Should RIFT go dark?

The frequency and duration of RIFT’s beta events (six so far and counting) have a few bloggers wondering about their purpose, not to mention the absolutely massive list of patch notes that seem to accompany each of them.  As we head through the last few weeks before the head start/launch, the questions of how Trion is handling the beta are rising.  Here are a few I’ve seen and have popped into my head:

Is Trion overexposing RIFT at this point?

I think a lot of folks were pleased that RIFT more or less flew under their radar until sometime in December, when it reared up out of the water like an extremely polished and welcoming Loch Ness monster.  It’s a refreshing change of pace not to marinate in the hype and build up for so long that you lose all taste for it, but instead to have a really big, really well-done MMO pop into existence out of (seeming) nowhere.  “Howdy!  Wanna go for a ride?”

Of course, the announcement of RIFT’s beta was like the starter’s pistol at the marketing races, and we were off.  With TOR being pushed back and GW2 coming out God knows when, RIFT suddenly had the full attention of the coming attractions crowd.  I previously remarked that it was a special kind of genius for Trion to handle the beta in segmented, limited-edition events rather than a contiguous process, because it made the game seem that much more special.

But by now, it almost seems like there have been too many beta events, not to mention to the polite fiction of handing out keys hand over fist instead of just opening it up to everyone.  Having a beta event two weekends in a row kind of feels like they’re pushing the game for the game’s sake rather than for testing.  That’s just a feeling, of course.

Is Trion overreacting to player feedback?

It’s a possibility.  Every beta event has come with a monster list of patch notes, which is more or less for the par with pre-release titles (for those at home praising Trion for quick, responsive fixes, just keep in mind that pretty much every MMO studio before launch does this sort of speedy implementation — they don’t have to work on a live game, after all, and everyone’s in crunch mode.  So don’t assume it’ll always be like this.).  And while I personally welcome many of the changes, I have to admit a bit of worry that the team may have difficulties sorting through all the feedback — especially on the emotionally-charged forums — and are overcompensating as a result.

For example, I kind of liked the old racial abilities.  I never thought they were necessary or overpowered, but I guess enough people whined so that now we have pretty bland versions shoved into place.  And I don’t quite get this whole “we’ll let you get a mount before 20″ switch.  Convenience is nice, but good things should be earned, otherwise you won’t appreciate them.

Does Trion really need any more of these events to get the game ready?

Undoubtedly, every event is invaluable in terms of testing the server load, expanding through the new areas and so on.  But we’re only a few weeks away, six events under our belts, and the phrase “diminishing returns” comes to mind.  How many people do you know who are actually testing the game (submitting bug reports, etc.) versus just playing, anyway?

And let’s not forget, Trion has a parallel alpha that’s been running non-stop on a separate server, where more of the (allegedly) serious testers are located.

Should RIFT go dark?

I’m not stating a lot of facts here, just opinions — but in my opinion, I think the time has come for Trion to cut the cord and stop running beta events.  Whether or not they should do so for testing purposes, I can see this as being a perfect time to make all of the beta testers go cold turkey and sweat it out for a few weeks.  Launch should be special, not “oh, I just played this game last weekend,” and RIFT needs a big jump at the start that a couple weeks of quiet could give it.  Like with any horror movie, you don’t just keep ratcheting up the scares without some downtime between them — it gives the audience time to breathe, to compose themselves and to anticipate.  RIFT going dark will allow our hunger and anticipation to grow instead of stagnate.

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30 thoughts on “Should RIFT go dark?

  1. I actually agree with you. Now, of course, this was the first weekend I played the heck out of the game, but it still was to test features (grouping and guilds) and report concerns (feedback more than bugging).

    But, lets just get this straight. This game, at THIS stage, plays better than a lot of games that have been out for years, and I would gladly be PAYING for this game now.

    Cancel the last beta and just go for launch now.

    Ain’t gonna happen though…BUGGER.

  2. “Convenience is nice, but good things should be earned, otherwise you won’t appreciate them.”

    So true. A good example is the Charger (an armored horse) for paladins in WoW. In vanilla WoW I had to go through one hell of a quest chain to get that mount. Afterwards I was of course proud and used it a lot. Then after patch 3.0.3, Blizzard changed it so you can now buy it from a trainer. I used a big cat as a mount after that.

  3. You know, I would submit bug reports if I had any to submit. This game is in good shape. I have spent time on both factions and have not seen any real bugs, I did have one quest break, I abandoned it and restarted and it worked fine. If it had failed again I would have reported.

  4. Pre-ordered and all, but i’m ignoring the BETA. At least i will be using my free month in figuring out the game.
    Other players seems to already know what class/race/whatever combination to play…..but sad part is THAT is what i enjoy most in MMOs, figuring out all the mechanics . So if i know it all before launch, i would be bored long before subscription kicks in…

  5. /Agree

    And they have to stop messing with a good thing. I honestly preferred the beta 2-4 game to the beta 5 & 6 game. They’re adding in too much convenience which in turn trivializes things, IMO.

    I loved Rift because it felt old school to some extent. Every patch it feels more like every other current fantasy MMORPG.

  6. I’ve submitted a bug report during every beta event — I’d submit more if I found them. ;) The game is very polished. While I’m looking forward to the next event, they could cancel it and I would not be upset. I need to spend that week studying for my CCNA, anyway. ;)

    Whether canceling the beta event would help them have a bigger launch, I can’t say. Does it hurt to expose more people to a highly-polished game, giving them an incentive to plop down their $50 bucks? Do you think the chance of some obsessive players burning out early outweighs the PR aspects?

    As to the availability of mounts at level 0 (really 5 or 6 before you get to a mailbox if you have CE and later if you have to save up the 2 plat to buy one), I say I bought the CE, I want my turtle! I didn’t “earn it” one way or the other. ;)

  7. Beta 6 was my first Rift beta and I went into Rift pretty cold having only read this blog. I ran a Dwarf Cleric (Justicar/Shaman/Druid) that I was able to get to level 12 over the weekend.

    The quest were very easy if not a bit boring with collect this, turn this on, turn this off.

    The rifts were very cool the first few times but with what appeared to be 50 or more players attracted per rift it was very difficult to target let along see and engage the enemy. I of course joined public groups at each rift but other than firing off one range attack per target I did not feel I really contributed much and was receiving XP.

    The bad sign – during my first beta weedend I wound up logging out several times to go back to playing World War 2 online and even do some mining and mission running in eve.

    I will still give Rift a shot but I was not overly impressed. Perhaps a build or regular group is needed.

  8. I agree on the mount change but I am under the impression that was only for beta since there are so few people at 30+ and the lack of an LFD tool means dungeons are getting next to no testing. Maybe they will revert it at launch?

    I would be more concerned if I didn’t see progress between beta patches but as it stands, there are significant changes (like re-writing souls) to fix glaring issues. PvP was (sort of is) horribly unbalanced. Some PvE souls are/were useless without group content. Rifts were very buggy. Graphic glitches still plague a wide group of players.

    Even with all that, there are only a handful of games out now that have more polish that Rift. People playing the beta seem to have nothing but positive to say about it and word of mouth is getting around that it’s going to be worth the shot. Maybe as ‘dedicated’ gamers we get too saturated with the media but for the wide majority, they only play what people say is good. And people are saying this game is very good.

  9. I agree. I got my rogue to 30 in the previous beta, and dinked around with a couple of alts, but decided not to play this weekend. I submitted loads of feedback and bug reports during the earlier betas, but there just doesn’t seem to be a point to doing so anymore.

    Instead, I spent the weekend playing Wizard101 with my kids. When Wizard101 can beat out a Rift beta for my playing time, that’s probably a sign that they’re overdoing the betas.

  10. It can definitely feel likes it been going a bit to long but they are still constantly changing stuff adding in new based of feedback from Alpha and Beta. Something I would rather they do now then near release.

    Also no matter what they are going to be plenty of people who play a beta just to play it so they should concern themselves to much and i’m pretty sure their is one more event before pre-launch. Almost over :D

  11. I managed to get to PAX this year. I saw this really nice booth there – there were a good dozen systems running, with a large monitor set over top of every station so others could watch what was going on, and a HUUUUUGE screen top center showing one of them going.

    No, not TOR or GW2 – Rift.

    If there wasn’t any marketing hype before December, it was because the hype machine hadn’t noticed it, not because Trion wasn’t trying. Don’t take it too personally, Syp, but I’m continually amazed at gaming media’s ability to pretend they don’t influence anything. The Rift hype machine is in overdrive because YOU (the collective gaming media you, not you you) didn’t have anything new to talk about with GW2, and TOR was holding steady, and the Final Fantasy Fiasco was old news. Cue the Rift flood!

    As to whether they’re overdoing the beta – please stop and think about that a bit. Most companies do beta by just opening the floodgates and letting everyone in all the time. Trion’s done six events now, none of which have lasted more than a week, right? And most of them about a weekend? Next big new game that rolls around I fully expect you to be ruminating about how two weeks of beta time isn’t nearly enough for them to have stably tested a game…

  12. I completely disagree Syp. It’s perfect pacing for patching significant changes/fixes. It’s not over taxing, over exposing players. It’s whetting appetites and filtering out the hardcore WoW fanboys. It’s quite brilliant on Trion’s part.

    Rift beta going dark is not going to help at all.

  13. I think it should. I’m not so foolish as to infer a general trend from my own feelings about it, but I’d call it likely that I played myself out of buying the game at launch in multiple beta events. There’s nothing wrong with it – I just didn’t feel like there was much more that I just had to see.

  14. I would imagine that most people are capable of making decisions for themselves. If they feel that the beta events are overexposing the game to them – just do not participate then! It is not hard.

    If there is any overexposure, I would say that this comes from gaming sites and a number of MMO blogs.

  15. Funny you should post this just as Trion announces that the last Beta on Feb 15th will be open to everyone. So they aren’t going dark, and instead are giving everyone a chance to play it. Although for myself, I’m done playing it, ready for the release. I’m sold.

  16. Last Beta is a 6 day Opn Beta event, which is completely “normal” for a pre-launch MMO.

    What I’d like to see is a few good, critical looks at what happened with the major changes between 5 and 6, and a really good assessment of the situation before B7.

    But no, I don’t think they are wrong to be running the last event.

  17. With Open Beta already slotted in it aint going dark but I think I should. After playing/testing betas 2-6 I found myself not wanting to log in anymore.
    The game is fine but after level 20 it felt like the levelling moved at a glacial pace and it hasn’t yet established a ‘je ne sais quoi’ that makes me want to invest a whole lot of time beyond the first 30 days.

  18. Oh, one more thing. I’ve deliberately (like others) NOT logged in to test Rift . . . not because I do not want to. Like you, Syp, I want to get in and play for real.

    Them having or not having a Beta will not change that fact . . . for either of us. :)

  19. I have to disagree that Trion is overdoing the beta. I’ve been in all six and I have sent a good deal of Feedback and Bug Reports in all of them. Moreover, I am finding a LOT more bugs now than I was in the early betas. As we see more of the world and more systems come into play, so we can see more frayed edges.

    Of course Rift is already much more ready-for-primetime than many (most) recent and not-so-recent MMO launches, but that’s not to say it can’t be better. They have two and a half weeks until the Headstart and there is clearly much still to be done that will be done more efficiently with good feedback, which comes from metrics as well as things people type.

    Yes, there’s an Alpha server but it presumably can’t do the stress-testing that these betas do. The improvements I have seen in lag in the huge battles is very noticeable. This beta we had more people than ever before and I had the least lag I’ve had since beta one.

    I’d also say that while some people may feel they are getting stale already, I feel I have barely scratched the varnish on the surface. I have played all the betas and played nothing but Rift for the duration of most of them. So far I have seen two and a half zones. I’ve tried out four souls to 20 points spent. I’ve tried one craft to 150 points of skill.

    All I have done is whet my appetite. I intend to play for months, maybe for years. If playing beta for a few days could spoil that, then I probably would be better off finding that out now, rather than the same few days after I’d bought the game and a 6-month sub.

  20. Some of the racials had a big impact on pvp combat outcome. If you wanted to make a Melee Rogue for instance, you HAD to make a Kelari. Or face to possibly loose every single 1on1 vs Kelari rogues.

    Now they made them all out-of-combat ability, they wont have any impact, or at least very minor, on the outcome of battle.

    This, imo, was a required balancing change.

  21. Going dark at this point would be pure foolishness. The hordes of screaming fanboys will buy the game regardless, there are many many undecided people out there, and many many more who haven’t heard a thing about RIFT. If Trion wants appeal to anyone who isn’t already playing an MMO they need to push it more, not less.

  22. TBH, no, they shouldn’t go dark. Let all the WoWphiles (and I mean that in the kindest way possible) come over for the beta, take their obligatory 30 minutes of playtime (& assist Trion with stress testing in the process, HA!), and leave. It’ll be better for the community in the long run.

    From what I’ve seen/heard, since about beta 5 they’re just stress testing anyway. The alpha seems to be where most of the actual testing & feedback is coming from. At this point I’d say that their main focus is on server stability and ensuring minimal server crashes & issues at launch.

  23. I’d say 7 betas was overkill. Definately potential for blowing the load early. I’m afraid to go beyond level 20 at this point because, well, the first instance sucked tbh. Boring and characterless. And the battlegrounds – lame. I was more excited about some attempt at open world pvp, which was squashed with the latest patch that made wardstones un-attackable by players.

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  25. In the list of reasons for me to dislike the MMO gaming community, the absolute top of the list has to be that they’ve redefined the software testing period to an early-access marketing ploy, only to then whine and moan about how buggy games are.

    It’s karmic, in a way. You get the game you deserve. Which is shallow, buggy, and you play mindlessly for 14 hours a day before spending the last two on the forums complaining about how horrible the experience is.

  26. Trion is doing it right. Beta 6 had thing to test (changes to racial bonus, for example). And they had to fix a problem with spell effects being permanent in the world (well, some “magical balls” were visible at some places all over the zones, and I assume that is not good for the game lag). They too need make the lag lower when there is a big invasion.

    They used the beta 1-6 to fix a lot of diferent things and for test changes. Now you caome say the game is well polished now. Can you ask yourself why?

    Beta 7 will be open. Normally and sadly, open betas don’t test a lot of things (except maybe stress test…), because most players just want play the game free and see how the game plays. The open beta are currently marketing.

    My guess is that the players that try the open beta will find a well polished game.

    @coppertopper

    Sorry to say it, but you are wrong. Rift is not a PvP game, it is a PvE game that have PvP. Any player can just skip PvP and will advance to level 50 with no problem. Rift is a game based at public quests, rifts open, invasions happen, and players just stop everything for kill the creatures from other planes that are trying conquer Telara. That public quests will give better xp. The dungeons will give good gear, but for do dungeons need a group.

    The game is not about guardian versus defiant. That war is just stupid, while the two faction fight Telara is taken by rifts.

    There are good PvP games if you want them. Dearkfall is a good example. But Rift is not a PvP game, Rift is a PvE game with some PvP.

  27. I don’t understand it. Gamers are playing themselves sick on limited beta weekends, and the problem is with the company in any way? (not that you’re saying this, Syp, but it seems to be the impression I’m taking away from several comments on the blogosphere)

    Sometimes I think I’ll never understand some of my fellow MMO players. I sometimes feel that this is purely a side-effect of our fast-moving internet and blogging culture, where people feel compelled to say something every so often (we don’t want to fall off of those blogrolls!), and so play themselves sick on games so that they have something to report on, and if they can’t (goodness forbid) play, speculate themselves into a frenzy of hype and delusion, the outcome of which can only be PR disaster.

    That’s… not on the company. That’s on us.

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