Keep it in the client

Why do I ever need to leave your client to play your game?

I recently achieved the maximum level in Rift and was awarded a nice weapon from a raiding adventure with a guild. I set about looking for an enhancement for this item only to be confronted by an auction house full of things like “Incandescent Savvy Rune”. There is no way to get the Rift auction house system to show me things that are useful to my character. It’s just a list of things that I have to spend time examining and researching. And, this is only the list available for sale. I don’t know if there is anything I could use that I could purchase elsewhere, or ask someone to make for me. I could go to a 3rd party website and look this information up, but even those do not tell me anything about these enhancements. Why am I reduced to fumbling through your game, guessing through trial and error as to what I should be spending my in-game money on?

This experience seems to be a very common issue that most MMORPG players have come to accept. After spending time leveling up with every decisions being of no consequence or being made for the player, they are suddenly faced with questions that the game seems at a total loss to answer. How do they play their class so that they don’t cause their raid group to waste time dying over and over? How do they know what gear is the best gear for what they want to do? How do they even know what options are available?

A player should not be dependent on a fan site to enjoy playing your game. Even if they do, why wouldn’t you build a browser into your game that allows players to visit it without alt-tabbing, running a second computer, or quitting your game?

Item data and community information.

Players want information. They actually need information to enjoy a game. The players don’t live in the game world, but their characters do. Their character probably know things in that world, from years of living there, that the player does not know. Such as, what craftsmen can create to enhance armor and weapons. Let me see this all in-game. Let players review items, potions, armor, etc. Let them post boss strategies and videos. Make your game the best place to find this information.

Finding a guild.

If joining an in-game player run organization is important to the players of your games, why make them leave the game to participate? Bringing guild recruitment into the game can root the guilds into the world and show players that they aren’t just secret societies that exist outside the game. In most games, if it were not for guild names showing above character heads, you might not even know that guilds existed. Where are the guild recruiting posts on the kiosk in town?

Use your client to collect more player information.

The MMOG developer has many different tools to determine what is and isn’t working in their game. How many people actually use those rare and hard to find potions? Do people run the same content over and over? How do most people die in a certain location? All gathered through the game itself. In my experience, the only time an MMORPG publisher or developer has asked me what I thought was when I cancelled the game. That’s far too late to be asking players what they think of your game. In addition to that, forums probably aren’t representative of the player community, but the people actually playing your game for more than ten minutes are.

Use the client to gather meaningful feedback about how much people enjoy your game. Take several questions you have for your players, and randomly ask them a new one each time they quit. Keep them as yes/no questions and you’ll get actual feedback from players. Not from malcontents on the forums or just people who are angry at your game.

Rift and Education

Rift isn’t exactly a brand new invention. It’s obviously, a take on World of Warcraft, which is a take on Everquest, which is a graphical twist on MUDs, etc. Nothing new under the Sun and all that. Thus, it inherits many design concepts from it’s predecessors. Some good. Some bad.

Like many people, I purchased Rift online. I received no manual, nor did I purchase a strategy guide. I suspect that many people who play this game do not have any written material to help them with the game. Like many video games, though, Rift does use in-game help to teach a new player how to play the game. It tries to teach you how to move by using the keyboard keys and mouse. It teaches you basics of how a common MMORPG works with looting, questing, etc.

But, when you get to the higher levels, the game (like others before it) is silent. No pop-up to tell you that you’ve reached (or are nearing) the highest level and that you should start preparing to take on new challenges like raiding.

Rift doesn’t expect its players to know how to use the keyboard to move, but Rift certainly expects them to know how the end-game works? Seems backwards to me.