What makes RIFT’s housing an underappreciated joy

I’m still not going full-bore into RIFT, mostly due to time and other priorities, but I have enjoyed dinking around in this former MMO love of mine. The other day, I set apart some time just to set up a new home and start placing all of the dimension items that I’ve been getting through the minions system.

By the way, can we just point out how much RIFT loves to give a conveyor belt’s worth of free housing stuff to players? I’ve never been in an MMO that keeps feeding me so much housing stuff on a regular basis as I do with RIFT’s minions. There are plenty of other ways to get housing decor in the game, of course, but this is the method that I primarily use.

So I opened up one of my free dimensions, Faen’s Retreat, and went to work. I like Faen’s Retreat because it’s got a little of everything that I want in a housing space: a pre-built abode, enough space for other houses, a small snowy area, a beach, and a nice-sized pond for water decorations. But as I’m doing this, I was drafting up a list of why I feel that RIFT’s housing is such an underappreciated system in the MMORPG genre — one of the absolute best, I’d even say.

For starters, there’s the freedom to be as normal or creative or crazy as you like. RIFT doesn’t hem players in with strict pre-set housing that can only be decorated, but neither does it only present a blank slate, Sims-style, and make everyone work from the ground-up. There’s options for both. There are blank dimensions that offer the tabula rasa experience, and dimensions where the structure or land is re-built and ready for a personal touch.

Likewise, there are housing items that are actually structures — taverns, huts, and the like — that players can plop down if they like pre-built stuff. And there are building blocks that can be fashioned into just about anything you imagine. Some of the dimension efforts of the community are flat-out astounding and far outside of my ability. It’s why the game’s always had this dedicated housing sub-community running.

I also appreciate that there is the ability to alter the time of day and environment with placement tools. Personally, I like a nighttime vista to make lighting effects pop, so plopping down a 9:00 pm item to make it always night in my dimension is welcome.

RIFT’s placement tools are also a delight to work with. They aren’t perfect, and I would have appreciated pieces that could lock or click together, but they’re about as good as I’ve seen in an MMO. They’re better tools than WildStar had, and I adored WildStar’s housing. In RIFT, you can resize items, rotate them, and move them effortlessly to get the right look. Decking out a home is very stress-free, and the item allowance is usually pretty generous.

So yeah, it’s a fun system to return to in 2020, and I’m going to make a note to do some dimension-hopping and go on a tour in the future.

Is it futile to play RIFT in the Gamigo era?

First of all, a shout-out to my Twitter friend Kristen, who’s been talking about her return to RIFT so much lately that it planted a seed in my head that wouldn’t go away until I did the same. I really haven’t played since spring 2018, back when Trion Worlds was still calling the shots and the RIFT Prime server excited us for a good month or so there with the promise of progression and tougher content.

Then Gamigo took over and I lost the heart to go back. Last year, I despaired about the future of RIFT, not necessarily because I hated the new owners on reputation alone, but because Gamigo’s shown so little desire to invest development and promotion into this game. It’s essentially put RIFT into maintenance mode, tossing it the occasional small patch or battle pass season, but that’s it. The game’s been frozen in development to pretty much how Trion left it two years ago.

So here’s the uncomfortable question of the hour: Is it really futile to go back to this game? Barring a miracle or maybe another change of hands, the best future we can hope for RIFT is that it simply stays online. Without seeing active development or promotion, RIFT’s not going to do much to get people back, so it’s going to have to exist on loyal players who can settle for the current state of affairs and maybe the odd duck like me who comes back.

While I admit that there’s a pretty big red flag fluttering over RIFT, at least it’s continued for two years now under Gamigo, so there’s some hope that it’ll do so for the foreseeable future. And when I logged in to scratch that curious itch, I was delighted to slip back into all of the goodness this MMO has to offer. It was like coming back to an old and familiar friend and catching up over the course of an afternoon. I even had minion missions waiting to complete — waiting for two years now. Those are some patient minions.

I was also heartened by how much chatter I saw on the chat channels. There were several of us lowbies returning to the game and excitedly making contact with others out there, and I started feeling my way to a guild while going through the old Guardian tutorial once more. Yes, I started over, and yes, with a Dwarf Rogue. I’m going Tactician, at least for now, and just seeing where this all leads.

Maybe it’s not the most risk-adverse move for long-term contentment, but you never know if any MMO is going to be here tomorrow. Sometimes you have to enjoy the experience you have today and get out of the groupthink mindset that only the most popular and active MMORPGs are the ones worth playing.

MMO fonts: The good, the bad, and the ugly

In my effort to start clearing out my drafts folder here at Bio Break, I’m digging out this topic that I started (checks) back in 2017. Anyway, fonts are most likely a part of online games that you never think about. Once you’ve been in a game for a while, you get used to its user interface and don’t really notice or acknowledge it.

Yet fonts are important, because a game usually just licenses (or creates) one and uses it everywhere — and if chosen poorly, that font can slowly and surely drag down on the user experience. So let’s take a look at eight MMO fonts today — chosen semi-randomly — and see if they’re easy on the eyes or not.

We’ll start with Warhammer Online (above), which prompted the writing of this piece. The font itself gives off a Ye Olde English fantasy vibe, which is good, but it’s not that easy to read in large chunks, especially when italicized. There isn’t enough spacing between the lines, either, so it comes off as crammed. Sometimes getting a little fancy with your font works against you.

We’ll move on to RIFT, which I always thought had a very clean and modern-looking font. Maybe a little too modern. It’s easy to read, which is a plus, but doesn’t do a lot to convey personality of the game, which is one of the jobs that fonts have to handle. Generally, though, I like it.

You know I had to include the itty bitty, smooshed-together font of EVE Online on this list. It gets points for a futuristic, minimalistic look, but dang is it always hard to read. It’s gotten better over the years, but my eyes have never leaked tears of joy to behold it.

And we’ll go with a classic — World of Warcraft — with this one. Blizzard did a great job all around with this font. It’s oozing personality (especially on the header fonts), has good kerning, and is easy to consume quickly without eye strain.

WildStar… sigh. WildStar had SUCH great art and interface style, but its font was terrible. From the color choices (blue-greens on blue-greens) to the thin, small style, it was too difficult to read without really focusing on it.

I’ll be fair and include Lord of the Rings Online here. It gets middling reviews for me. I think it does lend an appropriate personality to the game and is readable (especially if you increase the font size), but it’s not the quickest read. And considering just HOW MUCH text you go through, it could be better. I do adore the header font, though. That’s spot on.

Fallen Earth always struck me as a game that purchased its font at lowest bidder. It’s like a default Windows font that did nothing for the personality angle and wasn’t as eye-catching as it could’ve been.

I could keep going on, but I’ll end with a look at Star Wars: The Old Republic’s font. It definitely has that thick, bolded Star Wars look about it, and the spacing makes it easy to read. I think it does a pretty good job, all things considered, even if I feel like the text is yelling at me much of the time.

Very worried about RIFT

Ever since last year’s sale of all of Trion Worlds’ games to Gamigo, I’ve grown increasingly concerned for RIFT. I didn’t care as much for Trion’s other games, for the most part, but RIFT was always really special to me. I’ve considered it one of the best so-called WoW clones to hit the scene and have enjoyed hundreds of hours in that MMO.

But since Gamigo took over, the new company hasn’t seemed that invested in doing anything with the game. It went ahead and canceled the (half-baked) progression server, which marks the last time I was playing, and has pushed out a seasonal pass and kept the events running. But for new content and hope of the future, there hasn’t been much of a sign.

At the very least, it doesn’t seem that Gamigo is rushing to cancel these games. It did close the doors on Atlas Reactor — to nobody’s surprise — but it has kept two versions of Defiance running, supported Trove, and thrown a lot of weight behind ArcheAge. RIFT kind of sits in the middle there, probably not as populated and profitable as AA and Trove, but not as forgotten as Defiance. Gamigo seems like the kind of company that’ll keep the lights on as long as there’s a trickle of income, which I guess is better than being cancel-happy like NCsoft.

Apart from deeply investing in developers and more content, I don’t see much that can be done for RIFT. There are some loyalists sticking with the game, but there’s probably a greater crowd that shied away the second it sold to Gamigo and haven’t returned because there hasn’t been a lot of reassurance that this title has a future. Players will give a lot of the benefit of the doubt when they are predisposed toward a game, but that goodwill only stretches so far. They need hope, and that’s not something that Gamigo is rushing out to give.

Personally, it’s disheartening. RIFT is one of those MMOs that I love returning to here and there, mostly because I love so many of its systems and its ease of use. The Chronicles, the minion system, the housing, the mix-and-match classes, the dynamic events, the cosmetics, the zone puzzles, the pets… it kind of checks a whole lot of boxes on my MMO wish list. Heck, even typing out this paragraph made me want to log back in — and maybe I will some day soon. But I’ll be nervous about it, at least until Gamigo makes up its mind one way or the other about what it is going to do with this game.

RIFT: Hey look! Greener grass!

It must be frustrating to be one of my characters. Egads, the uncertainty that they have to live with, not knowing day to day if I’ll grow bored or dissatisfied with them and just kick them to the curb like yesterday’s jam. There’s never any assurance, never any guarantee — the Sword of Damocles always hangs over their neck.

So one has to imagine that for a person with limited gaming time, multiple other titles for distraction, and playing on a time-unlocking progression server, I’d perhaps be persuaded not to reroll and OH HEY I DID IT AGAIN. Because, look, there’s greener grass.

I don’t even want to explain why. Long story short, I missed my Cleric, I wanted a DoT build, and… yeah.

Why not reset one’s progress when the clock is always ticking? Trion doesn’t care. Trion sends out a company-wide memo when I reroll, because that’s another month’s subscription in the can. Buy Scott Hartsman another corgi.


Fully aware of my foolish impulse, I determined to go all-in, at least for a while. The first three nights after rebooting my character — now named Glittersneeze — I rushed as fast as I could through the opening zone. My build was actually pretty good at juggling multiple characters, so I pulled as fast and frequent as I could. I put my brain on auto-pilot and watched some Netflix while slaughtering everything in my sight. And while I didn’t get back up to level 30, where I had left off with my Rogue, I did manage a respectable 18 levels during that time. A good start, at least.

I continued my little hobby of trying to take close-up shots of mobs’ faces and torsos, because there is so much detail that I don’t notice while fighting them with the camera typically pulled back about 15 feet. These skellys were entertaining, especially with the one glowing eye.

I also was appeased to see Trion finally lay out what it’s doing with the progression server, at least in the near future. For now, I think I have breathing room. It looks like it’s focusing on level 50 endgame stuff like raids, whereas I was more concerned about the unlocking of new zones and the expansions. I’m also glad we’re getting the summer festival, because it was a major bummer not to have the anniversary content on Vigil when that was going on.

This undead mob has the strangest face and I never really noticed it before. It’s like the head was stretched out but the face compacted in like a baby’s. No eyes? I don’t think it has eyes. And the teeth are kind of off-kilter, which is a neat detail.

It’s also surprisingly hard to get a head-on shot of your pets, because they automatically turn when your character does. I fiddled a lot and finally got this profile picture of Tweezers, my faerie. I don’t think I’ll be seeing her past level 30 for the sake of DPS, but at least she’s hanging out with me now. Put a shirt on, girl. It’s cold outside.


Not the best battle-cry, but it’s starting to irk my enemies a little bit.

RIFT: Sing me a tale of victory!

While I didn’t write about RIFT last week, rest assured that I was in and playing every day. I’m getting into a good groove here with my Bard, because there’s nothing like singing a bearded skeleton to (second) death to make you question how all of this works.

As much as I appreciate and venerate Bards as a class, the truth is that I haven’t played them as main characters very often. Only about half (maybe less?) of fantasy MMOs that I play have them, and since I usually gravitate to pet classes, they get neglected. But now I can use this progression server as a good excuse to rectify this oversight.

It’s been a great experience so far. While the rotation is still pretty simple at level 25, I feel like it’s putting out enough damage, healing, and buffs to keep me going without much frustration. Plus, I get the joy of seeing and hearing my character play music instead of swinging swords or blasting spells, and while that may just be an aesthetic distinction, it feels like a completely different playstyle.

Another thing I’m trying to do with this RIFT playthrough is to take some close-ups of enemy mobs. They can be pretty detailed and expressive, although their constant movement and battle effects makes it tricky to pull off a good screenshot. I like Mr. Triple Chins here.

Oh and how about this picture: A double rift! Hey, I was impressed.

So I blasted through Gloamwood with a nice balance of public events and questing. No big surprises, but no big hiccups, either. I’m two for two on zone puzzles as well.

I liked the combination of black and white and a soft colored glow with the ghost mobs.

Anyway, with Gloamwood finished, the game gave me a choice between follow-up zones: Scarlet Gorge or Iron Peaks. This is a change from the old days, when Iron Peaks used to be (I recall) a much higher level zone. I prefer snow over mesas, so I went with Iron Peaks for now.

Loved this shot of my Bard fighting an electrical mage on top of an ice-covered lake. I wouldn’t mind some additional tunes; hearing the same notes over and over again miiiiiiight get old in another 40 levels.

This zone isn’t the most gorgeous winter zone I’ve ever seen in an MMO, but generally I like it very much. It’s easy to navigate, even with all of the mountains, and the softly falling snow lends it a Christmasy feel.

I don’t want to TOOT my own HORN here, but I’m crushing it.

One nice moment came when I finally reached my Day 21 login reward, which paid out in a random mount. I got a two-headed turtle, the iconic mount of classic Rift (albeit with green eyes this time). Not the most exotic of mounts, but considering that I’ve had one since launch, it’s nice to have one for Prime.

RIFT: From sunny to gloomy

With two character rerolls, a lot of early nights, and plenty of other projects to keep me busy, it’s pretty amazing to me that I managed to finish up Silverwood by the end of Prime’s second week. But here we sit.

At times it was a little slow going, especially when facing those early XP gaps, but I started to make up for it and eventually found my groove. A few more skills and talents on my Bard tree helped as well, and while I’m no killing machine, I’m doing respectable enough that it’s not a slog.

I saw someone mention on Twitter last week that Silverwood was “officially dead” because the Prime crowd had moved on. I would like to submit the above picture as Exhibit A that this is patently untrue, as well as my personal observations from a pokey puppy who is lagging behind the 20s and 30s that are surging ahead. There are PLENTY of players in the 1-20 bracket, and we were never hurting for invasions, rifts, and zone events. Those zone bosses were like magnets, drawing hundreds of players in, and I got a thrill out of each battle I was a part of.

I think the criticism shouldn’t lie there but instead with the abysmal performance of the server. Some days are good, while others have seen the Lag Monster devour all and leave us pressing keys and hoping our characters will take action in the next five seconds or so. For a game of this age, to have lag issues like this is embarrassing.

The last day in Silverwood saw everything picking up steam. I was shooting down quests left and right and racking up achievements like nobody’s business. It was definitely satisfying to cross off so many quests all at once and tidy up the zone as I wrapped up my business.

At the end of Silverwood, I sat at level 19.5 with 210 void stones, 6 plat, a 60% mount, two roles, and a decent start for my planarite wallet. I’m stocking up for planarite gear, so I’ll resist blowing it on lesser essentials. I even have a good handful of blue gear and a pair of shiny new blue daggers from a reputation unlock.

And so I move on to one of my favorite zones in the game, Gloamwood. I love this classic horror-themed region, with its murky fog and funky vampire questlines. Pretty much as soon as I was able to empty out my quest log from Silverwood, I was filling it all back up with quests and carnage tasks here.

All in all, I’m still rocking RIFT Prime pretty hard. It’s been a really fun, enjoyable leveling experience with the added oomph of the increased attention this game has been given and the excitement in the community. I also just have missed leveling characters in World of Warcraft, so this is a good substitute, especially as we head into spring.

My biggest concern right now — my biggest question, really — is how the progression server is going to develop. Trion is still biding its time before giving us any sort of concrete details, most likely watching the speed of the crowds and where everyone is. But still, it’s a bit nerve-wracking to not know if I should be pushing harder and faster in my progression or if I have plenty of time to catch up with those above me before the next batch of content unlocks. Do we have a week? A month? Three months? We just don’t know, and it makes it difficult to smell the roses and enjoy the journey if there’s that fear that I’m going too slow.

So my two wishes are to see the lag addressed and an outline of the progression server unlock going forward. Here’s hoping!

RIFT Prime: I can see my dimension from here!

It’s not a return to RIFT if I’m not making my traditional pilgrimage to the top of the highest peak in Silvermoon Forest for the achievement — and the view. I’ve been doing this with each new Guardian character since 2011 that it’s unthinkable not to keep the tradition alive.

Besides, I’m not in a rush. Even with the XP bump on the servers, it’s still a slow go with slow fights, and so Prime for me has become more of a sightseeing and screenshotting tour as I make small, incremental progress toward my goals. Or, you know, the completion of the very first zone. As usual, I was probably behind most of the pack after Minute Ten of this server. Such is life.

At least I crossed one minor milestone, which was scraping together enough money to buy a basic mount. On one hand, this is easily the slowest horse I’ve ever owned in any MMO. I think it’s only a 60% speed boost, and the horse’s running animation is slowed such that it looks like it’s running through quicksand. On the other hand, that’s 60% faster than I’ve been running, and I’ll take any speed boost I can get at this point. Having a mount makes me feel less vulnerable and noobish.

Air rifts at night are gorgeous. Like funky nightlights with mini-tornadoes.

With the increase of XP for rifts and other dynamic events, there is increased incentive to seek out and run these. And frankly, with a large enough public group, I don’t mind. Rifts are dull work solo or with only one or two others, but they’re a breeze with a mob at your back. And even though the planarite rewards are meager in this zone, there are some gear drops and it’s kind of enjoyable to do for its own sake. My kids were still oohing and ahhing over the rift exit animations, so there’s still some visual magic left here.

And then, because I’m apparently allergic to making progress, I rerolled my character. Again.

So what happened is that as I was nearing level 20, I just wasn’t feeling it with my Cleric. I was running Realm of the Fae with some friends and one was going on and on about the Bard, and that just flipped a switch in me. I became mad for the idea of maining a Bard, something I don’t think — to my knowledge — I’ve ever done in RIFT. I’ve used the Bard as a secondary or support profession, but not as a leveling character.

I always love the *idea* of Bards but rarely stick one out. So why not now?

While the notion of rerolling and falling further “behind” stuck in my craw a bit, about an hour into this character and I knew I had made the right decision. It just clicked a lot more than the previous two characters had. The plan with her is to dump most of my points into Bard, with some into Ranger to keep a combat pet in the mix. I also splashed Marksman in there for the zero-point sprint, which is handy while questing.

I also really like what I came up with for her looks. I went back to a Dwarf — sue me — and contrasted a light tattoo on dark skin.

At least now I’m pretty used to these opening quests and can blitz through them quickly. I am also picking up as many rifts as I can, now that XP is better. I hope to stay with the XP curve this time around.

One wonderful part about questing in Silvermoon, other than the general beauty of the zone, is that the regional quest has to do with confronting and killing Elves. It’s a terrible sacrifice on my part, but I will do my honest best to step up and wipe out these freaks with a vengeance.

RIFT: Jumping with both feet into Prime

With the launch of RIFT’s Prime progression server last week, you better believe that I was there with bells and whistles on.

Actually, there were no bells or whistles, because I didn’t get any starting advantages whatsoever. Considering that I have literally hundreds of items, gear, cosmetics, pets, mounts, buffs, etc. that are bound to account and arrive on any new character I make on the live servers, it was a shock to the system to have a character that started out with the basic inventory bag and that’s it. Everything else would have to be earned.

It was a pretty wild experience. I can’t remember the last time I was rushing through my work day in eager anticipation that I would get to play RIFT. But I miss that core classic leveling experience, those lowbie zones, and the idea of progressing through it with a crowd of likeminded gamers held incredible appeal. Plus, I’ve never gotten to do an MMO progression server, so finally here was one for a game that I liked. And at a good time of year too, as I don’t have terribly much to do in WoW.

Even after seven years, RIFT is still pretty beautiful and wonderfully detailed in places. After fighting through a queue (when is the last time RIFT ever had one of those?), I whipped up a brand-new Mage and went to town for a night.

It was slow going. I was really tired last week due to having the flu, and so my body was ready to call it a night by about 10. It was hard to push fast through this anyway, as everyone was fighting over quest objectives and the XP rate for quests seemed to have been nerfed really low to the point where everyone was running out of quests to run at level. So… grind? That didn’t seem too appealing.

When I woke up the next morning, I felt pretty dissatisfied with my choice of Mage, too. The Mage has about one soul that I like and that’s it, and if I’m going to be sticking with this server, it’s got to be with a class that I love. So I went back to the drawing board and fashioned up a Cleric instead.

This ended up being a terrific idea for me, personally. I just love many of the Cleric classes and there’s a lot of flexibility for different playstyles. Plus, I got my healing faerie back (who is named Figmentia, I’m totally proud of that) and changed from a Dwarf to a human. How come? For a visual change, mostly, but also because the humans have a racial sprint that’s very handy on a server that doesn’t give you a mount right away.

This game is still so pretty. Dang.

I fell into a nice guild early on and we all compared gaming backgrounds and current experiences. There was a much wider mix of folks than I would have guessed, with many coming to the game as complete newbies. The recruitment spam in the channels was relentless, so I switched over to guild chat only for a while to give me some peace while I quested.

It was still slow going, even with a build that I liked more. Originally I thought that it was because I didn’t have a mount and there were people everywhere hogging quest objectives, but by the end of the second night, it became very apparent that the quest XP wasn’t up where it needed to be. I was doing every quest I could find, plus lots of extra kills, plus any nearby rift, and I still ended up two to three levels under the requirements for the next batch. Something is hinky with the XP payouts, and I’m hoping Trion is going to adjust this soon.

There was a lot of mutual amazement over all of the players running around everywhere, reminding us vets of how RIFT used to feel. This game can be terrific fun with a critical mass for zone events, and I’m looking forward to doing more of these in the future.

For me, I’m taking my time. I don’t have much of a choice in that regard, but I’m treating this whole experience as an ultimate tourist tour. I’m reading quest text, taking tons of screenshots, and poking my nose around areas.

I’m also starting to formulate a lot of long-term goals, because everything on this server is going to take some time. Getting enough money for a mount is of primary importance, and right now I’m about halfway there. Without minions, I’m going to need more money to beef up my dimension with decor, but better bags and planar items are definitely more vital right now.

I hope that we’ll see some events and holidays pop up, because my wardrobe and pet tab is incredibly bare right now. I’m going to have to look into ways to secure a little buddy or two to keep me and Figmentia company.