This is a bit of a spoiler for the newbie areas of Rift. It’s also the strongest argument I can give for playing the game, so I feel justified.
Throughout the Defiant tutorial/newbie zone, you’re trying to fix the time machine that will send you back to before everything became unsalvageable. It’s the best they can do, so when you’re ready you go up the promontory where the time machine sits, and talk to the person there who knows what is going on. As he powers up the machine, a rift forms over it, and things start pouring out of it.
Or perhaps you climb the promontory to see one of your fellow defiants already there, fighting the things pouring out of the rift. A button flashes on your UI to “Join Public Group” you do, and then you are in a group with that person, fighting. You can fight and help without them, the quest is forced on you, and placed at the top of your tracker, so you always know what is going on. At this point it’s the only thing on your list anyway.
You fight, and eventually one of the NPCs that was helping you fights the big bad of the game, Regulos, while you slip backward in time, to avert this future from ever happening. It’s kind of epic and fun, and whoever happens on it can help, and they do. I ran three characters through the Defiant starting zone, and once I started it and twice I helped. One of those times I had to run it twice, because I didn’t quite have the flags properly set — it’s a beta, I’m sure they’ll make that clearer.
Eventually, you’re dumped into a wider area, where you see the twisting clouds with tentacles falling down that marks the existence of a rift. You get a power that lets you go into one of them, and start the public/rift event which is associated with it. I never did this, because there always seemed to be an event going on while I was in the area.
I did my first one on Thursday. There were at least 50 people in the area, all of them working on different facets of the event — fighting invasions, protecting wardstones, and closing rifts. Taking part gets you some special currency “Planarite” which is used for quest turn-ins and purchasing specialty equipment — I never got enough to buy anything, so I can’t say what it is. I know I could have gotten it, though. Particularly during the beta and probably easily early in the game.
It’s easy to join a public group, and with so many people it became a raid (basically: a group of groups) and we all shared in what was going on, it seemed. Admittedly with so many people it was hard to tell what was going on. The final boss wasn’t too complicated, as there was only one of him, but some of the skirmishes had 10-15 enemies, all of them moving around. I was playing my warrior so it was hard to stay by whatever I was fighting. Ranged DPS might have been easier.
I woke up really early Sunday morning — because I do, but also because I realized it would be quieter then, and I’d get to see something. See,the problem with public events is that they’re great when an area is populated, but in general the only populated areas on a mature MMO are the newbie area, and the top level areas. The stuff in the middle (and by now I was getting into ‘middle’ territory) becomes a vast wasteland. WAR had a real problem with that, not the least because WoW’s Lich King expansion siphoned off all their players, and made some of their public events impossible for solo players or small groups.
On Sunday there weren’t that many people in the zone, and the area I was trying to turn in regular quests was swarmed with elite monsters. I died twice just trying to see if I could find a healer. I fought some, but it was beyond anything I could handle. Now, someone started this quest, and they were probably off fighting it (they eventually won it) but they weren’t near me, and I was being overrun. This seems like a bad plan to me. Certainly there was no way I could solo or small group this (there were, in fact 3-4 other people around me in the same boat, dying with regularity).
Dying is just money, and not that much of it, really. It’s the same in WoW (represented by broken equipment, Rift uses a different mechanism). It beats losing experience, like EQ did, but it’s annoying when random events invade places that are essentially ‘safe’. And I get the feeling Rift is going to have a problem with this, once the server matures. Guild Wars 2 has said they have a solution for that, I guess we’ll see when it comes out. (GW2 has the advantage of not charging a monthly fee, but more about that tomorrow.)
The nice thing about public events are that they break up the monotony of killing 7 monsters, or picking up 7 things from the ground. Believe me when I say I had a surfeit of those kinds of quests. But they need to scale to the zone population, and be accessible to whomever is there. That may be true in Rift — maybe there were lots of high-level folks nearby, and not at my location. On the other hand, though, this would be great way to grief other players, starting events and then doing nothing until they’re lost.
Either way, I was ultimately left unsatisfied by these things, and concentrated on getting through the grist mill quests so that I could see something different.
The results of that, and my final thoughts about RIFT tomorrow.