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Finishing City Core and Starting Seratos May 21, 2013

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Rift.
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While Middle-earth has been calling again of late… my relationship with that game has become as complicated as my relationship with EverQuest at this point… I have still found a bit of time to expand my reach in Storm Legion.

Previously I had made my way through Cape Jule and Pelladane, finishing up what are the first two Storm Legion zones.

I started off in City Core, which was close to hand and had a portal right near the entrance.

City Core is a small zone, and I would say more in the tradition of the game, with things rather tightly packed and a lot of use of varied elevations.  Rolling through it was a bit more like the old game than the first couple of zones.  But it was also quick.  I racked up the key zone achievements and found myself spilling out into adjacent zones.

City Core Achievements

City Core Achievements

Those are the achievements for exploring the whole zone, completing the story line, finishing up the carnage quests, and killing a set of named mobs around the zone.

While the zone was more in line with older zones in Rift, the story was pretty forgettable.  Well, I have forgotten it already, though I remember the climax, which involved a Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid jump into a lake.  And there wasn’t even an achievement for the jump.

After City Core, I was distracted for a bit by crafting.  My warrior is an armor smith, but does not have butchering, so he needs to get leather from other sources.  The price of the leather I needed was too high, so I got out my hunter spec’d rogue and sent him out to harvest leather.  That took a bit, but the rewards were worth it.  The crafted armor is noticeably better than the quest reward armor at this point. (Though, with the plan to sell equipment being part of the F2P conversion plan, I expect we’ll see crafting as a business die off.)

That done, I took my first run into Seratos.

This is a huge zone.  It looks big on the map.  It feels bigger when you get there.

Storm Legion so far

Storm Legion so far

I went into the zone one evening with the sole purpose of finding a portal, so I could get back to the zone easily.  I ended up on a 90 minute expedition zig-zagging across the zone until I finally ran into a portal in the southeast portion of the zone in the city of Necropolis.

Later I looked up a map that had the portals on it, and I found that I missed at least three portals on my way across the zone.  That, however, is a testament to its width and depth… and perhaps my bad luck.

Necropolis also had the now “must have in every MMO” quest.

SerKTR

I will say that they were very big rats.  Level 55 elite rats the size of horses, actually.

So now I have to head back across the zone to find those portals and to pick up the threads of the story line that no doubt runs through the zone.  And work on the carnage quests.  I looked at the achievement and there are more than 50 in the zone.

So that is where I stand in Storm Legion.  Pkudude99′s suggested warrior build has worked out nicely.  In fact, it has kind of spoiled me for builds and classes where I have to press more than two buttons in combat.

Pressing into Cape Jule and Pelladane April 25, 2013

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Rift.
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Earlier in the month I was moaning about the Storm Legion expansion for Rift.

I had not been actively avoiding the game.  But whenever I was looking for a game to play, I would get to Rift, give a little dejected moan internally, and move on to something else.

I just wasn’t that into it, and I was trying to figure out why.

Whole lot of gray

A lot of unexplored land

Thinking on it, I came up with three possible factors.  They were, put simply, the character/class/soul revamp that went in just before the expansions, the change in how quests and story flow were handled, and the general increase in landmass that came with the expansion.

Nice theories.  They seem reasonable.

And certainly the first one, the class revamp, was a big pain in the ass.  Having to go back and relearn how to play your character… and the multiple roles on your character… was a big deal to me.  I have managed to get healing sorted out on Hillmar, my cleric, and I think I have his DPS soul working.  But my warrior and rogue characters are still pretty opaque and my mage is probably dead to me at this point.

But still, are these the things that were keeping me from logging in?

I decided to push the point, force myself to log in, and get through the first zones and levels just to see what I could see.

What I did after the cut.

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What is it with Me and Storm Legion? April 3, 2013

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Rift.
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I think that you could make an objective case that I enjoy… or enjoyed… playing Rift.

The instance group and our semi-weekly adventures in Telara aside, I actually spent enough time playing the game that I ended up with four level 50 characters, one from each of the main classes.  That means I worked on getting a mage up to level cap, and I rarely ever play mage classes.  Clerics, always, warriors often, rogues sometimes, but mages?  A very rare moment indeed!

And it is a truth I have known about myself for a long time, that I may express enthusiasm for something, but the only real test to whether that is true or not is my behavior.  Saying I like Rift is one thing, logging in and getting three characters to level cap, outside of my group character, that is solid proof that it is so.

I also have done a lot of the events.  I ran through the Autumn Harvest festival enough to get a mount for Hillmar, my main.

Another mount!

Hillmar’s mount… and hat!

And also did it enough to get a mount for my mage… because I felt that it completed his “look.”

The spider mount is his "look"

The spider mount is his thing

A simple look at the map from the original pre-expansion world shows that I have been most everywhere.

I am missing some portals on this character

I am missing some portals on this character

So with all of that, I should have been all set to carry on with the Storm Legion expansion.  I subscribed for a year in advance to get the expansion at no additional cost.  I went on the pre-launch Storm Legion tour.  I was riding around on the pre-order mount.  I was there and patching on launch day.

And now, almost five months later, where do I stand?  Let’s see after the cut.

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How Bribing Rift Players Brought Raptr to New Heights March 12, 2013

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Rift.
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Raptr put up a case study blog post about how their cooperation with Trion around Rift lead to an increase in average user play time and hours tracked, complete with a colorful chart that proves that everything went great.

The Chart

The Chart

The numbers being thrown about are a 58% increase in the average daily play time and a 470% increase overall in Rift hours, as tracked by Raptr.

This was accomplished via a two-prong approach.  First, Trion and Raptr offered up a free copy of Rift to players who had time tracked in games that seemed likely to have some overlap of interest.  Skyrim, World of Warcraft, and Torchlight II were mentioned specifically.

Second, Trion and Raptr offered some in-game rewards for people who already played Rift.  I mentioned these prizes as part of a mail bag post back in November.

The goggles reward

The goggles reward

The conclusion offered is pretty much “Huge success!”

During the Raptr Rewards promotion, RIFT’s daily active player numbers among Raptr members increased a full 470%.  By giving away free copies of the game, and giving users exclusive rewards to work towards, Raptr and Trion Worlds managed to lower the game’s barrier to entry and revitalize the game’s community.

However, there are a couple of key items missing.

The first is that there is no mention of how many new players this promotion really brought in.

While I would accept that the entire increase wasn’t current subscribers installing Raptr just to get a special in-game item, I have to think that they represent a large portion of the increase.  If I recall right, this promotion got Potshot to install Raptr again.  And it is a well established fact that players will jump through hoops happily if offered a shiny in-game item.

Then there is the second item, which is more of a glaring omission.

What happened on November 13, 2012, right as that chart begins to spike?

Oh, yeah, the Storm Legion expansion launched.  That alone could account for a lot of the increase, including the ramp up right before the expansion hit, as old players got themselves patched up and ready to go.

You would think that if you were going to count coup honestly, you might bring that detail up as part of your case study.  I am also curious about how the hours tracked continued after the end of the chart, which cut off as numbers were starting to decline.

Ah well.  It was certainly a success for Raptr, as I am sure that it got more people to use their service.  I can see that more people tracked time in Rift.  I just cannot tell if it added a single user to the pool of Rift players.

Now we’ll have to see if Raptr puts up a case study about the EVE Online Catalyst promotion.  That also corresponded with an increase in player activity.

A Journey of One Hundred Deaths January 10, 2013

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Instance Group, Rift.
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A journey of one hundred deaths begins with one’s first corpse.

-A liberal interpretation of what Laozi meant

100 deaths is my estimate for the cumulative number of corpses our group left littered about the instance we assaulted last week.

Some of us died more than others.  I had to go back to the healer in Meridian twice during the evening because I had hit the “10 death penalty” point, as did Earl.  Zahi hit that point much earlier on due to an unfortunate turn of events at the first boss.  Jolly and Giz also had their share of deaths, with the combat ress capability of myself and Zahi allowing a couple of us to get in multiple deaths in a single fight.

But I am getting ahead of myself.  First, there was the usual cast of characters.

  • Jollyreaper level 50 mage
  • Zahihawass level 51 cleric
  • Hillmar level 51 cleric
  • Earlthecat level 52 warrior
  • Gizalia level 53 mage

And then there was our destination, which last week was Exodus of the Storm Queen, the first Storm Legion instance.

Zahi has scouted its location, found that it took place in the Chancel of Labors up in Storm Pine Peaks.  That being a small location, at least relative to other outdoor instances, and because it was the teaser dungeon for Storm Legion, we actually talked a bit about doing another instance after we wrapped up Exodus.  Due to a character swap, Zahi is missing the Realm of the Fae achievement, so we thought we might go back and do the expert version as our encore.

We got ourselves together in a group and on Skype, pulled up the LFG tool, and chose our poison.

50-54... we're good

50-54… we’re good

And in we went.  More after the cut because of pictures and spoilers and long winded descriptions of events.  You have been warned.

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Dimensionally Challenged December 13, 2012

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EverQuest II, Rift.
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I am having some trouble getting into the new player dimension feature that came along with the Storm Legion expansion to Rift.

I ran the little quest that introduced you to dimensions, and dutifully placed the few little items that you start with in my new space in Telara.

Dimension by the Sea

Dimension by the Sea

But I am not really feeling inspired to do much with it.  You can see all of my starter items have sort of been dropped off around the front of the little structure.

The view is nice… so long as you do not get too close to the edge of the dimension, at which point the invisible wall gets all non-invisible in your face.

Trying to see the wall edge on...

Trying to see the wall edge on…

Anyway, my dimensional malaise sort of took me by surprise, as I have been much more enthusiastic about housing in other games, like LOTRO and EverQuest II.

I think there are two things that are different in Rift.

First, the dimensions are kind of a raw material, a palette on which to express yourself, on which you can build your own home.  A lot of people really go nuts for that, as I saw in the beta tour.  But  I don’t think I really want to actually design and build a house.  I think I prefer one pre-made, a structure within which to work.  Rift is, perhaps, a bit too much “from scratch” for me.

And then there is the second factor, which I think feeds into the first.

I have been playing some EverQuest II lately, and I went to look at the home of my berserker, Sigwerd, who has the base level house in New Halas.  It is one of my more decorated locations.  It is out-done by a couple of my original characters, but the theme is the same when you look at what they share in common.

Sigwerd's living room

Sigwerd’s living room

Almost everything in Sigwerd’s house is something he picked up on a quest, or an event, or via a LoN card, or as a veteran’s reward.  It is not so much a place I have decorated as a place that represents where I have been and what I have done.  This is especially true with the wall of prizes from the Lore & Legend quests.

Wall of Weapons

Wall of Weapons

I think SOE made a good decision in creating so many such items that can be displayed in player homes.

I hope Trion picks up on that aspect… and maybe comes up with a few more house-like dimensions going forward.

In the mean time, Frostfell is nearly upon us.  It might be time to pick up some snow globes for Sigwerd’s place.

Storm Legion Launch Day, Storm Legion Patch Day November 14, 2012

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Rift.
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The first day of the Storm Legion went about as I expected.

There was patching to be done, naturally.

The first thing to get patched was the launcher, which came up fresh in Storm Legion livery.  Then the launcher started patching the game.

The first patch was 19MB, a mere minute or three.  The second was about 80MB, a few more minutes.

And then came the 3GB patch and I figured it was time to go away and do something else for a while.  If my connection is running well, it can patch about 1GB an hour.

I did noticed about half an hour in that the launcher had declared the game “playable.”

This is one of the features of launchers of late, which I think SOE spearheaded with EverQuest II Extended.  Basically, you can play while still patching, at least in theory.  This really requires the patching process to throttle back when you are playing however, and the Rift launcher did not seem inclined to do this.

Download Timer in Character Select

And I could not find an option to turn on throttled downloading while playing.

So I could get into the game, but the “playable” game was pretty unplayable.  Character select eventually loaded, but my attempt to get into the game timed out with the loading screen at 94%.

Always 94%

94% is like torment o’clock for the Rift loading screen.  If it is going to hang on me, it is always at 94%.  Of course, it hangs there because I instinctively tab out of games at loading screens to go read email or the web, and Rift doesn’t seem to like that either.  Quirk of the game.

Anyway, the message was clear, go away until patching is done.

Later though, once patching was done, I was able to get into the game without any issue.

I got on for a little bit.  I collected my pre-order goodies and Raptr rewards items, including my helmet and goggles.

The goggles can be dyed

There was also a cape.  Rift added a cape slot because… hey, capes!

Bath towel on my back

I hid that.  You couldn’t dye the cloak in beta and I forgot to put it on until I was out in the field, so couldn’t even check to see if they had fixed that.  But you can turn it off in the wardrobe tab if you do not want to run around with a big white flag on your back.  As for the size and shape, it fits into my usual complaint about capes and cloaks in MMORPGs.

As for Storm Legion itself, I decided to just go where ever the game sent me.  I spent very little time in the beta, not wanting to spoil the expansion.  I think the Storm Legion tour might have been the biggest chunk of time I spent with it.

Among the many items in my mail box was a quest item that sent me off to Iron Pine Peak where a new portal is available.

Portal in the middle of a frozen lake

There you have a choice.  You can go off to Pelladane, which is where Potshot went, or you can go to Cape Jule.  I chose Cape Jule, which I recalled being the epic battle, under siege, right into the action option.

Into an unexplored map…

And it was under siege.  And the mobs are tough.  I would guess, just based on my own experience and a finger in the wind, that the level 50 mobs out there were at least as powerful as the level 52 mobs on Ember Island.  Which means they are pretty tough.  Taking on two mobs with my huntsman spec’d rogue usually meant losing my pet and getting down to a knife fight to determine the final winner, who would be left with only a few hit points.  Three mobs meant run for it.

Of course, I was under equipped for the whole thing.  Yes, I had the second tier epic bow and all the rare planar upgrades I could afford.  But, as always happens with expansions, my best old stuff didn’t even begin to stack up to the first quest reward item the game gave me.

Purple versus Green

And the only reason my old pants beat the new ones on the attack power stat is because I added an enchant.  Spending all that planarite ends up being for nothing, as expected.

I was able to see a couple of the new quest strategies in action.  One, an attempt to solve the eternal “bears, bears, bears” issue, puts a mark on the name plate of mobs that will automatically give you a “carnage quest” for them if you start killing them.  And then there were a couple of “pick up the interesting object and the quest to collect them will start” variations.

Experience seems to have been given a twist.  By default your adventure experience seems to move very slowly, which is okay I suppose unless you are in some sort of hurry.  There are just 10 more levels.  But you keep accruing planar attunement experience, which I suppose was the answer to “what is going to happen to planar attunement when we add 10 more levels.”  I am not sure if you can shift the ratios between adventure and attunement, the way you can do in EQII between adventure and AA, but for now it seems fine.

I managed to get through the first few quests and only died three times.  I am not kidding about the mobs being tough and me needing the green equipment upgrades.  I want a new bow.  When I made it to the first camp in the area, I noticed that you have a choice for portal destinations, one for the old world, one for the new.  And when you choose the old world, which I did to get back to Meridian, the map seemed to be inverted, with Iron Pine Peak down at the bottom.  That took me a moment to figure out.

And that was about it for the night.  I did not even get around to the new housing option, the so-called Dimensions.  And don’t even ask me about upgradable items.

But Storm Legion is live, I am patched up, there are new places to explore, and there will be plenty of time going forward to see new things.

Catch Up is Over – Storm Legion is Here November 13, 2012

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Rift.
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The light that burns twice as bright burns for half as long – and you have burned so very, very brightly…

-Dr. Eldon Tyrell, Blade Runner

Catch up is over.  Because that is what the last couple of weeks in Meridian have been as far as I can tell, a catch up period.

Trion has brought the fight right to our doorstep and has been handing out fist full helpings of prizes like that one great house you run into every Halloween.  There have been bosses right there in the city.

How he got in the gate I’ll never know

There have been video card slagging invasions.

This is where AOE comes in handy

And then when you think you’ve seen it all, they throw a really big boss at you.

Literally out of the blue

Granted, some of it is a little silly… like the Storm Legion camp.

It was the only empty spot…

If the Storm Legion can set down a foothold right in the middle of Meridia, how come they cannot overrun the place?  And if we’re strong enough to prevent that, how come we cannot toss them out?  They let us set up cannons to bombard them from 20 feet away.

I bet the Autumn Harvest Festival was holding up their invasion.  You have to book that spot well in advance.

And while I could do without putting up another barricade, clicking on another pole, and rescuing another keg of beer (I never get to drink the damn things), the whole event has been a giant pile of exp and planarite and planar attunement points and inscribed sourcestones.  If you wanted to get to fifty (congrats Potshot!) or wanted to lay in those last few planar attunment points (I made it to 107) you were given a big boost these last couple of weeks.

But now Storm Legion is upon us.

Rift 2.0.  The first expansion.

And the first expansion is always the good one, right?

Ruins of Kunark!

Burning Crusade!

Uh… Desert of Flames?

But the first expansion is always the most hungered for, as it comes before levels and alternate advancement and mid-tier zones have become a thing of drudgery, before they stand like unassailable mountains before the new player.

Anyway, it is time for Rift, bigger, better, and deeper.

We have a launch trailer.

We have patch notes.

And our group seems good for it.

We were actually discussing the game this past weekend as we did our own bit of group leveling, trying to get everybody into the zone for the final three instances in what will soon be the “old” world.  While I spoke a bit about my time on the beta tour, we spent most of the time on the current features and how much things have changed since we showed up, which was a good 8 months after launch.

General consensus was that Rift really has no unique features, having freely borrowed from the rest of the industry.  Almost everything we could come up with had precedent in previous games.  But the way Trion has put things together has worked well for us.  We will be here for a while longer.

The other observation was about how willing Trion has been to tinker with the game.  They jump right in and alter things they feel are not working, they iterate on things that are working but not as well as they would like, and they have gone along fixing, changing, and adding features at an almost fevered pace since launch.

It is hard to tell how much work is really going on behind the scenes in any game… just because the devs are quiet doesn’t mean they aren’t in crunch mode… but it sure feels like the Rift team is the hardest working set of devs in the MMORPG genre these days.  And they have not made any critical mistakes that I have noticed.

But can they keep up this pace?   Will this willingness to change things up quickly be their undoing in the long term?  How will they juggle the needs of those still in the old world with those deep into the expansion without trivializing one or the other? For that seems to always be the long term issue in games with levels and level cap raising expansions.

Does the light that burns twice as bright last half as long?

Things You Might Not Want to See Just as You Hit Level Cap November 2, 2012

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Rift.
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As a reward for completing a project this week, we were let out of work early today.  Half day Friday!

Rather than doing anything useful or productive or simply going outside where it is sunny and a pleasant 70 degrees, I went home, made some lunch, and started playing video games.  Go me!

I checked out the new stuff in World of Tanks, which I let patch last night, and entered my code for the Golden Joystick Award prize.  Then I queued up a new skill in EVE Online.  And, finally, I settled down for some Rift.  Hillmar was close to 50 and I figured I could finish that off.  Earl was on as well.  He is in the Sandy disaster zone and has no power.  However he has a generator, and internet connection, and nothing to do, so he was cranking out a couple level 50s on his own.

As it was, the instant adventures running in Meridian were extremely lucrative in exp and I soaked up nearly half a level in pretty short order.  Hillmar hit level 50, this finishing off my goal of having one level 50 character in each of the four classes in Rift.

Four Level 50s… and Nehru

So, again, go me.  All ready for Storm Legion with about 80 planar attunement points for each… which isn’t a lot, but is enough to get what I want.

Then, just as I am running off to train, a system message shows up in chat.

Uh?  Erm?

I have no idea what that was about.  I suspect it is something temporary for the “come back to Rift” free weekend.  Or something involving the beta.  Or a mistake.  I really do not know.

It just isn’t the first thing you really want to see when you hit level cap.  Made it to level 50 did you?  Well, we’re handing that out free today!

Four More for Lantern Hook November 1, 2012

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Instance Group, Rift.
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There were some differences between our last run at The Fall of Lantern Hook and this time around.

Different people, different time, different levels, different classes.

But the biggest difference was that this was our first attempt at a group run since All Souls Day in Rift, the patch 1.11 revamp of every single soul in the game.  Everybody was learning to play their class again.

One thing was the same as our last attempt though.  We only had four in the group.  Gizalia wasn’t feeling well and took the night off, which left us with the following:

  • Jollyreaper level 42 mage
  • Earlthecat level 43 warrior
  • Zahihawass level 44 cleric
  • Hillmar level 48 cleric (mentored down to 43 on Earl)

A short group learning how to play their roles with completely changed skills going up against an five person dungeon?

Recipe for a wipe, right?

Well, we had nothing else planned, so we figured it would be good training.  We put on our mean faces and headed out to Lantern Hook.

Hillmar with his mean face on

How would we do?

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