Thoughts on Rift PRIME (Opinion Piece)

I have taken some time now to digest and think about the Rift PRIME reveal and initial details.  Overall, I think it is a good idea, but there are a few pitfalls that I believe MUST be avoided by the Rift team to ensure that the server is a success for returning players and the current community.

I know there are many sides to this conversation, each with valid points that should be discussed.  This is my take on things.

First off, here’s a quick run-down of what the Rift PRIME server is planned to feature.

  • Subscription only
  • Starts at level 50, unlocks content over the course of 9-12 months
  • Server ends in a “spectacular” way.  The PRIME shard is closed at the end of the time period
  • Significantly reduced credit store.  no gear, no lock boxes, only cosmetic
  • Auto-mentoring depending on your zone
  • 5-man loot drops for your current level
  • Cosmetic live rewards for participation

This is a solid list of features.  The idea of providing a subscription-only server that closely mirrors Rift’s business model at launch and during the early days of Storm Legion is a good thing.  As I said, though, I believe there are potential problems to be had that should be avoided.

 

Subscription Only

Rift PRIME will require a subscription of some sort to access.  The most recent stream indicated that the team has not decided if Patron status will be granted PRIME access, or if you must use another subscription.  In my opinion, I believe that PRIME should be granted to everyone with Patron status.

Providing access to PRIME as a perk for being a Patron gives the current players a reward for their continued support. This also provides returning players with not only access to the PRIME server, but the Patron features for the current Live servers, which could entice them to join in on Live.

Providing a separate subscription aside from Patron will do more harm than good.  This will alienate the current players who have patron, some of which took advantage of the Fae Yule 12 month Patron discount, who will now have to pay again in order to access PRIME if they want to.

Thus, for the sake of providing a healthy PRIME server, one that invites the current Live crowd and draws in inactive players, Patron is the way to go.  This is the simplest solution, and one that I believe will make the current players the most happy, especially since I expect that the inactive player crowd, who Rift PRIME is targeting, no longer has Patron.

 

Server end of life

I see a number of players unhappy about losing their characters once the Rift PRIME server’s event ends.  I find that I agree with this sentiment.

I think that at the end of a PRIME shard’s lifespan, the shard should stand on it’s own, now a subscription-only mirror of Live, with the business model associated with the PRIME server.  I know this creates issues, as further servers that get created with new rules will cause subscribers to go and play those over an end-of-life server. However, I think that having a subscription-only server with PRIME’s business model will be enticing to a number of players, and keep them subscribed in between PRIME servers, or even if a PRIME server launches whose rules do not entice them to join in.

 

Auto-mentoring depending on your zone

This is one of the two major things that Rift PRIME MUST get right at the very beginning.  It was indicated on the live stream that the team wants to do this.  In my opinion, they need to do this.  Currently, mentor scaling is such that a level 70 mentored down to 15 (or even a level 50 player mentored down to 15) will be incredibly ahead of the curve power-wise compared to a level 15 players.

There are many reasons for this, but I believe that the 2 major factors in this disparity is how gear ilvl is scaled, and how the soul trees are balanced.  First off, I think that gear ilvl scaling is the least glaring offender, but is still a problem.  Gear ilvl scaling adjusts your gear down to the equivalent of the level you are mentoring to, however it also takes into account the rarity of your gear when doing so.  This causes some issues, where a level 50 player in all Purple (Epic) gear is mentored to level 15, the game treats them as if they are in level 15 all purple gear.  This is a problem, as gearing up in such a way is nearly impossible for a normal level 15 players, who is most likely in Green (Uncommon) gear, with a piece or two of Blue (Rare) gear.  Thus, their effective ilvl is much higher, putting their power from gear already far ahead.

The second issue is class balance.  The more points you put into a soul, the more bonus damage, healing, etc. you receive from that soul’s “Soul Gift”.  While I have not tested this myself, I am under the impression that your soul gift does NOT scale down when you mentor.  Another thing with mentoring down is that you still keep ALL of your current skills, despite being a lower level that would not normally have access to those powers.  As a general rule, the more points required to obtain a skill, the more powerful that skill is.  This allows higher level players, when mentored down, to have access to power that far exceeds what should normally be available.

To address the gear scaling, I think that mentoring needs to cap a player’s adjusted ilvl in a way to prevent this issue from occurring.

To address the power scaling, the soul gift needs to be adjusted when mentoring down if it isn’t already (to mirror the point investment expected at that level) and/or skills should be locked when you are mentored below the level you would otherwise be able to learn them.

Hopefully the team can figure out something to get this right.  Putting level 50 players mentored to 15 on an even playing field with level 15 players will be important in making auto-mentoring work properly.

 

Class Balance

This all feeds into the final major issue I can see with Rift PRIME right now – Class balance.  Currently, all the classes are balanced around level 70.  This presents a problem, as level 50 only gives a 51-point investment max into a specific soul, which the game has not been balanced around for a long time.  Revisiting 45 souls (not counting Primalist) and adjusting them to work with 51-point investments is important!  No doubt there will be some hybrids that appear that will make this a balancing headache.

On top of this, balance needs to be considered for 61-point investments without masteries or legendaries.  These features were introduced for level 60-65 and 65-70 leveling respectively, and alter a large number of skills in all souls.  A lot of balancing takes both of these into consideration, and would most likely require some further balancing around 61-point builds without either.

In addition to this, Expert dungeons and Raids will need their damage values and health pools adjusted to account for the power creep that exists even at the lower levels.

 

Conclusion

The Rift team is listening, and hopefully working to make sure that Rift PRIME is successful.  There is a lot to do, and some major gameplay systems that need attention at the lower levels in order to be fun, fair, and balanced.  I expect the first wave of returning players to be the more hardcore raiding crowd, seeking to replay relevant raiding content once again.  For these players, getting the balance right for them will make these servers attractive, and bring in friends and further enhance the casual playerbase.  Strong and balanced gameplay will make way for a strong community.

Rift PRIME is something that I believe can be successful as an additional business model to Rift Live.  There is a lot of potential, and a lot that can be done with the concept – just look to what Everquest 1 and 2 have done with their special event/progression servers in the past 3-4 years!  While there are a number of things that need to be sorted out ahead of time, I am hopeful that the Rift team will listen to the community, the inactive, returning and current players, and make sure this is built in the best way possible.

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