mind to stress and pain, Fight till You’re No Longer Sane

We continue to work on closing the rift while the other OTGer says he is going to close a few rifts.  For some reason we pushed the rift we were on to stage 6 and the elite boss.  We die two or three times.  Stupid of us.  Extra stages in an invasion just waste time, now we can’t close it.  Not only that the wardstone we started out at is being hammered again.  As we pop back from the spirit realm one of our 50s goes sailing past, saying that he is going to get to the wardstone.  We follow and end up with two more OTGers, pushing us to a total of 5.  Well, shoot, with 5 we can easily take the elite boss!  They follow us back and we dispatch the elite boss in short order.

Let not one damn cur pass by, How Many of Them Can We Make Die!

Another check of the status, 5/10 rifts closed.  The cleric and I are responsible for 3, our OTG counterparts from Shimmersand are responsible for the other 2.  We check our map to find that not only is our last wardstone under attack but there is now a rift next to it!  We rush back, save the wardstone yet again, and quickly dispatch the rift.

We close it and check the status, 10/10 rifts closed?  Well, hot damn!  The cavalry has arrived!  The boss spawns, in the Fae controlled area.  We 5 OTGers and Pyromancer pubbie head off to throw what might we have against her.  6 members in our raid.  Then 8, then 10.  Slowly the numbers rise as people realize that we could win this invasion.  In the end even the Guardians showed up to pitch in.

In the end we died several times but won.  The Moonshade Highlands did not fall and it all started with one mage and one cleric from OTG.  The battle lasted for two solid hours.  All told Athnamas gained a full level, over 25 Puresources and well over 2000 Planerite.

As for the title and little snippets, they are from one of my favorite fighting songs of all time, The March of Cambreadth by Heather Alexander.

Leveling Speed, Content Viability, & End Game Gear Grinds

OTG‘s Rift section has had a lively discussion about end game gear grinds.  At one point one of my fellow OTGers, Cirric, commented,

If it slows down progression then thats a good thing, it will allow content to be viable for a lot longer.

Somehow a soapbox appeared under my fiend and I opined the following in response.

This. This right here is the crux of the issue. Game companies have traded in one grind for another at the behest of the players. Pardon me as I pull out the curmudgeonly “Back in my day” hat for a crowd that I know is mostly older than me but…

Back when I started MMOs it was with Asheron’s Call. Level cap when I started wasn’t 45 or 50 or even 85. It was 128. By the mid-60s time between levels could be measured in weeks, not hours. On top of that there was no level cap on when you gained XP from any particular mob. If the mob was under your level you just gained less XP so it eventually it was no longer viable as a source of leveling. But since you always got some XP you never, ever, felt cheated running lower level stuff to help out the lowbies because at least you got something.

I played AC for about 5 years. I never saw cap. Hell, I never saw my level reach triple digits. Now, granted, I quit in the middle and deleted my toons (rookie move, let me tell you) so I might have been able to cap out eventually. So let’s say my best was about level 80 in 2.5 years.

Think on that for a second. 2/3rds of the way to cap in the time it took WoW to birth two expansions with two level cap increases. Blizzard (as with the majority of other MMO companies) aims to have cap hit from their current base in 2 weeks. That means 1-60 in vanilla WoW, 2 weeks. 60-70 in BC? 2 weeks. 70-80 in WLK? 2 weeks. On top of that as they pushed the cap higher they lowered the time to level on the low end. So it isn’t 6-weeks to cap now, it is closer to 4.

I learned early on that the lower level dungeons, neat as they may be, weren’t worth doing. In fact we had this discussion on Graybriar’s /g just yesterday. Someone got the achievement for regular and expert FC at the same time. Someone else commented, “You never did FC before?” I pointed out it was easy to do in this game because you’re often only at level for a dungeon for, at most, 2-3 days.

My main didn’t hit IT until she was over level and did so on a run with a level 50 baby sitter. DsM? Overlevel and 2 level 50 baby sitters. The gear got used for a few hours and then runebroken. It literally made no difference whether I went or not. The only problem is that I have no idea how to do those instances properly because I did them in a setting that provided 0 challenge, 0 incentive to learn and 0 chance of failure!

I really dislike this trend because here’s another fun fact. Asheron’s Call is still available to play right now. It started back in 1999. 12 years later it is still open for business. MMO companies are planning on caps being hit in 2 weeks in a genre which, historically, if they make it past the first year or two they will have a game that goes on for 5 to 10 years. That is patently stupid!

They need to extend the leveling path, not contract it. They need to pay as much attention to content at all levels as they do at “end game” because there is no end game; hello, the game doesn’t end! Above all modern MMOs need to take notes from AC and CoH. Both, in their own way, make it viable and challenging for people with high end toons to take a break from the high end content. To revisit older content without trampling all over it. To get something out of the experience so people who didn’t play in the first 2 months of the game aren’t left with piss-poor options of going through what low level content there is at level with level appropriate groups. Finally it means that the gear obtained from those early instances actually lasts longer than it takes to obtain it!

… crap, how’d that soapbox get there!?

Rift Ramblings

Athnamas has hit 30.  I’ve sailed through Crimson Gorge and am now puttering around Scarwood Reach.  I had planned more criticisms in a third installment of Rethinking Rift but am glad I never got around to it.

First I think I finally hit my stride in enjoying Rift vs. playing Rift.  I’m now comfortable with the world, the mechanics, the build I’ve chosen and so on.  I’m no longer pushing to complete quests in the shortest time possible.  Nor am I in my typical kill-all-mobs-running-from-A-to-B levelfest mentality, either.  If I complete a few quests, great.  Dodging mobs by using oddities in the terrain, a mini-game.  Taking the odd side-route, no problems.  Even rifts have become a tad more enjoyable.  Though I think that is due more to the fact that rifts in the mid-30s actually hand out decent loot so are actually worthwhile to do.

More importantly I’m glad I held off because Trion released the preliminary patch notes for the next major patch.  A lot of the criticisms I had are either going to be addressed in this patch or have clear indications of being on the board for patches in the immediate future.  For example, the lack of an LFG tool.  It’s not in the game now, it’s not in the patch notes but they do have changes in this Patch which are aimed at making an LFG tool feasible in the near future.  Posting auctions by PPU?  This patch.  Searching in the craft window?  This patch.  Filtering by slot in the craft window for Runecrafters?  This patch.

Sure, I still have a serious case of the “Mehs” when it comes to many aspects of the game but I am impressed with the breadth and depth of the upcoming patch.  If Trion keeps up that pace of development I can see keeping with the game for the time being.  Will it be another long-term MMO like AC, WoW and LotRO have been for me?  I am not sure.  But maybe, fingers and toes crossed here, this will tide me over until GW2 is released next year.

Rethinking Rift, Part 2

I have put in 34 hours into Rift retail so far.  I’m still on the fence as to its longevity in my stable of games.  Looking back over my initial impressions none of those really have changed.

I still think souls could have been constructed better.  I still don’t like the overwhelming amount of duplicate powers on the low end.  I can also see a problem at the high end of there being far too many powers as well.  I’d love to see more passive effects applied because I have a feeling as time goes by I am going to be buried under the powers of multiple souls across multiple builds.  Also I apparently hit one of the pitfalls of free-form character construction, self-gimping.  Apparently Trion envisioned Mages as a pet class.  As such making a non-pet build really didn’t make my first dozen or so hours in Rift enjoyable.  The concept is sound, I really do like it.  But the implementation is rough.

Rifts themselves have been streamlined in Retail.  Well, at least in Freemarch.  Before Rifts would spawn pats which would target quest hubs for attack.  Now that happens rarely.  Instead the pats now generate footholds in the world.  I’m not sure what those footholds do aside from mess with the local mob spawn.  Maybe they tie into the invasion system somehow?  Who knows.  I see them as a quick way to get a couple of Planerite.  I still think the rifts themselves will become a chore after a while.  In fact several of my guildmates who have long since hit 50 have pretty much written off doing rifts.  Which does not bode well since that is the namesake of the game.

Also, this has to be said, the run speed is way, too, slow.  Playing LotRO after a few hours of Rift is an eye-opener.  In LotRO both my toons have run speed buffs.  I’m used to zipping around on foot.  After logging into my Warden I kept trying to turn off my buff, even though it was never one, because my LotRO toon felt faster than my Rift toon on her 60% speed mount!  Rift characters look like they are floating over the ground.  I’m not sure the design decision there but it is bordering on painful.

The graphics are growing on me.  The character graphics are an improvement over LotRO (what isn’t?) but the limited armor sets and lack of cosmetic options are a disappointment.  The environment is fine when you’re not running around.  However when you start moving you notice the visual pop of items appearing.  I mean when buildings pop in from nothing when they are bordering on close-range it is painful.  For a LotRO player to criticize that you know it’s bad.

I’m willing to give it more time.  I’ve just gotten to the 2nd zone and still have to decide which toon I want to dedicate to.  My proto-hybrid tank/dps/healing cleric or my proto-hybrid dps/healer mage.

Rethinking Rift, Part 1

A confluence of factors have colluded to make me to revisit Rift.  First is the fact that I have been dedicating my LotRO playtime to my Warden which is level locked to my wife’s Minstrel.  After duoing for a while playing solo on my Hunter has become lackluster.  So rather than force myself to play I’ve been looking for another game to occupy my time.  Monday Night Combat has been kinda filling that niche but it’s a decidedly love/hate relationship.  So thanks to two people I follow regularly, Lord T. Hawkeye & MMO Gamer Chick, I have been debating either giving World of Warcraft: Cataclysm a spin or break down and try the release of Rift.

In the end it came down to knowing myself.  As my wife puts it, I’m an MMO slut.  If an MMO winks and gives me a come hither look I so fall for it.  Well, for a month or two.  Then I boot it to the curb for the next hot floozie to come along.  And since WoW’s had its claws in me before I knew even if I tried Cata I would eventually fall for Rift’s siren song.  So might as well get it out of the way now, right?

So a few nights ago I broke down and purchased Rift on Steam.  Download, update, patch and good to go.  Of course I had to look up which servers OTG decided to invade.  PvE?  Check.  Defiant?  Check.  Sweeet.

First up was to go with the calling I had tried in Beta, a Kelari Mage.  I decided to name her Athnamas after my Draenai mage in WoW.  However instead of going Warlock/Necro like in beta I decided to try to stay true to the original Athnamas and went Stormcaller/Chloro.  For the first few levels this was fine and I was having a decent time of things.  By 18 I was dying every 10-15 minutes.  Single mobs were hard to fight.  Any adds were the death of her.  On the occasions that I had someone else along she was fun to play but overall I figured a Mage was not for me.

My second choice for calling was Cleric.  This was largely because of MMOG’s enthusiasm for her cleric and, well, we hybrid, bear-tanking players need to stick together.  Again Kelari but this time named Avonavi after my WoW Draenai Shaman.  Decided to go Shaman/Druid/Justicar.  Within a few hours I had hit the areas that were killing Avonavi and just steam-rolling them.  What a difference chain mail makes.  That is even with no active healing since I’ve not unlocked any direct heals.  A melee class with passive heals?  Yes, please!  2-3 mobs, not a problem.  I even got to play my normal pet naming game.  The green faerie the Druids get?  Yeah, she’s Kylie.

I got to Avonavi to 21 and the 2nd zone and while she is a blast to play and may still be my main I couldn’t help but think that I might have given up on my Athnamas a bit too soon.  I really liked the Beta build so maybe toss the character concept out and go with a build that I know I enjoyed?  That’s just what I did today.  Respeced (Hmmm, 1 c or two there?) into Warlock/Necro/Chloro and gave it another go.  Headed out to the areas that gave Athnamas trouble before.  No trouble at all.  3 mobs?  No sweat.  5?  That all you got?

The synergy between those three souls is obscene.  Deep enough into Necro to get the pet tank.  Deep enough into Chloro to get the basic heals based on the targeted mob.  Then dive into Warlock to unlock as many DoTs as possible.  Send in the skellie tank, load up the mob with DoTs and just wait.  The pet gets healed by attacking.  If it is getting lots of mobs I can use my charge (which is always full) to heal it through 5 mobs beating on it at once.  If my mana gets low I can just swap health for mana.  With Essence Link (+2 Symbiote) from Necro my health pops right back up.  For times when I need even more personal healing I can drop a Life Leech on a mob.

So that is where I am.  Tomorrow, my refined impressions, I promise.

Oh, and for those wondering, yes, Athnamas is Samantha spelled (mostly) backwards.  Yes, that Samantha.  I was looking for a Draenai sounding name for a mage to go along with my first female Draenai, Avonavi.  Yes, Avonavi is Ivanova spelled backwards.  I was trying to find a name to fit a female toon with a quasi-russian accent.  Yes, that Ivanova.  In fact it was those two names that got me started on the series of posts on MMO names.  Yes, I need to finish it as I’ve now explained where Avonavi and Athnamas came from before doing so in that series.  Now shush.

Amazon / Barnes & Noble – We Don’t Want You to Buy Books!

I finally finished the third book of the Vampire Memories series by Barb Hendee.  Since there aren’t any more in this series, yet, I decided to see if the latest in the Kate Daniels series from Ilona Andrews is available.  Head over to Amazon, plug in Kate Daniels, click on a random book in the series and look for a link showing the other books in the series.  There isn’t one.  In fact only the first book is clearly marked even being in a series!  Well, that’s Amazon stupidity for you.

Barnes & Noble has that feature, right?  Nope.  Though they did mark all four books as being in a series.  They even got which book each was in the series.  An improvement, but certainly not ideal.

Look, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, here’s a clue from a computer geek.  Add a table which holds all the book series.  Link the books to the series in that table.  Then have your website list the other books in the series.  Those are probably the easiest sales you will ever get!  Sure, it may not seem like a big deal for the two series I mentioned.  They number three and four books respectively.  But when you start following the likes of David Weber’s Honor Harrington series with its twelve main books, five anthologies and four secondary books it is a chore to track down the latest books.

You have the database.  You have the website.  Make it trivial!

Joy of Steam Sales

Back in November and December of last year I bought a metric buttload of PC titles on Steam.  Lots of sales, lots of bundles.  I mean, we’re talking going from at least 100 games to 150 games on my Steam account.  So, yeah, today I was just poking around on Steam, looking for some new demos to try out, and ran into a few games that looked interesting.  One of which was Far Cry 2.  Just as I’m thinking, “Hmmm, how much does it cost” I notice a button that normally isn’t there.  “You already own Far Cry 2: Fortune’s Edition.  Play Now”.  Wait the whu-huh, WHA!?  When did that get there?  Jump over to my Library page and slap install to get the download going.  Then what do I see?  Crysis, Crysis Warhead, Crysis Wars.  Errrr, whu now?!

The joy of Steam sales, finding out what titles you actually got several months later.  Tellin’ ya, this is going to be Christmas year round.