Thursday, December 29, 2011

MORPG Review: Rift

A few people have been asking me where I've been, and why I haven't put up a couple of articles for the Newser in recent times. The simple answer is that I haven't been in-world; I've been distracted by a game known as Rift... essentially "World of Warcraft" if WoW had respectable graphics.

Rift is a shameless WoW knockoff, but it's a good one. It's set in the world of Telara, and there are two factions, the Alliance and the Hor... I mean, the Guardians (chosen by the gods to go after evil) and the Defiant (relying on technology over "gods"). The two factions are at odds about how best to deal with a bunch of evil dragons that want essentially to eat the world. As of right now in the storyline, two of those dragons (Greenscale, dragon of Life, and Akylios, of Knowledge) have been taken out by players.

The classes are kind of the same, with skill "trees", only in this case, the more points you put into the "branches" of the tree, the more "root" skills are unlocked. There are a few differences from WoW in this regard; Rogues can tank (their tanking tree comes with a lot of shields and teleports both to and from the monsters) and mages can heal with a "Chloromancer" build.

Rift has a few things going that make it different from WoW. For one, it has its namesakes, the Rifts. These are mini events in which you "kill x amount of monsters" that are usually stronger than the norm. Rifts have multiple stages, with stronger and stronger beings appearing until the last of them drops and the rift is sealed. The other thing it has is its Artifact system, where during the course of your travels you can come across artifacts that make up "sets" and which you can turn in for a gold reward (and sometimes a costume piece, like the head of an iron golem you can use as a helmet). It also has "Chronicles", mini-dungeons/adventures that allow you to solo "high end" content (so instead of needing a 20 man raid to down Greenscale, you can do it alone or with one other person). Currently there are only two Chronicles, but I am sure there are going to be more.

Other than that it's the same as WoW. You go out questing, do dailies and holiday events, go on raids (the current end content, Hammerknell, has 11 bosses that take 10-15 minutes to down... each), get better gear. They just opened up a new continent for content, Ember Isle, with a tropical "jungle feel" to it for the Level 50s (the highest level you can be so far). I decided to play a Rogue, as I was looking for a Hunter build like my WoW days.

It's not without its faults. The aforementioned hunter only has three pets (tanking boar, dps wolf, and a mutant velociraptor called a blood raptor); there is a lot of groaning about how clerics seem to be underpowered, and one thing I have noticed is that the devs can't seem to get world events right. Their first (the opening of an instance called the River of Souls) was a disaster, and the ones following haven't been all that hot either, with a lot of unexpected bugs. Their PvP leaves much to be desired, as there's no scaling. You can be a "rank 2" (out of 8) PvPer, and routinely run into Rank 8s whom you can't put a dent into. When their newest expansion, Ember Isle, opened you had world bosses with 60-80 people fighting the boss trying to down it. The lag generated by so many people in one place means the boss despawns after two real-time hours before you finish killing it. The technology is advancing faster than most home computer users.

I've been playing since the beta that started in March. Having been kicked out of my WoW guild for stupid reasons, I was quitting cold turkey (a good decision; I found I didn't miss WoW at -all- after two years total of play). Rift's a good game that has a LOT of potential for improvement if they don't make stupid mistakes, so I'm giving it an optimistic 3 Dragon Hoards out of five, because it has room for improvement.

I've also been playing several other games and am pondering getting Skyrim, and I simply haven't been in Second Life all that much otherwise except to allow my Tiny Empires HUD to advance a few turns. So if you were looking for me, that's where I've been.

Now for an announcement. I've become a rather jaded equine reporter here on the Grid, it's very hard for me to find something I can get really excited about writing about. Twice already I've had to pass stuff back to Bixyl (the recent Meeroo story, for instance) because I couldn't get excited enough to write a piece on it.

With that in mind, for the 2012 year I want -you- out there to get me to do things. I'm a reporter, make me report things! :) If you can point me to something or have something to plug that I can get excited about, AND I give it a good review, it's $L in your pocket; I'm putting my $L where my mouth is. If I give something you bring to my attention 4 Dragon Hoards out of five, I'll pay you 500 $L. If I give it a full five out of five (harder than it looks), I'll pay 2000 $L out of my own pocket.

Xymbers Slade

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Have Yourself a Tiny Little Christmas

Remember the "Tiny Carollers" whom entertained the audience at the last show of the season of "the 1st Question" during technical difficulties? Well, their whole performance was too long for the article then. So here it is now.

~*~ O' Little Sim of Raglan Shire, Where Tinies come to Playyyy ~*~
~*~ To run and chitter endlessly and RiverDance all dayyyy ~*~
~*~ And in the Snow of Winterfest, Tinies are heard to Call.. ~*~
~*~ To Visitors of Biggie Height, Asked Why Are You So Tallllllll? ~*~

* ~*~ * ~*~ * ~*~ * ~*~ *

~*~ It's beginning to look alot like Wootmas! ~*~
~*~ All across the shire you go! ~*~
~*~ Take a look at the village chalet, ~*~
~*~ The snowmen and the sleigh, ~*~
~*~ With candy canes and tinsel all aglow! ~*~

~*~ Its beginning to look a lot like Wootmas! ~*~
~*~ Tinies in every store! ~*~
~*~ But the nommiest site to see ~*~
~*~ Is the waffles that will be ~*~
~*~ Inside your own front door. ~*~

~*~ A pair of bunny hop shoes and lazors that shoot ~*~
~*~ Is the wish of Copper and Reign! ~*~
~*~ Dolls that will talk and go for a walk ~*~
~*~ Is the hope of Jillan and Jane! ~*~
~*~ And Kayak and Toady can hardly wait ~*~
~*~ Till Raglan U opens agaaain! ~*~

~*~ Its beginning to look alot like Wootmas ~*~
~*~ All across the shire you go! ~*~
~*~ Theres a great tree name of Steve, ~*~
~*~ That all the tinies can see, ~*~
~*~ He's GINORMOUS, and doesnt mind the snow! ~*~

~*~ Its beginning to look alot like Wootmas! ~*~
~*~ Soon the bells will start! ~*~
~*~ And the thing that will make them ring, ~*~
~*~ When all the tinies sing, ~*~
~*~ Is right within your heart!!! ~*~

* ~*~ * ~*~ * ~*~ * ~*~ *

~*~ Hark the Tiny Critters Sing, Glory to the Waffle King! ~*~
~*~ Peace on the Grid & Syrup mild, Otters & Ferrets Reconciled! ~*~
~*~ Joyful with all your fur so slick, Raise up your Cookies on a stick! ~*~
~*~ And with upward paws proclaim, We shall RiverDance again! ~*~
~*~ Hark the Tiny Critters Sing, Glory to the Waffle Kinnnng ~*~

* ~*~ * ~*~ * ~*~ * ~*~ *

~*~ Jelly Beans, Hunks of Cheese, Sugar Frosted Ham. All Deep-fried, Toast on the Side with Wootberry Jam.. ~*~
~*~ Chocolate Cake all wrapped in Bacon, Nachos on a Stick! Come Along, Let's eat some Noms & Hope we don't get Sick... HEY!! ~*~
~*~ Nomming Treats & Sweets, from Our Raglan Shire Buffet, Fills our little tummies, with Food this Holiday! ~*~
~*~ Just singing 'bout it now, Make's our Hunger Rise! We can't wait to grab a Plate & Stack it real High.. Withhh.. ~*~
~*~ Jelly Beans, Hunks of Cheese, Sugar Frosted Ham. All Deep-fried, Toast on the Side with Wootberry Jam.. ~*~
~*~ Chocolate Cake all wrapped in Bacon, Nachos on a Stick! Come Along, Let's eat some Noms & Hope we don't get SICKKKKKKK! ~*~

~*~ Here we come A-waffling please feed us Breakfast Food! Here we come A-hungering so ~*~ Knives & Forks Come to Me, And a Warm Butter Patty, And please Serve us some Syrup & Chopped up Pecans Tooooo...~*~
~*~ And Please Sprinkle some Berries on them Toooo! Here we come A-waffling please Feed us Tasty Treats!~*~
~*~ Here we come A-chittering so give us something Sweet! Thanks to All for the Snax! Now we all can go Chillax!~*~
~*~And go about the things that we all Dooooo..... And Happy Holidays from All of Us to YOUUUUUUUUUU~*~

* ~*~ * ~*~ * ~*~ * ~*~ *

~*~ Sleigh bells ring! Are you listening? ~*~
~*~ In the shire, snow is glistening! ~*~
~*~ A wootiful sight, we're happy tonight, ~*~
~*~ Walking in a waffle wonderland! ~*~

~*~ Gone away is the blue bird ~*~
~*~ Here to stay is the new bird ~*~
~*~ He noms on chocolate ~*~
~*~ With bacon on a stick ~*~
~*~ Walking in a waffle wonderland! ~*~

~*~ In the shire we can build a snowman ~*~
~*~ Pretend that he's a chef from outta town ~*~
~*~ He'll say 'Want some waffle?' We'll say 'YEAH MAN!' ~*~
~*~ Then he'll pour the syrup while we chow! ~*~

~*~ Later on we'll conspire ~*~
~*~ As we riverdance in the shire ~*~
~*~ Tiny faces alight ~*~
~*~ With all the presents in sight ~*~
~*~ Walking in a waffle wonderland! ~*~

from the Tiny Crew of "the 1st Question"

Monday, December 12, 2011

Meanwhile Back in Azeroth: Holidays and Updates

Recently, the massive multiplayer online game World of Warcraft made news with plan announced for the new expansion. In the meantime, the players have been going through holiday events from Azerothian versions of Halloween to Thanksgiving, plus the latest update in which they can take a trip to an amusement park island and finally face down the arch-villain of the current game.

October brought the “Brewfest” holiday, during which players sampled various brews and could help out by bringing fresh ale to the festival grounds and defend them against the jealous Dark Iron Dwarves. Later on was “Hallow’s End.” Previously, it was featured with the Horde’s burning of the Wickerman near the Undercity with the Alliance watching from their neaby town of Southshore, Horde stinkbomb pranks on Southshore and Alliance cleaning them up “with the power of pine,” and of course going from inn to inn for tricks or treats, which besides candy could get you a mask or a costume (there were hunters with bat pets ending up with bat costumes), or perhaps a trick and getting temporarily turned into a worm or black cat.

With the introduction of the Worgen and Southshore lost by the Alliance there were some changes to Hallow’s End, as well as additions. The Forsaken’s burning of the Wickerman was closer to the Undercity, just inside the walls of the ruins of Loredon. And the Gilneans held their own Wickerman burning just outside the gates of Stormwind. And both the Forsaken and Gilneians had witches to offer players the chance to drop stinkbombs on the other’s city, as well as offering quests to clean up the messes left by the other. There was also a quest to douse the fire on the opposing side’s Wickerman, though just venturing near would get you flagged for PvP combat. Needless to say, I only attempted this late at night when there were few opposition around.

There was also a special Hallow’s End questline. A man at a bar asks you to get a crate that was recently shipped over. Naturally it’s missing, and the character has to search for it. Along the way, you discover the crate is far from harmless. Once you find it, you have a choice, go ahead and give it to the man who hired you, or to someone else you met better prepared to handle it’s dangers?

And like before, there were the Headless Horseman quests. During Hallow’s End, his spirit terrorized several Horde and Alliance towns, setting them afire. Players have the task of teaming up to put them out and stop the specter. But to truly slay the Headless Horseman, one has to go to his grave in a Scarlet Monastery dungeon, draw him out, and smash his head. Among the possible drops by besting him, his spooky flying horse. And of course there was the treat or treating at inns, which got you candy and possible prizes, such as masks, and broom mounts that lasted until the end of the holiday.

In November was a dual event. The more notable part was the Thanksgiving holiday theme “Pilgrim’s Bounty." There were no changes from last year, so characters were still going from capital to capital with holiday foods to complete quests. The good part of this holiday, characters could advance their character’s cooking much more quickly than usual to expert levels. And the special stat bonuses from the food were a help in combat, that is, for those who took time away from the cooking to fight.

Also was the “WoW 7th Anniversary” Event. In previous anniversary events, the reward had been a special companion pet. Unfortunately for pet collectors, this was not the case this time. Instead, players got a packaged that when activated shot a firework in the air, and gave the player a temporary special tabard with “WoW” on it plus a 7% boost to experience and reputation gains. It was good for two weeks, ending on Dec. 3rd. While some liked the little bonus, others expressed disappointment there would be no lasting memento.

And after Pilgrim’s Bounty came to a close came Patch 4.3 for the game, also known as “Hour of Twilight.” It is here that the quests to defeat Deathwing, the main villain of the third expansion, finally arrive. This includes a special rouge’s quest line, which supposedly deals with a mid-ranked quest in the Badlands in which the player ends up with a dragons egg (note to any WoW player reading, you *did* keep that egg, didn’t you?) There are a number of others, eventually ending up with the players on the massive black dragon’s back to rip off his specially armored plates long enough for a superweapon to be fired at the weak spot.

But these quests are for the strongest characters. For those of all ranks, there is the new Darkmoon Faire. Before, the Faire was a traveling show that alternated between showing up near Goldshire or Thunderbluff every month. Now, the carnival workers have set up a portal that takes players to the new Darkmoon Faire Island. There, players can buy tokens to play games from ring toss to wack-a-gnall to target shooting in exchange for tickets. They can also take on daily quests (daily for as long as the faire lasts) to complete the games. There are also quests to help out some of the carnies, the rewards being tokens and five levels of experience for the profession involved in the quest. All six professions are involved, not just cooking and fishing. For yours truly trying to become an Illustrious Leatherworker, the Darkmoon quest linked to that provided a welcome shortcut.

The Faire first appeared in early December, up for a week. The Faire may be gone now, but it won’t be long for the Christmas holiday, Winter Veil.

For yours truly, as well as many other players, it’s been a year since playing the game in our new favorite characters, starting them when Cataclysm appeared and brought with it Worgen as playable. So far, I’ve gotten to Level 83, but wanting to experience lots of quests and work up my professions, plus get materials for the guild's larger bags, I still have yet to experience the new Cataclysm regions with my newer characters. Still having fun in the Sunweaver guild, set up by my Second Life friends on my home estate, and still having fun in Azeroth after all these years.

But not everyone who was playing World of Warcraft is sticking around. More on that later.

Picture Source: WoWHead

Bixyl Shuftan