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.
Souls, customization and dynamic content
According to Scott, “an honest-to-goodness soul is hard to implement.” It is difficult to balance with all the other options available. Fluff souls with flavor abilities would be easier, but they also interfere with the game mechanics of having three souls at a time and (currently) only four roles. He laughed and mentioned the difficulty of having to pay for a respec and the time taken to change abilities because someone had to drop his/her chef soul (which they wanted just for the fun hat and custom cooking animation). So instead of having flavor souls, the developers want the rewards in the game through other means, such as achievements or quest rewards. They also may add more roles for purchase in the future, but noted it depends on the need among the players for such a feature. Every role added is more storage taken to keep track of, and the team doesn't want unneeded features that might adversely affect game speeds without a good reason.
This line of thinking is also behind the ideas for more character customization. While there will be more skin tones and hair styles, there will not be more options to customize. Russ said that, “our artists want to do more. They are extremely critical of their own work; but I just want to ship the product” (laughs). The team made the decision not to add more customization features because they would slow the processing of the game.
Down the line a barbershop feature will likely be added. And they did confirm a bug existed that would randomize a character's face after creation and upon entering the world: this has been fixed. They have also moved away from their original idea of making characters lean toward certain styles and features pertaining to lore (ie, Kelari and Eth darker skinned), because players want to make a character “that looks just like them” and their original plan limited it too much.
When it came to dynamic content, the developers spoke a lot about how their original plans had changed. Back when the game was still called “Heroes of Telara,” they had been working with the idea of a dynamic quest system. Quest givers would appear or disappear as rifts and invasions opened around the world. What they quickly found was that a 100% dynamic world all the time was not fun. Without knowing what quests would be available where, players would become frustrated trying to find and complete objectives. In the same way, destroying towns actually took away from immersion; without a shared history acquired by completing quests and learning the story, players had little attachment or feeling when it came to the destroyed towns. The compromise was Rift, which has dynamic elements based around a static game.
Racials, beta and other odds and ends
Racial abilities will be changed again before release. “We wanted them to be impactful,” said Scott, “and we went too far. So we switched to impactful-fun.” He really enjoyed the out-of-combat abilities such as the “Bahmi hulk-smash.” The +10 stats are the likely ones to change. And Scott takes full responsibility for Hibernate, which Russ called “Suicidal Narcolepsy.”
The entire team enjoyed beta. They gave GMs the ability to throw rifts and invasions at groups of players. Scott described the experience as “the best RTS ever. Oh, players are over here? BAM! Send some invasions at them!” In the actual game, individuals GMs will almost never spawn an event; the OK for manual zone events will come from higher up on the pecking order. Instead, the events and even small rifts will be decided by algorithms. And the algorithms have changed; originally the amount, size and difficult of rifts was decided by the number of players in a zone, but this led to imbalances where a large rift would spawn on the other side of the map from where most of the players were located. Now events are decided by smaller areas, so the zone population isn't as key a factor.
During beta, the developers also had a chance to try out new enemies or types of events on the fly. A new event could be up and running “in as little as an hour,” and without taking the server down. Some of these events were kept; others were scrapped (such as an enemy that would levitate upon death).
There are already systems in place to combat botting and currency farming. Pre-orders have been canceled when it has been found that the player is using an outside program to automate the game. In the same vein, while Scott liked the concept of an auto-approach upon clicking a target, he refused to put it in the game because it would make botting so much easier. To discourage farming bots, materials are being kept common; there are no real “rare” drops from resource nodes, and while there will be less common items later needed for recipes, they will mostly be found in instances and thus be unavailable to farmbots.
The team is interested in adding more features in the future, including an “armory” system to check out player profiles online. However, right now such a system is “difficult and expensive” so, while they have definitely thought of it, it might be a long time before it is implemented. However, starting in open Beta on Feb. 15, players should be able to send tweets from in-game, linking achievements, chat logs or screenshots to their Twitter accounts.
Finally, I was not able to learn much about what specific content or areas will be added in the future. Port Scion will be available at release as a warfront; however, it will not immediately be a playable zone. When asked what he thought about Port Scion as a questing zone, Scott jokingly deflected the question, saying “Lovely place. Shame about all that death stuff flying around.” He later mentioned that, if Port Scion is implemented, it will be far in the future; “It's far down the storyline.”
When asked if players will ever be able to go to the elemental planes, Scott refused to answer directly, but said, “When you add new content, you need to have something cooler next time.” The planes are awesome, in his words, so “we don't want to jump the shark” when it comes to their release schedule.