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.

Weekend Gaming Hops Dimensions

Over the summer my little family gaming group – my brother and sister-in-law and myself, have been working out way through LotRO.   Granted there has been a lot of travel and busy time, but whenever we could, we would log in and tackle some content together.  LotRO has its flaws, but it is a solid game, and for anyone who grew up reading Tolkien, simply being “in” Middle Earth is a bit of a treat.   We also did some unholy trinity swapping.   My brother normally tanks while I heal, but we traded places this time around and I was tanking and him healing.   Or at least that was the plan.  As it turns out, in Soviet LotRO, Minstrel Healers out-DPS everyone and Warden Tanks don’t actually have an taunts.   None the less, we have had a good time.


But, with LotRO’s model being what it was, we eventually ran out of free content.  And while I don’t think any of us were opposed to dropping the $5-$7 to open up a new section of the quests in the game world, it did give us a pause in our playing that led to the question – stay here?  Or try something else?


Game hoppers that we are, we decided to duck into Rift and see how the F2P transition had gone (turns out we aren’t the only ones who have done this).   We all have fond memories of the game, and truth be told, we only let go of our subs there to embrace the world of The Old Republic in all its grandeur.   That worked out so well, we had to do a little gaming cleansing before we were ready to commit to anything else.   So after some discussion, we decided to try out the Guardian side of things and rolled some new characters.   And we kept the same role-swapping.   Of course you have more leeway in Rift, so I could tank as Warrior, Rogue, or even pet tank with a Mage, since we tend to be content with the regular content (though I have heard that pets don’t perform all that badly in normal level dungeons).   But after the frustrating experience of not being able to hold aggro with the Warden,  I just decided to belly up to Warrior and give it a shot.    So far I haven’t regretted it, and in fact have come to realize that one reason I hadn’t looked at the Warrior too seriously before was because there weren’t just one or two souls therein that I was interested in – I wanted to play them all.   This could cause a problem – since I am at level 10 and haven’t spent a single soul point.   But I’m sure I will eventually settle in on something.


The last time we were in game, I was able to behold the beauty of needing a new graphics card.  Badly.
The last time we were in game, I was able to behold the beauty of needing a new graphics card. Badly.


My brother meanwhile seemed to be having fun with his cleric.   In the one hour we got to play this weekend, I think I saw him with hurling fire and armed with a staff, and then beating people with a two-handed hammer.  The only hitch was that Rift, in all its joy to cater to the weak-minded, managed to enable a button somewhere that spent all your soul points for you, without giving you a “hey you sure you want us to do this for you?”  Yes/No confirmation.    Not that its bad, but we are very much “make your own build” people.   And one thing that has not had the “make it terribly convenient” makeover is the ability to respec your spending (oddly enough).


Still, overall we had a good time.  We have a nice stash of credits for all of us and some fun loyalty rewards to play with.   And the Defiant/Guardian divide means we have a new storyline and leveling content to play with.    And if things do get frustrating or we just want to tackle some higher content, well – we always have those 50’s sitting around ready to take a stroll.

Day Eleven: A Day In The Life…

Well the truth is, in my vocation, there is no typical day.  Some days start at 6am at a local hospital and end with me greeting my kids as they get off the bus.  Some days end at 2am after a long heartfelt conversation and don’t resume until 10am or so the following day.   Its a grab bag.


Some days are more disgusting than others...
Some days are more disgusting than others…


Generally though, on the nights I’m online, I start my gaming somewhere between 8pm and 9pm and will play for 2-3 hours.  That doesn’t mean I head to bed then.  I’m a bit of a night owl.   Some of these posts are generated in that after time and set to public later, for example.   Other times I love music and movie trailers.


Other times I’m neck deep in a book.   Rarely do I watch TV.  I generally pick one show a year that looks promising.  Its been a couple of years since the show I picked actually a) didn’t get cancelled or b) held my interest more than a few episodes.   I do watch movies, but I’m not nearly up to date on that.  For example, of all the new Marvel/Avengers movies, I’ve only seen Iron Man 1.   And I just watched it last week.


Game wise, I tend to take my time unless I’m in a group.  As the usual healer in our little trifecta for group play, I let my brother (usually tanking) set the pace of gameplay and run with the crowd.  In our recent LotRO adventures though, I’m the tank, and I tend to move at a slower pace, stopping to smell roses and harvest resources more than I should.   Fortunately, LotRO’s combat system mostly consists of picking which skill on your hotbar you want to one shot the next mob with, so its not a big deal.


Incidentally, this is why I had so much fun and failed so miserably at City of Heroes.   I stopped to help every little old lady on the street and bag every two bit criminal on my way from A to B.


But that usually ended poorly for the criminals.


I like to end my sessions, if at all possible, in home base.  This was one of the irritations in SWTOR, where it was often so much more convenient to just log out in the wilderness of Hoth somewhere than it was to try to go through six loading screens to get back to my ship or the city capital.


This willy-nilly approach to the limited playing time I have has resulted in very few high level characters over the years.   And oddly enough, the lack of other options is what has kept me on pace in World of Tanks.  That along with the ease of jumping in and out.


That ease is something few MMO’s outside of Rift has ever given me, which is one of the reasons I am personally glad for the F2P transition.  I loved all the little daily quests and seasonal festivals, all right there in the capital.  Being able to pop in one night and do a few of those at my own pace is something I am looking forward to.


The return of Ellul the Cleric
The return of Ellul the Cleric


By the same token, this is the same reason my STO character is not only max level, but has maxed out nearly all the secondary assignments (I’m almost done with Engineering, after which only Science, Trade, and Recruitment will remain – and two of those are over halfway done).  In some ways, I’ve wondered over the years if I’m more in love with the idea of an MMO than the actual MMO’s themselves.  But it may just be that there are so many games I enjoy, getting to play more than one a night or week is a high priority itch for me to scratch.  Easy-in-easy-out games help with that.


But in any case, this means I’m pretty sure HEX will be right up my alley as well.  Being able to log on, play a battle, and have spent an hour a) having fun and b) accomplishing some definite progression is my holy grail of game fun.

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!

2011 Predictions Review

Yeah, I should have done this awhile ago, but I didn’t, so tough cookies.  Not that I predicted anything earth shattering last year for 2012 (get it?) but I had the usual mix of success and failure (last year I got 2 out of 5 correct).


1.  We will finally get some news about the World of Darkness MMO from CCP /White Wolf…lets add a part B  to this that reinforces my point – we won’t see a beta for this in 2011.

Not only was there absolutely no more information, the website I linked was not updated at all, and so we clearly did not see a beta for it either.  CCP’s struggles this year have been well documented.   As a gamer, former Atlanta resident, and guy who pulled every card he could trying to get in the door at White Wolf years and years ago, it saddens me to see that company down in the dirt, and its IP virtually untouched.  And its a huge loss for CCP, in a time when wizards and werewolves and vampires and such have never been more popular or mainstream.   I’m not surprised the MMO is not out, but I am shocked that no move has  been made to profit from the IP.  Heck, even a half lame Facebook game would have generated some revenue at this point.  +1 for me.


2.   2011 will show a decline in the number of WoW subscriptions.

On target.  A 2 million subber drop.  This was of course, part of a series of posts and thoughts that Cataclysm would be, not a giant failure, but simply the high water mark of the game.  And so far that has been very true.  +1 for me.


3.  Star Wars: The Old Republic will launch in April.

Missed it by a mile.  But we all knew that.  A month or so after writing this we got the unofficial word that TOR was definitely not delayed, since no release had ever been announced.  And the thread with the spring release date disappeared into the ether.  With all we know now, no amount of cash recoup by launching early would have saved the game if they had launched in April.  In fact, there’s good evidence that the game was nowhere close to being done at that point.  TOR has had a reasonably successful launch and (so far) first month, but its hard to shake the feeling that for a project in development for six years, with the resources they had at their fingertips, that it falls short of what it could have been.


4.  Vanguard will go F2P.  Okay, this is more of a hope than a prediction…I think that the addition of DCUO to the Station lineup will probably help make this possible.

You can maybe score this one as a halfway.  The success of DCUO’s transition to F2P, as well as EQII, have Sony clearly interested in investing a bit in Vanguard.  New updates are incoming, and the general feeling is that its only a matter of time before the game transitions.  But…it didn’t happen in 2011, so no love for me.


5.  Cryptic Studios will finally reveal what this is.  Because its copyright 2007, and it makes me itch.

Not only did they not reveal what it is, they basically went belly up and the concept art, and indeed the entire website, that the link pointed to last year, no longer exist.  I still believe it was a deal with Chaosium to produce an official Cthulhu MMO, for a number of reasons.  At this point though, its likely that we will never know.


So there you go, 2 out of 5 again.  I am nothing if not consistent…at least as far as my predictions are concerned.  On to the other 2011 thoughts I had:

My most anticipated release was a toss up between Rift and TOR.  I opted to pass on the Rift release, only for the one reason that I had played it so much in Beta that I was tuckered out.  I came into it a few months later and it became the first, and so far only, MMO that I have ever capped in.  Unless you count WoT.  TOR’s launch I was there for in the sense that I had a preorder and was in from day one.  But in truth, I have played precious little of it due to real life complications.  My highest character sits still at level 18.  So I guess it really was a toss up after all.

My least anticipated release was DCUO and that was pretty much true.  I am already 100% on board with what my least anticipated will be for next year too.  Seems I have a keener eye for what I don’t like than what I do like.  But you may have already noticed that about me.

My most desired Beta was TOR.  I got in, but so late in the process I really hate to count it as being in Beta.  :-p

My most desired industry change was to create something between F2P and $15 a month.   Thought there have been some nice transitions in the last year, I’m still waiting for that change.  The truth is that most of the F2P models leave out the part of the game that would make it fun for me (ability to have alts, housing, flexibility in character building) and so I never explore the F2P option, so they never have a chance to sell me on other things.  As successful as F2P has been…it missed the boat somewhere along the line.


Tomorrow I’ll take a look at 2012 and what is to come.

A Dream Long Realized.

I finally did it.  It took…I don’t know how many games, and almost nine years, but I finally accomplished what I had thought at one time would be impossible for me.


The Ultimate Ding


So Rift made this process painless, and fun, and…well, quick.  I played my first MMO for nearly two years and never came closer than 36/50 (which within six months was 36/55).  I think I’ve said before, but  I will say again, two things in particular got me here.


The first is the multiple roles and ability to swap on the fly was probably the biggest help.  I tend to be a bit of an altaholic, particularly as levels climb and groups become more and more useful.  But here I alternated between all aspects of the trinity, jumping around a bit.  I also found my center though – with all the options available, I tried them all and tried them early, and then locked into two particular builds that I used for the entire game (with minor tweaks along the way, of course).


The second, and perhaps more helpful, was having a regular gaming group.  We played 2-3 times a week, usually for 1-3 hours, and here we are, 6 months later.  The group was my Cleric and a pair of Rogues.  One of the Rogues did have a Riftstalker tank build, and I did have a Justicar tank build, but until the end of the game, we only used them in Rifts or for particularly difficult missions.


So what’s next?  Well there is still one quest out there bugging me.  The arena where you have to face down a Cyclops and two other people at the same time.  We got our butts handed to us at level 43 and 44.  Now we will see how they handle a trio of 50’s.


Oh, and I capped here too, just for good measure.


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.  (-: