RIFT: Gimmicks That Play Fair

I pulled out some old screenshots of Rift. I think the pictures speak almost for themselves.

Despite the rest of my UI taking up a huge chunk of screen real estate, I believe the deadly areas are pretty durned obvious.

The screenies are solo Chronicles, because I normally don’t have time to worry about screenshots while four other guys are racing ahead, but I believe the pattern holds in general.

I never really minded big boss fights in Rift, and if not for the nervous teaming anxiety about not pulling my own weight, I found most of the PUG dungeons quite enjoyable with gimmicks that were learnable in a group – there would be the odd team wipe if someone was just learning the dungeon, but repeating it 2-3 times usually got folks on the way to success.

I believe this has a lot to do with the clarity of the gimmick mechanics. If something was affecting (eg. healing) another mob, I seem to recall a long bright line that would stretch between it and the boss mob, making it very obvious, “Hey, this thing is doing something to the other one!”

The AoE damage generally plays very fair. A geometrical shape is drawn on the ground for you, and a couple seconds later, comes the damage or the claw swipe or the what have you.

It’s very clear where you should NOT be.

And they give you sufficient time to move and stay out of that area.

No doubt you can guess from my present lack of illustrative screenshots which other game I’m still rather grumpy about regarding unclear, unfair gimmicks.

I’ll get back to that game eventually once I’ve recorded enough examples – it has some very clear telegraphed gimmicks, which I haven’t gotten around to screenshotting yet – which make me even more boggled why they don’t do it for everything. They plainly know how, unless those cases were just an accident.

CoH: Temporarily Bad Design

Like a bad traffic wreck, I am drawn to lurking on the City of Heroes boards reading the usual I HATE ITRIALS/I ❤ ITRIALS LRN 2 PLAY NOOB thread that pops up per Incarnate trial launched.

By now, the only people still with the willpower to protest are the biggest alarmists, which unfortunately, do not help the case of the sad minority that isn’t terribly fond of the trials. Especially with the forum stalwarts shouting them down. I lost the determination to protest there long ago, it’s fairly pointless, only the wallet vote seems to work.

I did find this exchange amusing, and telling…

Alarmist Protesting the Mag Trial Stridently: “The problem is its the ONLY trial that unlocks hybrid, so your forced to do it. So no matter how muich you dislike it, you have to do it. That is BAD game design.” (sic)

Rational Guy Replying: “This one, however, I’ll give you. Encouraging us to run the new content is one thing, but to a point, it just being new content is enough to encourage us to run it. I’m sure this approach makes sense when viewed from the other end of some grand two-year plan with five separate AIXP-granting trials in the rotation, and maybe a few solo arcs that let players earn it too (HINT HINT, devs), but right now, with just the one? It’s temporary bad design, but still bad design.”

I concur.

I quit City of Heroes when the devs decided to release just the BAF and LAM trials with no solo or small group option for Incarnate progress. Mostly because I didn’t want to feel obligated to -have- to repeatedly grind the BAF and LAM in order to unlock Incarnate power.

When I came back with Dark Astoria, there was a variety of trials – about 6-7 of them – AND a solo/small group option. Presumably, somewhere in the grand plan, this was the foreseen result. It was fairly painless to finally get one character Incarnated because of:

a) variety – there wasn’t a need to repeatedly grind the same damn trial over and over

b) ease – practically everyone else was level shifted to a power level that could breeze past the trials

c) the alternate option – any time I got pissed off about the trials, I could retreat into soloing Dark Astoria, and still feel like I was getting somewhere

With the Magisterium trial, I’m missing a, b and c. No other trial unlocks the hybrid slot. Fail on variety. There surely isn’t a solo/small team option yet (it is terribly flawed design to have to *cough* “encourage” your players to raid because there’s no other alternative.) And as for ease, definitely not there yet either.

I got on two attempts of the trial today. Most of it was breezed past. Phase 1: kill 250 IDF went fine. Phase 2: Kill 3 AVs in some order went by more or less fine. I was somewhat concerned that no one bothered to explain the mechanics of the AVs. There seemed to have been some kind of “Marked for Death” targeting that no one bothered to dodge, and either healed or rezzed through it. It seemed sad that someone just memorized “Okay, kill S, P and C in this order.” Phase 3 went fine, Black Swan’s portals were easy to target and taken down quite quickly with not too much need for coordination.

And then phase 4 went to hell as Tyrant stubbornly refused to die. The real reason remains unknown. All manner of theories from “the light wells need to go down faster” “people need to stop dying, it’s healing him the most” “we don’t have enough DPS” “not enough debuffs” were tossed about the league. Probably all of them.

In fact, I felt really sorry for anything squishy. My IO’ed willpower stalker had a very fast recharging heal, and I was popping it every “air crackles” because I still got hit for 1/3 of my hp even as I jumped out the instant I saw the red letters. I found it quite survivable as I didn’t stay in the ground targeted effect after that, but I’m going to guess someone with less hp and less resistance and no self-heal might not find it so easy.

What I didn’t find so easy was staying out of the way of Tyrant slamming his fist on the ground for an AoE. He kept wiggling about, not respecting any taunting tank positioning, so I was constantly trying to reposition to his back or his flank. My stalker has pretty high AoE defense, so I doubt I got hit that often on the whole. When I did get hit, about half the time I ate ~1000 damage and survived and backed away to self-heal, and half the time I fell over as 2000 damage just wiped my health bar with no chance to react. Some blasters were complaining about the fist AoE, I have no idea how horrible it must have been on a blaster.

I was on a dual blades stalker though, so for all I know I was gimping the league by toting around a highly resistable damage type, on an AV that is effectively +6 to everyone. My assassin’s strike was hitting for about 143 damage. No idea how that compares to the damage others put out.

And really, I don’t see how a league who started off with a not-so-ideal team composition have any chance of rectifying this with good strategy. There are no inspiration vendors within the trial. The thing is timed. I don’t think any temp powers work besides the Quills power. It just strikes me as rather unfair and badly designed, to the point that you’ll be encouraging the players to do one of two things.

1) Sit around for a long time cherry picking the league’s composition (including lots of debuffs) or… and people are already doing this…

2) Farm the MAG trial by just doing the easy parts and then quitting rather than waste time attempting to defeat Tyrant.

I suppose that is -the- alternate option?

To let players pick the difficulty of the “ultimate” trial by giving them a way out to farm hybrid xp, and then keeping Tyrant difficult for those who want a difficult challenge? (Plus extra badges for even more insane difficulty challenges.)

I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. I might just settle for rolling my eyes.

Presumably in another six months, all this will be a moot point as players move past the current level of power, develop an effective strategy that is slowly taught to pretty much everyone doing the trials on a server, a variety of trials and possibly even a solo/small group option will arise for this Hybrid slot. Same as before.

But come on, is that really a valid defense for temporarily bad game design? Just keep waiting?