Rift: Going Off the Rails – Is the Race to End-Game Killing the MMOG?

Is Rift partially to blame for the trend of disinterested gamers who tear through content at a blistering pace?
Perusing the official Rift forums over the past few months has revealed some disturbing insights into the minds of most gamers. Gone are the days of wide-eyed wonder where communities were forged by a shared struggle to overcome unforgiving environs. They have been replaced instead by e-peen fueled races to the top just to secure the meaningless bragging rights of doing something first.

Rift didn’t create this monster, and even though they do more than most contemporary games to promote group-based gameplay they should still shoulder some of the blame for perpetuating it. Just how has Rift contributed to this achievement junky culture? They have done so by diminishing the experience of leveling a character and then over compensating players for their achievements once at the level cap.

The cries of the playerbase should fall on deaf ears as they proclaim their boredom after chewing through content like a fat kid at an all you can eat buffet. Even the recently introduced Instant Adventure scenarios that launch players into a frenzy of load and go gaming have been criticized by these voracious omnivores as being either too easy or too light in the experience department. How can a developer win when the players deride them for making content too easy but won’t play their game if they can’t reach the level cap in under week?


SWTOR has tried using fully voiced story and sweeping cut-scenes to help meter the pace, but with players hitting the level cap in a matter of days, that seems to have failed. Seriously people, there were numerous max-level toons before the official release! Rift has tried to satiate the masses by creating and launching new content every 6 weeks. The latter hasn’t worked out very well and the former needs more time to tell if it will be successful at keeping a long term hold on its playerbase.

The secret to much of EverQuest's success was due directly to the fact that players were forced to band together for survival. World of Warcraft was much easier to level through, but it had the good fortune of being the first game to ensnare the console generation. Now that this demographic has become firmly entrenched in the genre, developers must find a way to keep them captivated.

Will anyone unlock the magical formula to keep players coming back for a long term experience, or are we doomed to wander the lands like Bedouins? Can the current crop of players learn to enjoy the experience of a steep leveling and learning would be a much better question, and if they can’t should the leveling process be scrapped altogether?  As many players fall into the cycle of logging in solely to raid, ideas like the StarCraft II mod, Starcraft Universe, gain traction. Hybrids that skip the whole leveling experience and give players “max level” toons to PvP and raid with, a sort of bastardized version of an MMOG that feels more like LoL.

Another idea, and one I would be more interested in, is having each accounts first character be the only one to have to struggle through the leveling process and then awarding high level or max level alts as a reward. The argument there would be that you would have tons of players that “don’t know their class” trying to invade the end game, but let’s face it folks – people who have soloed to level cap in two weeks probably don’t know a whole lot either.

Until we can find it within ourselves to enjoy the journey we will be doomed to suffering through clones of current games or continue to dust-bin the rest, and developers will continue to pay the price as their games fall by the wayside while the borg-like masses demolish each new world in their path.

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