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Tradition Can Work

William Murphy Posted:
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I love new things.  I love it when developers, writers, artists, filmmakers, and so forth try to create new ways for us to enjoy their medium.  A great deal of my zest for DC Universe stems from the very fact that its combat is so different from the MMO norm.  But for as much as I drone on and on that as players we need to be open to new ideas in our games, I’m just as capable of respecting the old “don’t fix what ain’t broken” saying.  When it comes to Rift, what Trion seems to be aiming for is a well-polished and fully featured traditionally-styled MMORPG.  In that much, they’re more than succeeding.  They’re playing with the traditions of the genre, and there’s no reason that it can’t work in today’s market. 

The argument is a familiar and a well-reasoned one: if we want change but keep paying for the same old stuff, we’ll never get where we want to go.  I say fie to that for one main reason: the MMORPG market and its resulting plethora of titles is growing to a very large and varied base.  There is room for many different sorts of games, and even more than a few which represent the standard tropes of the genre. 

But Bill, what the hell are you talking about?  How can Rift hope to succeed when World of Warcraft has helped push games like EQ2 and LotRO to Freemium formats?

The answer is simple: not everyone wants to play in Azeroth.

Sure it’s the biggest game in the industry.  And absolutely we’re learning that the $15 a month standard fare isn’t always the best way to go as previously thought.  But I’m not writing this week’s column to declare whether or not Rift will take down WoW or whether it will fare best with a standard subscription fee.  I’m merely of the opinion that Rift’s classical approach to the fantasy MMORPG can and likely will succeed.

I’ll be the first guy to admit that upon initial inspection, I was a bit put off by Rift.  I think, in all the hype surrounding other games and the innovations they were touting, Rift’s customary approach to how an MMORPG should be designed seemed dated.  Then I played more… and more… and still more.  I found myself enjoying the storyline (which is present so long as you actually read).  I found combat becoming more diversified the further I dipped into my soul trees.  I found the group content well-paced and Rifts to be enticing once there were more people around to delve into them. 

Is it perfect?  Far from it.  But I’ve played games that have been out for a year that show less polish and presentation than Rift.  Like all games, it won’t be for everyone.  Many folks will scoff at the fact that Rift plays much akin to EQ, LotRO, WoW and so forth.  But I have a feeling that many more will be perfectly content with Rift’s gameplay.  Just because it’s been done before doesn’t mean it can’t be done better and Rift succeeds in an all-important aspect of MMO development – it’s polished.

At the risk of sounding falsely prophetic, mark my words: Rift will have plenty of admirers who don’t share the rather vocal sentiments of those who are tired of the same old song and dance.  Rift is not for them anyway.  Rift is for the people who want something like WoW, who want something like EQ2, who want something like LotRO, but who do not want any of those games.  It will capture the attention of thousands, maybe millions, simply because it does what it tries to do rather well and there’s a proven sect of people who want nothing more.  So while I understand the folks whose opinion may be simply a feeling of exasperation with the entire industry, I am able to see the honest merit and enjoy a game which plays well and comes with a great deal of production value and depth.  In short, it’s no surprise that yet another forthcoming release is causing such disparate views.  It’s what we do here at MMORPG.com.  We bicker.  But when it comes to Rift, there will be two camps.  Camp A will roll their eyes and continue waiting until something truly remarkable comes along.  Camp B will know that Rift is what it is, and will enjoy the hell out of it for not making any false promises.


William Murphy

Bill is the former Managing Editor of MMORPG.com, RTSGuru.com, and lover of all things gaming. He's been playing and writing about MMOs and geekery since 2002, and you can harass him and his views on Twitter @thebillmurphy.