Jaradcel writes up a guest post on Rift news. Enjoy! –Ravious
Rift has released its state of the union address on the game. Some additional info slipped out from a conference call to journalists, and the most intriguing information is below.
The two biggest highlights include Chronicles, a form of solo to small-group content focusing on the lore of the world, and the possibility of Alternate advancement experience sometime in the near future. A lot of what I’ll be talking about is theorycrafting based on available information (of which there really isn’t a lot of)
First off, Chronicles. These are listed as instances for players from one to three, and are meant to be finished relatively quickly. They will do things such as have players interact, fight alongside or work against famous in-game non-player characters. It will also allegedly flesh out the lore for players who prefer that, rather than loot or bashing heads in. Unfortunately, there is very little beyond the bullet point information to go on. Serrain at RiftJunkies reflects a lot of my concerns regarding this introduction, such as whether it’s for max-level characters only, how it will be implemented et al.
So, theorycrafting! Where Serrain talks about scaling these instances all the way to level cap ala Lord of the Rings Online, I take a different tack. I don’t mind if they come in a fixed level range (Such as, for example, chronicle X being made for level 18-24). But what I do look forward to here would be whether this implementation of solo to small-group content can teach newer players the ropes.
One common complaint I hear from newer players is how tough everything is – be it getting a group together to even simply learning the class – and how no one explains things such as boss mechanics. This might not seem like a big issue to players who have been gaming in online worlds for years. We’ve all been trained like Pavlov’s dogs that if something appears on the ground, don’t stand in it. When said new players obviously do stand in it, they are called mean names to make your mother blush. Chronicles is in a unique position to fix this – maybe. I would like to hope that the non-player characters that will be with youwill help by yelling out what you should be doing through in-game lore. Perhaps the doughty dwarven allies will cry out as a spell is cast, “He casts the Rune of Madness that drove our people insane! Look away!”
It would be a great stepping stone, I think, to transition these newer players into the end-game, where it boils down to player skills (since class roles, talents, gear etc become largely irrelevant due to homogeneity) and their reaction times. Chronicles could be a great potential way for more casual players to see whether they would be interested in stepping up to the “next level” of raiding, by offering perhaps easy repetitions of future boss mechanics. This is already partially in Rift, with expert-level bosses giving you key fight mechanics that are not as deadly as when the same mechanic occurs in a raid. Making it smaller with Chronicles certainly can’t hurt. We just have to wait for more info.
Moving on to the suggestion of alternate advancement (AA) experience for Rift. This was picked up on by PC Gamer, and while Rift`s community manager Elrar was quick to clarify it was not slated anytime soon, if at all, it is still going to be a closely watched idea. AA`s are essentially an additional talent tree and was one of the first ways online titles strove to make players within the same class “feel different”. At first blush, this does not seem like a good idea to implement. Rift already has a deep talent-tree system based around its different souls offering different skills and creating a customized class. Spending points in your soul-tree is essentially the same as spending it in an AA-tree. So why bother?
Where things differ is in an AA-tree`s ability to fluff characters up. Everquest 2 illustrates this quite well by giving players fun choices that range from increasing their mounted run-speed, chance of harvesting resources, or a little bit of spare health. If I have an alternate character whose only existence is to craft, then buffing him that way would be a great option and a choice I would obviously choose over, say, health. If I were a raider who gets his raiding potions from the guild alchemist, then I would be able to forego that choice. This creates characters who are fundamentally the same but still feel different. This however raises the issue of balance.
This balance can go two ways, bad and good. The first (bad) way is that certain AA points will be deemed “indispensible” for raiding or player vs player builds. All future builds will include and rely on it. Any sort of nerf or change will be met with resistance. This is already apparent for rogues in Rift, where all top-tier DPS builds rely on abusing one key talent in the Bladedancer soul. When people are forced to put their points into something, it is no longer an option and can reduce player morale. It also means that the game would be going contrary to the axiom “Bring the player, not the class.” Worse, in a game like Rift which suggests to players they can create viable hybrid builds, this would only nail the idea of cookie-cutter specs in further.
The second (good) way is to open up a new level of tough questions that players must ask themselves. The kind of question where a player realizes he has to choose between equally-good choices of A and B. Examples of this currently in Rift are 0-point souls. This means that a player has used up all his talents in the first two out of three souls he can have equipped and has a third soul with no points spent in it. Being 0-point, said player can swap that soul on-the-fly for something else that might be more situationally useful. My PvP marksman, for example, right now weighs the pros and cons of having a crowd-control spell breaker on hand, or having an area-of-effect slow trap on the other. This sort of choice makes things more fun overall as fighting becomes unpredictable.
For those interested in how the PvP I talked about previously is shaping up, there’s also more information. It looks like the devs at Trion have firmly decided on splitting off PvE and PvP skills from each other based on who the target is. This should make for a far smoother balance overall.