Enter at Your Own Rift: The little things

For me, it's all about the little things in life: the smell of a good cup of coffee, the enthusiastic hug of my two-year-old, an illicit pack of Lemonheads candy, or throwing punny tags into Massively articles. While big things are essential to have and get right, it's the little things I find that give life its unique flavor.

So when I enter MMORPGs, I'm always on the lookout for little things. Oh, sure, PvP and raiding and overarching epic stories are all well and good, but it's from the little things that the soul and flavor of a game emerges. I'm often far more delighted when I stumble upon a funny little Easter egg in a game than if I win that roll for a purple piece of armor.

Today I want to look at 10 little things in RIFT that I've come to appreciate and savor over the past month or so. Maybe these elements don't get all of the glory, and maybe they're even seen as superfluous to some, but without them the game would be far less to me. So while we rush between rifts and struggle with expert dungeons, I'd encourage all of us to take some time to reflect on all of the supporting cast of features that are just as important to the overall effort.

1. Sounds

Is there anything that gets less appreciation for doing a good job in MMOs than sound? We're all over the visuals and artistic style of the game, but that's more than a little unfair to the sound artists who slaved over the aural experience. And in my opinion, RIFT has superb sound editing.

I love how all noises get muted and warped when you're swimming underwater. When I'm close to dying, the noises of the game grow faint while a heartbeat emerges, underscoring the seriousness of the situation. All of the rift noises, from the audio cue that you're near one to the happy sparkle of a prize orb descending from the skies, already evoke strong feelings within me.

2. The ability to transfer settings between characters

Last week I rerolled on the Defiant side to see how they rolled. I was gritting my teeth at the thought of having to set up my UI and options all over again until I discovered that RIFT allows you to copy your settings from another character. One click and voilà! I was right at home.

3. Non-combat pets

Some people just roll their eyes at vanity pets, but I'm firmly in the "gotta collect 'em all" camp. These little critters may be just for show, but they're fun to whip out on a dungeon run as if they're mascots, and they can take the edge off loneliness if you're heading into the wilderness alone. Plus, RIFT's devs have created several, shall we say, interesting pets for our menagerie, such as a cute little hoppy bunny with demonic eyes that is the "Harbinger of Regulos."

4. Achievement notices

Achievements are and will forever be a divisive topic among MMO gamers, although it shouldn't surprise you at this point to hear that I really do love them. I like that they give me alternative goals if I want an added challenge, I dig the cool titles that come with some of them, and I appreciate being informed of my guildies' progress through the guild-wide messages that accompany an achievement earned.

Again, some may hate what they see as "achievement spam," but I see these notices as a way for a guild to keep tabs on its members. Unless I'm partying with guildies or they're regaling me with epic tales, I have no idea what everyone else is doing. That is, of course, until an achievement pops up to let me know that they've hit level 40 or that they're base jumping off trees or that the squirrel population of Telara is greatly decimated. It helps me get past my self-centered focus to congratulate others and keep in mind that I'm not the only one going through all of this.

5. Join public group buttons

This feature was implemented at some point between the beta testing events, and it felt like the final piece of the dynamic content puzzle fell in place when it did. As we rush to invasions and rifts, the game now gives us a painless, simple way of joining up with everyone else to share heals, kills and loot without having to yell in local chat for a raid invite. These groups may not last long, but I certainly like being in them versus staying separate and isolated. And maybe it's my imagination, but these small victories that public groups accomplish do encourage the community to see players as part of a team effort instead of as competing kill-stealers.

6. Video recording (and YouTube uploading)

OK, I wasn't expecting Trion to put this in the game, but now that it's in, the feature really makes sense. After all, when we finally leave a game, what can we take with us? Memories, a hefty subscriber bill, and now, a video scrapbook. The other night one of my friends hit level 50 and had the video recorder running to capture the moment -- something he'll probably whip out at cocktail parties from now until the end of the world (November 2012).

7. Artifact collecting

Are you starting to get the impression that I'm a fluff addict? Well, yes, I am -- the little things, after all. Artifacts have turned the whole game into one giant scavenger hunt, and due to my addiction to collecting as many sparklies as possible, I'm forever running off the beaten path and looking in unusual spots to see whether I can find them. In this, RIFT's encouraged me to take the more adventurous route from point A to B instead of sticking to the safe, boring roads, and that's made the game richer for me as a whole.

8. Waypoints

The map is nice, and the quest location indicators are nice, but the ability to make your own waypoints? Perfection. These work just fine when you're on your own -- say, if you want to make a note about the location of a rift you're chasing -- but have added utility in groups as an alternative method of communication. Instead of shouting in group or raid chat that we need to go HERE or THERE, the leader can just right-click on the map and set the waypoint for everyone. Splendid.

9. Humor

If a game can make me laugh or amuse me in some fashion, it's won half the battle (the other half is knowledge, dontcha know?). RIFT may not be as jokey as, say, World of Warcraft, but there are plenty of delightfully odd, snarky or hilarious touches that have me smiling quite often. You're a critter killer? You should be ashamed! Or what about Scotty, that beloved, hapless student who apparently scattered all of his possessions across Telara before enrolling? One of my friends recalled a time when she saw a chest way up high and spent a half-hour trying to get there -- only to discover that instead of riches, it held a dead Dwarf. Weird? Sure. Funny? Definitely.

10. CliffsNotes story reminders

I'll be honest: For as much as I try to read the quest text, sometimes I lose my place in the various stories that are going on with each zone. This is why I appreciate how the loading screen usually includes an abbreviated reminder of the zone's main story and updates that depending on what you've done. I also like any time the game throws in voice acting for the bad guys. It may not always be the best voice-over work in the world, but it's 100% more memorable and enjoyable than straight-up text.

So what about you? What are your favorite "little things" in RIFT?

Whether they're keeping the vigil or defying the gods, Karen Bryan and Justin Olivetti save Telara on a weekly basis. Covering all aspects of life in RIFT, from solo play to guild raids, their column is dedicated to backhanding multidimensional tears so hard that they go crying to their mommas. Email Karen and Justin for questions, comments, and adulation.
This article was originally published on Massively.