RIFT has now had some time to settle into its cozy endgame state. The majority of players have had plenty of time to explore and decide on an endgame playstyle. Some players enjoy RIFT for its raiding content, others enjoy the casual and social aspects of the game’s solo, small group, and collection/achievement features. Most players know exactly what they want to achieve while they’re level 50, and this is a good thing, because it means that the game is stable.
One issue with this stability is the fact that there’s currently a sort of gap between the two largest groups of endgame players. RIFT, in general, has a split focus. Trion has been marketing the game toward raiders and toward casual solo/small group players. This is an excellent marketing strategy, but as a result, players are seeing a sort of a dichotomy between the two groups. RIFT has a large number of Hammerknell raiders, a large number of players who enjoy small group content, Chronicles, events, and achievements, and not a lot of players in between. This makes it difficult for raiding guilds to recruit.
From early on, RIFT portrayed itself as a game with challenging raid content and a quick release schedule. Trion has done well with keeping this vision, and as a result, the game enjoys a high raiding population. Hammerknell is challenging and just time consuming enough to attract the attention of many high-profile raiding guilds. Many guilds are currently 11/12 in Hammerknell, which is great, but also discouraging if recruitment is an issue.
New players who have just hit 50 in RIFT may also find themselves discouraged at the lack of raiding guilds who are recruiting players for T1 raid content. GSB and RoS have become exceedingly easy with the new gear available, and many guilds simply aren’t running them as often as they used to. There’s also the fact that farming content for one or two players out of 20 can become quite frustrating, due to random drops being, well, random.
Because of this, there isn’t an influx of Hammerknell-ready recruits seeking new guilds. With Hammerknell’s hit/focus/toughness requirements, gear does become an issue. Guilds then have the option of helping gear new players up, or utilizing current players with off-specs. Luckily, neither option is overly difficult, but many guilds may find themselves asking a different question altogether: Isn’t there a better way?
There is. Let’s look at some of the options to decrease this gap, and help guilds recruit. The most obvious option is discovered by looking at one of the underlying problems to this player gap– server population. Some servers are doing extremely well, but many are suffering low populations on one faction or the other. Free transfers help this issue, but a better solution might be to reduce and merge the number of servers altogether. If there are more players looking for T1 raid content, groups will be more encouraged to form PUG raid groups for the easier content. Guilds will also have a larger pool of players to recruit from.
Merging and decreasing the amount of servers will also help encourage brand new players to level their characters on maps that aren’t totally devoid of life. Zone events will become more frequent, and world PvP areas may find themselves under contest again. Everyone benefits with this solution, and to top it off– it’s an easy fix.
Along the same line, another option Trion can take is to decrease the population needed for zone events to trigger. If players are able to take part in zone events more often, they will be more excited to stay logged into the game. RIFT’s endgame offers a fair portion of grinding. One glimpse at the Planar Attunement window or the Ember Isle faction Quartermasters will tell a player this. Increasing the amount of fun activities to do while grinding helps increase the amount of activity altogether.
Another option to bridge the endgame gap is to help players become geared for raid content. T2 dungeons were exciting a few months ago, but now most of them are getting pretty stale for most players. Instead of creating new T2 dungeons, how about a T3-type of dungeon, with increased difficulty and rewards aimed toward getting players into Hammerknell quicker? This is similar to Master Mode dungeons, I realize, but there’s a fundamental issue with most Master Modes– they’re the same dungeon still. Players want new content.
Speaking of new content, another idea is to create some new Chronicles. Some players dislike the Chronicle system, because it discourages players from grouping. In their current state, sure. But what if Trion added Chronicles that actually required 2-4 players, yet were shorter than a T2, and explored different content? If they were made more difficult, they could also offer rewards to help players advance toward raiding. One of the largest problems with the current Chronicles available isn’t their difficulty, but the lack of rewards and the lack of new content in them. They’re great for PA grinding and random consumables, but that’s about it.
And there’s the next idea to touch on– increasing the PA points obtained during T2 dungeons and T1 raids. The PA grind is meant to be a grind, of course, but I see nothing wrong in letting players grind it out in different ways. And if those ways also help new players enter the raiding scene, then everyone benefits from that, too.
There are other options out there as well. I’m still partial to the idea of requiring raid rifts during zone events, which would encourage players to group together to actually organize raid rift groups. It might also be possible to offer more rewards in general for completing raid rifts as well as 10-man raid slivers, which offer some fantastic gear for aspiring raiders.
RIFT’s endgame is rich with content. The raiding content in the game is among the best offered by current MMOs. That content may just need a little help in becoming more accessible to new players. The goal should be to create endgame material for all kinds of players, and also create bridges to cross between each area with a certain amount of ease. This allows players to experiment and experience new ways of playing RIFT. Knowing Trion, I’m sure the company is already aware of this, and we will see some adjustments in the months to come.