Let’s do the Time Rift Again!
RIFT Beta Impressions, Part 2

By Josh Posted Tuesday Feb 15, 2011

Filed under: Game Reviews 65 comments

After making our way through character creation, Jarenth and I found ourselves in the Defiant tutorial zone, a barren, dessicated wasteland full of strange monsters just waiting to reduce your hapless avatar to a pile of ethereal goo. Which is to say the tutorial zone was full of monsters with an agro radius the size of my kitchen that all went down in about five hits. It’s probably pretty obvious that I find tutorial zones to be exquisitely boring – I don’t really know many MMO players that don’t. Still, a tutorial zone done well can be something special (I again draw to Guild Wars when I point to pre-searing Ascalon). RIFT’s… are not. I can understand the necessity of introducing new players to the game’s mechanics but for anyone who’s played an MMO there’s nothing new being introduced here, aside from a brief explanation of the soul system. The only interesting lore bits in the entire tutorial are the exposition drop you get at the very beginning and the boss battle at the very end where you step through the time portal.

Which is really a shame, because it was not until after we finally got out of the tutorial zone and into the actual world that I got a taste of the second (and much more potentially interesting) unique mechanic of RIFT.

…Well, actually I stopped playing after we got out of the tutorial zone so I could drive through a nearby Raising Cane’s and get some awesome chicken fingers but then I got a taste of RIFT’s second unique mechanic (and some awesome chicken fingers).

And really, this mechanic is the one that everyone is going to be talking about when the game launches. The soul system has an interesting premise, but it’s nothing that could possibly be considered game-changing. Hell, this mechanic is the game’s title. In essence, throughout the game world, “rifts” will periodically open in random (or semi-random, I really haven’t spent enough time with the game to figure out if there’s more to the spawn algorithm than “don’t spawn where there’s no walkable land”) positions throughout the game world. These rifts will spawn mobs and bosses that will then being to attack nearby settlements, and without help the settlements will fall and then need to be taken back by players.

After about ten minutes of messing around with more kill-ten-rats quests, Jarenth and I spotted a large rift that was part of a major zone-wide invasion by some guy named “Jakub.” I guess he’s really been moving up in the world since the Omega 4 Relay suicide-mission.

Stop that.
Stop that.

Then again I suppose anything’s better than “So, what do you do here again?”

And when I say “we spotted,” I really mean “we, and everyone else within five kilometers.” You’ve really got to feel sorry for those mooks sometimes. I mean, they must have really been pumped going into this. I’m sure their boss gave some rousing speech, really got the adrenaline flowing, probably said something about how they were going to “burn some helpless villages, and really teach those Telarans who’s boss,” that sort of thing. And then they hop through their hell portal and absolutely everyone is just sitting there waiting to kill them.

Pictured: Not how to invade Telara.
Pictured: Not how to invade Telara.

I’ve heard this system described as “better Warhammer public quests” (because I guess Warhammer is the only MMO to ever do public quests, but I digress) but the system actually reminds me much more of the territorial control system from the late Tabula Rasa, with a bit of Oblivion flavor. Thank god you don’t actually have to go into the rifts and fight through the same. damn. map. to close each one. Still, the inclusion of this mechanic seems a little bit at odds with everything else. The idea of territorial control system versus NPCs in MMO worlds has always fascinated me, but with such a system in place you would probably expect more of a sandbox tilt. But aside from the occasional rift spawns, RIFT still seems to be, at its heart, a WoW-styled themepark quest game.

Of course I’ve played for probably a combined total of six or â€" perhaps â€" eight hours. All of these observations are from the perspective what I can see from the very early content. But at least from where I stand, the rift system seems to be more of a “Hey that’s cool,” addition rather than “This really changes the way the whole game plays.” The rifts seem ancillary, and from what I could tell you can largely ignore them if you just want to plow through the main quests – though I imagine you’d have to clear a few of them every so often if a major quest hub was taken over. If major quest hubs even can be taken over. And while that’s not necessarily a bad thing, per se, I can’t help but feel it’s a bit of a missed opportunity.

Since trying to actually kill any of the mobs that spawned from the rift was akin to fighting with ants over scraps from the scraps that a pack of rats are fighting over, we finished off the day with a dance party under the nether-portal.

Yes, that’s my warrior, wearing cloth armor and doing a jig under a nether-portal that can only possibly lead to Cthulhu’s chin. And you thought I only played that way on (internet) TV.
Yes, that’s my warrior, wearing cloth armor and doing a jig under a nether-portal that can only possibly lead to Cthulhu’s chin. And you thought I only played that way on (internet) TV.

The next morning we decided to try again with new Guardian-aligned characters on a European RP-PvP server so Jarenth wouldn’t suffer game-crippling lag. Jarenth brought a friend of his along for the ride as well, so our party of dance-loving misfits was now three-strong. This time I rolled a mage, picking two elemental-themed souls and rounding out the selection with necromancer – because you’ve just got to have skeletons.

The Guardian tutorial zone is notably not set in the future like the Defiant zone, so you’re thrown into your standard fantasy MMO pseudo-forest village area. This does not make it any less boring or tedious to get through than the Defiant zone, though you do meet a lot of presumably important Guardian NPCs and rally them to go fight and (apparently) defeat the big-bad… at level 5. In the process, some NPC I don’t think I’d ever seen before was killed horribly in a way that I think was supposed to be dramatic. But then I’d never seen them before and I didn’t read much of the quest text so it came off more as “Oh an NPC the game wants me to care about died, yay!”

After we got out of the tutorial zone, we more or less immediately dropped the main quest line and set out to go kill some hapless players because that’s what you do on PvP servers, right?

Crossing the border into what was apparently a PvP zone (a system message said we were flagged for PvP) we immediately ran into another rift, this time of the fire variety. Also, all of the mobs it spawned were level 20, and we were level 7. Fortunately, we discovered that if we pulled each mob individually into the nearby trading post, a helpful chaplain would immediately drop what he was doing and attack the enemy, allowing us to unload on it while the chaplain absorbed all of the damage.

Somehow I feel like this isn’t the way you’re supposed to be doing this…
Somehow I feel like this isn’t the way you’re supposed to be doing this…

I suppose you could say we were being a bit dick-ish to the chaplain, forcing him to fight the evil forces of whoever the hell is trying to take over the world and all, but he actually didn’t seem to mind all that much. He even healed our wounds (for a modest fee, of course) if we accidentally got ourselves killed. Which happened quite often.

Unfortunately, after we cleared the first stage of the rift, a boss showed up and lumbered over to the trading post and started killing everything, so… whoops.

If at first you don’t succeed, summon an undead skeleton to distract them while you run away!
If at first you don’t succeed, summon an undead skeleton to distract them while you run away!

It was only with the timely arrival of a group of players that were actually at level 20 that saved us from our inevitable demise. Or, at least, from respawning at another resurrection shrine. And somehow, Jarenth still managed to pull top spot on the rift scoreboard.

We celebrated in our typical fashion: Dance party!

Not even dance parties are enough to cheer up my Skeletal Horror.
Not even dance parties are enough to cheer up my Skeletal Horror.

To be entirely honest, RIFT just isn’t really grabbing my interest. Sure, it has some intriguing ideas, and the game is quite well polished. I can certainly see it carving a niche for itself in the market. But the core of it is still very much the same as the games we’ve been seeing for years. I’ve played quite a few themepark MMOs in that time, and throwing a few sandbox elements into the pot isn’t really enough to get me truly excited. Is it really too much to ask for a game that actually really tries to shake things up â€" a game that dares to implement systems and mechanics not because “they’re what every MMO has to have,” but because they’re fun?

I suppose you could argue, “Well, Josh, WoW is the standard. Why shouldn’t you try to emulate the industry standard? After all, Warcraft’s ideas didn’t come from a vaccum.” And I guess you would have a point – reinventing the wheel simply for the sake of reinventing the wheel doesn’t tend to be the best habit to get into. But why should I have to be content with just that? Look at MMOs today: Sure, developers are willing to mess around with some of the secondary systems – new public quests here, some voiced dialogue there – but when you get down to the basics, most games still have the same slow, dull combat, and the same bare-bones, uninteresting quest-progression we’ve had for the past decade. Sure, I suppose they work, but why shouldn’t we demand they work better? Isn’t that how genres evolve? Isn’t the alternative stagnation?

In any case, regardless of how much you buy into my view of things, the RIFT open beta goes live today. If you’re interested, go check it out and draw your own conclusions.


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65 thoughts on “Let’s do the Time Rift Again!
RIFT Beta Impressions, Part 2

  1. eric says:

    Thanks for the write-up, I appreciate it. I’m not much a fan of World of Warcraft or other MMOs, but as a would-be designer, it’s interesting to read up well-written and in-depth articles like this one. The whole rift thing does sound like an interesting system, but as you noted it seems that the developers probably decided it was safer to go the “like WoW, but with some extra gimmicks” route than to totally turn genre conventions on their head. A smart move economically, perhaps, but then again, World of Warcraft clones also haven’t done so well in the past. No doubt blame some investors or publisher higher-ups whose mandate was “we want 10 million subscribers just like Warcraft”.

  2. X2-Eliah says:

    Hm. Is it just me or do the graphics seem, well, bad in a ‘they tried to do everything super-detailed without any design purpose in mind’ – kind of way? I can see there are some decent-ish models and such, but the overall impression is just.so.ugly.

    1. Dragomok says:

      I have the same impression about the graphics.
      Even promotional Well-Spun -OmNomNomYourHeadIsDelicious- Hat seems bland.

    2. Kdansky says:

      WAR also suffers from this. Having too high details leads to mashed random pixels when zoomed out. This is why WoW looks so much better than most other MMOs, despite running on 6-year old tech.

  3. poiumty says:

    Again, completely agree with each and every one of your points. Which is why i didn’t get into it, either.

    How much better would this be if it actually had some non-pointless story to it? Sadly, they didn’t copy THAT from wow.

    1. Mathias says:

      To be fair, most of WoW’s plot threads (the major ones, at least, Blizzard’s small stories are alright) end up in major disappointments and/or A Wizard Did It stories. I make no secret of my disappointment in Chris Metzen over the course of WoW’s development, the man seems to retcon his own characters while liberally distributing Idiot Balls left right and center.

      1. krellen says:

        I think Metzen suffers from Alzheimer’s. Or possibly just too much dependence on the Rule of Cool.

        1. Pickly says:

          I’d definitely lean towards the second one.

          I’ve noticed the same sort of thing going in the starcraft 2 dialogue (compared to the original) from youtube campaign movies, and as a trend for some bits of music as well. It does seem Blizzard setting people are pushing too hard to try and make things “epic” and cool, instead of letting them run more naturally.

      2. poiumty says:

        I don’t agree with the direction they’re taking the story in ever since The Burning Crusade. But the game still retains some set pieces that, even if dumb in some parts, constitute some solid anti-boredom support for their attached quests.

        1. Mathias says:

          As I said, most of Blizzard’s smaller, self-contained stories are alright. The problem comes from an overreliance on the rule of cool for anything that goes beyond three quests.

          And I can’t speak for the difference between the StarCrafts, I’ve only played the second. And the story in that is -really- deceptive. There are two points in the game in which you can choose a side (side with a protoss to burn a colony or side with the doctor to evacuate people before the Protoss torch the place. The other is siding with Nova, a Ghost, to kill the Spectres, a race of super-ghosts that are, apparently, psychotic, or helping bust them out of jail), but no matter who you choose, the other side turns out to be lying pricks, and you’ll have the “moral high ground” anyway.

  4. John Magnum says:

    Man, you weren’t kidding when you said the interface is exactly like WoW’s (and LotRO’s, which I’m familiar with, and probably a bunch more that I’m not).

  5. Skyy_High says:

    I could feel the latent tension after every period in the last three paragraphs, as you struggled with every fiber of your being to not start the next sentence with, “Guild Wars 2, on the other hand…”

    1. Pickly says:

      Yea, I was thinking the same thing at a number of points.

      Of course, I also tend to think the same thing, or “In Guild Wars, on the other hand” for a lot of features in MMOs. It’s really too bad that Guild Wars 2 makers decided to go with 80 levels over a longer tim,e plus the attribute system they have at the moment, as otherwise I’d be pretty much completely excited over it.

      1. Vipermagi says:

        The leveling apparently still works kinda like in Prophecies. The time between two levels not increasing a lot, if at all. So it really just… takes longer. Some times, I feel they should just scrap the arbitrary leveling entirely.

        1. Pickly says:

          i definitely know how the leveling system works (The earlier comment is a bit misleading, I’ve actually been following the game quite intensely, just am on the edge about whether I’ll actually be getting it.) The estimated leveling time is something like a few months per character is people play a small amount of time per day, and the difference between power levels in different areas will need a really good sidekicking system to keep access do different areas open.

          The actual decision on the system will get made when the game comes out, or a bit open beta is released, of course, but the current information doesn’t seem too promising to me.

          I do agree that they should have just reduced the leveling or gotten rid of it somehow.

          I also think that….(goes into long off topic rant about other elements about guild Wars 2 that I don’t like the look of that much, despite the very many things that the developers seems to have very good ideas on.)

  6. molo says:

    I guess what the skeleton really horrified was your whole dancing.

    Nice article though. Had fun.

    I’m a big GW fan myself and am just waiting for the second part. :)

  7. Dragomok says:

    Coincidentally, not only “Jakub” sounds a lot like the name of Sir Salutesalot, it is also the exact Polish equivallent of “Jacob”.

    I really hope I’m not carring out my duty as Captain Obvious right now.

    1. Felblood says:

      The the Nether Gates actually lead to Poland?

      This just raises further questions.

      1. Dragomok says:

        As someone who lives there, I’m not surprised that much.

  8. Jarenth says:

    Actually, as I’ve mentioned in the previous post, the lag involved in playing on an American server was neglible for me. I don’t remember you complaining about anything during our Euro-jaunt, either.

    And accidentally getting that entire encampement killed was hilarious. Had those higher-level players not lumbered along when they did, I think we would have seriously messed up that part of the world for any solo players.

    EDIT: ALSO also, there actually is quite some lore to be found in both tutorial areas. We just barreled through them because the actual gameplay there is boring.

    1. Chaunessy says:

      It is indeed very cool that npc encampments will be wiped of the planet if you do not intervene. As a player you can also wipe out a encampment on a pvp server (last patch), on a pve server you can’t. But following the logic from this article you could pull npc’s to kill encampments (of the opposing faction) on a pve server. Endless possibilities and it’s gonna be fun to try that stuff :D.

  9. Hitch says:

    Quiet a few MMOs have been incorporating the Public Quest concept in the last few years. Unfortunately, they seem to fall into one a couple modes. Either there’s not enough players around to deal with them, so they get ignored, or they end up being overwhelmed and trivial so you just walk into the zone and look stupid for a minute before collecting the reward for your “victory,” which you may not have had anything to do with. Although it is more interesting than all the NPCs just standing around staring at the walls waiting for a player to come along looking for rat killing work.

    As a WoW player, I take comfort in the knowledge that if any anyone ever does figure out how to make Public Quests work well, Blizzard will steal the idea for their next major patch.

    1. Jennifer Snow says:

      Dungeons and Dragons Online (the MMO I play) has been doing a foray into public quests (they have “special events” that run for a few weeks during different times of the year) and I think they actually work pretty well for a number of reasons. Certainly the Plane of Night Halloween event was REALLY popular and actually pretty fun. Here’s a quick rundown of why I think it was more successful in DDO:

      1. It’s not a random event in a random area–it’s in a set part of the “world”.
      2. You can accumulate ingredients and get cool gear from the event, but it takes a while.
      3. It’s cooperative on multiple levels. Firstly, you can get a party together to go kill monster spawns (which is a lot more fun then whacking them by yourself). Secondly, there’s an event that triggers once everyone participating has turned in enough swag to the collectors, and the event is similar to a dungeon that requires multiple people (basically 2 full raid groups) working together to pull it off.
      4. You can participate regardless of what level you are–if you’re low level, you trigger low-level monster spawns and you go to a final event that only contains people around your level and is level-appropriate.
      5. There aren’t many DDO servers and the “world” in DDO isn’t that big, so there really isn’t any difficulty finding people to run with.

      There are currently 2 events along these lines in the game–the Ice Games and the Plane of Night, but they’re adding a third one soonish.

    2. Felblood says:

      I was leery of these when I started playing Champions Online, but it seems that about the time you get far enough into a public quest to need backup, somebody else will com along and help out.

      I’m not sure why they do that, since there’s almost no chance of them catching up to your score and earning a prize, unless they are too high level to get any use out of it. I guess superhero MMOs bring out the good Samaritan impulse

  10. Chuk says:

    That’s funny — I actually found the tutorial area to be pretty engaging. The first time (as a Guardian), I didn’t realize it was the tutorial area until I left it.

    Yes, 99% of the ‘game’ is like the other, more popular game. The graphics and setting aren’t, plus you’ve got the souls mechanic (which I like so far, only in the high teens of levels in the beta so far) and the rift events (which seem different to the public quests in WoW — are there public quests in WoW?). I hope it’s successful, I have friends who want to play Rift more than they want to play WoW.

  11. psivamp says:

    I’m not really into MMO’s although I do enjoy reading people’s observations about them. I played WoW for a month or two, EVE for about as long, DDO and Vindictus for about two weeks each.

    For me, there’s something missing from the formula to all of them. I played the crap out of Vindictus for those two weeks, though. But for the past two weeks, I’ve just been logging in to spend my free AP.

    I don’t know what it is that MMO’s are missing for me because I dumped days of my life into CoD multiplayer, and that’s trying as hard as it can to catch the MMO wave.

  12. Neil Polenske says:

    Josh, you DO realize MMO’s – by their very nature – require a frickin HUUUUGE base of players in order to function. This is the type of scenario where ‘safety first’ in marketing and game design are pretty much mandatory. Yes, they CAN try to buck the system and hope for the best, but that is a gamble of the longest odds and what happened the last time someone tried it? It was called APB and it lasted…what, a month? Or what about your Tabula Rasa? I’ll say this for TR, it went out with a bang. :P

    You want innovation, don’t go looking for it in a genre that requires – simply to function – the largest playerbase possible in the shortest amount of time. That’s a recipe for lowest common denominator if ever I heard one.

    1. Pickly says:

      Actually, if you look at some more examples, things become a lot more murky. EVE has done quite well for itself, Guild Wars is still going, and a few smaller MMO games (Tale of the desert is one I remember at the moment), are surviving pretty well, while games like Warhamer and Age of Conan that went for big audiences and cost large amounts to make ended up shrinking significantly over time.

    2. Josh says:

      The reason MMOs require huge playerbases to function is precisely because they’re built to require huge playerbases to function. There’s nothing inherent to the genre that requires such a massive scale. Every developer out there wants to make the next WoW, and every investor out there wants to be swimming in Blizzard’s money tower. And so you have a genre of stagnated game mechanics and games where “pushing the envelope” is adding a new quest gimmick, with each game built to support a playerbase of a size they never had a chance to attract.

      With the incentive, it isn’t really surprising that so many studios aim so high (and fail so spectacularly), but what more studios really should be doing is building smaller games designed to attract maybe a hundred thousand people, with better payment models and more unique gameplay systems and mechanics than you could ever convince your investors to put into a much more massive game. It won’t make you fabulously wealthy, which means venture capitalists will probably be less likely to invest in you, but on a budget of 15 or 20 million, a tight, well built, smaller MMO could generate more than enough money to support your studio for a very long time.

      And, despite all of the crap we give them around here, Cryptic really did build their games to do just that. Champs and STO were never meant to compete with WoW – or even with many other MMOs – and they didn’t, but they still seem to be doing well for Cryptic and Atari despite their “miniscule” playerbases.

      Now if they could just hire better writers and figure out a better payment model…

      1. krellen says:

        STO is fine. CO is quickly going down the drain. STO’s got a niche (and EVE doesn’t really compete with its niche) that’s unmatched, so it’s an easy win. CO, however, has two solid competitors, both of which, last I checked, are kicking its ass. And one of those competitors is less than a month old.

        Someday, someone’s going to take the good things CO and DCUO are doing, mesh them on top of the basic awesome that is City of Heroes, and decimate NCSoft’s North American presence (Guild Wars is in no danger; it’s actually NC’s largest North American draw). But so long as people keep taking the wrong lessons from City of Heroes, it’s going to keep owning its niche.

        Honestly, what Cryptic needs to get in the business of is building – but not running – MMOs. They seem exceptionally good at making a good basic concept, but utterly inept at polishing it into gold. City of Heroes only really hit is stride after Cryptic sold it.

        1. acronix says:

          I must say that CoX model is more robust, useful and even benign than whatever Cryptic is doing in that little dark cave of theirs. Their latest crime was making some services of the C-Store much more expensive.
          For example, before going F2P you could buy 2 costume slots for every character in your account for 200 points (let`s say that`s 6 dollars?). Now, they sell you one slot for only one character, but the cost is the same.
          So, if you have 8 characters, you need 1600 points, or 48$. Before F2P, you just needed 6 and you got twice the slots. I`d say “What the hell, Cryptic?” if I didn`t knew that this means they are desperate to get money rolling to their cavern.

          Let´s not mention that the subscription is a bit expensive taking into account that there´s not that much content besides making more and more characters.

          However, I think that´s the reason they went Free to Play, since they knew they wouldn`t survive DCUO and CoX.

          Just to have my facts clear, how casual friendly are CoX and DCUO? I only played a 15 day CoX trial somewhen before CO appeared in the scene, so I don`t know how much changed since then.

          1. Joshua says:

            Depends what you mean by “casual friendly.” I’d say CoX is casual friendly from the ground up: you don’t need to be any particular level before the “real” game begins; with the exception of Task Forces you don’t even need to be a particular level before experiencing *any* of the content (your level automatically changes to one below the team leader, whoever that is at the moment; you don’t get new powers if that’s higher than your real level but you fight on par with them); you don’t need to equip yourself with l33t gear for any part of the PvE game; you can play in as little as 10-15 minute chunks if you just do a mission or two; even the longer content like the TFs, which can take 2-3 hours can be broken up over the course of several evenings if your team is willing to log out while on the TF…one group I’m in is doing all the TFs in the game, meeting one night a week; you can make your character look like anything you want from the start (except a couple of unlockable costume pieces); almost all of the content is solo-able if you’re willing to work at it (even some of the TFs if you get other people to join you to kick it off and then quit); there are actually built-in facilities to help you find a team interested in the content you want to do; you can ask for help in one of the channels and generally get help rather than abuse; there are global player-created channels specifically for like-minded folks to chat and create teams; the global friends list lets you tell whether your gfriends are on, which server, zone and how many on their team as well as letting you chat across servers.
            One of the things that keeps pulling me back to City after trying Champs, DCUO, WoW and the like is just how little time I need to dedicate to the game and still always be able to log on, find my friends, and play a little.

            1. acronix says:

              That sounds quite similar to CO, except the “automatically get one level below the leader” (we have to do that manually) and the cross server chat…though CO doesn`t have different servers, only instances.
              Also, lots of costume pieces aren´t unlocked to begin with, but you have to buy (either in the auction or the c-store) or grind for them.

              Thanks for the information!

              1. Joshua says:

                Well, Cryptic designed CoH before they split it off and sold it to NCSoft, so the similarities aren’t surprising. They even re-used some of the costume files and sounds from CoH. What puzzles me about Champs is some of the stuff that City got right, but Champs didn’t follow through on, like just how hard it is in Champs to figure out where everybody else on your team currently is, and how you have to keep slogging back to your contact as if cell-phones had never been invented let alone whatever high tech superheroes can come up with.

          2. krellen says:

            DCUO is “Casual Friendly” if you’re okay with hitting the level cap and moving on. You can do it in a week. DCUO is focused on its “end game” – raids and “alerts”, which are what it calls its small-team instances. Getting any of the gear aimed towards those end-game events, however, is an enormous grind; I figured getting the first tier by myself would take about 5000 missions. I could probably lower that to 500 if I did the alerts.

            1. acronix says:

              I ussually ignore end game content now, unless there`s some aesthetic reason to do so (and it`s “easy” enough to get).
              Reaching the level cap in one week may be a bit too fast for me, though it would be good for my altaloism.

        2. Champions actually announced today that they’ve made (technical terms) buckets of money from going F2P, and their playerbase has increased 1000%. Sure, a ton of that is shiny factor, but if they keep 1%, that’s still double their playerbase….

      2. Neil Polenske says:

        “There's nothing inherent to the genre that requires such a massive scale.”

        Aside from…y’know…it’s TITLE. I’m just saying…

        1. Josh says:

          What, so we should take melee weapons out of shooters because “you’re not shooting”? The genre is what it is, not what it’s named. And “massively” isn’t the most objective of terms, especially since games in the early 2000s, well before World of Warcraft, were still “Massively Multiplayer Online” games despite the standard for subscribers being “200,000 is awesome!

          Simply arguing against ideas because “we’ve always done it differently,” isn’t much better than arguing for ideas because “we’ve never done it that way before.” The merits of the idea are what should be considered, not the origin.

        2. Sumanai says:

          Aside from Josh’s point, there’s also the fact (IIRC) that “massive” in this context only means “massive compared to shooters, and in how many there are in a given server”. So 200 players per server is pretty massive compared to say, 32 per server, so it would be accurate.

          Not that it should limit design anyway. Come up with a new descriptor or whatever (“mildly massive online rpg”, “scarcely massive online rpg” or “smorpg” for short). It’s not like the abbreviation “MMORPG” makes sense anyway.

          Edit: I remembered I might be wrong, but even if it means “how big the map is” you don’t have to go Azeroth to be “massive” in comparison to a lot of MP shooters’ maps.

  13. These public quest “Rifts” seem like a good idea in concept, but I have to wonder what happens when the game ages and the server population shifts?

    Do these rifts somehow take into account if there are only 4 players in the entire starter zone? How is one player supposed to combat an entire invasion by themselves?


    1. Jarenth says:

      The so-called ‘Minor Rifts’ are supposed to be solo-able.

      ‘Major Rifts’, on the other hand, will require a group or raid to kill, but those are much rarer.

      As for the massive Invasion events… well, I guess the latecomers are pretty much out of luck, there.

      1. Ringwraith says:

        This was actually what much of the earlier beta testing was about, as they needed to make sure that it scaled with the current area population. The more people in an area the more often rifts spawn with a higher chance of them being major ones.
        The invasions also spawn in a similar fashion, as they come directly from rifts, so unless the last huge mass of players neglected to wipe out any major invasions that escaped you shouldn’t have much of a problem during quieter periods.

        1. Skyy_High says:

          That actually sounds like a pretty bad system. Better than no scaling, to be sure, but rift spawn frequencies shouldn’t scale with the number of players in an instance; the _size_ of the spawns/invasions should scale. Having frequent rifts appear that are completely overwhelmed in populated areas is bad, and so is having the very rare (but completely dominating) rift appear if there is only a tiny number of players in an area. Dyna…er, I mean, rift events should also scale in size by the number of players _actively participating_, otherwise you’re expecting players to drop whatever they’re doing, possibly a good few minutes walk from the rift, and rush over to help close it.

          Maybe they’re trying to make the rifts feel more inconvenient with this system…after all, they are supposed to be an invasion force. However, I think that it won’t take long for players to get annoyed by the nuisance.

          1. Ringwraith says:

            This was an early beta I was talking about though, so they’ve probably refined the system since then, as it’s one of the few things where internal testing isn’t going to do it justice.

    2. Felblood says:

      I suspect the rates at which Rifts appear will be tuned to the number of players online at that time of day.

      I believe they are taking their lessons from tabula rasa, where the alien hordes would overrun the server during non-peak hours.

      If they don’t already have rift spawns tuned by time of day, and easy to adjust as the playerbase evolves, then they are fools.

      Maybe I just have too much faith in humanity.

  14. Noggy says:

    Josh, if you’re looking for an MMO that tries to shake things up, you might want to give http://www.realmofthemadgod.com/ a try. It’s a small free game, but they’ve done a lot of interesting things to make the game deep despite the very simple interface.

    1. psivamp says:

      Interesting. I might give it another shot when I’ve got a mouse plugged in…

    2. Kdansky says:

      It’s fun for a while, but it gets old quick. One single power per class is a bit sparse.

    3. Griffin says:

      I had a ton of fun with that over the last year or so, off and on. They had some very good ideas, especially early on. Sadly, I’ve become pretty disillusioned with it lately. The focus of the game seems to be increasingly on spending huge amounts of time maxing out a character.

      This does not go well with a permadeath design concept, to put it mildly.

  15. anaphysik says:

    Squee! Raising Cane’s! I loved that place when I was at UVa!

    Oh, uh, post to read, yeah….

  16. Lord Nyax says:

    At least you have chicken.

  17. Red Conine says:

    The thing about trying new things in MMOs is that they cost so much money to get started. Its a massive gamble to attempt anything new. I hate but understand why everything tries to emulate WoW. When you have millions to hundreds of millions on the line, its better safe then sorry.

    Now, when things try something new, it can be cool or terrible.

    I’m one of the saps who bought APB the day it launched.

    To be honest, it has the best character creation in gaming and was a nifty idea (it got closer to the idea of MMOFPS then Tabula Rasa) but was pretty bad. I would loved to have seen the game in five or six months but it, as we all know, closed in a month and the company lost a hundred or hundreds (i can;t remember) of millions of dollars.

    I’d like to see MMOs try new things too Shamus but, from the business man’s point of view, unless you have Blizzard doing it or its free to play, it’ll likely fail.

    1. poiumty says:

      At first i thought “hey the new avatar and author system is working pretty good”.
      Then i read this post and realised it probably isn’t.

      The bad thing about Rift isn’t that it copies things, it’s that it
      a) copies them so hard to the point of ripping them off. When even the chat COLORS are the same, you’re bound to raise some eyebrows (mine, for instance)
      b) aside from those things, the rest of the world isn’t consistent. Is this a good WoW clone? Yes. Is this a good MMO? I can’t say yes to that. It hinges on a few setpieces while not being nearly as diverse as wow was at launch.

      But i’ll give it some credit for a really smooth beta.

    2. Phoenix says:

      Btw, Shamus let his warrior clone Josh write these posts :)

  18. Bubble181 says:

    It’s a bit unfair to compare this to WoW – even at launch – though. WoW started out with a bunch of lore and backstory and so on. A lot of the first players of WoW came in, already knowing about the world. Starting a new MMO in a new setting, will always be harder.
    A “World of Command and Conquer”, “World of Diablo”, “World of Star Wars (oops…)”,… will always have an easier time because of that…Not that starting an MMO from an established IP doesn’t have its own fair share of problems, of course.

    Anyway, I’m not an MMO fan, so I’ll go back to shutting up now :-P Just wanted to say that a lot of vanilla WoW is being misremembered by now.

  19. Kira says:

    Eh. Tried the beta, reminded me too much of wow, with even the stupid forced faction divide so theres an excuse to pvp. I HATE forced faction divide. Especially when theres only specific races on each. Why don’t any of the desert people join the guardians? are they all godless heathens? If there HAS to be factions why not let you choose the faction separate from race. One of my biggest complaints of WoW is how it has npc characters who are not part of that faction’s races, but are part of that faction, but you cant choose to be so. Its pointless separation for an overblown gameplay mechanic.

  20. Hellsgate London had rifts you had to go in and clear out the same way on the same map. That got tiring and I thought of it when I saw your comment n at least you did not have to go in and clear it out.

    But the Diablo model of small scale MMO is interesting, where somewhere between 3 and 30 people share a game world and run through the quests, can engage in trade and other things.

    The failures in those systems are almost as interesting as the successes. It was really interesting to see where Hellsgate went wrong vis a vis Quake or Diablo II LOD. There was a lot to be learned from the failures there.

    Makes me very interested to see what Diablo III looks like.

  21. krellen says:

    So, I played the open beta tonight, got up to level 11, and I’m not sure what I think of the game. I think, fundamentally, it makes the same mistake most MMOs make – the assumption that “bigger is better”. MMOs always seem to be shooting for a target of making things “epic”, of making things “massive”, of ensuring there are dozens if not hundreds of players all in the same place pursuing the same thing. Especially in the early life of the game.

    Unfortunately, they never seem to balance the opposition such that these numbers are actually required. Instead of having an army of a thousand against which your elite 300 PCs must stand, they opt instead of massive beasts of yore, requiring an army of PCs to defeat. And then they let you lose in an open world and tell these 300 to compete over the same dozen or so spawns to complete their quests in-between.

    I really really like the idea of the souls system. It is a very good addition to the MMO play book. It probably needs a lot more balance (and I need to do a lot more playing before I’m really sure of this), but Josh did hit a good point on how the souls don’t synergise enough. The game even recommends “souls that go together”, but it never seems to be because “Soul 1 Skill + Soul 2 Skill + Soul 3 Skill = Awesome combo that does something no Soul alone could pull off”.

    I’m not giving up on it yet, but I haven’t tried it out as much as Josh has. At the moment, it doesn’t look like a “buy” to me.

  22. Kavonde says:

    It’s kind of funny; I don’t know if Blizzard was intending to kneecap the potential competition from the start, but in the week leading up to the big Cataclysm revamp, WoW underwent a RIFT-like event with elemental portals opening up in the major cities, and the player population having to kill them and shut the portals so they could go fight some bosses. This was really exciting…the first few times. By the end of that weekend, everyone was absolutely sick of it and people were actually going to third-tier cities like Darnassus and Silvermoon just to avoid the gorram elementals.

    Having lived through that, I’m pretty skeptical of RIFT‘s main gimmick, which means I probably won’t be buying it. Score one for the Lawful Evil marketing reps at Bliz.

    1. Kdansky says:

      They did that when Naxxramas was released, in the last patch before Burning Crusade, about four years ago. And the Undead Invasion is a recurring even ever since. It suffers from the horrible mechanics of MMORPGs, where mobs cannot see farther than they can throw a table, and you can slowly hack your way through a huge swath of enemies, one by one. Urgency and danger are just not palpable if all the enemies do is mill about a bit in a three feet square area.

      1. Ringwraith says:

        The rift-spawned nasties tend to attack anything that comes within the rift’s radius, whether you like it or not, mostly with the larger ones, attempting to charge into one of those leads to much death.
        The smaller rifts with more spread-out monsters within them can sometimes allow you to pick them off individually, but they’re designed that way.

  23. Hitch says:

    Has anyone else noticed that the ads for Rift on The Escapist now look like they were stolen from Evony?

  24. MrNiceGuy says:

    Ok…been in beta for a while (level 32) so here’s some info:

    Soul system: Is a MUCH deeper and complex system than the reviewer lets on. I have experimented and it takes some tuning to get a good combo. However, when it “Clicks” the system makes for lots of character win.

    Rifts: These are semi-random (they don’t open over towns / cities). Some (in the higher level areas) open as part of a quest. The system, according to Trion, detects number of players in a zone who (and this is important) are participating in rift groups / invasion fighting. Based on that metric (not sheer number of players) the rifts will scale things up.

    Invasions are story driven. Had the reviewer actually read the quest text he’d see that Jacob was once a ruler whose ghost is resurrected and “powered up” by the bad guys. They then have him raise an undead army via the skeletal rifts, which he uses to try and take back his kingdom.

    The sea lord (half the quests in the area mention him) then reinforces the invasion, opening rifts along the coast. BAM suddenly you’re playing “Fall of Gondolin”. The sea lord, BTW is after a high level NPC in the city who was once his trusted adviser. So both “meta” NPC’s have well-explained, logical reasons for invading.

    The quest chain in this area explains everything. It’s not just some random thing going on. It’s actually very well blended.

    FYI: The writing in this game is light-years ahead of WoW.

    Yes, invasions CAN overwhelm camps, towns and major cities. We almost lost Mereidan(sp)in beta 5. The spawn army assaulted up the steps to our very gates before we threw them back…taking many loses in the process (poor noobs).

    Also you should understand that attacking rifts is only one part of fighting an invasion. Rewards are lost if all of your towns are overrun, so it’s important for different groups to defend the NPC’s. I thought it was cool that for once the NPC’s needed *my* protection. Hint to other MMO’s: Since when is a shop keeper stronger than a paladin?

    Note: We were testing the invasion system when you played (probably Beta 5 or 6). So the activity was focused on Rift Invasions to an insane degree. It’s not like this normally.

    I find it’s a very exciting game. Almost exhausting in the non-stop action. I can quest when I feel like it, attack minor rifts for some cool loot or if I’m feeling masochistic try and hit a dungeon.

    Oh and we did a “Ride of Rohan” last beta. About 50 mounted players started to attack rifts. Lo and behold the system suddenly scaled up to meet us, launching counter-attacks across the map. What started as an easy hunting exercise became a pitched battle of epic proportions. Loses on both sides were horrifying. This event was driven by the players, not the server. I’ve never been in a MMORPG that could respond like that.

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