Saturday, January 1, 2011

How to Have Fun in Rift

This is something written a few weeks ago during CB2. Once those forums went down, I had someone asking me if I still had a copy of it, and sadly, since it was just a one off thing, I didn't. With the beta forums back up for CB3, I am taking the opportunity to put it here since this place will always be around on the internets. I have updated it with some other thoughts, noted in this nice grapeish purple color. Otherwise, everything will remain the same. 


Welcome, to what is essentially an article on my opinions regarding this game. There is no TL;DR. I am going to write this as if I were writing an article for Ace of Grapes. I am putting it here because after the first event, the argument of Old vs New is going to start up all over again. Rather than go around to each thread, I will do it once. People may take from this whatever they like. This article is my opinion, and my creative expression. I am not telling you what to do, or telling you what to think. I only offer my thoughts.

I really look forward to the release of this game. Not because I think it matches the literal definition of all the buzz words people throw around like "innovative", "next gen", and "groundbreaking", but because it is a game that I find very easy to sit down with and enjoy.

But there are other buzz words. Words like "hand holding" and "on rails" and "WoW clone". While I won't address the absurdity of "WoW clone" as a term, I'll still address the "hand holding" and "on rails" just briefly. Even though I have been doing so for a while with the quote in my signature from CB1. 

If you don't want your hand to be held, then let go. I've been seeing people complain about how this game is too formulaic, it's too straight forward, it's too simple. Well, that's because MMOs are not that complicated. Things like a minimap, things like shiny icons over various heads, and all the other convenience features that have changed the face of the genre are things that really do not need to interfere with your enjoyment of the game. 

It is my personal belief that anyone who finds themselves too easily guided by the glowing lights and pointing arrows, is perfect proof that those systems are designed very well. After all, these are the same people lamenting about how easy the game is. So clearly, these convenience features are doing what they are supposed to do. They are making the game all kinds of convenient. 

It doesn't mean that these people are wrong, however. The game -is- easy. That is something I hope Trion addresses over the course of the next 4 events. While those of the EQ era won't find the Guks and Unrests that were so great, it doesn't mean Rift has to be so easy for everyone in general. It's easier for some soul builds than it is for others... but still. A mob of your level won't really kill you unless you're not paying attention... I'd like that changed.

The questions that come to mind for me, are these;

Why did you log in to do that?

Is that fun? 

Did you really want to hop into the world of Telara to follow a bunch of arrows and nothing more?

Then you're going to complain that the game lacks immersion, adventure, and challenge, because the pointy arrows didn't give them to you?

Well you certainly didn't log into EverQuest to follow a bunch of arrows around now did you?

So why are you logging into Rift to do that and then complaining when the arrows do their job?

The reason the MMOs have become so formulaic, is because the reasons why we play them have never changed. We look forward to Guild Wars 2, Tera, Blade and Soul and others, for the exact same reasons. We have enjoyed games like Mass Effect, Dragon Age, Oblivion and others, for the exact same reasons. We loved EverQuest, Dark Age of Camelot, StarWars: Galaxies, Neverwinter Nights, Baldur's Gate, Icewind Dale, and others, for the exact same reasons. Notice, not all of those are MMOs. The point of that is to illustrate that MMOs aren't the only games who present that formula to us, and aren't the only ways to enjoy them.

MMOs are not complicated. We are not hard to market to. 

We're just hard to please. 

It gets even worse as time goes by and the genre continues to evolve, because more and more people feel themselves entitled to sit on the "Old School" chair and harp on about the good old days and how, "Gamers these days just want things handed to them, blah blah blah...". Just think, in 5 years, anyone who started playing WoW is an "MMO Veteran" too. And while I don't say that because there is anything wrong with reminiscing about the old days (I came from there, I do it all the time), I do say it because "Old School" doesn't have to mean you forget how to have fun in the first place. There is no Alzheimer's in the old age home of MMO veterans... still, so many act like it.

But, I digress.

The MMOs of old did not have these distractions, so the questions of "Where do I go?" and "What do I do?" were the only things in our minds. That's why we felt so free in those games, because they didn't exactly have the arrows to answer those questions for us. 

I will let you in on a little secret though... those arrows are not the only answer.

Remember that, "Where do I go?" and "What do I do?" They're still there in our heads. You can ask yourself those questions like Pippi Longstocking does every morning and act on them. If you pay less attention to the quest log and mini map, the world of Telara is a beautiful place to run around in. 

I will make one concession about things I wish this game did better. The cave systems in this game need to be bigger, and full of more random things. They don't have to be anything important, although if you want to reward my spelunking with an elite mob and a shiny weapon that both won't spawn again for a day or two, that would be nice. In reference to the games above, it's the exact same reason why Minecraft is so addictive. 

At the same time however, I can look objectively at my wishes for this game and understand Minecraft has amazing tunnels for a reason. Because it looks like Minecraft. I don't want Rift to look like that, so I understand they can't necessarily have and populate an entire warren under the ground full of nothing but dark space, and speckled with mobs that really, at the end of the day, don't mean anything. The mobs in Minecraft certainly don't. 

Silverwood was a fantastic place. It honestly felt huge. While that feeling is certainly subjective, I know how to enjoy myself in an MMO. I know that for me to start at one end of Silverwood, and run to the other on foot, would take me quite some time. Anyone from the "Old School" remember how long the Qeynos to Freeport trip took? It took about 20-30 minutes. Running from one end of Silverwood to the other? Well, I don't think it would take 20-30 minutes, but for being only one zone in the game, that is quite a decent size. I also enjoyed the fact that the entire map didn't have an oval path like Freemarch did. The best part however, is Overwatch Keep. Mainly because Silverwood does not tell you, "go here to get your souls" like Freemarch did. Not until you actually do all the quests in that area do you finally see that the end presents you with the option to choose your third. I noticed a lot more people asking, "Where do I get my 3rd soul?" than I did in the first beta event. These people did not know where to go. Getting lost is a good thing.

That has changed somewhat, by the way. With CB3, you can pick whatever soul you'd like, each time you are given a chance to pick one. Further, you now get an extra point every 3 levels (but still can't put more points into a soul than your current character level) for a total of 66 in the end. You also get 3 souls by the time you leave the starter area (about level 7 or 8), which I personally think is a touch too soon, but there's more than enough time to fix that.

I also came to appreciate the classes very much this event. I had a lot more fun with them than I did in CB1, and I think the general reworks and changes were a huge asset to that. There is still work to be done, but at the end of the day you will never please everyone anyway. I don't think a majority opinion of "balanced" exists outside of StarCraft 1. We can talk about how easy a 3 faction game like DAoC is to balance when the 3 factions are left to their own devices for allying/turning against each other, but that is an entirely separate argument all together. 

My experiences with getting a Warrior to 20 and a Cleric to 19 were all kinds of fun. In fact, I had even more fun the second time around with my Cleric, because I had the same idea for a character I wanted to build (melee dps), and was able to build it in an entirely different way.... which leads me to how I feel about the viability of this soul system. 

Yet another thing that people can never seem to agree on.

I want you to think about the most favorite character you've ever had in your experiences of playing RPGs. Any RPG. MMO, single player, any of them. Chances are, you can recreate that play style in this game. Note, I said you would be able to recreate the play style. I didn't say you'd be able to recreate the character or its mechanics. And that is ultimately what Rift's soul system offers me. A chance to build play styles within 4 different callings. Each calling has their trinity...

Warrior & Rogue: They can tank. They can dps (ranged or melee). They can support.
Cleric: They can heal. They can dps (ranged or melee). They can tank.
Mage: They can heal. They can dps. They can support/CC.

The reason Mages can't tank, is the same reason Mage dps is all ranged. It's also the same reason Warriors cannot heal, and why Rogues can only heal a little bit (Bards).

That is how I look at the callings. The individual soul names do not matter, because I'm not creating this character just to put 51 points into one thing and be done. My warrior was very capable in her melee dps role, and yet within the same build  I could also snare someone (at range too), and kite them with a ranged attack, closing when I wanted to use my attack points into a melee finisher. Is she the most durable mdps I've ever had? No. But no matter which game you play, mobile DPS isn't supposed to be all that durable by default. On the other hand, my Cleric was not only melee dps, but she was quite durable (and could be kited - till 18 anyway). I had issues creating a Battle Cleric in CB1, however I learned more about the souls and adjusted my setup to more closely reflect what I wanted my character to play like. Could she smash things as quick as my warrior? It certainly felt like it. Which it should. I built DPS characters. When it came to dueling, I met other players I could completely dominate on both characters, I also had duels on both characters where I was absolutely destroyed.

That is how it should be in every class system.

I can't wait until CB3.

Ultimately, does the game have faults? Well, if you consider convenience features a fault, then sure, it has plenty. At the same time however, I don't play MMOs to follow arrows around. That didn't stop me from making excellent use of them, though. I would set my way point, and then I would basically just go out into the world killing things on my way to said points. If I got distracted and lost my way and had to turn back, sure it sets me back further from my initial objective, but the fact that I got distracted and ended up further away than where I had intended tells me that while I was out in the world I was able to get lost in it - because I am capable of not just running a straight line like an arrow would suggest. I don't mind ending up further away from my quest area if it means I encounter a rift along the way, and get to run around bashing on those mobs in as awesomely a manner as I possibly can.

I had all kinds of fun kiting footholds and invasions until it was safe to close in and swing my axe as a Warrior.

I also had all kinds of fun charging into those same foodholds and invasions with a shield over myself, a hot ticking, and a big warhammer in my hands ready to Battle Cleric my way to victory.

The amount of changes Trion has done is commendable. Their quick responses to the issues I had in game with the bugs I reported was also impressive (less than an hour, for me). Their guiding hand in increasing the spawn rates of rifts and invasions and footholds through out the world on the fly is something I very much look forward to, even if 1 year down the line what I see as "new" and "interactive" becomes scripted to happen every weekend in lowbie areas because the dev team is off monitoring the population of 50s and spawning rifts on them while they try to world PvP... or spawning a ton of invasions that all head directly for Meridian/Sanctum for those who don't like to PvP at all.

Ultimately, I am very pleased. I was able to sit down and enjoy a beautiful game. However, I was only able to do so because I did not let the shiny icons and pointy arrows answer, "What shall I do today?" for me. It's how I prefer to play, having EQ be my first experience. There is all kinds of growth available for this game. It seriously looks like it has the foundation and framework to certainly provide me with a lot of fun.

Then again, I don't allow my fun to be dictated to me by arrows.

So maybe even though we're both in Telara, we're not quite playing the same game.

In the thread, I had one or two people comment that it seemed like I was having fun in spite of the game itself. Truth be told, this article was given that slant on purpose to address all the QQ of people who expected this game to be like EQ and going on and on about the things that made EQ great. 

Sadly, unless EQNext is more than just marketing jargon, I really don't think any MMO will ever provide the level of difficulty that EQ once did. I'm also of the opinion that that's a good thing. While EQ's difficulty was nice, and the social game (aka, forced to group because you'd die otherwise) was also neat... I'm not entirely sure the genre should go back in that direction. You don't need areas like those to meet new people or group with strangers. You really don't.

When EverQuest was out, there was nothing else to compete with it.

None of us knew any better.

And as everyone knows, "We always remember our first time..."


  1. I've just stumbled onto your blog in the last few days, and have only just become aware of RIFT really. The hype-o-meter has finally reached me. Thanks for your posts. I look forward to playing this one- any info you have on the PVP would be welcome though I realize its only just been added to the testing equation. Cheers!

  2. Hi, I have not been in the beta yet, but from what I've seen the open world PvE really seems way too simple. While fighting an invasion people should simply "wipe", if they don't cooperate. And just fighting the same rift is not "grouping up" for me.

    My experience form streams and videos is that all the people jump the boss, when dead they respawn, the boss' animation resembles a stun lock. I've seen people battling one boss for 40 minutes. That simply shouldn't happen and I hope they do something about it (easier to wipe, but less HP so that it takes +/- 5 minutes...).

    About the missing roles in every calling, what I'd like to see is not just tank/healer/dps/support, but:
    Single/AoE/magical tank, single melee/single ranged/AoE melee/AoE ranged dps, single/AoE/Hot healer, CC/buffer support, ideally resulting in 3 "top specialists" per calling.

    The trick is that the best magical tank should be a mage, but a warrior would be better as AoE tank and a rogue as a single target tank. There wouldn't be the best tank and the best dps, you'd have to consider the encounter. I really like the idea of a boss fight when tanks are altering, just think about 3 different tanks at one moment, all of them best at something. So to manage some epic battle you could use a variety of builds, but it wouldn't be the 3 identical tanks, but 3 specialised tanks, and so on....
    In combination with some decent difficulty system (look at DDO, it offers Casual, Normal, Hard, Elite, and Epic difficulty) you could allow the cleric tank (jack of all trades) do any encounter, the mage tank the 1v1 encounter, but you could ramp up the difficulty and make it more interesting....

    I'm talking about this because I don't think every soul has to be viable, that the warrior tank should do as well as the rogue tank, but they should work a little bit differently. That way a newbie asking "who's the best tank now" won't get a definite answer, but he would be able to choose according to his play style, while still being the best at what he does.

    I hope this wasn't too off topic. I like what you said about the enjoyment being a part of our mindset, I myself am really hard to please and I don't really try to accept the games as they are and just enjoy them. When I see a problem that could be fixed but isn't, I see a missed opportunity to make even better game, and it drives me crazy if people still love the game (for example Mass Effect 1 and 2, so many production holes, but for the majority those are 10/10 games). But I'd love to be able to just chill, just enjoy what I have.

    I don't know if this is common, but I do hope that people will settle down once the game is out, and the forums will be less "flamy".