Rift closing in China, Death accountability.

Things are not looking so hot over in Rift-land, including the upcoming closing of Rift China. The mighty MMO 3.0 seems to be falling, and falling fast. I can’t do a real comprehensive “why” analysis because I’ve not played the game since the 1.2 (‘accessibility’) patch, but even from an outside perspective it’s an interesting story. Is Rift a bad themepark? Is it mismanaged? Or is it a reflection of the changing genre?

I have a hard time believing Rift is bad, even today. The game was solid in beta, got a bit worse for release, and 1.2 happened, but even after that there was a lot of room between Rift and ‘bad’. TAGN has had a few posts about it and from those it sounds like the game is still basically the same, just with more stuff now, so I’m going to assume ‘bad’ is not the reason.

Is it mismanaged? Maybe, and I only say that because lots of other blah MMOs are still up and running, so why can’t Rift seem to keep it together? In a world where EQ2 and LotRO are still alive, let alone the countless nameless straight-to-F2P trash heaps, Rift should be able to keep the servers up.

A reflection of the changing genre? Man I hope so.

The genre’s roots are in part based on taking a single-player game experience (Ultima) and removing the single-player limiters and just letting players live in that world (Ultima Online). EQ1 started the ‘shared single player experience’, but it was so rough and extended that it worked (and compared to themeparks today, it was a ‘sandbox’, as ridiculous as that actually is). WoW cleaned things up a bit, but still had enough ‘world’ to keep going for a few years. At some point the interns at Blizzard took over and we got WotLK, phasing, and the full-forced introduction of the sRPG on a server.

As game development operates under a delay, even after WoW started to falter we still say WoW-clone after WoW-clone, with many cloning the now failing version. WoW made this harder to see for some due to its monstrous size and pop-culture snowball effect. For a bit, even as the churn was extreme, the number of players coming in was able to keep up with the flood of players going out. It was a uniquely WoW situation, like many are/were.

Rift, especially post-release and with 1.2, was cloning the failed version of WoW. More focus on the sRPG aspects, and a heavy limiting of ‘world’ aspects. Again, I don’t think it’s purely a ‘bad game’ issue, but it’s not doing itself any favors either. What I think is a bigger factor is players, even themepark fans, are growing tired of the online sRPG.

Let me clarify that actually; I think the average MMO fan is finally, FINALLY figuring the themepark formula out, and while they still enjoy the quick burst of Online sRPG content, they are not sticking around for long after the best parts are consumed. At the same time, those best parts (heavy story-based solo content) are non-repeatable and too time-consuming for devs to produce more of at a reasonable pace.

The end result; a lot of dev time/money spent to produce something expected to last, and all of it consumed in a month or three, with the devs left holding a rather large bill and no further revenue coming in. The death march is sometimes delayed by F2P-switch trickery, but as we are seeing, that fad is nothing more than a simple delay of the inevitable, and much like the Online sRPG itself, its being figured out faster and faster with each title.

There are a few important things to understand here. One is that the MMO market is indeed a niche, and not only that, but each title should be a niche within that niche. There are groups of players looking for certain games, and they will play them for long-enough to justify a reasonable investment. Just don’t expect WoW, or even EQ1 numbers, and you will be fine so long as you deliver what the niche is looking for.

Along with that, if your model relies on keeping people around for months and months, your content, and far more importantly, your content delivery plan should reflect that. Unless you have a magic voice-over production factory that costs you nothing, it’s not too smart to base your game around that extremely costly gimmick, now is it?

So while the news is bad for Rift, I think the underlying story is positive for the genre.

In totally unrelated news (ha), I’ve joined up with Sinister in Darkfall after the post-Proxy plan did not really work out. Our alliance (Death), has recently won a war against NOX, and an excellent video recap of the war can be found here. Worth watching IMO.

16 Responses to Rift closing in China, Death accountability.

  1. Anonymous says:

    Not surprised to see you in Sinister, that zerg mentality fits well with you, was amazed to see you go to Proxy tbh. That video is as biased as a video can get for the war recap. They never posted all the fail sieges by Death, all the exploits used by Death, and all the Dying done by Death. Was an entertaining watch for sure, but mostly because anybody involved in that war on either side can see how biased it is. The guy fought once in the entire video and he died to Nox`s crafter to boot.

    • SynCaine says:

      Proxy at its prime was able to field close to two full groups, so they were not small, and basically everyone was very active.

      As for the video, I think its pretty clear even in the video that its an entertaining propaganda video more than a historic documentary of the war.

  2. bhagpuss says:

    Rift’s fundamental problem is that dull as ditch-water. It feels like an MMO designed by committee. Worse than that, it feels “worthy”.

    It’s well-made, sure, but there’s no “there” there, something I personally would never say about a whole bunch of other theme-park MMOs I’ve played. It’s not all about efficiency; it’s also about feeling, and even if you go right back to the early, positive reviews of Rift, that’s the thing people were missing right from the start.

    • SynCaine says:

      I think nerfing the impact of rifts in beta went a long way in creating the problem you mention. Somewhat plain or boring zones are far less so when rifts are opening up and NPC gangs are marching across them, messing with your quest mobs. Plus it gave the whole game its identity. Tragic that they caved to short-sighted fan pressure to “just let us quest”.

      • tithian says:

        Yup, when they toned down the invasions and rifts the game lost much of its appeal. I remember trying to take back camps to turn in the freaking quests and it would be a hectic mess with me trying to kite shit away from the elites, hoping someone would show up soon to save my ass. I’d die countless times and I was loving it.

    • Noizy says:

      I totally agree. I played beta, played release. By all accounts it had everything a game should have, yet I found the “world” was not a place I wanted to hang out in. Feeling is everything.

  3. sid6.7 says:

    Death is a well organized war machine, so you’ll definitely get to participate in more sieges. Hopefully, it works out for you. Clan hopping until you find the right fit is never fun.

    @Anonymous – You are clearly in a clan who hasn’t figured things out. Or refuses to understand the reality of how an FFA game works. If your not expecting and preparing for a zerg when a siege is taking place, then you are doing it wrong. That’s why politics is a whole meta-game within the game.

  4. Draco says:

    TBH it seems the real weakness of many MMOs is there basically single player games with some other guys running about half the time.

    Also how many time you seen this…

    “Oh mighty hero, only you can save the land of Generic!”

    The real WOW killer be a game in which admits your one of many and lets you and change the game in meaningful ways and find a clever way to make content player driven.

  5. I wonder what role culture plays here? I would argue that high quality titles can span the culture divide (WoW going to Asia, and maybe Lineage coming to the West?), but differing cultures leave little room for error. That’s why you see Rift closing in Korea and China, and the less than stellar performance of Tera and Aion, and the term “Asian grind-fest”.

  6. Preben says:

    A lot of companies are moving out of the Chinese market these days.

    It says nothing about themeparks.

    SWTOR is picking up and has reached 2 million players as they rolled out 4.3.

    The new Final Fantasy has sold millions of copies.

    The two most anticipated upcoming mmo are wildstar and TESO.

    It’s fine that you live in a fantasy world where sandbox MMO’s are the future, but in reality nothing has changed since Ultima Online.

  7. You joined Sin?

    See you on the battlefield :)

  8. Anonymous says:

    Nothing says Sinister like this…http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UbjI4PirgVU

  9. letter says:

    gta 5 is the next gen MMO

  10. I saw your name pop up in the Alliance channel the other night before the Cairn sieges started. I had to log and didn’t get to participate. Does anybody from Inq still play?

  11. coppertopper says:

    Steam Machine/Controller: Go!

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