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I logged into the test server this morning and I was shocked to see an Addons button.  Of course, I clicked it and it popped up this window.

Addonds

The developers at Trion never cease to amaze me.  I wonder if they get any sleep at all.  Nearly flawless launch.  Monthly updates and new content.  Regular bug fixes.  And now, they had time to create an addon system??

I hope it provides a lot of ‘quality of life’ improvements, without going overboard and making the game too easy.  I remember some addons in World of Warcraft that automated far too much and made parts of the game rather trivial.

After the straightforward quest grind in Rift, a lot of people ding 50 and aren’t sure what to do next.

Here is a short and simple guide (by Deathfairy in the official Rift forums) to help you get geared for expert dungeons.  This guide for mages by Bluedots provides some detailed information.  Although it’s aimed towards mages, a lot of the information is appropriate for other callings.

It is surprisingly easy to buy the gear you need to qualify for T1 experts from the Auction House.  In many cases, it’s even possible to buy the necessary gear to qualify for T2 experts with a little effort.  Don’t forget to upgrade your runes and planar focus (buy the six slot for 7500 planarite).  That can make a huge difference.

I recommend against buying the level 50 mount (125 platinum!) until you are geared for T1 expert dungeons or have a steady income.  If you haven’t spent the 35 platinum to buy the level 40 mount, buying the level 40 PvP mount is another option.  It costs around 14,000 favor.

I highly recommend looking at some expert dungeon guides to avoid wiping your party.  This is especially important if you are the tank.  Ciderhelm and Rift Junkies have a lot of great guides (and detailed videos).

 

My favorite thing about Rift has to be the dynamic content…specifically the huge zone wide invasions.  I love the fact that a mass of random people will band together and work towards a common goal.  I’ve been playing Rift for a few months now and I still enjoy the sight of dozens of people galloping across the zone together, dishing out death to everything they see.

I play mostly on a PvP server.  Zone invasions can be pure madness.  Usually, both factions work together.  Sometimes, fights break out, resulting in crazy PvP battles involving masses of people.  Once the final invasion boss is dead, most of the time, a huge battle erupts.  It’s a lot of fun.

Trion (the developers) did a great job designing and creating the dynamic content for Rift.

My second favorite thing about Rift is the freedom to customize your own character.  The class/role system is extremely flexible and I love it.  In addition, each class can play different roles depending on the build (tank, dps, healer, support) and it only takes 2 seconds to swap.  It adds so much depth and flexibility.  If your group needs a tank or a healer, I can easily swap roles and fill the position.  Unlike other games with a lot of flexibility (i.e. Champions Online), respecs are very cheap.

It’s now been 3 months since Rift launched.  I think Trion can safely pat themselves on the back for a job well done.  The launch has been a huge success.  Unlike other triple-A MMORPG’s released in the past few years (like Age of Conan and Warhammer Online), Rift seems to be doing a good job holding on to their subscribers and attracting new gamers.  After a few months, Rift still has more than enough depth and content for most gamers.  And they are adding more at a breakneck speed, with monthly content patches.

To an MMORPG gamer, I wholeheartedly recommend Rift with very few reservations.  Rift does stick to a lot of tried and true MMORPG conventions like questing, the basic combat system and instanced PvP battlegrounds.  But the important thing is that it does it very well…polished and relatively bug-free, which is extremely rare for such a new game.  The major innovation, the dynamic content, makes a very real and tangible difference to the standard MMORPG gameplay.

As always, I’m alt-crazy.  I’m currently playing a 50 Defiant Warrior (Tank & DPS), 50 Guardian Cleric (Healer, DPS & Support), 30 Defiant Rogue and 30 Guardian Mage spread over 2 servers.  50 is the level cap.  Yes, it’s kinda interesting playing both factions on the same server, especially when it’s a PvP server.  I’m gearing up in the endgame expert dungeons, running with guildies or using the random LFG dungeon finder.  I’m having a great time.

For people looking to get into Rift, I highly recommend picking a populated server.  There is a huge difference between playing on a high versus low population server.  Check out Rift Shard Watch for some basic population information to help you pick a server.

Lately, the actions of various governmental and supposedly non-political groups are bothering the heck out of me.  In the United States, lobby groups like Big Tobacco hold an incredible amount of power to sway the government.  Unfortunately for e-cigarettes and their manufacturers, this is a real problem as states are trying to restrict or ban their sale and usage and organizations like the military and the American Cancer Society are acting and speaking against e-cigarettes.

The problem is that very few studies have been done that show whether e-cigarettes are safe or not.  The product is too new and it’s not backed by big money like a tobacco or a pharmaceutical company.  Unfortunately, this means that far too many people are speaking about e-cigarettes without adequate knowledge.  In fact, some groups are lying and misrepresenting shoddy information.

1.  Without any doubt, e-cigarettes are a far safer alternative to tobacco cigarettes.

There is no doctor or engineer in the world who will disagree, once they understand the device.  The basic science behind e-cigarettes is sound and very simple.

2.  Tobacco cigarettes cause cancer.  We all know this as a fact.

3.  Switching from tobacco to e-cigarettes will significantly improve your health.

Some people may debate, but honestly, I think this is a fact, based on the science.

Maybe there hasn’t been any long term studies done on the impact of e-cigarettes, but I have no doubt in my mind that e-cigarettes are a far healthier alternative to tobacco.

It is better to completely avoid nicotine, but as long as you are going to use it, don’t smoke tobacco.  Use an e-cigarette.

4.  E-cigarettes are not marketed towards kids.

This is one the stupidest arguments I’ve seen.  Just because nicotine juice for e-cigarettes comes in various flavors does not mean that it’s made for kids.  Adults appreciate different tastes as well.

I have yet to see a single advertisement that markets this device towards kids.  In fact, the device itself is very anti-kid.  It is expensive and can be fairly complicated to use.  If you shop around, you can start vaping for around $30, but realistically, it’s going to cost far more than that.

In comparison, it is cheap and easy for kids to buy and smoke tobacco.

Kids don’t start smoking for the nicotine.  They smoke to be ‘cool’ and ‘rebellious’.  Why in the world would a teenager use an e-cigarette?

5.  E-cigarettes are a great way to quit smoking tobacco.

In the US, e-cigarette retailers and manufacturers don’t talk about the health benefits because they don’t want the FDA to regulate the product.  But the reality is that a huge percentage of people who switch to e-cigarettes quit smoking tobacco.  I have heard hundreds of people say that the day they starting vaping, they quit tobacco.  That includes me.  The day I got my first e-cigarette in the mail, I completely quit smoking tobacco.

That is simply amazing.  We all know that quitting smoking is incredibly hard.  The smoking cessation industry involves an incredible amount of money because it is so difficult to quit smoking.  Yet, e-cigarettes is a product that is safe (well, far safer than tobacco) and actually works.

As a result, everyone who is currently making money off worthless smoking cessation products are going to work their asses off to stop the sale of e-cigarettes.  Pharmaceutical companies care about making money.

6.  The success of e-cigarettes will cost many companies and the government a huge amount of money.

This is the number one problem facing the e-cigarette.  Currently, the US government, Big Tobacco and pharmaceutical companies make a ridiculous amount of money off the tobacco industry.  Billions of dollars.  Countless people depend on tobacco for their jobs.

These people don’t want e-cigarettes to be successful.  They don’t care that millions of people die because of tobacco related cancer.  They care about the money and their jobs.

I finished Half Life 2!  For me, that’s unbelievable.  I can finally play FPS’s without wanting to die from long lasting headaches and nausea due to virtual motion sickness.

For years, I always felt a twinge of regret whenever I perused various rankings of the best PC games (like Metacritic).  After so many years, HL2 is still sitting pretty at the very top of the Metacritic PC game rankings.  Incredible.

I’ve had HL2 installed on my computer for the past four or five years!  It became part of my new computer routine to install Steam and automatically download HL2.  As a self-proclaimed hardcore gamer, I felt I owed it to myself to finish HL2 at some point in my life.  I would try to play it every couple months or so, but invariably the painful motion sickness would prevent me from playing for more than 15 minutes at a time.  The nausea and headaches were so bad that I had to lie down and close my eyes for a long time before I felt human again.

I recently installed my brand new XFX Radeon 5850 (beautiful card, by the way).  I was having fun going through my library of PC games and checking them out at the highest visual settings.  When I got to HL2, I started maxing out the visual settings when I saw that Field of View (FOV) was a tweakable setting in the options.  By default, the FOV is 75, so I raised it to 90.

My motion sickness went away!  Some fast moving sequences and areas with small corridors did cause some minor headaches, but it was nothing I couldn’t handle.  I couldn’t believe that such a small change made a huge difference.

The FOV setting might be the reason why some games make me sick, while others are perfectly fine.  I always thought it was strange that there were a small number of FPS and driving games that didn’t make me sick.  Maybe these particular games had a FOV setting that didn’t trigger my motion sickness?

I don’t have the slightest explanation for why a small change to the field of view would mean the difference between throwing up and having fun.  But I’m finally hopeful that I can play some of those action games that I’ve been drooling over for so long.  Bioshock!  Borderlands!  Call of Duty!  I hope I can tweak the FOV in those games as well.

Gunfire, death.  Gunfire, death.  Gunfire, death.

I bet everyone who was unfortunate enough to be teamed with me probably hated my guts.  It’s like my poor character was made of glass.  I couldn’t seem to do anything without getting gunned down (or run down by a car or blown to bits by grenades).

While this was a somewhat frustrating experience, I have to admit that APB was a lot of fun.  I had a small adrenaline rush going the entire time because the APB gaming experience is an endless stream of PvP missions where you and your team is pitted against another team (hopefully of equal number and ability, although sometimes mismatches do happen).

I’ve spent a handful of hours in the APB world as part of their ‘Key to the City’ beta event.  I think I had 5 kills and maybe 50 deaths.  It was a really, really sad ratio.

I simply could not compete against people who had logged hundreds, if not thousands, of hours playing action shooters.  I run around like a headless chicken, spray bullets at anything that twitches.  I have a vague idea of using cover to protect my poor defenseless body, but that’s about the depth of my tactical ability.  I’ve come to the realization that I have trouble moving and shooting.  That’s a rather important skill to have in these types of games.

Everything I’ve heard about APB is true.  The game looks and feels great.  Customization is ridiculously awesome.  PvP is a lot of fun and very compelling…for a short time.  There are only a handful of missions and it quickly becomes repetitive.  The game itself is nicely polished and feels like a real commercial game.  Each instance can only hold up to 100 people (50 per side).

The core gameplay is a lot of fun.  Driving around the city as a criminal or enforcer feels right.  Your teammates can all jump into the same car, run over pedestrians and shoot their guns out the windows.  If your enemy sprays enough bullets at your car, it explodes.  Gun fights are exciting and can last for a while if everyone is playing turtle, or can be over in a few seconds.

The problem is that, after a few hours, you soon realize you are doing the same things over and over.  Get mission, head to checkpoint, fight over checkpoint, repeat.  It doesn’t matter what the mission is supposed to be.  They all basically boil down to the same thing.

While the combat is fun, especially since it’s usually a team vs team setup, it’s not particularly deep.  Maybe I’m just too sucky to understand the depth, but it seemed pretty straightforward to me.

As a result, APB is most definitely a casual game.  It’s not a game for a typical MMO’er who wants to spend long stretches of time.  The combat is player skill based.  If you suck at action games (like me!), you will suck at this game.  There is a nice social aspect to this game that focuses on the great customization options, but I’m not really sure how long that can keep a person’s attention.

The payment plan reflects the more casual nature of the game.  To play APB, you prepay by the hour.  More hardcore fans can pay a monthly rate (I think it’s $10).  It’s a great game for someone who has a busy life or already has a primary MMORPG and wants some team based PvP fun with an MMORPG twist.

APB is really not an MMORPG.  It’s a third person online shooter with some MMORPG elements.  Unfortunately, I think gamers looking for a competitive shooter are better off playing games like Call of Duty or Halo.  Gamers looking for an MMORPG are better off playing one of the many real MMORPG’s.  It’ll be interesting to see how well APB sells and whether they can maintain a solid player base.

A week ago, I started to get the feeling that I wanted to play an MMORPG again.  I’ve been playing a lot of single player strategy games lately, which was a lot of fun, but I really missed the social gaming that you can only find in MMO’s.

I dug through my storage closet and pulled out a huge box filled with loads of old DVD’s (and CD’s!) of MMO’s I had played so long ago.  I shuffled through them, but nothing really jumped out at me.  Unfortunately, most of them were dying or I had stopped playing for one good reason or another.

I was tired of dealing with half-assed MMO’s with huge content gaps, bug ridden gameplay, broken promises from the developers and unstable player populations.  The last dozen or so MMO’s I had played were all brand new.  I played them during beta or at launch.  We all know just how successful most of the major launches have been over the past few years (all disappointing).

I wanted a polished gaming experience that provided a full range of content and supported a large stable population.  In the MMO genre, there are only a few games that fit that simple criteria.  Other than EVE Online, all of them are fantasy MMORPG’s.  Out of these fantasy MMORPG’s, most of them are basically Everquest clones.

I probably would have picked Guild Wars, but I had spent hundred hours playing GW’s several months ago.  So that was out.  I’m still not sold on EVE Online.  My last couple attempts at playing EVE were both huge flops.

As long as I’m going to play an Everquest clone, why not play the best one?  World of Warcraft.

The last time I had played WoW was several years ago.  I hated the graphical style then and I hate it now, but that is my only complaint.  The folks at Blizzard really are amazing developers.

Many people complain about the loads of immature gamers playing WoW.  That’s true enough, but you can find plenty of older and very mature gamers playing WoW as well.  WoW has a full spectrum of gamers.  It doesn’t cater to only one subgroup of the gaming population.

It has tons of content, both during leveling and the endgame.  PvP is pretty solid and Blizzard has had years to try to balance the game.  It is practically bug-free which is incredible for a game of this magnitude.  I love the addons.  The gameplay itself is rock solid.  There is a wealth of knowledge online and an endless list of forums and blogs where you can discuss the game as much as you want.

My highest level character is level 63.  I quit playing shortly after the Burning Crusade was released.  So there is plenty I haven’t seen yet, including most of the endgame.

I think the main reason why I haven’t played WoW is because I was being a bit of an MMO snob or a rebel or something stupid like that.  I didn’t want to play the same game as the masses.  WoW had become too popular.  But WoW is popular for a very good reason.  It really is one of the best MMORPG’s.

So I downloaded the game from the Blizzard website (all 8 gigabytes) and resubscribed.  I’ve been playing WoW for the past couple days and it’s been good.  Not great, since the low level gameplay in WoW is rather slow and there aren’t many players in the low level zones (I rolled a new paladin).  It’s nice to play an MMORPG again.

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