Apr 18, 2012
Shacknews - Steve Watts
The MMORPG Rift has now updated to version 1.8 with the "Infernal Dawn" update. The update brings new trade skills, a world event, and refined usability features, among other tweaks. The centerpiece of the update is the titular Infernal Dawn raid, pitting you and 19 of your closest Rift friends against seven tough bosses.
Other features promised in the update include Fishing and Survival skills to catch and cook your own food, because if you teach a man to fake-fish and fake-cook he will get gameplay buffs. You can teleport to Ember Isle for an Instant Adventure, or go against the cults in the Infernal Dawn world event. Finally, if you've had trouble finding a guild, a new appropriately named Guild Finder feature should help you out.
Many of these features were hinted at when Trion Worlds celebrated the anniversary of the game. It's free-to-play to level 20, but for obvious reasons much of this tougher raid content will be way out of your range unless you pay up.
The Carnival of the Ascended celebration is coming to an end as the world of Telara prepares for the next major update, Infernal Dawn. The past year, full of consistent and large updates for Rift, has us wondering what's next. I had a chance to attend a Rift roundtable discussion with Trion CEO and Rift Executive Producer Scott Hartsman, Producer Adam Gershowitz, and Design Director Hal Hanlin to gain some insight on fishing, new raid content, and what else we can expect in the future.
Ask any experienced raider to name the biggest challenge Rift offers, and their answer is almost assuredly Hammerknell. The 20-man raid is the first of the Tier 2 encounters and is what Hartsman described as "face-punching content." While some enjoy the intensity of the challenge, the team noticed that it was starting to cause issues within guilds. Hartsman says that a number of the encounters in Hammerknell were guild-breakers and it's never their goal to make content that makes players angry with each other.
With their new raid, Infernal Dawn, they've taken the lessons learned from Hammerknell to make an experience with fun challenges that don't cause guild burnout. Success and failure will be more team-based to avoid situations where one person missing a cue would wipe the entire raid. They've also toned down the devastating effects of some single target debuffs to help alleviate the negative social consequences for individuals who make a mistake or have a sudden lag blip.
This doesn't mean they're taking out the difficulty. Hartsman explained that Infernal Dawn is designed with the top Rift guilds in mind, ensuring everyone will have a challenge that will bring guilds together rather than tearing them apart.
For times of peace
In a push to add more depth to the non-combat side of Rift, Gershowitz told us that fishing and survival skills were two of the most requested activities by players and developers alike. Fishing will use crafted poles and lures to snag up everything from basic supplies to mini-pets and was promised to be more advanced than similar systems in other games. Trion also plans on tying the skill into community events, such as fishing derbies, to make fishing more than just a fun sideline activity.
Survival sounds like an odd mix of cooking and the crafting of items that provide unique bonuses. Tents and bedrolls, for example, will give players a small amount of rested experience when they're not able or willing to go back to the city. The rested buff in the cities is substantially better, but it gives a nice perk to going afk on a mountainside while you replenish snacks between rift invasions.
Instant Adventures, Mentoring, and beyond patch 1.8
While not part of the upcoming patch, Hartsman, Gershowitz, and Hanlin talked openly about some features coming in the future. Instant Adventures (think instant rift events that group you with fellow players for loot and xp) are coming to lower levels. Since their release, they've been one of the best features for players looking for some action on a limited time schedule. Adding them to lower levels will make it that much easier (and more fun) to level new characters.
Towards the end of the discussion a question was asked about the letters "XP" on a whiteboard in Trion's anniversary video. Hartsman stated, "We covered up everything on the whiteboard that we didn't want people to see. Feel free to draw your own conclusions from there." It could mean an actual expansion for Rift, but the listing of their upcoming mentoring system (which allows lower levels to gain more XP and higher levels more ways to gain Planar Attunement XP) leads us to believe this image has more to do with that, and less to do with the existence of an expansion.
To learn more about patch 1.8 changes be sure to check out the public test server's patch notes and read Josh's posts on Infernal Dawn and the new skills, fishing and survival.
It's Maelforge the fire dragon's turn to menace the lands of Telara in the big upcoming Infernal Dawn update for Rift. Alsbeth and the undead were the first to make a move, but found themselves quickly pushed back by Rift's Guardian and Defiant armies. They didn't have any magical dragons made of gold, though, did they? That'll be just one of the new enemies players will have to face down in the new 20 man raid to be added in update 1.8.
The next big patch will also bring a big list of balance changes and a few new professions, including fishing. Trion have released a bunch of new images showing some high octane angling action and a huge purple pirate.
The update is due out soon. For an idea of what it'll contain, check out the patch notes fansite, Terriftic, have gathered from the test server a few weeks ago. We've also taken a look at Infernal Dawn's big red arch villain, Maelforge, and examined some of Update 1.8's more serene pastimes.
Shacknews - Jeff Mattas
A new, official developer Q&A for Trion Worlds' MMO, RIFT, has surfaced, in which the developers address a number of common questions raised by fans. The array of topics touched upon is fairly eclectic, and include questions about the possibility of playing cooperatively with friends in other factions, whether or not Arenas will make it into the game, and even whether or not players will be able to to warm their avatars' chilly, virtual shoulders with cloaks.
Folks interested in playing RIFT with friends from the faction opposite their own may soon be able to do so, though Trion Worlds is still sussing out just how that will work. "We are exploring many different ways to provide players with opportunities to play alongside players from the other faction," the developer notes. "The first step in this process is, of course, the mercenary system. This has had the fantastic benefit of virtually eliminating PvP queue times. We do have other, grander plans in store, but I canât go into details yet."
Expanding RIFT's "soul system"--which would include adding more souls, levels, or "callings"--is also something on the developer's radar, but envisions those changes as part of a more "large-scale," future update for "expanding the game further."
Arenas, on the other hand, go against RIFT's design ethos. "We have no plans for arenas at this time, RIFT is a massively multiplayer game and we really want to embrace the mechanics of getting large groups of players together and arenas are counter to that." However, Trion Worlds is doing some things to serve more competitive players.
"We are adding leaderboards to both PvE and PvP content complete with divisions and rankings so players looking to compete will have a great tool for measuring how badass they are," the developer states. "We've also got some exciting new PVP content cooking but itâs still too early for us to give any details."
"Cloaks of all types (Guild or otherwise) are something we really want to do," Trion Worlds writes in response to inquiring fans. They'd love to add them, you see, but not at the expense of gameplay performance. "RIFT is unique in the fact that we have many activities that encourage hundreds of players to play together and we don't want to negatively impact that experience," the developer states. "You all will be the first to know if/when we solve this particular problem since you know we could never keep something that exciting under wraps for long!" Pun intended, we think.
You can check out the complete list of topics and answers in RIFT's latest developer Q&A for more tidbits.
There are dragons that steal gold, dragons we train as young vikings, and dragons that eat entire worlds while backstabbing everyone close to them. Maelforge, Rift's Dragon Lord of the Fire Plane, is the embodiment of the latter. His thirst for destruction in battle can't be quenched, and he's waking up with a craving for all of Telara.
Rift is packed full of lore revolving around the Dragon Lords of the different planes. Maelforge is one of the most insane: threatening to burn his enemies, resurrect them, and burn them again just for giggles. He's like that crazy kid in school that even bullies don't want to fight for fear they might lose a vital organ. Trion Worlds has released an interesting piece of lore that dives into the twisted nature of Maelforge to mentally prepare players for the coming encounter. I'm not sure about you, but after reading this I think I'll just hang at the pub and work toward becoming the town drunk that all fire wielding maniacs ignore.
You can find more info on Maelforge's encounter and the rest of the raid in our preview.
Maelforge – Dragon Lord of the Fire Plane
Rough earth grips me, scraping my scales. Jagged teeth of stone transfix my wings, wings that once fanned flame across eternity. They have entombed me, dull gray rock for miles before my eyes. Their crude magic drains my heat, dragging it far above, to ooze from the mountain whose weight has crushed me through millennia.
These Telarans. They have forced sleep and stillness on me. How I hate them.
In long-gone eons I blazed from star to star, far ahead of my sisters and brothers, the void screaming, scorching in my wake. I would tear the cores from living worlds and gulp them down like beating hearts. And as the molten juice ran down my chin, warrior gods would come give me battle for the ashes of their dying creations. We would clash in the sky and the spaces between the planes. I slew them with great relish, and my triumphal roar blasted their brittle remains across the heavens.
Some fought so fiercely I bade them “RISE AND FIGHT AGAIN,” but Regulos, my eldest brother, held death absolute, and snatched them for his own, forever.
We came at last to this world. I had heard of Telara’s mighty god of war, and yearned to paint his death in glorious relief against a smoldering sky. But Thedeor heeded his cowardly fellow gods and hid from me as they forced us to fight worthless mortals. The frustration! One snort of flame and armies shriveled like ants, and they could not even challenge me anew before Regulos claimed them all.
Then Crucia whispered to us, “Why not turn on Regulos?” Ahh, now this would be battle! But when we fell upon his bloated form, sly Crucia hung back, as if to direct us like some upstart general. I scoured her with flame, and then turned upon the rest of them, and together we clashed through the planes.
Slaughter, agony, bright red ruin! Glorious! I lost myself amid the wreckage of kingdoms.
And then—somehow—faced with a handful of paltry mortals, I fell. They drained my heat and sunk me in the earth. Held so still that even anger seemed futile. Shameful, slothful slumber was mine through the ages. Now, their sky breaks. My children rush from the rifts and kill. As I feel their burning steps upon my mountain, my rage returns. With rage comes heat. The stone softens around me. Heat melts earth. I am coming, Telarans. To fight you, and your gods, and all my brothers and sisters. And when I alone am the Blood Storm, you will burn, and rise, and burn again. How I will revel.
We just talked about the brand new raid coming to Rift, and the hundreds of people trapped inside that you'd be murdering. But it's not all blood and guts in Rift's next patch: a major focus of the update is adding "non-stabby" content to the game, including competitive leaderboards and Fishing, Trapping, and Survival skills.
But the big addition, at least for competitive people like me, is the score of leaderboards being added, which will track almost everything in the game. The devs estimated there are 60-80 of them, and they tracks anything from items crafted or sold to the fastest dungeon runs to the most rare monsters killed. These leaderboards will be broken up into different divisions and ranks, much like StarCraft II's PvP ranking system. And don't worry—each of the leaderboard rankings are tracked separately, so just because you're a pro at fishing doesn't mean your PvP stats be compared against the best brawlers around.
"Best at PvP you say? Explain yourself!" Yep, Fishing is finally coming to Rift in patch 1.8, due out early April. The developers want the experience to land somewhere between WoW's simple fishing experience (click a bobber when it moves) and complex fishing sims (lean the pole left, now right, now hook!). The goal of this "auxiliary activity" is to create a casual minigame that's relaxing and rewards better playing with better rewards. In a clever change from WoW's fishing, you'll be able to purchase specific bait to catch specific types of fish/other things that you're looking for.
The other big gathering skill being added is Trapping. In a kind of bizarre twist, you'll set your traps in an area of the world that you want to collect animals from and leave them there, only checking on them from time to time to see if you've caught anything. One example given was setting traps in a forest to catch a fire squirrel. Thankfully, your traps will only be visible to you, so no one can steal your captured critters, and you won't see a forest overflowing with nothing but traps.
The final skill being added is Survival, which lets you cook those crispy critters your caught with Trapping and build tents and other utility items to "help people on adventures." I love secondary activities like this in my MMOs, so I'll definitely be trying it out, even though it's not entirely clear what exact benefits these tools will provide players on the go.
Patch 1.8 is due out in April, although the devs warned that they'll likely delay Trapping to a following update. They also teased some of their ideas for future additions to their "non-stabby" content, including more social gatherings like their recent wedding system. In particular they mentioned wanting to add birthday parties, guild taverns, and other places for celebrations and training.
As you read this, all of Telara's most powerful defenders are busying themselves stomping on balloons and throwing plastic rings at tiny seacaps scuttling inside a fence. The Carnival of the Ascensed is a fun, whimsical event celebrating the game's first anniversary--but it's about to come to a screeching halt, replaced with fire and brimstone as patch 1.8 introduces the next large-scale raid, the Infernal Dawn.
What I liked most about the Infernal Dawn, from everything I saw in my brief walkthrough last week, is how diverse the enemies are. The basic premise of the dungeon, located on Ember Isle, is that dragons are jerks, but not always brightest--as the dragons cause chaos, the Golden Maw (cultists obssessed with wealth and greed) plan to use their armies to take advantage of the situation to gain more for themselves. It's your job to dive down into one of their big lairs and stop them before they organize and mobilize.
The cultist's expansive cavern is broken up into three wings: Earth, Fire, and Gold. As you break into the Earth wing, you'll battle through tight caverns stuffed with glowing blue crystals, and have to down the massive baddies that have formed their scary-looking armor out of those crystals. Past that, we get to my favorite fight showcased in the demo, which stars Captain Dreadberry of the Dread Fortune warship.
The dev team said they designed the encounter to play like the fights in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies and pirate lore, where the Captain often has an almost-magical link to his or her ship. So you're not so much fighting the captain herself, as you are trying to avoid the chains reaching out to tangle you and the cannonballs being shot at you on the deck of the Dread Fortune. It sounds like a fun movement-heavy fight with a focus on reaction times and quick-thinking, over ability spamming.
Next, you descend into the fire wing through circular corridors leading down with broken stone walkways and lava pouring out of cracks in the walls. Grisly statues and grotesque beasties are par for the course down here. Up first, a 30-foot-tall magma satyr demon will hoof-stomp as many people in your raid as he can before you take him down.
A few more trash mobs later—the team made sure there were less trash mobs in this raid, as they want to keep the action coming quickly—you're facing the Wanton Council, a terrifying group of the leaders of the makeshift kobold, demon, and goblin alliance.
Take down those three baddies and you've unlocked the final wing of the game: housed behind two gigantic golden doors that swing open to reveal the largest treasure room you've ever seen. Gold is everywhere, and it's yours for the taking. Oh, well, I guess you should kill the gigantic dragon that's made entirely of gold before you start swiping her stuff. It's going to be tough, though. Being made of gold, you see, has some major benefits when you're in a room filled with nothing but gold.
Moneybags McScaley will be able to teleport around by using other pieces of gold to form her shape and possess her greedy spirit, and can manipulate the gold around the room to wrap up players or bolster herself with extra armor during the fight. The developers described the encounter by asking "What would happen if you fought the sandman?" and the answer appears to be: you would drown in gold and wipe repeatedly.
Now I bet you thought that was the final fight of the raid. Well, so did I. And then the devs showed me an even more epic dragon fight, as Maelforge burst onto our tiny platform of land, surrounded by lava in the base of an active volcano. The boss mechanics are pretty straightforward dragon stuff, but its' the environment you have to watch out for: the lava will rise throughout the entire fight. Maelforge is able to ride the burny stuff, but our fleshy bodies won't last two seconds in it, so players have to find a safe way to continually climb up the edges of the volcano interior while fighting the dragon and the additional enemies that come out to slow your progress.
About halfway through the fight, you deal a big hit to Maelforge and the first encounter will end, giving you a full set of rewards and allowing to to take a break before continuing into the second encounter with Maelforge, where you deal the killing blow and send his scaly hide packing for good.
In whole, Infernal Dawn will have 7 different bosses, all with multiple phases and complex encounters that often rely on environmental hazards to keep players engaged. Each fight is designed to take about 4-5 minutes for an organized group of 20 players, and the dev team plans to add a new 10-person raid in patch 1.9.
Outside of raid content, new Instant Adventures are being added to Ember Isle (the Kelari homeworld added in patch 1.6), along with a new Looking For Guild tool to help you find some friends to run this new dungeon with when 1.8 launches in early April.
Mar 12, 2012
Shacknews - Steve Watts
Rift has just crossed its one-year anniversary, and it's had its ups and downs. This is a time for looking back and making plans for the future, so Trion Worlds has outlined some of what we can expect from the MMO.
The studio's anniversary video begins with a hearty pat on their back for the hard work thus far, before moving into the juicy bits of what's to come. While the developers don't detail exact dates for any of the content, the video promises a whole new cityscape zone, and a new 20-man raid. The new raid, titled Infernal Dawn, will use tech built for the Ember Isle content. The studio also promises multiple boss fights, with the new tools in place to make them change dynamically. On a larger scale, the game is aiming to develop persistent world PVP with "long-term ramifications." The video even hints at another faction on the way.
Rift is one of the many games dabbling a toe in the free-to-play model. Early last month it began offering Rift Lite, which allows free play up to level 20. So if you want to try it out ahead of some of the changes to come, you can get a taste.
As a part of Rift's anniversary celebrations, Trion Worlds is re-activating the accounts of all past subscribers today. If you've ever subscribed to this fantasy MMO that's fueled by dynamic content, you can play all of your characters for free until March 14—no restrictions, no questions asked.
Download the game client, and be sure to check out the Carnival of the Ascended—the once-a-year in-game event stuffed with silly minigames and exclusive rewards. For those of you that have never played Rift, you can still take advantage of their Rift Lite program that allows you to play forever up to level 20.
Oh, and if you feel like making a big commitment, find someone special and get married.
Mar 6, 2012
As extra-planar invasion-themed MMO Rift passes the one year mark, I caught up with Executive Producer Scott Hartsman to dive deep on one of Rift's more unique aspects: its dynamic world.
In our chat, Hartsman explains how Rift was initially conceived as a completely dynamic, unpredictable MMO, and why Trion had to step back from that ambition in the face of underwhelming playtests. What's happening underneath the hood when a rift opens, spilling forth a planar invasion force? How has Trion turned Rift into an "entertainment on demand" experience with its instant action feature, without detracting from the unpredictability and sense of discovery that Rift's dynamic content makes possible?
Even if you're not a Rift player, Hartsman gives provides a great perspective on the process behind building a different kind of MMO, and how that leads to unforeseen consequences like a cataclysmic battle in the least exciting place in Telara.
PC Gamer: How did your conception of Rift evolve over the course of development?
Scott Hartsman, Rift Executive Producer: We wanted things in the world that would naturally bring people together. Because we know that no matter how great the content we created, players are the stickiest thing in a game. So they started out as ways to get people engaged with challenging content and kind of knock them out of their comfort zone of playing traditional theme-park content.
One of the big turning points for us was, before launch, we did this big video called "Invasions" and it showed just this massive zone going crazy with fire invaders taking over an entire zone of the game. And we all looked at the video and went, "Okay, we need to make that happen in the game. If we can make that happen in the game, we will have something that nobody else has.
And the technology base that we're working with was built around the idea of dynamic content and events. This might be a little too in the weeds, but every creature that is walking around Rift, whether they're dynamic or static, every static NPC is actually an event that just happens to be "on" all the time. So every piece of content in our game, the engine views as an event. It's just a matter of: what is it doing when it's alive? And how does it show up? And how does it scale?
PCG: Every creature is an event? Could you decode that a little?
Hartsman: Okay, so the traditional way of doing fantasy MMO content is you have a static spawner that spawns an NPC, and that NPC is also a static thing. Making them do anything interesting involves scripting, or special programming, or is some kind of challenge. Which is why you tend to not see this type of content in older generation games. It's just a big pain in the ass to make.
With our system, it was build from the ground-up with the concept of: what if everything could change all the time? What if everything was transitory? And actually, some of the first internal iterations of the content in this engine was 100 percent dynamic, 100 percent of the time. While it was fun in short spurts, it kind of didn't really have that feel of, "I am in this dependable MMO world, where I have these touch points of things I'm familiar with and things I've grown attached to." For us, it was more about realizing we needed to add in a static layer to actually give the game some context.
PCG: See, an ever-changing world sounds amazing to me. What was the frustration with that?
Hartsman: A lot of it came down to a lack of clarity. People need to feel like they have a place in the world in order to feel like it's a world they want to keep coming back to. And when everything is changing all the time, you don't have any anchor points. It's really difficult to communicate story and so on. And so it was more about making sure there was always this solid fictional grounding for what was going on the world, which is when the concept of Guardians and Defiants as the two major factions developed, and then the concept of the planar invaders followed in after that.
PCG: So how did you mix those elements together to solve those problems?
Hartsman: We started to think of them as two different layers, and that was really the key. There is a layer of what is perceived as static content in the world. The city of Meridia, the city of Sanctum, the exclamation mark farms for content and so on. And once people had that there, they felt that, "Okay, this is now a world that begins to make sense to me. I can begin to navigate this world."
And then when we began to create the dynamic layer on top of that. It was splitting it up into two different layers and having them interact interestingly with each other. You know, invaders will go after and set up footholds in static content layer elements. The dynamic AI has its own goals, it knows what it wants to do, it knows where it wants to go build up bases, and that layer doesn't really care whether it's fighting players or other NPCs in the world. Because players are entities that have faction relationships just like NPCs are, so that really, the dynamic layer is at war with everything.
PCG: So how wild do you let that get? Let's say the invaders come and the players, for whatever reason, are just like, "Screw it," How crazy does it get if you let that go unchecked?
Hartsman: If you were to take a server that was completely empty, for example, subtract away all the players and just let the dynamic layer do its own thing? It would take over most of the adventuring places in the world. And that was actually one of the big fun experiences we had when we first launched the game.
When we did the wipe just before the start, the servers had been up and running for a good 48 hours before we let players in there. And so the first thing the players had to do in Rift was retake Tellara zone by zone, because everything was taken over by the dynamic layer.
There's a scene in a zone called Silverwood that's called Marsh House and Marsh House is this otherwise very - there's really nothing special about it! It's just this corner where you end up in Silverwood at Level 8, and there was this incredible epic battle for Marsh House that literally raged on for like three or four hours before the players finally got it taken back, because the AI kept throwing enemies at them. So there were a couple hundred players and a couple hundred NPCs on the one server that I was sitting on, and yeah, the epic battle for Marsh House was like the last place in the universe we expected anything interesting to ever occur at all. Seriously! It's a hut at a fork in a road! It's completely not where we were expecting the big battle for Silverwood to take place. And once the players got that, they got their forward respawn point, they established a beachhead, and then they started to spread throughout the zone.
It was this epic memorable thing. And that lesson really stuck with us, and we've kind of taken that to heart as we go forward and develop new layers and new types of dynamic content engagement, whether it's the Onslaughts, where they're all about this building and defensive gameplay for level 50s. And we're doing even crazier stuff in the future.
PCG: How do you keep these elements from becoming old-hat for experienced players?
Hartsman: For us, our big challenge is that people wanted more of those types of experience on their own schedules. The great thing is that they're unpredictable, but the downside is that if you're logging on, you've only got a half hour, if they're unpredictiable you might not get to play the fun. And so that's really what led us to the Onslaught-style development, where the system began to understand, or we taught it, that as players join up these instant advantures and get grouped together, the system will queue up different adventures for them that are appropriate for the number of players in their group. So when we first released the instant adventures, one of the first ones I got in was a give man raid. You know, it was kind of sedate. Fun, but it was more like a popcorn adventure.
Then as more people started going in, we suddenly had to defend a town in Stillmore, was the adventure we were given, and the invaders kept flooding in from all sides, and it really did have that same kind of vibe that we liked from when we first launched the game. So like I said, our big challenge has been how did you created that dynamic excitement while still making it available to someone who might only have 15 minutes to play? That's really where our focus has been these days.
People love grouping in general. What people don't like, though, is they don't want to be the person to initiate and assemble a group, and they also don't want to Be That Guy and feel guilty about dropping out if they have to go. So instant adventure was our way of giving people the fun of grouping while removing those two barriers.
PCG: So how does it work?
Hartsman: When you click on Instant Adventure, you can be given an adventure as a solo person until more people show up, and you just progress that way. And you never have to worry about dropping out because the adventures people are given are going to be suited for the number of people that happen to be there.
It was the fun of grouping without the guilt of grouping and without the pain in the ass of grouping.
PCG: It must be tough to balance for these unpredictable groupings.
Hartsman: One of the techniques we use is we don't do anything that is fully machine-generated. Everything is created by designers and is balanced by designers and the scaling is authored by designers.
While it is machine assisted, it is not 100 percent procedurally generated, because doing anything fully procedurally generated would make things even more difficult. I mean, the assignment these designers and engineers have is pretty insane. When we tell them, "You've got this dynamic content. By the way, it needs to be fun if there's five people there or seven hundred people there," because both are very regular cases with our content.
PCG: Anything on the whiteboard that you can tell us about?
Hartsman: One of the prototypes that has been being worked on for the last few months, we haven't really talked about it much at all, is - "What does the next generation of dynamic world-based PvP look like?" We've got the crossyard PvP prototype that we've been working on. And those are really the two big things that we hope to have more info on in the coming months.
PCG: So what are you looking at doing in your second year?
Hartsman:The big stuff for us is what's next. We know this system, we love this system, our players love this system. What we're really focused on is how can we jump ahead even farther. And that's really what this year is about for us.