Quick break from the PvE Sandbox series to make an observation about Rift, but no worries (you were worried, I could tell), another post in that series is coming soon.
Over a month in and I’m still having a ton of fun with Rift, sitting on the edge of tier 2 expert dungeons and a few (thousand) points away from rank two in PvP. I’m also amused whenever I read something on Massively about the game, or rather, the comments that follow. There is very clearly a large portion of the MMO population that is simply burned out on themeparks, yet at the same time that population only really plays themeparks. From the outside looking in, it’s a pretty comical situation.
From my personal perspective, Rift does enough things different/better than other themeparks to make it feel fresh and enjoyable. Of course, the last themepark I seriously played was over two years ago (WAR, oops), and that was before Darkfall launched. And before WAR I was playing EVE for well over a year, with some LoTRO mixed to play something with Aria. WoW was before that. Prior to WoW I was playing DAoC, AC, and UO. Other titles have come and gone, but really those are the ones that I’ve spent a significant amount of time with. I’d say it’s a pretty solid mix of themeparks and sandbox titles, with both PvE and PvP focuses.
Had I stayed with WoW from 2004 to Rift’s launch, or jumped between WoW/EQ2/LoTRO during that time, perhaps I’d be as upset or worked up about Rift as well. I’m sure some of the things I’m finding interesting in Rift now are somewhat familiar territory to themepark regulars, and the number of truly unique features Rift sports might indeed be short. If you already hate themeparks (but can’t admit it to yourself), that short list won’t be the cure.
If every dungeon or encounter reminds you of something else, I think that might say more about your gaming history than the game itself. Let’s be honest here, that are only so many ways to design “don’t stand in the fire”, and when you go off the beaten path and create something unique, most of your playerbase won’t be able to handle it, with you either Blizzard’ing it (30% buff!), removing it (Rift werewolf curse), or the players will slowly learn to skip it if the reward is not super-shiny. Skipped content is poor content.
Going back to that burned out playerbase, the sad truth is options do exist for them, whether it be EVE, DF, Fallen Earth, or other titles, but what those games offer is not what these players are actually looking for. Oh, they will tell you it is, just with more polish, or more/less PvP, or just a UI like WoW, or countless other excuses, but for most the honest answer is they just want WoW, but they want it to also feel as fresh as it did for them in 2004. It’s an abomination of the rose-tinted glasses theory in a way, only with a game that is still current rather than something that has truly passed (unless you are playing on the EQ1 progressive server anyway).
It’s also an impossible situation from a dev’s perspective. If you give them what they actually want, you make Rift. If you give them what they say they want, you make Darkfall. The burnouts don’t want either title. They want a revolutionary themepark that feels comfortably familiar. Oh, and can it run on a toaster maxed out while looking like top-end GCI and handling 100s of players on-screen? For free. Gotta be free.
I’m sure someone is crafting that right now, and it’s due to be announced “soon”. Until then, your anguish will continue to entertain us all.