Rift: MMO 3.0

February 28, 2011

Let’s call UO/EQ/AC the first generation of MMOs (sorry MUDs), where both the devs and the players were total noobs, and the ‘hey this is new’ factor was off the charts. If you dialed in during the late 90s, you got to experience something unique, and for many that uniqueness overshadowed poor or shallow gameplay, massive technical issues, and a somewhat ‘constant beta’ feel.

The 2nd generation covers WoW in 2004 and other MMO games during that time. These were games which were created based off the feedback from UO/EQ/AC, seeking to fix the issues and progress the genre. Some succeeded more than others, and not all of the ‘fixes’ were actually better than the original ‘problems’. A large push was made to remove that ‘constant beta’ feel, along with expanding the genre beyond just those hardcore enough to survive the first-gen MMOs.

We are now in the 3rd generation of MMOs, the ‘post-WoW’ era. We have seen countless titles try to emulate WoW, others try the ‘something different’ route, and still some who wish to return to that first gen feel. As with the second generation, some titles accomplish their goals better than others, and some are indeed evolutions rather then rehashes or steps back.

So far (lvl 20), Rift feels very much like a 3.0 MMO. An evolution of WoW in much the same way that WoW was an evolution of EQ1. Yes, you have seen most of this before, but not in this exact mix, and it’s the sum of all the parts that is ultimately what determines whether you are having fun or not, and whether overall things ‘work’. Rift works.

Souls are similar to talent trees, but the differences between the two systems make souls better. It’s not a giant leap for the genre, but it IS an improvement. More flexible, more interesting, more integrated to everything else. Same deal with the initial zone. The layout is just better than the starter areas of WoW, it feels more worldly while still feeling themepark enough to facilitate that kind of gameplay. I’ve heard the zones beyond are of similar quality. Rift events are similar to WARs PQs, yes, but once again simply better overall. More noticeable, better at getting people to participate, more ‘worldly’ in nature, more tightly written into the lore, etc.

Alone each piece is a nice but subtle improvement to the genre. Together they create something that is both very enjoyable and noticeable better as a whole. Rift’s first week feels very much like WoW did in 2004 (including the queues!), where what you are doing really does not leap out and shock you like early UO or the first week of something like Darkfall did, but you keep logging in and watching the hours go by, entertained the entire time, always looking ahead. Rift has that very familiar, comfortable ‘slow drip’ feel of a quality themepark MMO.

Already over the EG threshhold with Rift

February 25, 2011

Thanks to my VIP account, I was able to skip the queues all the peasants were in today, and I’m currently just under level 29. Population is a bit low in my area, but I guess that’s to be expected. Raiding the starter area was a hoot though, and I got some great rage tells from all the people I was one-shotting while they tried to turn in quests. Good times. Hoping to hit the level cap tomorrow and really cause some damage.

At least, I think that’s how EG would do a review based on random rumors and forum speculation…

In “how things actually play” land, I had a good time with Rift once I got in. Actually reading the quest text makes the questing more fun (who knew!?), and I’m liking the story so far. It seems more driven, as even though you are doing random collect this, kill that stuff, it’s all for one singular purpose (currently lvl 7). Performance seems to be better as well. On the new comp I’m getting 50ish FPS on Ultra with 4x AA at 1900×1200, while the old Alienware is pushing 45ish FPS on High at 1400×900. More than acceptable in both cases, and that was in some rather crowded areas. Game is very, very pretty on the new comp, with details all over the place and lighting effects going off left and right, all while not giving off that “neon themepark hell” vibe.

Hopefully tomorrow I get the 1 plat I need to officially start Inquisition, and we will see how far Aria and I get level-wise. Good start so far though.

If you’re surprised by the Rift queues…

February 24, 2011

Go back to WoW.

Edit: But first make sure to go to the Rift forums and complain about it. Your tears sustain me at work, and the stuff being posted is 100% pure gold.

Not all themeparks are created equally

February 24, 2011

Going to comment on something Tobold wrote today, related to Rift launching and how themeparks are similar. Here is the piece I want to focus on:

But I do know that Rift is not completely unlike World of Warcraft. It has the same basic “theme park” guidance by quests structure, it has classes, levels, talents, spells, and a combat that works very similar, and even the user interface is somewhat similar to that of World of Warcraft. I also know that Star Wars: The Old Republic will also fall into the same basic scheme.

Of course Tobold is right that the very basics are similar. The Rift interface is similar enough to the one fans created for WoW that you know how most of it works before you even load up. It does have levels, souls/classes/talents, its high fantasy, etc. But a UI does not define a game, and just one difference can completely separate one game from another.

Imagine, for instance, if someone released a game that was 99% just like Darkfall (we will call it Lightfall), but turned off the FFA PvP. Same UI, same combat, same world, same crafting, all of that, just instead of being able to bash whoever whenever, you could only fight other players in designated areas. Would anyone playing Darkfall view Lightfall as another MMO option? Of course not.

Or if you want an example from the past, how did Darktide play compared to every other Asheron’s Call server? Same game exact game, just one little rules tweak, yet the end result was black/white in terms of in-game activity and overall flow.

I’m signed up for Rift, but I don’t view WoW as another MMO option, newly rehashed instance coming ‘soon’ or not. When I recently watched my father play his 121k hp Pali, solo’ing a pull in a lvl 83 instance before heading to the portal area of Stormwind to show me some of the ‘changes’, I was not looking at something that was kinda like Rift. When he jumped on an alt and ran Mara with four of the absolute worst players I’ve ever seen, most under-leveled for the instance, and no one even came close to dying despite stuff like running repeatedly into the Princess’ poison, I was not looking at something kinda like Rift. And like he himself said, WoW is a great solo RPG now, and that’s cool, but I’m looking for an MMO to play.

It does raise an interesting question though; what will those that ARE looking for more WoW do? Will they tourist back to Azeroth after a month, or stick around once they see what an MMO actually plays like? My guess is that many jumped on the WoW bandwagon after the removal of the MMO parts, so perhaps for millions, they have never seen what a virtual world actually looks like, even one as relatively ‘tame’ as Rift.

Considering the MMO genre is a niche market (hi Mark), I expect a lot of bags to be packed 30-60 days from now.

Inquisition’s plan for Rift

February 23, 2011

Inquisition will officially be playing Rift on the RP-PvP server Sunrest. If you would like to join us please apply on our forums.

We went with the RP server because the RP tag keeps the worst of the cesspool away. We won’t actually be roleplaying. Much. Only real requirement is you acknowledge me as god-king SynCaine. Both in-game and in vent. Once you have meet the first pre-req of having all purples of course. I don’t talk to noobies.

The PvP tag was debated a bit, but we are going PvP because Inq has always been a PvP-favoring clan, and because we believe the option to get into some world PvP will not only spice up the PvE, but also give us more stuff to do as a clan. There is concern that world PvP in Rift will be nothing but high levels ganking lowbies in quest zones, but between the RP tag and Trion seeming to have basic common sense, hopefully this will be minimal and the world PvP will be more akin to what early WoW PvP was like pre-BGs, plus whatever Trion has planned to further expand it.

The clan overall is going to be what Inq has always been, a solid group of like-minded people who know that playing something together is always more fun than going solo. We don’t have world-first aspirations, we don’t hardcore powergame, and we really have zero tolerance for drama queens and anything that reminds us of high school (most of us are 25+,employed, and value our gaming time). We often joke around on vent, we do drop the F bomb and rage, and we do have inside jokes, etc; all the stuff that goes with a quality community that has been around for a long time through many games.

Again, if that sounds like something you might be interested, submit an app.

Edit: We will be playing the Guardian side.

Digital Storm Computer Review

February 22, 2011

While FedEx did fail to alter their delivery date and could not bring my new comp on Friday, they at least made up for it by showing up at 9am on Monday (in light snow no less). I felt bad for the older lady working the truck, knowing she was about to lug the huge and heavy box, and being a nice guy (and not wanting her to drop it, mostly), I helped her out and got the giant box inside.

The packaging was all solid, and everything was where it should be and showed no signs of travel wear. Bonus points to Digital Storm for putting easily removable padding INSIDE the case to prevent anything from getting bounced around. I do wonder how many failbots boot up the machine with that stuff still inside. I mean, its one of those ‘impossible to miss’ things, with the giant warning sticker and all, but humanity has proven time and time again that if something seems impossible, we will overcome. I bet those support calls are the stuff of legends, as I don’t doubt the padding would melt rather quickly, or at least get torn up by a fan or three.

The system documentation is as you would expect from a gaming shop; well organized in a binder and with all the details of the overclocking process and testing. The original CDs with all of the drivers were in the back, which would prove handy (more on that in a bit). Digital Storm also provides ALL of the spare parts you would get if you bought each piece yourself, and all of this is in another box that was easily stored away.

The HAF932 case is impressive, being slightly smaller than my old old Thermalake Armor case, slightly bigger than the old Alienware case, and having all of the expected connection options at the front of the case. Before I powered it up I was expecting it to be rather noisy, as it’s three massive fans look imposing (especially the fan at the top of the case), but once booted up it actually runs much quieter than even the Alienware, and makes the old ABS machine sounds like a wind tunnel. It loads Windows 7 silly fast thanks to the Intel SSD.

Speaking of Windows 7, it’s amazing how far things have come in terms of ‘plug and play’. Within just a few minutes the computer was on our network, patched up, and basically good to go. In the ‘old days’, half your day would be spent just getting the basics working, and that’s if everything went well.

The only issue I had with the system out of the box was that Digital Storm forgot to install the X-Fi drivers, and instead set the system up to use the on-board sound. That was easily fixed by popping the CD in, and Creative now has a solid auto-update feature of its own, meaning you no longer need to hunt down the latest drivers and all that. As always, getting vent to recognize my mic took some time, but it would be a strange world if that was not the case.

In terms of getting games set up, Steam really shines here. It’s just silly-easy to download the client, log in, and basically instantly download whatever you wish without hassle. No searching for DVDs, game codes, patches, expansions, etc. Just click, fast download, play. Really can’t beat that, and going forward it’s going to take a lot to make me purchase a game elsewhere.

Performance-wise the system crushes the only game I have to really challenge it, Bad Company 2. FPS never dropped no matter what was happening, and this was with the game maxed out at 1900×1200. It sure is a pretty game maxed too, very good use of lighting and fog/smoke. I’ll see how the system handles Rift on Thursday when the head-start kicks off, and what it does with Warband during a huge battle. Looks like I’ll have to finish my current Warband game (day 650ish) on the old comp, and then wait for Floris mod 2.4 to start a new one, assuming I find the time. Oh, and getting back into Darkfall was… fun. Nothing like having your entire bank scrambled and your UI reset. Looking forward to the next big siege to see how things hold up.

One day in, I’m very pleased with Digital Storm. I got a powerful system at what I would consider a very reasonable cost. Interacting with their customer service reps was always quick and pleasant, they had no issues switching the setup after the order was placed, and adding things after-the-fact was quick as well. Their forums were a huge help, with honest and knowledgeable people doing their best to ensure you get exactly what you need for your budget, and not trying to sell you on anything you don’t.

Building a system yourself will of course always be cheaper, but for me having professionals configure, test, and warranty (4 years thanks to the ‘defective’ mobo) everything is very worthwhile. If you are in the same boat, I’d recommend Digital Storm based on my experience so far.

Digital Storm computer pictures

February 21, 2011

Longer post tomorrow, but here are a few pictures of the new system.

The insides, fresh from the shop.

From off to ready in just 2.5

The Real Prize: T=Shirt Time!


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