The builders in Rift are revolting. No, no, they’re the nicest bunch of players you could find in any game, I mean, the players are up in arms about the free to play (F2P) model for Rift Dimensions. I don’t blame them.
I liken the dimension building experience in Rift to a hamster wheel, constantly running but always treading the same old, tired path. As the game currently stands, the dimension routine consists of farm for goods, sell on the auction house, make platinum to buy dimension items from the store or the auction house, build a little, farm again. This style of play left me cold after a few months, it’s hardly engaging or rewarding on the twentieth time around. The fun part, building the dimension itself, seems far too small a part of the dimension game play.
Why has Trion created such boring play for the dimensions part of the game? The answer lies in the psychology of and revenue raising in F2P games. Players must spend money in a F2P game to keep the company liquid and afloat. Without our cash, they may as well pack up and go home. In a F2P game, where content is readily available, how do they make us pay up? It’s a mix of enticement and frustration.
Enticement is generated by the new cosmetic items; it’s no accident that Rift has a shiny new mount every couple of weeks. Occasionally we buy a new mount because it’s exactly what we’ve always wanted, mostly we buy them because we’ve seen others riding them around and want what they have (the envy principle and boy, oh boy, do I wish I’d bought a squirrel mount when it was out). Whatever piece of cosmetic fluff we favour, we’re coaxed to spend our money on it.
I’m sure we’re all familiar with the frustration generated by free to play games. It’s the long grind, the seemingly endless routine that we keep on repeating over and over. Like water torture, each drip wears us down till we’re ready to scream. Remember how we all felt on that day Rift went F2P and we discovered that the Lycini and Torvan reputations were increased by another tier? Did your heart fall to your boots at the thought of continuing that grind? Items that reduce that grind are popular items in cash stores.
Humans are lazy animals. We’re designed that way, we’ll almost always take the easiest route to a goal. When the world turns bad, it means we have a store of energy to overcome the difficulties in our way. Game designers use this part of human nature to good effect in games. If we have a choice to embark on a long grind or take the shorter route, most of us will shorten the journey where we can. It’s just human. The most obvious shortcut in Rift is the sale of rex for platinum. With platinum we fund the acquisition of dimension items from the auction house or cash shop. Trion have encouraged the rex/platinum conversion by quite a few methods.
For instance, unstable artifacts and bounty artifacts, are both designed to take months (or perhaps years) of grinding to complete the artifact sets. Some of the nicest dimension items are tucked behind these grinds. Thankfully, the artifacts for both these grinds can be bought from the auction house, if you have sufficient platinum. When the artifact sets are completed, further copies of the unstable artifact dimension items can be bought for 100 to 200 lucky coins. Lucky coins are a limited resource which keeps the cost of these items on the AH high and ties nicely into the Rex/Platinum grind.
Dungeon artifacts also unlock dimension items (trophy section of the dimension store). Once again, these artifacts are rare drops and can be sold on the auction house. Once unlocked, the dungeon trophy items can be placed on the auction house.
Dimension items slowly drop from the slaughter of mobs, less than a drop per hour, similar for fishing. The holiday dimension items are now sold only in boxes (if the Carnival of the Ascended is the norm) rather than piecemeal. We either grind the currency or pay credits for the boxes. If we want one item, we buy from from people selling single items on the auction house. Filling a 1000 to 2000 item dimension through slaughtering mobs, fishing, bounty and unstable artifacts is a long and tedious process, it’s so much quicker to place ourselves on the hamster wheel of Rift and buy what we need from the auction house.
Even the new profession, Dreamweaving, as lovely as the items are, does not make blocks, decorations, furniture, plants or other items for building, just special effects. (Unless one is willing to make a dimension from red cushions alone and there’s a dimension challenge for us.)
On the other side of the equation, there are ways to reduce the grind, the artifact tracking buff, letting players track artifacts, the notoriety buff, to reduce the reputation grind, or the token buff, to increase the gain of holiday currency or planarite. These buffs can be gained via patron status or store bought potions. Players can buy good armour and weapons from the cash shop to make killing monsters an easier task. Pity there isn’t a platinum making buff – oh it’s called Rex, silly me. Though buffs may ease our way, the grind still seems unending in the dimension world.
All this is old news, weeks and months old, so why are the players revolting now? I blame it on the new Improved Dimension Mystery Box. Trion updated the old mystery box contents by adding 90 new items only available through the new box, around 110 old items currently available on the shop, removed the dragon floats, bumped up the price by 25% and called it a bargain. This thread calls it anything but a bargain. The chance of receiving the new items is very slim, especially the epic rarities. The chance of getting old items is very high making the improved dimensional mystery box a great purchase for the new player but a poor investment for the established dimensioneer. At least the epic rarity items in the old mystery box could be bought for credits.
Is the new mystery box a way to increase profits in a falling market? If so, it seems a bit of a failure, if the amount of snags, rocks, dead trees and other unwanted mystery box rubbish on the auction house is an indicator. It certainly seems to be the straw that broke the camel’s back, the established long term players seem quite disillusioned by the mystery box experience.
Rift is (by all accounts) a good version of F2P, it does focus on cosmetic, non-game changing goodies for the cash shop. It’s just a pity that Trion have labelled Dimensions as cosmetic and a legitimate source of revenue raising. In all fairness, to Trion, dimensions are cosmetic. Rift is a PvE game with raiding or PvP as it’s traditional endgame. Dimensions are just a bit of fluff to keep some players occupied when they can’t do the former. Still, even cosmetic fluff needs to be balanced so as to keep a bit of fun in the grind.
How could Trion put more fun back into the dimension game play? Let’s think back to the pre-F2P Storm Legion days. My own personal favourite was the Nug quest lines. The quests were a few hours of good play, gave an achievement or two along the way and, on completion, opened up the Nug vendors with relatively cheap items. I’d love to see more of these types of quests added into the game.
The Storm Legion puzzles were both fun and frustrating. They took a major investment of time and included interesting rewards including dimension items. The best of these, Little Black Book, gave a coloured orb each time we solved the repeatable puzzle. With practice, this meant an orb every 90 seconds, a quite acceptable investment of time. Sure, the puzzles took a long time to finish but they weren’t grindy. We could do with more of these types of game play.
New recipies for items could be added to the professions (white and red marble building blocks could do well here). Trion could add the occasional cheap item to the cash shop or include dimension items as quest rewards along with armour. It’s OK to add the occasional easily obtained item to the game without tying it in to the hamster wheel of platinum farming.
Sadly, we’re unlikely to see such additions to the game until the next expansion. Perhaps this last year was all about balancing the demands of making money by adding incentives to spend cash and next expansion we’ll see a better balance between fun and grind. I sure hope so, it would be a shame to lose so many of our fine dimensions community. Please Trion, put the fun back into the game.
Have you got a suggestion on how Trion might re-spark the fun of dimensions? What would you like to see added to the game to make it more fun. Leave a comment here or head off to this thread to make a suggestion.
Like to learn more about the psychology of free to play?
A few thoughts on Rift and free to play.