Rift’s Identity

I intentionally stopped talking about Rift for a week or so because I wanted to refocus my energies on LOTRO and not to burn out talking about/thinking about Rift as we count down the final month before launch.  But that week is over, and I guess here we go again!

More than anything else, I’m really dying to know how Rift is going to play out as a game.  Not whether it will succeed or fail financially, but whether people will accept it despite its similarities to other games, whether the dynamic content will have staying power, and whether it will end up being the game that Trion Worlds wants it to be.

Another question I’ve been mulling over is if players are going to feel a lack of identity in the game.  For most MMOs, you ARE your class — “I’m a captain in LOTRO”, “I’m a blood DK in WoW”, “I’m a Dark/Dark Defender in CoH”.  You identify yourself as that class and, by extent, the roll that class or build plays.

Enter Rift, where there are an extreme lack of “classes” (called “archetypes” here).  You’re one of four archetypes, which means that no matter what you pick, 25% or so of the rest of the game is right there with you.  Sure, you have eight souls and a mind-boggling amount of builds you can make with them, but how do you identify yourself in this setting?  “I’m a 50/16/0 Reaver/Warlord/Beastmaster” doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, nor is it that easy to decifer.

You could try to say what you DO in terms of a role — “I’m a healer/tank/DPS/pet-master/buffer” — but that’s not only generic-sounding, but pointless in a game where anyone, with a flick of a key, could be that too.  Every archetype can perform multiple roles, often overlapping with other archetypes.

See what I’m getting at?  The more flexibility they give the character system, the less chance you have of being a distinct anything.  It’s a game where you — and everyone else — can change quickly, easily and often.

So what will people end up identifying themselves as?  I’m guessing specific builds that will be given spiffy names by the players, but who knows?

18 thoughts on “Rift’s Identity

  1. James Taylor January 21, 2011 / 3:59 pm

    That’s one way to look at it, but you can also just think of it as *freedom* of a locked-in “identity.” It’s something that I loved so much about the original Star Wars Galaxies — you could mix and match what you wanted to be and change at any moment (after some grinding, of course).

    I feel like, at max level, the only people swapping souls a lot will be PvPers trying to find the perfect build for their role.

  2. Maladorn January 21, 2011 / 4:16 pm

    Expect the Guild Wars system. Touch Ranger, Invincimentalist, Critical Scythe, and Imbagon are all names of builds, which are pretty commonly known. I expect some kind of build wiki to become prominent to help people share their builds. My 2 cp.

  3. ravious January 21, 2011 / 4:18 pm

    I agree 100% with Maladorn. Their awesome flexible build system is going to tone down to a specific community accepted build with a few tweaks by the user. I do think the soul system is quite neat, but I don’t think it’s ever going to be balanced to meet its flexibility potential.

  4. Moxie January 21, 2011 / 4:35 pm

    I agree with Maladorn… similar to how other MMOs handle hybrid specs (which really is what Rift classes are), you’ll probably get nicknames for the various builds… ie Retadin, Boomkin, Shockadin, etc.

    It would be nice if the situation was where you could just have tanks, ranged DPS, melee DPS, healers, & CC/support. It seems like that would allow the most flexibility.

  5. rivalyncrimson January 21, 2011 / 4:39 pm

    Basically what everyone else has said already – you’re likely to find that the community will parse out the branches that are sub-par and the ones that are ‘OP’. Eventually nobody will take sub-par branches once they know not to.

    Probably going to get the PvP ability of the patch effect regardless.

  6. Wolfshead January 21, 2011 / 4:59 pm

    Great point. Having these customized classes is indeed a double-edged sword. It’s probably going to take a long time for players to figure out what all the class combos even mean.

    Technicaly classes in RIFT are either warrior, mage, rogue or cleric but since the combos have such different and unique roles there’s going to be a lot of confusion which isn’t good.

    Personally, I think it’s a big mistake to give players too many choices too early on. Players need time to learn their core abilities and tempting them with more souls (classes) when they barely understand their core classes could lead to some identity problems.

    It is also not a good idea to “give” players too much too early. A big part of the fun of MMOs is the anticipation of unlocking abilities. Players need things to look forward to.

  7. evizaer January 21, 2011 / 5:02 pm

    There will be perhaps 4 optimal builds that players will settle on early. They will be named by the community. Everyone who pays attention to the community will only play these builds with small alterations and random casuals will play whatever silly build they decide to and no one will care.

  8. expostninja January 21, 2011 / 6:07 pm

    It’ll probably be similar to FFXIV/FFXI, where players generally identify by the class or classes they play most frequently. For example, I generally say that when I was involved in XI’s endgame, I was a Red Mage, ignoring the dozen other classes I had at varying levels.

  9. Daria January 21, 2011 / 6:21 pm

    I’ve thought about this as well even though I’ve only been involved in one beta so far. One thing I noticed in the game is when you mouse over other people, the tooltip only read “cleric” or “rogue.” I could not find any way to identify what actual spec they were in, since inspecting others only brings up a look at their gear. I think for one the game needs to include a way to see quickly someone’s spec (at least within your own faction).

    I can envision getting into a group and the conversation will always go “so who is tanking” and “who wants to heal” and the like. Because as you mentioned, most people will have options to fill these roles, so will the people that naturally want to fill a certain role always do so? And in PvP, it will probably be more of a “every man for himself” mentality, with most people having a way to at least heal themselves somewhat (like with GW2) so I don’t see defined roles being as important there.

  10. Syp January 21, 2011 / 7:09 pm

    I think you guys have it on the nose. I’m just dreading potential prejudice against people who don’t use those established builds.

  11. Gankalicious January 21, 2011 / 8:36 pm

    That prejudice was around in Guild Wars (pvp) for sure. ‘Ping your build please’. The problem is those builds are usually accepted by the community because they are good at a certain role, or are useful in the current metagame. Will it be that much of a problem, really, or will the prejudice be restricted to a ‘hardcore’ class of player?

  12. Naithin January 21, 2011 / 10:42 pm

    Maladorn pretty much hit on the head with the GW link. It goes back even further in history than that though, Asheron’s Call 1 also featured a build-your-own class system, without even the ‘benefit’ of an archetype to fall back on or contain everything.

    You had descriptive names like 3-school, extreme 3-school, then pseudoclass names like Battlemage, or builds named after their originators, like the Og Mage.

    At the time they were pretty well understood by the players, so I completely expect a similar Rift class-jargon to appear.

  13. Llokki January 21, 2011 / 11:49 pm

    Despite the above comments, it is something that is worrying me as well, particularly in regards to RP. Throw in the fact that we can change build/role on the spot, and it’s like all our characters have multiple personality disorder.

    Bit worried about individuality in regards to appearance as well. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I get the impression that the gear will be divided between archetypes, so (barring the use of dyes) a Chloromancer in end game gear will look identical to a Necromancer in end game gear.

  14. Naithin January 21, 2011 / 11:57 pm

    I don’t think RP will be a problem, Llokki, because within the context of the game the soul system is fairly well explained.

    You might choose to RP as a bit of a multiple personality; taking on traits associated with the class roles, weighing towards those traits more the more you talent them . . . or you may not; and may RP that your base persona is unaffected by or strongly in control of the souls they take on.

    Not typically much of an RPer myself; but that’s how I’d view it in any case.

  15. Shrike January 22, 2011 / 6:45 am

    My concern is the same as my concern for GW2 and which I hated in GW1: if people can see your spec, groups will kick you for not having the “optimal” build for an instance. This kind of prejudice against creative play frustrated me in GW2 and I hope the flexibility touted for Rift will allow creative play and still be effective. If encounters in instances are designed to only allow certain builds to succeed and others will fail then it makes the whole soul class system useless.
    Time will tell if this will be the case.

  16. Shrike January 22, 2011 / 6:46 am

    *edit: GW1 not GW2

  17. Tremayne January 22, 2011 / 12:04 pm

    I suspect the “casuals” who don’t know what the perfect build are and happily play with whatever seems good to them will be the great majority of people actually playing the game (even if they aren’t the majority of those bloviating on forums)

    Personally, I’ll probably describe myself in terms of calling and primary or primary and secondary roles/souls, e.g. “DPS warrior” or “ranged rogue/bard”

  18. Vulpis January 22, 2011 / 3:06 pm

    What’s depressing is that concept that we even *have* to ‘identify’ ourselves primarily by what we do mechanically, not who we are. This is why I was glad to get *away* from D&D and their ‘Fred the Fighter’ mentality in the tabletop realm and go for something like Hero and GURPS…

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