Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Ten Minutes Rift

I recorded a ten-minute Rift video. It's a lvl25 area and I am lvl50. This way I can run through and show you the wonderful graphics. I have a few points I want to make.


  • I love the graphics
  • I love the background sounds
  • The background music is not bad
  • My character's animations are not as good as they could be. He looks stiff
  • Most fire spells sound pretty much the same
  • The many spells without casting time mean that there is no proper pace. This is true also when fighting mobs of equal level. Never underestimate proper pace in games. Play WoW if you want to know why
  • The graphical effects of all spells are over the top, in my opinion. There was a time when having glowing hands was considered impressive. Nowadays my entire body is engulfed in flames by passive, frequent proccs. There's too much sparkle, really. Less is more.
  • Mob placement isn't actually all that bad - if I were of appropriate level. There's even a three-mob pat
  • Can we have more castles like this? With a huge labyrinth beneath, perhaps?
  • Unfortunately the only purpose of this castle is to give you mobs that you can kill for like five quests. There's nothing else of significance to be found there; not even at appropriate level

But here's the real reason I made this video:
I wanted to show you what incredible waste is going on in current level-based MMORPGs. Forget WoW for a moment, please: Rift could work perfectly well without levels. Character progression could be ability-driven (you get ever more abilities as you play).

What would Rift lose?
- Players don't see steadily raising absolute numbers on their screens while leveling up

What would Rift win?
- All leveling zones, such as the one in the video, were properly tuned endgame zones
- Less stat inflation
- Much better open-world PvP
- Strong mobs actually feel strong and not "five levels too high".
- Players could 'level' for much longer, because they could spend time working for abilities in other talent trees. Right now, you become a lvl50 Warlock while you work on becoming a lvl50 Chloromancer. It's an incredible waste of resources
- Players could play together with their friends the second their friends bought the game

And about those steadily raising absolute numbers: I don't even look at my Rift numbers! Just like in WoW nowadays, there are too many. That was different with classic WoW and 6 second Pyroblasts. In classic WoW the amount of numbers flying by was small. You would eagerly await for how much your next fireball would hit/crit and feel happy about a high absolute number. This effect is gone, because the amount of numbers flying by is huge. You don't eagerly await them: not in WoW, not in Rift.

One reason I could think of why Rift uses the current model is that they are terribly afraid of players deviating from the outlined story-line. But players (can) do this anyway. Even with ability-driven character progression, they could still play the game the way they prefer - they would only gain the freedom to level in other zones.


  1. Nils, there is another reason to explore that castle and indeed any other area you may have outlevelled - artifacts. I just can't resist cruising around Telara, looking for those white sparkling motes in odd places that may just be the last one I need to complete a collection. And of course, once you have Omen Sight (or Quantum Sight for the machineborn heretics) you can see all the red sparkling motes to collect as well...

    As you may have gathered, I like artifact collecting. I think it adds a nice, fluffy complement to the serious business of levelling, raiding and PvP and shows that Trion understands that there's more to MMOs than grinding e-peen.

  2. So spot on. I'm so surprised that this is the first time I read anyone else writing critically about this wasteful "game design".

    I'm sure CLVL mechanics are useful for their addictive capacities, but to waste every beautiful world entirely with this CLVL/ILVL madness says something about how confident the developers are at coming up with fun gameplay experience in the absence of progression as an incentive.

    WoW, right now, is Firelands. Rest of the content is obsolete. I've yet to reach level cap in Rift, but I'm guessing it's the same story with a different title.

    You can see workable solutions to this everywhere. EVE Online has a different item delivery method. They funnel everything through professions, which makes it easier to balance the incentives to visit the world's zones through a resource system. Every patch adds extra layer of content on top of the cake instead of rendering the previous content obsolete.

  3. Tremayneslaw, you are right. But unfortunately artifacts don't work for me. Worth another post I guess.

  4. @tremayneslaw: Artifacts, cairns and puzzles. Although the last two would be better done on-level.

    But I do agree on the wasted content idea overall.

  5. I'm heavily behind skill-based games like Ultima Online. I'm a bit tired of level progression.

    That said, people like to chase bars endlessly. Look at Planar Attunement. I didn't think I'd miss a level bar but now that I have one again I feel compelled to log in. Thankfully it doesn't officially "grey out" content.

    A skill based game would be awesome. I'm not sure Rift is set up to receive it.

  6. I'm not ideological about this, Ferrel und would not want to call it skill-based to not start this debate.

    I hadn't a problem with the devs keeping 'levels' and experience points and bars that fill up. With every 'level' you gain a new ability - just like now.

    The only thing that should be removed is the inherent powercreep with every level. A new ability is enough incentive.

  7. I don't think the levels are the problem but the uncontrolled health pool increase. The levels indicates how long this character has been played, how likely the player is familiar with the game and his diversity of abilities. If I look at Battle Field Bad Company 2 (I know, a FPS but integrating RPG elements like classes, levels and horizontal progression of characters) a level one can definitely get down a level caped player and can therefore play with anyone. If DICE turned their franchise into a MMO and PVE no zones would go to waste while leveling. The price of a significant health pool increase is not sustainable anymore in a social networked world.

    My 2 cents about it:
    "Why MMORPG must get rid of the avatar health pool increase if the genre wants to survive"

    PS: Cool video. I also enjoyed exploring Rift environments.

  8. I don't think the levels are the problem but the uncontrolled health pool increase.

    If you add that the HP increase necessitates a damage increase, I agree.

  9. I don't find "waste" a particularly compelling argument. Did you enjoy the recycled ZA/ZG heroic dungeon material? These zones and art assets serve a particular, specific purpose and thereafter any additional re-use suffers significant diminishing returns. Every time I went into a cave or barrow complex in WoW, the first thing I think about is how it is in the exact same configuration as the original barrow I went into in the Night Elf area. Mobs are different, layout is the same. Copy & paste.

    Taken to an extreme, all non-iterative games are wasteful. Skyrim? Why aren't they just using the same art/design assets as in Oblivion, and just change the mobs around? Or why even change the mobs, just recolor them and give them new abilities. Much less wasteful.

    As far as "non-leveling but still somehow progression" RPGs, good luck. I'm not quite sure how you anticipate an early mob being as dangerous to a new player with few abilities as it would be to a veteran with full abilities to be balanced, but sure. At that point though, it is not an RPG at all by any practical definition - I get new "powers" in Half-Life over time, too.

  10. I hear you on the night elf barrows, Azuriel, but I think that "waste" does matter when you consider opportunity costs. ZA/ZG dungeons weren't fun because they lacked novelty- relatively few players who ran them in Cata ever ran them when they were current content- they simply weren't well-designed. On top of that they became the primary, repetitive end game content for most players. The question is whether the art assets that were created en lieu of making a pair of new dungeons was worth dealing with recycled assets. I think it was; the issue with ZA/ZG ain't the art.

    One of the things I really like about Lotro is the necessary invention that comes along with a limited development team. Recycling art assets for skirmishes might seem uninspired, but you reach a critical mass where there is so much "current" content that any particular piece becomes infrequent enough to stay novel. Sure, I've run Siege of Gondamon a hundred times, but if I only run it once every two weeks- sometimes solo, sometimes in a raid- it doesn't go stale.

  11. Azuriel, the point is that content should be reasonably distributed. If a game showed you 10 different zones in the first few hours of play and then leaves you with one zone for the rest of the game, that would be unreasonably distributed. At least if you want the players to have fun in the long run.

    A game, like Rift that has a relatively strong focus on the open world (rifts), would profit a lot if all zones were reasonably tuned.

  12. I love the fact that the staff is a staff and not a stupid stick or some oversized obscene object.

  13. That's because it's a blue leveling staff, Kring. The epic ones in Rift aren't much better than in WoW. Actually, if anything, they are worse ;)

  14. But the animation emphasized that it is a staff.

    The way the character holds the staff makes sense. You get the impression that he holds a powerfull staff - and that he holds it tight because his life depends on his staff.

    In WoW characters wear a staff like a backpack, even in the most dangerous encounter. That's just silly. For a mage it's ME AND MY STAFF against the evil. A staff shouldn't be something you carry around for no real reason.