There some days I have a hard time logging into an MMO. I play, I get in ruts, I take breaks and sometimes when the opportunity arises I will take a vacation. Well, an opportunity dropped into my lap when Raptr sent me an email declaring that I had earned a “Raptr Reward” giving me a free standard copy of RIFT and 30 days of play time with the potential to get a special goggle hat and an upgrade to the special/collectors/super happy funtime edition.
Now I had some brief interaction with RIFT way back when they first started offering the 7 days trial and I wasn’t really impressed. The soul system had some neat concepts but I found extremely confusing having to dive into a game that I knew nothing about and just started picking things that looked good. It kind of reminded me of back when I started playing WoW and I had a melee hunter that stacked strength and had some weird build that mish mashed talents from all three trees. It’s no Ironman, but I definitely found a way to make the “huntard” a very difficult class to play. But with 30 free day and possible upgrade to a fancier edition dangling in front of me, I said “Hey, why not?”
Deciding on a character wasn’t hard. You have a choice between some God Freaks or a bunch of technology orientated heretics who believe in “making their own miracles”. Uh… Yea. Defiant all the way. I just don’t get the rationale of playing a character who’s beliefs are “I’ll just wait and the Gods will do it for me.” On top of that, the male models for most races are pretty damn ugly. Like Orc ugly. Yes, even humans. So I went with a woman. I chose the Rogue path for her because it allowed me to be a pet-class hunter and later maybe switch to stealthy stabby stab rogue, but also because the hunter version plays ALOT like it has no auto-attack which is more comfortable after months of SWTOR. And since Vrykerion sounds weird as a girl name in my head, I’d like you all to meet Valkyrion (see what I did there?):
The game itself is actually quite fun. They cleared up the earlier confusion with the soul system by adding in the option to use pre-determined ‘builds’ that automatically show you where to allocate all your points and which souls to use. It won’t get you peak efficiency but it will give you a decent build to play with. The cool thing is, when you reset your souls you can switch to a different build, or use one of your own devising. So my pet using hunter rogue can easily switch to a stealthy stabby rogue. They do the same thing in D&D Online and it REALLY helped there, especially since 3rd Edition is a brick of complete and utter confusion for me.
Once you get past the opening area – which for the Defiant is a rush to get you, an engineered super being, to a time machine to send you back and change the future (Awwwesome!) – the world opens up and you get introduced to Rifts and other dynamic events that are constantly going on in the game. This is actually really cool. Bunches of little side things you can do along your journey. Though I will admit, by the end of the first zone (Freemarch for me), it was getting kinda irritating to bumble into a rift or actually pull a bunch of invaders while I was questing.
The story in Freemarch is pretty cool, a bunch of cultists who serve the big bad evil guy have started raising the dead around the area, and have been making life pretty unreasonable. On top of that, Water cultists (not associated with the death cultists) have been mucking about the shores causing all kinds of trouble. You have to stop them AND defeat the undead army they raised. It ends with you defeating the undead… uh… king? General? You know I was never 100% clear on that. Either way, it was pretty cool.
Finally, the last thing that I really liked about my visit to RIFT was getting to see how the game handles ‘collectibles’. Books of lore you find lying around? They get added to your own personal library in your character tab. Achievements? A TON of them just in the first zone! Kill 4 rares in the zone, kill X many undead, jump from a bridge, kill squirrels… And they reward titles! Both prefix and suffix titles! Oh man, just imagine the achievements from the Molten Front – now apply that same thing to every zone! How cool would that be? I’d have a blast with that.
Also, RIFT has these things called Artifacts. Around the world you’ll find these little sparkles that will reward you with random artifacts, you collect them in sets in your character tab. After you complete the set, you can turn them in to the capital for pets, supplies, and currency to buy new vanity items. Some items actually belong to multiple sets, so you’ll need to keep searching. But imagine how that would work with Archaeology in WoW! Instead of just vendoring common artifacts, you’d collect them as part of sets and turn them in to get things like transmog items.
Honestly, I was blown away by some of the stuff in RIFT. Especially for my inner completionist who likes to get all the little doodads it looks like a great game. It also reminded of the one thing I’ve been missing while playing SWTOR – A simple rotation. My hunter rogue uses like 5 keys. FIVE. You know how many keybindings I use on my Jedi Guardian? TWENTY-FOUR. And a normal rotation without any cooldowns or OH S$%&* buttons is at least 10-12 buttons. Now do that for every fight. Not to completely slam TOR or anything, and it is pretty cool how much you can do in battles, but it was nice to revisit a simple single digit number of buttons. I have no idea how I’m gonna cope when Mists of Pandaria comes out and I have to re-acquaint myself with auto-attack.
RIFT has officially earned its place on the list of ‘viable alternative MMOs to vacation in’. Partially by the fact that I got the game, a collector’s edition upgrade, AND a neat hat with goggles on it for free, but it’s also a very fun game in it’s own right that definitely shares many familiar traits with World of Warcraft but still boasts a favorable number of features and methodologies that are both different and very welcome. Some day I may even get to try out some of these fabled solo-raid thingies I keep hearing about.
All in all, it was a MMO vacation well spent. This calls for a meme reference!
Here’s a thought exercise. Given an unlimited budget and no concerns about customers/deadlines/etc, what would you do to make your perfect MMO? Kind of a fun thought right? Ultimate wish-fulfillment. But the underlining psychological effect of giving you an idea of exactly what game would work for you. After all, you will ultimately judge every game you play compared to your imaginary perfect game. You shouldn’t though. I’m always think that you should judge something purely on how well you enjoyed it, and not how much it matched up to how much you think it should be. Granted, sometimes those things overlap. Other times it will get you kicked out of film school. Just ask Lil’ Vrykerion who ended up with a degree in Creative Writing and NOT film.
But on with this grand experiment! Which should prove to be quite the experience, because I have a habit of trying to bite off more than I can chew (That is in both a metaphorical and literal sense. Steak night is a horror show at my house.) Where to begin though? I could start by writing a 10,000 word breakdown on the history of the world and how it got to be this way, but while I am sure that there are many of you who would probably really enjoy that it doesn’t really bring us any closer to our goal. So how about we start like this-
Imagine There Are No Classes
It’s actually pretty easy if you try. Essentially my idea is that the world is composed of nations. Let’s say five nations. Each nation has its own ideas and traditions. Maybe one is more technological, another is more magical, one is a savage land where only the strongest survive, etc. Essentially, at the beginning of character creation you pick which nation you want to be from and represent in the game world. Then you design how you want that character to appear. I imagine there would probably be some conventions to go along with each nation. People from this place would have tan skin and red eyes (and hate Alchemy?) or these people would have the option to have blue or green hair. Stuff like that.
After character creation, you finally enter the game world and get treated to a short chain of quests that introduce you to the game. Give you a feel for the mechanics, and of your nation and the issues facing it in the world. After this quest you are given your very first talent point. Now this is where it gets fun because since there are no classes (just ‘races’ for all intensive purposes) each nation has three talent trees. One for tanking, one for damage, and one for healing. Yes, my ideal MMO would stick to the trinity. Yea, there are people who would give me flak for it, but I can’t even imagine how to break it or how it would function without it. So I’ll leave such ideas to those who can grasp those concepts.
The talent trees would be divided up into 3 distinct parts. First there is the first, middle and last tiers of abilities. Each of these would have a choice of one of three abilities that are iconic to both your role and your nation. Essentially, there would be 2-3 choices of abilities in these tiers that would affect how you play your class. Maybe one focuses on two weapon fighting and one focuses on big 2-handed weapons, or something like that. The other two areas are your Upper and Lower tiers of talents. The lower tiers are between the first and middle ability tier, and mostly have pretty broad improvements in your role. More critical damage, quicker attacks, etc. The upper tiers have talents that are especially designed to augment that specific role. This ability gains this additional property and what not.
The reason for the Upper and Lower tiers being that way is that when you reach the Middle Ability Tier, you are given a choice. You can continue down your path and maximize that role to its full power and access the top ability tier, or you can multiclass and gain the first and middle abilities tiers and lower enhancement tier of a second ‘class’. So you could add a bit of utility and self-healing to your tank by multiclassing as healer. Lack the survivability of a full tank, but maybe you can solo tougher challenges with the heals. Are you confused yet? Don’t worry, this is probably the most confusing part. Besides, you don’t really care about how I’d handle the classes, you’re wondering what I’d do different with-
The World and the Stuff to Do In It
Oh yea. I rocked that segue. The big thing I would do with a big open world is the story. The idea is every 12 months is one big storyline for the world, broken in four phases (3 months each.) Each storyline would have quests, dungeons, objectives and a ton of stuff related to it on top of the already existing tons of ‘general’ quests to do. You represent and serve your nation through the storyline and attempt to bring glory or sometimes save your people. This can be diving into caves and ruins and looking for new and powerful artifacts, gathering supplies, or sabotaging the competition. Throughout the year, the storyline would go from phase to phase, and the world would evolve because of it.
Leveling would mostly consist of either doing quests that are related to the overall story line, or smaller story lines throughout the five nations. Oh yes. No hostile ground to be found, but a member of nation A would probably be engaging in different types of quests while in Nation C than the actual members of Nation C. This creates a big world where you can go where you want and participate in the kind of stories you want to play through. Espionage and spying? Let’s go to another nation and see what they’re up to! Help build the military? Let’s see what can be done here at home. Claim forbidden lands and forgotten secrets for your country? Let’s head into the unclaimed neutral territories and see what treasures can be found! But once you hit max level, you can join the overall story line in a much bigger way. Getting into quests that directly tie in and wandering into dungeons to square off against enemies or find powerful relics.
Now, I know what you’re saying. Isn’t that unfair to people who start later? Wouldn’t they have to catch up? How could they catch up to their current tier of dungeons if they weren’t there for the beginning of the story lines dungeons?! Whoa whoa WHOA! Calm down. The dungeons aren’t tiered. In fact, things like item levels and tier sets wouldn’t exist at all. Lemme tell you about my ideas on-
Alternate Gear and Rewards
Dang. I’m getting downright snappy at those. Anyway, unlike a certain MMO that I currently play, my idea for gear would be that it has no bonus to stats. Or at least anything with bonus to stats would be very rare. Instead gear has 2 factors to it: 1) Appearance. Unique and awesome looking gear. 2) Properties. Things like chance on hit procs, extra fire damage on hit, or even cosmetic things to your character for equipping it. Imagine collecting a white armor set that once you equip all the pieces, angel wings appear on your back. Pretty cool huh? This 2 factors can sometimes tie into the story lines, or your nation. Better properties are rarer, or require massive crafting projects.
Yea, no dream MMO of mine would exist without a solid crafting system. With the story lines changing and evolving, there would always be room for more stuff to be added. Start the game after a certain story line was over but really liked the look or property of some items from it? Maybe they can be recreated by tracking down someone who has crafting recipes from that time. Of course, crafting would tie into the ‘alternate rewards’ quite a bit.
See, some people will never see the merit in player housing. If only you and your friends can go in it, what is the point? Imagine your own personal trophy hall. Prizes from your conquests, rare furniture, and amazing artifacts fill the room. You can just walk in and say, “This is what I’ve accomplished.” Between player housing trophies & decorations, an appearance tab of some kind and maybe some titles, there’s a ton of cool things you can give players as rewards! Once again, with the evolving and progressing story lines in the world, having something on your wall that isn’t accessible anymore is awesome. Doubly so if they fought in some epic event to get it. Remember the Haunted Memento is WoW? I held tightly on to that thing until I deleted all my characters back in January. It was a prized possession of mine and one of many rare treasures that I had horded over the years. Imagine if that wasn’t just an afterthought? I would be in heaven!
Players Brutally Beating Down Other Players
…What? Not everything has to be a perfect transition, you know. Anyway, PvP would not be as prevalent as it is in games like WoW. The nations, while competing with each other, are not engaged in open war. There’s no two factions vying for control of the globe. There are several nations who want the leg up on the others, and don’t want to do so by destroying their resources and people in open conflict. However, PvP would exist in my dream MMO. Mostly in the form of events. Say for instance, one nation is using an armored caravan to transport goods back home, and the others are attempting to seize it in vehicles of their own. If the armored caravan is protected using its on board weapons, the nation transporting it gets a bonus until the next transport. If the other nations stop it and seize the caravan, they other four nations get a smaller bonus and the transporting nation gets nothing. Not to mention there could be PvE elements of stocking up and gathering supplies to better defend the caravan or boost the attacking nations weaponry and speed in the assault.
Maybe a full on death match arena as well. I dunno. I’m not a huge PvP guy so the ideas aren’t nearly as formed there to be honest. Still think competitions between nations would help. Though my dream MMO would definitely be more PvE focused. Hey, what can I say, it’s my dream MMO. Your dream MMO can have all the PvP it wants. Dream MMO. You know it starts to sound silly if you say it too much.
So there you have it. My lovely little thought experiment on how I would design my own MMO given no constraints. What would you do differently? It’s kind of fun to think about. You also now know exactly what I like and dislike in my games! So if you think I might like something, feel free to suggest it, I love to try new things out. Except Rift. My computer can’t run it. I’m hoping to have a new one by the time The Old Republic comes out.