Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Right Now And Not Later: Rift

Yesterday I played four MMORPGs: EverQuest, EverQuest II, Guild Wars 2 and... Rift.

It was like this. I wanted something I hadn't played in a while and Rift... well, Rift was just...there.

It wasn't my first choice. I began with the not-so-mysterious alpha I'm under NDA for and can't talk about. It's been a while. They haven't been in touch. I was getting curious to see if anything had changed.

Something must have because when I went to log in there was a forty-five minute update. I let that run while I looked around for something to do in the meantime.

I thought about Lord of the Rings Online but the inevitable inventory hassle put me off. I considered Dragon Nest  but it's closing down in May and anyway I've already downloaded the mobile version, Dragon Nest M, which appears to be pretty much the same game. Might just as well stick with that.

I looked at Villagers and Heroes, which I've also installed on my new Kindle Fire (my phablet died last month. I am so done with of moble devices either breaking down or me breaking them...). I haven't set up an account yet, though and it was getting late. Really, who can be bothered with the admin?

Gazing blankly at the dozens of possibilities on my desktop, I just happened to notice Rift's distinctive pink blush. That reminded me of Wilhelm's recent post on the closure of Rift Prime and I thought "Hey, didn't I have a character there?" Still half an hour before the alpha patched. Why not?

According to Wilhelm, Prime characters all went to the U.S. Trial Server, Reclaimer. Never heard of it and I'd already forgotten the name when I patched up and logged in. I Only know the name now because I just went to TAGN and the official forum post to check.

At character select I saw my regular seven characters on Faeblight. It took me a moment to remember that in Rift you can move your characters from server to server at will, and another moment to remember how. Once I'd figured it out I saw I had two more characters on two other servers so I figured one of them must be my ex-Prime guy.

The first I looked at was a Level Eight Bhami I dimly remember making for some reason. I'm sure I had a reason...  The other was a Level Nineteen Dwarven Cleric. That sounded about right. I very vaguely seemed to recall getting as far as Gloamwood on Prime before I gave up. That would have put me somewhere in the high teens.

I logged the Dwarf in. He was in Sanctum, the Ascended's Capital-in-Exile. There was a festival going on. There were balloons and bunting everywhere. And people. Lots of people. Rift is one of those games that fills every available space with NPCs so it always looks busy but there were plenty of actual players, most of them on bizarre mounts, skittling about in all directions.

I wandered around the festival grounds for a while. Another thing about Rift: it looks much better in game than it does in screenshots. The pictures in the post don't do it anything like justice. Every time I log in I end up gawking. All the colors pop. There's incredible detail. The set design is first-rate. It's a gorgeous world.

There was an NPC ready to send me to a couple of other festival locations way above my level. I took him up on his offer and spent a while wandering around those, gawking some more. I picked up a weekly quest to do fifty festival games. I thought I might do that but then I couldn't find any so fifty seemed like a big ask

After about half an hour I ported back to Sanctum. I noticed I had mail so found a mailbox (old school!) and checked my post. A ton of freebies. Rift is the most ridiculously generous game with handouts. Always has been.

I took most of the stuff which, of course, filled all my available bag space. Should have seen that coming. I found the bank and stuck some of the excess in there. Then, with a whole bag and a half free for loot, I thought I might do some adventuring.

I was going to go to to Gloamwood but it's a long ride on a slow pony. I could have ported but I couldn't remember where the portal was. I'd already looked where I thought it should have been and it wasn't there.

I was checking something else in Options or Systems, one of those, when I happened to notice the button for Instant Adventures. I'd forgotten all about those. We didn't have them on Prime, of course, and it's probably a year or more since I was on a regular server.

The recommended activity was some kind of event related to the current holiday so I took that. I thought it would be the busiest and therefore the fastest to pop. It was fast, alright. Less than ten seconds later I was in a Raid, running around some huge city I didn't recognize, listening to some bombastic, moderately amusing announcer, who reminded me a lot of that annoying jerk in WildStar, only not actually as annoying, while I tried to keep up with a bunch of strangers, most of whom seemed to have no more idea where to go or what to do than I did.

The quests kept popping, the announcer kept yelling, mobs kept dying and the loot kept flowing. So did the XP. It was chaotic, meaningless and disturbingly enjoyable. As gameplay goes it felt like some kind of parody. The Benny Hill theme music might as well have been playing in the background.

I was getting xp and loot before I even found my fellow raiders. When I did I realised I only had two skills on my hotbars, one attack and one heal. Didn't seem to matter. I just spammed those. No-one said anything. No-one cared.

I did a full level in less than half an hour. I was there just long enough to hear the announcer begin to repeat himself as the "Raid" cycled back through the point where I'd come in. It seemed to be on a continual loop. Groundhog Day gaming.

The loot was piling up, mostly in sealed bags, and I wanted to see what I'd got so I bailed. Back in Sanctum I sterted to unbox and soon my inventory was full, again. In thirty minutes the "Raid" had trebled the money I must have made in the previous nineteen levels so I bought another bag slot for my vault, then I did a circuit of Sanctum looking for the auctioneers, found them, bought a bag, went back to the bank and sorted myself out.

Once again, Rift proved to be the most generous of all MMORPGs. Half an hour in that "Raid" netted me not only a full level and a big chunk of cash but also several pets, three or four pieces of cosmetic gear and a load of useful consumables. I could play GW2 for a month and not get a haul like that. Possibly a year.

It was motivating. It shouldn't have been but it was. It made me feel I'd not wasted my time. Odd, because really I had. The event was purposeless. The gameplay required literally no skill at all. It hadn't mattered a jot that I didn't know what any of my abilities did; it made no difference whether I used them or not.

Getting a bunch of stuff you aren't going to use, on a character you don't care about, in a game you don't intend to go on playing, by doing things that take no skill or understanding, should not be satisfying. But it was. And fun. Let's not forget fun. What's more, it made me want to play again. And sort out my characters. Get some of those pets and cosmetics moved to different people, who'd appreciate them.

If I'm not careful I could end up playing Rift again. Probably won't. I might, though...

And I still don't know what happened to my Prime character. That Dwarf can't be him. He was wearing a few things made by one of my other characters (Rift puts the maker's name on crafted gear) and I don't think that would have been allowed on Prime. Which, in turn, begs the question "Who was that Dwarf?"

I think I'll just go log in again. There's a mystery and I ought to get to the bottom of it or they'll revoke my Scooby card.

I never did get around to that alpha, either...


  1. Replies
    1. LoL! Which we also used to use back in the 1980s. Most of the supposed internet age acronyms actually go back much further, many to radar operators in WWII.

    2. I wasn't familiar with it, just learned it in your comment on KTR today. :)


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