Max level in Rift… again

Even though I am an altoholic, my dwarf cleric was my one and only max. level character in Rift – until Thursday. My warrior, who had been my first level 60 back when that was the maximum level, had been put away collecting dust while I was playing my cleric instead.

Since free players (as in those players who do not pay a monthly sub) do not get rested experience anymore, I decided to use some XP boosters I had gotten some time ago. In general, I am not that impatient when it comes to levelling my characters, but as I have mentioned one or two times here already, I despise the new expansion continent, the Plane of Water. I still wanted to get her to level 65, though, because at some point after the expansion, they introduced another new region (for level 65 players), the Planetouched Wilds and that’s what I want to play in!

Rift Paeroka warrior hits level 65

Rift and Guild Wars 2 may be very different games, but when it comes to choosing a main character, those two games are just the same for me. Warrior or mesmer in Guild Wars 2 and warrior or cleric in Rift. I just cannot decide! The main problem that Rift has is that there is this thing called “reputation grind” and the issue of gearing a character. Yes, the gear treadmill is alive and well in Rift and it’s annoying as can be! My fresh level 65 character tried to do the story quest chain that introduces her to the Planetouched Wilds and I had to get bookahnerk’s help because despite running around with a solo-build (self-healing capabilities) and doing fine with single enemies, I died over and over again as soon as several enemies appeared. Then again, have a look at the comparison picture. My warrior has blue level 65 items and the purple one is the current T3 raid item. I strongly assume those who raid and have those items have much less trouble than me!

Rift Item comparison T3 raid and level 65 blue items

Thankfully, when bookahnerk and I played together, we had no problems whatsoever and could enjoy the storyline. :) Still, Rift just shows its “old age” or rather, that it is an old-school MMO in many areas and at the same time, I love Guild Wars 2 even more for not being like that! Yes, I am trying to get my ascended gear together and it costs a huge amount of gold (for me, at least). But the difference between my current gear – mostly exotic items  – and ascended ones really isn’t that huge. And exotic items are easy to get as long as you’ve got a bit of spare gold. No reputation grind, no having to do dailies or weeklies or anything.

Anyway, this post was actually not meant to complain about the gear treadmill – well, a little bit. But it was mostly meant to celebrate my warrior’s level 65 and me being able to explore the Planetouched Wilds! The parts of it that I have seen so far when I did a quest related to Rift’s latest festival got me very excited. I don’t only want to see the area, though, I also want to play through it and read all about the lore. As I understood it, it’s the homeland of the Bahmi, one of Rift’s playable races, which got lost. Well, lost or deliberately detached from the rest of the world or something like that. It was found again now and reconnected… Rift’s lore is a bit weird. But there you go: the Planetouched Wilds… and I am ready to explore them, finally!

Rift Planetouched Wilds

Paeroka’s Ponderings: Original vs. expansion “maps”

Paeroka's Ponderings featured image for columnWhen an MMO originally launches, I often find myself exploring the world and simply enjoying the stories that can be found. When you play a hobbit in Lord of the Rings Online, you start off with things like delivering a cake to a neighbour. There is this peaceful village that has no idea about the threat in the outside world, so naturally, their biggest concern is this cake (and well, they are hobbits, after all). But even in other regions, you get to explore the culture of the people living there, you get to read about their lives and all that. One could argue that it is a bit boring at times, but I personally enjoy this part of an MMO. I mean, it is a virtual world, so why not have a look at the everyday life of its citizens?

But with expansions, this seems to be gone quite often. In Rift, for example, I don’t find myself exploring. Instead, I find myself eye-rolling and longing for the previous worlds again. Of course, Rift’s “Nightmare Tide” expansion is an incredibly bad example as I find it to be by far the worst area/region I ever played in any MMO. That whole “you’re in a dream/nightmare“-stuff is just too over the top for me. But that is my point, after all. Everything is focused on the expansion’s storyline and yes, you even do get to experience the way the citizens live in that world. But for me, it is too much and I want to get back to the origins in the “original world”. It often feels slower and wider than what you get with an expansion.

Rift_Dreams

Could it simply be me? That the “magic” of exploring a new (game) world is just gone and I can’t appreciate these things anymore like I did when I first entered the game? On the other hand, I wonder if it really is related to the scope of the story. How much time does it take to create such an MMO? How much time does a company have to let their artists and writers create the world and how much time do they get to create the expansion maps? Or maybe it’s just the typical “we start slow and then the ‘main storyline’ gets into the focus more and more”. The developers may feel the need to bring out bigger and better stories and with that, the little calm areas that I care so much about just get pushed off, because they’re not important anymore.

I would say that this is at least partly what bothers me about Guild Wars 2. I get it, the threat of the Elder Dragons gets worse every day and it would not make sense to have our characters stroll through an area and bring a cake to my asura’s grandmother. There is a world to save, after all! Still, that doesn’t mean that I have to like the change.

Looking at the different MMOs I have played – at least those who did get an expansion – I would say that I liked World of Warcraft’s Burning Crusade as it gave a whole new continent and two new races with two new starting areas. The new maps had different storylines they followed while the big bad guy, Illidan, had his own storyline. Not everything was focused on this big bad guy. Guild Wars 2’s Heart of Thorns and Rift’s Nightmare Tide both focus on a big storyline and the maps seem to exist only to deliver the story (while yes, also sometimes telling a side story). Thankfully, both games have a feature that downlevels you (or lets you downlevel in Rift’s case as it is optional there), so I can actually go back and enjoy the lower level zones whenever I want to! Still, I wonder what those two games would need to do to give me new high level maps that I enjoy.

I regularly have rants and ramblings in my mind, but never really know if I should post them, so “Paeroka’s Ponderings” is where I will try to give these rants a place. Sometimes they will make sense, sometimes they won’t.

Bookahneer’s Geekwatch (Mai 2016)

Guild Wars 2 Bookahneer's GeekwatchWhen reading through the Steam community hub of Funatics’s game “Valhalla Hills“, I saw a post by a player saying that Funatics was recently acquired by InnoGames. The post is in German as well as most news postings I found about this happening. However, an English post that I found specifies that Funatics had to close as a company and the team was hired by InnoGames.

Either way, in case you don’t know or don’t remember, Funatics is the company who made the Cultures series. The Cultures games are still among my favourite games I ever played. They were also part of the developing teams around the Settlers games.

But let’s take a look at this acquisition. Funatics is a company that focussed mostly on building/simulation games. InnoGames is a company that makes browser-based and mobile games. I did take a look, but while those browser-based building games usually look nice and all that, but for me, at least those games are hardly ever appealing. Mostly because there is often a cash shop included which lets you speed up your game which is running in “real time” (“wait 15 minutes to harvest X” and so on). Maybe their mobile games are different and I am not doing them enough justice now, but I don’t play on mobile devices. When I am outside of the house, I am working or doing other real life-things and I made a decision at some point to not put a game on my mobile device, because I want to enjoy the outside world. :p

Cultures 8th Wonder of the World

So, while I am of course very happy for each and every team member who does not find themselves without a job, I am sad to know that the company that brought me the Cultures games and who were my “entry back into gaming”, so to say (after playing on the C64 as a kid and on the gameboy as a teenager), is no more. And that the kind of games they will be making from now on will probably be rather far away from what I like to play.

On a positive note: The publisher of Valhalla Hills said that they will try to finish the second DLC for the game, as the special edition you could buy included the first two DLCs free of charge and so far, they have only released one. I got Valhalla Hills and ended up not liking it at all, unfortunately. There’s just nothing of that Cultures charm left. So for me, at least, it doesn’t matter whether they will ever release another DLC or not, but I know I am not “everybody”, so I am still happy to see that they will try to get it out. :)

Something more positive: Civilization VI was announced! This certainly came as a surprise and everything I have read about the game so far sounds great. Especially the part about city districts and being able to see when somebody builds a world wonder. I don’t know yet if I will want the game for the fill price, as there will also be lots more DLCs and I am still not swimming in money. So I might wait for the price to drop a bit, at least.

Now on to the negative part about Civ VI – there always is something negative, right? The graphics. I have seen so many complaints about the graphics so far and to be honest, this was also my first reaction towards them. I guess enough people complained that the art director spoke up and explained why they changed the look of the game.

I think the graphics will grow on me. In fact, I don’t usually mind the graphics much at all, but this style just reminds me of “cheap browser/mobile” games which also makes me think of a “dumbed down” and easy game, so people can play it easily on a tablet etc. But that’s not what Civilization is! So seeing those graphics and having those associations in mind is a bad thing. On the other hand, from all that I have seen so far, it is exactly not what is going to happen to the franchise! There are many things coming that sound amazing and I am looking forward to seeing what else they will reveal. So yes, I am actually quite certain that once I am playing the game, I will not mind those graphics at all. In fact, it may even be easier to see what is going on on the map. Still, those trees… no. Just no. The rest I will get used to, but those trees are awful.

Atlas Reactor Solo game with Rask

Atlas Reactor recently switched from “free to play” to “buy to play”. The main concern people had was that the player base will be too small, as people will not want to blindly buy a game without trying it first. Now Trion Worlds announced their “recruit a friend” programme. If you get referred by somebody, you can try the game for free for three days. If the person you refer buys the game, you get some rewards. In case you do want to give it a try, here is my referral link. I don’t really care about the rewards, but hey, if you want to get three days of a free trial and end up liking the game, I also would not say “no” to those rewards. :p But please note: The game is free to try this weekend anyway! Additionally, the game is still in beta, so everything is subject to change as usual in betas.

“Bookahneer’s Geekwatch” is the place where we take a look at all those little pieces of gaming news that have attracted our interest and/or talk about what’s recently been in the spotlight of other fansites.

Insights into indie game development

I bought “Gremlins Inc.” in early access and only barely noticed its official launch. Even if I hadn’t noticed it, though, the amount of search hits for “Gremlins Inc. review” would have likely tipped me off. :p I did write a “first impressions” piece and for several days, this blog post was getting quite a lot more hits than usual.

But even if you don’t like this game (digital board games aren’t for everyone), if you’re interested in getting a glimpse behind the scenes of indie game development, this company’s posts are quite interesting! So Gremlins Inc. is made by Charlie Oscar, an indie developer located in Vilnius, Lithuania. What has impressed me a lot so far, other than the game itself (or I wouldn’t have bothered linking to it, obviously :p), is the amount of “behind the scenes” information they have given us.

Gremlins Inc.

For one, I thought it was cute – and understandable, but mostly cute – how they celebrated every milestone in copies sold. In fact, I had seen one of those posts right when I was wondering whether to get the game or not. It made the company look honest and sincere with their customers. It is also refreshing to see that they celebrated those “tiny” milestones when other big companies boast about their “1 million copies sold”. Yes, of course, I would wish for them to sell a lot of copies! Still, there are small companies out there and they are happy about every single sale they make.

A few days ago, I saw them tweet about their game’s localization efforts and found this a very interesting read! Not only for me as their customer, but maybe also for others who are interested in making games and for whom such insights are valuable pieces of information. It wasn’t very surprising to see them come to the conclusion that German and French localizations are a must have, basically. I am German, I know how bad the English of lots of other Germans is. :p But the sheer amount of languages they offer their game in is astonishing and their thoughts and the impact those localizations had is fascinating. They also describe the process of how they worked with translators in different regions.

Today, they added another post about sales and early access. I am not a game designer, but I still found it interesting to get a glimpse into that part of gaming. In short, they come to the conclusion – which fits to what others have already said apparently – that Steam’s Early Access does not fund a game, but it at least gives them some additional money they wouldn’t have otherwise and it lets them create a community already. From my point of view, I would agree. A lot of people are careful about Early Access games – or Kickstarter and the like – because you just don’t have a guarantee that the game will be finished any time soon or ever. I have bought several games in early access now, but I always asked myself first: “Will I have fun playing the game in its current state?” – Only if the answer is “yes”, I buy the game. And I know lots of other people just don’t enjoy a game that still changes or that comes with lots of bugs etc. So those very likely won’t buy such a game.

But back to this post: They also share some insight into costs related to the manpower, rent for the office etc. and that somebody needs to actually run the business or hire and work with lawyers on top of everybody trying to make the game.

So far, they have not turned a profit on the game, but it only released one month ago (on March 11, so yes, exactly one month ago) and I hope they will make quite a few more sales. I know I will buy the original soundtrack when it comes out, because I just love game soundtracks. Not sure about DLCs, though. I am much more picky when it comes to DLCs and their “worth” (thinking of the Tropico ones mostly here). But we’ll see… maybe, if they’re good.

Wildstar’s Jumpstart Pack – Is it worth the price?

I only just wrote about Wildstar’s housing and wondered whether you could get the housing teleporter and now they added it to their store for the cost of 720 NCoins. I assume that once the game launches on Steam, it will appear as DLC in their store as well. 800 NCoins cost 10 €, so this is 9 €. Granted, it’s more expensive than it was back when we bought it as part of a Humble Bundle. But that’s the whole point of the Humble Bundle, right? To attract people to buy stuff and then maybe add a bit of money on top.

Anyway, I thought I’d take a closer look at what the Jumpstart Pack offers, in case you are wondering whether it’s worth your money.

The Jumpstart Pack includes several items. Some are multi-claim and some can only be claimed with one character. Multi-claim means that every character – present and future ones – can claim the item as often as they would like. So don’t worry about accidentally deleting that item, you can get it again at any time.

  • 16-slot Bag (Bag of Big Beginnings)
  • Housewarming Gift Pack
  • Blue Steel Hoverboard and Flair
  • Flask of Advancement (XP boost for 3 hours)
  • Early housing plot access (Protostar Housing Teleportation Unit)
  • Shardspire Canyon Housing FABkit
  • 5 gold

You can probably already guess that those 5 gold cannot be claimed by every character as often as you want! So, this is a one-time claim. The same goes for the bag, the Housewarming Gift Pack and the Flask of Advancement (not pictured).

This means that the Protostar Housing Teleportation Unit, the blue hoverboard and flair and the Shardspire Canyon FABkit can be multi-claimed.

Let’s get into more detail on what it is you would be getting: One character gets 5 gold. One character gets a 16-slot bag. Just to be clear here: All items can be claimed independently, so the 5 gold and the bag do not have to be claimed by the same character. Also, my main character has 14-slot bags equipped. I did not try to get bigger ones and I don’t remember where I bought the 14-slot ones or how much they cost me. But this means that if you are just starting out, a 16-slot bag is very nice to have, even if it is just with one character. The XP boost is a nice to have, but it is not really necessary. I found I levelled fast enough in this game. However, some people want to level faster and for them, it’s definitely nice!

Now for the last of the single-claim items, the Housewarming Gift Pack. This actually contains three separate containers: Extra Exteriors Pack, Interior Visions Pack and Let There Be Lights Pack. You can see a list of the items when you click on the links. In short, the lights pack gives you lights like the rustic gas lamp post or string lights. You can see them all in the gallery below.

I am not sure about the value of these items. Some can be bought from the vendor directly for a few silver. Some others, like the unburnt toast or the taco, I haven’t seen before. I assume none of these are really exclusive. But they are nice to give you a start in housing. I would definitely suggest getting a better couch, though. This one has definitely seen better days. :p

That’s it for the single-claim items. Now on to the multi-claim ones. Those are far more exciting anyway, if you ask me. The Blue Steel Hoverboard is a mount. “Flair” is something that can be attached to a mount to make it look a bit different. After claiming it, you will find it in your inventory. Right-click it again. Then open your Collectibles-window. This one isn’t bound to a hotkey, as far as I am aware. I usually click on the lower left button which opens a window with all possible other windows. A bit like the Start button of Windows, so to say. What you will see there then is your Hoverboard (Blue Steel) without flairs. But here you can also click on and choose any flairs you may have unlocked. Blue Steel Grill for the front, Blue Steel Tail for the rear and Blue Steel Wings for the side belong to this package.

Wildstar Blue Steel Hoverboard with Flair

In order to start with housing and access your character’s housing plot, said character usually needs to be level 14. The Protostar Teleportation Unit allows you to click on it as soon as you are level 3 and you will get access to your house then. This is very neat, especially for alts, but also for those of you who just started playing and can’t wait to begin building!

Last but not least, there is the Shardspire Canyon which can be placed on your housing plot. It also offers you a challenge which is like a time-gated jumping puzzle. I haven’t managed to do it yet, though. But it looks really nice! It is apparently a world drop usually, so getting it in this package is a lot more reliable. Or maybe on the auction house instead. I did not check its availability or price there!

Wildstar Shardspire Canyon and Hoverboard (Blue Steel)

So the question that remains is: Is it worth it? It highly depends on what you care for. If you’re not into housing at all and don’t even want that low-level teleport for your character, then it’s probably worth a lot less. For those not into housing, you would at least get a multi-claim hoverboard mount with flairs. Other multi-claim hoverboards cost 2080 NCoins. If you really love housing, then the teleport will be convenient, but only when your characters are below level 14. Other than that, the FABkit is nice. But I don’t think I would buy this bundle for the FABkit. There are so many in Wildstar and you can only place a certain amount of special things like FABkits anyway. The instant teleport was what I really wanted when I bought it from the Humble Bundle on top of getting another hoverboard. Yes, I have several already and no, I don’t care. One can never have too many hoverboards! Especially if it’s multi-claim.

In a nutshell: For me it mostly depends on whether you can wait and level your characters to level 14 in order to access housing and if you like that hoverboard mount. Because you cannot currently get a cheaper multi-claim hoverboard. The other items are all nice to have, nothing is a complete waste of money within this bundle, so to speak, but none of these items are a “must have” in my opinion either.