Can we call RIFT a success yet?

No?  Okay… guess I’ll go back to sitting on my thumbs over here.  But know this: It is really, really hard to do so.

Sure, we as a MMO community are beyond wary of pronouncing anything for sure, especially after we’ve witnessed the billionth commenter declaring that something is a “fail” or “success” or “microwave burrito.”  We haven’t seen any official reviews of RIFT, the game doesn’t even officially launch until tomorrow, and we won’t know the post-one month subscriber numbers for a while.

So why does it feel like a success anyway?  Because it does, it really does.  Every time I play the game, I’m feeling and seeing something I haven’t for years — a fully operational battlestation, er, MMO that is compelling, addictive, popular, polished and content-rich.  People are literally waiting for hours just to log in depending on their server, and while they may complain, they do it anyway because RIFT is kind of worth it.

A few days ago, Trion announced that they hit over a million registered accounts (note: not necessarily players), and ever since the head start, the studio has released dozens of new servers just to handle the crush of players.  And — let us not forget — it hasn’t even launched yet.

Okay, sure, this may be the whole week one excitement, the honeymoon period that every MMO gets.  People flock to it, check it out, some stay, some leave.  But usually by this point I can get a sense for what’s wrong with it and whether or not it’ll make or break — and all signs are pointing to “make” in a big way.

I’m not writing this just to be “First!” or anything, but because I’m really wondering if we’re witnessing the start of something larger than we — even long-time RIFT fans — anticipated.  I’ve heard whispers and mentions of a million-plus subscriber base, something that hasn’t even been broached by a major subscription MMO for years.  We’ve all seen how quickly the fanfare over World of Warcraft: Cataclysm has died off, and I’ve read plenty of first-hand reports of players flocking in droves for new territory.  Again, WoW tourists?  Perhaps.  But perhaps RIFT has enough WoW in it that they’ll stay and not look back.

I guess this is all speculation and gut feeling, but I wanted to say it anyway.  We knew RIFT was going to be big, but I don’t think we knew how big.  This puppy’s got legs, and I’m excited to see where it’ll go.

/AFK: Server Is Full Edition

Long lines coupled with a naturally impatient society equals tempers, raging forum posts and amusement for the rest of us.  Sure, I hate long queues too, but it’s not as if I’m lacking other things to do or play, so I keep a sense of humor about it and dutifully wait until it’s my time to shine.

Welcome back to /AFK, the weekly roundup of interesting blog posts that caught my eye:

  • Overly Positive — Bardic coolness
    “I’m totally convinced that the Bard-like classes in an MMO, that base attacks and magic around playing music, are the middle child of MMO class-dom.”
  • Rift Watchers — It ’twas the night before launch
    “It’s the night before and here I am,up late, twiddling my thumbs, and wishing the minutes into hours so that 1 PM will get here a little bit quicker. I might seem silly. After all, it’s just a game. And one I’ve already played at that.”
  • Blacksen’s End — Where did Blizzard lose it?
    “Over the past month, something historic is occurring within the player base of World of Warcraft. For the first time, tens of thousands of players are quitting without leaving for another MMO.”

P.S. — He called it, folks!

RIFT ‘Roids

As much fun as it is to be in on the launch week of a game, it’s also wearying in a way.  One of the reasons that I’m primarily a solo player is probably due to my introverted nature — I’m generally happiest when I have space and quiet to do my thing.  I don’t mind grouping or whatnot, but crowds always make me jittery.

So being part of what feels like a player-and-turtle stampede in the lowbie zones gives me a claustrophobic feel, especially after being used to the slower pace of LOTRO, but that’s how it goes.

Last night it took me 4 hours to log on a second time for about 40 minutes of play before bed, but it was an enjoyable 40 minutes, darnit!  I made sure to jump into as many rift battles as I could find, and I really love the “join public group” button that pops up.  My bard has some decent group healing going on now, so I just sit back and heal while doing a bit of damage, and I tend to come out ahead with rewards.

Other than the queues, my only day one complaint was a gold spammer that sent me a tell — seriously?  Already?  Some folks have reported huge amounts of gold spam, but I just saw the one.  In any case, it’s disappointing that they’re already out in force, especially since it’s been close to forever since I’ve seen one in LOTRO.

Looking ahead, I can’t even try to predict when things will calm down for the game.  People will spread out a bit more as always happens, but we have the second big influx of folks when the official launch hits next week.  So far, knock on wood, Trion seems to have a monster hit on its hands, and that’s an encouraging sight after a year of MMO flops and disappointments.

I’d love to hear from any other Rift players — what’s your first day been like?  What were your goals?

Aaaand they’re off to the RIFT races!

Obviously, launch (well, head start) days are pretty hectic for everyone, especially bloggers who are torn between playing and wanting to write about what they’re playing.  Still, I thought I should at least give a bit of an update as to my afternoon’s excursion in RIFT.

One word: queues.  Yes, like pretty much any popular launch or mega-event, the servers got absolutely crushed by the influx of players.  I mean, I was right there at 1:00pm, logged on, and I was already at position 460 in the queue for my server.  No biggie — it’s the way it goes.  By all accounts, I got off lucky with a 36-minute wait time compared to the 2, 3, even 4-hour waits that some encountered.

Trion responded quickly by adding 10 more servers (!) spread across the US and EU sides.  Although it’s nice for Day One relief, I’m always leery of throwing servers at the initial population as a way to make it better now, because when the gold rush settles, it could cause sparsely populated shards in the long haul.  But I don’t know what goes on behind the scenes, so maybe they have it covered.

It’s kind of amusing, because there’s this herd mentality on launch day that constantly keeps its eyes focused on the Next Thing.  First, the thing is to log in.  Then it’s to reserve all your favorite character names.  Then it’s to get through the tutorial.  Then it’s to get to the mailbox and claim mounts and other goodies.  For some it’s achievements and fast leveling — hurryhurryhurry!

As for me, I didn’t really feel the pressing need to get anywhere, so I spent time configuring the UI just so and then hunted down the 14 books in the starting area before diving into quests.  Meanwhile, my guild pressed hard to get the 2 platinum necessary (I think) to form a guild charter, which was done before 2:30 hit.

All in all, I’m pretty impressed with the game performance.  No crashes for me, and everything flowed just smoothly.  I did roll a Dwarf Bard, and I’m pretty pleased with the choice.  I’m a Medieval Guitar Hero and proud of it, baby!  I splashed in a bit of Riftstalker for the teleportation spell — being able to jump ahead 25 feet every so often is a ton of fun, as well as a helpful escape button if I got over my head.

I only just made it out of the starting zone before logging out (and I dread the queue later tonight).  Seeing as how everyone in the game are pre-orders — and a large number of those with the CE — there were two-headed turtles everywhere.  I think this calls for a rendition of the TMNT cartoon song!

RIFT starter books

I’m not huge on guides or anything, but I figure this might be good to pass along.  There are 14 collectible books in RIFT’s starting area that can’t be grabbed once you leave, so if you have any inclination to do so, make sure you get them at the start!

A few guildies have been tossing around this map to help you out:

Click to expand

Riftday Riftday LA LA LA LA

Always fun to try to log in right as the servers open — there’s that thrill of being “there” at the start, followed by the annoyance of 1000+ other people trying to shove through the same door.  So… I guess I have a half-hour wait to go?

That’s not going to ruin my excitement tho!  Happy Riftday everyone!

Little Details

One of the things I like about my Lore-master is his ability to stun the heck out of everything, which usually results in a mob reeling a little bit.  But today I stunned a deer, and instead of the normal animation, the deer kept staggering to the left and the right like a drunken sailor.  Kind of made me laugh.  I like little things like that!

RIFT: T-Minus 28 Hours And Counting…

For someone who’s a little over a day away from a game he’s been anticipating for months now, I’d have to say that I’m a paragon of “cool as a cucumber.”  It helps that I’m terrifically busy this week, and trying to get everything done so that I’ll have an afternoon or two to play without interruptions means that I’m working like a dog right now.

As I type this, I’m reinstalling RIFT (if you have a beta or alpha version, you need to uninstall that and then hit up the site to get the new version) in preparation for tomorrow’s head start at 1pm EST.  No doubt the servers will get slammed, there might be problems, and I should just steel myself for potential frustration, but these things too shall pass.

I’ve finally settled on a starter character: I’m going to play a Dwarf Guardian Rogue on Faeblight.  Why a Rogue?  I went back and forth on this a lot, but ultimately decided that it’d be good for me to get out of my typical groove and go for a more action-oriented class.  The fact that Rogues can use rifles, spec for healing/support, and even tank if needed appeals to me, plus I love the bomb-chucking saboteur soul.  It’s not like I — or anyone else — isn’t going to roll three other characters anyway.

Generally, I think most people who were interested in RIFT are pretty jazzed at this point, particularly because there are no major red flags that we can see.  Sure, some folks just don’t like what’s offered or think it’s more of the same, but that’s more personal preference than genuine criticism.  It’s not perfect, of course, and there are people poking hard at it to see if they can find that soft spot of disillusionment they need.

For example, Game Genus is down on RIFT for the number of at-launch zones compared to (sigh) World of Warcraft’s list of 2004 zones.  Okay, putting aside how tiring and frustrating it is for people to constantly be comparing everything to WoW (and whether having “less” than WoW makes something “not good”), let’s look at this and see if it has merit.  Is RIFT anemic in zones and size, and will that bite the game on the butt in the long run?

I think the most legitimate complaint are the number of starting zones (two), although most players will probably only go through these four times, so it’s not as major of a problem as other games.  It’s just a little thin.

As for the rest of the world, sure, it’s smaller than some game worlds.  I think it has to be, and I think it’s ultimately best for the type of game world that Trion is making.  What Game Genus doesn’t get is that the bread-and-butter of RIFT is the dynamic content, not the size of the world, and if everyone gets too spread out, then the fun of that dynamic content is reduced dramatically.  Case in point, WAR.  WAR had a great idea with public quests, and they were fun in the first tier or so — when everyone was in the same areas and level range.  But after a while the population got spread out, the zones got far bigger, and the popularity of PQs took a severe nosedive.  You simply need a critical mass of players for these events to be fun.

And — pardon the cliche — but it’s not the size so much as what you do with it.  We all know RPG and MMORPG worlds that can boast absolutely vast square footage but have little content to fill it all.  Size for size sake — or many more zones just for numbers’ sake — can be a detriment rather than an asset.  I’m always of the opinion that whatever space is in the game should be used and used well, and from what I’ve seen so far in RIFT, that’s the case.

Plus, there’s nothing stopping Trion from expanding the world as I’m sure they will be.  If 14 zones are a dealbreaker for you, then, yes, RIFT’s probably not for you.  Personally, it’s a bit of a non-issue.

What your weapon style says about you

“I’m a bit dull but what can I say?  I like to live!  Also, my shield doubles as a sled when I travel to snowy zones.”

“This is my epeen.  There are many like it, but this one is mine.  With it I will disregard being a team player in a never-ending quest to top the DPS charts.”

“I’M WOLVERINE!  SNICKETY-SNICK-SNICK!  BUB!”

“I have seen way, way too many movies.  If I had a third arm, rest assured I’d be holding a weapon in that too.”

“This is not a weapon.  It is a stat receptacle.  I just like carrying large planks of wood to make me feel secure.  It’s a thing — I’m talking with my therapist about it.”

“I am the love-child of Legolas and Rambo.  And maybe Robin Hood.  In this scenario, Legolas would have to be the female with a child-bearing womb.”

“I will never sit at the cool kids table.”