It has been something of the spaceship season here at TAGN.
Reading my posts this summer and you might well assume I have just been running around in EVE while bitching about other games it not clear I am even playing.
There certainly haven’t been many tales of the fantasy hack and slash variety around here of late. No instance runs, no group wipes, no dragons slain, no groups lost in the middle of nowhere.
But I have been staying involved; my sword sleeps not in my hand. While the instance group has been on hiatus for a weeks now with various summer activities, I have been in Rift fairly regularly, anticipating our return.
I just haven’t been doing anything worth writing about.
While I can generally turn a disaster into something amusing to read, and can even occasionally turn a victory into a passable tale, so long as it came largely despite our own incompetence, running through an MMO solo becomes interesting only as a series of milestones when it comes to me blogging.
And even that can wear thin. My highest level character, Teresten, hit level 50 a ways back and I started in on planar attunement and the like. He has a bunch of points in that now. I take him out most nights to do the updated Instant Adventures. There is a quest that gives three extra inscribed sourcestones if you do 7, and those are the currency for upgraded equipment.
I also did a few with Hillmar, the healer in our group, just to see how they worked for lower level players. But have generally stuck with my guy at level cap.
So last Saturday when Jollyreaper was online and logged into Rift, it was a chance to try Instant Adventures out as a group and see how they played and how effective they were in gaining some experience.
Instant Adventure started off as a level 50 activity a while back and I invested some time running them in Stillmore and Shimmersand.
Then came the last big update, Patch 1.9, which brought both low level Instant Adventures… which I am going to call IAs from this point forward… and the whole mentoring or “dial-a-level” mechanism. This gave us new IA’s in the low level zones of Freemarch, Silverwood, Gloamwood, and Stonefield as well as a way for high level players to join in.
And I have to applaud the way it was implemented.
When you have queued up for an IA and it is ready to go, you are automatically joined to the raid for that zone, mentored down to a level appropriate to the zone, and teleported out to the raid. If you are in a group when you queue up, the decision to join is put up to a vote. If people agree, then your group is teleported and merged into the raid. And, best of all, when your group wants to leave, there is an option to unmerge your group intact, so you can carry on with whatever you were up to.
Good stuff that.
There are, of course, still some rough edges.
The first recurring annoyance I noticed was that, about 1 time in 3, the alert which comes up that gives you the option to teleport out to the raid gets dismissed before you can teleport. And there you are, in the raid but not in the zone. So you then have to hoof it on your own to the zone, which means teleporting out and running. Unless you get the Freemarch IA and are in Meridian. Then it is just running. Which leads me to the next item.
I seem to be stuck in Freemarch. In the last two weeks or so, every time I have queued up for IA, I get sent to the Freemarch version. I would get sent to Stonefield once in a while, but now Freemarch seems to be the only possible destination.
Now, I recall their being some geographical proximity issues with IAs before patch 1.9. If I queued up with Teresten in Meridian, I would be sent to Shimmersand every time. But if I took the portal out to Stillmore and queued up, I would get the Stillmore IA.
That no longer seems to be the case. I can take the portal out to Stonefield then queue up, and I get teleported right back to Freemarch. Which isn’t the end of the world I guess, except that I prefer the Stonefield IA because it is a bit more challenging. Freemarch, being the lowest level IA… you get set to level 14 when you join… also seems to suffer the most from people showing up with all of their higher level skills. All that high level baggage you bring with you knocks stuff down pretty fast. Mentoring is always a fine line.
And then there is the question of experience gain.
Jollyreaper and I grouped up and queued for IA. We, of course, got sent to Freemarch, where we joined a raid of four almost full groups which proceeded to tear the zone apart for the next hour. The individual quests scale some depending on the size of the IA raid, but seems to be upper and lower limits for that. Being in a very small group can really slow things down, while in our monster raid we were plowing through individual quests so fast it was tough at times to complete even one of the objectives… kill n or these or harvest n of those… before the quest was complete and it was on to the next one.
So, with all those people and being able to barely participate beyond running from point to point, the experience sucked, right? It was, after all, being shared out among all those players.
No, the experience rained down on us. The big raid group lasted for about an hour and during that time both Jolly and Hillmar gained a level and a half of experience.
Now, if we were actually level 14, that would be no big deal. But Jolly started at level 36 and Hillmar at level 39. Those are the levels when you’re supposed to be saying, “OMG this is taking forever!” right?
And then the raid broke up and we were down to 4-6 people at any given time and the experience slowed down quite a bit. We ran along for another 45 minutes of so until Jolly hit level 38, which was the target level for the group, being the minimum suggested level for the next instance on our list, Runic Descent. At that point we headed back to town to train and call it a night.
Now, I am not really complaining about leveling up quickly. As a mechanism to catch somebody up to the appropriate level or to just lift and alt past a zone you would rather not run through again, it is an effective tool. It is more the variability of experience that I find worthy of note. It just seems a tad ironic that the point when we were least able to contribute to the group’s progress… when we were in the thundering mass trampling Freemarch… happened to coincide with the greatest experience gain.
Ah well, every MMO is a work in progress I suppose.
And it did its job. Two out of the five members of the group are now up to at least level 38. Hillmar slipped a bit ahead, but he can always mentor down a level or two. Now to get the rest of the group back online and up to level. I think we are committed to finishing out the normal mode instances in Rift before we find ourselves distracted by pandas or running off Tyria. We shall see.