Tobold's Blog
Friday, March 04, 2011
Does Rift prove that Cataclysm is too hard?

Do you like to play with others in a MMORPG? As you know, World of Warcraft and Rift use two very different models for cooperative PvE: In WoW a raid leader carefully selects who to take on a raid, because if he takes on an underperformer, he risks the whole venture to fail. Thus much of the "social" game of World of Warcraft consists of weeding out the underperformers, of separating the "cans" from the "cannots". This takes place everywhere, from guilds, to trade chat, to pickup groups. In Rift there is not such selection. People join groups by simply showing up and can even join other's pre-formed groups that aren't full.

Reading around the blogosphere about people's experiences while playing Rift, you will notice two things: Most players are extremely enthusiastic about Rift and how it handles playing together. And secondly, nobody is even mentioning the word "challenge". The sort of gameplay where you have to perfectly execute a boss strategy or wipe repeatedly not only doesn't appear to exist in Rift (yet?), but also nobody appears to be missing it. Instead Rift players are talking about the possibility of Rift being the fabled "WoW killer".

That opens up the question whether World of Warcraft, and especially Cataclysm, did it wrong. Certainly the most hardcore players are not only advancing at a reasonable pace, but they are also extremely happy that the majority of players is *NOT* advancing at the same pace. To feel elite, you not only need to succeed, you also need the majority of the rest to fail. Cataclysm certainly delivers on that account. But that catering to the leet comes at a huge price: Cataclysm has made World of Warcraft an even less social game. I was stunned when recently somebody made a snide remark of some of my gear "not cutting it in heroics" in a guild group! Our guild used not to be exclusive like that, but rather took extra care to include everybody. And there are a lot of people either quitting WoW in frustration, or quitting their current guild in favor of one advancing faster, in spite of the new guild perks system that was supposed to prevent guild-hopping.

At least for now, Rift's "you advance just by showing up" model appears to be wildly more popular and fun than World of Warcraft "show up, be judged on your gear and/or performance, and then get kicked" model of cooperative gameplay. Of course you can insert a Gevlonesque comment here about how of course the morons and slackers prefer a game in which they don't have to perform. But take that comment and remove all the negative judgement from it, and it becomes: "Most players prefer a game in which they don't have to constantly justify their performance". And that is a truth which Blizzard would do well to ponder. They might not get "killed", but losing a couple of millions of players to Rift, and then potentially SWTOR, certainly hurts. Given the difference in available budgets, it is remarkable how well "inclusive" Rift is doing against "exclusive" World of Warcraft.
Pfft rifts harder that cata in the starting area!

Its been a long time since i felt at risk of dieing in WoW, but my rift character faced more of a challenge solo in the starting zone than any of my WoW characters did in most of their leveling -.-
Well, at least in the public groups, there's an incentive to try one's best because your performance influences your reward, but even terrible players will contribute and get a reward, so there's no real disdain - not until you start instancing with people who didn't go far enough into their tank tree to get the tank stance that lets them tank, or into a warfront with four bards.
It seems to me that Rift is still too young to be challenging. The earliest folks are just now getting to the expert dungeons, at least that I've seen.

Did folk talk about how challenging Cata is in the first week (or week and a half depending on your viewpoint)?

Two things I do wish Blizz would implement are the AoE looting and the ease of public groups. Being able to click the + sign over a pc's head is very handy.
Im trying Rift at the moment and doubt it will be WOW killer, although the timing of Rift's release date seems perfect and initial numbers look good for Trion.

The fact that you can join a group at will is something they copied from WAR. Big difference between these two is that Rift is perfectly stable (at least on my system) and seems well polished. I guess Rift is more suited to my extremely casual playstyle. I dont fire up a game to meet all kinds of requirements and performance benchmarks, which seems to be what WOW is all about right now.

Mind you, on the official Rift forums (which normally should be avoided at all costs, like those of any mmo) there are players crying for performance indicators (like dps meters) under the guise of wanting to weed out underachievers but perhaps more so to acquire a tool for measuring their e-peen.

What Trion will do with those and other whines (such as perceived class (un)balance - how that is even possible with that many combinations i wonder) will probably decide the future of their game.
I have been in 5 leveling dungeons (not 50 yet to try experts - Heroics) and they do require careful pulls of trash and learning tactics of several bosses (not every boss though). Overall, I can't say it's any easier than WoW.
But once again, i haven't touched Rift's heroics, so maybe they're less challenging than WoW's.
You are comparing Rift to WoW raiding while you should compare it to WoW leveling. Rift has no need for an endgame yet, as everyone is leveling, experiencing new content.

You can always include one more player in a leveling group and GAIN. If I can kill wolves 10x faster than randomguy and group up with him, I have to kill 9 wolves (as he kills 1) so my questing becomes 10% more efficient. I don't think ANYONE would decline a group invite for random questing. Complete inclusiveness.

But no one talks about WoW leveling. It's referred "the grind". Soon jumping on a random rift will become boring and "leveling/gearing" grind.

Then what?
I've long been saying that the focus on 'challenge', 'skill' and in the end 'balance' is a disadvantage for WoW.

I blame it on (unimmersive) fixed group sizes, but, of course, you can also solve it with content that scales with the number of players.

However, it remains to be seen whether Rift can keep players busy with any sort of endgame. Cataclysm, too, is a very casual friendly game until max level. Of course, it also is a singler player game during that time.
Isnt it a bit early to compare, after all few of us have gotten to the level cap yet, let along Expert (Rift Heroic) dungeons.

For us rank and file players, the levelling up experiance is much like every other MMO, excepting the RIFT mechanics.

My experiance of instances so far is based on doing the first 2 guardian ones. Both were fun, the first being significantly more spectacular than most other MMO instances I've seen. Diffilculty wise I can't see that they are any more diffilcult than doing instances at low level in WoW.

Lets see how end game expert instances and 20 man raids fare before making judgements.
@gevlon "I don't think ANYONE would decline a group invite for random questing"

I've had my group status in Rift set at "Private - Invitation Only" since launch and it will stay that way. I like to read my quests, think about them and take them at a steady pace. I don't want to get through them faster - generally they go faster than I'd like anyway. Also, I almost always try to combine questing with gathering materials for crafting and earning money, so adding random players at their, not my, means potential issues over loot.

That said, having the OPTION to open the group when I want to open it is extremely welcome. And the big public groups for Rifts are excellent. As for this being the levelling-up process and Rifts becoming just another gear-grind, that leaves out two factors.

Firstly Rifts are just plain fun to do. Yes there are rewards, but there is also just a huge buzz from charging around in a big gang with explosions going off everywhere and lots of shouting and yelling. Kids don't get bored of playign games like this for the sheer fun of it and doing Rifts is that kind of exuberant play-for-the-sake-of-play.

Secondly, it's really, really easy to get drawn into the storyline of a world under threat of extinction. When Rifts or Invasions pop up and threaten your quest hubs and towns it's very easy to feel an actual desire, even obligation, to stop what you're doing and STOP THEM.

Of course, I am playing on an RP server so ymmv.

Whether all of this is enough to unsettle, let alone unseat, WOW remains to be seen, but I don't doubt that this kind of commitment-free inclusiveness is going to be coming to a lot of MMOs near you just as soon as they can work out how to incorporate it.
Rifts and Cataclysm have taught me one thing: that I miss the original (long and involing) leveling experience in WoW. I didn't stop playing Cata due to diificulty. I got my main to 85 and just couldn't motivate myself to do a gear grind again.

I doubt Rift will get me to do a gear grind either, but Telara does have the advantage of being a fresh new world to explore so I definitely plan on redoing levelling on a few alts.
Lots of people in my Rift guild are already in he expert dungeons, and doing fine in them. Maybe they are just super uber. I dunno.

Since Rift allows (nay, encourages) you to respec on the fly, it's easy enough to add more healing when you need it, more dps when you need it, more tanking when you need it. People aren't locked into roles.

All the dungeon bosses I have seen so far have been scripted encounters, some fairly complex. There was one encounter in Foul Cascade last night where you had to keep in melee range of one boss, behind another boss, and only attack a third boss when one of the others was invulnerable -- nothing too hard for a WoW player. We got it first try because our group had already coalesced around the perfect specs for the dungeon.

The game is young. I am certain in a year or two, the Rift community will be just as bad as the WoW community. I don't know how Trion can possibly stop it.
Honestly a few things have put wow into the state it's in.

The armory.....I predicted it day one when it came out. My friends all go mad at me because I was being negative. The armoury was the absolute worst thing the developers ever did.

Now Guild rep.....I predice It'll cause just as many problems. If you assume people are rational it'll work find. If you accept that they are not then you can see that people will feel that all the rep they've "grinded" is thiers. They'll refuse to leave guilds when they get tired of them or goals change. Drama will insue. Then people will get kicked, guilds will get sold etc and people will freak out becuase they had thier "virtual stuff" stolen.

The guild rep system will make guilds less fun and less friendly.
Honestly a few things have put wow into the state it's in.

The armory.....I predicted it day one when it came out. My friends all go mad at me because I was being negative. The armoury was the absolute worst thing the developers ever did.

Now Guild rep.....I predice It'll cause just as many problems. If you assume people are rational it'll work find. If you accept that they are not then you can see that people will feel that all the rep they've "grinded" is thiers. They'll refuse to leave guilds when they get tired of them or goals change. Drama will insue. Then people will get kicked, guilds will get sold etc and people will freak out becuase they had thier "virtual stuff" stolen.

The guild rep system will make guilds less fun and less friendly.

Rifts is new and hasn't made any of these major social mistakes. Of course it's better.
rift does only prove that public quests mechanics are succeful, essentially allowing you to play a single person game with human "npcs".

We'll see after the leveling stops and the dust settles. I could well turn out that wows turn hyper-casual and rift semi-hardcore if the business model resolve that way!
I think you've overlooked some of the factors which have diminished the "small society" that WoW used to have: Cross-faction everything, which meant that nobody knew anyone anymore. Dramatic scaling of gear above the level cap, which meant that personal player skill became a poor second to an automated gear score.

The WoW model isn't necessarily broken, merely out of balance: Players need to feel like they might be able to play like a handful of uber-elite guilds, just like the masses of (especially US) society think they might be rich one day. Cataclysm's failing here is that too many of the plebs have realised they're never going to "be rich".

Rift's model may be more pleasant socially, but one wonders how long it can last: Ultimately, if everyone is equal, regardless of contribution, why bother?

(And that question is what makes this topic so interesting...)
As many here have already stated, it is too early to predict whether Rift will kill wow. However, their launch so far has been successful -- They are keeping the wow tourists so far and earning positive brand recognition. To date, no other MMO has been able to do that.

If they manage to keep this momentum going, they will reach a critical mass of players who do not want to leave the game because of all the time they invested. When that happens, they will have a winner. Then the myth of wow unassailability will be dispelled!
WoW is living on borrowed time. Most of my friends and guild members have left Warcraft permanently and have no intention of ever going back. I'm happy to be running with a great semi-casual kin in LOTRO. No stress, no drama, no Gearscore. Just fun and good times.
I think there has been an audience for a good wow-like game for some time.

I remember in the 90s new games were just normal. You bought a game, finished it (or got bored) then bought another one.

MMOs haven't really changed this desire for newness, they've simply raised the bar high enough that most new games don't reach it. However people still want new, we just don't want new plus bad.

What Rift does is emulate the feel of WoW in 2005. I was very enthusiastic in those days and got server first Gnomeregan and SM and Maraudon and my playing partner got the server first Gurubashi arena trinket (got by pvping for a chest once every 3 hours). Those were awesome days in WoW but now all that stuff is old and used up. I can't go to Stranglethorn Vale and have fun like we used to when the highest level on the server was 40.

WoW has been there for the taking for a long time, this is the first time something has come along that is on a par with those fond old early WoW memories. It just needed someone to do it.
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Rift has been out for a week and a half. I think it's really hard to make any legitimate comparison between an expansion with almost half a year of shelf time vs. a new game with virtually no communal endgame experience.
"But no one talks about WoW leveling. It's referred "the grind". Soon jumping on a random rift will become boring and "leveling/gearing" grind."

You obviously have not played the game. Play game then make judgments.

Otherwise you are an M&S game reviewer.
Is Rift even out yet?

Maybe its an awesome game, maybe not. I had a total blast with WAR for the first month. I enjoyed Age of Conan for the first month. Let's let the novelty wear off a bit before we crown Rift as the best thing ever. At this point people we're talking about how awesome WAR pq's were... and yeah. We saw how that went.

Mass exodus, all my friends left for X, WoW is dead. I heard it all before. Hell, I SAID it all before. I don't really believe it anymore.

I hope rift is awesome and does really well. Sounds like it has a lot of potential. But let's hold off on the hagiography until the novelty is gone.
@ Christan
"Rift has been out for a week and a half. I think it's really hard to make any legitimate comparison "

Nope not for me... quit Wow, play Rift.

If you had played the game I think you would see the difference.

For all of those "it's too soon", "it's like wow only pretty".

Please just try the game at a friends or just buy it play to like level 15. In about 4 hours of play you will see what people are excited about.

As a comparison, when I first traveled from Redridge to Duskwood... it was a mind blowing experience... no loading screen just a slow fade to dim, dramatic flourish, music changed, and it was raining. This was a moment that I said "hey I could play wow awhile".

I've had like 3 moments like that with Rift and I'm at level 19.

And I'm a jaded Angry Gamer.

Just try it you'll like it... except Gevlon... Goblins don't exist and there is no Robber-baron soul in the game and probably never will be.

After all Blizzard should be punished for not putting a raid in 4.1. Maybe a few whacks on the wallet will remind them who's really in control of subscriber numbers.

Geez how the mighty have fallen. No raid in 4.1 ... yer kidding me they must have Ghostcrawler and 2 trained monkeys doing Wow these days.
The real question is will Blizzard get the message? On number of things e.g. inclusiveness, dynamic content vs scripted treadmill, etc. We need Rift to be successful so WoW has a real challenger and Blizzard is forced to innovate again.
You definitely have more of a feeling of watching over your shoulder for a rift popping up or an invasion running you down as you travel along what you thought would be a safe road.

But the idea of just anybody joining you on the fly really only applies to the spontanious rift and invasion groups. For instances people still select who they go with and people do double check if people are high enough level and if they have the right spec to do a role. Over all, having only done 3 different instances between beta and release. They seem harder, at least if you are at level for the instance and from a healers perspective. It seems like some of the bosses just can't be done with a single healer alone but often need at least the support of a bard if not someone swapping a spec over to some kind of full healer. Also some bosses seem to give enough trouble to you to encourage, again, at level characters to have someone swap out to an off tank spec.

Of course some groups just fall apart after the first wipe but it is very cool to be in a group where people take the time to figure out what went wrong with that pull and then try to figure out how this group can over come that. Like everybody showing their cards and then everyone throwing in the most appropriate card they have to form a hand that will beat the dealer. But the instances are definitely hard, even at low levels if you don't out level the mobs by a great deal. All the bosses have some kind of interesting mechanic. Kill the adds so they don't heal the boss or dont kill the adds but of tank or cc them while burning down the boss. or stay out of the clouds or multiple phases. And that is just the first instance.

What we dont know alot about is how they will all work at max level when you can't bring a tank 8 levels your senior to make an instance a faceroll. People will still be choosing their raid make up for expert and raid instances or the expert and raid rifts that can be opened. Some people are already starting to go all elitist bastard on us but hopefully they will be kept in check.

Rift is definitly not push over easy. But perhaps the difference is that those who don't measure up still have at least something fun and easy to get into group wise that can still provide some gear to get them over the hump and that is the random rifts and zone events that pop up all the time.
@ Mysterious LDAP numeric sequence - probably Facebookish

"Mass exodus, all my friends left for X, WoW is dead. I heard it all before. Hell, I SAID it all before. I don't really believe it anymore.

I hope rift is awesome and does really well. Sounds like it has a lot of potential. But let's hold off on the hagiography until the novelty is gone."

Err... hate to remind people here but this is the FIRST wow competitor that coincides with Blizzard making a weak expansion and gameplay/game-community errors.

Timing as they say is everything. But, frankly I have only run into ex-wow players on Rift so far. And all say this is great stuff.

So this is your choice wait for Rift to be "obviously big" and be a johnny come lately (and play the "please more sir" to Ghostcrawler on wow).

Or you can join now.

Wave's commin buddy you got it in ya to be the Big Kahuna?

Or you looking for when your mom says it's safe to go into the water?
From Andy Grove (formerly of Intel)

Preface of his book "Only the Paranoid Survive"

Strategic inflection points can be caused by technological change but they are more than technological change. They can be caused by competitors but they are more than just competition. They are full-scale changes in the way business is conducted, so that simply adopting new technology or fighting the competition as you used to may be insufficient. (Hmmmm....) They build up force so insidiously that you may have a hard time even putting a finger on what has changed,(Hmmmmm...) yet you know that something has.(Ummm Hmmmm....) Let's not mince words: A strategic inflection point can be deadly when unattended to. (and it doesn't take 6 months) Companies that begin a decline as a result of its changes rarely recover their previous greatness. (yep Bliz is doomed)
So in essence the real answer to your question Tobold is.

Not really

Rift's initial success proves that we are at an Inflection Point.

please read the book or at least -

Great lessons from a true giant in technology. Strap on your rocket packs boys! This is gonna be fun.
Although I don't disagree with your basic premise (Rift's inclusiveness makes for a more enjoyable gaming experience than WoW's exclusiveness), I think making the assertion that Cataclysm is too hard and Rift is super easy is a mistake.

You're comparing 3rd expansion endgame raiding to core game leveling content. Of course Rift leveling content is "easy" compared to endgame raiding, but WoW's is even easier. WoW leveling content is so easy you rarely have any reason to group, unless you're doing a dungeon.

I've been killed countless times in Rift leveling PvE. It's not that it's hard per se, but the world is DANGEROUS. That's what drives players to group up, the fact that danger exists in the Rift PvE world (invasions, rifts, event bosses). There's no danger in WoW unless you bring it on yourself. In Rift, danger comes to you.
on the original topic, i think tobold mistakes difficulty and elitism. The first remains unproven (and subject to change). Rift is marginally easier than wow to level with, and ofc, more fun since it's new. That said, both are "press any key to continue", to steal gevlon's awesome idea.

On the subject of inclusiveness or not (aka elitism), it's not the game, but the player base that creates it. I see totally no difference between the two game's approach to instance and raiding.

I see a big community difference, atm, thou : no recount, no EJ, no tankspot (afaik). All the "community" sites i've seen are very subjective, like wow vanilla time. (i'm saying subjective but internet typical mmo cesspits comes to mind)
I don't think WoW kiddies could handle coming back to the quest hub and NPCs had killed their quest givers and now you have to clean the NPCs up.
Angry Gamer,

It's great to see that you're really enjoying your new game!
I don't know if Rift is going to over take WoW. I have also been though the Warhammer hype, hope, disappointment cycle. I am trying my best not to get my hopes up here either but there has been a few things I have noticed.

First, I am having fun again. Not just the oh this is at least something different to occupy my time fun but the kind of fun that I had early on in EQ and early on in WoW when you really felt like you found a gem and you knew you would be playing for a while.

Second, I don't know anyone personally from any of my guilds in many different games who have tried Rift for at least 15 level who haven't decided to jump in and buy it. Some of these friends are very cautious as well. They have young children and very little time to play. Perhaps 1 or 2 nights in a week. They don't go in for "hopefully this will be fun" They want guaranteed fun and so have stuck with the safe bet of WoW for a long time. Even they are playing. That is making me very hopeful. The only cases I have even heard of where people say they tried it and wont be playing I have only heard of from forum trolls. I have yet to run into this happening with someone I actually know in someway, even after at least 20 or more people.

So far Rift at least stands a chance at starting something big. Just a chance. Nothing for sure yet. Just a chance. In the late 70s nobody could imagine a serious rival to IBM ever emerging.
I don't think that Rift proves that Cataclysm is too hard. I think Rift exposes Blizzard's lack of innovation with the current expansion.

There really isn't anything ground-breaking in Cataclysm, rather a simple refinement of what came with Wrath. Granted Blizzard's developers were preoccupied with updating the original game which was no mean feat. However, what we're left with that is actually new is very linear story-telling through the questing system and cutscenes. That's it. We still have gear and reputation grinds, dungeons, and raids as the basic game models in Cataclysm.

Rift's approach to the multi-tree class system solves many of the problems with tank and healer shortages since players can swap in what they need for dungeons or raids and the rift invasion system provides fully dynamic content. Look how limited Blizzard has implemented phasing in Cataclysm ... sometimes after you finish a quest chain the world changes and most times it does not, simply resetting to its previous static state. For a better example, compare Rift's elemental invasions and how players participate in them to Blizzard's elemental invasion pre-Cataclysm --- it's like night and day for player participation in dynamic content that fosters actual fun.

It's too early to tell if Rift will be successful. But their timing for launch couldn't have been better in hitting Blizzard when their development cycle isn't in full stride for Cataclysm. They've also shown up Blizzard by coming up with new ideas for old MMO design issues and a dynamic content system. It's only a dent, but Rift has put a dent in the WoW mindsphere which is why we're all talking about Rift at all, we just haven't realized it yet. How Blizzard responds in future content might be the best indicator of whether Rift is successful or not.
I'm pretty sure that the biggest problem with WoW right now is that there is simply not that much to do once you hit max level. Even worse if you are in a fairly successful raiding guild. There is nothing to hold a player's interest in between raids.

I'm still raiding in WoW, but attendance is falling off. In most cases, the fights are a bit too gimmicky to be called fun, and I think people are getting fed up with it. And I'm, personally speaking, bored silly with the stupid dailies and the constant battle to complete a daily dungeon without going through 5 tanks and 6 healers.

So, I'm playing Rift in between raids, and I really like it.

If nothing else, it gives me something something interesting to do. Something sorely lacking in WoW right now.

Will I drop WoW for Rift? Dunno. Too soon to tell.

Will I eventually drop WoW for some other game? Probably.
I think there have been some good comments made, especially the one that you cannot compare the leveling experience in Rift to the endgame "challenge" in WoW. You must compare apples with apples: Rift leveling vs. WoW leveling.

And barring rifts, they are EXACTLY the same. There is no need for anyone to deny this. It's like lying to yourself.

As others have said the real charm of Rift is that its a fresh new world. Grouping mechanics are simple and present no significant penalties.

So far, Rift does not prove that Cataclysm is to hard. It never will. Cataclysm will prove that for itself. The truth about Cata difficulty is that they have tried to return to a previous moment in the game without realizing that time is past, and they destroyed any hope of that with Wotlk. So technically, cata isn't more difficult than the game used to be in Burning Crusade. But it's a hundred times more difficult than Wotlk.

Just a note to Angry Gamer: You don't have to diminish WoW in order to prop up Rift. Rift is a good game so far on it's own. When you do so, you lower your credibility because you don't give credit to WoW where it's due and because you go out of your way to give too much credit to Rift.
I don't think these things are related at all.

My bard is level 20. No one is demanding challenge in Redridge quests!

Talk to me when I'm max level and have been playing a bard for two years -- I bet I'll be asking for the same challenge in RIFT (assuming I'm still playing, of course).
Should have added more to the target conversation:

Yes. I think Cataclysm is too hard - for the average player.

I think the goal of Cataclysm was to try and 'teach' players to be better. I think that plan backfired big time.

The average player, which it the great majority of the WoW player base, have average wants and desires. If they wanted to be elite players, they could have worked hard to get there.

But the average player doesn't try to be elite, they don't want to be elite, and trying to force them to be by only presenting them difficult content (to them) only frustrates them.

There is a reason why Firelands is not being rolled out. The average player is simply not ready for it, and probably won't be for a long time.

Ghostcrawler and company, who are probably elite players, should only design hard modes for the handful of players capable of appreciating that type of encounter. Ghostcrawler and his crew just don't understand the average player's mentality.

Get average players to design content that is accessible to the average player.
WoW's content isn't hard. The reliance on players who (a) don't pay attention or (b) don't care makes it hard for a player to advance. There's a difference.

I'm kicking myself in the a** because I signed another 6-month contract with WoW. As it turns out, I'm not a baddie and I just don't have enough in me to wait 20-40 minutes to group with a bunch of people who don't care and will drop the group (or kick others) at the drop of a hat.

Presumably "elite" at this point only means having the time and tenacity to deal with these annoyances and frustration. While I believe my skill is elite (in several classes), I cannot meet this new definition of "elite" for WoW.

After I signed that new 6-month contract, I played for two more days, and then could not force myself to sign on again. It just wasn't fun anymore--not because it was too hard, but because you have to rely on players that don't want to pay attention or don't care.
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To answer Tobold's question - no Rift doesn't prove (disprove for that mater) that Cataclysm is too hard. What it does show clearly at least in my book that Cataclysm is just recycled old content and repackaged boring treadmill. And I don't think it is irrelevant comparison. After all Cataclysm is still relatively young - we have just completed third month in expansion and according to Blizzard majority of players haven't progressed enough to be ready for the next raiding tier. The fact so many players find it already boring and feel that they have nothing left to do is quite telling.
When WoW was released, there were elite quests in every zone, even some non-instanced dungeons like Stonewatch in Redridge mountains. People would group up and do them together, with no mention of level/gear requirements and they didn't really know what they were doing but some quests were a real challenge and big source of fun. Of course those places were very easy if swarmed by 20 people at once.

It is similar in Rift, except every rift is zerged by a big blob at the moment. In those public raids there is no verbal exchange, except "WTF no heals?". For now the rifts are fun though, but what will happen, when most people are in the endgame and only few are leveling? The same thing that happened in WAR, public quests go from easy to impossible, bad luck.

So what I'm saying is that hard and easy are relative. From everything that is known about endgame in Rift we can tell that it is a carbon copy of WoW, so if you didn't like that you won't like this either.
@Bence Well on some servers the starting areas are already not over-populated and rifts are getting more challenging. So far it adds to the fun. Yesterday we had just lvl 18-20 6 ppl against a lvl 20 major life invasion boss - huge tree like dude. We didn't have a healer in the group so we had two rangers with bard offspec focus on healing. Took us almost 10 mins to dps down the boss and fight off the adds and patrols with more people joining at 20%. It had really epic feel and it was a lot of fun.
@ VikingGamer

"Some of these friends are very cautious as well. They have young children and very little time to play. Perhaps 1 or 2 nights in a week. They don't go in for "hopefully this will be fun" They want guaranteed fun and so have stuck with the safe bet of WoW for a long time. Even they are playing."

Ditto for me - I stayed with Wow because it was the best. And Blizz seemed to be committed to keeping Wow the best. Now we have +5 levels per expansion and no raids in point releases. What's next no new classes in expansions too? Oh sorry... they did that too.

This is why I think it's big... granted I could be premature. I accept that knock against my arguments.

But, call it a hunch or professional judgment but if I were Blizzard right now I would be VERY VERY Paranoid.
@Red Skies
"Just a note to Angry Gamer: You don't have to diminish WoW in order to prop up Rift. Rift is a good game so far on it's own. When you do so, you lower your credibility because you don't give credit to WoW where it's due and because you go out of your way to give too much credit to Rift."

I'm not propping up Rift. I am promoting Rift on a blog about games. Rift has been asserted as Wow2. It is not and that needs to be clarified given the overhang of people who have not played Rift saying it is something it is not.

I disagree that being an avid fan diminishes credibility. But you are entitled to your opinion on the matter.

Wow was a wonderful game that I enjoyed playing for 2+ years. But as with many things circumstances change. Blizz has made a business decision to make Wow going forward less fantastic.

I pay and have paid subscriptions to Wow in the assumption that Wow would continue to be made awesomely. Blizzard decided to cheapen my subscription value by making a substandard expansion.

The only recourse that a subscriber has is to vote their wallet if they have a viable alternative. Now subscribers do much to Blizzard apparent strategic planning surprise.

Frankly, the elephant in the room IS that the gosh awful player behavior is indicative of game designer neglect.

What happens when the trash people and police quit working in a particular area in your hometown? All the seedy no-goods show up and terrorize the locals. Right? [sound familiar?]
I think Blizzard's mistake is fundamentally misunderstanding what the value proposition of their game was.

Blizzard seemed to think that WoW is a vehicle for demonstrating your ability. I suggest that, instead, WoW is a vehicle for allowing one to bask in the illusion of being more capable than one actually is.

The difference is profound. Certain superficially attractive features, like difficult content, the Armory system, and progression tracking sites working off Blizzard game/armory APIs are good ideas if Blizzard's notion is correct, but utterly counterproductive if mine is correct.
I have to agree with Gevlon in that it's not fair to compare WoW's end-game to Rift's leveling process. Compare leveling in WoW to leveling in Rift. Once Rift gets an end-game, then we can make accurate comparisons in that regard.

Also - dont think anyone else said this - I don't think Blizzard is making the WoW exclusive, the community is.
"LFM BWD ilvl 350 min" - that's the community saying that, not Blizzrad.
The only restrictions Blizzard has implemented regarding gear and instances is the ilvl 329 required to enter Heroic 5 mans. Aside from that, there is nothing Blizzard has done or said that implies a player should or should not be accepted into any other level of content (mostly raids).

If anything, I believe that Blizzard makes it too easy for players to (falsely) believe they are ready for content - mostly by giving them "rewards" that are completely arbitrary (gear) - instead of gradually increasing the difficulty level as a player advances their character (levels up).
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Pff Tobold, most players in Rift are at the equivalent of Ragefire Chasm , to go and say THAT is "easier" than a lvl 85 Heroic Dungeon , is kinda daft don't you think?

Rift only launched in europe yesterday [4th], so i'd say it's more a case :

1. Players know WoW inside out, every class, every skill
2. Players don't know Rift [despite it being similar]

Does it make the one more difficult than the other? Not necessarily, but it certainly does mean players PAY MORE ATTENTION in Rift than in WoW .

Kinda like the whole "learning curve" thing....
got "defender of shattered world" which is 12/12 359(normal) raids.

guild moved on to 372(heroic) raids.

my "skill" is probably around 369, i.e. not good enough for heroic raids so I took a lot of abuse from guild for failing.

i estimated my own skill leveling using these facts

1. top half of dps in guild, appropriate for my gear and spec
2. didnt die early on normal modes but died early on heroic modes based on personal mistakes

quit wow to play rift
As always, please keep the discussion polite, and avoid all personal remarks.
I think Blizz has finally tuned some content that will keep us busy for a while and you're complaining that it's too hard?

Who is "us?"

Blizzard expected more guilds to be downing heroic raid bosses by the end of January. They were surprised, genuinely surprised, this was not the case and had to delay the 2200 PvP weapon roll-out. Then we get the Firelands announcement wherein one of the designers mentioned to Eurogamer that they anticipated more people to have downed T11 normal content. Nevermind the all the nerfs to heroic dungeons that occurred in 4.0.6, which were entirely to prop up abysmal LFD completion rates.

Right now, less than 8000 guilds worldwide have completed normal-mode content. Right now, there are 13 hardmode encounters for less than 15% of any (successful) raiders this tier. And you think that is good tuning? Do you anticipate the number of guilds finishing this first tier of normal-mode raiding to suddenly balloon up before 4.2? By how much?

Just because there are unkilled bosses does not mean there is more content "to keep us busy." Raiding is like a bag of chips: it can get stale before you have hit the bottom of the bag. Nobody expects for there to be 43,000 guilds downing Nefarion (e.g. every guild that kills Magmaw finishing the tier), so of those who won't/can't finish, how is the tier tuned well if they are already hitting their brick wall right now?

As for the unbridled Rift-gushing in the other comments, it's cute. I loved Warhammer in the beginning too, everything felt fresh and new, public quests were amazing, etc etc. How the endgame is handled will be the test to see if it has legs, not the honeymoon.
All I can say about Rift is that I'm really liking the better graphics engine. I tell all of my fellow WoW raiders that the absolutely only thing I can complain about is that abilities dont' scale with level and I have to go and retrain them, other than that I am loving it.

I havent' cancelled my WoW subscription yet but I'm highly disappointed with current content (normals all cleared 4/13HM) and the fact that Firelands isn't coming and Blizz can't come up with original content i.e. ZG adn ZA. It really makes Rift shine even brighter.
I don't have time to play WoW and RIFT so I'm sticking with WoW as I still enjoy raiding, but I did play beta. The things that people are talking about as "epic" are EXACTLY like my early experiences with WoW in Vanilla. Trying to kill Yowler or some other level 25 elite, surrounded by his level 24 elite guards, took all the coordination and effort my group of friends could muster.

WoW leveling isn't like that at all anymore, as Gevlon pointed out it's "press any key to continue". By making it more and more "casual/solo" friendly they removed the ability to have interesting experiences while leveling.

So people seem to be gravitating towards rift precisely because it's more difficult, and thus more fulfilling.

What RIFT doesn't have, yet, is the elitism, but it will come just as it did in wow.

Cataclysm may be too difficult for casual players but its still too easy for experienced "hardcore" ones. The Heroic raids are certainly challenging and fun but there's not anything else to do,so they're bored and are playing RIFT because it's new and different, but similar enough to have a low learning curve.
Psychiatrists have endlessly analyzed what I like to call the 'bunny phase' (take a guess why) of human relationships: it's that phase when you first start sleeping with someone where you lose yourself completely to hedonism and being wrapped up in the newness of the relationship. Studies have shown that the average period of time for that particular sheen to wear off is around three to six months. (Go ahead. Google 'first three months of a relationship'.) That's when most break-ups happen, or at least start. Those afraid of being alone or the terminally co-dependent/bored can successfully wring an extra year out of a failed relationship. Some unfortunates even get married or have children during this time, hoping to recapture the heady rush of the bunny phase, mistakenly thinking that there is something wrong because their high has worn off.

I believe this applies to MMOs. If the mechanics/sex are crap, you have nothing in common and all their friends are assholes, you tend not to stick with your date/MMO much past the third date/hour. If it's attractive, compatible, novel and interesting with similar goals and philosophies, you have a recipe for an excellent few months, probing each and every facet/orifice.
To get more than that, to get your multiple years... You either need to be very lazy or very compatible or have nothing else available on the market.

...And this is exactly what WoW has benefited from. It has been, quite clearly, the only pretty girl in the room. Folks have still gone home with all the others, for their various personality quirks, but WoW was the homecoming queen. Well, now there's a new girl at school. She's not as popular and isn't bleached-blonde/fake-tanned pretty as the current queen, but she's still a smoking hottie and people haven't had a chance to grow tired of her shit.

Stabs absolutely said it best: "MMOs haven't really changed this desire for newness, they've simply raised the bar high enough that most new games don't reach it. However people still want new, we just don't want new plus bad."

...(You know, this dating analogy probably rings truer than I originally - glibly - gave credit. It'd certainly explain why everyone who moves on to their new MMO/girl from WoW can't stop talking about it and how crap it is or how it sold out, clearly not being over their ex and behaving like jilted lovers.)
Disputing the core of the original post, re: Cata being too hard:

I don't know that RIFT is mechanically any easier than WoW. If you aren't a tank and you try to take on an equal-level 'Elite', it will usually humble you. In WoW, you simply take it as a given that the only elites which will provide you with a challenge have to be two to three levels higher. In RIFT, mobs two levels higher will prove a significant challenge if they're non-elite. Elites two levels higher will annihilate you in a second then forget you ever existed.

You can't run through fields of mobs either, as even mobs ten levels lower than you will dismount you and gain a steadily-stacking 20% damage buff against you, every hit, as you run from them - forcing you to turn around and pay attention. This makes travelling by roads a real incentive if you want to go somewhere and makes invasions (packs of deadly, linked, rapidly-respawning elites), who USE the roads, so much more dangerous.

If you're talking about the endgame difficulty of heroics/experts, then it really is far too early to tell. Only those who actually give a crap about the endgame have got that far. The rest of us are enjoying levelling, reading flavour text, sealing rifts and hunting artifacts, enjoying the shiny newness of it all.
A related question is whether the people making the game decisions for WoW care? I.e. are there responsible adult business people who are concerned about WoW?

Whether a game that appeals to 20,000, 300,000 or 13,000,000 subscribers is "better" for you is subjective.

That revenue of 13000000*$15 is greater then 8000000*$15 is an objective fact.

There is also the business idea of critical mass (and it relates to your 6 month/1mill post.) If cataclysm were not cataclysm, then RIFT might easily done a WH with lots of blogger attention and then back to basically irrelevant.

If Blizzard lets (invites?) Rift to take a couple of million subscribers, then that gives Rift many more resources, word of mouth, network effects (play with friends) etc. I.e., a rift with 1.5 million subscribers in six months is a much bigger competitor than one with 0.5.

My opinion is a multi-billion dollar brand is worth hundreds of millions of dollars less because some 20-something, console-owning male designers with good reflexes and networks (mentality if not actually) are making the game they want to play not what their customers want to pay for.
I don't know that RIFT is mechanically any easier than WoW. If you aren't a tank and you try to take on an equal-level 'Elite', it will usually humble you.

Clerics can often do it too. Damage absorbing shield and heals ftw.
"Most players prefer a game in which they don't have to constantly justify their performance".
- Which was part of my reason for leaving. I have a performance check every year in my job. I seemed to have one every quarter in a game. The big difference is that when I perform well at work, I get a raise and a nice bonus. When I performed well in WoW I didn't get any perks. I just had to work harder when more content was added. Sorry, the pixels dropping off a raid boss weren't enough of a raise or bonus for me.
When the design for cata was being discussed the following philosophy was touted (paraphrasing):
"We are changing the healing because we want fights to be about skill and not having things one shot someone - there should be a chance to recover from a mistake."

I find that to be lacking in all aspects of the WoW dungeon/raid scene. I'm seriously tired of encounters that require a scripted dance to pull off that wipe if a mistake is made.

Stonecore heroic was nerfed - (the worm encounter) - people complained it's because of 'bads' (one of the issues I have with people atm using adjectives that make them sound like they didn't get past 3rd grade) - in actuality (IMO anyway) it was because the graphic for the little spiders and the big worm were the same. Stand in one no biggie - be within 5 feet of the other and one shot.

Skill in a console game like Mario can be gained by learning button presses in a specific sequence - so much so that you have videos of people who can beat Super Mario Bros in less time than it took me to get through the first level.

Skill in MMO's (IMO again) in the past meant I went into a dungeon - tanked it with a Shaman - with 4 people and made mistakes that we adjusted for and overcame due to teamwork and tactics.

If there is *only* one way to beat an encounter and everyone has to have 'x' gear or 'x' dps and stand *here* now then move *here* within 2 seconds or die - that's not skill - that's a dance routine.

Yes - I will admit there is plenty of skill in dancing and the guy that beat Mario in 5 mins - great I really do find it impressive. Most people feel good about beating an encounter *despite* screwing up - which can't happen when a single mistake means death for you and wipe for the group because if the raid needs 72k dps to beat the boss before it instawipes the group - then you just doomed things because your 6k crap dps brought the entire raid to 65k dps and mathmatically there is *no* chance at winning no matter *how* well you play.

/end rant - and no I don't play RIFT - although I did recently cancel my WoW account for the first time ever.
Probably going to get crucified now for what I am about to say, but ce la vie, or something like that.
I leveled a char on the free trial of Rift to level 10. It was just another kill so many of this so many of that move to the next camp along the road rinse and repeat.
Learn some skills collect some mats make some stuff. So far nothing different to Wow.
I came across a couple of rifts or anomalies, some mobs spawned and I defeated them after dying a few times and getting the healers to mend me.
Well the mechanics of the rifts were different to wow but to be honest that seemed to be about it.
I cant agree the mobs are better they seemed to me to be sort of homgenised with poor textures laid on them to make them appear different. So I won't be buying, and have uninstalled. I think it will take a lot more than rift to threaten wow. Perhaps The Secret World may when it is finally released. In the meantime I will just carry on with WoW and the occasional foray into Eve-O.
Sorry if the post upsets you but I couldn't seem to find much shiny new stuff.
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