Let’s do the Time Rift Again!
RIFT Beta Impressions, Part 1

By Josh
on Feb 14, 2011
Filed under:
Game Reviews

RIFT: Planes of Telara. I have to admit, right out the gate here, that I haven’t really been following RIFT at all. Trion Worlds even had a booth at PAX back in September, but there was so much stuff to do at PAX, and I didn’t see anything there that piqued my interest, so we didn’t visit it. This ignorance held true until about a week ago, when Jarenth, a certain Twenty Sided fan and friend of mine, tossed me a key for the RIFT closed-beta.

The one thing I did know about the game before playing it was that it had built up something of a dubious reputation of late in that one of the game’s tag-lines is “We’re not in Azeroth anymore!” despite appearing, for all intents and purposes, to be heavily derivative of WoW. Now I’m not really much of a Warcraft player; I’ve tried the free trial once or twice, but it never really grabbed me like it seems to have for so many other people. I’ve only really learned to dislike it by proxy – simply because so many other studios seem so intent on ripping off copying the WoW formula. Badly.

Plus, I’m kind of addicted to Guild Wars.

I think I need professional help.
I think I need professional help.

So I’m not exactly the best person to iterate for you, in detail, just how much RIFT borrows from the proverbial Warcraft pot. Even so, the resemblance was uncanny, even to me. In particular, the interface was rather obviously similar (Jarenth went farther to call it “an exact copy” of WoW’s) and the combat did nothing but conjure up memories of my last WoW trial. And as far as I played, the quest structure was exactly the same as well: Talk to NPC, go to field, kill rats, bring back rat macguffins, punch quest designer in face.

Erm, maybe not that last one…

So the game is similar to WoW. A lot. Not to say that there is anything inherently bad with deriving your core game mechanics from the industry leader, but I still can’t help but feeling I’ve played this game before in a dozen other games. That said; derivative, vanilla MMO mechanics and gameplay isn’t really the whole story here, which is something I’ll get to later on.

Anyway, last weekend the beta servers opened up for the sixth RIFT beta event. After a brief patching process I launched the client and got my first taste of RIFT lore. The story, as far as I’ve been able to glean from Jarenth, the opening cinematic, and quest text that I didn’t bother to read, is that Telara (the game world) was created be the gods at a nexus point in the “planes” (which I assume refers to dimensional planes or something along those lines). But evil… um… demons? Baddies? I don’t know, some evil dudes didn’t like that or something and sent armies of minions to conquer Telara, and the gods gave special powers to some of the Telaran inhabitants whom became “ascendants” to fight the evil guys.

Actually, now that I think about it, this sounds a lot like the backstory of Diablo…

Anyway, the ascendants formed the “Guardian” faction. A separate group of more technologically-inclined Telarans who came to be called “Defiants” built machines to fight the evil minions – but this apparently offended the Guardians or something so they broke all of the machines. And then the Guardians went and screwed up anyway and Telara was reduced to a barren wasteland with a single settlement remaining to be conquered, so the Defiants created their own ascendants through the power of SCIENCE! and then outdid even that by building a time machine so they could send the ascendants back to a time when the world didn’t look like the inside of my (well used) coffee mug.

Gee I wonder which side I’m gonna pick…

So Jarenth and I rolled Defiants, with my initial choice being the Warrior class, and this is where I got my first taste of one of RIFT’s unique mechanics. In RIFT, none of the classes have any base skills. Instead, you pick from a pool of class-specific “souls” that act sort of like a talent tree. You gain talent points every level and spend them on passive stat increases for your soul’s skills (5% more likely to cause x affect, all fire abilities have 1% higher critical chance, that sort of thing). And as you spend points on that soul’s bonus trees, you unlock skills to use from that soul’s skill tree.

The kicker here is that you can have three souls at a time, and there are no restrictions on what souls you can use or combine with one another. Therefore, despite the game being “class” based, it feels a lot more diverse and open than the average class-based MMO.

That said, I still have some reservations. I’m concerned about how difficult such an open system will be to balance. Since each of the classes have a wide range of offensive-, defensive-, and support-based options, what happens when someone just stacks offense and defense on one character to create an invincible murder machine? Despite being so open, a system like this could easily lead to the blandest of cookie-cutter builds that are an absolute must to compete in high-level PvE and PvP.

The other issue I noticed is that, from what I could see in my (admittedly limited) playtime, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of cross-soul skill interplay. Skills have plenty of synergy inside their own soul trees, but outside of them there only seems to be minor interplay involved, mostly when both souls use the same resource for powering skills. If this observation holds true, then it’s a major missed opportunity. One of my favorite things about Guild Wars (another game with a class system that is incredibly difficult to keep balanced) was the crazy things you could do with skills from different professions.

One build I used in particular for my Elementalist used a glyph skill to instantly cast meteor shower, effectively the most powerful AOE damage-over-time spell in the game because it combines high damage with consistent knockdowns, but heavily limited by a five second cast time and minute-long recharge. The downside of using that glyph is that it adds an additional thirty seconds to the recharge of the skill it’s used on. However, I would then use an assassin elite hex spell that would instantly recharge all of my skills (including itself) if an enemy died under its effects, negating the downside of both the glyph and meteor shower. In essence, the combination allowed me to spam instant meteor showers nearly indefinitely. It was all part of the fun of Guild Wars’ skill system – finding those insane combinations that allowed you to pull off otherwise impossible feats.

And I suppose if they’re already going for a difficult-to-balance system, why not go all out, right?

Man, when I started this post, I was planning on just writing a little “Hey I played a bit of this,” blurb and throwing in some funny screenshots. You may have noticed a lack of funny screenshots – because I haven’t even gotten to the fun yet. And I’m already pushing the word limit that Shamus likes to keep for individual posts, so keep an eye out tomorrow for Let’s do the Time Rift Again: RIFT Beta Impressions, Part 2!

But just because I feel bad leaving you without any funny screenshots, here’s a little taste of tomorrow’s post:

I think this post bored my Skeletal Horror. Bored him TO DEATH!  HAHAHAHAHA!
I think this post bored my Skeletal Horror. Bored him TO DEATH! HAHAHAHAHA!

Truly, my wit is a force that cannot be matched by mortal means.

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From the Archives:

  1. Josh R says:

    I don’t know if anyone has tried it but that screenshot looks awfully similar to Rappelz.

    I don’t see the draw of this game, with so many anticipated MMOs on the way (tera, TOR, GW2) I can’t see this staying subscription for long.

    1200 hours is a long time to play, but it is over a decent amount of time. I built up nearly 350 hours over the first two months that I owned the game. (unemployment ftl) but then went on holiday and never really got back into the game.

    • Richard says:

      Well… Rift doesn’t do a lot of original stuff, but it feels pretty polished overall.

      I’m still not entirely sold on it (it’s yet to show that it can distinguish itself from the competition), but it definitely has potential.

      For now, I’m sticking with WoW.

    • krellen says:

      The screenshot actually looks an awful lot like a quest location in the Trollshaws in LotRO. Take out the UI and the skeleton and I’d think it was LotRO.

      • Bodyless says:

        Thats because so many MMOs just copy WoWs UI. 99% of the mmos i tried had wows interface and the other 1% consist of eve online and mmos older than wow.

        • Aldowyn says:

          @krellen That’s not a bad thing necessarily. LotRO is a pretty game.

          Rappelz looks fairly nice, considering it’s fairly old at this point…

          The UI is to a point where that’s basically just the basic MMO UI. Shucks, lots of single player RPGs have a very similar one – character portraits and status top left, minimap top right, skills at the bottom. (Plus chat in the bottom left for MMOs)

          • Kdansky says:

            Despite having your health bar in the corner of the screen being atrociously impractical…

            Also note that Rifts uses the same default shortcuts for info panes, even if the panes are named differently. (Skills vs Talents and so on)

        • Justme says:

          As a player of the Rift beta, I hear stuff like this at least 5 times a play session. I even see it in other games.

          WoW WAS NOT THE FIRST MMO. Please understand this. As other comments point out, this is more or less the default UI for MMOs these days and it was NOT pioneered by WoW. Just cause WoW or EQ are the most popular does NOT make them the first to offer the features they offer. This includes UI.

  2. You haven’t been reading the quest text? That’s the best part! It’s so over-the-top and bombastic that it’s laughable.

    And not in a good way.

    Leslee

  3. Piflik says:

    So…when will you be starting your own blog? :p

    • Irridium says:

      He is. He’s starting his own blog on Shamus’s blog. Soon he’ll post more, and eventually take it over for himself.

      • krellen says:

        I really like that Josh makes posts like this on Shamus’s blog. I sort of wish Rutskarn didn’t have his own blog, and that Mumbles had more to say about video games or table-top RPGs, because all of this just means more content for Twenty-sided fans.

        Imagine, instead of waiting for Shamus to have something interesting to say and make a post, that we had a post a day – non-Spoiler Warning related – by having each of the SW cast make one post a week on some random related topic. Would it not be glorious?

  4. Irridium says:

    Oh goodie, another WoW-like MMO. Just what we need…

    I was going to try it out, since I got a key and all, but upon learning it was a weekend-only event I figured it wasn’t worth the time to download it.

  5. Jennifer Snow says:

    “Truly, my wit is a force that cannot be matched by mortal means.”

    Yes. Exceeded, often. But never matched.

  6. Tom Wilson says:

    I did a short piece on Rift as well. Some of the WoW copying I can see as part of the evolving UI conventions that a lot of games since WoW have employed. But other parts are an embarrassingly direct ripoff.

    That’s a shame, because there’s some interesting new ideas there. I liked the class system and the ubiquitous public quests (aka Rifts).

    But my overall impression was that unless you’re an MMO veteran, you will likely be utterly lost in this game. Even if you are a veteran, it’s a bit chaotic.

    You can’t become as accessible as WoW by just copying their UI graphic-for-graphic. There’s a lot more to it than that. There’s pacing, quest design, and the measured unfolding of abilities over time. Maybe their business plan is just to peel off experienced players from other games, but that’s not how WoW got to be so big. If you’re shooting for that level of success I think you have to be more accessible.

    On the other hand, Rift doesn’t feel like it’s intensionally going for an experienced niche like, say, Darkfall.

    I get the feeling with Rift that we’re far enough into the lifespan of MMOs that designers are either assuming a certain familiarity with genre conventions (UI, questing, etc) or it just hasn’t occurred to them that those conventions aren’t obvious.

  7. Jamey Johnston says:

    Interesting, I have observed several of the same things being a longtime Guild Wars player and trying out Rift. It’s a neat concept, but the ball was really dropped (IMO) by still segregating the souls by { Warrior, Rogue, Cleric, Mage }

    Very disappointed by the lack of cross-tree combination possibilities. The character I tried in Beta 5 was also a Warrior: Paladin, Warlord, Beastmaster. Most points in Paladin, few in Warlord, 0 in Beastmaster (just took it to have the pet as fodder). But the Paladin having many abilities keyed off of blocking made Warlord obvious because it also has good block increases.

    The problem as I see it?

    The end game will either be full of things that anyone with a few points in a “Tanky” soul will be able to tank, allowing for good combo builds to work (and for anyone who “double-tanks” it will be cake)

    OR

    The end game will be full of things that only pure (2-3 Tank souls together) tanks can tank (defeating the whole point of souls just about)

    Yes, it’s going to be a tricky balancing act for Rift on the road ahead.

  8. plosnati says:

    You’ve never gotten to lvl80/85 with a character in WoW, have you? (been following your WoW-related posts a bit on and off)
    The quests in Cataclysm are really a LOT more interesting than in the earlier games. You even got short “cutscenes” of sorts in some of them.
    Would be cool if you checked out the new Cataclysm zones once. Would be interesting to read about your opinion. :)

    *edit: Just realized this wasn’t one of Shamuses posts. Oops :P

  9. Mori Gryphon says:

    Certainly for someone that has primarily played WoW as a ‘typical’ MMO, Rift has similarities. However, it does, in fact, take a great deal more inspiration from Warhammer Online. It has randomly timed zone events and public quest-type activities that are a significant part of the game. -I’ve- never seen anything like that in WoW… The UI that your friend attributes to WoW is also much more of a direct descendant from WAR, especially if you go into the interface customization screen, and I don’t believe the ability to enter a PvP battleground from anywhere was in WoW, at least last time I was playing it. If I remember rightly from conversation I heard during the beta, the ‘sparklies’ on the ground (which turn into sets of artifact that lead into more of the lore, for the most part) are an idea that comes from EQ2.

    I’m not saying that you have to like the game, or any of that, but I am so blasted SICK of people attributing every repeated MMO design feature to WoW. “It has quests! It has crafting! It has spells! It’s JUST LIKE WOW!” The core game mechanics OF WOW were derived from other games. In my opinion, Rift has taken interesting elements from a number of games that are or were on the market, added its own lore and some really interesting ideas, and come up with something that certainly shows its roots, but is sufficiently different from all of them.

    • Ian says:

      Yeah, you can queue for a battleground from any location in WoW. The only exception was Wintergrasp, the world PvP zone featured in Wrath of the Lich King. Tol Barad, in Cataclysm, probably works the same way, but I’m not entirely sure. I’m not much of a PvPer.

      The only caveat is that you remain flagged for 5 minutes after leaving the battleground, so if you’re in a particularly PvP-heavy area you could wind up getting nuked, even on a PvE realm. Kind of silly, really.

      Regarding the UI, after doing a bit of Google image searching, I find it surprising how many MMOs use that exact same interface configuration. I guess it works pretty well for most people!

    • Josh says:

      Well, I didn’t actually play Warhammer, so WoW is really the best comparison I have from that perspective. And as I noted, I’m not really much of a WoW player either so most of the comparisons are of the “this feels a lot like what I remember from WoW,” variety.

      I’ll admit, the quest design gripe is probably something I should attribute to MMOs in general rather than just WoW, because kill-ten-rats quests are older than MUDs.

      • Strangeite says:

        You young whipper-snappers with your techno-gobbley-gook computer games.

        Back in the good ‘ol days, we had to kill ten rats using only pen and paper and dice. While rolling said dice up hill, in the snow, on shag carpet.

        The entry threshold for being a geek these days is simply much too low.

      • Alexander The 1st says:

        I recently played a non-MMO RPG that actually played on that – your first quest never gets completed until the end of the story…and sort of not quite even then. It’s a little more complicated then “kill ten rats”, but it’s still a fetch quest that goes *HORRIBLY* wrong. Could’ve been implemented better in the game, but I’d love to see that in an MMORPG; you start off with a Newbie quest, complete 9/10th’s of it, then a cutscene kicks in, and you get taken to the real-game, and you’re stuck seeing that incompleted task as a quest at the top of your list, and you can’t get the last part until you do every other quest.

        ***SPOILER BELOW***

        If you’re interested, the game in particular I was talking about is Golden Sun: Dark Dawn.

      • Jarenth says:

        To be fully honest, a large part of your ‘this is like WoW’-vibe might have been caused by me harping on and on about how much RIFT is like WoW on Vent, and Shamus laughing and agreeing.

  10. Ian says:

    When I saw the interface, I thought it was a slightly modded WoW interface. I mean, there’s inspiration and then there’s just plain ripping off.

    Let’s see. Buff/debuff bar is identical. Party frames appear to be identical. Minimap and quest tracker are both in the same place. Character name and description text (i.e. “Baby Blizzard Bear “) is exactly the same, albeit in a different default font. Tutorial blurbs are indicated in the same way (a question mark above the pet bar), and there are different primary action bars available (and if you tell me that there are a total of six available, I’m going to go nuts).

    As for differences? Well, let’s see…the bags are arranged from left-to-right as opposed to right-to-left. The amount of currency that the player has isn’t buried in the backpack, the main action bar is centered rather than being location on the left, and the system options are on the far left as opposed to slightly right-of-center. Oh, and there aren’t gryphons flanking the bottom bar.

    That being said, if that lock button does what I think it does (i.e. lock the action bar), then they did bring one excellent idea to the table. WoW has a feature to lock the action bars, but it’s buried in the interface menu and is inconvenient to change, especially as you level (thankfully, there are addons that make up for that deficiency. Dominos, for instance, lets you lock the action bars but override the lock at any time by holding shift while dragging).

    As for the rest, the open class system sounds intriguing, but, like you, I’m skeptical as to how well it’s actually going to work. I remember Guild Wars practically changing weekly, and even Blizzard basically gave up on a complex talent tree system with Cataclysm (incidentally, it’s much harder for beginners to make silly mistakes when assigning talents, as I’m sure every WoW player did on their first toon…I still miss frost DK tanking, though).

    • Mori Gryphon says:

      The change in WoW to not allow most of my preferred specs is one of the things that drove me the rest of the way off from it. It -so- limits what you can do with a class spec and utterly kills what little speck of personalization that actually -mattered- in playing the game WoW had left….

      • Ian says:

        Outside of a few particularly innovative specs, very few people deviated from the cookie cutter specs that you can find on Elitist Jerks. It wasn’t just about them being mathematically sound, you could actually notice an incredible difference between a good and bad spec.

        That being said, it’s not like every semblance of choice has been axed. I’ve been playing a paladin tank lately and found that there are several viable ways to spec him out depending on what I want to play. Taking the two points that I spent in improved judgment and putting them elsewhere would drastically change the way that I have to play my character to continue being effective. There are fewer talents, yes, but each talent has much more of an impact now.

        Furthermore, there are fewer must haves (since those are given per spec now) and more passive and skill buffs. I don’t know anyone who thought that it made sense for a key ability, like penance or avenger’s shield, to be a talented skill. I don’t know a single discipline priest who didn’t use penance or a single paladin tank who didn’t use avenger’s shield, so why give the option? Stuff like that just winds up being a beginner’s trap.

        • Mori Gryphon says:

          I can definitely see what you mean about beginner’s traps, and I can even see how it would make sense to lock it down for a while (first 20 levels, perhaps?) until a new player can really get a good sense of how their class play. However, when I log on to the Warlock I’ve been playing off and on since Vanilla and get told that I’m simply -not allowed- to have the spec I’d been playing her with… I get kind of cheesed off. I’ve never gone looking for cookie cutter specs (and was known for bitching out people that tried to tell me that all warlocks should be Aff spec’d), and actually had a great deal of fun theorizing and testing (solo, group, and raid) variations on them. While yes, there is some amount of variation within a tree, and they did change talents around a fair bit, having a big part of what was fun for me about the game simply killed makes it hard for me to enjoy the game as what its evolved in to.

          • Ian says:

            I do agree with that. It would be nice if there was a way to completely unlock the talent tree as an advanced option or something. While many talents enhance abilities specific to the tree that they’re in, there are plenty that would be useful for all specs.

            And ohhhh man, I used to love toying with people who pulled the whole “One Spec to Rule Them All” crap. In Wrath, my raiding class and spec of choice was an unholy death knight. You wouldn’t believe the number of people who insisted that I absolutely had to switch to frost or blood despite leading the group on DPS, still having enough GCDs left to be the top spell interrupter, and taking the least amount of damage from The Fire(TM).

            I still find it fun to cycle through my talents, even after 4.0 hit. That being said, most of my 4.0 leveling experience outside of getting from 80 to 85 comes from my paladin, a class that I didn’t have much experience with pre-4.0. As a prot paladin, there are quite a few major changes that can be made be just tweaking a few talents here and there. I’m sure some of the other classes and specs are probably very different from my experiences with my pally.

        • Zukhramm says:

          Maybe some classes have more talents, but the warlock trees have so few of them that the choice only revolves around what two or so talents not to pick. To me, that’s small enough that I would aswell not have a choice at all.

          • Jeff #3 says:

            Double true on the warlock trees. I can’t bring up a planner at the moment, but IIRC there’s maybe 5 or so points worth of talents that you can really move around on your way to the top ability. And for the most case those are choices between pvp or pve talents… So if you’re only planning on one, there’s really no choice at all.

          • Ian says:

            My highest warlock is only level 19, so I’m mostly oblivious to that class. A friend of mine plays a warlock extensively, but I haven’t heard any major gripes from him yet (though he was kind of bummed that his Keleseth tanking spec was axed).

            I noticed some major changes when I modified the specs on both my priest and pally. Changing a few things around made very big differences on both of those classes. I’ve only really ran with protection on my pally, but my priest is both shadow and holy.

            • Mori Gryphon says:

              I’ve played most of WoW’s classes at some point, to at least 20. I don’t have any at 80+, mostly because I stopped playing significantly right before WotLK came out. Warlock was always my favorite class to play, though, because I loved the flexibility of it, especially since I was often working in duos. With my Paladin tank friend, I could use my excessively high DPS spec (a split between demo and destro trees) and not worry about pulling agro off him (too much…). With my rogue-playing friend, I’d respec into something a little more demo heavy, with a touch of aff and use my pet to tank while he and I burned things down. And, while I never played a heavy aff spec for long, there were a few early talents that I found hugely helpful (one of the first tier ones, iirc, would take Corruption’s cast time down to being an instant. No matter what the rest of my spec was, I always had that talent.)

    • Zukhramm says:

      Though if there is one thing they can copy from WoW without me complaining it’s the interface, because so many MMOs seem to do badly in that area.

  11. Hitch says:

    The only thing I know about Rift is what I’ve seen in the commercials, and that tag line, “we’re not in Azeroth anymore” just screams, “we’re not bringing anything new to the table.” Now, that may not be true of the game, but it’s terrible advertising.

  12. Desgardes says:

    Jarenth is the coolest. But how can he spend 5 hours raising horses? I don’t care if they are unicorns!

  13. acronix says:

    Gameplay is irrelevant! Case in point, how`s charcater customization? I`m too lazy to get google answer me.

    • Josh says:

      Pretty bad. You have a weird two dimensional slider that alters face shape to a degree, and you can pick from a half-dozen hairstyles, alter your height, and mess around with a few cosmetic color choices.

      • BaCoN says:

        Actually the facial slider thingy(the pyramid) is kinda decent. Sure, it doesn’t give you a LOT of customization for your characters, but, uh, that’s kind of not the point.

        Play one of the Superhero games if you want customization.

        • Desgardes says:

          Lots of customization lets you feel like you are truly unique in the world, increasing immersion without having to actually make the game better. It’s not just a little tidbit for lunatics who spend hours trying to get the right face, only to have to give up and spam random because your cousins didn’t come over to watch you make a person for half an hour, and it’s almost time to give up so we can go play black ops and FUCK YOU JAKE! I’ll take as long as I want, and you can have it before I start playing the actual game!

  14. Zukhramm says:

    Don’t remind me of Guild Wars, it just makes me want to play that again. That skill system was great.

  15. Andy says:

    If 1100 hours is “needs professional help,” then I’m probably in “kill yourself for the good of the race” territory. And i more-or-less quit two years ago. (i have 49 of the possible 50 points for linking GW1 and GW2.) I miss the good times of DoA Ursanway.

  16. BaCoN says:

    Honestly, I’m of mixed feelings.

    I played WoW for, uh, ever, and I played Warhammer for, um, pretty much ever, and the game feels like the perfect marriage of the two. I agree with Josh about how the souls SHOULD mix perfectly(hint: Don’t pick Assassin & Bladedancer. They are the same class. Literally.), but they don’t, and it makes me sad. And cry a bunch. But being a tank that can heal yourself and have a pet is kinda awesome.

    Also the six year patch time for the beta offends me.

    But the game FEELS nice, the quests FEEL interactive and different, and the PQs have a neat, if not currently understandable, feel to them. I love the interface, it’s a great blend of what’s good and what’s not(with a huge range of customisability for the UI), and… yeah!

    But I’m not gonna play, because I’m totally getting out of the MMO scene.

    I mean it, this time. :(

  17. Adalore says:

    I have had fun playing rifts myself so far. And yes, character creation is… barren. I wanted to make a tall scottish guy for my warrior, but all I could do was a beard, green eyes, and no real differences, not that you can see it under my armor.

    So while they balance, the “Raid” crowd will reflexively try and find the “Best” build, so at least it’s cheap to change character build.

    I have tried most of the warrior classes, they all feel pretty different so far, I have dabbled in… Warlord(Raid wide buffs, and tank.) Reaver(DOTS FOR EVERYONE HAHAHA! and tank) Paladin (Shield and sword tank, with reactionary skills.) Voidknight (Omnomnom Mana and tank), Those are the warrior TANK souls. the DPS souls that I played with around level 30 was only really the RIFTBLADE (Think Spellsword, throws elemental spears, and can TELEPORT TO TARGET!) I had only played somewhat with the Paragon around level 20, and Champion to start with. So I really haven’t looked at the higher end stuff that those classes get, but I have heard paragons eat people alive with Burst DPS.

    I have yet to play any other calling. but I am looking forward to making a mage tomorrow, maybe after leveling my warrior some.

    On the quest info, it at least seems that the people making it wanted it somewhat coherent, the quests at least seem somewhat logical.

    And I love invasions, it forces me to pay some attention, though events are a bit… heahah… It’s hard to tank 5 elite invasions on top of each other, even if I am enjoying the life tap from soul sickness.

    • Mori Gryphon says:

      I’ve been primarily playing a mage, though I’ve dabbled in rogues. I like the way the bards work a lot, and I’ve not played a game before that actually encouraged and -made functional- rogue tanks. I -had- rogue tanks occasionally in other games, but it was more of a ‘oh shit oh shit we’re all going to die’ type thing that really wasn’t supposed to work.

      They have had some server stability issues with some of the huge invasions in Freemarch, and it can be frustrating when a whole bunch of rifts open and lots of big scary things are running around and there aren’t enough people in the zone to actually kill them, but that’s part of why this is still a beta, and I’ve noticed it getting tuned a lot as it’s gone on.

      • Adalore says:

        On the note of rogue tanks actually being… A ACTUAL OPTION?! …

        I know that Clerics can take ALL roles, Healer, DPS, Tank, Support, so on. Mages can do Healing, DPS, support. Rogues got that DPS, tank, support, minorhealingonbard?

        Right now all that warriors can do is Tanking, and DPS, with warlord having a smiggit of support but is supposedly getting nerfed to hell in this beta, at least everyone who is claiming to have read the leaked patch notes.

        I am looking forward to a proper Support and Healing classes for Warriors, Why not? :) Maybe one that is a monk that punches things while gaining enlightenment which heals the party? Totally zen…

        • Mori Gryphon says:

          I thought there was a Warrior role that healed… I really haven’t played Warrior at all though, so I’ve got absolutely no basis to judge. I like your idea of the enlightened monk though. :P

  18. Vipermagi says:

    Skipping everything that costs 15 euro per month:
    Over 1100 hours across all characters?!

    http://i397.photobucket.com/albums/pp53/Bakmachien/needhelp.jpg
    I hit over 1700 on just one :'(

  19. Henebry says:

    Regarding the problem of balancing skills, it seems to me that one easy fix would be for games to make it more expensive to purchase skills that lots of people possess. The law of supply and demand would thereby encourage players to try out skills that were (for whatever reason) less often purchased. If a skill turned out to be an exploit, its price would rise rapidly as more players found out about the exploit and rushed to take advantage of it. Those who got in early would of course keep their gain, much as in the real world you score big if you get in on a stock before it becomes popular.

    The best part is that such a system would reward ingenious players for coming up with clever exploits while at the same time containing the danger of one good exploit becoming so widespread as to make the game feel like a monoculture.

    Thoughts?

    • BaCoN says:

      Debatable. People would likely alter the system by making alts that used only the non-exploit skills. And they would make a LOT of them, in order to influence the system.

    • Mephane says:

      Most of all, it would hurt all players coming to the game at a later time and b) players changing speccs at a later date, even if they don’t know or care about what the current flavor of the month is.

  20. Mephane says:

    Personally, I have no problem with Rift being, gameplay- and UI-wise, so similar to WoW. After all, that’s what WoW has done right, and just like no one’s complaining that the basic shooter controls are the same across all modern shooters, why complain that the basic MMORPG controls (unit frames, hotbars, spells, abilities, targetting, minimap, large map, chat, auction house etc.) are the same. Being different for the sake of being different usually just means being worse when there is, effectively, and accepted industry-standard of what to expect at least.

    And that’s what Rift does right. It accepts that standard, improves upon it where needed*, and adds a bit of its own stuff.

    Oh and the “triple soul quadruple role” class system is absolutely awesome.

    *for example, when going to layout edit mode (something WoW still does not offer, only fan-made mods give you this most basic function), each element has its own transparency and scaling slider as well as a “turn off” option. That’s pretty decent standard (though i’ve missed transparency in quite a few games), there is this genius docking feature. I don’t really know whether Trion invented this or borrowed it somewhere else, but from now on I’ll miss this feature in any game not having it: basically, you can dock elements to each other, so their positions auto-readjust when some elements appear or disappear. That way, the normal 5-man group interface is actually 4 seperate group member frames just docked to each other. You can thus rearrange any of the player frames individually or have them form your own customized docked group by simple drag&drop operation. The same goes for hotbars, minimap, quest tracking, target, pet etc. The only thing they seem to have forgotten are the bags, they don’t fall under this docking scheme yet.

  21. Rhys Aronson says:

    Guild wars for the win Josh!

    http://www.rhysaronson.org/GWtime.png

    Admittedly there’s probably a couple hundred hours of afk mixed in there but still.

    I haven’t played seriously in a while because they kinda ruined GvG with the expansions, I just muck about in RA and PvE these days

  22. Friend of Dragons says:

    I tried the Rift beta, and I can’t really think of anything that really recommends itself. I couldn’t really bring myself to like either of the factions (I despised the guardians for their self-righteous religious bulls*** and as for the Defaints, well, I’m just not much of a fan of their magitek art style), the story was meh, the character customization looked good on the surface but it seemed like half the classes were near-exact copies of the others; the quests were very unoriginal… overall there really wasn’t anything that made me want to keep playing it after giving it a decent try.

  23. Josh says:

    “So I’m not exactly the best person to iterate for you, in detail, just how much RIFT borrows from the proverbial Warcraft pot.”

    Let there be no doubt, Rift borrows a great deal from WoW. I think it’s unfortunate; there are many ways to manage inventory, or deal with regeneration of health and mana. But for these and a lot of other mechanics, they simply did it the WoW way. And WoW does these things in silly ways, because WoW is an intentionally silly game.

  24. Mrsnuggleworth says:

    I really enjoyed the Rift beta when I played it. The questing didn’t really bother me, because I’m still used to WoW and other MMO’s (The only MMO that got questing right was Runescape, but it got so many other things wrong) But the Soul/Skill combo thing is amazing. It is so fun to try out different things. I only wish that you could skip the tutorial/soul choosing level.

  25. Topazwolf says:

    To be fair WoW borrowed fairly heavily from the game called Everquest. And when I say heavily, I mean it. But it managed to tweak the system and max it out enough to be an even more addictive game then its predecessor, so there is still much hope for this game.

  26. Jarenth says:

    Fun anecdote: When I first started playing the RIFT Beta, at one point in my first jaunts, I felt the need to change some options (autorun to R, chat reply to Backspace, Autoloot on, etc). So I went into the menu, changed them, went back out.

    It only thén occurred to me that I never stopped to actually lóók for the options I wanted. I just changed them, without thought. This was possible because RIFT’s menu system is a literal carbon copy of WoW’s, in a different colour palette.

    You can go on and on about how RIFT is a copy of WoW or how it’s not or how it’s a copy of Warhammer or how WoW is really a copy of EQ2 (God knows the people in General Chat certainly did that to no end), but when a game copies not only the general gameplay structure and UI layout, but the complete menu down to sub-options and placement, you’ve pretty transcended jokes about copying to become the joke about copying instead.

    I forgot where I was going with this.

    • Mephane says:

      Personally, I consider this a good point. I’d rather have all similar games feature an identical menu structure for the same things like UI options, video settings etc. than each going their own way and having to look for the items in every new game. *g*

      • This.

        Rift has, to me, unabashedly said “Yup. There’s a whole language of MMOs out there. And changing it for the sake of changing it is just change.”

        To me, the fact that you could just go in the menu and find what you want is a good thing. There’s a lot of Rift hate in this thread, and I’m curious why that is. Rift may not appeal to people, but it seems like there’s a strong faction, especially on twentysided, who are actively offended by it. That’s strange to me….

        • John Magnum says:

          If they’re going to throw up their hands and uncritically admit “Yep, everything WoW did is perfect and can’t be improved on. Well, okay, here’s a couple little tweaks to how levelling and questing works out,” why should anyone bother to play Rift instead of just going to the ostensibly perfect source? They’re simultaneously setting themselves up to require hundreds of thousands of people to spend dozens of dollars on a game, and simultaneously openly admitting that they have very very little that wasn’t crystalized by their biggest competitor, and simultaneously basing their marketing campaign around the promise that you’re not in Azeroth anymore. I think there’s easily enough contradictions and bizarreness in there to justify some distaste.

      • Amarsir says:

        I agree with Mephane. I desperately want game designers to start taking more innovative risks but menus aren’t where they should be doing it.

        Although speaking of the menu, is there a “follow” button? Because I couldn’t find any such setting and desperately wanted an easy way to find out what direction my target was in and move toward it.

    • Topazwolf says:

      I agree there is a major difference from being inspired by a game, and using its formula to actually copying a game. For example, Minecraft was inspired by Infiminer and Manic Digger copies Minecraft. It seems lazy and uninteresting. But that doesn’t mean it can’t grow past it, it doesn’t bode well though…

      And Everquest 2 came out at about the same time as WoW with a difference of about two weeks. They were both copies of everquest, but Everquest 2 was a bad copy while WoW was a good one. (Speaking from experience)

  27. Kristin says:

    Josh, you are not addicted. I have over a thousand hours on my main alone.

    I also have… um… 15 characters. Who’ve combined for nearly 3000 hours.

    And I’m not particularly addicted.

  28. Dys says:

    I looked at that screenshot of playtime on Guild Wars and I thought, 600 plus, yeah, that’s some pretty good experience…

    …oh, wait… Guild Wars measures play time in HOURS?

    How cute.

  29. poiumty says:

    After having a heated discussion about this over on the Escapist forums (who, by the way, is giving free beta keys), it’s nice to see someone who touches down on ALL my most important previously-argued points. Specifically, how the game is a balancing nightmare (because of cookie-cutter builds) and the incredible rip-off of WoW down to the last bit of UI. The game only brings 2 new things to the table: Rifts (which are public quests, so not exactly new) and the soul system. Like i’ve mentioned somewhere else, players who are already bored of WoW will not want to see the same things all over again. And with some strong, innovative MMOs coming out this year, i’m not seeing Rift as such a great investment.

    Feels nice to see someone who agrees with me. Thanks, Josh.

  30. Johan says:

    “Truly, my wit is a force that cannot be matched by mortal means.”
    Surely. Surpassed often, but never matched.

  31. BarGamer says:

    I look forward to the day that Rift dies a horrible, painful death, much like Tabula Rasa did.

    That day will probably be the day Guild Wars 2 comes out.

    • Curious query:

      Why?

      There are a lot of people enjoying Rift quite a lot. Much like there were a lot of people enjoying Tabula Rasa (okay, not a *ton*, but, you know…)

      Why do you want it to die a horrible, painful death? Did the people who made it do mean things to you at night? Do you feel that people who enjoy the game need to be punished, because you don’t like them? I can’t think of a time I’ve ever wished that something someone else enjoyed (which wasn’t hurting someone in the process) would go away….

      Okay, I lie. I wish the Wheel of Time series had stopped around book 7 or so, and never gone any further, and would pay good money to make that happen. But that’s the only thing!

      • BarGamer says:

        The game was boring, the quests were on railroads, everyone kill-stole, node-stole, and boss-stole. Because of that and the Soul System, everyone solos with a Tank Soul. You’re even competing against other players for points during rifts. This game does not encourage grouping, it drives people apart. When an elite invasion camps your quest NPCs, you are stuck on the railroad tracks until they leave or a higher-level group kills them. I saw no evidence of dynamic scaling for rifts, though you CAN troll by being a higher level than the area, opening a tear, and then running off without beating the enemies. Congratulations, you have just shut down a level 20 area with level 50 elite mobs for the next two hours.

        The enemies spawned from a Rift all act the same: they Zerg Rush, they plant Hatcheries, they spawn defenders, then they camp out at wherever they’ve been programmed to camp out, and they proceed to annoy everyone they aggro. At one point I teleported from one city to an outpost, and insta-died. There was no time to react, no time to build defenses, no time to even see which truck out of the fleet of trucks hit me. You get one chance every hour to run away, otherwise, you better hope they didn’t camp the graveyard, or you will be locked down until the invaders go away. Sure, you can spawn at another graveyard, but that doesn’t let you turn your quests in.

        In short, it’s heroin to WoW’s crack. Addictive, bad for you, and very expensive. I’ll just play Guild Wars, it’s my Mountain Dew. Heck, every other week, there’s a sale.

  32. For a lot of us, Rift feels like all the good stuff from the last 5 years of MMOs distilled, shaken up, and poured out in to a gorgeous cup.

    It’s not a complete game changer. It instantly feels familiar and comfortable on logging in. But for me, it takes all the stuff that was good in a spectrum of games like WoW, Warhammer, SWG, etc, and gives them all back again in a way that’s tremendously fun.

    The souls mechanic is great. You can cover any of the big 3 roles in any of the four classes. You get 4 (maybe more?) roles, which are basically completely different characters. People compare it to dual-spec in WoW, but it’s far more. You can have a rogue with a rank role, a DPS role, a healing role, and a ranged attack role, and it will play different and have a different niche in each one. And it takes all of 5 seconds to swap. To me, that’s awesome.

    I think a lot of people are just saying “Oh, it’s WoW. I played WoW. If I want WoW, there’s WoW.” But that’s sort of like saying that Starcraft is an RTS, and if you want an RTS, there are plenty out there – it ignores the fact that Starcraft is a spectacular realization of the RTS. Rift went from a “fine, I’ll try it, leave me alone” to a “I’ve preordered the Collector’s Edition” in the span of about two days. My plan was to do F2P until TOR came out. Now I’m just gonna buy Rift, do the 6 month founder’s club sub, and be happy.

    A couple of articles to check out:

    http://massively.joystiq.com/2011/02/09/enter-at-your-own-rift-dispelling-the-wowhammer-myth/

    That links to a number of other good ones.

    And:

    http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Riftdrawl

    Riftdrawls is enough of a thing that it’s in Urban Dictionary. I know I certainly suffer from it until tomorrow….

    Plus, one side are technomages that do things like shove 3 souls in to one body to see what happens, and the other are angelic beasts that resurrected their dead to kick some more ass. I mean, honestly.

    • krellen says:

      Considering WoW’s strength is that it is the distillation of what’s great about other MMOs around it, this might be the most glowing review of anything ever.

      Of course, RIFT doesn’t have the clout of Blizzard behind it, so it probably won’t do nearly as well.

      You have, however, convinced me to try it. We’ll see.

      • Jarenth says:

        I would like to point out in this sub-comment that one of the things RIFT does excellently is giving you the ability to switch between European and North American realms at will, and minimizing the lag between those realms to neglible levels. This is the whole reason Josh and I were able to play together, incidentally. The first night I played on an American realm, the second night he played on a European realm. We never even noticed during gameplay.

        So I guess I’m saying is, if more Twenty Sided people decide to try the game at launch (I know I will) the long-held pipe dream of a ‘Twenty Sided guild’ might actually be an obtainable reality here.

        • GabrielMobius says:

          Now that is interesting. A big problem I’ve been having is that a couple of my friends actually ponce about on the European servers for WoW while I’m stuck on the North American servers, and it continues to baffle me as to why Blizzard segregates the two regions so wholly.

    • Zukhramm says:

      Yeah, those things mentioned do sound good, however the problem with “the good stuff from the last 5 years of MMOs” is that it’s possible, very likely even that what I and what the developers think are the good parts is very different.

      Also I can probably not run the game without my computer catching fire (and that’s one of the things that are good about WoW, the low requierments).

  33. Amarsir says:

    RIFT reminded me of WoW in that both bored me long before my time ran out.

    I imagine only getting my Defiant Cleric to the low teens and thus not reaching the first instance means I haven’t given it a fair shot. But I’ve never been a guy who feels that the “2% more damage to crits” branch and the “1% resistance to physical damage” branch are different enough to warrant the seconds I spent reading them. Also I lost count of how many different trees promised to add my spell power to my attack power, but I know the result was mutually-exclusive redundancy.

    The pacing of combat felt good, I’ll give them that. Some were saying they got overwhelmed by even a second enemy but I assume that was a level thing. I found that fighting 2-4 even-ish enemies at once felt reasonably balanced. (Not that I had any AOEs that would benefit me doing so.) The attack powers were also redundant, even granting that light power vs cold power might matter at some point, but I assume in the eventual fullness of spirit trees I’d have enough to not mind ignoring a bunch.

    Outside of combat however the pacing was horrible. Movement felt so slow, and while I never really knew the point of the awkward “sprint and hop” button at least attempting to use it let me mix my frustration at slow walking with frustration at a reticule that was only really visible when out of range. I felt it was taking too long to level up and the backstory of being brought back from the dead and sent through time as the one true hero didn’t really warm me up for the busywork of fetching someone their squirrel stew. If they cut half the missions or tripled my run speed I’d have been much happier.

    Furthermore I will never be happy with any game that respawns enemies in aggro range as routine behavior. If RIFT’s going to copy WoW doing it then they’re going to copy me being highly annoyed with WoW doing it. I would rather have an instance loading screen every 10 feet than have wolves pop out of thin air in a field that was empty 2 seconds ago.

    Lastly, the rift-invasion zone events that give the game it’s name seemed to thrill some people no end, though I resisted the urge to shake them and ask why. I found them easy to join, the objectives were fairly clearly marked, and everyone who participated got a reward. So check those off. I just felt they missed the objective of fun.

    The early stages are fast-targeting an enemy who’s dead before I can even face the right direction (let alone enter melee). The late stages comprised corpse running after getting one-shotted from 20 yards away while gangrushing an enemy I can barely see and against whom I’m not even sure I’m doing anything. Neither part falls under any definition of the word “fun” that I’m used to. I thought I must be doing it wrong until I observed others’ behavior that seemed similar. Absent more information I’m going to file it under “people enjoy mashing buttons and seeing light flash.”

    And last, maybe this is just a “Defiant” thing but … well I know “brown and grey” gets a bad rap. But a monitor full of neon green and purple sure made me miss it.

    I’m glad for them that the game seems to be hitting with it’s target market. I just find the appeal once again to be beyond my reckoning.

  34. thebigJ_A says:

    This can’t be a real mmo, that girl on the right has normal-sized breasts. I call shenanigans!

    • Friend of Dragons says:

      Don’t worry, they aren’t all lake that. And fairly often there was some girl with considerable …assets… along with a costume that made me wonder about the maturity of the art department.

  35. RichVR says:

    The word is “glean” not “gleam”. Sorry, it’s a reflex on my part. A very annoying reflex.

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