Rift is following in the footsteps of some of its MMO brethren, offering a free-to-play option up to level 20. Titled "Rift Lite," the offering allows unfettered access to the game until you hit level 20, after which you can presumably upgrade to the full version with your character intact.
Starting today, you can access any server with Rift Lite, and all you need is a Trion account. This comes alongside the new patch, Carnival of the Ascended, which adds Ascended Weddings, better rewards in PvP, the River of Souls Chronicle, a new Master Mode dungeon, and revisions to expert dungeons and endgame equipment.
"In the past ten months, Rift has evolved at a breakneck pace, through seven massive updates that set new expectations for live MMOs, in features, in content, and in service," said Trion CCO Scott Hartsman in the announcement. "We think a Lite edition with no time limit is the best way for players to see what an amazing experience Rift continues to be."
This is identical to a recent move from World of Warcraft, which began allowing free play up to level 20 in June. More MMOs are moving towards free-to-play models, at least in part. Both Star Trek Online and DC Universe Online have made the jump completely. Star Wars: The Old Republic game director James Ohlen recently referenced Rift as an example of a successful subscription-based MMO alongside WoW.