Tag Archives: RIFT

Rift Panda!

We all went to see Kung Fu Panda 2 last night, and while I definitely liked the first one better, it was great fun. Definitely recommended for the whole family.

As is typical in our household, the introduction of a new movie sparks all kinds of interest from our eldest son; one week he’ll be Thor, swinging his mighty hammer and quoting every line from the previews (we’d never take a six-year-old to that particular show!), the next week its another superhero or the Kung Fu antics of our favorite Fat Panda. One of my favorites was the Inventor phase that came with Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs! With that interest also comes a scouring of the Internet, combing through official sites, devouring any and all videos (again, age-appropriate, one must be careful!), and pouring through licensed toy information. LEGO is particularly popular.

Funny thing happened this morning. He was looking through the Kung Fu Panda site, and as is typical he quickly found his way to the games section. The first he chose was the Photo Booth game, which I have to say is very clever and extremely well-built. He started making photos, and you can see the results above. As chance would have it, the last folder Firefox remembered was the folder where I have all of my RIFT screenshots, so he naturally started picking his favorites!

He came and found my wife and I to show of his handiwork, and we all had a good laugh about it. The wonders of the Internet! As far as mashups go, I think this is probably one of the best I’ve seen! I especially like Tigress fighting Ragnoth the Despoiler. Very apropos.

What struck me was how oddly appropriate the setting of RIFT is when joined with the characters of the movie. I’ve always thought that the world of Kung Fu Panda was particularly gorgeous, and would love to see more games with that kind of stylized, highly detailed, magical sensibility to their art. Much like RIFT!

Awfully Quiet

This post by Wolfshead pretty much sums up (nicely, as usual!) where I’ve found myself the last few weeks when it comes to MMOs. I’m just feeling a little…blah. Maybe “bored”, but that’s not really the word. Malaise? Ennui? Apathy? Maybe. I’m still playing (mostly RIFT), and I want to log in but not for the reasons I usually do.

Seems like a one week vacation has turned into a four week break from almost all gaming. I’m still logging in when I can, but I find that I’m feeling a lot less of the urge to find time for MMOs. RIFT still has the lion’s share of my MMO attention these days; I haven’t logged into LotRO for more than ten minutes in the last two weeks, which makes me kind of sad. There are people in there that I miss (no, not you, Gimli).

And I think the issue is as Wolfshead describes it – I’m a little tired of doing the same mundane tasks over and over again, just in a new locale, under the guise of some kind of grand Quest To Save The World. Just like the three people standing next to me at an NPC. Just like everyone else.

Honestly, what keeps me logging into RIFT, and keeps me out of LotRO, is the prospect of seeing new sights and finding new places to explore. Yes, I’m still doing quests in RIFT, but it’s more a matter of convenience than anything else. “Sure, I’m headed out that way anyway, and I know I’ll have to wade through at least ten orcs, so…yeah…I can help out!” The experience is a nice bonus, and since I’m poking my head into every corner, I figure I can do a few “favors” at the same time.

But the utter helplessness of all these “people” standing around their outposts and villages, doling out mundane tasks that they should be doing for themselves – it wears on me. Last night I ran a task for a Defiant NPC that involved walking twenty meters from the camp. Literally – TWENTY meters. I killed two low-level mobs before I could reach the device that would magically complete some other device, that I would then be able to use on a rift not 100 meters from the camp.

I mean, c’mon people. Let’s get motivated here. The Defiants are supposed to be “The Vigil Helps Those Who Help Themselves” types. I believe a little initiative is warranted!

So that’s where I find myself. A lot of single-player excursions into games where I can explore a world  (Oblivion, The Witcher, S.T.A.L.K.E.R.) and feel like I’m making a difference. Because that’s what I really feel the drive to do recently – explore. I want to see new spaces and discover all the secret little details; which is why RIFT has been so appealing while LotRO lingers unloved. But I don’t want to wade through shambling hordes of monsters and countless franchises of vending machine NPCs (McQuestGivers? Barter Kings?) to get there.

Ah, well. I’m still having fun, and that’s what really counts, right?

(Anyone know a good exploration-based, sandbox game out there? Doesn’t have to be an MMO…)

Winner Winner

Just screams "WINNER", doesn't it?

The issue of equal opportunity in the games I play (or “Return on Investment”) is one that I struggle with constantly; I agree with SynCaine that the Everybody Wins philosophy is a short-term cheat with seriously detrimental long-term implications.  If we don’t know how to lose, and lose graciously, not only are we are handicapping ourselves for the realities all around us, but we rob ourselves of any real value achieved in winning when we actually manage it. However, as an adult with a handful (admittedly small-ish) of actual responsibilities and limited free time, I feel the pull of maximized return on my effort. Time is, after all, the most precious of commodities; disposable cash I’ve got (somewhat), free time for gaming, not so much.

As the father of two young boys, the whole subject is very real for me – team sports are looming on the horizon. And while I want my boys to succeed, it’s more important to me that they learn the nature, and true value, of competition. It’s not about the winning or receiving praise and recognition. It’s about striving to be the best that you can. The outcome, win or lose, should be secondary, at best, to the real purpose at hand; winning should be the bonus, not the goal (or worse, the expectation). This is a lesson I very much want my kids to learn, and if they don’t take to it in team sports, well, there’s always activities that are more individual or less competitive. I’ve had a very recent, personal experience with this; an organization with whom I’ve worked and learned for several years has decided to elevate me to the “next level”. It was an extraordinary feeling, having years of work recognized by those you respect, and I want them to feel that same sense of pride. But they have to earn it.

However, the lessons of competition are never something I would expect them to learn from MMOs; at least, not any of the current crop that are finding mass appeal. Because Syn is right – WoW and its brethren don’t really encourage players to improve. Not in a competitive, “top of the heap” sense. For that I might (someday) point them to strategy games or shooters or…*gasp*… Real World team sports!

Case in Point

But there are lessons to be learned, even in the themeparks as they stand today. Lessons such as cooperation, teamwork, and courtesy to others (okay, maybe not in WoW); social skills like leadership, coordinating groups, and listening. I guess it really depends on what you seek going into these games. If you’re looking for skill-based, sink-or-swim game design maybe the themeparks aren’t for you. Which begs the question – why are you playing RIFT (or WoW, or LotRO, or whatever)?

I know my personal answer (story, story, STORY!). Which always leads me to my constant conundrum – paying the price to see the sights. I love a great challenge, but don’t have the availability to tackle the current design for “challenge” in MMOs (a.k.a. “the grind”). And while I wouldn’t want any game I play to go down the Path of Ultimate Accessibility a la WoW, I don’t really have the time to burn playing the truly challenging alternatives. My drive is always to experience the content – all of it – whether it’s in the form of stories/quests or simply exploration.

Like I said, I’ve got more disposable money than free time, which is convenient for the corporate “sponsors” of our favorite pastime! To whom do you think they’re going to cater – the competitive-but-nonetheless-niche-audience cyberathlete or the time-starved-wallet-heavy buttonmasher?

Sorry, Syn.

Another Week in the Sun

This week marks our (almost) yearly family trip to Florida, so I’m pretty much out of the loop for gaming. This laptop can run LotRO, but it’s not much good for group activities. Besides, the whole thing is a good excuse to take a break and catch up on some sleep; it’s amazing how different it feels getting a nearly full night of sleep (kids still make the “full night” fairly improbable). Still, smartphones and WiFi mean we aren’t completely cut off, so keeping up with the news is still possible.

Somehow it slipped my attention that I’d be on vacation during the end of the first World Event in RIFT; normally, I’d bemoan the fact that I missed such an event, but it seems that I didn’t really miss anything and, given my gaming schedule, it’s not likely that I would have been able to get in to see the end anyway. I’m a little upset about how the whole thing played out, but mostly from the position of “detached observer”. I was barely able to accumulate enough shardstones to buy the few items I really wanted, and other than that I wasn’t particularly invested in the event. I was more interested in it as a concept – that it seemed technically feasible and demonstrated Trion’s intentions.

I’ve ponied up for the Founder’s Pricing (which, to be honest, is pretty tame compared to LotRO‘s Founder’s deal) and subbed for the next three months, which I would have done even without the River of Souls. However, it seems that Trion really has fumbled for the first time. But possibly not for reasons fully within their control; the “Bring a Friend” weekend was probably planned well in advance, and the unexpected delay in releasing Phase 2 just created a truly unfortunate set of circumstances; despite giving “priority access” to subscribers, once a visitor is actually in the game, I imagine that Trion would not kick them out for a paying customer.

While I agree with Syncaine about the overall response from players (outrageous entitlement and completely undue rage), I do have two points where I disagree. First, technical issues prevented players who wanted to play and were online at the time from entering the game world. That’s not the fault of players, is a pretty straightforward problem, and is an issue that Trion needs to address.

The second issue is much larger, and it’s something that makes me think twice about long-term investment in RIFT – the nature of dynamic events and exactly how far Trion wants to take the “dynamic” nature of the game. Syncaine is right – it’s just not reasonable (but then again, how often are we reasonable in our demands?) for players to laud Trion for providing a more dynamic world, while at the same time screaming about that same dynamic content not being available to them at any time they choose to log in. It’s an issue that Trion will have to work hard to tackle – how do you make a truly dynamic world, one that’s always changing, while at the same time providing equal opportunity and access to all players no matter what time of day/week/month they choose to log in? It would seem that one cannot accommodate the other.

My guess is that there are a lot of conversations about this very topic going on right now; Trion has already acknowledged their missteps and seems to realize the nature of their error. My guess would be that, in the future, “dynamic content” will fall into one of a few categories:

  • World Events – these will come and go, but each phase will last several days or weeks instead of being as brief as the final phases of River of Souls.
  • “One offs” – these will be very short events (days or even hours) that have minimal impact on the world, almost no real benefit (i.e. loot drops/currencies), but provide the “living world” feel and are fun for those who experience them.
  • Rifts/Invasions – these are well established and will continue as they always have.
  • Something else(?)

It will be interesting to see the outcome, and considering that the next World Event is probably right around the corner, I think we’ll see how their design decisions have shifted based on this first event.

In other news (for the games I play!), Turbine announced the Fourth Anniversary Celebration. I’m always a fan of Turbine’s events, but this one just seems like more of the same. Not to mention that it’s apparently quite a grind (when Goldenstar decides to skip, you know there are issues). The mount is nice, and I’ll certainly be working towards it, and I’ve always liked the “Beer Battle” (I still have a title to achieve, if this is the same mini-game as what’s in the seasonal festival), but nonetheless it seems like there is a distinct lack of content to motivate participation. I know that they can’t “hit one out of the park” every time, but after the rather bland Spring Festival, I was hoping for something a bit…more. Four years is an achievement, but not exactly an easy milestone to promote – it’s not a multiple of five. I’m hoping that they really pull out the stops for next year!

That’s about it for now. Back to the beach!

It’s Been a Long, Long Time

This past weekend was all about RIFT for me; I even took last Friday off and had one of those ultra-rare gaming marathons! Six solid hours of RIFT, followed by a few good sessions over the “official” weekend…good times.

I have to say that I’m very impressed with the new World Event. Though, so far, the event doesn’t seem like much more than a few daily quests, some new vendor items, and an increased number of Death rifts. I’m looking forward to seeing the next two phases, however, and if the whole thing is an indication of Trion’s ability to roll out dynamic content, I’m pretty excited about the future of the game. Supposedly Trion has built a framework for delivering this kind of content into the game, so my guess is we’ll be seeing a lot of this kind of activity. It’s not Update 2, but so far River of Souls feels like a success.

I stretched some long-unused “MMO muscles” this weekend, and did a lot of things I haven’t done for far too long. I’ve pretty much come down on the side of the Defiants – running a Paladin/Warlord/Void Knight tank for groups and a Riftblade/Champion/Paragon for “fun” when running solo. The Warrior is a class I haven’t played in a very, very long time – the last time I considered a tank as my main was when I played World of Warcraft oh-so-many-years-ago. It’s a very different experience trying to keep all the attention on me, instead of staying out of sight as a Burglar. Though with RIFT‘s system of “all-things-to-everyone” classes, I’m still not sure if Warrior is my true calling. What’s still surprising is the almost complete lack of interest I still have (don’t have?) in Rogues. Not like me at all.

I managed to run my first dungeon as well – Iron Tombs. It’s fairly standard as far as dungeons go, but I wouldn’t expect much more for the first dungeon players experience. Aside from being a bit of a maze, the Great Barrows is pretty straight forward. As much as RIFT seems custom-built for MMO aficionados, Trion still has to keep new players in mind. And introducing complex scenarios requiring the type of coordination to which veteran gamers are accustomed isn’t exactly the easiest way to break in first-timers. I particularly liked one mechanic involving “Death Shards” – mounds being tended by keepers that need to be killed first, then the Shards spawn waves of undead as you destroy them. The first time we took one down, no one knew about the spawns, so we had it down to less than half health when we suddenly realized we were swamped with monsters. At first I thought they were just a few non-elite adds, but it turned out they appear as the Death Shards lose health. Very nice – nice mechanic, requires a bit of coordination, but not overwhelming.

Still, it was a fun time and I ended up running it twice – once with a group with one healing Cleric, a Chloromancer, and two Rogues and the other group with two Clerics (one healing, one…not), an Elementalist, and another Warrior. It was appropriately scaled for 5 players, and I’m absolutely impressed that Trion can create any group content so finely tuned that it can require certain roles but still be flexible enough to allow for the kinds of class mixtures we ended up having available.

I was surprised at how lazy I’ve gotten on the social aspects of these games; apparently having a solid and active Kinship, while immeasurably helpful and fun, has caused me to forget how to make friends. “Pick up groups” were never my favorite, but so far they’ve been necessary and actually quite fun.

Work > Fun > Work > “Poly-game-y”

I couldn't resist...

Funny how an incredibly busy week equates to a truly slow week for the things you want to be doing. Obviously, gaming has not been much of an option these past few days.  Alas.

The title pretty much sums up my time over the past week or so – (Personal) Work more than Fun, Fun more than (Work) Work, and Work has been better than “Poly-game-y” (trying to maintain two MMO subs at the same time…excuse the very poor joke). I barely have enough time to respectably play one MMO, let alone the two that vie for my attention these days. But RIFT continues to entice, while LotRO‘s op and coming Echoes of the Dead keeps me itching to log in.

But I have to admit – I am not a polygamist (in any sense of the word). I just don’t have it in me; call it a remnant of the whole hunter/gatherer division of instinct. MMOs, which seem so often to require monogamy from their devoted players, actually DO for me. Trying to get (or stay) invested in two worlds just divides my attention too much, and I end up feeling a shallow experience from both. Which might be another reason I haven’t been logging in much the past week. And why I’m writing at 10 PM on a Friday night, instead of playing!

And, for me, if I’m not invested, what’s the point? I play for the stories and the adventure and if I’m not feeling those, I don’t feel the need to log in. Which I haven’t this week. Besides, with a personal project weighing heavy on my mind (and making good progress!), my little free time been spent elsewhere. So the title works both ways – Polygamy has felt more like Work, Work has been a lot more Fun, and what was Fun has become more of a chore, recently.

Not that I’ve given up on gaming or MMOs; a very temporary, and inadvertent, hiatus is more like it.

(Oddly enough, I’ve never had a problem playing multiple single-player games at a time…perhaps because they don’t change while I’m gone? It’s certainly not the “get my money’s worth” thing for MMOs – Lifetime LotRO paid off a long, long time ago, and RIFT is well worth the price!)

Slow Week

It’s been a slow week for me, at least as far as gaming goes; work has been pretty crazy as we ramp up to stay on schedule for some pretty heavy deadlines, and I’ve been playing around with a personal, MMO-related project as well which has sucked up a good amount of my free nights. We’ll see where that one goes, but so far its been a lot of fun – Google App Engine and data visualizations as applied to MMOs? Yes, please!

(Okay, maybe that’s just me…there’s a reason I do this kind of stuff for a living.)

Oddly enough, what little gaming time I’ve had has been mostly devoted to LotRO. Just before RIFT I decided to finally venture into Enedwaith for the first time. I know, I’m terribly late to the party!

I have to say, I’m very impressed with the zone and with the story so far. Some beautiful vistas, and a great blend of cultural influences. I went through the diplomacy session between the Dunlendings of Lanuch and the Emissary of Isengard last night and, even though it was very text-heavy, it was a fun and memorable experience. Really, if Turbine would just jump on the All-Voiceover Bandwagon, LotRO would see a tidy increase in immersion.

My favorite moment of the last week was discovering Maur Tulhau. I was wandering through the northern Gloomglens, looking for quest objectives and not particularly paying attention to where I was, when I came over a rise. The music suddenly changed (and swelled!) to a somewhat familiar tune and I topped the rise to look down on a small town. A Hobbit town! (And I realized of what the music reminded me – The Shire.) It was a great surprise and a really nice moment that rang of discovery and adventure. I didn’t wander into the village, saving that for later.

Overall, Enedwaith strikes me as a great zone that definitely shows Turbine’s experience at creating spaces. There are a lot of nice environmental touches, little details, and nooks and crannies I know I will spend a ton of time fully exploring! I’m impressed with how much diversity they’ve crammed into one space, while at the same time making it coherent.

It makes me that much more excited to see what’s over the next horizon; even though Update 2 doesn’t really release any new zone (does it?), it certainly reworks a good amount of what’s tiresome in LotRO right now (for me, at least). I’m looking forward to the removal of Radiance and the reworking of Legendary Items, if for no other reason than that it allows me to stop grinding content I’m not particulary interested in doing again, and move on into things I haven’t yet experienced. Also, building my own Legendary with exactly the Legacies I want should be a huge help in making me more viable for the new group/raid content coming in Echoes of the Dead.

In the wider world (in case you aren’t already aware), PAX East started this week; I have yet to attend a major gaming conference, and I’ve determined that next year I will at least attend PAX East – it’s only a few hours from home and there are many, many people I’d love to meet (whether they care to meet me is another issue!). Nonetheless, I’m watching the news sites and blogs closely for news, announcements, and other goodies (such as THIS ONE), as there are many games on display during the show and probably some hefty reveals for titles I’m eagerly anticipating. Can’t wait!