Inside The Rift

A Dive Into Planar Chaos

Under Construction

Hey everybody. As you well know, there hasn’t been a post here in a while. That explanation and how the blog will function moving forward can be found in my TWT post for today. I hope you all understand and look forward to seeing you later this week!

That TWT post can be found here

March 29, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Apologies

I will not be able to deliver the post I promised tomorrow. My mind has gone into a vegetative state and I’m precisely halfway through my exam schedule. I would not be doing this if it were not absolutely necessary. I have already drafted a post for TWT that will be published tomorrow, I had no such draft for ITR and therefore will not be able to post. Very sorry to anyone who was awaiting the post.

March 14, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Falling Behind… Weekend is Near!

As I sit here at my computer, hour number five of studying/playing Rift/thinking of a post topic, my mind has wandered quite a bit. It’s definitely not your average night in college. Finals are coming up next week and it’s time to catch up on all the work I haven’t done. There’s a similar story playing out in my Rift life. 50 is coming soon. I plan on being significantly through level 40 by the end of the night. This means that I have a lot of learning to do. I’m a PvPer at heart, and I’m a little ashamed to say I haven’t learned very much outside of my main calling. I like to think I’ve done a good job of varying my play style through my progression so far. I’ve experimented with quite a few of the Mage souls and read the trees for all those I haven’t actually specced into. However, when I go into a Warfront all I have to work with is the knowledge of my class and base mechanics.

The more devoted readers among you will know that I’ve got my origins in Guild Wars. One had to almost memorize hundreds of abilities to be considered “knowledgeable” in that game. Rift, by comparison, is a lot more simple. However, again in comparison to recent MMO releases, the amount of variation in build can be staggering. So, it’s time that I started learning about everyone else. My plan is to be 50 by the end of next week before I go on vacation for a week, and when I return it’s going to be all about the soul trees for a little while. I haven’t had the urge to really succeed and wring every bit of performance out of a game since Warhammer in its prime. I’m really looking forward to how it plays out. I personally have enjoyed the PvP I’ve done so far, even given how woefully unprepared I am. The general feel of the gameplay is something I’m very familiar with and consider to be fun.

I’m going to have to cut this post a bit short tonight. It’s not like me to use the blog as a pseudo diary, normally I like to dig into topics which can inspire some discussion and provoke deeper thought, and I hope you all can forgive me for not doing that tonight. Like I said earlier, finals are next week. I won’t be doing another post until Tuesday, which will give me this weekend to get all my work done.
I promise to be a little more engaging then. Also, don’t forget to check out Time Wasted Tuesdays in the blogroll to your right. Rolling out on Tuesday along with the next Inside The Rift entry will be my first piece of work for the guys over there. I’m really excited to be spreading the brand, if you will, and always happy to help foster community.

Anyways, I’m outta here. Enjoy your weekend and for your sake, I hope you don’t have exams coming up!

March 11, 2011 Posted by | Rift General | Leave a comment

Have You Ever Been Alone in a Crowded Room?

Dark blue dark blue… cookies to those who got the musical reference. I haven’t listened to the song in quite a long time, but when thinking about possible titles for this post, it was really the only thing that fit. Why? Because that’s exactly how I feel during any public group content in Rift.

The more consistent readers among you may be feeling some internal alarms at that last paragraph. Two posts in a row where I’m talking negatives? Don’t worry. Things in Rift couldn’t be better for this writer, I’m just continuing my last post’s theme of constructive criticism.

Getting back on track though, why do I feel alone in a crowded room during public groups? Well, I think it may be in part due to habit from Warhammer. The emergent cooperation in that game was one of the best parts about it. I remember during my personal Warhammer heyday a particular zone fight involving about three warbands (read: 72 players) on each side. In order to capture a zone in Warhammer, a faction needed to control Battlefield Objectives and Keeps. A Keep siege involved breaking down two doors and storming the second floor, attempting to overcome any player defenders and taking out the NPC Keep Lord in the process. Battlefield Objectives required the attacking force to clear a group of mobs and channel on a flag for a few seconds.

It was difficult to take a zone by blobbing (unless you had just staggering numbers) because small groups could potentially hit BO’s across the zone and reset your domination timer. This all but required the people in the warbands to coordinate via chat. We would call out which area was under attack, where the opposing side was headed, etc. People knew to work as a team because victory was impossible if we didn’t. That is not how Rifts and Zone Events have been thus far in this MMO.

Through gritty experience I found out firsthand how to get a purple shard. While it answered one of the questions I posed in my last entry, it magnified the problem I’m currently talking about. The Epic Invasion (signified by colored boss text at the start) required both the Guardians and Defiant to defeat a series of bosses while at the same time defend a point from NPC attackers. In essence, the exact same thing that we did in Warhammer except the baddies are split evenly between players and NPCs.

When one of the bosses would finally fall, the public group would disintegrate without a word. No one trying to coordinate where to go next, nobody voicing an opinion at all. Just drop the group and run solo until that “Join Public Group” button shows up again so you can rack up the contribution. Now, I understand that the relative ease of defending these invasions could lend itself to a zerg-like mentality. Maybe that is the entire root of the problem. However, I haven’t played at 50 yet. All I know is what I’ve experienced, and it hasn’t been very social.

I was really surprised by this. I honestly expected some sort of organization to occur. Again, maybe it’s the Warhammer in me, but I called out into region chat a few times asking where the action was headed just to try and spur some communication.

On a slightly related note, the Zone Invasion itself was very cool. I really enjoyed how it was structured differently than your normal ones, and it definitely had a more epic feeling. I’m honestly wondering if anyone has noticed the same thing that I’m talking about, or if I’m the only guy who thinks this is weird. Feel free to drop a comment with your thoughts.

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I’m going to take this space to throw out a big thank you to Time Wasted Tuesdays. I have been invited to be an author for this great community. I’ll be writing a post for them that will be published (to be confirmed) each Tuesday morning. This won’t interrupt the normal things around here though, I will continue to update this site with my normal post about every other day as has been the case. If you read my blog but haven’t heard about TWT, you can check out their link in my blogroll to the right. I encourage you to head on over and read some of the content.

As always I hope that all is well in game and otherwise, see you next time.

March 9, 2011 Posted by | Rift General | Leave a comment

…And Then The Morning Comes

Hello again everyone. Hopefully you all had a good weekend, I know I did. Today I’m going to talk about something a little bit different than what has been the norm: what is wrong with Rift.

I kept the promise I made at the end of my last post, I signed up for a six month founder’s plan. As I write this I’m also currently involved in the first Officer’s meeting for . The gears have started turning on this fledgling MMO, people are reaching cap and the real game is starting to show.

I think it’s important to keep a level head in all things. Being able to understand and relate to both sides of any fence is never a useless tool. That’s where this post is coming from. I don’t like it when criticism is taken as a personal offense. You can see this on the Rift forums right now. People take any criticism (Note: I’m talking about the well written and thoughtful posts, not the immature spam) towards their new game of choice as an affront to everything sacred. What follows is my sacrilegious list.

Firstly, and because it was the first thing on my mind, I feel that the way the game tracks Zone Event quests is particularly bad. Many times I have found myself in the middle of helping out in one, only to have it spontaneously leave my tracker. This is a pretty bad situation to be in considering the Zone Events are the touted feature in Rift. On another note, I found that they wouldn’t even show up in my tracker unless I had auto-quest tracking on. I don’t like having that feature enabled because I like to choose the order of my quests. Zone Event quests should take priority over all other quests, even if auto-tracking is disabled. It should show up at the top of your tracker and stay there until completed or failed.

Next up on the chopping block is the lack of a Guild Bank. I like to think that there was a very real reason not to have these at launch, because I don’t quite understand what a “next generation” MMO is doing without one. I’ve read hearsay on the forums that one is in the works, but honestly how long can that take? I understand that it will probably be pushed back until the first real content patch because that’s how things work in the biz’, but it really should be here then. I’d be a little disappointed if we had to wait much longer. Not a gamebreaker, but something that made me sit back and go, “Hm.”

Third, and something that I feel a lot of people will agree with me about, is the seeming lack of literature related to how things exactly work in this game. There is a disturbing lack of information as to how epic sourceshards are obtained and what exactly is the difference between all the zone events. This information will come with time and experience, but it would be nice to have some sort of official word. I know MMO gamers, we like to know everything letter for letter. The thirst for knowledge is almost unquenchable, and we need it STAT.

Those are my big three. I know there have been other seemingly insignificant things that have irked me here or there, some of you may have experienced the same things. Let me know in a comment. It’s important to see both sides of this game, the good and the bad. Admitting that it has faults doesn’t mean you don’t get to play anymore!

March 6, 2011 Posted by | Rift General | 1 Comment

Straight From The Horse’s Mouth


Hello one and all. Hopefully Rift’s launch went by as uneventfully for you guys as it did for me. New servers came up, more people came in, and I still got to play like normal. It was indeed a good day for Rift. 31 new servers came online for the official launch (a scary number for anyone who played Warhammer at its start) and many were rated as High or Full. Time will tell as to whether going big on day one was the right choice for Trion, but that’s not what I’m here to talk about today.

Along with the U.S. release of the game proper, our friends over at Rift:IncGamers got an exclusive interview with Dynamic Content Lead, Will Cook. Yes, you read that right. Dynamic Content Lead. The dude whose job it is to make sure your quest hubs get invaded with awesomeness. Will was incredibly candid in this interview. He talked about all sorts of juicy MMO topics, so let’s get started dissecting this thing.

A content patch every three to six months is not getting your subscription’s worth.

If this continues to be company policy, it could mean that we will be getting new stuff on a timeline similar or faster than that? That is impressive, and in my opinion, much needed.

We have a global highway system right now, and all it’s doing is directing invasions.

I had never before thought of the roads in each zone as some sort of grid that mobs travel along. I never put two and two together when seeing invasion forces. After watching this video, I’m amazed at the concept that they have very successfully implemented. I love the way he phrases the above quote. So, being a living and breathing pathway for mobs that are actively invading the zone is all that the highway system is doing? That’s a pretty amazing thing for it to be doing, Will. This quote is very exciting because it means that they have plans to enhance upon the dynamic zone concept. He mentions NPC escort missions specifically. I feel that stuff like this is what could make an MMO really feel alive.

It’s one of the most aggressive post launch schedules I’ve ever laid my eyes on.

This is simply beautiful. I’ve been around the MMO block before, and I’ve believed my fair share of empty promises. There really is no way for any of us to be sure whether the “most aggressive post launch schedule” Will has ever seen will be more or less exciting than a weekly Runescape update. (No hate, I played the shit out of that game in middle school) However, I can’t help but get giddy thinking about it. I know that I’m neck deep in the new MMO shine at the moment, but I can’t help but feel that there is something different this time. To follow up, he mentions that Telara will indeed continue to grow, and that he is actually working on content now that will be out with the first big patch.

Speaking of RvR, “I’d be for it if the community is for it, and if it fits our game.

As an ex-WAR player, this makes me happy to see. I’d love to see some sort of objective-based RvR zone which ties in neatly to the planar storyline.

I’m going to close with some thoughts on what he says near the end of the video about Scott Hartsman. People with a passion for these games are really what makes or breaks an MMO. Intelligent, driven people who are thinking about their game all day. I’m absolutely not taking anything away from Will by saying this, I was very impressed with the interview, but hearing that Hartsman had the balls to call the implementation of zone events and public grouping very late in the development cycle tells me something very important about the leadership of Rift. It tells me that they, so far in the game’s life, have not been scared to do what they think is an improvement. They aren’t afraid to push the envelope and try things that in the past haven’t been so main stream. They’re the underdog. They have a vision, and damned if they aren’t going to to their best to see it through.

I feel like this post isn’t written too remarkably well, and for that I’m sorry. It’s been a long week of classes and I really wanted to write about this video. I hope I expressed some of my delight appropriately. I was very surprised by their attitude towards development, and at the same time reassured that we are indeed in good hands.

I’ll be purchasing my 6 month founder’s subscription tomorrow.

*

March 3, 2011 Posted by | Rift General | 2 Comments

Why Warhammer Was A Next Generation MMO, and What it Means for Rift

Put your pitchforks away, it doesn’t mean what you think it means. Allow me to explain this unavoidably long title before you douse me in the flames of hatred for a game so dead. The Rift headstart has been online for a few days now, and people are really getting a feel for the game. I found myself deep in some MMO conversation with my best friend and roommate (also playing Rift), and I realized for the first time just how important Warhammer was to the MMO genre today.

I’m aware that Mythic’s earlier attempt at MMO stardom is widely considered a much superior RvR product, and that WAR wasn’t the first MMO to have “Public Quest esque” content. However, it was the first one to bring them into the spotlight during the modern era. I would know. I joined arguably the biggest Warhammer forum around July of 2007. I followed and then played the game until shortly before the recent content patch increasing the Renown Rank cap. Pre-launch, the hype surrounding the title was palpable. Everyone knew about Warhammer.

Fast forward a few months, a year, two years, and the game is a shell of its former self. It was the most fun MMO experience I had been given since Guild Wars (opinion), but it just didn’t function.

Going back to the opening paragraph, though, that’s not to say it didn’t do a whole hell of a lot correctly.

Warhammer brought both Living Guilds and spontaneous, non instanced raid content into the spotlight. Both of these things are features that will not be missing in any MMO launched within at least five years. Imagine going back to a pre-WAR guild system. There is no level of advancement. It seems almost foreign not to imagine an experience bar being the first thing I see when I hit ‘G.’ MMO’s are supposed to be a socially involved experience. Why would you play one if that wasn’t what you were looking for? Why hasn’t every title ever launched brought that spontaneity and feeling of a living world to the forefront?

I can’t answer that question, but I can surely tell you what I think all my blathering means about Rift. This is a Rift blog, after all. Rift has incorporated both of these features, yes, but the one I’m mainly after is the Rift and Invasion system. This takes PQ’s from Warhammer and turns them into something that I never imagined before.

Trion touted Rift as being a dynamic world. By level 25 in Rift, I can say that, at least at this point, they were dead on. Not only do you have your stage-based contribution competitions in the Major and Minor rifts, but you have full scale invasions on questing hubs? All of this depends on spontaneous, non-instanced raid participation by formerly anonymous players? I think it sounds pretty awesome when phrased like that. This post isn’t meant to say that Trion has done no wrong with Rift, because that’s surely not the case. I’m not trying to talk about what they did or didn’t do correctly. I want to express my joyous excitement at how the MMO genre is developing. No matter what problems you might have with the game, I think it’s pretty hard to say that the Rift system isn’t really freakin’ cool.

Lots of companies are wanting to throw the “Next Generation” tag on their MMO releases. I’m pretty sure Trion did as well with Rift. To me, “Next Generation” means that the entire genre will take a step forward because of what you did with your game. Given that hindsight is 20/20, I fully believe that at least on some level, Warhammer was “Next Generational.” Will that be the case with Rift? Only time will tell. One thing’s for sure though, it definitely benefited from those who came before.

I fully welcome conflicting opinions. I realize that this line of thought isn’t a given for everyone, and I’d like to know what you guys think. Drop a comment below with how you feel about it.

March 1, 2011 Posted by | Rift General | 4 Comments

First Impressions Are Everything

Would you be friends with him?

Hello again everybody. It’s been almost exactly 48 hours since headstart kicked off, and the gears of this game are already whirring. It’s at about this time that I feel like I need to step back and digest what I’ve seen of the game so far. In this market, the first impression of a game can be the deciding factor between a surge of subscriptions at launch or a monumental collapse shortly thereafter. It can be tough to recuperate from any early slip-ups. With that being said, here are my opinions, in no particular order, on what I’ve seen so far.

Animations

I’ve played games in the past where animations were stale and rehashed and spell effects were so exaggerated that a simple firebolt temporarily blinded all nearby players. Rift, so far, has neither of those problems. Animations are crisp, clipping is minimal if at all present, and the spell effects are flavorful and not overdone. It’s easy to tell what spell is being cast, who cast it, and where it came from. In addition to that, I have yet to get stuck on or in a piece of the environment. That doesn’t have anything to do with animations, but it’s really nice considering the last MMO I played for any extended period of time was Warhammer.

Quests

Quests in Rift are standard MMO fare, which is neither a good thing or a bad thing. Sticking with the status quo can’t hurt you. If you have grown absolutely tired of killing X of Y, Rift isn’t the “next generation” MMO for you.

A very clean quest log

If you think you can stomach it, however, you might find that the questing experience, while not revolutionary, is very streamlined and not broken. By that I mean everything works as it should. This game launched more fundamentally complete than any game I’ve played in recent history.

 

Polish

I’ve been playing slowly over these first two days. I’ve been deliberately trying to find something in this damn game that won’t work properly. I can’t. That’s not to say the entire packages is 100% operational, but it lends itself to a very solid first impression, like I touched upon earlier. There’s a lot to touch on in this topic, so let’s get started.

First, the settings menu.

A varied settings menu is no “lunar landing” for MMO’s, but there were a few options which I found impressive enough to merit the word space. Namely, these.

AoE looting is exactly what it sounds like. You can loot an entire group of mobs at the same time. Full of bugs, you say? No. Looting in this game is smoother than any I’ve ever played. No lag time, no loot bugs.

The “Ability Queue” is something that I thought was a really nice touch. You either allow a full GCD queue ahead of time or a partial one. It’s nice to add some more fluidity to the combat.

Finally we have the “Focus Cast Button.” This was awesome to see. If you have a focus target, you can designate a modifier key that will target whatever you cast (if it’s a valid spell) on your focus. I see lots of hybrid healers using this functionality. It reminds me of Warhammer’s dual targetting system; a feature that I believe is lacking in most MMO’s today.

Crafting

I’m a big fan of crafting in MMO’s. I haven’t found a system that I completely disliked. That streak remains unbroken in Rift. After a few hours of crafting, I was reminded of the Aion system. Rift’s crafting feels like a mix between Aion and WoW. Whether the vicious RNG that plagued Aion will keep it’s hands out of Rift’s crafting at the higher levels remains to be seen, the lower levels seem much more forgiving. Another cool little fact is that at level 1 Artificer, I could make items that were immediate upgrades. Now I’m around level 40 and that still holds true. If crafting remains a very useful and relatively painless part of this game all through the leveling and beyond, I will be a very happy camper.

The crafting interface

Here we see the basic crafting interface. It shares that same clean feeling with the rest of the UI (to be touched upon later). I’ve opened up the drop down box which lends itself to very easy switching between your professions without needing to open up more windows. A bit of useful flavor can be seen down at the bottom in the “Augmentation” box. Here you can add powerful planar reagents which give whatever you craft a particular stat buff. Cool feature.

Soul System

One of my favorite parts of this game, and probably the one that drew me to playing most of all, is the Soul system. Most of what I would call my glory days in MMO’s come from Guild Wars. The level of customization and min/maxing that could go on in that game at the high end of PvP was nearly limitless. Each week new builds would crop up, funky strategies and heretofore unseen synergies would wreck the current king of the hill and send everyone back to the drawing board. When I first read about Rift, I was strongly reminded of Guild Wars.

Don't make fun of my talent choices...

If you don’t know anything about it yet, the Soul system is as follows. At character creation, you select a Calling (read: Class). There are four callings: Warrior, Cleric, Rogue, and Mage. Each calling, by way of completing quests, can unlock various Souls (read: Talent Trees). One may have up to three Souls equipped at any one time, and spend points according to whatever devious scheme you’ve cooked up. Sets of souls can be saved into Roles (read: spec, build) that can be switched between on the fly. Everything can be respecced.

At my second glance, I thought about the potential balance issues. They could be nightmarish. Then, though, I went back to Guild Wars. There were hundreds of skills in Guild Wars, and hundreds of skills that never saw competitive play. And that’s OK. In games unlike Rift or Guild Wars, each class tends to only have enough abilities to fulfill it’s role in one way. With a plethora of options, the wheat will separate from the chaff and it will be very evident as to what is good and what is not. That takes some of the balancing pressure off the devs. It is not necessary to achieve total balance, as long as the relevant skills are not vastly out of whack. It also lends itself very nicely to shifts in metagame. If the devs feel that skill X has been out of the competitive scene for too long, a sudden buff can bring thunderous shifts to what everyone is using.

It worked excellently in Guild Wars. Time will tell if it will work here, but I’m very excited.

User Interface

Rift’s UI is clean, just like everything else about the game. It’s another facet that reminds me of Guild Wars. At this point in time, there are no third party Addons in the game. Strangely, I’d like it to stay that way. There are tons of options for customization already present.

As you can see from the screenshot, most everything can be changed. I say most, because I actually have a gripe with this section. The extra action bars (two of which are pictured on the right of my screen) lack the same visual style as the original. I’d like to see an option to at least give them a textured border.

This screenshot shows what pops up if you click on someone’s name in your friends list. I was pleasantly surprised at the level of information given in this tiny window. It’s the little things, you know?

Going through the entire UI would defeat the purpose of this post, so I won’t do that here. Suffice to say, the first impression was a good one.

Rift System

This post is getting a little long, and I’ve got more than a little urge to get back in game and explore more, so this will be the last topic.

Rifts are the game’s namesake. They are the mechanic touted as being revolutionary. While I wouldn’t use that adjective, I would say they are a definite step forward for the industry. I loved Public Quests in Warhammer. However, as the game matured, there became zero reason to ever do them. Rift solved that problem by saying, “Don’t want to do my PQ’s? I’ll come to your quest hub and burn it down.” It adds a sense of urgency to each one. Every now and then one of the planes will decide it’s time to play, and a Rift will open. Sometimes even, an invasion will occur. These flood the zone with planar creatures which can pose actual threats.

There are some complaints, though. I’m almost positive the spawn rate of Rifts and invasions are based on the zone population. This is launch. 2+2=4. Everyone in the server is bottlenecked into one or two zones, which means the planes want in there bad. Rifts happen constantly and everywhere.

Note I am not angered by this at all. In fact, I think it adds a nice atmosphere to the first few days of the game. Sure it can be an inconvenience to leveling, but this game is going to be out for a while. Enjoy the ride, planar activity won’t be this high forever.
Rewards are passed out in a similar fashion to WoW. How much you contribute is directly proportional to the loot that you get.

I’m going to take a little time here and toss a shout out to my guild on US Rocklift. Myself and four friends from way back when formed it last night (with the help of our newest member and first Rift recruit!) and we’re loving everything about the game. If you’re on Rocklift feel free to shoot me a PM (Amann), and if you’re looking for a guild I’d be happy to let you know what we’re about.

Phew. That was a long one. I hope you enjoyed the read. Leave a comment with your opinion on anything, keep the discussion going. Most of all, enjoy Rift. See you in game.

February 27, 2011 Posted by | Rift General | 4 Comments

The Start of Something New

Welcome, everyone, to my new blog. I’ve written about MMO’s before, and I’m really looking forward to cataloging my adventures in this one. I always think it’s nice to give my readers a little bit of what to expect, so what you read below you could think of as my “mission statement.” I hope what you see here piques your interest, and that I’ll see you again soon.

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Seven years ago I played my first MMO. I haven’t been without one ever since. I’ve got a wealth of experience on the genre along with an even larger wealth of fascination for the culture that has grown out of it. No single game over these past seven years has roused my gaming spirit as much as Rift has, and I’m itching to play it.

As with all new MMO communities, this one is amorphous. It’s hard to tell how exactly the “cookie will crumble,” but with a nudge in the right direction, it’s very possible to create a network of knowledge and community that can positively influence any gamer who comes into contact with it. That is my goal with this blog.

I will do my best to update with entertaining accounts of my own gaming along with informative analysis of the deeper mechanics of the game. I welcome all other Rift enthusiasts to open up the channels of communication, let’s get the ball rolling here and create a strong atmosphere for the inception of this new game.

And we can have a hell of a lot of fun while doing it. Welcome to Inside The Rift.

February 24, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments