Archive for April 18th, 2011

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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.

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