Has Rift Only Been Around for Four Years?

I ask because in my gut it feels like Rift has been around longer, that it has joined the pantheon of elder games, that it has traveled a long, long road to get where it is today.

I think Rift has just lived life at an accelerated pace, having gone through various stages of its existence at a run.  I mean, we had the game show up and receive accolades in beta.  Then there was the “aimed straight at World of Warcraft” marketing campaign just as WoW subscription numbers were flagging.

No, not Azeroth!

No, not Azeroth!

David “Triple-A and Here To Stay” Reid was quick to claim that those missing citizens of Azeroth were swarming into Telara, boasting of the game having one million subscribers… I mean customers… or maybe it was just a million boxes sold.

Meanwhile, the open beta finished up and the game went live to the immediate cries that the game was better in beta, thus punching that ticket on the game’s journey.  No transition to live is complete without that!

Then there was the inevitable “dumbing down” and solo play focus, the initial drop in subscribers and server consolidation, the Raptr deals, and a raft of updates and features like mentoring and instant adventures.

That rolled into the first expansion, Storm Legion, which seemed to be missing some element that made the original game so compelling.  I ran four characters to level 50 but couldn’t bring myself to get those next ten levels.  Something just didn’t click.  Maybe bigger isn’t necessarily better.

Storm Legion so far

About as far as I got in Storm Legion

After the expansion failed to bring subscriptions back to the game’s peak, there was the inevitable descent into the free to play model.

RiftFreeThat changed things.  There were no more individual vendors, just a store window you could invoke to purchase things with the various currencies available.

Welcome to every store in the game

Welcome to every store in the game

Free, being a price anybody can theoretically afford, brought a pile of players back, but every surge tide must ebb at some point.  The server count was reduced again, the game shut down in China, and Trion closed its office in San Diego.

The game carried on.  A new expansion, The Nightmare Tide, was announced and Trion joined the insta-level craze, allowing players to boost a character to level 60, effectively past the Storm Legion expansion.  Somewhere along the line Trion decided that they needed to compete with Steam and Origin and forced their Glyph game service on all of their customers.  I mean, even EA had the good sense not to force Origin on their SWTOR customers.  Anyway, the Glyph requirement, along with Trion’s cavalier attitude to what they feel they can install (but not uninstall) on my computer, now pretty much blocks my ever returning to Rift or trying any other game they might publish.

Such is life.

Still, it wasn’t a bad game.  For a season or three it served as a home to our regular group, giving us a place to play during our crisis of confidence with Blizzard and World of Warcraft.  We enjoyed our time there, adapting as the game changed beneath us.

Freemarch before us

Freemarch before us

That was enough to put Rift at the top of the list of games I spent time playing in 2012. (It fell well down the list in 2013 and, if Raptr publishes a report for me for 2014, it likely won’t be visible at all.)

All of that in four years.  It hardly seems possible.  It is like a compressed timeline of the genre in a way, having passed through so many familiar phases.

Anyway, the team at Trion has put together an infographic about the game to celebrate four years of Rift.  A crop of the very top of the 976×7223 pixel document is below.  Clicking on it will bring up the whole thing.

Top of the Rift Infographic

Top of the Rift Infographic – Note “pretty” race bias

More than a billion quests completed and nearly a quarter of a billion rifts closed in four years.

At this point the game has probably hit that foreign country status for me… more so than other, much older games such as EverQuest II.  Too much has probably changed at this point and I hadn’t even finished up what was on my plate before I left.  But it was fun while it lasted.

9 thoughts on “Has Rift Only Been Around for Four Years?

  1. Onwuka

    While browsing that graphic two things crossed my mind.

    How close Rift came to being “the one”, before it’s quick descent to generic bleh.

    16,791 hours played in four years? That is horrifying and gave me the shivers thinking what the comparable wow record must be.


  2. SynCaine

    “Meanwhile, the open beta finished up and the game went live to the immediate cries that the game was better in beta, thus punching that ticket on the game’s journey. No transition to live is complete without that!”

    Rift was different though, because beta Rift WAS significantly, significantly different, right to it’s freaking core.

    Two factors. One is simple, the first zone (all that was in beta) was much larger and more ‘worldly’ than later zones (larger level spread), which was a little bait/switch.

    Factor two is much more important; they changed how rifts worked between beta and release. In beta rifts were far more aggressive, able to send dangerous patrols along roads and even invade and disable quest hubs. This forced all players to pause the quest grind and help fight the rifts back, which felt awesome and unique for a themepark at the time. Rifts were also more common, so it wasn’t rare to see fire rift mobs venture out and fight water rift mobs, with the players able to jump in as a third side. During beta this happened ALL THE TIME, and would escalate to the point that the initial zone felt truly under siege and on the losing end of the battle vs rifts.

    At release, rifts were toned down, they couldn’t interrupt questing nearly as much (if at all), and they went from a dynamic factor in a zone that really defined the game and made it different (better) than WoW, to yet another themepark with WAR PQs that were all exactly the same.

    It wasn’t quite AoC bait/switch in terms of scope, but it was such a huge waste of potential.

    Then patch 1.2 (‘accessbility’) happened which turned the dungeon content into a total joke, and that was that for Rift.


  3. bhagpuss

    I can endorse Syn’s version above. That’s exactly what happened. For a brief period in beta it was a very different kind of MMO and a considerably more interesting one. My memory tells me they toned the rifts and invasions down in mid-late beta and then again, more aggressively, about a week or two after launch. Whatever the sequence they certainly did remove much of the game’s original USP.

    Despite that unfortunate turn of events we had a very enjoyable first six months in Rift but its an MMO I’ve never been able to return to with any pleasure since. It does seem very strange that it’s only been around for four years – this time three years ago was the GW2 beta and Rift seems a lot older than that, not just a year older…


  4. Shintar

    I think our perception of an MMO’s age has a lot do with how successful we think it is. We don’t know how many players Rift has these days, but both the game and Trion have fallen pretty far from back when they were everybody’s darling shortly after launch.


  5. zaphod6502

    Syncaine highlighted the best feature of the game for me – the invasion Rifts that would send out raiding parties. Why they removed such a defining feature of the game is beyond me.


  6. A concerned Minmatar

    Honestly very surprised to see the Bahmi so low on that graphic. Their racials were awesome and their females were cute. Granted I haven’t played since early vanilla. Never even reached the cap on this one.


  7. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @SynCaine, Bhagpuss, Zaphod6502 – You guys seem to be saying something that is counter to my own experience. I played a little in open beta, where the game seemed to be a giant “chase the rifts” zerg-fest thundering across the plains, so I cannot really speak to that.

    But six months or so after launch, when our group started playing, rifts were still sending out raiding parties, were still taking over quest hubs, and you still had to have a group to defeat the final stage of every rift. They changed that last bit and made the last stage solo as well because once the mass of players passed through zones you ended up with essentially unclosable rifts because there was nobody around, but the other bits… raiding parties and taking over quest hubs… that was still a thing until we stopped playing before the F2P conversion. And a zone invasion still basically stopped everybody’s questing until it was taken care of. So we must be thinking of some more subtle variation on what Trion changed, because, at least for that bit, it still seemed to be happening.

    Still, I think we all see to agree that Rift lost its edge at some point. And, of course, I went back to WoW, so what constitutes an edge might be different for me!


  8. SynCaine

    Only explanation I can come up with is you didn’t play beta enough, or in the time you did you got a much different experience somehow than most others. The difference in how rifts worked between mid-beta and day-one release was drastic.

    Even around the time of the 1.2 patch rifts could easily be ignored most of the time, rift-vs-rift battles were rare and didn’t matter, and the whole thing felt terribly flat compared to beta. Did those things still happen? Sure, but they didn’t matter like they mattered in beta. Again I think part of that was the original zone being so big and containing a larger level range, but a lot of it was also the actual functionality of rifts.


  9. Rowan

    As of just a few months ago, after the Nightmare Tide expansion, Rifts still sent out raiding parties that could easily overwhelm a player-free hub., However, as has been said, it’s all been nerfed to be soloable in the open world.


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