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Enter at Your Own Rift

Enter at Your Own Rift: Enjoying the finer points of Storm Legion

Fantasy, Expansions, Opinion, RIFT, Enter at Your Own Rift

Enter at your own Rift  Enjoying the finer points of Storm Legion
For the past two weeks, I've been sitting through panel after panel, keynote after keynote, and the constant message was about what the future of MMOs will look like. The big buzzwords from GDC Online and SOE Live were things like mobile gaming, user-generated content, emergent gameplay, and e-sports, but sometimes, it's the little things that make for a great MMO.

I'm still cutting my teeth on RIFT's Storm Legion, but there are several things that already get me excited about the expansion. We've heard a lot about the big things coming to the game, but in this week's Enter at Your Own Rift, I'd like to talk about a few of the little things that will make this a well-received expansion.

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Enter at Your Own Rift: Analysing Storm Legion's new souls

Fantasy, Classes, Expansions, Opinion, RIFT, Enter at Your Own Rift

Enter at Your Own Rift Analysing Storm Legion's new souls
I still can't wrap my head around just how many metric tons of content are coming with RIFT: Storm Legion. It's an expansion that looks to put other expansions to shame by sheer size alone. Epeen competitions notwithstanding, any one of these major features would usually be good enough for a full expansion elsewhere.

Take the new souls, for example. Storm Legion is adding four of them, one for each archetype. That's not just four additional classes but a hefty amount of additional combinations, since RIFT builds allow for three souls at a time. So each archetype is going from 56 unique soul combinations to a whopping 84.

I can only imagine how much of a headache 336 different soul combinations are to balance, but fortunately I don't have to worry about it from my end. Instead, I want to take a look at the revealed new souls and speculate as to how they'll fit in with the game come next month.

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Enter at Your Own Rift: Expansion anxiety

Fantasy, Expansions, Opinion, RIFT, Enter at Your Own Rift

Enter at your own Rift  Expansion Anxiety
I don't know about anyone else, but I'm getting a big kick out of the little ad banner videos that RIFT is using to promote the Storm Legion expansion. The sight of a mini Scott and Russ flipping signs with promises to generic forum posts is a neat little marketing ploy. Even though I never click ad banners, and even though I'm getting the expansion, I still clicked on them just to see the video and the gameplay. It's like RIFT's version of Dumbledore smiling back through the Daily Prophet.

There's a lot I'm looking forward to in Storm Legion, but at the same time, I'm apprehensive about the changes that tend to come with the launch of any expansion. The world of Telara is changing, and Crucia is only part of that. In this week's Enter at Your Own Rift we'll look at some of the changes that MMO expansions normally bring and see how they might affect RIFT.

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Enter at Your Own Rift: Six things I learned about leveling via instant adventures

Fantasy, Opinion, RIFT, Guides, Enter at Your Own Rift

Enter at Your Own Rift Six things I learned about leveling via instant adventures
With a few weeks to blow before Storm Legion arrives to give us a wealth of new content to explore, I decided to roll up an alt in RIFT and see just how far I could get him in the meantime. The character is a mage, and the Harbinger soul looks wicked awesome, so I figured, why not?

I wasn't that interested in going back through all of the quests and zones, however. I've done them, explored them, and made peace with them, and I knew that chugging back through all of those quests would drive me nuts (and take too long!). So instead, I figured I might as well try a new tactic: I resolved to just use instant adventures augmented by dungeon runs for the entirety of my leveling experience.

It's a huge plus in RIFT's favor that this is an actual option, and I quite enjoy IAs anyway, so that choice felt right. Over the past week of doing this, I've learned a few interesting lessons about chugging through IAs as a character's sole source of XP, loot, and advancement. For anyone who might be following this path, I'd like to share those lessons.

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Enter at Your Own Rift: Macro this!

Fantasy, Game Mechanics, Opinion, RIFT, Enter at Your Own Rift

Enter at your own Rift  Macro this!
You know that saying about never discussing religion or politics around the dinner table? I'd like to add one more to the list: RIFT macros. Some players love them, and some players hate them, to the point that the topic completely turns them off from the game. Each camp has some very valid arguments, and there doesn't seem to be too much of a middle ground on the subject. In this week's Enter at Your Own Rift, I'd like to take a look at that polarizing issue and explain why I grew to love macros.

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Enter at Your Own Rift: Fall colors... and more mead!

Fantasy, Events (In-Game), Opinion, RIFT, Enter at Your Own Rift

Enter at Your Own RIFT Fall colors and more mead!
It wasn't that long ago that if you ever asked me what my favorite season was, I'd respond without hesitation, "Spring!" Being a Midwesterner means that spring is the rescue of winter doldrums and the march to summer. However, the past few years have swayed me to a different answer. I honestly feel that autumn has so much more to offer.

Maybe it's that my favorite holiday, Halloween, lies smack-dab in the middle of it. Perhaps it's the fragrant smells and gorgeous sights of leaves turning. Definitely it has something to do with bonfires, hot apple cider, hayrides, and fleece jackets.

So even while the last vestiges of 80-degree weather clings to my state, I'm already eager to dive head-first into a pile of leaves. Barring that, I'm more than content to revel in RIFT's newest festival, Autumn Harvest. Now with 100% more MEAD!

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Enter at Your Own Rift: The calm before the storm

Fantasy, Patches, Previews, Opinion, RIFT, Enter at Your Own Rift

Enter at Your Own Rift  Checking out the Calm Before the Storm, Update 110
You had me at "I've slept so long." Seriously, I rarely pay any attention to MMO trailers because they tend to be heavy on CGI, so what you see on the screen has nothing to do with what you'll actually see in the game. But with the Storm Legion trailer, a lot of it looks exactly like what we've seen in demos and gameplay videos that the RIFT team has shown at recent conventions. In other words, I can't wait for November to arrive.

But before the storm comes the calm, and before the expansion comes one last game update. RIFT launched about a year and a half ago and is closing in on its 10th update, a nice round number leading into the first expansion. That's an aggressive schedule by any MMO standard, but it's particularly impressive when you dig into the patch notes and see exactly what's changed each time. With the imminent arrival of the last update before the first expansion, I made my way back over to the test server to get a glimpse of some of the changes. Some of them are coming any day now with update 1.10, while others hint at what's coming in the lead-up to the expansion.

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Enter at Your Own Rift: Is the subscription justified?

Fantasy, Business Models, Opinion, RIFT, Enter at Your Own Rift

Enter at Your Own Rift Is the subscription justified
I wonder whether the folks at Trion Worlds feel as if they're on an ever-shrinking island, holding fast to the subscription-only model while the world erodes into the sea of free-to-play. It's got to be an unsettling feeling, particularly as the competition continues to press in from all sides.

Is clinging to RIFT's subscription worth it? When even Star Wars: The Old Republic flinched and buckled to F2P, what chance does RIFT have to stay its course? Is Trion hurting or helping this game by holding fast to the business model?

It's a tricky question that's made trickier by the scarcity of facts. Trion's expressed strong confidence in the way it's steered RIFT so far, and I wonder whether that's a genuine confidence based on numbers that I don't see or a brave front for a duck that's paddling furiously under the calm pond surface.

So is RIFT really so good that it justifies a monthly subscription, and if so, what makes it OK to stay above the F2P waters on that tiny island?

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Enter at Your Own Rift: What's in your bag?

Fantasy, Opinion, RIFT, Enter at Your Own Rift

Enter at your own Rift  What's in your wallet  or bag
I have a little confession to make. When it comes to random clicky items, unusual vanity pets, eccentric appearance items, and other quirky stuff in RIFT, I'm completely obsessed. During world events, while everyone else is eyeing the essences and new mounts, I'm scanning the appearance outfits and the clicky-effect items. I'll even do quests and content that I'm not necessarily interested in if the reward is something out of the ordinary. Clickies and odd items are great ways to lighten the mood when your group or raid has hit a wall, and they're a good way to liven up downtime in game. There's nothing like the sudden appearance of fireworks or the instant transformation of your raid leader into foliage.

For this week's Enter at Your Own Rift, I'm diving into my RIFT bags and bank vault to highlight a few of my favorite clickies. Share some of yours!

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Enter at Your Own Rift: RIFT's upcoming housing boom

Fantasy, Expansions, RIFT, Enter at Your Own Rift, Housing

Enter at Your Own Rift RIFT's upcoming housing boom
Have no doubt, it's been an absolutely barnburner of a week or so for RIFT. As Trion Worlds chugs toward the unknown release date for Storm Legion, we've seen the reveal of the first new soul (the Harbinger), a special annual subscription offer, a tour of several areas of the expansion from Gamescom, and oh yeah, news that Trion's all but eliminating factional barriers.

And with all that, do you know what everyone's jabbering on about in the forums? Housing. Housing, housing, housing!

It doesn't surprise me; as a long-time proponent of player housing, I know full well the powerful attraction and appeal housing has when done right (emphasis on the last three words there). Housing gives players a sense of attachment to the game world, an outlet for creativity, and a personalized place to socialize. And finally we've heard the first concrete details (with video footage!) of RIFT's dimensions.

There's no avoiding it; there's going to be a huge housing boom in RIFT come this fall. So what will it look like?

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Enter at Your Own Rift: First impressions from returning players

Fantasy, Opinion, RIFT, Enter at Your Own Rift

Enter at your own Rift
What do a statistician, a tinkerer, a party guy, a time-challenged player, and my better half all have in common? They're a handful of gamers who have recently been playing RIFT with me, and many of them have come back after a break from the game. It's pretty much been one coincidence after another that they've all come back around the same time, and while we all get along swimmingly, we all have differences in our playstyles that make this group a decent representation of the RIFT demographic on the whole. Would the game hook in everyone? Would the second time be the charm? Hear their impressions in this week's Enter at Your Own Rift.

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Enter at Your Own Rift: Wardrobe blues

Fantasy, Opinion, RIFT, Enter at Your Own Rift

Enter at Your Own Rift Wardrobe blues
One of the aspects of RIFT that I keep trumpeting to friends and strangers alike is just how wonderfully quick, responsive, and engaging Trion Worlds' updates have been. It's almost as if the dev team is engaging in a pillow fight with players, swinging away and trying to pummel us into submission with great content that's not always perfect but usually is great. In comparison, many other MMOs have become stodgy dinosaurs, creaking along with long-promised but never-arriving features.

So while I praise Trion for the bounty of nine major updates since launch, there's one feature that I've felt discontented with every since its inclusion: the wardrobe. For me to say this is kind of a big thing; anyone who knows me knows that I adore it when MMOs give us the option to dress up our characters the way we like. An appearance system was a big wish list item for me, and when Trion casually tossed it in the game early on, I was ecstatic.

Yet over the months, I've grown to dislike the system as a whole, especially in comparison to cosmetic gear systems in other titles that I play. It's a little difficult to put a finger on why, but I've got another 1000 words or so to make the attempt and then discuss solutions. Let's get to it!

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Enter at Your Own Rift: What Scott Hartsman's AMA portends for RIFT

Fantasy, Game Mechanics, Interviews, MMO Industry, Opinion, RIFT, Community Q&A, Enter at Your Own Rift

Scott Hartsman
The Trion team is nothing if not persistent. In an elaborate plot involving Dr. Pepper and a one-way locked office, the devs were able to finally get Trion CCO and RIFT Executive Producer Scott Hartsman to participate in an Ask Me Anything session on Reddit. It was an engaging discussion that touched on a variety of topics, from up and coming titles such as End of Nations to Hartsman's journey from GM of the MUD Scepter of Goth to his time with SOE and his current endeavors with Trion. We learned that he's a pretty hardcore raider, that he plays incognito, and that his raid drink of choice is Grimbergen Blonde. But the focus of the conversation was RIFT, and while he didn't shed too much light on the upcoming expansion, he did drop a few hints about what we might see in the future. In this week's Enter at Your Own Rift, we'll look at some of the highlights!

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Enter at Your Own Rift: The joy of mentoring

Fantasy, Game Mechanics, Opinion, RIFT, Enter at Your Own Rift

Enter at Your Own Rift The Joy of Mentoring
One of the reasons I like RIFT so much is that it has similar features to my other favorite MMO, EverQuest II. That's not really surprising, since RIFT's Executive Producer is Scott Hartsman, who was formerly EQII's Senior Producer and Creative Director. Since mentoring is one of the cornerstones of Norrath, it's something I was hoping would make its way into the world of Telara. But mentoring in RIFT is a little different what's in EQII, and it's worth taking a closer look at those changes because they've broken the major hurdle to allowing high- and low-level players to do things together. In fact, I think mentoring is something that every level-based MMO should add as a standard feature.

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Enter at Your Own Rift: Leveling the achievements way

Fantasy, Game Mechanics, RIFT, Enter at Your Own Rift

Enter at Your Own Rift Leveling the achievements way
In this week's Soapbox on Massively, I explained why I admire achievement systems in MMOs. Today I'd like to continue that discussion with a specific case study in RIFT. Consider it a companion piece.

When I came back to RIFT last month and started a new character, I had a choice as to how I would level back up through the game. There was the traditional questing path, pursuing dynamic events, running endless streams of dungeons, engaging in (shudder) PvP, or queuing up for instant adventures. I decided to blend them all together like premium yogurt and use the achievements system as a guide.

I don't tether myself to achievement systems in all MMOs I play, but RIFT's makes it fun and natural. It's easy to parse what's left to be done on a zone by zone or system by system basis, and the little noise and graphic that pops up makes me feel like a good doggy, indeed.

It's turned out to be an incredibly good decision. I've had so much more fun this time around than the first, greatly in part to achievements nudging me off the path well-traveled.

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