Monday, February 28, 2011

Gathering Professions

One of the trends I really dislike in modern WoW is the idea that raiding characters should have two crafting professions and zero gathering professions. This is done because the crafting profession perks are generally more powerful and flexible than the perks granted by the gathering professions.

I don't really play alts, so having a gathering alt is out. What I like best about crafting is the "self-sufficiency" of it. Of making your own gear or items from scratch. And this current trend cuts directly against that.

I was talking to a friend, Tharok, and we were discussing crafting in Rift. In Rift, each crafting profession requires materials from two gathering professions. For example, Armorsmithing mainly requires materials from Mining, but some recipes also use leather from Butchering. Rift does give you 3 profession slots, so you can take both gathering professions. Or you could take 2 crafting professions (like Armorsmithing and Weaponsmithing) and the main gathering profession (Mining). Then you would just buy extra materials from the Auction House when necessary.

In any case, Tharok made a suggestion that is brilliant in its simplicity: why not eliminate gathering professions altogether?.

The idea would be that if you take a profession like Blacksmithing or Jewelcrafting, you would automatically get the ability to mine ore. This immediately simplifies professions immensely. Of course, you would reduce the number of professions you could take to one or two.

There are already a couple of professions in WoW that work this way: Enchanting and Tailoring. Enchanting generates its own raw materials, as does tailoring. There's no extra gathering profession. And honestly, those two professions are fine on their own. They aren't hurt, or are less fun, by the lack of a gathering profession.

The counter-argument against this idea is that the gathering professions are necessary to the economy in some fashion. But I'm not sure that this is the case. Cloth and enchanting materials are still sold and traded on the AH.

And even if it did hurt the economy, I would prefer this change because it makes crafting simpler and more useful (and maybe even more fun) for each individual player.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

To Rift or not to Rift?

The Rift beta is over, and the head start launches tomorrow. I'm trying to decide whether to subscribe for a bit or not.

In a lot of ways, my decision has surprisingly little to do with the game itself. Rift is a good game. Instead of the title question, the real question I'm struggling with is:

To tank/heal or not to tank/heal?

My favorite part of these games is group content. Group content needs a tank and a healer. I highly doubt that Rift has done anything that will make those two roles more prevalent.

But none of the tank or healer souls really attracted my attention. They all seemed rather boring. So I'm left with a conundrum. If I want to indulge in group play, my best option is to roll a tank or healer. But I'm not very enthusiastic about the tank/healer souls, and the dps souls seem more interesting. But if I go dps, I resign myself to a poor grouping experience.

Edit: To clarify, I'm talking about the time wasted looking for tank/heals before starting, not the actual experience once the group has been assembled.

The one build I actually liked was a Warrior Champion/Beastmaster/Riftstalker build. Two-handed weapons with a charge, a pet and a little elemental damage. But you know that build will be pretty pointless in group play.

Monday, February 21, 2011

User Interface Windowing

I was playing the Rift beta when the following sequence of events happened, and got me thinking.

I usually put my crafting skills on the right-side action bar. Rift crafting skills have a "disenchant" option (which is pretty neat). For example, armorsmiths can "salvage" armor to get materials to make more armor. So I added a right action bar and put the Salvage button on it as I would in WoW. I then opened my bags to find some armor I wanted to break down. To my surprise, the bags opened in the same spot that they normally do, overlapping the right action bar and hiding the Salvage button.

This, of course, made Salvaging a rather tricky option. I figured out that you could move the bags around, but sadly, I couldn't get them to perfectly line up anymore. So now when I open my bags, they display in a rather raggedy manner, but at least they're not obsuring the action bar.

I started wondering why something like this never happens in WoW. I realized that--for all that WoW and Rift are very similar--the default WoW interface uses a completely different windowing system/metaphor than Rifts.

The default WoW interface uses tiling windows. For the most part, there is only one plane, and all interface elements exist on that plane. Nothing overlaps, and if you open a new window, the other windows either shift position or close in order to accommodate the new window.

(The preceding paragraph is not strictly true. There's really two planes for the default user interface. The lower one (which can be obscured) has the group/raid health bars, the quest tracker, and the small zone map.)

Rift, on the other hand, uses an overlapping windowing system. Interface elements can overlap and be moved around, or brought to the foreground at different times. But the price you pay here is that if you want to see two elements at once, you often have to rearrange things yourself.

Just a small technical observation. I think I like the tiling system better for a default game UI. It's probably more work, making sure that all the elements tile nicely, especially related elements. But everything that is active is immediately available to the user, without them having to move elements around to see information.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Rift: First Impressions, Part II

Played a little bit more yesterday. Got a couple levels with my Warrior, and tried a Defiant Bladedancer/Nightblade/Assassin Rogue. Still very low level with both of them.

More on Abilities

The soul trees are pretty interesting. Generally, each tier has about 5 "soul-specific" talent points, and 5 "generic" talent points. That way, if you don't use the soul-specific abilities, you can still climb the tree by investing in the generic talent points.

So far, what I've found is that about 70% of the abilities I use come from the primary soul, about 30% from the secondary soul, and I use one buff or one ability from the tertiary soul.

AoE looting

AoE looting is amazing! You loot one dead mob, and all the surrounding dead mobs you can loot are looted at the same time. All the items appear in one window, and is essentially treated as one transaction.

This change is definitely worth stealing.

Rifts

Rifts are random events that occur fairly often. A portal opens, and enemies spew out. There are several waves, and the UI tracks your progress much like a Public Quest in Warhammer. There's a little contribution meter that tracks your participation, and when the rift is closed, you get a loot bag containing some random items. Mostly special currency to purchase gear, but also crafting items and some sort of trophy items that you collect sets of. Don't really know what you do with the trophy items.

As well, when you first enter the rift area, there's an option to join a public group, and you get dropped into a raid with other people.

I rather like the rifts. They're random, which makes them a nice break from solo questing. You do your quests, see a rift form near you and join up and beat down the rift. Then you go back to questing. It's a nice change of pace that doesn't require a lot to set up or even a great deal of commitment.

I think it might also make healing and tanking a little more attractive. You get a small dose of group content every so often, which is your main purpose as a healer or tank, and you don't really feel the pressure to go DPS to make questing easier.

Now the downsides of rifts is that, so far, they are essentially a giant zerg. There's not a lot of tactics or strategy involved. But then again, this is low-level, and things can change at higher levels.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Rift: First Impressions

I took a look at the Rift Open Beta yesterday. Here are my impressions. I didn't get very far, only to about level 7 or so.

Rift is very similar to World of Warcraft and similar quest-driven fantasy MMOs. Trion has deliberately made the interface very familar to WoW players, using much the same hotkeys and layout. This is a positive, in my view.

Class System

Rift's major innovation is its class system. You start by picking a fundamental archetype: Warrior, Cleric, Mage, or Rogue. Then you pick up to three sub-classes, called souls, which focus on different aspects of the base archetype.

It's an interesting system, and in a lot of ways is opposite to the direction that WoW has taken. WoW characters focus on a specific specialization: Holy Paladin versus Retribution Paladin. In contrast, Rift is aiming at the combination of souls taken.

We will see how successful they are. WoW's drive for specialization was driven by the playerbase, because it produced optimal results.

I created a Malthusian (human) Warrior. I choose the Paladin/Warlord/Void Knight souls, pretty much creating a sword-and-shield tank.

Abilities

Gaining abilities in Rift depends on your souls. Each soul is like a talent tree you can invest talent points in. But each talent tree also has a "root" line of abilities. As you invest points in the talent tree, new abilities are unlocked along the root line. So if you put more points in the Paladin tree than the Warlord tree, you unlock more Paladin abilities than Warlord abilities.

Abilities themselves are pretty standard MMO fare so far. Some have cooldowns, debuffs, buffs, reactive abilities etc. Warrior use a combo-point system with generators and finishers.

All in all, it's a very clean system. However, there are a few issues. First, you still have to buy ranks in each ability, so you have to go to a trainer every so often. It seems like this is just extra complexity. Unlocking abilities through talent points was enough, and I think it would work better if your abilities just automatically scaled with your level.

Second, there's a lot of front-loaded complexity. Each soul comes with starter abilities. For example, I have 3 different basic combo-point generator at level 7, and about 5 different buffs. I'm using the Warlord generator and a paladin finisher, and just dropped the other two off my bars. But the sheer number of buttons available at level 7 is a bit overwhelming.

Finally, warriors theoretically have a resource bar, called Power. But so far, Power seems to regenerate faster than I can spend it, so you're really limited by the global cooldown and ability cooldowns. The resource doesn't seem to matter.

Graphics

First, the game is very responsive. No input lag or discontinuity between pressing buttons and results. Animations are solid and fun to watch.

The graphics are pretty decent, but they draw from the green/brown/gray "realistic" palette and thus are not very vibrant or crisp.

As well, apparently Trion belongs to the camp that believes that female plate armor does not need to cover vital areas like the chest or stomach. At least they aren't in high heels, though.

In-game, the performance is very good. I'm not 100% certain that I have the graphics set right, but I set them to Good and everything plays well with a decent framerate.

Oddly though, my system can't seem to handle the cutscenes. I get massive framerate stutters during cutscenes. It's really weird considering that in-game performance is excellent.

Conclusions

Rift seems like a pretty decent game. It's pretty polished and plays well so far. I haven't really gotten into the Rifts part, which seem to be like Warhammer's public quests, or instancing or anything really advanced.

If you're looking for something majorly different than WoW, than Rift is probably not for you. But personally, I'm a fan of choosing one thing to change and then doing a great job with that single change, and that is what Trion is aiming for with their class system.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Light of Dawn

Well, Light of Dawn may or may not transfer via Beacon of Light.

Yeah, I don't know what's going on.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Ask Coriel: Priest or Paladin?

A reader asks:

I have a paladin and a priest both. I recently came back to the game for the expansion. I have taken my paladin up to 83 and recently spent some time on my priest leveling him up as well. The other day I hear someone mention that he has bailed on his 85 priest because they are the worst healers at 85 right now.

With your experience on the paladin and your obviously spending a lot of time evaluating the paladin class and raiding. Do you have any quick thoughts on paladin versus priest healing? I want my primary role to be a healer, its what I enjoy.

Well, I don't really have a lot of experience with priests, especially the new 4.0 priest. But in my guild, one of our best healers is a Holy priest. From what I've seen, priests are still a strong healing class.

I would probably say that priests, especially Holy, are a more complex than paladins, and have a larger healing toolbox. Paladins have a bit more survivability and have more non-healing tools like Hand of Salvation, Freedom, Hammer of Justice, and now Rebuke.

Priests also have a small advantage in that they have two healing styles to choose from, Holy or Disc. But paladins get to hit things with a giant two-handed mace, which is never to be sneered at.

They're both good healing classes. I would suggest that you pick whichever one you like playing best, or whether you think plate armor and shields looks better than cloth armor and staves.

Any thoughts from readers, especially those who've played both classes?

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Guild LF A Couple Healers

My guild, Ad Infinitum, is looking for a few more healers. We're 10/12 normal at the moment, missing Nefarian and Al'Akir.

We raid 3 nights a week: Wednesday, Sunday, Monday from 7pm to 11pm PST.

If this sounds like something you'd be interested in, we'd love to have you put in an application.

If you're not a healer, feel free to apply as well, we're always on the lookout for good players. If you have any questions about the guild, I can answer in the comments, or you can email me at rverghes@gmail.com.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Sheep and Wolves

It's something of an article of faith among MMO literati that hardcore PvP games with consequences cannot really thrive. The line of thought goes something like:

In a PvP game, some people are wolves and everyone else end up as sheep. Who is going to pay to be a sheep?

I can't really disagree with that argument. I rather doubt people will pay to be killed in PvP, with consequences like losing gear. But what if the idea was flipped?

If people won't pay to be sheep, will people pay to be wolves?

There are a lot of Free-2-Play games running around. What if one of the things for sale was the ability to attack and kill other characters? I.e. normally, players can't initiate attacks on other players. But if you subscribe, you can attack other players, and they can fight back. I'm talking full PvP with looting rights, a la original Ultima Online.

The thing is, in a F2P game, the players who don't pay primarily exist to entertain the the people who shell out money. To provide people to play with, to fill out dungeon groups, to create an economy that the subscriber can participate in.

It's merely a step further to suggest that, when it comes to PvP in an F2P game, the non-payers exist to be sheep for the subscriber wolves.

And hey, if you don't like being ganked, maybe you could pay more to be immune to PvP attacks.