Rift redux

I wasn’t planning to make a blog post today, but my most recent appearance on This Week in MMO #71 appeared to ruffle some Rift fans’ feathers, particularly commenter dagatkarimlan, who had this to say:

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Hello Gamebreaker community,

Long time listener, first time poster.  I just couldn’t help but weigh in after watching this show.

First of all, you guys provide a great service.  I have spent an inordinate amount of time watching various shows that Gamebreaker has to offer.  That said, I must say that this show has disappointed me a bit.  I couldn’t help but feel that Gamebreaker hasn’t been giving Rift a fair shake.  

Where are the rifts?  There are right there, at the start of the trailer.  At 29:20 of the video, when the narrator said “until the Blood Storm came…”, fire rifts are opening all over the place.  Fire invasions are all over the place in the trailer.  Not to give the hosts a hard time, but seriously?  Also, the comment “it’s a really pretty place to wait for your queue to pop” is completely uncalled for.  Perhaps Mr. Winter would care to elaborate on that comment?  Is he familiar with the patch, because people might take it like the patch contains no content other than a new location.  Nothing can be further from the truth.  And his subsequent summary of what he thinks people would do with the zone puzzles me (run it for a couple weeks, get gear, etc).  What does he expect people do in MMOs?  Is there something I’m missing here?  Gamebreaker rages at people calling ToR a WoW clone, but you let this slide?

While on the subject, is Mr. Schaffnits comment about Rift’s declining morale based on facts or speculation?  

To be fair, the hosts in question did admit that they were non-Rift players.  That’s fine.  I don’t expect every hosts to know the ins and outs of every game they discuss.  I just respectfully suggest that they set the story straight on the next opportunity.

I thought one of the purposes of the show was to give an overview of the MMO landscape.  Rift puts out a patch that includes, amongst other things, a new PvP mode (which was mentioned), a new 5-man instance, a new 10-man instance, and a completely new zone, complete with new mechanics.  I would understand if they just mention that, then refer viewers to the Sanctum.

Instead, we get comments like “Where are the rifts?”, “Cause there are no rifts this time” and “You are going to run it for 2-3 weeks […] and then you’re going to wait for your  queues to pop”. So instead of enlightening people who don’t play Rifts about the state of the game, they spread misinformation.

It calls into question all the discussion they ever had on the MMOs I’m not familiar with.  Perhaps they misrepresented those MMOs as well.

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And to which I responded:

Hi there,

Thanks for your comments. Here’s that elaboration you asked for 🙂

First off, I did play Rift until September, when my initial 6-month sub ran out. After I hit 50, about three months in, I might run out to Stillmoor or IPP or Shimmersand if there was an event going on and my guild (which disintegrated about a month after I joined) ran some events, but for the most part, I did what I described — waited around in cities for queues to pop. A little after my sub ran out, I saw an episode of Sanctum, where the three panelists each said basically the same thing: that they hadn’t “run rifts” in a month or more. So it’s not just a bunch of inexperienced players making these statements.

If Rift has a failure, I think it might be that it kept too much of the existing WoW-like conventions of going to a place, doing quests, going to the next place, killing 10 more rats, getting to max level, running dungeons/PvP for gear. There *is* other stuff going on, I’ll admit, but it’s a very hard, uphill climb to convince players to do it, especially when the reward/time ratio is just as good for the other, more familiar, stuff.

To give an example, every few quests while leveling you get gear. That’s pretty standard in most MMOs. What if that wasn’t the case, and the only way to get that “interim” leveling gear was by closing rifts? Yes, in a technical sense, this takes choices away (though you could still craft for roughly equivalent gear), but it would reinforce the notion that rifts are important, not just something that get in your way while you’re leveling, which is the feeling I started to get once I made an alt.

And what’s the best way to get endgame gear? I’ll admit I didn’t delve into endgame all that heavily, but in my limited experience are dungeons, raids, and raid/crafting rifts. For the first two, I can just form up a group and hit the instance, like I have in many prior games, and there’s even a handy queueing interface to help me. For the other two, I have to spam LFG and then travel to the location and then do something that is “different” from your typical dungeon run. Not that that’s a bad thing, per se, but Trion had to know the mentality of their players, and where they’d be coming from, and that it would require overcoming a certain inertia to try this “different” style of loot acquisition — which is made all the harder when there are the more traditional, quicker, methods available.

I know what you’re going to say: “Hey, there are all sorts of ways you can figure out how to get the best gear: this website, this wiki, etc.” That’s all well and good, but if I have to do all that research to figure out how to get something that’s about 2% better than what I can get just by looking around in-game, I’ll pass. Like it or not, the days of every MMO player being a 12-hour-a-day junkie are pretty much over, and MMO companies are starting to realize that the more “hardcore” they make their games, the more likely someone will just go to a different game, of which there are plenty nowadays.

I keep thinking back to an interview I saw with the ArenaNet devs for Guild Wars 2, where they explain that an experience one of their playtesters had. She ran by a big fight and when the devs asked her why later, she said, “because I didn’t have a quest for it.” So, because they wanted people to do those random things popping up all over the place, they made it so you didn’t need quests to do anything. True, GW2 will have dungeons, but they realize that if they want the emphasis to be on open-world events, they’ll make it 99% about open-world events. IMHO, that’s what Rift should have done — if you want to make your game about rifts, MAKE IT ABOUT RIFTS. Don’t just have rifts be a side attraction, while also having quests, dungeons, and a million other distractions that are simpler, quicker, and better understood by fans.

True, I haven’t checked out the update, so I don’t know what Ember Isle’s rifts look like, or what kind of gameplay or rewards they offer. I did read about it, though, and while talk of the puzzles sounds intriguing, the fact that there’s also a clear emphasis on “a new PvP mode (which was mentioned), a new 5-man instance, a new 10-man instance,” serves to reinforce my “wait in a queue” statement. (As an aside, this is why I think MOBAs are becoming popular these days; they’re basically “wait in a queue” MMOs without the RPG aspect.) I know that when I was running random level 50 rifts, my rewards were, some planarite, some gear I didn’t need, and a sourcestone or two, which I could barter for gear that I might need but would have to figure out the 328 different things I needed to get it (slight exaggeration) — much easier to just try and accumulate the stuff I needed to barter for gear in warfronts or dungeons. Unless Ember Isle offers something significantly different, I don’t see how it’ll be any different than any other level 50 zone. It’ll just be new (for a while) and bigger.

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