Procrastination Amplification: Punditry on MMOs and games in general.

More From The Rift: Collections

I mostly missed this weekend’s Rift beta event due to other obligations (and the fact that I had to catch a plane to Sweden early Sunday morning.) Still there are various things in the game that I haven’t talked about yet – one being the notion of collecting artifacts. Players will find a large variety of artifacts in the world which can be combined into sets and be handed in for a reward. Collecting things has a certain appeal to loads of players so a feature like that doesn’t seem all that stupid to put in. Alas, I feel that the implementation is severely lacking.

There are two ways to get artifacts in the game that I’ve seen so far. One is to pick them up from certain spots in the game world which either contain a specific artifact or have a selection of artifacts they can yield. These spots can be seen as small glittering lights in the world and are often hidden in non-trivial places. There are enough of these spots around that players will randomly stumble upon them, but they are rare enough to make finding one a somewhat interesting event.

The other way to get artifacts is to fight in rift events. Sometimes the rewards for those will contain items for you to collect. This way of acquisition usually accumulates to “do enough rift events in a certain area and you will complete your set.” A rather boring proposition.

No matter which way you are collecting the sets though, the big issue is that they are just not interesting enough to warrant attention – at least not in my eyes. There are so many different sets that it never occurred to me to try and complete a specific one – I would just go and pick up each artifact I could find and turn in any completed collections on my next trip to the capital city for the reward. After a short while I even stopped reading the descriptions (and names) of those items. I would just try to right click them and either they would go into a collection or I would throw them away (in case I found a duplicate).

There are two approaches to make collecting of pretty much anything interesting – rarity and interest. Completing collections (as far as I’ve seen so far in Rift) doesn’t make you feel special at all because there will be many people who already completed the very same collection and because there is no visible and interesting reward for doing so. Sure, the way things are there will still be completionists around who won’t sleep until they’ve found each and every artifact in a zone, but I suppose that most people will simply ignore them altogether.

Rift is hardly the first game to include a mechanic that allows players to collect sets of items, but usually (at least in the successful cases) these sets would do something other than simply reward some consumables and money. Collecting a set of Darkmoon cards in World of Warcraft rewards players with epic items and only certain ones are suited to certain players. It made sense for a healer in vanilla WoW to collect cards of the Beasts set in order to acquire the somewhat rare Darkmoon Card: Blue Dragon just as it made sense for a beginning barbarian in Diablo 2 to try and complete Sigon’s Complete Steel for a massive boost in early game fighting power. In either case, players would not only seek out specific items but also try to trade other players for them – also an integral part of collecting.

Rift really offers no incentive to do any of these things, it just lets you pick up random stuff and turn it in for pretty much meaningless rewards. In order to fix their system with little effort (launch being close and all that) they’d have to come up with interesting individual rewards for the collections and give each one a very defined identity. Put a variety of wolf-themed artifacts in various wolf-dens, invent a special wolf or two to hunt for the most rare parts of the set and then reward players who complete the whole shebang with an amulet that allows them to turn into a wolf at night. Or something along those lines. Give players an interesting goal and a challenging way towards that goal and they will come.