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Rift on Trial - Fallout From Forced Shard Transfers

Posted Thu, Jan 26, 2012 by Medawky

As a group, MMO gamers lean towards being jaded malcontents with a flair for the dramatic and a keen mistrust of those that make the worlds we inhabit. And really, who can blame us? For years developers have kept us at an arm’s length from the truth with vague statements and canned responses. Rift developer Trion Worlds however was one of the most transparent companies to hit the MMOG scene from their pre-launch player summit to the extremely open line of communication via media outlets and the official Rift forums.  This is why the recent move to convert multiple shards to Trial only realms with very little explanation has left so many subscribers feeling slighted.

For those who haven’t been following the story so far, let me bring you up to speed. When Rift launched in early 2011 the initial number of players entering the game was much higher than anticipated, causing massive queues across all realms. Trion quickly raised the player caps to try and compensate, but even that proved futile. Eventually they were left with no choice but to launch multiple new shards to handle the population demand.

server transfer

You don't have to go home, but you can't stay here. 


Rift continued to defy expectations as the new shards that many predicted would be ghost towns after the first 30 days continued to thrive for months. Trion continued to help players manage server populations by introducing free character transfers, a feature that other games charge a hefty fee for. Eventually however many realms started to notice the effects of attrition as new games, both massive and single player, began to erode the population.

As the decrease in playerbase began to affect the quality of life on Telara, many players called for shard mergers, but those cries were met mostly with silence. Then, almost completely unannounced, many players logged in one morning to find a bright yellow system message heralding that their shard was set to become a Trial shard and that they should transfer themselves to a new server.  In a classic case of being careful what you wish for because you might just get it, Trion gave the vocal their wish – just not in the manner they had requested.
 

Rift Shard Transfer

Trion lets players decide their future home


So what is a Trial shard? Trial Shards are special servers designed for players who do not have a regular subscription and are trying the game out for free. Players with an active subscription are not allowed to create characters on these shards, but trial players aren’t necessarily restricted to making characters on these shards only.  Trial shards were originally instituted to be utilized for large scale promotional pushes so that the influx of free players wouldn’t adversely affect the main servers. Trial shards also allow players of any level to transfer off, unlike normal servers which have a minimum level requirement.

This isn’t the first incidence of this happening either. It occurred this summer on a few realms but received much less attention at time, partially due to fewer shards being affected and partially due to the overall perceived health of the game.

So why are player so incensed over this development when they are allowed to freely transfer their characters (and guilds) to a new shard? It’s more than just the principle of the matter, although that does rub quite a few players the wrong way. It comes down, for a lot of folks, to a matter of their characters name. Moving a character from one shard to a significantly more populated one often results in duplicate names and the burden of finding a new one will always fall on the incoming player.

Rift Shard Transfer

Post-transfer shards went from full to bursting at the  seams


The other issue, and perhaps one that was unforeseen, is that many of the evacuees have found refuge on the same shard(s). This has created a whole new group of angry people as those shards are overcrowded, with some even experiencing the occasional queue at peak times.

Ultimately it seems that something that should have been a homerun, and something the community had been begging for, became a logistical nightmare. While I can understand Trion’s thought process behind allowing players to control their own destiny in terms of choosing their destination shard, the lack of communication isn’t in keeping with their usually stellar track record. As time moves forward and some distance and perspective are gained, I’m sure this will become a minor blip in the history of a great game.

The killing of two RP servers out of three only served to flood the already overcrowded server of Faeblight. There is enough population for two nicely busy RP servers. I give Trion Worlds a raspberry for their ill-conceived handling of the server mergers.

Also, why would TW need so many Trial account servers? There are about six or seven of the dang things!

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