RIFT is preparing to launch their eighth major content update, bringing to us a new raid, new trade-skills and the ever-expanding role of Instant Adventures. This week, we sat in on a conference call with Hal Hanlin, Scott Hartsman and Adam Gershowitz, and discussed everything that is coming with this latest patch. We even got a taste of what is coming on down the road.
There were plenty of questions regarding Fishing and Survival. We learned that these new skills don’t just bring reasons to roleplay and play around, they bring actual benefits to your character, from a power and convenience perspective. For example, the tents and bedrolls for survival are not just for roleplaying purposes; they do have effects. According to Adam Gershowitz, from a gameplay perspective, they are there to give you a little bit of rest experience as well! The developers main focus is to allow players to pitch a tent, so that they can attend to things happening in real life, like kids or making dinner, and not force the player to head back to town to log off safely.
Now let’s take a look at what Survival and Fishing bring to you in terms of real, in-game value. According to Adam, “All of the Survival created items are better than in-game drops.” In most cases, food will better than the vendor items. Also, Artifacts can be found with Fishing!
We also find that fishing poles are things that can be improved. Hal Hanlin took some time to tell us that, right now, higher level poles only allow you to equip and use more powerful lures. However, they are working on allowing poles that offer longer ranges “so that you can cast farther and farther and potential hit … special nodes.” For those that love player companions, Hal revealed that there will be a slew of new, brightly colored frogs available for all players via fishing.
Last thing on fishing discussed was the plans for offering “Fishing Derbys”. Anyone who is familiar with World of Warcraft knows that they have a fishing event that takes place in Stranglethorn Vale. It appears that RIFT will be no different. There are already some events planned, and Hal did not want to spoil some of the things they have planned; however as Fishing has grown in popularity on the PTS, the developers have planned some pretty amazing things that include fishing in Instant Adventures and Zone Events.
Other improvements coming to RIFT with patch 1.8, is the inclusion of Instant Adventures in Ember Isles. The developers claim that they want to go beyond the goal of kill X, Y and Z. Scott Hartsman gave an amusing example of a player becoming a rock, or a ball, and how you need to make it across a bridge in a non-combat fashion. Hal Hanlin also commented on how the developers are constantly coming up with many ideas on different kinds of Instant Adventures, and that their engine and tools allow them to build them fast and test them out. So, expect to see some interesting IA’s in the near future, and hopefully you are constantly amazed.
Instant Adventures also promise to bring the same rewards you are used to, while including some new ones as well. Adam Gershowitz mentioned that players who are new to RIFT and might have missed some past World Events, such as the opening of Ember Isles, might get a chance to earn those unique items through Instant Adventures.
All in all, Instant Adventures is something Trion is very excited about and, in our opinion, has hit a home run on. As Hartsman has mentioned, the developers have “leveled up” and have begun to come up with new and unique ways to use this system. Not surprisingly, down the road, post 1.8, we will see a Mentoring system. Everquest II players should be familiar with the concept of mentoring; where players mentor “down” in level, to play with friends . On the surface, this is a way for a max level character to spend time with lower-level friends, and create a stronger social environment in game. Not only that, but mentoring also offers an incentive for max level players, as it will give them another avenue to gain Planar Attunement experience.
The mentoring system ties into the motivation of “Instant Adventurers Everywhere”. The RIFT team plans on creating these IA’s all over the game so that leveling players and end game players alike, will be able to experience the game in a whole different way. Not only does this open up the whole entire map to veteran players, allowing them to explore and visit places they haven’t seen in a very long time, it gives them a reward for doing so as well.
Lastly, the crowning jewel of 1.8 is Infernal Dawn, a brand new tier of 20 man raiding. We asked what the developers what they learned from Hammerknell and how they used that knowledge to create a better experience in Infernal Dawn. Hammerknell was a bumpy road from the get-go. The raid went through many iterations before coming to it’s current state. In the beginning Hammerknell was incredibly difficult; encounters averaged 8 to 15 minutes long and often if a single player made a mistake, missed a cue or even lagged in the slightest, they could wipe the whole raid. Scott Hartsman had several comments, just on this subject alone.
“One of the biggest schematic thing from all of this, is what is the right amount of challenge that is going to be hard enough but still fun? We kind of phrase it a little more bluntly in the office when referring to it. We don’t want to be punching people in the face with the difficulty of the content. And one of the other core things that we are really trying to avoid is creating situations where the success or failure of an entire raid can be messed up by one person…”
He also went on to discuss how raid difficulty is a fine line to walk, where it not only creates a social dynamic between the players, the game and the devs, it creates a dynamic between the players within a guild.
“In a normal, healthy raid difficulty environment, we have players angry with us, we have players angry with content, we have them really excited about a challenge. We don’t ever want to create a situation where our content makes players angry with each other. This is the BIG BIG BIG take away.”
Adam Gershowitz added that they wanted encounters to be more team-based, so people succeeded as a team moreso than individually. They want to remove mechanics where, for instance, if a player gains a single debuff, they have to run away from the raid, or it wipes. While there may be similar mechanics in Infernal Dawn, they are much more forgiving. Adam goes on to explain that Hammerknell design came from a young game, only 4-5 months after release. Now that the game has had more time to mature, they have learned many lessons over the last year on how to create a properly balanced game. Knowledge gained not only from a veteran development staff, but from experienced players that have played the game for over a year.
Scott Hartsman explained, “We saw that there were a number of Hammerknell encounters that were guild breakers. Our goal is to make sure we don’t do any more guild breaker content, ever again.”
Another revelation we learned, is that Trion will be staging out encounters. Over the next few weeks, we will learn how Trion will prevent players from bashing their heads against content that they aren’t geared for. The motivation behind this is that the developers learned that players will continually attempt encounters they aren’t ready for, and the act of failing constantly leads to “guild breaking”. So, it appears that Trion will be implementing some sort of gating mechanic, similar to how Blizzard has done in their own raids where certain levels and encounters open up over time, limiting the content in the beginning, and opening up further as progression is gained.
Overall, update 1.8 lends itself to be a gigantic step forward in the game’s evolution. We will see a new raid zone, tweaks to the Instant Adventure system, and give players more content to do during their daily play sessions. We get a glimpse into the future, with the mentoring system and Instant Adventures everywhere. If you’ve stopped playing at any point in the last year, now may be the perfect time to come back and give RIFT another try. If you’re a veteran player that hasn’t stopped playing, then this update gives you plenty of new content to devour, and new content is Trion’s specialty.[Gallery not found]