The Evolution Of MMO
There's been a lot of debate over whether RIFT: Planes of Telara and Guild Wars 2 are "Next-Gen". Many have ruled them out completely claiming their carbon copy MMO's. We'll lets take a closer look at these two upcoming titles and see what's under the hood.
PUSH vs PULL METHODOLOGY
In WoW, DAOC, EQ, WAR, Etc. The main system is built on the idea of a world which a player lives in. You play a side story in bigger picture. When you log off nothing changes, nobody misses you, the world is the same as when you were logged in.
In GW2 & RIFT: they have innovated this concept and placed the Player first making the game the world that exists around the player. With these 2 games the MMO world gains cause and effect for the first time. IF players do not stop RIFTs they will spawn invasions that will take over every square inch of the map. Your efforts directly effect the world around you. In GW2 you see a wagon train getting ambushed, you can help ambush it or you can save them. Depending on what you do changes the overall picture. NO OTHER MMO has ever allowed this type of player dictated content. In both of them the WORLD fights back and the idea behind TiVO, Hulu, & Netflix comes to the MMO world. The same fate is hitting the Radio industry hard right now. People want content to be Personal, They dont want it to be dictated by some other outside force. Hulu, TiVi, and Netflix have flourished, Myspace, Facebook, and Twitter have boomed. The world is about YOU now. Traditional MMO's are based on PUSH methodology, they make YOU come to them. The NEXT GEN MMO's use PULL methodology making the world come to you. Play it how you want, when you want, for as long as you want and the story will shape around your actions.
In the Traditional MMO you will spend most of your time Questing in Travel. The vast majority of games send you to the opposite ends of the earth.
NEXT GEN MMO's (GW2 & RIFT) place the quest near the player. If you pick up a quest in RIFT you will not have to travel to the far side of the map and back again. Each Quest hub takes you to the next quest hub. All those stupid annoying quests that send you several zones over just to come back then send you back again are a thing of the past. RIFT is very good at keeping it local and making the EVENT part of the quest the primary focus rather than the travel time to get to the event. In GW2 they take this a step further getting rid of quests all together. EVENTS happen in GW2, You'll see them spawn up and have to decide what to do with them. Again killing the travel time required to complete a quest.
Rewards in the NEXT GEN MMO's are not random chance of goodies that you cant even use. Both RIFT and GW2 deploy a mechanic that ensures that every time you complete a RIFT or a dungeon you walk away with something. It may not be the elite axe of almighty doom but it will be something that you CAN use. How many times have you farmed dungeons in Traditional MMO's and come up empty handed?
SEPARATION OF PVP & PVE
WOW, DAOC, WAR, and most of the other Traditional MMO's require players that love PVP to PVE to get the best gear, They require players who hate PVP to PVP to get the best gear. They FORCE players to do something they dont enjoy just to get the best toys. The NEXT GEN MMO'S change this. They give players the freedom to do what they like and have equal rewards. If you love PVP they want to make it so you never have to do a single quest to advance and equip yourself. If you hate PvP they want to make sure that you have a great time and have no problems getting the gear you want solely by PvE. No longer are you REQUIRED to play how you don't like playing. How you play is entirely up to you.
Yes the game uses the Gamebryo toolset which just happens to be the same engine WAR used. Realize WAR was based of the early version of the Gamebryo engine, RIFT is 2.5 years after that launch in technology. Thats a long time in the software development world. Saying "Oh WAR sucks so RIFT must suck because they use the same framework" is like saying, Mass Effect 2 (Unreal 3 Engine) sucks because Devastation (Unreal 2 Engine) was built on the same engine. Except in this case those 2 games we less than a year apart. I can tell you from experience that RIFT is a very beautiful product, especially later on in the game when you get to AIR and WATER rifts. The foundation of the game is extremely solid and they have a lot of versatility to expand on demand. I've played WAR and I've play RIFT and I can tell you RIFT is a looooot nicer to control and play. I don't get stuck on everything, I don't fall through the floor, In WAR things see through objects, in RIFT they do not. And heck, I can even /sit.
This is not something to overlook. I drew up a list of the people involved over at TRION here. Their staff is hand selected from the best MMO's of the past generation. WAR, DAOC, WOW, Lineage, Aion, AOC, WAR, EQ, SGO, you name it they got people who helped build those products and learned from their short comings. Both TRION and ArenaNet have some of the most impressive developers and artists on the market today. The people who brought you the products you LOVED now work for these 2 companies and are competing to have the next game that you love. The fact that I personally have submitted countless bugs and suggestions and had most of them implemented in the game within a couple patches time is impressive. Much like the game putting the players first, TRION is putting they player in control of the outcome of the game. If you can dream it and theres a demand for it they can build it. Not saying that if you think it would be totally rad to have pink legwarmers that breath fire that it will actually make it into game, but every idea is seen by the teams that make it happen and EVERY DAY Trion meets and discusses these ideas and the pro's and con's of these ideas. Making everyone able to be Jedi's or Removing RVR Mechanics that people have grown to love is not going to happen here. Every last person who holds a desk at TRION knowns Failure by name, They've seen it first hand, and every bone in their body is going to do their best to avoid it in the future. To be successful you must know failure, it's only in the hard times that we learn our lessons.
So is RIFT & GW2 a NEXT GEN MMO? Well was Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and the whole social networking boom Web 2.0? I would say so. Innovation isn't about changing everything. It's about taking a good product and making it great. Games that try to break the mold often fail miserably. Trion is working on taking out all that crap you hate from the Current Gen MMO's and improving upon what we enjoy. I for one think that TRION and ARENANET are doing all of us a HUGE service in the fact that by taking this step they raise the bar for every other MMO out there and force them to start thinking about US and not the static story. We want to feel important in our game world, and these 2 companies are making that possible.