Thursday, February 17, 2011

Why You Don't Like RIFT

I hate how I began my previous review of RIFT.

I actually have a bit of a confession to make. I don’t actually hate RIFT, but don’t feel let down. I don’t like it a whole lot. To be honest, I led with an ant-rift theme in an attempt to see how many extra blog hits I could pull in.

I know, I know. You feel duped. Angry. Maybe you’re hovering over the ‘back’ button on your browser. Stop! Bear with me, gentle reader, and hear me out. I do sincerely apologize for the ruse.*

I did previously review RIFT, and stated, quite honestly, that I hated it. I also said it looked like shit. I also noted that post was one of my most viewed blogs (at the time). Reading SynCaine’s post yesterday reminded me of that. I have been in the RIFT Alpha, under a Non Disclosure Agreement, since shortly after that post and have remained silent on the game ever since.

Well, the tongue-gloves are off, because now I’m talking! I’m not too worried, since the game is now in open beta, and I am not revealing any Alpha secrets (get away from the back button damn you!) so I am not, in fact, betraying my sacred agreement.

The other main motivation for this particular article was a post I ran into on The author was asking what he had to do to like RIFT. He stated that he had tried various builds, quests, and warfronts, but just didn’t seem to be liking the game. Responses included different builds to try, and suggestions he simply move on. If he didn’t like playing RIFT, maybe he simply didn’t like playing RIFT. Seems simple, doesn’t it?

My intention is not to make fun of the original poster (and that's why I haven't linked to it), and in fact I really do empathise with him. When the RIFT hype started I was sucked into that great swirling vortex and pre-ordered: boldly choosing thee 6-month founders subscription rate. I joined the beta, and then, for reasons of chance and luck, got an invite into the alpha testing. And got muzzled.

I’ve read a lot of reviews about the game since then. Many of the authors on my blog-roll have talked about it, and quite a few of them are quite excited about it. I have sat on the sidelines wondering the same thing as that original poster on the forum: why don’t I like this game? And I think I have the answer.

Let me tell you a real-life story (stop groaning, it won’t be so bad). Where I grew up, 19 years old was the legal drinking age, so at 19, I did what everyone else did and went to the bars.

Now I have to explain to the UK readers that North America as a whole doesn’t really have a Pub Culture. It is starting to change but The Pub, as you know it didn’t exist for me back then. The bars weren’t exactly clubs, as you know them, either. They were just bars that played whatever rock/dance music that was radio-popular at the time (or country and western in the case of the country bars). The ‘DJ’ was just a dude playing a single song off a tape, or eventually, a cd (yes, I did say tape). The only alternative were lounges attached to restaurants (yuck) or sports bars which are the same world over and we are all familiar with (televisions all tuned to some yawn-fest, or worse, multiple yawn-fests).

I tried them all, and for the most part, I hated them. I especially hated those loud, testosterone-fuelled bars where the test of your ‘manhood’ was how many drinks you could consume and how many chicks you could pick up. I was quite good at the first, but not so good at the second. I hated going, but all my friends went and I always felt conflicted. I didn’t like going and when I went I didn’t have fun, but I always felt that I should like it, and that I should be having fun.

Fast forward a couple decades and I can tell you that I know myself a lot better now (wisdom of the ancients and all that). I know why I hated those places. There are two reasons.

1. They actually, in all fairness, fucking sucked.
2. They weren’t my scene.

The first of my reasons is very subjective (and pardon my language). I am sure some of the people there genuinely had a good time, and enjoyed that social format. I don’t begrudge them that (now.....).

My second reason is very objective, however. Those bars, no matter how full, or how many of my friends were there, just weren’t what I was (or am) into. After extensive traveling, living abroad, and experiencing ‘other’ ways to socialize, I now realize that I’m a pub guy. I like a nice, somewhat dirty, wooden pub, with real ale, a blazing fire (God I miss Ireland sometimes), and a few good friends. No friends? No problem, I’ll read the paper. No paper? Whatever, I can drink in silence or chat with the barman (silence preferred in most cases).

We all have, both in real-life and in-game, zones of comfort. I am comfortable in a slightly quieter setting with fewer people, and I am at my most amiable in this situation. I have fun, and enjoy the people I’m with. All those years I ‘failed’ to pull (pick someone up) in those bars wasn’t because  there was something wrong with me, it was because I wasn’t comfortable in that roll or setting. Given the fact that She Who Will Be Named Later and I had our first kiss in a pub, it seems like that particular setting works best for me on a lot of levels (errrrrr, that’s not to say, darling, if you should be reading this, that you have anything to worry about when I go to the pub tonight to read the paper.......).

Love blooms in the most unlikely of places....not much to look at but this, is, in fact, one of Dublin's best pubs (for those in the know) and where my wife and I shared our first kiss (I know, sappy and gross, but it's our anniversary next week  so I'm scoring points!)

RIFT, for me, is much like those bars of old I described earlier. I don’t mean to say, “it sucks”, but rather that it just isn’t for me. And that’s okay. I felt the pull of RIFT. I want to like it, and it really is a decent game. I think Trion is doing an amazing job- they seem to be responding to player needs, providing quality customer service, and genuinely trying to ensure their game is as good as it can be. That is commendable. After years of abuse at the hands of EA/Mythic in Warhammer it’s so nice I want to cry. At the very least they deserve some support and I do not regret my pre-purchase in any way.

If I could travel back in time and visit my young self, suffering through a socially-torturous Friday night at a crappy bar, hoping to God he could go home soon, I’d simply say: Take off mate. This isn’t for you, and that’s okay. I’d also, of course, pass on some sporting results he could drop off at the bookies which, conveniently is usually near a pub-or is actually in the pub as was the case in one of my locals. (God bless you, Ireland, for providing me with both the dole, and a bookie/pub right across from my sign-in spot. Your kindness will not soon be forgotten!).

My point then (finally)? If you don’t like RIFT, that’s okay. The reasons why you don’t like it might not even matter, and the fact that loads of people are going to play and enjoy it, doesn’t really matter one way or another, now does it?

*Sincere apologies offered by the author may not, in fact, be apologies, nor sincere, and the author would like to sincerely apologize for any misunderstandings arising from said apologies. Sincerely.


  1. Great write up! :)

    It echoes my sentiments, except I would have used an alcohol imbibing analogy. :D

  2. Ya, I guess I feel just like you described- it's good but I'm not emotionally invested. It may transpire, that in a few months, we are leading one of the top raiding guilds and mad about the game, but we'll see ;)

  3. I think taking a stance, while at the same time keeping an open mind in order to allow a game to grow on you if it can, is admirable. It's the wild fluctuations from love to hate to love to hate - which can be found elsewhere on other blogs - that I find disingenuous.

    And I’m not sure why the blogsphere has developed this opinion that being disappointed and ambivalent towards a game is not valid: there seems to be this unwritten rule which says that if you don’t like a game then you must hate it until your head aches and your eyeballs dry out from holding a tooth-clenched stare of pure rage for slightly too long.

    I think being slightly mystified and unsure as to what all the fuss is about is a perfectly reasonable position to take.

  4. Thanks! It could also be a product of being really excited by Warhammer and having that go so terribly wrong as well :) Once bitten, twice shy and all that. Either way I'm going to play it for a bit and see how it goes.

    I love the 'tooth-clenched stare of pure rage' line....I may use as often as possible in RL for the next week.

  5. That's pretty much how I felt too. It's a great game, it's just not my type of game.