I am in the mid-high level zone of Moonshade Highlands still. My vacation slowed me down for a week. I am pretty sure I am nearly finished with it being level 41 and nearing the final Guardian quest hub. I am starting to see an interesting change in these lower populated zones, especially during the week (i.e., even lower pop.). It sadly reminds me of Warhammer Online’s descent. The problem is that fewer people care about lonely rifts that open up. Invasions still seem to draw a raid group or two since they give rarer tokens and an achievement if beaten. Rifts, especially major ones, seem to be drawing less people.
I first noticed this in the Droughtlands where I was trying to find an air rift to close so i could complete an achievement requiring me to close each elemental type of rift. I played through a couple, but the mixed groups I was defending with never was able to complete the first bonus stage. Except for the world event’s death rifts, I don’t recall ever seeing a lone rift with more than 5 players. I am heading back to the Droughtlands after I finish the Moonshade Highlands, and I hope an air invasion will get a raid going.
The other thing I noticed was how attractive the death rifts were during the world event, and rightly so since they would give the world event’s currency and a chance at special items. I, and others, would run by rifts and footholds to get to the death rift. From a zone cleansing perspective, it was selfish and silly. Now, I am noticing even fewer people caring.
I am as guilty as everybody else of running by rifts (I do try and kill footholds), and I know I am not alone in opening planar tears in to rifts and then ignoring the result. I used to open the zone map to focus on dynamic events first and use quests as a filler to pass the time. Now, I am finding I am doing the opposite. I am trying to get through quest chains to “complete” the zone. It’s fun for me, but I can’t shake the feeling of being a bad citizen.
Should I care? I find it more exciting when we are pressed than when a lonely rift sits out in the middle of a high-density mob zone. Yet, I know that the lonely rift presents a danger. If it sits unchecked it will send out invaders (which are usually dealt with just fine), or present a greater challenge during a zone event. Plus, the offensive planar invaders seem to be balanced just fine against the meager population. It almost becomes a question of selfishness versus altruism. No one else is paying my subscription to have fun, but I also like the feeling of impacting others in a helpful way. (Anecdotally, the other day a lone warrior was defending a quest hub. I rolled up to join him in a duo-public group, switched to heal spec, and kept him alive to stem the onslaught. He might never have realized, but I do.)
It might also be that this zone and Droughtlands are two zones that can almost see the end game at level 50, but aren’t quite there. It gets harder to enjoy the ride when the ride is almost over and I keep hearing about all the cool stuff at the end.
It’s going to be interesting to see how Trion Worlds fiddles with the balance. I know when I start working on alternate characters I am definitely not going to want to go through quest chains again. So if Trion Worlds lowers the rate of lonely rifts, it could backfire with a bored leveling population. On the other hand, it might cause more people to get excited about that lonely rift so a good group results during the bonus rounds. I wonder if they are working on another dynamic event style that would work better for the leveling zones.
With the 1.2 patch likely coming sometime in May, it is apparent from the pre-patch notes that Trion Worlds is continuing to update at a pace we are unused to. They are including a completely new dynamic event style, slivers, which appear to be a type of phased end game event. They will also have crafting oriented rifts that drop rare crafting materials, and there are three new zone event styles coming with a “tower defense”-esque event, an escort event, and a race to summon a colossus event. Plus zone events, especially the big rare ones that provide purple tokens, should occur more often.
I think all these new styles are aimed at having players care. Most players love zone events and the slivers and crafting rifts have a good personal feel to them. Who knows, lonely rifts might just go the way of the dodo if Trion Worlds keeps adding new dynamic content. I do hope that in the 1.3 or 1.4 patch, they do take a look at the leveling zones.