Enter at Your Own Rift: The no-quest challenge

OK, I know you all probably want to talk about the news that addons are coming to RIFT, but the truth is that it's not that big of an issue for me. My feelings on addons are that I'm for them if they enhance the game and encourage player creativity, but I'm against them if they reduce players to mere statistics in the eyes of others (GearScore) or are absolutely necessary to tackle the game's content.

So if you feel passionate about this topic, I give you leave to vent more about it in the comments below, but as for me and mine, we're going to look at quests today. More specifically, not doing them.

Now, I generally like quests. They give me a feeling of accomplishment (as I am fond of checking off items from my to-do lists in real life), the stories are occasionally interesting, and they give nice boosts to leveling. But I've come to realize something interesting about RIFT that might run under the radar of most: Quests are superfluous to the game. Well, at the very least, they're optional and not the mandatory tasks that most modern MMOs make them out to be.

So I had a thought. What about playing RIFT without questing at all -- taking on a "no-quest challenge" of sorts? Is it not only possible but fun too? Hit the jump and we'll examine this from all the angles.

To quest or not to quest, that is the question

Questing's gotten a pretty bad name in MMO circles, to be sure. What used to be a rare facet of online RPGs became the default leveling track in the post-World of Warcraft era. Quests as the "meat" of MMOs became widely embraced even as players quickly identified the repetitive nature of the tasks given to them. Soon, "kill 10 rats" and "FedEx" chores were synonymous with questing, and captivating quests that told a good story and gave players interesting challenges were the exception rather than the rule.

And I say this as an avid quester in all MMOs I play. Questing may not be deep on the whole, but even the most generic of tasks do provide motivation, purpose and reward. I just never liked the feeling that I had to do quests due to a lack of alternatives.

The interesting thing about RIFT is that there are plenty of alternatives to questing -- so many, really, that you could eschew questing altogether and be just fine. I don't remember who said it, but I had a friend who claimed that quests were a late addition to RIFT, that the game originally was solely dominated with the dynamic content, but Trion Worlds got scared that players would flounder without the familiar hand of questing in such an environment. I doubt that's true at all, but it would be an understandable decision. We're so used to questing that to not have it in an MMO is a frightening proposition.

The no-quest challenge

So how can we ween ourselves away from quests if we're burned out on them? The answer is pretty obvious: Stop doing them. Believe it or not, quests aren't the only way you can get the XP and gear that's needed to level -- and in a few ways, quests are actually less-than-optimal for advancement.

I see the no-quest challenge as follows: Once your character is out of the starting zone, simply stop picking up quests entirely (unless one is needed for something essential, such as a soul quest). Instead of chasing down quests, spend the time chasing rifts and invasions instead, focusing on dynamic content as your main course, with dungeon runs and warfronts as side dishes.

Rifts, invasions and zone-wide events are incredibly rich sources of XP and goodies that you generally can't get from questing (such as planarite and planar essences). When you make the mental switch from "these rifts are getting in the way of my questing" to "ooh, a rift, I'm on my way," the game's landscape changes. Some nights I make a conscious decision to ignore exclamation marks and just see what the next rift brings, whether it be rewards, a fun group, or a quick death.

While rifts don't drop as much gear as you'd find elsewhere, planarite is useful for helping you pick up a few pieces of purple armor down the road. Still, I'd recommend getting in the habit of queuing up for warfronts or instances whenever I'd log in, as both of these can really help out with gearing up, not to mention that you can sign up for them at any spot in the world.

The quest-free life

It's one thing to propose such a challenge; it's another thing entirely to make good on it. I'll admit that I'm probably too wedded to quests to ever stop doing them (and I feel it's part of my duty as a columnist to experience as much of the game as possible). But if RIFT has done anything for me as a gamer, it's taught me that we're starting to move into a new era when both devs and players are more free to say, "Quests? No thanks. There's something else to do."

This is why I hope we'll be seeing a lot more in the way of world events in which the dynamic content is given more context, events that make me less likely to ignore a rift because I figure another one will happen soon enough anyway. I even think it'd be an interesting experiment if Trion created a server with a no-quest ruleset to see if there's enough content outside of questing to keep players hooked.

I'd love to hear from RIFT players who have divorced themselves from questing, at least in some capacity. Do quests weaken or strengthen this game, and are they optional as I posited here or still as necessary as ever?

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.