I genuinely don’t mean for this to turn into a “vs” post, even if it seems so. This is just a bit of an attempt to sort out why I’m simultaneously ambivalent and excited (who would have thought that was even possible?) about upcoming MMO ventures, largely based on conversations you might hear if you sat around the dining room table at Chez Randomessa the past few weeks.
I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m excited to play Rift upon release. The reasons for this are many:
- The visual style and graphics quality of the game simply connects with me in a way that many other MMOs have not
- I’ll have the opportunity to play my dream class (or at least the closest thing I’ve seen to it)
- I’ve fallen in love with the lore (all other goodies aside, I’m getting the boxed CE for the comics)
- It contains most of the elements I’m looking for in a multiplayer online RPG: quests, team-based PvP, crafting, and “random awesome stuff that just happens”
- My husband likes it and wants to play with me
- We are just plain having fun. The game is fun for us. We have only experienced the first zone (aside from my running through the early area of Gloamwood, flagged for PvP and scared witless of confrontation), but we’ve really enjoyed these beta events, hiccups and all.
- It’s coming out (way?) before Guild Wars 2
That final item is a bit of both a curse and a blessing. Obviously it’s good for Rift to get my pre-order and subsequent subscription dollars (times two) for the next while, because if GW2 were out right now, I’d be playing that instead. It’s also good for me because given the options for MMO releases this time of year, well, Rift and DCUO are sort of it (sorry, Earthrise, I was never going to be into your sci-fi sandboxy goodness).
It’s bad for me, however, because of the things Rift does (and doesn’t do) that I expect to find (and not find) in Guild Wars 2, and ultimately because I prefer the way Guild Wars 2 will be handling those factors:
Competition vs. Cooperation, or, Progression vs. ???
I realize that most of my issues with Rift stem from the way I feel Rift, and MMOs like it, direct gameplay, versus what I perceive to be ArenaNet’s take on the matter.
- Mob tagging/resource stealing – Rift handles this much like other MMOs I’m familiar with, where it’s possible to “steal” a mob from someone else so that they don’t get XP for the kill, or quest credit. Similarly, it’s possible to see a resource node up ahead, be on your way to capture it, and have someone snipe it from under you, forcing you to look elsewhere.
While due to Trion’s backend mojo, Rift’s devs have the luxury of quickly and relatively painlessly adjusting spawn rates to help lessen these effects, each time it happens I can’t help but think of ArenaNet’s philosophy that everyone who contributes to a kill gets credit, or that nodes will populate for each person so it’s not possible to steal that resource. It comes down to the difference between wanting or at least not minding to see another person cross my path when I’m trying to kill/gather something, and being wary that they’ll take what I was after.
- Level “consumption” and group/peer play – I still look back and marvel at how a few months into Star Trek Online, I had a Lt. Commander, while bloggers all around me were reaching Admiral. I would not be surprised if something similar happened with Rift; six months into Warhammer Online my highest-level characters were level 21 and 25. Granted, my already limited time was split between characters for Spousal Leveling Contract purposes, but things will be no different this time around. I would no more push myself to play more than I’m comfortable in order to level at an average pace than I would expect others to wait around for me to slowpoke along.
Consider Guild Wars progression. Because you reached max level so quickly, progression was measured by “where you were” in the story, rather than what level you were. I have so many friends and acquaintances who would tell me “I’m stuck at Thunderhead Keep,” or “effing Eternal Grove, man.” This feels to me more like standard RPG progression rather than an emphasis on numbers – and I like that.
I feel Guild Wars 2, due to scaling dynamic events and sidekicking, will result in an environment more like this than traditional MMOs. Mr. Randomessa and I won’t even need a spousal leveling contract; in fact I’m more likely to encourage us to proceed through our respective personal stories so we can tell one another about them or watch over one another’s shoulders!
- Endgame – This is unlikely to be a real issue for me because I expect I won’t see max level in Rift for quite some time. I still like to examine the philosophies at play here. There have been some great articles and podcasts over at Rift Podcast about how prepared Trion is for players to reach max level and start working on endgame progression. There are normal and expert dungeons, rift raids, 25-man raids, etc.
I don’t expect to see any of that content, and I’m perfectly fine with that. What I am concerned about is what there will be for me to do if and when I reach max level and the questing pretty much stops. I don’t expect to roll more than one alt, because low-level replayability is not what I would consider one of Rift’s strong suits. Is Rift’s endgame simply Raid or Die? In the world of subscription games, time is money, and money invested at that. Will I be able to walk away from characters on which I’ve spent months of both, just because they won’t be able to hack the raiding game and will have nothing but (minor) rift-chasing to do?Here is where I sharply part ways with a lot of MMO players (save Tesh perhaps); I don’t mind my games coming to an end. I don’t mind there being a boss you kill and then the credits roll. I fact, I rather prefer it. This, of course, explains in large part my affinity for the Buy-to-Play model over subscription games. This doesn’t mean, however, that I only want to play Guild Wars 2 for a finite amount of months; I like content to come to a close, but I like there to be loads and loads of other content at the same time. So, when I finally put Zhaitan to sleep, I get to go back and be someone else entirely and make entirely different decisions and KILL that pesky dragon next time. And I can go back and be someone else entirely and do something different yet again.
I’m perfectly happy progressing my character to a plateau point where the only way she’s really improving is because I’m playing her better; sure, I’ll get attached to her, but I don’t have to abandon her because there will always be casual gameplay available to me at max level, and I’ll get attached to another character just as well, through the different adventures and experiences I have with her. That there doesn’t seem to be anything of this sort in Rift actually keeps me from feeling I’ll be able to be terribly attached to the characters I finally create on the live version. I fear my characters will not feel “real” to me because they won’t be engaging in what Trion (and most MMOs) determine to be the “real” content of the game.
If I’m mistaken about Rift’s options for non-raiders and non-elite PvPers at max level, I welcome any and all corrections.
- Loot - the final issue for me, and one that ties into endgame above, is the idea of running dungeons over and over in order to gear up to run the next tier of dungeons over and over. I’ve already established that I won’t be able to take part in this kind of content, but I suspect it’s equal parts lack of time and distaste for the practice entirely. I abhor repetition; I love Guild Wars and I often don’t play it between content updates because I’m tired of repeating content. No, I don’t want to run the Great Northern Wall again, even though it’s easy, even if you give me 10 Zaishen coins for it.
ArenaNet’s no-grind philosophy really has my heart; whether obtaining titles is the most mind-numbing experience known to humanity or not, the fact is that I was never restricted from story – the “meat” of ArenaNet’s game – because I didn’t have enough favor or because my armor was so subpar that I was getting one-shot or because I was not tall enough to ride this ride (well, that last wasn’t true for Prophecies in all cases). That dungeons in GW2 will not require me to run it more than once per piece of armor is about exactly the level of grind I can accept for what will ultimately be cosmetic gear for me – not gear I’ll require just in order to get to another dungeon and fight the dragons there.
But if wishes were ponies we’d not only be eating steak, but playing Guild Wars 2 and arguing about builds while we were at it. It’ll be ready “when it’s ready” and I have no intention of holding my breath until ArenaNet hurries it up. I just have to remind myself to enjoy Rift for what it is and the fun I am having now, rather than fret over philosophical differences that won’t impact me for months in the future.
…is it February 24th yet?