It’s Not You, It’s Me

I has been roughly three months since my last post.  With Ariad starting up his posts I figure it is high time that I get over my writers block and begin anew as well.  Thing is for me, it hasn’t truly been writers block.  There is a post I feel like I need to make, but I have been looking for every opportunity not to.  I guess, in part since I have become friendly with several of the Trion staffers, the post I feel like I need to make almost feels like a betrayal.

Maybe It Is A Bit You

Bel and Mouse Vogue It feels weird to go from completely bonkers gung ho about a game, to just having no desire to play it.  But that pretty much describes my transition from playing and actively writing about Rift, to just not logging in and eventually cancelling my account.  The problem is, for the longest time I didn’t quite understand why I no longer wanted to play.  It felt like there was something missing, that I couldn’t quite put my finger on.

In my guild we had this cycle happening, that I none of us really understood.  We started the game with between thirty and forty players, so the future indeed seemed bright.  But as each new player managed to top the hill and hit 50, they all seemed to slowly begin tapering off their playtime.  So much so that eventually they just started disappearing all together.  As the months went on, it became harder and harder to maintain an active grouping force due to folks just dropping off into the ether.

At that point I was still doing pretty good, I had t1 geared my first 50 and was well on my way to my second 50.  It was on my way to the third, that finally it started to hit me.  Having done these zones 5 or more times, considering the time spent in beta… I just could not force myself to push through it a third time.  All the while, I am not really understanding what is going on, only that my desire to play at all is waning.  There were many a night that I logged in, and ran around Meridian for an hour or so before finally logging out for the evening, not actually doing anything.

The Missing Fluff

I know they can do housing...  need this for players tho The game is an amazingly fun rollercoaster ride the first time or two, but as I sat at level 50 with nothing that I wanted to do, something Ariad said hit me like a ton of bricks.  He was one of the first to taper off and eventually leave the game, and I will do my best to paraphrase what we talked about.  Essentially he said that one of his biggest problems with the world is that everything exists for a reason.  At first this comment didn’t make much sense, but as I sat at 50 bored… it finally did.

In most games, there are elements of the game that exist there, just to be there.  There are empty buildings in towns, there are art elements you can hover over that say interesting things, books in dungeons, etc that exist just to add flavor to the world.  In Rift, as the player you get a feel that nothing was added to the world that is not directly tied to some quest.  Essentially the game is this great lean core of mechanics, but it is missing the fluffy padding that adds atmosphere and gives players a reason to fall in love with something other than the game play.

The storyline of the game is very well written, and I’ve become friends with some of the lore writers in this process.  They do a phenomenal job providing the connective tissue that holds the world together.  The problem is, the world just doesn’t feel alive.  Sure there is dynamic content in the form of Rifts, but none of the cities FEEL like cities.  Neither Meridian or Sanctum feel like they could actually support life.  They both feel like Military outposts more than actual living, breathing cities.  The scale of the world I guess, just feels off in some way.

Maybe It Really Is Me

... dancing on the ceiling.... well at least a statue One of the other things at work here is that I personally have changed as a player, from the beginnings of Rift beta.  When I started playing Rift, I was the leader of a 600 character guild and an active raider.  Rift literally was everything I ever said I wanted in a game.  Had it been released two years ago, before I had become horribly bitter and jaded towards raiding, then I think I would be gobbling it up left and right.

The problem is this, that me leaving WoW was a much bigger change in my life than I ever expected.  Imagine being the core support for a large guild, and them needing something from you each and every night you chose to play, which in my case was literally every night.  Imagine holding up a bridge, being friend, councilor, advisor, and mentor for 6 1/2 long years of constant interaction.  Imagine logging in each and every night to 10-20 tells, each of them wanting something different.  Then all the sudden, imagine it all going away and leaving nothing but blissful peace.

As much as I gradually morphed from a casual player, to a serious raider, I have changed back almost completely.  In Rift, much of the pay off at the end of the day is the massive amount of raid content.  Problem is, if you don’t care about raiding, all of this carefully tiered content quickly looks like yet another grind you have to suffer through.  This was multiplied by the fact that two separate times that I can remember, the cost of all of the tiered gear was increased by a large percentage. 

So flat out, for someone who was slow gearing, it is much harder to get ready for raiding than it was those first few months.  As we began dipping our toes in raiding, it became evident quickly that simply put we did not have the gear levels necessary.  Biggest issue was that with everyone tapering off their playtime and only being around for raids, there was no time to run the instances needed to improve the overall gear level.

Same As It Ever Was

Bel on his pretty pony.... standing bored in Meridian I was in the camp of players who warned against the inclusion of a dungeon tool.  If you have read any of my blog posts in the past, I tie the death of WoW back to the creation of the dungeon finder.  It was the single act that destroyed server communities.  I went into Trion’s decision to create a dungeon finder with an open mind, thinking that the Rift community thus far had been better than WoW and surely "we" could use it responsibly.  The problem is, we were all wrong.

In those first weeks after release, as folks topped out the level 50 channel became an active hot bed of conversation and grouping.  Within a few minutes you were able to assemble a t1 or t2 expert with players actively looking.  I am sure the experience for folks unwilling to go through the legwork of actually doing the forming is different, but quickly our guild built a steady group of regulars from other similar guilds.  Folks knew each other and had a long list of folks to substitute in if someone needed to go and the community as a whole flourished.

When the dungeon tool went in, for the first few weeks everything was pretty good.  At this point I was gearing up my rogue, and had both a bard and marksman spec actively playing whichever role the group needed of me.  In tier 1s, everything was great, and folks were willing to work together.  However when I made the transition to Tier 2 instances, the world around me changed.  I started seeing some of my old enemies from WoW, "the elitist" and "the rage quit" on a nightly basis.  I went from being able to run instances in an hour and a half to spending 4 hours in a tier 2 and never actually finishing it.

From what I have heard from guild members still active in the game, with the inclusion of cross server queues to the dungeon finder it has gotten worse.  All of the things that made running dungeons in WoW a frustrating experience are apparently now in Rift.  The power pulling egotistical tanks, the dps that cannot keep up and the dps that calls everyone that doesn’t meet their standards a failure.  I was on mumble the night the tool went in and heard tales of the very first group a guild member tried complaining at him to "pull big" just like they always did in Warcraft.  My ultimate fear is, that once again the dungeon tool has wrecked what was an amazing community.

I Still Have Faith

Granite Falls - Best Town In Game I am sure this probably seems like a flash back to the way I talked about WoW when I left, but honestly I feel like I am parting on good terms with the game.  The prime difference is, by the time I left WoW I had lost any measure of faith that Blizzard had a clue what they were doing, a trend that has continue on since then.  With Trion however, I have all the faith in the world as the company, part of the reason why I delayed this post is I did not want to contribute to any bad press about the game for the longest time.  Problem is, I have been deadlocked and unable to write much of anything until I got this one off my chest.

Trion has done so much right with Rift, and have an amazing group of people behind it.  I’ve come to know a good number of them, and each and every one really cares about the end product and is actively fighting to make it better for all of the players.  Erick "Zann" Adams for example is one of the absolute hardest working Community Managers I have ever seen.   LM Lockhart and Nicholas McDowell have done an amazing job reaching out to the community, and keeping the lore pot stirred to whip up interest.  Never before have I seen the level of interaction with the bloggers and social media that I have from Trion.

All of this said, I have all the faith in the world that they will figure out what exactly is missing from the game eventually, and add that final spark.  It makes it all the more bittersweet for me when I realize that I just don’t want to play it anymore.  I gave the game six months, and my subscription will be running out soon.  I wish them all the luck in the world on the game.  It was an amazing ride to 50, but there just wasn’t enough there to hold me after I reached the top of the hill.  With all the plans for player housing on the radar, and the new zones, I feel like it might push them over this hump and bring the much needed fluff to the game.

Moving On

CrushboneGroup I figure at some point in the future, I will fire the game back up and give it a spin.  It still has more right going for it than it has wrong, and those games I tend to remember fondly are the ones I end up going back to time and again.  This is evidenced by the fact that I am back playing Everquest II, a game I beta tested, and have played 4 different times since release.  Since I realized it was the fluff that I was craving, I went to the fluffiest game on the market as a counter reaction.

I am honestly having a blast.  I tested the game from early in beta, and when it came time for release the majority of my friends were going to WoW, so that is where I went as well.  However being an Everquest player for three years, made me a huge fan of the world of Norrath.  It has always felt more alive and vibrant that just about any other game setting.  In the past however when I played it, it was a side game while I was also playing WoW.  I would enjoy myself, but sooner or later the rigor of leading a guild would catch up to me.  Time and time again I would begin feeling like I was shirking my duties to my friends and guild mates.

This is the first time for me to play the game with nothing else siphoning away my time.  As a result I am probably having more fun with it than I have in the past.  My main is now level 71 and I am really enjoying Mistmoore Catacombs at the moment.  Expect to see a good number more posts about that game going forward.  I will probably also be reskinning the site to be something a bit more game neutral.  I am still playing a good bit of Minecraft, so I toyed around with the idea of trying to create the "Tales of the Aggronaut" logo in Minecraft for flair. 

Now that I have all this off my chest, I hope I can go back to regular writing.