I’m OK, You’re OK: A review of RIFT

I’m OK, You’re OK: A review of RIFT

In the first few years of running the guild I would get anxious whenever someone mentioned another game, MMO or otherwise. I would try to slyly discourage it: “Oh, Aion! I hear… it gives you rickets.” Over the years, though, I learned from experience that there is room for more than one game in most people’s lives, and even if a Cat DOES leave WoW for another game (this has only happened once, though) few people ever actually leave our community.

I do feel a bit like I’m cheating on WoW when I play another MMO, but I really enjoy checking out other games, particularly at their launch. Despite its popularity World of Warcraft is not the best MMO currently available. It definitely wins in some areas but loses in many others such as crafting, cosmetic items, and honestly just some of the core gameplay.

Anyway, all this is just a really long preamble to explain how and why I found myself in the RIFT: Planes of Telara beta over the past few weeks. I played in the beta at the end of January, and again over the weekend in the Open Beta.

a dwarf rogue, kinda

Character Options: I did enjoy the character creation menus, although honestly it’s painfully easy to beat WoW on this front. There’s a height slider for certain races, two-tone hair colors, and options for things like eye rotation and nose size. The array of races seems interesting, too, from dwarf-ish to big giants elves.

Classes: This is one of the places that RIFT shines. You can make a warrior, rogue, cleric, or mage — but wait! You’ve probably already read the details by now, but essentially you have three talent trees and an almost unlimited number of spec options. That means you end up with healing mages and tanking clerics, and a rogue could be be a stabber or a hunter or a bard. Eventually I’m sure the community will math out ideal specs and set the dogs loose on anyone who does not comply, but until that point players can enjoy being truly unique (if not always efficient!). Over the weekend I made a bard/riftstalker who by level 9 could stealth, blink, buff stamina and attack power, and AoE heal a raid or party. It was a blast.

Gear: The gear paradigm of “pants on males, bikinis on females” is alive and well in RIFT, and honestly it seemed a lot more obvious than in WoW. At one point my adorable rogue sold off a chest upgrade because it looked like it had been sexily mauled by a bear. Cleavage is one thing.. melee in a half-shirt and no pants is something else entirely. The esteemed Spinks noticed another example. Guardian faction, in particular, seems to have a surplus of slutty elves. (I leave it up to the individual reader to decide how they feel about that.)

Quests: Honestly, the quests were not that impressive. It’s the “rails” style of questing that Blizzard introduced in Cataclysm, which I don’t necessarily dislike. However the quests are a little obtuse sometimes, and they’re just not interesting. Kill 10 of the local mobs. Collect 10 trinkets from different local mobs. Now kill their leader! Great, go to the next town. I know people complain that Blizzard’s questing is heavy with gimmickry now, but I LIKE those gimmicks! RIFT is seriously lacking in their equivalent of bombing run quests or vehicle quests or something that doesn’t involve just killing ten rats.

Graphics: I hear the graphics in RIFT are awesome, but I wouldn’t know because the game brings my 18-month old video card to its knees. I play on the Low Graphics settings. It makes me sad.

Rifts: These are fun!! I know they liberated the public quest concept from Warhammer Online, and I feel sure that one day Blizzard will liberate that concept from RIFT. As a social gamer, I like seeing everyone in a zone stream out from the trees to band together and kill bad things. The spontaneity of the events is also a blast.

All in all I don’t think RIFT has done anything that much better than WoW. If you are looking for a first MMO, or you have very tenuous ties to WoW and want to play something new I think this will be a fine game to make your “main”. For me there’s certainly not enough to warrant moving me or the guild. I expect I’ll play for a month or two, have some fun, and then move on to whatever is new and shiny then. (Helloooo, Dragon Age 2!)

When She Was Disc

The only thing worse than trying to raid with a new UI and new gamepad would be a new UI, new gamepad, and a new spec, right? Ha ha ha, that person would have to be crrrraaaaaaaaaaazy.

So, yeah, anyway, I’m smite disc now.

It started out fairly innocently: Thursday night was our first seroius night with Chimaeron and I figured a Power Word: Barrier or two would help. (And it did: he’s real dead now!) I haven’t played Disc in months, so I kept the spec all the way up to Chimaeron to try and get a feel for it again.

Plus, apparently disc is OP again now. Bubbles were buffed in 4.06 and priests are panicking that they are TOO GOOD and will trivialize the contributions of other healers. Seriously, can you think of another class that would demand to get nerfed because they are too awesome? Are we all just weird?! And anyway, I don’t believe the grossly overpowered talk. The main log people use when making this argument shows a priest who went out of their way to make a point. They had a strange shield-or-die spec and were fed innervates and suitable buffs — who isn’t going to look ludicrously overpowered when the whole raid is set up to support them?

I’m still trying to get a sense of what tools I should be using. Shield, of course, particularly every 12 seconds to benefit from Rapture. Heal and Flash Heal are banished from my toolbars, replaced with Greater Heal and Binding Heal. I use PoM more than I did as holy. I am still occasionally using Renew, although I really shouldn’t be. Prayer of Healing is awesome, of course, and I have the macro that binds it to my Inner Fire and Power Infusion.

I did take the Smite talents but I don’t expect to be using them on progression content. At certain moments, though, I can knock out about 8k DPS through straight Smite spam which makes this healer feel pretty dang badass.

I’m gearing for Mastery being twice as important as Crit, which is 50% more important than haste. I kind of just made that up, though. (Liore’s version of theorycrafting: Read EJ! Become confused! Make up numbers and just bid on the best-looking hat!)

I am still unsure about what buttons to press in the heat of the moment, but after a couple of raids I’m able to keep up with the pack again and it feels pretty good.

Random 4.06 Thoughts

So it was 4.06 yesterday and whose idea was it to raid on patch day with a new UI and a new gamepad? That doesn’t seem very smart at all. Did I do that? Why would I do that? Sigh.

I realize it’s evolution, and soon the sleeker layout and new buttons will improve my performance (which, for me, is fun), but right now it’s like playing while wearing mittens. I just sort of bang fruitlessly on the keyboard and shout spell names at my monitor. That doesn’t work, by the way.

The 4.06 secret Chakra change just confuses me right now. I’m not sure if it’s a good or bad thing, but I’m kind of bemused that the patch had a change to our core mechanic and totally redid a talent and it wasn’t mentioned in the notes. I’m moving my talent points from State of Mind to Divine Touch, I guess, in the hopes that the buff to Renew means that Renew spam is back in style. I’ve been a Renew-oriented priest since Molten Core, and I miss it.

Anyway, on an emotional level I’m kind of irked by the change. Chakra went from being somewhat dynamic to something we press once a minute to prove that we’re still at the keyboard, I guess. The official priest forum was rumbling that this makes state switches easier, but I can’t figure out how. (Which doesn’t mean they’re wrong — I do not claim to be a priest theorycrafter!)

While I’m here, who had the bright idea of removing The Exalted title? I actually totally understand their reasoning: rather than continue to make subsequent watered down titles and achievements for each expansion, why not reuse old ones? I think done properly it’s a good idea, but this was not done properly.

Up until now the paradigm for PvE titles and achievements is that they are permanent. Well, they might disappear, like The Keymaster, but they’ll never be revoked. This was a big change for Exalteds and a big change for the understanding of achievements. I don’t know what the Blizzard community team has going on, but even I think they needed to gently escort this topic on to the forums, and I’m the woman who is so unobservant I accidentally deleted my entire WTF folder in the middle of last night’s raid.

(That was fun. I quit WoW for at least 25 minutes while stomping around the house declaring it was dead to me. Then I reinstalled my UI.)

So basically I haven’t really even had the chance to play with the patch yet but I see that ret pallies are amazing again and I still don’t know what the hell is going on with Chakra. Que sera sera.

RealUI: a review of moddy goodness

RealUI: a review of moddy goodness

For the most part I stay out of any general debates for or against mod use in WoW. As a guild we ask that DPS have a threat readout and everyone who raids has a boss timer mod, and I STRONGLY encourage anyone who wants to raid heal to get custom raid frames, but otherwise we leave it up to the individual player. That being said, I have always been a big fan of the mod mini-game.

Although I have been heavily inspired by full mod packages (most notably the Tapesty UI), I usually rip out any specific mods and textures I like but do everything else myself. When the time came for a change in Cataclysm, however, I took a chance, nuked everything, and installed RealUI, a very unique-looking headsup minimalist package that advertised itself to be equally useful for both healers and DPS.

I chose RealUI for two reasons. First, I am a bit of an information junkie and RealUI promised to put all these combat details on the screen in a very organized way. Second, after six years I have a lot of characters. Usually I create a very healer- and raid-focused setup for Liore and then frankenstein it a bit for the needs of other DPS or leveling specs/characters, so the idea of a UI that could change to suit all of them was very tempting.

Installation for the first and every subsequent character was easycakes. Load the game, answer a couple of questions about what specs you use, and then.. tada, it works right out of the box. Most of the UI elements are centered, so they’ll work on almost any screen resolution. So, let’s look at healing with RealUI (click the image for large size):

Take that, Horde!

Things I modified: Almost nothing! I made the health percentage arrows turn green-yellow-red according to health percentage. I turned the target bar into the target’s class color. I would like to darken up the background of the target’s target window, but I haven’t figured that out yet. I made the target’s target’s debuffs smaller. I also added a few small quality of life and auction mods, but those don’t count. Otherwise, everything is included: Grid, DBM settings, threat meters, etc etc.

I think I’ll have to filter the buff and TOT debuffs a bit more, but it’s not far off my ideal.

Pros: Look at that heads up display. I mean really.

Specifically, though, the chakra timer (seen to the left in more detail) is a game-changer for me. As I’ve written here before I’ve had a hard time managing chakra and this timer bar makes it much, much easier. The debuff timer bars (showing Piercing Howl on me and SW:P on my target) are brilliant. Debuffs have become much more important to raiding in Cataclysm, and I love having a clear mid-combat indicator of what is on me or on the tank and how long it will be there. The buffs are clearly marked, but I haven’t learned all the symbols yet so it’s still a bit inscrutable.

The promises of one UI to rule them all have thus far held true. I was able to flip from healing on Liore to bashing skulls on Lunedi with no changes. RealUI is very good at hiding things until you need them. There are even features you might not expect, like a reputation meter or a raid marker menu, that only pop up when useful.

Plus, let’s not forget that it’s all remarkably pretty, particularly for a typography nerd like me. Look at the map indicators! Look at them! They’re SO TEXTY. I want to hug them.

Cons: Utilizing the automatic DPS/healer setup changes means using the version of Grid included with the package. That meant I had to set up my Grid preferences again, which is ugh, and I feel like this new Grid is not accurately displaying the last 20% or so of someone’s health (it seems to go awfully quickly). Admittedly this is likely a Grid problem, and in its defense RealUI is simply using the newest version of the mod.

Having such a unified package means making little tweaks is more difficult. I haven’t figured out how to make the package stop overwriting some of my changes (like font size for chat), and I can’t find settings for the target’s target bar opacity. However, there are limited options built in to the RealUI administration, and if you have some basic understanding of LUA anything is technically possible.

This isn’t really a big con, but the package definitely takes time to get used to. I ran heroics and battlegrounds all weekend trying to get a feel for the new display and while I now feel marginally ready to raid on Tuesday, I am still frequently flustered and not sure where to look for things. That will get better with time, though.

Overall, I am extremely impressed with RealUI, and I plan to stick with it — and I never thought I’d say that about a package! I love having all this information at my fingertips, displayed in an organized and non-intrusive way. I love having a very functional, attractive UI that will suit my raiding healer or my level 12 warlock equally. I think eventually this mod package will make me a better player.

If you are not too intimidated by change and enjoy ‘hands-on’ mod usage, I recommend you check out RealUI!

I Don’t Like Healing Assignments

I don’t! I don’t like them, and I resist giving them as much as possible. I hate micromanaging in general, but healing assignments are close to my heart as an issue. For the most part, I think that healing assignments assume that your healers are too stupid to know who needs their attention. They create tunnel vision, and discourage independent thinking.

Healing assignments cause healers to lose track of the rest of the raid. We’ve all seen it happen. Heck, if you play a healer you’ve had it happen to you: you’re watching your assigned green bar and suddenly a mage drops dead. Who was looking after them? Oh, no one was assigned and they stood in the corner and were slowly dotted to death? Hmm.

Or say you’re working on Omnitron and are assigned to heal melee. Toxitron drops slime bombs, and one of them targets you. You run away and out of range of the melee. One of them dies because you weren’t there to heal them and no one else bothered because they’re assigned to someone else. Ooops.

In my opinion, for the most part healing assignments are insulting. They imply that a healer is not smart enough to tell who needs healing, and not skilled enough to heal them in time. Instead, having healers on general healing duty encourages them to develop and use their own experience and intelligence. It assumes that healers can triage properly. Overall, I think that a healing team that runs mostly without assignments will have a better understanding of the fight and how it affects the raid as a whole.

Plus, in my opinion, free-for-all healing is more fun. :)

There are absolutely times when healing assignments are useful, such as Thorim when the raid has to break up into two entirely different groups, or fights like Blood Queen where the tanks will all immediately head off in different directions.

However, for the most part I hold the healers to the same standards I hold the rest of the raid: I assume that they know how to do their job and I give them the space to excel in it. Healers who can think for themselves and have a broad understanding of a boss encounter are more valuable in my opinion than healers who can take an assignment and keep it alive.

(This topic came up because I spent an hour this morning fighting with a rogue about the importance of healing assignments.  Yes, a ROGUE. About HEALING. What is this world coming to?)

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