Firefall Founder By Accident

I played a fair amount of Firefall over the weekend, which they are still saying is in Open Beta, driven mainly by boredom with everything else I’ve been playing. After you go to an Internet guide and read up on what it is you’re actually supposed to *do* in the game, it’s a bit more fun.

Of course, that means the game itself is not providing any bread crumbs for the player, which one could argue is poor design. Previously I would log in and play around with battle suits during character creation, then it would set me down in the starting zone of Copacabana and I’d think to myself, “Okay, now what? Nobody is giving out quests.” Then I got bored running around looking for somebody to give me something to do and exited.

Funny story. I’m only playing Firefall again because I accidentally became a Founder. I actually wanted to get into the WildStar beta, because everyone’s talking about how it’s going to be the next great MMO, so I went searching to see if there was a way to pre-pay and get into the beta, like so many other games let you do. (Because game “betas” are usually just a way to get people to pre-pay for early access, as opposed to giving the developers a chance to test the game.) So I did some searching and found a page to become a founder and happily forked over $50 to unlock the beta … then I realized I had actually been on the Firefall website, not WildStar. And even more annoying was that I already had beta access for Firefall, and had already decided it wasn’t for me.

But after reading a quick guide and playing the game for a few hours, it turns out that there is more of an RPG element to this game than I originally expected. I thought it was just a Tribes clone, but there’s actually a big PvE element as well. It’s sort of a CoD-style of character progression, though. You don’t get loot from monsters exactly, but you get pieces and parts from which you can make or buy loot back at the towns. (“Loot” in this game is in the form of upgrades for your battle suit or whatever it’s called.)

I seriously doubt if I’ll play Firefall for very long, but maybe I’ll get a week of entertainment out of it.


Healers and Tanks are like Cats and Dogs

I got into a couple of particularly bad Rift dungeon groups all in one night, and they both basically came down to a fight between the tank and the healer. "You’re a terrible tank" vs. "you’re a terrible healer."

One group was in Realm of the Fae. The tank was a dwarf warrior who clearly didn’t have a tank soul setup, and played with a two-hander generating no threat whatsoever. He didn’t attempt to gather any mobs that got away from him either. He was not good. And the healer not-so-subtley let him know, too. "So we’re going with a two-hander, then?" he said, at the start. But it was RotF, so it didn’t really matter. You can get through RotF with no tanking whatsoever, and we basically did, until we wiped on Twyl at the end and then all the flaming really got started. "I’m so sick of people who don’t know what they’re doing!" yells the healer. For god’s sake, it’s the very first dungeon. Chill out.

Another group was in Darkening Deeps. Unfortunately, you can’t waltz through DD like you can RotF, and for some reason I get a perverse pleasure in watching people’s reaction to this. This tank announced that he was new to DD, but he still felt comfortable enough to play the "I’m the tank so I’m in charge" card. Usually not a problem, except it was slightly annoying when he stopped on the way down the spiral to tell us not to pull mobs before him, while we’re being bombarded by the canon thingy. Yes, yes, fine, now *move* before we all die listening to your speech!

We got to the bottom and faced the first boss – and the tank proceeds to get one-shotted, to everyone’s befuddlement. I thought it was funny. We tried again, and the tank didn’t quite get one-shotted but still died pretty quick. We should have been able to kill the boss anyway but we fell just short each time, mainly because the rest of the party wasn’t exactly top notch. In retrospect, in my support role I should have reverted to full healing, but I still kept up DPS, mistakenly thinking the healer would be able to, you know, heal.

At this point I’m thinking holy crap, I’ve never seen this happen before, even in the expert version. It was a special combination of a bad tank, bad healer, and standing in fire. Of course, the tank says, "wtf heal me!" The healer says, "wtf I healed you and you still died!" As I’m debating whether to comment that there’s some fire you shouldn’t stand in, the tank vote-kicks the healer and the party agreed. (I didn’t vote.) Before I could say, "yo it might be a while before a new healer queues" he was out of there.

Personally I was more inclined to side with the healer – this tank was getting blown up and didn’t have much health (I think around 1800). And he was standing right in the Bombard AoE. And he had that annoying tank ego on top of it. On the other hand, I’ve seen plenty of healers heal through DD damage, so that healer was not exacting tearing up the place.

Now here’s the funny part. We eventually got another healer in. We got all setup and ready to go again after much discussion and role changing so that we had *two* healers so we could handle this massive damaging boss. (Even though I was in support, nobody asked *me* to do any healing, so I just went full DPS.) We go for it – and the tank dies again. This time, though, we still managed to kill the boss anyway. (How could we not with two healers??) That seemed like pretty conclusive evidence that the healing was only part of the problem, but I kept my mouth shut lest I too be kicked for challenging the tank’s authority. After that it was a very slow crawl through the rest of the dungeon, but eventually we finished it.

On another topic, I’m having some trouble with my lowbie mage. My main 60 mage runs Pyromancer for DPS, as does pretty much everyone else in the game, because it’s the de facto "top DPS" spec. But I wanted to do something different with my lowbie mage – I wanted to explore some of the other souls that I haven’t used much before. Namely Stormcaller, Warlock, and Dominator. As far as I can tell, Dominator still has no usefulness outside of PvP, so that one’s out. That leaves Stormcaller and Warlock, and personally I’d rather work with Stormcaller just because it’s the more obscure of the two.

So far, though, neither Warlock nor Stormcaller seems like much competition with Pyro, based on the anecdotal DPS meter readouts I’ve seen. Granted I haven’t really had a chance to do a fair comparison yet. Next time I think I’m going to try a Stormcaller/Elementalist build with an Air Elemental pet to increase single-target damage.

Newbies in the Lowbie Dungeons

I spent most of the holiday weekend queuing for lowbie dungeons with my new collection of lowbie Defiants.

I’ve realized that I don’t like tanking with a warrior … dealing with the builder/finisher mechanic interferes with focusing on the tanking. Maybe I just need to forget about finishers. Anyway I generally prefer the cleric tank, where you don’t have to really do anything but spam the AoE attack. (I say that knowing full well that you almost never see cleric tanks in raids or expert dungeons. I wouldn’t ever want to be a raid tank anyway.)

Having done RotF and IT now with four different characters in many different roles, I’ve noticed an interesting pattern with the people you see in these first dungeons: A lot of them don’t know what they’re doing. :) This is contrary to what I would have expected, which is that everyone knows these dungeons by heart and speed runs through them.

I assume this is because the game just went f2p and a lot of new people are seeing these places for the first time. These are the DPS mages rolling with their rock pet, the tank warriors rolling with two-handed swords and cat, the DPS warriors rolling with sword and board, and the DPS rogues stealthing around and sapping trash mobs. Worth a chuckle, but harmless. Mostly they just haven’t learned you can setup multiple roles.

But there is another class of people who are just dicking around without the slightest interest in learning to play. Usually it’s a group of them that queued together. They spend most of the dungeon quipping back and forth in all caps and trying to be funny (I guess?) instead of paying any attention to what’s going on. The rest of the party has to carry them through so that their mistakes don’t waste everyone’s time too much. But occasionally their antics ends up wiping the party even in someplace as easy as Realm of the Fae, and then they get all bent out of shape and someone ends up leaving or getting kicked, and I have to put a bunch of names on my ignore list.

Rift Is Too Easy

Since there are a lot of new people flooding into Rift, there have been complaints on the forums from the usual suspects about how easy it is to level. I can confirm that yes, it’s really easy to get from 1 to 50, and it’s now easier than ever. It used to be harder, but even back when it was hard, it was still pretty easy for a veteran gamer to get to 50. If the last MMO you played was EQ1 or vanilla WoW, you’re not going to be challenged. But if you’re coming from almost any other modern MMO, it’s about the same.

Unfortunately sales numbers don’t lie – the majority of people like leveling to be easy. MMOs – and in fact, most games in general – have grown in popularity because they are getting easier. Most MMO players seem to want immersion, costumes, collecting, and achievements. And houses, for some reason. (Raiders and PKs, the so-called elitist jerks of MMOs, don’t want any leveling process – they just want to go straight to the end game.) So the people who want leveling to be difficult like it was in the old days are out of luck. (Personally I think Rift compensates by providing a lot of different leveling paths, and a lot of different soul combinations to play with.)

You might think (and people certainly post about it) that a difficult MMO would be wildly popular if someone would just make one, but sadly, people do make hard MMOs, and they are not popular (Darkfall and Mortal Online are two). They only attract one kind of gamer – the hardcore kind, who don’t so much want to play a game as they want to dominate and destroy.

On the bright side, leveling from 50-60 in the Rift expansion areas is considerably more difficult, although it’s still not super difficult. The hardest part is probably from 50-52 when you are still collecting Storm Legion-appropriate gear. You might get facerolled when you make that initial jump from Ember Isle to Pelladane or Cape Jule. And god help you if you go directly from Stillmoor into Storm Legion. (I don’t know what that experience is like because all of my 50s were adequately geared before SL came out.) But after you get acclimated and setup with a good build it’s just a matter of cranking through the quests until you get to 60. (It took me perhaps two weeks of casual playing to get from 50 to 60 on my mage, using a very durable Harbinger/Chloro build.)

They say the Storm Legion normal dungeons are a lot harder than the old world normal dungeons, but I haven’t had a chance to observe that yet. I’ve only experienced the SL Expert dungeons, and in those I have definitely seen more wipes than I ever did in the old world experts. I would say 1/3 of all the groups I played in wiped and couldn’t finish the run. I personally didn’t find them excessively hard – after you learn the correct dance steps to succeed.

Newbie Guide to Dungeons

I am writing this newbie guide because there are a surprising number of people who go into the first couple of normal Rift dungeons without knowing these basics. Perhaps they have never played Rift before, or they have never played an MMO before, or they have never played in a group before.

– Do remember that playing in a group requires different skills than soloing.
– Do avoid using tank pets because they interfere with the actual tank.

– Do verify that the party is ready before tackling monsters and especially bosses.
– Do turn bosses away from the party, so that the big frontal attacks don’t hit them.
– Do be aware of any boss mechanics that might kill you.
– Do move bosses out of AoE effects, especially if there are melee DPS with you.
– Do Not let monsters kill the healer.

– Do heal the tank first, and then the rest of the party.
– Do ask the support player for extra healing if necessary.
– Do cleanse poisons, curses, etc. from the tank and the party.
– Do resurrect DPS who die in combat – highest DPS first. (If the tank dies, the group will probably wipe anyway.)
– Do be aware of any boss mechanics that might kill you.
– Do tank if the tank dies. :)

– Do wait for the tank to establish threat before attacking.
– Do run toward the tank if you accidentally get aggro.
– Do interrupt boss casting when possible.
– Do be aware of boss mechanics and avoid taking unnecessary damage so the healer can concentrate on the tank.
– Do Not use any pushback abilities.
– Do Not pull aggro from the tank by doing too much damage. (Usually this is only a problem if you out-level or out-gear the tank by a lot.)

– Do be prepared to go full DPS, especially in expert dungeons. (See above.)
– Do provide group healing if the healer asks, gets in trouble, or dies.
– Do cast buffs and debuffs as appropriate.
– Do resurrect if the healer can’t.
– Do DPS when you have nothing else to do.

Newbie Tanking Iron Tombs (Normal)

Again, it is hard to mess up Iron Tombs on Normal. My Bahmi warrior uses a Reaver/Paladin build, with more points into damage abilities than armor/endurance abilities for better threat. I also now have a Cleric that I tank with, for which I use the standard tank preset.

When you start, first determine if people need the quests. If they don’t, you can skip a lot of side stuff.

The trash mobs are straightforward all throughout. Run to the mobs and hit your AoE builders. That’s basically all there is to it. Occasionally a mob will run off toward the healer or a DPS, but not as often as in RotF. Use your lure abilities to grab them back. Pull casters to you with the Warlord Sergeant’s Order ability if you have it.

Caor Ashstone: Turn him away from the party. That’s it. He puts a curse on the tank, which the healer may or may not cleanse.

Three Kings: Turn each one away from the party. The last one, Laric, casts a heal called Unholy Mending which you should interrupt if you have that ability. After you kill each one individually, all three come back and attack at once. Use your AoE to grab them and turn them away from the party. The party should kill Laric first because of his heal (the one on the left as you come down the stairs). But it’s not a big deal if they don’t.

If you have the quest, after you kill the Three Kings, run around and grab Spectral Screamers with the Spectral Lure and drag them back to the platform. Then click on the lever to finish the quest.

If you have the quest, you’ll need to destroy the Death Shards. These are *by far* the hardest things in the dungeon. After you kill the floating ghosts protecting the shard, and you start on the shard itself, tons and tons of mobs will spawn and swarm you and the party. If you’re not careful, they will wipe you pretty easily. The safest way to deal with them is to stop attacking the shard and deal with each wave as they arrive. Otherwise you will have to tank them all at once. Hit your AoE builder, and if you have one, hit your AoE lure ability too. They will stun you often, so it will not be easy. Keep doing that and hopefully the rest of the party will kill them all before you die. (If nobody needs the quest, just skip them.)

You’ll get to a room with a bunch of orbs on pedastals. Run in and gather up as many shades as you can and run to one of the orbs. It will light up and do AoE damage to the shades so they die quickly. If you need the quests, you’ll have to clear the whole room so you can get to the corners of the room on the sides. Otherwise, you can just clear a path straight through.

Ragnoth: Turn him away from the party. When Elliam’s Ghost shows up, run to stand in the light, then run back to Ragnoth. But a lot of times the party will kill him before you need to run to the light. That’s the end of the dungeon. You can wait for Elliam to open the portal back or just use the Leave Dungeon menu.

Rift Mage Maxed Out

Hrm. Over the weekend I started to realize that Rift is actually not as much fun as I thought. My mage is 60 and has a bunch of expert dungeon gear, so the only way left to advance that character is raiding with the guild, but the thought of setting up ventrillo and signing up for schedules and all that crap is not very appealing. Even the expert dungeons are kind of painful. It takes so long to get into a dungeon queue as DPS that by the time it pops, I have no interest in playing anymore. I only got into two dungeons. One was Storm Breaker Protocol, and everyone left before the first boss because nobody likes that dungeon. The second was the Tower of something or another, which I’ve only done once before, and I was so irritated at having to navigate those stupid jump pads at the beginning that I just left. (They wouldn’t have had trouble getting another DPS.) While waiting for queues, the only meaningful thing to do is Zone Events, and those happen infrequently in the 60 zones. Other than that, all I can do is quest in the Dendrome, which provides no real rewards for my character. Most of the time, I get bored long before the queue pops and switch to another character.

So I spent most of my time leveling my dwarf warrior to level 53. I spent a little time playing my Bahmi tank, but tanking RotF is not very fun, and I didn’t feel like tackling Iron Tombs. I did a lot of Instant Adventures, but I don’t see why people like them more than questing. They get repetitive very quickly.

Stranger Guildies

It was a light, ordinary evening in Rift. I did a blissfully un-dramatic random expert SL dungeon (Archive of Flesh) with a good tank/healer duo and ended up with a nice purple mage dagger at the end, which is probably the best I will ever see until or unless I start raiding.

So I’m in this guild, right? But it’s one of those guilds that basically takes anyone, no-questions-asked, so it’s got thousands of random people in it, so I see a lot of fellow guildies out in the wild even though I don’t know any of them. It makes it somewhat awkward. Sometimes I’m grouped with a guildie in a dungeon but I don’t know if I’m supposed to say anything or not. Like, “Hey guildie who is a complete stranger that I’ve never seen before, what’s up?” Am I supposed to greet them? I usually opt for silence when in doubt.

I spent some time last night working on optimizing my Pyromancer rotation. I could read a guide – and I have – but it sticks in my head better if I work things out on my own. I added a separate key just for Fireballs when Extinguish procs so I don’t waste them (my spam macro throws Flamebolts before Fireballs). Then I did something I should have done long ago: Setup KaruulAlert.

I only use three Addons for Rift: One is a damage meter of course, and the second is the King Boss Mod which everyone used to expect you to have for raiding.

The third is this thing called KaruulAlert, which is a very complicated Addon to setup and use, but I’m starting to fall in love with it. It appeals to my programmer nature. It lets you setup “alerts” that trigger when your abilities are ready, buffs are expiring, or just about anything else you can think of. The “alert” is just a picture or text that shows up on the screen to notify you. The idea is get a reminder to tell you when to hit certain abilities so you can maximize your effectiveness.

No, it’s not cheating. Shut up.

For example, I setup one to alert me when my Charge is over 100, so I know when to trigger the Internalize Charge ability, which increases damage. Previously, I had to glance up at my charge meter periodically, and most of the time, I forgot to do that. I setup another alert to tell me when I have 5 stacks of Combust on the target, so I know when it’s safe to use Fusillade. And I setup alerts for when a bunch of abilities come off of cooldown.

(Incidentally, I just noticed last night that Heatwave resets all your cooldowns. Doh! Now I need to remember never to trigger Heatwave without hitting Fusillade first, because then I can throw two Fusillades almost back to back. Fusillade-Heatwave-Fusillade. Big damage there. Other than that nifty trick, it doesn’t look like Heatwave is nearly as effective as it used to be.) I tried out the Silverwood/Freemarch Invasion event thingy. I mentored my 60 down to 14 and went to Silverwood for a couple of invasions. It brought back memories of beta and launch. Ah, those were the good old days, when there were invasions all the time and nobody knew what they were doing. This event is clearly a ploy by Trion to populate lowbie areas and get us high-levels to interact more with F2P players, but it was still kind of fun. I don’t understand the gift boxes though. I can only assume there’s some kind of achievement to be gained by throwing gifts at NPCs.

I’m glad to see that they now nerf high-level people in low-level zones so they can’t one-shot the event bosses and ruin everyone’s fun like they used to. Still, I once saw a 50+ run in to tank an event boss that was scattering people left and right in Freemarch a while back. He may not have been doing any damage, but he was sure generating plenty of threat. (I know this because I was on my lowbie tank at the time and kept getting swatted like a fly because nobody was healing.)