[WoW] The million dollar question with patch 4.1/4.2

Today the patch 4.2 hype was released with not only a trailer for the upcoming raid instances, but also a timetable for future hype. Which is handy because now we can schedule it around the royal wedding (or around the unwedding TV timetable if you are not a royalist.)

There is a fair amount of stuff on the drawing board; in addition to the new 5 man instances which were released this week as patch 4.1. There is a huge new raid instance/zone (it sounds as big as a zone), more dailies, more lore, more loot, a new legendary weapon etc all aimed at max level characters.

Question is this: If you are one of the players who got bored of Cataclysm (and possibly left WoW), is this enough to pique your interest and draw you back in?

(And how popular exactly are casters going to be in raids now that there is a legendary item on offer …?)

RIFT: To beta and beyond

RIFTlogo

If you read many MMO related blogs, you cannot have missed the fact that Trion’s new MMO, RIFT, has just dropped the NDA from its beta testers. And suddenly, 2011 is looking as though it could be a very good year for new MMOs indeed.

I did have a chance to check out the beta during the last beta test weekend, during which the Guardian faction was given a workout from levels 1-20. Since I really didn’t have much time to play, this isn’t going to even be a first impression post because that’s not really fair to the game, especially when so many other bloggers have commented in more detail.

Here’s a few links to previews:

  • Tipa at West Karana loves what she has seen so far and can’t wait to play. (I think it’s a shame that other bloggers have been jumping on her for being enthusiastic about the games she tries. What we need is more enthusiasm, not less.)
  • Oakstout liked the game and comments here on the crafting side of things.
  • Keen gives the game a resounding meh, but not because it’s bad, finding it too much of the same old same old.

Suffice it to say that I really enjoyed the first section of the guardian play area which covers levels 1-10. The quests are directed and yet there’s plenty of opportunity to wander around and explore too. The devs also take the opportunity to show off some off quests involving collections, items to use both in your bag and in the game world, mounts (you get to ride one, for a brief while at least), and events triggered on your presence as well as the usual kill ten rats (K10R) style. I suspect from friends’ comments that at higher levels (as is usual these days) the quests tend to be a bit less polished and a bit more K10R. The lore looks intriguingly different from standard fantasy types, yet still leaving room for elves, dwarves, and all the favourite class tropes. Mechanically it’s a standard MMO with some interesting quirks which won’t offer many surprises to anyone used to the hotbar selection method of combat

rift_dwarf3

 

 

I’m not sure which game engine they’re using but movement and turning in particular felt very responsive, and the graphics are lovely. This is one of the prettier versions of a female dwarf I’ve seen.

One of the interesting sides to the game is that you effectively get to build your own character class from different sub-templates called souls. So you might start with one of the base warrior/ rogue/ wizard/ priest souls and later on can add up to three extra specialist subsouls.

With this many potential combinations, it’s not clear to me yet whether Trion are taking the ‘lets try to balance them all’ or ‘some will be overpowered, some will be weak, take your chances!’ approach. I suspect it may be the latter, in which case I’d recommend people check the forums for which are the better combinations before playing.

The game also features Rift events, which bear some similarity to Public Quests in WAR. (I’m not against people being inspired by WAR, I thought it was a brilliant game in many respects and there are plenty more thoughts that I wish more games WOULD steal.)

rift_dwarf2

Bloggers have compared the game to Warhammer Online, to EQ2, and to WoW, which will give you a rough idea where Trion is coming from. It looks very full featured to me for a beta, with tabs for raid groups, and collections, and apparently there is some PvP to be tested in the next beta too.

I think there is definitely a market for a new EQ2/ WAR style fantasy MMO which is able to take some of the better ideas from existing gen MMOs. I also think Rift will be in direct competition with Guild Wars 2 (which will also strongly feature dynamic events and flexible class building). What I’m not sure of is exactly how large that market is. In any case, Rift is definitely one to keep an eye out if you’re interested in the genre and would like to get in on the ground floor. And the next beta event starts on Dec 29th. For what it’s worth, I’m looking forwards to playing the game again, so that has to be a good sign.

I do wonder whether “you’ll love it if you like that type of thing” is the best thing you can say about a new game, or the worst …

So what do we actually know about SWTOR?

With great thanks to the hard working posters on the Bioware forums, here is a link to a long and exhaustive list of what has currently been announced about the game, its locations, gameplay, and classes.

This includes:

  • Planets
  • Classes
  • Playable Species
  • General Class Information
  • Gameplay: General
  • Gameplay: Combat
  • Gameplay: Story
  • NPCs and Lore
  • Companions
  • Graphics/ Music/ Sound
  • Space and Transport
  • UI
  • Loot and Gear

… and lots more. As ever, bear in mind that this game isn’t yet in beta testing (edited to add: My bad, it is in closed beta. Thanks @belghast and @modernmisuser  for the correction via twitter) so a lot of this information could change and some of it might be wish-lists by developers which won’t be in the final version.

Class Population for Cataclysm

Hatch has written a great (and quite daring) post, predicting what percentage of the player base will pick each class in Cataclsym, based on the current previews. I suspect that I will fret about it briefly before sticking with my warrior because she’s still fun, dammit. And that’s why no major changes are a good thing.

Of course, there are still potential worgen and goblin alts to pick – and the lure of hybrids who can switch roles is undeniable. But then, some of the new race/class combinations are also appealing: troll druid, tauren paladin, undead hunter, dwarf shaman, night elf mage …

We still haven’t seen the new talent trees, and a lot of the detail will be in the tuning. But what do you think? Have you seen enough to make your decision? Do you agree with Hatch that paladin population will go through the roof, or do his predictions not go far enough? Are hybrids too appealing right now?

These are the Voyages of the Starship Tribblebuster

tribbles

Star Trek Online is (still) currently due to launch on February 2nd in the US and the 5th here in Europe, less than a month from today. And as is customary, the NDA for press has been dropped before the general punters in the beta test are officially allowed to talk about their experiences.

The open beta is due to start next week, on Jan 12th, where everyone who has preordered will get a chance to see a) if they feel that they’ll get their money’s worth and b) to try to snag some variant of the name USS Enterprise which will be pointless because beta characters get wiped before the headstart, but people will forget this fact.

Cryptic have provided for a wide range of pre-order bonuses, depending on which purveyor of digital entertainment you choose to grace with your custom. These are nicely gauged to draw in the Trekkies (Constitution Class starship, mirror universe costumes, pet tribble, etc) without actually affecting the gameplay in any way. Whatever you think of this type of trick (bribe the punters with cute pets and cosmetic outfits!), it works. Or at least, it works on this punter. Bring on the tribble!

And now I just need someone to tell me how long the ship names are allowed to be so I can decide whether USS Justifiable Homicide is a go or not. Or I could wait until next week, when I will hopefully be able to file some reports from deep space in person.

Still, how are the initial preview reports shaping up?

Gamespy features a three part preview, where Gerald Villoria focusses on explaining what it’s all about (at least in the parts I have read, maybe he brings his conclusions in at the end.)

Wesley Yin-Poole at Videogamer.com likes the game and says that when it is good it is very good, but it feels grindy in the closed beta, and he finds it painfully slow paced. (My comment: Grindiness is something that is easily fixed in a tuning pass if it’s an issue, so that’s not necessarily a roadblock. But I do appreciate that he played the game and gave his genuine impressions – that’s what I like to see in a preview.)

Nick Kolan describes the opening mission in impressive depth (wonder if he played it much longer than that) at ign.com.

Anyone else planning on Star Trekkin’?