Content and Accessibility

Today I read Tobold ( and Syncaine ( talking about accessibility in MMOs. It’s a neat series of reads on both sides of the issue, and I feel like they’re both touching on a big issue in MMO development that’s been going on basically since WoW brought in a massive influx of new players (thanks to being highly accessible, even in Vanilla) – not enough content.

It has nothing to do with how ‘casual’ or ‘hardcore’ or ‘accessible’ the content is, and everything to do with whether or not the existing content in the game satisfies the demands of the various players. WoW only has one content path. You level, you do dungeons, you do heroic dungeons, you do raids, you do heroic raids. These five experiences are different in a lot of ways; the number of players you have being the most obvious one, but the approach to playing and the kind of players each pursuit attracts is quite different. However, it’s a linear path. Syncaine hits the nail on the head in his post when it mentions that players are satisfied and at their best when they have content to play that challenges them and can look forward to more content ahead of them. It’s an idea spread out across quite a bit of the argument, but to me it’s the underlying thread that separates him from the usual “games should be harder” hardcore crowd.

Something for Everyone

In most of the major MMO releases, including both the successful and the unsuccessful, there’s a single, brutally defined and linear path of content. You level until you can do small-group content, you do small group content and level until you reach max level, you do max-level dungeons, and then you raid. When you have exhausted one of the pre-raid forms of content, you’re done with it; you will rarely if ever see more of that content that’s meaningful to you.

I have a theory about MMO content: If you, as a development studio, had an infinite amount of time and resources to create an endless stream of content for every type of player, you would see a few paths that were highly favored. You’d see solo content, small group (4-6 players), small raid (10-15 players), and massive raid (50-100+ players) standing far and away ahead of the rest as favored types of content. WoW proved that 25-man content was more popular than 40-man content, and furthermore that 10 was at least as popular if not more popular than 25-man. The inevitable argument is that it’s easier to put together the smaller groups, so they’re naturally more popular, which I absolutely agree with. People are more inclined to play when playing is less onerous, and more inclined to do content when the barrier to entry is low. Accessibility is one thing—but accessibility need not mean “easy”, which is the mistake both Tobold and Syncaine point out in their articles.

Imagine if an MMO devotedly created endgame content for the solo player, the small group player, and the raider simultaneously, where you could realistically progress your character via any of those means without being forced to do the others. “Yeah, that’d be great, Ariad, but it’s totally unreasonable—WoW can barely keep up with player progression through content NOW, much less if they supported three or more different paths.” I can hear you thinking it.

Doing the Impossible

Looking at the way WoW and Rift and other MMOs are built, it’s really easy to scoff at the idea of continual content for everyone. Let’s look at the accessibility issue from a fresh slate, though, throw out everything we know about MMO progression, and break the problem down into parts.

1.) We should have enough content for the solo player, the small group player, and the raider to feel satisfied.

2.) We need to be able to expand all of those lines of content in a way that makes sense.

3.) We want content that is challenging to people at various skill levels, without artificial-feeling “modes”.

4.) We need to be able to build all of this without breaking the bank in terms of time or resources.

One of the things that takes a massive amount of time in the production of an MMO is the leveling process. It takes more time than any other form of content, arguably all other forms of content combined. Given this, it should come as no surprise that things suddenly change when players are finished with the leveling process—it’s basically impossible to keep up, especially because players are trained to burn through “leveling” as fast as possible.

So, let’s remove it.

An MMO Without Levels

Defining what content is available by levels causes a number of problems. For players who enjoy the soloing game, when they hit max level the game is functionally over for them—they have no reason to keep playing because the content that they enjoy is now over. They can roll a new character, but a lot of times, the new character is going to be playing through the same content. Not exactly ideal. For players who enjoy raiding, nothing before hitting max level is meaningful in the slightest—they care about raiding and are forced to slog through content for quite some time (days? weeks? months?) before getting to the content they want to play.

Why not cut out the concept of levels entirely, and let people do what they like best immediately upon playing? A short tutorial area may be helpful, but from a development standpoint you’re creating content that’s relevant for every player in your game, theoretically, and this content can be tuned to be quite difficult, because there are *always* alternatives (because you’ve spent the entire leveling-process budget on content that people find useful at max level). Without the artificial constraints of level, advancement becomes a question of resources (money), gear, and unlocked skills and abilities, all of which can be safely unhooked from something like levels. An established raiding guild can start the game and immediately start raiding, with content that’s meaningful to them and worth their while, without any of the intermediate content that they have no interest in.

The nice thing about a setup like this is that you can tune your content to be as difficult as you like—players are always accomplishing something meaningful so making your leveling content easy (so that raiders can get to raid content) or your raiding content easy (so that players who have finished leveling and need something to do don’t get crushed by hard raid content that they aren’t interested in) is entirely unnecessary—players can find the challenges best suited to their skills, without an artificial enforced hierarchy determining what they can and can’t do, and without a need to homogenize difficulty so that people with differing interests can all play.

You don’t need to make raid content for non-raiders, or leveling content for people who hate leveling. Instead, you just have content, and players play what they like.

Rift 1.3 PTS Merged Notes

These are a bit late being posted, came out initially on 6/10/2011 but I wanted to get them up nonetheless.  These are 1.3 PTS notes merged from all of the individual class forum posts. Some pretty major changes, and as a result gnashing of teeth all around the forums.  Time will tell how the changes actually shake out, but this seems to be the starting place.



* Stealth: Fixed a bug with toggling melee auto-attack would cause stealth to break.
* Fixed a bug causing the Class Mechanic UI to display effects from other players instead of just your own (ex: Stormcaller, Necromancer).
* Fixed some effects on pets to be lost when teleporting.
* Fixed an issue causing abilities to fail to work properly against players that had just been stunned while jumping.
* Mana: Changed the way mana-regeneration is calculated to now include diminishing returns. This should have little impact on leveling characters and is only noticeable once higher levels of gear are attained.


* Channeled abilities used in PvP against player targets will now break if the target moves out of the channeling caster’s range, or line-of-sight.
* Valor updates!
* All level 30+ PvP rewards now have Valor.
* Base Valor amounts have been adjusted to account for a significantly larger amount of damage reduction.
– Level 1-40 characters have 10% reduction.
– Level 40-50 characters scale through 11-20% damage reduction.
* Valor now reduces the critical hit damage bonus received from player hits, capping at 50%.
– Reduction scales based on character level.
– Level 50 characters with no additional Valor receive a 33.7% reduction in critical hit bonus damage.
– A full set of rank 2-3 PvP gear (356 Valor) provides a 50% critical hit bonus damage reduction.
* With the increase to base Valor, the amount provided by ranked PvP gear has been adjusted.
– Rank 1/2 sets provide 323 total Valor, for 26.9% damage reduction and 45.4% critical bonus damage reduction.
– Rank 3/4 sets provide 394 total Valor, for 32.8% damage reduction and 50% critical bonus damage reduction.
– Rank 5/6 sets provide 480 total Valor, for 40% damage reduction and 50% critical bonus damage reduction.
* Runes that grant Valor bonuses have their Valor stat values adjusted but still provide the same percentage of damage reduction.


* Armor of Treachery: Corrected the out-of-date tooltip to match the spell’s current functionality.
* Armor of Awakening: The Critical Hit chance increase now displays properly in the Character stat window.
* Divine Pardon: Now reduces threat by the proper amount.
* Lethargy: No longer applies to Harsh Discipline and Aggressive Renewal if you haven’t spent points in it.

* Due to the below changes, characters with Soul Points spent in Justicar will receive a free soul respec.
* Devout Deflection: Now increases Parry by 30-90% of your Spell Power, and Dodge by 20-60% of your Spell Power.
* Doctrine of Valiance: Removed.
* Humility: Now available as a tier 4 branch ability.
* Interdict: Now available as a tier 5 branch ability.
* Resplendent Embrace: Now available as a 32 point root ability.
* Rebuke: Now available as a 44 point root ability. Causes up to 5 enemies within 7 meters of the targeted enemy to run to and attack the Justicar for 3 seconds. Does not affect players or player pets.
* Forced to Kneel: Removed.
* Commitment: Now available as a tier 6 branch ability.
* Thorvin’s Law: New tier 6 branch ability. Causes Precept of Refuge to reduce all magic damage taken by 5-10%. Requires Precept of Refuge and Safe Haven.
* Righteous Mandate: Will no longer be removed when the affected player changes zones.

* Surging Flames: Will no longer be removed when the affected player changes zones.
* Disciple of Flame: Now adds a Spell Power bonus to your Caregiver’s Blessing of 5%, plus an additional 3% per point spent in Purifier above 36. Also adds a Spell Power bonus to all other Purifier absorption shields of 10% plus an additional 7.5% per point spent in Purifier above 36.

* Marked by the Light: Will no longer be removed when the affected player changes zones.

* Tidal Surge: No longer wasted if cast just after Healing Current.
* Healing Current: Corrected mana costs across all ranks.


* Lingering Dust: Now reduces melee and casting speed of the target by 20% for 20 seconds. The buff portion is unchanged.
* Casting speed debuffs will no longer cause Archon auras to gain a casting time if points have been spent to make them instant-cast.
* Burning Purpose: Damage procs are now affected by the Rising Vengeance ability. Reduced base damage dealt by Burning Purpose procs.

* Due to the below changes, characters with soul points spent in Chloromancer will receive a free soul point respec.
* Casting speed debuffs will no longer cause Bloom and Flourish to have a casting time if you have two points in Healing Slipstream.
* Call of Spring: Updated description to better indicate which abilities it affects.
* New Ability: Lifebound Veil – Causes Life damage dealt by the Mage to heal up to 5 allies within 20 meters for 15% of the damage done for 1 hour. All other spell damage dealt by the Mage heals allies for 5% of the damage done. Spells that damage more than one target have healing generated by Lifebound Veil reduced by 80%. Life based damage over time effects heal allies for 25% of the damage done by the first damaging tick of the effect. The Mage cannot receive healing from other Lifebound Veil or Lifegiving Veil effects while affected by this buff. Does not trigger a global cooldown. Cannot be purged.This is obtained after spending 11 points in the Chloromancer soul.
*Synthesis: Now increases healing received from Lifebound Veil by 100%. Reduced cooldown to 10 seconds. This cooldown is shared with Lifegiving Veil and Lifebound Veil. Now applies or refreshes Lifebound Veil when cast. Will no longer be removed when the affected player changes zones.
* Lifegiving Veil: Increased the base single-target Life damage to Healing conversion to 80%. This now shares a 10 second cooldown with Synthesis and Lifebound Veil. This can no longer be purged.
* Natural Fusion: Now increases the Synthesis bonus to heals from Lifebound Veil by 20-60%.
* Essence Surge: Debuff portion of this ability has been removed.
* Destructive Growth: Removed branch ability; the effects are now part of the base Wild Growth ability.
* Wild Growth: Reduced cooldown to 1 minute, increased radius to 25 meters.
* New branch ability – Nature’s Swiftness: Reduces the casting time of Nature’s Fury by 0.5-1 second, and reduces the cooldown of Natural Conversion by 30-60 seconds. Tier 6 branch ability.
* Entropic Veil: Removed cooldown.
* Empowered Veil: Now increases the damage bonus from your Entropic Veil by 13-19%, increases the healing generated by Lifegiving Veil from Life damage to 90-110%, increases healing generated from your Lifebound Veil by Life damage to 20-30% and increases the radius of Lifegiving and Lifebound Veil by 5-15 meters.
* Flourish: Reduced healing done.
* Bloom: Increased healing done.
* New root ability – Natural Healing: Single target heal with a 2.5 second casting time and no additional cooldown. Obtained with 51 points in Chloromancer.
* Circle of Life: Now affects Natural healing.
* Empathic Bond: Increased the mana return to 20% of the damage received by the Synthesis target.
* Nature’s Touch: Reduced base damage of this spell. This spell now triggers an additional heal from Lifebound Veil, instead of Lifegiving Veil.
* New ability – Living Infusion: A passive ability that increases the percentage of Life damage converted to healing by Lifegiving Veil by an additional 0.5%, and Lifebound Veil by an additional 1.5%, for each point spent in Chloromancer above 31. Obtained at 32 points in Chloromancer.

* Due to the below changes, characters with soul points spent in Dominator will receive a free soul point respec.
* Fixed an issue where enemies would sometimes be able to continue casting or using abilities when affected by Mass Exhaustion, Disorient, or Overpowering Will.
* Mass Exhaustion: Fixed a bug in certain builds where Mass Exhaustion would end on all enemies if broken on one affected target.
* Thunder Blast: Will now deal damage and interrupt casting even if the target is immune to the knockback portion of this ability.
* Charged Shield, Mass Charged Shield: Will no longer land on an ally who already has a mage armor buff other than Charged Shield.
* Transference: Now blocks energy and mana regeneration on the target for 7 seconds, up from 5. Damage is now a flat value influenced by Spell Power and is no longer based on the amount of Energy, Power, or Mana drained.
* Microburst: NO longer reduces the damage of Storm Shackle.
* Deny: Reduced cooldown to 10 seconds,
* Mental Shock: Reduced cooldown to 20 seconds.
* Empowered Presence: Now increases the radius of your Arresting and Reflective Presence by 2-6 meters. Increases the chance for your Reflective Presence to reflect spells by 5-15%. Gives Arresting Presence a 33-100% chance to proc an interrupt on up to 10 targets within range, each second.
* Priest’s Lament: Will now interrupt the target when it attempts to silence them. The interrupt will occur even if the target is immune to silence.
* Disorient: Now blasts the enemy with a burst of negative energy, dealing Death damage and leaving them stunned for 3 seconds and confusing them afterwards for up to 30 seconds. Damage done will break the confuse effect. 30 second cooldown.
* Memory Wipe: Now causes a group or raid member to appear less threatening, reducing their threat by 20% with all enemies within a 25 meter radius.
* Overpowering Will, Iron Will: Removed.
* New root ability – Incompetence: Reduces the target’s effectiveness in battle for 15 seconds, increasing the cost of healing abilities by 20% and causing damage done by the target’s abilities to heal up to 5 of the Dominator’s group or raid members within 15 meters. 15 second cooldown. Obtained at 20 points.
* New branch ability – Ineptitude: Increases the healing ability cost debuff of Incompetence by 1-5% and increases the healing done by target’s damaging abilities by 4-20%. Available after spending 20 points in Dominator.
* Chastise: Removed.
* New root ability – Traitorous Influence: Causes the enemy, and up to 5 additional enemies within 15 meters, to suffer Death damage and lose 30 Power or Energy, or Mana equal to 5% of the Dominator’s maximum mana, every time the target uses an ability. This can occur up to 5 times over 15 seconds. Available after spending 30 points in Dominator.
* Draining Presence: Removed.
* New root ability – Mass Betrayal: Generates chaos within the enemy’s ranks, cursing up to 10 enemies within the targeted area. Abilities used by affected enemies cause the target and up to 5 additional targets within 15 meters to suffer Death damage; they also lose 30 Power, Energy, or Mana equal to 5% of the Dominator’s maximum mana each time they use an ability. This can occur up to 5 times over 15 seconds. Available at 51 points in Dominator.
* Fixed a bug where pets spawned by Split Personality were not gaining benefit from the caster’s Spell Power or Spell Critical Hit.
* Split Personality: The pets spawned now take 95% less damage from area effect abilities.

* Planar Expansion: Corrected the description on the final rank of this spell.

* Lightning Field and Charged Field now only check for stacks of Electrified applied by the caster.
* Lightning Field: Reduced base damage of this spell.
* Forked Lightning: Reduced base damage of this spell.
* Static Discharge: Can no longer affect a target more than once per minute.
* The class mechanic UI for Electrify will now update properly if Lightning Field removes a stack of Electrified from an enemy.

* Sacrifice Life: Damage: Can no longer be cast if Empowered Darkness is active.

* We’re still in the process of making Pyromancer changes specific to PVP regarding burst damage. These changes will have little to no impact on PVE.


* Motif of Regeneration: Now considered a spell, and can be Silenced.

* Contra Tempo: Fixed the effect tooltip to indicate that it increases the damage of the next three Combo Point generating abilities.
* Deadly Dance: Fixed a bug where applying Saboteur Charges to the target did not consume the Deadly Dance effect.

* Cloudy Poison: Reduced casting speed debuff to 20%.
* Camouflage: Fixed characters being knocked out of stealth when re-entering a Marksman’s Pedestal.
* Step Into the Shadows: Fixed the cooldown being activated when using any stealth ability.

* Killer Focus: Damage bonus should be correctly applied to ranged weapons.
* Prey on the Weak: Fixed the buff triggered by this ability not being removed when the character dies.

* Shadow Stalk: Fixed a bug where this would sometimes be available while under control effects it cannot break.
* Shadow Assault, Shadow Blitz: Now properly affected by damage modifications from buffs and debuffs.

* Remote Clipping: Fixed a bug where the range of Detonate was being increased by 1 meter instead of 2 meters.


* New ability – Companion’s Call: Makes the next pet summon ability instant-cast.
* Greater Primal Companion: Claw Swipe: Fixed a bug causing this to occasionally only hit one target.
* Fixed some bugs with the icon display for Summon Greater Primal Companion.

* Deadly Strikes: Now increases the damage of attack point builders by an additional amount for each point spent in Champion over 30.
* Bash: To better match up with other interrupts, the cooldown has been increased to 8 seconds and Power cost reduced to 10.

* Warden’s Protection: Will no longer be removed when the affected player changes zones.
* Face Slam: To better match up with other interrupts, the cooldown has been increased to 8 seconds, damage reduced slightly, and Power cost reduced to 10 Power.
* Improved Paladin’s Devotion: Fixed a tooltip bug that reported the wrong amount of cooldown reduction on Paladin’s Devotion. Tooltip now properly shows a cooldown reduction of 10-20 seconds. This is a cosmetic fix only.

* Strike Like Iron: Moved to a 38 point root ability.
* New root ability – Reaping Harvest: Available with 2 points spent in Paragon. Attack point consuming ability that requires dual wielding.
* Path of the Wind: Now requires the Paragon to be dual wielding.
* Way of the Wind: Now triggers a second weapon attack after using any attack ability that requires dual wielding.
* Paired Strike: Now causes the next follow-up strike to critically hit.
* Flinching Strike: To better match with other interrupts, the damage is no longer based on weapon damage, cooldown reduced to 8 seconds, and Power cost has been reduced to 10 Power.
* Bend Like the Reed: In addition to enhancing Parry, now also increases the damage done by attacks that require dual wielding. To support this change and put this in line with similar finishers, the cooldown has been increased to 1 minute.

* Rift Storm: Fixed a bug causing different icons to appear in game compared to the Soul Tree version.
* Fiery Burst: Should now reliably trigger Enhanced Burst.
* Riftwalk: Fixed a bug causing this ability to not break stuns. Now deals damage to the enemy. Due to this there are now multiple ranks of Riftwalk which can be trained at your nearest Warrior trainer!
* Improved Riftwalk: Now enhances the damage dealt by Riftwalk in addition to reducing the cooldown.
* Rift Storm: Reduced cooldown to 2 minutes from 3.
* Avatar of the Rift: Increased the amount of Attack Power contribution.
* Surging Energy: Fixed a case where this could sometimes not trigger.

* Intimidating: The debuff tooltip should now actually work.
* Fixed a typo in the Warlord Soul tooltip.

* Advantage: Tooltip changed to more accurately describe what the ability does; increases the chance to get a critical hit by 1-5%.

* Furious Rage: To better match up with other interrupts, the cooldown has been increased to 8 seconds, and the ability damage is no longer based on weapon damage.

on Crafting Systems

The last few weeks I have been pretty lax with my daily blog post.  My friend Ariad has managed to churn out some posts to fill the void, but in the end I have just been slacking due to some fairly significant deadlines.  I’ve also noticed that when I have been incubating a large post, I seem to get thrown into a minor writers block.  In the past these are marked by the days I have posted patch notes and nothing much else.  However in the post E3 / Pre 1.3 lead up, there isn’t a lot I have felt like reacting to.  After several weeks, I am finally posting this topic.

How Randomness Ruined Crafting For Me and Rift Revived It

I know that is a big subheading, but over the last few weeks I have come to realize a few things about crafting in general.  I have always respected crafting in MMOs but in general I have never been one to hang out at the forge as it were.  It has been a fun diversion, a nice break in the adventuring action at times, but never really something I sought out.  I think a good deal of this is the way that WoW and other games have treated crafting in general.

Crafting has always fascinated me.  The ability to gather up seemingly unrelated bits and through an interface bind them together into something new and usable by my characters.  There almost seems to be an arcane thrill to it, and your serious crafters carry with them an aura of sage respect.  Many folks look to crafting as a profit center for them, but for me it has always been either a nice way to augment my characters gear list, or simply something I can do to make myself useful for the guild as a whole.

The Basics

minecraft-crafting-700x394Above is an image from the game Minecraft.  This pretty much shows the kind of crafting that first enthralled me.  I could not find a really good image of the Everquest crafting system, but for the most part Minecraft is a good facsimile.  EQ featured a system that I can only think of as crafting off the rails.  Later crafting systems became stratified, with certain classes and recipe books, but in the beginning it was just you some gathered materials and a machine.

Fishing was pretty straight forward, and I think everyone in Everquest spent some time on the docks fishing for fun and profit.  However for me at least, the serious crafting came far later.  It was not until I started getting random ore drops from the Orcs in Crushbone that I started to wonder exactly what I could do with them.  Thing is in Everquest, there was no instruction manual.  You never knew whether an item was just there to be sold, or if it could be repurposed in some amazing way to craft something for you.

The crafters in the game, had not only managed to raise some numeric skill, but also figured out and memorized a vast number of patterns in their head.  Later on Allakhazam took a good bit of this trial and error out of the equation as players began to share resources.  However it was still up to you to gather up all the needed materials, and remember how to combine them once you got back in game.

The biggest problem with crafting in Everquest however was that it was an extremely expensive and or time consuming venture.  Materials were either purchased from players or vendors, or farmed in dungeons.  This was not a fast process at all, and the weight of ore made it so you could not carry much of it at any given time.  As a result we would spend hours in zones like Beholders Maze farming the mudmen for hours on end, trying to get enough ore to turn into metal to begin to craft anything at all.

The Big Shift


The biggest problem with Everquest was the acquisition of materials.  The first big shift in crafting was the creation of the “resource node”.  The first game I can remember playing that had unique resource harvesting nodes was Horizons: Empire of Istaria.  Almost as insanely difficult to find as the Everquest shot, was one of Horizons, now renamed Istaria: Chronicles of the Gifted.  The above shot shows a basic resource area, with little bits of rock scattered around the land.

While the game itself had many shortcomings, it had an amazing crafting system.  In addition to resource nodes, Horizons also introduced the concept of crafter only gear, that increased your skill and the ability to carry crafting items.  It also introduced a system of sleds, that you could load up with resources and then drag like a cart back to town.

In addition there were numerous “public works” projects, like building towns and bridges that opened up new content areas to the players.  The big problem however is, crafting was extremely tedious.  You spent literal hours harvesting materials in the field, then dragging it back to town to craft components, then additional hours spent applying them to the projects.  Building bridges for example, took literal weeks of players crafting nonstop to create.  While the game play was very unique, and intricate, it was also a bit dull.

The Mini Game

Crafting2 While extremely detailed, crafting in Horizons quickly became a chore and after the first few times doing anything it really lacked much fun.  With the release of Everquest II, I honestly feel the developers were trying to take this concept and make it fun.  As a result they introduced what I can only call the crafting mini-game.

On the right is an image of an item being crafted in Everquest II.  As you started crafting you reached certain milestones, each producing a slightly different version of what you were attempting.  Each step you managed to reach, produced a higher quality item.  If the item was part of a multi-step process, it ultimately determined the maximum quality of the final product.

As the player crafted an item, they would encounter various events that would impede their progress.  If you look below in the window you see the event “Loss of Concentration”.  Each crafting profession gave the player a set of new abilities for their action bar, each with an icon  that would correspond with a certain kind of event.  To counter “Loss of Concentration”, the player would mash the corresponding button on their hotbar.

While in some ways this made crafting seem a bit more like an epic struggle versus your materials… the realization was that ANY time you wanted to create even the most simple item, you had to deal with this interface.  Items never “grayed out” and became truly trivial.  There was always a chance of getting something that you couldn’t use from the process.  Over time they streamlined the process to reduce the number of useless items that got created in the process, and removed many of the 5 or 6 part processes to craft an item.  However it still retained the sluggishness of knowing, any time you needed to craft something for a guild member you were committing yourself to 10-20 minutes worth of slogging through the crafting mini-game.

Dumbing it Down

ptr-al-epicgemcd The release of WoW was game changing on all levels, and crafting was no different.  Prior to WoW the trend with crafting seemed to be to make it more and more intricate, giving players the option to make crafting their primary game play experience.  WoW went completely the different direction.  Everything about the crafting process was streamlined compared to its predecessors.

WoW kept the resource gathering system that was node based, but managed to greatly streamline the item creation process.  Sure there were very painful leveling experiences that involved lots of odd items (leatherworking I am looking at you), but for the most part the process was straight forward. 

You chose a gathering profession, and a crafting profession that complimented each other.  Gathering collected the items, and crafting spit out the finished items.  As the game moved on the leveling of these professions became even more streamlined.  However from day one, wow leaned on a crutch that would ultimately become the source of all of my frustration with the system.

Randomness Sucks

For some reason, Blizzard developers LOVE random chance.  If this were used primarily for those nice to have items, it wouldn’t be so bad, however every major crafting recipe relied solely on random chance.  Instead of making resources hard to get to, or drop off difficult to kill monsters, they placed a random loot game into the equation.  This was seen in the need to find the holy grail ore node like Khorium or Titanium, or the need to skin and herb for those annoyingly rare Arctic Fur, and Fel Lotus (or any Lotus for that matter).

There are many ramifications with a system like this.  Firstly, the rare must have items become ridiculously inflated in price in all of the markets.  This was especially noticeable with the rare Lotus drops, due to the fact that every raid on the server needed multiple each week to craft flasks.  Secondly there is a social cost to the random element, especially with the rare ore spawn.  Players will do anything and everything in their power to beat others to these spawns. 

The policy of fastest fingers win, ultimate leads to frustration on the whole.  Ultimately, I had reached a point where I really had no interest in crafting.  It was something I did, because ultimately as a raider I felt like I needed the various crafter only bonuses.  However once max level, I rarely did any crafting for fun.  Doing the daily quests, just seemed like skull drudgery due to the massive contention for resources.

The other major point of frustration with the WoW crafting system is actually two fold.  Firstly crafting has always been something you could do while leveling to augment your gear, and ultimately lead to a more enjoyable leveling process.  Problem was, that in general, past the first 75 levels of a trade skill, the items you could craft were greatly under your usable level range.  On top of this, there was the annoyance that very rarely could you ever craft a complete set of armor for any given range.  You could get one or two pieces, but never a full suit like most other games had.

Restoring My Faith

Due to the amount of loathing that I had built up towards crafting in general, I never really messed with it much during the first few betas of Rift.  Honestly it wasn’t until guild members started talking about being able to create weapons they couldn’t equip for several levels, that it peaked my interest.  So when I finally managed to start crafting during the head start, I was amazed at how enjoyable I found the process.

There have been complaints from those used to the more complex systems, that Rift crafting is too simple.  However for me, coming from the streamlined system of WoW, I appreciated that fact.  As I began leveling, I was impressed with the ease of resource gathering, and the ability to craft full sets of gear for any particular level range.  In addition, like my guild members talked about, I was able to craft items that I would grow into as I leveled rather than those that were of no real use to me.  This alone fixed several of my annoyances with crafting systems in general.

However, the big fix was still to come.  As I was harvesting copper nodes, I noticed I got a quest item: Unusual Ore.  When I took it into town, the Mining trainer gave me a quest to gather up 10 tin bars  and 10 copper bars.  Upon turning in, the trainer gave me a recipe for crafting bronze bars.  Instead of relying on random chance, all of the rare crafting materials in the game are similar to Bronze Bars, being an “alloy” of two existing items.  This pretty much knocks down my other major problem with the WoW system, it removes most of the randomness on a daily basis.

Universal Currency

One of the other nice systems that rift introduced was a universal crafting currency.  Artisan’s Marks are gained from doing work orders in the crafting center of your faction’s capitol city.  These are then used to purchase various “nice to have” patterns, especially the ones that use the rare materials.  You can level from 1-300 in any of the crafting professions without ever using these patterns, however they unlock often times higher quality items.

Having a universal crafting currency was a massive step in the right direction.  In WoW it became extremely frustrating that there was a unique currency for each profession, that could only be gained by doing daily quests.  With a universal currency, you can pick and choose which professions patterns to purchase.  On my rogue I am doing 2 rune crafting and 2 outfitter quests a day, but as a result I am saving up the currency to buy those expensive outfitter patterns. 

Where the system becomes counter intuitive however, is with the crafting Plaques.  Basically crafting plaques undo a lot of the good of having the universal system.  When you complete master level work orders, you have a random chance of gaining a plaque for your specific trade skill.  These plaques are used to purchase the most sought after epic quality patterns.  There is no construct in game that allows you to trade one flavor of plaque for another.  It seems to me, that Trion would have gone with a single crafting plaque currency rather than tying things down again to specific professions.

Ultimate System

As a whole, I can’t really call the Rift system the ultimate crafting system, but for my purposes it works.  Crafting for me is something that I like to use as downtime.  I go out adventuring in the world, gathering materials, and then go back to town and craft a few things up.  It acts as a much needed pause in the action, before going out again to kill more baddies.  However I have heard from others that they really miss the level of intricacy from systems like Everquest II. 

Problem is I am not sure where the happy medium would lay.  Adding complexity also adds to the amount of time that a player is forced to sit at the crafting machine.  For most of us this is not really a win situation.  In EQ2 I loathed having to craft anything for a guild member, because not only did it mean porting back to a central location, but also tying up a good amount of time that I could be off doing cool stuff.  With rift, I am always game to knock out whatever is needed, because I know that once the materials are pooled I can do a combine in a matter of seconds and be on my way.

I hope given time, additional patterns can be added that are more complex that will help give the craft-centric players more of a sense of ownership in the process.  As a whole, there really are not that many plaque patterns to gather.  I know on my armor crafter I have already purchased everything available, and simply do the dailies for money and the hope that eventually new patterns will be introduced.  However were the plaques trade-able I would be gladly handing them off to guild members to help them complete their sets.

Quality of Items

My other complaint is the fact that without dungeon drops, you cannot create high end gear at all.  In other games, I am used to those rare item patterns being equivalent to the first tier of dungeon/raid gear.  Problem is, that in Rift the epic crafted items are as a whole below Tier 1 dungeon level.  The player funnels all these resources into an item, and quickly finds out that it will be replaced the first time they run an expert dungeon. 

As a result, one of the big complaints is that none of the gear crafters can create is really valuable and worth selling.  Personally I have never used crafting as a profit center in games, but I can definitely see this as a problem.  Crafted epics as a result are becoming the stock and trade for secondary characters, and thoroughly useless to mains.  I am hoping that one of the patches manages to buff these up to at least Tier 1 level, giving them a slightly longer shelf life and worth more.

Long Ramble

I realize this post is extremely long, far longer than most of mine.  However I wanted to dig into the various systems before arriving at Rifts.  I like most of what I see in the Rifts crafting, and it has like the subtext said revived my interest in crafting as a whole.  I almost always have a stockpile of materials in my bank, and that is something I never could have said back in previous incarnations.  I can definitely see some weaknesses here and there, and some things I don’t like, but overall I think it managed to strike a “happy medium”.  Also anyone who actually managed to make it to the end of this post has some serious fortitude.

Trion’s Blitzkrieg

Apologies for the recent lack of posts.  I’ve found myself irrationally tired lately, and to make matters worse I have not been sleeping great only making issues worse.  On top of it all, my Grandfather has been in the hospital, so not exactly prime time to be thinking about blogging.  I have a half written post on crafting, that I need to find the train of thought to go finish at some point.

Trion’s Master Plan

With all the hype surrounding the game world that E3 brings on, I had a realization yesterday.  Trion for me at least was this juggernaut that came from nowhere.  I never really followed any information on the company, and I had never heard of them prior to getting into one of the Rift beta events. 

All that said, it felt to me like this company stepped out of the shadows and right out of the gate assumed a position of dominance over the MMO market.  Thing is, it finally hit me that Trion is not just gunning down World of Warcraft with Rift, but instead making a push at the entire Blizzard game structure.  Trion has fairly quietly been aligning to strike against each of their core game markets.

The Rise of Rift


The fact that Rift was aligned to directly compete with WoW has been evident since the first marketing blows.  With slogans like “We’re Not in Azeroth Anymore” and the more recent “Join Our Horde” they have very overtly been throwing jabs here and there at the big blue giant.  They managed to pull off a near flawless launch on a bigger scale than we have seen in years, and immediately followed it up with an uppercut of constant content updates. 

I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating, in the amount of time it took Blizzard to release the 4.1 patch Trion managed to launch Rift and release 3 content updates and around 30 hotfixes.  The 4.1 patch itself was comprised primarily of recycled content, whereas the Rift updates have introduced numerous raids, and a slew of new world content in the form of rifts and events.  This level support is a roundhouse to the slow and unresponsive player Blizzard environment.

Like always there was an initial drop after the opening sales, but since then the Rift player base has stabilized and continues to grow.  Earlier this week Trion released that they are nearing the 1 million sell-through mark, meaning units actually sold in various outlets and not just shipped and encumbered.  While some of those sold only stayed for the first month, there has been a serious dent in the available player pool by this newcomer.  Blizzard itself came clean, stating that they are down 600,000 players, so it isn’t hard to see where a large chunk of them have arrived.

End of Nations


What I am coming to realize however is that Rift is just the first strike in a greater war against the Blizzard/Activision bottom line.  Quietly gaining player focus is the new MMO-RTS title End of Nations.  Similar to the Trion strategy with Rift, they brought on veterans from the RTS industry, Petroglyph Games.  The company is made up of mostly Westwood Employees, some of which notably worked on the grandfathers of the genre:  Command & Conquer, and Dune II.

End of Nations itself is shaping up to be a game that feels very familiar to those who have played Command & Conquer in appearance but taking it on a much larger scale.  All indications at this point make this title look to be another AAA RTS title.  It brings to the field a server infrastructure that seems more scalable than that of the Blizzard standard in


All these things add up to place this squarely on the field as direct competition for the Starcraft players attention.  If this manages to ship and release as smoothly as Rift did, and have a similar level of player support and content updates then I can see End of Nations pulling away a good number of Blizzard loyalists in the process.  I am not a huge player of the genre, so I may be wrong, but having played through Starcraft I can see this title drawing away the old Westwood fans.

The Defiance Experiment


So far we can see clear lines on the battlefield placing Trion in direct competition with Blizzard in the MMO and RTS market, but wait… there is more.  Trion in additon to all the other work, is teaming up with the Syfy channel to embark on a unique experiment.  They are creating a multiplatform MMO-FPS title that will somehow be linked to a TV Show.  Supposedly the show will effect the gameplay, and the players themselves will ultimately effect the TV show.  I will be honest, it is somewhat hard to really wrap my head around the ramifications at this point.

What we do know however is that Defiance is a third person mmo shooter, set on a future version of the earth transformed by decades of conflict.  There isn’t alot of detail yet on the title, but like every company they state they are looking to produce a AAA shooter.  Ultimately the success of the title will rely on so many issues, such as the ability to merge console and pc game play into one cohesive environment.  Many titles have promised this, *cough* DC Universe *cough*, but so far not a single one has delivered.

Why this is interesting particularly within the scope of this post is the fact that Blizzard also is working on their very own MMO-FPS title, dubbed Project Titan.  Funny thing is, there was another Project Titan… the ill fated Ensemble Studios Titan, which was the Halo MMO.  MMO Culture gives the basic rundown of the theory, but the quick version is:  some of the disbanded Ensemble staff joined Blizzard Entertainment, Activision and Bungie announce exclusive worldwide partnership, and this document is leaked showing a Blizzard release schedule with Project Titan on it.


With Blizzard now working on an MMO-FPS, this places Trion yet again competing directly.  From all indication however, it seems likely that with a TV show tie in, this will probably be coming out well before Blizzard’s normally sluggish schedule (which is also shown on schedule as late 2014).  How many years have we been waiting for Diablo III for example?  If Trion can beat Blizzard to the MMO-FPS market, and deliver the same kind of performance they have shown possible with Rift it will definitely soften the later’s potential market holding.

Wrapping Up

Basically that is three major titles with two in hardcore development at the same time from Trion.  Each title seems to be directly aligned to take down a Blizzard market.  It honestly leaves me wondering, if we will soon see information about a similar title to take on the Diablo III market.  I am just still floored that this company, that I had not heard of prior to Rift has come out of the gate and is presenting serious competition.  I look forward to seeing more information on the above to come out during e3.  Hopefully Trion will continue to delivery quality products and keep up with the same level of support.