Friday 7 January 2011

'Tis the little rift within the lute.

One of the general themes buzzing around the topic of Rift at the moment is a general consensus that the game is well produced, but offers little over World of Warcraft. But familiarity isn’t necessarily bad in all contexts, and I think this is a mistake many MMO developers have made in the recent past. There hasn’t been a car manufacturer in recent years who has decided to mount the steering wheel on the roof of the car, or moved the steering column controls to the seat, to be operated by the driver’s buttocks. Maybe someone will come up with a revolutionary new way to control a car – most likely coinciding with some leap in technological capability – but in the meantime, incremental adjustments to the familiar is the way that industry moves forward, while style, design and build quality are what attracts customers. As far as I can see, Rift incrementally improves on the familiar, has an attractive style and design, and reports are that the general build quality is of a high standard.

Yes, intuitions, new principles, new ways of seeing this gaming genre are important. But they are not essential to creating an enjoyable new game. For me, Rift offers a new world in which to adventure, explore and exist; if I’m honest with myself, that’s why I got into MMOs in the first place.

I think, as Tipa, that there are two sides to this: there are those people like Tobold who are happiest with the familiar world of Azeroth, and there are people like myself who have tired of that world. For the second sort of person, a new world to explore might be just the ticket.

And although things may feel a little strange and uncomfortable to begin with, the expected structure and function is still satisfied, and the clinging cloying feeling from previous experiences will hopefully begin to subside, while at the same time a newfound enthusiasm and a feeling of fresh, airy, comfortable freedom takes hold. Much like changing the style of your underpants.

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