I had a whole intro planned around the combination of RIFT's fire and water elementals. It would have been like a nature documentary, the end result of which was a little Steam baby. To be honest, though, who wants to be forced into considering the technical difficulties of magmic rutting? And wouldn't creatures from the other planes just feel left out? Instead, we'll try this: RIFT's free-to-play incarnation is on Steam now, should that be the distribution platform that you favour. For existing players, the more significant news is a recent livestream held by the developers, in which they revealed the content roadmap leading up to the next expansion, RIFT 3.0.
Alongside the free download, RIFT's Steam version offers three DLC starter packs: the Ascended, Patron, and all-out ridiculously named Ultimate Hardcore Patron editions. Not that they're needed. RIFT had one of the more impressive free-to-play transitions, essentially giving access to the full game with no real penalties.
As for the future, Junkies Nation diligently wrote up the upcoming features, taken from the livestream. They reveal that update 2.5 is due out soon, and will feature a new sliver, dungeon, new chronicles, and a new questline, which will introduce the new water continent, planned for the 3.0 expansion, and act as a test bed for underwater combat.
Here's a cheeky shot at certain other MMOs; ones that perhaps haven't been as generous with their free to play content. Rift is going free to play, and to make the switch Trion Worlds have released this trailer, explaining the features that free-to-players will have access to. It stops just short of going "BOOM! It's the whole game", then dropping the mic and strutting off the stage. Actually, looking at it again, that's pretty much exactly what it does.
To sum it up less provocatively, here's the free-to-play comparison chart:
The better news is that Rift is well worth trying out. We liked it back in 2011, when it had just a fraction of its current content, and continued to like it last year, when I reviewed the Storm Legion expansion.
Rift is also launching its 2.3 update today. It brings a new zone, a 10-player raid, a Chronicle, and open-world raid bosses, along with some added performance improvements.
And strike another one off the rapidly diminishing list of surviving subscription MMOs. If there was any sub-based game not called "EVE" or "World of Warcraft" that had a possible, maybe, oh-so-slim chance of surviving with a monthly payment model, I'd have argued for Rift. If nothing else, it had a history of providing generous new content to validate its regular toll. Alas, no, Trion have now announced that, as of June 12th, Rift will be entirely free-to-play.
Actually, scratch that - this is great news. The pretty excellent Rift will be entirely free to play!
A subscriber model remains, albeit with subscribers renamed as "Patrons" - as is customary during a free-to-play transition. Patrons will be getting additional buffs, but crucially, the world won't punish free players. "All players will have total access to the entire world," writes Rift creative director Bill Fischer. "Every dungeon, every raid, every Warfront, and every level. We won’t be locking our content or advancement behind walls – our goal is to break down every barrier. We want more people playing together and more people having fun together."
While new players will receive less starting inventory and character slots, Trion promise that for previous owners of the game - even those who no longer subscribe - nothing will be removed.
June 12th will also bring the game's 2.3 update, titled Empyreal Assault, adding a new zone, world event, Chronicle and "Stronghold" challenges.
For more details, check out Rift's free-to-play page.
Gamasutra are reporting that 40 members of the Rift development team - around one third of the game's staff - are being laid off. Trion Worlds have confirmed job cuts in a statement, but haven't commented on how many roles are being lost, or which teams are affected.
"As a response to market conditions, product timelines and the natural evolution of our company," Trion writes, "we have made some organizational changes, which include a workforce reduction. This was a difficult decision and we wish the best for those affected by these changes. At Trion, we remain focused on delivering top quality online game experiences, and are committed to supporting RIFT and launching our highly anticipated new titles Defiance, Warface, and End of Nations in 2013."
Trion Worlds launched the ace Storm Legion expansion only last month. While the MMO has retained its subscription status, despite a free light edition covering levels 1-20 and a Storm Legion trial for returning players, the company has never divulged any information on how many subscribers it was serving.
This news follows on from the 19 lay-offs at Petroglyph, who were working on End of Nations before Trion moved its development in-house.