Category Archives: Rift

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! 😉

Rift Beta 6 PvE/PvP Overlap Update

For the past few days there has been a storm brewing on the Rift forums: the overlap between PvE and PvP on PvE servers. Some players felt that the game was designed to allow and even encourage PvP griefing on PvE servers, and wanted NPCs to be unattackable to the opposing faction. Other players felt the servers were fine as-is, and wanted to keep the option of world PvP on PvE servers.

Well folks, Trion heard the pleas of both sides, and tonight Zann released the details of changes made to Beta 6 to address these concerns:

Hi, everyone.

One of the things that got a lot of testing during the most recent beta was the amount of PvP and PvE overlap that people would be experiencing on both PvP and PvE servers. If you played through Scarlet Gorge, you know that’s a great place to see how social dynamics play out.

We like the idea of PvE people being able to progress as they expect, and we also like the idea of PvP objectives for those who choose to take part.

Fortunately, both of those activities have a place in Rift.

For PvE content: We’ll be implementing some changes to PvE quest areas to lower the likelihood of griefing via blocking the opposing side’s PvE progression.

• Wardstones in Quest Camps aren’t supposed to be attackable targets, or provide rewards for defeating them. The rewards on those were a bug that’s been addressed. Those are part of the PvE land control game of rifts and invasions.

• Guard AI behavior was a little less smart than it should have been. We’re improving it such that guards behave much more like an NPC bearing that name would be expected to.

• Guards in PvE areas will prove to be considerably more challenging vs. player targets. They still provide a similar challenge to PvE invasions, but now will be much harder in PvP. We’ll be tuning this over time. Expect to see some first balance out during the next beta.

• The Porticulum Masters in particular have enlisted the help of the Portal Defense Force. When they’re attacked in PvP, you can expect them to put out a call for help over the planar Porticulum network.

For PvP gameplay:

• Expect additional PvP takeover areas across Telara. There are differently-themed, cool-looking wardstones clearly displayed as PvP targets, down to the faction inscriptions on the side. You can see examples of these PvP objectives in Scarlet Gorge.

• To help out with the spawn camping that was occurring in the shared world, Peace of the Grave (the buff granted when choosing to respawn in a graveyard) will now protect you from PvP attacks for 30 seconds, or until you take your first offensive action.

We do enjoy being able to provide gameplay for people who are fans of both types of activities.

At the places where those interests cross over into griefing in one direction or the other, please do expect us to continue tuning to ensure that the griefing potential is kept to a minimum.

– The RIFT Development Team

These changes look like they’ll go a long way in appeasing both sides. I particularly like that Porticulum Masters will be able to call for back-up, and that they’re also adding additional PvP-only takeover points across Telara. They’re adding a little something extra for both PvE and PvP, while at the same time lowering the chances that the two styles of play will overlap or interfere with each other.

More importantly though, this is a perfect example of a game company listening to the feedback of their customers and developing solutions that aren’t heavy-handed, unbalanced, or contrary to the overall game design. This is exactly what players have come to expect from Trion, and as long as they continue addressing issues in this way, they’ll continue to grow a very loyal customer base.

Post of the Snow Day!

Not a whole lot has been going on in blogging-land for me the past couple of weeks, mostly due to my near-death from the plague and subsequent recovery (now with 80% less contaminated grain!). For several days I wasn’t even functional enough to game, and when that happens, you know I’m about two steps away from being tucked into a coffin.

But I’m back, bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, and snowed-in! Whee!

Rift: I’ve been playing it off and on during Beta 5 this week. I’ve taken a bit of a step back from it as I don’t want to do any quests or make any real significant progress in it until launch, to preserve that Fresh New Game Feeling™. I’m still planning on playing it at launch, though I still have some reservations about the game. I’m not sure how much longevity and replayability it’ll have, or if it will really draw players into the game world. That said, it’s a solid game. The devs have poured a lot of thought and work into it and continue to do so, and it has a lot of potential, depending on how committed Trion is to the game and to additional content.

I find myself flip-flopping between the Guardians and the Defiant. Guardians have dwarves and the nicer zones, but the Defiant have a better story with the time-travel factor and a more sympathetic cause. The Rogue and Mage classes are looking the most appealing at the moment; I’m leaning towards Marksman/Ranger/Bard (or Assassin) for the Rogue and Pyromancer/Stormcaller/Dominator for the Mage.

Another factor that I’m still mulling over: PvE or PvP? Traditionally, PvE servers (and preferably RP-PvE) have been my servers of choice, but for Rift it seems like the war between Guardians and Defiant might be fun to participate in. In Warcraft you had characters and factions that called for peace between the two sides, but no such thing exists for Rift that I’ve seen. It’s open hostility all the way. The question is, could I deal with the ganking while leveling? Hm.

I find it odd that I typically play the “good” guys on RP-PvE servers, but for Rift I’m very tempted to go the exact opposite (and yes I know that the Defiant aren’t the “bad” guys, work with me here). Am I losing my mind? Is it the end of the world? Have the flaming squirrels invaded my house? Only time will tell.

LotRO: Miss Paislea the Hobbit Minstrel is growing up, she’s level 48.5 as of this writing. It’s been a slow journey for her, especially since I typically work on her in between breaks in other games, but she’s finally almost to Moria. The one advantage to leveling a character sporadically is that I’ve kept her in Rest XP for the past 20 levels easily, and that means that I’ve been able to skip Forochel in favor of Eregion.

At level 46, just when she ran out of on-level quests in Misty Mountains and Angmar, I ran over to Eregion to start Volume 2 and get my first Legendary Item, which pushed her up to 47 and opened more quests up in Angmar and Misty Mountains, which then got her to 48. It’s been surprising to see just how resilient and survivable War-speech Minstrels are, as she has been able to survive quite a few mobs and quests that my 49 Rune-keeper just could not get through solo.

I think it’s interesting that the more that I play LotRO, the more I find myself wanting to play it. It’s so different from your normal high-fantasy MMO, that at first it can seem almost boring… at least it did to me 3 years ago. But I’ve seen now that it’s amazingly complex. It challenges you to learn new incredibly detailed lore and ways of thinking about advancement in-game, while at the same time slowing you down and emphasizing the journey over the destination. That’s completely opposite to how many MMOs today are designed, and has served LotRO well over the years.

Rift Hype

Over the past couple of days I’ve been catching up on podcasts, including some that have featured Rift prominently. First off is the latest Massively Speaking episode 130 featuring Scott Hartsman, Rift Executive Producer, and Cindy “Abigale” Bowens, Senior Community Manager. Cindy Bowens also made an appearance along with David Reid, Senior VP of Publishing, on the latest episode of The Rift Podcast.

I’ve been really impressed at both the down-to-earth attitudes and the amount of excitement that the Trion folks have about Rift. Sometimes it seems a bit like game developers are bit disconnected from the players, are more concerned about what they can say vs. what they can’t say during interviews, or prefer to bask in the glory of the fan admiration of their players. Granted, there will always be questions that can’t be answered clearly, specifically about future content releases and plans for the game, but overall the Rift folks were very forthcoming about the game and open about their development process, which as a player inspires confidence in the team and the game they are working on. It makes the fans feel like they’re actually part of a game community that listens rather than just being another subscriber to a game service.

Even more noteworthy was the level of excitement these folks had about the game. Even though they are in crunch mode while getting ready for release (you know they’ve got to be putting in some mad hours at the Trion offices these days), the amount of energy and passion for their game was very clear during both of these podcasts. It’s not the over-the-top levels of hype and bravado that Paul Barnett and company had during the WAR launch, but it seems like a genuine enthusiasm and pride for the game that they have put together.

Overall the publicity machine for Rift has been just about on the right level. The WAR launch was the most hyped MMO launch I’ve ever seen; perhaps WoW was hyped more due to Blizzard’s size and reputation, but I wasn’t really watching such things in those days. Everyone (including Mythic) predicted that WAR was going to be the great WoW-killer, and there was no way that any game could have lived up to that amount of hype.

Rift is making no such claims of WoW-killerness, despite the tongue-in-cheek “We’re not in Azeroth anymore” reference in their TV spot. Overall their marketing has been surprisingly low-key. This is a good thing: they can launch the game and build their subscriber numbers up after the fact, cutting out their slice of the MMO-industry pie on their own terms.

That said, will Rift be a sleeper hit? My prediction is that they’ll end up with a good-sized userbase, probably larger than LotRO but certainly smaller than WoW. I think a good number of those folks will be current WAR players, a lot of bored and burned-out WoW players, and various folks from other games. The real question is how will Rift hold up once Guild Wars 2 and Star Wars: TOR come out? I can’t imagine that their team isn’t looking at solutions to overcome those hurdles down the road.

**See the female dwarf in the picture above? She’s actually cute! Squee!

Rift Graphics/Gameplay Trailer

Here’s a fan-made, high-def video of Rift by Fenlock56 to demonstrate what the game looks like on the highest settings. Turn it up to the 1080p setting for maximum goodness. It shows parts of the game world primarily on the Guardians side, with quite a few shots of the Guardian headquarters, Sanctum.

My big issue with the graphics at this point is that it doesn’t appear that they have a setting for AA (anti-aliasing). Because of that you do get some jagged edges on your character and it ends up interfering with the immersion factor, in my opinion. I can only assume that they are still optimizing the graphics and that AA will be put in before launch.

Into the Rift

Yesterday afternoon, inspired by an incredibly busy twitter feed and plenty of word-of-mouth, I pre-ordered Rift, the new MMO by Trion Worlds, so that I could jump into the Beta 4 this weekend. I’ve been watching it with idle curiosity for a while now, and I wasn’t really looking for a new MMO since I’ve been playing both WoW and LotRO, but it sounded like the dynamic rift-play might be an interesting diversion.

And Rift definitely delivers that.

I’m not going to proclaim it as the heir to the WoW throne, but it IS a good little MMO from what I’ve seen so far. Trion should be very proud of what they’ve accomplished. Just a few notes on Rift:

Graphics: If you mixed Warhammer Online and Aion, you’d probably about have it. It’s a very pretty game, the colors are rich (but not overly bright, a la WoW) and the art is high fantasy with a bit of futuristic flair. It does seem to have an overall darker feel, there’s an element of danger and desperation that you don’t really get in WoW or most other fantasy MMOs on the market. It doesn’t look like anti-aliasing is in the game yet, it’s still a bit jagged for my tastes.

Character models look very good. Yes, you can actually make a pretty female Dwarf, and that makes me very happy. I originally intended on rolling a Kelari, which is the elf race on the Defiant side, but I was completely won over by the Eth and the Bahmi on that side instead… both of which can look beautiful and/or badass. On the Guardian side, I particularly like the Dwarves and, of all things, the Humans (which I rarely ever like in MMOs) so it looks like I’ll be joining the No Elves Club in Rift. The hair and other customization options are a bit unusual in that they seem very influenced by an futuristic or cyberpunk aesthetic… some of the options are fairly edgy. But the game itself is a mix of high fantasy and technology, so it works within the world that Trion has created.

Classes: You have the standard Warrior, Mage, Rogue, and Cleric classes, with a twist: Within each class, you can choose several sub-classes (called souls), each with varying abilities and functions, and mix and match them to your heart’s content. You could be an all-out DPS Elementalist/Pyromancy/Stormcaller mage, or a support mage with Domination (crowd-control)/Archon (support)/Chloromancy (healing) build. You could be a traditional melee DPS rogue, or you can mix in being a bard with support buffs. Or you could even be a ranged/melee rogue, using a ranged weapon to build up combo points and then using finishing moves in melee. You could choose to max out your points in one soul and be a specialist, or you could spread them out over multiple souls and be a hybrid.

Choices are always good. Rift has plenty of choices.

Combat: It’s swift and responsive, with a short global cooldown and no perceived lag in the timing of skillcasts. It plays very much like WoW in that respect, it feels tight and natural. Character animations are very good, they’re fun and slightly over-the-top in a way that makes it interesting to watch. If you like lots of shiny spells and special effects, Rift has them. I particularly like the Assassin stealth effect; your character becomes completely transparent with a dark purple shadowy glow.

Crafting: It’s too early to tell. Right now I have three gathering professions, mining, foraging (herbs & wood), and butchering (skins). I haven’t seen much about the production professions that go along with those, so it’s too soon to review them.

Gameplay: First, there is a decent tutorial instance. There are only two tutorials, one for Guardians and one for Defiant. I camet out of it at level 5, but it had still taken me about an hour & a half, although I think it could be done much faster the second time around. You are most definitely on rails during the tutorial, picking up 2-3 quests at a time, doing hem, reading the little pop-ups that show you what is going on. It’s a good tutorial, if a little boring; great for MMO newbies, but probably not needed for MMO veterans.

After the tutorial instance, the world really opens up. You zone into yet another quest hub, but when I did it, there were several rifts close-by so I ran directly to the rifts and started playing. If you played Warhammer Online and remember their public quests, these are very similar, but there seem to be a lot more rifts than there ever were WAR public quests. Plus the locations of the rifts and the types of mobs will vary throughout the game. A new rift could pop up anywhere, so it would be advisable to only log-out in towns/safe areas… otherwise you would risk spawning into a rift.

I accepted the quests, but then I went running after rifts. It seems like it will be very possible to play the game off-the-rails by exploration, participating in rifts, and questing when you’re in an area close to the quests. More gameplay will be necessary to confirm this, but if it’s true, I think it’ll be a nice break from most other MMOs on the market. My only concern is exactly how MUCH content is there. Right now the cap in beta is level 27, supposedly it will be 50 at launch. I think most of us remember Age of Conan, which was fantastic from 1-20, but didn’t continue that quality of content after level 20, and so I remain a bit cautious.

Polish: Everything is working and there are very few bugs (I saw just a few minor things with chat settings functionality, which I reported). They were having some issues with one of the rift events when I was logged in, but the GMs were communicating with players in-game and assured us that they would be getting that fixed. The UI looks great and has tons of customization options right off the bat. Everything feels very smooth and seamless, and there hasn’t been very much lag in my experience. In my opinion, the game could release today (assuming they had the level 27-50 content ready to go) and it would be in far better shape than many MMOs currently on the market.

I also have to say this about Trion: so far their customer service has been excellent. I pre-ordered the game yesterday afternoon and as of 6pm or so, still hadn’t received a beta key or the automatic upgrade on my account. I sent them a message through their customer service site and within 20 minutes got a response back with a beta key. I’m very impressed by the response time and the level of service considering that I usually end up waiting for 2-3 days or more in other games.

Overall, I’m very happy with my decision to pre-order Rift, and I’ll be looking forward to future betas and the release. It’s not exactly next-gen, but it is different enough from other games on the market to be a successful and lasting game.