RIFT: Celebrate good times c’mon!

RIFT is currently in its fifth and final stage of the lengthy Waves of Madness world event.  And when I say “lengthy,” we’re talking about well over a month going on now.  I think Trion’s overreacted just a teensy weensy bit to the complaints of shortness from the last world event, but really, it’s not as if a long world event is a bad thing.  We’ve seen a nice cycle of daily quests, a few fun story scenes, and been given plenty of time to gather up the world event currency for the vendor before he waves bye-bye.  So I am not complaining.

The fifth phase, oddly enough, is a celebratory one: “We’ve won, let’s party!”  It’s the closest thing I’ve seen to a holiday event in the game so far, and it’s actually kind of entertaining.  Nothing too elaborate, but it does encourage you to dance, set off fireworks, and (my personal favorite) engage in a water balloon minigame.  There’s even some strategy with the latter, because you can’t hit certain targets, and there are different point values assigned.

I’ve noticed that the dailies in phase five are awarding significantly higher amounts of currency, probably to let people wrap up their reward goals before it goes away.  Each one of these world events has been a treasure trove of loot, and this time around I’ve scored a couple pets, a water-breathing trinket, an awesome planar focus (2 greater, 4 lesser), and a cosmetic skull helm.  Really, the only other thing I’m interested in are some spiky cosmetic shoulders, but no loss if I don’t get them.

Apart from the world event, I’ve latched on to a terrific guild — The Watch on Deepwood — and they’ve been great at incorporating me into their social circle and activities.  The other night we did a set of crafting and raid rift runs in Shimmersands that were substantially more interesting than rifts I’ve done in the past, and the rewards were much improved as well.

My rogue is trucking through the 40s at level 43 so far, mostly doing a mix of dungeons and questing.  I really do love the five-man instances in this game, as they’re just long enough to be challenging but not too long as to be tiring.  I’m also haphazardly crafting my way up through the tiers, but it’s not my passion so much as just something I can do with these cheap mats I keep picking up.

I’m pretty psyched about the Water Saga epic quest chain that’s coming with patch 1.4, especially since I should be nearing 50 by the time it comes out.  For all the bellyaching that some commenters do about there being nothing to do at 50 other than raid, I’m finding that the game has a surprising amount of diversity if you’re willing to look.  Having this quest chain to do (with a cool croc mount at the end) is a nice indication that Trion hasn’t forgotten about us soloers.

SWTOR’s gone from suck to blow (out into space)!

So like just about every other Old Republic fan, I was watching the new dungeon/instance/flashpoint video this morning when something weird struck me.  OK, I’m not the biggest Star Wars expert and I’ll admit that, but this just seems odd.

At around the seven-minute mark the players arrive in the engineering room where it’s apparent that a security lockdown is in place.  Players need to disable the lockdown to access the bridge, which is where BioWare throws one of its nail-biting moral choices into the mix.  There’s an easy way to do it by just resetting the reactor, but it’s going to cost you dark side points and kill everyone in the engineering room, then there’s a hard-yet-goody-two-shoes way.

In the video, the players opt for the dark side choice, and they kill the engineering crew.  But waitaminute, this doesn’t make sense!  This is what the chief engineer calls a “reactor reset”, and yet it necessitates venting the ENTIRE COMPARTMENT INTO SPACE.  Uh, why?  Seriously, why?  When I reset my computer, I don’t trigger a vacuum that sucks out all the oxygen from the room.  I mean, I’m sure there’s some technobabble explanation that could be devised for this, but it really doesn’t hold up to common logic.

Past that, here’s the part I really, really don’t get.  If you work in an environment where there are giant doors leading to the cold vacuum of space, why aren’t there space suits or air breathers or what have you?  The engineers didn’t have to leave the doors open for long, I’m guessing, so if they had a bit of oxygen and a firm grip on something, they could’ve made it through just fine.

Somebody, please tell me this isn’t just the most sadistically designed ship in the galaxy?

Sick of stats

Title says it all.  I’m feeling cantankerous today — RAWR SYP SMASH! — on the subject of stats in MMOs.  Now, I realize that this is a completely futile thing to rail against, but I need to get it out anyway.  Some days I’m just sick to death of stats.   Sure, they start out with the best of intentions — “We’re going to provide a numerical representation of combat abstracts!” — but after a while  a game can become all about them and nothing but.

We joke that titles like EVE and whatnot are graphical spreadsheets, but there’s some truth in that.  If you love number-crunching and min-maxing, stats are your best friend.  But if you just want to play the game, the more stats there are the more is getting in the way of you and your fun.

Case in point: DDO.  I love me some DDO, I really do, but the stats almost kill the game for me.  There’s simply too many of them and they’re too obscure for your typical MMO player to where it’s actually harder to customize your character’s progress because if you make a misstep you’re going to gimp your character.  I’ve often found myself frustrated by how much of an obstacles stats became whenever I was trying to dream up a class, and even if it’s semi-faithful to how D&D does it, it crosses the line between informational and flexible to oversized and overwhelming.

Usually when I make a character in a game, all I want to know is what two or three stats I should be looking for whenever gear pops up.  I’m playing a Rogue?  Great — it’s DEX and STA.  Easy as pie.  Wizard?  INT and OZ.  No sweat.  I just want to know enough to keep my head above water and ignore the rest.

The problem is that developers feel the need to keep adding on more and more stats, particularly in the endgame, and few people ever like that they do them.  They’re usually special gating stats that help with resilience or radiance or what have you that are needed to participate in raids, just a superfluous number added on because we were already so good in all the other numbers.  Do we need more?  Can’t there come a point where player skill is called upon as just as important, if not way more so, than mathematics?

That’s not to say every game is like that, because I see some devs rebelling against the onslaught of stats.  I like how Guild Wars has an option to keep tooltips simple without all the numerical details.  I actually appreciated back in the day when City of Heroes eschewed public stats in favor of general descriptors like “long” or “medium”.

I know stats and RPGs (and all video games, for that matter) are inseparable, I guess I just wish stats would stop being the overbearing grandma who’s always calling you up to check if you’re eating enough and wearing warm enough clothes to avoid the chills.

Hunkering down through the hype storm

I was talking with my brother-in-law the other day.  He’s a major Star Wars fan who’s done a 180 on the whole Old Republic thing.  Initially, he was so wedded to World of Warcraft that he wouldn’t even consider other games out there, but happily WoW’s hold has weakened on his life to where he’s branched out into other regions of the MMOverse.  So when TOR came back around at E3, he happily jumped on board and hasn’t looked back, pre-order and all.

Of course, the problem with last week’s whole pre-order shebang is that while it’s great that we can reserve our copies and that it indicates the game is coming along nicely, it also broke into my protective shell that was helping me get through these months without thinking about the game too much.  Don’t get me wrong, I do love to indulge in anticipation, speculation, dev diaries and the like, but when I’m really anticipating a game, I don’t want to be thinking about it 24/7 any more.  That’s a recipe to be driven nuts, like a kid who can’t think of anything other than Christmas presents even though it’s still over a month away.  No amount of wishing, daydreaming or so-called “Force powers” is going to make time move any faster.

No, the only way I found to get to the date faster is to try to keep hype indulgence to a once-in-a-while thing instead of an all-day, every-day gorge-a-thon.  I’ve done the latter before (see: WAR), and while it is certainly a ton of fun, it also can be quite exhausting and frustrating when all you’re doing is speculating and analyzing instead of being able to play it.  I can’t believe that some sites have been churning out SWTOR articles and podcasts day in and day out for well over two years now, because you’d think that burnout would happen at some point.  Heck, that’s longer than some folks play an average new game.

I was a little disheartened to hear about the beta weekends in September, too.  Not that they’re bad things for the testing and promotion of the game, but because as a blogger it’s terribly hard to ignore popular betas even if you’re not a big fan of them.  You know that if you give them a pass, others won’t, and you’ll already be behind on Day One.  Maybe that’s shallow, but that’s how I feel.

My guess is that we won’t see SWTOR before early December, so there’s no use getting all in a tizzy at the end of July here.  Fortunately, I have plenty to keep me occupied: a new project in LOTRO, LOTRO’s September expansion, getting to 50 in RIFT, and filling up my Hall of Monuments in Guild Wars (I’m up to 10?  Maybe?).  Time to stay focused and not put all my Wampa eggs in one basket!

Pay attention, or you might miss something worthwhile

Last night I finished up the first stage of many in my new LOTRO project to fully experience all of the single-player quests in each zone.  With a jaunty wave and a double-check of my quest log, my Burglar finally left the Shire for the less-amiable lands of Ered Luin.

Shifting my priorities from “get XP, get deeds done, move on” to “I have to read every quest and do everything I can” wasn’t exactly eye-opening as it was refreshing.  It was as if I gave myself permission to simply experience the game instead of shoulder through it as quickly and efficiently as possible.

In fact, doing this is remarkably inefficient.  I quickly out-leveled quests (I left the zone at level 17.5 when the last quests in the area were around 14 or so), and several of them had me going out of my way, backtracking, and engaging in lengthy activities that I probably would’ve ditched otherwise (pie-running, I’m looking at you!).  But I kept it to the basics — I picked up and completed only a small handful of quests at a time so I’d be mindful of what was going on with the stories, I paid attention to the details around me, and I stabbed the living oompa-loompa out of anything that moved.

I thought that after several years of playing this game I would’ve seen everything there was in the Shire, but I was wrong.  I discovered a couple quests I’d never done before, poked around in a few remote regions like the daring explorer I am, and felt very accomplished knowing that I could traverse the entire region and not see a single ring over any NPC heads.

I’m going to be sharing some specifics of my journey on Massively later this week, but I wanted to get these thoughts out now.  I start to hyperventilate when I think of just how many zones and quests there are, and how much time it will take to do them all, and if I have the guts to stick with it, but… hey.  It’s all about the journey, not the destination.