Rift: Storm Legion Tour Part 2

In Part 2 of my Rift: Storm Legion hands-on Tour I want to focus on Raids and PvE content.  Storm Legion will launch with 1 20-man raid, 1 10-man raid, 7 new dungeons, and after their first big patch a second 20-man will be added.  Listening to James explain Trion’s approach to content in Storm Legion, I got the distinct impression that Trion really wants to come out of the gate strong.  Their story is important to them.

Regulos and Crucia are some nasty villains.  Regulos, The Dragon of Extinction, The Destructor, and a slue of other titles, is planning his comeback.  His presence (Plane of Death stuff) is clearly visible in some of the new zones.  Crucia, leader of the Storm Legion, Dragon Goddess, and lover of oddly-attractive succubi-harpy-things, is of course center stage during the entire expansion.  These bosses are so big and important to the story of Rift that the only fitting way to emphasize their strength is through raiding.

Rift doesn’t do a whole lot to change the concept of raiding for themeparks.  These will feature tiered loot progression, be instanced, and be very familiar to veterans of contemporary MMO raiding.  I’ll leave it up to you to decide if this is a good thing or not.

I took a ton of screenshots.  Perhaps too many.   Instead of a wall of text, I’m going to give you a picture tour and briefly talk about each image.  Any images I do not include can be found at the bottom in the embedded gallery.   Is it still appropriate to give a 56k warning?

Since I was shown many of the new raid bosses, including the current final encounter for the expansion, I was asked not to reveal any strategies.  Here’s a hint though: Having an invulnerable insta-kill-wielding CM with you helps.

Storm Legion Crucia Returns

Read on for more after the break.

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Rift: Storm Legion Tour Part 1

Rift: Storm Legion launches November 13, 2012I had the opportunity to take a private tour of the upcoming Rift: Storm Legion expansion with Community Manager James “Elrar” Nichols.  As many of you know, I played Rift when it first launched back in March of 2011.  I played for a few months, got a couple characters almost to the max level, but didn’t continue playing because I felt like something was missing — I wasn’t hooked by anything in particular.  After this awesome tour, I’m able to see many of those ‘hooks’ making their way into Rift when Storm Legion launches November 13, 2012.

During the tour I was introduced to the story and shown the dungeon that would lead up to the new content.  I was shown the Dimension system (player housing), and also the major end-game raid zones.  Elrar also took me to several of the new zones, explained to me how the content would progress during the expansion, and provided me insights into Trion’s thoughts of Rift’s end-game and its future. I was also granted a max level character for the duration of the beta test currently underway.  So as you can tell, there’s a lot for me to share. I’m going to give you guys my honest opinion of what I saw and fill you in with as many details as I can. Be sure to check back for the full look at my tour through Rift: Storm Legion.

Read more after the break for Part 1: Dimensions! [Read more…]

MMO Reboots

I’ve been thinking about this topic a lot lately: Should MMO’s reboot more often?  When I say reboot, I’m talking about the same type of reset we see when a new World of WarCraft expansion comes out.  Suddenly it doesn’t matter if you’ve played since launch with the best gear in the game. When Mists of Pandaria launches, no one will have an advantage and a new player can join and rise to the top.

Personally, knowing that people have been playing for a year or more with that big of a head-start on me is daunting.  I become discouraged thinking that there is no way I will catch up.  For example, I think about trying Rift again then I realize I am a year behind everyone else, and I figure why bother at all.  If suddenly there was a reboot, a reset, and everyone was on the same footing again, I would be more inclined to jump in and play.

Themeparks with vertical progression benefit from this system the most.  And while existing players who are excelling are technically reset, and in a way brought downward to the beginning again, they are technically free to give it a go once more.  It’s a temporary solution for a problematic model.

What about non-themepark games, though?  Last I heard, Darkfall may be facing a reboot of sorts.  Players have been PvPing and increasing their skills creating a massive gap with haves and have nots.  Aventurine gave players something like 20x skill increases, essentially helping the game to reboot itself, but there are rumors (are they still rumors?) that a wipe will occur to start everyone off fresh with a new skill system.

Something about starting fresh excites me.  I think that’s why every time a new WoW server opened — and they opened all the time back in the day — I would re-roll and start fresh.  That’s how I was the server-first in Molten Core and BWL three times.  I like starting over, I like the life it breathes into a MMORPG, and I like watching how the community established itself all over again.

Here are some fun questions for you to consider.  Would you like to see more MMO’s essentially rebooting like WoW does, and what do you think about MMORPG’s wiping entirely and starting fresh on a regular basis — something you would be interested in seeing?

Dynamic. You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

A Fire RiftWhen I think of a themepark that represents the epitome of a quest-grind anti-dynamic world, I think of Rift.   Leveling from 1-46’ish (I never hit 50), I never once felt like I was doing anything dynamic.  Trion and other developers are continually pushing this idea that content like Rift’s zone invasions are dynamic, but I disagree so strongly that I felt the need to write a blog post; so here we go.

Scott Hartsman, Rift dev, was interviewed by PC Gamer magazine.  Scott talked about dynamic content and how Rift was originally all “100% dynamic 100% of the time” but it “lacked clarity” because, supposedly, the player could not feel attached to a “dependable” world — the player didn’t have those “touch points” of familiarity.  In a sense, the game didn’t feel enough like WoW — to be blunt — and Trion feared for their ability to attract their share of players.  To overcome this, Trion made Rift a very generic themepark and inserted a “layer” of dynamic content on top so that the two could “interact” with each other.

Life RiftIn my opinion, the reason why the “100% dynamic 100% of the time” internal version of Rift lacked clarity was because all you had were a ton of random scripted events firing off everywhere giving the player absolutely zero purpose for playing other than shutting them down.  I bet it was the most epic game of wack-a-mole ever.  Adding in the static/generic themepark elements only emphasized the dang scripted and anti-dynamic feel of the events.

Scott went on to say in the interview that a big problem players had with the content was that they wanted it to happen on their schedule.  I totally disagree with that statement: 1) That’s the opposite of dynamic, and 2) The players actually wanted something truly dynamic, which is why they had a problem with the scripted randomness in the first place.  The interview then takes things further away from the definition of dynamic by talking about a system where the player basically clicks a button to initiate an instant adventure.  The idea of a truly dynamic world is completely gone by this point.

The whole interview just reinforced my opinion that people don’t know what dynamic means, and they have no idea how to make content that is dynamic.  Know why? Because you don’t –MAKE– content that is dynamic!  You make a world that allows the players to create the dynamic feel.  Dynamic content creates itself when you facilitate the means through which players can interact.

You can put as much spin as you want on public quests, rifts, invasions, or whatever you want to call them, but at the end of the day they are only scripted events.  If you want a truly dynamic world, the player must be in control or your world must persistently change as the players interact with it.

Defining the grind

We had a really good discussion going on Ventrilo tonight about what grinding means.  So many times people think grinding is a negative, and it’s used by many I know as a reason for quitting a game.  In my opinion, unless everything you are doing is 100% dynamic all the time, you are grinding.  I do not think grinding is bad, though.  I make a distinction between grinding and repetitive.

I have a friend who really hates grinding, but I think he means he hates repetitive gameplay because he’s now playing Darkfall. Darkfall is a huge grind, but rarely repetitive. I completely agree that ‘repetitive’ sucks.  I think about grinding in EQ.  We would find a spot and kill monsters.  In a sense, this was repetitive; however, the social element made the experience dynamic because I was always meeting new people and learning about them.  In many ways, no two groups were the same, despite killing the same mobs in the same location.

I’ve just added another element to complicate things: perception.  Perception, or in this case immersion, trumps all — even repetition.

Options are also a huge factor.  If something is repetitive, like killing the same monsters, then options are mandatory.  In DAOC I could kill mobs in one of 6+ zones or I could go to BGs or I could go to RvR.  EQ was the same way.  Games are far too linear and the grind, whether quest or kill, is inescapable.  The same can be said for end-game activities.  If all you have is one or two raids and you do the same bosses every week for gear to be able to go to the next two to get gear, the grind is too obvious.

To reiterate, grinding isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  Many games function on the grind.  If the grind is too repetitive or poorly masked by immersion then players will become aware it exists.  That’s when the problems start.