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An Earthbound Perspective

Practical perspective on MMO play and practice.

Author: Dengar

Rift: A Window Into the Future of MMOs

Posted by Dengar Friday September 2 2011 at 11:51AM
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Disclaimer: Rift is not the WoW Killer. Under no circumstances, no matter how many positive things I or anyone else may write, no one with an ounce of sanity claims that Rift will kill WoW. Put down the pitch forks and keep this statement in mind as you read.

Now that I've properly covered my ass from potential rabid WoWheads, let's jump into the real issue: Rift is catering to a very large audience. Larger than even WoW. I say this as a sandbox MMO vet who plays theme-parks these days due to social reasons. I want each and every theme-park MMO to fail and give rise to single server sandbox MMOs ala-EVE but not EVE (the name alone scares most MMO rookies who only hear about the constant griefing; I have a girlfriend I'm trying to slowly convert into a sandboxer, so I need to mask the potential for griefing). 

Despite my desire to return to using "raid" only in the context of a massive PvP war, and "quest" to mean a super special event that's for fun and not for grinding, I must admit that Rift's doing a lot to cater to me as a world pvp fan. Make no mistake, Rift is a theme park PvE game, but Trion does cater to other crowds: explorers via non-quest related puzzles, achievements for sight seeing, and collectable artifacts; raid casuals in the form of daily rift raids; and Asheron's Call fans who miss monthly updates (the game's six months old and we're about to have our fifth content patch, plus each patch has released a few new events/quests exclusive to that patch). At the moment, ladder match pvp fans are left out, and I'll tell you to suck a lemon and leave it in RTS and FPS games, but I know you'll come back later when Trion eventually adds arenas to Rift, just so you can squirt citric acid in my eye (that arena bit my guess, not anything I've read). Why do I say this? The next crowd Trion's aiming at is the casual, single player instance lovers.

Reread that for a moment. Massively Multiplayer game adding a single player element. Oh, hey Star Wars: The Old Republic. What's that? You have a single player Star Fox mini-game instead of massively multiplayer space combat? That's a damn shame! Still, at least it's there... for me. Just me. Not for my friends, which is the biggest reason I choose to play MMOs with $15 a month fees (keep those multi-month discounts to yourselves). I want to play with my friends in Colorado and Korea from the comfort of my California couch. However, it seems that the single player aspect is sneaking into our MMOs, and Trion's mini-dungeons will be arriving before TOR launches. That means we get a quick taste of what single player instanced content may do to the overall community. But that's not the only thing.

For those who haven't hit Rift or paid much attention to it, Rift offers weekly server transfers free of charge for both individual players and their guilds. Yes, it's great for finding an active server, but the end result is a "server of the month" habit. I recently made the jump to a new server when I came back to Rift. The sides were fairly balanced IMO. When I went for more world pvp dailies, I'd get stomped, so I'd call for back-up. Then they'd call for back up. Back and forth, kind of like the old days where a small squabble eventually exploded into an all out brawl across the zone. I'd win some, I'd lose some, but the thing is, I actually can't get that in most theme-park MMOs without setting it up. I literally have to play nice with my enemy and help recruit so I won't end up on a shitty server and choose between spending money switching sides/servers to find PvP or switching games (and I often choose the latter). However, not everyone's like me. Given the options, it seems the other faction on my server decided to go elsewhere so the fights would favor them much more. 

Oh, hey Guild Wars 2! What's that? You're also going to offer free transfers between worlds with little to no punishment? Lovely. We're getting a taste of it in Rift, and while the world pvp aspect has helped me find people within the server community worthy of my time (because lord knows most games these days have far too many trolls for my ignore list to contain), it also means that the community as a whole has people rotating out much more frequently than from game-jumpers alone. Granted, it does build the cross-server community, in that certain guild names have developed a reputation for cross-server recruiting and frequent jumping, which allows us to see what guilds are stable and which ones are not. It's not terrible, and it's fairly new, but I think most theme-park players still don't have a solid grasp on what it's like to look at a guild tag and have some actual meaning behind it (leaving out the top raiding guilds). There's a lot of shit guilds out there, and many rise and fall, but because of instancing, people rarely see or hear the actions of others. Transfering servers (along with name changes) has only exacerbated the issue.

Still, it's nice that Trion's trying. While Blizzard still struggles to appease world pvpers (TB is dead, and WoW players cry about pvp during their Molten Front dailies), Trion's actually attempted a compromise. They've put a reasonable amount of effort into making world events worth while for a range of player (both raids and pvp) , they also have the instances to compromise with those who just don't like having to actually form groups, work with others, be responsible for their actions... you know, community stuff.

Oh, hey TERA! What's that? You're linking instances with the ability to take over zones for guilds in an attempt to appeal to sandboxers and theme-park goers? Hey ArcheAge, I was just talking to TERA about.... What's that? You're also using instances among other things in an attempt to lure innocent theme-park MMOers into sandbox gameplay? How devious! Yes, I know. I've previously mentioned that instancing isn't all bad, such as in Animal Crossing to a certain extent. It can be a nice way to control things a bit, but it ultimately makes it very difficult to form a community. I hate saying it, but only after drama strikes do I feel I know who's really a winner and who's not worth my time. Much like real life, it can be hard to actually meet people in these heavily instanced MMOs where the game gives out loot based on dice rolls (or, as Rift and TOR are doing it, giving everyone their own share of the loot), people simply join and do rather than communicate, and at the end of a session, may disappear, never to be seen or heard from again). Instancing, like real world distances, seems to actually make it harder for you to meet new people and form a connection. You have, at best, a few hours with them, and only if someone's bad at playing the game, not because they're a bad person. It's like speed dating if part of the date involved getting a puzzle done in order to get the free food. It's not pretty.

I'm playing WoW and Rift at the same time lately, but I honestly feel that, at this point in time, Trion's offering me a much more current vision of a modern day MMO than Blizzard is, despite Blizz's much larger budget. I'm sick and tired of theme-park rides and eagerly wait the next batch of MMOs. However, until then, I feel like Rift's giving me a good way of preparing for the future so that, when the next MMOs hit, I'll already have some experience with the mechanics these games are betting on, allowing me to handle the community issues looming on the horizon.

Goll25 writes: 100% agree, great blog. Btw those single player dungeons i heard are really meant to be duo, but can be solod with the right amount of gear. Instancing is kind of what scares me about gw2. Its going to be a big world but with no mounts and being able to teleport to hotspots at anytime, much like the orginal, how open world will it feel? Fri Sep 02 2011 6:25PM Report
Strayfe writes:

I agree with a lot of the stuff you write, but Rift is nothing more than WoW with a worse endgame and Warhammer's public quest system thrown in.

It was easily the worst $50 I've spent on an MMO in the last 5 years.

Sat Sep 03 2011 6:03AM Report
Dengar writes:

I've heard a fair amount of that, Strayfe, and I don't blame you. I can't comment myself, since I was raised on MMOs without an "end-game"- what you did while leveling up was what you always did. You weren't expected to hit the level cap within a month or two... or even a year, in many cases. I also wouldn't consider myself a raider, since I've done what it takes for server firsts and it's not fun. I don't need it, so I may be more biased than people who are more used to the EQ/WoW style of gameplay.

That being said, Fires of Heaven is still in Rift and very active. Rift's regular dungeons and even several rifts took more brain work than equal level content in WoW, so I'd argue that there is something to Rift even if it's not for everyone.

Sat Sep 03 2011 1:45PM Report
Rogosh writes:

Rfits endame is alot greater than Wow's, but both have a niche. If you like repetive content WoW is for you, if you want to raid and have content just be difficult then Rift is wher you want to be as a raider. And oh yes lets not forget the class system, it puts wows to shame. Many choices, where as with wow you have very few choices.

But anyways, great article keep up the good work!

Sun Sep 04 2011 12:54PM Report
teakbois writes:

'Rfits endame is alot greater than Wow's, but both have a niche. If you like repetive content WoW is for you, if you want to raid and have content just be difficult then Rift is wher you want to be as a raider. And oh yes lets not forget the class system, it puts wows to shame. Many choices, where as with wow you have very few choices.'


Rift doesnt have difficult content compared to WoW.  Rift has horribly bugged content making it seem difficult (Hammerknell).  Overall WoW still has the more challenging raid game.  Better?  It can go either way.


As for the class system, dont go pretending you dont have a ton of choices in WoW, you absolutely do.  Most of the classes different specs play quite a bit differently than the others.  Yes, you have far more freedom to mix and match abilities with Rift and can tweak specs like crazy, but as far as playstyles Rift does NOT have more variety than WoW.  Like being a melee DPS that doesnt use combo points?  Hope you like your limited melee cleric options.


Ret Paladin

Fury Warrior

Frost Death Knight

Unholy Deathknight

Combat Rogue

Assination Rogue

Feral Druid

Enhancement Shaman


In that group you have 5 drastically different melee styles, and the 3 that are similar to others still play a bit different.


Fact is, WoW does have a lot of playstyle variety, just less individual spec options.  WoW has 30 different main specs, and about 20 of those are very unique from each other.



Now onto the article itself.  the PvP stuff is very good.  Rift PvP as a whole is very lackluster (WoWs isnt spectacular either), but what you can do with it is better.


However the free server transfer thing?  Thats because of population issues.  They werent doing ti to be nice.  They were doing ti because of their extreme low pop servers that had people up in arms about long wait times and no one on.


Solo content?  remains to be seen.  To do it right the rewards have to suck compared to group content or you kill group content.  if the rewards suck will people want to do it?  It also seems to me like a vision shift to me.  Rift was supposed to be this game with big dynamic events in the world, lets shift to everyone on their own in their own little space.


I still dont see Rift as 'modern'.  I see Rift as a game right now with a lack of focus.  It seems like they are just throwing crap up against a wall and seeing what sticks.  It might not be a bad idea for a game in rift's condition.


I still say they need to worry about fleshing out the game world.  not just more zones, but Telera is such a boring, dull place with boring, dull races.  The art style looks pretty but it has no zing to it.  Its the same stale combat (and not quite as good as WoW) with the same dumb as a rock mobs (yes i read Teal's blog).  Vanguard, a game trying to be old school, had more combat innovation than Rift.

Mon Sep 05 2011 2:10AM Report
clankyasp writes:

how can a WoWClone be the WoWkiller?

Mon Sep 05 2011 8:05AM Report
SuperXero89 writes:

Sometimes I am amazed at how people can look at one thing and have the totally opposite impression of it.  It's as if I look at the sky and call it blue whereas someone else looks at it and says it's green.

When I played through 50 levels of Rift, the last thing I thougt was that Rift was some sort of a window into the future.  If anything, Rift is the last gasp of the past.  While SW:TOR will be heavily influenced by WoW, Rift goes the extra mile, taking nearly everything that works in that game straight out of Blizzard's playbook and does it in such an uninspiring fashion that it's just not all that much fun to play.  

Nothing impresses me about that game even though I gave it plenty of opportunity.  The graphics tend to alternate between snarp detail to hazy mudiness depending on the zone you're in, and the color palette is incredibly drab.  Animations are fairly weak and the characters feel stiff and clunky rather than smooth and organic like in WoW or Aion.

Another thing that bothers me is the myriad of technical issues that Trion causes every time they patch the game.  For every major patch, there's nearly a daily hotfix that solves issues on one person's end while breaking the game for another person. Personally, my 6-month subscription runs out in October, and I haven't even been able to play for the better part of a month (not that I'm sure I'd want to).  I can't even get to the character select screen without the game crashing, whereas every other MMORPG on my system works flawlessly.

Fri Sep 09 2011 5:14PM Report
Vercinorix writes:

I am afraid that calling Rift the future of MMOs may be all too accurate, in that Rift is basically a wholesale WoW clone with a few twists done differently.

Given that the financial requirments for developing and launching an MMO are huge, it seems that the money men are unwilling to allow developers to risk much of a serious break from the WoW model. So the 'WoW effect' may really be that we are doomed to a bunch of WoW clones like Rift.

This would be a shame, as MMOs honestly SHOULD be the future of computer gaming but they will be a niche until we see developers willing and able to break the WoW mold and innovate to provide the type of persistent world only available to us now in science fiction books and movies.

Sat Sep 10 2011 1:17PM Report writes:
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