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It’s All Fun and Games at the Carnival… Or is it?

By on Mar 11, 2013 at 3:00 pm, in Article, Editorial, RIFT  |  Comments: 12 comments

carnival editorial title

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.

Laura Hardgrave

Laura Hardgrave

Laura is the Editor-in-Chief for Junkies Nation. When she's not writing long editorials or fighting apostrophe errors, she enjoys exploring multiple MMORPGs, getting inspiration for more long editorials, distracting big snarly things for her friends, and writing LGBT science fiction/fantasy.
  • crucialcausality

    I wasn’t involved in the last Carnival, but honestly the way it’s set up now I’m not especially excited yet… I’m in the boat of people waiting for it to really kick off. I’ll blow up some pinatas if I run into one, but for the most part I’m just doing other things. I imagine that’ll change when the next phase starts.

  • thestylishradish

    Excellent exploration of the issues, Laura. It seems to me that Trion are incorrectly managing wants and expectations, their own as well as players. Trion want their players to engage in the carnival for the full 4 weeks and expect that making the rewards harder to get, this will engage players. Players want the rewards and expect to purchase 80-90% of them by event end (or at least that’s my expectation).

    These two agendas mixed with the law of diminishing returns is causing unhappy players. If we attended the carnival last year and explored it fully, this year will hold much less appeal. We’ll dabble rather than fully engage. Having been there and done that, the second time around is not as much fun. Next year we’ll barely look at the carnival.

    No matter how good the rewards, increasing the grind will not entice players to continue with previously experienced content. The opposite has more effect – desired rewards for equal or less grind encourages returning players to engage again.

    Let’s not get into how discouraged new players must feel at seeing the work to buy even a fraction of this event’s rewards or how hours of repetitive play strains hands, eyes and temper, that would take another bunch words to express.

    • Neri

      I am one of the new players who is definitely discouraged by seeing the sheer amount of tickets needed for prizes. I guess I’ll just keep breaking Pinata’s as I level and hope for more cool vanity items that way.

  • Tramtrist

    I wasn’t playing rift last year, so the carnival is new to me. I am not, however, excited about it. I checked it out, and have determined that the ratio of effort to reward makes carnival participation just not worth it. The games are maybe fun the first time or two, but I am completely disheartened by the incredible grind required to get even one prize. Just so very much not worth it. /yawn.

    I understand last year people were able to join ballon-stomping raids to make the grind a little faster, but this year the cost of the rewards has been increased to the where the thought of grinding these things just makes my heart sink. The carnival is the opposite of fun.

    You know what people are actually doing in droves since the carnival started? Cross-shard events. Trion’s accidental cross-shard summons feature that was introduced in the same patch as the carnival made the cost-to-effort ratio for farming Infinity Stones very appealing. That’s where everyone is right now. Not at the sucky carnival.

    • crucialcausality

      The weird thing to me is that, if people are joining raids to have more fun and speed through getting rewards…? Isn’t that a good thing in this context? I would have thought so.

      I’m surprised that was deemed a problem by Trion at all. It’s an anniversary celebration, not a way to get important gear. If anything they should have left the games alone, included a few more easy goofy ones and made a ton of new prizes.

  • Varius

    At some point Trion forgot people play games to have fun.

    • DoneWt

      Seems they forgot that entirely with SL. I know plenty of casual players who have left the game during 50-60 leveling because the experience was lacking and took too long, and I know even more who when they eventually got to endgame they quit about 1 month in after realizing that to get their faction reps done it would take another 2 to 3 months, even by doing every single daily without skipping a single one of them.

      I my self am in a hardcore raid guild and while members there had no trouble getting all that done the hard way, we’re at a point now in the game where it’s obvious that the new players either dont exist or dont stick around long enough, while a certain % of the old players are naturally starting to depart. Simple example of the issue is that the past month and a half we’ve lost 7 raiders and have been able to replace – get only 4 new ones in. And that coming from a guild that has been a server first and top 10 world guild pretty much since Rifts launch. Rift needs a change. 0-50 should become a lot more accessible somehow and the 50-60+60endgame grind needs to be much further reduced than it has so far. We all know rifts selling point is endgame. It’s about time they make it fully accessible by everyone now before it’s too late for Rift.

      • Malcolm Swoboda

        Storm Legion is absolutely filled with grind, and level exp grind is actually the most bearable of it all (keeps people in the journey).

        Grind in SL has to be nerfed hard, until its too late.

  • Tony

    Well, I got to play the games — and while I think they’re really not that bad, the work you need to do to get anything is astronomical. Everything about this is right. I’d come across several people in each area playing something, but when you know that even the most generous game gives 3 tickets and things cost 150+…?

    You just don’t stick around. Why would you? I imagine they don’t want to just give these things away, but honestly, they could halve the ticket requirement and it’d still require some investment.

    Either way I don’t really get that for an anniversary celebration. I should be able to get several things just by having fun with the games for a while — not by making it my mission.

    They need to cut the prices fast. And maybe make the mounts 2 dubloons instead of 3.

  • Malcolm Swoboda

    Agreed entirely here.

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