Enter at Your Own Rift: Hal Hanlin and Scott Hartsman on Update 1.5

Rift Chronicles
Chronicles, Planar Attunement, Veteran Rewards, a World Event, and a hint about a brand-new area coming soon are just the tip of the iceberg in RIFT's 1.5 update. Ashes of History is due to launch next week, and Design Producer Hal Hanlin and Executive Producer Scott Hartsman offered up lots of details during a conference call yesterday.

Whether you're an experienced veteran or a brand-new player, there's something for everyone in update 1.5. Read on for the full rundown of what's on the way, then take a look at our gallery for the newest Ashes of History screenshots.%Gallery-101448% Chronicles

Chronicles are meant to let everyone be part of the story, said Hal Hanlin. The system enables more casual players to see places that they normally wouldn't see if they're not raiders. (He added that Trion also has designs in place to make use of other areas that you wouldn't normally see as a player). But Chronicles aren't just for the casual player, Hartsman emphasized. Level 50 players will be able to earn Planar Attunement points from adventure experience. They'll also have lootable chests with consumables for raiding and special artifacts to collect.

The first Chronicle is a celebration of your full ascension at level 50, and it's something that solo players in quest gear can do right away. There are two more Chronicles, Hammerknell and Greenscale, which are more challenging and are best suited for duos or for well-equipped soloers. The loot that comes from these instances is on par with expert-quality loot. Hartsman added that the Chronicles shouldn't disrupt the game's power flow but rather provide an alternative path of gameplay with bonuses for all.

Greenscale Blight Chronicle
Planar Attunement

Planar Attunement allows level-capped players to make use of the experience they are earning from all aspects of gameplay. There is no cap on PA points, so players are free to fill in all of the trees available to them. Each planar tree (there are six total) has three tiers, and the first tier will go live with update 1.5.

This is a separate system from the soul system, but it's also open-ended. While players won't be able to swap planar attunement builds in the same way they can switch souls, Hartsman pointed out that players can spend their points on improvements to primary roles but will still be able to add points that will match their other roles down the road.

Veteran rewards

Veteran rewards are in-game items given to players as they earn game time. The longer their subscriptions, the better the rewards. These rewards are given retroactively, meaning those who subscribed on launch day will instantly receive their rewards for all the time they've played so far. In addition, players will earn any rewards that come with additional game time that they purchased, meaning a player who subscribes for a year will get his or her veteran rewards upfront. In addition, Hanlin added that you can track your veteran reward time in the Achievement window.

Addons

Addons are community-driven projects with the aim of giving players tools that they will enjoy and that add value to the game. The addon system is an open system, and there is no convoluted approval process, although Trion does have safeguards to prevent malicious contributions. As for what will be available, Hartsman mentioned buff management as one that players have requested. The idea is that they're community-driven, and the team is there to help with making sure players have addons that are helpful and provide value to gameplay.

World event

The world event hints at a new part of the world that's coming. It's a three-part event, and it revolves around the sudden emergence of travel stones. These stones had previously allowed for instant travel throughout Telara but were swallowed up into the sea by Akylios. They're back, but in disrepair, and it's up to players to restore them and travel to a new kingdom (which Trion hinted will come in update 1.6).

Hanlin added that the world event won't start right away, in order to give players a chance to catch their breath with all of the new game changes.

Hammerknell Library PvP
Warfronts

The highlight for PvP is the new warfront, Library of the Runemasters. Set in Hammerknell, the warfront allows players to fight for control of abandoned dwarven rune vessels. The longer your teammate holds the relic, the more points you earn, but that player will absorb greater amounts of damage as well.

Master dungeon

There's a new master dungeon in Darkening Deeps, and it's aimed at pre-built, well-geared groups of Ascended. As Hartsman revealed, initial data showed that players were wiping in expert dungeons as much as 40 times in a play session. Over time, instance use went up 10-12 times as much, but the team understands that there's a part of the population that has a desire for ultra hard-mode content. Master dungeons are the answer, and they're intentionally not included in the dungeon finder because, as Hartsman put it, "these are basically 5-man raids, and you're expected to bring your own group." There is no prerequisite to enter and run the dungeon, and players can run them two times a week. As an aside, he said Trion is considering a similar "master" mode for raid content, but right now, based on the data, the company feels that the current raid content is challenging enough. (He speculated that players probably would not yet want to see a hard-mode Hammerknell because from what the devs are seeing, "It's pretty damn hard right now.")

Zone events

The team is continuing to improve upon rifts and zone events in particular. As Hartsman explained, players always run into the issue of "I'm going to do a quest and the quest camp has been taken over, and how do I as a solo player triumph?" Players have always had Ascended powers, but Hartsman said his team is adding new content to support those powers so that new players get introduced to them earlier in the game. He added that the devs are creating mechanics for what happens after a zone is taken over, so that it's seen as an opportunity rather than an inconvenience. Lastly, he added that Trion is working on streamlining event currencies, not only for world events but also for zone events, to make them more manageable.

Rogues

Hartsman and Hanlin were specifically asked about Rogues in 1.5, so Hartsman explained some of the changes that are coming. He said that so far, Rogues have tended to be shoe-horned into two or three builds, so the intention of 1.5 was to give them more options in soul choices. The team focused on Rogue PvP survivability and PvE effectiveness. He added that Rogues haven't been on par with other callings when it comes to PvP, and the upcoming changes should help address that issue. In addition, Trion wants to reduce the reliance on long cooldowns to help with combat pacing and energy mechanics. He also said that the Rogue tank role will get a closer look as part of a larger tank revamp across all callings in the near future.

Schedule

When asked about the rapid pace of updates that have been released, Hartsman explained that his team is focused on finding the optimal rate for game updates down the road. While the devs pride themselves on their rapid response to gameplay systems and new content, they also want to make sure they're doing it at a pace that makes sense. He pointed out that world events were something that some players wanted slowed down a bit, and Trion is working to home in on the best rate for updates down the road.

After 1.5

As for the next update after 1.5, Hanlin said that Trion has always been about removing barriers to get people doing what they want to do in game, and while he didn't give specifics, he said that the team will be adding in an entire new avenue of gameplay in the future. Hartsman added that players will get some hints of what's to come with the Ashes of History world event.

Whether she's keeping the vigil or defying the gods, Karen Bryan saves Telara on a weekly basis. Covering all aspects of life in RIFT, from solo play to guild raids, the column is dedicated to backhanding multidimensional tears so hard that they go crying to their mommas. Email Karen for questions, comments, and adulation.
This article was originally published on Massively.