In this week's Enter at your own Rift, we'll journey back to beta and look at some of the peaks and valleys as it reached its six-month milestone.
RIFT's use of beta weekend events helped to generate a lot of interest in the game, and players were scooping up beta keys as fast as they were made available. By limiting the amount of time and content that players could see, Trion used beta as a PR tool to make itself stand out and create some positive word-of-mouth feedback. Those who were around for the zone event tests probably remember the map exploding with invasions and major hubs falling to huge armies of planar creatures.
But the big question on launch day was, "Is the game really as polished as it seems?" Players only got to see the early levels in the beta events, and many veteran gamers are a bit cynical when it comes to MMOs, having been burned too many times on unfinished and buggy content at the higher levels, or even worse, a complete lack of any endgame.
Launch day for RIFT was not without its share of roadbumps, and players had to experience long queues initially. On top of that, the game was being hit extremely hard by hackers and keyloggers, to the point that they could very well have brought the game down entirely had Trion not had the security in place that it did. Unfortunately, while the game stood up well to the attacks, many player accounts did end up being hacked, and Trion had to scramble to fix the threat. In a surprisingly quick response, the team rolled out authenticators and the coin lock system, which locks down your character and his inventory if your account is logged in from a different IP than your own.
Quite a bit of content has been added to the world of Telara in the first six months. Raid zones like the River of Souls and Hammerknell Fortress both opened up after major world events. Special slivers provide 10-man raid content for those just cutting their teeth on raiding, and the instance Gilded Prophecy was also added for smaller raid parties. In addition, unique rifts were added to match other playstyles. Crafting rifts were added in update 1.2, and PvP rifts were added soon after in update 1.3, both of which helped to get different player types involved in the rift invasion system. PvP players also have seen the addition of a new warfront, Whitefall Steppes, as well as new weekend warfronts. Initially, for those who want to test their mettle in a group, the master dungeon Darkening Deeps was added with Update 1.5.
The rift invasions have also undergone several changes as Trion seeks to improve upon what was in-game at launch. The world map was made clearer so players could see where the action was taking place and what wardstones needed defending. Zone events were broadcast in-game so players could join in and help protect a certain zone. And planar abilities have been adjusted, with longer durations, shorter cooldowns, and better defense against invasions. This should help players turn the tide even when the zones aren't heavily populated. When invaders do take over a hub, they'll have a debuff that weakens them the longer they stick around. And while several new zone events have been added in game, the Ancient Wardstone system was eventually removed, seemingly because it didn't accomplish what it was intended to do. It's clear that the rift invasions are a major part of the game, and Trion seems to be focused on making it something that is fun, engaging, and most importantly, something that players actually want to do.
The first event, which involved Alsbeth, the Endless Court, and the River of Souls, was a bit of a bumpy ride, as RIFT fans might recall. The initial events went smoothly and piqued players' curiosity about the final event, but when it actually arrived, it resulted in long queues for some and a surprisingly short duration, meaning that many fans never had a chance to see it. Later events have worked out much better, though. Soon after, Trion made up for the first event by sending out a series of gifts, and the Spoils of War that followed soon after helped soothe the old wounds. More recent events have included the Hammerknell world event and the hunt for Dragon Motes; both offered in-game upgrades and some nice appearance items. The world event Ashes of History is included in Update 1.5, but as Trion CCO and RIFT Executive Producer Scott Hartsman recently said in an interview, the team will look closely at the pace of world events going forward to make sure that they find the right balance with players.
The finer points
In addition to some of the larger content releases and features, RIFT has had several quality-of-life additions in-game. Players had been asking early on for a guild bank, a wardrobe, and a looking-for-dungeon tool. All three were added to the game, along with free weekly transfers for individuals and even guilds. Trion also added ways for players to interact with the game via social network sites like Twitter, YouTube, Tumblr, and Facebook. RIFT Connect allows players to post updates, screenshots, and video of their in-game progress. And for those who love to build apps and handy tools for players, Trion made all the in-game discoveries available through FTP. Most recently, fans were rewarded for their loyalty with the launch of the veteran reward program, which arrived with the latest update. The longer your subscription, the better the rewards, and it's not only retroactive -- it counts future game time purchased from the moment you buy it.
Players have also seen several new ways to make their characters stronger and more suited to the roles they play. Planar attunement allows level-capped players to continue to advance by spending earned experience on special stat increases and enhancements. Synergy crystals were also added, giving players a new way add set bonuses that bump up stats and abilities. And players early on were given the option to purchase a fifth role from Calling Trainers.
Whether you're a fan of RIFT or not, the amount of new content and features that have been added is impressive. And overall, the additions have gone pretty smoothly. Trion seemed to do itself a big favor by launching a game that didn't need a lot of patching or revamping, and the devs are managing to keep that momentum and stay ahead of the eight ball so far. With 1.6 already in testing, fans can expect to see even more on the horizon.
Whether she's keeping the vigil or defying the gods, Karen Bryan saves Telara on a biweekly basis. Covering all aspects of life in RIFT, from solo play to guild raids, the column is dedicated to backhanding multidimensional tears so hard that they go crying to their mommas. Email Karen for questions, comments, and adulation.