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Massively Interview: Making strengths of weaknesses in RIFT


RIFT players are currently enjoying the calm before the storm. No, literally -- the Calm Before the Storm patch just launched Wednesday, bringing with it broad changes to factional cooperation and competition and laying the foundation for November's upcoming Storm Legion expansion.

Massively streamteam member Mike Foster sat down with Trion Producer Adam Gershowitz to bring us up to speed on the patch, the expansion, and what lies beyond for RIFT. Read on!

Massively: The Storm Legion expansion broadens the world of Telara by more than tripling its size. What are the design challenges of expanding a world to such a massive degree?

Adam Gershowitz: We have a rather unique challenge in front of us! There are the obvious design challenges of filling the world with great content, and making sure each area not only plays well but looks cool. Then there is the fact we have to plan for dynamic game content and our many world and zone events that will happen over the course of the live game. This was one of the biggest reasons for going with such a large play space; not only did we want to give players more to do and more to see, but we wanted to ensure we had room to grow. We started out with a very dense world in our classic game, and it only got more crowded as we added new content and new features and tried to find spots for all of that event content we added post release. So we're still working on just the right balance of traditional content mixed in with space to allow us to continue to add more interesting dynamic content and world events after launch.

One of the biggest issues with MMO expansions is that while new worlds come, the old world generally stays the same. How does Trion plan to bridge the gap between old content and new content?

Just like any other game, we really want players to embrace the expansion when it launches; we want you playing all of the new awesome content on the new continents, not revisiting older content you've played a million times. That doesn't mean we don't have plans for revisiting some of the classic world, especially for things like dimensions (our new player housing). There are tons of areas of the world we'd love to turn into collectible dimensions and plenty of props and things we'd like to make into dimension items. How we're going to deliver that is still to be determined, but I wouldn't be surprised if we drove people back into some classic content to obtain it. Not to mention we still have our world events such as Fae Yule and the Carnival of the Ascended, which occur annually and make use of large swaths of the world. For now, though, we're focusing on all the great stuff in Storm Legion, and we really want the players to do so as well.

Some players may argue that the rift system (where rifts open periodically in each zone), while unique at launch, has grown old or repetitive. How does Storm Legion shake things up, and what sorts of dynamic events can players expect?

As the game has evolved, we've moved away from traditional rifts as a destination and made them more of a target for various pieces of other dynamic content. Rifts have been really successful for us when we use things like zone events, world events, and Instant Adventures as a way to drive people toward rifts as part of a larger gameplay goal. We're really embracing this concept in the expansion and making sure rfts are more closely integrated with these systems from the get-go. In addition, we have new rift gameplay types that will show up in the expansion that are more unique then the original rift content. Hunt Rifts, for example, are a new type of rift that incorporates a lot of the hectic fun of onslaught and the strategy of a big boss fight all into a single package delivered via special lures a player can obtain in the expansion.

Much has been said about the addition of Dimensions, the player-controlled instances that allow players and guilds to own property and structures. How do these Dimensions differ from the player-owned property of games like Ultima Online or EverQuest II?

Dimensions take a lot of our favorite features from other games and spins it in our own unique way. First off, all of our dimensions are actual game locations! Players can obtain popular landmarks, interesting dungeon rooms, and scenic vistas as their own personal instances that they can customize as they see fit. We've also spent a lot of time on the interface and the editor to make sure that it is an extremely smooth experience; we want novices and experts alike to be able to pick up the tools and make something awesome really quickly.

On the item front, players will have access to a large library of items ranging from simple building blocks to complex scripted events they can run in their dimension. There will be all sorts of items that cater to different playstyles; players who want to build things from scratch will have a variety of building blocks to play with (a la Minecraft). People who just like to decorate will have not only traditional props (like tables and chairs) but access to things like trees, boulders, beehives, etc. The thing we're most pumped about is our scripted objects that allow players to dramatically change their dimensions! They can change the sky, affect the weather, place their own lighting, play music, or spawn interesting NPCs like their own bartender to serve drinks to their friends.

On top of all of that we're also working on more social hooks. Of course, we have Guild Dimensions, but we are also working on other tools such as a rating/like system that encourage players to visit, edit, and just enjoy dimensions. Dimensions really are a sandbox with unlimited potential, and we're really excited to see where that takes us post launch.

Making strengths of weaknesses in RIFT
RIFT's market strategy seems to be offering a low upfront price, then using subscription fees to make up the difference. How has this strategy worked out over the course of the game's lifespan, and are there any plans to move to more payment options in the future?

So far, so good! We're about to release our first expansion, and it's bigger than anything we've done before, so that's a good indication of how well it's been working for us. We're known for giving our subscribers a great service and embrace the concept of a dynamic world with things like regular world events and content updates. Obviously you cannot predict the future, but for now, we plan on continuing to offer the signature service and regular quality updates that we've built RIFT's reputation on.

We've seen some big MMO launches come and go since the release of RIFT -- some good, some bad. What is it about RIFT that has helped it succeed where other games have failed? And how could it be stronger?

I know we've said this before, but our biggest strengths are our developers and our players. We have a well-seasoned team from all around the industry that just knows how to make amazing game content. We have fantastic community of players who are really dedicated to the game and constantly pushing us to improve and take RIFT to the next level. This combination has allowed us to do some amazing things in our first two years, and I'm sure that will continue for years to come. In terms of becoming stronger, there are a thousand little things we can continue to do to improve the game. We're not shy about admitting our shortcomings, and I think you'll find that Storm Legion is focused on making some of our weaknesses our strengths. For example, we've never been known as the "Roleplayer's MMO," but we're focusing on features like Dimensions as a way to re-invigorate those areas of the game.

How can players prepare themselves for what lies ahead in the game?

First, I suggest you relax and enjoy our upcoming Autumn Harvest world event because once that is over, it's going to be a whirlwind ride through pre-release all the way to our first few patches after we ship Storm Legion! We have a ton of really exciting changes in store for players, and there are going to be a lot of changes, tweaks, and all-new content for players to experience, especially when it comes to callings and souls. We expect a lot of players to make full use of the weeks between pre-release and launch to familiarize themselves with all the new calling changes, as well as take a stab at some of our sneak-peek expansion content!

What sort of expansion schedule do you see RIFT taking in the future, in an ideal development scenario?

"When it's ready" really is the best answer. As always, our first priority is offering the same great service we always have, which means there are a lot of live updates chock-full of content to work on. Not to mention we think it might be time to give the developers a day off... it's been about two years now, I think they've earned it, don't you?

No arguments here. Thanks for talking with us!

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