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.

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