Monday, January 3

My take on Rift

After a long afternoon and evening of catching up with Phè during which I held discourse to the effect I'd become a tad anti-Beta off late, the reason being it adversely affects my playtime/enjoyment post launch, I finally accepted FilePlanet's insistent begging and signed up for the third Rift Beta. I'm glad I did. My experience with the Beta was all out positive for the most part. A lot more so than I was expecting after Geeky's last post which I'll sum up to a "so-so verdict". In fact, in terms of performance and technical workiness it's one of the best Beta's I've been in.


First thing you see after shard selection (which didn't contain an RP server this time) was Character Creation. This was the first pleasant surprise. Though I didn't feel much inclined to go for the non-human races for some reason, I'll probably agree with Geek's opinions if I think about it, I found myself liking the level of detail I could adjust. It's obvious from the start that there's a single avatar skeleton which is shrunk down vertically for the dwarfish race and stretched out for the ogerish one. The fact you can't change your shoulder-width, leg length or boob size doesn't bother me as it means Trion will be able to include more interesting and detailed armour not totally dependent on body mesh. On the other hand, it's something which may yet be incoming for another Beta. For me though, the level of detail in this Beta was enough.

I did not like the facial tattoo's/markings which while not as cruddy as Age of Conan's still feel artificial to me. They're a quick-win as they're mono-colour easy to generate patterns that help give a face some unique distinctiveness. They're a too obvious clutch for me though and besides, there's a reason there's relatively few facial tattoo's in any of Earth's cultures....

Trion's graphics engine reminds me of a mixture between Warhammer and Lord of The Rings. Probably more the latter than the former. It shares some art-style with Warhammer, mostly in the American concept of what medieval architecture should look like (Tudor) and the colour palette. Level of detail and lighting effects are very similar to LoTR though and therefore a step up from WAR.
Art style is also a curious mix of both Western and Eastern style MMO's, having played primarily Defiant I didn't get to see the Guardian capital, but at first I felt some of the Defiant architecture jar with that of the locals but after a while it grew on me. They fall in the same mistake every MMO level designer seems to make and that is to A) use curved brick patterns and then B) consistently align the texture the same way so that the curve becomes a compass direction no matter which way the road's curved but other than that I thought it was a decently smart mixture of texture re-use and variety of models. I do hope there's a bit more variety post Level 20 though. If I still see the same ruins at level 40 it might become a tad dull...

The Interface was another pleasant surprise to me.
It’s rare to see it so well thought out and so far worked out at this stage of Beta. The Tutorial Hints as well were vastly beyond what I’ve gotten used to pre- and post- launch. Customizing the panels is a bit unusual but workable after you get used to it. Still some things to fix in there like the currently fixed positions of the mouse-over tool tip and the character sheet. There were also some bits which were locked child elements and could as a result only be resized in proportion to the mother panel.

The Inventory looks like it’s still a work in progress. It works as is, but with the multiple bag setup it’s begging for specialty bags like EverQuest-II, and some other MMO’s I can’t quite remember just now, has. We’ll see how this develops. I did pick the Crafting class that needs a better Inventory system than any other and didn’t get around to actually craft much.

My main peeve with Interface is twofold but related. The Hot bar initially provided is big enough for about one sixth of the skills you will eventually acquire using three Souls. Given that some skills are passive always-on affairs and there is some unavoidable redundancy between Souls you will probably end up needing a mere 4 additional bars filled with skills and things like potions.
I’m never a fan of rows upon row of buttons to mash, especially not if as is the case with Rift you can’t mess around with key bindings but also when only the bottom bar has been integrated into the UI and the additional “floating bars” have no window dressing whatsoever. I’m picky. Either make them all part of your UI or allow me to drop the window dressing on my “primary” hotbar.
In both Vanguard and Age of Conan I’d made extensive modifications to the original key-bindings and I really really missed that in Rift.
Maybe the in-game Macro system will help with some of these issues as I did notice a tendency to take actions sequentially.

Which brings us to gameplay. For a Cleric, Rift is mostly your average button masher MMO. I briefly tested the rogue class which had a bit more complexity in that there were finishing moves and a build-up system. The Soul system as used in this Beta seems to work. I picked out a nice combination of Souls for my cleric and decided to change it around level 13. With the Roles allowing you up to three builds to swap between there’s plenty of room to experiment or for a healer cleric to have both group and solo builds. The game has three main gameplay modes it seems: Classic PvE questing which while mostly filler content isn’t quite as dull as I expected. Quest stories are decently written and I actually found myself checking them occasionally.
Yes for the most part it’s go here or there and kill X of mob Y or click Quest item Z at locations A, B and C but off late I’ve come to think that maybe the call for better more in-depth Quests may need to be put on the same pedestal as the call for intelligent AI. Just like people want the illusion of challenging AI’s rather than the actual thing, any Quest more complex than the Kill ten Rats, collect, deliver and escort quests results in a lot of people finding them frustratingly hard. Much the same as mobs which actually run away and gather their friends to fight you.

The other two game play options are Rifts and PVP. I didn’t try the latter so can’t comment on it at all. Since this Beta had beefed up Rift activity I did partake in those quite a bit. They’re very reminiscent of Warhammer’s Public Quest system but without the fixed positions. Just like the PQ’s a Rift goes through 3-5 stages. Unlike the PQ’s they don’t have a written storyline but are semi-randomly generated. What I missed most from the PQ’s was an auto-grouping system. Without that I fear the Rift experience will always either be a chaotic brawl or Guild/Raid dominated, which is a shame I think. There’s a lot of incentive to group at a Rift, but at the same time there isn’t. It’s odd really. I quickly discovered that my Cleric’s contribution was determined by how much healing I put out. Not how much healing I accomplished. Meaning if I healed 10 hit-points by casting a 100 hit-point heal I’d be credited for healing 100 hit points. This was clearly a system still being fine-tuned and I hope they’ll get it as balanced as Warhammer’s was. As I understand it, for DPS dealers it’s whoever hits the mob first gets the kill and the credit. Hopefully that’s going to change into the way my heals should work. Applied Healing (the 10 points) and Applied Damage (what actually comes through soak/armour) and maybe Damage averted for Tanks?

I really enjoyed playing the Beta. A lot of the things that still need to be fixed/improved I have confidence in that they’ll be fixed or improved. My main concern lies in a fatal flaw of Warhammer’s design and Beta testing concept. Their Public Quests were very, very population density dependent, and so are the Rifts. I did notice some evidence that they’re not totally neglecting low population possibilities (fewer Rifts during low pop times, possibly some friendly NPC spawnage) but I also saw some definite Beta behaviour in that L20 characters would rush in to assist with lower level Rifts and Invasions. How often will we see an L20 come assisting overwhelmed L12’s who stumbled onto a L15 Invasion when those L20’s aren’t artificially kept near?


  1. Oh by the way:
    I kept noticing, in a positive way, how Trion has taken a good look at the other MMO's out there, especially UI wise and picked the good bits.

    I'd say the game's 50% WAR inspired, with choice elements from EQ/Vanguard, EverQuest-II, Lord of the Rings, Guild Wars and maybe some others I missed. Leaving out WOW because WOW is everywhere and I like the fact Trion also 'borrowed' from Games not initially influenced by WOW (the SOE published games for the most part) The resulting Interface is the better for this borrowing and at no point did it feel ripped of at all.

  2. I wish I had left my thoughts on rift until later, this beta swung me around from so so to positive.

    I have the same concerns about rifts as you, it seems a lot of what the devs where doing this beta was stress testing - on that score the game handled it well. At the end of the game mass invasions/rifts happened all over the map, I'd just completed the Iron Tombs instance for the second time and was already in a group (I was fortunate to have gotten in with a great bunch of people for IT) we stayed as a group and went off invasion hunting, the group quickly became a raid and we stood defending our base with at least 100 other people, we downed a couple of world bosses and countless other foes, all the time my ping never strayed above two figures, my FPS though was a different story but that's down to my system. It played incredibly well right up until the server went down at end of beta, I would say Trion had a success there.

    I guess we won't really see how rifts have been fine tuned until further on, I'm not even sure if once opened they have the technology to dynamically scale the rift to the population there or the dynamic is that the strength of the rift spawn can be tied to the areas current population? I'm guessing the latter, we already see major and minor rifts.

    I can honestly say I didn't want to log out during beta 3, even though I still feel crafting is lacking I did note that at lvl 20 I was wearing gear I'd mostly crafted myself which was better than quest rewards so they must be doing something right there. Work orders I found annoying, the time sink for delivery and the gap between being able to repeat them means that only the most dedicated crafters will get their hands on the better recipes offered by the work order token route. Maybe there are other ways to get better recipes we just haven't seen yet? I was incredibly relieved that drops from lower level mobs didn't reduce just the XP, meant I could gather the lower level mats easily. I had the best way to gather mats at level 20 totally sussed :) The synergy between my crafting professions worked incredibly well too though I suspect the same wont be true of all choices.

    Nice write up Lani :)

    Next beta event is Friday 7th Jan (6pm GMT) until Monday (6pm GMT), level cap increase to level 25 and they will be opening the warfronts for some PvP fun, hope you guys get access (VIP keys?)

  3. Patching for new beta now :-)

  4. Not me. Or at least I didn't get an (re)invite, so I guess I am not in. I did get an email that I could pre-order the game. And that would give me access to all future beta's. But I am not so sure I want to order/play the game yet. Aion was also very fun the first few hours. And I fear my excitement for Rift will last about as long.

    I will patch and see if I can get in regardless.

  5. Look forward to doing Iron Tombs alongside Naomi some time this weekend and hope you get in Phe.

    Latest news is level cap is set at 27 rather than 25.

  6. Hmm, nope. I couldn't patch. But since I couldn't leave you guys to play without me I decided to pre-order. I tried to do it via Steam. Both Steam and Trion announced it is available on Steam, but then I got treated to a 'Not available in your region' message. So I did it straight from the Trion page. The pre-order is on. And according to their own advertisement I will have access to all upcoming beta events. I haven't seen any access code yet though.

  7. I suggest you keep checking your account page Phe and see if the code is there and just needs you to accept the EULA. There have been problems for pre-orders from Amazon and gamestop not receiving beta codes but as you bought it straight from Trion that shouldn't affect you, you could always contact the support centre if you don't get one tomorrow, Trion have proved pretty impressive with support/community so far.

  8. Just reading the Rift forums and someone who bought direct from Trion had the beta key automaticaly added straight away so check that account page!

  9. Odd. I could pre-order without a hitch using Steam.
    Maybe you somehow ended up on the US site for Steam? I have to admit my biggest issue with ordering the game has been their continuing of the Internet Dollar/Euro exchange rate which has nothing to do with the real exchange rate.

    I hope you get it sorted soon Phè

  10. Oh, and it looks like the Steam "CD Key" is used for the Beta key code

  11. Ah no, it isn't. It's to register your game. Funny that. Stuff being used for what they're intended :-)
    Also funny is that I can't login with my Steam client using my account but I can using the Beta client, both of which sport the same build version number. *dum dum dum dum*

    I'm guessing every couple of hours or once a day they run the newly created pre-order accounts through a batch job and send them the invites.

  12. About half an hour after I made the pre-order the beta entry showed up on the account page (and even got an email too). Everything is patched and ready to roll.

    Very weird you could use Steam. It is still saying that it is not allowed in this region for me. Sounds like the TCOS thing where UK wasn't part of Europe.

  13. On a side note - what do you make of Trions cheeky video?

  14. I had to see it again before I caught the cheeky bit but it's a funny joke :-)

  15. Phe we are on Blightweald server :)

  16. I picked the right server then :) I am on Blightweald too. It was nice to see my character was still there. Last beta Abeen managed to just leave the cramped noob zone. Now she got to play together with 200 other players the quests right outside the hub. After an hour on stepping on too many toes and reaching level 8 I went to make a Guardian Warrior. Her name is Chavina. But she hasn't even left the first building yet. Off doing social stuff now. Maybe tomorrow morning it won't be so crazy busy.

  17. Sorry to hear your experiences were adversely affected by player population Phè. The Freemarch area (Level 5-20) felt a little underpopped to me in fact. I thought all the people who'd capped at 20 last Beta had moved on to Stonefield, but by the sound of it most rerolled. That or the pre-order crowd that got in all decided to roll Defiant on our server.

    I tried Guardian a bit, but their arrogant goodness was too annoying for me.

  18. Just to be consistent about my inconsistency, I did roll a guardan just now. A dwarven battle maiden going by the name of Kettle :-)
    I tried to add Chavina to my friendlist but the server said she doesn't exist. I'll keep Kettle in reserve for if/when you'd like to team up Guardian side

  19. P.s. Added a pic to the post :-)

  20. When I created my Guardian and went through the CC Kettle was the first thing I thought too when I saw the female dwarven warrior :)

    And oops, it is Chaniva, not Chavina. My bad.

  21. That will be why we couldn't add you :)

    I'm playing Vailare on Defiant side and Nahkti on Guardian side but think Defiant side is much better.

  22. Well... We now know why Phè got crushed in the press of new characters on our server as well as why general chat turned from a pleasant read while clobbering to death something Endless into the type of vitriolic nastiness and fond of uninformed opinions we've learned to hate and ignore in all MMO's.

    There's 8 Beta servers, shards, which before this beta were divided into PvP/Pve rulesets. For this beta 5 servers were localized with the result that our shard being the one that got the brunt of non German/French people 'migrating'. Along with all the whiny pre-order freeloaders :-)