The latest news on RIFT's next big content patch!
On Friday, June 22nd, Trion held a pre-1.9 round-table discussion with several popular MMORPG sites. Hal Hanlin (Design Producer) and Scott Hartsman (Executive Producer) answered questions from each of the sites about the features that will be seen this Monday when patch 1.9 goes live.
Instant Adventure (IA): The e-mail blurb we received said Freemarch and Silverwood IAs would be added in 1.9, but the Trion page also included Gloamwood and Stonefield. Are these other two being left behind in 1.9, or is Instant Adventure coming to them (and all zones eventually)?
Hal Hanlin: It is for all four. The e-mail went out when there was just the slightest chance that I would decide that we didn't hit the quality bar on Stonefield; but we nailed it. So we will have all four zones in 1.9, and we are planning to build further than that, but I don't want to go into what, when, or why.
Scott Hartsman: In general, we kinda want to see what happens to Rift gameplay as a whole when this suddenly becomes available in a whole lot more places to a whole lot more people. The combination of IA and mentoring is really going to give us a chance to see this.
IA: Will they have the same set-up as before, or are you taking ideas from existing adventures and then changing them?
Hal: One of the greatest things, from a development point of view, for Instant Adventure is how modular they are. I had one-on-ones with all of the designers yesterday, and they are all excited about the notion of being able to experiment with new ideas in a very safe way. As we do new IA areas, it's very safe for them to come up with a new gameplay mechanic, see if it works, and if it doesn't work at least it's not like breaking something in the middle of a 20-quest chain. You instead simply pull it out, the players never see it again, and it's fairly safe. We took a lot of ideas from Stillmoor and Ember Isle, and then said "Hey, what would be cool if we did this? Or can we do this?" We're always innovating, and this is such a great test bed for new boss abilities and that sort of thing.
Scott: Hal, do you have any favorites out of the new stuff that's come out?
Hal: Yeah! So, there are some where you go and say "Oh, it's a standard kill quest," and then you realize it's exactly the same one you did before, but now there are rare mobs there that are dropping special collection artifacts, and now you get excited about running around and finding these new things where you thought you had experienced everything in this area before. And so what we can do is say, "Hey, you've experienced this in its vanilla form many times before, but there's a chance that there are now extra sprinkles on top." We're also doing more with temporary abilities, like "Kick this dude through this certain location." On PTS we've been pulling out that ones that didn't mesh or that maybe were just bad ideas.
Mentoring and IA: How do you see players mixing and matching their leveling process?
Hal: I hope they mix very happily. It's really exciting to see that we can offer so many things to do at so many different levels. I, personally, have parked one of the characters I've been advancing because I knew that with 1.9 I could drop in my level 33 character, mentor my son with his level 15 character, and then he and I could progress in a meaningful way for both of our characters for a very long time. So this is just a nice addition to what else there is to do, but there's no one "right" way to play our game. You can drop in and solo, do a Chronicle, join a group, do some Warfronts, do PvP, jump into Conquest... we're just adding to the palette. We don't ever see it is as a bad thing to have more to do.
Scott: My personal anecdote is that I actually did a new character 1 to 50 in the last couple of months and I very intentionally did as few quests as humanly possible, just to see what the gameplay experience was like. So it was all running around closing rifts, doing the Freemarch zone events, doing LFD dungeon and Warfronts, and picking up IA as soon as I could. And one of the big things I found was that for low-level "choose your own experience," it felt like there was something missing. It would have been really nice to have the pick-up PvE world experience, and IA is the perfect solution to that feeling.
Mentoring: If it's such a popular feature, why have more MMOs not implemented similar mechanics?
Scott: Honestly, I truly think it's just because it's an obscene amount of work. It's a lot of engineering work, a lot of systems design work... engineers have to implement a system, the designers have to go back and do calculus for every tier of content across every downranked class. In our game it gets even more complicated because we have all the souls! If we didn't have a team our size, there's absolutely no way we could do this - it's been months and months of effort behind the scenes. So I have to imagine it's mostly an effort thing; MMOs are about playing with other people and we like to emphasize that in our game, I think a lot more than other people do.
Mentoring: Currently low level players travel much slower than high level players. Is this being addressed?
Hal: It's been addressed! Actually, before coming down here I wanted to make sure of that, and so I went and checked on our list. We listened very closely (to our players), and this was something that annoyed us as well. And when the people on PTS were having the same experience, they confirmed our suspicions that, yeah, this is something that we have to do. So now your entire group that is mounted moves at the speed of the fastest member of the group. It's a wonderful, smooth, seamless way to get to stay together, and that's what Rift is all about.
Scott: And lowbies feel like they're on a rocket ship!
Hal: We certainly didn't want to go the other way, where level 50s all move at a level 10's mounted speed. That felt horrible! We went with the logical thing: let's buff the players rather than tear them down.
Mentoring: Any plan for automatic adjustment when moving between zones?
Hal: At this moment, we're taking a very Trion approach to this; we're putting out a significant new feature like mentoring and the specifics of it are going to be smoothed out as we go. Over time we do plan to improve it still further. We have discussed how we want players to progress: do we want a single group to continue up through multiple ranks, or do we want them to participate at their chosen rank and then reset? So that's the conversation that is happening but at this moment we don't have a definitive answer that we're going to give out.
Dungeons: What are some of the weather mechanics in new boss fights?
Hal: With the new sliver, basically the weather and the seasons are just playthings (for the dragons) at this point. But it's more than just visual effects; the gameplay itself modifies as well. When it's spring, for instance, it's all about defeating the predators of nature; when it's fall, you have some Wickerman-autumn sacrifice things going on. So it's very thematic as well as gameplay-driven.
Dungeons: Any plans to include raid slivers with LFG?
Scott: It is kind of interesting. As more people have learned how to play the game at much higher levels of skill over time, and as we've introduced weekly 10-mans and first-year 20-mans, it is something that has become a lot more possible. So while we don't have any concrete plans for it right now, I totally agree that it's definitely getting to be the time.
Chat is becoming global across all shards; is there a way to limit the chat to a specific shard or reduce what is likely to be a large flood of varied conversations?
Scott: So, what you're going to see when chat goes out is Trion at its Trionest. We’re getting the feature out there; we want to see how people use it. The developer who is working on it is a super hardcore player of our game and so we will be then refining it based on what happens. What we didn't want to do, and this was very intentional, was over legislate and start coming up with exceptions for problems that may or may not even be real. So this is us taking a feature out there, seeing how it works, and then making adjustments to it in real time. If problems with it happen, you bet we’ll be addressing them. But in the meantime, for us it was "What would the world look like if everybody really could talk with everybody all the time. Now let's see what that looks like, and adjust from there."
Will Trion be adding other cross-game functionality, with a system similar to Battlenet?
Scott: It's definitely something on our radar... wait, I should disclaim that answer. Cross-game CHAT is definitely something that is on our radar as something we would very much like to do. But at the same time we are still keeping our core goals around, "How can we develop and iterate the games at the highest quality and keep iterating them the most rapidly?" One of the downsides you get with any kind of common system is that you begin to tie together the speed at which games can be developed and updated. You can, if you're not careful, create a lowest common denominator situation. And for us, the overall priority is the speed at which both games can be updated currently. So yeah, it's definitely something in the back of my head saying "Oh boy, wouldn't it be neat if...?" But the priority for us is the quality of each individual game. That's really what keeps people coming back. Where there is a downside, we're always going to err on the side of the game.