A Story About a Tree

This is a story about a tree.  You already knew that from the title.

My life was happier before the tree.  Before the tree, playing RIFT was fun… relaxing… engaging.  Heck, I just went through a vampire nest and cleared out 2,000 Edwards in the time it took Stephanie Mayer to think up another synonym for “gorgeous.”  You could even say that I was riding at the top of the world.

So quickly things change.  So quickly are our lives ruined.

I saw the tree as I climbed up a steep hill.  It wasn’t anything to speak of; a gnarled old thing that lurked like an arthritic claw.  On any other day, in any other game, I would’ve passed it by.


Except it had a sparkly, glowy artifact at the top-most branch.  And I simply cannot resist gunning for artifacts in this game.  The devs like to put them in out-of-the-way places that encourage exploration, and I love that.

The only problem was that this particular artifact was put there by a clearly insane person at Trion Worlds, and when I find that person, he or she and I will be having words.  Words that end with fists attached.

As a gamer who cut his teeth on Pitfall! and Super Mario Bros., I’m no stranger to platforming.  Sometimes I even enjoy it.  But this was a platforming puzzle that I quickly realized was neigh-on impossible.

It was bad enough that the branches were so narrow that a single misstep would send me plummeting back down to the ground, but I could’ve lived with all that had there not been one evil, demonic branch that stymied my progress:

Oh, I learned to hate that branch.  That branch made it absolutely impossible to proceed.  I couldn’t jump past it or edge around it, because it blocked the entire approach.  But… there was an artifact up there!  That obviously meant that it could be done, right?


And thus a few enthusiastic attempts quickly became an unending obsession.  I had to get past the branch.  I could TASTE that artifact.  I kept going, try after try, quickly climbing into the triple digits of attempts.  I was obsessed.  And this tree was going to drive me mad.

Oh sure, as soon as I was getting close to giving up, I would make it past the branch somehow, but not in any way I could replicate.  I nearly whooped in relief, but would quickly fall off as there was no way up the next branch without sliding off.  Time after time after time I climbed, I growled, and I deeply wished for a chainsaw to cut down that tree.

It never happened.  For all I know, the artifact is still up there, laughing at me and my stupidity.

And I could not sleep last night, as the madness welled up from deep within.

Branching Out

First of all, I’m all a-flutter over the one-plus week world event that’s starting in RIFT today.  In fact, as soon as I publish this post, I’ll probably be in the game scoping it out.

It’s definitely a good move on Trion’s part, for several reasons.  One, we’re at the one-month mark after release, and we all know that means it’s time for every player to consider whether or not this game is worth subbing.  Having something big happen in the game at this time is a good incentive to keep playing, and all of the other features of this patch help as well.  Video recording in game?  Does any other MMO come equipped to do this?  That’s pretty dang cool.

We’re also seeing that Trion held a few cards back from us, and is now playing them one by one.  That’s a tricky thing, because you really want to impress everyone at launch with a wide and deep arrangement of features and content, but you absolutely must have something new and surprising to unleash down the road as well.  We kept hearing RIFT devs talk about how the dynamic content wasn’t just about rifts, but was an effective toolbox to give them freedom to craft events.  From what I’ve heard so far, this world event is something much different and more grand than the smaller zone invasions or local attacks, and there’s even a new UI element to follow that.

So I’m going to be deep in RIFT this week even as my LOTRO Lore-master hit 50 today and I’m Eagling everything in the face as hard as I can.  Between those two games, I feel as rich of an MMO gamer as anyone has a right to be — but I think I need to branch out a bit.

It’s not that I’m restless, but that I really love MMOs and would hate to be so immersed in just two titles that I start ignoring everything else out there.  So I’m going to start lining up a list of very side games to explore and enjoy, perhaps on a day of the week I set apart to do this sort of thing.

So far, here is my to-play list:

  • DDO: After PAX East and seeing the new DDO content, I felt it calling once again.  I may join back up with the Massively guild, but will probably be rolling a new character (I’m thinking sorcerer).
  • A MUD/MUSH/MOO: As part of next month’s project for Massively, I want to at least get into one of these text-based MMOs.  Still evaluating my options, however.
  • EVE Online: I simply don’t understand the phenomenon of this game — it really feels like a cult sometimes — but I’m willing to take another crack at it.
  • Guild Wars: Will I ever finish even one campaign?  I really need to find out!  And before GW2 launches, no less!

Throw MUD at me!

So next week I’m going to be starting a one-month series on MUDs for Massively, and I’d love to know which you consider to be the biggest, best and most influential ones.  Throw names and links at me, and I will smile at you benevolently!

Why Owning An Eagle In LOTRO Will Change My Life Forever

I did it.

Eschewing level 50 dungeon runs, I ran skirmish after skirmish for a good week or so until I had enough points to purchase my class quest items, which resulted in me finally getting my Eagle-friend trait.  I guess the Eagles gotta know if you’re really in it for the long haul or not.

To celebrate this momentous occasion, I splurged on a Tundra Eagle skin in the LOTRO store so that I could have an all-white Eagle that I named Frostbite.  Suffice to say, he looks like he means business.

As a pet class operator, getting a new beastie like this is a real highlight, and the last I’ll be seeing unless (a) I want to spec into the Bog-lurker or (b) Turbine adds another one with an upcoming expansion.  But I’m okay with the Eagle right now, particularly because I know it’ll change my life in four significant ways:

1. I’m prime for a power trip!

I think it’s cute and all when people lug their little pets with them around town, as if they simply couldn’t be parted from their ferret or little rat dog for more than ten minutes.  But what can that animal actually do to help their daily causes?  Nothing, I tell you!

As for me, I’m going to be strolling down the road with a fully-armed Eagle perching on my shoulder, ready to pluck out eyes and shred faces if I give the word.  All will tremble before me and give me the respect I deserve, or a screeching feathered nightmare will be the last thing they ever see!

Plus, I’m guessing it’ll make getting loans at the bank easier:

“Mr. Syp, I don’t think your credit limit is sufficient to cover–”


“–Congratulations, here’s a million dollars!  On the house!”

2. Free air travel without cavity checks by the TSA

You hear that, guy who felt me up when I was going to Boston last month?  Now I don’t need to be ritually humiliated to participate in air travel?  I can just hop on my Eagle and go anywhere I like, first class!  No boring safety checks either, just grab on to a fistful of feathers and kick that bird into gear!

3. I’m bringing the USA to Middle-earth!

There’s nothing more patriotic that a bird who likes to eat mice and fish, darn it, and I’m all about loving my country with avian symbology!  Middle-earth needs a bit of Americanization anyway — did you know that Bree doesn’t even have ONE Wal-Mart?  Or a Starbucks?

That changes today!  Now as I go through the world, people will eye the majestic bird at my side and feel their hearts pulled toward the notion of a republic instead of oppressive monarchies!

U-S-A!  U-S-A!

4. Fish

If you haven’t heard, fish are high in Omega-3 fatty acids, which are really good for your heart.  They’re also high in mercury, which is really bad for everything else in your body, but that’s the trade-off.  My Eagle is a non-stop seafood buffet, and all I have to do is hold out my hands to receive a fresh, flopping happy meal delivered.  Thanks, Eagle!

/AFK: Humorous Choice Edition

If you have a choice between boring A and exciting B, will you not pick B and consider yourself a rogue, even though everyone else would most likely pick B as well?

And if C decided to stop by and challenge your expectations, it might stand to reason that a switch would be in order.  But only if D didn’t pop in, announce “All of the above!” and ruin everyone’s day.  Oh, D, the only letter we hate more than you is the dreaded E — “None of the above!”

Welcome back to /AFK, a weekly roundup of interesting blog posts that caught my attention:

  • Elder Game — Evolving quests
    “WoW changed the thinking here. For the most part, it never even occurred to us in the MMO industry that it might be possible to create so much content that players could level entirely through quests and never repeat a single one.”
  • We Fly Spitfires — I like big swords
    “When I play MMOs I immediately pick melee classes and then go out of my way to find the biggest, meanest looking sword I can possibly find in order to proceed smacking the living daylights out of everything whilst giggling with glee.”

The Evil Midnight Bomber What Bombs At Midnight

“And he says to me, he says to me, ‘You got style, baby! But if you’re gonna to be a real villain, you gotta get a gimmick!’  And so I go, I says, ‘Yeah, baby! A gimmick, that’s it! High explosives!’ Ah ha ha ha ha ha!”


Man, who remembers The Tick?  Seriously, it was one of the best, most absurd cartoons ever broadcast and I loved every minute of it.  It parodied and subverted superhero conventions before that was the “in” thing to do.  The creators had such fun coming up with bizarre superheroes and villains, and one of my absolute favorite was the incomprehensibly named “The Evil Midnight Bomber What Bombs At Midnight.”

No, I didn’t ever really understand his name, but that was part of his allure.  He was crazy, he was psychotic, and he absolutely loved his bombs.  Now mad bombers are one of those despicable things in real life, but in fiction they can be really hilarious and relatable.  Like Crazy Harry from the Muppets.  After all, many of us are quietly pleased by things going “BOOM” in controlled circumstances, from building implosions to fireworks.

This is why I’m developing a strong crush on RIFT’s Saboteur class.  Yes, I know they’re slated to be nerfed with the next patch, but I don’t think I’ll ever stop playing it.  Flinging bombs all willy-nilly?  Pressing that button to detonate?  Yes, please!

I was excited to try one in beta, but the explosive noises then were so muted as to make the class sound like it was stepping on mice (“oomph”) instead of blowing crap up.  Now I crank my speakers and let the good times roll!

It’s kind of funny, because I can feel my personality and playstyle shift when I move into this role.  With the Bard or Riftstalker I have a deliberate purpose, but with the Saboteur it’s all about being crazy and rushing headlong into danger.  Fling fling fling, boom boom boom.  If I get into a good pattern, I can detonate a number of spike charges on one guy, put a time bomb on him, and move on to the next mob while the first has half of its health, trusting that it’ll die before too long.  It’s a wonderfully powerful rush.

So here’s to you, Evil Midnight Bomber What Bombs At Midnight.  You knew the way to true explodey happiness long before I ever did.