Rift: Happy half-birthday, welcome to Azeroth!

Prompted by Tobold (its Thursday blog noob, not Friday), let’s talk about Rift 6 months after release.

Pre-release, Trion was hyping Rift with “You’re not in Azeroth anymore”. Yes, Rift was never pitched as more than yet another fantasy themepark, but themepark does not always equal solo-hero shiny-vacuum ala current-day WoW.

And in beta, Rift was certainly not Azeroth. Most of the content focus was around open zones rather than closed-off instances, balance was aimed at allowing anyone to group with anyone to succeed, and the general lore was around two factions that had a common enemy but conflicted about how to deal with it. Actually, it was very much Azeroth, just circa 2004. You had group quests, elite mobs in zones, quest chains of increasing difficulty, etc. The game was in no way ‘hard’, but it was not a faceroll either.

Right at release, zone events were nerfed, and lost most of the impact they had in beta. They could now be easily ignored, and a zone would no longer feel ‘dangerous’ during an invasion. They in effect became a side-option rather than a focus.

The first world event was a dud. From a design standpoint it had some major flaws, the game could not handle it technically, and worst of all most players came away feeling very ‘meh’ about the whole thing. The second world event was more of the same, minus the initial novelty of “hey it’s the first world event!”

Patch 1.2 was a massive nerf to the games overall difficulty; buffing now easily-acquirable gear while at the same time nerfing mob difficulty will do that. The justification for this nerf was that random PUG groups collected with the very-2011-Azeroth dungeon finder were lower skilled, and in order to ensure everyone walked away with a shiny, the bar had to be lowered. Later patches continued this trend, nerfing any reasonable difficult quests, rifts, or events.

The game pitched as “not Azeroth” very quickly started to mirror exactly that, with a focus on random PUG groups, collecting tokens, and getting to the cap so you could queue up for instanced whatever.

Rift does have a few quality features, ones that will no doubt be cloned going forward much like WAR’s PQs have been cloned. The soul system is a solid progression of the talent-tree setup, and makes the old “one way up” style feel very dated. Trion should also be commended on their rate of updates; as of this date they have been steadily delivering new content and changes, along with being very active on their forums. Like the game or not, it’s hard not to admire Trion in this area, and hopefully it continues going forward and pressures other studios to try and keep up.

Right now, Rift is doing exactly what Trion wants it to do; offer a similar experience to WoW players who are tired of waiting on Blizzard. It’s not hard to see where most of those million+ subs from WoW have gone. It’s not the sales pitch they were promoting pre-release, but with a million “customers”, so far it seems to be working out for them.

About SynCaine

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

19 Responses to Rift: Happy half-birthday, welcome to Azeroth!

  1. Dril says:

    I maintain what I’ve been saying since I quit 2 weeks after launch: Rift was, at launch, a technically very polished game and a momentous achievement in the industry that has produced shoddy release after shoddy release.

    It also utterly lacks any charm, joy, immersion or any distinguishing factor that really shakes the feeling that you are playing a bland, generic, soulless copy-cat.

    Oh, and the fact that people can raid, RAID, using 2-4 macros that do all their abilities without any consequence is just utterly appalling.

    I hope, most of all, that future themepark devs take the art, story, lore, immersion, and graphics from AoC, the combat, fun and (pre-Wrath) world design of WoW and the technical polish of Rift and create a really good themepark.

    Otherwise, I’m quite happy playing Face of Mankind and naively hoping it will somehow have all its problems fixed and live up to its potential.

    • Carson says:

      Couldn’t agree more with your first two paragraphs.

      As for the macro’ing.. all I can do is shake my head in disbelief. What’s the point of copying the industry leader so closely if you’re not prepared to learn from their mistakes? Blizzard realized what a terrible idea “decision making” macros and add-ons were, in 2006. What on earth is Trion’s excuse for reproducing that ghastly design error?

  2. I’ll tee up a shot for you.

    Is Trion proving that you can make a successful, polished, and presumably profitable WoW clone a good thing or a bad thing for the industry?

    Does it give people with some new ideas hope, or does it just reinforce the “no new thinking allowed” paradigm?

    • SynCaine says:

      Well I think WoW a long time ago established that in the MMO genre (in the broadest sense of the term), there is a substantial group that wants on online sRPG, and they are willing to pay for it. I think companies will continue to cater to that significant demand so long as it holds up.

      It’s not like Trion was debating between making Rift an EVE clone or a WoW clone.

      The market for virtual worlds (or whatever term we use for people who, you know, want to play online with others in a world and all that) has remained pretty much the same; 300k if you make something good, 100k or under for lesser or more niche stuff. Companies that understand that market can still turn profits.

      Perhaps the one significant gain over the years has been the clear separation of of the two, so we won’t get virtual world devs thinking they can attract the million+ online sRPG players and going bust when they ‘only’ get 300k.

  3. bhagpuss says:

    I’d like to chip in that I never had any interest in WoW, didn’t play it at all until it had been out for over five years, lasted three months there before I unsubbed and have never had the least desire to go back.

    I am categorically not a WoW player or fan, although I will acknowledge that I did enjoy it well enough for the three months i was there.

    I really, really like Rift. It has quite a lot of parts in it that are like WoW, but those tend to be the parts I don’t use. I find Telara to be vastly more convincing as a virtual world than Azeroth. The attention to detail in the environment and wildlife is way beyond anything I saw anywhere in WoW. I spend much of my time just riding around on my steampunk horse taking screenshots, videos and watching the wildlife interact.

    WoW also doesn’t have anything remotely like either the Rifts or the zone invasions. I level all my characters up primarily on those and on PvP. I think Rift’s questing is actually well above MMO average and has been much maligned, but it is completely optional. I’ve probably quested less in Rift than any MMO since the original Everquest (oh the irony!).

    I do think that is entirely possible to play Rift almost exactly like WoW, so if you want that gameplay but you don’t, for whatever reason, want to play WoW, Rift is a great alternative. It absolutely doesn’t have to be played like that, however, and if you have imagination and are able to self-direct then Rift you can have a game experience that is as unlike WoW as any current AAA MMO is likely to offer.

  4. epic.Ben says:

    Funny addendum to this whole issue – http://www.mmocrunch.com/2011/09/01/first-look-at-rifts-new-solo-dungeon-in-patch-1-5/

    Solo dungeons. Is that really what MMOs have become?

  5. Oestrus says:

    I would love to know what calling or souls that you’re using to raid (RAID) with just a few macros. I play a cleric with the majority of my talent points in Warden and Sentinel and I work my tail off.

    It’s not like when I was a priest in World of Warcraft and I got by solely on Circle of Healing, Prayer of Healing, Prayer of Mending, and Renew.

    I could have easily done that with a small handful of macros. Rift healing? I wish! ;)

    • Dril says:

      Healing is one area that doesn’t suffer from this in Rift, because you do have to react and the spells are different enough to make ability choice meaningful.

      Ciderhelm’s recent Rift outings are one example of someone main tanking by basically hitting 2 buttons to build 3 combo points and spend them on a finisher. There are other examples as well in the Rift forums of both DPS and Tank builds where people essentially just link a macro with:

      #showtooltip XYZ
      #override error messages
      cast A
      cast B
      cast C
      cast …
      cast Y
      cast Z

  6. realgdman4u says:

    I am now glad I didn’t buy a copy of Rift when I originally wanted to. And based upon some comments I’ve read, I’m glad I didn’t even do the play for free promotion.

  7. Straw Fellow says:

    I’ve been through two free trial of RIFT, and despite grinning and bearing it for a while, I found nothing that sucked me in that I could not have found in WoW.

    I don’t play WoW either now, to clarify. Now am I defending it. Both are fantastic examples of theme park MMO’s, and I am not surprised nor angry at Trion for going with the current trends in that field. They managed to create a theme park that is not a massive failure in a time when WoW dominated the market. Kudos to them. I’m just not expecting anything new or innovative from them.

  8. coppertopper says:

    Played some free CoD:blops via Steam today and after 2 matches remembered why I don’t play MW style games anymore. Then I saw this on Rifts’ forums:

    “Warfront Accolades are a new addition to warfronts that give players mini achievements and goals they can obtain during each warfront match.
    All Warfronts

    First Blood – First kill of the match, team awarded favor bonus.
    Killing Spree – Kill 9 enemy players without dying. Opposing team receives bonus for killing them.
    Annihilation – If you wipe the entire opposing team with at least one person alive on your team you will receive a bonus.
    Juggernaut – take massive damage over a significant period of time.
    Savior – Heal of shield a player that is being attacked and at low health.”

    Immediately was both disturbed and intrigued. The patch notes also say the whole team benefits from an accolade, so this is a good thing. And if you are going to do BG style PvP, why not go all the way and MW it up:
    “We are working on cool Voice Over options for announcing Accolades”

    So they are embracing the stupidity of BG PvP in a way that I respect and also wants to make me vomit. Still, its a change that really can’t hurt, since Rift PvP can only change for the better at this point.


  9. Pedro says:

    Well they are also releasing a new Master mode for 5 man dungeons Syn. For me that is an admission that the difficulty nerf in 1.2 was a bit too much. I thought you would like that change.

    As for the solo dungeons they are also playable with one or two more people. I think that’s a nice move to atract players that prefer to play alone with a friend or two. I speak for myself that usually I play with my brother and it would be nice to have an activity just for two people.

    And what’s your opinion about PvP Rifts?

    It’s not like they aren’t improving in that aspect as well.

    • SynCaine says:

      Is the mastery difficulty just the old T2, or is it actually different gameplay for the original instances?

      As for the solo dungeons, I think solo content is important, but when you instance it, you pretty much exclude whoever is inside from everyone else. I’d much rather have solo content out in the open world, where people have the chance to bump into others and do something together.

      I stopped playing Rift before PvP rifts, but I’ve heard they are just used to farm points, ala WAR keep flipping?

      • Pedro says:

        I am not entirely sure as well Syn. I’ve stopped playing after one month and a half because I don’t have the time to invest in the game anymore.

        So i am not sure that the new difficulty setting isn’t just the old T2. It’s actually different gameplay (http://rift.mmosite.com/patch1.5/1.5_arrive_pts_test_event_details_3.shtml) and you can buy T1 raid gear by completing them.

        I thought this would please you since you were disappointed with the nerf to the expert difficulty level which was a big reason for you to give up. And that it would lead you to try out the game again!

        As for the solo dungeons: there is a lot of solo content in the open world – it’s called “quests” and “minor rifts” at least I did them a lot solo when I played! :P

        As for the PvP Rifts – they nerfed the contribution points so no more WAR keep flipping. But it’s sad to hear that that was happening in a different game. It says a lot about the current population of players playing MMOs that prefer to prioritize rewards gain over fun.

        As for the rest of the game, the only disapointment I have is that the focus of the game seems to have shifted from dynamic open world rifts to instanced content. IMO rifts should be the main form of progression in the game in the form of rift raids, PvP rifts, etc. They could even make some Darkness Falls types of Rifts that mixed raids and PvP for example. I guess that they thought that it would be a nightmare to balance that though.

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