It’s no secret that I liked RIFT an awful lot. I made a tactical error near the end of my time in the game: I was feeling neglected in the (extremely large) guild that I was in, so I broke off and made my own vanity guild, as I’ve done countless other times in games – except that I found myself missing the community to talk to, and without that, I was having less and less fun logging in. When Star Wars: The Old Republic came out, I dropped RIFT entirely.

I’ve known for a while that people who have purchased the game but haven’t paid a subscription fee can log in and use (but not level up) their characters above level 20, and can create and level characters to level 20, so it’s little surprise to me that today, Trion Worlds announced that on June 12, RIFT is going free-to-play for everybody. Subscribers will receive bonuses to XP and mount speed, among other things, and I hope Trion won’t take the same approach that EA did with SWTOR and lower the baseline so that the “bonuses” are what people considered standard before the F2P announcement.

Unfortunately, this isn’t going to get me back into the game. One of the drawbacks to both RIFT and SWTOR, and the reason I don’t play either despite their F2P portions, is that they hide updates behind a login screen. In a way this makes sense; it helps prevent non-subscribers from getting access to new content for the game, which wouldn’t be a big deal if there weren’t the possibility of private servers that use the base client but reverse-engineered server software. However, it does make a big deal to me – because, frankly, for the last year my internet has been terrible. I’m far enough out in the country that I’m now part of the 10% of the United States without access to broadband internet; Verizon has no intent to run FiOS out to my area, Comcast won’t run cable without a $13,500 investment on my part (since there aren’t enough customers in the half-mile between me and the end of the existing cable service to justify their installing cable out here), and the phone lines date back to 1915, so they’re too unstable for DSL.

Instead, I have satellite internet. Satellite internet, at the level I’m willing to pay for, offers speeds on par with 1996-era ISDN lines – and no matter what level I pay for, I have a daily bandwidth cap of 500MB. I can only download freely between 2 AM and 7 AM. And that means that if I want to update my RIFT and SWTOR clients, I have to get up at 2 AM and log into the client. And frankly, I haven’t been able to justify that, despite the fact that I paid for the software.

(Also, I’ve just discovered that when I got a new computer earlier this year, neither SWTOR nor RIFT was transferred to the new hard drive – and the hard drive they were on has failed in the meantime – so I’d have to re-download the entire client again if I wanted to play. At 5 hours a day and a maximum of 128KB/s… I’ll be lucky if I have the RIFT client downloaded before the F2P goes live.)

It’s sad to say that one of my basic qualifications for buying an online game now is “can I update the game without signing in?” – but I have to confess, that’s the biggest reason that I’m not planning to pre-order the upcoming Elder Scrolls Online – and it’s why, instead of playing RIFT or SWTOR, I’m instead playing Guild Wars 2 (which does allow you to download client updates without logging in) and single-player games.

And hey – if RIFT and SWTOR decide to get their head in the game and let me update without having to physically be at the keyboard in order to log in, I’ll be there with bells on.

(Yes, I know: I can log in when I go to bed and then use a keystroke emulator to update the software. In fact, I have done that in the past. But when many MMOs these days actively look for keystroke emulators so they can identify cheaters, I’d rather not take the risk.)

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