Monday, 28 March 2011

It's not quite right, but then neither is the alternative

I find myself still enjoying RIFT a great deal, it is a very good game, but at the same time I’m not entirely comfortable. The problem for me is PvP and almost entirely for reasons I (and probably everyone else) had saw coming from the start.
Class balance is terrible. Of course with the soul system that should be no surprise to anyone. I love the soul system, it’s one of the most interesting steps forward in MMOs in a long time, but it was always going to be “interesting” to balance for PvP. The next patch has a raft of balance patches and we’ll see how that works out, but it’s important to remember RIFT is very much like WoW, it’s a PvE game with PvP bolted on and the focus of everything is always in that direction. I can’t see it ever being even close to balance for PvP.
Crowd control has gone mad. I’m not entirely sure what diminishing returns or immunity timers are meant to be in-game, but I do know they simply don’t work. There are options for breaking out of CC, but they generally have very long timers and with so much CC everywhere, it’s not uncommon to spend most of your time stunned, feared, etc before dying instantly to one of the souls with damage issues… Also not all souls have the break CC abilities and that unfortunately dramatically limits how viable some souls can be, which is a little dull.
Of course I recognise that almost every MMO ever has balance issues and this early on in a game’s life it’s really not worth getting all het up about, but its worth mentioning as it is something I’m finding myself quite aware of. The biggest thing for me causing the aforementioned lack of comfort is the PvP environment in a much more broad sense.
Whilst there have been some great openworld PvP battles, there hasn’t as of yet been enough and it’s not quite the right type for me. That frequency could change of course if guilds force the issue and start raiding the enemy more, however as there is no materialistic reward for doing so, I’m not convinced enough guilds will want to. PvE (and to a point warfronts) offer far, faaaaaaar more rewards. Again, this shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone, as RIFT follows the traditional theme park PvE centric MMO format. And it does it very well indeed, it’s very good at what it is trying to be, but that’s not the same type of game as the likes of WAR, DAoC and particularly EVE or Darkfall.
Now for me one of the major factors contributing to me playing WAR for so long is how “drop in and out” friendly the PvP is and to be fair, I’ve never really found that anywhere else… ok except for perhaps Planetside. EVE for example, is bloody brilliant, but it’s not that forgiving if you have to AFK suddenly for an indeterminate amount of time due to your daughter trying to paint the cat’s toenails. Whereas with WAR I can nip AFK constantly and just pick up an open group or roam however I fancy the moment I’m back at the keyboard. So in a snap I’m instantly back into the fighting and can contribute. RIFT is totally different in that regard, it’s mainly all about the instanced warfronts (scenarios, battlegrounds, whatever…) and the openworld stuff takes organising to be anything worthwhile. As I’m not a huge fan of instanced PvP scenarios that has meant I’ve ended up at a bit of a loss what to do on occasion.
There are of course masses of PvE things to do; from puzzles, collectables, achievements, raids, rifts and so many others things. All of which have been extremely well implemented, but on a personal note I’m just not that interested in doing that much PvE. I do like the rifts, world events, invasions and I particularly like the dungeons, but none of those are something I do casually. I like to do dungeons, etc when I have a set, known period of time online, so I’m not going AFK every 5 minutes. Which means on my couple of weekly pre-planned gaming nights I do dungeons and am really enjoying RIFT at those points; it’s just the rest of my general filler gaming time where it really isn’t working for me.
So I find myself pondering on how I’m going to spread my gaming time. I really do like the dungeons in RIFT, they’re very well made, a lot of fun and I’m enjoying the progression path. I definitely want to continue that experience. However when I don’t have those big chunks of spare time for dungeon runs, I get very grumpy milling around with nothing inspiring to do. My WAR account is still active and I’m sorely tempted to start splitting my time between the two games, but the problem is that all the reasons I quit WAR are still there; the watered down campaign, the disappointing Skaven implementation, small RvR lakes, wasted space and lack of new things to look at.  Plus I can’t be arsed to deal with all those RR90-100 players beating you with their immense gear/level crutch (and if it wasn’t a crutch they wouldn’t cry all over the forums at the suggestion of nerfing it).
If only WAR could increase the frequency of their patching…

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Still here...

Life got a bit busy lately and my usual time slots for writing things have been eaten up. Thankfully sanity is gradually returning, so I'll be back shortly. Got a fair few things to say about RIFT, WAR, future MMOs and how I'm starting once again to question what I want out of these games.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

RIFT-WAR open world PvP action.

We had some great fun last night in RIFT with open world PvP. We got word that there was a large force of Goon Squad roaming through Silverwood (a lowbie zone) and as the good honest Guardians we are, of course Kill Frenzy was obliged to respond and defend our realm. OK, that’s not quite true, we couldn’t give two turds about the Guardian cause, but it was a good excuse to hunt down some enemies and give them what for. :P This all lead to a few raid size battles across Silverwood and then a load of scraps in Moonshade Highlands. We had 13 Kill Frenzy in our raid and we counted about 20 Goons, but I think we had a slight average level advantage, only slight mind you. Anyways, we did rather well, repeatedly ;)

It was the best fun many of us have had in RIFT so far, it really was great and at first I was thinking this was what I miss about WAR. But that’s not quite accurate, because it’s been such a long time since WAR had any regular small-medium scale fights and actually that action in RIFT last night was better in many ways. There was no zerg around the corner. WAR as everyone knows is often very zergy, but 1.4 really did make it much worse. So I don’t miss the recent times in WAR, but I definitely miss the highlights of small-medium scale combat it used to regularly provide in the past. If Mythic ever sort things out and get that back properly and if possible improve on it, then it will be sorely tempting again.

We’re just about to start RIFT’s endgame properly, with more and more people approaching 50, so the next month or two will be crunch time for the majority of us. Will RIFT’s endgame provide enough PvP for a guild like us to not get bored? Last night was great, but we will be wanting that kind of action regularly once everyone’s attention has moved on from just getting to level to 50. We will of course want to take part in all the other facets of the end game, but we certainly won’t be raiding PvE 24/7. MMO wise Kill Frenzy is at heart a PvP community. Thing is, if RIFT doesn’t deliver on that front, then will WAR be in any state to draw people back? I just don’t know, because there are so many things that need to be fixed and no firm sign (at present…) of that happening. That could change of course, but blind faith is, well… blind.

Interesting times ahead.

Monday, 14 March 2011

RIFT - Zones, a mixed bag of goodies, mainly.

When deciding if I will stick with an MMO beyond its first few levels, one of the key elements is the atmosphere and theme of the game’s zones. RIFT has predominantly delivered the goods in this regard, certainly enough for me to be quite content and fast approaching level 40. While working my way through the land of Telara there’s been a whole load of OMG moments and some seriously spectacular views to take in. Great art design combined with some excellent environmental sound effects, proper changing weather and a day/night cycle, has been a refreshing change compared with many of the other MMOs I’ve dabbled with recently. However, whilst in the main it’s been great, it’s not all been perfect and some areas I’ve found a bit more meh than I would have liked.

I’m so bored of generic desert zones that every sodding fantasy MMO deems essential. They’re almost always decidedly dull and uninspiring. Actually I have to say for all its flaws, from an atmosphere and “being interesting to look at” viewpoint, WAR’s Land of the Dead pisses all over pretty much every desert zone in anything else. So far I’ve found RIFT’s desert zones to be sitting very much in the meh department, they’re not bad or anything and I’ve got friends that really like them, but personally I’m bored of deserts. So for me the Scarlet Gorge, Droughtlands and Shimmersand zones were rather uninspiring. Sand is so last year.

Again from a purely atmospheric viewpoint; Gloamwood, Scarwood, Stonefield and in particular Iron Pine Peak have all been much more enjoyable places to explore. Gloamwood is the creepy forest style zone, which has of course been done before, but it’s very nicely done indeed and has absolutely nailed the theme. It also flows very well into the next area Scarwood Reach (next if you ignore the canyon zone between them..). Gloamwood is dominated by these truly giant trees and Scarwood also has them, but for reasons you can discover, the landscape is being destroyed as the giant trees are being cut down and having their monumentally huge roots exposed and unearthed. It’s a very interesting concept for a zone in that respect, exploring the roots of trees.

Stonefield, a defiant zone, is one of my favourites. It’s rather like the Scottish highlands, but with the bones of colossal giants and beasties all over the place. It’s a wonderful zone in the rain too, with thunder and all that… love it. And then there’s Iron Pine Peak. A HUGE zone with a winter theme and winter is something that Trion have got in the bag; their snow and cold weather effects are very nice indeed.

Of course visuals and sounds are only one way of considering whether a zone is any good or not. My comments above about those zones are purely based on that and as such should not be taken as a rating on the overall experience. Scarwood for example, is not a particularly enjoyable zone to quest in; something I can’t quite put my finger on is a bit off. I think it’s to do with the layout and flow of the quests. Yet Doughtlands, which I thought looked immensely zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz, as a levelling experience worked extremely well.

This has all added up to a generally pleasant and enjoyable levelling experience in RIFT, in fact in many places it’s been extremely good indeed and one of the best in a very long time. Whilst there have been a few zones I’ve not rated the atmosphere so highly in, they’ve worked very well and not been a hardship to play in. With two exceptions anyway… Scarlet Gorge is a pain in the arse and I was happy to get out of it. Too much up and down travel with a bazillion mobs everywhere and a huge area with a DoT gas cloud that is just pointless and annoying. Moonshade Highlands is the other zone that got up my nose, it starts well, but then ends up with a giant clusterfuck of quests and mobs all lumped in one relatively small part of the map. Since both factions are doing the same quests there, it concentrates the players too much into one area and it’s just a bit of a mess. It’s also visually half great and half… like whateveeeeeeeeeer. They ran out of ideas for it I think.

But you know what, that’s actually pretty damn good going. Out of the 9 zones I’ve spent a decent amount of time in, it’s only 2 that I really don’t like. All the others (for varying reasons) have been good. Just a shame about all the poxy sand.

Friday, 11 March 2011


I was going to write something today about the overall levelling experience in RIFT, but having just seen all the footage of the utter devastation in Japan it feels more than a little lame to start waffling on about having fun playing computer games.
Japan is a country that I’ve been fascinated with since I was a nipper, I think due to a combination of the beautiful art, the language, and a cultural history that at times is so familiar and yet so utterly alien to Europe. Japan is a country of extremes, certainly in its history, but also in the landscape itself (the majority of which is utterly uninhabitable) and unfortunately it’s weather. I went through a phase where I read a lot of Japanese history; it’s packed with political intrigue, warfare and drama, but also natural disasters, chief amongst which are earthquakes and tsunami. In fact that should be obvious really, in recent years tsunami has become a word well known across the world and there’s a reason why it’s a Japanese word we’re all using.
A friend of mine asked me today why she doesn’t remember hearing about tsunami when she was a kid, is it a new phenomenon? Alas no, it’s just that traditionally most western media has been bloody awful at reporting on tragedies that don’t occur in Europe or English speaking countries. It’s only in recent years that we’re really starting to get a true global news service, though there’s still so much that doesn’t make it to our attention. So it’s not new, unfortunately dealing with earthquakes is something the Japanese have had to persevere with since, well... since the beginning of Japan itself. This latest one mind you is a monster, this isn’t something anyone can really be prepared for, let alone be used to. I’ve been stunned by what I saw today on the news.
Through my time on the internet I’ve got to know a good few people with friends and family over there and I can’t imagine what they must be going right now. So I don’t really know what to say, other than my hopes for the best go out to all.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

WAR, doors and pigs?

I'm still keeping a close eye on WAR and if you ignore the usual doom and gloom being spewed all over the place, you'll find a few interesting topics for discussion.

First off Mythic appear to be getting more and more into their developer discussion threads. People seem to view these threads in rather varying lights, but personally I would suggest that is dependent on how grounded you are mentally. With the rough times WAR has been through I would say it’s a very good thing and people should consider reading and chiming in with their ideas. I must admit I’m not a big poster in those threads and I tend to only add brief points, but then if I go into detail on things I’d often be repeating what has already been posted here :P I do always read the threads though and can recommend them as interesting debates. I won’t link each post, but you can find the developer forum section here.

Of those recent threads the ones I’ve been particularly interested in are the one about the campaign and the more recent one specifically about keep doors. I don’t know where Mythic will go with the campaign, but I’ve banged on about it enough here before. I’ll just reiterate that for me it needs to be made a LOT more like DAoCs and regain that epic feeling. It’s time for less ping-pong zone/siege swapping and to move towards something where winning feels like an achievement.

As for the door… I’ll quote my brief reply from the door thread:
It's not the door that matters, it’s the fact that the only thing that matters is the door.
That for me is the single biggest issue for WAR’s keep sieges, and it has been the same since launch. The game will never escape its RvDoor label until it takes a big step away from everything essentially being based around those doors. It doesn’t matter if the ultimate goal is to kill a Keep Lord, capture a flag or steal some magic spoons, when everything determining if that ultimate goal is possible is reliant on destroying the health bar of a door.

That’s not to say things should be changed so much that the door is not relevant, they should remain important and be the most straight forward way of breaching a keep’s defences, but there should be other things and areas for both attackers and defenders to focus on. If you watched a keep siege in both WAR and DAoC you’ll see one pretty stark difference straight away. In WAR everyone is huddled round a single doorway, perhaps with some postern guards thrown in. In DAoC the defenders are spread all round the keep walls and have to mount much more mobile defences. This is because of all the factors that share importance with that door. Ladders, siege towers, destructible walls, climbing abilities, etc give attackers viable options of properly breaching the defences and take emphasis away from the door’s health bar.

Flying mounts, rat and bypass postern do not compare in any way to those options and as such, unfortunately the door is the only thing that matters. That is the nut that Mythic need to crack, if they want to move WAR on from RvDoor.

In other news, Testpig has gone to quite some effort with his latest WAR video. Interesting ideas and well worth considering.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

My RIFT launch and initial PvP thoughts

The last couple weeks have been a bit bonkers due to a mixture of gaming stuff, a dose of the pox and a wide range of other real life issues, but I’m back again and ready to start waffling on here once more.
Soooooo RIFT then… Where to start? The launch has been very, very smooth. Not perfect, but not far off and without any doubt it was the best MMO launch I’ve been on by a country mile (and was there for most). Queues were a major issue on our first choice of server; 4000+ people in the queue and players having to wait for up to 6 hours to log in. We had wanted to play on Whitefall, but it was such a block to getting started we decided to not waste any more of people’s time and we re-rolled to Bloodiron. The server does have queues at peak times, but for minutes rather than hours. Other than that my only gripes have been the occasional server-wide lag spikes of DOOM and the recently introduced bug with planar shifting (teleport abilities certain classes have) which sometimes transports you under the world. Strange that bug never featured in the beta at all, but hey that’s MMOs for you, the live environment always throws up some trippy weirdness. Anyways, whilst I’ve listed a few issues there, they really have not happened very often at all and it’s been a great launch experience.
One of the things that’s been amusing to see from some of the bitter people left behind in WAR is the claims that we’re all gone off to PvE in RIFT. Whilst there is undoubtedly far more PvE to do in RIFT and the emphasis is very different to WAR’s, at the same time I’ve been doing a lot of PvP. Or perhaps I should say a LOT of PvP. After the first zone (Silverwood or Freemarch) on a PvP servers all the remaining zones are fully PvP activated, plus in the latter zones the quest hubs, PvE areas and everything are shared. As such it’s pretty much constantly a mixture of PvE and PvP and you have to be on your guard at all times. We also started doing some PvP raids very early on, because basically you have to…
The first big raid as such was when we were around the level 20-26 mark in Gloamwood. An enemy guild turned up in force with a large number of higher level Defiant players and proceeded to gank the crap out of all the lower people in the zone. Now you can’t leave things like that on a PvP server, else the enemy wins, nobody gets anywhere and you might as well log off. So we rallied the online KF together and fought back, difficult as it was with the huge level difference... Despite asking for assistance, we were the only guild that showed up in numbers, but we did get some help and eventually we wiped and got rid of the enemy. We then decided to return the favour and took our KF raid over to the equivalent Defiant zone (notably we chose to actually fight players our own level, rather than gank lowbies…) and spent an hour or two fighting people there. Great fun and hopefully more fun than frustrating for the enemy players we attacked. But they started it and that’s life on a PvP server, if your faction attacks, then your whole faction should expect retaliation.
Of course in WAR the PvP is constant and you shouldn’t for a moment consider RIFT to be the same, because its not. Whilst levelling there’s a lot of PvP, but in general it’s incidental PvP as people are more focused on levelling right now. Of course for some guilds once we’re all at 50 that emphasis will change... Certainly KF will be going full on with PvP and the PvE side at 50 will be very much secondary. There’s a lot of mouthy, over confident gank guilds on our server’s Defiant faction, people that revel in trash talking whilst outnumbering and out-levelling their targets. Now, I’m not entirely sure that they’ve thought things through very well, certainly the ones we destroyed after responding to a distress call the other day didn’t use their grey cells much. While we remained silent throughout and spawn camped them for nearly an hour, it was funny seeing them claiming we outnumbered them, despite us being just 1 group versus their equal numbers. I guess some pro-gankers just can’t cope with even odds :P This sort of situation is quite common so far, un-tiered PvP is always a gankfest and RIFT is no different. Gankers prey on lesser numbers, we then respond, even the odds and utterly annihilate them, over and over and over. They then cry, gank any soloers or small groups from our guild on sight in future, we butcher them again and it all gets rather nasty. Fun though and they’ll learn eventually. :P
Anyways it will be very interesting to see how it all develops. Our server has a few organised ex-WAR guilds, which means lots of players that are used to properly coordinated small and large scale PvP combat. WAR and DAoC style PvP is very different to what I’ve seen on more “normal” MMO PvP servers; like WoW and AoC for example. So it will be very interesting to see how that effects the style of the end-game and how guilds from different games blend.
Anyways, I’ll post more about what I’m levelling and how I’m finding the game itself soon.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

AFK for a few days..

...due to pox :P

Will be back asap.

About Me

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Half man half pixel. Music obsessive, likes a drink, occasional bastard.