[RIFT] Untethered from the Group

Last night was a very wonky night in RIFT. The servers were going crazy, whereas in prior betas they ran pretty well. Many wise voices in chat kept repeating that this was beta, and this is the best time for Trion to optimize servers. So, my playtime was constantly interrupted, and I didn’t get to play in a big event. I did get to play in a few small invasion events, where I was able to test two new features.

The first was the open grouping feature. It is pretty good, but I wonder about whether it is an artifact, rather, of the decision to keep conventional MMO grouping mechanics in the open world.

Here’s how it works: A player near an event that has open grouping in “open” mode will get a button that let’s the player join an open group if there is at least one other player nearby in “open” mode as well. In one case, I was actively defending an outpost from an invasion, and I clicked on the button. The one nearby player was actually doing a quest and was training quest mobs towards the outpost. I quickly ungrouped before the quest mobs noticed me. So, I learned to be wary of clicking the join group button too early. If I hit a rift site, the open grouping button worked like a charm because everybody in the vicinity was doing the event.

Still, I want to ask the devs, why is it necessary to retain a conventional grouping system for open world events? To merely get the UI to let people heal each other better? To be able to see people on the radar? Seriously, that’s what it feels like. The skills already seemed balanced against being pseudo-grouped with everybody all the time, such as Withering Vine, which only affects 10 allies. Everybody gets rewarded based on participation. If grouping is for UI usability, I can imagine a much more fluid grouping system.

The second notable change I tested was how mobs were tethered to invasion groups. Before the change, an invasion group (usually 1 boss with 4 adds) would aggro as a group. So even though my Pyromancer might be able to take one or two of the adds on, all I could do was run after the invasion group until it hit other players or NPCs. Now, I was able to help weaken the invasion group by snipe-aggroing one or two away. I was having a lot of fun doing this, especially in the lonely southern Freemarch, and I felt like I was contributing to the cause pretty well.

I was a little worried about the overall effect of the change. I mean if players were picking off pieces of invasion groups as they ran by, the whole challenge of an invasion group attacking might be diminished. Thankfully, the developers had anticipated this, and the adds will respawn unless the boss is killed. They don’t respawn too quickly, but a solo player has to be very efficient if he wants to take on an invasion group alone. I was able to do it, but I had the help of quest mobs tanking the boss mob. I also had to kill two respawned add mobs. Overall, I really liked the change.

Hopefully I get another chance to play in Beta 5, which ends Friday morning. I am about a level and a half away from 20. The pains of foot travel are really starting to weigh on me. I made the comment before about missing Lord of the Rings Online travel before. The reason is that in Lord of the Rings Online a zone like Rift’s Freemarch would have intra-zone fast travel routes between major quest hubs. I am hoping this travel grind will alleviate at level 20. I also want to try a big event with the new grouping system, preferably with a mount.

–Ravious
before i sputter out

23 thoughts on “[RIFT] Untethered from the Group”

  1. I think the open group option WAS for ease of actually working together. I played a tank up through other betas, and realized that it was probably difficult for healers to know where I was (or even that I was there at all, in all the confusion).

    What other options do you have in mind to allow players to help one another directly?

    1. Well what if the UI showed for healers the nearby allies getting most damages or with lowest health? Or what if for tanks it showed nearby mobs and who they were attacking? Or for DPS, it just showed nearby mobs?

      All these elements are available already. If grouping is merely UI functionality, such as healers needing to find tanks to heal in all the confusion.. then at least go beyond conventional MMO grouping and make something that makes sense.

      1. You mean like WAR’s UI where health bars would show above your head if you were injured?

        I have asked for this on the RIFT forums numerous times already.

        1. I thought this was a glaring oversight on their part in the beginning but with the heal or damage thru target of target, it’s not needed for single target healing at least. I also found that I actually got to watch and participate in the fight MORE when I wasn’t trying to watch health bars. You can rarely do both. You’re either watching those and nothing else or visually evaluating the situation and reacting.

      2. To me the biggest improvement is as a healer. Before when people didn’t bother grouping, I did more DPS because I can’t tell who’s taking damage. You also have to consider that there are MANY souls that can heal not just cleric. If you have to figure out which people have a healing soul equipped and then display that information for them, you might as well just pop-up the standard grouping UI and be done with it.

        I don’t always group. While most people where whacking away on the beta servers I was…uh, elsewhere and it was less populated. I recognized a couple of numbnutts from previous groups who couldn’t seem capable of not aggro’g everything around them including the rift mobs so I declined joining a group when it was just them there. :-)

        I felt a lot less obliged to heal them and pull aggro since I wasn’t grouped with them. In fact, I quick changed over to my sham/druid/warden and tank it and healed myself.

        I do love the fact that the raid UI will highlight who’s closest to you and taking damage. However, that does make the experience feel more like whack-a-mole.

  2. Where grouping vs. non-grouped ally support mechanics are concerned, Guild Wars 2 remains my only hope. I simply cannot wait for its methods to be unleashed upon the MMO world (and yet I must… sigh).

    But enough of the dramatic voice. Don’t Porticulums operate much like the Fast Travel options from LOTRO? Granted, they don’t go to every hub, but they do go between the bigger ones. From level 10 onward you can bind and fast travel between bind points.

    1. As far as I saw, and maybe I just misunderstand Porticulums, but they have basically one per zone. So there is no intra-zone fast travel using them, only inter-zone.

      1. I haven’t been past the 1-20 zone, but there are definitely 2 in the Guardian area, one in Sanctum and one at Argent Glade IIRC. I could have it wrong about later zones, though.

        1. Since I’m going to be playing Guardian at release, I figured I’d play Defiant from now on.

          Travel on the Defiant side, comparatively, is unacceptable. Not only do you have your early crafting stations in two different towns, but there is no fast way to get there from the main city.

  3. I haven’t had the chance to play much, didn’t spend to much time in Rift yesterday due to all the influx of new people that were going to be in. Did experience the public grouping and I agree that they worked well in Rift and Invasions. One thing to keep in mind, you can click on a PC and hit their public group button above their heads and it will instantly invite to a group, but be mindful its kinda like a blind invite so make sure to ask at least before grouping up for quests, pretty handy though quick invites for the NM quest or something.

  4. No worries. You get a mount at 20, and you should have no trouble to afford it. There seems to be an alternate trade now for normal horse mounts if you don’t like the mechanosteed of the Defiant.

    The public group dynamic is great. Atually it is just normal grouping, but simplified without asking for permission to join a group. You see a person and there is a “+” above the head of the person and you click it and you are in the group. The group is indeed only good for one thing, so that a healer has it easier to heal his group. The drawback could be that healers might exclusively focus on their group. But I think this easy grouping is GENIUS.

    It might not be perfect, indeed. But I tried thinking of a better alternative. The party UI is still needed for healing or seeing what is going on immediately.

    I think Age of Conan’s “cone” healing spells would be wonderful for Rift. But how to tell you at a glance how people in front of you are doing? 20 people with health bars over their heads might litter the screen. Maybe they should take the pvp battleground group grid for that, I think it was a very good solution for this random player pvp mode.

    Anti-Aliasing is now possible, too. I recommend 2x or none for those that cannot run “ultra” settings, the performance loss of 4x AA was quite harsh for me.

    1. I’m running a 285GTX at ultra high settings, and the only difference I saw between the “edge smoothing” and 2x settings was the loss in framerate with the 2x.

  5. I wonder, and worry a bit, about the new “must group” mentality that public groups will bring to the table. I’m not normally a healer but I did play one in the last beta, and by turning on Target of Target and Cast through Target I’d just target a mob and see the health of the person tanking it and heal him by casting heals on the mob.

    Though I get that this only allows me to easily heal the dude with aggro.

    Why not just have a ‘raid-like’ interface that shows the health of everyone in the vicinity without the aggro implications of being in a group?

    Meh, we’ll see. I’m definitely in the minority and most people are really excited about the public group option.

    Did you notice invasions despawning often? That’s my other worry; I liked having invasions milling about, sometimes several coming together and fighting each other in a quest hub. With them despawning once they take out the wardstone I guess it’s not likely we’ll see that very often.

  6. I found the open grouping system worked good about 80% of the time. The remaining 20% wasn’t terrible, but also wasn’t great.

    A couple examples:

    A few times I’d join a nearly full group (near a rift, mind you) only to realize that 16 or 17 of the people in my group were out of range – on the other side of the zone, in fact. I tried repeatedly dropping and rejoining, but kept getting placed in the same group.

    Another time I found myself standing in the middle of something like 30 characters working to close a rift. I hit the “join group” button, but it put me in a group of 5 players. I assume there was one “full” raid and a smaller group forming along side it. Unfortunately, due to the mechanics of the chloromancer, this left me unable to really supply much healing to the full raid that surrounded me.

    Also the lack of some kind of fast travel is driving me crazy. I feel like there’s no reason not to give us a mount at level 10, given how much running around we’re required to do to try to knock down invasions and rifts as they spawn across the map.

    Overall I’m enjoying beta 5 much more thanks to the more balanced population, rift/invasion spawn rate, and the open grouping system. I’ve been able to play the game almost completely ignoring questing, and just focusing on the rifts and invasions, which was my goal going in. I’m hoping soon I’ll be able to try PvP again now that not at the bottom of the level bracket anymore. :)

  7. Once you have a mount travel is fine. The zones are complex and convoluted, with many, many hidden gems to find. You realy don’t want to be zipping past on automated transport – you’ll miss a huge amount of really interesting stuff. I have four Porticulums (Porticulii? Porticula?) opened now. They are, rather intriguingly, in a straight line. I wonder if that’s significant?

    The lag is much, much better today. In fact, I haven’t had any so far.

    The further in you get, the more visually stunning the zones are. I decided I wouldn’t go any further than Gloamwood during beta but I did go just to the edge of Scarlet Gorge and it is breathtaking. I’m going to be taking hundreds of screenshots once we go Live.

    1. I’ve stopped now. I refuse to go any further. I’ve done way more than I intended to do because I was testing so many variants on the Cleric souls but I don’t want to spoil another piece of content for myself. I’m constantly declining dungeon invites. I want to fiddle with crafting and PVP from now until release.

      At first the running everywhere started to annoy but not so much anymore and I don’t have a mount because of the excessive respec’g and buying roles. However, the world being small and on foot makes it feel more like a community. I recognize certain people now and it’s starting to have that AC2 vibe where everyone knew everyone else on the server.

  8. Travel seems fine so far to me, but I am still not even level 10 so I can’t really make a judgement yet. I can’t imagine its worse than the early days of LOTRO where you had to walk until level 35.

  9. Yarr, I got to level 20 and found no mechanosteed. Color me a sad blue Defiant panda.

    Just a weird looking fantasy emu/chocobo in the Mount shop at Meridian. Ended up settling for the normal horse at the Mounts vendor near Kelari Refuge.

    It is quite fun to race ahead of the zerg pack when rift hunting though.

    Enjoying the public groups, have more a sense of awareness of who is taking damage with the UI now, though I am running out of mana fast trying to play whack a mole instead of fighting.

  10. I tried making a Guardian character tonight, because the server my Defiant is on was full even at midnight EST.

    But man… I couldn’t even get to level 6. The rift/invasion hunting part of the game is pretty darn good, but that tutorial area is tragically bad. So amazingly boring and linear.

    Once you get to an area with rifts you can avoid it, thankfully. But god forbid I ever wanted to re-roll. I’m just not certain I could make it through the tutorial. :(

    Perhaps I’m not applying enough booze to the endeavor…

    1. People are raving about the Guardian side content. I tried a re-roll on that side to avoid seeing more defiant since that’s what I’ll play at launch. I couldn’t make it to level 5. LOL I hated the Guardian side!!!

  11. Yeah that lag was pretty bad. Glad that they fixed it. I like that they are actually listening to the players and fixing and adjusting everything nicely. The big events that happen now do get a little crazy though. But it is all great fun. I stayed at a friends house and lugged my computer over and we played pretty much all night. Although we didn’t coordinate very well in other events. I was in the 2nd beta then not in the 3rd when he was in the 3rd and not in the 2nd. Ahh confusing. Well luckily we both snagged some VIP keys from Zam before the 5th event started. Oh rambling again :D

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