Key was not to “piss off” existing players according to senior design director Simon Ffinch.
The number of players which joined RIFT after the MMORPG went free-to-play earlier this month “far exceeded” Trion Worlds’ expectations, according to a new interview with senior design director Simon Ffinch.
GamerZines asked the charismatic developer how much RIFT’s audience expanded when the game went free-to-play on June 12th, and even though he was hesitant to give us hard numbers he did have this to say:
“We just wanted to remove the barrier to entry that we had in RIFT. It was like opening the floodgates, it was pretty amazing,” Ffinch revealed.
“All I’ll say is that it [the free-to-play transition] has been really exciting, and has far exceeded our expectations and continues to do so. We thought we were going to see a lot of people leave, that were going to be upset by it, but I’m happy to say that didn’t happen.”
When any game goes free-to-play, it’s almost inevitable that existing subscribers get annoyed by the core changes made to their game and the tidal wave of more casual-minded players heading to servers, but Ffinch told us that wasn’t the case with RIFT.
“First we already had a large and loyal player base, and we didn’t want to destroy that. They were there playing and enjoying RIFT, and we wanted to make sure they could continue to do that. We didn’t want to upset them and we wanted to pull in a lot more players. MMOs are more fun when there are more people,” RIFT’s design director explained.
“We did do it [the free-to-play transition] the right way and that didn’t piss off our players. We’ll take some credit for that, but I also think the industry has changed. Free-to-play doesn’t mean what it used to. You still get people who cry, “Oh my god, the sky is falling” when free-to-play is mentioned, but it’s far more accepted that this is the way games should be going forward.”
Long time RIFTers will no doubt notice that now every zone, especially the starter areas, have become absolutely crammed with new adventurers exploring the world, and that’s exciting for players and it seems developers as well.
“Wherever I go now [I think], ‘Oh good grief there are people crawling all over the place!’ We love our game, we’ve got a passionate team, and [we] just want to continue making great content.”
And that’s something Trion Worlds will continue to do, not only with more updates but also a new unnamed digital-only expansion which will feature new souls, PvP dimensions, a level cap increase, a new water-themed realm to explore and other components yet to be announced.
“One of the things RIFT has always been really been good at, and it’s something we work hard at, is having people play together. Even if you don’t talk to them which for some reason, we don’t know what it is, these people who play MMOs don’t want to talk to each other. They want to play with a lot of other people, but god they don’t want to talk with one another! So we make it really easy, you just click a button, join group and then you can leave if you want. So [we have] a lot of group play and that would really suck if half of it was stuck behind a pay wall,” he told us.
“If I’m with my friend who can’t afford the expansion and I’ve bought the expansion that blows, so we decided right from the beginning; no, everything will be free, all content will be free.”
Obviously that promise doesn’t include visual customisation items like gear, costumes and mounts sold via RIFT‘s in-game store, and the four new souls introduced in the Storm Legion expansion, but still there’s no monetary hurdles stopping free players from starting their adventures in Telera today, hitting max level and exploring all the quest content that last year’s expansion added to the game. That’s something other free-to-play MMORPGs like Star Wars: The Old Republic and The Lord of the Rings Online would certainly do well to take inspiration from.
Expect more insights from RIFT‘s senior design director inside next month’s edition of FirstLook magazine, but until then you can find the latest issue of FirstLook below:
GRID Autosport, The Evil Within, Valiant Hearts, Space Hulk, Supraball and Homefront: The Revolution star in this intriguingly varied issue of our free-to-read .Download Now!