Trion Announces RIFT MMO Beta and Opens Floodgates for Free Beta Keys

Via MMO Symposium, for those of us looking for a polished AAA+ MMO that poses a credible alternative to the Blizzard’s dominance of the market, there is at last some good news!  On November 18, Trion announced the beta test phase of their new MMO: RIFT is scheduled to commence on the weekend of December 3-6.

The development of this long anticipated MMO is helmed by Scott Hartsman. In a company of secretive and aloof people, Scott was a breath of fresh air as a developer and many EverQuest fans may be familiar with him as he started working at SOE with during the Shadows of Luclin expansion.

Here’s are some of his comments from the official RIFT press release:

“This is a momentous event for the entire Trion team, as well as the fans that have been following RIFT since we first announced the game,” said Scott Hartsman, RIFT’s Executive Producer and Trion’s Chief Creative Officer. “We’ve created this deep, vibrant world that’s just waiting to be populated with enthusiastic players, and our hope is that gamers will enjoy playing the game as much as we’ve enjoyed building it.”

No More Camping Rift Beta Keys

Big news, people wanting to beta test RIFT no longer have to camp their Twitter feed or their Facebook page — Curse has scads of beta keys available here. You’ll need to log on to the official Trion: RIFT site and create an account, after that you can enter the beta code. These beta codes give you a chance to be selected in any of the upcoming beta weekends.

After expending the effort to get a key, creating an account and then updating your profile, I hope they ensure that everyone that gets into the beta eventually.

If those run out you can also try getting some at Gamrfeed and at IncGamers.

Another ex-SOE employee Cindy Bowens (who I had the pleasure of meeting at the Sigil: Vanguard fan meeting many a number of years ago in Las Vegas) is the Senior Community Manager for RIFT. She has been giving away “VIP” beta keys via Facebook and Twitter — VIP beta keys means you’ll be guaranteed to be in all of the beta tests.

Moving Beyond the On Rails MMO Ethos

As RIFT is still not available to the public, I really don’t have much to say about it except that I’m encouraged to see a prospective MMO is aspiring to be something more than a WoW clone. In a recent interview with MTV it’s pretty clear that Scott Hartsman is not satisfied with the “on rails” MMO experience which is currently epitomized by WoW.

In an earlier part of the interview he also praises the genius of the original EverQuest which in a WoW weary world is music to my ears.

For those of us that are interested in seeing the MMO genre advance with more dynamic events and emergent behavior, we may have found our savior. Here’s Scott articulating his analysis and vision from that short but illuminating interview with MTV:

What do you think is the biggest problem current games suffer from?

In online worlds, I think there’s a lot of room for more emergent behaviors in games. We started out with really open worlds where very little direction, generally fairly loose rules, and finding the fun was half of the game. Relative to the audience sizes of today, they were pretty niche experiences. Turns out, not many people are interested in finding the fun themselves as a full time activity.

On the MMO side, we “fixed” this by progressing to more steered, scripted experiences like you’d find in a single player game. Steering people toward all of the fun lead to worlds that felt like the entire experience was on rails. That strategy definitely has succeeded in reaching far larger audiences, but that’s not the end all be all. Some have tried adding repeatable events to that, but that alone really doesn’t play to the strengths of the medium.

If you’re playing to the real strengths of the medium, you can include all of those kinds of elements – Static content and events – then go one step farther. It’s okay to give up some control to interesting emergent behaviors. Let the systems and content play off of each other. Make a world that’s a living character of its own. Give the players a more interesting experience – Let them explore both the content and the systems in new ways they haven’t been able to.

After years of calling on MMO developers to summon the courage to go beyond the tired WoW formula, it’s gratifying to see that someone in the MMO industry finally seems to get it. I just hope that RIFT will deliver and live up to the hype.


Recent Articles on RIFT

For those interested in some interviews with Scott here are some good articles worth reading:

InGamers – Comprehensive hands on preview

IncGamers – Design Producer Hal Hanlin talks about how rifts work

TenTonHammer – Scott talks about crafting in RIFT

Warcry Network – Hands on overview of what it’s like to play a couple of classes

Recent Official RIFT Videos

From what I have seen from these videos the world of RIFT easily surpasses the beauty and majesty of WoW’s heavily stylized environments. With Scott Hartsman in charge, I hope RIFT will have the depth and complexity of EverQuest combined with the AAA+ production values of a mass appeal MMO.

19 thoughts on “Trion Announces RIFT MMO Beta and Opens Floodgates for Free Beta Keys

  1. Seems to be the right game for EverQuest fans. Scott Hartsman is developing it, after all. His game credits list exclusively EverQuest 1,2 and all expansions and stuff in between.

    But is it anything else but a DIKU MUD? The same drill. Classes, levels, trinity.

    But besides that there is hope that it is at least a top quality DIKU that does not have that juvenile and gamey WoW feeling!

  2. You got me interested enough to check out the Rift website, where I learned that it’s just another subscription MMO. No thanks.

    A modern payment model complete with f2p and subscription options is my first requirement to playing any new game. Too bad Rift is stuck in the past in this regard, because it looks promising.

  3. @Andrew: no thanks. A sub and a sub alone will do; the only reason I play LOTRO every now and then is because I snagged a dirt cheap lifetime sub from Codemasters. F2P, like a lot of other things, is great on paper and utterly abysmal in practice. When someone really does do it just right I’ll relent on this, but until then, my sub is my…blub(ber). Rhyming fail :/


    Dear Mr Wolfshead,

    Whilst I may disagree with you on a great many matters, this is one of those moments where I can’t help but agree with you, and, shockingly, thank you for liking those giveaways. Time to try and get a VIP pass so I can slobber over Rift’s awesomeness.

  4. I remember a trailer some time ago and after watching it I put Rift into the ‘bad WoW clone with no special focus on immersion at all’ part of my memory .

    But perhaps I was wrong. Thanks for the info.

  5. honestly, from what i’ve seen of Rift, it’s not really a WoW clone… but a Warhammer Online clone… replace the PQs in WAR with random elemental invasions and you pretty much have Rift.

    i’m pretty sure this game is going to do just like WAR… it’s saying all the right things and building up hype, but i don’t foresee it meeting the lofty expectations that have been set out by the marketing team… it’ll sell a decent number of box copies but will be down to just a handful of servers 4-6 months after release.

    if Rift actually delivers on all the promises i’ve heard… then i’ll eat my hat.

  6. I know Scott Hartsman and I hope this is a rousing success. If anyone can do it, Scott can. But, I’m with Logan above; we’ve seen this song and dance before, and what is promised isn’t always what is delivered.

    I’m always wary of reading statements like this and taking them at face value given that I’ve seen the belly of the beast. Often the game in the developers’ heads is not quite the game that gets delivered, even when a game is about to go into beta. In fact, the game could still change radically if the developers or investors perceive a flaw.

    I’m reminded of a podcast or video I was listening to about Guild Wars 2. The developers for that game talked about how having marks above NPC heads was silly. Then they talked about the process of creating an event in the game (a quest without a quest giver and most of the rest of the trappings) and gave the example of some bad guys poisoning a field. Well, people didn’t recognize that the field was poisoned, so they put green clouds. But, still, players didn’t realize that they could go help the NPCs (conditioned to ignore everything except for the requirements), so they put “I’m poisoned!” icons above the NPC heads to indicate you could help them.

    So, they wanted to get rid of above-the-head icons but ultimately ended up putting them back in to help the players. I guess a poisoned icon is better than an exclamation point, but still. I’m hesitant to let the hype machine wash over me; but, we’ll see how this one goes.

    • I’m very skeptical about Guild Wars 2 myself. After being burned Sigil’s Vanguard I’m very cautious about endorsing a new MMO.

      Thanks to the success of WoW the average MMO player comes to a new MMO with a series of bad habits and unhealthy expectations. This is very dangerous situation for the future of innovative MMOs because if we are ever going to advance the genre away from the WoW formula we are going to have to start demanding more from players.

      WoW players learn very quickly that NPCs that don’t have exclamation/question marks over their heads should be ignored. They are right to behave this way as there is no reward for any type of player archetype (Achiever, Explorer, etc.) to interact with other NPCs.

      This could be solved very quickly by creating mechanics that give NPCs the ability to converse with players and have them unlock special quests, reputation rewards and other incentives. I think it’s pretty pathetic that soon we’ll be 12 years after the release of EverQuest with no real advancements in NPC A.I. except for the pyrotechnics of boss mobs.

      I’ve been a part of a few internal testing sessions where we brought in children and teens to play test games and observed them from behind one way mirrors. Upon review of the data and videos, there is a very compelling temptation to give into the testers. Of course creating a game is quite a bit different than creating a MMO that has a projected lifespan of 10 years or more.

      • “This is very dangerous situation for the future of innovative MMOs because if we are ever going to advance the genre away from the WoW formula we are going to have to start demanding more from players.”

        Indeed. That’s a real design challenge, I doubt there is a solution other than simply demanding more…

        Blizzard teamed up with PopCap Games (their latest influence being the Plants vs. Zombie minigame) and it is HILARIOUS that the casual minigame is much more demanding, fun and deeper than the whole Cataclysm WoW levelling “experience”.

        It is also very ironic that WoW is named “World” of Warcraft, given that the makers have no better idea of their world than to put their players on a super easy, super fast and tightly quest-guided path that ends in dungeon/raids or PvP. The only thing left in the world are the questionable daily “quests” or rather tasks.

        • I personally think *you’re* hilarious, Longasc. Plants vs zombies harder? Yeah, sure. More depth? Get a grip. When you’ve finished spouting tall your tired, dead and above all equine clichés, you might like to look at this new rails experience and see that it’s actually the closest we’ve got so far to a bit of RPG in your MMO. Sure, WoW’s levelling is trivial, easy, on-rails and with a reasonable story, and you know what that reminds me of?

          Dragon Age. Apart from the fact that WoW has an actual endgame to reach, not just to play for some, at best, mediocre story.

          • Mr. Dril, please go back to Syncaine’s website, I think this was the first page I ever read something from you and leave me alone, okay?

          • Yes, this is the first time I’ve read more than the first few sentences of one of your comments and not just rolled my eyes and moved on. If you’re not going to actually respond to my comment since I disagree with you then why even post something?

  7. I am in the cautious-yet-not-overly-optimistic crowd on these announcements. Psychochild’s anecdote makes me a very sad panda – it’s really going to take a special develeper to say ‘this is how it is, and we need to allow the playerbase to learn’ instead of ‘the player base has been trained to be so dumbed down, we have to change’.

  8. @Dril:

    Funny – DDO and Wizard101 do f2p masterfully. Just because older games do a terrible job at the model does not mean that the subscription dinosaur is any more useful.

    And besides, if a game offers both a sub an f2p options, what does it hurt you? You buy your sub, I’ll do the f2p thing. Win-win.

    • Because I still can’t access everything in-game if there’s stupid “store only” items. I’d rather it be a flat rate and be done with it, knowing that I can do as I please without worrying about whether I should buy X and Blah to help me do it instead.

  9. And games like Allods do f2p horribly. Just one example of many that use gouge techniques used by many of the f2p games to exploit people who seem willing to be exploited. Not to mention the brick wall technique that nearly stops the players progression until the purchase of an “oh so convenient” potion that remedies the progression brick wall.

    New trends don’t always equate to something better. The dinosaur is there and will always be until they are fossils fueling your f2p’s.

  10. @ Dblade
    You are right, all sounds the same. The rifts bait being equal to Aion’s endgame system. And much like Aion, Rift is very standard. The start was as bland as anything, reminded me of Allods… At least with Allods they went overboard with the themepark start to the point where you were effectively watching the game (almost like a parody of the themepark style). The only thing that gave me a tiny spark of interest was the Soul system. Graphics were alright, but only ran at 15fps on my PC even though I have a standard in not slightly higher then standard (I thought we had gotten over, ‘update pc every year’ thing).

    • I dunno, I obviously can’t confirm or deny whether or not I was in the beta, but from what I’ve read (ahem) I found the start actually really enjoyable. Sure, it was the typical save the world affair, but the steampunk-ish setting and the lore of it really sucked me in. Unlike a lot of people I, err, *hear* that the combat was actually pretty solid and was a good mix between WoW and WAR; it was responsive, but the weapon also felt weighty and physical, not just “spin CYYYYYYYCLE HOOOOOOOOOOOO” style of thing.

      Anyway, time for some Mount&Blade: Warband to pass the time before Rift’s release.

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