rift fishing
One of the parts of the recent RIFT producer's letter that caught my eye was the hint that there will soon be more to do in game besides "stab" stuff. Maybe I'm mellowing in my old age, or perhaps it's because of my inner Bartle explorer player-type, but I'm enjoying activities in MMOs that don't involve mass slaughter all the time. Usually, that means crafting, but the inventory management that's required often leaves me cross-eyed by the time I'm done.

With Update 1.8, RIFT will add two new skills to the game: fishing and survival. Non-combat activities have already been introduced in past updates, like the wedding instance, but these two new skills look to be fun games within the game, so I was eager to check things out. Join me as I don some hip-waders, pack up some flint, and head to PTS for a peek at fishing, survival, and a quick peek at the looking-for-guild tool.

Getting started with fishing

Trainers in each town offer a tutorial, which provides you with the basics of fishing as well as a fishing pole. There's a little challenge involved because if you don't click your pole to reel in when the line tugs and you get the text, you'll lose out on your prize. But it's still easy enough that you won't end up frustrated; even my two children could hop in and quickly get the hang of it. Yes, you'll catch some junk, but you can avoid that with a lure, and the fish that you do catch can be turned in for tackleboxes and awards or used to create food with the survival skill.

The one that got away

What's particularly fun is that once you get the basics of fishing, there's a lot of depth to what, and where, you can fish. You can fish anywhere you find water, of course, but you'll pull in different types of fish based on the depth of the water. So if you're in shallow water, you can walk out and cast a line, but if you seek the larger hauls of deep water, you'll probably need to cast from a dock or a boat.

Also, while you can cast anywhere, you can reel in some rare fish or even artifacts if you find a special school of fish. They're a little hard to find, but you can spot the names of them with mouse hover, like common or rare school of fish. And of course, there are lots of achievements to be earned from fishing for those who love their daily dose of extrinsic attention. Another nice benefit of fishing is that you can earn reputation when you turn in fish and choose the fishing awards, so it's a nice alternative to the usual grind.

Rift fishing
Man vs. wild

Survival isn't as much of a minigame as fishing is, but there are some nice perks to this skill. First (and this is probably my favorite), you can craft survival items anywhere, so no crafting station is needed. One thing that always deters me from crafting is that I have to hoof it to a part of town with the appropriate crafting station, so I'm glad that I can craft out in the wild (and it makes sense too!). Second, it's nice to be able to make meals out of the fish I catch, and it cuts down on the need to purchase it from a vendor. On top of that, it looks like at the higher levels, you can construct bedrolls and tents that give a resting buff, and while I haven't seen these in action yet to determine whether you actually see a campsite when they're used, the resting buff reminds me of similar mechanics seen in games like Fallen Earth or Vindictus. Logistically, it's nice to have a perk for the crafted items, but even from a more roleplaying perspective, it's neat to be able to make a camp out in the wild and gather together with friends for a brief respite, so I'm looking forward to seeing what the tents and bedrolls turn out to be.

Recruiting

Before I packed up my tacklebox, I took a look at the guild recruiting window. As you probably know, I'm a big fan of guilds, so I was happy to hear that there will be a way for players to find the right guild in-game. For me, recruitment posts in forums and guild websites are fine, but they're archaic. Most players don't want the hoop-jumping that's involved, and they shouldn't have to exit the game in order to seek out a guild -- every game should have a guild search tool in-game, with a good filter that offers lots of common criteria for making a good match.

Having said that, I like RIFT's tool, but I think it's missing a few things that would really be helpful. For example, the search page that players fill out when seeking a guild has an availability column, which is nice, but it lists only "weekdays" and "weekends." That's a bit broad, and I know that while lots of guilds tend to raid in the evening on their servers, there are some that raid in the morning and afternoon. Therefore, a player who is seeking a "weekday" guild might not necessarily be on during the guild's peak time of the day.

Rift recruiting window
Another problem is that the total number of things that are used for filters leaves too much room for mismatched guilds. Ironically, the one thing in the window that's most helpful is the box where guilds can type a brief description about themselves, but that's probably not used in the filter at all. I'd love to see the guild recruitment window become meatier, with more specific categories for guilds to check off and more choices for guild peak times.

Overall, I'm looking forward to seeing more from fishing and survival. Fishing is particularly fun, and I like it because it's something different to do in game that still offers a decent challenge. I'm hoping we'll continue to see more types of gameplay down the road like this; although I still like to "stab," I agree with Trion that there are other systems that fit well with MMOs and are great fun if done right. If you're seeking more information about Update 1.8, be sure to check back with Massively later this week for highlights from our roundtable interview with Trion! In the meantime, I'll be stocking up on worms and kindling.

Whether she's keeping the vigil or defying the gods, Karen Bryan saves Telara on a biweekly basis. Covering all aspects of life in RIFT, from solo play to guild raids, the column is dedicated to backhanding multidimensional tears so hard that they go crying to their mommas. Email Karen for questions, comments, and adulation.

This article was originally published on Massively.