I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world.

Rift. A curiously apt name considering that the game has caused such a schism in my MMO playing personality: I really am having trouble knowing how I feel about it, which is a new sensation to me. It’s as though a rift from the Vacillation dimension has torn its way into the plane of my mind and started to spew forth all manner of invaders. These invaders form two separate warring factions however, and their internecine dispute makes it impossible for my mind to form an adequate defence against the destructive indecision which they both spread. Sometimes I’m in support of the group that thinks Rift is a brilliant breath of fresh air – as evidenced by the many hours I spent playing it over the weekend – but just as quickly my mind finds itself backing the rebel faction, who claim that at level twenty the game has already shown me all that it has to offer. Sure, I will continue to have fun up to the cap at level fifty, but after that I will, in all likelihood, rapidly run out of steam and return to my mature mistress.

“Yet always LotRO is there to welcome me back from my folly, she opens her arms wide and cradles me against her voluminous content, hushes my blubbered apologies, reminds me of the intimate little details that made me love her and make me love her still. She is the mature mistress, secure in the knowledge of her own worth, happy to welcome and entertain the experienced and inexperienced alike, and I remain there in her embrace, comfortable and content. Until I catch a glimpse of the next porcelain and lace doe peering out from behind the curtain of MMO news, fluttering her eyelids innocently, her shy yet coquettish demeanour promising a life of long term commitment and happiness, and delivering yet another sharp blow to the head and dent to the wallet.”

And if I’m going to inevitably return to her, then why not stay with her now and continue playing the rather enjoyable alt that I’ve recently gushed about? At which point the pro-Rift faction rallies its troops and gives a big push, dropping propaganda leaflets extolling the virtues of the flexible class system, the attractiveness of the game’s graphics, and the efficient (if impersonal) effectiveness of the public group system.

The game tears at me, and I can’t remember the last time that I experienced a game where I had a constant nagging feeling that I should be liking it more than I actually do. I do like the game, I honestly do, but at the same time I find it hard to get enthusiastic about it. It’s a game where, when I picture myself trying to explain to others why I enjoy it, I find myself struggling to give a convincing reason. It’s like trying to explain the flavour of saffron. Like trying to explain smaragdine without reference to other colours: every explanation I begin necessarily starts with “Well it’s like that mechanic in MMO X, but tidied up and streamlined”.

So it’s a game that is greater than the sum of its parts, but where those parts are all the refined result of familiar elements from other games. This is, perhaps, where the seemingly strange split in the game’s personality stems from.

Unless you live under a rock you will already have had the broad picture of Rift painted for you by other blogs, so in the next post I’ll simply try to add a few of my own highlights and lowlights, hopefully helping to add further definition to the general impression. I’m not sure if the picture can even be completed yet, however; the game needs time to bed and then blossom, and trying to paint a true picture of the game at this early a stage would be like trying to paint an accurate representation of a flowerbed in full bloom by observing during winter the soil in which the seeds were planted.

13 thoughts on “I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world.

  1. welshtroll

    “I had a constant nagging feeling that I should be liking it more than I actually do”
    Ooo thats Fallout 3 for me, I tried and tried to like that “fantastic, Game of the year, mind-blowing” game, but truly didn’t enjoy much of it.

    The using of game mechanics is a must for any MMO that wants to draw in existing players from other games.

    If a game doesn’t have them, it’s a failure/lower quality game or not on par with other titles. The Rift raid forming was a great example of much needed functionality that was missing but really needed to be there, why invent something new?

    After all if imitation is the best form of flattery, certain games should be feeling smug right about now.

  2. Gankalicious

    I felt the same about Fallout 3 (and now Rift too). I haven’t played RIFT since the Alpha.

    Look at it this way: If you are saying to yourself (or anyone else) that you ‘actually like it’ as in:

    You know, I’m actually liking this game..or I’m actually having fun…

    What you are in fact, saying, is that your enjoyment is surprising because on some level it is:

    1. Unexpected
    2. Unwarranted (in your mind)

    That said most of what I say is bollocks and makes no sense so as long as you are enjoying it, why worry? Enjoy it until it becomes an albatross around your neck and then drop it fast!

  3. Melmoth Post author

    It’s as if I can see the point where I’ll become bored with it in the near future, but can’t believe it because I’m not bored with it at the moment. Like some sort of screwed-up Cassandra syndrome

    @welshtroll: There’s definitely no harm in reusing what works, as you say. The curious thing, however, is that I find this then serves to highlight those issues which have been fixed in other MMOs but which weren’t included in Rift – sidekicking/mentoring being a good example, I feel.

  4. welshtroll

    It’s funny as I’m a big fan of side-kick/mentor functionality in other games but I can’t say I’ve missed it at all in Rift.

    I can see your point though, I like the merge group into Rift raid feature, but I’d like an un-merge feature for use when the event is concluded, returning to my smaller friend based group.

    I suppose these kind of systems have to mature with the game, enhancing as you go rather than limiting from the start.

  5. Melmoth Post author

    I guess in Rift the levelling seems so fast that the gap between level one and fifty is a matter of a week or two. In games such as City of, you were clearly looking at months to get to the cap if you weren’t able to grind non-stop 24/7, so mentoring was therefore a much more useful mechanic to keep players with disparate available play time able to continue playing together.

    It was a good response from Trion to add the raid functionality, as you say, and it is well implemented. Here’s hoping that they continue to improve on an already splendid game, and not just rest on their laurels, or shift emphasis to their as-yet-to-be-released games. I think that is possibly my biggest concern, the fact that there is no track record for Trion with respect to content updates; if this were a Turbine game, for example, I imagine I wouldn’t be quite so concerned.

    Here’s hoping that Trion prove that their post-launch development is as first rate as their pre-launch development clearly was.

  6. Jim

    I’m convinced Rift perfectly illustrates the issues a AAA mmorpg faces when created with an original IP. Yes, the world is beautiful and the characters complex. But we feel no emotional connection. LotRO, WoW, W:AoR…these were all places familiar to me since I was a teen, so I felt a nostalgic familiarity to the world that allowed immersion in the lore.

    If LotRO is the girl next door I finally bedded at the H.S. reunion, Rift is the mail-order bride I suppose I could learn to love, but why?

  7. Pardoz

    Much as I’d’ve loved to see a SK/EX system in Rift, I can’t say I’m surprised they didn’t include one – making sidekicking work in a gear-driven game would be a lot more work than it was in the original, gear-less, CoH, and I remember the amount of discussion about how the IO system was going to interact with the SK system when IOs were in beta. I think a heavily gear-reliant game would have to be designed for SKing from the ground up, and it would be a lot of work – it would probably be a better game in the end, though.

    As far as updates go, the only real yardstick we have to measure by is the frequency and quality of the changes in beta, which rather reminded me of the old Turbine, before patches became less common than birthdays. We’ll have to see how things work in practice, of course.

  8. John

    I’m still playing rift nightly, but your post hits the nail on the head for me. I like it when I play it, but I’m not missing it when I’m not playing it. I want to miss it … but I don’t. And I don’t really know why.


  9. Melmoth Post author

    @Jim: Indeed, I think the lore behind LotRO is definitely a strong part of the attraction for me. LotRO is a good game, with a fair variety of playstyle choices, but I wouldn’t say that the game alone is good enough to keep me coming back time after time.

    @Pardoz: Of course EQ2 has a mentoring system too, and it’s quite successful by all accounts; so mentoring can be done, gear system or no. But I take your point that it was a lot easier to implement in CoH originally.

    Trion were excellent in beta, not only with the frequency of updates, but the fact that those updates often directly addressed issues players had concerns about. Time will tell if they’re willing and able to keep it up, but let’s hope so.

    @John: Glad to hear that it’s not just me. If you come up with a theory as to why, I’ll definitely be glad to hear your thoughts, because I’m honestly perplexed by it at the moment.

  10. Randomessa

    I definitely get the feeling I should be liking Rift more than I do, or at least missing it more than I am when I’m not playing it. As John said, when I’m actually *in* game it’s thoroughly pleasant, but I don’t spend as much time thinking about it otherwise as I had hoped I would.

    Tonight, after wrestling with NCSoft Support yet again, I spent the evening vanquishing in Guild Wars. It felt *wonderful*.

  11. Melmoth Post author

    I have to say, despite being a terribly well produced game, Rift does still seem to be missing that magic ‘hook’ that keeps me thinking about it all day long while at work.

    Guild Wars 2 still looks very promising, but strangely I never found myself hooked by the original despite repeated attempts; much like Rift, I found the concepts and design of Guild Wars to be fantastic, but for some unknown reason the game didn’t hook me as other MMOs have done.

  12. Pardoz

    Last I checked, EQ2’s mentoring system only works one way – you can exemplar down, but not sidekick up, so it’s not *quite* there. Still leaps and bounds ahead of pretty much everybody else, though.

  13. Melmoth Post author

    Ah, fair enough so. I haven’t experienced it, so my derived impression was that it went both ways, as it were.

    Curiously I would think that being able to sidekick up would be the more useful option; perhaps it is, indeed, a non-trivial problem to overcome in a gear-based system, as you mentioned earlier.

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