RIFT’s 1.9 patch came at an interesting time. With the announcement of Storm Legion flying through the MMO community, many gamers who had previously played RIFT or just kept an eye on Trion’s successes were well-aware of the patch. Many even resubbed. Conquest was the huge draw in 1.9, and has caused quite a ruckus– both positively and negatively– in the RIFT community. But what about the patch as a whole? Is it building up on the exciting expansion momentum, or was it, as the saying goes, “a swing… and a miss”?
To begin answering that question, let’s first take a look at the obvious elephant in the room– Conquest. “Massive PvP action!” was the advertisement. Yeah, massive is about right, but what the ads failed to mention was the couple weeks of random downtime, frustratingly-abusable gameplay, last minute changes that weren’t available on the PTS, and the accompanying massive lag some shards experienced (and still experience). Ouch. Elephant, indeed.
Conquest has been, I assume, a tremendous learning experience for Trion. The company handled most of the feature’s necessary fixes pretty well and in a timely manner, but that doesn’t change the fact that many of those fixes should have taken place before the patch’s release. The whole cooldown addition shouldn’t have been added on a last-minute whim, and PTS players should have been able to provide feedback on it. The flip-flopping of Conquest rewards should have been settled before the patch’s launch.
In a press-exclusive interview with Trion’s team before the launch of 1.9, we received a very specific impression about the design intention of Conquest. Basically, the team wanted to do something different from the normal warfront grind. They wanted to provide the playerbase with a zone where PvP players and PvE players could have a little fun without having to grind, without having to worry about currency, and without having to run matches one after another:
“The rewards in Conquest are also intentionally different from many other PvP rewards. The team doesn’t want RIFT players to feel like they have to grind out 20 hours of Conquest per week. They’d rather see players hopping into Conquest every so often because they enjoy it, not because it is a place to grind out special, hard-to-get rewards or currency.”
And yet… the current Conquest reward structure looks very similar to what’s obtainable in warfronts, except for the fact that PvE players have a reason to now grind out Conquest matches, too. And the cooldown? It’s not static and it’s fairly long, which can make it difficult for players to casually enter in the first place, especially on high-population servers where factions fill up quickly.
One of the best things about RIFT is how accessible features are– players can log on and instantly enter a dungeon, chronicle, warfront, or Instant Adventure. And now they can sit around and wait an hour for the next Conquest. It seems to go against everything Trion was aiming toward. Yet, at the same time I can see why Trion added the cooldown. Large PvP battles are more fun when everyone begins at the same time, but such a major change like that… yes, it should have been brought to the PTS first. One of the reasons why the cooldown caused so much drama was because no one anticipated it. At all.
The whole spawn-camping mess (pictured to the right in case you missed it) wasn’t anticipated by most of the players on the PTS, either, which tells me that Trion also hadn’t anticipated it. They dealt with it satisfactorily– could have been better– but it would be nice to see some type of pre-expansion favor boost to give early Conquest participants a little competition. A rollback, at this point, would be pretty difficult to pull off, but many players expected a little more than a turret fix and reward cut for the whole catastrophe.
And then there’s the lag issue. Trion has been fairly upfront and vigilant about trying to get to the bottom of the problem, so it’s hard for me to issue any complaints to the team on this one, but the lag itself has frustrated quite a few players. So much, in fact, that some are starting to suggest a separation between PvE shards that include instanced PvP features and PvE-only shards that are excluded from the Conquest and warfront queues. As time goes on and players stop being as interested in Conquest, the lag problems may fix themselves, but considering Storm Legion is on its way, let’s hope a fix is found.
Despite the various issues Conquest players have had to work through and with, the feature still remains very popular on most shards, which is a good sign. Massive PvP can be fun, and the reward table is certainly worth a second look. It’s just a shame that the journey to a stable Conquest feature has been so… complicated. With any luck, Trion will learn from its implementation, and will use this knowledge to create better, more stable versions of similar features in the future.
The barbershop and new mentoring system, at least, seem to both be hits among all players who have tried them. The new Instant Adventures pair nicely with the mentoring feature, and while some of the new IAs needed initial fixes, those are slowly being added during the hotfixes. It’s great having more options when it comes to leveling alts, and the lower-level areas are quite busy on most servers, which is partially due to the IAs, mentoring, and Summerfest.
Ah, Summerfest. This one’s getting pretty mixed reviews across the board, which is interesting considering the overall success of Carnival of the Ascended. Early on, players were frustrated by a couple of the scavenger hunt quests and the mazes, which were all reported as issues numerous times during the PTS stage, yet never quite addressed in full (stage 2 of the scavenger hunt will no doubt see similar issues, as a warning).
Once again, Trion was quick on the fixes, which was great, but it’s still rather odd that these issues weren’t addressed before the patch’s launch. The new world event currency changes are getting mixed reviews, too, which ties into Summerfest because players aren’t grabbing all the items as easily like in past events. I personally don’t have a problem with the currency changes nor the rate of obtaining rewards in Summerfest. I love the scavenger hunt quests and the idea of Summerfest in general. No, it isn’t a world event focused on combat– but it’s not supposed to be. It’s focused on having fun, relaxing, fishing, cooking, and exploring. All fine summer objectives, and a nice break from the norm.
Also, the rewards for Summerfest are mainly social in nature, besides the essences, which makes sense for the new model Trion is going after. I’d much rather see creative world events that are unique to RIFT, fun, and annual, than repeated, pick-a-plane events requiring 10 closed rifts, 10 conquered invasions, and a whole lot of leftover currency. Innovation was definitely lacking in previous world events, and we’re seeing some now. It may not be perfect, but it is welcome.
That leads me to my final question about RIFT 1.9. We’ve seen quite a few hotfixes this time around, and sure, it was a big patch, but many of the fixes seemed to focus around aspects of the patch that almost seemed… rushed. Was 1.9 rushed? Did the team not get a chance to apply every bit of testing and tweaking as perhaps was needed? It’s hard to say, obviously, but it’s quite possible.
Despite this possibility, however, 1.9 brought RIFT a very awesomely-sized chunk of new content and features. Not all of the content was an automatic hit, and Trion could learn some important lessons from Conquest’s implementation, but thanks to some quick bug-squashing, we’re looking at pretty clear skies for the moment. With all of our eyes set on the expansion horizon, the timing of 1.9 was excellent, giving returning players a perfect opportunity to test out the waters of Telara one more time. Will they stick around? Not all will, naturally, but I imagine some will. Now’s the perfect time for a swim.