Despite the fact that we’re right in the middle of RIFT’s second anniversary and Sanctum, Meridian, and the dock area of Tempest Bay are full of cheerful NPCs, colorful balloons, and carnival games galore, there’s one thing missing among the festivities on many shards. One group of things, rather. Well, okay, not things exactly. People. Despite the popularity of last year’s Carnival of the Ascended, this year our carnival grounds seem a little sparse.
Not all shards are experiencing this sparseness, of course, but even on high and medium population shards, folks are noticing the lack of carnival goers. I know I have. It was hard to miss the giant raids of balloon stompers last year even on low population shards. This year, the first day had a few smaller raids forming up on the two PvE shards I frequent, but now even during peak hours there are rarely more than three people wandering through any of the carnival attractions. So, what gives? Why aren’t the carnival games as popular as they were last year?
There are many answers to that question, naturally. First off, we have to keep in mind that we’re only in the first phase of the carnival, so some players may be waiting until the floats arrive around Telara before deciding how much they need to take part in carnival games. There’s also the fact that players now tend to hang out in Tempest Bay and not in Meridian/Sanctum, which will automatically lower the amount of players hanging out near the carnival grounds in comparison to last year. Meridian and Sanctum are arguably the best locations for taking part in carnival activities since all of the vendors and daily/weekly questgivers are located nearby. The balloon popping area in Tempest Bay is also located fairly close to water, which may make careless bouncing a little, well, wet.
There’s also the simple fact that RIFT’s population in general doesn’t seem as high as it did during this time last year. Some players that still play may also not be overly interested in repeated world events due to the fact that this year’s Carnival of the Ascended is a little different, but not overly so. It’s also all fluff and vanity items. Some players adore vanity items and fluff content. Others don’t, and that’s okay.
Last but not least, we also must consider the current state of the game and how the Carnival of the Ascended has changed this year in comparison to last year. Last year, herds of balloon stomping raids were able to grab carnival rewards fairly quickly. Prices on rewards were much lower than they are now. Take a look at some of this year’s prices on our Carnival of the Ascended 2013 Guide. At 30 balloons per Prize Ticket, that’s 7,500 balloons for one of the new masks. For a new player eager to claim all of the masks for the achievement, that’s a whopping total of 1,350 Prize Tickets, which means 40,5000 balloons. Or 10,800 seacap tosses. Or 2,250 memory match games. Those are some pretty big numbers.
Before I continue– yes, I realize Trion is making these world events for veteran players in mind. They want players to stick around and return year after year and slowly gain all of the world event rewards. They don’t want players to grab everything in one shot. However, with the fact that there will presumably be new rewards to work on every year, I think the possibility for players to go all out and get everything in one year should be present. Players like setting goals that are lofty yet also remain a possibility. What they don’t like is to have to admit that they simply don’t have the time to hop up and down for hours on end in order to buy a couple of fun items.
And that brings me to my next point. Fun. Carnivals are supposed to be fun. In a recent forum thread where players have been complaining about the prices of this year’s rewards as well the as the fact that last year’s mount doubloons did not make a return this year, Game Designer Kerilar took the time to state the reasons behind the considerable price jumps in this year’s Carnival of the Ascended:
“Last year people got almost everything they wanted within the first few days. I myself got all 4 balloons in about 1 hour. 400 tickets an hour was far far too many. This year the complaints seem to stem from the fact that you don’t have everything you want by day 2. This is the intent. It is a 4 week event; it should take you a good portion of that to get everything. I think the price increase is being just a bit overdramatized especially considering you haven’t even seen phase 2 yet. If balloon stomping isn’t giving you the tickets you want, try a different game, one that awards a bigger prize.”
He has a definite point on the phase 2 note, which I mentioned already. He is also correct in thinking that players shouldn’t be able to get all of the rewards in a few hours. However, there’s a real issue beneath the surface of the complaints that are most commonly popping up. Many players simply do not find hopping up and down for hours in a raid fun.
Disclaimer: Yes, this is me on a soapbox of sorts. I’m a huge fan of Trion and RIFT, but I do tend to be critical of the games I love at times. You’re free to disagree with my opinions.
I will be the first to admit that the only reason I didn’t get every Carnival of the Ascended reward I wanted from the event last year was because I thought the raids full of balloon stompers were a little silly and rather unfun. Could I have gotten the rewards through other ways? Of course, but to be perfectly honest it really surprised me that Trion wanted players to earn tickets that quickly to begin with. It left a bad taste in my mouth.
Repetition can be fun when done right (remember the seacap race daily from Waves of Madness?). Raids of players can be completely fun if the activities at hand are engaging. But the whole jumping up and down thing while pausing intermittently to turn in the quest and grab it again just… isn’t fun. It isn’t engaging. It isn’t challenging. It isn’t even creative, really.
It is fast? Of course. That’s the main reason players participated in droves last year. In a raid group, players were able to grab every reward they wanted in a couple of days. Did that mean the process was fun? Not exactly.
The simple fact is that players saw an effort and reward ratio that was fairly worthwhile during last year’s Carnival of the Ascended and went for it. That ratio is much larger now. Players that felt it was worthwhile to jump up and down for two full evenings last year are finding that it’s not worthwhile to jump up and down for 6+ full evenings this year (an estimate), even if they spread it out between the weeks the event will last for.
Time is valuable, even to gamers. If something takes a while to obtain but is fun in the process and also very rewarding, the chances that players will eagerly go after that goal are rather high. If that journey is too simplistic and not fun in the slightest, the journey usually shifts to something more commonly called a “grind.”
Since the launch of Storm Legion, many reviewers and players have taken to describing RIFT as somewhat grind-centric in nature. I won’t get into that debate for the moment, but I will say that I think Trion looked at an issue of last year’s Carnival of the Ascended and applied a quick fix that really doesn’t solve the underlying problem. The carnival rewards did not need to have their costs increased dramatically. The mechanics of the carnival games and/or the entire reward system needed to be reworked.
With a little creativity, the carnival games could become a lot more interesting. An expanded Balloon Stomp could work really well even with some simple changes. Add a larger playing field, make the balloons spawn random colors that are worth different points, and give players a reason to actually move around a bit. The seacap ring toss isn’t bad, but can be a little clunky. Adding in an actual ring tossing animation would immerse players better. Memory Match is a good attempt, but the game is limited to three players effectively and requires five game completions before a reward is given. That combination doesn’t work well.
if Trion were to increase the amount of Prize Tickets players can earn from each of the games while adding in a daily limit or weekly limit, the amount of possible repetition would go down drastically while still ensuring players don’t earn all of the rewards over a short period of time. Trion had a lot of options here, but unfortunately chose to increase reward costs instead.
Maybe Phase 2 has more ways to earn Prize Tickets. If so, I imagine most players will feel much better about this year’s Carnival of the Ascended. In the meantime, enjoy what you find fun in RIFT. Don’t sweat the rest. It’s all any of us can do.