Social Itch

Playing a lot of EVE when I get MMO time in. DoTA2 when I only have an hour and nothing is going on in the wormhole. I’m feeling a themepark itch, and it’s coming at me in a weird way. My eyes keep falling on Rift, which is a game I always enjoyed, but I just never got into. I think that was for a number of different reasons. If I recall, I was busy in a bunch of different games at the time, and it fell in when I was still happily engrossed in WAR. The biggest remembrance I have of the game, is that it was like my on-again, off-again, nostalgic affair with EQ2. A lot of the things I like there, I like in Rift (thanks Hartsman!). This gaming version of a casual glance I gave it wasn’t enough to cause me to set down roots and grow any social connection.

The social connection is really what keeps me in games long term. I’ve been playing EVE for longer than I ever have in the past, primarily because I’m in an alliance of people I really enjoying hanging out with. So, beyond just the fun pew-pew I get when we jihad enemy holes, or the carebear riches (that are a bit less rich of late) from phat sleeper loots, I just enjoy the people, and I’ve made connections that keep me coming back. So, a dalliance with Rift is tempting to me right now, but also worrisome.

I don’t want to jump into Rift, with expectations of fun and enjoyment, then find my ideas squandered on the solo-wonder of playing by myself. Conversely, I don’t want to start playing it and have it pull away from my EVE time. Basically, I want it all, and I want it now. I may have to accept that my reality does not allow for the gaming that I want when it comes to MMOs. Life is telling me to suck it up, jump into Dust514, and enjoy mowing down people and LAVs with my heavy machine gun.

Humorously enough, I said this about the game when I tried it over a year ago:

What they seek in their MMO is maybe some social interaction, and mindless gameplay. Chugging through rifts and quests with little planning or forethought in it. Quickly jumping into the game and just doing.

So maybe that’s what I’m looking for now. Or maybe I’m just wanting a change of scenery and I don’t really know what I want. Or maybe I just want to PLAY MORE VIDEO GAMES. NO REALLY, ANY VIDEO GAME WILL DO!

Anyway, any Corps forming up in Dust514 want a 30 year old, poor reflexes man to join them. I have a headset and mic!

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Shocker!

You mad bro?

A lot of people read Keen’s blog. Hell, I read it from time to time. I am not playing Rift, and had no real intention of playing it past the first month. I gave it the opportunity to rejuvenate the treadmill themepark MMO style too me, and it unsurprisingly failed. I’m reading a genuinely mixed post-release take on Rift throughout various blogs. Some are caressing its cheek in deep adoration, others are growing bored with it already.

In spite of whatever the current opinion of Rift by the masses, I found it humorous that Keen went to the trouble of picking apart an interview about the game. Some of the things he said, I found to be completely unmatched to my experiences – like the lag issue. In other areas, I think he has a base difference of opinion behind the message – like what the short-comings are in the themepark MMO genre. Furthermore, I think he doesn’t realize how fully static WoW is. Rift is static as well, but having continual events that can change the landscape of the world for everyone (read: not lol-phasing), even for a short amount of time, means the world is more mutable.

The game is in direct competition with WoW. It’s a fantasy-themed, quest-grind, PvE-centric MMO. Saying otherwise is disingenuous, or spin by marketing. However, all video-games are in some extent in competition to WoW, it’s a matter of degrees. Hell, the HexDefender app on my phone is in direct competition to my Words With Friends app, despite being completely different genres, and those apps are in competition to me finishing BioShock, despite also being different platforms.

So, while I may not be a fan of Rift, it’s not because they did now what WoW did in 2004. I give credit to Trion where credit is due. They did a bang-up job on creating a ridiculous stable, smooth game. They put in place tech that supported what it is they wanted to do. They took the parts they didn’t like from all the other MMOs, and made them better. Stamping my foot because the new shoes I wore for the neighborhood game of kick-the-can isn’t wow’ing (see what I did there?) my playmates like I had hoped won’t make the game of kickball they’re playing instead any less fun.

It’s just dull

I’ve given Rift what I think is a fair attempt at grabbing me, but it has failed to do so. Unlike some bloggers, I am completely burned out on the themepark design. Whereas long ago I talked about how I was done with PvE games, I think now it has evolved into just being done with themeparks (no, really?). I could maybe play a PvE game in a sandbox, but would probably find it more difficult without the freedom of attacking another player – because at this point the artificial restriction would feel jarring in what should be an open world. I’m not in any way regretting my purchase, because I feel like the money I gave to Trion helped to reinforce what they did right, and what the entire genre should emulate – functionality and stability. It’s not the studio’s fault that I find their design choice to be less entertaining than a presentation on the various methods of mixing paint.

Really, I just find the paradigm, well, dull. So much so, that at this point, I’m having a hard time remembering what it is I like about the set-up to begin with.

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An incessant droning

During my prolonged exposure to something that could have only been the Plague, I did relatively little gaming. Preferring instead the comfort of bed and, more importantly, the close proximity of the facilities. I did however, catch up on a lot of my Netflix instant queue. I finally polished off the final season of 24 that I lost during the great DVR transition of 2010, main-lining the last 10 episodes in a single day of half-lucidity. My wife, who was never a particular fan of the show, watched the final one from behind the glow of her iPhone, and expressed extreme incredulity at the ending. On top of that, I killed the last 8 episodes of Farscape, season 2, and the first five of season 3. Still, my addiction to gaming never let go of its grasp on my attention, and a part of my mind is constantly leaning in that direction. So, when I did get to gaming, I had to choose between my current three choices. League of Legends, EVE, and Rift, and that’s the order of attention I gave them, from most to least.

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Realm of the Fair

Did my first dungeon in Rift this weekend: Realm of the Fae. I was level 19, and the tank for the instance, so I was definitely on the far side of the power spectrum it was intended for. My PUG group cut through it faster than a lightsaber through the fleshy neck of badly written bounty hunter. My overall description of the experience would be “fair”.

The second role I had purchased let me go with a Paladin primary soul which was a shield specialist according to the tooltip. I figured that’d be a good way to go for PvE, and made a sword/shield at the forge before heading in, so it was very “fair” in allowing the group to get going even though we originally didn’t have the right classes. The rules of the instance were fair, as in equitable.  Tanks tanked, DPS killed things, and healers kept us all alive. Pulls weren’t insane, pathing was fine, not a single mob bugged out. Most of the group had done this before, so they knew how the encounters were supposed to operate, and they worked exactly as expected. Kill left, kill right, kill center. Looting was fair, in the traditional need/greed/pass setup. The story was fair as well, nothing extraordinary. Elf-guy is unhappy with the guardians, and doesn’t think the Vigil will get the job done, so he’s going after an artifact to help him further his agenda of some, blabbity, blah, blah.

The highlight of the whole thing – it was QUICK. Once we got in there, we were done in well under an hour. For PvE – that’s a length of time I can strongly get behind. I hope that all instances in the game run as smoothly and quickly as this one. I can handle PvE like that in a game. In WAR I hated the PvE, they got the “length” of their dungeons right, but the time never was what it should have been because you were endlessly dealing with bugs that invariably set back your completion time. In Rift, I may be able to tolerate it if I can say to my wife, “This will take an hour (45 min, 90 min, or whatever)”, and then it actually take that much time to finish.

I’ve JUST broken into Gloamwood, so open world PvP hasn’t been hopping yet, but I have kept at the warfronts. Guardian PUGs are pretty terrible in there, but they seem to do somewhat better in The Codex than the do in Black Garden.

On a final, unrelated note: my video card has been somewhat stable since I pulled it out of my case and blew the thick, black dust off the fan. The damn thing is still loud, and I hear it struggling at times, and making noises that I associate with a death rattle or a ”  *   ” in a comic book chat bubble. So I’m looking at relatively cheap video card replacements, nothing more than $75 or so. Right now, my eye is on thisthis, or this. The last I’m a bit sketchy on as it’s “re-certified”. I’m somewhat limited for two reasons. My power supply is only 350W, and there is fuck-all for space in there, so huge mega-fans that protrude past an extra expansion slots depth isn’t going to happen (I may be able to remove the capture card I have and release that restriction though). I’m trying to make sure that whatever I get will fit within those parameters. I’m leaning towards the first, the GT430. There’s no SLI, but that’s not a negative for me, as my motherboard only has the one PCIe slot, so a second video card is an impossibility.

Every day play

As a gamer, and an MMO enthusiast, I try to play a video game (an MMO if possible) every day, for at least half an hour. This is beyond games on my cell phone like Words with Friends, or Angry Birds, both of which are great games, but not what I consider “serious endeavors” in gaming time. There are days where this goals isn’t always possible, or where I have to sacrifice else-where to fit the time in. Thursdays are a good example of days where it’s more difficult for me to play around in my hobby.

Every-other Thursday my wife and I along with a small group of friends goes to a restaurant and play a hosted trivia. The Thursdays in between trivia, we have those same friends over for dinner and small-group faith discussions. Typically by the time that everything is said and done on either night, we’re not home and settled until 10:00pm or later,  which leaves precious little time for anything to be done after if I want to actually spend any time talking to my wife, watch a program together, or read a book in bed. Last night went particularly long, but I really wanted to get some Rift-time in, which I despaired of being able to do when I saw that the queue was an hour wait at 10-ish EST. I threw myself into the wait, and went to hang with the wife and watch some TV.

Around 11:45 or so, my wife went to bed, and I went back to check on the computer. There was my character select, and the temptation to just play for a short while was too much to resist. So, I sat down, jumped into the world of Telara, and got my Warrior to level 17 from a fresh 15, in just over an hour. My head hit the pillow at 1 am, and rose up from said pillow 5 hours later. 5 hours isn’t a lot of sleep for me, as I usually get about 7, to 7 and a half, and I’m feeling the difference, but I’ve also functioned off of FAR less (read: zero).

So here, I am, typing this post, while chugging down a Lo-carb Monster Energy drink, and eating some peanuts, and wondering, do other gamers play every day? What sacrifices do they make to do so? Do they consider it a worthwhile trade-of (as I do)? Habits of gamers vary I’m sure, but I don’t think I’m alone

Light my fire

On today’s Rift article…

I sort of wish I was joking, but I’m not, and today I will be talking about Rift again. I’ve really wanted to get onto the Deepstrike server to actually play the stash of advance names I had claimed there. Two bloggers I know (and LIKE) are playing there as well, also, I hear-tell that a good chunk of old Gorfanger’s from WAR are making that their home. So, when I got home last night with my daughter from daycare (around 6:15), I booted up the client, saw the queue was approximately 45 minutes, and thought, “Perfect! Baby’s bedtime is 7:00, couldn’t have asked for better timing.”. So while I finished doing baby stuff, wife cooked dinner, and had enough time to have a meal with the misses after putting our spawnling to bed before jumping into the server.

As I mentioned before, I wanted to recreate the Shadowknight concept from EQ’s of past, and I continued along that route. Primarily putting points into Reaver, with a side of Champion, and a no-point homage to Warlord. For PvP, it’s been a fun mix. There’s an ability in the Reaver tree to turn all (3) of my DoTs into AoE spells while active. Two of those DoTs right now are ranged, and one of those two is a life-tap. So, in the one Warfront I can play in (Black Forest? Black Temple? whatever, doesn’t matter), the enemy team almost ALWAYS runs up to the center en masse, clogging between some of the giant spikes to where the fang is going to reside. This is the perfect opportunity to drop those AoEs, and ensure a decent incoming health-stream. I then run deeper into the mix, hit my AoE damage/taunt, and start spamming my frontal cone attack. It brings pain. Of course, this is only at level 15, so I’m sure there’s a lot of changes to come.

On the PvE side of the coin, for regular solo-questing, it has worked perfectly fine – as expected. For that type of gameplay, you almost have to TRY to fail at it, by either playing dumb or going AFK for extended periods of time. However, before I hit the sack last night, I got to experience a full scale-fire invasion. I’d participated in some of the Death invasions when I played Defiant during beta, but something about this one last night was different. Perhaps because it was a live environment, or maybe just the setting, but I actually had a good time participating in this. The entire woods of the zone gained an orange-red hue, which gave a real sense of danger, triggering memories of old submarine movies where the red lights bathe the captain’s face during combat scenes. The map was filled with orange swirls, black squares quartered with an orange cross, and crossed swords (if you play the “where’d this feature come from” game, then you’ll recognize the swords from WAR). Blazing arrows from each icon indicated the direction of attack of enemy forces when you hovered over their icon.

It was a fucking war, and the chaos that ensued was appropriate. Raid groups were running around all over the place, forming up to take out the captains and footholds of each invasion. The crossed swords are the invasion forces where the planar parties spawn out of. The footholds are stationary spawn points that need to be taken out to prevent more enemy groups from spawning, but they are often protected until a main leader is taken out first. Rifts are the random, semi-mobile PQs that often spin out enemy groups as well. The shit wasn’t easy at this point either, maybe because of a lack of healers, or just because I was not playing with any groups I trust or can rely on. Total pugs, but things didn’t always go down with ease, until the zerg piled up on it. The events are so big, and so wide-spread, that it’s hard to focus energy on any one attack. The sheer quantity and magnitude of the invading forces is helping to ensure that the players are fuck-all organized and just spread to the corners of the map. This is how PvE is supposed to be. This is PvE that is actually fun.

Sadly, the eternal pessimist in me is sure that in a couple of months time, players will have figured out the best, most efficient way of killing these things, and the fun chaos of the situation will be turned into a structured action list to make even the most stringent German engineer go, “Don’t you think you’re being a bit too particular?”. So, I am going to try to enjoy the insanity of invasions for as long as I can. I hearken it to the ORvR of early WAR, where it was just insane fun early on, but as time went on, and efficiency became king, it lost some of its luster. This is the advantage to playing an MMO at launch. This is the reason why you jump into a game early. The fun of a game after it’s been dissected by the player base is completely different from the fun at launch.

I can whore with the best of them

Any opportunity to get a dig in at Favre...

It’s the “official” launch day for Rift. Everyone is talking about it. Everyone. Which means that I’m talking about it too, as I fall into the category of “everyone”. Mostly, the hub-ub is whether the game is “successful” or “evolutionary” or “next-gen”. Some are throwing around flashy phrases like “3.0”, or writing things with a lot of “quotations” to make them seem “edgy”.

I’m still not blown away by the game myself though. It’s fun, and easy. Really easy. And maybe that’s the appeal. Avoiding the literal term of the words given the queue situation, it’s very easy to get in and out of so far. The quintessential theme park so far, where every step is guided, I know exactly where I’m supposed to go at any moment. Along those predetermined routes, I’m usually able to find more than ample supplies for any of the crafting professions I’ve chosen to pursue, and then just do a mass-combine when I’m done. The only limitations to outings from a hub have been the moderate ones generated by bag space – and that has been minor at best.

For me, the most engaging aspect of the game, hasn’t been the game itself. It’s been the meta. Experimenting with builds, reviewing and judging the various souls for synergy and complementing abilities. It’s good fun, and the rest of the game is exactly what I, and I think others, want out of PvE themepark game if they are going to play it. If you’re looking for the “new dynamic” you wont’ find it in Rift. Nothing has struck me as revolutionary or astounding in innovation (which you’ve read elsewhere a thousand times).

That said, I don’t necessarily believe that the “next gen” of MMOs are required to include a new gameplay experience, or some new system. If that was the case, WAR would be a much stronger case for being declared part of the next generation crowd than Rift. I sincerely believe that being part of the new breed of MMOs could be just releasing polished, finished games on day 1. With previous games, when buggy launches occurred, or problems arose, we still had people believe that it was just the way the genre was. The nature of the beast, so to speak. I was one of those people as well. So, if Rift alone can convince people such as myself, and the entire genre, into stronger releases, and better implementations, then I say – that’s worthy of declaring the new generation in effect. It sets the bar for its contemporaries, and I think that Rift did that. I know that I’ll be judging all future MMOs on launch day to Rift. Won’t you?

…Aw fuck

I don't have any actual animosity towards this kid. I do think it's funny that so many people express such intense dislike for him. To me, he's a non-entity, and I probably wouldn't recognize him if I saw him on the street without a throng of weeping tween girls.

[Edit: WordPress gets wonky when adding pictures with captions. By wonky, I mean, it likes to chop out chunks of  an intro, like this introductory paragraph that Beiber gobbled up. If my post seemed like it was starting out in the middle of a conversation, that’s because it was. Sorry about the mix-up!]

I was happily going about my weekend, doing things that I do. I got my Shadowknight in EQ progression server to 18. Was happy about that. I should have just been content with that. I should have just kept on rolling with the leveling, and continued to enjoy the social atmosphere of playing a game that actually reinforces group cooperation. I should have, but I didn’t.

When I knew I only had a bit of time for short-term play, I was jumping into EQ2. I played around a bit on a new character, and then on a level 39 alt I had, and eventually on my old 80 Shadowknight – and I just wasn’t having fun. There’s too many abilities, my old standby UI (Profit) has gone out of date it seems, and I can’t even update collection quests with it. Mostly, my issue was just too many abilities. Three hot-bars of combat abilities, and at least one of buffs – it’s absurd how much there is. The only thing that keeps me coming back to EQ2 is the housing. What SOE did with housing in that game is amazing, and the level of integration with the rest of the game should be lauded. Beyond that, the ingenuity of players to craft amazing looking homes is some of the best emergant creativity I have seen in any game.

So, my eye kept straying to that Rift icon. After my post on Friday, I was kind of curious to get the first hand experience with the queue. I still had the headstart active from a pre-order I had put with the game a bit back as a “just-in-case” measure, and as a way to ensure a name-grab. All the tweets about the game weren’t exactly pushing me away from the game, and there is nothing like that new-launch smell…

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Trion play

Trion.

Try and…okay, bad ‘word joke’.

But really, why are people thrown off by these queues I’ve heard so much about. How did noone realize this was coming. If you’re a tripple A title using game shards, you have two choice – launch with a plethora of servers to avoid this, and then consolidate after, or launch with a more modest number and have queues – and the player frustration that comes with it. Until companies start finding a better server structure, or a way to handle that many players at once, this is the poison we have to deal with.

As an experience MMO player, you shouldn’t be surprised at this stage.

On a more upbeat note – congrats Trion on launching a game that apparently 100s of thousands of players want to get into. That’s what we call, “a good problem”.