Rift: MMO 3.0

Let’s call UO/EQ/AC the first generation of MMOs (sorry MUDs), where both the devs and the players were total noobs, and the ‘hey this is new’ factor was off the charts. If you dialed in during the late 90s, you got to experience something unique, and for many that uniqueness overshadowed poor or shallow gameplay, massive technical issues, and a somewhat ‘constant beta’ feel.

The 2nd generation covers WoW in 2004 and other MMO games during that time. These were games which were created based off the feedback from UO/EQ/AC, seeking to fix the issues and progress the genre. Some succeeded more than others, and not all of the ‘fixes’ were actually better than the original ‘problems’. A large push was made to remove that ‘constant beta’ feel, along with expanding the genre beyond just those hardcore enough to survive the first-gen MMOs.

We are now in the 3rd generation of MMOs, the ‘post-WoW’ era. We have seen countless titles try to emulate WoW, others try the ‘something different’ route, and still some who wish to return to that first gen feel. As with the second generation, some titles accomplish their goals better than others, and some are indeed evolutions rather then rehashes or steps back.

So far (lvl 20), Rift feels very much like a 3.0 MMO. An evolution of WoW in much the same way that WoW was an evolution of EQ1. Yes, you have seen most of this before, but not in this exact mix, and it’s the sum of all the parts that is ultimately what determines whether you are having fun or not, and whether overall things ‘work’. Rift works.

Souls are similar to talent trees, but the differences between the two systems make souls better. It’s not a giant leap for the genre, but it IS an improvement. More flexible, more interesting, more integrated to everything else. Same deal with the initial zone. The layout is just better than the starter areas of WoW, it feels more worldly while still feeling themepark enough to facilitate that kind of gameplay. I’ve heard the zones beyond are of similar quality. Rift events are similar to WARs PQs, yes, but once again simply better overall. More noticeable, better at getting people to participate, more ‘worldly’ in nature, more tightly written into the lore, etc.

Alone each piece is a nice but subtle improvement to the genre. Together they create something that is both very enjoyable and noticeable better as a whole. Rift’s first week feels very much like WoW did in 2004 (including the queues!), where what you are doing really does not leap out and shock you like early UO or the first week of something like Darkfall did, but you keep logging in and watching the hours go by, entertained the entire time, always looking ahead. Rift has that very familiar, comfortable ‘slow drip’ feel of a quality themepark MMO.

About SynCaine

Former hardcore raider turned casual gamer.
This entry was posted in Darkfall Online, EQ2, MMO design, Rift, Ultima Online, Warhammer Online, World of Warcraft. Bookmark the permalink.

26 Responses to Rift: MMO 3.0

  1. bonedead says:

    I bez havin a good time.

  2. Mala says:

    I’m glad to hear people are liking Rift, but I have to admit that I just didn’t have this experience when I played in beta. Maybe I do need to give the game more time (maybe eventually I will if its cheap on Steam), but I really felt like all those small improvements didn’t really add up to a “3.0” to me.

  3. D says:

    five years of WoW and I’m over this style of MMO. Couldn’t make it past level 10 b/c everything felt so structured and easy.

    Not to mention something about combat felt ‘off.’ Are you feeling it? The combat just didn’t feel silky smooth like WoW combat did.

    • brannagar says:

      Couldn’t make it past level 10? Thats all you need to say. The first 10-15 levels are pretty much WoW 2.0, its not until you partake in the first Zone Event that you start to see where Rift shines.

      The World Events are unlike anything in ANY MMO before and they happen constantly. They are fun, they are stable and they are rewarding.

    • Caramael says:

      Combat does indeed feel ‘off’. Also, the sound effects are horrible.
      I couldn’t make it past level 10 either, meh.

  4. Carson says:

    So you’re saying that Rift is a generational leap in MMOs over WoW, and Darkfall wasn’t? Even though it “does not leap out and shock you like early UO or the first week of something like Darkfall did”? I can’t shake a nagging feeling that your Rift posts are intended to be satirical.

    • Dril says:

      There isn’t just one MMO family tree.

      EQ –> WoW –> Rift would obviously be one, the other is a bit more hazy, and it probably splits into two. I’m guessing it would be something like:
      –> EVE
      UO –> (DaoC? Shadowbane?) –> Darkfall

      • Dril says:

        And the formatting failed horrifically. Essentially I’d say that Darkfall and EVE have split the sandbox sub-genre in their evolution; one focussing on space and essentially turn-based combat, the other on physical worlds and twitch-based.

    • SynCaine says:

      I think you misunderstood my point about DF.

      The first week of Rift is a lot of “oh that’s familiar, but I like how Trion did it”.

      First week of Darkfall is a mix of utter confusion and “holy shit that’s awesome” moments.

      In other words, Darkfall does a LOT more in terms of new stuff than Rift, which is why I made the connection to UO. But I don’t think anyone going into Rift is really expecting a totally new experience. I know I was not.

      • Carson says:

        That’s why I’d call Rift “MMO 2.01”.

        • SynCaine says:

          Did WoW really improve on EQ1 enough to warrant a 1.0 upgrade? If so, how is this any different as of a week in?

          Plus, I think it’s telling that it took this long for any single AAA MMO to get all the stuff that Rift does right. If it really is a small step, why did AoC/WAR/Aion/etc not do it?

  5. Tim Young says:

    I played through a few of the betas for Rift. I never got the feeling that this game was anything special. Every blogger and his mom loves the game and is already praising it as a success and — finally — the WoW killer. I just don’t get it.

    • Kyir says:

      The fact that it pretty much advertises itself as a WoW killer strikes me as fairly obnoxious.

      Can’t we all just be civil over the Internet?

    • Shadow says:

      I don’t know that I’ve actually read “WoW killer”. I’ve seen challenger/contender and other similar terms applied.

      The most important thing to take out of the launch of Rift, is that it shows an MMO can be launched that is incredibly polished, high-functioning, and solid in performance. That alone impresses me, as I genuinely was begginging to feel that it was not a feesible goal in the genre.

    • SynCaine says:

      Rift is as much of a WoW killer as WoW was an EQ1 killer. Those that want something similar but newer will likely enjoy Rift. Those that are perfectly happy with the current state will stay. Those looking for something totally different will remain on the sideline.

      • Carson says:

        If WoW was merely a game for “those that wanted something similar [to EQ1] but newer” it would have had about 2% of the subscriber base it actually achieved.

      • Shadow says:

        Rift definitely has a bit of that “perfect-storm” set-up going for it – recent attempted AAA MMOs are very old hat now; the expansion for the big-dog was met with overwhelming indifference; nothing new of equal quality/anticipation is coming anytime soon; and it has the level of refinement to make players feel like it’s a well-established game.

        Obviously, EQ1 isn’t dead (which is what I think you were alluding to), and the fantabulous progression server showcases that reality fairly well. I’m curious to see if Rift will pull in numbers to itself in the genre like WoW has over it’s life-cycle. The question there is: will it pull only from WoW’s player-base, or will it bring in even more formerly non-MMO players into the fold, and create a whole other subset of future MMO tourists?

        Quick, someone coin the phrase Rift-tourist!

  6. silvertemplar says:

    Only once you spent an entire evening fighting off one hell of a zone invasion in Rift, only then will you realize ” ok there is something different here, and it seems to work! ” . Players are participating, it’s fun , it’s “worldly” and totally breaks the linear, mind numbing questing game-play.

    How long it will keep my busy is another story, but for now, i’m having alot of fun.

  7. Sleepysam says:

    Sounds great, but I wonder how similar some of this reads to what people were blogging re WAR during the head start.

    • SynCaine says:

      A valid point, and obviously we will find out in a month or three. I will say though that many who write today were around for WAR, and have hopefully learned from that experience. In early WAR the signed of poor design where there, but mega crowds overshadowed them. I don’t think what Rift is trying to do overall is as population-reliant as WAR.

      I’ll reference 2004 WoW again. At launch every zone had a little extra buzz because it was so active, yet those same zones still offer solid content when the masses moved on. My guess is Rift will do more of this than what happened to WAR.

      • Sleepysam says:

        WAR’s reliance on population to make the game work was a huge issue. With Rift, I get the feeling that the game has a more developed PVE game, lessening dependence on population to make your game work. Still, a lot of this text (all over the interwebz) is eerily similar to WAR head start blogging.

      • Eudaimonic says:

        I think it’s fair to wonder how the “dynamic” event system will hold up when populations level out/are more widely dispersed across the zones.

        All that said, the zone events are amazing, and pretty much as good as it gets in terms of theme parks right now. You know how in many MMOs betas, when the servers are about to shut down, the devs and testers get to have some fun and suddenly there are giant dragons spawning in all the cities? Ever wonder why you can’t have crazy epic experiences like that in an MMO thats’s not about to shut down its servers? Well, that’s pretty much the zone events in a nutshell.

  8. professer says:

    I do not believe that any MMO out yet is truly 3rd gen. Nothing has come along since WoW to truly evolve the genre like it did from the 1st to 2nd generation.

    I’d call it a 2.5 generation game, at best.

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