Heeeey! I've been meaning to do some podcasts and I finally got the very first done. Joining me on episode one is Scott Hartsman, Executive Producer for Rift at Trion Worlds. Or Chief Creative Officer. Something important at any rate. In any case, we discuss various topics, including Rift's launch, hacking, dynamic content, content update rate, expansion plans, the upcoming Planar Attunement system, statistics, and add-ons. And probably more, but I forgot about some of the details already. You'll just have to listen to the whole thing and find out!
Stream this week's episode:
You can also download the whole episode in MP3 format. I'm trying to get a few more statistics to share other than the One Billionth Quest completed mentioned in the podcast, I'll update this post if I get any.
If you haven't tried Rift yet, here to download a Free Trial and give it a go. It's part of the "ascend a friend" program that was featured in a recent humorous Rift video... let me try to link it here...
Trion's putting on a big party to celebrate Rift's 6-month milestone. There's two big parts: first, a special open trial for non-subscribers to partake in the celebrations; second, a big boost to basically everything you earn, from xp to pvp favour to dungeon tokens for subscribers. It's pretty awesome and the celebration lasts until the end of the month, so why not drop in on Faeblight and say hi to me! (Probably on with Tyx, my mage, or Soulrift, my rogue).
UPDATE: Oooo, there's also half-birthday cake! Very nice :)
I'll admit it: when I blog here, I don't usually expect developers to take my words and implement them in their games. As much as I really want them to, I don't think of myself as having that much clout (yet!). But, lo and behold, my last Rift-related post about a need for randomness, seems to have hit the mark! I said, and I quote:
What Rift needs is more random. When you do a dungeon, give us a random number of plaques. Maybe you normally get 10... but sometimes you get 100! WOOO! Wouldn't that make running dungeons more fun?
And what did Trion do to Rift?
GUILD PERKS * Cache Finder now offers a 15-45% chance to gain an additional Plaque or Mark when defeating an Expert Dungeon or Raid Boss.
So there's been a bit of a debate on my Rift guild's forum about our direction and what we're doing and all that. Basically, a bunch of us reached a point in the game where we went from very high activity levels to very low activity levels, making it very difficult to organize raids. We were trying to work out how we were going to get everything working again.
This was indicative of a problem I had previously identified in Rift: that the game gets boring very quickly and suddenly. I've been mulling the problem over and I think I came up with a possible solution. The game is boring because it's too predictable.
When you play Rift, you have an extremely high degree of predictability in how your play session will play out. Lets say you queue for a T2 expert dungeon. There's 5 possible dungeons, so there's that sense of uncertainty (which dungeon will I do?) but it's not very meaningful. All the dungeons are basically the same sort of experience. Moreover, the results of the dungeon experience are very predictable: you'll see a bunch of crap loot that no one is going to be able to use and you'll get about 10 plaques to trade in for good loot. But it takes 1246 plaques to get a full set of armor, and if you play multiple roles you might need two sets. So not only is the dungeon result predictable, the mediocrity of that result is also predictable. You know that each dungeon takes you less than one percent of the way towards your goal.
Now, I know I could fault Rift for being too swift in the progression from level 1 to 50, so I should hardly fault it for trying to draw out the end-game gear progression into a sadistic 17-week grindfest. But what makes it utterly boring isn't that it takes so long, it's that its so predictable. There's no fun in it. There's no chance of getting some better result.
Well, I haven't managed to Ascend any Friends yet, but I'm still hopeful that three people will eventually download the trial from my referral link, sign up, and I'll get my firey horse in-game. I've seen a few and they're sooooo cool. Me wants!
Ahem, but enough of the shameless plug. This post is really about something far more serious: some key tips and tricks to help Rift players in their dungeoneering adventures. I've been using the auto dungeon finder quite regularly lately on both my Rogue and my Mage and I've noticed a few... issues that seem to permeate the community. So, without further ado, here's my attempt and fixing those issues!
First up: tanks, go to your targets. With a few specific exceptions, Rift isn't a "pull"-friendly game. Most encounters include at least one caster who isn't going to play nice and come to you, so by pulling you just make your job harder by spreading the enemies out and you just make things more difficult for your allies who are trying to place down ground-targeted area effect attacks. Instead, just charge straight in there and tank them where they stand! As a Riftstalker Rogue tank, this is obviously the best tactic, since it means you open up with Shadow Blitz, giving you high initial threat on every foe, activating Rift Barrier, and even tossing in a combo point for good measure. For warriors and clerics... well, figure something out :P
I often get asked what the best initial rotation is for a Rogue tank. It can be quite confusing because Rogue Tanking relies heavily on keeping your self buffs up as well as holding threat. My tip: spend that initial combo point from blitz on a single 12-second boost of Guarded Steel. Guarded Steel is your second-most important defensive buff, after Rift Guard. However, you don't need Rift Guard right away, because you'll have a few seconds of Rift Barrier to cover you for those first 15 seconds. Once GS is up, take 3 Phantom Blow hits to get that buff up, then pop a 3-point Rift Guard. Keep in mind that each point used when you activate Rift Guard increases the total amount of damage it absorbs, not how effective it is or how long it lasts. It's been my experience that many normal monsters can't break through a 3-point Rift Guard before it runs out of time anyways; at any rate, it'll last plenty long and you need to start building combo points for Guarded Steel again, since it's probably down to just a few seconds at this point. Build as many combo points as you can with Planar Strike and bring Guarded Steel up again before it wears out. At this point, you're now in the pretty simple rotation: Phantom Blow once in a while to keep that up and 5-point Rift Guard, Guarded Steel, and Annihilate to keep those buffs up. Yes, Annihilate is important even if you're tanking, because the added ability power translates into added threat, especially from aoe moves like Shadow Blitz and Planar Disturbance.
The recent 1.2 patch for Rift addressed two of the major issues I had with Rift as of my last blog post: end-game expert dungeons and world invasions. Now, just like I asked for, world invasions are visible on the global map, so you can see where to go to take part and even see the current progress so you don't waste your time jumping in on one that's already over. Yay!
1.2 also introduced a WoW-style auto group function for dungeons. And, just like Scott said, it's an auto-everythinger. You can queue for all your roles, in classes of dungeons or specific dungeons, you get teleported to the dungeon and everything. My first time queuing, I got matched (as a rogue) with four mages. But here's the kicker: we cleared the dungeon handily. And this is where Rift really shines, you don't HAVE to have a warrior or a cleric. Mages really can heal. Rogues really can tank. All we really need is to give rogues and warriors viable main healer roles and mages viable tank roles and everyone will be able to do everything. Currently though, only clerics can do an "all-cleric" group. Dang clerics always getting the upper hand...
Actually, that might not be the case. The dungeon finder requires a tank, a healer, two dps, and a support role. There's a number of support roles in the game, the two I'm most familiar with are Bard (rogue) and Archon (mage). I'm not actually sure if warriors or clerics have anything that meets the support criterion. I'd certainly hope warriors do, since they don't have healing, and it would make sense that clerics don't, since they have both tanking and healing.
In any event, Trion is also doing a recruitment drive, "Ascend a Friend" where you give a seven-day free trial and if the friend signs up, you get a reward. I really want that horse for three referrals... so I'm going to take a long shot and post my referral link here. Maybe you or someone you know would be interested in trying out Rift?
I came out strong with my review of Rift and, don't get me wrong here, I still think it's a very well made game. However, I feel like I've finished it already. I got one character to level 50. I got a second to 40. I did some of the expert dungeons. I did one raid rift. I killed some trash in the game's raid zone. But I'm already losing interest.
For one thing, the end-game content is extremely shallow. There's expert dungeons, raiding, and PvP. And that's it. The PvP is horrible, so I won't even touch that with a thousand-foot pole. Raiding isn't very active, as far as I can tell, and I haven't seen a group form up that can actually take down any bosses in the raid zone. Getting a group together for expert dungeons is like pulling teeth: spam the LFG channel and get ignored hour after hour.
The thing is, I was really looking forward to rifts and invasions as end-game content, but they're just so damn shallow and irregular. For one thing, you can't know when an invasion is going to happen or currently happening without going to the zone and being there when it starts. That means that if you're in the capital, you can't just look on the map and see "OK, there's an invasion going on there" or "there'll be one there in ten minutes." It's almost as hard to find a high level invasion as it is to find a group for an expert dungeon.
The rewards for invasions are completely non-existent, either. You get Planarite for them. That's it. I reached the 30k Planarite cap weeks ago. I bought everything worth buying with Planarite. There's no point at all in doing anything that awards Planarite.
Rift is here. It came in pieces: betas, then a head-start for pre-orders, then four regional retail launches, the last one today on March 4th. The head-start exceeded expectations, with every server experiencing queues; some reaching up to 3000 players trying to get in. New servers were added, the population spread out a bit, and now it's time to share my thoughts on the game.
Rift is an MMORPG in the same vein as World of Warcraft. The game's interface and play style should be readily familiar to prior MMORPG players; Trion took the best things from the best games and integrated them into Rift. They also innovated in very meaningful ways, most notably in the customizable class design and the Rifts and Invasions. Graphically, Rift is designed to scale across a wide range of computer configurations: I could even play rift on my aging Pentium 4 with an archaic ATI x800 video card. It wasn't pretty, but it worked, which means a lot when trying to reach as wide an audience as possible.
On higher end systems, Rift looks very nice. It's bright, colourful, and full of details and doodads. Even better, it manages all this vibrancy without having to resort to the overblown cartoony style that predominates World of Warcraft. I think it reminds me more of Everquest II: that feeling of "real" high fantasy, only done a whole bunch better. Spell and combat effects are just the right level of flashy, monsters are sufficiently diverse and interesting, and the rifts are really spectacular to behold.