Faction vs. Faction

It seems like the last week or two of Rift has brough all-new meaning to faction vs. faction… except this time, it’s not Guardians vs. Defiant.

If you listen to the latest Rift podcast, you’ll note that one of the developers mentions that they have now removed the 10-man raid option. That’s not to say that there are no 10-man raids: they are just limited to world bosses and other specific types of content. For the purposes of progression raiding, however, it’s going to be all 20-man, at least at launch. Of course, this puts a crimp in things for small raiding guilds that were planning to make the move over for Rift, but ultimately having only one size of raid makes the raids faster to design & balance, and the gear easier to itemize.

This is an issue where the developers have chosen to make a decision that would put them outside of the current raiding paradigm of The Game That Shall Not Be Named. By removing 10-mans, they are making smaller raiding guilds to make a choice: recruit up to become a 20-man guild, forge a guild alliance with another like-minded 10-man guild, or just pass on Rift altogether.

While I understand that the raid size is an problem for those smaller guilds, at the same time I have to admit that what Trion is doing takes guts. So many people have declared that Rift is a “WoW-clone” (oops, I named it), but the moment that they try doing something different than WoW, they get slammed for it because it’s not convenient. Trion is really in a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t situation here.

And really, should Trion just do whatever The Other Game does just because it’s what people are used to? Or should they do what they feel is best for their game, regardless?

It’s very similar to the PvP vs. PvE controversy, or the hardcore vs. casual controversy. You have two groups of people who are very passionate about their style of gameplay, and both sides hurl the “if you don’t make this game the way I want it I will cancel my pre-order!” sort of petulant childishness far too easily and too frequently. Of course, if you don’t think you will enjoy a game, then don’t play it, but throwing threats and tantrums in-game or on message boards, Facebook, Twitter and the like is just… silly. It doesn’t help your cause in the eyes of the developers, and it doesn’t convince anyone who believes otherwise over to your point of view.

I’m starting to wonder if MMOs really should limit their beta-testing to stress-testing only, only within 2-3 weeks of launch, and only once they have their core game systems in place. If the raid size issue, the open-world PvP issue, and the mob/rift difficulty issue had already been ironed out in alpha and the changes made before it was ever opened up to the public, would these still even be problems?

Something else I’m wondering: Is it even possible for an MMO to cater to two styles of play simultaneously in a way that makes both sides happy? The Other Game has tried to walk that line for years, and while there is content there for both hardcores and casuals, there is also a great deal of animosity between the two. Hardcore folks don’t like their challenge being nerfed or their gear given to casuals. Casuals don’t like that there is content that they aren’t able to complete. It’s looking more and more like Blizzard lost their focus with Cataclysm by trying to cater to both sides and pleasing no one.

And from a larger perspective, what can MMO developers do to solve the issue? Two thoughts come to mind:

A. Choose a segment of the gaming population that they want to satisfy at the start, and keep that segment in mind throughout the design process and through the betas. Want a hardcore game? Keep it hardcore. Want a casual game? Keep it casual. Want big raids? Make big raids. Want open-world PvP? Make open-world PvP… but don’t expect to throw all of the above together and not have the player community at each other’s throats.

B. Step away from the traditional and too-broad-to-be-useful PvE/PvP server types. At this point, if you DO want to make a game with broad appeal to a number of players, then give players multiple types of servers to choose from. Perhaps something along the lines of Hardcore PvE/Hardcore PvP/Casual PvE/Casual PvP, and RP variations of all of those. The Hardcore PvE servers would be progression servers, Casual PvE would be for questers/explorers/crafters. PvP would be the same, but with open world PvP enabled and encouraged.

Just a few rambling thoughts for your Tuesday. Peace folks… remember, games are supposed to be fun! 😉

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