First, I’m sure you’ve heard it a dozen times by now, but we now have a Rift release date of March 1, 2011 for North America and March 4th for EU. Pre-order and get into the beta as well as the headstart which begins February 24th.
Anyway, on to the business at hand. After reading a post about the Massively staff’s Rift beta impressions I tweeted:
Reading this post @Massively http://bit.ly/h7bYAg and LOLing at how much Jef Reahard doesn’t get it. Yeah, an hour into Rift it is familiar
I wanted to go into a bit more detail here. Now we’re supposed to accept Reahard as a knowledgeable MMO player, right? He gets paid to share his informed opinion with us. We pay his salary by reading his posts. Here’s what his beta impressions were:
I rolled a Pyromancer in the Defiant beta and spent about an hour running around the initial zone (and fiddling with the UI). That probably doesn’t seem like a lot of time to form an accurate impression, but it was more than enough for me to realize I’ve played this game about a hundred times over the last few years.
That’s not to say Trion doesn’t have a serviceable title on its hands. It’s very pretty and runs well compared to most betas, but I’m already slogging through a couple of on-rails quest grinders and don’t really have the patience for another one. Wake me up when (or actually, if) someone dares to spend this kind of money on a sandbox.
Now I’m not saying Reahard has to like Rift and I’m not saying he isn’t entitled to his opinion. But y’know what? After an hour of playing an MMO you generally aren’t entitled to an informed opinion yet. How could you be? And in the case where a game is named after a significant gameplay feature, and you don’t play enough to even experience that feature, you’re really on thin ice. (In Rift, you can pretty much ignore quests and level up by fighting rifts if you want to. In fact fighting rifts levels you faster if you’re in the midst of an invasion.)
The fact is… fact, not opinion, Reahard hasn’t played this game about a hundred times because there haven’t been that many games that feature large scale open world PvE events. Warhammer has it’s public quests but they don’t even approach the scale of Rift’s rifts. A few games have offered very rare GM run events where an epic mob storms into town and all the players have to cooperate to take it down, but few games have that sort of gameplay as a central system.
If Reahard played only Beta 1 of the game for an hour (he apparently didn’t even get to where he could choose a 2nd soul, which used to be level 5 iirc, though that’s changed now), he should have been professional enough to opt out of the article or, if that wasn’t an option, just admitted that he wasn’t interested enough to play into the main parts of the game. Dismissing Rift after an hour of tutorial quests and a few of the newbie proto-rifts is like dismissing WoW after only experiencing the crafting system. You just haven’t seen the main point of the game.
In general I think this was an ill-advised article overall. These experts are complaining about systems that are being tweaked and improved with every beta. When Krystalle Voecks says “Certain things I experienced on the Rogue drove me nuts (only 30 seconds’ worth of stealth, mobs’ seeming ability to see through stealth anyway, the odd ability to shoot fireballs with my daggers, poor-to-meh gear-availability) and utterly killed the fun for me.” how many of her readers are savvy enough to stop and think “Well, it is beta, maybe those issues will be addressed.”
Read the comments on the article and you’ll see people who’ve opted not to play based on the problems the Massively staff encountered during beta.
Here’s the thing. I’ve been in all three betas. These are not “stress tests” and they aren’t just marketing events (and I know, this is what we expect betas to be these days). Trion has adjusted things in response to player reaction between beta 1 & 2 and radically between beta 2 & 3.
Aside from Reahard, I can’t really fault the rest of the staff. This is the problem with game journalism in general. Players are stupid. They’re not savvy enough to differentiate between a preview and a review. Film critiques don’t go watch a movie before the special effects are done and then post previews talking about how shoddy the special effects are, but game players have this need for game journalists to report what they see, but then don’t take personal responsibility for understanding what the journalists are reporting about.
Put another way, if the journalists don’t report on bugs they see, then the players accuse them of being on the payroll of the game developers. But if the journalists DO report on bugs they see, then the players seize on these reports as a reason to slag on the game, swear off buying it and tell their friends how much the game sucks, never mind that those bugs might be fixed already.
The only solution, IMO, is to avoid this kind of article when a game is in flux.