Posts Tagged ‘ RIFT ’

The Loneliest Gamer

This week has been a very lonely one for me.  At work I have moved desks and am essentially cut off from the rest of my department.  At home my husband has started raiding again. And online, my usual haunts have been mysteriously absent of people.

There’s a couple people I’m seeing more of through RIFT, but they are either stubbornly clinging to a server on which I’m no longer playing or clapped in irons by a spousal leveling contract.  I’d like to have my own spousal leveling contract, but due to his general aversion to elves, my husband’s distain for RIFT edges ever closer into the ‘hatred equal to the power of a thousand burning suns’ territory every time he takes a peek over my shoulder.  I did manage to beg and whine at him for a contract involving alts in Guild Wars 2, but who the heck knows when that will come out.

All of this running around and being lonely has got me thinking about a couple of things, namely server structure and Guild Wars 2’s dynamic events.

RIFT is a petty good game.  It’s well put together, astonishingly bug-free, pleasant to look at, and enjoyable.  The rifts and invasions are fun, bringing the community together and fostering a sense of camaraderie.  As fun as it is though, I can’t help but feel that something is wrong.

I’m going to use RIFT as a bit of a whipping boy here.  I’m sorry.

Spirit has been chanting a little mantra to herself for the past few days: “Shatterbone, Defiant. Shatterbone, Defiant.”  This is because she’s getting a guest pass into RIFT for the weekend.  She needs to remember which server to roll on, then she needs to remember which faction to choose so that she can play with her friends.

Of all that has come out of the standardization of the MMO industry, these two mechanics are the most ridiculous.  They are unintuitive and anti-community.  For a game whose heart of hearts is playing with your friends, splitting your playerbase by server and then further by faction is idiocy and if it weren’t for the fact that there isn’t (yet) anything better available, it would never have lasted this long.

That and it just pisses me off.

I have always been attracted to the rough and tumble, the tribal, the gritty.  In DnD when the GM asked me to roll an elf (because of course, all girls play elves /eyeroll) I rolled a wild elf, covered her in grime, squatted on his posh couches, and made a point of depositing hunted game on his carpets.  I enjoy playing the uncouth and the wild, the grease-spattered and industrial.

In a game that separates its players by ideology there is no room for me on the side of the ‘good guys’.

Even getting beyond the server hurdle, finding a server to play where all my friends are, the ideological differences are enough to make me froth.  I must either be shoehorned into a society in which I don’t fit (I get enough of that in real life, THANKS!) or abandon some of my friends by the wayside.

These issues can be ignored or put up with, because I know that in Guild Wars 2 it will be different.  I’ll be able to play my rough and tumble charr with grease stains in her fur and join my friend the impeccably groomed asura whose first invention was a servitor golem so he’d never have to sully his hands with manual labor ever again.  We’ll be able to play together even if we initially chose different worlds because we’re not chained down to one.  Gone will be the days of playing the same character to level 20 or so ten times because all of your friends are scattered to the winds.

For now however, with my friends fractured, I have to settle for playing lonely.  That brings me to my second thought, a worry that hasn’t been sufficiently laid to rest yet by the promise of Guild Wars 2.

Dynamic Events

Using RIFT as a foil again (and its spiritual predecessor, Warhammer Online), the promise of dynamic events both excites and worries me.

In a perfect world you will either be in an area with a healthy population or playing with your friends.  We’ve heard repeatedly about how events will scale to accommodate more players.  Hordes of skritt will grow more numerous, broodmothers will become more cunning and use new skills.  What we haven’t heard about (at least as far as I know), is how well scaling works in the other direction.

The dynamic event analogues in RIFT are the rifts, footholds, and invasions.

  •   A rift is an event that randomly spawns on a single point in the map.  Mobs spawn from the rift and players must battle them.  When entering the influence of a rift you see on your right how many of what mob must be killed to advance the rift to the next stage.  Mobs range from multiple low level mobs to more difficult higher level mobs and even occasionally large bosses spawn.  Once the rift is closed each player receives awards based on their participation regardless of party affiliation.
  •  Occasionally a rift will spawn raiding parties.  These parties of ~5 mobs will travel along roads (which are normally safe) towards populated areas (quest hubs).  Invasion parties, if left unchecked, will gain a foothold.  This appears as an item in the road around which the raiding party congregates.  To destroy it you must kill all the mobs and then destroy the foothold item.
  •  Invasions are zone-wide spawning of rifts and raiding parties.  In an invasion the above two scenarios are happening everywhere on the map.  Roads become impassable and quest hubs come under siege.

In a perfect world the events are extremely fun.  Join a public group and defend your world.  The fun breaks down when you find yourself as a lonely gamer.

It’s possible to vanquish a minor rift by yourself if you’re very good and you play smart.  Raiding parties and footholds are a little more problematic, and major rifts should not be attempted by a player off on their lonesome.

During invasions (which only occur if the population can support it) players tend to congregate near quest hubs, fighting off the raiding parties and nearby rifts, as well as looking for the invasion boss who rewards some pretty sweet prizes.

If you are a lonely gamer off on your own in an awkward part of the map and an invasion spawns you are in some serious trouble.  The rift events scale downward very poorly, and that is my concern about the dynamic events of Guild Wars 2.

During and shortly after launch the events will be massive affairs of pitched battles with potentially dozens of players taking part.  What happens months, years down the road when the newest expansion content is the hot thing?  What happens when we’re all battling Palawa Joko in Elona (I’m calling that now) if someone wants to roll a human in Tyria?  Alone in the world, will that character be capable of completing dynamic events on its own?

I’m fully aware that a charr taking down the Shatner single-handedly sounds a bit ridiculous.  I don’t expect massive events like that to be soluble, but I also don’t expect them to be the bread and butter of the dynamic event content.  It’s not unreasonable to expect the pirate invasion outside of Lions Arch to be soluble.  If one person is attempting that mission if they pull carefully I think they should be able to complete it.  Perhaps they are not able to put out the fires and kill pirates, so maybe I could drive off the pirates but the buildings will have burned down and then the villagers must rebuild.

We already know events will be multifaceted.  What I want to know is if I’m going to be punished with impossible odds on top of loneliness should I find myself forced to play alone.

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Would A Game With Any Other Payment Model Play As Well

Relics of Orr has a new thing going on.  Their latest blog post asks for reader’s and listener’s opinions.  They want to know “would you play Guild Wars 2 if it was a subscription game?”

This is a bit of a thorny question to ask, not to mention polarizing.

Earlier this week I received a tweet asking about the legitimacy of a Guild Wars key generator.  I’ll not be so high-handed to suggest that I’ve never used such ‘products’ myself, but I took umbrage this time.

I pay for Guild Wars.  I payed full price for the collector’s edition of Prophecies and I payed full price for the standard editions of Factions and Nightfall.  I have purchased costumes off of the store, extra character slots, and I bought 3 mercenary hero slots.  I have not bought storage panes or any of the PvP unlock packs because I think one is overpriced and the other is unnecessary for me.

I bought those items (not to mention the game!) because ArenaNet is a company that I believe deserves my support and Guild Wars is a game I enjoy playing.

I paid $15 per month for over a year to play WoW because I thought it was fun and I enjoyed raiding with my friends.  I stopped paying because the game itself moved on and was no longer fun for me.  Huge paradigm shifts within Blizzard left a sour taste in my mouth and I no longer wanted to support the company.

I currently pay $15 per month to play RIFT because a number of my friends are playing and it’s an amusing diversion to pass the time.  I’m not entirely enamored of the art (it’s good, but not distinctive) and I have a rant about ‘split people into servers and then cut the servers in half by faction’ planned for another day.

I paid to play a game produced by a company I disagree with.  I pay to play a game which the highest praise I can give is to call it satisfactorily entertaining.

Would I pay to play Guild Wars 2?  A game made by a company whose ideals I respect, whose artistic vision I have been inspired by, and whose products I adore?

Yes.

Though a decision to make GW2 a subscription game would compromise those ideals, Guild Wars 2 is still a game I want to play.  Of course, I would expect all cash shop items to be offered for free (or maybe purchasable through a monthly stipend of ArenaPoints).

I still can’t help but feel dirty and disloyal for saying that I would pay monthly.  Irrational as it may be, I feel that mere admission of this willingness equals encouragement for the evil businessmen to take advantage of me at every turn.

That said, I don’t want to pay monthly.  I would if I had to, but ArenaNet would have lost my respect.  What’s the respect of one small blogger in the face of a multi-million dollar franchise?  Probably not much, but for now, ArenaNet has it, and I don’t believe my trust has been misplaced.

What Is This I Don’t Even

We’re going to get a little lost here, so hang onto your hats.

Since I finally got my new computer up and running (christened Sissyphus for obvious reasons) I’ve had the opportunity to broaden my gaming repertoire considerably.

Over the past couple of weeks I have played:

• RIFT
• Gary’s Mod
• Team Fortress 2
• Dragon’s Age Origins

Those four games I played for the first time.  One of them is an MMO, another is a sandbox toy, one is an FPS, and one a single-player RPG.  What can I say? My tastes, they are eclectic.

The one thing they all had in common, however, are tutorials.  Running through so many different tutorials got me thinking what I would like to see in Guild Wars 2.

RIFT

I’m having trouble remembering this tutorial.  I know there were pop-ups that explained in words and some pictures what I needed to do based on what I happened to be doing at the time (context). But beyond that I found them unremarkable.  That’s not really a bad thing, though, because a tutorial’s sole purpose is to get you playing the game.

I felt different when it came to crafting, however.  Your introduction to crafting comes through some quests and since I don’t bother to read the quest text beyond the first few quests I do, I was lost pretty quickly.  I know, I know, it’s my own fault for not reading the information that is Right There for me.  Blame it on the promise of fully-voiced games and the need to compress my playtime due to Having A Life.

Gary’s Mod

Tutorial? We don’t need no stinking tutorials!

Well actually, I do.  The only Halflife games I had ever played before jumping into Gary’s Mod was Portal and Counterstrike: Condition Zero (my husband used to compete and I always want to try whatever he’s doing).  I knew vaguely that E was use and Q would call up stuff I could spawn, but beyond that not a heck of a lot is explained with a couple of notable exceptions.

Videos: Upon first loading up my own private game I found a couple of videos right there on the login screen that showed me how to spawn stuff, pose ragdolls, and make a car (I later made a car out of a piece of road with a bunker on top, go me).  Those were pro, and awesome.  I like videos.

Pop-Up tips: I think there were pop-up tips, I can’t be completely sure, they were there and gone so quickly.  I would have liked to be able to access the tips at-will as well as having them pop up at opportune moments.

Team Fortress 2

I think this game wins the Tutorial prize.  I found a quick how-to section and then I played a skirmish with some NPCs.  I tend to be very clumsy in an FPS environment and I’d rather not be getting my face blown off constantly while trying to learn how to not trip over myself.

After the skirmish the game decided I need a little help and suggested I play through the “How to not be bad at a Soldier” tutorial.  So I said ‘OK’ and loaded it up.

Video. Ok cool, I like videos, that’s neat.
Shooting Range. Oh! This is nice, it’s got good pacing and there’s pop-up messages that tell me what button does what.  Even better though, after they tell you that buttons 1, 2, and 3 will select your various weapons you’re then tasked with putting that new information to use!  Learning the information and then performing the action goes a /whole/ heckuva long way to make learning actually stick. (No, I’m not a teacher, akshully)
Demo Round(s). After the shooting gallery the game bounced me into a 3-round match against and with NPCs during which I was expected to put my new skills to use.  I also learned a few new tricks thanks to some helpful pop-ups and idiot arrows. (I am much the FPS idiot.  If there is a dead-end I will find it!)

Like I said, TF2 wins the Tutorial prize.  I’m not sure the exact format would work for GW2, but a system that combines visual and audio lessons (as opposed to walls of text, see next entry) with cementing knowledge by doing, will be fantastic.

Dragon’s Age Origins

I’m sorry Dragon’s Age, I know you’re critically acclaimed and everybody seems to love you, but your tutorials suck.

While playing, I was bombarded with walls of text that didn’t necessarily have anything to do with the tasks I was completing at the time.  I can access those popups later, but they’re interspersed with articles on lore (the popups for which are very similar to tutorial popups) and everything just ends up lost in the shuffle.

I can only take Dragon’s Age in small amounts before I get tired of reading my games and go find a book to curl up with in either a more comfortable chair or laying on the grass down in the park.  That might be more of a general criticism of the extensive dialogue, but it still doesn’t fix the tutorials.

Portal

This wasn’t on my list above, but I’d like to mention it anyway.  Portal has, by far, my favorite tutorial of any game I’ve ever played.  When I voiced this opinion in the PIG vent I was met with laughter and an outcry of “But 2/3rds of the game is tutorial!”

Yes, yes it is.  The thing is though, I don’t feel like I’m doing a tutorial in preparation to play the game.  With Portal I was simply playing the game and just happened to be learning new things (and acquiring new skills) along the way.  Weather I had only my two hands or a fully-loaded portal gun I found the same amount of enjoyment and fun from solving the puzzles and working my way through the compound.

So I think my favored tutorial would be something that combines video and audio lessons with immediate opportunities to use the skills learned, along with a little repetition to make it stick.

The perfect tutorial, however, would be the one you don’t even realize you’re doing.