This blurb is from a review of RIFT on PC Gamer; I’m reading such reviews as I consider very seriously the $60+ “trial run” that a license and first month sub would cost. And…it really hit home.
“The fourth Warfront, Battle for Port Scion, is only available to level 50 characters, and it’s a PvP fan’s dream. Set in an enemy-occupied city, players earn points by completing objectives, defeating powerful, high-level NPCs, and summoning great allies, all the while doing battle with other players. Here’s the kicker: killing the enemy faction doesn’t actually help your team towards the 1,000-point goal. This emphasis on teamwork over ganking leads to more strategic battles—an accomplishment that other PvP-focused MMOs should really take to heart.”
That actually sounds like a well imagined PvP experience; the kind of thing I might be interested in, even in the often disparate and ill-balanced-for-PvP environment of an MMO. You know what it sounds like? It sounds like what city-battles should have been like in Warhammer Online. It made me wonder what it was like, now, but not so much that I went looking to find out. It wasn’t just the city-fighting that did the game in for me; in fact, I never got so far as the city-fighting, only in my level 30s when I quit. It was really the theme-park-treatment of the keeps. The vast majority of players saw no value in keeping ownership over a castle, as there was no tangible benefit for keeping ownership. There was only tangible benefit in gaining ownership, so after the initial “let’s take out the castle!” excitement died, the game really became some weird pseudo truce where each side would take turns giving up ownership of the Keep so that the other side could take it and – in turn – it could be taken again. And again. Ownership passed around daily so people could farm them for items.
I’m afraid I don’t have a solution. I didn’t when I quit, and I still don’t now. Perhaps a third faction, or even a fourth. Some benefit to holding a territory, some macro game where there are tangible rewards for holding territory. Perhaps therein lies the trouble. How do you make tangible the need to defend a castle simply because it’s your damn castle and castles are cool? I guess my friends and I are in the minority in that regard. We did have fun, taking and defending our castles, for a time.
I think (and I have no citations) that they were thinking there was intrinsic reason to defend a keep; namely that by denying the other team their own ability to gain awesome items, your team would prevail. However, the items people really wanted were dropped by the Keep Lords. Perhaps a fix could have been to simply make those drops available for purchase (with in-game resources/gold/whatever)…which means that if you take the keep, you definitely want to hold onto it so that you can 1. buy the awesome stuff and 2. prevent the other side from buying that awesome stuff.
There was some other benefit to holding the keeps, as I remember…especially in the final tier, where holding keeps prevented the other side from ever sacking your city (and a city sacked = a city that cannot be used for city-type-things). This is a great idea (the kind of thing I could see World of Tanks doing to its players) but not something the World of Warcraft crowd would go for, I think. “What do you mean I can’t go on the ride because my side can’t form a cohesive PvP fighting force?” Yet…WoW did something very much like this with Wintergrasp…where on Zul’jin (my server) the Horde (my side) were almost constantly in control of WG. Who knows why? I certainly couldn’t assert a more mature player demographic, given the kind of language and tactics most of our teams seemed to use. Holding WG meant you could farm the instance in that zone for high tier items. It was a loot piñata; each boss could very easily be zerged down by all but the most incompetent of groups. Yet it was a tangible reward, and enough reason to keep WG fights raging each week. There were other rewards to holding the zone too, like access to special vendors. Ironically, while players took great vocal pride in their control over Wintergrasp, ownership was never the motivator in and of itself…even if ownership had rewards.
My understanding of RIFT PvP is limited, though I’ve read some enticing things. Not the least of which being its core selling points: the souls system and the namesake RIFTs that players will set their faction-based differences aside to deal with. As a rule, I love healing in MMOs; I also enjoy tanking. Posts like this one over at MMO Gamerchic only entice me more. “How is the healing in that game,” I wonder. I miss my archmage. I miss my paladin. I do not miss either game those poor toons are trapped in. My RIFT-centric curiosity grows. But my previous experiences still sting.
More on that later.