Tuesday, April 26, 2011

WoW is dead, long live Rift

The title says it all, doesn't it?

My relationship with Rift was problematic from the beginning. I first watched a video at Keen's place back in August 2010. I saw trainers, instances, the guy talking about that they have all what nowaday's MMORPGs have; he meant World of Warcraft, of course. In the presentation, I also saw him jump from stairs some 100m down into water just to be quicker; a total turn-off. If even the developers themselves don't use stairs, don't play like being in a fantasy world ..
I decided that Rift was a WoW clone - probably a bad one.

Many months later, in February, the hype machine started. Bloggers all over the planet found Rift to be quite polished and with some interesting quirks. I had played WoW: Cataclysm from November until February, with a long Christmas break in between. At the moment Rift came up, there was no MMORPG in my life. It's a little bit like not being in a relationship, I guess (OMG! :).

So, a week after launch I got Rift. I disliked and still dislike the general intro video. (Much worse than WoW's orginial one that focused more on atmosphere and less on combat.) I also didn't like the Deviant’s introduction video very much. My first session was about 2 hours and left a bad taste. It was 100% WoW, with more "cool stuff" like 20m jumps as a racial. I stopped playing for a week.

Next weekend, I gave it another try. A Guardian this time. I really liked the Guardian introduction video! I also liked the tutorial. Nothing special; but nice. Most of all, I liked the music! Especially when you finished the tutorial and get put into the real world. Holy shit, literally!

For about three weeks I made some six characters on two servers. I leveled all of them to about level 20. While it felt a lot like WoW, the invasions were nice. It was great to see mobs in the real world that I couldn't defeat by mashing my head on the keyboard. What was even greater: There were mobs that I couldn't defeat alone, no matter what I did! Nothing special, you might think, but Wow has patched these 'inconveniences' out of the game a long time ago.

I like the public questing. It makes sense to help a fellow Guardian at whatever he does. From a simulation point of view, it isn't always necessary to talk. We all know we are Guardians and what we are here to do.

However, after three weeks I stopped and let the subscription run out. My cleric was boring. As a healer he couldn't do damage as the mobs grew tougher and he went oom. As a tank he couldn't die no matter what I did; but he also took forever to level. As a spellcaster DD he died too easily. Did you just see me admit that I quit the game, because it took too long to kill mobs? I'd say it is more complicated. It's a problem of expectation management .. anyway. The questing became boring. I really forced myself to read all the quest texts, but found that even though I "read" them, I couldn't remember them. I still didn't know why I killed what I killed.

Also, the whole time I didn't really feel at home in Rift. It was responsive. It was polished. The user interface made sense. Still, I felt uncomfortable. Were the icons a little bit smaller than in WoW? Maybe. They didn't feel right...
I decided that I was suffering some kind of diabolic WoW curse; probably engineered at Blizzard and eating up all their money, so they cannot spend it on the game.

I made a break for several weeks, exactly waiting until the world event was over. Then, during Easter weekend, I grabbed an old level 20 toon: a guardian mage. I leveled him to 37. And I had a blast!

Now, let me tell you: Rift is so much better than WoW .. while leveling 25-37 at least. You ask why?

I have helped out several dungeon groups by now at healing. I have been invited to a nice guild. I have a friends list of about 20 people and I am probably on even more peoples' friends lists. I have explored dangerous caves with groups of enemies that I had to leave out! I have explored hidden quests. For example that giant tree, where we needed to first claim it for us and then catch leaves. Five players happened to have some quests there, too. They stopped and started to help me; just like that. We finally figured it out (took about an hour). There was no complaining, no efficiency drama. Nothing. It was simply fun.
I have fought back random invasions of a monastery of sorts, testing my new AoE specc.

I have spent hours on figuring out how to play another specc. This is nothing for kids, trust me. My brain still hurts from trying to figure out how to play a Dominator. Imagine: at level 35 you get a new specc. This specc includes about three bars full of complicated(!) abilities and now you need to organize yourself and play it efficiently. Not easy, not easy at all!

Rift also uses a better map technology. There are many, many, many caves. All different .. how many different WoW-caves are there? You can see a mountain side and decide to go there. Many minutes later you are where you had set out to go. Compared to Rift, WoW's maps are just flat and boring. And there are even mobs of different strength all over the map - not one kind of standard mob with standardized HP and normalized damage output!

Generally, you can say: Rift has brought back the world into World of Warcraft .. erm into Rift .. whatever. Leveling 1-20 isn't fun as a long-term WoW player, because it's all too similar. But 20-37 are phenomenal. You appreciate anybody out there who would like to help you. You help people yourself, because playing together is fun. Killing the occasional elite by kiting him around the world or by healing my own tanking elemental with a heal/elemental specc is just pure fun.

This is not a review of Rift. There are a lot of things I don't agree with. I don't agree with the entire concept of no-consequence gameplay. I miss trade and a meaningful economy. The open-PvP is a joke. The equipment-achivement-mindset and "rewards" out of nowhere alienate me. I am certain that balance will be a hell of a problem. I am not sure whether I want to do an item treadmill at maxlvl. I really cannot figure out what is so good about artifacts; six years of WoW have turned me into a cute-pet hater! These fireworks that people pull out of their pockets to celebrate me are silly. Rift could be so much better with a compressed CPP! In the future, I hope Trion focuses on the open world and not on instanced "boss mobs" ..

However, there is this theory that you will always like your first MMORPG more than any other. It has been proven wrong: I'd prefer the Rift leveling to the classic WoW leveling anytime.
Rift, level 20 upwards, is what WoW could have been if the developers had went into the right direction! It is not even a big step forward; it just appears big, because the competition made so many steps into the wrong direction over the years.

Have you ever tried to switch off the text on top of enemy mobs? It makes the world really come alive! You suddenly watch the screen and don't just scan it. I'll make a blog post about it eventually ...


  1. Totally agree, Rift IS better than the current WoW, and the game does indeed start at level 20. You'll be pleased to know that the game continues to impress all the way to 50 and beyond.

  2. Unfortunately I quit around lvl20 when ffxi started back up again. I did really like the flexibility with souls. I seemed to be doing something unconventional (reading forums) by running as hunter/bard/assassin. It seemed to work to me...

    In any event it's well worthy of being my backup game.

  3. I started turning off the floating names in Vanguard and have since made it a general practice to turn them off in every game insofar as is possible.

  4. Rift can overwhelm people "with too many buttons" -especially if you play multiple roles. But I played mmo for long times and thing is all mmos at core are the same, I for example have a few control schemes which I use for every game

    All moves really serve following purposes:
    - damage dealing (your "spam" button)
    - finisher
    - CC (stun ,snare ,mez, poly)
    - defence (vanish, block ,cc break,etc)
    - various utility junk you bind to the other keyboard spots (optional)

    Every mmo and every class has those. My stun is always "g", my cc break is always "~". My spam damage is mouse4, and my finisher mouse 5. My distance closer is always "F" (whether its blink, charge , teleport or whatever)

    I played all roles and lots of soul combos for rogue and warrior and I could switch seamlessly because controls were exact same.

  5. Try a Dominator on a PvP battlefield, Max. :)

  6. Thanks Nils :) I've not played Rift much since my warrior hit 25 or so, partly because it felt too much like WoW (and partly due to lack of time). But if it really picks up again then I'm going to try to make some time this week to give it another shot.

    Also - I'd be interested to read a post on how turning off mob boxes makes the world come alive. Though I guess for now I could just go find out for myself xD

  7. Nice review! I haven't tried the game yet, but the lively open world sounds very encouraging.

    Quick question: Would someone whose main interest is in immersion (in the worldy sense) be likely to enjoy Rift? Does it feel like a coherent world? You've always been a great advocate for immersive games, so I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts about Rift in particular if you have the chance.

  8. Rebecca, the main information you need when entering any area ist how many mobs are where. With "mob boxes", you start to scan the screen for red text. It becomes very natural and most people don't even realize doing it. It also, however, is largely responsible for not watching the scenery.
    Have you ever noticed that you went through a dungeon, but couldn't remember what it looked like? Or have you ever looked at the art in the dungeon on your 20th run and wondered, why you haven't seen that before? It was, because your brain scanned for red text. Switch it off and you suddenly start to look at the scenery. It also makes the game a bit more annoying, of course. Especially the WAR/Rift engine is not very good at contrasts; so you will sometimes find that you have no idea how many mobs are attacking you. Whether that is more fun, because it is more immersive, is probably a matter of taste.

    Tolthir, Rift is not an "immersive" game. It is slightly better than WoW:Cataclysm at immersion. If you are used to it, it's not much of a problem. You can still enjoy the gameplay and sometimes, when you are alone in a cave with mobs some three level above you, Rift can become immersive. But this is the exception.
    If there where a AAA-MMORPG out there that had a focus on immersion, I wouldn't play Rift, for sure. Problem is that there are no such games - yet.

  9. "I have been invited to a nice guild. I have a friends list of about 20 people and I am probably on even more peoples' friends lists."

    THIS. I don't know if the LFD will destroy what we have here, but I'm able to group and I've done so as tank, healer, and DPS. And I've met some really nice people.

  10. Numtini, a server-limited LFD will be problematic, but not as "cataclysmic" as a server-transcendent one.

    But I, too, fear that people will suddenly have to leave my open-world groups, because their LFD teleport just triggered.

    Not all content of a MMORPG has to be accessed equally and be 100% accessible. Something developers just don't seem to get. The fact that the content exists already has an effect, even if I only access it rarely.

  11. On the LFD and convenience/instant gratification. Back in the day, we used to say that most people really just weren't interested in MMOs. Then we assumed that WoW has proven that wrong.

    But the longer WoW evolves and as we see what people actually want from it, the more it seems like it's evolving into a non-MMO and that this is proving the original thesis: MMOs aren't for everyone.

  12. I would more or less agree with you Nils. I don't want to say Rift is more fun than WoW:Cata yet but I think it could be.

    Rift has it's problems, but it also has alot of very good features. If Trion can continue to provide content at a pace to keep people interested I have a feeling it could be the most succesful MMO since WoW.

  13. It was, because your brain scanned for red text. Switch it off and you suddenly start to look at the scenery. It also makes the game a bit more annoying, of course.

    Interesting insight. I am so conditioned today to this that I stopped noticed altogether. Now I start thinking if I could do away with it

    FPS do this.- no red text, just models and silhouettes. TF2 has very distinct silhouettes and models are colored. CS has no colors , and silhouettes are a lot less distinct. Combined with friendly fire it provides for more tactical depth

    For MMOs?. - need some mechanism for target selection. Without red names/healthbars it might make it harder to provide more tactical gameplay .

    It usually degenerates to lowest common denominator -the guy who does not know which target to pick, unless there is big bright red arrow pointing at it.