Things I Am Thankful For Online…

  • The fun and supportive guilds to which I belong
  • An actual job writing about games
  • The wacky crew at Massively, who make me seem calm and normal in comparison
  • So many MMOs to play, I’m never bored
  • The joy of surprise epic loot drops
  • Tons of upcoming titles that have me excited
  • The terrific readers of Bio Break
  • Fellow bloggers who are creative and entertaining all the time

“…give thanks in all circumstances…” ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:18

I’m promoting you to… Captain!

For no particular reason, other than I was just thinking about it while going about a series of Mirkwood tasks with my Captain, here are ten reasons I am a huge fan of this class:

  1. If you know my tastes in MMO classes at all, you’ll be on board with the fact that I always pick hybrid classes 9 times out of 9, at least as a main.  I’d rather be doing a lot of everything rather than a few things spectacularly well, and the Captain exemplifies a hybrid’s nature — he’s a tank, a healer, a pet-handler, a plate-wearer, a buffer and even a DPSer depending on the situation.
  2. And speaking of pets, although the heralds won’t have the Enemy quaking in his boots, it is cool to have them — and be able to swap between them.  With a herald, I never feel alone in my journey.
  3. Did I mention my herald is a sword-and-bow-wielding ghost?  Forget little kitty-cats and teddy bears — I have freakin’ Casper on my side.  Wait, Casper doesn’t sound that terrifying.  Bruce Willis?  Yeah, that’s better.
  4. I have high survivability.  Heavy armor plus (if needed) a shield is already a huge boon, but I can top that off with limited self-healing and 25 seconds of true invincibility if needed.  I like not feeling squishy, for once.
  5. Captains are always welcome in groups, and nobody frets if there are more than one of them.  In fact, if we do have multiple Captains, then we can provide a much wider range of buffs and heals.
  6. Through buffs, weapons and heralds/standards, I can shift my character from defensive to offensive, heal-happy to power-regen-happy.  In other words, I can adapt for different situations depending on what’s needed.
  7. I love “on defeat” skills, because they’re always useful, and we get four of them (a heal, weapon speed buff, quick stun blast and a party rez).
  8. Captains get the opportunity to be saviors of the group with the combination of invincibility + “I’ll take a chunk of your incoming damage onto myself” skill pairing.  It makes one feel like a hero.
  9. I get a huge range of weapon choices — pretty much everything except for double-wielding and bows.  I have a nice sword-and-shield combo for tougher fights, and a big nasty two-hander sword for every day use.  However, spears and halbreds are great fun, and I kind of dig Captains who I see using axes.
  10. I seriously feel tough.  I kick any mobs that start inducting spells, I can switch to healing without worrying about the enemy beating on me, and I’ve emerged from insane fights against multiple opponents without dying more times than I can recall.

Picture of the Day

My brother-in-law gets into a bit of a roaring match with Deathwing.  The Gamestop employees did not approve.

So, yeah, today that sound you hear is ten million nerds either in anguish that the old WoW world is gone, or ecstatic that the new one is here.  My bro-in-law and I sat around talking about it today, curious if people were going to level too quickly through it (after all, Blizzard has done a lot to speed the 1-60 process over the past couple years), if it’s what the game really needs at this point, and why they’re essentially rolling out this expansion in two separate chunks, weeks from each other, instead of all at once.

Anyway, it’s a big day for some, so if that is you, don’t let Mr. Underbitey there get in your way.  You know he’ll be on farm status within a year.

All I Want For Christmas Is The ONE RING OF POWAHHH

Recently on my Twitter feed, the following popped up from LOTRO:

“Quick Question: What kind of LOTRO-themed merchandise would you like to see available in the future?”

That may be a quick question, but there is no quick answer.  What would I like?  Oh, what WOULDN’T I like?  Off the top of my head:

  • Recreations of LOTRO’s famous in-game hats
  • Goat mounts
  • My very own hobbit butler/garden/cook/batman/ring carrying surrogate
  • A lifetime supply of hyphens for complicated words
  • Aragorn’s autograph
  • Gollum shower curtain (*gasp* he’s checking out my preciousssss!)
  • Vials full of murky water from the Watcher’s lake
  • Life-sized Earthkin plushies
  • Legendary Items, like a coffeecup that you can imbue with special abilities as it levels up
  • Rotten pies, so I can run around my neighborhood trying to return them to people

Bio Break’s Quick and Dirty Guide to Telling RIFT and TERA Apart

It’s come to our attention that two upcoming fantasy titles, RIFT (aka “Rift” and “Rift: Planes of Telara” and “Rift: Shut Yo’ Mouth”) and TERA (aka “TERA Online” and “The Exiled Realm of Arborea”), are being confused with each other.  We’ve noticed this happening quite often, most likely because (a) both are good-looking fantasy titles with non-descript IPs, (b) both have four-letter names and “Telara” sounds a bit like “TERA”, and (c) because we collectively have the attention span of squirrels.

Ooh!  Acorn!

So in the spirit of clearing up the air, here’s Bio Break’s Quick and Dirty Guide to Telling RIFT and TERA apart:

  • Rift is a Western MMO being developed by Trion Worlds
  • Tera is an Eastern MMO being developed by Bluehole Studio
  • Both games are slated to hit North America in 2011
  • Both games are using a standard retail box + subscription business model
  • Rift is best described as a really well-done WoW-slash-WAR clone that has great emphasis on PvE
  • Tera is best described as Aion meets Final Fantasy
  • Rift’s big hooks are its mix-and-match class building system and dynamic world events and invasions
  • Tera’s big hook is action (button mashing) combat
  • Tera’s females are typical soft porn anime dolls and it’s very possible you will be sent to jail by the FBI if you play it in view of anyone else
  • Rift does not send you to prison.  It gives you a good game instead.


Shattering WoW

Back when World of Warcraft: Cataclysm was announced, I expressed that it was a fairly gutsy thing for play-it-safe Blizzard to do.  After all, they could’ve just tacked on high-level expansions from here until 2030 and made bank just fine (and I totally expect that’s how it’s going to happen after this one), but instead the developer is throwing just a bit of high-level stuff in while going back to do two things that many long-term MMOs neglect:

  1. Low- and mid-level content revamps
  2. Introducing real change to the world

There’s real temptation to avoid #1, particularly after the first couple years of an MMO’s lifespan.  At that point, the bulk of your regular paying players are high-level and have figured out the optimal path to getting there, so there’s tremendous incentive to cater mostly to the highbies, add on more content to pad out the resume, and just speed up the leveling curve (which, incidentally, are three things WoW has historically done).

And yet what devs sometimes overlook is that the low- and mid-game is vital to keep fresh, especially if your later content — after your team has learned new tricks and added in new systems — is making your older stuff look positively rancid in comparison.  I’ve always felt that Turbine’s been great in being willing to go back to their earlier stuff in LOTRO and tweak and rework it as needed.  The Lone-lands, a level 20-30 zone, got a major overhaul (although Turbine scrapped plans for a similar revamp to North Downs) and was widely praised because of it.  Sure, they could’ve just left it as is, but someone over there saw that it wasn’t quite right to begin with and in light of how the game was progressing, started to become a drawback instead of an asset.

#2 throws everyone for a loop when it happens, because it rarely does.  For persistent online worlds that have so much potential to change and grow, most MMOs remain as frozen in time as the day they were created.  As excited as people are for Cata, the WoW playerbase isn’t used to change on this scale, especially for lands that some players know as intimately as the neighborhood where they grew up (or, heck, live in today).

In a real way, we’re seeing the last days of World of Warcraft version 1.0, and probably the closest thing to witnessing what WoW will look like shortly before its eventual closure.  I’ve seen people do a lot of the same things you see prior to MMO shutdowns, such as wax poetic about memories, explore the world “one last time”, and celebrate as the apocalypse bears down on them.

I can’t see Cataclysm breathing completely new life into WoW, but it’s a good move, and I hope that Blizzard stays on the side of exciting gambles instead of boring predictability from here on out.

Big News Weekend

I don’t know who thought Cataclysm was going to be the only big news this winter, because plenty of other MMO studios are stepping up with pretty hefty announcements.

First up is Rift’s transition into closed beta on December 3rd.  How I understand it is that the current wide alpha testing group will continue to play on uninterrupted servers, while beta testers will be much more focused and participate in specific events.  I’ve got my beta key plugged in, but it isn’t VIP, so I have no idea if I’ll be jumping in or not.

I’d like to, though.  I’m not usually huge on betas, but I have a lot of curiosity that’s begging to be addressed concerning Rift.  I keep hearing from current testers (who are probably fudging the NDA) that Rift’s won them over and they’ve already given up their other MMO subscriptions.  At least, it sounds like Trion has a really solid game on their hands, and if closed beta testing goes well, it’s not outside the realm of reason to hope for a spring launch.  My guess?  May 2011.

Then, of course, there’s the big news of LOTRO — the next expansion, Rise of Isengard.  As expansions go, it certainly seems attractive if not “OH HOLY CRAP I NEED THIS NOOOOOW!”  We knew Isengard was coming, and Turbine seems to be beefing up the journey — 3 zones, expanded PvMP conflicts, 5 more levels.

I think this news is overshadowing some of the other topics that Turbine’s dropped, like the really neat-sounding Winter-home village in the Yule Festival or the vastly improved cosmetic outfit system.  If anything, it shows that the team is working hard on a wide range of content, and that’s always encouraging when you’re a fan of the game.

Some people are already complaining that Isengard is almost a year away and that’s too long to wait for new zones, etc.  I think — and this is just my opinion — that Turbine might throw in at least one new zone between now and then, but for certain the company is going to be cranking out content patches.  I don’t anticipate being bored, is what I’m saying.

One of the most unique aspects of LOTRO that separates it from the MMO herd is that it does depict a specific, defined journey.  New zones aren’t just added to bulk things up, but to continue an ongoing story and let us take another step toward the final confrontation with Sauron.

And my hope is that by the time Isengard opens up, I’ll have both my captain and lore-master at the level cap to head into the fray.  That should be enough time, don’t you think?