I never achieved The Undying for Drannos, my main in Lord of the Rings Online. I managed it with a few other characters, but it’s always bothered me that the character I play the most will never have a full set of achievements. Because of this, when I heard there was a similar title for reaching level 15 without dying in RIFT, I knew I had to have it. Even though I had no solid proof it was real. Even if it meant starting over. Three times.
Once was because of fatigue in deep water (I’m guessing…I’m still not sure). The others must be due to some kind of blind spot from which my Razorbeast suffers, because we keep getting blindsided by adds just when we squeak out a victory against a small group of mobs.
Other than that, this weekend in RIFT has been pretty smooth. I’ve only had to experience the queues a few times (right now, in fact, otherwise I’d be playing and not writing!) on the first day and today. For the rest of it, I haven’t gotten to play as much as I’d like, but that’s because of the Real World and family more than Trion’s immense popularity.
However, it does make me more than a little nervous for the actual launch – you know, when they let everyone else in. And I’m quickly getting to a point where I’ve decided to stop playing. Put the game aside for a week, or a month or so…
Not because there’s anything wrong with RIFT – far from it. And not because of a lack of interest. I’m dying to play the game and see the areas beyond the tutorial and starter zone. I never made it out of those during Beta.
But it is C-R-O-W-D-E-D, and not in the good way.
The tutorial zones are “phased”, or “layered”, or whatever they’ve decided to call it. Basically, they’re instanced, only that you don’t get to choose your instance and you can’t switch. But it keeps the crowds from getting ridiculous. Or, at least appearing ridiculous. There are no such restrictions on the main areas, however. And while it’s nice to see a healthy population growing, and to see people excited for the game, I tend to be a solo-centric player; I know, it’s anathema to a virtual world that I just want to be left on my own until I decide to be social, but there it is. I like exploring and wandering and not bumping into a half dozen players around every corner. LotRO has spoiled me in this, and while some may see it as a sign of an anemic server, I see it as a benefit. LotRO is like the Esurance of MMOs for me – the technology when I want it, people when I don’t (want to play alone). I’m starting to feel downright claustrophobic in RIFT.
And it’s a mixed bag of good news/bad news, too.
Good news! The client is rock solid, even with 40-60 players fighting an Invasion in close proximity to one another; I experienced barely a stutter or hitch, and it makes me hopeful for large-scale PvP.
Bad news… The Rifts/Invasions don’t scale well to that many people. Tab-flipping through targets just to get in a few shots while watching health bars plummet is not challenging. Or fun.
Good news! The “dynamic” content does a great job of both keeping players engaged, with lots to do at all times, and making the world feel more “alive”. You can see the Rifts coming while you’re out questing, or if you’re not that observant you can listen and watch for the zone-wide “Dungeon Keeper announcements” that just tell you where to go (“Sterling Hills in under attack! … Sterling Hills, everyone. STERLING. HILLS.”).
Bad news… It’s complete and total overload! Between questing, Rifts, Invasions, Footholds, Artifacts, Collections, Crafting, and who-knows-what-else-I’m-forgetting? I’m getting the feeling that this is an MMO on ADHD. The MTV of this generation – lots of flashing lights and quick takes from odd angles that flash by barely seen; with a dozen things vying for your attention and pulling you in a half-dozen directions, it’s hard to just relax and enjoy the scenery. And it’s such a GORGEOUS world!
I know that last one is completely personal. And it’s petty to complain about having too much to do. Trion has built a feature-rich game in an absolutely amazing environment, and I haven’t even made it out of Silverwood/Freemarch yet! But I feel like they could have taken one mechanic out, saved it for an expansion, and they’d still have a ton of content and activities. And given us a chance to admire what they’ve built. Instead, I’m popping Ritalin just to keep from going completely over the edge.
As it is, I’m already considering waiting a month before activating my copy (had to go with the box copy for this one…too many goodies!). My hope is that Trion either adds capacity to the existing servers, or adds new shards while locking down the servers with the heaviest populations, temporarily suspending the incoming players from creating characters. Partly it’s my fault for picking a popular server – Faeblight, RP PvE – but if there are still queues of over 1000 players a few days into the headstart, adding everyone else in will just make it unbearable. And nearly every server is ‘Full’ right now. Turbine did something vaguely similar leading up to the F2P conversion by prohibiting transfers of existing characters to Landroval (one of the most popular servers and the unofficial-official RP server). If Trion doesn’t do something about population levels, I will wait a month or so before activating, just to let the bulk of the players move ahead (or move on to another game once their 30 days are over).