Posted in RIFT

RIFT: The World is Amiss

A couple of days ago I posted about how the first stage of RIFT’s new world event seemed a little… lackluster, I guess.  But just as soon as I got used to the new routine of dailies, the second staged kicked in, and now I’m starting to feel it.  Some of the old (easy) dailies have been rotated out, and a bunch of new ones are now active — quests which require you to do a lot more: grouping, rift closing, and even seeking out Hammerknell to view a looping real-world cinematic.  It’s sort of like a play that keeps repeating upon request, but I’m not knocking it too much because it truly is neat and I liked it well enough.

But my favorite thing is that you can see a lot of little details about the world changing, particularly in the main cities.  It’s like everything is leaking and drowning, and even inside the main Sanctum hall the ceiling is dripping water.  It gives a good sense of immediacy, that there’s something amiss and you want to get out there and fix it.

I just hope phase three holds off until I come back next weekend — I really want to experience all of this!

Posted in Quote of the Day

Quote of the Day

“Sony has told you guys that you are not going to win this.  There’s no question, there’s no last-ditch rally to save the beach from Evil Mr. Shutdownington or whatever.  Sony stepped up and said ‘guys, the petition thing, it’s sweet, but it is also totally pointless.’  And yet the desperate requests to spread the word continue, as if somehow if you just got enough signatures it would somehow alter the space-time continuum and the companies would change their minds.”

~ Ex Post Ninja

Posted in iPhone

iPhone: Tiny Tower

Tiny Tower for the iOS is the first FarmVille-style game I’ve ever seen the point in playing, and even now I’m debating its merits as a “game” versus an “addictive as crap timesink.”  What I do know is that there’s a lot of excellent points that elevates this title above the stupider elements of FarmVille, and it’s charmed me enough that I’ve played it for quite a few days now.

Utilizing the iPhone screen perfectly, Tiny Tower lets you create a skyrise one floor at a time.  Floors can either hold apartments (that can house up to five “Bitizens”) or one of five types of stores (with over 80 stores and services in all).  Apartments house the workers that work the stores, stores sell goods to make money, money lets you build more.  Special currency — Tower Bux — let you upgrade your elevator (which is important to earning more money and bux), speed up restocking, and do a number of other convenient things.  The game’s pretty good at letting you earn Bux for free, although there’s the option to pay real money for it too.

That’s the basics, although there’s considerably more than that.  Floors can be repainted, Bitizens remodeled, VIPs ferried to specific destinations to give you a huge boost, and a “Where’s Waldo” game occasionally appears and tasks you with finding a specific Bitizen in exchange for a Bux.

Tiny Tower’s become insanely popular in the week or so since its release, and I can see why.  It’s less intrusive than FarmVille (for example, your restocking efforts never degrade, so you don’t HAVE to get back until you’re ready) and it nurtures that building part of us that likes to make bigger and better dollhouses.  But the real star of the show is the truly awesome pixel art — each floor (and Bitizen) is charmingly rendered in an old-school pixelated format, but it’s still clear enough so that you can make out all sorts of details.

I do appreciate that there’s some element of strategy and gaming here, although the game does lack specific goals — it’s just “build as high as you want, whatever.”  There’s no reward for having a 50-story skyscraper over a 5-story one, unless you consider the reveal of new types of floors a reward (to the game’s credit, it never repeats floors on you if it can help it).  There’s almost always something to do when you do log in, so you’re not just sitting around waiting for timers to count down, either.

However, in my few days of playing it, I’ve come up with a wish list of how this game could be made way, way better, including:

  • Having the Bitizens DO something other than just mill about.  They don’t talk, or interact with the environment or each other.  The in-app “BitBook” is a nice touch, but it’s not something you see from the main screen.
  • Have the store and apartments animated.  It’d be really neat to see coffee being brewed or someone taking a nap on a sofa.
  • Be able to customize and upgrade floors beyond just random repainting
  • Be able to specifically outfit Bitizens instead of just hitting a randomizer
  • Be able to unclick VIPs in elevators so that you can wait to use them instead of being forced to use them right then and there

Anyway, big thumbs-up to this title — it’s on my iPhone to stay, and for a free game, I’m pleased that it doesn’t really push its microtransactions on me.

P.S. – Here’s a nice strategy guide to those getting started

Posted in RIFT

RIFT: Waving to madness

Right now RIFT is in the first of an eventual five-stage world event titled “Waves of Madness,” but so far it doesn’t feel “mad” so much as “oh hey, there’s a couple new dailies to do!”

Don’t get me wrong, I love me some dailies that have interesting mechanics (I’m particularly fond of the quest where you run around the city exposing spies and killing them) and let you save up for nice rewards, but I think Trion’s being a little too subtle while ramping up to these world events.  The problem is that when people anticipate them, they want something great right off the bat — none of this “prologue” stuff.  The result is that you get a lot of whiners who aren’t happy with the less-than-thrilling intro, and we all know how hard it is to coach patience to MMO players.

So it’d be much better if there was an actual event to kick off the world event, something noticeable and interactive that would serve to draw players in and have them begging for more versus doing their dailies while impatiently tapping a toe waiting for the circus to arrive.

That said, it looks like Waves of Madness will be a lot bigger than the faulty River of Souls, and I know there’s a lot of eyes on Trion to see if their course corrections from the first world event will result in a much-improved experience or not.  The dailies so far are okay, and I like the fact that one of them is to bless a wardstone, which not only gets us familiar with the blessing skill (if we haven’t used it before) but gives us added incentive to do a rift in order to get a planar charge.

The rewards are attractive, I’ll admit.  Some nice necklaces that have water-breathing on top of decent stats, a few pets (I’ve already got the crab… yes, I’ve got crabs), cosmetic armor, and other miscellaneous goodies.  I do hope we plow into Phase 2 before too long here, because I’m eager to see what comes next.

As for my character, right now I’m mostly running a Bladedancer build on my Rogue and loving it even more than Saboteur (if that’s possible).  It’s a really fun soul to use, since you’re firing off tons of instant attacks and dodging damage left and right.  I love the charge ability and usually jump up in the air, hit it, and “fly” to hit my foe.  There’s also a wicked awesome AoE barrage attack you can do which is almost always an “I win” button if your foes are at level or below.

That’s about it for RIFT right now.  I’m only a few days away from our annual mission trip, which means that planning and preparation have taken over my life, so don’t expect TOO many articles on Bio Break this week.  We do have an excellent roster of guest bloggers lined up for next week’s blogathon, so there’s a lot to look forward to!

Posted in RIFT


I pride myself on not stooping to take part in every obvious marketing scheme known to man, but I’m going to make an exception today because I really, really want that stupid yapping dog pet in RIFT.  And that means that I need a friend.

Are you my friend?  A friend loaded with spare money and curious enough to try RIFT out for a month?

If so, click here and make my day!  I will name the dog after you!

Posted in Star Wars Galaxies


One of the little perks of working in games journalism is that sometimes you’re treated to advance news before the embargo breaks and whatnot.  So last night our little posse in Massively was sitting there, absolutely stunned to hear the word that Star Wars Galaxies was set to be “sunseted” on December 15th.

I felt truly bad for some of the staff there who are big fans of the game, and it’s been a weird day waiting until the rest of the world would find out.  I never like seeing MMOs go away, and this is almost out of the blue, so it’s sure to come as a huge shock to many.

According to an interview with Smedley, it’s an issue of a contract with LucasArts that ran out, and you can read between the lines all you like there.  No matter what the reason, the fact is that a sizable, long-running, and pretty passionate community is about to be turned out of their virtual home within a half-year.

It’s one of those events that’s hard to get your head around.  I can’t imagine that Fan Faire is going to be a happy event, particularly for those folks who have their Chewie costumes already prepared.  This is also the second major blow to SOE in as many months, and by this point I’m just feeling sorry for the company.  I don’t know what they can pull out at Fan Faire to compensate for this news.

From a historical standpoint, it’s hard to think of another MMO as well-known, long-running, and seemingly okay having its doors closed like this.  I have to imagine that SWG was still profitable, and no matter what Smed says, its loss has to burn in SOE’s pocketbook.

Anyway, I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of reactions and commentary on this today, and I hope more of it is in support to disheartened players than nasty trolls coming out to get their cheap shots in about NGE and whatnot.

Posted in General

Calling for guest bloggers!

I’m going to be out of town from July 2-9, and rather than let Bio Break collect dust during this time, I’d love to continue a tradition by opening the doors for guest bloggers.

So if you’re an established blogger who’d like to help out (and, hey, get some publicity for your blog), then drop me a line at justin -at- massively -dot- com, and I’ll give you an assignment!  MUWAHAHAHAHA!


Posted in Quote of the Day, Star Wars: The Old Republic

Quote of the Day

“First of all, a lot has been made about the new ‘fourth pillar’ of story telling. Is it really all they are making it out to be? In my personal opinion, yes, it really is a big deal and let me tell you why. In the short time I’ve been playing SW:TOR I have already given more thought to my character than I ever did in all the years I played WOW. I’ve had to make hard choices with my Bounty Hunter that have made me honestly think about who he is and what he’s like.”

~ Penny Arcade’s Gabriel