Planning for RIFT

I’m in a weird spot with RIFT right now.  Like many beta testers who are planning to purchase and play post-launch, I’ve grown reluctant to log in during the beta events after the first few.  Not because I’m bored with it — quite the opposite! — but because I simply want to be going through all of this content with characters that I’ll actually get to keep.  I know, it makes me a bad beta tester, but that’s kind of how it is.

So I’m hunkering down for the time being, counting down the 24 days left until RIFT’s head start launch.  Should make for a long month, but I’ve got my hands plenty full with Guild Wars and LOTRO, so I shan’t be bored.  In a couple of days, Michigan’s in for that nasty snowstorm that’s going to drop what weather forecasters are predicting to be the biggest snowfall in 6 years here, so “hunkering down” is a mentality I’m certainly familiar with.

But that doesn’t mean I’m avoiding RIFT entirely, just saving up a bulk of that energy and enthusiasm for release.  I did log on last weekend just to check out the new changes (I particularly like the updated character screen and currency tracker), and with any luck, it’ll just get better from here.  I know RIFT isn’t for everyone, but I just really love how silky smooth it feels and how easy it is to slip on, like a frilly nightie that you now can’t stop imagine me wearing.  FRILLS.

So what is there to do between now and launch?  Quite a few things, mostly in terms of personal planning:

  • Pre-order (check!)
  • Decide on a faction, race and archetype (Guardian Dwarf Cleric)
  • Find a guild (still shopping around for that — any blogger guilds forming?)
  • Stay up to date on the changes from patch to patch
  • Decide what my goals are for the first month of play

This last point occupies a small but dedicated portion of my mind.  I know a lot of people are going to be rushing to the top, and that’s always stressful if you get caught up in that wake, so I’ll be swimming out to clear waters.  Honestly, I want to just take my time, explore, read the quest text, craft — you know, the new game resolutions we all make before we log in, give a gibbering scream and start swinging at everything that moves.

At least I’m avoiding all of the theorycrafters and detailed dungeon run guides (for the time being).  Do we really need to know every little detail before ever stepping foot into that world?  Some explorers we are if so, refusing to sail to the New World until someone’s been there and Google Mapped the streets.

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/AFK: Classy Edition

Are you a man?  A woman?  Or are you a number?  A predefined class?  Whoooo are you, who who who who?  When people encounter you in game, do they see the person behind the avatar, or just a jarhead filling a rigid role?

Enough existential questioning for the morning — welcome back to /AFK, the weekly roundup of the best and most interesting posts I read this past week:

  • Elder Game — More on Classed vs. Unclassed Games
    “Imagine an MMO that made you redo everything every year. It’d be called ‘A Tale in the Desert’ and it might have a cult following, but would not be able to find the audience you probably imagine it would.”
  • KIASA — True heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic
    “Take her back to Ered Luin where she first began her journey, however, and she can hit a wolf so hard that there’s a very good chance a Higgs boson particle would be detected in the subsequent imploding bloody-mist of lupine limbs.”
  • Overly Positive — The Comfortable, Familiar MMO
    “To be perfectly honest, the good thing that an MMO with familiarity has for people that play it is simple comfort – the kind of comfort you get from a bath or shower at the right temperature, a familiar spot on the couch/recliner, or worn clothes that fit well.”
  • TOROCAST.com — When customization is bad
    “Well, just like I can love gin & tonics but decidedly not love waking up mid-puke in a random parking lot in Milwaukee, too much customization has its drawbacks.”

Quote of the Day

“I think it’s interesting that the more that I play LotRO, the more I find myself wanting to play it. It’s so different from your normal high-fantasy MMO, that at first it can seem almost boring… at least it did to me 3 years ago. But I’ve seen now that it’s amazingly complex. It challenges you to learn new incredibly detailed lore and ways of thinking about advancement in-game, while at the same time slowing you down and emphasizing the journey over the destination. That’s completely opposite to how many MMOs today are designed, and has served LotRO well over the years.”

~ Battle Priestess

iPhone: Dungeon Raid review

I don’t really know the last time I paid for an iPhone game (or downloaded one, really).  Most of my iPhone leisure time these days is either spent reading or watching movies — gaming is why I have a computer.  But I got intrigued by a little puzzle/RPG title I’d heard great things about called Dungeon Raid and downloaded it yesterday.

Seriously, I’m glad I did.  While simple at first glance, DR hits all the right spots and becomes an incredibly addicting game.

Basically it falls under the “Touch 3” genre of puzzle games, where you have to connect three or more identical icons to make them disappear.  Easy enough, but the theme of the game is that you’re battling your way through a dungeon and these icons are an abstract representation of your journey.

Coins add to your treasure pile — get enough and you can buy a new piece of gear with better stats (you have a whole stat screen with what you’re wearing and what you can do).  Shields add to your armor (and represent your first line of defense against attacks), and any shields you collect over your armor limit go toward an upgrade bar.  Health potions simply restore your health (your second line of defense) — if your health goes to zero, you lose the game.

Skulls represent enemies, each with an attack, defense and health rating.  Each turn a skull is on the board, it attacks you, so it’s in your best interest to kill them as soon as possible.  You can do this by connecting any combination of skulls and swords (the swords add to your attack bonus).  Every skull killed adds to your XP bar, and when you level up you get new or improved abilities (which go on your hotbar overhead and have a lengthy cooldown when used).  After a while, special skulls emerge with unique abilities (such as setting icons on fire, which hurt you if you use them), and those are far more dangerous.

That’s pretty much it, but the combination is so perfect that every turn represents a multitude of decisions.  Do I go for the gold?  Do I grab shields and boost up my armor?  Do I want to go on an all-out attack or just soak up the damage?  Do I used my special abilities now or later?

There’s also a lot of strategy on the board itself, because you want as many similarly-themed icons to touch, especially swords and skulls.  It’s frustrating to see a lonesome skull attacking you with impunity when you can’t do anything about it.

Anyway, it’s $2.99 and most definitely worth the purchase.  I spent an hour and a half last night engrossed in just one game, and it seems to be the perfect pick-up-and-put-down title (it automatically saves your progress, so you can quit any time without worry).  Thought I’d pass this along as a recommendation to youse.

Adventures in Advertising

What’s odd about the following ad?

So not only do they just — for whatever reason — throw in the iconic guy from 300, but they add a bit of an extra moustache in a weird attempt to avoid copyright infringement or something:

 

Classy!  Weird!

A long time to come in a MMO far, far away

Lately there have been a lot of rumors, hearsay, “I heard from a guy ordering coffee next to me at Starbucks” type of thing about Star Wars: The Old Republic being delayed until the fall (September or October, depending on who you’re listening to).  While the sources for this are flimsy at best, it does feel about right.  When you’ve seen enough big-name MMOs build up to launch, you get a sense of the pattern and steps that have to be taken to get there.  We simply haven’t seen a ramp up into any sort of beta (other than quiet, behind-the-scenes testing), no pre-orders, no CE info, and plenty of major features have yet to be explained.  Spring 2011 is nice to think of, but unless BioWare’s holding back for a massive sprint across the finish line, it’s probably not going to happen.

So what if it is this fall?  What then?  Well, for starters, it’s going to bring out the DOOM! crowd.  As you well know, one of my big pet peeves is people who denounce a game they’ve never played for any great length of time that has yet to hit launch.  We may like to speculate, but there’s a very silly line that gets crossed when people start asserting their opinions as God-given facts handed to them from the future that the rest of us are unable to see.

So yeah, expect lots of that.

For the rest of us who were anticipating the game, this would represent a big reshuffling of the year.  I still have high hopes for MMOs in 2011 as a whole, but gamers should probably realize that they’re in for more of a wait than they’d hoped after the long drought of 2010.  GW2 may or may not even appear this year (I’m betting… not), The Secret World is definitely far off, and if TOR is moved to the fall, then that leaves spring wide open for RIFT and a couple of smaller titles.  Great for RIFT, but not so great if you wanted a whole slew of new MMO choices right off the bat.

And while I am certainly looking forward to TOR, I’m very much okay with the move to the fall for three reasons:

  1. I want a lot of time to explore RIFT and enjoy some of the single-player games coming out this spring (like Dragon Age 2).  TOR releasing this spring would be like an overload.
  2. It shows that EA BioWare is really trying to get it right and is unwilling to push it out the door just to make the financial report (or, on the flip side of the cynical coin, the company could be realizing that TOR is in no shape to be released now and needs a LOT more work).  People are already looking at TOR as the litmus test for big-budget MMOs — whether it succeeds or fails financially will have a huge impact on the genre for a long while to come.
  3. If we’ve waited this long already, a half-year or so is nothing.

If this is the case, then I hope they let the cat out of the bag soon so that gamer anticipation can be moved to the backburner for a while.  I’m already starting to see a lot of anticipation fatigue on this (not to mention other titles as well) because it’s been such a long, such a very slow build up to launch.  There’s only so much you can sustain that excitement before needing to step away for a while.  Break the news to us, give us the summer to cool down and BioWare to work hard, and then let’s start up this hype train in the fall.  I’d be okay with that.