My Thoughts on RIFT 1.10: Unified Factions and PvP Normalization

Via Syp (Justin) at Massively, word came out this week that Trion is planning some big changes with the 1.10 patch. Presumably, this will be the last big patch we get before Storm Legion launches this fall, so we can see this somewhat as paving the way for what’s to come. I think that in terms of design philosophy, “equality” might be an appropriate theme.

Unified Factions

Beginning with 1.10 players will be able chat, group, and guild across factions. This is a good thing and Trion deserves kudos for giving up on a system that just doesn’t make sense. When WoW launched, they had precedent in their franchise for the split into Horde and Alliance. RIFT didn’t have that; instead, they had a history of games that came before and the expectations of their players. In theory and lore, splitting factions made sense. Taking the theory into practice, however, seems to have showed that the drawbacks outweigh the positives.

This is why I love Trion. They’re quick on their toes and not afraid to try new things. (And they update like hell). Some players may be upset at losing the unique snowflake that is faction pride but, at least in RIFT, most of us don’t care. We just want to play together. With this change, we will finally be one player base instead of Guardians and Defiant. (And plus, let’s be honest here, the reasons behind the split were pretty thin in the first place).

This should also do a lot for making the game seem as active as it really is. Since I’ve come back, I’ve heard time and again from ex-players that the game is dead. On Greybriar at least, that is so far from the truth it makes those players look bad. Just playing the Guardian faction, I am always around other players. Dungeon queues are quick, pick-up raids are being run constantly during prime time, zone events are continuous and being completed during even the lowest of hours, and it’s almost impossible not to run into another player if you’re moving around a zone at all. This is at least on par with the last time I played World of Warcraft. It is above and beyond Landroval in LotRO, at least where I’m at. Now take that activity and double it. Then you have 1.10 🙂

I would love to see a shared capital city to herald in this change. We need something big. I’ve always felt Sanctum and Meridian were lacking compared to cities in other games. While it may mean our heritage cities see less activity, Guardians and Defiant need some place to congregate together to really make this change feel real. It’s fine to leave things as is in terms of game mechanics but Trion separated us for lore and we should be brought back together for the same. It only seems fitting.

PvP Normalization

This has been tried in a number of games with mixed implementations and even more mixed results. In RIFT it will mean removing the infamous PvP stats, valor and vengeance (RIFT’s version of resilience), as well as any other stat boosts attained from gear in instanced PvP. In short, skills and abilities will decide winners not gear sets. Contrary to how it may seem, this is actually in testing and may never make it to live servers. Like I said, others have tried and failed — but if anyone can pull it off, Trion can.

Even if it passes the testing phase, there are still questions to be answered. They’ve built a whole system around PvP item progression, what will they replace the gear ladder with? What about all of the gear people have now? Raiders won’t be happy if it’s converted to tier gear. How will they answer players upset that dozens and hundreds of hours spent climbing that ladder will be wiped away? In their statement, Trion says that PvP progression is important and that this is about balancing fairness with fun. Hardcore PvPers are a very vocal minority, so do they design for them or the silent minority, us?

EDIT: After this was written, I came across this post on the normalization feedback thread. From CM Elrar:

PvP PROGRESSION IS IMPORTANT. We’re not just going to expect you to PvP for the hell of it and fully intend to have a rewarding and meaningful experience for those who spend their time in PvP. But DO NOT talk about how this is unfair to current Prestige Rank 50’s – that is completely irrelevant to this discussion about THE FUTURE. We know you spent a lot of time and energy and have no intention of permanently changing the system on live for this reason.

I support these changes. When I leveled up to 50 this time on my rogue, I did it mainly through PvP. I was able to get most of my first PvP set the minute I dinged and hit Prestige level 5 within a week. Nothing spectacular but enough to say that I enjoy the current system. That said, I didn’t care for it when I capped out my cleric through PvE and tried jumping into warfronts then. I got destroyed, didn’t have a chance, and it was solely because of gear. I also know that leveling to 50 in PvP was a lot of fun because valor and vengeance weren’t a factor on leveling gear. If they can pull this off well, I totally support them in it. PvP is fun and shouldn’t be behind a gigantic gear wall.

Here’s a final question, though: If Valor and Vengeance get removed, are they ready to rebalance the skills those very stats evened out? Ask any leveling PvPer in RIFT and they will tell you that certain classes have IWIN buttons. I’d go so far as to say that those IWIN buttons are worse than any other MMO I’ve played, to the point where it’s almost shocking they haven’t been addressed. Rift Storm and Cornered Beast are two but there are others. As it stands, normalizing PvP without also adjusting abilities specifically for it — abilities that are also important in PvE — will almost instantaneously imbalance the game.

I will be very interested to see how this plays out.

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