It was really difficult for me to write this post. I feel like talk about Rift is everywhere, and I actually don't want to become yet another post about that haussed up game (which might or might not be awesome, I don't have a clue and I don't want to know. Yet). Whether I like it or not, something about Rift is being poked into my consciousness several times a day. I supposed that is how the internet works. It's difficult to hide from the things that interest people even if they don't interest you the slightest (another good example are talks about new expansions). At least some 5ish of the WoW bloggers I'm currently subscribing to talk about nothing but Rift at the moment, while at least 10-15 others talk about it on a regular basis. Even Wowhead has Rift-commercial! I don't mind people talking about other games than WoW now and then. In fact I love reading some thoughts/review on a game that someone has played. I write these posts myself occasionally. But I didn't subscribe to a Rift-blog! People can (and should) do whatever they like with their blogs. My point is not really to tell people to stop talking about Rift. I also realize that by writing this post I am actually doing the very same thing - talking about Rift. But my reaction to all the talk about Rift, and everyone elses reaction to Rift overall, got me thinking. Why is Rift in particular so interesting? So I decided to make a post not about Rift (not really anyway), but more about WoW vs other games in general.
I'll be honest. Although my first attitude towards Rift was exactly the same as it has been towards any new mmorpg the last years, which is modest curiousity, this was quickly turned to annoyance when people didn't seem to be able to talk about anything other than Rift. Don't get me wrong, I'm not one of those people who thinks stuff are uncool just because everyone else thinks it cool. You'll never hear me say "I liked that when it was still underground". But I couldn't help like feeling like there could only be two reasons for the overwhelming reaction to Rift. Either it really is an awesome game, or people just grasp for it because it is not WoW. When I read peoples blogsposts about Rift they can say stuff like "Rift is great because I don't feel like I have to be someone. There are new areas to explore. I don't know my class like the back of my hand, and neither does anyone else. When I join up with people we just play our way through, and it works. I feel so much more relaxed".
This is how it works in any new game. Rift is hardly unique in being able to offer a world that is unexplored and a gameplay system of which the gamers yet know nothing. In Rift, the leet-people are yet very, very few. You can run around with shit-gear and not a clue, and no one will give a damn. I can definitely see the fun in that. But this is also exactly what got people hooked to WoW 6 years ago. Although I never played Ultima myself, or EQ or all those other mmorpgs out there, I can only imagine that veteran mmorpgsers were saying the very same thing when they took their first steps in Azeroth all those years ago. WoW also managed to grasp all the new mmorpg gamers, people like me. People who had played a modest amount of computer games (in my case because I had a shitty mac) and who thought that a game like WoW was all they had been looking for. Easy yet compelling.
Between the dawn of WoW and the dawn of Rift there have been a heckload of good mmorpgs. None of them were shit (ok maybe some of them were shit), and they all could've been alot bigger if it wasn't for the fact that WoW had already snagged the market. People needed alot of incentive to leave the community that WoW had become, in most cases people chose the other game because it was not WoW. Personally I would've loved to play games like Warhammer, GW, LotrO and a bunch of other games alot more than I have, but I just couldn't pay for two games and WoW is where all my friends were. If the gameplays were equal between the two games, the community will be the tipping factor for most of us. And WoW has definitely built up a strong community.
So why has Rift suddenly become so insanely interesting and popular? Is it really that much better than the abovementioned games and all the other ones that I haven't mentioned? Like I said, I don't have a clue because I haven't tried it yet. My guess would be that it is a competent game with its strengths and weakness, just as any other game released the last 6 years. Just as WoW. Yet people seem to greet it like Messiah.
It might just be. It might just be that what really differs Rift from all the abovementioned games, and really any mmorpg released between WoW and now, is the timing. Rift might've managed to enter the scene exactly when people start thinking - "maybe I am done with WoW? Do I really enjoy this anylonger or do I just log on because I've always have?". We thought things would be better after the end-wrath chaos that broke up many big and small guilds and had many people "take a break" ie quit WoW alltogether. We thought Cataclysm would give us that joy of exploration and ignorance yet again. Yet the trend continues. People are still weary. I read blog post after blog post about guilds that are falling apart. About guilds that are having trouble getting their raids on the road because people don't sign. My guild is only one of many that recently has had a couple of its best members leave because they wanted to try something else.
What these people really want to do is save what is left of their enjoyment of the game. 6 years ago it was ok to spend 3 months and countless hours on downing a boss. Now people nerdrage after 2 weeks of failures. Remember when you had fun leveling a profession? When mining for 5 hours straight wasn't like pulling a tooth? The fun of many people in WoW today rests on a tiny, tiny thread and the slightest shake will have them give it all up. Personally I am still having as much fun as ever. I level my alts, I wipe my ass off in 25mans, I gear and regear and regear again, I do instances for the umptififth time. But even Love is starting to feel like he's lost some of the fun in WoW. He's playing less and less and has started looking for options (albeit not other mmorpgs yet). He's not alone, like I said I've seen this attitude among alot of guildies lately. At first they blame the guild, or the class changes, or the new expansion, then they move on and try to find their fun somewhere else in the game and when that doesn't work either (because they're really bored with the game) they decide to quit and look for something else. And who stands there waiting for them with open arms? Rift.