The beginning stages of RIFT’s Patch 1.7 are now on the PTS for player testing, and with the patch come some interesting changes to endgame. The PTS patch notes can be found here if you haven’t had a chance to check them out yet. The changes are an attempt to smooth out endgame progression in general and the gear obtained during the various phases of endgame. What does this mean, exactly? For starters, it’s a step in the right direction.
A few weeks ago, I wrote an editorial summing up the current state of RIFT’s endgame. In it, I basically discuss a gap that seems to be increasing in size between RIFT’s casual/social population and its raider population. The world of Telara is a great place to relax and enjoy small group content, but it also supports a thriving raiding community that’s eager to get back into action when Infernal Dawn is released. The problem is, there aren’t a lot of players in between these two groups. Thus, a gap is created. This makes it difficult for Hammerknell guilds to recruit and for players to obtain the gear necessary to become recruited.
Luckily, it seems that Trion has also realized the issue, and is putting forth their best effort to bridge the gap, and prepare all RIFT players for the next major content release. The emphasis of this effort will consist of increasing the stats on some of the lower-tier equips as well as simplifying the expert dungeon organizational system. Players will find stat adjustments on most of the gear below the levels of Hammerknell. The intention here is to help players gear for the content, so they can experience it before the new raid instance, Infernal Dawn, is released.
There will only be one tier of expert dungeons come 1.7, which will ease some of the initial confusion for new players who reach level 50 and may find themselves overwhelmed by the amount of content available. This may also give life to some of the T1 expert dungeons, which can easily be skipped currently. Also planned in Patch 1.7 is a new Chronicle, River of Souls: Chains of Death. It will be based on River of Souls, naturally, and should be a welcome addition to our available solo and small group content. The Chronicle is also available on the PTS.
Many players have been somewhat confused as to Trion’s intentions when it comes to the changes to stat adjustments on gear. In order to help ease some of this confusion, Trion staff member Gersh issued an explanation behind the changes. It can be found here on Rift Junkies.
One of the unifying features that all MMORPGs share is the fact that any good MMO needs a regular flow of new content for players to explore, conquer, and enjoy. With regular content updates, more difficult content is placed in the game, and better gear must be obtainable along with it. Sometimes, the developers of MMOs design their new content specifically to be leaps and bounds above previous content. Sometimes they want their players to enjoy a challenge in the new content. Other times, they just want a fresh start when it comes to stat caps and the type of gear that players continue to wear.
When this happens, we end up with something similar to what World of Warcraft experienced when Burning Crusade was released. In most cases, the Outland greens were so good that players were replacing every single hard-earned epic with the first random green drop they came across. The effect was a little startling for many players, and Blizzard has continued this trend with every expansion. Gear in WoW has become somewhat bloated with stats as a result, and players will generally only go back to older content for achievements and vanity items. The older content basically becomes useless, because the new gear is simply too good.
This is exactly the experience that it seems like, to me, Trion is attempting to avoid. They’re planning ahead smartly, starting now, and realizing that their goal shouldn’t be to cause players to never step foot in RoS and GSB, but to encourage players to seek out the older raid instances, since the gear is directly proportional to the gear in later raids. The gap between HK gear and non-HK gear currently is rather large, and this is exactly what Trion is resolving before the trend can continue later down the road. They don’t want the T1 raids to ever become useless.
One interesting point to add is the fact that Trion wants their playerbase to enjoy Hammerknell, but doesn’t want to lower the difficulty level of the raid encounters or create some kind of raid-based buff in order to help players easily stomp through fights. They aren’t dumbing down content. Instead, they are helping players reach the difficult material by adjusting the gear previous to the raid. This is a smart move, and will help players appreciate how exciting it can be to bring down a tough boss inside a challenging raid.
Players will have an easier time obtaining the gear necessary to raid, and once they are able to experience T1 raid content, they won’t have to spend as much time farming it in order to be able to step foot into Hammerknell and beyond. This will lower the amount of time casual raiding guilds need to spend repeatedly farming T1 raids, but won’t cause them to skip the content entirely. In the end, this will hopefully encourage new level 50 players to join raiding guilds, and keep the raiding community flourishing as a whole.
One issue deserving a special mention is the fact that currently, on the PTS, the gap between HK gear and non-HK is actually almost too small in comparison to the current gap. Some HK pieces are almost worse than their RoS/GSB equivalents, which seems a bit off. More information about this can be found in this thread on the official PTS forums, where players have been comparing certain gear pieces.
The PTS and these changes are, of course, ever-changing, so the stats may very well be adjusted to not be as drastic. There is a delicate balance at stake here, and Trion is aware of this. They need to strike just the right balance, where players are able to experience the content, yet not outgear it before they even reach it.
Some players are frustrated by the fact that not all players will have to spend as much time farming the content as they once did, but the very nature of MMOs and content progression ensures this will happen no matter what the developers change along the way. MMOs are an ever-evolving cycle of content progression, and the goal for each player should be to look ahead to the content awaiting them, not the content laying ahead of others.