This week has been a very lonely one for me. At work I have moved desks and am essentially cut off from the rest of my department. At home my husband has started raiding again. And online, my usual haunts have been mysteriously absent of people.
There’s a couple people I’m seeing more of through RIFT, but they are either stubbornly clinging to a server on which I’m no longer playing or clapped in irons by a spousal leveling contract. I’d like to have my own spousal leveling contract, but due to his general aversion to elves, my husband’s distain for RIFT edges ever closer into the ‘hatred equal to the power of a thousand burning suns’ territory every time he takes a peek over my shoulder. I did manage to beg and whine at him for a contract involving alts in Guild Wars 2, but who the heck knows when that will come out.
All of this running around and being lonely has got me thinking about a couple of things, namely server structure and Guild Wars 2’s dynamic events.
RIFT is a petty good game. It’s well put together, astonishingly bug-free, pleasant to look at, and enjoyable. The rifts and invasions are fun, bringing the community together and fostering a sense of camaraderie. As fun as it is though, I can’t help but feel that something is wrong.
I’m going to use RIFT as a bit of a whipping boy here. I’m sorry.
Spirit has been chanting a little mantra to herself for the past few days: “Shatterbone, Defiant. Shatterbone, Defiant.” This is because she’s getting a guest pass into RIFT for the weekend. She needs to remember which server to roll on, then she needs to remember which faction to choose so that she can play with her friends.
Of all that has come out of the standardization of the MMO industry, these two mechanics are the most ridiculous. They are unintuitive and anti-community. For a game whose heart of hearts is playing with your friends, splitting your playerbase by server and then further by faction is idiocy and if it weren’t for the fact that there isn’t (yet) anything better available, it would never have lasted this long.
That and it just pisses me off.
I have always been attracted to the rough and tumble, the tribal, the gritty. In DnD when the GM asked me to roll an elf (because of course, all girls play elves /eyeroll) I rolled a wild elf, covered her in grime, squatted on his posh couches, and made a point of depositing hunted game on his carpets. I enjoy playing the uncouth and the wild, the grease-spattered and industrial.
In a game that separates its players by ideology there is no room for me on the side of the ‘good guys’.
Even getting beyond the server hurdle, finding a server to play where all my friends are, the ideological differences are enough to make me froth. I must either be shoehorned into a society in which I don’t fit (I get enough of that in real life, THANKS!) or abandon some of my friends by the wayside.
These issues can be ignored or put up with, because I know that in Guild Wars 2 it will be different. I’ll be able to play my rough and tumble charr with grease stains in her fur and join my friend the impeccably groomed asura whose first invention was a servitor golem so he’d never have to sully his hands with manual labor ever again. We’ll be able to play together even if we initially chose different worlds because we’re not chained down to one. Gone will be the days of playing the same character to level 20 or so ten times because all of your friends are scattered to the winds.
For now however, with my friends fractured, I have to settle for playing lonely. That brings me to my second thought, a worry that hasn’t been sufficiently laid to rest yet by the promise of Guild Wars 2.
Using RIFT as a foil again (and its spiritual predecessor, Warhammer Online), the promise of dynamic events both excites and worries me.
In a perfect world you will either be in an area with a healthy population or playing with your friends. We’ve heard repeatedly about how events will scale to accommodate more players. Hordes of skritt will grow more numerous, broodmothers will become more cunning and use new skills. What we haven’t heard about (at least as far as I know), is how well scaling works in the other direction.
The dynamic event analogues in RIFT are the rifts, footholds, and invasions.
- A rift is an event that randomly spawns on a single point in the map. Mobs spawn from the rift and players must battle them. When entering the influence of a rift you see on your right how many of what mob must be killed to advance the rift to the next stage. Mobs range from multiple low level mobs to more difficult higher level mobs and even occasionally large bosses spawn. Once the rift is closed each player receives awards based on their participation regardless of party affiliation.
- Occasionally a rift will spawn raiding parties. These parties of ~5 mobs will travel along roads (which are normally safe) towards populated areas (quest hubs). Invasion parties, if left unchecked, will gain a foothold. This appears as an item in the road around which the raiding party congregates. To destroy it you must kill all the mobs and then destroy the foothold item.
- Invasions are zone-wide spawning of rifts and raiding parties. In an invasion the above two scenarios are happening everywhere on the map. Roads become impassable and quest hubs come under siege.
In a perfect world the events are extremely fun. Join a public group and defend your world. The fun breaks down when you find yourself as a lonely gamer.
It’s possible to vanquish a minor rift by yourself if you’re very good and you play smart. Raiding parties and footholds are a little more problematic, and major rifts should not be attempted by a player off on their lonesome.
During invasions (which only occur if the population can support it) players tend to congregate near quest hubs, fighting off the raiding parties and nearby rifts, as well as looking for the invasion boss who rewards some pretty sweet prizes.
If you are a lonely gamer off on your own in an awkward part of the map and an invasion spawns you are in some serious trouble. The rift events scale downward very poorly, and that is my concern about the dynamic events of Guild Wars 2.
During and shortly after launch the events will be massive affairs of pitched battles with potentially dozens of players taking part. What happens months, years down the road when the newest expansion content is the hot thing? What happens when we’re all battling Palawa Joko in Elona (I’m calling that now) if someone wants to roll a human in Tyria? Alone in the world, will that character be capable of completing dynamic events on its own?
I’m fully aware that a charr taking down the Shatner single-handedly sounds a bit ridiculous. I don’t expect massive events like that to be soluble, but I also don’t expect them to be the bread and butter of the dynamic event content. It’s not unreasonable to expect the pirate invasion outside of Lions Arch to be soluble. If one person is attempting that mission if they pull carefully I think they should be able to complete it. Perhaps they are not able to put out the fires and kill pirates, so maybe I could drive off the pirates but the buildings will have burned down and then the villagers must rebuild.
We already know events will be multifaceted. What I want to know is if I’m going to be punished with impossible odds on top of loneliness should I find myself forced to play alone.