Diverse Miscellanea: Blog Resolutions, Timing on the Rift Launch, Playing with Friends

So it’s back to work today (for me at least) and I thought I’d wrap up the holiday season with an unfocussed post of random musings. As you do. This blog is approaching its second anniversary, if you can believe, so thanks both to the people who’ve been sticking with it and to any new readers. Enjoy!

Also feel free to go vote on Scary’s 2010 Blogger Awards.

Resolutions for 2011

I’m not a great believer in resolutions but one thing I’d like to do more this year is to write more about the games I’m most looking forwards to playing. This is a tricky row to hoe because of trying to avoid parroting press releases and hype, whilst on the other hand acknowledging that as a small blog that’s the only advance information you’re likely to get.

Still, 2011 looks to be a great year for PC gaming and I’m especially looking forwards to Dragon Age 2, Diablo 3, The Witcher 2, and Star Wars: the Old Republic. (Why SWTOR in particular? I’ll come to that later.) And yes, I’m not 100% sure how much time I’ll have to play them all. Something may have to give and it may be WoW.

So expect to read more about those games on the blog. Also I’m set to go to Comic Con 2011 in July with Arbitrary in San Diego and already very excited. (Partly because she’s agreed that we can spend a day in San Diego zoo while we’re there so I might get to see a pangolin!) Again, expect to read more about that as the months roll on.

I’m also hoping to be able to spend some more time with Pirates of the Burning Sea, something I’ve been sadly short of recently. I am also planning to do some light 25 man raiding in Cataclysm, so expect to see more on that also. And of course there’s Isengard expected for LOTRO later this year.

I’m not sure if Arb has any resolutions, but I know she’s been enjoying Cataclysm lately.

Rift set to launch in March 2011

Trion are set to launch Rift in a couple of months time (March 1st in the US, 4th in the EU).

This is another game where I haven’t had as much time to play the betas as I had wanted. But all the signs point towards it being a solid entrant into the fantasy MMO genre pool, with some interesting twists, so I’d encourage anyone interested in WoW/ EQ2/ WAR/ LOTRO like games to keep an eye on it.

I think the March launch date is a very good timescale for Rift, which should catch the wave of WoW players who are bored with Cataclysm and ready to look around for alternatives. Their advertising is cheekily playing on this using the tagline, “We’re not in Azeroth any more.”

I’ve been interested in how the blogosphere has responded to Rift (mostly with either affection or meh – notably very few people have anything bad to say about it), in particular bloggers who have been blasting WoW left, right and centre – it’s still a similar style of game.

I think Syncaine said it best with, “if Rift is WoW 2004 with 2011 updates, I’m interested, and I think I’m not alone on that.” A lot of the WoW haters feel betrayed by the direction the game has taken. That’s partly why Rift is appealing to people who enjoyed the older MMOs.

The trap of playing with friends

One of the reasons I’m not aiming to try Rift, at least not at launch, is that I’m going to be very busy in March. So even though I do have friends and fellow bloggers who a) plan to play and b) I’d like to play with, I’m fairly sure that all that would happen is I’d fall behind their characters, not actually be able to play with them much, get demoralised and leave.

In many ways, starting a new MMO with a group of friends really is a trap. Most MMOs don’t make it easy for characters of different levels, skills, and gear to actually do much together. Back in the day, when people tended not to have friends who played, things were easier. You levelled up at your own pace, made friends along the way, and drifting into a guild of people who played in a similar way.

You can still do this, of course, but I’m not sure that the majority of MMO players really expect to make friends in game. They’re more likely to ignore people they find in the open world than settle into small levelling groups with strangers, or at least to cooperate silently and then go their separate ways.

One of the appeals to me of SWTOR is that I think it will have a robust single player game, and I also think that it will attract more casual players and mature players with time constraints. (Star Wars being an oldish IP has a wide range of fans, even in the Old Republic setting.) Rift, I suspect, will be a more hardcore old school fanbase with whom I would never be able to keep up.