Ever since the third tier of planar attunement (PA) was released for player testing, RIFT players have experienced a mixed bag of reactions about the tier and its release. Many players felt that update 1.8 was too soon to introduce tier 3, when a large number of players have yet to max out the second tier. Tier 2 is a fairly large climb, especially for newer players.
Many others simply felt it unwise to release a new PA tier at the same time of a major 20-man raid release. MMO progression content is generally released in a staggered manner for a reason– to keep the content threshold stable, and to create a sense of constant progression. Players were also worried that tier 3 PA levels may make too large of a difference during Infernal Dawn progression, which is a whole other issue in itself.
Many players also felt the third tier was a bit of a letdown, especially the new abilities it grants. The Elder Tablet ability is probably the best ability in the entire tier, leaving most of the others to be fairly lackluster. Other players were pleased with the preview, and were eagerly grinding out the last few levels in order to be ready for its release, or were already sitting at the PA cap.
This last group of players received some disappointing news last Thursday, when one of the producers of RIFT, Gersh, gave the community this announcement on the PTS forum:
Originally posted by Gersh_Trion (Source)
Just stopping in to thank everyone for their feedback and also let you all know that based on that feedback we have decided to hold back PA Tier 3 until a future update.
We’re very aware that a lot of our top tier players are looking forward to Infernal Dawn, and really don’t want to feel pressured to also gain more PA levels to fill out T3 nodes so they can be seen as “Competitive”. This was never our intent with releasing PA T3.
In addition there are definitely further things we can do to improve the system as well as make it so more players can get in striking distance of being able to purchase Tier 3 bonuses when they go live.
As such we’ll continue to test PA T3 on PTS for a few more weeks so we can continue to get more feedback and then shut it down before we release the 1.8 patch.
It’s never easy to please everyone within an MMO’s community, but Trion is usually pretty good about registering player feedback. This is another example displaying that fact perfectly. It will be great to see what types of improvements Trion can come up with, although it’s unfortunate they couldn’t have made these improvements before announcing a tentative release date. I suppose, at the end of the day, that’s why MMO developers have player testing to begin with.
One of the wider issues surrounding the differing opinions about the third PA tier is the fact that many players feel Trion is going in the wrong direction with an awesome idea. When planar attunement was first announced, Trion made clear that the intention for the system was supposed to be purely optional. The +stat and ability nodes were fun little bonuses for players who chose to put the time into the system. Nothing more, and nothing less. Gersh even mentions this intention in the above quote.
With the addition of the first tier of PA, players felt it remained true to this intention. The +stat amounts were rather insignificant, and the abilities were very much fluff abilities. With tier 2, the vibe was much the same, except for the fact that the +stat and weapon bonuses were added to those in the first tier. The second tier also required quite a bit more time to fill up, so much that most players are still working on doing so.
Now we have tier 3 approaching. It again, repeats the same +stat and weapon bonuses, which is a solid idea, but adds to the nodes already in place from the other tiers. The more +stat bonuses the system provides, the harder it becomes to turn a blind eye to these bonuses. This is especially the case when it comes to raiding progression, where every little bit really does help sometimes.
The real question is, does it make a large difference? To most RIFT players, the noticeable gain, even when counting the current third tier, is minimal. To a few raiding guilds who aim for the top of the progression chain, the gain is in fact, noticeable, and some guilds are even beginning to require its applicants to have a certain level obtained. It’s important to note that the level generally required is actually fairly low in comparison to the number of levels obtainable.
Why is that bit important? Because it means that the actual levels of PA don’t matter as much as the fact that a player is active. It means that some guilds are merely attempting to create a way to filter out players who aren’t willing to commit to their characters. PA levels are one of those things that players naturally obtain by simply playing the game on their main. Whether they choose to grind out mobs, instant adventures, expert dungeons, or planar invasions is up to them. The fact remains– it’s actually pretty simple to gain levels.
But what about in the future, after players are beginning to progress in Infernal Dawn, and when tier 3 and beyond are introduced? If the +stat and weapon nodes keep being added, won’t they eventually make a difference? And what about new players, and players who decide to reroll a new main character? Won’t they be left behind as more and more tiers are added? Yes, they will. This is one fault with the system as it stands, especially with the +stat and weapon nodes.
There are, however, a few solutions to this problem. Trion could easily keep the stat levels obtainable on gear and planar essences higher than the stat increases on the PA nodes. If the new tier adds, for instance, 90 spell power total, is it easier to grind out all those levels, or to grab a couple pieces of gear in the newest raid instance? In most cases, gear will be a clear winner. It’s a natural solution to the problem, since stat inflation naturally occurs on gear released during new content.
Trion could also eventually drop down the requirements to gain the lower PA tiers. This would let new players catch up quickly. They could also make some kind of bonus that applies toward alt characters, so players wouldn’t feel constricted to playing only their mains. Star Wars: The Old Republic’s Legacy system comes to mind here. I’m not sure all PA experience should be granted toward RIFT alts, but I see nothing wrong in a system that lets the player funnel part of their PA experience where they wish.
RIFT’s PA system, after all, rewards players who concentrate on a main character, and that’s one of the best things about it, in my opinion. Far too many MMOs these days seem to reward players for creating hoards of alts, so developers don’t need to spend all their time and effort on new endgame content. RIFT isn’t that game.
The great thing about the PA system is the fact that it allows players to do what they want with it. If a player wishes to put all their time and effort into grinding out every level possible, they’re able to do so. If they wish to play when they can and take the levels as they come, they’re able to do that as well. There’s a great variety of different raiding guilds out there for all kinds of playstyles, and most of them don’t have any sort of PA requirement.
The system itself is a good one, but it may need some tweaking, especially later on down the road. It’ll be interesting to see what Trion comes up with as far as improving tier 3. My own hope? Some cooler abilities would be welcome. What are you guys hoping for, and what are your thoughts on the PA system as it stands?