Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Rift: Healing Like it's 1999

I really liked Rift at first.

It’s a cool concept, and I really do love the way that you get access to every aspect of the archetype you make.  If you’ve got a Rogue, you’ve really got 8 Rogue classes you can mix and match any way you like.  Ditto the Cleric, Mage, and Warrior.  That’s pretty sweet.  The world is cool, the storyline is neat, and the rift activity adds a dynamic feel to the world.

I’m all done with that now.  Two things chased me off.  First of all, the healing classes are very bare bones.  Secondly, the UI is positively prehistoric.  And I’m willing to bet other women will leave for these same two reasons.

According to the most recent data collected by the Daedalus Project, approximately half of women prefer to play healers.  There’s a lot of back and forth on why that is.  Are they playing with their boyfriends as pocket-healers?  Do they gravitate toward the more social roles within the MMO genre?  Are chicks just super nurturing earthmother types who have to be taking care of someone all the time?  (Yes, that’s it.  I want to nurture you – WITH MY FIST.)  

Personally, I play healers because the gameplay is a lot more dynamic than being a damage-dealer and a hell of a lot less stressful than being a tank.   Healing is an interactive process that takes good judgment, quick reaction time, and a good grasp of what your class’s abilities can do.   Healing in a raid is especially fun because you’re working together as a team, trying to mesh your class’s abilities and your individual skill levels while working toward the same goal.  You can also really showcase your skill as a healer and it has a profound and measureable impact on the raid.  You can save the day – and I’m all about day-saving, people.

I played a Rogue in Rift’s beta, but it went the way of the dodo pretty fast.  I knew I’d be hitting up Cleric for launch, and sure enough, I did.  The Justicar/Shaman/Druid hybrid was pretty great, but it’s a tank not a true healer.  In fact, out of the 8 Cleric classes, there’s only one true healer combo and that is Sentinel/Warden/Purifier.

First, I tried the combo with direct-healing Sentinel dominant.  Most. Boring. Ever.  It was analogous to playing a Cleric in EverQuest back at launch.  Click F1. Cast a 3 second heal.  Wait.  Click F1.  Cast a 3 second heal.  Wait.  Hot diggity.  Then I respecialized to have Warden dominant.  Now that was better.  It played very similarly to a World of Warcraft druid.  You stack various heal-over-time (HoT) spells, and when shit gets critical, you cast a heal that is made more powerful by the stacked HoTs on a character.  There’s just one problem with that: Rift’s UI does not show you which characters have HoTs on them.

The Grid Add-on for World of Warcraft
This segues into my second gripe.  As someone who played World of Warcraft fairly seriously, I am used to having a great deal of information at my hands.  My UI setup in WoW is a thing of beauty.  When playing my druid, I know where all my HoTs are, how long they’ve got left, and how many stacks of which spells are on which players at all times.  Thus when someone gets dangerously low, I know which spell to use on them.  If healing is about judgment, reaction time, and knowing your class, it’s also about knowing what spell you need to cast on whom – and when.  That differs dramatically depending on what heals are already in effect.

Rift shows you precisely none of that information.

Well, you can manually target each individual player and sort through their cluttered list of buffs to try to see where yours are.  And while you’re sorting through that list, the 10 second duration expires and the tank dies, and the raid is dragonchow and – well, I guess it doesn’t really matter anymore, does it?

Rift wants you to work with only their default UI – they have taken a strong no add-on stance.  World of Warcraft, by contrast, has a thriving community of developers making add-ons and UI mods of every kind imaginable.  This makes the WoW UI infinitely customizable; you can organize the information on your screen any way you wish.  This allows you to have everything you’d ever need to know as a healer condensed into one spot for at-a-glance one-stop-shopping gameplay.  This increases reaction time by leaps and bounds, which increases my healing speed, which increases the raid’s survivability. 

All that sounds like a pretty nice bonus, and, in the beginning, that’s what it was - a bonus.  In 2004, being able to customize your UI was a nice change from the clunky UIs of previous MMOs.  Nearly seven years down the line it’s no longer a bonus - it’s an industry standard.  Rift does not offer its players that customizability and seems weirdly proud of it.  Like it’s going old school or retro or taking us back to basics.  Newsflash: Less isn’t more.  It’s actually, you know, less.

I think I could stand bare-bones healing classes. Maybe I could get along with a primitive UI.  But I really can’t do both.  The combination together puts us back into the realms of EverQuest, which was released in 1999.  EQ was a great game for its time, but it is 2011 now.  A 21st century MMO requires a 21st century UI.  

Rift needs to come into the now.
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1 comment:

  1. That study is interesting, but in that it says there's only about a 10% difference in preference for healing between men and women when you discount children.