Some very perceptive readers have picked up on the fact that Rift has somewhat fallen out of favor with me. It might have been my post about patch 1.2. I did drop a few hints there.
Patch 1.2 brought the MMO destroyer, ‘accessibility’, to Rift. In one quick patch, Trion managed not only to kill 5 man dungeon content for me and the majority of my guild, but also world content, the soul system, rifts, crafting, and well, everything else. How is that possible you ask? Well, before I get to that, lets talk about that lovable monster we call ‘accessibility’.
Content difficulty works like a range. Those above the range find it far too easy, those near the top find it not difficult, those at the dead middle are in the sweet spot, those below have a tougher time, and those well under find it close to impossible. The issue here is that it’s not just those who are below the range that can’t enjoy the content; those above it are also excluded (running a dungeon/raid once is not end-game content, and we all know it).
When you move the range down, make it “more accessible”, you do grab those at the bottom of the range and move them into the sweet spot, plus those who found the content near impossible now have a shot. Win. Problem is, those who were previously at the sweet spot now find the content easy, and those who already though it was easy are now excluded. Fail.
Now, from a pure corporate profit standpoint, so long as your range is at whatever level grabs the most players, you are good, right? More people with access, more happy customers, more money. It’s so simple.
But it’s not.
Because while a player can always get better, it’s asking a lot for a player to get worse. If you find yourself at the near bottom of the range, you can improve and look, sweet spot. And from a players perspective, is there anything more rewarding? Not only are you now knocking out the content, but you actually worked your way up to that point and are now reaping the rewards, and you had that motivation because, well, you want to see the big bad at the end of the raid. That is very, very satisfying, and is one of the major reasons raiding in an MMO ‘works’.
If I’m a player, and I’m working my way up through difficult content, I still HAVE content. I’m not ‘done’. I stay subbed. And not only do I stay subbed, but my guild does as well, and we are all motivated to improve and progress. We have a REASON to improve. A very real one; more content. We improve our player skills, we improve because we get better gear, and we improve our teamwork, and it all means something (in the context of an MMO of course) because the better we get, the further we get.
If the content is at a faceroll level, why do I care to improve? Ooh, more gear to faceroll content harder, yay! Oh yes, let me grind out those crafting mats for that 1% upgrade items, because I really need it to finish a dungeon run in 20 minutes instead of 22. “Guys guys, please all be online and ready, we really need to focus tonight to speed-clear every dungeon in the game in record time tonight”. Uh huh, I’m right on it chief.
Point being, once the range is below you, you are done with the end-game. The whole themepark design falls apart. And, it’s at that point that you notice that hey, yea, crafting IS a stupid grind. And yea, that world content is kinda pointless. And no, I don’t actually enjoy PvP. Down and down we go.
So back to Rift.
1.2 moved the range well, well below me. I mean dungeons are stupid-easy. Most of the bosses are actually embarrassing now. It’s bad, and I honestly wonder just who DOES find this stuff a challenge. Probably the same people who find Farmville ‘gameplay’ exciting and interesting.
But ok, so dungeons are no longer for me, what about those rifts, those world events, and how great the soul system is? Those remain mostly unchanged, but they feel the fallout of the dungeon change. If I can spend 20 minutes getting just-as-good epics, why would I spend a significant amount of time crafting? And if I’m not crafting, what good are crafting rifts to me? Or hunting the auction house for upgrades.
If I’m already geared out, what real motivation do I have to get super-excited about a world event or some rift? Let’s not kid ourselves, themeparks are all about personal progression, the ‘world’ be damned, and no matter how fun the content is (especially the 10th time around), if I’m not progressing I’m not motivated. Even the soul system feels flat; why min/max or try out different specific combos when face-to-keyboard gets you there anyway?
I fully expect Rift to now follow in the footsteps of WoW, in that it will decline. Vanilla and BC days had challenging content, and it’s not a surprise that sub numbers grew. WotLK made things ‘accessible’, and surprise surprise, the response was pretty meh (sub numbers dropped in the US/EU, but were offset globally by WoW launching in new regions, hence the overall stagnation). Cata tried to play both sides of the fence, but a combo of too little too late, a gimmick of progression (hard mode rehashes rather than straight-up new content), and a one-track, insult difficulty 1-85 game did it in. With no new regions to offset things, subs are dropping.
Ultimately the ‘accessible’ path is short-sighted. It’s a temp boost at the expense of longevity, and in a genre where longevity is king, it’s a horrible trade.
It’s just unfortunate that a game with so many solid pieces has sold itself out so early for a one-time boost. For whatever reason, I expect more out of Trion.
My bad I guess.