Don’t Cross the Streams!

In a rare treat for you all today, Rowan from I Have Touched The Sky is making a guest appearance on this blog…


Rowan on the far right. I’m the one in the center that Rowan’s Shadetouched Hound is sniffing at.


What, you thought he was going to post his stream of thought here or something?! He has his own blog for that.


When I was online the other night, I opened my friends list, expecting to toss and invite to my brother, since my Friend count was at: 1.  Turned out it was Rowan.   And we were actually in the same zone.   I told him later that is the MMO equivalent of seeing somebody you know in the grocery store.   So one thing led to another and we spent the night playing around in The Gloomy Woods (TM).


Anyway, it was a good time, and was a fun crossover type event for two people whose primary interaction is comments on each other’s writings.


That actually came together with another unique life event for me yesterday.  My awesome TOR guild, Beskar, has left me with many friends I keep contact with.  But yesterday was a rare treat – one of the guys I have known for over three years now (!) was driving through town on a trip and we got together for lunch and to see some of the sights downtown together.


We had a great time, and it left me wishing I had an opportunity to cross paths with more of them.  Some of them are simply too far away and/or live in small towns that I won’t travel to or near unless it is a specific trip to see them.  And some do not wish to be seen in real life – and I don’t want to be critical about that choice, because it is a perfectly valid one.


But…I have a feeling that maybe the biggest problem with internet friendships and acquaintances is that we don’t let them far enough outside the box.   Like the title of the post, we are afraid something bad will happen is MMO friend or FB friend somehow becomes RL friend.   Or vice versa – how many of us grew up scared to share our RPG hobbies with RL friends?   Which is scarier – inviting someone to church/social event, or asking someone out on a date, or inviting them to come play some DnD with you?  Or are those things, as I suspect, just about equal in the “nope, nope, nope” category?


And what happens when those interactions, already difficult in real life, have to cross into real life from cyberspace?  I friended two people from my World of Tanks clan on Facebook two weeks ago, and one of the guys jokingly said “Is this allowed?”  But we had a lot in common (his wife is a pastor at a church not far from a seminary buddy of mine) and got along well – why not?  I consider myself fortunate that in addition to my regular feed of English on Facebook, its not uncommon for me to see posts in Danish, Czech, Spanish, German, Arabic, and Urdu.  All from gaming connections.


Again, I’m not lobbying for everyone out there to knock down my door with Facebook requests.  I’m just saying its nice to see a trend of crossing streams in lots of different ways – cross game guilds and clans, social media contacts outside of games, the occasional real life lunch get-together or Con meet up.   There is always something refreshing about spending time with friends, no matter how you first met or what brought you together this time around.


So, unless you are facing Zuul on a rooftop at night with an unlicensed nuclear reactor strapped to your back…consider crossing the streams occasionally.  Its pretty awesome.

Rift’s New Deal: Something No One Has Picked Up On Yet?

I’ve seen some good coverage of Trion’s move to offer the Storm Legion expansion for free if you pony up for a year long sub.   Some good discussion about whether or not its worth it in the end.   And some good reminders that Trion continues to take what others do and both copy and improve on what it sees.

Like oversexed celebrity spokeswomen.

It was the former though that got me thinking about one thing that Trion has done right that we so often complain about.   This deal with the Storm Legion pack is a great promotion, because unlike many others done by other MMO’s – it most directly benefits current subscribers.   As Flosch points out, you really have to play 7 or 8 months to come out ahead in the promotion.   That’s something that is great for the loyal subscribers who love the game and are sticking with it long term.   Its not as enticing to those who are new or who are half-hearted in their dedication.

And please note this is a little different than Blizzard’s Diablo III offer because the free program here is a direct benefit of the game you love, giving you lots of extra content for it, rather than stealing your precious time away into a side project.

I think we’ve all said this before, but…would that Bioware had taken a good look around itself in the last year or two, the shroud of the dark side might not have fallen as hard and fast as it did.
Execute Order F2P

Loyatly is more than just Veteran Rewards.   Its listening, crafting opportunities to reward those who invest time and effort, and regular feedback and thanks in return for what is given.   Trion does that as well or better than anyone afloat right now, and its a part of what makes them as successful as they have been.  Others…take note!

Bouncing From Rift to Rift

First up, in my continual quest, lets just get this out of the way:



Yeah, turns out when I logged out the other night I was already halfway to the next level.  Rift if sneaky like that.  Even now I’m halfway to 48.  We spent a good chunk of our time chasing down rifts though.   Shimmersand is our current haunt, and its not a bad zone as they go.  But it is a zone that is shared with the Guardian forces and its a high end zone.

And we have discovered that the end result is that there are any number of level 50’s from *both* sides trolling around.  Its fine, we are on a PvE server, and we’ve even had some good cross faction team ups on occasion.  But the reality is that its really hard to get credit for closing rifts and killing extraplanar creatures when all these max level people are able to beat you to the punch.

But is also gotten a little nostalgic for us.  We all want some items from the current world event, and we have really enjoyed the game, so with the “end” in sight, we have been taking a little more time to stop and smell the roses.

So, just a pause again to thank my brother and his fiance for making my dreams come true this year – a regular gaming group to hang together with.  Its been a blast and I’m looking forward to capping with these guys…and getting those alts on the right track too!


Ever Closer.

Last night, I had the joy of this, thanks in part to Rift’s half-birthday gifts of accelerated XP gain:



Now this is joyous for a number of reasons.  First and foremost it happened only with the help of my re-assembled regular play group.  I don’t think I would have made it this far without them.  That continues to be a strong force in my playing and enjoyment of the game.  So much so that I can’t imagine trying to play an MMO without one from here on out.

The second is that this marks the closest that I have ever been to maxing level.  I almost said capping level, which is probably an indication of how many battles I’ve gone through in World of  Tanks over the last 7 months or so (hint: including Beta, I’m inching in on the 3k mark).  With only ten more levels to go, the question that arose last night in our little group was – can we max out before TOR launches?  We decided that we have at least two months, perhaps more to accomplish the feat, and I see no reason why not.

The third is that this marks the first time that I’ve not had to deal with what is undeniably a self-handicap, and that is my serious case of alt-itis.  In addition to my Cleric above, I do have a Warrior and a Mage that I have played through the first 6 or so levels, just enough to get them beyond the tutorial instance.  But neither has gone any further and I have no real desire to do so.  I have three roles now that fit around all the play styles I could desire from my character, so there has been no need for them.  And if an unusually high level artifact I stumbled across sells in the next two days, I’ll be able to buy my fourth, even if it means putting me 22p in the hole to try and get my level 50 mount.

The fourth reason its such a joy is Trion itself.  The half-birthday was extended a week (and by some accounts continues today beyond the planned week extension) for the simple fact that Hurricane Irene interfered with much of the East Coast’s ability to enjoy the free time.  Trion continues to show whythey are the best developers on the block – by knowing, understanding, and responding to their player base.

Also, and this is just a bonus mention that I will eventually get around to doing a full post on:  I love the Cabalist rebuild.  As someone who actively played the class before its tweaking, I love it even more now.  That says something about design too – its not often that you can take something someone loves in an MMO and fiddle with it extensively and end up with something *better* than before.  But that’s exactly what they did.  Kudos Trion.

My Rift Builds: Comments, Criticism?

So I currently have three active roles in Rift.  Let me give them to you, and you give me your two cents.


Solo/PvE Content

The Grey Knight

The idea:  Basically the goal here is to let me get a hand in the game.  Designed when we were running a full group,  I found that for normal mobs, given casting times, I got in perhaps one hit before they were dead.  Which is fine…but not fun.  So I expanded and tuned the build I had used in Beta.  It has one purpose really, and that is to provide as many instant cast spells as possible.  As you can see, this fits the bill.  Six instant cast damage dealers, and three melee strikes (also instant) provide the oomph.  Group healing is minimal for standard content, and the instant cast Doctrines + Healing Breath work fine for that.  With Luminous Gaze on, my crit chances are north of 20%.


Full On Healing Power

Master Healer

The idea:  I had been using a Warden-central build to heal with, but after a particularly rough dungeon run, I decided I wanted a more traditional healing base rather than a HoT centered one.  I came up with this.  This build feels off to me.  And I haven’t had a whole lot of chance to shake it down because I finished it right about the time the group stopped getting together.   The ultimate goal is simply a character who does nothing but heals for dungeon runs.  I just keep thinking there is a better way to do it.


The Farmer

Dark Fire

The idea:  This is my experimental build.  Really it started out as a desire to have some AOE bombs to drop while still being primarily a healer.  Then I thought maybe it would be good for farming low levels or whatever.  Now it just seems useless.  Mostly I’m at this point looking for how to get the best use out of the Cabalist soul and the Purifier soul.  I really like them both, but I can’t seem to find a good way to get them working in my favor.  I’m open to suggestions.


Also…please do me a small favor.  Do not overuse hyperbole in your response.  Often with build people like to use the words “always,” “never,” “must,” “require(d)(ment).”  Spare me.  I’m not a powergamer.  Just tell me what its good for any why you like it.  (-:

































I had a sad moment last night, so I had to share with you all.  I just dinged 30 in Rift.


It was an excellent and awesome moment.  I’m looking forward to trekking my way to 31 so that I can whip up some sort of build that involves a Centaur.  And a combat rez (did I mention I’m a cleric?).   Anyway, I was very impressed with myself and very happy.  And also playing solo, as I have been doing the last few weeks.

We had a solid gaming group going for the first month, but then it just sort of…fell apart.   Things do that.  So I have journeyed onward.  But I had this ghost of an urge to yell “DING” only to realize that there would be no one there to follow up with the customary “Grats!”  And there was sadness.

But then I remembered I had this blog, and I thought maybe one of you might humor me for old times sake.  What say you?

State of My Game: July ’11

What I’m Playing

Rift.  I’m currently trucking through my 29th level as a Cleric, and for once, alt-itis has not really struck.  Kudos for the billionth time to Trion for making a character creation system that has loads of flexibility.  I currently have a casual questing role (Justical/Sentinal/Inquisitor), a raiding healer role (Sentinal/Warden/Purifier), and a third role that I swap out for fun when I get bored.  Right now its kind of a farming role – a Cabalist/Purifier mix with the third soul (with 0 points of course) being rotated as needed to keep things fresh.   The world events and “programming” unleashed by Trion are excellent.  I think some of us questioned if this new variation on Public Questing was going to be problematic, but its so dynamic and fun, it seems hard now in retrospect to even try to compare them.  I have some minor quibbles, but nothing worth writing about at this time.  And I have to say thank you again to Trion for spoiling us bloggers by bringing us along on the ride from the very early phases.

World of Tanks.  Not only did I get sucked in, when 9 months ago I would have told you there was no way I was playing this game, but so did my brother and dad.  The end result has been mayhem.  A full three man platoon to roll with any night I want to.  I wanted a full on gaming group as one of my goals this year, I just didn’t realize it would take this form in this game!  Speficially, since launch I have dedicated myself to US Heavy tanks.  Initially I wanted the T29, as I admired it in Beta, and specifically the way a skilled player could capitalize on its strengths and minimize its weaknesses (incidentally, from my win % in her, I’m going to admit I’m not a skilled player lol).  But when the full tree changes were announced and I realized that if I just dug a little deeper, I could grab a tier 8 premium in the T34 – and specifically, have a nice premium tank that looked and played just like the T29, I had my goal set.  Currently, I have enough XP to grab it, but since the patch is still 2+ months away, I’m sitting on the free XP I’ve converted and started working my way up the Russian and US medium lines.  And here I confess that I am a medium tank player at heart.  My win % and XP earned stats on medium tanks is consistently higher than with the US heavies.   The patches continue to improve the game, and I think concerned about matchmaking are over rated.  WoT still needs to do more to address the “invisible tank” problem, but other than that, they are in good shape.

What I’m Testing

Nothing.  I’m actually not currently in any Beta’s or testing programs at the moment.  I was never able to get Gods and Heroes working, so…I can’t really tell you if it was good or not.  Perpetuum still intrigues me, but since I have no itch to play EVE at the moment (even less with Incarna out – I don’t get the whole desire or issue myself), I’ve put it on hold as well.

So, if you need someone to play and test (or write about) your game or your Beta, give me a yell.

What I’m Not Going to Talk About…okay, yes I am.

The Old Republic.  Seven months ago, I went ahead and joined a TOR guild, thinking it would help keep a check on my impatience for the game to come out, and help me settle into some good relationships for a game that, by all accounts seems to be just as fanatically multi-player as it is fanatically single-player (how these two worlds will mesh in reality is still a good question I think).   I recall thinking that I wasn’t sure I could wait another 4-6 months for the game to come out.  I was concerned that my brother would not be back from Russia in time (he spend the first 6 months of this year living over there) to be in the game at launch with me.   But mostly I was worried because there was every indication that the game was not actually 4-6 months away.  For those who don’t believe me, I have a draft of a post I wrote but never published (happens more often than you think) from last October, arguing those points.  And I was right.   And it dawned on me yesterday that there is still no indication that the game is no closer to launching than it was last Fall.  In other words, I have patiently made it through the time I wasn’t sure I would make it through, only to find that I have made no progress whatsoever.  This is another definition of hell is it not?  Add to this the multiple confirmations that the game will have no Open Beta (riddle me that one Batman…) and this means that launch will be launch, with no teaser a month before to scratch the itch.

To put this in perspective for you: would you be surprised if there was an announcement that the target date was moved to next Spring (2012)?  Me either.

I’m not sure what else to do here other than keeping marking time.  And my stance is well documented – the longer this takes, the more they push it back (and don’t let them kid you, it has been pushed back, whether they published an official date or not), the worse things are.  You can argue that if you like, but MMO history is clear, and the burden of proof otherwise rests squarely on the backs of EA Bioware.  And the other half of my stance is well documented also: worried though I may be, rooting for them I am.

Rift Beta Warfronts: Thoughts and Screenshots

 Yeah, its been quiet around here lately. Lots of stuff going on personally (nothing terrible mind you, just busy), and the lack of subs makes for a lack of content. I guess I could cover the TOR Friday Updates, but there’s not really anything there to cover (oooh, low blow!). But I am loving me some time in the Beta.

I spent this go round with the Cleric. I’ve spent previous Betas fooling around with the Rogue and Warrior and found them both fun and appealing. But I think I found my character this time around. Its been awhile since I played a full time healer – CoX to be specific (shout out to the wonderful boys and girls of LoJ who took care of me for my short time in game). And this gives you a good insight into my character planning process: I started out looking at the Warden – I love the instant cast spells, despite the disadvantages. I have a hard time keeping up in large group battles, and I thought that might help me be more effective. I paired it with Sentinel to get the early access resurrection skill and snaring direct damage spell. But soul number three was trickier. I finally settled on Justicar, for no reason other than I could put a few points into it and gain some survivability with better armor and plop yet another instant cast spell on my action bar. I quickly realized what a nice combo attack skills and instant cast spells are. And that the Justicar’s Conviction heals are also instant cast and one of them is raid wide. I immediately went fiddling with my build, basing it around that instead of the Warden, and it fits me like a glove.

I also have to give a shout out to whoever designed the dwarves. I usually can’t stand playing dwarves. But these dwarves are different. Well, at least the female ones are:

And the bonus is that dagger looks like a sword in her hands!

And I guess that drives home the real win the Rift picks up. I’m playing a Dwarven Cleric. Is there anything more cliché in all of fantasy gaming? Okay, well, Elf Ranger, but still…this is right up there.

And yet, it doesn’t feel that way at all. It plays like a class out of my dreams, as if I had custom designed it for me. And in a way, I did.


Lastly, I got a chance to finally participate in one of those giant dynamic events. The devs opened the skies and Silverwood was flooded with Life rifts and invasion mobs. I ran around like a mad man with my raid group from place to place. At one point, we were defending an advance on a log bridge, and I was healing my little tush off. In another place, we caught the mobs off guard and undermanned and I was able to switch to offensive mode completely.

And I have to tell you this: the raid interface was very intuitive and very nice. I was quickly able to identify who was under fire, who had aggro, where to heal at, etc. The map interface also does a great job of tracking the raid so you can keep tabs on everyone. For someone who doesn’t normally get into raiding, this ended up being very fun and quite a treat. 

Note the raid interface and the number of rifts we have to close!

The only downside to all this is that I feel a little guilty. I didn’t report and glitches and gave no feedback. But it has to be said that the primary reason for this is that there just weren’t any glitches to speak of. And the best feedback I can come up with this article. The game, already good, continues to get better, and we continue to see great things from the developers and the play itself. Next Beta – it will be time to get a handle on all those wild Mage souls…

Rift: More Detailed Thoughts

So here is my long overdue, lengthier analysis of Rifts as it stands right now. I hesitate to call this a review, and with good reason – we are still in Open Beta and still seven weeks from launch. So I will probably revisit this around launch time to give you an update. The tl;dr version is..well, it’s here. If you are looking for awesome screen shots – I don’t have any. Either I haven’t found the button yet, or its not enabled yet. So deal with the wall of text.

Quick review of my methodology: Good and Bad are things that are important that this game, still in development, is currently doing well or poorly at Then we move on to Ugly and Tilt. These are the things that this game, still in development, are doing that are more personally relevant to me, but the community at large may or may not care about. Confused? Example: A Good for WoW would be its lack of hardware requirements – you could go down to Wal-Mart and buy a computer-in-a-box and run it. That’s good not for me necessarily, but for the games overall success – more potential customers equals more potential revenue. An Ugly for WoW would be the lack of player housing. That is something that me (and some other players, to be sure) think is important in an MMO – but clearly its not hurting WoW any. Got it? Away we go:

The Good

Graphics and Sound: While Rift isn’t quit playable by a Wal-Mart “Compy In The Box”, it comes pretty close. And boy do they make it count. I’ve read other reviews that have said they thought the quality of combat animations and sound were poor. I have to wonder if we have been playing the same game. The ranger summons his pet and lightning arcs back and forth between him and the ground. Dual wielding rogues handling daggers in reverse grip style spin and twist through their combat moves. Call forth an armor buff for your warlock and a dark cloud coalesces around your torso. The land itself is gorgeous, with blowing wind, raining meteors or catapulted rocks, foreboding clouds. Enemies drip malevolence. On the sound end – bows twang, bombs explode, war cries abound. In this one area I will admit I was not 100% satisfied, but I have high standards. My computer is decked out in SoundBlaster gear, and I have high quality speakers and headset. And I could use just a bit more “oomph” when my blades strike home, a little more “click, click, boom” when I detonate my bombs. Even if it launches as is though, its hard to beat. I love the way it looks and sounds. Its worth mentioning too that the game is mostly glitch free at this point. I’ve only encountered two, and both were minor ones that did not impact my overall experience in any significant way.

The Calling/Soul Class System: This is hands down my favorite part of Rift, and a big reason why I like the game. I admit that its hard to get the hang of – you will probably find yourself restarting your character at least once as you uncover how you want to play and what combinations really move you. But its worth it. Once you get it fitted just right – you don’t want to stop. I tanked it up, something I haven’t done in a while, with a Riftblade/Reaver/Paragon combo. Savage dual-strikes, ranged pulls, sweet buffs, and a variety of damage types just made my day. What about healing? You like to do it WoW style in cloth armor, from a distance, with hardcore ranged DPS to go along with it? Rift has you covered. Prefer the ranged DPS, but still feel the urge to save lives? Take two randed DPS souls and one healer type soul. Want to heal, but prefer to mix it up inside with a big hammer? Check. Want to do all three – YOU CAN. Yep. Roles – you can have up to four sets of three souls, with points distributed differently for each of them. Get tired of one, or need to tweek it? Pay a little coin to reset the soul points and start over. I’ve been able, so far, to recreate my favorite class from every MMO I’ve played. That means alot to me. And given the number of roles, soul trees, and three part combinations you can inact – multiple viable builds will be running at any given time. There’s always a flavor of the month, of course, but don’t expect to see it all the time. Not in Rift.

Developers Who Listen: Before you cry that this isn’t part of the game itself, hear me out. I would normally put this down as the Tilt, but I really do think this is one of the strengths of Rift. Trion came up with a vision for this game, but they didn’t lock it in stone. They seem to feel that you, the player, have some stake in the game and how it should be played, and the direction it should take. Crazy! Madness I tell you! Insanely good madness. Something that other developers need to take notice off. Trion’s flexibility especially shines next to the opaque rigidness of Bioware. In a year that will probably end up with about four top shelf MMO releases, this may very well be the thing that puts Rift in the driver seat. The transparency alone that has been set up in the Beta events and game testing is refreshing and inspires confidence. With Rift, you know what you are going to get if you order the game now. And if not, you probably know someone who can give you lots of good first hand information about the game. That’s good – because MMO’s, to be successful, require long term buy-ins by the players. They need to feel at home and they need to feel that they are an important part of the game’s success. Even if you are not satisfied with how Rift is looking and feeling now – can there be any doubt that it will continue to improve and develop? This makes Rift’s future very, very bright.

The Bad

The World of Telara: When I learned that Jon Van Canegham had left Trion, I fretted a little. Of all his many accomplishments, the one thing that is sometimes overlooked is his skill as a worldbuilder. You can feel his touches around the edges of Telara – magic and technology blended, otherworldly forces at play – these are his trademarks. But there is something that his worlds have always had in the past that is lacking – a touch of humanity. In a place where incredible magitech machines whirl, winged angels speak bravely, and powerful heroes clash, one wonders about the little things. I’ve yet to come across someone who could sell me anything other than planar goods or basic traveling and crafting supplies. Enjoy playing that hard hitting cleric from above? I hope you like doing it with your giant two handed mace – because there’s nothing else for you to wield. Enjoy that spear of fire your Void Knight hefts? I hope so, because its the only spear your going to get. Don’t expect to save any crying orphans or find a lost dog – those things are simply unimportant with a world on the brink of apocalypse. Its hard to find someplace that isn’t touched by madness, just to catch your breath a little. It feels at times as if the entire world is so intent on going to hell in a handbasket that they are doing it with an overdeveloped case of ADHD. Of these two problems – a lack of gear and item flexibility and an at times irritating Spike and Chester mentality, the first is what hurts the most. Particularly alongside what is the most comprehensive character development system in an MMO today. Hopefully this is something we will see improvement on – but I’m doubtful. It seems to be the trend today to put a severe limit on items and gear. WAR is perhaps the harshest, and TOR will certainly be carrying WAR’s torch as well in that area. As for the second half – maybe I just haven’t advanced to the safe areas yet. I’m a slow leveler and an explorer – so it takes me awhile to meander the paths that others blaze through. But again, somehow, I’m doubtful.

The Guardian Starting Area: Oh wow. Where do I began? A cramped forest full of red-aggro mobs, packed so tightly together you cannot walk through without drawing at least one, usually more than one, of them too you. And of so many flavors that your irritation isn’t softened by the fact that at least you are advancing your quest. And then – unlike the Defiant starting area – to add insult to injury – you have to fight your way back through the forest to turn in the quests and then – yep – back through them again for the next set of quests, who’s mobs are even deeper in said forest. Now toss in the rampant battlefield full of sets of 5+ mobs who will aggro on you in force if you are not careful. As if in tacit agreement with this assessment, at one point, your quest receiver offers to fly you back across the battlefield, so you don’t have to wade through all that again. On the one hand, its good, because it is dynamic and immersive. But its mostly bad, because you’re supposed to be the Ascended savior of the world – and I can pretty much guarentee you will be dying multiple times to peons. On top of that, the Guardians need some work overall. They come off as so smug and self righteous you almost have to like being the bad guy to play them. Some character depth and most directly – some doubts, injected into their overall personality schemes, would be welcome. This faction and this area specifically needs some work, and if it doesn’t get some, I’d be willing to bet that you see server populations migrate over to the Defiants en masse.

The Ugly

The Big City – Bring It On: It drives me bananas that games these days that games feel that I’m not able to handle any sort of social environment until I’ve played through the first 20 or so levels of their game. Since the social environment exists in that time period whether game designers want it to or not, basically it just compresses everything into the global general chat channel. And global general chat channels are dumpster fires that need to disappear from MMO’s altogether as far as I’m concerned. I’m not sure what genius dreamed them up in the first place (or why). To be fair, Rift is not the only game that has fallen into this trap. EQ2 continues to progress along this axis of evil. Take a tip from AoC – put a big city in ASAP. Waiting longer doesn’t acclamate new players better – it makes it that much harder.

A Dynamic World: There’s two sides of this coin, so you are going to see this appear again directly below in Tilt too. The downside of this coin is that the world is not quite dynamic enough yet. The rifts are dynamic. The PvP is dynamic. The world, though, is not dynamic, not yet. It could be that endgame gives us the ability to trash cities and invade opposing factions or lock rifts out of a certain area for a certain time period (or force rifts open on our enemies for a certain time period), but at times if feels like the world is as static a place as it has been in other MMO’s. I’ve pondered long and hard about whether or not a dynamic world is even possible in an MMO that is not sandbox style. And I’m not sure it is. The cost of this fourth pillar – as I’ve mentioned before, may be too much of a price to pay if you want to keep things simple enough for really large numbers of subscribers.

The Tilt

A Dynamic World: On the other hand…just as I am loathe to take Bioware to task for their story limitations, I’m loathe to take Trion to task for their dynamic world limitations. The truth is that this is a giant step in the right direction. Meteors don’t just sail through the sky, they land…on you. And they will hurt you. Sparkles everywhere indicate small vignettes waiting to be played out – a book to be added to your collection, an altar to pray at, a source stash to buff you, a cleric willing to bless you. I’ve played through the starter areas several times each – and I’ve seen a new mob or received a new quest everytime I’ve done so. And not just mundane things. I’ve rounded a corner expecting the usual mobs only to see the usual mobs locked in mortal combat with a giant mob I’ve never seen before. The devs love to take control of the world and drop random stuff on your head – and I don’t think that’s going to stop with Open Beta. Some of these things are so subtle, players are missing them. I saw on player freaking out because a spirit was following him in a starter area – turns out it was a temporary pet that was given to him as an unannounced quest reward. Someone runs into a base camp half dead with a mob in tow and the general goods vendor will draw cold steel and lend a hand. Seen that before? Me either.

Its Fun: There is something just plain fun about Rift. Perhaps its the fact that I get to tackle quests and enter groups with the abilities I’ve always wanted. Maybe its the dynamic content littered through the beautiful countryside. Cynics will say its just the sheen of a new game, and they might be right. But I don’t think so. Its influenced my decision to buy this game in an inprecedented way. I’m actually going to be shelling out for the Collector’s Edition. The only other time I’ve done that was for Vanguard…a year after it launched…because it was on clearance for $20. Any game that can get me to not only buy it, but spend extra to do so has a thumbs up in my book.

In closing, I’d also like to give a personal thanks to two of Trion’s finest. First of all Scott Hartsman, who continues to be patient with my questions and has been diligent in his quest to give players something they will enjoy. Second of all, Dave, one of the animation team, who I had the pleasure of chatting and questing with recently (do you know how handy it is to encounter a minor bug, and, rather than reporting it, having a group mate who can lean back in his chair and yell over to someone to fix it?), who seems to genuinely enjoy what he has helped to build. People like them will be the building blocks of Trion’s continued success.