[Rift] Social Work

My last post exploring a phenomenon I saw in Rift created a swath of great comments that cross a broad spectrum of ideals. The issue was how evidential of, well, anything is the post-event public group scatter. My favorite was from coppertopper who said that the phenomenon was like “a comedic aside on a system that works so well, the only thing to pick on is no one stays around for a group hug after the event is finished.”

There is an interesting prejudice with what is required to “be social” in an MMO. “Social” at its base is activity in a group. Driving a car on a crowded freeway is a social activity. I can’t selfishly do what I want. I have to respond to other people. It doesn’t seem social since all the other people are hidden behind a ton of metal and plastic, but we are all acting as a group. We know that if we all follow the rules and remain within set social boundaries, we will all get to work more efficiently.

Public grouping is very similar. Players all have a task at hand, like closing a rift from another dimension. They know the rules. They know the goal. If the players all work together as a transient community, they all get rewarded. And, everybody is hidden behind an avatar, which poorly conveys many personal interactions. In Rift, Trion Worlds created a system to allow for what could be considered one of the most basic social activities in MMOs, simply acting together.

Communication can elevate the experience. In Warhammer Online, the best public groups I entered had group members join in for voice communication. Of course in a PvP-oriented game, the team with better communication means and skills has significant advantage with information flow. In a PvE-oriented game, the need for higher order communication is not as necessary. There is also a trade off because communication requires more time and energy, which is not always paid off with any useful results.

This past weekend, I embraced these lowest kernels of social interaction. Hartsman had long ago said that Rift was filled with shades of social interaction, and I realized that I was looking at “being social” in the wrong way. In my first public group, where I took down a minor rift with one other player, I noticed that our being social was far greater than the minimal because we were acting in concert. I didn’t need to target the same creature or use our pets to tank-swap, but it helped. At the end in a practically unfathomable display of social generosity, I targeted the player and nodded. She nodded back. Only a few minutes later we ran in to each other again tracking down a mobile invasion group. This time there was no superfluous communication.

Another rift, that I opened and was determined to complete, had an elite mob as the boss in the 6th stage. I was grouped with one other, slightly less skilled, rogue. No matter what tactic we tried we could not take down this elite boss that chewed through our pets and our armor. After the second death, I knew that the rogue was similarly determined. We ended up standing near the rift in silence waiting for other players to be drawn to the rift. Would communication have helped? Sure, but this social experience was definitely satisfying after finally downing the boss.

Finally, I don’t know if it was because of population surge or tweaking, but I took part in three Gloamwood invasions. The only raid chat I saw in one of the invasions was a linked word notifying the raid where the boss would appear. We took down the boss, received our rare tokens, and scattered. Yet, this time I wasn’t ashamed of the fact that we ignored the potential of greater social interaction. I reveled in it.

In the same post as coppertopper’s comment, SynCaine also wrote in his usually abrasive way that if someone is finding the social interaction of Rift’s public grouping events poor, there are other options. Dungeons groups, guilds, or roving quest groups can all give something more satisfying, if such a thing is desired. Without this personal need, just like World of Warcraft’s LFG tool, all Trion Worlds did was streamline social interaction to a point where verbal (erroneously read: meaningful) communication was not required. Guild Wars 2 might take that point further where players are grouped in hours-long event chains without even so much as a gratifying emote to a fellow player. Still a returned nod goes a long way in reinforcing the fact that social interaction was had.

–Ravious

22 thoughts on “[Rift] Social Work”

  1. That reminds me of something that happened yesterday. I’d wanted to get from point A to point B. A look at the map showed me crossed swords on my way. So, I left the main path and saw that the group of NPCs was on the bridge. I’d not really felt the desire to jump into them and get killed. However, then I saw a player in their middle… with less than 50% health. Since I’m specced for healing, I dismounted and healed the player. From the other side of the bridge, another play approached, dismounted and helped.

    We didn’t communicate at all and we weren’t grouped but there was no need to! However, we were definitely being social and maybe saved that first player a trip back to his corpse. ;)

    In other games, there’s the usual “that’s their fault if they pull too many mobs at once” mentality and you only get help if you’re really lucky… of course, that might also be because there, you won’t get any loot or XP so why bother helping? But here, you get rewarded. And that’s nice (especially for the player who receives the help ;)).

    1. I did the same thing when I saw a player overwhelmed with 3 mobs (except I grabbed aggro instead of healing). I find it amazing how selfishly conditioned we/I have become, and Rift is actually getting us back to “just play together.”

    2. I am not sure that its a “Rift thing”.
      I do that in WoW ALL the time. If I see player trying to take down a mob, I always throw a DoT on the mob, this dismounts me, then I can take in the situation. If he needs help I stay, if not, I mount up and head out.

      Many times this has happened while a player is trying to down a boss that I am on a quest to kill as well. After the fight I ask for help downing the boss after it respawns and I usually get help. If I were faster I would invite before the boss dies. :D

      I would like to see a system where you don’t NEED to group. Hey, I did 10% of the damage OR I healed a character that did 10% damage, I should get credit.

      1. DCUO did that in a similar way where pretty much everyone who is remotely involved with the fight gets the credit for it. They may actually have gone a bit too far, but it lead to very interesting dynamics, where I would jump into a quest location, start fighting for myself, then randomly team up with another player without actually forming a group, but working together for the same objectives. Not a single word in chat or voice was needed, each understood their role and acted accordingly.

      2. You might do that and I do it as well. But I’ve seen it countless times where people just passed me and let me die. In WoW, LotRO – and Rift as well as long as it’s not one of those special Rift groups. ;) Maybe it’s the “I can get Planarites for helping” aspect that makes people help more often (or the “it’s a new game”, who knows…). So far, I have seen people work together more often than in WoW or LotRO, though.

      3. See, the awesome thing about Rift and a situation like you described above, is that if the person killing the quest mob before you has their group set to public, you click them and then on their nameplate there is a + to click and join their group, getting credit for the kill even if the mob had 5% hp.

        1. Why not just have automatic regional grouping? You would of course be able to opt out. When you get in an area with others you are grouped. When you leave the area you are dropped. No need to click a plus sign. Again, it should be an optional system. I would think it would work well in Rift.

          1. Fine-tuning that one would be a lot of work (just how big is a “region”? Can/should/do regions overlap? How does the system handle people walking back and forth on the border between two regions? What are the loot rules? Can they be changed, and if so by whom? How large should automagic groups be allowed to get before a new one is formed? If we’re having multiple automagic groups, do we try to balance them by population? How do we warn people they’ve been shifted to a new group?).

            And even after you answer those questions (and all the others I didn’t think of), you’re still stuck with a design problem – it only really works if there’s only one reason for players to be in a given zone. If you’re investigating the caves near the small seaside village looking for clues about what happened to the local women, somebody else is in there harvesting kelp, a third person is looking for collectibles, and I’m on the follow-up quest to the one you’re on (which involves collecting Barnacled Deep One Scrotums as revenge trophies/proof they’ll never re-offend) it doesn’t make much sense to force us all into a group, since we all have different aims – you’d have to hard-wire “there’s only one reason to be in this zone” right from the beginning.

            1. Why just use the nice circles that pop up for quests and a bit of time before you drop out. There are smarter people than I out there that can make this work. A circle around the center of the rift would work as well. I’m not saying this has to occur every where, but the game ought to be able to see that two people in a region are on the same quest and pop them together.

              I’m not interested in “forcing” anything. This would be optional of course.

              If 5 people are on the same quest and are in the same “bubble” on the map, pop them together as long as they have not opted out of the system.

  2. I’ve been doing the “open up other souls” deal which requires you closing a rift and then summoning a fight. After the rift closed I would summon and everyone still around jumped all over it. It felt quite selfish so next time I left the area before summoning. It was kind of dumb, because later on I stuck around and helped others do the same thing. The fights are not so hard you need help so it helped me feel less selfish about it.

    1. Odd – I feel like we should help people get their souls at the end of a rift. I stick around to heal if I notice then I go about my business. People .helped me when I was doing mine so I pay it forward. And I see that a lot in other aspects of the game once you exit the mayhem of Freemarch.

      I don’t care that people scatter after rifts when it’s not a zone wide invasion. But theybwill help if they notice and I bet would stay if you speak up about what you’re off to do next and want helpnor others doing the same thing. But people who want that need to speak up. It’s not a failing of the game. There are many things someone could have been on the way to or from, we can’t assume remaining is logical or has any value or them.

  3. To those who are NOT interacting with participants in the Rifts or Invasions and wonder just “WTF?”…

    Remember …/e (Slash e) is your friend…

    /e must now take leave of the great Kill Ten Rats as a Death Rift has just landed.

  4. The more I think about this, the more I feel it’s taking us in a huge circle back to where we were more than a decade ago. Part of the “shared world” feel of games like Everquest and Dark Age of Camelot came from the ability to involve yourself directly in the activities of other players.

    A lot of this was very positive; drive-by buffing, intercepting mob “trains”, dragging corpses and much more. With little effort I can remember all kinds of positive, non-verbal social interaction, from a Bard popping a group invite just so I could have the benefit of Selo’s Accelerando on a long run across West Karana to a mage handing weapons to my Warder in a pick up group.

    Somewhere along the way, though, the antisocial side of this freedom to interact – kill-stealing, intentional training, trade scams and so on – led developers to attempt to design all non-verbal interaction out of the games. That led to the growth of the “playing alone together” model we’ve had for the last six or seven years.

    Finally someone seems to have worked out how to let players intereact meaningfully without having to go through a formal text or voice conversation, while at the same time avoiding the unwanted issues that lead to customer service intervention. Anecdotal and observational evidence appears to suggest that players like it. I know I do.

  5. This is the game I’ve probably been my most social in. Now maybe it’s the beer, but, well okay its the beer but hey, I talk to people sometimes now!

  6. Another abrasive commenting incoming (relax Sally):

    If you find the /nod interaction as a positive that you enjoy, why not do it more? Or take it a step further and /w someone to see if they want to hunt rifts or knock out some group quests? Worst case scenario is they don’t nod/reply back.

    It’s like before public grouping, people would complain about it being impossible to find a group, and when you asked how long they have been trying to put one together, you would get a blank stare or “I’ve not seen anyone inviting people”. Those people often played a dime-a-dozen DPS class.

    At some point it stops being the games fault for not holding your hand, and you can’t really complain until you have exhausted your own personal options. Just showing up and expecting the world is a really terrible habit too many MMO gamers have developed of late.

  7. “(erroneously read: meaningful) communication was not required”

    Nice summary! The community in Rift is pretty excellent (at least on Faeblight) for an MMO and I think its largely because of the grouping tools and actual group content.

  8. I think perhaps that is why I haven’t found very many satisfying roleplay moments in the game so far. If there is no need to talk, why would anyone even bother to roleplay?

    1. Okay, this is my turf.

      I’ve been finding plenty of incidental RP around. Sanctum/Argent Glade seem to be the natural hotspots (can’t attest to the Defiant side).

      I haven’t, however, seen RP going on during rift events, but I’m glad I didn’t. I don’t think characters yelling “Charge!” or “For (so and so)!”, which is just about all you can do in the thick of things, to be much quality.

      In any case, it’s there and I’m pretty satisfied with the RP in Faeblight. Check Celestial Alliance, Bound by Blood, Fortress and Telaran Artistry, those are the major RP guilds I’ve seen around. Chances are anyone with that tag will be receptive if you feel like starting something.

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