There’s simply no other way to put it: My shard is dying. It’s already mostly dead, in fact, so it’s fast approaching the point where there will be nothing left to do but go through its pockets and look for loose change.
Until the last few weeks, my server was a really nice place. The community was friendly and considerate, griefing was all but unheard-of, and chat, with rare exceptions, was lively while being polite and respectful. Even when we had an influx of transfers a few months ago, the community retained its laid back, friendly atmosphere.
That’s over now. All of the larger guilds have left for greener, better-populated pastures in the last four or five weeks. It’s been weeks since even the most basic items–like healing potions and catalytic essences–have been available in the Auction House. Zone events and PvP Rifts have become rarer than hen’s teeth. Meridian is a ghost town and one rarely sees another player in a mid-level zone. Where Level 50 chat used to be pretty vibrant, nowadays there’s very little going on there at all apart from the occasional observation that there’s very little going on there.
I usually play during peak hours, so it’s not just that I’m not around when everyone else is. They’re just gone.
My guild held out longer than most, hoping it was just a lull coinciding with people checking out SWTOR. I’ve seen such lulls before in other games and a fair number of people always come back after their first month’s subscription expires. But path dependence has now taken over. Once the exodus reaches the tipping point, it becomes unstoppable. And so my little guild is leaving now, too.
As Guild Leader, I spent some time investigating the process for transferring our guild. For better or for worse, Trion makes this very, very easy.
Wolfsbane seems to be the most popular destination for transfers as it’s the only NA shard that consistently registers “High” population. There are good points and bad points to going to a High pop server. Plenty of players means plenty of activity to be sure. But it also means more lag and more people harvesting limited open world resources (so more camping).
One of the things I love about Rift, as compared to other games, is that I’ve only ever had to camp for one thing: I decided I wanted the Merchant of Death title, so I sat around for an hour or so one night waiting for Reed Bellows to spawn. There are a few other NPCs like him one might also need to camp, if one was determined to get a specific achievement, but I’ve never found camping to be mandatory. One certainly doesn’t want to have to do it to harvest ore or plants.
So we decided to move to a Medium pop server. We chose one that’s maintained its population in spite of the dropoff in active players game-wide in the hopes we will find a permanent home. We also weighed the “feel” for the community as best we could from the shard forums, raid progression, and got some feedback that indicates that it’s a pleasant community with good Auction House prices. And I can’t say that I mind the prospect of moving to a battlegroup that, unlike my current one, seems to have more balanced PvP.
New MMOs come online all the time. Existing games see players leave for a time to check out the shiny new toy, but the good ones survive. I have no doubt believe Rift will be one of them. But as much as it pains me, because I’ve really liked my server, it’s time to move on. It doesn’t look like the game can continue to sustain the huge number of servers it has running. I have my doubts that Trion will merge servers any time soon. But the time has come to consider it. [UPDATE: No sooner had I submitted this for publication than Trion proved me wrong and unexpectedly announced some shard consolidations. Included in the change is Crucia, the shard we just left.]