RIFT, why do you have to go make all the other MMOs look so bad?

Dang, I guess it was a really, really good time to hop back on board the RIFT train.  Today Trion announced the game’s first expansion, Storm Legion, and it looks like an insane doozy.  It’s coming this fall, which gives me more than enough time to get my little Cleric up to spec.

There’s just so… much… to absorb with this expansion:

  • Two new continents that will “triple” the game’s size and content
  • Player and guild housing
  • Level cap increase to 60
  • 4 new souls (one for each calling)
  • Tempest Bay dual-faction city
  • 7 new dungeons
  • 3 new raids
  • 1 new Chronicle
  • Massive colossus battles
  • New crafting tier
  • Capes
  • Lots more of the existing stuff (rifts, mounts, artifacts, etc.)

I’m seriously, seriously impressed, because all this is being developed on top of Trion’s already hectic update publishing process.  From everything I hear, the game’s doing quite well for itself in the post-SWTOR industry (one news site said that the game has over a million active subs, but I haven’t seen confirmation of that anywhere else — seems a tad high).

As a returning player, what interests me the most is the new soul, the horror-themed continent, and (of course) player housing.  At this point, RIFT will have implemented pretty much every wish list item I’ve had for that game since launch — and it makes a lot of its contemporaries look stodgy in comparison.  Player housing!  Seriously!

It’s kind of funny watching twitter explode over this, like people are just rediscovering this game exists and remembering how awesome it is.  I feel a little bad for SWTOR (“hey guys!  We’re going to do an instance finder!  Guys?  Guys?”), but I think BioWare’s already feeling a fire under its feet to get new content out quicker.

This fall is going to be oh so crazy.  With LOTRO and RIFT’s expansion coming out then, The Secret World a couple months old, and the possibility of GW2’s launch, my dance card looks to be full and then some.

I don’t have anything else deeper to say about this other than the expansion might well have sealed my interest in this game through the summer.  I should go log in right now, as a matter of fact.  Hm…

Wrapping up the Newbie Blogger Initiative (month)

Holy crap.  Who would’ve thunk it?

The truth is, I was humbled, impressed, and awed at every turn this month.  It may well go down as one of my favorite months as a blogger ever.

The Newbie Blogger Initiative (like or hate the name, I couldn’t think of one better on the spot) was born of curiosity: Could we do it again?  We — as in the blogging community, not the Royal We — had a lot of fun putting together a similar endeavor in 2009, and I felt it might be time to give it another try.  I had a desire to see new blood in the blogging scene and a nagging sense of guilt that I am not always as involved in the community as I should be nor have I given it as much as it’s given to me.

Starting out a blog is hard.  It’s a lot like starting a serious exercise program: You can’t just fiddle about with it and hope to see results; you have to jump full-in, work through the pain and struggle of getting used to this new routine, and stick with it.  New blogs require strong, regular injections of content, and then they require exposure to gain readers.  The NBI was our answer to both of those: We would dole out advice as seasoned bloggers to the newcomers, and then lavish on them some link love.  It wasn’t a guaranteed formula for a successful blog, but it was a major leg-up for anyone who’d want it.

So I thought, why not?  I sketched down some thoughts and then started contacting bloggers, sometimes doing quite a bit of detective work to find an email address.  I thought that out of the 60 or so that I contacted, we’d get a score on board.  I had no idea if this idea would be poo-pooed or if it had merit, but I guess there was something to it, because just about everyone I emailed replied in the affirmative.

That’s when I knew we had a problem.  That was a lot of people to wrangle, and I didn’t want to assume a role of a meta-editor going around and checking up on homework assignments.  So I remembered that one enterprising member of the previous blogger initiative set up a forum for it, and I followed suit.  I tried to create a structure that would be easy to follow, plug into, and grow without my constant supervision.  I very much tried to stress that this was a collaborative project that wasn’t “mine” insomuch as “ours.”  I asked my friend Greg Moran to supply us with the ubiquitous NBI graphic you see plastered all over the place.  And then I invited everyone to head over there, giving them the loose guidelines of announcing the NBI on the first of the month, posting an advice article sometime during it, and linking to the new bloggers and veteran blogger advice posts at the end of it.

You can’t imagine what it felt like when May 1st rolled around and I stumbled out of bed to see the NBI launching all over the place.  People were enthusiastic about it, and enthusiasm is infectious.  By the end of the day we had our first batch of new(ish) bloggers signing in, and from then on it didn’t stop until the end of the month.

My contribution to all this was organizing and contacting — I’m not the social butterfly that some folks are, and I’m content to do the admin work so that others can just mingle.  I was delighted to see that many bloggers started contributing above and beyond as well, tackling ideas that I never thought of.  We had bloggers help cement our NBI Twitter hash tag, bloggers who were available constantly in the Q&A forum, bloggers who organized social media and contacts, bloggers who came up with fun challenges for the new folks, bloggers who constructed lists of all the contributions, and so on.

I’ll admit, I was worried, because practically none of this was under my control the second it started.  I had no idea if we were just going to annoy the heck out of all you guys with these NBI posts (and, hey, maybe we have).  I fretted that there might be a backlash or some bad apples trying to sour the experience for the people on the forums, but pretty much none of that happened.  The advice posts were varied, interesting, and incredibly informative.  Heck, I learned a lot this month from all you guys!  It’s fascinating to see the hobby of MMO blogging discussed this openly and without a lot of preachiness.

The best of all, however, was watching new, struggling, and lesser-known bloggers come out of the woodwork.  After seeing how many veteran bloggers signed on (and continued to sign on), I really had no idea what we would reap in terms of new writers in the field.  The answer was a metric ton and then some!  Geek bloggers, game bloggers, MMO-specific bloggers, photobloggers, humor bloggers, and just about anything you could think of emerged on the scene in May, and it filled my RSS reader to overflowing.  You could see the nervousness — and excitement — in many of these new bloggers, but they took the step to do it anyway and I’m incredibly proud they did so.  I don’t think they did it just for a traffic boost, but because they saw a warm and caring community that wasn’t going to ridicule them for trying, but do its best to help them on their way.

You new bloggers, you all keep up the great work.  I’ll be reading, I promise, and I think a lot of others will be as well.

I want to thank Greg Moran for the NBI graphic, the bloggers who took time and effort to participate, the auxilary sites that gave us lots of promotion, the podcasts that mentioned the NBI, and every reader who clicked on those links and visited a brand-new blog for the first time.  You all are why this was a terrific month.

I titled this post “Wrapping up the Newbie Blogger Initiative (month)” because I don’t think that this is the end of the NBI.  We’re leaving the forums open for continued promotion and conversations, not to mention a depository of great resources for new bloggers (and I’ll even pay for another month of ad-free hosting).  Any new blogger on the scene has free license to drop me a note and ask for a little promotion as well.

P.S. — Today is my 36th birthday.  To see the NBI succeed like this was one of the best gifts I’ve ever gotten.  Thank you all!

Elder Scrolls Online: The Yawnening

There’s this thing called the Hook.  Not Captain Hook, that’s a different thing.  In writing, advertising, TV, or what have you, the hook is something that catches the reader/viewer/listener’s attention and makes them want to know more.  It’s the sting that happens before the credits, the mystery that’s set up, or in the case of pre-launched MMOs, the big selling point of the game that makes this different than all the rest of the field.

So answer me this: What is the Elder Scrolls Online’s hook?  Let me know, because I’m having a hard time figuring that out.

This has to be one of the strangest MMO announcements when you consider the juxtaposition of the major IP it hails from with how utterly boring the devs are making it sound.  Just about every new MMO that’s ever tried to make it on the scene has come out with its hook right there, up front: dynamic events, true action combat, the fourth pillar of story, naked bosoms, bears bears bears, etc.  TESO’s seems to be, as far as I can tell, “We’re an Elder Scrolls game!  Just minus everything you’ve come to love about the franchise!”

I mean, I know I’m not alone in having expected TESO’s devs to announce the game as a massive multiplayer sandbox.  People would have delivered babies on the street, right then and there, if that was the word.  Instead, the devs have taken great pains to stress just how unlike Skyrim and Oblivion this game is, particularly in regards to its casting off the skill-based system that those titles were known for.

The most chatter we’re getting is on how TESO will have a 100% soloable single-player story experience, which sort of sounded fine until the lead kept talking: “And if another player wants to join you?  NUTS TO THAT.  Because you are a special hero!  The only hero!  We’re going to put you into so many instances that you’ll be literally blind to everything else going on in the game!”

Even SWTOR made an effort to allow players to group with each other through their story and instanced missions.  This?  It’s like someone is deliberately trolling the MMO community.  “We’re like an MMO except we’re not, and we’re like Elder Scrolls except we’re not.”  It’s just puzzling and… kind of boring.

Something new we learned today was the return of public dungeons, which is certainly curious.  I’m kind of amazed that the lead developer can’t think of a single game after EQ that had them, because “Vanguard” leaped to my mind, as did DAoC and WAR.

Boring is a good descriptor to the vibe I’m getting from this game.  The races?  Bland.  Thank goodness they got their two or three elves in there, though.  The time period?  Moved backwards, not forwards in the series.  Three-faction PvP?  Um… yay?  Pretty much every screenshot released (and I know it’s just the onset of the game’s promotion, so I’m giving it as much leeway as possible) screams to me “GENERIC FANTASY!”  It looks like Vanguard on an off day, to be honest.  Here, check it out:

The Elder Scrolls Online is on the right there — nothing special, nothing fancy, just two guys enjoying a civil discussion about the 2012 elections.  On the left is a screenshot from the probably-never-will-be-released Copernicus, just one of many insanely lush and epic screens that make me really wistful that we won’t get to see that world.

The point is, the devs aren’t selling me on TESO, and apart from the brand name, I don’t know how they’re selling anyone on it.  This should be huge, huge news, and yet it sends me into fits of yawning every time I try to absorb it.

Am I missing something?  Or is their strategy to defeat hype now and then release the killer MMO of all time?

NBI: Month Wrapup

This is it!  The final NBI link-love list that I’ll be putting out this month.  I promised NBI participants and interested onlookers that I’d be compiling all of the new (and newish/undiscovered) blogs that have emerged this month, as well as all of the terrific advice that seasoned bloggers gave.  Here we go!

New blogs to check out:

Sponsor advice posts:

Quote of the Day

“I find the Que to be a slap in the face to any paying customer and i just can’t believe they would use it in retail. I have spent the last 10 hours or so in utter frustration because of blizzard’s incompetence to learn the lesson taught by every other mmorpg launch disaster (of which there has been many). The fact remains is that Blizzard was not ready for this launch and even a cursory glance at the boards proves how many frustrated paying customers there are out there right now.”

~ Player Tenchid, November 24, 2004

Riding the RIFT wave

While the MMO industry as we knew it apparently died or something last week, I went on vacation.  It was the first such vacation my wife and I had in about two years, and even though it was just a few days away from the kids across the state (no air travel due to pregnancy, alas), we unraveled and enjoyed unplugging from work and the internet.  Even as a guy who loves to write, it was so relaxing just not writing for a few days at all.

I’ll admit that I didn’t completely unplug — I brought my laptop, because I knew that the pregnancy gremlins dictate that 8:00 p.m. is apparently Lights Out for the mom, and I was not going to indulge in hotel TV surfing for the remainder of the evening.  So I limited myself to a few quick play sessions, and surprisingly enough, found myself subscribing for a month in RIFT.

Once more unto the breech, my dear friends…

Why?  I know I mentioned that I was flirting with the idea of coming back a little while ago, the time didn’t quite seem right.  Yet RIFT kept popping up into my radar more and more this past month, and you know how that goes: The more you start thinking about a game that you were once favorable toward, the more you start wondering if it’s time to go back.

RIFT and I parted on very amiable terms.  I greatly enjoyed my time in the game, and my biggest complaint was that I had more difficulty identifying with its classless characters than in other MMOs that had more structured classes.  I’ve never stopped rooting for it, even though its time as the new kid on the block was over the second SWTOR hit, because Trion time and again is showing us just how hard-working and responsive a studio needs to be to deserve a subscription-only MMO audience in this day and age.  Now with rumors of an expansion and a massive list of new features that I’ve never seen, I felt it was worth at least spending a month to see if it sticks.  If not, TSW is here in July anyway, and I’m still rocking LOTRO like mad.

A smooth reentry

Getting back in was completely effortless.  Nice to see that Trion cared enough to coin lock my account since I wasn’t logging in from home (and easy enough to unlock it).  I rerolled yet another cleric (my sixth or seventh, I believe) and have decided to completely eschew quests this time around.  That’s right — no quests for me!  Instead, I’m going to divvy up my time doing dynamic events, instant adventures, chronicles, and dungeon runs, all of which sounds like more than enough to get me the loot and levels I desire.

The problem with this is that there’s little in the way of dungeons/instant adventures/chronicles from the get-go.  I’m not 100% sure when these unlock, but I’m fairly certain that dungeons open up when you’re 15.  So until that point, I have to jog around either grinding on mobs (which is fine — it allows me to experiment with different builds) or looking for rifts to smash.  Fortunately, my veteran rewards included a few vials of XP-boosting potions, so those are helping me get the levels I want.

It’s a madhouse!  A madhouse!

One thing that did make me eye-roll in a huge way was that the regional chat got into another one of its group bitching sessions about Our Game vs. Other Games.  Depending on the moment, RIFT sucked, RIFT was awesome, RIFT was dying, RIFT was salvation for those sick of TERA, SWTOR sucked, SWTOR was awesome, GW2 is going to dominate all, GW2 is a RIFT knock-off, the White Spy was far better than the Black Spy, Pepsi trounced Coke in taste tests, and all of the other groupthink drivel that goes nowhere and does nothing other than provide fodder for trolls to feast upon.  Whether folks were attacking or defending various games, it just made me think that (a) these people need blogs if they’ve got these pent-up essays lurking inside of them, (b) those blogs would not have a captive audience the way that the general discussion channel does, and (c) very few people seem to comprehend that you can like more than one game at a time.

Other than that, I’m having a lovely time, and I’m definitely curious if this game will stick or just slide right off me by the end of the month.

NBI: Butterflies in the sky…

Blogging: The cyber frontier.  These are the voyages of the Newbie Blogger Initiative! Its one-month mission: To seek out new life and new opinions, to explore strange new MMOs, and to boldly rant where no one’s ranted before!

What are you reading today?  Whatever it is, add these to the mix:

  1. The Butterfly Gamer: A blogger who buys way too many games
  2. The Mighty Viking Hamster: Seriously, how can you NOT click that link?
  3. Why I Game: Finally, someone tells it like it is
  4. Wald’s Wanderings: Not all who wander are lost
  5. Ald Shot First: MMOs and 80s movies
  6. Sephora’s Closet: Social outfits in Anarchy Online
  7. Donovan Drones: Huh, another AO blog!  Awesome!
  8. Beyond Reproach: Criminally insane and yet still a blogger
  9. The Horn & Ivory Gates: An introduction to LOTRO
  10. Landroval Style: Making Middle-earth look good

New bloggers, get some free cross-promotion going!  Professor Beej is looking for guest writers, Contains Moderate Peril is promoting new blogs on their podcast, and Divinity’s Reach is looking for co-bloggers!

Bio Break blogging tip of the day: Effective use of personal screenshots can go a long, long way to illustrating the in-game stories you’re telling.  People like picture books!

A few advice posts from fellow bloggers: Managing screenshots (Roll One Hundred), I refuse to call it a blogosphere (Bullet Points), Guest post (Epic Slant), Good advice (KIASA), Before taking the plunge (Pumping Irony), Wrapping up advice all in one place (Life is a Mind-Bending Puzzle), Objectivity, relating and heart (T.R. Red Skies), Fine-tuning your blog (Contains Moderate Peril), Indie games and bloggers (Beau Hindman), How to get lots and lots of hits (Berath’s Brain Burps), The blog rings, By this keyboard I rule! (Rikna’s Rants), Making connections (World of Matticus), Who the hell reads this? (Gankalicious), How to get noticed (Blog de la Burro), Traditions (Tish Tosh Tesh)

NBI: Hipster blogging

This is it: the last week of the Newbie Blogger Initiative!  But just because it’s the “last” doesn’t mean it’s ever too late to start up a new blog or to help promote the greenhorns out there trying to gain an audience.  It probably won’t be too late on June 1st, to be honest.  Here’s a couple of additional blogs that took the plunge:

  1. GnomeGates.com: Making World of Warcraft gold!
  2. Hipstalotro: Photoblogging Middle-earth in a hip way

Bio Break blogging tip of the day: Teaming up with another blogger (or more) for a special project or series can be a total blast — and result in easy posts!

A few advice posts from fellow bloggers: Week 4 challenge (Tastes Like Battle Chicken), Backing up your blog (Inventory Full), You need a thick skin (High Latency Life), A solid foundation and a step forward (Gamer BC), What not to do (Hunter’s Insight), Tips, tricks and who am I kidding (Casual Is As Casual Does), Is it ever okay to rant? (Blog de la Burro)