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Rift: The Soulwalker - The Fall of the Online Civilizations

Updated Mon, May 30, 2011 by Medawky



It's been a few weeks since I last penned The Soulwalker, and while there has been quite a bit going on, none of it was particularly inspiring. So what got me off my duff and revived my weekly soapbox? Not so much anything directly Rift affiliated actually, but rather I drew inspiration from the return of our beloved Boomjack and a new and improved version of our awesome daily feature – Reloading. Welcome back sir, my email inbox is certainly the better for it.

Rift

As I look forward to patch 1.3, I still marvel at the blistering pace at which content is churned out and at the continued innovations by the folks at Trion. At a time when the biggest kid on the block is going to charge you extra to run some dungeons with your friends, Rift is going to give you the ability to move servers. Weekly. For free. Even with all the upsides to Rift there still seems to be a lot of negative energy and speculation of failure by folks in the community and those playing other games. It's natural for any new game to have attrition and contraction shortly after launch these days, but is it really a failing on Trion's part? Or are we just witnessing the beginning of the end of the MMOG boom?




I can't help but think of a few notable moments from recent history that have affected myself, and some of my closest friends, when I wonder about the future of the MMOG. In the later part of the 90's I was working in a high stress industry that required long hours and a good part of my soul, but it paid really well. As friends of mine started to migrate away to new internet start up firms in droves, I was tempted to follow them for the promises of a better work environment and fat stacks of quick cash. Luckily, I had a fiancee whose overly cautious nature helped talk me out of that and a couple years later our new house's guest bedroom was put to regular use as temporary housing for friends who lost it all in the gamble.

Rift

The second event that comes to mind involves that same house and the same overly cautious fiancee, who was by that time a matronly over-cautious wife. As housing values rocketed up and our friends began trading up from simple houses to  amazingly lavish mini-mansions we were once again tempted by the lure of easy money. Everyone knows the outcome of that frenzy, more friends staying with us, this time on the couch as the guest room was now a nursery.

With every developer pouring gobs of money into the MMOG market, is it really any different than these two crazes which swept through our country and ultimately imploded in upon themselves? And are the early adopters who don't rush headlong into over extending themselves safe from the repercussions? And finally, can a game like Rift and a company like Trion, help to save the industry from total collapse? The not-so-definitive answer is – maybe.

Blizzard with its undisputed King of all MMOGs isn't even immune right now, as WoW subscriptions were down by 600k (take into account the huge uptick in subs they picked up in China this year and that number is probably closer to 1.4 million recurring subscriptions lost). The damage done to SOE by its security fiasco may not be fully realized for several more months as they wait to see who comes back, and more importantly, who sticks around. Funcom announced AoC would be going free-to-play, joining a long list of other games that are removing the monthly fee in a last ditch effort to attract players. While a great number of threads on various discussion boards are exalting WoW as triumphing over Rift as the latter's population begins to sag, the vast number of folks I have spoke to who have left Telara certainly haven't gone back to Azeroth – just as most of my friends who have stopped playing WoW have yet to try Rift. Players are simply becoming bored with an overexposed market that has left them feeling bloated and tired as they chase the perpetual Next Thing in their hardly distinguishable fantasy realm of choice.

Rift While SW:TOR and GW2 may each be bringing something new to the table, the former is simply a fantasy game re-skinned as a sci-fi space universe and the latter is JANFG (just another fantasy game – hey we loves us some acronyms). Until a truly innovative and genre defining non-fantasy game emerges, Rift may be the best alternative to giving up the MMOG all together. The two things that Rift has going for it that may help it stave off elimination are; rapid deployment of dynamic content – a system that helps keep the world fresh and minimizes player boredom as they wait for their next challenge and, most importantly, fostering of community. As all client-based fantasy worlds begin their inevitable contractions, those that keep players working together and interacting with each other the most will be the ones with the best chance of survival. No one on the market today fosters community much better than Rift. So while the WoW denizens continue to mock each other, flex their electronic egos and enslave each other to get cheap gold, those of us in Rift will be busy banding together in our co-operative efforts. Come on Ascended, we've got a world to save.

Have you seen the newest Rift promo video?



Trion Announces Free Server Transfers

Trion Worlds today announced that it will offer unlimited free server transfers to select servers once a week with update 1.3 scheduled to go live in early summer. Players that transfer will be able to take all of their gear, achievements and titles with them when they go..

Rift Soul Guides: The Elementalist

Part of the Elementalist's prowess and power is derived from their summoned combat pets that serve a variety of roles. If any of the various souls in Rift is custom made for the old school EverQuest mage; this is it.

Rift Soul Guides: The Stormcaller

One of the more daunting souls in the Rift universe is that of the Stormcaller, a Mage DPS class that uses the powers of wind and water to besiege their enemies

Doom and gloom! I can't believe the sheer amount of neagtivity on the network this week. Who's in charge of the content around here? ... oh.

Really though, as glad as I am about our relatively long editorial leash, I've been hearing dark prophecies about MMORPGs for as long as I can remember. In the time of EQ and DAoC it was "the market's played out/ peaked / saturated and we'll never see another high quality fantasy MMORPG." Then WoW comes along and grows the market a bazillion-fold. Someday soon a game will do the same thing to WoW (or maybe Facebook already has, depending on your viewpoint). Regardless, I really do believe that, because the magic of social gaming is real, and it can't be matched by any other kind of solo or co-op game, no matter how many millions of dollars you invest in fancying it up.

Chicken Little types come scampering out every time every time the MMOs du jour hits a rough patch, but a handful of games does NOT a category make. The MMO ideal of social gaming continues to grow - you see it in indie games like Minecraft and Terraria, in HL2 multiplayer mods, in Portal 2's marketing, in the Autolog system of Need for Speed Shift, in Facebook games, in private and retro servers, in character persistence and unlocks in triple-A FPSs like Call of Duty and RTSs like StarCraft 2, in the alliance wars in EVE and the clan wars of World of Tanks, in the games revitalized or given the chance to see big numbers by a subscription-free model, and many more places I can't think of right now.

Sometimes I think that the MMOG forest has grown soooo big that we can't see all the trees, only the weathered ones in the forefront.

MMOs have been growing steadily while North American MMORPG have stagnated a bit, if only due to the fact that subscriptions are tough to swallow. Free-to-Play gaming is striving more than ever. It's simple, just get over the need to launch with subscriptions and don't try to market 20 flash games in one as your "free-to-play" game. Look at Perfect World which is crowded or even Mabinogi or FLYFF who have been around for nearly forever.

Rift is just facing the same thing Aion did, when people pay $15 a month for something they're going to get the best deal. The best deal is WoW, where all their friends are, and the ones who don't think that way will stay. After the launch, people will get disinterested and leave. Simple. Nothing new here, been going on for ages.

And through it all, a 2005 MMO keeps slowly adding more and more subscribers every year.

Eve Online

Its my opinion that MMOs are nowhere near played out... the MMORPG grindfest formula however, has been done to death and beyond. Eve continues to grow despite its age and how insanely difficult it is to get out of the n00b gates this far into it, because it is not just another fantasy MMO clone. Not to say its any better done than the other MMOs out there... it has its ups and downs like any of them but at least it is original by design.

If anyone is going to steal Blizzard's thunder they need to put away the cookie cutter and think outside this stale box everyone has been living in for quite some time. Rift is by no means that game.

Do I pay for WoW? Not anymore... I play Rift for now until something better comes along. In many ways it does WoW better than WoW... in many other ways, it does not. Its a nice alternative if you're burnt on WoW like many are but at best it'll only cannibalize a modest number of players from other games.

Here's to hoping someone takes a gamble to make something new and great rather than continue playing it "safe" and further polishing clone after clone in baby steps - none of which ever amounting to nearly what they'd hoped for, for what seems to me painfully obvious reasons.

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