Rants tag

Rants, ruminations, and rambling reports from the front lines* of the Massively Multiplayer Multiverse.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Some Answers for my Questions


So Sweet, a Trion dev, posted about the upcoming changes to various souls, including the Bard and Chloromancer, which concerned me the most, and I am satisfied with the answers. I had been worried about the potentially powerful buffs of the Bard being squandered on a single party in a public group rift event. But as far as I can tell, the buffs are still raid wide, just the healing is not. That's OK. Sweet also referred to the healing as smart AOE; so, while not as many people will be healed, those that do need it should be covered.

I feel I should point out that none of my concerns would have been enough to stop playing the game. I hope the dev team continues to monitor the viability of every soul so that player can maximize our enjoyment of the game. Balance is very complicated and overbalanced characters can lead to underbalanced characters potentially being shut out of certain gameplay.

Thanks to Elementalistly for tracking this issue.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Developer Appreciation Week

OK, I planned to write this and post it much earlier in the week, but RL and GL got in the way. As it is, I haven't posted this often in a week since I-don't-know-when. So I guess last year Scary Booster founded Developer Appreciation Week to show his appreciation (of course) and encourage other gamers in the blogosphere to do the same. I don't know enough about individual developers to write bios, but I want show my appreciation for the teams that have brought me so much entertainment for the past year and the past half-decade. All too often, game developers are on the receiving end of a lot of criticism (to say the least) from many quarters of the gaming population (including me). In a given game: the PvPers want more battlegrounds or whine about this or that class being over-powered; players of said OP class don't want it nerfed; the crafters want a more robust crafting system; the Raiders want new challenges; the altoholics want more quests; PvErs don't want PvP affecting their play; the list goes on and on. All the while the techies, artists, and storytellers try to keep the hardware and software functioning under tremendous loads, keep player accounts secure, and keep the games fun for everyone.

I want to briefly mention Funcom and Turbine. I tried Lord of the Rings Online and Age of Conan this year; and while neither ended up being my cuppa tea, I did ring a few hours of enjoyment out of them. And the developer teams do their best to support the fans of both games.

BLIZZARD ENTERTAINMENT takes a lot of flak from many directions over World of Warcraft, a game held in contempt by a great many "serious" gamers, and one in which even fans often level tremendous criticism. But you've gotta hand it to the developers of the only true blockbuster MMORPG in the Western World. What other company, in the SIXTH year of of a game's existence, would go back and say that in the next expansion pack they were not going to simply add a new land or continent for purchasers of the XPACK, but completely revamp the original world for ALL players as well, streamlining the content so new players feel just as welcome as the veterans? The people at Blizz have a passion for the game that really does shine through the material.

TRION WORLDS. Holy cow! Rift was not even on my radar until mid-December, when many of my blog and Twitter friends got into the closed betas and couldn't stop talking about their excitement for the game. As far as I know, no one--not Sony, not Blizzard, no one--has managed to launch an MMO with the polish and poise of Rift. A visual style all its own, interesting lore, public group content, and a character specialization system (Soul Trees) that blows every other system I've seen out of the water. On top of this, attentive development and customer service teams that are going out of their way to keep players happy and having a blast in the game. Rift is my new shiny, and I think Trion has probably upped the ante for every new MMO that is released from here on out.

CRYPTIC STUDIOS gets my award for most improved game, Star Trek Online. A compelling game (IMHO) from the beginning, with both an excellent space combat system and decent ground combat and an awesome visual style, STO has shown steady improvement in the first year since launch. They are also the main reason you, Dear Reader, are still suffering through my meandering diatribes and stories. Trekkers are a hard crowd to please, and Gaming Trekkers even worse. By listening to one of the most rabid, nitpicky fanbases ever (topped only by Star Wars geeks) in the first year; despite initial hiccups, the STO development team has revamped the crafting system, redone interstellar "warp" space (I liked the original star charts, but great improvement), introduced ship interiors, added great content, and started  the most compelling series of weekly updates I have seen a game: The Featured Episodes.

FEATURED EPISODES deserve a paragraph all their own. Cryptic devs have outdone themselves repeatedly with every mini-series. They offer compelling storylines; mystery, suspense, even creepy/scary atmospheres; cameos of classic Trek characters; puzzles and branch-specific side missions. I love how each one has a teaser then formally opens with a title shot as my ship warps in to the local star system. The latest series introduced voice acting and moved the whole Star Trek story forward, reintroducing the mythical Iconians from The Next Generation as a new threat to galactic civilization. I have come to look forward to each Featured Episode the way I anticipated each new episode of TNG as a teenager.

Thank you, all those who have joined in the efforts to brings such great games to millions of people. It may seem seem trivial to some (as they sit watching Survivor, or the current sporting event), but these games allow us to explore worlds of imagination and wonder, to control or become powerful beings, to be the heroes (or villains) of our own stories.

THANK YOU!!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Balance, Bards, and the Nerf Bat; or, What the Heck is a Support Role, Anyway?

So apparently the Rift forums have blown up with the news that the Nerf Bat has come to Trion, and Healers--the Bard in particular--are on the Tee (you know, as in Tee-ball). I only heard about it because the fallout spread to Twitter. I am missing many of the details, so I am admittedly ignorant on what will happen, or how the changes will affect my rogue, who as I have mentioned has one Bard-dominated group role. That's right, Dear Reader, I only care about what's in it for me.

I do have a few questions, probably followed by tirades. I heard that the reasons for the nerfs have to do with PvP balancing. If this is the case: Awww, come on, guys! Of any game, Rift--with the interchangeable souls and roles--should be immune to PvP "balancing." No more WoW-ish QQs of Rogues or Paladins being overpowered, because every player with a character higher than 15 should have every soul in his or her calling available to equip. Maybe the Bard should be an "OP" healer, as it is the only non-DPS heavy soul available to a Rogue. Sure, there is the Riftstalker. Oh ja, the only Tank-oriented role for the Rogue. That's great. Hey, the Cleric, has more than three serious healer souls, plus Melee and Caster DPS and Tank souls. Holy cow, why are they not in the crosshairs? (Not that I want that either.) As far as I can tell, while vocal, the hardcore PvP player segment is by far a minority in Rift, compared to PvE-oriented players. PvP balancing is simply unimportant to the vast majority of the player base. Why should PvPers be catered to at the expense of PvE?

Which brings me to the next possibility, that Bards in particular (I also heard Chloromancers and Purifiers) are seen by Trion as OP in group-PvE events like rifts and instances. I commented on Twitter that I have noticed, not a lot of active direct healing needs to be done during rift events. I am not sure if that is because of "passive" healing like heal-over-time spells such as Withering Vines (Chloro), and incidental healing like Radiant Spores (also Chloro) and Cadence (Bard, with dedicated soul points). Or is it because of other damage mitigation abilities coming from the various players in the group, as suggested by MMOGC. Either way, the healing abilities of both Chloromancers and Bards, at least, are somewhat limited already at the lower levels. Chloromancers finally can get Bloom as a direct heal (with a long cooldown) at level 6. And Bards don't get one as far as I can tell until level 21, with Coda of Restoration, which is a group heal (on the  Nerf Tee from what I hear). Both examples are so-called branch abilities (player choice) not root abilities (given to every player with enough points in the soul). What's my point here? Um oh! Are Healers OP in PvE events? Trion could just as easily buff the DPS of the mobs, and it would not as noticeable to the players, hence not as QQ inspiring.

So my guess is the PvP angle. Having not been on the forums, I have no idea if people are currently saying Bards are OP; but apparently Trion thinks so.

Another thing I've heard is that, rather than include the changes in the newest patch, Trion may hold off until after they have collected the first wave of subscription money in April--some of which will be six-month commitments--before dropping the nerf bomb. If this is the plan, frankly it's kinda shady. No, it's very shady. If this is a good thing for the game, then Trion should have no fear of the consequences of changes made to a soul or two.  OTOH, the evidence (disappearing patch notes on the EU forums) could be an indication that Trion is rethinking the changes they have planned. I hope this is the case.

What is a support role anyway? I understand the golden triad, Tank-DPS-Healer, even if I think it is artificial. Where does "Support" fit in? In at least one interview with Scott Hartsman, executive producer of Rift, discusses tanking, healing, and "support." Maybe I need more education on the value of being support versus, say DPS. Dislike damage meters, I find myself afraid that their eventual appearance in Rift will cause the demise of non DPS/HPS/TANK roles. The Bard and possibly the Choromancer are supposed to really shine in a group situation when their abilities (both healing and buffs) can benefit large numbers of allies, but the reported nerfs gimp precisely that dynamic. So is the Bard left with just a bunch of musical buffs? Yay! How does that fit in with current reward system, which as Arkenor has reported is based more on the global cooldown than actual contribution to the sealing of a rift? I had a guildie remark the other day that Bards will never be main healers. Looks like they may never be more than secondary souls to more exciting DPS specs.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Ascended

She was floating, bathed in a preternaturally bright light. There were no shadows--nothing really, besides the light. She blinked several times, trying to clear her vision; but it not not seem to matter whether her eyes were open or closed. She waved her hand in front of her face, then looked down at the rest of her body. It seemed that she was the source of the light, at least one of the sources. Strange, she didn't remember shining before. Come to think of it, she couldn't remember much of anything. She became aware of a sound around her. Had it always been there? As she focused on the sound, she realized it was a voice. And it seemed to be saying something. She felt that what was being said should be important to her, but she could not bring herself to care what it was. She felt a breeze on her face. The breeze was punctuated by a gentle rhythmic "whoosh-whoosh." The voice became more insistent.

"Th Th Th-Thooyah-ah ah," the voice echoed both before and after the actual word. She knew that she should understand the word. It seemed of vital importance, though she could not discern why. "Th-Th-Thuja."

"Y-Y-Yes," she responded. Her own voice sounded strange, with the same reverse echo, as if her thought was semi-audible before she spoke. Thuja, she realized, was her own name.

"Thuja, you have been chosen."

Thuja perceived now that she was standing, perhaps on a stone surface, and a figure hovered before her, a woman in white, wearing a crown, kept aloft by enormous wings which caused the breeze around Thuja. The power flowed around her with the air. It was the winged figure who spoke.
"Thuja, you have Ascended called by the Gods of the Vigil from the soul stream to defend Telara in her time of greatest need. Aedraxis the King has betrayed Telara to Regulos the Devourer. You have been called and endowed with power to defeat Regulos."

Remembering the pain now, Thuja looked again at her body. She had been slain. The forces supporting Zareph the prince had defeated King Aedraxis, his brother. Thuja had been part of the legion led by Carwin the bastard, half brother to the King and supporter of his other brother Zareph. Something terrible had happened, as Aedraxis, in defeat, had unleashed foul majicks upon the opposing troops at Thedeor Fields.

Thuja, confused, said to the Messenger of the Vigil, "But I am but one soldier, and not devout."

"You have been given the power to defeat Regulos. You will have assistance: Allies, both at your side, and guiding your blade."

The light had dimmed and Thuja found herself in the Cathedral of Ardenburgh, still close to the battlefield. The Messenger was still there.

"Go now, Paragon. Join the other Ascended. Your Soul is great. You will be triumphant."

The cacophony of a distant battle reached her ears. Thuja turned and saw a figure standing on the balcony of the Cathedral, silhouetted against the aubergine and tangerine sky. Zareph. She joined him there. The prince stared across the valley in shock and disbelief.

 "By the Vigil!" breathed the prince. "Aedraxis, what have you done?"

Thuja followed his gaze. In the distance, the sky gaped open like a bruised and festering wound. A rift in the very fabric of reality yawned open like a maw, set to devour the landscape below. A foul darkness spread over the ground where the rebels, including Thuja herself, had been slain.
Thuja peered down at the distant battle. She had a duty to perform. Aedraxis had betrayed his people, and all of Telara. Her jaw clenched and her gaze hardened. There would be a reckoning.

Souls, or, Finding Your Unique Playstyle in Rift

Before I get into my main topic, I wanted to say thank you, Dear Reader, for taking the time to read my drivel, especially in the past month or so. I have been focusing a lot on Rift for the past few posts, because that is the game that has been taking up so much of my time, like a shiny new toy. While I have still been playing WoW and STO, I don't have the same level of enthusiasm for them. If you've been saying "Shut up about Rift already," you probably are not even reading this. But if you are, bear with me; maybe even give the game itself a chance. While much of the hype about Rift's "innovations" may be just that--hype--the game is a solid playing experience with enough familiarity to be comfortable, and enough difference to be interesting.

On a another side note, how many of you fellow bloggers think of something you saw a another blog and want to reference/link it, but then can't find it? EDIT: In this case I read Elementalisty's post that said:

"There seems to only be two kinds of people that don't like Rift.
Those that think it is too much like WoW
And those that think it is not enough like WoW.
Everyone else loves it =D"

ANYWAY

I read Scary Booster's post from the other day, where he talked about changing his Cleric from a predominantly DPS caster-style Cabalist to a Tanky melee Justicar. He experimented a bit with the secondary souls until he found just the right combination for the way he wanted to play.
I went basically the opposite direction with my Rogue. She started out a Tanky melee Riftstalker with a side of Bard (for healing) and Blade Dancer, then I split her roles around level 15, adding a group oriented Healer role dominated by the Bard, and changing the melee-heavy Riftstalker to a Ranger (ranged DPS with a pet). I love the way I can shoot from a distance; and if the mob gets too close, I can throw a couple Saboteur charges and blow the sucker up. Like Scary, after doing my own thing for a while, I decided to follow the advice of the Devs (It's Developer Appreciation Week!) and go with the recommended subsidiary souls. But I still have the ability to customize my talent trees to fit my style.

The best part of the soul system is that Trion has made it relatively painless to experiment with different builds, to see what works and what doesn't work for you and your enjoyment of the game. Resetting souls involves a nominal fee that scales with level (as far as I can tell) and frequency of resets. If the build isn't working, you can reset and try again. And you don't have to lose time starting a new character from scratch if you decide to change playstyles. With the Rogue archetype, I can do ranged or melee DPS, even Tank and/or Heal. In WoW (just to compare), if I wanted to switch from melee DPS to ranged/pet DPS to Tank to Healer, I would need four different characters: Rogue, Hunter, Warrior, Priest. Even the hybrid classes in WoW tend to be spec-focused on a single role. In Rift, I just change roles, up to four (between fights, though given the right combination of souls, I could switch totally on the fly with some loss of effectiveness.)

With the total max-level points at 66, and the top of each soul tree requiring 31 points, you can reach the 31-point talent in two trees, with points to spare. Or fill out a tree completely (every talent) for a 51-point "root" ability with 15 points still available for the other two trees. The one thing I would suggest about the system would be to have some benefit to balancing the points across all three soul trees (22-22-22)--a boost to the primary attribute for the archetype, for example--just to make it a competitive option versus more specialized specs. Right now, most players I know have one "zero-point" soul, with only the first basic abilities available.

A lot has been said about "bring the player, not the class" in Rift. I haven't seen a whole of that, having only been through one instance, but in that run we had a Rogue tank, Rogue melee, Rogue ranged and two very different clerics healing/minor DPS. It worked out pretty well. I look forward to the higher level instances as I level up and fill whatever role is needed.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Nothing But Pics

I have a story coming to go with some of these pics, but I just had to get them out. They are gorgeous.

First, some pics of Rowan and Enura's first trip into an instance, with guildies from Simple Complexities--Nefret (sp?), Ethariik, and Misinformation:
Nefret's Glass Artillery (a graphics glitch)

A snow storm in the Realm of the Fae.
Having been in a real snowstorm, this was very impressive.
Battling Fae Lord Twyl


Pics of my new Guardian Warrior, Thuja (Estrael):
With Prince Zareph, surveying the Destruction of Mathosia
Heh, who's complaining about the armor?
She doesn't look like she'll betray anyone.
Battling the "Evil" Orphiel Farwind.
Receiving the third Soul
I would love to get pair of those blades she has.
Racing to defeat Aedraxis
Thuja's Divine gift shows through.
The Shade of Regulos
Port Scion
Lord Runeclift on the Founders' Threshold Bridge