Monday, May 30, 2011

Archeology versus Artifacts

As RIFT and Cataclysm were released very close to each other, it's interesting to compare similar systems from both games. One such comparable mini-game is Archeology in WoW and collecting Artifacts in RIFT. In a lot of ways, Archeology reflects current WoW design, while Artifacts reflect RIFT and perhaps Vanilla WoW design.


First a quick description of the two systems. For Archeology, you have four dig sites marked on your world map. You fly to a digsite, and start surveying. Surveying is essentially a Hot Cold game. Your survey tool tells you when you get closer and provides a rough direction. When you find an archeology node, you collect fragments. There are three nodes per dig site. Collect enough fragments and you assemble an artifact. Most WoW artifacts are sold for gold, but there are a lot of pets and non-combat items.

Artifacts in RIFT are more like resource nodes. They're bright, sparkling white balls that are stuck all over the map, often in hidden or out of the way locations. When you click on an RIFT artifact node, you get a random artifact for the zone you are in. Each artifact belongs to a set. When you collect an entire set, you can turn it in to an NPC for tokens. You can then exchange these tokens for various non-combat rewards. The best analogy to this is collecting baseball cards or collecting CCGs like Magic: the Gathering.


What I've found is that Archeology in WoW is very grindy. Fly to digsite, survey, survey, survey, fly to next digsite, repeat. But it also offers guaranteed results. If you put in the time, you will complete the artifact that you are working on. The only randomness is where the digsites appear, and what artifact you are currently working on.

In contrast, Artifacts in RIFT are extremely random. Nodes spawn in random places, so you can go hunting and not find any. Every node is a random artifact. You can get lots of duplicates, while not finding the ones you need to complete your set. You can, however, sell or trade your duplicates. On the other hand, the final reward is not random. You just have to collect X sets to get the specific reward you want, while in WoW you have to wait for the correct Archeology project to pop for you.

It should be noted that in my time playing RIFT, I only ever managed to complete 1 Artifact set. I had like 20 or so partially finished, but only one complete set.

Archeology in WoW is very interface-driven. The dig sites are marked on your world map, and aren't shown in game at all. When I'm flying to a dig site, I have to have the map open so I can tell if I'm in the right spot. And surveying is entirely done using an interface button.

Collecting Artifacts in RIFT, on the other hand, are in the game world. Picking one up often requires maneuvering your character out on a ledge, or doing fancy jumping to just the right spot. The only interface action is actually putting the artifact into a collection.

Archeology in WoW is entirely independent of other players. You don't share nodes or dig sites with other people. There's no real competition or cooperation with them.

While in RIFT, other people can beat you to the Artifact node. It's like herbing or mining. You're busy clearing out the enemy mobs, and they sneak in and grab the artifact.

Archeology in WoW is also aimed at endgame, and is also not really something that you can do in between quests. It's pretty much impossible to level archeology without a flying mount. In some respects, it feels like Archeology was designed as something to do while waiting for a dungeon queue to pop.

Whereas it's perfectly possible in RIFT to see and collect an artifact while out questing. Even low levels will collect many artifacts.


In a lot of respects, I like RIFT Artifacts better than WoW Archeology. I love the fact that Artifacts are in the game world, scattered in obscure corners. I like trying to figure out how to get that artifact which is stuck in the tree. In WoW, I really dislike flying from dig site to dig site with my map open, trying to tell if I am flying in the correct direction.

I like the whole rush of opening the Artifact node and seeing what you get. It reminds me a lot of my days of playing Magic, and opening packs to see what rare I'd pull. While a dig site in WoW is terribly boring. Survey, survey, survey, but I know I'm getting 3 nodes of 3-5 fragments each. The only moment of excitement is finishing a project and seeing what the next project is.

In some respects, it sort of feels like the WoW devs spent too much time trying to simulate the profession of Archeology, rather than coming up with a mini-game which was actually fun.

But then again, I don't like the randomness of RIFT Artifacts. As I mentioned above, I only ever completed one set. And the more sets you finish, the harder it becomes to finish the remaining sets. Like Magic, getting the last few cards you needed to finish your collection can be a killer. On the other hand, if you removed the randomness, it might lose its luster and become a straight grind.

It's entirely possible that because I treated RIFT Artifacts as a side-game--only collecting them as I came across them in the course of questing--that I never saw the real flaws and frustrations. I imagine that trying to complete the Achievements for collecting all the sets would be mind-numbing, and you'd eventually resort to the Auction House to purchase the few artifacts you are missing. To me, the idea that a mini-game would force you to do that is something of an admission of failure on its part.


  1. "I imagine that trying to complete the Achievements for collecting all the sets would be mind-numbing, and you'd eventually resort to the Auction House to purchase the few artifacts you are missing."

    I'd think of it more like filling out your collection of Magic cards by selling off your own dupes and buying the singles that you need. But then, I think you'd have to be crazy to try to get the Achievement for collecting all of them anyway.

    Agree with your summary though. I don't dislike Archaeology but I got bored of it, so I assume it's intended for people with a more patient temperament than me. On the other hand, seeing the sparkle of an artefact while wandering around is still kind of fun. And I like that there are zone specific artefact collections with lore around them.

  2. RIFT's artifact system rewards the EXPLORER player archtype. If you liked to explore the nooks and cranny and find little bits of books, out of the way NPCs, scenery, and pick up some artifacts.

    I think the use of AH to complete a collection is identical to how a trading card game works. You buy booster packs until you have 80% of the cards you wanted, with lots of duplicates, then you take your duplicates - some of them may be rare, and trade them for other pieces that will complete your set. AH gives you a place to do this using just in-game gold, but you can also frequently see players wanting to /trade on the weekends.

    You mentioned you only have 1 completed set with many "near-completes". I'd counter this:

    Head over to an AH, set a price point in your mind (say 60g). Open the AH interface and the collection interface, right-click on your missing pieces so it queries the AH for it. Buy anything cheaper than the price you've set - e.g. 60g.

    I'm sure you'll have at least 10 completed sets.

  3. I dunno. Using the AH kind of feels like cheating to me, the same way that buying the last few rares you need in Magic would be.

    I wouldn't mind trading, though. I actually had the thought that there should be ways we can see the other person's "binder" and pick out artifacts to trade. And yet, since there's no inherent value in artifacts, a trade would be straight one-for-one, where you pick out all the dups I have that you are missing, and I do the same with your collection.

    It's not like weighing the trade of a "good" rare for two or three "bad" rares would be in Magic.

  4. Comparing Rift's artifacts to WoW's archaeology seems a bit strange, the two really aren't very similar. But aren't Rift's artifacts pretty much a clone of EQ2's collections? I didn't spend very long playing Rift, but it seemed that way to me.

  5. A guild can always have people throwing unwanted artifacts into a shared account and an open day on the weekends where the GM can give them away to people that wants them.

    Also, I think Triton realizes that only a minority of the players are out there collecting rare artifacts - the most recent 1.2 world event seems to be solely designed to improve the distribution of additional rare artifacts in the game. (Most of them ends up on the AH).

    Finally, a collection tip: snake tears (from killing a snake) is very rare and commands a fairly high price on the AH. The rest of the tears are very cheap. So if you see a snake in the world, kill it.

  6. Really, Carson? Both WoW Archeology and RIFT Artifacts are a solo collecting mini- or side-game which rewards cosmetic items. Indeed, note that both systems use the word "artifact" to describe a central element.

    Their implementations are very different, but I think they both occupy the same "design space" in the game.

  7. Archaeology also rewards raid quality epic.

  8. Carson has a point though. I haven't played RIFT much, but from your description, it sounds pretty much like a carbon copy of EQ2's collections, down to the glowing ball on the ground.
    That's not a judgment on the quality: you can make good carbon copies, or bad carbon copies. And then there's of course people who don't like carbon copies at all, regardless of their quality. RIFT, from all that I've read so far, seems to have perfected the carbon copy principle.

  9. Imo the Rift system is way better then the WoW archaeology grind.
    But then again, those rift nodes wouldn't really work in a world were you just mount up on your dragon and fly on a direct line to whereever you want ignoring everything that's on the ground.
    And those "Damnit, how do I get to that glimmering thing at the top right there?" moments also just don't exist with flying mounts.

  10. Regarding trade value, you get uncommon and rare artifacts, green and blue respectively. Those usually sell for more on the AH. Quite a bit more sometimes, in the platinum range.

  11. I loved doing Archeology during the first few days of Cataclysm... *because* it's independent of other players, and awards some reasonable xp. I was able to level up without facing the teeming hordes swamping the 80+ zones in the initial expansion surge.

    Some people might like crowded zones, personally I hate that. Give me a zone all to myself, that makes me happy! Now for archeology, I'll admit I haven't gone back to it after hitting cap; I could see doing it on an alt to level instead of questing, though. And I'd absolutely do it again when the next expansion hits. (Possibly it helps to don a Weather-beaten fishing hat and pretend to be Indiana Jones...)

    I'd also agree Rift's artifacts have more in common with EQII's collections from what I recall (did a trial back when EQII/WoW had recently been released). I suppose there's a good argument that all three game systems occupy similar 'design space' in their respective games.

  12. Get into a good guild that loves to give stuff away.

    In my guild chat, you can always find someone linking their extra artifacts to give away. Sometimes, an uncommon or even rare artifact can be snagged this way gratis.

  13. Rift's Artifacts are 99% identical to EQ2's collections. The interface is almost the same, they're both tiny glowing orbs, they both are zone-specific sets, etc. The main difference is you actually got good rewards in EQ2. That's also the reason why, as a whole, I prefer WoW's archaeology over Rift's.

    Rift only rewards you in pets (and one mount.) WoW rewards you with epic items you can send to your alts, pets, mounts, and random toys. The actual system for finding artifacts is far more fun in Rift, but I eventually stopped just because there wasn't really a goal other than OCD. I even made a checklist spreadsheet for Rift. When I stopped playing I had 594/1227 artifacts and could spend an entire 3-4h play session finding nothing but dupes.

  14. For Wow, try the addons Archaeology Helper and Archy.

    Not sure which, but one of them puts an arrow on your minimap to tell you where the nearest archaeology spawn is, amongst other things.

    I found the one that does that very useful.

  15. The Archy addon gives you dig sites highlighted on your minimap, arrows tot eh next nearest site (integrated with TomTom) a window of current sites for the continent, and current artifacts being solved. Highly recommended to help the grind.

    That said, the randomness of solving 4 gazillion, 900 million, 364,553 night elf artifacts trying to get Trande's Doll to pop gets old very quickly :D

  16. Using the AH is an intended part of artifact collecting, not a flaw. Working as designed.

    The bigger flaw was that the "white" artifacts are nearly irrelevant, since you get them long before the "blue" ones show up. Kind of like collecting letters under bottlecaps in those soda contests -- one of the letters is always much rarer than the others, so the game is basically "who can get the rare letter?" But, they seem to have addressed this by having rarer artifacts drop from daily quests in 1.2.

  17. Rifts artifacts are Eq2s collections..not anything wow cooked up

  18. RIFT did indeed copy their Artifacts system from EverQuest2, but that's what happens when Scott Hartsman leaves one game and goes to another.
    As far as whether or not you get useful items...well that can be argued. Generally speaking in EQ2 the number of useful items gained from Collections were few, far between, and extremely expensive. I would have rather got vanity items tbh.

    Although...we would stop groups, kill raids, or even kill ourselves just to grab a "shiny" back in the day.

  19. I've never played EQ2, so I didn't realize that the similarity between collections in EQ2 and RIFT.