Archive for March, 2011

5 things WoW and Rift can learn from each other.

World of Warcraft has come a long way in the 6 years it’s been available. Blizzard made a lot of mistakes, learned from them, and evolved WoW into the game it is today. That’s why it’s the best MMO out there, the one that has all the people, and the one everyone tries to beat.

Rift is the new kid on the block. Trion has taken the lessons that Blizzard has already learned, and it’s applied them to Rift, with enough of their own ideas that make it an individual game in its own right, and they’ve done very well. Rift has had more success than any MMO since WoW came along and became the dominant player. Rift, if handled very well, could evolve into the game that finally truly challenges WoW’s spot at the top.

That being said, neither game is perfect. Each has things the other does not, things that make it great. Things that the other company should look into incorporating, or at least a version of it. I’m going to list 5 such things for each game.

We’ll start with WoW. Here are 5 things that Rift has done that could make WoW even more amazing and even more dominant.

1. Better player character models & customization. WoW has an extremely limited set of options for customizing how your character looks. You have 5 customizing options, each with about 6-8 choices. End result, you often see a lot of characters that have minor if any differences at all. And let’s face it, some of these races need their graphics completely redone. The Orcs and the Humans, WoW’s most iconic races, are so hideously ugly it’s a wonder they get played at all. Rift has an amazing amount of depth to it’s creator, which allows you to be much more unique in your design. Not to mention the fact that all the race options look amazing.

2. Zonewide events – Rift is brought to life by the rifts and invasions that happen in each of their zones. You see tons of players come out of the woodwork, stop what they’re doing, and band together to defend key points, and take the fight to invading enemies. Now, I’m not saying the Burning Legion has to invade every zone in WoW at random intervals, but perhaps in a few key zones, recurring zone-wide events can occur. Maybe a surge of roving silithid suddenly spring up in Silithus, or minions of the Twilight Council suddenly invade a zone. Especially with proper rewards, I think this would drive a lot of players out of the main cities and into the world more, and it would make the zones in question feel much more alive. Actually, a good example of a start to this is the constant battle between the Dragonmaw and the Wildhammers in Twilight Highlands.

3. Updates to the Class System – Okay, I’m not bashing WoW’s class system. I like what they did with it in Cataclysm. But they really need to step outside the box here and think of ways to make each of the classes, and even then each of the schools/Talent trees more unique. Each of Rift’s individual souls plays very differently. WoW should definitely take a look at some of the archetypes Rift introduced and consider how to incorporate them, but not only that, they need to take a look at some of the concepts they came up with. Having souls specifically to serve in a “Support” capacity is an amazing idea. Many classes have debuffs that are unique to the player that serve not so much to hinder an enemy, but to modify how the class plays, such as the Stormcaller’s Electrocute or the Necromancer’s Deathly Calling. Blizzard really needs to come up with either more interesting and unique classes and paradigms, or think way more outside the box with the ones they have and make them a more unique play experience.

4. More customization of the Default Interface – Rift’s basic default interface is extremely customizable. Everything can be moved around without the need for addons. Blizzard is LONG overdue for needing to do this. Many of the default UI elements are in extremely awkward places. Let us move some stuff around by default, Blizzard.

5. Artifacts – Rift’s Artifact collecting (and to a lesser extent, puzzles) is what Archaeology should have been. Archaeology is terrible, and needs a serious revamp.

 

All right, we’ll move on to Rift. Here are 5 things WoW has incorporated that I’m honestly shocked did not make it into Rift.

1. A Random Dungeon Finder – Come on, Trion. This thing was universally hailed as the best thing to ever happen to WoW during Wrath of the Lich King. Why would you not incorporate it? I get that you’re big on the whole exploring the world thing, as evidenced by the lack of Flying mounts or taxis, but really, you need to add this in.

2. Addon support – This is another no brainer, as it continues to be one of WoW’s greatest selling points. You’ve done a good job incorporating many things people would want to have from addons into the game, but you can’t really have thought of everything. Give us this, please.

3. More exotic variation in player racez – Ugly though some of them may be, WoW has an amazingly diverse array of races as player characters. Trion, you do not. The Guardians are your standard Humans, Elves, and Dwarves. The Defiants are….Other humans, other elves, and Bahmi. The Bahmi are the most exotic race you have, and even then, they’re just big beefy humanoids with cool colored skin. The thing is, you already have exotic looking races in your game that are unique compared to anything we’ve really seen before, you just made them all evil. Look into establishing some faction of some of these races to join the existing factions, or create a neutral one entirely.

4. Better traveling options – Okay, I get it, you want folks to explore the new world. And you have the porticulums to move folks from zone to zone easily. But your zones are really really big, and we sometimes have to spend an inordinate amount of time running or riding our mounts just to get back to areas were in. Having some sort of flight paths (perhaps a series of smaller teleporters that only go to a few towns in a zone) would make this less of a hassle, and would help out a lot during invasion events too.

5. Guild Banks – This one also seems fairly obvious. It was a great addition in Burning Crusade, and many other MMOs have done it since then. I’m really shocked it wasn’t implemented on Day 1. I hear rumors that this is coming soon, so let’s hope it’s the case

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Got Soul? Got Class!

Warning, incoming Rift discussion.

I am enjoying Rift immensely, so much so that I’ve let my WoW account lapse into inactivity (meaning, not paying for it at the moment, something that was easy, since my old debit card expired at the same time I got Rift, so I just decided not to update the payment info with the new card). That hasn’t happened for a very long time, so it’s rather astonishing to think about.

One of my personal biggest draws to it is the class system. You guys are all aware what a sucker I am for a good class system in an RPG, and Rift has one of the more innovative ones. I’m going to go into a bit of detail as to how it works, and what I’ve personally done with it on my level 24 mage.

I’ve already covered a bit of the basics in an ealier post (http://thebmatt.com/2011/02/15/362/), but I’ll rehash again. The game gives you four classes (known as “Callings”) to choose from (Warrior, Rogue, Cleric, and Mage), but within each Calling, you have a choice of 8 “Souls” to pick from. They’re known as “Souls” because in Rift’s storyline, the players play “Ascended”, heroes returned to life (by the Gods if you’re a Guardian, and by techno-magic if you’re a Defiant) and imbued with the Souls of fallen warriors of Telara’s past. Each Ascended has three Souls “active” within himself at any one time, essentially making him three times as strong as an ordinary being in this world.

In terms of game Mechanics, what this means is that upon character creation, you choose your Calling. During the initial storyline of the game, you choose the three “souls” that you will be imbued with. Each of these souls functions like a Talent Tree in World of Warcraft or Diablo, meaning you’re given a tree of abilities and attributes, and you spend points to unlock them, but instead of having a pre-determined three for your class like in those games, you get to pick your trees.

Each tree is built around a thematic class in it’s own right, and each has a different playstyle. Let’s take a look at each of the souls available to just the Mage calling.

Pyromancer – Pyromancers are all about fire, and they play similar to how you would expect a Fire mage to play: Front-loaded damage with some minor Damage-over-time effects plus a good amount of area damage.

Elementalist – The Elementalist is one of two pet classes the Mage has, summoning creatures of the various element types to battle their foes. They also have elemental themed magic of their own, but their primary source of power is their pets

Stormcaller – The Stormcaller focuses on weather-related magic, using the cold of winter and lots of Lightning. They build up several debuffs on their foes, and then once those are in place, unleash deadly lightning until they need to reapply them.

Necromancer – Necromancers focus on summoning undead minions and using various debuffs to augment the minion’s damage. Without those debuffs applied, the undead minion does only a fraction of it’s potential.

Warlock – The warlock studies the magic of Death (itself an elemental plane), and focuses primarily on Damage-over-Time spells as well as draining away enemy health. Unlike WoW, they have no pets.

Chloromancer – Chloromancers are mages who study the magic of plants and nature. They are the only healing soul available to the Mage, and they heal by transferring the damage they do to their opponents into heals for their allies. They do not posess the raw power the other souls have, but they make up for it with their healing prowress.

Archon – One of two support souls available to the mage, the Archon is a buff specialist, dealing damage to their foes (and occasionally themselves) to provide additional power to their allies. This soul is difficult to utilize on it’s own, but does very well in a group

Dominator – The other support Soul, Dominators focus on using magic to overpower their foes’ will. Dominators are control specialists, able to force their enemies to move how and when they want them to, and damaging them if they do not. As with the Archon, the Dominator is a Soul more sorted to a group role.

So as you can see, you have a wide varity of options available to you to mix and match from. Selecting a good combination is key, and can make a lot of difference in effectiveness. Let’s take a look at how this works, and some good combinations, again using the Mage calling as an example.

When you choose a Soul, you gain access to that Soul’s Tree. The Soul has two parts, the Tree and the Root. The Tree is where you spend the Soul points you gain as you level, and by doing so you get benefits to your existing abilities, and in some cases learn new ones. The Root is where you get the base abilities of the class. As you spend points in the tree, no matter where you spend them, you unlock new abilities. Each tree has a set of 1-3 abilities in the root that unlock just for choosing the Soul.

Soul points are gained at a rate of one per level, with an additional point every third level. Additionally, you cannot have more soul points in a tree equal to your current level. From this, you can start to see a pattern of how you choose your soul combinations.

1. The Primary Soul – This is the soul you want to play primarily as. You’ll be building points in this soul every level, and get access to most of the Root abilities.

2. The Secondary Soul – This is the Soul where you will generally spend the extra point you get every third level. You will choose this based on wanting abilities or Soul tree talents that compliment your primary soul that are available early in the tree or root.

3. The Tertiary, or “Zero-Point”, Soul – This soul is chosen only for the base abilities you get for choosing the soul. Likely you will spend little to no soul points here.

As an example, for a high damage soul such as the Pyromancer or Stormcaller, a good build is to choose Elementalist as a Secondary Soul, along with Chloromancer as the Zero-Point. Elementalist gives you access to an Earth Elemental pet to tank for you, as well as a mana-recharge ability to quickly get back in the fight. Cholormancer offers you the Radiant Spore ability that helps heal both you and your pet, giving you extra survival while soloing.

Conversely, let’s take a look at the Necromancer, a strong pet class with many options to heal your minion and you. The Warlock works very well as a Secondary soul, due to the Sacrifice Life: Mana ability, which allows Necromancers to convert their health into Mana. The Dominator works perfectly as the Zero-Point soul, offering the Polymorph ability to remove one enemy out of the fight for when you’ve bitten off more than you can chew. The Archon, which provides an additional Damage-over-Time ability that also buffs your Endurance, is another potential option.

These are just a few of your options to pick from for just ONE of the Callings. And, if you don’t particularly like your choice of combinations, as early as level 13, you can complete a series of quests to unlock the other five not chosen during the starter quest chain. From this point, you can simply pay a trainer to reset your soul points and create a new combination. And if you want more than one, you can also pay the trainer for a new Role, which allows you to store another combination of Souls to switch between in the field. You can purchase an additional three of these, allowing a character to have four soul combos at any one time.

I absolutely love this system and the high degree of customization it affords. Coupled with the game’s very detailed character creator, and it’s more and more unlikely that you’ll ever run into a character that looks or acts anything like yours.

Rift is by no means perfect, but the developers have shown that they understood the mistakes other MMOs have made, and have built Rift to incorporate as many of these good lessons as possible. If they keep doing this, the game will last a very long time indeed, and I hope to be there to watch it for a long time.

Philosophical Rift

So, been playing Rift like a crazy man lately, and it’s got me thinking on something.

Rift is a fantasy world that also incorporates technology to some extent. The machinery in the world is equally fantastical. It’s not exactly steampunk, it’s more of an arcane design. Telarapedia refers to it as technomagic.

There are 2 factions in Rift: The Guardians and the Defiant. The Guardians (which consist of the Dwarves, High Elves, and humans from the nation of Mathosia) are devoted to Telara’s Gods, a Pantheon known as the Vigil. The Defiants (Humans from the nation of Eth, the Kelari Elves, and the Bahmi) believe that the Gods failure to act during the Blood Storm War (in which Telara was invaded by evil Godlike Dragons, their elemental minions, and the cults that worshipped them) means that they are not infallible and thus do not deserve the devotion the mortal races give them. The Defiant make great use of the Arcane technology developed by the Eth to fight the war against the Blood Storm and their cults, something the Guardians consider heresy. Now the two factions fight each other as much as the Blood Storm.

With that background set, you can see a real world parallel here, with the Guardians representing those who call themselves religious, and the Defiant representing those who reject religion in favor of science.  Now I have no doubt that Trion Worlds (Rift’s developer) is not trying to make a statement on that debate, only drawing upon real world inspiration to tell their own story.

Personally, I see Rift as a world where only the extremes of the two sides are represented, and neither are a section I find myself within. I’m not a person who believes faith and science are mutually exclusive. To me, they’ve always complimented each other. I don’t pretend to know all the answers with how to reconcile the two where they would seemingly contradict, but I do believe God made this world, and made us with the desire to understand how the infinitely complicated world He built works, something we have made tremendously amazing strides in doing so. I also believe there is a ton of knowledge for us to uncover that we have yet to do so.  I can’t wait to see what else there is out there.

As for Rift, well, Telara’s not Earth, the Vigil isn’t God, and the people of Telara may have parallels to Earth’s humans, but they’re very different. I may not be entirely comfortable with either of their philosophies, but that’s what makes this a role playing game. We take on a different persona in them, adding as much or as little of ourselves to them as we wish. And I’m having a great deal of fun playing the role of using magic and technology to protect Telara from Regulos and the rest of the Blood Storm.

The initial choice did present a bit of uncomfortability though, as silly as it might seem. As any reader of this blog can attest, I do put a good deal of myself into my characters. I don’t exactly have a story written for my characters in Rift yet, but I’ve no doubt this practice will continue. So by picking a side in Rift, I felt like I was internally making a decision with parallels in the real world. I know, it seems silly. I’ve already stated I reject both sides of the extremists in reality, yet i cannot deny I did feel a bit of discomfort with it. Maybe I need to use this as a reason to stretch myself creatively.

What’s your take on the whole subject, readers?