Former RIFT dev on instant adventures: ‘We wanted to do more of them’

    
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Former RIFT dev on instant adventures: ‘We wanted to do more of them’

In RIFT, there are many ways to level your character, including questing, dungeon delving, and PvP. But perhaps the most fun and social way was through instant adventures. Instant adventures allowed players to be transported into a raid group on the world map and then directed to run around completing a chain of dynamic events together. It was (and still is) a blast to do — and Trion Worlds couldn’t justify making more of them.

Responding to a Twitter thread about the feature, former RIFT senior game designer Nicholas “Captain Cursor” McDowell said, “Instant adventures were very popular and we wanted to do more of them. The problem is we never could figure out a way to monetize it effectively. So unless building a new one was part of an event that it’s own monetization, we could justify making more.”

While RIFT’s development has stalled under Gamigo’s operation, McDowell said that he hopes the idea will catch on in other MMOs: “[Instant adventures] were great for feeling that you were part of a group, and they delivered lore and story effectively. They were also fun. I would love someone to pick up that design pattern and run with it. Maybe they can figure out how to profit from it?”

Source: Twitter

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Zero_1_Zerum

Anyone else remember the good old days when devs made a game, and they monetized it by selling it as a complete package with everything included?

I mean, sure, MMOs started with subs, but that was a sub for all the content in the game.

None of this F2P microtransaction nonsense, used by greedy devs to feed off whales.

These days, even B2P games have cash shops. Oy vey.

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Andrew Clear

I totally understand the frustration with free to play. But that is a two way street, since free to play is also hard to sustain.

Buy to play isn’t too bad, the cash shop is typically optional.

I prefer the sub route, but then, I expect my sub to be going somewhere. Back in the day, Blizzard was taking extra advantage of that sub, and did not release content frequently enough, or even in line with the amount they were making. I give Square Enix a lot of credit for how they reinvest most of the money their MMO subs make, back into their online games. Even FFXI is still getting plenty of development love, and they still have a decent active subscriber base.

Also, in terms of free to play, I think the worst models are the games that started as subs then went free to play. Starting the game out as free to play, is generally better, as you can develop it around that style of monetization, instead of designing a game around a sub, and then trying to shoehorn that into a free to play model and changing how you develop the game, which tends to then lead to a lot of fans being disappointed because the content they are getting isn’t what they signed up for.

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Crowe

I played quite a few instant adventures in Rift. I would absolutely disagree that they conveyed story or lore effectively… I didn’t actually realize that they were supposed to show either.

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athiev

I rarely had any idea what was happening, tbqh. They’re fun as low-key fast leveling, which is great! But they definitely didn’t achieve immersion or whatever.

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Andrew Clear

I agree, I played a lot, and story and lore just wan’t there. But, it was a good way to get xp, or an instant group. It also lifted the boredom of doing the same quests over and over again.

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Sorenthaz

Just goes to show how far Trion fell after they “willingly chose” to make RIFT f2p.

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Greaterdivinity

They added new IA’s after F2P, Intrepids didn’t come until years later. I imagine there’s more to this than just “we need to monetize all content” and it was more that without some monetization angle at all (because there really isn’t any for an IA) that Trion, at that time, couldn’t justify the cost. Because let’s be real, by the time Intrepid Hammerknell came out in 2015 with patch 3.2 Rift, and Trion as a whole, weren’t exactly riding high. The companies broader clusterfuck was hitting it hard, and Rift had recently received a pretty polarizing and not particularly great expansion. Things went south from there so it’s not a surprise that they were looking very closely at costs at that point in development.

But that’s not a F2P problem necessarily, that’s very much a problem resulting from Trions overall mismanagement and the affects that had on Rift over the years. The downward slide was evident well before F2P in 2013ish (think that’s when) – Defiance had already bombed hard, EU offices were closed, I think they’d given up the Red Door publishing platform, Rift was already seeing smaller and slower content updates compared to chocolate and had other problems.

But then again I’m a guy who loved the F2P transition and thought they did a fantastic job, even if they monetized just about every item in the game (optionally). And I held that believe at the time as someone who maintained an annual sub leading into and for at least a year or two after the transition. F2P wasn’t the problem, Trions overall business strategy blowing up in their faces and their struggles to recover from it were.

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Crowe

“…Rift had recently received a pretty polarizing and not particularly great expansion.”
Yeah, Nightmare Tide was the only Rift expansion I played and game quit immediately after hitting the level cap. I didn’t even complete the story line or quests… just logged out after the ding and uninstalled for a couple of years. I couldn’t stand the thought of attempting to do it 3 more times for my other characters.

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Bruno Brito

F2P wasn’t the problem, Trions overall business strategy blowing up in their faces and their struggles to recover from it were.

Pretty much. It always felt like they sucked at keeping up the game in a decent fashion. The quality of their xpacs fell. They focused on Archeage instead of RIFT.

I feel like they had a “Funcom Problem”.

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Andrew Clear

For me, the first expansion killed the game. I loved the base game, but the class changes, and the unending journey to the level cap was too much for me to take. Sometimes bigger isn’t always better. Their smaller zones felt fresher to me, and the story lines seemed more focused.

I also hated how their massive pvp content (I believe it was 40 vs 40 vs 40) was unavailable until you hit the level cap again. I loved doing that before the expansion, but getting to level cap took too damn long, I burned out.

Also, before the expansion, the zone rift events were amazing, but while I was playing the expansion, all that seemed dead. I don’t know how that happened. But, they seemed to have killed “Rifts” in general.

Mordyjuice
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Mordyjuice

Trion couldn’t think of a way to monetize them, see here I look at a statement like that and then I look at games like FF14 and ESO that figured out how to finally make their games worth spending money on and all I have to say is if Captain Cursor knew how to make a fun enough game to begin with then perhaps Rift could have been saved with a One Tamriel patch instead of watered down expansions like Nightmare Tide.

A big part of monetizing a game is developing a game people want to spend money on in the first place, and it’s faulty bull shit thinking like how do we monetize every little thing we develop that makes people not want to play a Mobile version of a PC Game.

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Andrew Clear

Sometimes people chase ideas and think that they could either do them better, or that that idea would instantly make their game great. It takes a good manager to stick with the core design of a game and not chase ideas down a rabbit whole. FFXIV is a game that sticks close to what it relaunched as. They do add some new stuff over time, but they sure as hell don’t chase every single hot idea when it comes along.

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Castagere Shaikura

Trust me when I say IA sucks now. The drops are mostly useless crap and the XP has been nerfed in them. They were a great way to level back in the day but just like everything else in the game the devs killed it.

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Greaterdivinity

I don’t know if I’d say IA’s are “fun” after a while, but when I played they were by far the most efficient way to level up, at least until around NT content.

And monetizing…ooph. Went back and it looks like these were added before SL (patch 1.6) and they did a few updates with new maps (intrepids etc.) but it never did see too much support.

Unfortunately, I just don’t see an effective way to monetize the content…and honestly it shouldn’t be. This is like saying that a new raid or dungeon needs to be monetized. Rift was already one of the most aggressively, but IMO still fairly, monetized games around at the time, almost EVERYTHING in the game was available for cash shop currency, even basic vendor stuff (not that you’d ever waste gems on that nonsense).

IMO there were broader problems as to why monetization dropped off and made it hard to create content like this, but he’s got the insider track on this so I’ll take his word for it.

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Malcolm Swoboda

“Unfortunately, I just don’t see an effective way to monetize the content…and honestly it shouldn’t be.” Exactly my point earlier.

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Bhagpuss Bhagpuss

Instant adventures were auto-matched speed runs as far as I could tell. Not that I ever really felt I knew what they were. I did a few but I never had any idea where we were or what we were doing.

Xp and rewards flooded in no matter what you did. It seemed to me like a legitimization of the kind of behavior you see when something is broken and giving far more reward than the risk should afford and players flock to it before it gets fixed.

I would hate to see anything remotely close to that design come to any MMORPG I play regularly.

Pepperzine
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Pepperzine

Even though lots of people love instant adventures, for me, they hurt my immersion and connection to the overworld. Before I mention why, I do want to acknowledge that they helped increase activity in highly specific areas of the world and provide an alternative way to level. They did however fall short in several areas for me.

One, they disconnected the player from the overarching story and lore of the world as they were piece-meal and non-linear. Instant adventures are definitely the more efficient way to level compared to standard questing, they’re easy to pop into, straight forward and predictable in their goals, and are more bite size. This helps boost the speed of leveling but makes it so regular questing and engaging with the story is an inefficient means to get to endgame.

Two, due to disparity in level-range across the game population they were highly repetitive. You were constantly grouped for lower level areas for instant adventures that scaled you downward. This is in comparison to higher level instant adventures which fewer players met the requirement for, and as such, you would get groups for less frequently. Overall, this resulted in repeating many of the same adventures over and over.

Three, while they increase overworld presence in areas where there were instant adventures actively occurring, they decreased the presence in areas where they were not. This interacted with their efficiency advantage over questing, and made it harder to complete zone events and rifts because players were in highly focused areas of the map, only to be teleported to completely different locations on the map after completing their goals.

From the perspective of someone who completed leveling to endgame both before and after their introduction, I felt they hurt the world of Telara more than helped it.

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Malcolm Swoboda

I totally agree.

I can’t hate dynamic questing existing though. Even if it might really bother a lot of players, I think I’d have preferred ‘unlocking’ IA for alts rather than almost pushing us, old and new, into it asap. There’s a mindlessness in gameplay that RIFT went from more passively allowing (like 2011-2012’s crifting in Shimmerland, or raid rifts in Stillmoor), to actively encouraging.

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Raidervc

“We couldn’t figure out a way to monetize it.”

Rather than see the value in player engagement and monetize through maybe less direct means, they just let a largely positive feature languish. This probably goes without saying, but the monetization teams in some of these MMOs are really bad. Find some more creative people to increase your revenues.

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Bruno Brito

Not some, almost all of them are bad.

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Malcolm Swoboda

Is he serious? Its called FFIV FATEs. And maybe several other games. Can’t say that game’s not profitable.

This maybe reveals how Trion mindset at least became over time though. Monetization over service.

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Matt Redding

IAs were far more advanced than FATEs. To begin with, Rift had a system where anytime an event was going on it would auto create a public team or raid group (opt outable). You could actually self-invite to someone else’s group if it wasn’t locked so if someone was going for a rare spawn and you wanted to get in on it, right-click join.

Now, you know very well that trying to level by FATE in older zones is pointless, there’s nobody there usually unless something else is going on. The zone events in RIFT similarly struggled to get participation after the initial surge of playerbase went through the zones and the storyline in each zone was highly connected to the 2-4 events the zone had. Think about how Odin spawns in FFXIV, now imagine there’s something like that in every major region and it’s all level scaled, fun, and pays tokens for level appropriate dungeon equivalent gear.

IAs were essentially a public leveling party. It would even teleport you to the start of the adventure chain and it would update goals as stages were completed. The only FATE equivalent to that would be the ones that were like raids in multiple stages like that one where you eventually storm the bandit camp and it unlocked a minipet vendor at the end. Except the IA would just go and go, and even try to rope people into doing the zone events (that was less popular).

Frankly it was good leveling content. Some of the material was essentially a retread of the zone questlines but repacked to run parallel. So in the starting area there were quests around a farm that was taken over by cultists. In IA you might go to that area and just be told defeat 20 cultists. Then some glowies would spawn, find 20 of them. Then some more cultists. Then a miniboss would spawn. Nothing earth shaking but good basic gameplay.

Shame they needed it monetized, it was really a good structural support to leveling the game after it had been out a while.

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Malcolm Swoboda

I think you’re mistaking me. I never implied IAs are bad (they have flaws, and had weaknesses that devs tried to address, but they’re not bad), I was saying that continued development of them, without even expanding their scope, doesn’t necessarily need the exact ‘brings x money’ justification, but this is what RIFT became more and more of anyway. FFXIV has its subs to it can just go ‘what keeps players coming in monthly’ to so many things – and this can easily include their continued use of FATEs.

Its not hugely more expensive to put in Comet of Ahnket IAs than it was to implement the IA system in 2012. Its probably much cheaper. But this exchange reveals that the question was more and more ‘what money does this bring?’.