Over the last few weeks I have become some what of a “Rift Evangelist”, as I have spent hours preaching to my friends why they should come over and play this new game. It is not something I have really consciously done, but I seem to have a constant stream of “isn’t this cool” moments to share. This series is devoted to these little sometimes overlooked features of the game, that all help to add up to such a rich experience.
Episode 01: The Map
One of the running themes with Rift seems to be taking the best features of other titles, improving on them and presenting them in a very solid interface. The in game mapping system is a perfect example of this. Above is an example of the main map during a Freemarch Death Invasion. It gives you a nice live heads up on what is going on with the world.
In the above example I have hovered over one of the invasion units represented by the crossed swords icon, you will come to be familiar with. When doing so, the map highlights the trajectories of all the current invasion forces that are on the move. This lets the players quickly see where these forces are converging upon, so you can cut ahead of the push and be ready to present a defense. In the above example it appears that all of the enemy units are converging on Eliam Fields and Kelari Refuge.
In addition to the invasion tracking there are numerous other things being shown on the big map. You can see there are a number of purple death rifts that have popped up. The player can mouse over any of them and get the status, level and whether they are major or minor. Each of the NPC towns is marked with a star icon, and each enemy fortress with an icon denoting the faction, dungeons marked with a green jewel and each major mob center marked with a castle like icon. I’ve not seen another game that gives the player this much information without having to rely on add-ons.
All of the above is nice, but where the system truly shines is in the waypoint system. The player has the ability to right click the map and set a waypoint. On the main map this is shown with a line drawn between you and that location. If you noticed on the image of the main map, at the bottom there is a simple and clean coordinate system. The addition of being able to set a waypoint makes it extremely easy for you to travel to a precise location in the world.
In addition to it making it easier for you to travel to specific locations, waypoints work while grouping. If you notice on the minimap I have highlighted the X> icon of the waypoint, and it pops up various information. In a party or raid you receive the waypoint of your party members. For traveling from rift to rift or coordinating defenses, this is a super simple way of letting folks know where you will be heading.
You can also see in the tooltip shown in the screenshot you are given a distance away. The most amazing thing about this is that while tracking quest objectives, it also denotes whether or not the location is above or below you. How much time have you spent in other games roaming around on the wrong floor of a dungeon looking for the quest mob that just isn’t there? I will probably cover the quest tracking system in another post, but the mapping system makes it simple to figure out exactly where you need to be to complete an objective.
But Wait There’s More!
Every so often in this game, there is an idea that just makes you think “why didn’t anyone else think of this?”. In the 1.01 patch Trion added in an extremely powerful feature without much fanfare. By opening a chat window, and holding shift as you right click the map to set a waypoint, it now sends that waypoint as a link over chat. When other players click on your link, the waypoint is set on their map as well. Take a step back for a moment and ponder the power of this.
How many times have you been sitting in guild chat, as a new player is leveling through an area and asks where a hard to find mob is located? Instead of having to do the “its by” dance, as you clumsily try and explain where it is, you can simply open up your map, from anywhere in the world and link to them a close approximation. Since this went in last week I have already used it a dozen or more times in guild chat and zone chat to answer folks questions. I find this kind of attention to detail simply refreshing.
While not as sexy as the waypoint system, the tracking system in this game is everything you would expect it to be. If you click the magnifying glass icon on the side of the mini-map you are given a clean checkbox list of available tracking options. While tracking these appear both on the mini-map, and on a zoomed in view of the main map.
For the most part these are the standard set of options that were presented with games like Warhammer and in WoW with the Cataclysm expansion. It is just expected that at this point any game on the market will allow for tracking of multiple items, and this does it well.
One thing you will notice missing from the list is professions. Profession resource tracking is handled a little bit differently in this game than that of WoW. When you learn a profession you get spells that toggle on and off the tracking for that gathering profession. This was a little weird to get used to, but I appreciate it in the long run. There are various kinds of conditional tracking like the Reaver “Track Death Creatures”, that if included in the checkbox list would make it extremely cluttered. Trion has done a great job of presenting lots of information in a very clean interface.
I mentioned this feature for waypoints and quest objectives, but the above or below tracking works for resource nodes as well. How many times in other games you have spent tracking to figure out where exactly that node was, only to find it that it is in a cave you didn’t know existed? If you simply mouse over the mini-map icon you can tell immediately whether or not the node is aboveground or not.
The Mapping system is one of those things players just expect to work. When it doesn’t work, it is one of the first things players try to augment with addons (Cartographer / EQ2map project etc). Why is the Rift mapping system so amazing? Well mostly that it gives you all this functionality, in a clean, easy to use form factor… and completely out of the box without any user modification. It is functions like this that make me think Trion actually plays its own game, which is a point I question about many MMOs. It is this attention to detail that really has me so enthralled with this game.
Since this is the first one of these features, please let me know what you think. Was this useful? What would you like to see in the future? What overlooked features really have impressed you? Comment below and I will respond.