Tag Archives: MMO

Rift – Two Weeks On


I posted a few weeks back that I’d let my WoW subscription expire (not missing that at all btw) and had picked up Rift just before the founders subscription offer ran out.

My original post was really my first impressions and this is very much a highly polished MMO considering its age, however, in the ensuing time things have not all gone as well as they could. I spent around a week not being able to play at all, not good when you have a free month to try things out and are looking as to whether to subscribe, or even worse, encourage your friends to join you! However, this has now been resolved, largely through my own troubleshooting efforts. There are numerous people reporting connectivity issues, I was able to log in but would get disconnected in 30 secs to 2 minutes, nothing would load in the world and it was impossible to do anything.

I even rebuilt my computer to get around this issue and the only thing that eventually worked for me was to use the “Run as Administrator” option from the shortcut menu. I still get pretty hefty lag in Sanctum and well attended rifts but it is way better than before and I can actually play now. There are some lag spikes now and then but I can forgive a game this much as I know the forums are awash with complaints regarding this so I hope Trion are looking into it.

After playing through all the Callings there are I’ve settled on my Rogue. I picked Assassin, Nightblade and Blade Dancer as my first 3 souls and am enjoying it so far. Last night I hit level 16 and bought myself my first mount, a nice chocolate-brown horse. This really opens up the map and I like the fact that you are not restricted in when you buy your starting mount, the only obstacle is the money it takes to do it. You get tempted early on in Silverwood by seeing the horses but there are some sweeter mounts available in Sanctum with the faster ones becoming available at level 40 and 50.

Another level and I’ll be high enough to try the first dungeon too, I have done some quests to unlock further souls although you can’t swap them out with the initial three you choose. I have purchased another Role which will allow me to pick more souls and effectively have a second talent spec. Last night I earned my Marksman, Rift Stalker, Ranger and Bard souls. This now allows me the option for another DPS spec or speccing for tanking. I think I am going to finish gathering all my Callings souls before making a decision but being able to Tank or DPS should provide some interesting changes of pace. My quest log is brimming with stuff to do and as I complete them I am also collecting crafting materials.

Up until recently I was in pretty much fully crafted gear, OK I outgrew it reasonably quickly but it was nice that the stuff I was making was useful and I see people in their own crafted gear, at least around my level, not sure how it gets at higher levels.

Currently I am certainly not as hardcore with this game as I was with World of Warcraft but then I reckon that is a good thing. I haven’t yet thrown myself into a guild and am having a lot of fun just running around questing and doing things with Rifts as they appear.

Even despite the frustrations I had with the game stopping working for a while I’m happy with what I’m doing at the moment. A lot of the territory I am covering is familiar enough to WoW that you don’t feel lost within a new world, but there is enough there that is different to keep having stuff you want to do. I’m certainly looking forward to seeing how things pan out as I continue to level and being in a new world for the first time in a while is certainly refreshing. I’ll just need to keep myself honest as I have a lot of painting that needs doing too…

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Rift – First (and a half) Impressions


The King is dead, long live the King! With only a few days left of my WoW subscription I’ve pretty much abandoned it, I’d created a new Mage on another server to take a break from Argent Dawn for a bit and see if a fresh start would revitalise me. Needless to say with 85 levels ahead of me and a clear understanding of the end game I couldn’t really find the will to go on. I’ve bought every single expansion they’ve released and played them all through and I finish now with a level 85, an 83 and an 82 with two alts in their 40’s and a smattering in the twenties. I think I’ve seen enough of WoW and even with the different character classes that there are everything else is a little stale. I’ve done so much with my Shaman that replicating the achievements on other characters is a chore in and of itself and I don’t really want to do that.

I’ve done a small amount of painting this week, now the lighter nights are coming in I expect to ramp this up and try to finally get some more finished pieces, it would be really nice to have a fully painted game of something at some point. I have some more Dark Eldar to collect to finish my army off but other than that there isn’t a lot of stuff I see coming in the future for me to buy, therefore painting what I do have should be more of a priority.

However, all that is really just a preamble to what you know I’m going to be talking about. The reason the title adds a half to my otherwise first impression of new MMO Rift is because I did get a short amount of time in the beta. I never actually left the starting zone of the Defiants which is where I spent a lot of my time trying out the different callings. I liked what I saw but decided not to take the plunge when the game came out, especially with WoW still being very much on my radar and my personal history of what happens when I have two MMOs running at the same time. I picked up the game on Wednesday for a couple of reasons, one of them obviously being that I really enjoy MMOs and wanted something fresh and new after WoW. Second was that the founder’s subscription discount expired at the end of March, £20 for three months play I find quite attractive and is around £5 cheaper than WoW and you of course get your free month. Third was that the game has been out for a month now and therefore all the hype is dying down, the bandwagon jumpers will be going back to WoW and the server populations should start to stabilise.

For me at least, it seems like the ideal time to make the jump. All the signs so far have pointed to Rift being a real win for the MMO sector, its release was possibly the most polished and bug free ever in the market space, certainly a plus point that isn’t lost on me after seeing a lot of MMOs on Day 1 just fail to deliver any real playable experience. Waiting for a little bit has served me really well here as I’ve been able to watch things develop before taking the plunge.

Last night was the first night I got to properly sit down and have a blast through. I created a character on both side of the Guardian/Defiant divide however, after watching the intro videos for the factions I found that I was identifying more with the story of the Guardians and therefore I have created one character for each of the four callings (Warrior, Rogue, Mage, Cleric) on the Guardian side.

One of the major mechanics that makes Rift stand out from other MMOs is the Soul system that the classes work off. Each Calling has eight Souls associated with it and each of those souls has different abilities that you start off with. As you level up you earn points that can be put into the Souls, kind of like Talent Trees in WoW, the more points you spend in a tree the more abilities you unlock. What makes things stand out is that you can have three Souls active at any one time, combining the abilities of all three Souls to improve your character. Each of these combinations is called a Role and you are allowed yo purchase up to 4 Roles so you can radically alter your play style within your Calling.

You’ll also find that your callings are not in the traditional sense of the typical MMO class system. For instance, the Riftstalker Soul from the Rogue calling is actually a Defensive Soul, meaning that it is set up for Tanking, you have the Bard which is a Support Soul for buffing you and your group. You can have a pet class Soul and be like a traditional Hunter was in WoW and the synergy between the Souls is really impressive. So far on my Rogue I’ve used my points to not only buff my base damage I’ve put points into my other Souls in order to boost the damage of my Finishing Moves as well as improve my chances of hitting.

I really like this system and look forward to seeing what combinations I can come up with, you do tend to see some similar abilities in the various Souls and I cut out the ones that do the least damage compared to others, this does mean that I swap skills in and out of my rotation as they level up.

One of the other stand out features are the Rifts after which the game derives its name. For lack of a better description these are tears that appear randomly around the world. I am currently in Silverwood and have encountered Life, Death and Fire Rifts (each Rift is based on a particular elemental force). These rifts spawn bad guys and as they get left along will spawn bigger and nastier critters until the players group together and seal it. Each of the rifts have different mechanics for the various stages of a rift which keeps things interesting and as soon as you enter a rift you can join a public group so you can see all the other players and work with them.

I spent the latter part of my session last night doing nothing but Rifts and it’s similar to the public quest system implemented in Warhammer Online. You earn loot by contributing to the sealing of a rift but nothing you couldn’t do without if you chose not to take part. You can tell what kind of Rift you are facing before getting there due to the colour palette and graphical effects surrounding it.

I managed to get my Rogue up to level 11 before heading for bed. Unlike my other forays into fantasy based MMOs I have mostly Human characters. Each faction has three race options, one of them on both sides is Human, Mathosian for the Guardians and Eth for the Defiants. Then you have High Elves and Dwarfs to round out the Guardians and Kelari (think dark elves and you’re not far off) and Bahmi (big burly purple dudes) for the Defiants. Everything bar my Cleric is Mathosian with a High Elf finishing things off. I normally plumb for the otherworldly races to aid my escapism in these games but this time around I really like the look of the Human races. Gone are the cartoony and stylised graphics of WoW and now we have a world that is really stunning to look at. Going in afresh means I am exploring things anew for the first time in a while.

True, the core mechanics are very similar to WoW but this just makes it easily accessible to those people looking for something that is familiar but different enough to satisfy them and so far Rift is doing this for me. The Soul system is going to be really interesting to explore as I level and the whole world is easier to get into as it feels more real. I’ve got a busy weekend coming up but I am looking forward to getting some more time to explore Rift and what it holds.

I may have taken my time in choosing whether or not to dive in but now that I have I am very glad I did.

6 Inch Move Review – Mass Effect 2 – Beware of Spoilers


Over the weekend I managed to complete the exceptional Mass Effect 2. As friends can attest I am quite a fickle gamer and therefore if I actually finish the single player campaign of any game it is heralded with fireworks and other celebratory effects. It is this singular fact alone that shows how remarkable the original Mass Effect was when I went through it three times! Once I had finished that game I was super-excited for the sequel, already knowing that this was going to be a trilogy. Of course, shortly before the release of Mass Effect 2 my Xbox took a dump and red-ringed while I was playing Fable 2 (I finished it eventually after getting a new Xbox 8 months later). Once the new Xbox was here I wasted no time in buying Mass Effect 2, it had also massively dropped in price by the time I picked it up too, every cloud…

After having imported my Paragon Shephard from the first game I fired things up, I knew a few bits and pieces from having watched the trailers but in the main the storyline was unknown to me. I loaded up the game, saw the Normandy get decked, enjoyed the awesome moment of walking out of a burning ship into the noiselessness of space and then the moments with Cerberus. Now that I have completed the game I have to say that I am very happy with the experience, I like how it integrated the choices I had made in the previous game and the fact that you come across your old team members really was a series of joyful reunions. You can tell a lot about a game if you actually engaged with and identified with the characters, books are more normally the medium for this to happen but it is great to see video games with this much detail lavished upon them where you feel a genuine connection far beyond the code and pixels.

I enjoyed spending my time recruiting and talking to my team, the old and the new alike. I performed every single loyalty mission and did every single sidequest that came up before doing the final mission. Unfortunately I haven’t got anything other than the autosaves after completing the game so I need to go through the final boss fight again and make sure to save this time as I played around a bit after the final curtain. I want to make sure I have the save in the right place when Mass Effect 3 comes around so I can import again.

Throughout the game the storytelling is fantastic, if you are playing this game for the combat side of things I believe you’ve got the wrong game. Bioware’s real strength comes from creating a believable world in which you can live through the actions of your party. I have loved Mass Effect’s world since the opening mission on Eden Prime in the first game. It was nice to see some old enemies from new perspectives in the sequel too. Of course there are the Bioware staple options of pursuing romance within the game (though no lady on lady action as was possible in the first game) but the campaign plays out beautifully. Nothing takes forever to do, in some cases the missions even feel too short, I remember things taking much longer in the original but this really is a minor criticism about a game that is executed so wonderfully. Everytime I landed for a mission it was a real decision to choose who was coming with me, there is a lot of diversity in the characters and they have some pretty useful abilities so depending on what you expect to face on a mission can have an impact on what you want to take along. I did tend to default to the same people with slight variations but overall I took more of the different team members in this one than I ever did in Mass Effect 1 where I took Tali and Liara on pretty much every mission once I had recruited them.

I like the addition of the Paragon and Renegade action triggers, I’m on my second play through to see how the Renegade ends up different and am enjoying being a badass for a change, although personally I find it easier to identify with an altruistic character, rather than one that is horribly self-centred. Sometimes things aren’t all that clear though as when I have chosen options that seem the most Paragon like I accumulate some Renegade points alongside the big hauls of Paragon from within the same conversation. I was very pleased to survive the final mission and not lose a single team member from any of the assignments I gave them, I imagine that will have an impact on the final game.

One thing that did frustrate me was the fact that your old romantic relationships have been completely closed off. While meeting Liara for the first time (the romance I pursued with my ME1 Paragon Shephard) there isn’t much you can do, what with Liara being focussed on kicking the Shadow Broker’s ass. Sure the story picks up two years later but you’d have thought that a relationship would last a bit longer but this is purely down to personal perception and I am not in charge of the characters nor how Asari deal with the death of a lover considering their longevity.

Everything is nicely setup for the final chapter of the game, I’ll be picking it up on release providing this Xbox is more compliant that its predecessor. What I am also hoping is that Mass Effect avoids the horrible fate that seems to afflict some game worlds these days of being transferred into the MMO market. I love Mass Effect and the story, however, porting it online where you’d have a veritable horde of Shephard wannabes I don’t think would work, at least not for me as a consumer. I’d like to see that Mass Effect stays as a single player RPG title, luckily Bioware are very good at these kinds of games and while The Old Republic is taking KOTOR into the MMO market I hope that we don’t end up with their sci-fi magnum opus going the same way. I love the experiences I’ve had so far and look forward to finishing the series and closing off a wonderful gaming journey.

Mass Effect 2 – 5/5 as far as I am concerned. Brilliant!

Concepts In Gaming – The Myth of Balance


Time to sink our collective teeth into another of the meaty topics related to gaming. Whether you lean more towards the tabletop world or the virtual world there is an often quoted and talked about concept that has the potential to construct a perfect storm of CAPS LOCK fury and ‘Rage of the Nerd’ (TM). Any game that has more than one player in it strives for this singular achievement of gaming, as the title of this post has already not very subtly alluded to, that principle is balance.

This really is the holy grail of gaming, to have a game perfectly poised so that anything can defeat anything else and it just comes down to the player at the end of the day. What I am going to say is that right up front this is a crock! That’s right, I’m flinging poo at the punters again, not only did I decry Comp the other day but here I am now saying that balance in both tabletop games and online virtual environments is nigh unachievable. We here at 6 Inch Move don’t shy away from the big topics for you to enjoy at home or on the road. Obviously this is a viewpoint that I am going to have to back up. Luckily I have a good number of words left to try to achieve that, so, please stick with me and we’ll see where we end up.

Without the rose-tinted glasses of hindsight I doubt that we can ever come up with a game that was perfectly balanced (other than the original Starcraft, but I am not counting that as we are dealing with tabletop games and MMOs primarily). Both of these spheres have things in common, both tend to go with players on two sides, and each side will have access to various classes/races/armies or whatever. With tabletop gaming you have an army list to pick your units from, this leads to a whole host of different combinations that can be taken, especially when you throw in options for different magic items and upgrades that can alter how your army performs. In MMOs there are race/class combinations as well as differences in gear levels. Now, for MMOs balance is an argument that is almost universally attributed to the PvP environment, the reason I bring tabletop gaming up as well is that, in essence, this is also a PvP arena, one person or a team against another person or team. If one person finds it hard to beat another there can often times be a whine associated with it. Now, I’m not going to tar everyone with the same brush, it is normally the vocal minority that you hear about, they are the ones that are complaining after all and in our hyper-connected Internet world we hear about these things through the communities we associate with.

For wargaming there is an expectation that each army be balanced against all others, that there is no significant advantage gained by taking one army over another. However, if you consider the amount of variety available balancing each and every possible combination is next to impossible. Personally I don’t think any combo is unbeatable, you may have to come with up some inventive tactics or strategies and shy away from that one favourite unit you have in order to overcome something you struggle against. Sure I can understand the argument that if you bring an all-comers list you should have a good chance of beating your opponent but there will always be bad match ups. This happens in real life as well, some forces are better equipped than others yet they have stood up and made an accounting greater than they should have. The same can be true of our war games.

In an MMO environment I am even more dead set that balance is something that should not really even be considered. If I run around as a Holy Priest for instance, why should I be entitled to think that I can beat any pure DPS class or tank? I CHOSE to heal my team mates, it is their job to protect me so I can protect them. In one way the balance comes from the team and any team that has damage dealing and healing should steam roll any other team that is missing one or the other. I took a lowbie character into a Warsong Gulch match a few months back and we were faced with a team of 8 or 9 Hunters. In the 11-19 bracket that meant we just go walked all over because we couldn’t match their damage output and we had next to no healers (I myself was a Hunter on the side getting pwned). With WoW as a specific case I don’t think the classes are balanced around PvP anyway, more that they are looked at in PvE and PvP is just an addition. There was a lot of this in SWG too, PvP was a pretty big part of the game with the Galactic Civil War period, yet anyone that played a class that could attack the Mind pool of player was pretty much guaranteed to win.

If the only thing to happen was a one vs one then the game could strive to achieve a certain balance, but each person would have to have the same abilities and the same core design to allow only player skill to show through. In order to make an engaging game you lose this aspect, especially when other players are brought into the mix. Sure it can be frustrating to get absolutely spanked in a situation where you have no chance of doing anything else but everytime some people band together and start using teamwork things get a lot better. There is much more to a game than one thing being able to beat another or even the Starcraft like Rock, Paper, Scissors (Lizard, Spock). Balance is an unachievable Holy Grail in an environment that almost discounts balance at its heart. Sometimes you will win, sometimes you lose, this is a life principle and rather than just whining about we lost and such and such an army or class is broken we should suck it up, look at what we did and what happened and try to learn from that. Afterall, retreating from a fight is not always a sign of cowardice, feigned flight can be a strategy in and of itself and while you are alive you have a chance to fight back.

MMOs Vs Tabletop – The Battle for Gaming


I was born at the tail end of the 70’s and therefore grew up during the age in which computers really took off as well as in the hey day of AD&D. Now, being a little young and in the wrong crowd for D&D I ended up firmly in the group who grew up with BBCs, Acorns and their ilk. As I got older I got into tabletop games and these both ran alongside each other as the hobbies that really would take a lot of my time especially as the 90’s hit and I had my own disposable income to chuck away.

Now, computer gaming really was quite a solitary thing, OK, you may have had a mate round to play Duck Hunt or something but that really was it, there wasn’t a huge multiplayer market unless you had two joysticks… Tabletop gaming is much more social in my mind, whether you’ve spent time in a store surrounded by the heady odour of unwashed men or surrounded yourself with better hygiened companions in the safety of your own boudoir, tabletop lends itself to a crowd. OK, you can enjoy a game with a close friend and enjoy it being just the two of you but often when I play there is at least 3 of us.

Nowadays however there is a (not so) new kid on the block. The MMORPG, a game genre that seeks to unite thousands if not millions of people globally into the same environment, some have even made the transition from tabletop to Internetz, and some vice versa. They seek to entice all people to enjoy their fruits and (after playing more than my fair share) I find them to be useful diversions that allow a bit of escapism, I’ve even been fortunate enough to play with real life friends in these adventures and have forged at least one lasting friendship through someone met in one of these games. However, both MMOs and tabletop gaming are very different, you obviously have a much more selective play group if you’re involved in a tabletop community, even if you are a regular tournament attendee, then we have the perennial stumbling block that miniatures are seen as nerdy and the age old image of computer gamers being sweaty old men living in their parents basement is becoming a stereotype more and more consigned to the past.

A hobby only survives long term with an injection of fresh blood and I don’t really have any numbers to throw around here but with the easy accessibility of computer games and the social aspects of MMOs, does this mean that we will see a slow decline in the number of people who take up the tabletop hobby? After all, there are no really immediate results from miniatures, you normally have to assemble them first and then there is the option of painting them too. MMOs you just pays your dollar and dives right in, you can see yourself getting rewards in terms of money, XP and loot a much more immediate gratification and your house doesn’t end up looking like the set from the Death Star trench run.

Yet, no matter how much MMOs may try to entice, even with games like Warhammer Online, I cannot see them replacing a hobby that I love. Would you be enticed into Warhammer Online to sample the Intellectual Property or rather try actually playing a proper game where you command entire regiments on the table rather than a single avatar in the game? Are we going to see more and more kids that may have been willing to try out tabletop going down the road of MMOs because they require a smaller investment up front and quicker rewards? Or do you feel that our beloved hobby will be able to endure against the continuing encroachment of virtual treats?

I don’t have the answers and I look forward to the day that I can pass on my geekiness to any legacy that may be forthcoming, but no matter how social gaming may become, standing around talking trash with friends in my living room will always be something I treasure.