Rift: Stale Before Launch?

Pete at Dragonchasers scales back the hype. Green Armadillo over at PvD expresses concerns about Rift’s still-under-wraps endgame. Syp thinks it may be time to cool it with all the access. From what I’ve seen so far, Rift is nice and polished, and I figured it’d make a very strong entry. Its Xfire and Raptr numbers over the Super Bowl weekend appear to predict just that. But how long will it stick around as a major player?

This is exactly the same trajectory Warhammer Online appeared to be on in the same position relative to its launch, and during its own highly successful beta. The game’s apparent success in that period masked deep problems in the progression, in server balance and in the endgame. After the launch the whole was shown to be a house of cards that fell apart at a touch. Over a million boxes sold in the first month or two, and now, a little over two years later, it’s going down to two servers – one more than Vanguard.

As GA points, out, Trion is keeping its endgame cloaked under the NDA of a “simultaneous alpha,” happening alongside the “closed” beta. Just like Mythic did with Warhammer. This may be because they want to hold some things back for launch, lest everyone have played the game out just as retail copies start to move. Or it may be – and the pessimist will suspect that it is – because there are still big issues. Veterans of Warhammer, remembering the hype and the amazingly fun beta, as well as the subsequent collapse, might be more apt to find themselves among the ranks of the pessimists.

Rift is a neat game, and I hope that those pessimists will prove to be wrong. And there’s reason to think they may be, since Trion has been nothing if not agile in responding to issues with substantial improvements to the game. Even if there are issues with the parts of the game that beta players have not yet seen, they’ve given us some reason to trust that they can be addressed quickly, before they become a blight on the majority of the populace, advancing at a slower pace than the hardcore.

For me, though, I have to think that Syp is right; Rift is teetering on the edge of overexposure, even aside from the fact that beta players may have already seen too much of what the game contains. I don’t say over-hype, because almost all of the buzz is coming out of the player community, rather than from some bombastic dude at Trion spouting nonsense about how awesome the game is. But some folks are starting to feel like the buzz is reaching unsustainable levels.

I fall into the latter camp, even though I didn’t get nearly as far as many did during the beta events. I reached level 12 in Beta 3, level 21 in Beta 4, and didn’t have the heart to play more than an hour or so in Beta 6. (Beta 5 was mid-week, which is just bad for my schedule.) I felt like it was a lot of fun, but also that I’d seen just about everything that the game had to offer. So I’m right where I was weeks ago: I won’t be buying Rift at launch, although I’m certainly not saying never.

If I had to predict, though… I think Rift is going to sell 750K copies, maybe even more if Trion manages server populations intelligently, as Mythic failed to do. Short queues are better than empty servers, and you have to plan for two or eight or sixteen months down the road, not just for now. And if the endgame doesn’t turn out to be a bucket of fail, and if 10% of the population (the most vocal 10%, naturally, as well as the fastest-moving,) doesn’t run dead out of content inside the first month. The real test will come in week 5, when the gratis 30 days runs out. Will folks keep subscribing after that first month? If they do, there’s a great chance they’ll stay and entrench themselves in the game for the long haul. If not, back to WoW they’ll go.

12 responses to “Rift: Stale Before Launch?

  1. I didn’t plan on playing much of Beta 6 since I don’t want to “spoil the game for myself” when it comes out.

    But I started a new mage character on the Defiant side and got kinda hooked all over again. I don’t know what it is, but for me this game’s just plain fun. I even bought the 2nd role in-game and was able to swap from my solo spec to a healing spec and heal the intro dungeon. Several quests, inventive fights, and after the tank learned how to keep aggro I stopped getting heal aggro and faceplanted 😉 Still… none of us had been through the dungeon before so it was a learning experience and we wiped more than once, but it was a great time.

    Is it perfect? Of course not! But even the flaws don’t stop it from being insanely fun for me. I already signed up on the 3-month sub, so no worries form me about the end of the 1st month. It will be interesting to see how many others keep on like that also, and also if they slow down xp gain some in the real launch. Going from 1-23 in a single weekend seemed a bit fast, and if people are capping out before the end of month 1 and not feeling like there’s anything to do, then yeah, I can totally see it tanking. We shall see, and all of that.

  2. The buzz is (or at least was) absolutely at unsustainable levels;a month ago, you’d be hard pressed to find anything more negative about the game online than “it’s not Darkfall/Eve”. I don’t know that this makes me a “pessimist” on the game, but there was no way things could continue in the state they were once people actually started playing for the long haul.

    There are perfectly valid testing reasons for separating the “alpha” and “beta”. This is a game concept that shines with a lot of people in one place at the same time, and the combined approach lets them test staggered stress testing while having the smaller core group work on the higher levels. (In some ways, I’d argue that invasions are basically Warhammer’s RVR with the enemy players replaced by NPC’s to ensure that they actually show up in reasonable numbers, don’t flip keeps, etc.)

    The NDA just concerns me because there are obvious questions about some of the core game decisions. How do you balance endgame content when players can show up with literally anything classwise? How does the midlevel content fare when population inevitably splits up into the newbie zones and the endgame? Do people simply get tired of finding their quest hub dead and camped by mobs by the 100th time it happens to them? The alpha testers may have some of these answers, and it concerns me that they aren’t being allowed to share them.

    • Well, my two cents:

      1- I just saw some ALPHA players posting comments at other blog. Read the commnets from Wiqd at http://dragonchasers.com/2011/02/07/scaling-back-the-rift-hype/. He is aparently an alpha player that get to level 50. If that is true maybe the alpha NDA was just lifted…

      2- A good description for the endgame can be read at http://www.riftjunkies.com/2011/02/07/rift-podcast-details-on-end-game-raids-and-progression/, where we see an analysis from what is told us by the rift podcast.

      I will take some quotes from that article:

      “Rift Podcast‘s latest episode has Berenger Fish on to discuss the end game content and we get some new insights on what is coming down the line. What we currently know about the end game is that there will be rifts, raid rifts, expert dungeons and instanced raids. With this podcast we find out what raids will be in at release, what comes after, and all the details about raid size and lockout timers.”

      “As for how many raids will be in for the game’s release: that answer is one. This raid zone is called Greenscale. This raid instance will contain five boss encounters. Then shortly after release an unannounced raid will be release. The term “shortly after release” was used by Berenger Fish. When the average person is level 50 and geared for raids, both raids should be available for players.”

  3. @GA: Hopefully all our concerns will be unfounded. 🙂

    @WN: The issue is not that Trion is being closed-mouthed about anything. The issue is that the people testing the late-game stuff can’t talk about it because of the NDA, which is worrying. However, it’s worth noting that Rift is not Warhammer, and just because there’s a family resemblance doesn’t mean that Rift will have the same issues, whether there’s an NDA or not. As I mentioned in the post, Trion has been very good at responding to issues (some have argued too good,) so there’s reason to be hopeful. But we’re starting to see blowback from the initial great vibes. Hopefully it won’t get too strong before the launch.

    • Ardwulf,

      I am seeing people from ALPHA posting comments at diferent blogs. I guess that alpha NDA was lifted.

      If true, what is the reason for you be concerned, oh concerned one?

  4. @JCB: Just because there’s an NDA doesn’t mean nobody is breaking it. But as far as I know (and I would be happy to see something that says I’m wrong,) the alpha NDA is still in force, and there have been no widely-publicized leaks. Basically, we have heard some stuff about what Trion says the endgame will be like, but nothing (or at most very little) about the state it is currently in.

    This is concerning because it is an unknown variable in an equation that we otherwise think we understand and find pleasing, but which, if it’s within certain parameters, could drive the whole expression into the negatives.

    However, I shouldn’t need to state that “I am concerned” is not equivalent to “we should all panic” or “this aspect is unexamined, therefore it will suck.” Recent history teaches us to take that concern seriously… but that doesn’t mean that the concerns won’t be shown to be unfounded when all is revealed.

    Also, said concerns are not why I myself am not buying the game at launch. I just don’t think there’s enough there to hold my interest – it hits notes discordant with my own tastes. If I had extra money and ample time I might roll the dice, but I have neither.

    EDIT: Sorry your original comment got flagged; we mark any comment with more than one outgoing link as needing approval before it goes up.

  5. Actually I would argue it has nothing to do with rift or trion. After age of conan, warhammer, final fantasy, vanguard, and all the other recent disasters rift seems to be taking the punishment. I cannot off hand think of any major title that has allowed everyone to play this much of the game prior to release. The final beta cap will be lvl 42 out of 50 levels.

    Trion is being required to have a fully fleshed stable mmo with all of the content and fluff of an mmo that has been out for 3 years. This is not really a bad thing. It is about time the community started demanding complete finished games before shelling out $50 for the box. I think final fantasy was the last straw and Rift is just the first major game out the door since then.

    While I think it is a bit unfair to Trion, I too want the alpha nda dropped prior to release. Based on the game so far I believe the end game will be ready and quite fun. However based on that long list of gaming disasters I mentioned I would like some proof.

    • I played the open beta for all that games, except for AoC. All they had problems at beta. However, I don’t see that same problems that the other games had at Rift betas. My only issue is that at Rift Beta 5 I had some lag at big invasions, but aparently that get solved at Beta 6 (big invasions and no lag, check). The game is more stable than that other games, have less bugs and and it is more polished too.

      Everyone say the game is well polished now at beta than a lot of games at launch. Some people just say the game is ready for launch now. I just want more stress test (I get kicked off the game at last saturday stress test).

      I really don’t see why you need comparate Rift to WAR. Sorry to say it, but WAR hype was made by the devs. You remember that dev full of hot air that had youtube videos saying things as “you can kill halflings and use their heads for play soccer” (or something like that…)?

      Rift hype started when Beta NDA was lifted. It was not dev made, it was player made. Rift hype is diferent from SWTOR hype that is based upon a cinematic video. Or GW2 that is based at a video with dev’s ideas about what a MMO need be (however, we need say the truth, who played the starting human area for GW2 get hooked by that game). The people that are playing the Rift at beta are starting the hype, not Trion. Trion decided to launch a cinematic trailer one month before the launch, after the hype started. And that cinematic trailer is just plain, not good enough for create any hype (well, SWTOR cinematic is very better… “For the Republic!” and jumps for battle… lol )

      You aparently want to believe that the diferent beta events was only a marketing strategy, but I think it was not it. They really used Beta for test the game, so we need be clear: the beta TESTED the game! Yes, it is a big surprise, see you, all that games you quote failed to use beta for test the game…

      They are changing things from one beta to other, testing things, seeing if it works, looking for more changes they need to do. It is not a “marketing strategy”. Marketing strategy we had from WAR devs, sadly they forgot to develop the game…

      The open beta is coming. IMHO we will see changes from the beta 6 to the open beta and a long update list. It is possible they change things now people are concerned how easy the game get.

      With relation to end game, it is a sad excuse for make a critic to the game. No one know what is for the end game, except the alpha testers. However, no one will be at the end game soon after the launch. And from what I saw at dev’s podcast, the endgame will be long.

      Rifts, raid rifts, expert dungeons and instanced raids. You need complete the expert dungeons for have the gear for go to the instanced raids. The expert dungeons are the same dungeons you see at the diferent zones, but a diferent instance (if you noted, the map for the dungeon have areas that you don’t see when enter the dungeon itself… because that is the map for the expert dungeon). And, if you take note, it is an inteligent way to make level 50 return to lower zones: they need complete the expert dungeons and, possibly, the raid rifts.

      So, IMHO, you are being more than unfair to Trion. You are looking for any way to make a critic to the game. Adwulf is making an issue about the end game, that we will not see for one or more months after launch (and there is no reason to show the end game now before launch). And he compares the Rift to WAR but, sorry, WAR fiasco was dev’s “hot air” fault, it is not good to compare apples to oranges. PvD make a critic about the “no level requirement for horses” because CE get a free turtle and other players need to play one plat for a horse. Sorry, but a horse is not one plat but ~ 200 gold, they can change the level requirement for horses before open beta or launch and, the truth need be told, a lot of beta testers asked for it because need so much time for run from one place to other…

      So, what is the reason why you need find ways to make critics to Rift? Are you really feeling fear that any well polished game be a WoW killer now that Cataclysm is showing be a fail?

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  8. I won’t comment on the over or under exposure thing but I will comment on end game. Don’t worry about it. At all. Rift will release with plenty of endgame content. More than any other MMO I can think of and they have a whole lot more that will be released soon after launch. There is absolutely no reason to worry on that front. I promise ya.