Random thought as I wrap up a nice session in RIFT – not only is the above screenshot characteristically gorgeous (as is so much about the game) but it also represents something I’m quickly coming to expect from Trion – attention to detail.
Here’s why: running around the Defiant “starter zone” I’ve quickly gotten in the habit of letting the Explorer in me determine where I go and what I do. There is so much “off the beaten path” in RIFT that it is well worth the time and effort to strike out in any direction and see what one finds. Not only are there Artifact collections (I love shinies, too!) but there are the rifts themselves, Footholds, Invasions, and I’ve actually found small “quest hubs” in areas where I wasn’t explicitly pointed. A serious departure from what I’ve come to expect in a themepark game; its getting to the point that I’m not sure I can call RIFT a themepark game anymore.
Nonetheless, I was out gathering for a quest (yes, of the ‘Kill X of Y’ variety) when I spotted the above statue, which is actually quite massive, off in the distance. I get to the shoreline and see that it’s sitting on its own little island, but it definitely looks reachable. Off I go.
When I got out to it…nothing. Not a thing. No mobs aside from trash, no encounters, no Point of Interest, not even a “You’ve Discovered: Big Statue” which RIFT flashes when you find a new area. And you know what?
It made me happy. It was a great little moment; I wasn’t disappointed in the least! Because it shows an attention to detail from Trion that is sadly uncommon, even rare, these days. They didn’t put something that big out there for any other reason than that someone felt it should be there. Who knows, maybe a quest will send me back out there, or a piece of lore will be revealed that gives it some context or explanation. But not today. Today, Drannos discovered a beautiful statue, facing out to see, on a tiny island, which did nothing for me besides give me something to find. And that’s refreshing. It’s not about Achievements or Deeds or Badges for Trion (though they have those too), it’s about building a rich, immersive world for their players.
No offense to Turbine and the others, but I’ve been spoon-fed content for so long that I forgot what it was to really explore. To wander. To find things for myself. So much of what I do in other games has an ulterior motive – you don’t go anywhere or do anything that doesn’t pay off in some way; landmarks as Deeds and killing for Traits. Sure, sometimes I get to further a story; there are some truly amazing sights and experiences in all of these games. But sometimes we just need to play the hero. I’m not slaying Orcs because they threaten anyone, but only because 250 of them are an item on a checklist and when I cross them off, I get a stat boost. A small one. And on we go to the next item…
What about discovery for the sake of discovery? And the sheer fun of playing in a virtual world?