Posted in RIFT

Is there a scenario in which RIFT has a future?

Continuing with a recent spat of MMO tourism, I popped back into RIFT for a while to see if I could clear out Scarwood Reach — the zone that I bogged down in last year. And as the rule goes, whenever you come back to an MMO, the very first thing you do is whip up a new outfit. I have no idea what I’m going for with this one, other than a sort of breezy winter athletic tone.

RIFT’s continued existence defies the predictions of so many people who thought that Gamigo was going to shutter this years ago. Yet it’s still been trucking along, albeit with the bare, bare minimum of any development, PR, or events. CMs keep getting hired and then let go, and the company doesn’t talk about RIFT at all in any reports. It’s most likely that the best we can hope for — as things stand now — is for RIFT to continue on in maintenance mode for several years yet before the company does pull the plug. If that’s the case, then my time in the game now is a big final tour of an MMO that I’ve loved since its launch.

Yet some movement on the part of Gamigo last month — the anniversary celebration, a free Patron promotion, linking Steam and Glyph profiles together — raises a very outside possibility that the company may be trying to position RIFT to sell. This is really the only hope RIFT fans have of any other future than a prolonged death spiral. The scenario goes like this: Gamigo puts RIFT up for sale, an eager studio snaps it up, RIFT gets relaunched (with additional PR and fanfare and hopefully a better business model), and a small but dedicated team is tasked with developing and promoting it.

It’s a long shot, yes, but not unheard of in this industry. Broadsword took over development and publishing rights for UO and DAOC, even if that was just a small studio spinning off of EA. Gamigo sold ArcheAge over to Kakao, so there’s some precedent there. Fallen Earth and APB came under Little Orbit’s management. It’s not the most common, but for IP-independent MMOs, it’s far more common to see ones sold and shipped around the industry.

So why not RIFT? It’s never going to be the WoW challenger it wanted to be or even the hot game it was in the first few years, but there’s some genuine life in this MMO that could be coaxed to bloom once more. What’s keeping a lot of people away from it isn’t the nature of the game but its perceived lack of a future coupled with a disliked monetization scheme. People are attracted to titles that exude health and future potential, and they flee titles that look like they’re circling the drain.

I’d absolutely hate to see RIFT die completely. Like WildStar, this is a title that deserved a lot more love and care than it ended up getting, and with the right handling, it could have a much longer, healthier life than it’s getting.

Posted in Fallout, RIFT

RIFToween and Fearsome Fallout 76

It never fails how a lackluster — or, worse, annoying — zone can really sap one’s interest in progressing through an MMORPG. If that zone takes forever, well, it can even be a death kneel for the individual player’s interest.

My approach when I get drained from a zone is to take a break, recharge my batteries, and then come back at it hard in an attempt to blast through the rest of it as quickly as possible. This is what I did this past week with RIFT, as I couldn’t care less about Scarwood Reach’s legendary blandness. Head down, power through, get those quests done ASAP.

And since it’s the season, I had to make myself an appropriate outfit to celebrate Riftoween. It’s all about the color selection, my friends.

This isn’t apropos of anything, by the way, but the /chicken emote in this game has you doing the Bluth chicken dance from Arrested Development. First time I ever noticed that!

And meanwhile in Fallout 76, it was time for a smattering of post-apocalyptic adventuring! I’m picking up where I left off, which is following the slightly crazy robot Rose and her never-ending quest chain of double-dog dares. First up? Infiltrating a super mutant camp to steal from under their noses.

Hey! I’m on fire AND dead! That meant it went really well, yes? These dang explosions, they can one-shot you if you’re not quick enough — but so often, there’s no time to understand where the threat is coming from and where you need to go to be safe. Kablooey.

Rose does try to get me to commit cannibalism after that, but I wasn’t biting. Ahem.

Posted in RIFT

RIFT: You’re Scarwood Reaching

As I reached level 32 in Iron Pine Peak, I was grappling with immense dissatisfaction over my Druid/Inquisitor build. Sure, I had tons of healing and some DOT damage, but it kept taking longer and longer to kill. Too long, and too unsatisfying. So to mark the end of the zone — more or less — I whipped up a new outfit and respecced to primary Defiler with Inquisitor secondary and a splash of Warden for healing.

So no more faerie (RIP Trixie), but in exchange I received a whole lot more damage AND a taunting totem pet. I’d forgotten that I mainlined Defiler back in the day, but it came back to me quickly as I slipped into its skin.

While I am finished up with the normal Iron Pine Peak questlines, I still have the Saga of the Storm Queen to do. Well, the first of five “arcs” that are done at different level tiers.

One of the steps of this arc is to close out five (5) air rifts around the zone. Minor ones were no problem, but the majors kicked my butt on the boss fights. I forgot that they even came in different flavors! And check out this drake boss — it’s so unlike what you’d see in most MMOs.

New zone time! At level 32, it was time to head to Scarwood Reach and see what trouble I could get into there. Apparently, a lot of it is killing people so hard it makes their bodies flip in gymnastic twirls to reveal striped leggings.

I’ll be honest, Scarwood is not my favorite zone aesthetically. If your thing is giant tree stumps, scraggly little trees, and lots of brown mud and scaffolding, then here you go. It’s all yours. To me, it feels like the Zone of Leftover Art Assets.

That said, it had its moments!

Posted in RIFT

RIFT: Peeking at Iron Peak

Coming back to an MMO after a long time away involves a process of re-discoveries. It was in the middle of Iron Pine Peak that RIFT jogged my memory by throwing the start of a “saga” my way. These are zone-hopping quest chains that were pretty significant and had their own interesting narratives. Going to put this one, the Saga of the Storm Queen, on the backburner for now and try to figure out why the wives of the local townspeople have gone missing. Oh hey, they up and got murdered. That’s cheery.

Oh man, I remember the first time I came into the gathering hall in this zone. Towering libraries always get me, and this place was just the right amount of “big” to impress me. It has a grandeur that even Sanctum lacks.

Knowing that Crucia breaks free and headlines her own expansion puts a flutter in my stomach as I help the Icewatch try to contain her. Yeah, I’m sure this ward will work.

After a solid month of logging into RIFT, I got my free mount trove — with this incredibly awesome clockwork spider pumpkin whatever thing in it. This might well be the most unique mount I’ve ever owned. Thanks RIFT!

Of course, that doesn’t mean I can’t ride my other fun mounts, like my racing snail here. Go snail go!

Posted in RIFT

RIFT: I R in Iron Pine Peak

I have a rule in RIFT that every time one of my bags fills up with housing decor, I must take a break to head to my dimension and test all of that stuff out. I keep just the best or the most fitting. It’s a lot of very quick placement (thank goodness this game makes placement easy), but I still feel like my house is coming along nicely. Got a cozy feel to it.

This twisty elevator may be my favorite MMO elevator ever. I like that it doesn’t need to be this elaborate here, but it is — and it’s a blast to ride, because the world slowly revolves around you as you go up and down it.

Welcome to Iron Pine Peak! Every time I’ve gone through RIFT on the Guardian side, I always think of how we get four amazing thematic zones, one right after the other, bing bang boom. The alpine heights here are a treat to explore, and who doesn’t love that sprinkle of snowfall?

Not what I would picture as a “bandit boss,” usually. RIFT has its own style — and underrated mob animations.

A wintry creek and a doofus assigned to standing in the middle of it until someone kills him.

The cozy cabin feels! So hard to stop taking screenshots. Duck and faerie are deeply wishing that I would take them to the tropics after this.

My Ancient Ice Strider seems perfectly at home in the frozen mountains, however.

Posted in RIFT

Why didn’t RIFT do better — and is there any hope for it now?

It was just last night that I was playing RIFT and saw in the 1-29 channel a person announce that they had come back to the game for the first time since 2016. This player expressed much the same sentiments that I did just a few weeks prior: Happiness that the MMO is still around, joy to rediscover all of its treasures, questions about the current state of the game, and concerns about its future.

For all of the time I’ve been playing it over the past month, two thoughts keep zooming through my head: RIFT is an incredibly fun and well-done MMORPG… and it makes no sense why it’s not doing a lot better today. People are *hungry* for good MMOs, and we’re not getting many new ones that offer full-service packages the way older titles did. In fact, older MMOs like Guild Wars 2, LOTRO, and the like are doing pretty well even with reduced staff and funding from their glory days.

So why not RIFT?

Well there are a few obvious answers. Gamigo’s not thrown any real development or support for it since acquiring the title. But there were signs it was struggling even before Trion sold it off, with the RIFT Prime experiment — a Hail Mary, even — barely running a year from 2018 to 2019. The last expansion was 2016’s Prophecy of Ahnket and the last really significant patch was Update 4.2 in 2017, which added four new souls and a new zone.

It’s unclear how poorly RIFT was doing prior to the 2018 sale to Gamigo (egads, has it been four years already?), but it wasn’t the headliner that it used to be for the studio. Gamigo actually put money toward Trove and ArcheAge since the purchase, but RIFT’s existed more or less in an maintenance mode since then.

And I guess that’s a small blessing, because “existing” is better than “being shut down.” People have predicted RIFT’s closure every year since 2018, but it’s still here.

Does that give us any hope? Probably not. There are only four scenarios that I can envision where RIFT makes a significant comeback, and each are more unlikely as the last:

  1. Gamigo decides out of the blue to hire devs and start pouring a lot of money into active development of RIFT. It promotes the game, maybe even re-launches it, and starts cranking out content again to give the impression of an active title.
  2. Gamigo sells RIFT to a studio (maybe even a Broadsword-like assortment of former devs?) who actually care enough to work on the game again.
  3. Word-of-mouth and community love spur renewed interest from the wider gaming audience.
  4. RIFT dies and an emulator project recreates and relaunches the game with more content, a la SWG Legends or Realm of Reckoning.

I mean, there are stranger things that have happened in this industry, but I don’t see any of those as strong possibilities. More like, RIFT will continue to truck on as it is until it isn’t making any money for Gamigo and gets shuttered.

Along with the demise of WildStar, RIFT’s degrading slide into obscurity is such a waste of a genuinely great game that really deserves a second shot. Maybe I’m shouting into the void here, but I believe it.

Posted in RIFT

RIFT: Scoping out Scarlet Gorge

With Gloamwood good and done, my Cleric moves on to the American Southwest. Er, Scarlet Gorge. Same thing.

The abrupt shift in tone and setting from “werewolf forest” to “wild wild west” was always a lot of fun to me, even if it made zero sense. For one, I liked being out into the bright sunlight again. For another, not enough MMOs create biomes from the American Southwest (in my opinion).

And it’s not a straight-up cowboys riff, either. The whole zone’s population has been nearly wiped out by the Endless Court — just witness those piles of murdered corpses everywhere — and a lot of strange stuff is afoot. It’s more like “weird west,” what with ghosts and wizards and out-of-control elementals.

Fighting skeletons, ghosts, and witches under the pale moonlight creates a delightfully spooky atmosphere. They’re no challenge for my Clericness, of course. Clericosity? Clericonica?

As my Cleric hit level 27, I started to get into the groove of laying down DOTs and smacking everything with my big green spheres (because this is the internet, I can’t use the word “balls” without triggering the juvenile). It never quite gets old loading up on a ton of quests to do in the same little area. The insta-pop quests — carnage and the like — add to the number nicely without making me accept a ton of quests from a hub.

Scarlet Gorge is a very short zone compared to what’s come before. It’s not just smaller size-wise but it’s also halved in terms of content designation. The northern part gets the Guardian stuff, and the southern the Defiant (IIRC). So after just two quest hubs and a lengthy battle through a fire rift for the final quest, I was done with this red-rocked realm. On to Iron Pines Peak!

Posted in RIFT

RIFT: Unmasking the hairy conspiracy of Gloamwood

With Silverwood done in RIFT, my Dwarf Cleric moved into one of my favorite zones in the game — Gloamwood. AKA “that Halloween zone” (at least that’s what I call it in my head). Darker skies, rustling bare tree branches, and the howls of werewolves await…

RIFT always had a unique style for many of its structures. I liked these puffy gnome-cap houses that you find in Gloamwood’s main town. Anyway, starting out at a literal crossroads. Spider-killing, anyone?

Hey Mr. Skeleton, mind if I desecrate your grave? You do? Well, I’ll tell you what. I’ll let you have two free whacks with your pickaxe there and then we’ll have a proper throw down. That’ll be a fun way to pass the time.

As I uncovered the Great Werewolf Conspiracy (again), I dinged 24 and was able to slot my greater faerie healer. To celebrate, I whipped up a new outfit — with blue leaf wings, why not. I’m not usually a “wing” kind of guy, but I’ll make an exception here. Don’t mess with this dwarf, people. She has the power of chlorophyll!

And I’m going to need it, too, because Gloamwood takes everything up a notch. Oh, it’s not that difficult, but the story is intense and surprisingly well-done. If you like twists and turns in your MMO narrative, then you’d do well to examine the overarching flow of the storyline in this region. To simplify:

  1. You’re made aware of a goblin threat that you work hard to eradicate
  2. Coming back to the town, everyone throws you a huge fireworks party and hails you as a hero, making you think that everything is over and done
  3. But there’s a much greater threat out there, and the goblins/fireworks were a distraction
  4. There’s actually a hag turning the nobility into werewolves and vampires hiding in plain sight
  5. You confront the mayor over this, uncover the conspiracy, and confront then hag…
  6. …and she then turns you into a werewolf! At least for a while.
  7. Then you confront her for a second time and clear out the infection from the zone.
  8. THEN you have to return to the town and root out the remaining werewolves.
  9. Finally, the real celebration breaks out.

It’s pretty awesome and I loved re-discovering it. I had forgotten most of these steps until they happened, then it was like, “Oh YEAH, I remember this!”

Posted in RIFT

RIFT: An infestation of hellbugs

This week in RIFT found me at level 18 and still working my way through Silverwood’s many questlines. These zones never skimped on quests, let me tell you that!

Silverwood’s a great zone if you want to start out your heroing career by beating up on elves and faeries. It’s coming at me with a flower! Quick, kill it with extreme prejudice!

It was always a tradition of mine to get the achievement for climbing to the highest point in the zone, so I made sure to add that to my RIFT bucket list. I can see my dimension from up hereeeeee

Defiance may be dead, but you can still fight their hellbugs in RIFT. Away with you, you cranky beasts from the netherworld! Or at least have some decency and put on pants!

Scotty growing big and getting revenge on his schoolmate bully is a fan favorite moment. “Scotty, you’re so mean!”

I’ve never heard people talk much about the mob design in the game, but I’ve always found RIFT’s creatures to be wonderfully (and strangely) detailed. Lotsa personality in them, even in a lowbie goblin. With a spike hand. And ear-antlers? And one blind eye.

Even as I hit level 20, I’m still not done with Silverwood. A few final setpieces remain, including this organic fae fortress that can’t withstand the awesome power of my duck.

Level 21 and the final fortress of the zone. Have I mentioned how brilliant I think Silverwood’s quest flow is? It takes you all over the place but always feels organic. In any case, I complete the (easy) puzzle and wrap up the place. Thanks for the memories, zone!

Posted in RIFT

RIFT: How to train your dragon to fetch your paper

I figure that if I’m really going back to RIFT, if I’m really giving it a shot, then I have to play as a Dwarf. It’s my personal tradition, and so I quickly re-rolled and scooted through the beginner zone just to play a shorty.

Here’s our 2022 dream team: Syperia the Cleric, Widdershins the faerie, and DUCKLAR the magnificent. Let’s go pluck some feathers, my friends!

Man, this moment of hopping up on my ice strider and seeing a rift open in the distance triggered a near-euphoric flood of nostalgia. Almost drowned in it, I did.

Once I got to Silverwood, I paused to make a nice adventuring outfit from my very extensive wardrobe. I love that the stuff you unlocked a decade ago is still hanging around, ready to be used.

Some people call RIFT an ugly game even to this day, but for my money, I don’t see it. I always love the colorful creatures, effects, and atmospheric lighting.

While doing more quests and a couple of rifts — with other players, I might add — I found myself at the mage’s college. Here, I bumped into series’ favorite Scotty. I’ll admit it, the nostalgia twinge hit hard once again. Love you, Scotty!

Doing rifts still feels epic, but the paltry rewards — even after killing this monstrous fire dragons up here — don’t make it worth my while. Back to questing I go!

To help clear up room in my inventory, I hastily dumped a whole bunch of dimension objects in my housing space (while deleting ones I’ll never use). It’s weird, it’s cozy, it’s home!