Category Archives: Rift

Quote of the Day

One of the pains about roaming from MMO to MMO is that every time you come back to an old haunt, you have to remember how to play again. […] Of course people will say that if you just stick to one game for a while, you won’t have to put up with that sort of thing.

To those people, I introduce Rift patch 1.11, which has managed to simulate the whole “having been away” experience for people who haven’t actually been away.

by Wilhelm, the Ancient Gaming Noob

Ding! Level 50

Going into the weekend at level 47, I decided to dedicate some time for the final stretch of my mage in Rift. Truth to be told, it went very fast. Too fast, in a way. Faster than final levels in a game should go in my opinion.

Congratulations, and welcome to the grind machine! We got gear, and PA points, and reputation, oh my!

But I’m at least partly to blame myself. I could’ve gone and done quests, or something similar. Instead, I went the Instant Adventure route. I actually dropped out of my final IA at 99% through 49 to get back to Meridian for a nice staging of my level 50 ding. Man, IAs are insane experience. Even at 50, it seems a lot of people play them day in, day out to grind AA points. I’m sorry, PA of course. A rose by any other name would smell almost as sweet. Except Everquest II allows you to level slower and get AA levels while leveling up, and decide the rate at which you funnel your gained XP in both directions. Doesn’t it seem like for any feature that a game comes up with, the answer seems to be “Everquest II implemented a slightly better version years ago”? Sadly, half the time followed by “then it broke the next patch and was never repaired” or “but the interface sucks” or “nobody uses it because it makes no sense”.


I had two epics saved up from a world events months and months ago (I think it actually was the pre-Ember Isle event). I decided that was enough preparation for level 50 normal dungeons, and queued up for them as healer and DPS. I was chosen as healer every single time. Surprise! The bad thing is that the dungeon runner population at 50 seem to be a very mixed bag. The worst experience was a group that pretty much ignored me (and another clueless newcomer) and rushed so fast that I couldn’t keep up with them even though I tried. Then I pulled something by accident that they had left, and I died, and I couldn’t even find them in the dungeon any more until we were almost done. The best experience was a group of several people who (I guess) also needed quests in Charmer’s Caldera, and we took a good amount of time to go through them. Half the group was french, with different levels of English proficiency, but between their English and the little French I know, we were able to communicate easily. This is why I play these games! Sadly, most of the regular dungeon are just rushed through by groups. At least I learned that my hodgepodge gear was more than sufficient to keep up overgeared tanks, unless they rode ahead, around a corner, and pulled 5 groups at the same time. Thankfully, that only happened once. Nobody complained, but when I remarked that I was out of range, I was told to not loot stuff. OK? That felt like a waste.

State of my Mage

Another thing I’m a bit worried about is the state of my class at 50. When you hit level 50, you can pick up the final chloromancer skills, and they seem to fundamentally change how the class plays. Before that, I used a bunch of different abilities. I typically started off with Radiant Spores, applied Withering Vine, then Nature’s Touch and Ruin (and Nature’s Fury on group pulls) when they were off-cooldown, and Vile Spores as a filler. Sometimes Bloom or one of the cooldowns if things got a bit hotter. Now my rotation looks like this: Radiant Spores, Withering Vine, Void Life, Void Life, Void Life, Void Life, Void Life…. I feel like I’m reduced to a living HoT, with no other really viable healing choices. It’s a bit boring, and it probably also means that my gear is the all-deciding factor, because there’s little difference between good and bad play.

To be honest, if that’s what my role is as a healer, I’d rather go back to what I started out with at level 15 anyway: a support mage. I really liked the archon soul, whose job it is to juggle around half a dozen buffs and debuffs, CC, cooldowns, and other fun things, to improve your group’s performance. Sadly, it seems to me that archons are considered utterly useless in 5mans, because the loss in personal DPS isn’t offset by the DPS you add to the group, and the debuffs and control aren’t considered worthwhile if everything tends to die fast. I probably should look into 10 or 20 man raiding, but I’m not really sure where to start there. There are daily and weekly quests for raid dungeons and rifts, but I yet have to figure out how to get a group for that, and whether I’m ready or not. Speaking of which, I’m not really sure whether I’m ready for expert dungeons (the next step on the 5man ladder) either. The dungeon finder says yes: I have the required stats of 340 intelligence and 90 focus. I find it strange that those are two requirements, but spell power is not checked for. I’m just worried that I’ll be shunned by the group because I can’t bring tier 3 raid items to their expert dungeon, and I have no experience with any of the fights to boot.

If you read all this, the outlook must seem incredibly bleak. I’m a bit unsure how to progress from here, that’s true. On the other hand, I still haven’t really touched any of the high-level zones quest-wise. I think the last zone I more or less finished was Scarwood Reach, which leaves 5 zones mostly untouched, plus Ember Isle. I tried out EI yesterday and was surprised how well I could already progress through that “50-only extra hard” zone. I had to be careful, of course, and if I got jumped on by more than one add while I was killing one mob, it was sure death. But it worked somehow, for the most part. I also have some crafting ahead of me; I’m still well away from 300 (~240 in butchering, ~260 in outfitting, ~270 in runecrafting), and once I’ve done this, there’s crafting rifts, too.

My dirty little secret

Finally, I’ll let you in on a small secret of mine: This mage is actually the first character that I brought to max level in any game outside of WoW (and even there, I typically only had one alt at max level, and only months after an expansion release). I only realized this when I was at 49. Granted, it probably doesn’t help that I never played any other MMO seriously until about 2 years ago. And even then, I picked out games that take their sweet time to level. They either had already had their share of expansions and level cap increases: in Everquest II, I had to reach level 90 by the time I started playing seriously, which I fell just short of, stopping somewhere around level 80 in the Moors of Ykesha. Or they were natural slow leveling games with a tendency for me to just stand or travel around and watch the scenery, like in LotRO. Anyway, first current-level cap character outside of WoW. Yay! Now I just have to figure out what to do with it…

My Face Is Up Here

We all know that MMOs are not… well. If security software for nuclear power plants was created the same way that MMOs are developed, we’d all run around with 3 eyes by now.

Some bugs are weirder than others, though:

I wonder what kind of magic goggles my character got awarded to look right through that very (by MMO standards) demure garment.

There’s Always Something To Do

Vacations (or, more generally, time away from your games) can do the strangest things with you. Before I went, I was totally engrossed in TSW and its story. Little did any other game pull me away from it. While I was on vacation, though, my mind wandered and arrived, of all games, at Rift. I’ve said many things about Rift before, but the bottom line is that I found it an enjoyable game, but a shoddy world. With factions gone away for all intents and purposes (cross-faction guilds, mail, etc.), the game piqued my interest again. I have no love for artificial (read: not decided by standings that can be influenced by the player after rolling a character), set-in-stone factions. Just the fact that a game would tear down its strict faction barriers is so laudable in my opinion, that the game in its entirety felt interesting to me again.

To Take or Leave the Deal

That left me with a hard decision. I could, of course, play a low-level alt, and indeed, on Friday night, I dabbled around a bit with a rogue. On the other hand, what I really wanted to play was my 43 mage. Especially with the expansion around the corner and no level 50 in my roster.

Trion, like always, took a page out of a competitor’s book and improved on it. (They’re a bit like the Japanese used to be, aren’t they? Rarely invent, but often copy and improve.) If you buy a year of subscription, you get the expansion for free. And as opposed to Blizzard, the expansion is less than two months away now. Also, as opposed to Blizzard, they point out to you that this is a one-year prepaid offer that does not automatically renew, since, in fact, it is not a subscription, technically. It’s like buying a year of prepaid game time. On the other hand, I did the math, and with the expansion at a mere 30 Euros, I can subscribe for 8 months out of 12 on a month-by-month basis and still come out ahead.

So I decided to take the safe path and subscribe for one month only. I figured, if I still enjoy the game two or three weeks from now and feel like I’ll stay, I can always pick up the offer then. If it’s still available then; I couldn’t find any information about how long the offer will run. Maybe until the expansion releases?

Thanks, but I’ll pass, at least for now.

Events, Events, Events!

One thing I noticed was that the server numbers have decreased since I last played. Like, a lot. Honestly, I can’t remember what the numbers were back when I was last playing, but I’m sure it was more than 12 (4 English, 4 German, 4 French). To boot, my server seemed quite empty. Now, I fancy emptiness in MMOs to a certain degree. I feel that most MMO worlds are woefully overpopulated, and it is much more in tune with the scenery if you only run into another player every once in a while. On the other hand, for leveling, especially in a game like Rift, there is a case to be made for many bodies around. Thankfully, server transfers are free, instant, and easy in Rift, so I went over to the most populated server, Icewatch.

Holy Event Batman. Now, it seems, I can’t play without running into “dynamic events”. I started playing on Sunday morning. My plan was to do some dungeons, run the daily allowance of instant adventures, then do some rifts. Instead, I did a rift event. Then another. Then I had a look at the current seasonal event. Then I did my instant adventures. By then, more rift events had shown up again. And before I knew what was happening to me, I had been in front of the screen for 9 hours, and hadn’t eaten more than a piece of chocolate in the meantime.

By 6, I was finally able to pry myself from the constant frenzy, not the least because I was feeling completely exhausted, sucked dry, and hungry. It was strange. The regular, global announcements of “something is happening in zone X! Come now to help out and collect rewards!” never stopped. “You can’t go now! There’s stuff happening!“, it insisted. No time to smell the flowers on the way, or you’ll be too late to the killing party. That’s the exhausting part: I can play for 9 hours, but I can’t play for 9 hours in a constant mob-hitting frenzy.

That is definitely more than I bargained for. I hope I will be able to resist the urge to finish every single event that shows up from now on, because it isn’t healthy. Not for me (at least a small break to rest your eyes and get some tea is always a good idea), and not for the game, either. The light that burns twice as bright burns for half as long, and I’d rather be burning my Rift oil steadily, instead of burning out in no time.Though if that should happen, at least I can say that I chose the right subscription option.

Let’s Compare

I haven’t played GW2, but I wonder whether its dynamic events would end up doing the same to me and my play time as Rift’s. From what I heard about them, that might be possible. Has anybody had the feeling that they feel dynamic events keep them playing for longer, keeping them from “cooling down” in between?

Looking at the other extreme, this feels to me as the antithesis to EVE: While there’s no time to rest and breathe in Rift because you are always urged to do something now and do it fast, in EVE, I lately had the feeling that there’s nothing to do at all: I log in, queue a new skill, sit in chat channels for half an hour (while I read blogs on the side), and then log off because nothing seems to be going on. Of course, there probably is stuff going on, but either in different time zones, or in smaller groups of people I’m not part of. And even in other groups (for example, when you read Wilhelm’s EVE posts), it seems that not doing anything is a big part of EVE.

Striking the right balance between boredom and overload in a game is hard. It’s also very dependent on the player. At the moment, I feel like Rift is doing too much and EVE is doing too little. But that might change. Today, it’s a holiday here, so I’ll check out both again. Let’s see how it’ll go today.

Why Faction-Based PvP?

For a long time, but especially since the success of WoW, MMOs have been implicitly expected to bring a portfolio of activities:

  • Quest-based leveling content (preferably soloable, at least the vast majority)
  • End-game content based on small and large groups (dungeons and raids for gear progression)
  • Player-vs-Player combat (preferably between factions that are decided by your initial racial choice)

Let’s focus on the last point today. Faction-based PvP always seemed restricting and arbitrary to me, especially because it artificially splits a game’s player base, which for all except the really large ones is a problem. There are different ways to implement this, ranging from a largely cooperative game whose players only fight against each other in designated PvP areas, but otherwise are free to play together, from completely segregated communities that can never interact.

Where does it come from?

I don’t know which MMO first came up with faction-based PvP (I’ve not played the really old ones), but it might have been Dark Age of Camelot. Older ones had, at least initially, either Free-for-all “gank-style” PvP (Ultima Online) or no PvP at all (Everquest), but neither had fixed factions. I honestly can’t remember how it worked in UO, but EQ, if I remember correctly, had you start being loved by some and hated by other NPC factions, based on your initial racial and class choice. However, you were free to work on all of them to improve your reputation, and to group with other players regardless of standings.

I’m not a big fan of faction-based PvP. Not only because of the mentioned split in the player base that at least some games avert, but also because I like to play with people, not against them, and the artificial animosities between factions both amuse and annoy me. (I think that’s one of the reasons why Cataclysm was such a letdown for me.) Of course, you don’t need game-provided factions. Just go and listen to “official” statements by leaders of EVE alliances, and how they try to incite their members to fight against their horribly evil, incompetent enemies of the month, and you see that you don’t necessarily need the game to provide factions.

Let’s look at two examples: Rift, because it’s all in the news with their coming change to faction mechanics; and The Secret World, because it’s the original reason I started to write this post, before it grew from a funny aside, filler post, into something with at least slightly more substance.


Pick one, fight, call it a day. We don’t care what faction you come from.

Rift seems to be the first of the strict faction-based games that so far neither allowed grouping nor guilding or visiting the “enemy” cities, that gets a clue. As far as I understand it, the “Conquest” mechanic introduces a transient, instant choice between three new factions every time you sign up for a PvP battle. I just assume that each faction will have different rewards, to entice people to sign up for one or the other, but still make sure that people have a reason to choose each of them (so there won’t be a player bottleneck by players shunning one faction), and it doesn’t end up with “all mages go ram, all rogues go raven”. Outside of PvP, factions will pretty much disappear.

The funny thing is that the implementation, but especially the lore reasoning, is almost exactly what I had always wished to happen in WoW: the Horde and Alliance splintering over their diverging goals, and giving the player to choice of staying with them, or joining common causes such as the Argent Dawn or the Cenarion Circle. Well, not quite like Rift, more like a crossover between Rift and the EQ way, but still. If I just could get into the world of Rift, I might actually be really happy with the game! Alas.

The Secret World

The Secret World has three factions, of which you choose one at character creation, and which you can never change. On the other hand, factions don’t restrict you much at all. All players share the same zones, you can group up for quests and dungeons, you have common chat channels (though each faction also has their own “private” channel), so that’s fine. And, with the slightly worrying player numbers, definitely a good decision in hindsight, if only for that.

Lore-wise, the factions do fight each other, but it’s more of a political scheming and occasional assassination thing. Each group looks down on the others, but fighting is stipulated by rules that are watched over by the inter-faction Council of Venice. And now that all hell has broken loose (quite literally) in the Real World, the fighting in The Secret World seems to have stopped almost completely to focus on the common threats. Also, the whole “immortalized by spirit bees” thing makes all sorts of killing annoyingly ineffectual anyway.

TSW does have battlegrounds, though. Which makes you wonder what the point is. Thankfully, there is a tongue-in-cheek in-game explanation for this. In the beautifully posh (and fitting for such a most superior organization) Templar’s Club, you meet the Stuart sisters, whose revealing costumes belie their sharp tongues and (at least for one of them) wit, talking to the librarian Gladstone, something of a crossover between Timothy Leary and Erich von Däniken. The topics you can interview them on almost all end in hilarity, but there is one that specifically lampshades PvP and battlegrounds. I found it funny enough that it fraps’ed it, and I’ll end my post with it:

Direct link for feed readers with embed problems. (edit: if you see a video that obviously is not a TSW ingame video, please use the direct link. It seems something wonky is going on with the wordpresss/youtube integration, and it sometimes shows videos from previous posts instead of the correct one.)

This, in one minute, covers everything I love about the Templars: posh locations, slightly snooty behavior and sharp tongues, rooted in history (note them mentioning The Great Game!), and back in time after a day’s work to plush upholstery, Pimm’s, and canapés!

I’m sorry for the bad video quality. It’s the first time I ever uploaded a video to youtube, and it seems I did something wrong. The video looked reasonably good in the humongous fraps output, and pretty much the same after I encoded it with H.264 to 1% of its size, but after I uploaded it, youtube seems to have reencoded it, and now it’s all blocky. But the audio is fine, and that’s what it’s all about in that video anyway.

Trion Takes Another Lesson From The Best-In-Class

As the first Blizzard Annual Pass Holders are closing in on the end of their one-year contract, another pupil in the class of MMO companies steps up their game. The perennial eager beaver takes another lesson from the star pupil’s book and creates its own one-year bundle:

Get all these things for FREE* (*if you give us money)

Wilhelm had the dollar price, but naturally, I wanted to find out what that costs in our money.

That turned out to be harder than expected. I first had to log in. Then realized that, in fact, I could not log in, because I had to “upgrade my security” by replying to a mail, then creating a new password, yadda yadda. Did I miss something? Did Trion also get hacked some time in the last 12 months? Also, can somebody PLEASE tell game companies that so-called “security questions” are bogus, pseudo-security snake oil? Please Trion, go and copy someone on that topic who understands security. Those questions also don’t get better the more obscure they become. Hint: if half of them don’t even apply to me, and the other half is obscure enough that I would have a hard time remembering them myself, don’t be surprised if I find ways to subvert them.

What the…? Yes, of course, my secret stage name is Lassie Main Street. Or something. Who comes up with these questions?

My first reaction: Trion, always copying, sometimes doing things better. Not sure this is one of these occasions.

My second reaction: that’s still quite pricey!

My third reaction: That is still tempting, though. So much money saved! And saving money is good, right?

My fourth reaction: Wait. How much Rift have you played in the last year? Yeah, not so much. How often have you logged in to at least try the 1-20 leveling range? Thought so.

My fifth reaction: Alright then, let’s get down to the hard money. How long would I have to play to get a good deal out of this? This is complicated by the fact that I can’t find hard numbers on the price tag for the expansion in retail. But looking at prices for other games’ expansions, it can’t be more than 40€. That leaves 67.88€ for subscriptions. Let’s have a look at Rift’s current subscription options:

It’s not 100% clear how the gear rewards for longer subscriptions will work with the Storm Chaser offer, whether you will still get them or not. Let’s just ignore them.

So 6 months cost 59.94€, which, even with the assumed expansion price on top, is still cheaper. At 7 months, you get into the area where the offer might be worth it, though depending on the box price, it might take you until month 8 to see profit. This especially if you might buy the expansion a bit after release, after it gets cheaper. And on top, “real” economists would argue that you also lose the interest on the money that you spend today instead of at a later point.

For me, that means it’s probably not worth it. I might play Rift again at a later point, but I don’t have plans for the immediate future. Unless TSW tanks and EVE gets boring, in which case I’d reconsider. But it’s a gamble, and no game has caught me for more than 6 months at a time in the last year or so.

I wonder how this offer will play out for Trion. I heard a lot of people who admitted that, in the end, they lost the Blizzard Annual Pass  gamble. Of course, the situation here is a bit different, in that you get something for the game you play already anyway, instead of a completely different game, and the offer will cover a time where there is a lot of content available (by virtue of the expansion), instead of a year devoid of almost any content updates. So in that respect, it looks like a better offer than the Blizzard one. Still, I wonder whether some people might be more cautious this time around?

Small Annoyances: Online Game Updating

This is one of the things that have always slightly annoyed me. Not enough to go into a rage, but enough to probably cause companies some financial loss here or there. The problem is that there are games that I can’t update if I don’t have a current subscription. Example: RIFT. I have to log in first, then I can update. But if I don’t have a subscription, I’ll get an error message when I try to log in. So if I wanted to play the game again, I’d have to resubscribe first, then update the game, then play. Seeing how I have no idea how much of an update that would be, I skipped the resubscription on more than one occasion because I feared that I’d spend all night updating. Same with SOE’s games (though with EQ2 now being subscription-less, this isn’t as much an issue any more than it used to be).

In fact, the only game I can think of that has a monthly subscription, but allows you to update regardless of your account status, is WoW. Blizzard got it right, yet again.

I don’t understand the reasoning behind the “no update without a subscription” policy either. Companies save some network traffic, but I would strongly assume that’s negligible compared to people creating traffic by a) playing the game, or b) downloading the whole several-gigabytes game (which you often enough can do without a subscription).

I regularly update my online games, even those that I haven’t touched in a while. Actually, especially those. Because I don’t want to have to wait through 3 hours of updates when I get the itch to play them again. Game companies, mark my words: if I want to play your game, I don’t want to wait through hours of updates.

Give me the option to update when I don’t want to play, so I don’t get discouraged by updating when I want to play.

Learned Something New

Took me until just now to figure out that you can change souls on the fly, within a role, without any respecs, if you haven’t spent any points in it yet. That might be useful. Maybe. If only for looking at and learning about other roles’ spells while I’m standing around.

Rift Updates

My Rift subscription will lapse in a couple of days. That is, unless I resubscribe for another month. Which I will probably do. That said, I got time until Sunday to decide.

What I like about the game is the soul system. I see downsides to it (class identity being one), but the way I play Rift at the moment, it works out perfectly fine. 80% of my time, I spend doing dungeons and rifts, and the chance to switch on the fly between pyro damage, chloro healing, and archon support, is very helpful. The rest of the time is spent crafting and exploring. At the moment, this looks enough to me to warrant another month.

There are a couple of things I’m still not sold on. One of the is them leveling speed. It’s just too darn fast! Doing lots of rifts and dungeons means that I do little to no questing. I stopped when I reached the middle of Stonefield, because I was outleveling them. I’ve done about 2 quests in Scarlet Gorge. At the moment, I’m 35 and haven’t done a single quest in Scarwood (I’ve explored about half of the map there, though, while doing rifts). The leveling speed is high enough that I’m completely surpassing the story content. That’s compounded by the fact that the cap for rested XP seems to be very high – I leveled from 30 to 34 in a single day using rested XP, and I still had a bit left over.

The downside is that I had problems getting the story in the first place; completely skipping quests in zones doesn’t help that. Of course, you could argue that that’s my own damn fault – and I agree, to a certain degree. Then again, the current world event makes rifting a very tempting pastime; and since I still need 13 egg levels to get my raptor, I’ll continue. Speaking of the event, I very much assume that it was perfectly timed to coincide with the Steam sale, so you won’t see phase 3 or the conclusion before your free month runs out. I have to admit that looks like their trick will work with me.

Considering dungeoning, you get presents for running dungeons once a day, and if you skip days, you might end up with as many as 7 subsidized dungeon runs. Add that to the fact that playing heal or support solo is quite boring, and you see where I spend a lot of my time. The result is that I end up in a dungeon, with two quest givers in front that I might or might not have seen before, and that give me quests along the lines of “kill X, use Y at Z, and kill whatever appears when you do so”. If I have time to read the text at all; the rush-rush culture certainly has its followers in this game too. So I go off, killing some stuff, without any idea why that would be a good or bad idea. I sometimes don’t even know where that place is that I’m fighting in. I guess someone must’ve hit me over the head with a club, put me in a sack, and transported me to a dungeon far away, where, after waking up, I’d find 4 strangers that share a similar fate, but we soon realize that our muggers at least were nice enough to take group composition into account before they dumped us into this deadly trial. It’s almost like the Cube, MMO edition.

I guess the only solution to that problem is to roll another alt that will purely focus on story line exploration via world questing. There’s some irony in that, seeing how I had planned to roll an alt on the Guardian side to see what the story looks like from their position. Now I’ll need to roll a Defiant alt too, to find out what their story is, despite the fact I’m about halfway through the leveling with one.

One last problem is that the dungeon finder seems to hate me (joking, but still). On Sunday, I was put into Foul Cascade as DPS three times in a row, at level 33. The rest of the group also being reasonably high, it was a genuine snorefest. On Monday, having just hit 34, I ended up in King’s Breach. As a healer. With a level 34 tank. Who pulled like a madman. Oh my. I am very thankful for the level 40 support who helped out with healing now and then, or we would’ve had several wipes (I told him afterwards, I want to make sure support feels appreciated). Still, that makes your contribution feel inadequate.

I admit I could probably be a much better healer. I sometimes lose track of my target, especially when I have to target the tank for a direct heal, and then have to go back to a mob to DPS again. Also, I picked up the warlock talent the other day that gives you a chance for an instant cast (opportunity), and it’s still confusing me more than it helps. In the heat of battle, I often miss the fact that I just instant cast, and then just stand there twiddling my thumbs, waiting for a cast to finish that has long hit the target.

Anyway, that’s the second time I was thrown into a dungeon as a healer at the low end of the spectrum, with a similarly low level tank. That is a bit more challenge than I would like, to be honest. It makes me feel responsible for wasting everybody’s time in case we wipe. I wouldn’t mind with people I know, but with randoms, I get the feeling I have to perform, or else. It probably doesn’t help that I’m a chloromancer, either; I assume clerics can get away with being low level more easily. If one of my damage spells gets resisted, I don’t do any healing, and stuff can get hectic. And of course, there’s that annoying veil bug: if another mage in your group has Lifegiving Veil, it tends to overwrite your Lifebound Veil/Synthesis, and if you don’t notice in time, you end up with a tank-shaped puddle on the ground.

Anyway, the frustrations right now are small enough, and the novelty factor is still there, so I guess I’ll stay another month. And isn’t that all that Trion would be interested in anyway? So I guess they’re doing it right.

Movie and Game Music

I love music. I played the piano for many years, starting when I was 6. Stopping it when I went to university (because I didn’t have access to a piano, and didn’t want to save the money to buy an electrical one) is one of the few things I would change if I could live my life again. Needless to say, music is important to me. My friends and colleagues tell me it’s easy to recognize me when I walk by, even if they don’t see me: it’s not so much the gait, but the fact that I’m almost constantly humming or whistling when I walk.

There are some melodies that I don’t know where I got them from, or whether I made them up. They form a repertoire I use all the time; I combine them with each other, with songs I just heard, and so son. Several bits and pieces of WoW music made it into that repertoire. I never looked up their names, because to me, it forms part of the magic to not know their name and where they came from.

As you gathered from that, I generally play with sound and music on. I know many players (especially of MMO games) turn off their music, and sometimes even their sound, to play their own favorite music. I rarely do that. Music is an integral part of a game experience for me. Sometimes more than the latest and greatest graphics.

The fact that some WoW pieces made it into my repertoire means that in my book, WoW did it right, music-wise. Since I don’t know the names, I can’t point out which I like most, but I’ll at least try to listen to them and give you pointers  at the end of this post.

I wonder whether one of the reasons that Rift hasn’t “clicked” with me yet is the music. To me, it sounds too generic. “Cue generic theme no. 23, please!”, and such. I still have barely touched Scarlet Gorge, so it might be too early to judge. But at level 29, I would’ve expected some memorable music already, and most of it simply sounds like muzak to me so far.

Now, of course, you might argue that these WoW songs are ingrained my head because I played the game for 6 years. I thought so myself. But last night, I was amazed when I watched “The Fellowship of the Ring” for the first time in about 8 years. (A decent movie, I might add, as an opinion from someone who read most of what there is to be read by Tolkien. And “decent” is probably close to the best you can get when it comes to a LotR movie.) I suddenly realized that the hobbit theme song was one of those that made it into my repertoire. I’ve watched the movie in the theater once, and then maybe once or twice on DVD shortly after they were released. And still, that one song stuck with me over  8 years. To me, that’s a sign that music that “clicks” with you doesn’t need a lot of repetition. You hear it, and it stays with you.

Please, game designers, don’t disregard good music. I don’t want choirs singing faux-latin ad nauseam (Faux latin is one of my pet peeves!), I don’t want bombast all the time. If you care to get a top-notch graphics designer, pay the money to get a great movie or game musician. I agree that the basic fighting sounds you’ll hear millions of times over the course of a game are important; get good sound designer for them. But if you want to create worlds, give them a flavor. And in my option, nothing invokes feelings and images better than music.


Alright, so I went and tried to find out what some of my favorite WoW themes are. I never bought a collector’s edition (for various reasons, a different one each time), so i don’t have any soundtrack CD and need to go by what youtube tells me. These are in no particular order, because this post has been in my draft section for too long as it is, and I don’t want to spend another week ranking the music:

  • the Barrens theme (or, I guess, more generally, the “horde wilderness” theme), especially the clarinet theme
  • the human wood theme, as in Elwood Forest
  • the Tanaris, Silithus, and Ahn’Qiraj theme, especially the klezmer, and how the music slowly is deconstructed the farther you move into the temple
  • TBC: I liked a lot of the music there, but it didn’t stick with me. It was just ambient music. Decent ambient music, but still ambient music.
  • the Grizzly Hills theme
  • the Storm Peaks theme
  • Cataclysm: Why can’t I think of any new theme in there that caught me? Might this be a contributor to why I finally got tired of WoW?