One of the pains about roaming from MMO to MMO is that every time you come back to an old haunt, you have to remember how to play again.
And that can plague you at several levels.
There is the overall structure of how the game works, the individual conventions that probably do not align completely with the last game you were playing, and simple quirks of user interface that can trip you up.
And then there is actually playing your character. And what do all those skills do? And what has changed since I have been in this game last?
What weight each level has can vary from game to game.
In EverQuest the character classes were generally straightforward, with a pretty rational and focused set of skills. But the UI conventions used to be from another planet compared to the post-WoW world. That has changed a lot, and fighting the UI when I go back to old Norrath is no longer my biggest struggle, but it is on the top 5.
Meanwhile, EverQuest II seems quite conventional in interface… at least until you get to the oddities hiding below the surface… but the character classes… wow. The class design objectives had to include the line “Skills. Lots of skills.”
So any return to post cataclysm Norrath includes a good amount of time figuring out what those four hot bars full of skills actually do. This is usually compounded by my racial traits or AA’s having been reset as well somewhere along the way.
This builds up its own barrier to entry… or re-entry… into a game. It sometimes feels easier just to start a new character than to figure all of that out. Of course, then you are at the bottom of the level hill again, which in itself represents a whole new disincentive.
But that is the price of the nomadic MMO player. If you roam from world to world, you had best plan to stop and figure out what has changed. You will be the person out of time, the person woken up from a long cryogenic sleep, the Philip J. Fry in the 30th century to which your game has advanced. (Time is figurative, not literal. Your game may be well beyond the 30th century, stuck back in the 12th, or in some alternate reality altogether.)
Of course people will say that if you just stick to one game for a while, you won’t have to put up with that sort of thing.
To those people, I introduce Rift patch 1.11, which has managed to simulate the whole “having been away” experience for people who haven’t actually been away.
I have played Rift for a year straight now. I have gone through changes, played with souls, and ended up opting for their soul “pre-sets” that give a decent, workable soul build for a specific role. We got those back in February. And in the time since then all my characters have ended up using them. They simply end up being better than anything I manage to roll on my own.
The last to go was my cleric Hillmar, who plays the healer in our regular group. He opted for the Flame Keeper pre-set.
And over the last couple of weeks I have learned the basics of that setup, to the point that I was able to heal pretty well in our man short run at The Fall of Lantern Hook.
And then came the big patch. The ground work for the Storm Legion expansion was being laid. And the changes have been so big that the general segment of the patch notes start with the line:
The patch notes for 1.11 are super incredibly long, so some sections have been linked to the appropriate forum thread rather than displayed in the patcher, particularly Calling and Crafting changes.
Oh my. So there is a whole forum section devoted to the changes to cleric souls. And it isn’t short. None of the groups are short. And the changes are quite dramatic in some ways.
Not that it is all bad. There are some nice things in the 1.11 patch. And, good news everybody, there are more pre-set soul types, which will open up new play styles to people who do not want to spend time researching and experimenting with souls and point allocation. I think the goal was to make one pre-set that focused on each of the possible souls. Which mean we should be getting another pre-set with Storm Legion, as it is going to have a new soul for each class.
Just on general principles I might have to try out the Steam Punk role. The name alone intrigues.
But in looking at the two images in this post, which happen to show the old and new version of the Flame Keeper pre-set, you can see that the changes are not trivial. This was no mere tuning of abilities. And it has lead me to some confusing moments.
So there will be another relearning hill to climb. With all four of my characters. With all of the characters in our regular group.
It will be like we woke up after being in a long cryogenic sleep.
It will be like we have been away from the game for an extended period.
But, I suppose if you have been away from the game for an extended period, it might be as good a time as any to come back. There is the new expansion coming out, there is a free returning players weekend coming up, and you will be as lost in your class abilities as a lot of people who have been playing for the last year.
Now who ordered this pizza?