SWTOR: Worrying Preview

I was reading a new blog post by Tobold and found a link to a pretty disturbing preview of Star Wars: The Old Republic. This is a promising MMORPG developed by none other than BioWare; the creators of so many excellent single-player RPG. I loved the two Knights of the Old Republic games. Needless to say, I’ve had my keen eye on this MMORPG ever since it was announced.

And then this preview pops up with unsettling news about how the game actually plays. Here are some quotes from the preview that I took special notice of:

Our opinion of The Old Republic, formed over two solid days of playing, is that it’s one of the most boring titles we’ve ever had to endure. It’s plain and staid and deathly dull. It’s both exactly the same as every other MMO we’ve played, but at the same time so much worse because it promises so much more.

Okay. You’ve got my attention now. 😯

What would have normally take an hour or so in a standard RPG now takes an entire day of play. The local Jabba stand-in always has one more errand to offer you.

We found ourselves wading through an almost obscene amount of combat too, usually against the type of wild beasties and bandits that typify every RPG, ever – but in greater quantity and in an area which felt far smaller. In some cases we’d clear out an area, walk into the next room, turn back and face the exact same enemies we’d killed only moments before. Once or twice we even saw foes respawning over their own corpses as conversations distracted us – very, very anti-fun.

These two quotes had me worried a lot because this is one of many reasons I’m not having as much fun in Rift as I’d like to. Too many mobs all over the place, fast respawning, and frequent revisits back to the same area for just another solo boss to be killed. Looks like I’ll have more of that in SWTOR, whether I like it or not. Sigh.

There are many other interesting paragraphs about the game in this preview. If you’re just remotely interested in the game, I really recommend you read it.

Basing an opinion on just one preview is not wise, of course, and I’ll still have an eye on the game as it moves closer to release day. That the game is going to reuse a lot of common theme park rules – well, we already knew that. I was hoping that the story elements, the universe, and the developer’s experience would still add something unique and refreshing to the genre.

Come on, BioWare, old buddy, don’t let me down!

Rift: Forbidden Areas

A few days ago I was exploring the northern ridge of mountains in Droughtlands, partly looking for cairns and artifacts as usual, but also to see if I could peek into the forbidden gray area north of the zone. Needless to say, there were lots of invisible walls and of course an insurmountable final ridge. But much to my surprise, I did manage to get close enough to notice weird names pop up on the map of the forbidden Neverland. Actual roads? Real areas? Your guess is as good as mine.

Forbidden Areas
The names in top revealed themselves when I got real close.

What I’d really like to know is, why did the zone designers bother to add these names? Did they originally want to have more zones, but eventually had to cut back in order to reach a deadline? Or did they just start building a zone for an upcoming expansion (or patch) while having some sort of invisibility flag on, only to have someone like me discover a bug in the invisibility mode?

Maybe it’s caused by some sort of algorithm that dumps the names on the entire continent like salt and pepper. But does that really make sense in a world that has probably been handcrafted?

Perhaps they added them to see if blog posts like this would emerge, pondering their existence. 😉

Rift: A Game World

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I’m now level 41 and barely started in snowy Iron Pine Peak with lots of chilly winds coming out of my loudspeakers. Droughtlands and Moonshade Highlands are both behind me. Since most rifts are often conspicuously left alone on my shard, I decided to do quests in both of those equal level zones to avoid hitting orange quests. I also tried healing in a dungeon (King’s Breach) but soloing has occupied 99% of my time in the game.

The more I play, the more I have to say that Rift doesn’t rub me quite the right way. It’s indeed very slick, beautiful, it has an impressive range of features for such a young MMORPG, and the rifts are a lot of fun to do with many players. Soloing with quests drags the game down, however, and I’ve seen in reviews and on other blogs that the game generally gets a lot of criticism in this area. There’s something about the quests that feels like working in a factory. Here, have these five quests. Go to these yellow circles over there and complete them. Return and deliver. Get another five quests. Go to the yellow circles right next to where the other yellow circles were. Rinse and repeat.

Quest grinding is not a new thing and I’ve seen the like in other MMORPG too. It can be spiced up with more imaginative quests (Wrath of the Lich King and Cataclysm), intricate story lines like the book quests in LOTRO or just with enough variety to keep it interesting. In Rift, not only does it feel a little like a job, there’s also something about the game itself that feels shallow.

In both LOTRO and EQ2 I’ve been happy about the atmosphere because it actually feels like an interesting fantasy or alien world. Sometimes this can make all the difference. I played Morrowind for a long time after the quests were pretty much completed, merely exploring various caves just because the world felt so intriguing. In Rift, the world feels exactly like what it really is; a game world. Nothing more. When I’m climbing the mountains looking for artifacts, cairns and hidden puzzles, I’m not really walking on mountains. I’m walking on polygons and textures.

Rift: Level 30

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I finally dinged level 30 in Scarwood Reach, which is the zone following Scarlet Gorge. It seems I’ve fallen behind quests, as I’ve had to do a number of orange quests. I’m not sure what I’ve done wrong. There was a small batch of quests in Gloamwood which I skipped, but I went back and did them to make up for it. This did turn the quests yellow, but after a batch or two more, the quests were orange once again.

Orange quests, and thus orange enemies (i.e. 3-4 levels higher) is a big problem in Rift, at least for my Cleric even with heavy emphasis on the Inquisitor soul. Enemies up to yellow are easy enough to kill, but orange enemies resist a lot, take forever to kill, and hit hard. I met orange solo mobs in Scarwood Reach that could get me down to about 20% health before I managed to kill them.

Undying Myrmidons
Luckily these Undying Myrmidon were only of yellow difficulty.

That’s just not fun for a casual player like me, so I’ve decided that I need to go back and grind some footholds and invasions, maybe even try some dungeons. As mentioned in the previous post, rifts are mostly empty after Silverwood on my shard with its medium population. I was hoping it would catch up after Gloamwood, but it hasn’t been much better in Scarlet Gorge nor in Scarwood Reach.

Am I too fast and the public haven’t caught up? I don’t really think so. A lot of players in my guild are much higher level, and besides, I’ve actually not played all that intensively. An hour or two per day, perhaps. My guess is that people are concentrated on questing and dungeons while keeping rifts in the back of their mind as something they can always do later.

Rift: Gloamwood

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An interesting thing happened in Gloamwood, which perhaps I should have seen coming. Where rifts in the Silverwood (the starter zone) were zerged by players (which was great fun), practically no one is touching the rifts in Gloamwood at all, at least not on my shard (Quicksilver).

I’d like to do these rifts, but not on my own. This means that I have to settle with footholds (doable because the enemies rotating the wardstone are not linked when you tag them) and then there’s quests. This, together with the fact that Gloamwood looks a bit too dark and gloomy for my taste, means that the game is suddenly not as cool as it was to begin with.


I fear that the rifts will only be zerged by players in Silverwood (the starter zone) and whatever the zone is for level cap (level 50) as more and more players reach it. This could probably even be shown as a graph with a big bump in the start and end of it, together with a “flat valley” in the middle. Since I don’t have the exact numbers, I’ll leave it up to someone else to draw it (fat chance).

Rift: Idea for Mounts

I too have been pretty annoyed by the fact that low-level mobs can one- or two-shot me off my 60% mount in Rift. I then read a few complaints at the official forum to see if this improves with faster mounts. Supposedly the 60% is deliberately fragile and the faster ones can take a beating. I’m not sure yet, however. Some claim it’s exactly the same (which is not acceptable) while others claim it does indeed get a lot better. Guess I’ll have to see myself when I get them.

Nevertheless, it got me thinking and I have an idea I actually think is pretty good if I may say so myself. One of the points of being pummeled and thrown off the mount is to make sure the players actually use the roads. Fair enough. Here is what I propose then:

All roads in the zones automatically give you a temporary buff when you enter one. The buff makes your mount a lot sturdier while riding on the road (it gets more “confident” because of the clear view of the road). While on the road, enemies will have a harder time throwing you off. As soon as you leave the road to ride through an enemy territory, the temporary buff is gone.

I also posted a suggestion thread at the official forums about this.

Associations: Australia in Rift

In a previous post I claimed that Freemarch (starter zone for Defiants in Rift) looks a lot like Australia. Maybe I’m just lying on my back spotting clouds looking like rabbits and I actually have no case. But still, I think it’s funny how many similarities there are. Allow me to demonstrate:

Freemarch / Australia
I'm convinced the map designers were inspired by Planet Earth.

When I bought the box and unfolded the big map poster, I immediately thought Freemarch looked like Australia. Am I crazy? Out of my mind? Perhaps the world designers didn’t even mean to do it but still did it subconsciously. If it turns out that I was right all along, another question pops up – are there any other parts of the continent that was inspired by Planet Earth?

Rift: Silverwood

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I hit level 18 in Rift yesterday and uncovered all of Silverwood. I even took a ride on the top of the mountains at the north and west edges and found two small rockeries with a green item in each. It’s really great that you can get to these places and that you can walk on pretty steep cliff sides.

Also, walking around on these mountains and overlooking two zones from there, it occurred to me that the 3D engine is probably ready for flying mounts sometime in the future. I wouldn’t be surprised if Trion Worlds made sure of that and have it somewhere on their list of things to do.

I noted in the previous post that I only saw daytime and was wondering if nighttime ever occurred. Well, I have seen both since then. Nighttime is more akin to World of Warcraft than Lord of the Rings Online, i.e. the landscape gets a bluish tint but you can still see most of everything.

Rift Invasion
As an invasion moves, the ground effect moves with it.

The game has grabbed me in a way I haven’t been grabbed by an MMORPG for years. The atmosphere when stumbling into a rift and seeing a lot of other players is so unique. I join them on the fly in a big raid and start my mix of mostly healing everybody and doing a little bit of damage when they’re all right. I usually end up reasonably high on the participation meter.

One of the reasons it feels so great is that it’s so spontaneous and temporary. I admit I’ve become pretty introverted in MMORPG lately and usually stick to my own business. In Cataclysm, I didn’t do any of the dungeons, even though I reached level 85 and did a lot of dailies. I just felt like I didn’t want to go through the bother anymore. But rifts are so very different and I can get right back to healing a lot of players in a jiffy. No LFG, no preparations in guild chat – I merely check if there are other players moving towards the rift. In that case, I’m definitely in!