A couple of weeks ago in an interview with some of Trion’s staff members, we found out about some of the design philosophies the company has discovered, developed, and maintained over the past year that RIFT has been our MMO home. Trion has learned a lot about what their fanbase wants when it comes to raid design, dynamic content, endgame activities, and everything else in between.
It seems that their philosophies and lessons learned as far as raid design have worked out well– Infernal Dawn seems to, so far, be a huge success. Patch 1.8 in general seems to have been a success. It had a little something for everyone. But as most MMO gamers know, a successful patch begs one question in particular: What’s coming up next?
It’s not that we’re a greedy bunch. Well, maybe some gamers are, but for the most part, we simply embrace and know quite well that the future of our favorite MMOs remains an issue of vital importance. An MMO is nothing without a future. Without a promising future, it stagnates, becoming a desolate world full of desolate locations. None of us want that for RIFT, and neither do its developers.
The first step in ensuring a game remains active, alive, and enjoyable for everyone of all levels is to ensure there are players of all levels. RIFT, as an endgame-focused MMO, has done rather well in building up its endgame population. But there’s more to the game than endgame. Leveling players are just as important to the success of RIFT as endgame players, and the reason for this is simple– players will always leave, journey onward to different-colored pastures. To ensure a healthy population, other players must replace them. In order to reach endgame, the new players must level.
If Telara’s leveling maps are desolate and devoid of life, new players will find it particularly hard to reach endgame. They’ll get bored of being the only player on their current map, and grow tired of being unable to find groups. It’s only common sense.
This is one of the large reasons behind Trion’s addition of RIFT Lite, and also one of the reasons why 1.8 was a huge success– fishing. Fishing brings life to all of Telara, and gives reasons for players of all levels to return to maps that may be rarely used.
Trion is continuing this same train of thought for future updates, as revealed in this recent interview. Developers talked briefly about a mentoring system that’s currently in development. Such a system would allow players to assist friends while leveling by adjusting their own level to match the lower-level character.
Under a mentoring system, once a level adjustment is made, it is only temporary, and adjusts current base stats, stats on gear, and ability power to the chosen level. The adjustment is generally made using a simple menu, command, or toggle. It would allow friends to group up for instances, quests, zone events, and PvP warzones without experiencing a major and sometimes detrimental level gap.
The system would presumably have additional perks for both players, as well. The lower-level player will probably gain additional experience, and the player originally at level cap would receive PA (Planar Attunement) experience. This is a unique option when it comes to gaining PA levels, and one that hopefully many players will take advantage of to help friends and guildmates level.
EverQuest II has a similar system in place, and is very successful. The game features Alternative Advancement XP, which is quite similar to RIFT’s own Planar Attunement system. The two systems work extremely well together when paired, and offer players more options for endgame.
Other MMORPGs also make use of a similar mentoring system. Final Fantasy XI has a very successful system which was almost necessary in order to attract new players to a game that is focused around players grouping up even while leveling. RIFT’s system, similarly, will be great during large zone events across all maps of Telara. Level 50 players who use the mentoring system can help out in lower-level areas, gain the rewards, yet still experience an event that isn’t ridiculously simplified due to their high level.
The mentoring system also offers other perks besides the ability to assist players that are leveling. A level 50 player could, for example, use it to complete lower-level daily quests for notoriety farming, finish up quest chains they’d missed while leveling, and solo farm rifts and invasions for achievements and currency. The best part? They’d still be earning PA experience.
Within the past few months, Trion has recognized the success and popularity of the Instant Adventure (IA) system, and has decided to plan future, global additions of the system for lower-level areas. This is great news for players already looking forward to the mentoring system. Tired of the same few IAs? Mentor yourself to a lower level, then try some others. Players of all levels will be able to group up for IAs, which should ensure all areas remain populated, and everyone will get to enjoy the battles, lore, and scenery from areas that are currently unused by level 50 players.
The other great part about lower-level IAs is, of course, the fact that leveling players will have another alternative way of leveling. Questing isn’t always exciting, and it’s never a bad idea to offer players different ways of leveling up alts, and different ways to approach the game altogether. It also ensures that leveling players are offered a taste of the different flavors endgame has to offer. IAs are just one flavor of a multifaceted endgame. Leveling should be no different.
It’s fantastic to see players of all levels enjoying Telara and the additions that 1.8 brought. It’s even more fantastic to hear about the mentoring system and the addition of global IAs. RIFT is shaping up to be a game that’s increasingly welcoming new players as well as producing content for endgame players. Trion’s key to success lays in how well they can pull off this balance. So far, they’re doing fairly well.