As per the title – I’m starting to wonder if Rift may turn out to be the first of a “third age” of MMOs. Not because it has super-whizzy graphics, or massively different game mechanics, but because it may just change the way we play these games.
The first age of MMOs was an era of demanding games. Games that demanded a lot of time invested to reach the end game, and games that demanded that we worked together because you couldn’t achieve diddly squat solo. Relatively few people played MMOs because they were so time-consuming, and it could be frustrating to log on and spend an hour looking for a spot in a group. We had that community spirit because we worked together, and we worked together because it was that or quit the game.
The second age has been the age of convenience. Games that are solo friendly, and let you pop online for half an hour to do a couiple of quests if that’s all the time you have available. The price for that has been the loss of a lot of that community spirit – everything is about individual rewards. Even when people group, it’s for specific objectives rather than “a group for the evening” and the attitude in PuGs is often one of five utterly selfish individuals each using the other four as tools to get what they want. Selfish player attitudes drive game design that promotes individual rewards that encourage selfish behaviour, and culminate in dungeon finders that will plonk you together with random strangers – and hey, if there’s a problem why bother talking to each other about it when there’s a vote-kick system in place?
What I saw in the recent Rift beta events was something different. I saw people working together for objectives. I saw a game which encouraged players to group up and fight the rifts – and made things as inclusive as possible with open public groups, rather than the exclusive elitism fostered in other games. What we just might have here is a game that fosters an attitude of working together while still letting the solo or time-poor player have fun and achieve stuff. A game in which we get into the habit of working together and seeing other players as allies, not as competitors. Not because we’re forced to, not solely to get phat lewtz for ourselves, but because it is FUN.
Now, it’s possible that all I saw was the new and shiny of beta dazzling people, and a month after the game goes live everyone will just ignore the invasion events, and concentrate on trash talking each other in public chat while scheming how to roll “need” on every single drop in whatever instance they’re farming. But I hope not.