Bird on a Rift-y wire

So I joined the flock and re-subbed to Rift yesterday, for a variety of reasons, the main one being that gamer enthusiasm is, for me at least, super contagious. Too many of my friends seemed to be having a blast for me to not at least take a peek in. I mean, it’s only $15 to sub-up for a month and satisfy my curiosity.

What I found was that really, things haven’t changed. Player population is still a huge issue in the mid-levels. I play on Faeblight, Guardian side, and I checked the Social Window at 9:30 Eastern on a Saturday night and here’s what I found (click for a readable version):

You can see that the level 50 population seems pretty healthy and there’s a reasonable amount of under 20 people running around but between 20 and 40 is deserted. Now, I don’t know how accurate the Social Window is — honestly these numbers seem crazy small even to me. But they do bear out my anecdotal experience; it’s really difficult to get a group together in the 30s.

The reason this is a problem is that there are Story-Quests that require a group. In my particular case, I had to close a Fire Rift (a static, placed Rift like you encounter in the intro, not a random Rift) in the Scarlet Gorge. Ironically I did encounter another player in the Gorge and helped him close the Rift before I got the quest, but when my time came there was 1 other player in the zone and s/he was AFK or just ignoring me. I tried and tried to solo that Rift but it’s designed for 3 players and even though I was over-level I wasn’t -that- over-level. I’d given up on the whole thing and was riding out of the zone to find other entertainment when I got a ping of exp/reputation and I realized someone had just killed a Rift mob I’d previously tagged. I rode back, dragging a train of mobs with me in my desperation to get there on time (I’d pushed the Rift to stage 4 of 5 solo) and found a level 50 taking down the final boss. I auto-joined her group and managed to tag the mob with 1 spell before she killed it, and I got the quest complete.

I know the announced expansion will support Mentoring so that those level 50 players can come back to the rest of the world and help out the mid-tier folks and get some fun out of doing so, and I think that’s the single most important feature of the expansion. The only other solution I can think of is some kind of Hireling system for folks who’re stuck with no companions to help them take down small-group content.

So my day in Rift sucked, right?

Actually, no it did not. It didn’t take me long to slip back into the cadence of my bardic rogue and it was fun to be roaming the world of Telara again. Also there is one upside to the sparseness of the population and it’s that when you do run into someone you’re more prone to interact with them. Think about it…when you’re walking down a city street you don’t talk to strangers but when you’re on a country road and haven’t seen anyone for 20 minutes and pass someone walking the other way, you’re more apt to say “Hello” and exchange a few pleasantries. That’s how Rift feels. Also the lack of other players out there makes the world challenging in a good way.

Also the dynamic Rift scaling seems to be working as advertised. I closed a few Rifts solo while wandering deserted areas. The only tricky bit is when you push the Rift into 1 too many bonus stages and get it to where you can’t defeat that stage’s mobs. Then you can’t close the Rift and don’t get credit. That seems like a flaw to me. Why punish the players for pushing into bonus stages? I got to where I’d run around until the timer ran out after about stage 2 so things didn’t get too difficult.

So I had fun and I don’t regret spending my $15 but I don’t think there’s enough here to hold me. The solo PvE experience isn’t that compelling and is filled with very unheroic feeling chores. Last night I had to gather firewood and water plants, for goodness sake. My bard dude fights almost on auto-pilot, spamming the same 3 attacks to build combo points and restore health and then hitting a finisher, either melee or ranged depending on the mob. Over and over again. After TERA this kind of combat feels really uninspired solo; clearly you need the dynamics of a group to make all these skills meaningful. Ditto the varied Roles. When playing alone there’s no reason to change Roles.

Still, I’m sure I’ll re-up for a longer term when the expansion comes out. Trion is still enjoying it’s “Good Guy” status in the MMO Player community; they seem to have managed to avoid doing anything to really piss us off and the regular roll-out of game updates makes me want to see them succeed.

I do wish I could summon the moral fortitude to get rid of all these past World Event trinkets though. My inventory is FULL of those things!

5 thoughts on “Bird on a Rift-y wire

  1. I’d like to think that the mentoring system will alleviate the lack of people in the mid level zones, but I think the reality is more that the level 50s will be doing level 50 things. Unless there’s a “better than what goes on at level 50” reason for them to return as a mentor, they’ll ignore it completely. As a “welcome back” perk for lapsed subscriber who are re-joining guilds or people they know, it should be great.

    After playing TERA (here we go), I find RIFT’s wide open vistas to be TOO wide open. I think there’s a lot to be said for being able to change venues, or at least to make it LOOK like you’re changing venues, rather frequently. Spend too much time in a zone — questing, or really just RUNNING everywhere — and the “zone fatigue” starts to set in. At least, that’s the case for me. Smaller, more intimate zones would be preferable.

  2. I’m currently leveling 3 characters in the 20-40 range. I’m actually seeing quite a few people my level in the same zones. I think it may be server/time issues of when people are there. If you are playing in prime raid time slots then the number of lower level characters is less. Off times you will see more alt character action (ie zone event in Scarlet Gorge at 3am with 10 random 20-30’s on deepwood and wolfsbane shards).

    Overall, I’m pretty happy with the size of Rift’s zones. The only one that is a little too large some times is Emerald Isle but there are so many ports there it alleviates the travel times. Its far better than the scope of something like SWTOR where you have vast expanses with nothing present.

  3. Actually mentoring is supposed to come with 1.9 which is slotted for later this month. I don’t think it will be a magic bullet, but it will definitely help in situations where you have a friend doing content, and want to help them out without just steamrolling it for them. That is where mentoring is awesome. It however will be unlikely that random strangers will run around in low level areas out of the goodness of their hearts.

  4. Well, it depends on how they handle Mentoring. My mistake might be in assuming they’ll do as good a job as SOE and let you ‘auto-mentor’ down so you can go back and enjoy content you skipped on your way to 50.

    You see a LOT of people in EQ2 in all zones going back to enjoy content with level-appropriate challenge thanks to auto-mentoring.

    But yeah, if they put in old-fashioned Mentoring where you need to scale down to another individual then it won’t help much.

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