My End Goals in Various MMOs

I’ve been playing a good amount of Star Wars the Old Republic lately. I’ve been meaning to get back in and see the last couple of expansions’ stories if nothing else, and Dark vs. Light gave me incentive to do that. Then recent announcements about changes to endgame that basically say that they don’t want my money unless I subscribe (cliffnotes version: no engame gear for F2P players, F2P players can no longer buy weekly passes for dungeons, raids, PvP, etc.) had me ready to ragequit, but, when I thought about it, I realized that I have literally never done a raid in SWTOR, and it’s been years since I did a dungeon with anything other than a PUG. Sure, this means that I will never expand beyond this kind of occasional, casual play that means I will give them little to no money, but still, it doesn’t mean much for the way I play right now. This got me thinking about what I really want out of my MMOs. The answer I came up with was that every game’s end goal was unique. Here are a few, in no particular order.

Star Wars the Old Republic
Since we’re on the subject of SWTOR, let’s start here. Since BioWare has basically told me the only thing I can do as a free to play player is story, that’s all I’m likely to be playing. After all, it’s what BioWare is best at, and what their focus has been on for a while now. If I skipped this expansion it wouldn’t be the first, but Knights of the Fallen Empire has me interested, so I’ll probably stick around at least enough to see the story once. I bought a couple of character slots while they were on sale, so I’ve been playing some vanilla content I’ve never seen before along with the newer stuff, which has been fun. It’s not likely to keep me in the game for long, but it’s fun for now.

Guild Wars 2
I created a new guild with some friends, and, in the first couple of weeks, the eight of us have done more as a guild than I (and several others) had done with their much larger guilds. This, combined with running the Halloween event (I finally got the Hexed outfit!), has, strangely enough, renewed my interest in the game. I’m looking to get enough hero points to finish off my elite spec on a couple of my favorite characters (necro is mostly done, working on my revenant now, as well as my healing ranger a little) and I’ve been running dungeons with friends more often. I’ve somehow never done fractals, so I’m looking to do that soon. Maybe even get into some raids eventually?

I like Rift, and I finally have a couple of characters that I like, but I’m still not sure what my goals are for this game. I’m certainly not playing it for the story, and I’m not sure I’m dedicated enough to want to get into endgame dungeons or raiding. I guess I’m just playing for the sake of a new game to level in? Nothing wrong with that, I guess.

I actually have a decently geared Esper healer, and I was signed up to go raiding with my guild shortly before they fell apart. Finding a new guild has severely decreased my interest in playing, which is sad because WildStar remains one of my favorite MMOs, and it needs all the players it can get right now. The death of my guild has, however, freed me up to finally check out the opposite faction. I’ve been slowly but surely leveling a Dominion engineer, which has been a fun experience. I may have to level one on the Exile side when I’m done. I like the Exile faction a lot better in general, but man, their capital city is a dump. The one for the Dominion is so much prettier.

Elder Scrolls Online
This one is almost the same story as Rift. The story is a little more interesting, but I don’t have any clear goals, and the angst that comes with building a new character is paralyzing. I decided to put this one on the shelf until One Tamriel came out, but now that’s here and I haven’t decided on a character to play.

Lord of the Rings Online
Really, all I want is to simply walk into Mordor.
Seriously, though, my only goal is to see all of the world/story content in this game. I keep getting right up to the gates of Moria and stalling out. The rune-keeper class really clicked with me, and I want to get back to this one as soon as possible.

Rift: Can An MMO Still Entertain If Its Story Doesn’t?

“If the gameplay is good, everything else is just icing on the cake.” I’ve said this kind of thing countless times to friends who are criticizing a good game based on… well, anything but gameplay I guess. Usually I’m referring to graphics, but, in a way, this can apply to story as well. Tetris doesn’t need a story (though 2001’s Tetris Worlds tried… and it was awful). The only backstory you need to know about Space Invaders is in the name. Super Smash Bros. didn’t really have a story until Brawl’s Subspace Emissary (though you wouldn’t know it by the plethora of fan fiction). No one complains that sports games don’t have immersive cutscenes with meaningful story choices (as an Ohioan, I’m pretty sure LeBron got a ton of Renegade points for that whole “taking my talents to Miami” thing, but went back to the Paragon side when he came back to Cleveland). But is this universally true? Certainly any game can be made better by its story (there’s no way I would have made it through three Mass Effect games if it was nothing but shooting aliens for no reason), but there are some types of games, like Myst or Obduction, that are so tightly integrated with their story that I can’t imagine them being fun without it. Is the MMO genre one of these?

Maybe I’m just spoiled by Star Wars The Old Republic’s (mostly) excellent writing, but I’m thoroughly uninterested in Rift’s story. I really like the game in general, but the story just seems like an amalgamation of the most boring, generic fantasy tropes imaginable. Ok, there’s some time travel thrown in there, so that’s different I guess, but for the most part it’s all elves and dwarves and humans saving the world from dragons using magic and swords. I think that this is a lot of what turns me off to the game. I feel bad being that guy who skips all of the quest text and has only a vague idea of why I should care about any of the people I’m killing rats for, but, at the same time, I feel like I’m wasting my time reading quest text that doesn’t make me want to care about the people I’m killing rats for. So can I still enjoy the game while completely ignoring the story elements? I knew several WoW players who were hardcore raiders and PvPers who couldn’t tell a murloc from a warlock, and they seemed to get plenty from their game. But I’ve always felt like it cheapened the experience for them. If I blur through Rift’s story, am I going to feel like I missed out later? Or is it legitimately so dull that I might as well save myself the trouble?

Rift: Building the Perfect Class

I talked a little about Rift a few weeks ago, and I wanted to expand on that a bit. I’ve always been interested in Rift’s build-your-own-class mechanics, but in practice, what should be its biggest strength has always been its biggest barrier to entry for me. In most MMOs, I end up trying out every class sooner or later, and I usually don’t truly pick a class until I’ve done them all at least once, but the idea trying all of the “classes” doesn’t make sense in the Rift paradigm. What’s worse is that I feel the urge to reroll characters I don’t like, so I’ve done the starting zone a bunch of times and have never really moved beyond that. I guess I need to give myself permission to fail. After all, if I spend time messing around with a class build that I don’t like, it’s not like I’m out anything other than the cost of a respec, which isn’t much at all.

I think the problem is that, when I drastically switch builds, it’s hard to get a bunch of new skills dumped on me at once and figure out how they all work together best. I think my strategy going forward will be to focus on one soul for a while, then add in things from one or two others when I start to see where this soul’s weak points are. I also like the idea of coming up with a concept for a class, then figuring out how I can make a Rift character do that. After toying with a few ideas, I decided to build my mage to replicate the things I liked about my Rune-Keeper from Lord of the Rings Online; lots of DoTs and HoTs, and, since Rift’s mage lacks anything like totems/runestones, pets will have to do. I’ve come up with a build that is mostly warlock (since this is basically Rift’s version of the WoW ‘lock, as is LotRO’s Rune-Keeper) with a little necromancer (for pets and extra DoTs) and a bit of chloromancer thrown in (for HoTs). Like I said with my rogue, putting those souls together may be an awful idea, but I’m having fun with it right now, so why not? I do wish I had a little more AoE. Maybe I’ll swap out necromancer for elementalist at some point.

Speaking of my rogue, I stumbled upon a build guide out there that uses the strategist and bard together, so I think that means it’s not a completely terrible idea, yay! I’ve officially decided to park him until the expansion hits. No, not because I’m giving up on him, but because I’ve decided to use my 65 boost on him. It’s probably a terrible idea to just skip most of the game and go straight to the new zones, especially since I’ve never seen the parts of the game in between, but that’s what alts are for, right?

Three Features Every MMO Should Have: Rift

This is a part of my Three Features Every MMO Should Have series.

Class customization, with premade classes
Rift, despite trying desperately to appeal to the ex-WoW crowd, doesn’t have traditional WoW-like classes, but instead has four (soon to be five) “callings,” and each of those callings has a number of different “souls” that determine your skill trees. In essence this allows you to make up your own class by choosing which trees you pick. This complexity would be a huge turnoff to me–after all, if there’s anything you shouldn’t overcomplicate, it’s the character creation process–except that Trion has taken the time to hand out a selection of premade classes, with a few even created by players. If you’re happy with your premade class, you can just keep hitting the auto-level button and it’ll put points where they matter most. Then, later, when you have a little more experience with the game, you can start tweaking. I think it’s a great idea; I can’t tell you how many classes I’ve played that have been almost perfect, but were missing that certain something. In Rift, you can simply swap out one of your souls until you find that something. It also happens to be a great cure for altaholism, as you can simply respec and get a fresh play style without having to reroll.

Instant Adventures
I didn’t play Rift for very long (as I recall my highest character is maybe level 25 at best), but when I did I played a lot in Instant Action, probably much to the dismay of my much higher level teammates. For those who haven’t played Rift, Instant Action is a system where the game throws you into a group with a bunch of people, dumps you into some random place, adjusts your level accordingly, and gives you a series of mini quests to do for rewards. The objectives are pretty simple–mostly kill 10 rats type quests–so it’s not like you need much coordination in your group. You can do this for as long or as short as you want, which is great since the game in general tends to be unfriendly to short play sessions.

Most MMOs these days have either a wardrobe feature or the ability to transmute/transmog gear to look how you want it to, but few of them do it as well as Rift. Every piece of gear you’ve equipped on any of your characters is automatically unlocked in the wardrobe. Simply choose your look from the list, dye it, and keep on questing. The best part is, there’s no fee for doing this, and dyes are one time buys for unlimited uses. Also nice is the fact that the armor class for the gear you’re showing doesn’t have to be the one for your class, so your mage can run around in full plate armor if you’d like. I’ve always wondered how much this is used in PvP to confuse people as to what calling you are, but with the game’s aforementioned customizable classes I’m not sure it mattered much what calling you were fighting anyway. Sadly, one of the reasons why Rift never stuck with me is because I didn’t care for the overall graphic aesthetic (especially the character models), and most of the gear I got looked really boring. To be fair, though, I was pretty low level when I got bored with the game, and all low level gear looks bad, right? It’s unfortunate to have a great wardrobe system trapped in a game that doesn’t deserve it, but at least if you do manage to find a piece of gear you like you can keep it.