Rift: Small objects of desire (and dragon age 2 links)

rift_hatstripey

Sadly, flu has gotten in the way of gaming this week (boo!) but I have had a bit of time on Rift. And one thing I realise is that sometimes it’s the small things – the new hat, the new mount – that really pull a character together.

Words cannot express how much I love this hood in the left hand picture. A mage with a hood like that and carrying a big staff looks wise and stuff, as though they might know the secrets of the universe. That’s what I want in my mage!

The stripey antelope mount is also delightful. It has this whippet thin, athletic and yet alien look to it which makes it very convincing as a mount. I also like the way my character is seated on the saddle, again it looks convincing to me.

In other news, I ran my first instance in Rift this week thanks to Arb and other players in the guild. Arb did a super job of tanking it, I was healing via my Chloromancer spec which was mostly fine but seems to lack some spike healing punch when you really need it. I think it’ll work out fine with more practice, and people were happy to have a Chloro around. The actual spec is quite fun, it has that shadow priest feel where you’re mostly healing via doing damage but you do have some specialist heals, channels, and utility spells (ie. to cause a mob to heal the next player it attacks rather than damage them) to pad it out which makes the Chloromancer rather interesting to play. I don’t find healing in PvP as much fun as CC in this game – you just don’t get the sense of making as much difference as a healer which is odd but there you go.

I’m also still really enjoying the Warlock as a primary damage/ soloing spec. Being able to switch life into mana, and charge into life/ damage just gives a nice amount of flexibility if things go a bit pear shaped.

More on Dragon Age 2

Oh yeah, and because it’s DA2 week and I’m over excited here are a couple of links:

PC Gamer review of Dragon Age 2

Interview with lead writer and designer of DA2

7 things you didn’t know about the Torchlight MMO

Torchlight sprang onto our PCs in October 2009 and was instantly hailed as the best Diablo 2 clone since … well … Diablo 2. And in response to questions about why there was no multiplayer mode, the developers said that they were planning to develop an MMO based on the game.

PC Gamer interviewed Runic Games about how that was coming on, and here are a few things we learned.

  • Torchlight MMO will be free to play, supported by microtransactions. “what you should be paying for is variance – additions that make it more enjoyable. Mounts are a great example. Everyone should be able to get mounts but you should be able to buy super special mounts that look cool or travel a slight bit faster…”
  • The group/ multiplayer aspect will play as much like the single player game as possible. (Again, very similar to Diablo 2)
  • There will be large static shared spaces (eg. towns). “you lose a sense of community and place if everything is randomised.”
  • There will be trade skills and commerce.
  • the dev team is inspired by the mod community. “It’s been useful to look at what people think are the most important things to change in the game.”
  • There will be guild systems and probably guild houses.
  • They’re discussing the possibility of groups being able to have dungeons generated specifically for them on the fly. (Mythos offered something similar)

Bear in mind, these guys pretty much out-Diabloed Diablo. So at this point, I wonder whether Blizzard is also thinking along similar lines for the next outing of their popular action-adventure-click-click-click series. Diablo 3 is going to be huge when it comes out next year, but we’ve still heard so little about it. I’d be amazed if Blizzard didn’t want to build somehow on the multiplayer features, they’ll have battle.net ready and well established by then. Should we be expecting to see a Diablo AH and economy? How about support for guilds?

Anyhow, Torchlight is great fun for bursts of monster bashing. I found that the single player game – while well worth the money – didn’t keep my attention in the long term. But as a F2P MMO, sure, why not?

Incidentally, PC Gamer has a lot for MMO fans this month. There’s a big glossy article about Cataclysm, more about Guild Wars 2 and APB, and another big article about Farmville and how social games make their cash.

5 things I learned about Dragon Age

edited to add a link to the review: Read it here — it’s now up on the web.

PC Gamer this month features a glossy and rather glowing full review of Dragon Age — this one is notable partly because of the writing but also because the reviewer played the whole thing through to the end (he comments that it took him about 80 hours for his first epic playthrough). Even the editor notes:

The last two months have been excrutiating. We’ve had Dragon Age in the office for what feels like an epoch, and John’s been raving about how sensational it is almost daily.

There’s also a pre-review in Eurogamer. And as a sign of EA’s confidence in the game, they note:

It’s an important game, then; we got an indication how important (and how big) when publisher EA started distributing a complete PC review version to press months before its release. That never happens.

OK, enough of the behind the scenes stuff, what have we learned about the game itself.

  1. There will be two modes of play. Easy which is similar to MMO style play, and Normal where you can pause to set up actions for each party member repeatedly during the fight.
  2. In addition, you will be able to set up combat tactics for members of your party, similar to the way you could program behaviour into your party in FFXII. So you can set them to heal when they get low on health, switch from range to melee weapons, and so on. It sounds as though it can get quite complex if that’s what you want.
  3. Similarly, if you are interested in picking out a complex talent and skill spec for your character and party you can do it. If not, they can be set to skill up automatically along preset paths.
  4. Dwarvish culture — we’ve heard a bit about the elves, humans and mages. Dwarves have a complex caste system by which young dwarves take the same caste as their same-sex parent (ie. dwarf girls get their caste from their mother, dwarf boys from their father.) Then there are casteless dwarfs, unrecognised as members of society and with their ancestry removed from dwarven history (so presumably their children are fated to follow in their footsteps.)
  5. How your fellow party members feel about you will affect some romance options (apparently there are gay romance options too, my money is on the naughty tattooed witch for the female one because only ‘naughty’ girls are ever allowed to be bi in games, but I’d be happy to be proved wrong) but also give them gameplay buffs, unlock personal quests, and determine whether they leave or not.

If there was one comment in the PC Gamer review that really intrigued me, it was discussing  NPC vendors who follows you around:

Treat them as more than a shop, talk to them, and the details of their past emerge along with a surprising ethical quandary.

What I’d give for an NPC merchant in a MMO who rewarded you for treating them as more than a shop! In any case, the reviews sound as though the game is everything it has been described as and more. Reviewers praise the immersiveness of the setting and the sense of detail and having experienced a world, not just a game.  Phrases like ‘the RPG of the decade’ and ‘it feels like the consummate, traditional PC RPG’ are not bandied around lightly.

How will I survive the countdown to release date now, dammit?! I already decided that my first character will be the city elf fighter — the city elf beginning involves a wedding, an abduction, and possibly a rape, so I’ll try to model her on The Bride from Kill Bill. Anyone else got any ideas for characters?

[rhetorical question: I'll survive by playing Torchlight, clearly. And maybe playing Dragon Age Journeys, the free flash game that goes live tonight.]

Raid Updates, Cash Counting, Goblin Naming

I’ve never been more glad to not be a raid leader in WoW than I am right now. We’re suffering an embarrassment of riches at the moment, and there are plenty of hard modes that we could attempt, but scheduling and keeping raiders’ eyes on the ball has never been trickier.

I’m sure other raids are in this situation also.

  • You’ve cleared the Coliseum on normal mode and can sweep through it in about an hour, all being well. The loot is still good upgrades for a lot of people.
  • You cleared Onyxia last week. That’s not an issue, she wasn’t supposed to be a progression raid – they just gave her progression type loot so you don’t really want to skip her.
  • You’ve either cleared Ulduar on normal mode or still have one of the last two bosses left. In either case, in order to get to those guys you need to schedule an evening for clearing Ulduar and that probably means clearing on normal mode because if you waste too much time on wiping then you won’t get to Yogg Saron. Also most of the normal mode loot isn’t as desired as the other raids.

So on the one side you have the hard mode encounters which will involve lots of wipes. On the other hand, you have raids which still give loot that people need. And some of your progression fights are at the end of an instance that people aren’t so keen to go to any more. Plus you have limited time and some of your raiders are already bored of the Coliseum and complain about having to clear it on normal mode.

Normally (and I use that word in the widest sense), if it was me, I would let the bored guys bring alts to the normal modes, assuming they’re properly geared for it. Then they could switch to their mains for hard modes. But then you have to sort out your loot priorities (I consider it unfair to let someone take part in a raid and not allow them a share of the loot, regardless of whether it’s an alt or main), deal with everyone else who wants to bring their undergeared alt too, and still try to put together a raid that is competent to clear the instance.

For myself, I’m still enjoying the actual raids themselves. I like Ulduar and would love to go back there – but Coliseum has been good with the tank loot and I have most of the things I wanted from normal mode already. So I feel as though when it is a choice, I pick the instance which is prettier and more fun. When it isn’t a choice (ie. need gear) then I prefer to go where the gear is.

If you assume most raiders take a similar point of view, then we’re going to be in the Coliseum for awhile. And hopefully people will still remember the Ulduar fights when we get back to it. I don’t actually hate the Coliseum fights though – our raid group has been particularly good at learning the Faction Champions so even that fight is feeling more fun and less of a hassle these days.

Our initial try at the hard mode beasts was quite promising too. I may be the only person in the raid who thinks this, but I’m sure we could take them now on hard mode. It just needs everyone to be very on top of their game, and some insane healing in phase 1. (Like most raid groups, we have some insane healers so that’s probably fine.)

My Money Making Tips

Alchemy and Blacksmithing are not usually among the top money makers in trade professions. But now is THAT time. (Did I mention that my main is a blacksmith and my alt is an alchemist? Fight the expansion-tradeskill tyranny of jewelcrafting and inscription!!)

Runed orbs are coming way down in price and I’ve been able to sell a couple of Indestructible Plate Girdles, the pattern I picked up in Ulduar many moons ago. Belt buckles are also selling well – I suspect the new arena season, new belts on the triumph badge vendor, and drops in the Coliseum feed into this.

With the alchemist, note that transmuting metagems is not on a cooldown and that Onyxia drops are mostly … hats with metagem sockets. Everyone and their dog is currently killing Onyxia, and I’ve been selling metagems as fast as I can make them.

More news about Cataclysm

The hype train for Cataclysm is still going full steam ahead and this month’s PC Gamer has an interview with Blizzard about the new Cataclysm racial starting zones. wow.com sums the information up – and much as I hate overpriced PC magazines that obsess about shooters I don’t want to play, I’ll pick up a copy later to see what they missed.

As for the goblins, you start on Kezan as a pretty high level (society-wise, not game mechanics) executive, successful and rich, with a hot secretary. When Kezan begins to fall apart, you give your life savings to a Trade Prince who promises you safe passage to the mainland. Instead, he captures you and tries to sell into slavery.

If I wanted to play a goblin before, I want to play it doubly much now! So I do need to think of a name and all that jazz.

Maybe I’ll think about that while zoning through normal mode Coliseum this week!