Thursday, October 14, 2010

Rifts To Use WoW-Style Questing

There seems to be a debate amongst the old-school blogosphere about whether Rifts or EQ:Next will be the new EQ1.  Personally, I'm not convinced that either title is likely because both projects are high profile, but I've generally refrained from commenting for lack of more thorough information. 

Over the weekend, I listened to episode 14 of the Rift Podcast, which featured an interview about the game's quest system, featuring the studio's Senior Design Director.  According to the guy in charge, the majority of quests will be solo or small group quests, with quest hubs that conveniently distribute overlapping quests to kill 10 rat-equivalents and loot 10 potato-equivalents from the same field.  The game will also offer daily quests, rep grinds, and the option for max level players to replay the dungeons they soloed past while leveling.  Overall, it sounds a lot more like an attempt at the next WoW than the next EQ1. 

Don't get me wrong, Trion has some talented people on board, and I would love for them to succeed.  Telling players what they want to hear requires that the developers first determine what it is that the players want, which is at least one step in the right direction.  Unfortunately, I feel like the hype mirrors Warhammer more closely than any other game in my albeit limited experience.  Yes, the game engine is working and polished enough to hold an encouraging demo for the press.  Beyond that, pretty pictures are everywhere, hype is high, and the game itself is whatever the reader would like it to be for lack of evidence to the contrary. 

Learning from the past?
Beyond the possibility of raising unrealistic expectations, the things that I'm hearing about this game do not reassure me that Trion has learned from the issues that others have faced.  For example, the "soul" system for building your own class sounds really neat, but nothing I've seen has addressed how they will actually balance a game in which the majority of character setups are useless, a few are overpowered, and a few are worthless except for the one encounter that becomes trivial because the designer didn't plan for a pet that can kite and is immune to stuns or whatever. 

More to the point, this idea of having players solo their way to the level cap and then switch over to some other form of play (generally group PVE, or PVP/RVR in Warhammer's case) really isn't panning out that well across the entire industry.  Yes, solo players will buy boxes and pay fees to level - assuming that you can beat solo-focused games like WoW, LOTRO, and others at their own genre.  However, time and time again we've seen that the majority of these players either can or will not shift to the more structured group format.  Meanwhile, if the real strength of this game is supposed to be its group PVE instances, it does not make sense to encourage players to do something else instead of dungeons/rifts for 49 levels (any more than it made sense for Warhammer to encourage players to solo and run instanced scenarios instead of doing open RVR).

The especially sad part is that I'm not even convinced that this will be an especially good solo game.  In between promising little tidbits - squirreling away some quests in obscure places for explorers or whatnot - it sounds like the game's two factions will have separate starting zones and then can expect to largely share the same content (either via neutral questgivers or through slightly varied versions of the same quest for the two factions).  This is not original territory, and the studio will have to execute it extremely well if they really mean to compete in the crowded fantasy solo-friendly MMO niche. 


Xaxziminrax II said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Xaxziminrax II said...

Don't you ever wonder why the developers seem so blind to us? Don't get me wrong, I understand the personal relationship developers have with their games, but it seems impossible for any of them to have an objective view of what they're doing. It's always, "Hot stuff, coming through!" and then, "WoW questing."

Some of it's the PR, I know. They can't bash their own game. But what they can do is say, "X isn't going well, so we're concentrating a lot of effort to make modify X to be as compelling as possible." Bash their game, then declare the power they have to make things right. Unless, of course, they're not going to make things right (such as big-wig boss declares it so, or time/money constraints), at which point they're reduced to door-to-door salesmen, going to lengths to pitch a product solely for the dough.

Pangoria Fallstar said...

I thought the roots part of the soul system's tree would make sure that each soul used provides enough power to not be useless, and the branches (where the player actually spends points) is where player choice comes in. At least that's what I got from the video interview I saw, which I posted on my site a few posts back.

Green Armadillo said...

@Pan: The thing with choices is that players will figure out which choices are optimal. If you balance the game assuming that all DPS are optimal, only a handful of choices will be viable. If you don't balance around the top, the min-maxers will have a very easy game. Unless the "choices" involved are purely cosmetic, some form of this dilemma will always arise.

Carson 63000 said...

What made people think Rifts would be "the new EQ1"? I don't recall hearing a single thing about it which made me think it was going to be in any way "oldschool" or EQ-like. Everything I've heard pointed towards them trying to make a polished, friendly, WoW-like experience.

Ardwulf said...

Yeah, this echoes the many concerns I have with Rift. I mean, it looks okay, but unless this dynamic content they've talked vaguely about turns out to be dynamite, I'm really not seeing how this game is going to me more than a marginal success.

Now, maybe it's tightly budgeted and their subscriber expectations at launch are realistic, and they've planned to get maybe 50k subs and try to grow it from there. That's actually my hope, because it looks like a decent platform to build on - it just doesn't look like it will be anything special at launch.

Pangoria Fallstar said...

@Green: Hmm, I get what you are saying. Skill Trees are extremely hard to conceptualize and balance. And they have so many souls.

I think that the roots system (similar to what WoW just applied to the talent trees IMHO), will help make sure that the deviation is kept to a minimal.

Of course, without having blatant trees on display for us to analyze, there is no way to be sure.

Rifts looks interesting, which is all I can honestly say about it right now.

Yeebo said...

I don't think "the next EQ 1" would be a successful game, even if well executed. It had fundamental design flaws that would have made it a niche product if it had any real competitors apart from UO (which had an even more niche design). Not even EQ 1 is that game any more, it's a heck of a lot less punishing than it used o be.

That said, Rifts seems to be entering a crowded market with little to distinguish it. Especially with Cataclsym coming out and EQ II and LoTRO being FtP, I'm not sure why players will try it.