Yesterday I read a post over at Massively by Larry about Elder Scrolls Online and the dev plans for expanding level-syncing. The post lists six areas that need improvement where grouping up is concerned. It’s a topic close to my heart since I play in a number of games with one or two friends and any barrier to us “just playing together” is a major annoyance.
Then later that evening I decided to pop into Rift and to have a look at my characters, as per usual after a long absence their bags were full of junk and talent trees have been reset by some balance patch or other. I knew that two friends were playing although they were on the other faction, the Guardians. My main characters have always been on the technology-oriented, Defiant faction. Using Skype I found out they were indeed in game but that they were also on a different server from mine. During this session Rift showed us just how easy grouping can be made to be in a MMORPG.
At first I logged onto a long-abandoned alt mage, Guardian-side, and we ran the dungeon. A side note to this is the Arbiter mage-tank soul is really fun to play! The different server issue was a non-issue, I right click my character’s portrait and can teleport to any server on the list.
Later on, because I’d read ages ago that the faction barriers in Rift had been loosened, we tried adding my Defiant cleric to the group – it was just as easy. Chat works in group and ‘say’ channels – none of the pvp-oriented barriers to communication common in factional MMORPGs here! One character entering a dungeon in Rift via the portal has always given other group members the option of a free teleport into the dungeon. This applies cross-faction and cross-server just the same. My cleric was dragged across continents and across servers to join the Guardians in the Realm of the Fae when we tested it.
Down-sync & Up-sync
Furthermore the game has level-sync in both directions. You can ‘mentor’ someone else’s lower level character to set your level down. Also when my cleric (level 56) grouped up to test entering a dungeon with one friend’s character, that character was mentored up to my level. So there’s the possibility to play with higher level characters doing group content while you are “catching up” with them in level!
All in all I was mightily impressed with how easy it has become in Rift to play with friends regardless of level, faction or location. Not all of this is new to the genre of course: mentoring for instance has been in Everquest 2 for many years. But Rift does combine all these features to great effect. I’d like to see some more thought put into this by MMO devs and less of the “go PUG everything” that these games favour.