Massively goes EG, I go Tobold.

I apologize for the “All Warband All The Time” interruption, but I think this is worth posting about. Massively did a quick impressions piece about Rift, which includes Jef playing it for an hour, and the comments explode with people judging the ‘professionalism’ and ‘journalistic integrity’ of the staff. Its good stuff, in that ‘watch the idiots’ train wreck kind of way.

In a comment here, Drew alerted me to this whole thing, and brought up everyone’s favorite bastion of truth, Eurogamer, as a comparison. The two are black and white here, and I think it’s worthwhile to quickly go over why (especially since I often do EG Style reviews here).

Up front, Jef states he only played for an hour. That right there level sets what you should expect. It’s an opinion from an hour, nothing more, nothing less. It’s also negative, which has SOME value, but it’s up to the reader to decide how much. The first hour of EVE and Darkfall are also somewhat negative for many, but what does that mean? If the first hour is poor because the design for the next 100 demands it to be, that’s one thing. If it’s negative because your first hour is identical to the last 100 you spend in themepark X, that’s another. And, perhaps you see “I’ve played this before” not as an issue, but as a selling point. If you are looking for ‘more of the same’, that’s a damn good sales pitch. If the next MMO to be released has a first hour impression of “Man, this feels exactly like Darkfall, bleh!”, I’m sold (on the first hour).

The clear difference between what Jef did and what EG did is Jef level set everyone up front, and he also did not attempt to break down features and provide ‘facts’ he himself did not experience. The EG issue was never about how long a reviewer SHOULD play, but that EG had multiple factual errors, and when pointed out, stood behind them. Like I said, black/white.

Tobold also has a post about this, although with a slightly different take, one that I somewhat echoed here before: Rift being ‘more of the same’ is not necessarily a bad thing, and I still stand behind the ‘2004 WoW for 2011 is not bad’ statement.

However, having spent some more time now with Rift (10 hours or so?), here is the issue; from what I saw, Rift is NOT 2004 WoW for 2011. 2004 WoW brought a lot of new ideas to the MMO genre at that time. It great improved on EQ1 in a number of areas, and while its core was similar, most of the details were significantly different. Rift is not significantly different. Forget moving the genre forward, it moves it sideways, or even, moves it back a few steps.

The rift system is being called WAR’s PQs version 2.0 (as somewhat of an insult), but as Zubon from KTR correctly stated, where is the 2.0? A whole version forward because they randomly spawn? They still get zerged (without scaling), they will still be forgotten/ignored once you have what you want, and you have indeed seen them all once you have seen two or three (if not one, sadly). That they may or may not temporarily impact the area around them is, for now, a total non-factor if you don’t need the rep/items/whatever from them (and have others who feel the same). Again, a beta is an ideal condition, but come live, things change drastically, and not in a good way. Nothing so far has convinced me that rifts won’t go the way WARs PQs did a few months after release.

The soul system does seem interested, but at a max of 66 points total and 50 to max one tree, how many 50/16/0 builds will be ‘viable’ three months after release? But even if you assume dozens and dozens of different builds are viable, so what? You now have dozens of different builds to… repeat 2004-era quests and grind out the first few parts of a rift? Yay…

I’m being harsh on Rift, perhaps too harsh, but in many ways it feels like a huge opportunity wasted. Rift just does way too many things too safe, and really does feel like ‘more of the same’ in a very bad way. 2004 WoW grabbed you because while feeling familiar, it constantly surprised or impressed with something, be it big or small. So far, each step with Rift has felt very familiar, but without a single surprise. You go around every corner expecting something, and sure enough, it’s right there, just as you predicted. That’s not good, but maybe beyond 10 hours this changes. I’ll likely find out when Aria and I finally sit down to play, but I’m not holding my breath here.

About SynCaine

Former hardcore raider turned casual gamer.
This entry was posted in beta, Mass Media, MMO design, Rift, World of Warcraft. Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to Massively goes EG, I go Tobold.

  1. Drew says:

    Agreed about the Eurogamer comparison, hence the reason I intended to include it in “air quotes”. Pretty funny stuff, but then again no funnier in hindsight than watching the masses (which included me, sadly) defend FFXIV against the harsh criticism it was taking during the beta.

    I have no desire to play RIFT, as I get the impression it really is just more of the same – I already have WoW to fill that ‘themepark-play-with-my-friends’ slot, and Fallen Earth to fill the ‘I’d-rather-be-playing-this’ one.

  2. bonedead says:

    Screw playing games before they come out, let other people do all the grunt work imo!

    Many years ago the problem for me was that every new MMO that came out I had to get super excited for and know every little thing I could about it. The result was always getting disappointed.

    Then WoW came out.

    Now, fuck it. I’m not gettin my hopes up, I’m not buying into the stupid overhype machines, and I’m sure as hell not going to play any game that is probably going to release pretty incomplete in an even more incomplete state.

    I recommend that you don’t either! Fuck those assholes. Make something different, jesus effin christ.

    There’s not very many settings to choose from, sure, BUT MAKING SOME BRAND NEW ONE ISN’T A TOTALLY NEW TWIST ON MMOS, FYI. So take some eggs out of the, but we have plants with eyeballs in our new crazy amazing world, basket and put some more into the, taking something an MMO must have and finding a new way to look at/utilize it, basket. I’m fuckin retarded and I can figure this shit out.

    Stagnant MMOs are stagnant. Bitches!


  3. sid67 says:

    Quote “2004 WoW brought a lot of new ideas to the MMO genre at that time. It great improved on EQ1 in a number of areas, and while its core was similar, most of the details were significantly different.”

    OMG! I never thought it would, but it did. It happened. It finally happened. WE WON, TOBOLD! I knew if we just kept at it for years and years and years…

    **teary eyed**

    I’d like to thank all of you that have supported me in this effort over the years. It’s been a long hard fought battle to get Syncaine to write something objective and positive about WoW but we finally succeeded.

    I can’t believe we finally won the internets. Congratulations!

    • Kyff says:

      I know you have been following this blog for longer than I do. But even I noticed that Syncaine always maintained that he liked the 2004 WoW very much. Apparantly he wouldn’t have played it excessively otherwise.

      And concerning “winning the internets” I’m still interested in the outcome of the million-subscription-bet. Rift is no contender it seems.

      • sid67 says:

        It’s more about WHAT he’s saying was an improvement…

        “improved on EQ1 in a number of areas, and while its core was similar, most of the details were significantly different.”

        I read this as WoW being an improvement to the genre — something he has rarely conceded.

        It’s a rare display of objectivity and proof that he can at least think objectively when he wants.

        • SynCaine says:

          Link to me where I argue that 2004 WoW did not bring significant improvements to the genre.

          Maybe you are confusing that with another point I often make, that WoW’s success is part design, part luck/snowball. I still stand behind that. If SOE launches EQ2 and it’s not a train wreck, and if everyone post-2004 is not blah, I’m not convinced WoW goes on it’s Mr. T run and gets 12m subs. It’s not THAT good.

          But saying its not THAT good and saying it was bad/whatever in 2004 are very, very different things.

          2011 WoW does suck as an MMO. Feel free to quote that.

        • sid67 says:

          I’m making the observation because it’s rare that you ‘credit’ them with any success — 2004 or not.

          Which I have always felt is ludicrous. They weren’t simply successful because of timing alone. It helped — but it’s not the sole cause.

          That said, I can buy the best game at the best time argument for contributing to it’s success up to a point.

          Don’t forget there were always significant other contributing factors — not the least of which is that Blizzard developed (3) of the most popular non-MMO brands ever made PRIOR to WoW’s release.

          The 500k users from EQ were a drop in the bucket compared to the millions who played SC, WC3 and Diablo. Credit those fans with WoW’s success — not the EQ2 train wreck.

          Anyways, it’s just rare to hear you credit with WoW being the best game at any point in time.

          I think the issue is that you can look back fondly at a game like UO or EQ or DAoC because very few people continue to play them.

          Whereas, that retrospective fondness you would get from looking back at your time in WoW simply never happens because well, it’s still the most single most popular MMO by a wide margin. It’s hard to say “remember how great it was when…” in a post only to have people throw “yes, and it still is” in your face.

        • SynCaine says:

          They can’t though. Only a totally blind fool (err, WoW player today) would argue 2011 WoW is like 2004 WoW in all but the most basic of ways. Now the same can be said about UO, but the whole Trammel thing is well covered and accepted. Why the same for WoW is not, I’m not sure. Maybe pre-Cata will catch on in a few months…

          As for success, sure the Blizzard name helped, but how much help was it against the SOE name in the MMO market at that time? Blizzard was the newbie (look at how people are viewing Bioware and SW:TOR right now), SOE was the king. Pre-release, most considered Blizzard crazy for releasing so close to EQ2, and for good reason. Had SOE not handed over the crown, had EQ2 been even half-decent, we are not talking about 12m subs WoW right now. Hence, timing.

          Also, if the Blizzard name was as strong as you suggest back in 2004, why did WoW start with less players than EQ2? Why was WoW actively trying to convert EQ2 guilds to give WoW a shot? Why did it take EQ2 being declared a total bust for WoW to take off and hit 1m subs months after release? It’s not because all those SC players had to finish just one more game before signing up. Hence, snowball.

          Neither have anything to do with design, and neither have anything to do with the current solo-fest that is WoW. Neither also has anything to do with how little Blizzard adds to the genre, how they are a parasite more than anything else, or how annoying it is that MMOs, thanks to WoW, are mainstream and now attract xbox kiddies to the genre and $150m soon-to-be-disasters vs what was being done pre-2004.

          But yea, 2004 WoW was solid and I had a good time with it up until BC. /win?

        • sid67 says:

          but how much help was it against the SOE name in the MMO market at that time?

          SOE had collectively what 500,000 subscribers at it’s peak?

          Diablo sold 2,000,000 boxes in the first MONTH. Starcraft is perhaps the top selling PC game of all-time. Even before WoW, Blizzard was releasing titles with record-breaking sales and success.

          We are talking MILLIONS and MILLIONS of casual users. EQ players were important (no doubt) but only because they represented the hardcore. Collectively, that group is very important because they are your gaming leaders.

          But I would attribute the early EXPLOSION of popularity among the (at that time) casuals to be caused largely by the fans of Blizzard’s other properties.

          It’s one of those things where lots of things contribute (more broadband, a crappy EQ2, Blizzard’s existing popularity) and all of them are true.

          I just think that in the scheme of things, EQ2’s lack of success was less important than Blizzard’s previous success.

          Also 2010 Bioware != 2004 Blizzard. For one thing, Bioware has made their name in single-player games and their MMO sure sounds like it’s being built like a single-player MMO. Blizzard, by contrast, had already developed a popular multi-player RPG. And the other titles went on to be the greatest selling titles EVER on a PC.

  4. Mala says:

    Notice how they all played til the mid-teens, well I did too. Rift’s quick early progression and new shiny factor keep you hustling your way through the content early on, but then the pace of dings/shinies slows down a bit, your brain comes to its senses, and you suddenly realize you’ve done it all before. It doesn’t matter if you play an hour or 10 hours, you’re basically coming to the same conclusion anyway.

    The reality is, I just don’t really care for these kinds of games anymore. Oh I can play them for a bit and have a good time, but there are so many other games I’d rather play these days. Rift is good for what it is, and I think that helped me realize that I can’t really blame it on some sort of crappy mechanic or shoddy animation or rushed release. Its just that the MMORPG genre isn’t really what it used to be, and thats just real. MORE people like it now than before when I liked it, and thats fine, I think I just need to reevaluate what games I am going to follow pre-release. I’ve been following most everything with an “MMO” label for so long that I sort of tricked myself into getting interested in a lot of games that actually don’t have any mechanics I care for.

  5. Bhagpuss says:

    I find Rift compulsive. I’m in exactly the position SynCaine alludes to, in that I am indeed looking for “more of the same”. Rift is just that: more of the same thing I already know I like.

    I find this whole obsession with novelty and innovation baffling. Instances of other media don’t require constant reinvention to validate their production. Other hobbies don’t require endless changes of substance for hobbyists to continue persuing them. Why should MMORPGs?

    More succinctly, Robert Parker wrote a lot of Spenser novels and I’ve already read most of them half a dozen times each and expect to read them many times more. They are all almost identical, but that’s kind of the point. When he occasionally branched out and wrote Jesse Stone novels or Sunny Randall novels I read those too. They were basically Spenser novels with the names changed, but that was just fine. There basically could never be too many Robert Parker novels.

    In my opinion, there can never really be enough MMORPGs that are quite like Everquest. And however many there are, I’ll be interested in at least trying them all. And occasionally one will “click” and Rift is one of those.

    All that said, I think it’s quite odd that such sweeping conclusions are being drawn by everyone (me included) about what the game will be like long-term given that all we’ve seen so far are two tutorial zones, two starter zones and the first two low-level dungeons. If Rift is like most MMOs that will be about 2% of the content, in which most players will spend absolutely the shortest time possible.

    • Randomessa says:

      I think this was touched on in one of Syp’s recent posts – I suspect people are this way about MMOs because of the staggering amount of time it is expected one will invest in them, compared to other hobbies.

      Possibly the next comparable media would be TV shows, which, while there will always be at least one family-friendly sitcom on the air, goes through phases and fads and sometimes completely shuns what was popular the previous year – because people consume a ton of TV as well.

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  7. Wilhelm2451 says:

    Okay, was this SynCaine/Tobold switch places day? Syn appears to be the voice of reason while Tobold looks to be skirting very close to outright trolling. Maybe this is a further part of his campaign to drive away readers?

    I’m also surprised nobody jumped on Beau’s impression, though maybe people just couldn’t be bothered to read all the way to the end.

    Or maybe Jef’s comments were just the right size for the TL;dr nerd rage crowd.

    Beau though also focused on the sameness of the game, and in much more negative terms. Go read it. He admitted in the second paragraph that the sameness wasn’t all bad and that he had fun at the end. But his opener seemed to be a rock-solid confirmation of Jef’s displeasure at the first hour.

  8. Saucelah says:

    Wow. Some of those people have no knowledge of the nature of reviews. Get your biases and prior experiences and the nature and time spent with the product up front, and nothing you can say lacks “journalistic integrity”

  9. xXJayeDuBXx says:

    I agree with everything you said Syncaine with regards to the comparisons. As far as Rifts go, I have no interest in the game what so ever.

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  11. Blackluck says:

    Having not played Warhammer or WoW beyond beta and the first month or so of retail, comparisons to those games are for me irrelevant.

    That said I do keep reading how Rifts are “Just like War’s PQs.” This post from F13 I addresses that fairly well I think, and describes Rifts in the same manner I found them:

    I played WAR (in beta and release) and played Rift (in beta and soon-to-be release) and I can flat out tell you that Rifts are nothing like PQs in WAR. The Rifts didnt evoke the same feelings I had with PQs at all, even when it came to getting loot (which seems to be a heck of a lot better with Rifts).

    The Rifts, as bland and predictable as I thought they’d be, by the 3rd beta were a pretty “in your face” game mechanic. You HAD to deal with them, it was planar war… and sometimes you had to deal with opposing faction NPCs, and sometimes both. Sure, you can meander around and just quest-grind, but sooner or later you’ll be dodging Regulos’ patrols like everyone else, or fighting them back. Same to be said of guardians/defiants. There were times when an entire quest area was overrun and I just had to skip the quest or deal with it. And there were times when you’d be questing and you’d simply get “rift-ganked” and did the same.
    End Quote
    (Ghambit on F13,

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