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Rift: So That Was It For River Of Souls

April 18, 2011

River of Souls ended with a fizzle...but at least I got a ghost horsie out of it.

Ah, Rift. I’ve been having a lot of fun with the game, and up until now I think everything has been running rather swimmingly. But as much as I love to stay optimistic, I also gotta call it as I see it. Trion, while the final two phases of the River of Souls were a great idea, looked like a fun time on paper, the execution left a lot to be desired.

Granted, my experience was on Faeblight, one of the most heavily populated US shards; your experience may have differed. If everything went smoothly for you and the worst thing that happened was a bit of bad lag, I am happy for you and I’m glad you had a great time. But I  have to look at the overall quality when I comment on how the entire thing was handled, and one of the major factors that separates a fiasco from a success when you try and launch a world event more or less simultaneously across your entire game is ensuring that all your customers get a relatively uniform experience across the board — especially when one of the major draws of your event is that everyone can participate.

Faeblight, heh, saw a server queue with wait times that were 8 hours or more during this event. At one point, I looked at at the server list and saw that at least 20 other servers had queues too; poor Wolfsbane for example was up close to 700 and counting. Not all of them were so bad, but adding it all up, that’s still hundreds if not a few thousand people who were left out in the cold, helpless to do anything but watch as the wait times to get in only increased.

I say all this as someone who was actually lucky enough to have been online through the whole thing, gotten to participate in killing the bosses and witness the opening of the River of Souls raid instance and the whole shebang. Hey, I even got all the event achievements and was fortunate to loot a Spectral Horse earlier last week — but I still can’t pretend I didn’t see the hiccups. At the same time, I can’t bring myself to be that hard on Trion. They’ve no doubt done their hours and days of testing…but who could have predicted the sheer number of players that showed up for this event?

You might say, “Oh, that’s no excuse, they should have seen it coming.” Perhaps. But even I couldn’t accurately tell how many people were present at some points of the event, the hordes all packed tight in one place at the same time. It was bad, crazy bad. As you can see from the video I took below, it was literally impossible for me to say how many were there, seeing as the game could only handle showing me those who were standing in my proximity.

I’m sorry the video was so long and that nothing really happened in it, but I was hoping I was going to catch the beginning of Phase 3, and the wait was longer than I thought. But it’s a good illustration of what I described above — you can see as I ran around, players who came in and out of my little “island” phased in and out; in a way it’s almost comical. Caer Mathos might have looked empty on my screen, but no doubt every single inch of it was occupied.

The masses were a double-edged sword. On the one hand, you got to experience the full effect of the event, and think “Wow, this is truly epic.” This part they did right. On the other hand, this made the lag intolerable. For my husband who was running Rift on his gaming laptop, it got so bad that his casting bars weren’t coming up and even if they were, the world bosses were appearing unattackable. I’m running Rift on a pretty powerful machine and had it a little better, but even then it could barely handle the event.

I noticed other problems, like area NPCs taking a long time to show up on the screen. This made trying to travel from zone to zone an exercise in hilarity. As players showed up to a hub in droves, the Porticulum Masters took their time to appear, and when they did, dozens found themselves standing on top of the NPC — and given the lag they probably didn’t know it! To their credit, most people moved off when they realized what happened…but of course by then others had arrived, and the cycle started all over again. Getting anywhere was nigh impossible. Doubtful that these little things made themselves apparent as MAJOR problems during testing.

While I admit I may have been more amused than frustrated watching the confusion play out before my eyes, these little hiccups, when compounded, resulted in taking away from the overall experience. And from start of Phase 2 to the end of Phase 3, it all lasted only about 30 minutes. Considering how long Phase 1 ran and how it was all supposedly ramping up to this moment…I hate to say it, but it was kind of anti-climatic. And because it was so short, a lot of people I know who were stuck waiting in queues missed it completely.

I was a little disappointed, but please don’t think I’m holding one botched event against the game and ignoring everything else that Trion has accomplished. Parts of it was poorly planned, especially the decision to make a free weekend coincide with the event, but I’m certainly not going to cancel my sub in a fit of rage or any such nonsense. Despite the complications, let me congratulate Trion for surviving their FIRST major event. It was a learning experience, no doubt. If nothing else, I’ll look to see how they will improve their events in the future.

28 comments

  1. You hit a lot of good points here in this one post :D

    First, this is Trion’s first event. I hope that people are still affording them the benefit of the doubt from the succesful launch to let this be the killing blow. Now, were this even 12, having followed 11 other events which were meh…

    Second, I’d like to invite the haters to hate on this one, but this sounds like a prime candidate for instancing. Alleviating the crush of players to allow the server to process and the client to draw would be one benefit, but technically they could have let the phases continue for those who don’t have the “event completed” flag on their account!

    But I still have confidence in Trion to the point where I feel bad about armchair-QBing this at this point. They have proven that they’re quick to learn from mistakes. They may not totally re-format the way they do events, but I’m sure they’ll take steps to ensure that more people can participate.


    • The way I see it, dropping the ball on your first event gets you a pass from me. Just don’t let it become a habit LOL! I don’t think I’d even give them 12 events, that’s already too much! :P

      I gotta say, I don’t like the idea of instancing, but it would still have been a hell of a lot better than not being able to see more than 9 out of 10 players around me at the time!


  2. I was one of those staring at the queue count-up (which shoulda been a count-down) but I’m not hating on Trion. This, in my eyes, was their first really big design mistake (the security issues were their other major black eye but that was a bug, not faulty design) and I’m willing to give them 2 more strikes.

    I feel (and ranted on my blog about) they also failed in communicating the fact that Phase 2 & 3 were extremely time limited events, though in retrospect if more people had known about it the problems would’ve been even worse.

    My Rift enthusiasm is flagging a bit, but not because of the event; I may just be getting tired of MMOs and the constant friction between my natural tendency to keep to myself and the group-oriented design of these games.


    • The short time frame, now THAT, I feel was the kicker. The fact they did not address it nor clarify it when people asked was one of the communication failures. Many (including me) were under the impression that the phases of the world event including 2 and 3 were going to be taking place over a longer period of time. The population crush was one thing, but so was the total confusion and lack of information about the nature of the event. The fault was Trion’s there.


  3. Thanks for the video, GC. Given that I wasn’t even home to be queue frustrated, I at least get a chance to see some of what I missed. Man you take a lot of screenshots, I got a chuckle watching the chat bar and seeing the “screenshot saved” message scroll by every fourth line.

    I’ll second Scopique’s suggestion to use instancing. I’m sure some people will complain about it not being “massive” then but if you can’t see more than fifty people around you anyway, then what’s it matter?


    • Damn! My screenshot addiction, caught on video, how embarrassing! :P

      I’m surprised you even noticed though, things were scrolling off so fast. It was nuts.


  4. you need to feed your horse a bit more!

    i didn’t realize the other stages would be so short.. wish i got a nice purty horse too; i did get 2 of those nice 18slot bags :)


    • You and me both, I didn’t realize it was going to be so short until a couple EU folks told me over twitter the day of.

      Ack, I didn’t even know there were 18 slot bags up for grabs somewhere in this event!


      • Is /that/ what that 18 slot bag was that I got? I just did a rift randomly and got one of those. I just thought it was part of the random loot table for 40+ major rifts. Huh.

        Well, Scott’s crew will be mailing everyone a loot bag with a chance to drop nifty things later this week, and better yet they said they shall be operating on the ‘assumption’ that every person that’s a current subscriber tried to queue for the event, whether you actually did or not… so… Event, kinda a bust. Shinies via, mail? Totally cool.


      • Yeah, I’m keeping my eye out for that later this week. Getting a piece of loot, however, still isn’t exactly the same as actually being there, but I suppose it’s some consolation for those who didn’t make it.


  5. Having one of the lucky ones who also got on (Estrael), but from a lowbie perspective, I have to say it was all a bit underwhelming. The invasion of the death rifts in Silverwood didn’t look significantly different from the regular ones in Freemarch. I did have fun, of course, but was surprised when it was all over. Very nice horse, BTW. :)


    • I think they could have made phase 2 longer, or put in some more bosses or invasions. As it was, Alsbeth’s forces didn’t even have a chance to take two steps before they were zerged by players and taken down. Somehow that downplayed the threat of the incursion :P


  6. A learning experience for all involved. I’m confident that they won’t put this again, though.


    • I honestly don’t think so either. From the messages by Scott Hartsman on the forums, I think they’re aware of the areas where the event failed.


  7. Yep. I play on Faeblight, and FB steamrolled right through stages 2 and 3 of the River of Souls raid opening event. I logged in that evening, expecting to at least do a little bit of 3, seeing as stage 1 lasted for two weeks, but was slightly disappointed to find everything was already done with.

    However I got my (albeit slow – 60%)Spectral Horsie, and a neat prefix title, so the event didn’t leave me empty handed, and TBH I actually spent more of the overall event time out exploring, only doing event daily’s and rifts secondary in my pursuit of pretty vistas and hidden shinies.

    So the going out with a whimper, rather than a bang wasn’t as disappointing to me as it was for others. Rift already satifies most of what I want in an MMO just by being itself. World Events are just extra fluff, not something of dire need for me. :)


    • Yep, mine is the 60% too…it’s nice though; while I may opt to ride a faster mount, I still love the look of the Spectral Horse :)

      Honestly though, you didn’t really miss much. I only got to see a couple bosses around the zones before they dropped one after another like flies. Between all the people there and the bad lag, I literally only had time to hit them a couple times before they fell. There rest, I didn’t even get a chance to make it there before they were downed. I just didn’t bother with it after that!


  8. I give it to Trion. They came up with something to help span the gap of the perilous step of letting your credit card actually get billed for the first month. Checking the current market, that is a rather shaky bridge at the moment. The world event idea was terrific, provide a big, new event to keep people happy and willing to play another month. Hats off to them.

    The execution was botched utterly. Each phase should have had similar amounts of time. If a full week each is too much, shorten it by a day or two to increase the urgency. Seven days, five days, three days. Three days is still long enough to have several chances to get in, on, and complete what you had your mind set out on. Thirty minutes is completely unacceptable, and I can see why people are peeved off at even the *notion* of the idea of 30 minutes being something desirable.

    They were 100% successful with marketing. The hype was huge, and the buzz was flowing like The Spice must. By adding in a time-limited factor, they exponentially increased demand. Sadly, they could not supply it.

    For Trion’s sake, let us hope they can deliver their promise properly next time. The entire purpose of this event was to ensure people would latch onto the game and willingly hand out money for their first month of official sub time; the hardest one to get. This certainly blew up in their faces, so let us also hope that this falter does not gravely affect the very sub numbers which they were seeking to seal in the first place.


    • The phrase: ‘Victim of its Own Success’ is one I think upon frequently when considering scenarios like the one that Trion has made for itself., or what the creative teams of Blizzard must face when struggling with their Activision overlords.


      • Aye. Very true words, as well. It sums up, as you said, exactly the path WoW is taking since their partnership.

        …Though now I have a sudden urge to make a guild or clan tag call -VoiOS- just to see people ask if it is a ripoff of GladOS.


    • Part of the reason why this event was botched so badly was because Trion also failed to communicate effectively with their playerbase. Just looking around, it seems the vast majority had no idea that Phase 2 and 3 were going to be so short, especially since Phase 1 went on for so long.

      Still, even if they had come right out and informed their players, I doubt it would have made event day run any smoother; if anything, it would have clogged up the servers even more, driven the queues and wait time even higher. Victim of its own success, indeed. No matter how you looked at it, the entire thing was just poorly planned and executed.


  9. Didn’t really get to experience much of the event at all. The number of rifts was way down in the zones i was playing at the time i was playing. I normally participate rifts as i come across them and came across far too few.


    • Many of the rift events are “triggered” by the current population in a given zone, so yeah if there are fewer folks at lower levels running around nowadays, I’m not surprised you’re not seeing as many rifts and invasions.


  10. I was sitting in Mooshade Highlands (my highest character was 38) waiting for the event. I was running ideas through my head about what would signal the start of it all. Would there be a unique visual in the sky? Maybe clouds rolling over the zone or the world? Would there be a unique rift animation seen across the zone, unleashing an army that would move in a coordinated fashion across the map?

    Was I disappointed when this didn’t happen? Yes, but I had only myself to blame for this.

    I really had little reason to expect any of what I was thinking about. Phase one was nothing more than 4 uninspired daily quests with little story and tie-in to phase two. European players had already reported how uneventful phases two and three were (the few that got to see them two weekends ago).

    I agree there’s issues to work out from the technical side of things, but I’m more concerned from the content part of what we saw. If it takes this much development time and effort to put together something that’s this underwhelming, I think there’s reason to be concerned about how eventful these future events will be.


    • Yeah, I know what you mean. I’m looking back on the event right now, and honestly, people who missed Phases 2 and 3 really didn’t miss much. There may have been the novelty, but other than that, the event itself did not utilize any new mechanics or ideas for the invasions, rifts, boss fights or quests. We got a nice little “cutscene” type dialogue for Phase 3, which was different, but the presentation of it could have used a little more oomph.

      I do appreciate Trion’s intent though — to build a world event around the introduction of a new raid instance, incorporating lore and story into player activities. I welcome that kind of mindset, but hopefully they can come up with a better way of carrying out an event in the future.


  11. [...] blogosphere is abuzz with news of RIFT’s shortcomings (to be honest Scary really doesn’t have a RIFT article, I just [...]


  12. Honestly this event was fail all around. Lets say you logged in for the first time in two weeks, oblivious to the forums or blogs, and found an event announcement in game. The total description? Kill the followers of Alsbeth. Great. So what do I do now? How about a paragraph description of what needs to be accomplished and why? For a world event there was a pathetic amount of basic info as to what and why available in game.


    • Agreed, there was very little communication or available information. I think it was during this event that I noticed Rift lacks a real “news” page on their site. Their news section is only acclaims and awards, and their update page about the event really wasn’t about the what and when and how or anything practical. It’s a little short sighted to be only posting game information on their forums, which even I hardly ever check.


  13. [...] the arguably disastrous outcome of the last world event, however, there’s also a part of me curious about how this one will go. It really was a shame [...]



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