Forcing People To Be Your Friend
One of the more innovative and interesting features in RIFT (why do I feel obliged to write that in caps?) is the ability to group with others without their permission. Yep, you just select a random nearby person and, unless they’re already grouped or have disabled the setting in their options, click a small icon above their portrait and, willingly or not, you’ve got yourself an instant buddy to join your fledgling party. A great technique for burning through those kill quests quickly, I can tell you.
At first I was reluctant to use this feature as it seemed somehow rude or, at the very least, ill-mannered. In fact, the very idea of forcing some poor sod to group up without even having the common courtesy to introduce myself first was entirely alien to me after having experienced old school MMOs (read: Everquest) in which an entire life’s history was required before you could embark on the even most minor of adventures. But I got over these petty emotions pretty quickly when I realised that not only was this a perfectly valid form of playing RIFT (it’s a feature in the game, after all) but was actually widely accepted by most players without qualm. Indeed no one seems to even bat an eyelid if you suddenly appear in a group with them.
It’s an odd thing, for sure, and I can’t decide if it’s either a normal and expected step forward in the evolution of 21st century MMORPGs or if it’s a barbaric, rude and manner-less blemish on the increasingly tarnished reputation of online social gaming. Is this feature in RIFT a good thing by making social interactions easier than ever or is it a bad thing by reducing other players on the field to nothing more than resources to be consumed for our own individual goals?
I suppose, as much as I love the idea of playing a MMO in which the community is loving and kind and everyone nods and smiles and shakes hands and exchanges their sexual history before undertaking quests together I do think they are thing of the past. Sure, we might be able to recapture some of that magic with things like the EQ progression server, but the simple fact is that games now demand a faster pace of community and attract a different breed of player. Deep down, even though the forced group feature in RIFT makes me a little sad, I believe it’s a necessity in the evolution of our virtual worlds.
Of course, it doesn’t mean that forced grouping is the perfect way forward and not open to exploitation but, heck, any form of social interaction is better than none, right? I’d love to be best chums with every adventurer that crosses my path but that’s an unrealistic hope. Instead I’ll take what I can get and form quick and dirty forced groups with absolute strangers who I know nothing about other than the fact that they are killing the same thing I am. It’s better than being alone, after all.