I didn’t expect to like Rift. I played it all through beta, and I even participated on the Alpha shard. I knew and respected just how well-made the title was during its testing phase, but I didn’t ever really expect to enjoy playing it once I was on the Live Servers and playing with the rest of the general masses. And yet, here we are a week after the official NA launch and I’m really rather enjoying my time as I prepare our official review. It’s not the combat that makes me have fun; it’s not the standard-fare quests, or the everyday crafting. No, what makes Rift so fun for me is the social aspect that came out of nowhere and bit me in the bum.
Our own Isabelle Parsley touched on it last week in her column, so I won’t go too into detail here, but the Public Group function of Rift tied into the massive invasions/incursions themselves make for some truly dynamic sessions. You wander up to an invasion on your map, there’s a big button that appears at the top of your screen and should you choose to press it: BOOM. Instant raid party for the invasion. Sure it’s disorganized, and sure you won’t have people shouting at you over Vent or TeamSpeak, but isn’t that kind of the beauty of the thing? It’s raw, it’s organic… it just happens.
I’ll be roving about doing some quests in what I think is a desolate space, only to bump into another player, highlight them and join their Public Group should they have it set to open. That’s a key point. You don’t have to keep yourself open to grouping. Simply right-clicking your own portrait will allow you to close yourself off to random joins, and if you want a group to just be you and a friend, this comes in handy as well.
It really put the game into perspective for me. Sure enough a lot of Trion’s flagship title is well-tread material. But the one-two punch of invasions and public grouping has made what would probably be a boring game much more fun on a daily basis. Categorically speaking, I’ve found myself a solo-er in recent years. But what I didn’t realize was that this was because it was so hard to find groups in most modern games. I can only hope that this public grouping movement is something that carries over into more new games, and even some older ones. I’m not talking about Dungeon Finding Tools either… I’m specifically talking about Public Group mechanics. This is like one step beyond City of Heroes group finder, and Warhammer’s PQ mechanics.
In fact, I begin to think that another game which could sorely use this mechanic is DC Universe Online. Hampered by being designed for PC and PS3 alike, the social aspects in the open world are something that got lost in translation. The game’s questing is designed to allow players to share objectives without grouping, probably for the sole reason that the controls and UI couldn’t facilitate traditional targeting mechanics that lend themselves so well to games like Rift/WoW/EQ2. So in DCUO most grouping only happens inside of the game’s instanced dungeons PvP while the open world is left as a solo person’s playground. Even in the World PvP events, people run in solo, because there’s no easy way to group.
This really did turn into a piggy-back on Isabelle’s article from last week. I hope she won’t mind. But it’s only because the lass is onto something. I get that people want to solo, sometimes I do too. But what’s interesting is that in games where it’s easy to find and join other players, chances are I’ll do it. And suddenly what might feel like a chore (killing ten trolls) feels much more exciting and fun. It’s something to ponder, that’s for sure.