During his visit to Trion Worlds' office for the third Gamer Day event, Staff Writer Paul "LockeColeMA" Cleveland got to participate in a roundtable discussion with members of the Trion team to talk about Rift.
Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to attend Trion Worlds' third Gamer Day event at their office in Redwood City, CA to get a closer look at Rift before its official launch on March 1. During the event, I participated in a roundtable discussion with members of the Trion team, including Russ Brown, vice president of development; Scott Hartsman, chief creative officer and executive producer; and Design Producer Hal Hanlin. With several other fan and news sites in the mix, we learned many interesting tidbits and took a peek into Rift's future.
Keep reading after the jump for an in-depth look at the wide variety of topics we discussed, which cover everything from end-game content to souls and customization. Check back later this week for more of my hands-on impressions from the Gamer Day event!
Rift in general
As we settled into a rhythm of asking questions, one of the first big ones concerned the changes to Rift since its beginning. Scott joked about a board in his office with “about 400 green items to check off... and every one was finished.” In fact, he said, the team was actually ahead of schedule when it came to development, saying he's never seen a game so far ahead with end-game content before its release.
Russ chimed in that the reason for this had a lot to do with the team's approach of dealing with immediate problems instead of worrying about things that may become issues in the future. Features like rifts were expected to bring a lot of headaches and extra time to tweak, but they ended up progressing relatively smoothly. Beta testing was to be a stress test to see what the servers can handle, but the stability was actually better than expected.
One of the biggest things they're still aiming to do is to get the story out. All the lore has been written down for years; but Rift itself is mostly spoken of in reference to its dynamic invasion system, which masks the fact that there is a strong plot behind everything going on in the world.
When asked if there were any topics they hated to read about on the forums, Russ laughed and immediately said, “Player housing. I don't want it, it's not critical, and it causes me physical pain” every time he hears about it. But he does acknowledge it's a popular idea. Scott, on the other hand, says he loves it; but his main fear is how it will affect the social aspect of the game. If you're spending all your time in your house, why hang out in the city itself?
When it comes to other topics on the forums, the two insist that they listen, but stressed that the volume of the message doesn't mean nearly as much as the quantity of topics relating to the issue. Just because a few people are especially vocal does not mean the developers will change things to suit their tastes. However, if hundreds of people are upset about something, the developers will definitely take a look at it and see if there is something to change. An example of this would be the changes to PvP during beta, which changed briefly to making enemy faction wardstones unattackable. Now the wardstones will be attackable on PvP servers, but not on PvE servers. An example of a vocal minority is the concept of flight paths—porticulums and land mounts are considered perfectly adequate.
On the same topic as flight paths, Scott noted that the team “is not concerned with how long it takes to get to the end-game.” He feels a lot of players have come to consider the end game “the real game.” But he believes that the time taken does not equal fun derived from a game, saying “We have a good story while leveling up and a strong end-game.”
Dungeons and end-game content at release
“About half” of Rift's content is found in dungeons and warfronts, Scott said. To this end, he stated that a dungeon queue system is just a matter of time. It will may be cross-shard to reduce wait times.
(UPDATE: Upon further clarification with Scott, he said that the dungeon queue system could possibly be cross-shard. "It will be if we need to reduce wait times," he said in an e-mail.)
Although the idea seems to be unpopular (especially among the hardcore fansite representatives), Scott said that an auto-forming group finder is almost a necessity. “People love grouping, but hate to put a group together,” he said, noting that without an auto-group function, “we won't get people in there.” He reiterated their design philosophy when asked about this killing off socializing at higher levels; if it's a problem several months down the line, they'll deal with it. But as far as launch goes, a grouping tool will be necessary.
As for dungeons, the team has “about ten” in the works, with a few of those being level 50. According to Scott, players can expect seven key features for end-game at release. These are:
- level 50 dungeons (tier 1)
- level 50 expert dungeons (tier 2, a modified version of all the dungeons available)
- a raid (Greenscale)
- the prestige system
- expert rifts
- raid rifts
The team did not have a definite answer on whether progression would be vertical or horizontal after release (in other words, if it will be raising the level cap or simply introducing new and more difficult level 50 content). However, Scott did say that their first goal post-release is putting out even more end-game content, saying their focus is “how quickly we can put out stuff to keep people entertained.” Lower level content will be added eventually, but not immediately after release. The team does have a release schedule, but notes that how the content is released depends very much upon the reaction to the launch.
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