RIFT: The Melting Pot MMO
By Nic van ‘t Schip, OnRPG Admin
A couple of weeks ago our very own Bryan spoke to Simon Ffinch, Design Director at Trion Worlds about RIFT. It’s a very informative interview with some solid information and I highly recommend you read it all but there is one particular topic I want to focus on in this preview:
OnRPG: As I’m sure your team is aware, some gamers are drawing upon similarities between your games and some of the other P2P MMOs out there, sometimes in a positive fashion, and sometimes not. Would you like to address these?
Rift is a fantasy MMO so comparisons are inevitable. Some of the designs we came up with are specifically tailored to be familiar to anyone who has played any number of MMOs out there. There are a lot of systems that players expect to see in MMOs these days, many of which are not particularly innovative but are required, a Bank, an Auction House and Vendors to name just a few. I know that I as a player, who has played a lot of MMOs in the past, appreciate it if when I need to interact with one of these systems I do not have to spend time learning a whole new method of interacting. I just want to do my business and move on to exploring the systems that are new and unique. Why make the player learn a whole new keyboard layout for well established functions for example. Sure we could have made it so you use T,F,G and H to move but we went with W,A,S,D. Why? Because it works and it works well, sure when you do this sort of thing players will make comparison and this is no surprise. But we think we have achieved a solid balance between the familiar and the unfamiliar. Using tried and true designs that go back a very long way for some of the more standard systems, polishing and improving a little if we felt it needed it. But keeping the main focus of our energies on what was new, the soul systems and the planar invasions.
After having played the Beta extensively over the past couple of days I can only agree wholeheartedly with mister Ffinch. Not only did they make the bold design decision to go with WASD for movement but they went a lot, and I do mean A LOT, further than that.
RIFT: The Melting Pot MMO
Game options, in game windows such as tech trees, abilities, and in a sense the entire interface and the way you can configure it are all carbon copies from games like WoW, WAR and a ton of other games making it a melting pot of features. Want to drag a spell or ability to another spot on your quickbar? Hold shift and drag it. Want to find where the mailbox or your class trainer is hiding on the minimap? Use the very familiar tracker to display them. You get the point right?
In fact the macro system in RIFT goes a step further. As you would expect you type /macro and you’ll be presented with a very familiar interface that works exactly like the one in WoW. However the syntax of the macro scripting language is not entirely similar to that of World of Warcraft it will recognize the syntax and translate it to the proper one RIFT uses. So in other words: the game is so unapologetic about how similar it is to WoW that it will accept, and translate, your macros on the fly.
“Imitation is the sincerest of flattery” But improving is better!
The result of all this is after playing the game for a couple of hours and running into all of these familiar interfaces I realized I simply came to expect that other things would be familiar as well. At some point I decided to turn on auto-looting. Rather than wonder IF the game had such an option and where it would be I navigated through the options menu and flawlessly found the auto loot option exactly where I expected it to be.
But then something magical happened. After successfully fending off a ganking attempt by a couple of monsters I right clicked one of the corpses and instantly looted ALL the bodies at once. While borrowing these standard conventions from other MMOs Trion managed to not just blindly copy them, but vastly improve them on them in the process. Having to right click on a bunch of corpses after killing them to grab their loot is boring and RIFT lets me spend more time killing stuff, and less time clicking them after they died. Awesome!
Public Que… I mean RIFTS
The same can be said for the namesakes of the game, the RIFTS. Warhammer Online invented this particular wheel and called it Public Quests. We all remember them: quests that are shared with everyone in the same area that require a group to beat. While very clever and innovative there were a lot of issues with them in WAR. It turned out that you always had way too many people for them, making it so only a small part of the contributors would benefit from the rewards, or you didn’t have enough people for it, in which case no-one benefited.
RIFTs and the Planar Invasions are different: They only seem to appear if there are enough people in the area to beat them. And because everyone gets rewarded for beating them they are much more attractive to join up for. Trion saw what was good about Public Quests, and then improved upon them in every single way.
Originality is overrated
It’s a bold move by Trion. In an environment where innovation has been heralded as the only way to beat World of Warcraft they have dared to create a solid game with very little true innovation. Instead of trying to re-invent the wheel they picked the best wheels that the industry has created in the last couple of years and make them… eh… rounder.
What does this mean for the industry at large? WAR was bold, it wanted to take on WoW by doing things dramatically different and we all know how that worked out for them. The Old Republic seems to be on the same “We’re going to do things different” path and the same can certainly be said for Guild Wars 2.
RIFT isn’t different because Trion knows an MMO doesn’t need to be different to be successful. It needs to be good and polished. And let me tell you, RIFT is very good… and extremely polished!
The only thing that can go wrong with it at this stage is the endgame. As with all MMOs this is where us players will end up spending most of our time.
We’ll have a review of RIFT up shortly after it goes live next week.