I have moved on from the first zone in Rift, and I am about half-way through Gloamwood. The game is still fun, but things changed so rapidly. I am not sure how to perceive the future. Just over the mountains is a bustling, event-filled forest filled with animal tears and sunlight. In my neck of the woods, there is gloom and the occasional mid-20’s refugee, like myself.
The zone population has plummeted. After the first zone the drive to get back with the herd must be insatiable. After spending a few hours in Gloamwood, my biggest public group has been three people. I have not seen an invasion, and I am constantly trying to take down footholds on my own. We all pretend not to see that major death rift looming over the central town with its elite mobs.
It’s sad in a way because I am enjoying the atmosphere, quests, and mobs far more than I did in the previous zone. Yet, it seems that once a zone hits a low population, the dynamic event system gets a little skittish. All of the rifts seems to have very weak mobs, except for the major rifts which are left to their own devices. I am not sure how well invasions scale, but I would guess even the weakest invasion would crush the zone during prime time. Achievement hunters are going to have to bribe players to fill their events in order to even experience a Gloamwood invasion.
Still, I am on the fence whether this should be acceptably “working-as-intended” or whether Trion Worlds should take a hard look at their mid-level empties. In a way it reminds me of when I started to lose pace in Warhammer Online, and I started to find that I could not do a single Public Quest. I am also curious to see what effect this mid-level loneliness will have on Guild Wars 2. Will the mid-level Shatterer boss get its own playground absent heroes? When the content of a game is so bound to player population, it gets all the more noticeable when I am alone.
The next zone is the first contested zone between Guardians and Defiant. I am hoping this gives a boost in player activity, but until I hit the high-level zones, I really don’t know what to expect.