Rift Review (EG Style)

December 29, 2010

Two days, two ‘reviews’ :snicker:, I spoil you guys!

I like the graphic style of Rift. It’s high fantasy, but it has enough of those little details to not make it totally forgettable. Bonus points for all the graphical options and adjustments, it’s nice to have that kind of control. In terms of performance, at 1900×1200 on Ultra I got around 35 FPS, which is more than acceptable. Oddly enough, at Medium I only went up to about 40 FPS, yet the game looks dramatically worse. Tonight we will see how Aria’s PC handles the game, which has older hardware but a smaller screen (1400×900).

The gameplay is standard themepark hotbar mashing. Icons appear in your bar when you get them, you mash them, stuff dies. By far the biggest hurdle for me with Rift is going to be getting over the combat. Darkfall has simply spoiled me in that regard, and while Rift certainly does what it does well, its Just So Damn Boring compared to even the lowliest PvE encounter in DF.

The fact that you stand still so often is shocking, as is just how much time you spend ‘waiting’ for a cooldown or for something to finish. In reality the wait is half a second at a time, if not less, but that’s so significant when you are use to focusing on three different things at all times in DF, always moving, always adjusting, always expecting something to pop out and change the whole situation. In Rift, and other hotbar mashers, you KNOW nothing like that is going to happen. You KNOW you have zero chance of dying against this mob, and you KNOW exactly what is going to happen, point by point, even before combat starts.

That massive hurdle aside, I do see potential in the class/soul system. One of the silly things about other talent trees is how little reward you get from putting points into something that, say, raises your crit % by 1 point per point. Sure, you dump the points in to reach something you really want, but those actual points are almost meaningless. Rift gets around this, because as you put more points in the top of the tree, it opens up abilities in the bottom/roots. So while you still have 0/5 +1% crit stuff, at least putting a point or two there also opens up a new ability for you. It’s a small thing, but feels very rewarding in terms of the whole ‘ding, points, new stuff’ experience.

I only made it to level 5 last night on one character, but man is that early area linear. I’m not talking a zone vs a virtual world here, I’m talking straight path, point A to point B stuff. If that’s just for the intro area, ok, but if the entire game is like this, not cool. I understand a themepark can’t be as open as Agon, but even WoW (at least in the early days) had zones where you could go in a few directions to accomplish things. Here every quest objective is just outside of the current hub, and once you complete them, the only road out of town takes you to the next hub, rinse repeat.

More time with it tonight, including hopefully seeing a rift in action and getting deeper into the classes.

4/10

Edit: Sadly many missed the inside joke, here is the real review.


MMO PvP: Never fair and balanced

December 29, 2010

Comment that caught my attention over at Massively, from Jef’s excellent Soapbox piece about RP and FFA PvP:

“It isn’t PVP because it is never fair and balanced.”

A lot of layers to that one line.

For starters, what defines ‘fair and balanced’? Most would make that judgment during or directly after the actual encounter, but I think that’s selling the whole thing short. If you get ganked in a 10v1, it’s hard to argue the fight was fair or balanced, but I’d ask why it was a 10v1 to begin with. If you lost a 1v1 because someone had a major character/gear advantage, I doubt you would call that an even fight, but I’d again ask ‘why’ the other guy had such an advantage. I’d also ask how important player-skill was in the fight as well.

That, to me, is one of the core differences between an MMORPG and a FPS; characters matter, and ‘balance’ is player-driven rather than hard-coded.

In a FPS, you can’t ‘zerg’ the other side on a 16v16 server, and you can’t bring out and risk the big toys to out-gear them either. It’s just you and 15 others, all with the same HP total, the same available weapons, and on a map that starts neutral, against 16 other guys. Before the first shot is fired, everything is ‘fair and balanced’ in terms of characters/gear, and it’s a pure player-skill driven game. The better players should always win unless luck plays a major role. Which is great if that’s what you are looking to play, but 99% of the time, it’s not what I’m after.

What I am looking for is a game where character progress matters. Where who you know and who you can call upon matters. Where what you bring out, and more importantly, risk, matters. Where yesterday impacts today, and sets up tomorrow.

There is always a ‘why’ behind someone getting zerged. “Make more friends” is a legitimate argument in a MMORPG with FFA PvP. There are reasons why zergs fall apart, and why when they don’t, people remember the name.

A very memorable line from a DF dev related to all of this: “TheMercs are very good at PvE”, when we were discussing early Darkfall and the very dominant PvP clan TheMercs. It’s a simple line, but it holds a lot of weight. Perhaps the players behind the characters in TheMercs were also great PvPers, perhaps not. But it’s undeniable that in the early days, they PvE’ed (shadily) better than anyone else, and used that advantage to dominate ‘unfairly’. It also might explain why, when the rest caught up, they declared victory and left.

Many would see the above as a game flaw, but to me, that’s what an MMORPG is all about (shady PvE aside). You put in the ‘work’, you reap the rewards. And that work can be PvE grinding, playing politics, infiltrating clans, etc. Point is, you can tip the scales of balance in your favor before the fight even starts, but that in itself takes skill and determination. A FPS is just a raw display of twitch skills, while MMORPG success is a complex web of inputs that, more often than not, leaves someone on the short end of the stick.

If you are looking for a ‘fair and balanced’ fight, an MMO is not the right place to look, and that’s by design.


Yet more proof that Darkfall > EQ2

December 29, 2010

Man among boys. Taking candy from a baby. Darkfall vs EQ2.

In a shock to no one, a Darkfall player dominates a league full of EQ2 carebears, stomping them until the very end, and looting their precious shiny off their dead and battered corpses.

I also got 5th in this blogs league, although much like Massively’s list, the reason I was not 1st is more a technicality than anything else. Aria got 3rd.

And so fantasy football is done yet again. I’ll definitely be running another league next year, and hopefully the EQ2 folks will have me back next year to defend my crown. The scars should heal by then :)


Darkfall pro-tip: Don’t panic noob

December 28, 2010

I was farming elfwraiths with one member of Flying V recently on Yssam, trying to build up our supply of portal shards. I was heavy-armor geared, he was light, and I had brought a transmuted two-handed firesword for kicks (its decent vs undead mobs, terrible in PvP). My friend had warned me that this particular spawn is a PvP hotspot, and sure enough, towards the end of our farming run two enemy players attempted to jump us.

At first we ran for it, jumping into the water. We split, and for some reason they decided to go after my friend, who was a lot better at getting away in the water (using magic) than I was. He led them on a little chase, and eventually was returning to my location, with the two of them closing in. He noticed that only one was attempting to shoot him with archery in the water, indicating the other did not have the specialization to allow it. We made a quick decision and decided to fight it out rather than keep running, even though we had a good 2 hours of farming loot on us.

As he started the fight, I quickly closed the distance and made a b-line for the weaker of the two opponents. He did not notice me initially, and so I was able to swim right up to him and start swinging away. He panicked and initially tried to get away, but in water that’s very difficult once someone is on you, and after a few more back hits, he just turned and we exchanged blows. With his health already down, and my heavy armor, he did not last long, and soon I was done with him and turned my attention to our other assailant.

Unfortunately, while my fight went well, my friend was cut down right as I neared his location thanks to the early 2v1, and so we were left with a 1v1. My opponent was hurt, but thanks to a major mental error, I thought I did not have aqua shot myself, and instead of going underwater and exchanging shots with him, I instead pulled out my shield and parried while swimming towards him. I think he missed his disabling shot, and soon stopped firing and instead started swimming towards land. At the surface I got off a few bow shots that landed, but in my heavy armor they did minimal damage (I was using a mob-drop r50) and he made it to the coast. In retrospect, had we stayed in the water and exchanged archery shots, I would have won easily even with less-than-perfect aim thanks to my armor and current health. But yea, that did not happen.

On land we alternated between melee and archery, with him throwing in some magic as well. I never could get enough melee shots in to drop him, and every time I got him to around 10% he would zig-zag away and heal/transfer up. I attempted to land bow-shots as he did this, and while a few hit, it was not enough to keep me ahead. I was also doing a poor job of keeping up my health/stamina, and while towards the end I was mixing transfers in as well, it was too little too late, and soon a final melee occurred where I was downed, my opponent left standing at just a sliver of health.

Initially I was pissed that not only had I lost the fight, but also cost myself and my friend about two hours of farming, not to mention our gear bags and the potential bags of our two enemies. Considering the result that’s a rather large profit/loss swing. I was also upset because had I played a little better, I would have gotten the upper hand, but PvP panic and the major mental error did me in.

However, my friend took it in stride, said it was a fun fight, and that the loot is just loot and it’s all good. That helped, I calmed down a bit (I was ragin’), and went over what went wrong. Aside from forgetting that I did have aqua shot, I should have been healing/transferring more often, especially after killing the first player. I also could have thrown in a confusion or two during the fight, because even in heavy armor the spell can still take effect and would have helped. Finally, the choice to bring out the fire transmute was a costly mistake. I reviewed the combat log after the fight, and the sword was just not hitting nearly as hard as even an average r50 would have, let along the usual r60 that I use. With my normal sword each melee exchange would have been far more brutal for him, and he would either have had to attempt to heal more, or try to keep the fight ranged (which admittedly I was doing a decent job of denying).

As is usually the case in Darkfall though, it was a costly lesson, but ultimately a good and, once the rage subsided, entertaining one.

(DarkFall-related post disclaimer/reminder. If you click the image link near the top-right of this page and buy a DarkFall account, I get paid 20% of the client cost. If you believe this taints my views and reporting on DarkFall, your opinion is wrong.)


Civ V, The Witcher, M&B:W, and Rift beta

December 28, 2010

Some random notes for today:

Played two games of the scenario included in the first DLC for Civilization V, very entertaining. It’s rather short (limited to 100 turns), somewhat easy (the other sides don’t play with the sense of urgency needed for a 100 turn game), but it’s a nice ‘time period’ scenario. It’s all about the new world, and you can play either the European powers or the natives. If I had paid for it (plus the two new civs), I’d feel a bit cheated, but for free (D2D pre-order bonus) it’s good stuff. Still need to play a full game with the latest patch, but the massive Steam sale, Darkfall, and League of Legends is making that difficult right now.

Speaking of the Steam sale, I picked up Mount and Blade: Warband for under $8 today. When that’s going to get played, I’m not sure, but I’ve heard enough good things about it to have it on my account in waiting.

I am playing the hell out of The Witcher though, and man, so good. My memory of it from last time is a bit hazy, but I have noticed a few things different this time around thanks to some of my in-game decisions. The game does a fantastic job of keeping a general path, yet making choices ‘matter’ beyond it feeling like total fluff. Is it a 100% perfect game all around? No. The combat is not for everyone (I’m cool with it), some of the animations are wonky, as are some voice lines, and loading every little house over and over can get on you, but none of that (for me) ruins what really is one of the best interactive stories in an RPG. The setting, the pace, the grit, the occasional humor, it’s all just so good. Come Witcher 2 time, I’m going to be drooling for its release.

Finally, the Rift beta 3 event kicks off today, and Aria and I are patched up and good to go, so expect some posts about that in the near future.


How is the #1 WoW blogger not the #1 blog?

December 28, 2010

Clearly the massive carebears at… Massively made an error here, but somehow I’m only #7 on their list of top bloggers. Haters gonna hate I guess, but at least I beat TAGN. And as if more evidence was needed, it only took three comments for one of my ‘fans’ to start praising my blog. How it took three I’m not sure (likely more Massively-inspired corruption), but there you have it.

On a serious note, thanks for the link Shawn, and good luck with the site in 2011. It’s gotten better and better with time (I credit Jef with 99% of that, that guys current blog is just amazing in content :) ), and it’s been part of my daily rotation for some time now.


WoW slain by Blizzard. Time to pick up the crown.

December 27, 2010

Since about 2006 people have been predicting that the next big MMO would be a ‘WoW killer’ pre-release. Those people were all wrong, every assassination attempt has failed, and WoW still sits on the throne. Until Cata that is.

Now before you go to comment, no, I have not played Cata. But I have talked to various people about it, read a whole lot, and well, I think I get the gist of it. If I’m totally off here, let me know why, but from what I gather, Cata has greatly pushed WoW towards an online single player game, especially the 1-60 revamp. With quests being so linked, phasing being used so heavily, and everything being even more soloable, it’s far more work to actually do the content with others now than it ever has been. Even the group content (BGs, dungeons) is now an anonymous queue-style experience rather than per-organized stuff, and queue up for raids is surely the next step.

And as of day, that seems to work for WoW and Blizzard. Cata sold well, the response has been positive, and people are enjoying the content. But the game today shares little with the game many fell in love with in 2004, and now shares little with even it’s ‘clones’ like LotRO and company. Some view the new quest style as an evolution in MMO questing, but to me it’s a genre-shift more than anything else. The ‘WoW killer’ was Blizzard, who moved the game OUT of the MMO space.

I say this because I don’t think ‘kill ten rats’ quests are dead. I think many players enjoy them, given the right context. In a single player game? No thanks, I’d rather do Witcher-style stuff (god that game is amazing), but online while I chat with guild-mates and work towards some over-arching goal? Sign me up. I don’t need or want phasing or complex chain-quests when my goal is to hit a certain level, or finish off a skill (if we are talking skill-based progression). A little side-bonus in the form of a simple quest? I’ll take it, especially if my guild-mates can jump in half-way through and contribute as well.

It’s because of this that I actually view Rift’s ‘old-school’ quests as a plus over what WoW does. MMO content, to me, is not about how fantastic the solo stuff is, it’s about how much fun I can have with everyone else around me. To that end, the ‘simple’ quests are far superior, because they lower the barrier of entry (especially if you have flexible quest sharing and ‘more is better’ mechanics in-game) and allow you to focus on what really counts (other players) rather than the filler NPCs stealing the spotlight. Of course, if ALL you have going is simple quests and nothing more, that’s trouble. But if you have good content besides the core questing stuff (like say, rifts), the simpler style of questing fits in well.

Rift has a rather unique opportunity here, as WoW has transitioned away from being an MMO, and if Rift is WoW 2004 with 2011 updates, I’m interested, and I think I’m not alone on that.


Blood Bowl on sale

December 23, 2010

As some have already mentioned, Blood Bowl: Legendary Edition is on sale today on Steam.

It’s a great game if you enjoy turn-based strategy titles, and our league is going strong. I’d say with this sale, it’s a good time to jump in and get familiar with the game, as in a month or so we will be finishing season one and opening things up for season two.


Rift’s biggest issue? The hype

December 23, 2010

Has anyone seen anyone post about Rift? So hard to get info about that game…

I kid, and of course, I myself wrote about it yesterday, so pot kettle black blablabla. Head over to Virgin Worlds to find the latest (I’m too lazy to link to them here).

Now having read many bloggers who I respect (or just follow), I think two items are very clear: Rift is nothing new, and Rift is not broken.

I’ll get to the first point in a minute, but let me cover the second real quick. It’s sad that even in 2010/2011, not being broken is seen as a feature in MMO land. That “the game worked when I installed it” is still noteworthy praise kinda says a lot about our genre. Still, working is always a plus (though not required), so +1 for that.

Now that whole ‘nothing new’ part. I don’t see it as a crime, and I think there are a ton of gamers out there looking to do ‘more of the same’ with just a palette swap. The issue here, and what I think will ultimately disappoint some, is that the Rift devs claimed on day one of release Rift would “move the genre forward”. I don’t understand the motivation behind saying that, and I can’t imagine it’s because they actually believe it.

Look, you made PQs v2.0 and called them rifts. That’s not a bad thing, as the general concept behind PQs was solid in WAR (plus you help Mythic get one thing right, in that people would copy that feature. They need all the points they can get here!). But let’s not pretend rifts are some amazing new innovation to the MMO genre, and more importantly, let’s not hype them as that so people going in expect them to be so. Hype them as “PQs that work, and they move!”, and people will be excited.

Same goes for the character system. It’s not a revolution; it’s multiclassing that allows for more… multi in it. Again, that’s cool (assuming you can balance it, especially for PvP), but don’t hype it as something that will blow people away with its mega-innovation, because most will log in, see WoW’s system but with ‘more stuff’, and feel disappointed. Selling it as “more flexible talent trees” is really ok, people would buy that and look forward to it.

Finally, it’s curious that so many beta testers leave with “it’s nice, I’ll play it at some point, but I’m not dying for it”. I think that’s a little worrisome. Beta is always the time when your MMO plays best (in terms of everyone enjoying themselves, not the tech side), so if during that time people are still leaving feel just ‘ok’ about your game, that might be an issue.

I think the whole thing can go in one of two ways; Rift launches, does what a themepark does well, and while not blowing anyone away, keeps them happy enough to keep playing, ultimately leading to success because, well, a lot of people are looking to do more of the same. The other scenario is that a large portion of the player base goes in expecting greatness, finds ‘good’, and rages loud enough to upset others and start a downward spiral of negativity. We’ve seen this happen before, and while the Rift hype has not been anywhere near WAR levels, there have been a few silly things said about the game from the devs that might come back and haunt/harm them.

If the second comes to pass, or ends up causing even a minor issue, it might be a very clear example of just shutting up and delivering. If you have a solid product, just ship it honestly. Players will respect the honesty, and go in with measured expectations. Hell, maybe you will over-deliver based on your tame hype, and the players themselves will pick up the hype banner and run with it for you.


Rift talky talk

December 22, 2010

The Rift NDA is down, Syp has a nice write-up. As expected, the rift system is WAR’s PQ system but more. I think the make or break for Rift will be just how big that ‘more’ really is. Opinions about that are still mixed. Claims that Rift will ‘change the game’ on day one, as expected, were just silly Mythic-level hype. The genre needs to grow up in that regard, but eh, I don’t play games because of their ‘great’ marketing.

Someone today on the Darkfall forums brought up Rift as a potential competitor, and I think it’s rather clear it’s not going to be that. And that’s ok! I’m definitely in the market for a GOOD version of WAR. Not only do I know plenty of carebears (Inq and others), but I’m married to one, and we enjoy playing MMOs together. Just last night, as I was playing Darkfall, Aria again did her little “I just don’t get it” speech about the game, and it’s cool. Not for everyone indeed.

So yes, I’m looking forward to Rift. I signed up for beta, and if I get in, cool. If I don’t, I’m sure enough bloggers will do enough write-ups to cover everything. Come open beta I expect us to jump in and check things out. Best case here? WAR – broken system and directionless dev team + PQ 2.0 system. Bonus if the PvP is something above what WoW/WAR offers. If not, I’m sure we will have fun with the PvE and all that.


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