"And then, the world exploded."
That's how former RIFT executive producer Scott Hartsman described the Prince Hylas event from Beta 2, and for me, it will always be one of my favorite MMO memories. Telara was instantly transformed into a hellish quagmire, with invaders stacked on top of each other at every foothold in Silverwood. It's hard to believe that two years have already gone by, but it's even more amazing how the game has evolved since that unforgettable beta event.
The story unfolds
It's easy to overlook, but the world of Telara has undergone lots of changes over the past two years. World events gave every player the chance to participate in the story of Telara and inch closer toward the planes. With the River of Souls event, players fought off the armies of death that Alsbeth sought to unleash. Next came threats from increased invaders of earth and fire in the Spoils of War event. Waves of Madness arrived that summer, and players helped the Runeguard dwarves against the Abyssal legions. By the fall, players were searching for travel stones to head to Ember Isle and tangle with Laethys and Maelforge. That struggle continued in the War of the Wanton Maw world event, only this time, the enemies were at the gates, and Telara itself was under threat. And most recently, the Tempest Rising event introduced the new lands of Dusken and Brevane and gave players a taste of Crucia's wrath.
Rift invasions are at the core of the game, and they've changed quite a bit over time. In addition to the normal invasions, Trion added a variety of different types, from crafting rifts, to PvP rifts, to raid rifts, and even hunt rifts that launched with the Storm Legion expansion. Zone events added creative wrinkles like escorting caravans and shooting planar cannon, so it became more than just running around killing stuff. Onslaughts were a fun twist on rift invasions; they let players use planar abilities to protect wardstones against waves of invaders. Even newly added features like instant adventures and holiday events still included rift invasions as a central part of gameplay. Rifts look a lot different now, but they've aged well and it's nice to see that they're still at the heart of the game.
The highlight of the past year was the launch of RIFT's first expansion, Storm Legion. The update brought 10 new levels, two enormous continents, four new souls, seven new dungeons, three raids, a new chronicle, dimensions, grandmaster crafting, and a new slot for cloaks. Hunt rifts were a fun twist on rift invasions, and carnage quests allowed players to slaughter enemies without needing to run back to an NPC for the reward. Meanwhile, the four new souls (Tempest, Defiler, Tactician, and Harbinger) gave players even more possibilities when picking specs and testing roles.
Even if you aren't a fan of the game, you have to admire the pace of the game updates over the past two years. The team kept to a steady schedule and added an impressive number of new changes with each update. In addition to the steady stream of new content, there have been several new features that really improved the quality of life in game. Chronicles gave players a chance to see endgame content and storyline without needing to raid. The mentoring system lets players drop down in level to play with lower-level friends or revisit old content. Players can hop into instant adventures and teleport right to the action and complete quick missions with others. For level-capped players, a planar attunement system gave a new, alternate path to advancement.
Meanwhile, for PvP fans, Conquest introduced three-faction PvP in a large-scale instance. New warfronts were added, and the mercenary system allowed Guardians and Defiants to temporarily switch sides in order to fill out groups and keep numbers even. And the boundaries between the two sides softened even more with the introduction of cross-faction gameplay.
There are verbs other than "stab"
Hartsman used the phrase above to stress the fact that RIFT is about more than just combat. In fact, the team has added lots of new features over the past two years that show a commitment to that philosophy. Weddings, fishing, and survival were a nice change of pace. Meanwhile, players were happy with the increased ability to customize their look thanks to wardrobe slots, barber shops, and the addition of cloaks with Storm Legion. But the biggest change was the introduction of dimensions, and players didn't waste any time creating some impressive homes.
While the team cranked out update after update, it also worked on improving the guts of the game itself. Trion beefed up its defenses with authenticators and the coin lock system. It also made the data files public, allowing fans to create all sorts of apps and handy tools. The team launched its own mobile app, which let players communicate with guildmates and play minigames for shinies and resources. The devs also launched a streaming client that helped reduce the downtime when installing the game or updating patches. Meanwhile, leaderboards and a new guild recruitment window became two handy tools for players to track their skills and find a new home.
RIFT's had a couple of somber moments over the past few months: an announcement of layoffs followed by the departure of Scott Hartsman himself. But RIFT itself isn't showing any signs of slowing down. Update 2.2 brings new Storm Legion zone events, a third planar attunement tier, and a second tier for PvP. Down the road, we'll also see hard mode versions of Endless Eclipse and Frozen Tempest, plus we'll finally have a chance to get through the barrier that seals off the Dendrome.
Happy birthday, RIFT, and hats off to the team! As Atrophinius would say, "Time for some mead!"