Tag Archives: Trion

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!

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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.

Anticipation, Detour, Overload

The view from above Silverwood

As much as I said I was going to wait a week or more before diving into RIFT, once that Collector’s Edition box showed up Tuesday afternoon, I knew there was no hope of that. It’s not the biggest, or even nicest, Collector’s Edition I’ve bought (though the 8GB USB drive is very nice!), but the hardcover collection of the comic miniseries was enough to get me super-excited, and nearly desperate, to get into Telara and start exploring. So I decided to brave the crowds and forge ahead!

Like others who have posted on the topic, the few times I came across a server queue (and that hasn’t been but once since the game went “Live”) didn’t really bother me. In fact, given that I just sat there and read the comic, it was actually kind of exciting – my anticipation built and built until I was slavering to get into the game. When the counter hit single digits, I think my pulse jumped a few dozen BPM. I know, it’s a one-time occurrence – the comics heightening my desire to play to the point where I don’t care about the queue – but then again, so are the queues (hopefully). So in the end, it worked out really well and pushed my desire to play RIFT into the stratosphere.

At this point I’ve played all of the classes at least to level 10; Rogue, Warrior, and Cleric on the Guardian side and Rogue, Warrior, and Mage on the Defiant. I’m purposely choosing different souls where I have a class on both sides, and after playing around with various combinations, I found a surprise. I’m really not into the Rogue classes all that much (*GASP*). Which is a HUGE thing for me. I almost always play stealth classes, and this generally means a Rogue-like class. But, for one reason or another, everyone seems to have rolled a Rogue in RIFT; well, not everyone, but enough people that I lost a bit of interest. Once I get to the group content, I’m not sure I want to hang out for hours looking for a spot for DPS.

Where I’ve actually found the most fun is in the Mage and Cleric classes, which really threw me for a loop. I’m generally considered the absolute worst Minstrel in my LotRO kin, and I never roll casters. When I logged in last night and immediately went to select my Guardian Cleric, a little voice in the back of my head started stuttering its objections while trying to pull the mouse towards a Rogue. So maybe its more that I prefer the “Road Less Traveled” and, up until now, that’s been stealthy, stabby Rogues. We’ll see; there are many, many aspects of the Rogue that are tremendously appealing.

Last, but certainly not least, I have to say that while I think Trion Worlds has a winner on their hands, I still think they tried a little too hard to cram RIFT full of content and activities for the players. As I said in a previous post – it’s just a little bit of an overload. Between quests, the dynamic content, and peering around every corner and under every rock for Artifacts, I’m having trouble containing my OCD-like tendencies to try to do everything. It’s fun, no doubt, but it’s a little overwhelming. Which is a great thing about which one can complain! But sometimes I just want to get stuff done, and I really want to get out of Silverwood/Freemarch.

I think I’ll wait to do a more comprehensive write-up until after I get everyone out of the starter zone (not the tutorial), but I will close with this: RIFT could be an altaholic’s wet dream (or their worst nightmare, depending). For someone like me, who has limited time to play, it’s a dream come true. Because of the soul system, and the fact that eventually I can have FOUR different builds (combinations of souls) per character, RIFT makes it so that I don’t really need to roll more than one of any given class. Maybe two, if I want to see both the Guardian and Defiant side (which I do!) and be able to play absolutely every aspect of a class. It’s like the best of WoW’s Talent Trees combined with Tabula Rasa’s cloning mechanic; no more grinding through old areas over and over just to get a different class “up to speed”.

Brilliant!

They Keep Dying On Me

Drannos, Take Four

I never achieved The Undying for Drannos, my main in Lord of the Rings Online. I managed it with a few other characters, but it’s always bothered me that the character I play the most will never have a full set of achievements. Because of this, when I heard there was a similar title for reaching level 15 without dying in RIFT, I knew I had to have it. Even though I had no solid proof it was real. Even if it meant starting over. Three times.

Once was because of fatigue in deep water (I’m guessing…I’m still not sure). The others must be due to some kind of blind spot from which my Razorbeast suffers, because we keep getting blindsided by adds just when we squeak out a victory against a small group of mobs.

Other than that, this weekend in RIFT has been pretty smooth. I’ve only had to experience the queues a few times (right now, in fact, otherwise I’d be playing and not writing!) on the first day and today. For the rest of it, I haven’t gotten to play as much as I’d like, but that’s because of the Real World and family more than Trion’s immense popularity.

However, it does make me more than a little nervous for the actual launch – you know, when they let everyone else in. And I’m quickly getting to a point where I’ve decided to stop playing. Put the game aside for a week, or a month or so…

Not because there’s anything wrong with RIFT – far from it. And not because of a lack of interest. I’m dying to play the game and see the areas beyond the tutorial and starter zone. I never made it out of those during Beta.

But it is C-R-O-W-D-E-D, and not in the good way.

The tutorial zones are “phased”, or “layered”, or whatever they’ve decided to call it. Basically, they’re instanced, only that you don’t get to choose your instance and you can’t switch. But it keeps the crowds from getting ridiculous. Or, at least appearing ridiculous. There are no such restrictions on the main areas, however. And while it’s nice to see a healthy population growing, and to see people excited for the game, I tend to be a solo-centric player; I know, it’s anathema to a virtual world that I just want to be left on my own until I decide to be social, but there it is. I like exploring and wandering and not bumping into a half dozen players around every corner. LotRO has spoiled me in this, and while some may see it as a sign of an anemic server, I see it as a benefit. LotRO is like the Esurance of MMOs for me – the technology when I want it, people when I don’t (want to play alone). I’m starting to feel downright claustrophobic in RIFT.

And it’s a mixed bag of good news/bad news, too.

Good news! The client is rock solid, even with 40-60 players fighting an Invasion in close proximity to one another; I experienced barely a stutter or hitch, and it makes me hopeful for large-scale PvP.

Bad news… The Rifts/Invasions don’t scale well to that many people. Tab-flipping through targets just to get in a few shots while watching health bars plummet is not challenging. Or fun.

Good news! The “dynamic” content does a great job of both keeping players engaged, with lots to do at all times, and making the world feel more “alive”. You can see the Rifts coming while you’re out questing, or if you’re not that observant you can listen and watch for the zone-wide “Dungeon Keeper announcements” that just tell you where to go (“Sterling Hills in under attack! … Sterling Hills, everyone. STERLING. HILLS.”).

Bad news… It’s complete and total overload! Between questing, Rifts, Invasions, Footholds, Artifacts, Collections, Crafting, and who-knows-what-else-I’m-forgetting? I’m getting the feeling that this is an MMO on ADHD. The MTV of this generation – lots of flashing lights and quick takes from odd angles that flash by barely seen; with a dozen things vying for your attention and pulling you in a half-dozen directions, it’s hard to just relax and enjoy the scenery. And it’s such a GORGEOUS world!

I know that last one is completely personal. And it’s petty to complain about having too much to do. Trion has built a feature-rich game in an absolutely amazing environment, and I haven’t even made it out of Silverwood/Freemarch yet! But I feel like they could have taken one mechanic out, saved it for an expansion, and they’d still have a ton of content and activities. And given us a chance to admire what they’ve built. Instead, I’m popping Ritalin just to keep from going completely over the edge.

As it is, I’m already considering waiting a month before activating my copy (had to go with the box copy for this one…too many goodies!). My hope is that Trion either adds capacity to the existing servers, or adds new shards while locking down the servers with the heaviest populations, temporarily suspending the incoming players from creating characters. Partly it’s my fault for picking a popular server – Faeblight, RP PvE – but if there are still queues of over 1000 players a few days into the headstart, adding everyone else in will just make it unbearable. And nearly every server is ‘Full’ right now. Turbine did something vaguely similar leading up to the F2P conversion by prohibiting transfers of existing characters to Landroval (one of the most popular servers and the unofficial-official RP server). If Trion doesn’t do something about population levels, I will wait a month or so before activating, just to let the bulk of the players move ahead (or move on to another game once their 30 days are over).

It might put me behind some people with whom I very much wish to play, but if I’m not enjoying my time playing through, then what’s the point? Besides, a few solid days in-game ought to catch me up!

A Rifting We Shall Go

(Its really hard to find a post title that hasn’t already been done about RIFT today!)

Nothing fancy or long-winded today, as the Head Start for RIFT opened up at 1 PM. Check nearly any other blog and you can find details on the queues people are seeing, but is that really a surprise?

Congratulations to Trion for what, so far, appears to be a good launch. I had to wait a bit, even logging in at ten seconds past 1, but the game ran near-flawlessly.

If you’re playing RIFT and are in the headstart: Drannos, Guardian Riftstalker (for now!) on Faeblight.

See you in-game!

It’s In The Details

I've got Argonath on the brain...

Random thought as I wrap up a nice session in RIFT – not only is the above screenshot characteristically gorgeous (as is so much about the game) but it also represents something I’m quickly coming to expect from Trion – attention to detail.

Here’s why: running around the Defiant “starter zone” I’ve quickly gotten in the habit of letting the Explorer in me determine where I go and what I do. There is so much “off the beaten path” in RIFT that it is well worth the time and effort to strike out in any direction and see what one finds. Not only are there Artifact collections (I love shinies, too!) but there are the rifts themselves, Footholds, Invasions, and I’ve actually found small “quest hubs” in areas where I wasn’t explicitly pointed. A serious departure from what I’ve come to expect in a themepark game; its getting to the point that I’m not sure I can call RIFT a themepark game anymore.

Nonetheless, I was out gathering for a quest (yes, of the ‘Kill X of Y’ variety) when I spotted the above statue, which is actually quite massive, off in the distance. I get to the shoreline and see that it’s sitting on its own little island, but it definitely looks reachable. Off I go.

When I got out to it…nothing. Not a thing. No mobs aside from trash, no encounters, no Point of Interest, not even a “You’ve Discovered: Big Statue” which RIFT flashes when you find a new area. And you know what?

It made me happy. It was a great little moment; I wasn’t disappointed in the least! Because it shows an attention to detail from Trion that is sadly uncommon, even rare, these days. They didn’t put something that big out there for any other reason than that someone felt it should be there. Who knows, maybe a quest will send me back out there, or a piece of lore will be revealed that gives it some context or explanation. But not today. Today, Drannos discovered a beautiful statue, facing out to see, on a tiny island, which did nothing for me besides give me something to find. And that’s refreshing. It’s not about Achievements or Deeds or Badges for Trion (though they have those too), it’s about building a rich, immersive world for their players.

No offense to Turbine and the others, but I’ve been spoon-fed content for so long that I forgot what it was to really explore. To wander. To find things for myself. So much of what I do in other games has an ulterior motive – you don’t go anywhere or do anything that doesn’t pay off in some way; landmarks as Deeds and killing for Traits. Sure, sometimes I get to further a story; there are some truly amazing sights and experiences in all of these games. But sometimes we just need to play the hero. I’m not slaying Orcs because they threaten anyone, but only because 250 of them are an item on a checklist and when I cross them off, I get a stat boost. A small one. And on we go to the next item…

What about discovery for the sake of discovery? And the sheer fun of playing in a virtual world?