I want to send out my apologies for lack of updates this week. I had been on a pretty religious schedule of posting at least some new content five days a week. If you followed the last post you know my world has been pretty rocked by the recent events in my neck of the woods. My time has been spent in the evenings either worrying about incoming Tornados or alternatively mourning their devastation.
Quite honestly, with everything going on, it just didn’t feel right be be blogging about video games. Joplin as I said earlier has for all intents and purposes been removed from the map. The series have Tornados that hit Tuesday night left plenty of its own carnage, leaving a 3 year old boy missing, presumably sucked up by the storm. This morning they mentioned on the news that this storm system has produced around 80 distinct Tornados over the last week.
The “Big News”
All that said, life just has not felt normal. The concern and worry has left its toll, and frankly I am pretty worn out and just plain “fried” at this point. However for the rest of the world, namely the rift playing public the “Big News” has been the announcement of free server transfers. I realize I am well behind the new cycle on this one, and most of the blogging community has weighed in one way or another on it. However this has been in the back of my mind while we have dealt with all our issues.
For those living under a rock, or dodging Tornados like myself… the original announcement can be found here.
RIFT™ TO OFFER FREE CHARACTER TRANSFERS
Gather your friends in RIFT and play anywhere, any time
When the next major RIFT™ update hits early this summer, subscribers will be treated to a surprise – free character transfers. Trion Worlds announced today that with RIFT 1.3, players will have the ability to move to select servers in their territory once each week, taking all items, achievements, and titles with them. Additionally, guild leaders will be able to move their guild’s level and experience.
“MMOs are all about playing with your friends no matter which server they’re on, and that’s why we’re offering this as a free service to our subscribers,” said Scott Hartsman, Executive Producer. “RIFT is both a game and a service, and adding free server transfers is just one more way we can make this the best possible MMO experience available.”
Whether you want to play with friends, check out a new server, or avoid queue times on highly populated servers, you’ll be free to move about Telara. As a part of this grand experiment, there will initially be no limits on the number of times you can transfer your characters or guild.
Character transfers will remain a free service for the foreseeable future, and could become a permanent addition to the RIFT experience. Subscribers will be able to perform the transfers inside of the game itself once the patch is live.
For More Information – Read the FAQ
Then a few days later they followed up with an FAQ outlining all of the changes (post here).
As announced, Free Character Transfers will be released in RIFT Update 1.3. These Free Character Transfers will be available to players on select shards via a new in-game feature. We are pleased to be able to offer this service to our players and hope you find it to be a great way to further enrich your experience and connect with others, we have provided a brief FAQ outlining this new feature below.
We’ll continue to release additional details as we get closer to the release of 1.3 and we encourage you to ask any questions you might have, we’ll do our best to answer all we can – thanks!
What are Free Character Transfers?
- Free Character Transfers will allow you to move your characters to select shards through an easy to use, in-game feature.
How often can I transfer my character?
- We’re allowing one free transfer, per character, to a select shard every 7 days. Please note this is subject to change while we continue to develop and test the new service.
What do you mean “select shards”?
- We want the shard you select to provide the best experience possible. It is important that there remains a balance between Guardian and Defiant players and to that available shards do not become too over populated or unbalanced. For this reason you will only be able to move to specific shards we’ve selected to accept new transfers, please note the shards available for transfer may change over time.
Can I move from a PvP shard to a PvE shard or vice-versa?
- Of course! The rule set of your current shard will not prevent you from moving to a shard of a different type. So PvP, RP, PvE, or RPPvP to your heart’s content – Just remember, you’re subject to the rules of your new home! (For example, non-consensual PvP on PvP shards and stricter naming policies on RP shards.)
What about my stuff?
- We’ll have specific details later, but have no fear! You’ll be able to take your items, currencies, achievements, titles, pets, collections, and heck, maybe even the kitchen sink!
Can I transfer from a North American Shard to a European Shard?
- Not right now, currently transfers will be restricted to select shards in your territory.
I’m a guild leader, can I transfer my guild?
- Absolutely, we know you and your members work hard to level your guild and make it your own. We’ll announce more details about this feature closer to its release, stay tuned!
Will these transfers always be free for everyone?
- For the forseeable future – yes! They could even become a permanent addition to the RIFT experience. This is very much an experiment we want to try and we feel this feature will add a unique way to play RIFT unlike other MMO’s. We’ll see how it goes and keep an eye out for any issues that arise.
So, when will 1.3 be released?
- 1.3 is the next major installment for RIFT and will arrive early this summer. Keep an eye on www.riftgame.com and here on the forums for more details as we get closer to its release!
Updated – 05/23/11 @ 12:13PM PDT
What if my character or guild’s name is already taken on the shard I want to transfer to?
- You’ll be warned in the event of a naming conflict, should you decide to continue with the transfer you will be forced to re-name your character or guild before playing.
Will I be able to change my characters faction (from Defiant to Guardian for example) when I transfer or transfer my Character to another active account?
- Not at this time, while these options are something we might look into in the future they will not be available for the initial release of the Free Character Transfer feature.
Wide Variety of Responses
I have seen everything from elation and praise, heralding Trion as the saviors of game kind, to frustration that we will have to wait for this feature at all. The cynics have seen this as a clever way of skirting the need to merge under populated servers, by allowing players to jump to new servers on their own. I guess I can see all of the points, but tend to take my own view.
What I see that stands out is the fact that a server transfer system is being put in place, to allow players to move more freely between server communities. In fact based on the information, they will be able to do this once per week, which can let you hop servers to play with friends and then return to the main server at will. The most impressive thing about all of this is the fact that Trion will not be charging for this feature.
Syncaine over at Hardcore Casual however thinks we should re-evaluate our expectations.
Listen, if you are cheering because Trion has decided not to punch you in the face (charged transfers), you need to reevaluate your expectations. You pay that $15 for a reason, and it’s not (unless we are talking SOE) just to keep the servers online. Free transfers are, to me, about as special as a monthly content patch. It (should be) expected.
I understand the cynical view of the actions but honestly… to me Trion has been giving us far better support than I have received playing any other game. If you are thinking, I have not played many games then… let me point you over to my gameography page. While this may be the level of customer support we as gamers should expect, and I agree with this point, it is nothing we have ever received in the past.
One thing Trion has done, that no company to this point has done for me at least is make me feel like I am being heard. After getting to know a handful of people in the company either through twitter, or the community outreach programs, I feel that they honest to god drink their own Kool-Aid. I feel like they actually care about us, and care about our happiness.
Here is an example of an interaction between Assistant Community Manager Erick “Zann” Adams, and Rilgon a gaming blogger. Shows the level of care these individuals take.
Rilgon: @3rickZann So did you guys find the Fountain of Awesome or something? Like I don’t get how you are routinely so awesome.
Erick Adams: @Rilgon No, but they put something in the office water that compels us to try and make our players happy. :p
Rilgon: @3rickZann It shows. 🙂
I guess I just have a hard time being cynical when I see this and other things on a regular basis. There seems to be an Esprit de corps in this group that I have not seen in a video game company in a long time. Blizzard definitely used to be that kind of “by gamers, for gamers” shop but since the activision merger they have changed in many ways.
I regularly bought the pay per view Blizzcast feed, and I have to say the way they treated players this previous year shows the level of disdain (pretty much anytime Alex Afrasiabi spoke) they seem to have for us the gamers these days. So while we as the gamers, should be expecting more from game companies, I am definitely going to support the ones out there that are doing it.
Brilliant Marketing Move
What makes this a massively brilliant marketing move, and extremely unique is not the fact that they are giving us server transfers, it is the fact they are doing so without a fee attached. Basically Blizzard got us used to the concept of paying a premium convenience tax for getting things like this in the past. Each new feature that gets added seems to get an increased fee, and players have been willing to pay up. I’ve transferred characters, and race and faction changed them as well.
If you are playing World of Warcraft you are well aware of the number of premium fees associated with their monthly subscription based game.
- Remote Access – $2.99/month
- Name Change – $10.00
- Cosmetic Pet – $10.00
- Appearance Change – $15.00
- Character Transfer – $25.00
- Race Change – $25.00
- Cosmetic Mount – $25.00
- Faction Change – $30.00
- Guild Move – ??
- RealID Grouping – ??
Every company that has implemented a similar on demand service structure has followed suit. So Trion could have easily put server transfers in place and dinged us with a money grab to do so. However the most important thing as a take away is the fact that they didn’t. While we don’t know for certain how the “selected shards” portion will work out, this definitely seems far more wide reaching than when a company in the past has offered free transfers off higher population realms to lower ones.
Most obviously the big difference is the fact that they have stated this would be an event that was throttled on a once per week basis. This will let players test out a community and be able to move again if it just is not a solid fit. Being the community minded player I am, normally I would be afraid of such a free form server move system. At the end of the day this places the responsibility squarely on the shoulders of the players on a given server to make something that players do not want to leave. I feel sure that Shadefallen is an amazing server, and the community we have is such that it itself will glue players to our shard.
The Real Logic Behind It All
It was stated by Willhelm at The Ancient Gaming Noob that this may be a way for Trion to allow players to handle server mergers on their own.
Meanwhile, here is Trion Worlds, with Rift a couple of months old now. I have to wonder if they are being clever about dealing with a contraction of population, if the initial rush has peaked and they now have more servers running that are really viable.
Announcing server mergers is always viewed as bad news.
If this really is the reasoning behind the addition I still applaud it as a great idea. Personally I have tried to avoid the Rift forums, other than the patch notes and Shadefallen server forums. However from what I hear, there is much gnashing of teeth going on about under populated servers. Personally I have not encountered this, Shadefallen has remained a vibrant server since release, and if Rift Status is to be believed our numbers seem to have remained extremely flat. We have not experienced queues since the first weeks of launch, but there have always been more than enough people online at any given time to get something done.
I think players are going to complain no matter what, and the forums always give you a snapshot of the people who are most angry in any game. However I imagine the same people who complained about, and refused to play on a server with any queue time are now the ones complaining about there not being enough people around. At launch queue times are the sign of a healthy server, and purposefully going off on a low population server will mean in the long run not being able to do certain things in an MMO.
Low population servers are always slow to grow, because the majority of the experienced playerbase generally avoid those servers for that reason. I played on a high population server in WoW, and quite frankly it spoils you. During wrath you could trip in Dalaran and manage to fall into a PUG raid that could clear half of Icecrown. If you thought of an item, you could search the auction house and find plenty for sale. So to go from that, to trying to roll on servers where friends ended up with dismal economies and no pug culture to speak of, was a shock to the system.
So if Trion is giving players a way to abandon sinking ships, then Bravo. Forced server mergers always end up disrupting a community far more than voluntary moves. Players have a fresh start without abandoning the work they have already done. Knowing that your decision isn’t set in stone, will allow players to try different server communities until they find a niche that really fits their play style.
On Argent Dawn, there were many times we were offered free transfers to cull the herd. If I knew I could have transferred back without charge, I might have considered taking them up on the offer during those 3000 player queues. Problem is, these were a one way ticket off, trading a known evil for completely unknown ones. In most cases, for the players that jumped ship, they ended up transferring right back, as the grass was not in fact greener on the other side of the fence.
My Overall Take
This is getting to be a really really long post, so I will try and wrap things up. Basically I see this as a good move for the community. Trion is once again giving some excellent support to the players, and in doing so giving us the freedom to spread out and find the server that works best for us. The ground breaking news is the fact they are giving this to us for free. While this will diminish some servers, it will cause others like Shadefallen to band together and build something worth staying for. I think overall, this will be a major positive for all players.