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Questing in RIFT: Not As Bad As You’ve Heard

RIFT’s questing sucks.

I’ve heard this said over and over again. Every time it’s by someone who has played MMOs for the last 3+ years and has completed no less than 50,000 of them. Let’s please keep our objectivity here, because, I’ve got to tell you, RIFT is no worse than any other game out there. It is Kill Ten Rats, Collect Ten Foozles, Zap 10 Badwots with the Magical Badwot Zapper, but you know what? It does it with style. It’s flashy. It’s fast paced. It’s dangerous. Those are three things quests should be. Quests don’t overstay their welcome (most of the time). For the most part, you hit a hub, do some quests, do some follow-up quests, and move on. If you’re lucky, you’ll get a good Epic Story thrown in there.

Sounds familiar, probably.

See, this is what I don’t get. We can rail against RIFT for having “crap quests” and yet cheer it on for being “familiar.” This and a few other double standards somewhat amaze me. Quests are what we’ve seen before. Yes. They are. Does that make the game less fun? Does it make LotRO, or Age of Conan, or Aion less fun? Let’s just do ourselves a solid, right now: Everything pre-Cataclysm sucks. Cataclysm was the tipping point, it seems, because from that point onward big chunks of the MMO blogosphere got done with the questing system.

And that’s really what it is: players are just done with the questing system. To say that RIFT’s quests are so bad completely lacks context. RIFT’s quests would have fit in very well last year. For what they are, they’re fun. They’re not breaking the mold with soul-like innovations, no, but they are standard MMO fare. The people saying questing sucks so bad are the same people who have already played this system in LotRO, and Age of Conan, and Aion. They’re also the same people most excited about SW:TOR, and Guild Wars 2, and Dynamic Content.  They have sampled the sweetest fruits and most varied fruits and found RIFT lacking. Let’s be clear here: RIFT is no worse than those other games and in some ways is better. The ways it’s better are the little details where Trion’s flair comes out. And yeah, I agree, I wish there was more of that.To say that there is some grand difference, that RIFT is “unfun” is a damnation that would better read “I’m SO tired of the questing system.”

Yet, to simply say “this, the biggest part of the game, the one you’ll be stuck in for the next 49 levels, is unfun,” is tantamount to saying “don’t bother.” That’s what bothers me. RIFT is one of the best PvE MMOs to come out since 2004 WoW. It doesn’t break the mold in the most practical areas. It’s a lot more subversive than that. After you get used to the class-freedom, the constantly changing environments, and perpetual sense of danger, how do you go back to the static worlds of yesterday? How does WoW not look like the sleepy-eyed giant with the safe and secure playground? That’s it, right there. That’s why players should bother and take notice, because, make no mistake, whether you say RIFT is dynamic or not, it changes things. It’s the first shot in the war against staticism (yeah, I made that up). Fans of the genre need to perk up and listen, because this is the first real movement towards next generation’s MMOs.

I’m not saying RIFT’s questing is perfect. It is a weak point in the game. It’s grindy, like all questing systems, repetitive, and, most importantly, un-innovative.  Where they’ve subtly but meaningfully evolved other aspects of RIFT, their questing system remains firmly in The Burning Crusade era of MMOs. It’s easy to see why people would be let down. But what it does, it does well. Quests are interesting and varied; quest text is worth reading for this reason alone. Spell effects are intricate, colorful, and flashy. Quest hubs are designed for the 2011 player: objectives are clearly marked and close together. There’s very little “take this package to Timbuktu via horse and buggy.” That makes quests quick and easy to complete.

What we need to address is the root of Character Power Progression — or CPP as Nils puts it. Whether experience comes from scripted quests, scripted rifts, or scripted events, it all comes down to the same thing: kill the guy, get the stuff, complete the quest. Every way we know it can get old. That’s human nature and one of the top few areas that MMOs are growing stagnant in.

The industry NEEDS innovation, but let’s not lay all the blame at Trion’s feet. They simply had the misfortune of releasing in a time when most of us were ready to move on from 10 Foozles and Badwot Zapping.

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  1. Questing, Variety And Fire Squirrels | MMO Melting Pot

    […] Chris of Game by Night is taking a stand against folks who say that Rift’s quests are awful. For one thing, he points out, most other MMOs we play happily use similar quest models. He accepts that while questing is one area Rift doesn’t do anything new, it uses a model that’s worked just fine elsewhere. The problem? Us as gamers have moved on from the type of quests most MMOs use – it’s not Rift’s fault, it’s a wrong-place-wrong-time thing. A very good read whatever MMO you play. Some interesting comments, too. […]

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