Drama Queen Tanks

So I tried to get in a random expert with my mage, something I try to do at least once a day. It was Archive of Flesh, and right away the support guy says it’s his first time. No problem, it’s the right thing to say that up front and actually pretty ballsy because most people don’t admit it. :) For a while, he did basically no DPS so he was actually trying to play a support role – normally not required unless the healer requests it, but no big deal to me. As long as we clear the dungeon in a reasonable time frame (which to me is maybe less than 45 min), I don’t really care how it’s done.

(As a side note here, I’m noticing that the failure rate of random SL expert dungeons is way higher than it was for random classic expert dungeons back in the day. It could just be that there are a lot of returning players and fresh 60s now because of the f2p conversion, though. Or maybe it’s because SL dungeons require some kind of participation from every single player, whereas with the old dungeons you could get away with one or two people not knowing anything.)

Anyway, back to the PUG, when we got to the first boss Tzul I expected the tank to say something about the fight, which is not difficult for ranged DPS but you definitely have to stay ranged, and you have to cross the bridge at one point. (I knew this from the first time I ran Archive of Flesh, where the tank was nice enough to explain that.) But this tank charged in without saying a word. (At least he did a ready check.) We got through it and the second boss, but then we ran into trouble on the third boss, the crustacean chick who floods the hall.

I thought I was doing fine, but then I got clobbered by one of Emphalea’s unavoidable tridents and died. (At least I think they’re unavoidable.) I didn’t stand in any bubbles, none of the sparkly orbs hit me, I got on the pedastal at the right time. Unavoidable damage pretty much means it’s up to the healer to keep you alive, and sometimes you get a random crit that kills you no matter what, which is what I think happened. My health isn’t exactly spectacular, you know, ’cause I’m a mage. The healer (who was awesome, btw) combat rezzed me right away but I couldn’t get oriented in time to get on a pedastal before the next flood, and soon after the whole group wiped.

(In retrospect, I don’t see why they couldn’t have finished that boss one man short. Or even two men short, because the support guy wasn’t doing much damage. I’ve seen plenty of bosses finished with three people in experts before. I suspect that the tank couldn’t maintain his tanking long enough to compensate for the slower DPS.)

Well then the tank starts talking about how bad my DPS is and how his pyromancer pulls 8k dps without even trying and whatnot. I’m like wtf. In that fight I had done around 6k and that was after getting killed. Usually I’m closer to 7k. Which I know full well is nowhere near optimal but I’m still learning SL rotations and gearing up and honestly I’m more concerned with memorizing the fights anyway. I said something to that effect, but then he goes into a whole “learn in normal dungeons” and “I don’t even need to do this” and “I only need raid gear” tirade like I should have been grateful that he came down from on high to tank for us low-lifes. I’m like wtf again. I’m the problem here? Are you kidding? Has this guy ever played a PUG dungeon before? Tons of people are way worse than me. The support guy in our own party was doing like 2k even after switching to DPS! Anyway, the rest of the party jumped in to defend me, which was pretty awesome. I wanted to put him on my ignore list right away, but I didn’t want to risk missing any crucial information in the rest of the dungeon. (The tank traditionally directs the battles.)

It took us two more tries to finish that boss. I admit part of that was my fault because I didn’t really care to help anymore. :) When we were done the tank got a shield drop (a blue one!) that he said he could use! Only needs raid gear, indeed. I mean wtf. Anyway the next boss was that one in the small room with the orange circles on the ground you have to avoid. We kept getting killed there, and to make a long story short, the tank left.

There’s two things about that episode that bother me. It doesn’t really bother me that the tank was a tool, because those kind of “elitist jerks” are fairly common in MMOs (though usually you can avoid/ignore them). It doesn’t even bother me that I got called out for sub-par DPS, because obviously my DPS is going to be sub-par until I learn all the rotations and fights by heart. Also, to be honest, I’m not nearly as committed to gaming perfectionism as I once was. (Oh and to be clear, I should point out that my stats were well above the minimum requirements for an expert dungeon – ~425 Hit, ~1500 Int, ~3300 SP, so it’s not like I was just scraping by the requirements.)

The biggest thing that bothered me is that it annoyed me enough to affect my playing! I mean after that I wanted to actively reduce my DPS just to annoy him, and I’m positive I died the next time because I just wasn’t paying enough attention. As if that wasn’t bad enough, I woke up two hours before my alarm went off and couldn’t get back to sleep because I was still annoyed about it! What’s that about? It’s just some random jerk in a game. After he left, I put him on ignore, so I’ll never see him again. And he is literally the only person who has ever called me out like that for sub-par performance in a PUG dungeon since I started playing in them, like over a year ago. So I know from experience that this kind of tank is rare overall, and particularly rare in Rift. The vast majority of tanks are fine upstanding citizens, and a lot of them are actually helpful and nice. (The healer in this group, who said he was also a tank, would have been an awesome one.)

I think the other thing that really bothered me is that I didn’t have a suitably biting, sarcastic response at hand. :) So I’m now going to brainstorm and write down some of the things I could have said.

“Okay, well, thanks for sharing.”

“Sorry, I didn’t realize we needed raid gear to do expert dungeons.”

“Sorry, I didn’t realize your tank was so squishy.”

“Sorry, I didn’t realize so much was at stake for you.”

“Sorry, I’ll switch to my Elementalist spec.” (I love this one. I can imagine a tank going purple with rage after he sees me summon a rock pet.)

So this doesn’t happen again, I think in the future I will avoid playing any kind of PUG before bed, so I’ll stay out of queues after 8 pm. That way I’ll always be able to do something relaxing like fishing or crafting dailies before bed.

Mentored Healing Attempts

I queued for healing twice with my mage last night. I ticked the "Mentor" checkbox and a Random Normal dungeon, because I’m a chicken, and wanted to see if I remembered anything at all about Chloromancer.

So first I got into Storm Breaker Protocol, one of the SL dungeons. First I hit as healer, then someone refused, then I hit as a DPS. When I arrived, the group had just gotten beyond the mech suits. The other four guys were all guildies, and I assume they were all talking on some kind of Ventrillo thing because they were otherwise silent.

I’m a pretty tolerant player, especially in Normal dungeons, but this group was just bad. Like all four of them had just bought their accounts on eBay and jumped into a level 54 dungeon right away. It took them forever just to get up the hill past the trash mobs and into position to take on the bug boss. Why they didn’t just kill the trash mobs on the hill I’ll never know – it would have been fifty times faster than sneaking around them. I understand why experts skip them, but these guys were clearly not experts.

They finally attacked the bug boss after what I assume was a long conversation among themselves about strategy. Maybe they were role-playing or something. I knew it was going to be bad, but oh lord. I was in my Harbinger build because I wanted to try melee DPS, so I ran up and started pounding on the boss’s back. I was doing plenty of DPS for this group. I have no idea what the healer and support guys were doing, because I watched as the waves of adds crept up the hill and wiped us because we couldn’t kill the bug boss fast enough. As I’d only done Storm Breaker in experts, I had never seen the adds creeping up the hill before – because the boss usually goes down pretty fast – so I didn’t know what to do about them.

That whole process took about a half hour. I left and took the half-hour abandonment penalty. They probably now think I’m one of those spoiled guys that quits after every wipe, but I don’t care. There’s a minimum competence line, and they were way short of it. At a bare minimum, I expect PUGs in a level 50+ normal dungeon queue to understand that it’s not cool to keep people waiting too much. They had four people for god’s sake, if they wanted to go at their own glacial exploration pace, they should have done it without pulling someone in from the queue. (Though I can see why they needed more DPS – on that one boss, 3 out of 5 basically had zero.)

(Now when I go into RotF at level 16, I fully expect there to be people who don’t know what to do, or who maybe have never been in a dungeon before and don’t know any etiquette. That’s understandable. But come on, Storm Breaker Protocol is like the 10th dungeon. Can they really have gotten through 10 dungeons without learning any PUG etiquette?)

After that debacle I leveled my Bahmi warrior for a while, then came back for another try at heals. This time I got into Abyssal Precipice as a healer. Ah AP, a blast from the past!

I was quite rusty, it turned out, so I’m glad I started on normal. This group was better than the first, but they were definitely not pros either. They were probably all returning players trying to remember how to play. Like me.

It took me a while to remember that healers are supposed to cleanse, too. We wiped on the second boss when the tank went charging in, pulling two water elementals and a horde of the little skitterers at the same time. We might have survived that, but I forgot to cleanse that Burning Blood debuff or whatever. When we all rezzed for the second try and I remembered to cleanse, the rest of the fight went easily.

Then I started to notice I wasn’t healing enough, and once or twice the support guy healed the tank. I finally realized I had forgotten to cast Synthesize on the tank after the wipe. Ugh! So embarrassing. At least I discovered it myself. After that the heals went smoothly.

At least until the end, when me and a DPS died. The boss does a huge party-wide damage that takes everyone down to 25% which I was unable to recover from. I hit my party heal but it only restored people to maybe 50%. In retrospect, I should have switched to Lifegiving Veil from Lifebound Veil and thrown a big-damage Ruin or something, but I didn’t have it setup on my bars.

Next time I do normals, I need to remember to change my wardrobe into something a little more casual. All of the guys in AP were wearing costumes instead of regular leveling gear. I stood out like a sore thumb in my cape and 60 expert dungeon gear as someone who was mentoring down.

I noticed what might be a bug in the raid frames. I thought that whenever an icon showed up on the frames, it was a debuff that I was supposed to cleanse. But many times I saw things that didn’t cleanse, or at least didn’t go away after I cleansed. Maybe I have a setting wrong. Or maybe it’s a side effect of the King Boss mod I use (which has minimal usefulness outside of actual raids). Anyway it was pretty annoying.

Low-Level Tanking

I’ve got MMO fever pretty bad right now – sorry IRL. :/ So I’m getting ready to start tanking RotF on my new Defiant warrior, and since I’m stuck at work for a while I thought I’d go lookup some up-to-date "low level tanking" guides first. Except there aren’t any. I found where someone asked for one on the forums, but the basic response from the tankerotti was, "Just do anything. The low level dungeons are so easy it doesn’t matter."

Okay, I understand that the people who have been raid tanking since EQ and writing detailed min-maxing guides probably find the low level dungeons too easy to bother with, and they could probably tank them in a full DPS spec, but some of us are still starting out, ya know? Rant over. They’re probably right, actually, but the very first time I tanked in an MMO was a guild run of Darkening Deeps around level 25 and I distinctly remember that I didn’t feel like I had the right tools for the job at hand. (Ie. threat generation.) Maybe it’s different now.

According to one thread (http://forums.riftgame.com/game-discussions/classes-telara/warrior-discussion/356213-lower-level-dungeon-tanking-specs.html) there are two competing theories: Put all your points into one tree, or divide your points between two trees. I’m currently putting most of my points into Void Knight because I read somewhere else that it’s the standard tanking soul after SL, but I’m not convinced it’s going to work for me under level 20. I still don’t have an AoE damage ability, let alone an AoE threat-generating ability, and I don’t want to try to tank any dungeons without one of those.

This other thread (http://forums.riftgame.com/game-discussions/rift-guides-strategies/class-guides/warrior-guides/342631-leveling-tank-reaver-paladin.html) advocates using Reaver for low-level tanking, which is something I can get behind, because I have a nostalgic soft spot for that soul. Once I got stuck having to solo defend the last node in an Iron Pine Peaks invasion and had to take on wave after wave of planar mobs by myself, and the AoE self-healing from that soul saved my bacon big time. (This was long before Fury of the Ascended, by the way. :) After SL, for all I know, those self-heals don’t exist anymore. There were a lot of subtle and not-so-subtle changes to the souls when SL came out, I’m now discovering.

For example, I leveled my original warrior a lot using the Paragon dual-wield soul. Now it’s not a dual-wield soul anymore. Now Paragon is a single-target soul and Champion is an AoE soul, and it doesn’t matter a whit whether you dual wield or use a two-hander. I’m only now discovering these SL soul changes because the first character I took from 50 to 60 was my mage, and I basically just went full Harbinger on that one because a) I liked it and b) it worked pretty dern well for soloing. So I never used any old souls during that time, and never ran into any of the changes.

Speaking of the new souls, none of the other Storm Legion soul changes look nearly as good as Harbinger, imo. Tempest for the warrior is mildly interesting, but I’ve never had any expectation of ranged damage from a warrior. Defiler for the cleric looks like it might work similar to Chloromancer, but I haven’t had a chance to really look at it yet. Tactician for the rogue just doesn’t interest me, as it’s a support soul.

On another note, rumor has it that in Rift 3.0, new souls will be added so that each class can perform all four roles. So, I assume, they will be adding a mage tanking soul, a warrior healing soul, a cleric support soul, and a rogue healing soul. I have to say that being able to tank with my mage would be uber cool. I suspect it won’t be the best tanking soul, though, and only useful for PUG dungeons.

A Game’s Most Important Features


All this hubbub over the Neverwinter cats and the 7-hour rollback has got me thinking something I’ve believed for a while.

It seems to me that the most important thing that an MMO developer should focus on during their game development is … not the game at all. They need to focus on logging and tracking functionality. They need to focus on being able to “undo” any item in the system. They need to be able to rollback individual characters, and in so doing, rollback all of the transactions that character has done in that time frame, which means they need a complete transaction history for each item. (Perhaps only keep such transactions for blue or purple items, common items aren’t important enough.) They need to be able to see alerts whenever unusual activity occurs. They need to see when a character’s gold increases dramatically over the course of a day. They need an automatic freeze on any character who receives more than a set amount of gold, so that someone can manually investigate it. Someone needs to be sitting in front of a big monitor with realtime alerts on it, showing a big map of the game world, with blinking red dots everywhere there’s suspicious activity.

So basically I’m saying that the dev team needs to spend 75% of their time working on countermeasures for cheaters, and only 25% of their time on making a fun game.

Weekend Rift Accomplishments

I finally got to Grandmaster Runecrafter (375), one tedious point at a time. Then I realized I could have been buying recipes from the Runecrafter Vendor all along … I never scrolled down below the 375 recipes heh. Speaking of professions I bought a fourth profession slot for Artificer, because I had removed it from my cleric to make him a pure gatherer. At the time I thought I would level it up and be able to runebreak the artificer items I made to get to grandmaster, which is still a sound theory, but I hit Runecrafter 375 before I even got to Artificer 150. I still want to get Grandmaster Artificer though because it is such a pain to find things to runebreak.

My Hit is now around 425 and my Intelligence is around 1400. Still nowhere near topping any dungeon DPS … I’m usually last place or second if I’m lucky. I don’t have anywhere near all my runes and essences and seals and synergy crystals that I need yet. I’m not even sure where to *buy* a SL synergy crystal.

But at least I think I’ve now done all of the Storm Legion experts. I may not have actually completed all of them yet though. Seems like about a 50/50 chance that a PUG will get through the whole dungeon. I got a big surprise one time when I was cruising through a dungeon I thought I was familiar with (I think it was Archive of Flesh) when I got to the final boss and realized I had never seen him before. Fortunately I was able to wing it that time.

I love how the SL dungeons are relatively trash-free. I mean there’s rarely more than ten mobs to kill between bosses. Sometimes none whatsoever.

I’ve been playing a plain lazy Pyro build for DPS in dungeons, but I suspect that I need to start min-maxing it if I’m going to get any better DPS out of it. Maybe I’ll try a lazy Harbinger build for a while. And I need to get on the stick and re-learn my mage’s Chloromancer role. Dungeon queues take for-freakin’-ever as DPS: Almost nobody queues for PUGs as a tank or healer, so you can be in a queue for an hour even during peak times. And don’t even bother queueing for a normal dungeon. I was trying to level some alts after 50 and the queues just never pop.

I think I’m going to level a couple of Defiant tanks – one rogue and one warrior – progressing through the old world dungeons as they come up. I want my dwarf warrior to be a tank, but I need the leveling practice, and I’ve not done all of the Defiant zones. And I think it’s almost necessary to use two different characters for tanking vs. DPS, because it’s such a pain to change gear back and forth. Besides, I think low-level zones are more fun than high-level zones, and the queues for tanks should pop instantly.

They sure changed the starter zones since I last saw them. They are super-amazingly-easy now, and you can get through them in like 10-15 minutes. I remember that was one of the things that I liked about Rift originally … my very first character in beta actually died in the starter zone. (Because I didn’t realize you *have* to use abilities to do real damage.) It’s been nerf after nerf ever since then.

Fresh 60 In Rift

Well the "big patch" for Neverwinter came a week earlier than I expected. Guess what? No changes in queueing – it still takes forever. So I’ve basically given up on Neverwinter, so it’s all Rift all the time for me!

My mage reached level 60, so now I’m a "fresh 60." I’m not sure how long the total journey from 50 to 60 took, but it took a little over a week to get from 55 to 60. I’m now remembering just how much stuff there is to do in Rift, with dailies and crafting and fishing and so forth, and how much fun it is. Zone Events are tons and tons of addictive fun. There’s a World Event going on now that I haven’t even seen yet. There are not one, not two, but *three* level 60 zones to run around in!

Harbinger is a great leveling and soloing soul, by the way. So great in fact that almost every Mage you encounter in Storm Legion zones is running it. At first I did Harbinger/Chloro which works a lot like the Justicar soul and basically makes it impossible to die. When I hit 60 I switched to a more pure Harbinger soul with Elementalist thrown in for the big Lightning Strike ability, so my DPS improved considerably at the cost of self-healing.

Still, Harbinger is not a group soul. I’m going with your basic Pyromancer build for dungeons and such. Before SL, I think Pyro/Warlock or Pyro/Stormcaller and a tricky rotation was the FotM top DPS build, now I’m not sure what it is. I’m using a modification of my previous macro and a fairly plain Pyro rotation, but it’s hard to tell how I’m doing. I get about 7,500 dps in zone events while others are doing like 20,000+ dps, but they could be showing off in uber raid gear and using planar charges to double their damage. In the two expert dungeons I’ve done, I came in a solid third place, but the other two guys looked overgeared. (I’m just glad the tank and healer didn’t do more damage than I did.)

Speaking of dungeons, I’ve done four SL dungeons so far. Well, three and a half. I tried two Normals while leveling up. First I did the Unhallowed Boneforge, in which we normals wiped a few times, but we eventually got through it. Then I did Archive of Flesh, in which I died a lot because it turned out that the healer wasn’t really healing. (Perhaps he was expecting us to drink potions, a la Neverwinter.) That group fell apart before the last boss. Then after sitting in Normal queues for hours it became abundantly clear that nobody ever queues for Normal dungeons, so I stopped trying after that.

When I hit 60 I found out you need 1200 Intelligence and 300 Hit to get into expert SL dungeons. I was only up to 200 Hit, so I used Infinity Stones to buy half of the world event gear, then F2P Credits to buy the other half (so yeah, I "paid to win," big deal, wanna fight about it?). I made a couple of +18 Hit runes and ended up at about 325 Hit. Then I jumped into the Expert queue. And waited. And waited. Apparently, all queues are really slow when you’re DPS only, which isn’t that surprising. I only managed to get into two dungeons: Empyrean Core and Storm Breaker Protocol, and did not get a single item drop. (Later, when I have more gear and confidence, I’ll start queuing as DPS and Support, and maybe even Healing. I’m not doing Support right now because the person who queues as Support typically does the best DPS in the group.)

P.S. I can now make a much better comparison of Rift boss mechanics to Neverwinter boss mechanics. Neverwinter definitely does it better, no doubt about it. In Rift, if you don’t read about the mechanics beforehand, or have someone explain it to you, you’re probably going to wipe until you do it enough times to figure out where to stand, when to run, when to hide, when to push buttons, when to burn adds, etc. It’s a memorization game in Rift, whereas in Neverwinter all you need to know is how to play your class.

Back to Rift For A Bit

I think I’m going to lay off of Neverwinter until the big upcoming patch. I find that I have little interest in doing anything in that game except running dungeons, but since it is nearly impossible to get through a queue after level 50, I just stand there doing nothing most of the time. I’m rather hoping that the next patch will make the dungeon queue work a lot better. If not, then I doubt I’ll play it much more until they make some changes.

So I’ve switched back to Rift "full time" just in time for the F2P conversion. I was one of the lucky ones to get my full loyalty rewards right away (some didn’t) and got a bunch of free stuff just for logging in. The store is one of the best implementations I’ve seen in a game. Like when it’s showing you a cool costume you can buy, it shows you what it looks like _on your character_, which is pretty brilliant.

I hate to admit it but the journey from 50 to 60 is kind of tedious (I’m about halfway through 56 at this writing). I’m only doing standard questlines, though, so I’m not really maximizing my experience. I’ll go slow on my first character, but if I ever level my other three alts, I’ll probably do more rifts and instant adventures and dungeons and such to speed up the process. The Storm Legion zones are very large and the mobs are very far apart so you spend a lot of time just running from mob to mob.

I’ve not yet done anything to optimize my build, and have barely even looked at the new abilities that came with Storm Legion. I’m just running the stock Harbinger/Chloro build which is super easy and fun to play (as long as you remember to re-cast your buffs every hour) and works fine for solo play. I’ll have to find something else for dungeons though because I’m sure I can do better DPS.

Spellplague Caverns Death March

So I hit level 52 on my GWF and decided to try Spellplague Caverns again for a Dungeon Delve event. That turned out to be a huge mistake. Do not ever go into this dungeon. Ever. It is just not worth it. There’s no way the loot justifies the time spent.

We had a GWF (me), cleric, wizard, and two rogues. At first. Somewhere before the first boss, one of the rogues disconnected and someone had the brilliant idea to kick him and get another from the queue. Except that once you go beyond a certain point in a dungeon, it bugs out and doesn’t pull in new people from the queue anymore. It would have been much better to wait for the disconnected person to come back, because they usually do. So we only had four for about 98% of the dungeon. And no tank.

This dungeon is really long. I mean holy crap long. It must have taken us two hours to get through it all. Even if we’d had five, I still think it would have taken an hour and a half. Just when you think you can’t take the constantly spawning plague monsters anymore, you get to the first boss, and you think to yourself, “omg there are *two more* bosses after this??”

I think we probably would have given up on it except for the fact that we were in a DD event, which means you get some gauranteed loot if you make it to the end. And we were making steady progress – slow, tedious progress, but steady.

At least the spawn pits went away after the first boss. That’s something. But good lord those plague thingys that knock you back are super annoying. Especially because you only get about 50ms to react because of lag. So many times I ran out of the effect only to get knocked back anyway because the server didn’t register my movements in time. And they kind of hurt, too.

So we finally slogged through to the final boss, which was actually the most interesting boss I’ve seen to date. Unfortunately by then you’re so tired of the dungeon that you just don’t care anymore. Not only do you have to dodge all the AoEs but four times during that fight the floor disappears from under you. If you’re standing on it at the time, you die. We wiped the first time because it was a surprise to all of us. The second time, the mouthy “top DPS” rogue didn’t move in time and we lost him (typical deeps!). So we had to finish off that final boss with three people.

Basically I pounded on the boss while the CW and DC dealt with the adds on the platform behind. They had the harder job by far. I really just had to stand there and swing, occasionally dodging an AoE, and moving when the floor was about to disappear. I hardly ever took any damage, so I could have done that all day. And it felt like it took the better part of a day to wear down that boss. But we finally did, and in a touching moment of gamer solidarity, we all rolled Greed on the last boss loot. Then we got our DD loot. I didn’t even look at what it was. There was just no way it could be worth the effort.

I don’t think I’ll be returning to Spellplague Caverns anytime soon.