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:
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?
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.
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!
Rift was finally launched in Europe yesterday and I was there right from the beginning. Luckily I had none of the queue problems I’ve heard so much about, although there were a few hours in the middle of the day where all shards (servers) in EU and USA were down for a patch. Other than that, the game ran perfectly. No bugs, crashes or anything of the sort. It felt like I was playing an old, settled MMORPG that had been around for months already. Impressive.
I started out by creating a Guardian Dwarf Cleric. I heard from various blogs that this should be one of the better choices. Ironically I’m usually the type of guy to make different choices in these sort of games, but this time I really wanted to make it easy for myself. So a cleric it was. The souls I chose to begin with were Sentinel, Purifier and Warden. This gave me a good array of healing spells aside from damage spells, and I reached level 10 without any hiccups.
Although great fun, there’s no question that the influences from World of Warcraft is so great that it’s almost absurd at times. Most MMORPG use a rainbow color code for the titles of enemies to indicate their difficulty, and when you’ve out-leveled them they turn gray and won’t attack anymore. World of Warcraft is unique with its yellow (for non-aggressive) and red (for aggressive) titles for enemies. Rift? Exactly the same title system as in World of Warcraft.
Still, the game did feel unique enough to fill me with the joy of exploring a new game and its world in spite of the heavy influences and loans from various other MMORPG. One of the reasons is that the starting zone for Guardians immediately puts you in a war zone with bombardments and a tangible sense of danger, instead of just holding your hand in a field of flowers like in so many other MMORPG.
After several days of dailies in Cataclysm (the game with the strong colors and the low polygon count) I finally lost interest in the game, and I thought that would be a good opportunity to check out the new zone in Lord of the Rings Online.
I must say I was surprised how fast I blew through Enedwaith. Somehow I expected it to take weeks, but it only took about four days. However, that does exclude the dailies (except for their initial quests) and all the small fellowship quests in Thrór’s Coomb.
There were two reasons why I postponed Enedwaith. The first and most relevant reason was that the delay of the F2P patch in Europe took so long that I actually lost interest in LOTRO and got involved in other things. And then there were the criticism found in various forums and blogs; the zone was ugly, the micro-zoning made it feel like an amusement park, the textures were off, the canyon in Gloomglens too “American” and so on.
But now, after having played through the zone, I must say that I really disagree with most of the criticism. I actually thought the zone was quite nice. The pennants flapping in the wind and the new bombastic music defined the atmosphere nicely. All the small areas around the zone didn’t feel too exaggerated to me at all – certainly no more than in other zones such as e.g. Old Forest and Barrow-Downs in Bree-Land.
Yesterday I finally completed the high-level zones in Cataclysm. The last zone, Twilight Highlands, has an almost dried-up river bed that reminded me a little of Thundering Steppes in EverQuest II. Still, I thought the atmosphere in Deepholm was clearly the best of them all. Mount Hyjal was a little bland, Vashj’ir refreshingly different with its undersea paradise (but in the end a bit too samey quest hubs) and Uldum had too many pop culture references for my taste. The Indiana Jones quests were imaginative but also an almost direct copy of numerous scenes out of the famous movies.
It took a bit longer to get through it this time because I felt a little burnt out (as mentioned in my previous blog post about the expansion) but when I finally completed the last zone, I was actually more inclined to do the dailies from then on. Maybe it’s because the dailies represent standard quests I quickly get used to, and because of that I can really relax. Without vehicles.
Finally it happened – my account in World of Warcraft got hacked. It was the usual stuff; gold missing, items missing, characters parked elsewhere and even a new level 1 Warrior created with a nonsense name (probably used for selling gold).
I’ve had a World of Warcraft account since I’ve started playing in 2005 as the game was released in Europe and I’ve never been hacked before. Sure, I read a few forum posts about the authenticator but always figured that if I was careful, I would never be hacked. I had AVG installed, scanned regularly, never visited any ominous web sites and never clicked links in questionable e-mails. I wasn’t always subscribing, but when I was (usually for several months after an expansion was released), I never had any problems and trusted my ability to avoid all attempts at keylogging. I didn’t use an authenticator and was confident I would never have to.
And then I got hacked anyway.
After having contacted a GM and replaced my passwords, I started reading various forum threads about other people being hacked. It dawned upon me that the hackers don’t even need keyloggers. I could be clean as a whistle (as described above) and still get hacked. I’m pretty sure I was; I scanned with both AVG 2011 and Spybot and they didn’t find anything at all.
I’m watching Fringe these days, a TV show that started in 2008 and is now in the middle of its third season. Currently I’m almost finished with the second season. The show is somewhat inspired by the old X-Files show. A special unit is pursuing and unraveling supernatural accidents or crime scenes. Usually the episodes are more or less isolated, but sometimes they also return to a main storyline that slowly unfolds and intrigues. Just like X-Files.
I must admit that I wasn’t completely won over by the show in the first season. Walter Bishop is a bit too eccentric and they repeat too many of his odd habits. In the second season there are too many episodes where he dominates completely, leaving the other protagonists as mere bystanders. Nevertheless the show is still starting to grow on me as the episodes in the second half of the second season got better. Especially the episode with a younger Walter Bishop was magnificent.
In the second season, Nina Sharp suggests Olivia Dunham visits Sam Weiss, a bowling alley owner that also helped Nina regain use of her new cybernetic prosthetic arm. Olivia goes to him but finds his advice oblique and frustrating, although often helpful.
Almost immediately as soon as Sam Weiss (Kevin Corrigan) appeared on the screen, he reminded me of Father Martin Alvito (Damien Thomas) in the old Shogun TV mini-series from 1980.
The resemblance is almost uncanny. Not just because the two actors look so much like each other, but also in the way they act. Both Sam Weiss and Father Alvito have this stoic way about them.
Cataclysm for World of Warcraft arrived in December 2010, and just like all the previous releases I rushed to the local shop and bought the box so I could play on release day (I’m still a little old fashioned when it comes to software – I like to have a physical disc in my mitts). I played the original game in 2005 as it arrived and I was enthralled. I soloed, I grouped, I crafted, I raided. It was fascinating and I played regularly. This repeated itself as the next two expansion packs were released. Maybe the game was starting to grate a little, but I still soloed, grouped, crafted and raided. In other words, I was still dedicated.
This time around I just haven’t been able to capture that feeling again. I have been playing my Paladin in the high-level zones – Mount Hyjal, Vashj’ir, Deepholm and currently I’m level 84 in Uldum. It’s indeed very pretty and the quests are often hilarious and sometimes ingenious. The blocky low-polygon graphics annoys me, but it also did that in 2005 so that hasn’t changed. It looks like the textures have improved, however, which makes it a little easier to tolerate the lack of polygons. The underwater zone in Vashj’ir felt very different and the atmosphere in Deepholm was really good (it reminded me Mines of Moria in LOTRO, the best interior zones I have ever seen in an MMORPG).
This is my only blog and I intend to write about all the stuff that interests me and not just keep to one subject. It may seem logical at first, but I’ve noticed that many bloggers keep to one subject per blog and instead have more than one. I understand this from an SEO point of view, but I’m not all that concerned about that (at least not to begin with). As long as I keep topics separated in logical categories, I think it will work out just fine.
Here are some of the ideas I have for frequent topics in this blog.