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On the Verge of Unsubscribing

I sat down with Arkham City (PS3) this weekend and something clicked: When I have time to game, RIFT is hardly ever my first choice anymore. Actually, MMOs in general aren’t my first choice. It might seem trite, but this is the first time in quite a while that I haven’t been “MMO Dedicated” even though I maintain a strong interest in the genre. Not strong enough to get me to login, though, it seems. So after nearly eight months, RIFT may get the boot.

The problem is endgame. There’s just not enough for someone like me to do. Don’t get me wrong, RIFT has plentiful options to keep you busy at 50 but they all seem to take an hour or more to enjoy. PUG dungeons are 1-2 hours, Chronicles aren’t being ran (by my guild), and zone events occur such that, generally, you’re only doing one an hour off-peak. These days, I log in, look for a zone event and log back out again if one doesn’t spawn fairly quick. They’re the only tangible way for me to continue and when I’m logging in and out having done nothing, I usually just assume play something else and save the time.

Right now, long stretches aren’t something I can commit to gaming, so RIFT will get the cut unless 1.6 drops before my sub expires on the 15th.

The larger question this raises is whether or not a game like RIFT should provide options for a player casual player. Leaving all thoughts of “money left on the table” aside, should an MMORPG provide options for the one-hour or less crowd? Some old school players would say no, that to see the most in any game you have to commit to it. I say they should and that they should be more than just side-dishes to the main event.

In my case, RIFT provides plenty of on-demand options, I’m just not interested in them. Crafting is an option but I’m just not a crafter, artifact collecting is a pleasant “side” activity (but when you’re not doing the “main” part of the game, does it matter?), and PvP is so woefully impenetrable that I walk away frustrated most times I try. RIFT is providing me options but none of them are worth $15 a month.

I’m not saying casuals should be raiders or get the same opportunities as more dedicated players, but if you’re developing a game that’s “massive in scope” shouldn’t there be enough substance to keep casual players from feeling like they get the scraps on the side?

I hate to say it but here we go: mini-games. Mini-games are the answer to this “you’re making my game too casual” argument. I’m not suggesting we add a Bejeweled clone into every game but is there any reason other parts of these games need to be so shallow? Why can’t we make crafting or gathering more involved? Why can’t fishing actually be fishing? If there is anything FFXIV got right, it was making crafting more than a click-and-forget affair.

Or how about the return of a classic idea, like mobhunt? Mobhunts were a system from the MUD days where the game would assign a random, increasingly difficult mob for you to kill. If you did it, you got gold and some experience, which also increased with the amount of mobhunts you’d completed. It was a lot of fun and relied on the player’s knowledge of the game world, something which is definitely needed in today’s MMOs.

I guess leaving RIFT for a while wouldn’t be so bad. I feel this need to stay subscribed to it since I blogged and podcasted about it for the better part of a year. Since then I became a grad student. How things change.

12 comments

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  1. Nils

    What about an open world filled with interesting mobs, groups of mobs, unbeatable mobs, treasure, really deep dungeons and other players to watch and maybe join if it turns out you have more time at hand?

    What about a game that focuses on delivering a compelling gameplay in an open world ?

    1. Chris "Syeric" Coke

      I would LOVE those things. Actually, the single player games I’m most drawn to are open world sandboxes.

  2. Ferrel

    The game will be worse off for the loss of you! 1.6 will bring instant adventures to address players exactly like you! They’re currently not a long term, do them a 1000 times thing but the first few times they’re pretty neat. I’m sure they’ll get better closer to launch.

    Basically you just log on, click the button, and off you go. They scale up as people join/leave but are solo friendly.

    1. Chris "Syeric" Coke

      Hopefully that gives me another option. I’m not holding it against the game, really, though. What’s there, I really enjoy doing. It’s finding the time to do it.

  3. Evalissa

    I think the biggest problem is simply what COULD they do that would be meaningful and yet quick? the two words do not really go together.
    They could allow you to continue an instance where you left off, but that would require a group playing at the same times you do (scheduled grouping is not casual)
    Mini-games are great in addition to the main game, but not something you’d subscribe to an mmo to play unless its something involved.
    Anything that can be done in a short space of time is going to get repetitive very quickly

    Perhaps an ‘Easy mode’ for instances and raids that don’t require a full group to complete would be good, but I can see that causing problems between the two separate comunitys (lets face it, the hard core and the casual crowds don’t exactly work together these days

    Its all well and good saying ‘you need to add something for people with only an hour to do’ but really, I cant think of anything that would keep many people entertained enough to warrant a subscription.

    ~Eva

    (p.s. Dont get me wrong, I agree with you 100%, I’m a big supporter of casual play)

    1. Chris "Syeric" Coke

      Eva!! Long time no see! How have you been?

      I agree with you, it’s hard to design something low-impact yet also satisfying. I think it all comes down to how far you’re willing to draw out your goals. I think it’s entirely possible to design a system that has you doing a little each day for a series of days to get a decent reward; it’s the same premise behind heroics dropping raid badges in WoW. The problem is making a system engaging enough that makes people want to continue doing it day after day without getting bored.

      I don’t really want things designed for players like me, though. I just want appetizers for when I can’t sit down for the full meal.

      You know what I realize writing this? Their world event dailies would perfectly satisfy this if they hadn’t cut and paste so much of them.

  4. Maxivik

    This has been kind of a problem for me as well in WoW. I raid three nights a week, but other then that I rarely log on because the time I do have is less then the time it takes for a standard dungeon. I find myself logging on, fly around in a few circles for 15 minutes, then log off.

    Honestly I don’t know much content that can really fill the sub hour time chunk, that also is worthwhile. Mini-games sure, a little pvp sure, but it feels like you are just spinning a wheel for no good reason. No real development of your character.

    My brother is in the same boat, he still plays WoW, but can only be on for less then an hour here or there. No real point for him to pay 15 bucks a month, but he still craves the social aspect of the game. Should companies really try to develop content for people like my brother, who’s time doesn’t lend itself to develop a true mmo character? Would he be better off with a game that isn’t progression oriented, but rather skill oriented, like an FPS or RTS?

    I guess what I am thinking is that not all games can be everything for all people, I am curious as if this trend I am starting to see will continue: as I age, and the people around me age and develop their real lives and careers and families, will more people fall into the too casual for casual roll, and slowly fade out of games they previously loved and enjoyed. Sad to think about but I guess that is part of life. As the MMO industry ages, so do the players that started playing them in the earliest days.

    1. Chris "Syeric" Coke

      You know, at the end of the day, I like the idea of MMOs more than my ability to enjoy them to their fullest. Doesn’t that sound dumb? It’s always been that way, though, way back to the days of text MUDs when all you *had* was the ability to conceptualize. I’ve always liked having things be a little bit beyond me. Like raiding, for example. I never had the schedule to take them on regularly but boy did I enjoy imagining the epicness of the encounters and get lusty over the gear that dropped.

      Overall, no. I don’t think MMOs should be designed for people like us because people like us aren’t who encouraged virtual worlds in the first place; at least not in participation. The people driving innovation in the MMO space are the dedicated and the vocal. I’d like RIFT to offer more options than what it does currently because, shoot, their hour or less options are pretty dry. Mini-games was just an idea and probably poor wording but what I’d like to see are more long term goals that can be accomplished with small efforts over an extended period of time. Epic quests, intricate crafts, skill building, animal taming, fishing, music, fluff. The majority of this type of “fluff” content is getting left in the wake of combat and the holy trinity.

  5. Green Armadillo

    My experience with Rift has been that I want to play it for a couple of days every few months to see what’s in the latest patch. I can have that for free as long as I’m willing to let Trion pick which weekends I can play. I can’t quite put my finger on what’s “wrong” with the repeatable content – it’s technically well implemented and structurally similar to repeatable content in other games that I play – but somehow it doesn’t keep my attention. (Insert pun about lack of soul here.)

    This is what is compelling about a free to play model if you can develop one that isn’t a total mess. I don’t mind paying for what I use; if Trion offered a plan where you pay $5/month to play on five nights of your choice each month, I’d probably take it. (This is a big part of why I think I will do fine with the effective $8/month commitment in WoW’s annual pass.) When the only payment option is full price for an entire month, the game that I’m only logging into a few nights per month has to get cut.

  6. Paul

    Rift is a WoW clone. That means, just like WoW, your endgame experience depends on whether you get into a guild that’s working properly and that fits you. My endgame enjoyment took a leap upward when I found a growing guild, with a great guild leader, that was making steady progress into the T1 raids. We have most of T1 on farm now (the exception being the last three bosses in RoS) and are looking forward to the T2 10 man in 1.6. These raids seem tuned for casual raiders.

  7. Tom

    PvP is your answer. Just log on, join a WF and play. You’ll be surprised at just how fast you’ll reach P2 and you can get better gear. The P2 gear will allow you to live longer against those big, nasty P8 players. You won’t beat them, but your team has big, nasty P8 players as well.

    The PvP in Rift allows you to become more accustomed to your character as well. Different specs perform better or worse in a PvE vs PvP environment. Do some research, play around a little and run support if you can or just do your best.

    You don’t have to play hours on end to enjoy what Rift has to offer. You do have to have a desire to experience it, though. Food for thought.

    1. Maxivik

      I’ve found pvp is a great way to spend short amounts of time in WoW too. It easily fills that half hour time slot I have and propels me to getting better gear slowly but surely.

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