8 May 2011

Warcraft, Rift and Fun

I’m not sure if I announced this anywhere, but back in March I took a month long holiday from Warcraft to play Rift. I felt a little jaded from the game and needed to take a break, much like I occasionally take time off from my real-life job. I think its a healthy thing to do, plus it gives me the chance to look at other games on the market.

Like many people at the moment, I find myself looking at Rift and questioning my subscription. Some people I know have quit the game completely, while others like me are keeping a subscription going to both games.

Rift is a technically adept game with some interesting takes on the classic MMO model. I love the Ascended soul system as a replacement for talent trees, and think it’s something that other games will pick up. I think that using artifacts and collections to expose more in-game lore is also neat – it’s what I hoped Archaeology would (and still could) be.

But does Rift itself have a soul? If it did, it would be brown and drab. A thin, plain looking man dressed in well-made but simple looking garb. He’d be one of those friends you’d have that would be incredibly intelligent but short on jokes. The kind of person you’d ask round to fix your computer, but maybe not at the top of the house party guest list.

By contrast, Warcraft is a more flamboyant and laid back person. Sure they’re not the sharpest tool in the box, but you’ve known them for years and they’re always cheerful. The world might be ending tomorrow, but what about wizards making ice-cream with pointy hats for cones?

I play MMOs partly to get away from the dreary grey tableau that the world outside sometimes. presents. It’s a form of escapism. Logging in to find the same mood, the same attitude from the NPCs and the same humourless expanse laid out before you is not a great start to a gaming session.

First person shooter developers like Valve put a lot of work into the pacing of their game. Listen to some of the developer commentary and it’s a real eye-opener in terms of why they used certain mobs, what emotions they wanted to put the player through and so on. Sure they generally switch between “relaxed” and “holy crap zombies!” but you get the idea

In the same way, Blizzard’s quest design team places a fair amount of focus on the emotional pacing of zones. Is a zone starting to feel tedious or repetitive? Do they need to lighten the mood a little? Do they want to make things more intense  and exhilarating for a big set-piece finish? The MMO developer has a wide range of options and needs to make use of them in order to provide texture to the game.

Humour doesn’t need to be pulled in through pop-culture references or slapstick pratfalls. What about the clumsy inventor, or the unfortunate farmer, or the charismatic merchant? Our real lives are filled with people and events that make us laugh so shouldn’t our games be as well?

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13 Responses to Warcraft, Rift and Fun

  1. Jaedia says:

    /wave – I haven’t quit completely, I just can’t afford both and needed a break 🙂 Might well come back in a few months, will see, Warcraft has managed to grab me again. Your example is pretty much spot on ^^
    Jaedia recently posted..So This Hunter AltMy Profile

  2. Liz says:

    I completely agree about the environmental differences between WoW and Rift. Rift is very pretty and realistic, but I think that is it’s downfall. As you said, it reminds too much of the real world from which we’re trying to escape when we play games.

    Plus, for me, the graphics requirements are hindering Trion from an even bigger audience. Playing Rift at “low” graphic settings yet still getting 16 fps… I don’t think so. I use the same computer for WoW and can use “High” settings to get 40 fps in Stormwind City.

    I really hope that Trion finds a way to deliver the pretty graphics while making the game more accessible to those without higher-end video cards. And maybe brighten things up just a small bit.

    Thanks for the link!

    • Gazimoff says:

      I agree with you to some extent – Rift does push the graphical boundaries of an MMO further than Warcraft, and as a result needs a meatier machine. It’s why I did my own upgrade recently, as I wanted a new PC that could comfortably handle the new crop of MMOs coming out.

      I think that there will always be better graphics and special effects that will encourage us to upgrade our older PCs. But looks aren’t everything. Gameplay isn’t everything. It’s how you wrap the whole package together and present it that matters.

  3. Jamin says:

    Interesting read.

    I haven’t played Rift myself, however I have read and heard enough to gather a general in-game atmosphere feel, which indeed matches the one you described.

    I play for the same reason, to escape. However that’s a whole other topic in itself.

    – Jamin
    Jamin recently posted..Cataclysm Journal 20!My Profile

  4. Paul says:

    Rift does seem to be running out of gas. Frankly, this isn’t something that comes as a surprise to me. I expected to get 3-6 months of play out of it, and will probably do that.

    It really needs a LFD tool, even a shard-only one. The lack of one is not, IMO, causing better social interaction, just more awkwardness at getting dungeon runs together.

    • Gazimoff says:

      I agree, a shard-only LFD tool would be a huge boost at putting dungeons together. In the two months of playing I’ve only run a single dungeon – Iron Tombs.

      • Ithato says:

        Trion is in fact adding an automated single-shard LFD tool with Patch 1.2.

        That said, it really saddens me that so many players have adjusted to WoW’s model of automated dungeon groups so wholly that other games feel lacking without one, or that adding such a feature might help buoy what they view as a slowly-sinking MMO. It is hardly a “killer feature” or “must-have” in my book.

        • Jaedia says:

          With a dwindling population of players, it gets harder and harder to find groups. In a situation like that, though it probably won’t make *much* difference, a LFD tool is definitely going to be worthwhile.
          Jaedia recently posted..So This Hunter AltMy Profile

  5. idonotdonot says:

    I gave rift a try, but after awhile I realized I would have to invest a lot of time to figure out the talent, crafting, etc… It just didn’t seem like enough of better game for me to invest that much time when I could go back to WOW and not have to deal with that learning curve. I think a lot of people are like that. A friend of mine in my guild got me to try rift, he had left WOW for it and was really excited about it. There was dense population when I first jumped in, but the time I left, there weren’t enough people on-line to take down rifts. It looks like the normal thing, people left WOW tried it out and are slowly coming back. We have been having fun running the new Zul Aman and Zul Gurub. Stuff like that shouldn’t be enough, but the nostalgia and changes of those instances was fun running with guildies. The frist time back throught Zul Aman took us almost 3 hours, but the time flew by as we reminisced and figured out the encounters. Maybe that’s what WOW has going for it, we have invested so much time on our toons, that leaving them and learning a whole new system seems not to be worth it.

    Having said that, I’m really looking forward to STWOR. I plan to suspend my WOW account and really give that game a go. Hopefully it’s good.

  6. Katfinated says:

    I think Rift is lovely and wish I could play it more but frankly, my computer is so bad for it that it crashes several times when I try playing it, to the point where I’m just so used to it. It really hinders my ability to play that I just haven’t logged in for probably a week at this point. On the other hand, even though my guild in WoW has lagged hard due to burn out / summer / whathaveyou, it’s been equally frustrating to play where I’m often the only one there. Still, I *can* play Wow so I *am* playing Wow and I’ve even started a new alt to try new zones since the Cata-change. Wow isn’t what it was either to me but I’m still squeaking out some enjoyment.

  7. Stubborn says:

    Excellent Post, Gaz. You’ve hit the nail on the head about the core difference between WoW and Rift. Rift comes off as a grown up older brother of WoW, even though it’s 6 years younger, but it feels like it lost a lot of the zany fun that WoW has kept over the years. Nothing puts a smile on my face like finding little easter eggs in WoW (there are a few in Rift, too, but far fewer and with stranger connections – see the Peter Dinklage reference in Sanctuary). Too bad easter eggs aren’t enough to keep my entire interest.
    Stubborn recently posted..The Age of ExperienceMy Profile

  8. Rivs says:

    Excellent post, and you hit the nail on the head. The feelings of both games are really different, and it affected me. I left RIFT, and went back to WoW.
    Rivs recently posted..A wise man changes his mind- a fool never willMy Profile

  9. Jewel says:

    I am mentioned and didn’t even know! hahaha! Thank you!
    Jewel recently posted..Switched to BloggerMy Profile