Rift’s Disaster?!

April 17, 2011

Yes, I have been playing Rift for the past 30 days.  My account was set to expire this morning.  The climax of the River of Souls event was to be the make or break for me to re-subscribe or to let my account lapse.  So let me take a few moments and discuss the event as a whole.

Phase One: The Joke

The first phase of this event was pretty much a ridiculous excuse to add another set of currency and daily quests.  Sure, this has pretty much become a staple for MMO events, thanks much to World of Warcraft’s handling of most of their world events.  However, the major difference here is that in WoW or FFXI or even Warhammer we were given a number of activities ranging from completing a few dailies, killing some newly spawned event only monsters, to completing some random task such as collecting easter eggs, spelling our name with letters or just plain going into a dungeon and defeating a special event only encounter.

With Rift, we were relegated to participating in content that was “new” yet it was still the same old thing.  During phase 1 of the encounter we were given several new Rift types.  While in and of themselves they were interesting, but they got old fast.  The real meat of the phase was already the basic routine of playing the game.  What we got was a zone that normally received invasions of Water and Life, we got some Death invasions mixed in.  In the zones such as Stillmoor, Gloamwood and Scarwood Reach where death invasions were already the norm, we got nothing but the status quo.

These invasions were supposed to have a ramped up schedule of occurrences.  However, while playing through no less than 6 different leveling zones during this event, we did not feel like the invasions happened nearly enough.  It was not until we hit the Droughtlands that we saw a regular stream of invasions.  Yet these invasions were more never once an event death invasion.  We saw Earth and Fire and Air, but not a single death invasion during out exceedingly amount of time there.  This was more due to the sheer number of players that were leveling through the zone and in no part due to the supposed increase in event invasions.

This is all ignoring the fact that the first phase of the event was extended for a week due to concerns of stability and functionality of phase 2.  Phase 1, just became another joke.  Something that was so close to the status quo of the game as a whole, that most people did not even really feel its impact besides doing a couple of dailies.  Most friends of mine, stopped trying to do the 3 rifts per day daily after Trion limited these to experience only rifts.  While leveling through Scarwood, my long time companion and I could not even get credit for a good number of these.  In our own level appropriate zone because the rifts tended to pop on the lowest possible level for the area, which was just under our experience level.

In short, the phase was not a disaster but it was a pathetic excuse for an “event”.  There was nothing new and interesting that drew the player out of their normal day to day gameplay.  It was Rift as usual in most player’s minds.

Phase Two: The Joke Turns Bad

Before Phase 2 even began there were problems.  Logistical issues that Trion did its best to weather.

The previous week we saw cancellation of the EU event because of bugs and other concerns with the phase.  We were given to believe that ano

ther week of effort, coding, and rethinking of the specifics of the event as previously planned were going to make it an epic adventur

e.  So wh

at do we get when noon comes?  Nothing.  Even in Europe they got nothing come the clock striking 12:00pm.  Gone was all the talk of “being able to schedule” t

he event so all players who wanted to, could find a way to be online for it were out the window.

European servers had issues with the event.  Everything from the server turning off “smart healing” abilities such as Chloromancer’s Lifegiving Veil to monsters evading and people not getting credit for defending zones occurred.  So at 12:35pm PST on NA servers we were given a server restart and a patch.

Now that would not normally be a really big deal, but Trion forgot that there were these things called server caps.  That players on high population servers had logged in hours before the event in order to get their place in line.  So think of it with this analogy in mind.

You and your friends know there is this great free concert going at noon on Saturday.  You go and get in line super early in the morning, you may have actually camped out to ensure that you got in and got your pick of places to experience the concert.  Then the concert promoter says “Oh yeah, we moved the line over here, you gotta go and get in the new line.”

Players who had been proactive about getting on line now were no greater than those who had not cared enough.  It would have been one thing for Trion to say “You missed the event?  Oh man you should have done what we suggested and got on early to avoid queues.”  Now they had no excuse and sealed the deal on their need to give something to their playerbase to appease them.

The phase itself was not bad.  Servers were stable, latency for 98% of players was low.  In turn server lag was also much lower than ANYONE had expected.  The problem with phase 2 was not based on what everyone expected them to be.  They were created by Trion’s handling of things combined with the complete lack of a real epic event.

Having 4 monsters that had very interesting mechanics attack major strongholds in every zone was a good idea.  Yet those interesting mechanics were largely ignored due to the zerg.  Zerging monsters with 100+ people is an interesting concept.  Yet this was not done in a manner that was remotely engaging.  Even Aion’s Fortress boss zergs had more flavor and fun than these.  Those fortress encounters required tanking, healing and overall team work and simple strategy.  What we got in Rift was about a 3-5minute uninteresting zerg fests.

What did you get from participating in these zergs?  A measly 10 otherworldly sourcestones per boss and a chance at a quest item.  Oh and a “legacy” achievement.  Completely let down…

Phase 3: And The Punchline Is…

We had heard stories from the Alpha Shard (Trion’s name for their Public Test Server) that there would be an epic battle with multiple resurrected bosses from the 5man dungeons.  Sadly, all we were treated to was a pretty well done cutscene.  Even if that cutscene was basically 3 NPCs taunting each other and at one point firing a pair of randomly spawning cannons at the evil witch lady Alsbeth.  No fighting, no danger, no epicness to be found.  It was like being built up for 2 weeks to have this wonderfully epic culmination of an event and then getting told that Elvis had gotten bored and left the building.

Conclusion: A Priest, a Rabi and a Monk Walk Into A Bar

The event as a whole was designed from the word go to do two very specific things.

Number one: it was supposed to showcase Trion’s ability to create and manage new content in a quick and efficient manner.  We were supposed to have a wonderful engaging event that showed us how good the developers are.

Number two: it was designed to keep players playing for an extra month.

Unfortunately for Trion, the event did neither for me.  It actually proved to me that the developers know very little how to develop and MMO in today’s market.  They have good ideas, but their execution shows their nativity in design, explanation and overall handling of their game.  Trion gave us a polished game on launch.  A game that was complete from top to bottom, in no short because of the cloning and copying for complete game systems from World of Warcraft.  As the game that was seen through smoke and mirrors at lower levels turned on itself and showed the lack of MMO design experience as levels went on.  The event itself just proved to me what I had been thinking since about the time my friend and I started leveling in Scarlet Gorge.

This game is not ready for primetime.  It is an experiment and a testbed for Trion.  They created the software and server technology and THEN decided to use it to create an MMO.  I am confident that Trion will eventually take what they learn from Rift and turn it into a much better game.  I am just not confident right now.

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