Rift In Transition - A Look at Rift's Free Server Transfers

Posted Tue, Jul 05, 2011 by Medawky

Rift hack

One of the more interesting features introduced with Patch 1.3 was that of Character Transfers. Obviously this isn’t a groundbreaking feature in MMOGs, but its cost factor and expedient implementation certainly are. In case you hadn’t heard, Rift is allowing players to move their toons from their current shard to any available shard once a week – for free.  In our recent interview with Hal Hanlin, Rift’s Design Producer, he stated that the reason the service didn’t have an associated cost was an issue of simplicity;

“It’s easy for us to do this, I don’t know about those other companies who seem to make a production about it, but for us it’s a simple process.”

Hal went on to further illuminate the idea behind not charging for the service;

“Our main focus is for players to have fun playing the game, and if that means moving to play with their friends, or simply moving to a more lively shard – then we’re all for that.”

I pressed Hal about the availability of shards, if there were any restrictions in place or if any shards were off-limits;

“Initially the system will allow you to move to any shard that isn’t already at full capacity, and we obviously don’t want to allow players to exacerbate any existing faction balance issues. Short of that we want people to go where they want to be, we will have the ability to alter this on the fly and the system should be fairly dynamic based on populations.”

Rift server xfer

Thus far the system seems to be functioning as designed, I have done a couple of test runs moving players to and fro, and it really is simple. You log into the shard of your choosing, select the eligible character you wish to move and hit the button at the bottom of the screen that says transfer. Characters need to have an empty mailbox, have no current auctions, be above level 15 and have no more than 3 plat per level up to level 40 to be eligible.  Once those conditions are met a screen will pop up with a list of available shards, click on the shard you desire and within second you will be there.

The future impact of server transfers should be a largely positive one, even if it does lead to the shuttering of some of the deserted shards. In other games when servers start to die off there are inevitably server mergers, but with this free system the players will ultimately have control over their own destinies.  This isn’t to say there won’t ever be a forced merger in Rift’s future, but with entire guilds being able to jettison at will, it won’t be as traumatic. You see, therein lies the most beautiful thing about the system; guild leaders can transfer the guild itself, bank contents and all, and every member of the guild will be notified upon logging in of the move and to which shard they are now located on. Players who return to find their guild gone and the corresponding shard closed to transfers need not fret; they are granted the ability to join the guild regardless of the shards current state.  Another trick aspect of the system is that once you make the move to your guilds new home, you will be automatically added back into the guild.

Rift Patch 1.3

Of course the most crucial consideration in the whole equation is which shard to move to once you have decided to uproot.  There are 4 different shard styles in Rift; PvE, PvP, RP and RP-PvP – so the first step is to select which suits you best.  PvE servers are the standard no-frills server where all PvP interaction is essentially voluntary, PvP servers are populated by contested zones where you are automatically flagged when you leave the safety of your faction’s cities and towns. RP servers are governed by a slightly different ruleset with a stricter naming policy and a community that can be focused on a deeper level of immersion in the game world. Server population is also critical in the selection process, but it’s not always an easy decision to make.

The obvious choice would be to find the most heavily populated server and move there post-haste, but that doesn’t always play out as well as one would think. A little research and patience can go a long way towards making the best decision;

  • Monitor populations at different times of the day, if you don’t play on your new shards peak hours you may find it as empty feeling as your current home.
  • Get a feel for the new world by starting a low level character and engaging in some of the chat channels once you make it out of the tutorial phase.
  • Check out the forums of your potential new home, although forums are dominated by trolls and malcontents, you can still get a good general idea of the server dynamics.
  • If moving from a PvE ruleset shard to one that is PvP, make sure you are comfortable with all of the idiosyncrasies that come with it. You will be ganked at some point and have your playtime interrupted.

Even though some naysayers may consider realm transfers a death knell, Rift’s future prospects have never looked brighter. Allowing players the ability to migrate to the server of their choice can only help increase player satisfaction and keep one of the best communities in MMOGs on the upswing. Now we just need free faction swaps to really sweeten the deal.

At a time when many WoW players are feeling disenfranchised with their game's continued expense of server transfers, this is a great move for Rift. In WoW, moving a single character can cost between $20-50, depending on options selected along the way (Like race/gender change - options which Rift is looking into providing as well in the near future). By this point in the game, many players who would have a reason to move their WoW characters to other servers, likely have more than one high-level character they would like to take to their new home. I've not seen it uncommon for a player to spend $300 to totally "pick up and go" with their level 70+ characters.

Though the community understands there is some expense in setting up hardware to enable transfers as such, the excessive cost is a sticking point and another notch in the belt of those that make the argument that Activision is attempting excessive monitization policies with respect to Blizzard's long-standing virtual world. Though most of the MMO community is fast to write off a newcomer as a "flavor of the month" due to prior failings, Rift has proven resilient. By taking WoW's own formula of "Take what came before and polish until it glows", Trion has created a MMO that's perhaps not revolutionary, but evolutionary - just the thing for those who cut their MMO teeth on WoW and are looking for something new.

While Rift is thriving and growing their subscriber base, Trion must be relatively confident in their staying power. Between the Summer sale on Rift game keys, the "Ascend a Friend" system, and these free transfers this is certainly a shot across Blizzard's bow, enticing their players to something new. Blizz seems aware and/or concerned enough, as they've enabled a new "Level to 20, Free Trial Forever" setup. Hopefully for the playerbase, Activision will loosen their death grip on the finances enough to provide an answer to Trion's free weekly transfers in the form of cheaper or free transfers in World of Warcraft as well.

Only time will tell, but I think it is safe to say that the naysayers who believed Trion and Rift would simply evaporate like water spilled onto desert sand have proven wrong. Especially since the Activision takeover, I feel it has been detrimental to WoW to have been the only quality MMO in its archetype. Though nobody suggests that Rift is going to keep the same subscriber base as WoW, having a competent competitor is good for both games to keep anyone's management from getting too greedy or complacent. During the EverQuest days before the MMO Boom, watching rising titles like Dark Age of Camelot and Shadowbane (A game truly ahead of its time. With today's technology, an "enhanced" remake could be bloody amazing) spark innovation in their competitors was beneficial. Nomatter what game you play at the moment, its good for the market to see Rift thrive!

If you enjoy quality Fantasy MMORPG and would like to give Rift a try, please don't hesitate to send me a PM! I'd be happy to get you set up!


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