Friday, June 17, 2011

Rift & Repurpose

So what happened?!

Well, the same thing that has been happening with the majority of MMOs since 2006 or so. Promises of this and that, then delivery of repackaged goods mixed with absolute failure and a little success sprinkled on top. Do I play anymore? Not really. My reasoning is pretty simple... warfronts all day is no different than playing League of Legends all day. I shall miss <Coterie> (G), I shall miss <Rank Six> (D), and I shall miss the entire server of Phoenix Throne... whoops, Sunrest.

The question is then... what to do with the Ace of Grapes Wine Co.?

Well, I am certainly not giving up the name... and I still have a very deep rooted interest in the MMO genre, so much so that I'm very heavily considering school for the purpose of joining the industry (I know it's not nearly as glamorous as gamers often think it is... but few industries are).

As such, this is just a short note for the sake of the Wine Co's history and the few people who still visit this place. The blog shall be repurposed, and while I am in MMO limbo the topics I write about shall probably be all over the place. But they shall still pertain to video games, their trends, my thoughts on them, etc. Everything written about Rift will stay. Partially as written record for the Wine Co's history, and partially because (much to my humbled astonishment) people still read the information.

Is there a postmortem of Rift in the future? Perhaps. Though truth be told, there are enough people who have already written one. Those who are playing or have played already know where Trion fell short of their promises and where they managed to do things well. I may do one for the sake of doing it anyway... but I doubt it. I haven't played for about a month and a half now... and it's sad, but I don't really miss the game at all.

Just the people.

That being said, if the transitions from Warhammer to Aion to Rift continue as they have so far, I'm sure the next MMO to promise exciting PvP shall have a server unofficially renamed to Phoenix Throne and I will see most of those awesome people again.

Monday, January 24, 2011

World PvP in Rift

There seems to be this thought going around in the general Riftspace that the game isn't shipping with any support for world PvP as a result of there being no keeps, or no world objectives. There isn't any reason to be out in the world for PvP because you'll get less favor for PvP gear than if you simply ground Warfronts which aren't everyone's cup of tea if what they're really jonesing for is some sweet sweet open world PvP.

What are you people thinking?

I ask that quite sincerely, because I'd like to know why the world itself, isn't relevant when it comes to issues over which players can fight. I'm talking about the commonly known interest in fighting over rifts, wardstones, resources, instances, and picking a fight because you feel like it and someone is going to be getting your boot printed onto their tongue because you're going to shove it that far up their rear end.

Now, let me talk geography for a little bit.

Hopefully it'll provide a basis of understanding.

The world as we've seen it so far is generally bracketed for PvE the same way Warfronts have their brackets. That is to say each contested zone is a hotbed of activity simply by the amount of people that are there. The other faction isn't off leveling in a corner somewhere you can't get to. People aren't gathering for their crafts down in a hole where no one else can see. The adventures of Defiants and Guardians will cross paths, and they will do so all the time. CB5 will give us a taste of that, as well as another instance.

I remember when people were hoping the instances were a little closer together, instead of just one every 10 levels to 50. Well, we saw one in CB4, and we're seeing another one now in CB5 with a level increase of only 3. So hopefully that silences that.

Now imagine coming onto the scene at level 40-45ish somewhere. Everyone in that area is either somewhere around your level, or probably 50. And in this world, you have to go and get your exp, and you have to go and gather your stuff, and run your instances, and battle the rifts that spawn on top of you, and the quests that have you running all over the place.

Well guess what?

The other faction is doing that too.

In that area.

And they'll also either be around your level or probably 50.

So I ask again.

What makes you think there won't be any world PvP in this game?

There are far more important things to fight over than a keep out in the middle of nowhere, for a buff or percentage increase. These features have only weighed down the two faction games that had them. The keeps could be fun, but if it was more effective to gather whatever PvP points by just swapping them, that's what people ended up doing. My memorable fights in those games only involved the keep to the point of it being off in the background somewhere because of its size. The fights weren't about the keep. The fights were about the fights. That doesn't stop people from simply gimping the system and sucking the fun right out of it.

Dark Age of Camelot worked because it had 3 factions. Period. Two faction games cannot support the idea of keeps. None of them have done it well. If Rift allowed the races to belong to factions by individual choice, and allowed them to form their own factions through player politics, then Rift would be perfect. From what I heard in today's Riftpodcast, even if the previous idea will never be a reality, what is there is pretty damned close to being the equivalent of eating your cake too. World objectives do exist in this game. And they are there in a way that might actually do it pretty close to the mark of what many could consider right. You really have to listen to it to understand what it will be like. All the same, Rift has two factions. Hopefully what they're doing is close enough to the mark, without falling prey to the same perils that every other two faction game before it has suffered as a result of attempting world objectives.

World of Warcraft's PvP was quite stellar in the summer months of 05. Right before the Battle Grounds were even introduced, all the PvP generally happened in places like Stranglethorn, or Hillsbrad (so close to my heart that place), or another favorite, Tyr's Hand. Rogues got to know Stormwind and Ironforge very well (Undead Rogue ID#: 89824602362342623). We got to pull off all kinds of fun things in capital cities, just for the hell of it.

World objectives weren't necessary, and some would argue, neither were the Battle Grounds. They just spiraled off into this idea that has become a persistent attachment to the majority of fantasy MMOs that have come after it. They're fun, don't get me wrong. But it's kind of like playing Need for Speed: Underground or Most Wanted if anyone remembers those games. The freedom to cruise around and do what you liked made those games so much fun. You knew the maps so well after a while. Midnight Club is another one made of pretty fantastic stuff. "Tag" wasn't even in the game, it was just something added to it by friends to do against each other while cruising around in the open world on the same screen.

Anyway, the size of Rift's zones so far pretty much guarantee that they'll be populated with people doing different things across fairly broad level ranges. Those things involve wardstones (quest hubs), those things involve rifts (exp, currency for planar items, drops), instances (exp, drops), and gathering (crafting, profiteering).

You mean to tell me you don't want to pick a fight with someone on the other side doing one of those things?

Come on now.


PS: If you haven't heard this fantastic PvP podcast yet, then you need to hear it. Rift is more than just a PvE game. So much more, and that so much more is PvP. Everything is explained, such as Valor being something built into your character's stats as they level. Anyone interested in PvP needs to hear that man talk.World PvP objectives are in the game. So that should silence all that noise too.

PPS: Weekly 5v5 Nights. Open world PvP chosen to happen in a particular contested zone each week, where people cruise around with their friends in groups of 5, and engage other people doing the same thing. I'd like to hope people wouldn't interfere with a 5v5 if they saw it happening, and would allow themselves to cross the paths of other people on their side, perhaps chat about where the other side might be, and then move on again rather than just cruise around as a pack of 10. Basically just keeping the spirit of fierce but respectful 5v5s and allowing it to simply exist as it is.

Which doesn't mean the 5v5 Night probably won't end up as one big ass brawl anyway.

This happened in DAoC too, so hopefully people who enjoyed it there, can appreciate the world for being a source of PvP even if there isn't a keep to fight over. It also happened in WoW. So you new school folks who may not have experienced "the glory of DAoC", should also be able to jive with it too.

If we establish this as a weekly thing once enough people interested have all reached a certain level (like 40-45ish) then we'll have a great way to enjoy open world PvP regularly as we make our way to 50, and continue doing as we're all at 50 and doing all the other fun things being 50 lets us do.

There's no reason for us not to, especially with all the things you can make through the soul system.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Chronicles of Cutesie Vol. 1 (720p HD)

Finally... so after my last post, I've pretty much been working, while trying to work on this video that started as a very small idea and then kinda sorta exploded into a very big idea, which took more time, because I was so tired from work. Follow all that?

I've basically decided to release it as is, since even though it doesn't have a number of the things I still want (like the intro and credits that'll definitely have to appear in the next video), it's still something I'm pretty happy with and no fussing over anymore details is going to actually make it any different from what it is now.

If anyone knows of a great video streaming site, be sure to drop me a line. YouTube is easy for everyone, but it can ruin the quality of a video after it's done re-compressing everything. The video that you are about to see is very dark in a number of places... particularly because it's a dark part of the terrain, sort of a bowl cut out of the light grass, where I just happened to have a very epic Druid fight end in a double KO. This happens as well in other areas of the game similarly dark, like the Black Garden. Disappointing to say the least, so yes, I need an alternative, because the video isn't supposed to be that dark at all. 

Despite all that, this video is best viewed full screen in 720p HD.  You'll see fights like the double KO mentioned, more solo roaming of enemy territory (Stonefield), a Druid based Battle Cleric in the Codex and Black Garden, a Warden based healer in the Codex, and the classic Shaman based Battle Cleric all over the place since my time in enemy territory features that build exclusively. For those who don't like the music choice, feel free to mute it. I don't apologize for it, because it's music I like. 

Otherwise, enough rambling from me.

I intend to have a Director's Cut established shortly, which pretty much just requires me to sit and give about 12m30s of commentary to the video itself. But I did want to finally release this thing. For those who are interested in the Director's Cut, you can probably expect it in a day or two. Most of the time is really just uploading as this video (2.5gb) took almost 12 hours to load today. Either way, the commentary will basically be me talking about each fight, and all of the mistakes I make. I make a bunch of them but still manage to have success. I like that... because while some people have been worried about playing too much of the game now and not enjoying it as much once it releases, I'm of the mind that there'll be all kinds of potential with not only playing your one character, but in also having an alt or two that is also conveniently at max level, who can also conveniently create all kinds of cool combinations to PvP with.

Follow that one too?

Basically I'm just hoping people actually enjoy the system rather than doing all the moaning and complaining that our beloved genre has instilled into so many of us. For what Trion has put on the table, there is quite a lot of things to do and experience... yes, it's easy, but if any of you play Marvel vs Capcom you can think of all the soul combinations as different characters to pick. First character didn't take long to level... but an alt would be a pretty good idea, since that's more characters available for the picking... which means different ways to PvP... and I have all these different and fun ways that will pretty much carry me to 50 where I can then start actually doing all of the also fun end game things while taking a break to cruise the ultimate fun of world PvP?

I won't even get into that... that's another blog post entirely, which I might do tonight because I've been wanting to do it for days...


This time I'm actually being honest. A day or two doesn't mean no video until next Saturday. The Chronicles of Cutesie Vol. 1 (Director's Cut) shall be out in a day or two. :x

Bastard's honor?

Okay, I tried.

But you have to believe me!


PS: See you all in CB5!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Board of Director's Meeting

Saturday... a day off to actually be here, while I'm awake, and able to get things done without work digging a gaping hole out of my day. Ace of Grapes has been rather quiet lately, it has been about a week since anything new has come down the pipe, and I'm reminded of the balance that I should maintain between the things I want to do, and the things I have to do, so the things that I have to do don't end up being ruined because I did the things I wanted to do instead... savvy?

I've used up my limit on ridiculous run on sentences for the day.

As it stands right now, Jack's Black Book of Rogues is closed. It disappoints me to do it, but while it was a very neat idea (which is why I started it), it wasn't one of my better ideas (hence closing it). The Black Book of Rogues will continue on in my head, for now. A part of this has to do with the role builders now available as well. This one is one that I recommend, only because it's the best one I've come across so far. I'm sure better will come over time, since this one is quite complete, it just lacks icons and a few of the scaling values for talents. But those values are ones that anyone familiar with how talent trees generally progress in MMOs, won't be bothered by that at all. There was only so much time to collect data during CB4, so what's there, is quite helpful.

While we're on the topic of useful links, for people who still don't know server names and perhaps want to plan with their mates or get a feel of how many of each is currently available, there is this site. It also tells you the status of those servers, while serving as a source of patch notes. Currently, only CB4's notes are available, since it seems to be that one where the information began to explode out of the game with all the people they pour into it.

Great move, releasing the NDA after CB2, giving people time to plan and gather and share information as we go into what is another 2 or 3 (maybe, since the one over the holidays wasn't a part of the schedule apparently, Trion was just being really nice) beta events before March. $10/mo is a very welcome offer. If you're unaware of that, you'll want to check here.

With old news out of the way, we move on to what is forthcoming. Namely, what I am hoping turns out to be a really awesome PvP video with my footage from CB4. It's not so much one of those "Watch me own people." videos, as much as it's simply a showcase of some of the more memorable fights I've had over the course of the event. I went through a tonne of different specs, mainly for curiosity's sake, and was sometimes not surprised by the disappointment I found, and others very much surprised by things I tried that I initially thought I wouldn't like at all.

Those of you who have been building Battle Clerics on top of a Druid base for a while now... you guys chose very very well. I initially considered it to be inferior to the Shaman and the few things that Shamans do very well as a result of lacking the tools to do much more than that. Druids have proven me wrong. It could have just been the people I went up against (and the unfortunate fact that I didn't have time to take her out into Stonefield like I had done with her Shaman based build), but I felt much more comfortable (and had arguably much more success) when she had a Druid base.

So that's what I'm up to today. The video itself features Cutesie in Stonefield, Codex and Black Garden. Sometimes as a Shaman, sometimes as a Druid, even sometimes as a Warden... healing doesn't ever get as much shine in PvP videos.

When will it be done?

Some time tonight or tomorrow I'm hoping.

So we'll see.


Friday, January 7, 2011

Jack's Black Book of Rogues: The Assassin

Gentlemen, and lovely ladies. 

Feel free to wave down one of the girls in the purple corsets, they're just grapes off the vine here to serve everyone some drinks. For those open to suggestion, our five hundred and second batch has just matured into fruition and ready for consumption by the public. So try it, ask them for the 502 and tell us of what you think, because we think you'll enjoy it very much.

And now, with business out of the way... gather 'round.

First, some apologies on the awful tardiness. I hope working 10am-6pm treats me much better than working 8:30am-4:30pm. All the same, waking up at 6:30am is ridiculously unsatisfying when you're a night owl... I could use the extra hour and a half to catch up on the night prior... or at least just have some free time when I'm not in a mood of "can't be assed" because work is a boring necessity of life right now... that just manages to chew gaping holes into my days. Boo hoo, here a rose for your violin playing. 

Anyway, apologies are over. 

First, we can marvel at this pretty thing for a while...

Psst... click it.


Now we talk.

Stealth (Root: Level 4 - 30s dur, 10s cd)
Incapacitates: 1 (Root: Level 6 - 30s dur, out of combat only, breaks on damage, doesn't break stealth)
Snares: 1 (Root: Level 12 - 70%, 8s dur, no cd)
Stuns: 2 (Root: Level 16 - 4s, stealth req
Branch: 21 pts - 4s, 30s cd)
Damage Shield: 1 ( Root: Level 18 - 13 dmg reflected, 15s dur, 2m cd)
Confuse: 1
Blind: 1 (Branch: 11 pts - 10s, 1m cd)
Improved Stealth Maneouvers: 2 (Root: Level 10 - greatly reduces chance of being detected while stealthing for 5s, 15s cd
Root: Level 51 - any damage taken while stealthed will break stealth in 15s, 1m cd
Branch: 11 pts - +15% move speed, +15% harder to detect
Branch: 21 pts - Stealth has no duration
Branch: 31 pts - Vanish ability, immune to damage for 3s, also removes snares and roots.)

What a wonderfully devilish bag of tricks.

I say that in reference even to things that I did not list above. While those listed are indeed rather neat, compare it to the fact that Assassins in Rift generally play like a Rogue in World of Warcraft - now, mind you, you don't just have one direct damage finisher, a dot finisher and a stun finisher (which you do, by the way)... you also have finishers that buff you, as well as debuffing your opponent. One of your poisons increases your chance to crit against the target by 5%. But there is a lot of familliarity with the openers as well, since they're just like your finishers; Ambush, Garrote, Cheapshot.

Personally, Rogues in WoW were a very fluid class to play. When Trion decides to fix the energy issue currently plaguing the Rogue calling, I'm glad they've chosen the WoW Rogue style to somewhat personify one of their souls. I also love the way stealth is done in this game to those who don't see you, or just barely get a glimpse with a sound very similar to that of a Rogue passby in WoW.

A very welcome familliarity.

All of that reminiscing about stabbing people while wearing a robe and wizard hat is to say, that Assassins are a very solid soul, that many people will probably instantly be familliar with, that will prove to become nastier and nastier as the great ones start distinguishing themselves.

If you enjoyed Tarren Mill vs Southshore fights as a Rogue, or better yet, stalking the alleys of Stormwind and the tight corners of Ironforge, then you'll enjoy Assassins quite a bit.

While I promise nothing seeing as how I'm about to go get Cutesie to 27 and Warfront my heart out for the weekend, but I still intend to go over the other Rogue souls as well. They don't take that long to do, it's just a matter of finding the time, and keeping myself awake until an hour that doesn't make me feel like an elderly old man.

Night owls do not take well to being woken up at 6:30 am on a regular basis.

Anyway, Bards and Riftstalkers will be next (I originally wanted to do two of these pages from the Black Book of Rogues at a time). Unless another really catches my fancy or impresses me over the weekend, then I'll go with that.

Till then, ladies, gents... enjoy yourselves and enjoy testing out new content.


Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Year & Nerd Love

Seeing as how it's now 11 AM EST, hopefully those of you on the same time zone or similar are still passed out somewhere from too much revelry. Personally, the Ace of Grapes was asleep by about 10 PM. He's started a new job, you see, on the first day of CB3 no less. So this past week has featured waking up at 6:30 AM (and failing at that), to arrive for work at 8:30 AM (success despite the aforementioned failures), then finishing at 4:30 PM, getting home by 6:30 PM and playing until about 3-3:30 AM.

Rinse and repeat from Tuesday to Friday.


I'd just like to take a moment to thank the makers of 5-hour Energy. Without it I probably would have lost my job as a result of falling asleep at my desk, rather than clearing away 2 months worth of backed up stuff and making a great impression as a result.

Five Hour Energy is now unofficially endorsed by the Ace of Grapes Wine Co.

His lady did say his ridiculous hours were going to catch up with him... and they did, when there was no beta to play, and no work to worry about the next day. She wanted to spend New Years with him... he was drooling on his pillow like an asshole. Sorry Jackrabbit. :(


Despite not being able to enjoy CB1 or CB2 together, the Ace of Grapes and his lady fair were finally able to run around Silverwood as an item. Awwwwww. It is for this reason that I don't have much to report on the "Get a Rogue to 20" challenge I was undertaking (Hood is level 8, otherwise I was with Jackrabbit, or PvPing in Freemarch). I'll get Hood up to 20 eventually, Riftstalker/Bard/Bladedancer is very sweet. Until then, expect a break down on Rogues over the next day or two (with screenshots of each Rogue tree and branch/root abilities) and lastly... sappy screenshots of what made CB3 so much fun for me... Slowjack and Jackrabbit...

Fresh Level 1s!

"*sigh* No, honey... that buff does not give you Spidey Senses..."

Do I know what caused the bright light? Not a clue. Do I like the effect? Absolutely.

Hopefully Trion adds body customization options. 

I love the random shots you can take while the characters do their idle animations.

The mandatory "caught you with your eyes closed" picture.

She was blowing me a kiss in this one... insert mandatory blowing something else comment. Either way, I'm not complaining. <3

Another one of those taken during idle animation shots, Elf girls have nice head tilts.

For some reason I'm reminded of that old picture of the farmer and his wife. WTB Pitchfork PST.

Why this picture, Jack? Idle animations, of course. Jackrabbit is pretty.

What do they need to take on the world? Nothing except each other. I know, it's disgusting.

How to Have Fun in Rift

This is something written a few weeks ago during CB2. Once those forums went down, I had someone asking me if I still had a copy of it, and sadly, since it was just a one off thing, I didn't. With the beta forums back up for CB3, I am taking the opportunity to put it here since this place will always be around on the internets. I have updated it with some other thoughts, noted in this nice grapeish purple color. Otherwise, everything will remain the same. 


Welcome, to what is essentially an article on my opinions regarding this game. There is no TL;DR. I am going to write this as if I were writing an article for Ace of Grapes. I am putting it here because after the first event, the argument of Old vs New is going to start up all over again. Rather than go around to each thread, I will do it once. People may take from this whatever they like. This article is my opinion, and my creative expression. I am not telling you what to do, or telling you what to think. I only offer my thoughts.

I really look forward to the release of this game. Not because I think it matches the literal definition of all the buzz words people throw around like "innovative", "next gen", and "groundbreaking", but because it is a game that I find very easy to sit down with and enjoy.

But there are other buzz words. Words like "hand holding" and "on rails" and "WoW clone". While I won't address the absurdity of "WoW clone" as a term, I'll still address the "hand holding" and "on rails" just briefly. Even though I have been doing so for a while with the quote in my signature from CB1. 

If you don't want your hand to be held, then let go. I've been seeing people complain about how this game is too formulaic, it's too straight forward, it's too simple. Well, that's because MMOs are not that complicated. Things like a minimap, things like shiny icons over various heads, and all the other convenience features that have changed the face of the genre are things that really do not need to interfere with your enjoyment of the game. 

It is my personal belief that anyone who finds themselves too easily guided by the glowing lights and pointing arrows, is perfect proof that those systems are designed very well. After all, these are the same people lamenting about how easy the game is. So clearly, these convenience features are doing what they are supposed to do. They are making the game all kinds of convenient. 

It doesn't mean that these people are wrong, however. The game -is- easy. That is something I hope Trion addresses over the course of the next 4 events. While those of the EQ era won't find the Guks and Unrests that were so great, it doesn't mean Rift has to be so easy for everyone in general. It's easier for some soul builds than it is for others... but still. A mob of your level won't really kill you unless you're not paying attention... I'd like that changed.

The questions that come to mind for me, are these;

Why did you log in to do that?

Is that fun? 

Did you really want to hop into the world of Telara to follow a bunch of arrows and nothing more?

Then you're going to complain that the game lacks immersion, adventure, and challenge, because the pointy arrows didn't give them to you?

Well you certainly didn't log into EverQuest to follow a bunch of arrows around now did you?

So why are you logging into Rift to do that and then complaining when the arrows do their job?

The reason the MMOs have become so formulaic, is because the reasons why we play them have never changed. We look forward to Guild Wars 2, Tera, Blade and Soul and others, for the exact same reasons. We have enjoyed games like Mass Effect, Dragon Age, Oblivion and others, for the exact same reasons. We loved EverQuest, Dark Age of Camelot, StarWars: Galaxies, Neverwinter Nights, Baldur's Gate, Icewind Dale, and others, for the exact same reasons. Notice, not all of those are MMOs. The point of that is to illustrate that MMOs aren't the only games who present that formula to us, and aren't the only ways to enjoy them.

MMOs are not complicated. We are not hard to market to. 

We're just hard to please. 

It gets even worse as time goes by and the genre continues to evolve, because more and more people feel themselves entitled to sit on the "Old School" chair and harp on about the good old days and how, "Gamers these days just want things handed to them, blah blah blah...". Just think, in 5 years, anyone who started playing WoW is an "MMO Veteran" too. And while I don't say that because there is anything wrong with reminiscing about the old days (I came from there, I do it all the time), I do say it because "Old School" doesn't have to mean you forget how to have fun in the first place. There is no Alzheimer's in the old age home of MMO veterans... still, so many act like it.

But, I digress.

The MMOs of old did not have these distractions, so the questions of "Where do I go?" and "What do I do?" were the only things in our minds. That's why we felt so free in those games, because they didn't exactly have the arrows to answer those questions for us. 

I will let you in on a little secret though... those arrows are not the only answer.

Remember that, "Where do I go?" and "What do I do?" They're still there in our heads. You can ask yourself those questions like Pippi Longstocking does every morning and act on them. If you pay less attention to the quest log and mini map, the world of Telara is a beautiful place to run around in. 

I will make one concession about things I wish this game did better. The cave systems in this game need to be bigger, and full of more random things. They don't have to be anything important, although if you want to reward my spelunking with an elite mob and a shiny weapon that both won't spawn again for a day or two, that would be nice. In reference to the games above, it's the exact same reason why Minecraft is so addictive. 

At the same time however, I can look objectively at my wishes for this game and understand Minecraft has amazing tunnels for a reason. Because it looks like Minecraft. I don't want Rift to look like that, so I understand they can't necessarily have and populate an entire warren under the ground full of nothing but dark space, and speckled with mobs that really, at the end of the day, don't mean anything. The mobs in Minecraft certainly don't. 

Silverwood was a fantastic place. It honestly felt huge. While that feeling is certainly subjective, I know how to enjoy myself in an MMO. I know that for me to start at one end of Silverwood, and run to the other on foot, would take me quite some time. Anyone from the "Old School" remember how long the Qeynos to Freeport trip took? It took about 20-30 minutes. Running from one end of Silverwood to the other? Well, I don't think it would take 20-30 minutes, but for being only one zone in the game, that is quite a decent size. I also enjoyed the fact that the entire map didn't have an oval path like Freemarch did. The best part however, is Overwatch Keep. Mainly because Silverwood does not tell you, "go here to get your souls" like Freemarch did. Not until you actually do all the quests in that area do you finally see that the end presents you with the option to choose your third. I noticed a lot more people asking, "Where do I get my 3rd soul?" than I did in the first beta event. These people did not know where to go. Getting lost is a good thing.

That has changed somewhat, by the way. With CB3, you can pick whatever soul you'd like, each time you are given a chance to pick one. Further, you now get an extra point every 3 levels (but still can't put more points into a soul than your current character level) for a total of 66 in the end. You also get 3 souls by the time you leave the starter area (about level 7 or 8), which I personally think is a touch too soon, but there's more than enough time to fix that.

I also came to appreciate the classes very much this event. I had a lot more fun with them than I did in CB1, and I think the general reworks and changes were a huge asset to that. There is still work to be done, but at the end of the day you will never please everyone anyway. I don't think a majority opinion of "balanced" exists outside of StarCraft 1. We can talk about how easy a 3 faction game like DAoC is to balance when the 3 factions are left to their own devices for allying/turning against each other, but that is an entirely separate argument all together. 

My experiences with getting a Warrior to 20 and a Cleric to 19 were all kinds of fun. In fact, I had even more fun the second time around with my Cleric, because I had the same idea for a character I wanted to build (melee dps), and was able to build it in an entirely different way.... which leads me to how I feel about the viability of this soul system. 

Yet another thing that people can never seem to agree on.

I want you to think about the most favorite character you've ever had in your experiences of playing RPGs. Any RPG. MMO, single player, any of them. Chances are, you can recreate that play style in this game. Note, I said you would be able to recreate the play style. I didn't say you'd be able to recreate the character or its mechanics. And that is ultimately what Rift's soul system offers me. A chance to build play styles within 4 different callings. Each calling has their trinity...

Warrior & Rogue: They can tank. They can dps (ranged or melee). They can support.
Cleric: They can heal. They can dps (ranged or melee). They can tank.
Mage: They can heal. They can dps. They can support/CC.

The reason Mages can't tank, is the same reason Mage dps is all ranged. It's also the same reason Warriors cannot heal, and why Rogues can only heal a little bit (Bards).

That is how I look at the callings. The individual soul names do not matter, because I'm not creating this character just to put 51 points into one thing and be done. My warrior was very capable in her melee dps role, and yet within the same build  I could also snare someone (at range too), and kite them with a ranged attack, closing when I wanted to use my attack points into a melee finisher. Is she the most durable mdps I've ever had? No. But no matter which game you play, mobile DPS isn't supposed to be all that durable by default. On the other hand, my Cleric was not only melee dps, but she was quite durable (and could be kited - till 18 anyway). I had issues creating a Battle Cleric in CB1, however I learned more about the souls and adjusted my setup to more closely reflect what I wanted my character to play like. Could she smash things as quick as my warrior? It certainly felt like it. Which it should. I built DPS characters. When it came to dueling, I met other players I could completely dominate on both characters, I also had duels on both characters where I was absolutely destroyed.

That is how it should be in every class system.

I can't wait until CB3.

Ultimately, does the game have faults? Well, if you consider convenience features a fault, then sure, it has plenty. At the same time however, I don't play MMOs to follow arrows around. That didn't stop me from making excellent use of them, though. I would set my way point, and then I would basically just go out into the world killing things on my way to said points. If I got distracted and lost my way and had to turn back, sure it sets me back further from my initial objective, but the fact that I got distracted and ended up further away than where I had intended tells me that while I was out in the world I was able to get lost in it - because I am capable of not just running a straight line like an arrow would suggest. I don't mind ending up further away from my quest area if it means I encounter a rift along the way, and get to run around bashing on those mobs in as awesomely a manner as I possibly can.

I had all kinds of fun kiting footholds and invasions until it was safe to close in and swing my axe as a Warrior.

I also had all kinds of fun charging into those same foodholds and invasions with a shield over myself, a hot ticking, and a big warhammer in my hands ready to Battle Cleric my way to victory.

The amount of changes Trion has done is commendable. Their quick responses to the issues I had in game with the bugs I reported was also impressive (less than an hour, for me). Their guiding hand in increasing the spawn rates of rifts and invasions and footholds through out the world on the fly is something I very much look forward to, even if 1 year down the line what I see as "new" and "interactive" becomes scripted to happen every weekend in lowbie areas because the dev team is off monitoring the population of 50s and spawning rifts on them while they try to world PvP... or spawning a ton of invasions that all head directly for Meridian/Sanctum for those who don't like to PvP at all.

Ultimately, I am very pleased. I was able to sit down and enjoy a beautiful game. However, I was only able to do so because I did not let the shiny icons and pointy arrows answer, "What shall I do today?" for me. It's how I prefer to play, having EQ be my first experience. There is all kinds of growth available for this game. It seriously looks like it has the foundation and framework to certainly provide me with a lot of fun.

Then again, I don't allow my fun to be dictated to me by arrows.

So maybe even though we're both in Telara, we're not quite playing the same game.

In the thread, I had one or two people comment that it seemed like I was having fun in spite of the game itself. Truth be told, this article was given that slant on purpose to address all the QQ of people who expected this game to be like EQ and going on and on about the things that made EQ great. 

Sadly, unless EQNext is more than just marketing jargon, I really don't think any MMO will ever provide the level of difficulty that EQ once did. I'm also of the opinion that that's a good thing. While EQ's difficulty was nice, and the social game (aka, forced to group because you'd die otherwise) was also neat... I'm not entirely sure the genre should go back in that direction. You don't need areas like those to meet new people or group with strangers. You really don't.

When EverQuest was out, there was nothing else to compete with it.

None of us knew any better.

And as everyone knows, "We always remember our first time..."