Welcome back to Tripping the RIFT, MMORPG's bi-weekly column dedicated to Trion World's, RIFT. It's been a while and we've spent that time plumbing the depths of Telara to bring you the premiere column on all things ascended. This week we're looking ahead into 2014 and bringing you the five things RIFT must do to have a successful new year. Grab your foci, boys and girls, because the first wave is about to begin.
It's no secret that RIFT has a perception problem. Those of us that have played the game know that it's as polished and feature rich as they come and that the servers are just hopping. But 2013 raised serious questions for potential fans. The game went all but silent before its transition to free-to-play, which was a huge shift from its earlier power-house presence. Instead of getting monthly updates about big patches and exciting new content, we were hearing about free-to-play and swirling speculation about the health of the game.
In a word: fear. Fear got in there where it didn't belong and we have this weird contrast between RIFT Back Then and RIFT Right Now. But the game is better than it has ever been!
This is a perception problem that needs to end. Which is why I've concocted a list of five “must do” changes Trion needs to implement to get their game back on track and back on the top where it belongs. Let's get into it.
1.) Bring back, keep up those quick updates
RIFT made its name on the speed of it's updates. Before Storm Legion even launched, subscribers received a cavalcade of free content. I mean, let's be honest. They gave us an expansion's worth of updates without ever releasing an expansion. Trion hasn't become a slouch but compared to their initial offering, last year's update cadence just underwhelms. Free-to-play is out the door. It's time to return to that high bar they set in the beginning and remind us why Trion is a best-in-class MMO developer.
MMORPG addressed this directly with Scott Hartsman on a recent episode of the Game On podcast. Check it out here if you're interested. In short, 2.5 is the first step in a game plan to get updates back on pace.
2.) Reduce the grind in Storm Legion
It's time to call a spade a spade. Storm Legion is a grind. It's a fun one but a grind no less and it's not the fault of the content. Leveling simply takes too long. Entering Storm Legion too often feels like hitting a brick wall from 50 to 51. The developers have come up with a bunch of excuses for why this is the case but none of it matters. The fact is, leveling is just too slow and carnage quests feel required. It's time to ease the load and let more players reach the level cap before burning out.
And how about we start promoting this thing again, eh? Storm Legion is a treasure trove of great content. Once it's accessible, players need to know why it's worth accessing.
3.) Promote and release the next expansion
We have heard rumblings of the next expansion and that it will deal with water plane and insanity but we need that drip feed to become a torrent. Expansions are a sure fire way to reinvigorate a fanbase and there are a lot of players looking for a good reason to give RIFT another shot. Storm Legion needs to change and free-to-play needs to be an afterthought. This has to be about content. Blow the doors off and shock us with how much you're offering. We need meaty revisions, high aspirations, and a whole lot of excitement to rocket us into the new year.
4.) Blow us away with free new features and overhauls
The worst thing that could happen to RIFT would be for it to go into free-to-play maintenance mode. You know the kind I mean: they add to what's there but never really expand on it. We need new systems, new zones, and new mechanics. We need fresh dungeons, new chronicles, and new battlegrounds and PVP modes. When all of that's done, it's time to get on the overhauls. Conquest has been waiting for that tender loving attention for far too long. Which brings me to my last point...
5.) Hype, hype, hype!
Here's the thing, RIFT has a great development team that enjoys talking to their fans. Except, unless you're already on the inside, you might never know it. RIFT needs its developers to get out there into the public face again. I'm not talking about hour long live streams non-players could care less about. They need to take the news to them. Do interviews. Do previews. Send out interesting press releases. Be frank and honest and get people talking. Do like Scott Hartsman did in the very beginning by throwing the PR grooming out the window. Talk to players like adults and make them want to investigate your your game because of it. And once you're in the spotlight, stay there. RIFT should be a household name.
2014 may be the best year for RIFT yet. The weekly updates of the Song of Dreams patch showed us that Trion is back on the saddle to set a precedent. Now it's time to gather steam and run with it. If Trion does these five things, I see a bright future ahead.
What do you think? Let me know in the comments below!
Christopher Coke / Chris is a columnist and podcast host for MMORPG.com. In the past, he hosted the successful Rift Watchers podcast and website. Today he can be found stalking the battlegrounds with his Assassin or giving his best impression of a Duracell battery with his cleric. Follow him on Twitter: @gamebynight.