Setting Off

March 25, 2011 at 4:54 pm | Posted in General | Leave a comment
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Wotcha everyone,

All MMOs have them.  For some players they define the nature of any given chosen race, whilst for others they’re a just a speedbump before getting to the meat of the game.  There can be one of them, or many of them.  Quite often, they’re all a player will see of a particular game, and all MMOs have them.

But I suppose the biggest question for me is:

What is a starter zone *for*?

Now, I freely admit to being somewhat oblivious when it comes to official forums.  I recently, in my role of guild officer, posted a recruiting message thingy on Rift’s official forums, and that left me feeling rather strange in my tummy.

Part of me felt a little brave and excited, having entered the lion’s den.  Another part of me felt a little soiled; instead of lurking rarely (and laughing at all the misguided fools and their patently ridiculous wittering on) I was choosing to actively participate in proceedings.  But I digress.

I’ve been aware of some consternation and complaint that there is only one starter zone per faction in Rift, but to be perfectly honest, I don’t care.  In fact, I quite welcome it.

I remember Warhammer Online’s multiple starting zones.  One for each race in each faction.  They were lovely zones, oozing with character, and part of a very strong game concept.  Which, of course, fell apart when players got involved; pretty soon, the dwarf and elf zones were abandoned after the initial surge of players, and everyone just moved to the Empire for levelling purposes because that’s where everyone else was.

Age of Conan went for the complete opposite, with one multi-layered, highly engineered zone that had both multiplayer and solo elements, with the solo side a fantastic story that would have worked well in many single player games.  Of course, it was a shame that the rest of the game was nowhere nearly as well detailed in terms of quests and story, and that the fantastic solo quest line just seemed to make players think in solo rather than group terms.

Now we have Rift.  Most of my play has been on the Defiant side, but I did complete the Guardian side during one of the later Beta events, and to be perfectly honest, I have no problem with there being just one starter zone.

The Defiant starter zone is cool.  There’s a part of me that loves an “escape from an apocalyptic future by using time-travel to change the past” storyline, and it made me all squiffy and special.  Due to the nature of the story line, I’m not surprised there’s just the one.  Sorry Kelari and Bahmi players, your racial starter zones were gobbled up by the big narsties on their way here.  Yes, I’m being all Eth-ist and assuming they’d hold out longest.  Or something.

Ultimately, I don’t care whose homeland it is.  Because the important thing is what that starter zone is *for*.

To my mind, starter zones are there for three main reasons (in no particular order);

  • To teach the basics of the game
  • To try and turn interested tourists into long-term residents
  • To establish the background story for the game

Anything after that is pure gravy because, ultimately, it’s the zone I’ll spend least amount of time in.  Even counting the repetition required by the judicious and willful addition of alts, it’s *still* the zone I’ll spend least amount of time in.

All that I care about is that the starter zone fulfils the above three objectives.  I want to have the game grab my attention, I want the game world to intrigue me, and I want to know how to play the game by the time I get out of that starter zone a few short hours later.

Ultimately, I’d much rather game developers didn’t spend time creating six or so starting zones when two will do, because that’s time that could have been spent on later level zones, or instances, or PvP zones; not something that will be completed and forgotten about in a couple of hours.

Cheers,
Hawley.

Could Try Harder

March 21, 2011 at 4:26 pm | Posted in General | 1 Comment
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Wotcha everyone,

Some, and now heading towards Many, players have levelled characters up to level 50 in Rift.

I am not one of them.

There are many reasons for this, but I think the first and foremost reason is that I really haven’t been looking to level at speed.  Having learned my lesson with ‘Clysm, I’m desperately doing my best not to burn myself out during the levelling process.

I am also sharing my time between four alts.  Oh yes, I have one of each of the four major food groups thoughtfully provided by Trion.

And right now, I’m finding that I’m really enjoying one or more aspect to each of the classes.

What I like most is that all of the souls I’ve encountered seem cool.  Bear in mind that this is largely due to the way *I* play, but I’ve yet to come across one and have “Bah humbug!” thoughts.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that I’m the sort of player who gets pathetically grateful when in groups, so always goes for utility over the personal satisfaction of damage.  That and it’s hard to see when someone’s slacking with a utility role.  Sue me.

These are the classes and soul constructs I’ve been using most:

Cleric: Mostly Sentinal, some Warden, less Inquisitor.

I am DOT boy.  See me DOT.  It’s surprisingly survivable having two healing souls, and having three instant DOTs and a two-second cast on the fourth DOT means taking on multiple mobs is easier than I imagined.  There are also a plethora of heals, with a scarily expensive group heal, a few single hit heals, and a few HOTs.  The Inquisitor also brings a few extra punchy options, for the times when I need a mob dead *soon as*.

It’s a good instance healing build.  There is only one fight so far where I’ve found mana an issue, and that’s the end of Deepstrike Mine which is long and almost raid-like.  For straight healing output it’s fine, but sometimes a backup healer really helps with those damage-spike moments; lacking shields makes it difficult to deal with a nasty crit.

Rifts are also fun.  I can heal when it’s a small group, switching to damage when there’s enough people there, and it’s all fun.  I’ve heard that healing contributions are much less than damage contributions, but to be perfectly honest I don’t care; I have more fun healing rifts with my cleric than chucking damage, and fun is what I play for.

Mage:  Mostly Dominator, some Archon, some Chloromancer

I set out to create a Loremaster from Lord of the Rings Online, just without the annoying animal slaves, and I’m pretty happy with this combination.  The Dominator soul means I can turn things into a squirrel (and being threatened by a squirrel makes me girly-giggle every time it happens) but not much else because the character is going through that difficult teen period, but it should soon open out.  Archon has some useful buff-debuff action, and I like the fact that most of them will debuff a mob *and* buff the party as part of the same spell.  Nice.

Chloromancer was added as I wanted more utility over straight damage potential, but it’s combination of damage-to-heal abilities means it’s quite nice and punchy.

I’m looking forward to getting to higher levels with the mage; whilst breaky, it does have a rather splendid “toolkit” set up, rather than just spamming three or so buttons to win fights.

Warrior:  Mostly Warlord and Reaver, some Paladin.

I’m surprised by how much I’m enjoying the Reaver.  I took it as “the third soul”, but it’s now a joint primary with Warlord.  It reminds me of World of Warcraft’s Death Knight, but with an understandable mechanic as opposed to something that seemed wilfully obtuse and unworkable (yes, I just clicked on skills as they became available, rather than actually intending to do anything).  Warlord’s group utility should mean some fun off-tanking as well as tanking support, and that seems like fun enough for me.

Rogue:  Mostly Saboteur, some Riftstalker, some Marksman.

Now this *has* surprised me most.  I started the Rogue because I had one of everything else, so decided to go for a full set.  I’d spent a little time with one or two ideas in the beta, but without thinking much of it.  I’d spent all of half an hour with Saboteur, and decided it was bobbins.  Utter, unadulterated bobbins (for those unaware of the terminology, “Bobbins” is not a positive term.  Guess who’s trying to swear less?).

Yet for some reason, I decided to give it another go; after all, as the unwanted runt of the litter, who was to care if Rogue-boy was better known as Limpy the Rogue?The surprise was on me.  Charges are hilarious fun.  The fact that they do nothing but add combo points until detonated means that a fight goes something like this:

No damage.  No damage.  No damage.  Still no damage.  No damage.  BOOM!  You’re dead!

Add in charges that do other things than *just* damage, and it’s hilarious fun.  I’ve even found that you can get all five charges on a Squirrel’d enemy, and it won’t break the Squirrel until detonated.  Now *that* is a lovely synergy.  It makes me feel all Mad Harry, really it does.

Riftstalker just gives a little tankiness, and marksman gives me an immediate-damage ranged ability, for those times when a little preparation isn’t necessary.

All in all, I’m more than happy with my character options.  The ability to go and get the other souls has meant I can collect them at my leisure, and when I fancy a change just set up my alternate spec and have a lookee.  Yes, I am poor as a result, but I like that freedom.

Of course, it also means that I’m not levelling as fast as I could be.  I should try harder.

Cheers,
Hawley.

The Joy of Hat

March 17, 2011 at 5:22 pm | Posted in General | Leave a comment
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Hat! Hat! HAT!

Wotcha everyone,

In every game I play, I wonder how bad the hats will get.  It’s not an obsession, but I do think that sometimes, games developers just can’t get the design of a hat right.

Proper headgear is very important.  I read somewhere that the scalp is, largely, one big heatsink.  And the heatsinkiest part are the ears.  When attempting to stave off hypothermia it’s not enough to put on lots of lovely warm layers; lack of appropriate headgear will see you end up as a meat popsicle anyway.

It’s also good for keeping the rain off.  I spent many years in what felt like permanent rain, before moving to another place where it rains *most* of the time instead of *all* the time.  At one stage I owned twice as many hats as I did pairs of shoes.

It’s safe to say that I like hats, and find them woefully underrated by modern society.

Being somewhat hat-minded, I’m regularly disappointed by the designs on offer in MMOs.  Fantastic suits of armour? Check.  Shoulder-pads you can balance a full-grown rhinoceros on?  Check.

Woolly hat?  No!

I wonder if the ability to turn headgear off in the settings is one of the factors that has contributed to the sort of nasty, badly designed hats that appear in our MMO games.

Some of the hats in Lord of the Rings Online were shocking.  Truly shocking.  Before the joys of the cosmetic overlay system, it was the Minstrel’s lot to look like a refugee from Glastonbury.  No, I do not want hats with three cloth “horns” coming out of it.  I wanted to look like a badarse banjo-twanger who took no prisoners, not a hippy who’s looking to score.

It didn’t help that the best hat in the game was only available to those who had 11 good friends capable of taking down one of the nastiest raid bosses in the game.  Needless to say, I am eternally grateful to the rest of that raid team, and that once that hat was on Minstrel Hawley’s head, *it never came off*.

And that’s without mentioning some of the disturbingly bad helmets that appeared in the same game.

Now, I have not trained to be a games developer, thus am unsure of the exact curriculum at Games Developer School.  I am, however, willing to bet that Fashion Design In Fictional Cultures is neither a major nor a minor course requirement, even for the art department.

So it’s hardly surprising when I state that I generally wander from game to game, character to character, too much of a min-maxer to stop wearing hats (whatever they’re made of) yet vaguely embarrassed at having to hide my head-based shame by using the “No, don’t show my hat!” option in the settings.

Until, that is, my first run through of Deepstrike Mine, when there was a hat drop.  And such a hat.  Lucky me; only cleric in the party.

It’s got a touch of steampunk gasmask about it, yet there’s also a hefty dose of bespoke Uruk Hai tailoring in there too.  It’s not just a hat; in the scale of these things, it’s at very least attained Hat! level.  It doesn’t just look like it would protect the wearer from incidental bumps and scrapes, but also non-random acts of violence, and incidental all-out thermonuclear war.

That pre-1970s Ice Hockey Goalie facemask look (you know; the ones that made it look like there was a lurking serial killer at the back of the ice) doesn’t just say; “Hello, I’m dressed appropriately for martial prowess”, it positively shouts; “Wotcha chap.  Do us both a favour and put all of your trez in the one pocket, because I hate having to get my hands all wet and messy searching what’s going to be left of you”.

And the best thing is, the same model is available as a quest reward at the end, so you don’t even have to hope to get a lucky drop!

As ever, the chicken of depression has accompanied the blue bird of happiness (thanks, Mr Larson).  It’s not a level 50 hat; I know I’ll level out of it soon enough.  But right now, I grin every time I see it on Cleric Hawley, and there’s also the hope that, with lightning having struck once already, perhaps it can strike again.

Cheers,
Hawley.

Moments

March 16, 2011 at 5:40 pm | Posted in General | Leave a comment
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Wotcha everyone,

Last night I was out soloing in Stonefields.  It’s a fun place, and I’ve progressed through about half of it.

For a while last night, during the late afternoon/early evening, it was buzzing.  A major Death invasion popped, so there were plenty of rifts as well as invasion forces buzzing about.

Fantastic, thinks I.  A bit of rifting, a lovely chunk of xp to take me towards level 26, and with luck some people to sit and heal.

After a short while, I had one of those moments in gaming that sticks.  And by sticks, I mean something that I can bore my grandchildren with when I’m old(er), senile, and think they’re munchkins come to steal my socks.

To the west of Granite falls, there is a wardstone that is precious close to a rift-pop, and they were close enough that I could stand between them, and heal the group fighting against the rift, and the group fighting to defend the wardstone.  Both groups were luckily a part of the same raid, but it was a small raid with just a couple of groups in it, and as such I was the only healer.

That’s right.  Two small groups, a dump-truck full of monsters, and one Hawley.

And for a full five minutes I was, to use the Elite ranking system, more than my usual Deadly and all the way into Elite.  I kept that raid upright, chucking heals, using cooldowns, and generally having a ball.

I had hit one of those Moments, one where the rest of the world seems to be hanging on *my* actions, and mine alone.  It was through my actions that every member of the raid stayed upright, it was through my actions that our desperate struggle continued, and it was through my actions that we held out long enough for another group to arrive; this swayed things enough in our favour that we won both fights.

What makes me remember a game is Moments such as this.  Those times where suddenly, I feel like the most important person on the server.  A great game will give the opportunity for everyone to have these Moments, because it’s from these moments that great war stories come.

It’s also what makes me want to log on and play again.  Well done, Rift.  Keep it up.

Cheers,
Hawley.

The Joy of Artifacts

March 11, 2011 at 4:29 pm | Posted in General | Leave a comment
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Wotcha everyone,

When I first encountered Artifacts in Rift I was, in all truthfulness, a little south of skeptical.

And no, Skeptical is not a town in Essex.  (It’s in Dorset.  And just south of there is Decidedly Antagonistic).

I’d first encountered the concept of right clicking on a non-specific glowy/sparkly thing in Everquest 2, and I think that’s what coloured me regarding it.

I only played Everquest 2 for a couple of months, and got a character to around level 20.  I’ll limit myself to a quick gripe here, because I know that Everquest 2 has a dedicated and loyal following, but it felt to me that there were loads of great ideas that had been badly implemented.  Or implemented in such a way as to make them Not Fun.  In some cases, Really Not Fun.

One of the memories I have is of running around, right-clicking on anything that didn’t move, and the non-specific glowy/sparklies came up with things like flowers, and butterflies.  I then put them in a small collection.  Small collections then were added together to make large collections.  And then you got some sort of reward.

But the reward seemed so pointless, because I just couldn’t get a red butterfly.  I had so many yellow butterflies that I could have ground up plenty of yellow butterflies and used their blood to paint a further few butterflies red, but it seems that there wasn’t to be any forgery on that scale.

Pretty soon I just stopped bothering.  All my bags were filled with random butterflies and flowers, and so for the sake of my own sanity, I just stopped.  It was Not Fun.

So imagine my surprise when I discovered myself just north of Pleasantly Surprised (it’s near the Yorkshire Moors) with regard to the Artifacts and Collections of Rift.  The items are entertaining, and strange, and reference a surprising amount of lore without ramming it down my throat.  Some are small, such as the two item collection found within one part of Meridian, others have a good few items, whilst some artifacts can go in more than one collection.

Artifacts can come from a variety of sources.  Most pop up as non-specific glowy/sparklies dotted around the landscape.  Others appear as part of the random tat to be found on a freshly lootable corpse.  Others have appeared as part of the reward for closing a rift.

Some of them are zone-specific, others more generalised.  And some are decidedly weird.  No, I’m not sure why I felt the need to collect troll toe-nails, but luckily it’s only a three artifact set, and that’s handed in now.

I’m not sure why I’m enjoying them so much.  The largest part of it is that Trion have managed to trigger my largely dormant collector gene, most probably due to using it as a way of bringing a little more of the character and lore of a zone to light.

It’s a little bit of flair, and Trion seem pretty good at not just polish, but adding flair.

Cheers,
Hawley.

Busy Little Bees

March 10, 2011 at 4:33 pm | Posted in General | Leave a comment
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Wotcha everyone,

No, not much posting this week.  I blame, in no particular order:

  • A busy social life.  Being sociable is a good thing, so I don’t complain about things like that.
  • A busy working week.  Which means I am tired when I get home, so less likely to want to put my strange rambling on the internets.
  • A slacker.  That would be me.
  • A lot of Rift.  Well, not compared to most, but I have been using most of my available Geek Time to play.

Yes, I’m really enjoying it.  I love the varied game-play; the appearance of an invasion or a rift changes my gaming priority, and I like that.  I like that I rarely have the opportunity to get bored, and despite the fact that questing is pretty much the same as most other games, and that PvP is still a case of me heading off to get dedded repeatedly, and that leveling is still just leveling, I’m having a ball.

I think it’s safe to say that I have thrown myself into the game, to the exclusion of others.  I’m not even chasing down levels that fast; Cleric Hawley is only level 24, and I have much lower level alts as well, but that’s good.  I’ve not been racing through the game with that level 50 goal in mind (to be perfectly honest, I didn’t even bother finding out what maximum level actually was.  I’ve sort of picked that number up by osmosis, I think), and it will probably be a good month before Cleric Hawley has run out of levels.

Instancing is also fun.  It’s nice to see that of the two levelling instances I’ve been in (Iron Tomb, and an unfortunate lag-hurty visit to Deepstrike Mine that had to be abandoned because of said lag) progression and survival seems to be more about co-operation and forethought, rather than one person messing up *their job* and the group wiping as a result.

Trash mobs are a challenge, bosses are good fights rather than grinding to a formula, and the rewards good.  It’s worth doing the instances for the xp and trez alone; the fact that they’re also fun is pure gravy.

It’s strange, because I wasn’t expecting to get into Rift this much or this quickly.  Right now I’m glad I got the 6 month subscription, especially since it is (with the founder’s pricing) so cheap.  I haven’t even accidentally blown up the guild yet.  Bonus!

Cheers,
Hawley.

Dooooooooom

March 4, 2011 at 4:23 pm | Posted in General | 1 Comment
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Wotcha everyone,

So, the headstart has flashed by in an instant (or a “week” if we want to be more accurate) and launch day is here.  Well, it is if you’re in Europialand; if you are in the Americas, launch day has come and gone.

I am looking forward to massive queues, crashes, server restarts, and a hundred and one sundry other slights and insults that make launch days the experience that they are.

I then expect things (especially the login queues) to get slightly better as time progresses over the next couple of weeks.

This is how things are Meant To Be™, after all.

If they are not, I shall be most distressed.  If there is no four-hour login queue, how am I to get dinner prepared and then cooked?  How am I to catch up on my single-player gaming?  How am I to spend quality time with my lovely lady?  How am I to catch up on all my chores?

If there are no random server restarts, how am I to realise that it’s time to make a lovely cup of tea?  Thirst can be ignored, as can the withdrawal symptoms (shaking, extreme headaches, loss of vision, death), especially if I’m busy pounding some extra-planar tourist into the dirt (Hey honey, that nice Regulos Tours said Telara is particularly nice this time of year.  Shall we have a quick weekend away?).

Most of all, I need to be able to sit here, in three year’s time, and be able to tell all those Johnny-and-Jemima-come-latelys how lucky they are not to have had to sit through all the things that Went Wrong.

Without that sort of tale, how can they respect me and all my wise, sagey advice (that they *must* follow or be Doing It Wrong)?

Alternatively, I hope it all goes swimmingly, and we all get to just log in, play, and have fun.

Once again, good luck Trion.  Good luck us.

Cheers,
Hawley.

Momento Mori, Hawley.

March 1, 2011 at 3:48 pm | Posted in General | 3 Comments
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Wotcha everyone,

When successful Romans were paraded through cheering throngs, laurel wreath on head in danger of being knocked off by the amout of underwear thrown by Roman ladies (the last one is possibly inaccurate.  Must check Wikipedia more thoroughly), a slave was employed to constantly whisper in the ear of aforementioned Roman; “Remember that you are only a man”.

Now he didn’t whisper it in modern English.  That would be foolish; not every Roman spoke modern English.  But he’d say it in Latin; “Momento Mori”, literally translated as; “Remember you will die”.

The Romans, as a mob, loved their heroes but hated it when they started to think they were gods, or even worse; kings.  Hence the whispering slave, who was no doubt taken ‘round the back and thrashed after the parade for being really, really annoying.

My headbrain is dwelling on this concept at the moment because, for the first time as an MMO player, I have been promoted from the ranks, and into the realm of the Officer.

Heady heights, me.  Positive nose-bleed territory.

I’m no stranger to being an authoritarian (I use the term lightly) figure in my chosen areas of geekery, as I’ve been involved in the creation, organisation and running of various groups, clubs and what-have-you in the dim and distant past when I was younger, dafter, and had a lot more spare time.  But these were face-time social structures, where contact was far more through face to face conversation than it was through a forum and a chat box in a game.

And I am wary of text-based communication.  I am aware that I have a strange, dry sense of humour that does not translate well into text, so I’m always wary of inadvertently offending someone.  Or anyone.

Recently, I’ve been involved in the forum-based discussions regarding the setup and running of a community based around Rift.  A bunch of the current The Silent Minorty Lord of the Rings Online players and old/ex Insult to Injury Warhammer Online players got together and decided to see about creating a forum community, mainly because some players wanted to be Guardian and others Defiant.

Rather than deciding in the time-honoured way (two geeks, a mouse cable’s length apart, throwing the contents of their flask of weak lemon drink at each other until one gets enough in their eye that they can’t stand the pain any more) , it was decided to have two guilds.  One Guardian, one Defiant (this would have been my second choice.  Weak lemon drink stains can ruin a good anorak), both within the same community/forums.

Sometimes, compromise is good.

Being the sort who constantly has an opinion, I was of course my usual gobby self, willing to hold forth on any subject that caught my eye (so most of them, to be perfectly honest).

Now, in the past I have been more than willing to hold forth on guild forums to the same amount, but always shied away from being an officer.  It’s easy to comment on anything from talent specs to how raids should be organised when I don’t have any responsibility to do anything other than keep on playing, and keep on posting.  I am, at heart, a slacker after all.

But since I have been badgering our Fearless Leader on the Defiant side “a bit” (more than one too many times for himself, I feel), when the call went up on the forums for officers, I put my mark there.

So, here I am, officer and everything.

For those of an inquisitive nature, the guild is called Spiritus Machinae, and is a Defiant guild on the Argent server.  The community is based at insulttoinjury.eu.  If you’d like to come and join us, feel free.  There are rules and suchlike, but we’re pretty casual and I’d hope welcoming at the very least.

And if you’re someone who is of a Guardian nature, then you’ll find Insult to Injury at the same forum address, on the same server.  Give them a shout; they’re lovely too.

Of course, I’m now terrified I shall arse it all up right royally.  I would like this to be a successful endeavour, and that doesn’t mean top-tier raiding, server firsts, and what-have-you.  Just that all members of the guild have a good time, able to experience the content they want, in an atmosphere of drama-less fun.

Most of all, I don’t want to kill the guild with my stupid sense of humour and inability to Just.  Shut.  Up.

I suppose the next few weeks will be the test.  The first month of an MMO launch is always busy; it’s after the first month that the server population starts to settle down into those here for the mid-long term, and those who just wanted to see what all the fuss is about.  We may get people in and out during that time; I shall try not to take it personally.

I’m also doing my best to remember that it’s not just my place as a guild member to play and have fun; it’s also my duty to ensure that other guild members are there to play and have fun.  It is not my duty to treat the guild as my own personal plaything, neither is it to expect nor accept the fawning admiration of those around me.  I am here to include, and enable.

At the same time, I look forward to the challenge.  I’ve been a part of many guilds, some of which I’ve really enjoyed being a part of, others less so.  Now it’s my turn to see if I can help create the sort of guild that not only I would enjoy being a member of, but everyone else too.

Cheers,
Hawley.

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