Sunday, April 7, 2019

Moving On...

I waited until today to see if my Rift: Prime character would show up. It was supposed to be the last date for transfers to be completed. Nothing.

I can't even see the Trial server, the aptly-named Reclaimer, on the shard list. That's because you can only see it if you have a character there. Clearly, I don't.

Why not? I'd like to know that, too. I read the full text of the official announcement as well as the forum post and FAQ. Nowhere does it say that characters need to have reached a specific level to be eligible for transfer but I got a hint that that might be the issue when I tried to post a query on the official forum thread.

Since I can post perfectly happily on other parts of the forum I'm guessing that Level 10 is some kind of baseline reality check for Prime. I was under the impression I'd passed that bar because, as I mentioned in the previous post, I thought I'd gotten into the high teens when Prime started.

One of the best things about having a blog is that, at least when it comes to gaming, I don't have to rely on my memory. I looked at the post I wrote when Prime launched. It told me two things: I didn't get anywhere near as far as I imagined (it seems I logged out the moment I dinged eight and never logged in again) and I had far less fun than I thought I did.

My review was scathing all round but I reserved particular contempt for the questing:

"The game dumps you at the wrong end of the starter zone and throws a whole lot more lore nonsense at you before offering you the first of what will be a seemingly endless series of the most mundane, trivial quests ever seen in a major MMO... I honestly think I have never seen so many lacklustre quests in one game. Even the dullest of imported F2Ps has more to offer in terms of wit or imagination than this."
All of which makes it quite ironic that I'm writing this up after spending nearly two hours on a random quest I picked up in Meridian, the Defiant capital. A quest I got so wrapped up in that I almost missed my lunch.

It wasn't my plan to start playing Rift again at all, far less start doing extended quest chains on my highest level character. I kind of fell into it. Or was lured.

As I mentioned last time, Rift can be extremely "rewarding". I've played some Rift most days this week but today was the first time I did any actual adventuring. It was the first day I'd had time. Mostly I've been too busy claiming rewards, sorting inventory and setting up hot bars.

On seven characters it takes a while, especially when every single character has twenty-eight "Rewards" waiting to be claimed in the cash shop and half of those rewards open to spill out more rewards that open to spill out more...

I mean, I like free stuff as much as anyone but this is ridiculous.

It would be one thing if it was just a bunch of old tat, like it is in most games, but there's good stuff in here! The highlights were serious upgrades to the main weapons of several characters and the fastest mounts I've ever owned in Rift for all of them.

The massive increase in generosity is just one of the ways Rift isn't quite how I remember it. The game has changed a lot since I last played it properly but all of those changes were completely invalidated by the Prime experiment. I had no chance to evaluate them there. Pete from Dragonchasers has a post up about why retro or progression servers don't work for him and I share a lot of his feelings on the subject.

Classic or re-start servers have a huge appeal, not only because of the crowds and the buzz and the everyone in it together thing but also because the gameplay is so much simpler. It's all kill mob, do quest, gear up, train skill and after twenty years no-one really needs any of that explaining.

Current "Live" servers sag under the accumulated weight of years, even decades of accrued complexity. Nothing is obvious, self-evident or intuitive. It can be daunting, but....

Mature MMORPGs have a plethora of labor-saving devices, everything from fast travel to auto-populating skills. If you're used to those you're going to miss them and even if you're not you're soon going to run up against the reasons they were added to the game in the first place.

I was unaware just how many such short-cuts Rift had taken since I last played on Live until a conversation sparked off in Level 51-59 chat this morning. Someone piped up to say they hadn't played for many years and the hints and tips began to rain down.

Most of the quality of life improvements mentioned were entirely new to me. I had, for example, no idea the game would now call on items in your main bank to complete quests, for example. With inventory space ever at a premium in Rift that's a potential gamechanger, not least because, at some point since I last played, basic vault storage appears to have been doubled, leaving all my characters with a wealth of free bank slots.

Another change is that falling damage has been completely removed. That seems odd, although very welcome. I also happened upon a quest that downlevelled me from 51 to 15 but continued giving me the same amount of xp I would have got at the higher level. That never used to happen. Telara is still as level-gated as always but who knows how many side doors there might be by now?

Sadly, there don't seem to be any very helpful "What's changed since you last played" guides for returning players. Well, there are quite a few but they're all either out of date or relate entirely to end-game, which, reading up on it, would appear to be so different from the Rift I know that they might as well have given it a new name and put it on a separate server.

I admit to being a little impressed by the amount of work Trion must have put in during the last few years. The whole operation seems a lot slicker and more streamlined than the genial shambles I remember from my earlier visits. Pity they went bust doing it.

It's also a shame virtually none of that good work was evident in the rushed and ill-timed Prime experiment. I can't help feeling that, were Rift able to launch as a brand-new MMORPG right now, with all its improvements and polish, it would be hailed as a breath of fresh air in a stale market.

No chance of that. It seems the only way an old MMORPG can get any attention these days is to  dress up in its oldest, drabbest clothes and offer people a bad time. Misery sells, it seems.

And on that theme, I rather think my run on EverQuest II's retro-fitted Kaladim server might be coming to an end, at least for now. At Level 21 the game is managing to put on a surprisingly convincing impression of what I remember things to have been like not so long after launch. There's really not a lot you can do without a group and what you can do solo is excruciatingly dull. Authentic, maybe. Fun? Not so I'm noticing.

Last time I went around this track I got off at around the same junction (Nektulos Forest and Thundering Steppes). I bailed until the Echoes of Faydwer expansion brought Butcherblock into the game, whereupon I managed another dozen levels before the server shut down and my Shadowknight got forcibly transferred to Antonia Bayle.

I foresee the same thing happening again. Neither am I very tempted by the announcement that EverQuest's fastest-ever Progression Server, Selo, will now feature a permanent 50% xp boost. So far I've managed to drag myself to Level Four on both my Bard and on the Druid I made because leveling the Bard was too slow. That was with the previous 50% xp boost...

It's been an interesting few weeks, all the same. I am, at least, beginning to get some glimmerings of what it is I might want, which is more than I had at the start of the year. And I can't help but feel there has to be a better option than anything currently on offer. A combination of the convenience and comfort we've come to expect along with the simplicity and straightforwardness we once had, perhaps. That would be nice.

If anyone finds something like that, don't keep it to yourself, will you?


  1. Well, nothing new on my end, still playing the heck out of Black Desert Online.

    Which is pretty much the opposite of what you described in your last paragraph I'm afraid. :-)

    1. If there's one thing you can safely say about BDO it's that it's not simple and straightforward!


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