Procrastination Amplification: Punditry on MMOs and games in general.

On Public Quests

When Warhammer Online introduced public quests – local objectives meant to be completed by the combined efforts of everyone in the area – many people were quite excited. After the initial excitement had died down though, people realized that public quests were very static in nature and just one huge grind for influence points which would then allow players to buy better gear. In case you didn’t know, grinding for gear during the levelling process is quite pointless. Now RIFT picked up the idea of public quests as part of its core gameplay, introducing rift events. Rift events do a few things right, but there still are huge leaps to make until the concept can actually be called good.

Rift events, like public quests in WAR, have multiple stages in which players fight to complete an event. Unlike WAR, the events in RIFT are not bound to specific locations. Instead you’ll see rifts to another plane opening in more-or-less random spots on the map which players can open to allow monsters from the other side to pass through. Slaying these monsters awards reputation with certain factions and your contribution to closing a rift is tallied up and players will receive rewards accordingly. Just like in WAR you will therefore get better rewards by contributing more to an event (such as doing a lot of damage).

WAR gave you a standing at the end of an event and then allowed random rolls based on that standing so that not always the top contributing player got the best rewards, but he or she would be the one with the best chance to do so. RIFT shows you the standings while the event is in progress, but oddly enough doesn’t show the final standings at completion. It also doesn’t really show what level of reward you got, so I can only guess at the exact workings of the system. The contribution point system and the final standings are such an integral part to the public quest system that I find it really odd that Trion would eschew that for their game.

Obviously it is really hard to get a contribution system just right. Measuring damage done is easy, but how do you weigh that against a tank’s contribution, or a healer’s. Not to mention the impossibility of correctly weighing buffs. WAR simply grouped everyone in a region together automatically (unless you opted out of it), which RIFT doesn’t. I liked the open groups in WAR, but I do wonder whether one couldn’t use groups for improving the whole competition point system. If points were awarded according to a group’s performance instead of counting individuals and then the groups would have to split the rewards themselves (just as they do in other group content), one could be encouraging group play while at the same time making support classes more viable for those events.

In RIFT I had no issues winning events as a mage so far because I could abuse other players tanking the enemies and simply nuke many enemies at once. If another player was to buff me, she would actually lower her chances of winning herself while improving mine. Now if the two of us where grouped and group contribution was counted accordingly, this problem would no longer arise. Group contributions would even allow for guilds to compete in huge war-like (note: lower case “war”) events for fun and profit. RIFT already has huge events (though the people at Trion are still trying to find a way to properly balance their server load for those), but as long as it’s every man for himself in there, I can’t see a long-term appeal.

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