Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Rift: greater than the sum of its parts

My blog list is comprised of MMO bloggers who are generalists, or who are very expert in a specific game such as Eve. Almost my entire list is talking about Rift.

The major issue with pre-launch has been that the game is so damn popular that people are having to queue for the fuller servers. They're opening 30 more servers for launch bringing the total to 96. According to a Trion employee who posts on the Something Awful boards that's "being conservative".

Rift has gone viral, will go more viral still and in a genre where WoW has held 90% of market share in NA and EU for a long time there will henceforth be two major players.

The evil Hag cannot withstand our swarm of turtles in Gloamwood

Very few people have quite put a finger on why Rift is doing so well. On the face of it WoW clones have been done before and polish shouldn't be enough to send a MMO launch viral, should it? However, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

The secret of Rift is that it is really really fun. It achieves this in a number of ways

- everyone feels over-powered. There are so many options but also so many measuring sticks that people can very easily find something to admire about their character. I did a load of Warfronts today with a friend. He was pretty imba in the Healing Done column. I was doing really well in the Damage Done column until I realised that looking at the Killing Blows would be even more egotastic and switched my sort order to that. I'm usually top; in one battle I had 5 times as many kills as the person who came next. Purr, purr.

- there's a ton of stuff to do all the time. Rifts pop almost non-stop and they have significant variety. One turned half the raid into werewolves for some random reason. Another involved chasing all over a zone to kill bosses before nuking down the big boss. Even in a big city like Gloamwood Pines there's a real chance that a huge army of baddies will come in and kill anyone out in the street. Hiding in the pub because there's an army of werewolves outside is a lot more fun than moving to the pub to gain a % boost to your Rest exp. Crafting is accessible, interesting and immersive. Daily crafting and warfront quests are really good and encourage you to do them. They have taken the shinies mechanic from EQ2, one of that game's most adored features and improved on it. The dungeons are great. And the Soul system has so much depth that theorycrafting is part of the fun and can absorb players for hours.

- it's a pretty friendly community. That's just game age paired with the what the hell is going on factor. I had an incident today where someone called me a noob (for not boosting his low level bum through an instance) and thought woo, that's the first person I've met behaving like a WoW lfd player. (I then promptly met two more). It's great to do a dungeon and know that most people will help you figure it out, will stay if you wipe and will appreciate your hard work and skill. I think the friendliness is helped by Trion's attitude, the friendliness on the boards, the engagement with the community in various podcasts and the flippant server message. They just announced downtime with "it will be down for about 15 minutes. Go get a snack."

I really do think Rift will see remarkable retention rates after the first three months. People are already starting to say that after playing Rift they can't imagine going back to WoW. I never heard anyone say that in any of the previous competitors.

Woot! Top on kills again! (5th column along, the sword icon)


  1. God I hate you. It's people like you that constantly pwn my butt in PvP. I'm lucky if I can manage average in damage.

  2. We won't truly know Rift's success rate until after six months, but so far I haven't seen a ton of complaints about the game beyond the queques. And if being popular is it's worst problem, that isn't so bad. It could still use work, as all MMO's are constantly a work in progress, but so far I'm really enjoying it. Nothing quite like 90% of the players in a zone banding together to take out a huge Rift invasion.

  3. I don't buy the contention that six months is the only bar that counts. If it is still hopping in two or three months (i.e., after the free month) that would make it a bigger success than anything since WoW. If, on the other hand, it's another WAR you'll see the servers that were added post launch become ghost towns pretty quickly. We won;t need to wait six months to see how things are going.

    Even if it shrinks from 96 to 30 servers by the six month mark, 30 well populated servers is a heck of a lot better than anything else has done. LoTRO is considered one of the more successful post WoW MMOs, and they have only had 11 servers for most of their history.

  4. server != server. If your server can hold 1'000 players it's more impressive if you have 10 servers as opposed to having 100 players per server. A decline will happen, no MMO is safe from that, the quesiton is how will they work with that when it's time for it.