Saturday, September 8, 2012

Rift Expansion Sounds Like Guild Wars 2?

After hearing MMO Reporter's PAX Interview with Scott Hartsman, I'm struck by how his description of the leveling experience in the Rift expansion sounds like what I'm hearing others say about the leveling experience in Guild Wars 2.  Hartsman's declaration that MMO's should be about being able to play with all of your friends all of the time sounds like precisely what we've been hearing from ArenaNet. 

The Rift expansion will raise the level cap and add two new continents with solo quest content and a story quest arc.  However, Hartsman suggested that it would be more fun to do the other activities that focus more on exploration.  One example he gave was a quest alternative called "carnage" that does not require the intervention of a questgiver to get credit for killing mobs - a feature of Guild Wars 2 (and, as Tobold points out, something that Warhammer Online notoriously promised but largely failed to deliver).  Hartsman states that players will likely get the exp they need from completing one of the two continents, plus all of the side exploration and carnage bonuses and other activities.   

It's possible that Trion agrees with my speculation that GW2 may be a threat to their game due to some similar mechanics, and began planning a response well in advance of the competitor's launch.  If so, one potential downfall might be all of the currently existing content in the game.  Based on the interview it sounded like both continents were for the level 50+ crowd (though I'm not sure if this has been explicitly confirmed).  Trion's answer to GW2 cannot be gated behind 50 levels of old content if they want it to be effective. 

5 comments:

Bhagpuss said...

Rift was largely built on Scott Hartsman's commitment to inclusive content. He retrofitted EQ2 to match the inclusivity standard created by WoW and set a new benchmark with the creation of Rift. Can't see any way he's going to sit back and watch the newcomer steal his clothes.

I'm 99% certain to buy Storm Legion. Only time constraints as to when I'll actually have time to play it put that 1% of doubt in there. I have been wondering, though, whether we are really going to end up with two thirds of the entire gameworld devoted to levels 50-60 (slightly more, in fact, since Ember Isle is also post-50 content). I can't imagine any of the two new continents will be low-level (although I wish they would) but I could imagine some form of level-boosting to allow lower levels to access the new lands without having to grind through an empty world for 50 levels before they can join in.

seanas said...

The initial version of Rift, back when it was still Heroes of Telara, was *entirely* procedurally developed content - no quests, no stories, just stuff happening in the world that you did and got XP for. The basic idea was, there were the planar invaders, that would spawn randomly (as they do now, but in much greater numbers) and there were players who went out and fought them. Turned out that players needed *some* superstructure of narrative, hence the Guardian vs Defiant thing (and hence, why the Rift lore is so weak: its retrofitted onto a different game).

It's thus a little presumptuous to call Rift 'copying GW2' :) Rather, game development technology has advanced to a point where Rift can offer a richer open-world levelling experience than the original Heroes of Telara idea, but in the same ballpark.

Rift IS on the same trajectory as GW2 however: away from the formal quest line of WoW or LoTRO, and back towards the old Lineage-model of 'grind mobs to level'. It's not the same idea as Lineage - the return is helical (as in, we've advanced to a point where doing open world activities are more diverse than 'just kill mobs') but the idea is closer to the Lineage model than the strict quest model.

One of the *most* interesting things about Rift is the absence of solo quest instances - something LoTRO has always done, and TSW has in spades. Solo instances are almost always story-driven, and notoriously non-group-friendly. I can't think of a single one in Rift; I don't think it's an accident, and I don't, therefore, think you can equate this to GW2's influence :)

The strength of the Lineage model was always that you could play with friends easily; Rift (and GW2) is heading back that way, through Instant Adventures, Mentoring, Carnage, Rifts themselves, Zone Events, etc. I've seen Hartsmann say there will be no quest hubs in SL; that the only quests will be those found in the world (like the green quests of TSW, or indeed about half the questing on Ember Isle).

As for the levelling: the new zones are 50-60 content, it's been confirmed; getting to there will best be done via Instant Adventures - as of 1.10, 70% of the existing zones will have associated IAs, and mentoring means you can do any of them.

I think one of the most interesting developments in MMOs in the last 18 months has been the move away from questing. Cataclysm got slated for its 'on-rails' feeling; SW:TOR is regarded as a fantastic quest-driven story *until* you hit end-game where it pivots to something completely different; TSW is a beautiful, complex game with the most interesting story and characters I've seen to date - and then you finish Transylvania and the game *also* pivots to a instance-grind; GW2 has launched without strict quest-hubs; and Rift has been introducing non-quest and non-story components since launch (Ember Isle, IA, Mentoring, Conquest) and is taking that further with SL.

gamingsf said...

I'll be watching this expansion closely. Interesting that you raise the point over the level of the two new continents.

I'm a big fan of having multiple paths to level in as I like having alts (even in Rift). But as you say if this is a whole two new continents just for level 50-60 that seems 'over-generous' where those levels are concerned.

Leveling in Rift is way too fast in my book, but I do think an alternative leveling path is needed to allow more alt-running without it being a tedious grind. I naively though the new continents would provide some relief in this area, why on earth do they need that much landmass for 10 levels?

I doubt Rift will end up like GW2 unless they *drastically* move away from the Dungeon/Heroic/Raid model for PVE endgame. Actually I kind of hope they do as I much prefer the open world content (the titular rifts and the invasions) to dungeon grinding.

I'm also interested in how the mentoring in the game works and evolves over time. I actually am a big fan of the auto-mentoring in GW2. I remember seeing a thread on this on the Rift forums and most of the comments were dead against being forced to mentor. But I have seen in Rift the converse of this argument - I've been in many invasions and rift events where higher level or higher geared characters sweep in and make the whole thing a faceroll. Sometimes you can barely tag creatures before they die. Automentoring would at least provide a more even playing field for all players in the zone. This issue comes down to those whole like challenge vs those wanting to speed-grind levels/planar attunement/tokens or whatever by over-leveling content.

Green Armadillo said...

@Seanas:
I'd heard that Rift was 100% procedurally generated at one point in the past, I just never made the connection between that and the weak lore.

Dunno what Hartsman has said before, but in this interview (around the 8-9 minute mark when he starts talking expansion) he does specifically state that there are traditional quest hubs in the expansion continents. He then goes on to be remarkably dismissive of them - as I understood it, there is in principle enough quest hub content to somehow scrape together the 10 levels if you do all the hubs on both continents, but the intent is really for players to do the other stuff instead. Part of me wonders whether they would be better off sticking to their guns and actually not offering a solo quest path so lackluster that even the exec producer is suggesting that's not a fun way to level (which has been my experience when I've tried solo questing in Rift).

Question RE: IA and mentoring, my understanding is that you can only mentor down in levels. Is this changing in the expansion? Or are they changing the IA queue system to send high level characters down to populate low level zones so that players who are actually that level have people to help them?

P.S. The first Chronicle is solo story content, though I don't know if it actually forbids a second player the way many games do.

seanas said...

re: the first Chronicle. You're right, that's a solo instance! The only one :)

re: Mentoring and IA. Since 1.9 (early July), joining the queue for a random IA will automatically level you down to the zone you join - Silverwood/Gloamwood/ Freemarch/ Stonefield. 1.10 is bringing Scarwood reach to this list, so you automatically join lower level players - and often get IAs that are 'finish zone event x' at the correct level. Excellent for bringing population to lower level zones.