Filled with Crunchy Goodness.December 24, 2010 at 5:24 pm | Posted in General | 3 Comments
Tags: game design, rift, stopping to admire the view
In 1974, Dungeons and Dragons was first published.
Being the product of a couple of then unknowns (thank you so much, Messrs Gygax and Arneson) it was gaming how they saw it needed to be. Yet, as with all things, people had opinions. Some decided it was just right, and continued playing it.
Others thought that the rules system was too complex, and from this movement games such as Tunnels and Trolls were released. Tunnels and Trolls was a lot more simple than Dungeons and Dragons, and that simplicity brought a game system that was a lot more accessible than previously seen.
Others saw Dungeons and Dragons and decided it was way too simplistic; with a table for everything up to and including tickling trout, Chivalry and Sorcery was the polar opposite of Tunnels and Trolls, being complex and sophisticated. Whilst Tunnels and Trolls was a game, Chivalry and Sorcery was a simulation. Dungeons and Dragons sat in the middle, being a bit of both.
Of course, I never got to play Chivalry and Sorcery. It was a little too complex for my gaming group. We played a wide variety of games, but no-one felt up to trying to run something *that* in depth.
But there is a lesson in there; whatever a game is, some players will want the game to be simpler, some will want it more complex, and others will want it to stay at the same level.
Enter Rift from Trion Worlds.
Now, for a game that is still in development that hasn’t got the words “Wars” and “Star” (not necessarily in that order) in its name is quite an achievement. The Secret World (lookin’ at you, Mr Tornquist) has achieved that by looking rather cool and sexy with it’s shiny leathery shadow war/cthulhoid horror/general froodyness, to the extent that I have taken the online test thingy, and am more than willing to sign up to the Templars, and start booting doors down.
Especially when I get assigned my large angry shotgun, my gunfighter’s duster, and my angry perma-scowl. Oh, I am so there!
Rift has managed to ping on my gamedar because of the hype surrounding the beta test. To the extent that I even *embraced change* enough to use that Googly thing (other misspelled search engines are available) to go to the Rift homepage.
From there I was able to read lots of lovely hyperbole, and was even able to have a look at some of the buzzword-laden teaser trailers that are there.
From there, the NDA lifts, and I can search for the blog posts from freshly ungagged testers that are emerging.
The overwhelming opinion seems to be that Rifts is *nicer* than any fantasy MMO previously released. It’s chimeric pedigree has created a game with, luckily, all the best bits of half a dozen existing MMOs, rather than all their worst bits. Well done Trion, because that’s a much harder job than it sounds.
They have also, it seems, decided to head down the Chivalry and Sorcery route, by ramping up the complexity of game-play, rather than heading into troll-infested tunnels, like so many other MMOs.
I didn’t get into the beta. It seemed like the hot ticket of the time, and again, well done to Trion for managing to do this at the same time that the Blizzard behemoth launches an expansion. It really takes some skill to survive that sort of monster, never mind prosper in its shadow.
I didn’t try to get into the beta. I follow a couple of Rift-related feeds on that Twitter thingy, but never tried to grab a beta key because I really don’t want to spend the time and effort to play a beta game when I have so many released games to play (and not enough time to play them all).
It’s also worth pointing out that whilst I have a real hankering to play Star Wars: The Old Republic (strong in The Geek, am I. Mmmmm!), and The Secret World has just grabbed my imagination because it has such a strong concept, Rift has gone for the common denominator, and that doesn’t work as well for me.
I enjoy a fantasy film, novel or game as much as the next geek, but there is something thoroughly generic about a generic fantasy world. I can understand why it’s such a popular choice with MMO developers; with the requirement of needing the most possible players, there is a necessity not to offend as many as possible. As a result, there’s no hook to grab me. It’s sort of like elf-flavoured blancmange; smells of flowers, surprisingly bland.
Don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten about the rifts themselves. The static sounding ones, with their Public Quest-style game-play sound fun, but nothing special. From what I’ve seen and heard, they sound like the continuance of gameplay using a swirly thing rather than tromping over the next hill. The random ones sound fantastic, though. A rift opens, hod-loads of gribblies come pouring out, and general cool gameplay abounds. Something unexpected, that makes the world feel a little more like the random, chaotic world that we live in rather than a static, scripted, and constantly repeated moment in time.
As well as being something for the game-playing community to rally around, over, and through.
But that is more of a game-play draw than a world/background draw. As are the multiple “souls” concept; that seems like a thematic fluff covering over a really customisable class-role crunch system. Dress it up however you want, it will always be part of the crunchy guts of the game.
I was also impressed by the declarations on the website that say, to the layman such as myself, that Rifts is about the crunch; it is a game that is for the more complete gamer, being more complex in terms of mechanisms and game-play to most other MMOs. It is the Chivalry and Sorcery to World of Warcraft’s Dungeons and Dragons. I like games with a bit of crunch and complexity behind them, as more options means more game.
In point of fact, and I suppose it’s only just striking me now, the whole draw of Rifts doesn’t seem to be the world of Rifts, but rather the projected game-play. The hype seems to be all about the improvements over existing games, about the complexity of the game-play on offer, rather than the world itself.
In a way, I find that a shame. I don’t want to be told about how this product is better than that existing product. I want to be told that this product is the best product that will ever be available, and these are the reasons why. I want Rift to stand up as it’s own game, not as a better alternative to World of Warcraft.
I really hope Rift does well, but as it has neither the pull of existing games I’m playing, nor the pull of games that will (hopefully) come out next year (heheh. I’m saying that like it’s a long time away, rather than next week), I can only give it the same offer as any A N Other MMO gets:
I will play you if my mates do.
Many of my mates play World of Warcraft. They have a lot of time invested in that game, so anything that is going to draw them away, to invest fully in another game, is going to have to pull against the weight of an awful lot of inertia and nostalgia. The rest play Lord of the Rings Online, which has its own inertial pull in terms of world, game-play, and (sigh) free to play nature.
Add in the fact that an MMO is much less fun when playing solo. It sort of destroys the whole point of the thing, and to be honest, I’m rubbish at this whole “making new friends” thing. Starting an MMO “solo” means finding a guild, and that’s a lot harder than it seems, especially at launch time. It’s not just finding a guild that has the same aims and objectives; it’s about finding a guild that will not just survive those first few weeks, but thrive in the coming months.
It’s not a particularly fair offer, I admit, but I need to save cash. Deciding to put my gaming destiny into the hands of my mates seems to be a surefire way of saving money that would otherwise be spent on buying a box, playing for a month, and then never again.
Hmm. I hope I don’t sound anti-Rift, because I’m not. Really, I’m not. I hope the game does well. Just like Slurms, I’m hoping the game goes like a rocket, because more well-designed, successful games are good for the genre, and our hobby.
And if the game is *that* good, *that* special, and just plain old *that much fun*, then I’m pretty sure that the sane, rational people I know will decide that they
There is, however, one little question that I would like us all to think about:
If a rift opens, but there’s no player there to interact with it, do we really care about the sound of one hand clapping?