What if Rift was modeled after EverQuest?

The awe-inspiring Harbinger of Regulos

If you took all the bullet-point features of Rift and compared them against all the bullet-point features of World of Warcraft as it was before its first expansion — Rift comes out fairly well. The appearance armor and dye systems which lets my rogue look like I want her to look STILL haven’t made it to WoW. And the rift system itself is a real game-changer, and there still seems to be plenty of room to experiment when building a role from souls.

But, I have my vanity pets. There’s the mount collecting. There’s the warfronts I’m grinding for PvP gear because I can’t queue for T2 expert dungeons for reasons unknown to me. There’s grinding dailies in high level zones in order to build some faction whose only purpose is to let me buy better stuff. Crafting is the usual AFK system. Macros simplify combat and healing. If add-on support is added on, we can expect Rift to instantly become just as agonizingly simple as WoW, not that either game is all that challenging to begin with.

I have no problem with that. MMOs are really intended to be social games first, and since you can’t ship an MMO these days that doesn’t cater to solo players of all abilities, challenge had to be left out of the equation.

Lord Soptyvr in the Beholder Maze

This last weekend I took a nostalgia trip, in EverQuest, from Qeynos to Freeport, walking the entire way. I wasn’t level five like the FIRST time I did the run, back in 1999. I brought my level 58 shadow knight along for the trip. It was a fun romp, took a couple of hours (stopping to see all the sights along the way), and I even died once, in Kithicor, because I just didn’t expect anything to be able to harm me. I was wrong, so very, very wrong. In keeping with the theme, and being bound in the Nexus, I took the Nexus portal down to Antonica and retraced my steps for a corpse run. This time I kept to Kithicor’s edges.

Look, I was just wondering if the dark elf camp in the middle of the zone would like my character, since she was ALSO a dark elf and a shadow knight besides? Short answer: No. They chased me back to Rivervale and I apparently died while zoning into the city.

While documenting this journey on Twitter, Justin Sanchez and I were discussing how Rift failed in capturing the EverQuest feel. EQ had meaningful faction, unique starting cities for every race (Erudites had two — Paineel and Erudin!), and starting experiences that soaked you in the lore of your particular race before you would ever come to meet someone of another race. The starting zones were built to naturally guide you up through level ten or so, but after that, the whole world opened up. Pick a direction and see what you could find. The first thing you would want to find would be friends.

Rift has taken enough from WoW. If it plans to be inspired further by another MMO, it should turn back to EQ.

Factions. The two faction system is particularly artificial. I know the lore — the pantheon of the Vigil brings back Guardian players, while the technomagic of the Defiants resurrects Defiant players. But both sides have the same roles and abilities and armor and everything else; it’s an entirely artificial distinction, especially considering the game lore states that both sides were equally at fault in bringing about the current state of the world, and if the sides sat down and worked things out, they could probably get an understanding, resolve their differences and, you know, save the world.

Properly, players should be able to switch sides or even join a neutral side. EverQuest allowed this through factioning (on the non-race based PvP servers, anyway). EverQuest 2 even has a formal system for betraying your faction, including the addition of a neutral faction AND a neutral faction city. Well, more of a hideout.

Cities. On the heels of objections to the two party system comes amazement that there are only two major cities, Sanctum and Meridian. This could (and hopefully, will) be solved in expansions. Even WoW only started with four cities, Orgrimmar, Undercity, Stormwind and Ironforge. EverQuest, started with how many? Felwithe, Kelethin, Ak’Anon, Kaladim, Freeport, Neriak, Oggok, Grobb, Rivervale, Erudin, Qeynos, Surefall Glade, Halas — I feel I am missing some. To those were added Shar’vahl, Crescent Reach, Cabilis, Thurgadin, Kael, Skyshrine, Plane of Knowledge, Katta Castellum, Sanctum Seru, Shadow Haven, and I know I am missing some. Does the castle in Twilight Sea count? The Outpost at Firiona Vie and the matching one in The Overthere. You could even bank and do some other business in Runnyeye if you built up your goblin faction.

It was these wide-ranging cities that gave the world of Norrath much of its charm. You’d leave your racial home, and the beasts would get more dangerous, the world a little darker. Eventually your cheery mood would turn to caution and terror — and then after a long time, the monsters would get manageable, and you knew you were coming back to civilized lands. If the locals liked you, you could have a new home for awhile — and if they didn’t, you could decide to start helping them and earn admittance and their grudging respect.

Rift’s world is torn apart by the intersection of the planes. There are no truly safe places. But as players push back against the darkness, couldn’t more cities be uncovered from newly recovered lands? Rift is enough like WoW already. It needs to open up and become a world, with meaningful factions, and varied starting experiences.

Daily Blogroll 5/13: Truth in Advertising Edition

Dragon Age Legends

One thing you gotta say about Dragon Age Legends: like the single player games upon which its based, in Dragon Age Legends you Get. To. Kill. DRAGONS. (Warning: link goes to Facebook). Unlike, say, Dungeons and Dragons Online, where I have yet to kill a dragon. The one you see in the tutorial is little more than a tease. It’s fighting a mind flayer, though, and we HAVE started killing those in our static group, but the name of the game isn’t Mazes and Mind Flayers Online now, is it?

Mazes, though — we’ve had more than our share of those.

Facebook RPGs like DAL (“The first real game on Facebook“) and Treasure Abyss (“Hey, we were here ages before those guys!”) have kept me sane when I haven’t been able to play any deeper games.

More game stuff after the break.
Continue reading Daily Blogroll 5/13: Truth in Advertising Edition

Rift: Ding 50!

Couldn't get more glowy

Lucked into a group grinding the Abyssal Precipice instance and dinged 50 a few times in. So, I’m now max level in Rift. More than that, I have the required, for rogues, +HIT > 50 (mine is around 75), so I am geared sufficiently for T1 dungeons. In T1 dungeons, I need to work HIT to > 100, and then in T2 dungeons, to > 200 for raiding.

It’s all so very EQ2 and WoW like. But here’s the thing — I never really did the whole gear progression thing in EQ2 and I never did it at all in WoW, so this gearing for the next tier up thing is foreign to me. In previous games — EQ, and EQ2 before they made it like WoW — I just went straight from leveling to raiding and just got raid gear.

Most other MMOs I lose interest in well before it gets to raiding, so kudos to Rift for keeping me invested in the character.

Hitting 50 leaves me halfway through the Shimmersand quests, and not started at all on the Iron Pine Peak or Stillmoor quests. The main reason to continue doing these quests is mainly to just get the story of the zones, get achievements and to build faction to buy crafting recipes.

Or I could begin to level my alt, which is the path a lot of people choose. But maybe the expert dungeons will be fun enough to do on their own merits; they are also great places for faction.

But at least the leveling is done. For now. Even though it hasn’t been all that long, the lowbie zones seem like years ago. Stonefields seems like ancient history, even though I know I was there for what seemed like forever. The leveling ramped up speed after that, and only slowed down in the long haul through the 40s.

Anyway, see ya in T1!

Rift: River of Souls? Blink and you missed it.

Fighting a Shimmersand boss

Though Phase 1 of Rift’s River of Souls event took its time and lasted long enough — two weeks — for everyone to get a chance at it, the second and third phases took only about half an hour together. If you weren’t there — or worse, if you were stuck in an hours-long queue — you missed it. It’s gone, it’s over, there’s a new raid now (“The River of Souls”), but the one-time rewards are done and gone.

Trion brought down all servers before the start of the event to ensure the event ran smoothly. They then staggered the event from server to server, presumably so that the servers handling the final event in Stillmoor could handle the crush of a server’s entire interested population concentrated in an area the size of a small cinema.

The server didn’t even bother trying to draw all the players in the area. You’d see the people in a small circle centered on your character, a couple further away. The game did its best, but just couldn’t handle the load.

A Stillmoor Love-In

Our guild formed a raid in Shimmersand at the appointed time and after the servers returned. Trion posted that the start time for Phase 2 would be different for each server, so we spent the time closing rifts on “XP Beach”, knocking shoulders with a Guardian raid, fighting over rights to the Rift boss. There may have been a little PvP here and there. I may have accidentally plinked a Guardian. I may have then been farmed by the Guardian raid until someone told me how to turn off auto-pvp flagging.

Upshot was, we were far from Wyrmbane Spire when Phase 2 finally started. By the time we made it back there, the first Shimmersand boss had been killed. We could see the progress of Phase 2 in the quest log; in every zone in the game, players would have to kill the special “colossi” bosses. Clearing every zone would trigger Phase 3.

The River of Souls instance

The other three bosses were in Fortune’s Shore, Shimmersand’s main city. We took the porticulum from the Spire to the city and I had time to help on two bosses; a giant grim shade and an enormous centaur, who one-shotted me. Nonetheless, I got a “weapon cache” from one of the bosses. Examining it starts a quest to kill a colossi, close a certain number of death rifts and defeat a certain number of death invasions. The reward, for a rogue, is either a cool looking dagger or a cool looking bow, both blue quality — not very special stat-wise, but definitely cool looking and really emphasizing the need for some sort of appearance slots so these weapons won’t get discarded immediately. They’re okay, but they aren’t T1, and at this stage in my roguely career, I need to be focusing on better gear.

With the bosses defeated, it was just a waiting game until the other zones finished their kills. The last to complete was the Guardian newbie zone, Silverwood.

Guardians. No surprise they’d let the server down.

Phase 3 had everyone heading to Stillmoor, to a huge castle full of deadly mobs. I guess there’s a portal near it, but I only had the portal to Phoenix Rise, clear on the other side of the zone. I carefully followed higher level people to the castle and only got attacked a couple of times.

The top of the castle seemed relatively empty at first, until it became clear that the game had simply stopped trying to draw the players. After about half an hour, Alsbeth the Discordant herself stepped from a death portal and… just stood there for a long time.

Eventually she respawned, and the leader of the Guardian faction walked in and…. nothing

They respawned again, and then one last time, now with the leader of the Defiant faction there as well. They chatted for awhile, Alsbeth had some threats, the Guardian leader had the Vigil in the form of divine angels save the Defiant leader from Alsbeth’s attack. They moved on her; Alsbeth fled into the River of Souls, and the event was done.

I received the title “the Discordant” for kneeling to Alsbeth when she commanded us to do so. And I got the achievements “Grim Hero” and “Grim Victory”. There was a third achievement, “Take Me to the River” for entering the River of Souls expert dungeon. Which I did, as soon as the server came back up.

Because it crashed after Phase 3. It crashed again and again. It crashed while I was doing an Abyssal Precipice run. It crashed when I managed to get a Charmer’s Caldera run going. And it’s still crashed now.

Although Trion has promised that those who could not take part will get some sort of reward, it was clear before the event began on US servers that there would be problems. The European servers had already had the event and things went about the same way.

Players posting on the forums suggest that the abrupt ending for this event could be excused because the two week Phase 1 run was the real event; today’s phases were just a coda. Certainly nobody came out of this drowning in loot. I was hoping to get a chance at one of the promised event mounts, but I don’t know if anyone got one.

I guess the real take-away of this, is that Trion has in Rift a really popular game. Second, perhaps don’t put major events on during free weekends. And third, players REALLY LOVE new, dynamic content — look at Star Trek Online, which has built a reputation on their event-driven Feature Episodes. A reputation which must seem to be as much a trap as a boon sometimes.

I’m glad I made it in and was able to participate. If I’d been one of the people stuck in a five hour queue, though, I’d be pretty upset.