Ok, so I don’t often write about gaming. In fact, this blog is so little used I bet most of you forgot that it existed.
But I am a gamer, at least casually (don’t judge) and so there is occasionally something I have to say on the topic.
It feels like Psyn and I have been drifting through various games over the last year and a half. We used to play WoW pretty solidly for a couple of years, until SWTOR came along and wooed me with fantastic personal story lines. Not long after my smuggler reached max level, Guild Wars 2 was released & the chance to play a pretty game (I have previously said I am drawn to such) without having to pay monthly for it, pulled me in for a while. The world story wasn’t enough to really pull me in longterm and besides being able to be in higher zones, I didn’t really feel like my character progressed as she leveled. A couple of months later the new WoW expansion was released and I wanted to explore all the pretty new zones. Again, it wasn’t long before the charm and freshness wore off and we started dabbling back in the other games that we had played off and on for 18 months (with several months of non-gaming thrown in).
You see, we wanted to play, but had a hard time finding something that really engaged us.
Enter the RIFT Free-to-Play announcement
A little history now. We had played RIFT for about a month after release. In fact, it was the game that inspired my first ever gaming blog post. Since we were subscribed to another game at the time, we decided that would couldn’t afford to be subbed to two at once. We pretty much decided to stick with our other game because that’s where all of our friends were at the time. Besides, as much as I loved chaining rifts the night I spoke of in my first post, when I came back to that lower zone on a new character a few weeks later, I was behind the pack that formed at release and hated it. The zone was pretty empty and when I tried to tackle rifts with the one other person that was on, we were slaughtered. I determined that the rifts and invasions were too imbalanced for someone who prefers to spend their time in leveling zones. We moved on.
So, back to this drifting between games time. I actually hadn’t really paid much attention to the F2P announcement from RIFT. Psyn did, though, and decided to update the game on his computer to see if much had changed. He talked to me about it and I decided to install it on my computer (we had played when I had a previous computer) to give it a go. We had a blast! Apparently we also both had strong cases of beginner’s luck. Psyn looted a purple Gulanite Hellbug mount from the first rift we closed together (I got a pet) and then I picked up an orange Deeps’ Lock Box just outside Sanctum while questing. The orange one can offer the highest level rewards if opened at max level, including epic gear.
Something was definitely different this time around. The zones were packed due to the F2P announcement, but everything also felt so much smoother and balanced. The rifts no longer seemed overpowering to the people available to fight them. They were still definitely a challenge, but we found we could 2-man some rifts and even solo them if we took things slow. The first time we had played, all the soul choices had overwhelmed me. This time I used a premade role and only started deviating from it when I was comfortable. We went mad with crafting and gathering (always a good sign if we’re willing to invest time/energy in these) and just continued to have a fun time.
I mentioned on Google+ that we were having a fun time with the game and my friend Belghast over at Tales of the Aggronaut invited us to join a chat channel so we could chat while playing. Until this point, we’d pretty much been on our own, the two of us tackling all the things and tearing them up. We are inherently social people, though. The thing that pulls us into a game more than anything is that sense of community and friendship. We were getting a bit lonely. So, we chatted away in the channel whether anyone else was there or not.
But apparently something else was going on with the people whose guild we would eventually join. A group of friends and gamers who had banded together through several games and were existing as a guild within a guild were at a point where a decision would need to be made about where and how they were going to have a permanent home. The overwhelming response was that they wanted their own guild again, even if it meant building it from the ground up. As prospective members, we were asked to vote and we were 100% behind the small but close-knit guild plan. The guild was formed while we were on vacation, but we were quick to join once we were home on Monday night.
What a world of difference the right guild makes
Within minutes of joining the guild and logging in to their mumble server, a large portion of the guild had mentored down to my cleric’s level and were tearing rifts apart for an invasion in Freemarch. Together, we destroyed the guild quest to close 100 rifts and it felt incredible to be a part of something. Could they have closed rifts in higher level zones? Yeah. The rewards would have been the same (thanks to RIFT’s very well balanced mentoring system) but they chose to come hang out with the newbie. Even last night, while playing my higher level (dinged 40 last night!) mage of the opposite faction, a guildie found us and mentored down to clear an invasion in Moonshade (I think that’s the name of the zone).
I suppose what this has taught me is that the people really do make all the difference. Sometimes game features or mechanics push people away. Sometimes it’s just not your cup of tea, like how I felt about TSW. But if two games are created equal (or close to it, because let’s be real, no game is exactly like another) in terms of fun, but one has a community where everyone is out for themselves and another encourages helpful behavior, I know which one I am choosing. Especially if you have a chance to be in the kind of guild I found. It’s a guild where everyone who joins is the friend or family of someone who is already there. It’s a guild where the rules are simple, but if followed leave you with a home, a community and a family instead of just a guild tag. Can the guild accomplish great things together? Of this, I have no doubt. But being a part of close, tight-knit group, whose goal is just to have fun and enjoy the game?
Yeah, this is the home for me.