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.