RIFT Dimensions: the levelling killer

RIFT Dimensions: the levelling killer

I’m still in that post-expansion content glow when all I wanna do is play some RIFT.

History has proven me to be a notoriously slow leveller, and it’s certainly not a part of MMOs that I particularly enjoy. The level requirements for Storm Legion feel steeper than I’m used to, although it’s probably just the memory of gathering XP and heirlooms in WoW. That being said there are a number of ways to accrue XP in Storm Legion and I’ve managed to stave off boredom and impatience by hopping between the story quests, the carnage quests, dungeon runs, and Instant Adventure.

In fact, last week I was levelling at a frankly un-Liore-like pace. In under a week I had gone from 50 to 54 and felt on track to hit 60 in fairly short order. I wanted to be near the forefront of the new content, if for no better reason than to harvest high end nodes and bring in sweet, sweet new expansion dollars. (Money Tip: Sell all crafting materials for the first couple of months of an expansion, then level your own skills by buying materials for cheap once the market crashes.)

In fact, it was while basking in the glow of hitting 54 in good time that I decided to celebrate by buying my first dimension. I was originally intending to wait until 60, but I had the platinum in the bank to buy the biggest, most picturesque personal housing area (Dormant Core) so why not just get it now? Then later I can worry about building a house and decorating….

That was over a week ago and since that night I have earned exactly two bars of XP, which is a teeny, tiny amount. Instead I have put literal hours into perfectly aligning concrete walls, hanging lanterns, and staring at furniture vendors deciding which bed best represents Mercredi’s modern décor.

In short, dimensions are the horrible horrible wonderful timesinks that we all anticipated they would be and kudos to Trion for giving them to us. Fortunately I am going to run out of platinum for building materials soon so I’ll be forced back out into the levelling wilds.

Until then if you need me … I’ll be in my room.

The view from my house-in-progress:

RIFT houseoutside RIFT Dimensions: the levelling killer

The shell of my attempt at a weird mod 70s house. Originally there’s nothing here except some sand:

RIFT housefront RIFT Dimensions: the levelling killer

So Long, Glitch, and Thanks for All the Piggies

So Long, Glitch, and Thanks for All the Piggies

thursdayglitch So Long, Glitch, and Thanks for All the PiggiesGlitch, the quirky browser-based MMO, announced earlier this week that it was closing down for both financial and technical reasons. The news came as quite the shock to most industry observers. While Glitch was never a powerhouse title, it was definitely a recognizable name with a lot of great talent on board and it filled a niche that no other game did.

The news was particularly shocking to me because the week before I had been in the Tiny Speck offices in Vancouver, talking to President and braintrust Stewart Butterfield about taking on a Community Manager role. The physical home of Tiny Speck looked almost exactly as I imagined an indie game company would, from open floor plans to funky mismatched furniture to the exposed brick wall. Everyone I spoke with was incredibly polite and even in the brief time I was there I got the sense that it was a collaborative workplace full of passionate, creative people, lead by the frankly brilliant Butterfield.

In retrospect, though, there were possibly a few signs that a closure was being considered if not actually immediately forthcoming. Usually I leave an interview feeling excited about a product or company, or at least as though my interviewer wanted me to be excited about it. I left the Glitch offices, though, feeling thoughtful and oddly nervous about where the game would fit in to the MMO ecosystem. Butterfield was quite honest about the limitations of Glitch, including talking about the unfortunate decision to harness the game to Flash technology and the fact that there needed to be many many more players and quite soon for the game to survive.

In fact, I got the sense that Butterfield saw Glitch as less of a game and more of an interactive social platform, more like Second Life than World of Warcraft. The game elements were there to give people structure for interacting and socializing rather than to actually be a game, which seems like the opposite of most MMO developers who create a game first and then think of social interaction second.

I feel a bit hypocritical for saying this because while I have given Tiny Speck money in the past for cute hats I didn’t play that game that much, but we’ve lost something really unique in Glitch. For one, its player base was mostly women, and of those women most were age 35-50, which is a pretty maligned and ignored demographic in gaming. The dominant player culture encouraged sharing and collaboration, and slurs and other non-inclusive behavior was shamed by the community. Perhaps the biggest indicator of Glitch’s culture is the fact that there was no such thing as a “male” or “female” Glitch character, and no one was ever limited to dresses for “girls” and baseball caps for “boys” or whatever gender boxes we tend to put things in.

Glitch was one of the few non-combat games in any genre (the occasional rook attack aside), and I think because of that it had an amazing, deep crafting system, which we aren’t likely to see again soon. People have been heralding Guild Wars 2′s emphasis on appearance upgrades over stat upgrades as a new paradigm in MMO design, while Glitch has been quietly chugging along for two years with that exact attitude (and, frankly, a way more adorable and flexible array of clothing choices). And of course there was the dry, whimsical humor in the game, with plenty of wordplay that Butterfield agreed seemed to be a draw for the booksmart crowd.

I have no idea what has been actually going on behind the scenes or exactly why Glitch is being shut down, aside from the public letter. My sense, though, is that it’s not so much a failure of the model or the market as it is the promotion. Glitch actually “unlaunched” a year ago and went back into beta and never really came out again. As someone who has been studying their community engagement for the past few weeks, I feel as though while the Glitch community itself was amazing the company wasn’t aggressive enough at grabbing people outside of that community to come play. Their social media accounts were relatively quiet until a few weeks ago, and there wasn’t a concise message of what Glitch was and why people should check it out. (But hey, that’s just my amateur analysis.)

If you read the Glitch closure announcement you’ll notice it’s full of personal sentiment. It mentions that the folks at Tiny Speck are “heartbroken” about this, and from my experience in both playing the game and meeting some of the people behind it I absolutely believe that. For good or for ill the Glitch team truly loved their game, truly loved their game’s audience, and dreamed of making something different. I’m sure this decision was made with a heavy heart and a lot of soul-searching, and that there’s no way to keep the game going.

I hope the Tiny Speck folks aren’t finished with the online social space genre. I hope they don’t lose that spark to be different. To quote the final thought of the closure announcement, “The game was absolutely preposterous. And yet, we kind of liked it.”

Hello from Storm Legion

See that new cartoon in the sidebar? Earlier this week my coworker created this wonderful character version of me in real life. (Well, a stylized version.. I’m not always toting around a giant sword.) If you need any contract graphic design work done, look her up! :)


Someone said the other day that for the MMO genre the first expansion is always the best expansion. I’ve only been playing it since Tuesday, but thus far Storm Legion would seem to fit that pattern. It certainly feels like Trion has taken the original game, applied all the lessons they’ve learned over the last 18 months, and refined it.

Quest mob tagging was removed and quests are laid out in a more organic way, which in turn allows for a little more freedom in zone design. Thought has clearly been given to making towns and cities feel like a place where a virtual person could actually live rather than just a hub for quests. Almost every mob you run into is part of a carnage quest, which  you can pick up, complete, and turn in while out on the move.

Although I’ve only seen a smattering of the gear and wardrobe items available, my initial feeling is that Trion has spruced up their design as well. Complaints about RIFT’s original character and costume design were always well founded, and while it would be nice to see a race option with an unusual silhouette at least the gear is showing some imaginative flair now. (And weird hats. So many weird hats.)

The new zones have embraced RIFT’s more steampunk, “magitech” design elements, and the move away from archtypical fantasy is welcome.

There are so many things to do now, although to be fair that’s always the case at the beginning of an expansion. There are a million different ways for me to level, there are new souls to investigate, new dungeons to run, crafting to level. I haven’t even bought a Dimension yet, although that’s in large part because I’m saving money to buy a fancy one.

There are certainly things that other games provide that RIFT does not — the story in SWTOR, or the crafting in GW2, or whatever — but if you want a solid themepark game in my opinion Storm Legion places RIFT solidly ahead of WoW, LotRO, and other similar MMOs.

Oh, and speaking of Dimensions, I poked my head into one of the public ones that has been heavily upvoted and saw this amazing statue. It was created by combining boulders and wooden planks and other standard objects, and it is even more impressive in person. Enjoy this photo and a few more below it, and I’m gonna get back to playing!

Cat Content Episode 14: Yes, but how does this all relate to Mass Effect?

Can an MMO’s launch day ever live up to the promise and hype? Liore fangirls about RIFT: Storm Legion and we talk about what makes it stand out from other MMOs. Meanwhile Arolaide has been attacking bunnies in Assassin’s Creed III, and she reports back on the new setting and main character, as well as the accuracy of their bald eagle noises. (No, really.)

That Angry Dwarf is on vacation so we had Vajra step in as guest cohost. We managed to get in a great fight about whether the Fallout series or the Mass Effect series is better, so we decided to put it to the internet. Which is the better series overall: Mass Effect, or Fallout? Email podcast@lioreblog.com, comment here, or tweet @Liores and tell us what you think. Our egos are at stake!

Some links you might be interested in after listening:

* “Assassin’s Creed 3: the one-button power trip“, an editorial we disagree with on VG24/7
* The Elder Scrolls Online video
* Free Music Archive page for our theme, in THE crowd by The Years


(Don’t forget to leave 5 stars!)

Confessions of a Mobile Gaming Curmudgeon

I’ve been slightly AFK this week trying to get my real life in enough order that I can abandon it again once RIFT Storm Legion launches on Tuesday. The next episode of Cat Context podcast (which will be out on Wednesday) is basically Liore’s Love Letter to RIFT, so I won’t belabour the point here. I will, however, update my expansion bucket list one final time on Monday, and if you’re wondering what the deal is with RIFT you can check out this article I wrote to that effect last week on RIFT Junkies.

By the way, if you have a question for the podcast email it before Sunday to be eligible for one of a variety of beta keys!


Mobile gaming is currently the fastest growing sector of the video games market. It will be worth roughly $30 billion worldwide in 2013, Angry Birds sells themed t-shirts in Walmart, and earlier this year Draw Something went from being brand new to 20 million downloads in five weeks. Clearly this is all pretty serious gaming business.

On Monday I upgraded my phone, which meant a clean hard drive and the need to reinstall all my apps. I immediately added all the things I think are critical: podcast manager, Twitter, the Something Awful mobile app, and Tapatalk (for easier guild forum reading). And yet, I realized, there was not a single game on it.

Somehow this giant market segment has appeared and grown, and I’ve totally passed it by. I’ve easily spent over $100 on mobile apps, mostly on frivolous things like making widgets look better. My phone is always with me. So why aren’t I playing mobile games?

I am fussy about how games profit off of me

I respect the desire of developers to make some money for their efforts and I understand that a free game is only free because of the advertising. I’m fine with an app using those little banner advertisements, but it needs to be presented in a way that doesn’t significantly impact the flow of gameplay.

If your game will not let me play without first signing in to my Facebook or Twitter account, you can fall in a hole. (Tiny Tower, I am talking to you.) If a game spams my notification drawer with ads or dumb fake notifications that I totally should hook up a game with my Facebook account, I will also immediately uninstall it. (Tiny Tower, I am talking to you again arrrrgh you’re so irritating.)

I am fussy about games in general

I grump about Angry Birds sometimes, but it’s mostly just me playing a cranky game hipster for comedic effect. I don’t actually have anything against Angry Birds, or Cut the Rope or any of the other mega-popular titles. For whatever reason, though, I don’t particularly enjoy them either.

I also admittedly have some probably unfair prejudices against mobile games. They generally strike me as being cheap — as in cheaply, poorly made — and overly simplistic. I can’t tell from the Google Play store what will be a good game and what will not, even with ratings and reviews, and I’m curmudgeonly about taking my chances. Even moments before writing this post I checked the “Most Popular Free Games” list and.. number 3 is “Bus Parking 3D”. (Real World Simulation Games: another thing I don’t get)

The exception that proves the rule

I said earlier that I didn’t install a single game on my new phone, but that was a lie. There is one game that is on my “critical phone apps” list, and that’s 100 Floors. It doesn’t require internet connectivity, the ads are unobtrusive, and there’s no twitch gameplay. It uses the features of a mobile phone in a way that doesn’t make me wonder why I can’t just play this on my desktop in better resolution. 100 Floors is a straight up logic puzzle, and I like it very much.

So I guess I don’t get mobile games, but I’d like to. If you have a particular favorite that you think I’d enjoy, I welcome the suggestions. Otherwise, I’ll just be over here readin’ stuff.

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