Thursday, January 27

More RIFT Beta blah blah

Last Beta I switched from Defiant side to Guardian and played with Kettle, a Dwarven Warrior.
Yes I know, technically she should be a Cleric and a Halfling, but a dwarf is close enough and I'd already been playing Naomi as a Cleric and with classes identical across the divide...

I'd gotten her through the Sliverwood (5-20) zone and halfway through Gloamwood and up to level 23. I'd been pretty impressed with Silverwood's general lay-out and how the quest lines were taking you along a tour of 80% or so of the map. Much more subtly than in Freemarch where for some reason I felt led by the nose and didn't feel much like exploring. Whereas on the Guardian side I did and didn't feel stiffled by the guided tour effect either.

There's ample opportunity to step off the beaten path, wander a bit and run into mobs way too high for you to defeat. Coupled with the Invasions this means you have to keep paying attention to your surroundings and I like that. Gloamwood,s a bit darker than Silverwood and the theme is one of Gothic horror. Spiders, zombies, Werewolves, vampires and a Hag to fight. The environment is wonderfully gloomy and made me pull open all registers on my videocard, which happily survived the ordeal. (I didn't try it with raid sized parties).

Gloamwood also is very tightly packed with a complex but comprehensive questline around a central theme / story arc. It also gives my Explorer side more of an itch than did Silverwood. It's a rather vertical place really. Several times I've found myself standing at what I assumed was the quest location judging by the minimap only to discover I was off by 50 meters, vertically. Caves, cliffs, buildings. They all give cause to wander about. I've also spent a fair amount of time figuring different ways to approach locations.

Most of all, I was having fun.
This Beta so far has had me not find a single bug to report, and I keep looking for them.
I have to say this game has the most technically slick Beta I've ever been in. On the other hand, they're adding stuff very late in the development cycle, given the release date. However, I'm not worried much, It's shaping up to be a very solid game. I don't know about longevity as of yet, but it should do well at launch, provided they get people to not all roll on the Shard with an already Heavy load, but even after having to sit in queue for 2 minutes after dinner I encountered little to no server-side lag. And that's a Beta server with highly detailed logs running...

This Beta saw a few new things. Improved Character Sheet. I have to admit I still think Rift has a window or two more than I'm happy with. Collections as a whole could be Character Sheet Tabs if you ask me. Much needed Inventory improvements (mainly taking things out of Inventory) have been added, though I would like to see them take another leaf of EQ-II and add dedicated bags (for Role 2 and 3 kit for example). The new Public Group system works well I think. You can toggle yourself to be a Public or Private Group, which in the case of Public means you'll see a "Join Public Group" button appear whenever you're near likeminded people, usually around an invasion or Rift. Once I found out it was using my Graveyard button's position and I could move it, no problems.

The main issue I encountered with it wasn't technical but player-social. Nobody speaks in this game, except in Regionsay. I actually noticed people commenting on the fight we were in using the regionsay chat. Local and Party are barely used it seems. Oh well, with any luck I'll find more local chatters come launch when I'll roll on a PVE-RP shard. For Trion it might've been a good idea to integrate voice-chat with the game though. Then again, I'm not sure I'd like to try that with the Public Grouping...
Public Grouping got me to see the Raid Group Interface as well. This is probably well engineered, but left me confused for the most part.

Stuff I Missed:
Questing is fun to do. I didn't get around to trying to group dungeons, mostly because the only vitriolic chat I encountered on Guardian side (outside of level 1-9 chat which you should turn off immediately) was revolving around dungeon groups. This did lead me to find an issue though. I'd gotten my last Plate chestpiece when Kettle was Level 20. While it wasn't much of an issue for her during her tweens, throughout her twenties so far she's received two to three armor and weapon upgrades from questing for each piece except chest-armor. Annoyingly, the Level 20 piece is one of those Plate-bikini's (yes, Rift doesn't have chanimail bikini's for Clerics but makes up for it in Plate...). So right now my main armor piece is whoefully behind my level. Not a good situation for a Tank. It's actually ok for soloing, I noticed I was primarily doing quests a level, sometimes two ahead of my own whereas most Mages and Rogues tend to be on same level quests and Clerics one level lower than current. For grouping I'm badly equiped though.

Checking the Auction house I saw the situation echoed. Lots of green drops of every ilk but no chest-pieces. It appears to have been a deliberate choice of Trion to reward chest-pieces through group efforts such as grouped dungeons and warfronts. Meh. It wouldn't be so bad if someone were crafting the bloody stuff. But I couldn't find any crafted gear on the Auction Houses, so either people aren't crafting or trading in Guilds and other private venues. I did notice some Regionsay bartering taking place now and then, which leads me to conclude that one auction house per faction in their main capital maybe isn't the best design choice they made?

Maybe tonight I'll try some grouped dungeons or warfronts :-)
Talking about capitals, they're confusing. The strong vertical element is one thing, but while less confusingly layed out than the Defiant capital, Sanctum is annoying in other ways. It's essentially three concentric rings with one place where you can switch rings. A trip to Sanctum typically requires me to visit all three in order to visit Trainer, Planar Goods/Collections traders, bank and auction house. Mini Map and Major Map both aren't that helpful in cities and for the first time in a long while I found myself missing a Gameamp community (only with better tools) around a game. I'd have absolutely loved being part of an Amp-like community for this game. I just can't stomach the manure piles that are "Official Forums" anymore. So many people giving out plain wrong tech advice, so many people out just to be as nasty as they can be to each other, e.t.c. Ah well. I'm a minority I guess, but I do miss the (mostly) friendly, moderated mayhem of Amp at times like this.

Rifts and Invasions:
Back to the game though. The changes to Invasions/Rifts seem to work out, though we flunked the two Zone Invasions yesterday. The first was simply a case of not enough people bothering with it for some reason. The second one failed for a more interesting reason. We'd completed all but the last objective, slaying the named Boss 'Norima' (I think). People started asking where she was in Regionsay and were directed to one of the last Death Rifts in the deep south of the zone by others. A few minutes later the zone-wide UI overlaid messages were screaming from help at Gnarlwood, a spot roughly North of Center. Most of the defending forces simply ignored repeated pleas for help from the beset Gnarlwood and were stumped when the Invasion Quest failed as Norima achieved her objective with her last squad of baddies. I guess an unsubstantiated rumor fostered by an anonymous source is always more compelling than official notification from the game system itself :-)

Still, people will learn this, eventually, I'm sure. I'm still a bit worried about player population after the first wave though. While Invasions now scale and can be tweaked, the beginnign area's may still end up rather empty after the first big wave. But maybe Trion, who's very good at lending leaves from succesful models and not just WOW's at that, can take a hint from Turbine and make the game partially Free-to-Play after a few monts. While there's still a veneer of FAIL attached to mixed P2P/F2P games in certain loudmouthed sectors, but the way Turbine does it is actually a win-win situation. The early levels (minus high quality gear) are accessible to froobs, which has the huge advantage that your paying customers when rolling an alt aren't faced with that deserted feeling in post-launch starter area's as there's still plenty of people running around. Mostly froobs yes, but I for one consider that a more pleasant experience than having to grind mobs or be forced into a fixed group to level up as the interesting content is too hard or too slow to do alone.
Needless to say, I suspect the Free-to-Play move on Champions Online which got finalised and announced this week has more to do with Damage control on Fail than Win, but they shou;d've done that before launch if you ask me.

Anyhoo. Loving how the game shapes up. Scarlet Gorge, which is a shared zone apparently is shaping up to be as well designed as the previous two and even more vertically challenging. (Spent 20 minutes looking for the way down before I spotted other players using an elevator) I haven't bothered with Gathering or Crafting on Kettle much, when I reroll her post-launch this will change (gathering at least is fun) so I can't really comment on that. Geek's less than happy comments on it have not helped. I'll stay clear of it for now. Kettle's nearly at level cap now, 26.something and I think I'll stop playing her when I reach it. Not that I Must Have XP For My Trouble, but it seems like a good point to switch back to Naomi or roll anew.

Souls and Roles:
I've found I am not very experimentative with Souls.
With both Naomi and Kettle I picked three Souls and somewhere in their tweens decided I didn't like one of them. I'd focus on two out of the three and swap out the third around level 20 then slowly build that one up. I tried switching Kettle from Paladin/Warlord/Void Knight (Tank/Buffer/Anti-Mage) which are all defensive souls to an offensive combination that included a Pet on her second Role. What I found was that it's not much fun to switch Roles at 20 and have to learn its intircacies all anew. My PWV build's got 15-18 buttons to mash (though I keep intending to fiddle with Macro's as there are definite sequences) under specific conditions. I have to know which buttons to mash when, for maximum effect. I'm sure that my second Role (which had more skills on my hotbars) is just as intircate, but I couldn't get into it at all.

Why is this so different from Guild Wars where Build switching is a must?
Well, I think the 8 vs 16+ skills on the bar may have something to do with it. Also Guild Wars Prophecies is one long tutorial in using varied builds. Only the most stubbornly refusing to learn didn't have a grip on Builds by the time they enter the burning isles (they'd be stuck at Thunderhead Keep) but sadly even that F2P game had to dumb down their initial content for rare solo players in an empty landscape. Rift doesn't really tell you to try different Roles. It's not as integrated into the central game system as it was with Guild Wars. It's clearly an added feature to compensate for PVE / PVP builds or solo and grouped/raided builds. But the main game doesn't invite you to experiment, which will feed the FotM Builds I fear. I've already noticed that with dozens of variations possible, a lot of gamers "enforce" the UnHoly Trinity (second generation, so Tank, DPS, Healer rather than Tank, Crowd Control, DPS) onto themselves and others.


  1. Bugger!
    I'll fix the picture-tables later. I thought 3 in a row was doable, except out stylesheet adds so much padding...

    Oh well, at least six clusters of two rather than four of three will break up the Wall of Text even more, but then I'll have to try to match pictures to text don't I?

  2. One thing they could improve upon is their patcher.
    It's rather slow at the moment. Clearly not up to the current needs, so I hope they'll ramp up for Launch as I'm sure the CD's/DVD's have been mastered by now and a 150-200MB update is liable to occur before you can play.

    Most annoying is it keeps erroring out (1003) and not auto-restarting.

  3. On Tuesday I didn't mange to log in at all. Yesterday was better. Blightweald was still full, so I rolled a fresh Guardian Warrior on the PVE-RP server. I only played for an hour or two, so I don't have as much details to describe but I still have some observations.

    My warrior is a riftblade, voidknight, reaver. I really like my dual sword wielding goodness. I am more a damage dealer than tank at the moment. I have the souls to be both but I have no idea yet how to switch builds on the fly. It sounds really cool if I could switch when entering a rift or team for dungeons.

    On a side note, I went through Thunderkeep without changing my build. GW to me feel more like an exercise in managing heroes and henchies than being useful myself.

    On the RP server the general chat was still a lot of the WOW/Lotro/is-it-free chat, but it was manageable bad. I teamed up with a mage early on and we ran all the starting area quests together, using /party extensively. I noticed I lacked some aggro pulling skills, but we still managed to tackle several mobs and once without problem. It did show I should have a more tanky build for teaming. Especially in the rift fights I felt a lot more useful than I did with my mage. I got the mobs attention, and even saw my debuffs working.

    A gameamp like place would be brilliant, and I think there are lots of players that would that too. But I think that will have to grow slowly a bit. The first month or two are probably filled with rush-in rush-out players shouting all kind of rubbish. Only after that we might find some kind of community that has common sense.

    The most likely success for that would be a big guild that has an open forum, and some sort of soul builder/calculator. The builder will be the main reason for people to access the net. And if they can stay for some friendly advice/comments we could have a winner.

  4. And to contradict the quality issue, I think I have never seen bugs in other beta's I played. Or at least nothing I felt reporting. In Rift I have reported three or four minor issues. It is more that the quality is that high that I feel my minor issues actually are worth reporting now.

  5. Heh, I wonder how many closed Beta's you played?
    This is Technically Closed Beta except we didn't get NDA'd. Trion's pretty confident and rightfully so in that regard. I've played lots of Open Beta's where the game was in a much less finished state than this game and I didn't feel like reporting bugs cause there was no hope they'd fix it in time.

    Last Closed Beta I was actively part of was WAR, and that was an expression of futility. Though it had the best feedback system I've ever seen, the (European) Beta testers were by and large ignored, a further cry from Trion's responses with each Beta can't be imagined.

    In fact, I've been reporting the little things I come across in RIFT from the same mindset as you do.

    Riftblade's the Soul I picked and dropped later for Kettle in exchange for Void Knight. By the sound of it you may want to switch out one of yours for Paladin or Warlord. Paladin is a good Tank Soul.
    You don't bother tossing your gauntlet at their feet to get their attention, you throw it in their face! Oh, and substitute the gauntlet with a shield for good measure. THe only thing I'm missing so far is a good groin kick to follow up with :-)
    Since it's a throw it works ranged which is a blessing. Pally is a bit Shield based though, so maybe look for another Soul that allows you to Tank two-handed or switch Roles.

    The game calls Builds Roles. At some point class trainers let you buy additional Roles. That's basically a second and thrid Soultree you then get to fill.

    Dual wielding seems to me more something for the Rogue class, (and that's what I've been considering rolling) but I actually like there's a lot of overlap, like every class has a Pet-Soul it seems. Neat. If I get through this patching hell. Wish I could just leave it running, but it needs you to be present to kick it now and then.

  6. The nice thing about Rift (and the soul system) is that I can be an effective dual blade warrior. I'll carry a shield in my backpack if I want to smash ugly faces for some attention. I'll try out the dual build thing at the trainer. I didn't realize it worked like that. And I don't want to be a Paladin nor Warlord.

  7. I know my attitude towards builds means I am not welcome with the FOTM crowds. But I am still confident I will be as good as the average player purely based on common sense tactics.

  8. Actually, common sense tactics give you an unfair advantage and should be nerfed :-)

  9. I've spent the past two nights in Scarlet Gorge and loving every minute of it, it's the first area that gave me a real opportunity to explore, Stonefield was better than previous areas but this is the first time I felt I had some space without having to run in to aggro every 30 seconds. I've climbed as high as I could and found some lovely views and travelled across the maps and got dangerously close to a few Guardian bases but never came across Kettle :(

    The beta has been extended for another 24hrs.

  10. forget to say and must add- Nice write up Lani :)

  11. Keep an ear out for the sound of a whirring frisbee, only heavier. Then if you duck in time you might see Kettle :-p

  12. I am getting hooked. I got up a bit earlier this morning, and played way past go-to-work time. I logged in and popped up right in the middle of an just opened rift. There was only one other player/warrior, but thanks to the public grouping we auto teamed and cleared the rift. It was tough but we did it. Yay us.

    The Guardian area seems way more open than Defiant though. This was actually the first and only Rift I have been in so far. During the last two betas I couldn't take two steps before entering a new rift or invasion. Maybe Defiant is a bit more quite too now though :)

    It is kind of nice they extended the beta for another day. I can get another fix in tonight. But I am a bit worried it is all too much. We'll be veterans before the game starts. The game is in good enough state to ship, and in the coming betas I doubt they expect to to do something that would warrant some kind of complete class overhaul. So I think they should call it a day and let us wait for release. Of course I could just not play, but that is inconceivable.

  13. I share some of your concern Phè. and I'm glad you're getting hooked :-)
    I decided against rerolling on the PVE-RP server to see if I could catch up with you for that reason. I don't want to overdo the beginner zones and I'm trying to pace myself with Kettle too.

    One of the major changes this Beta was in the Rift & Invasions, last beta they were a bit too frequent and too prone to spew forth Elite Invasion mob after Elite Invasion mob. It appears more balanced now. Kettle even soloed a Rift (2 levels below her)

  14. Just a quick update.
    Played some Beta last weekend, but not much.
    I got Kettle up to Level 30 and into the next zone while testing what has changed with the racial nerfs. Changes are not too bad really. My racial self-heal is gone, but they lowered the recharge of my Pally self-heal so that evens out.

    Reason I didn't play much was not that I wasn't enjoying it but that I was getting a sense of not wanting to spoil things for myself when launch rolls around. Not being one who cares only for this End game business I doin't want my first two weeks or so of post-launch gaming to be rinse and repeat.

    Make sense?

  15. Makes total sense Lani. I was the opposite, had the weekend free so took advantage and played a lot. I'm not worried about burning out on content, I'll be taking my time come release.

    Got to max level for the beta, finished all quest content that I could (except for the hunting quests, nice idea), completed the King's Breach instance and even got my Runecrafting up to grandmaster.

    Next beta is six days with a level cap of 42, no doubt I'll reach it and then laugh as my character is wiped ready for release :)

  16. I played only a bit as well. I had some of that 'I don't want to know too much' and I didn't too much time either. I think I will actually skip the next beta completely and wait for release. I am missing some kind of gameamp forum. There are quite a few things I just want to ask noob questions (although I can't really think of one right now) without the horde of 'experts' telling me how the play to max level in the shortest time or else you are an idiot.

  17. There is the advantage of knowing someone whose played to max levels available if you have any questions :)

    Latest news is that Trion have managed to revert the PvP servers to allow for taking over of quest hubs in time for open beta, a lot of PvP players are very, very happy and us PvE players can carry on skipping around our quest hubs undisturbed by those nasty PKers :)

    Also some talk of 10 man 'raid' rifts that can be lured on demand, I'm intrigued.

  18. Oh Lani you could always find your chest piece as a hidden treasure or puzzle reward (neither much hidden anymore as locations have become common knowledge), I got an awesome purple chest piece for my mage that way, nothing guaranteed mind as they are random loot tables but scaled to your level.

  19. So I bit the bullet and pre-ordered from Amazon yesterday (courtesy of a £25 gift voucher for beta testing a game-woohoo!). Amazon say they are sending me the pre order code on the day early access starts, let's hope it's not late.

    So what's the plan? I'm under the impression we will be rolling Defiant on the RP-PVE server?

  20. Odd. I got my pre order code already. Since all it does is give you some items in world and allow you early access it's a bit of a bother to receive it so late I think.

    As to where and what. PVE-RP server sounds good. As to Defiant... That is one of two possibilities yes.

    We should maybe think about doing a fixed group on a night of the week maybe? I'll be healer, Geeky can do his pet-nuke thing and Phè can be punchybag :-)

  21. First off my apologies for the slow response. By the time I get back to my hotel I am too tired to properly respond. Today I have a quiet evening so no excuses anymore to not respond.

    I had to dig up my pre-order details. I actually never received a pre-order code. I think because I ordered directly from Trion it went automatic. But I am glad you'll be there with us, Geekie!

    I agree with the English PVE-RP server. I was actually thinking we will all be making at least two alts. One for each side. But knowing my playing speed compared to you two I will try to stick with one and keep a bit in range.

    But since I think that is probably undoable I really like the fixed group on a fixed night idea. Except slightly different. I think one week a night on a completely fresh game might be a bit too slow. Maybe we can do the fixed group team if we are all three online, whenever that is. That way we get at least some progress. Or as alternative maybe we can set some goals for the week with our team characters. Like maximum 5 levels by Saturday. So we still have some time to do i-don't-know-what. If the game is a real winner and we stick with it for a longer time we can switch to something more scheduled.

    And yes, I would love to play the punchbag *grin*

  22. I sent proof of purchase to Trion who flagged my account for pre-order, so no waiting around for Amazon to send me a code :)

    I like the idea of us having a group night, I'm happy to have a couple of toons one for getting on with my thang and another for grouping and leveling with you two :)

    I think I'm addicted, it's morning I should be getting ready to go to work yet I'm crafting silk bags....

  23. They opened two new areas with this beta, Moonshade Highlands and Droughtlands, both of which are post lvl 35 content, no shortage of quests that's for sure. Makes me wonder if there are other areas for pre 35 content they didn't open, this beta is up to lvl 42, with three remaining areas, I'd be surprised if all three had content for lvl 42-50.

  24. Quite right Phè, I'm much more interested in playing with you two in a fixed group that has the unHoly trinity covered (LFM: Taking all commers is so much nicer than LFM: DPS only) than doing it on a fixed schedule or on a specific side.

    I rolled a Defiant Rogue Tuanne on the PVE-RP server Argent and boy is this class better suited to Soloing :-) I suspect this is going to be my "When Phè/Geek aren't on" toon. For our fixed group I'll probably be the cleric (Kettle if we pick Vanguard, Naomi if we pick Defiant). I definately want to keep playing Kettle as Cleric of Warrior so depending on which side you two prefer for fixed group I'll have 2 or 3 toons going come launch. If that's not enough to keep me occupied when Phè's not available I'll have one begin a crafting career :-)