Rift: Planes of Telara Round Table Interview


posted 2/4/2011 by Jeremy Duff
other articles by Jeremy Duff
One Page Platforms: PC
Earlier this week, I got to sit in on a conference call with Scott Hartsmann of Trion Worlds to talk about their upcoming MMORPG entitled Rift. The game, which will launch on March 1, 2011, is shaping up to be a fresh take on the genre and is drawing the attention of avid MMO fans worldwide. Read on to find out all of the information revealed / covered during our session including a brief introduction by Scott Hartsmann and then a lengthy Q&A session.

Note that some of the questions may seem out of order, but that is the format of the roundtable, they are kept in this order to keep any references made to previous questions in tact.  The questions below are a mix of our and questions from other outlets.

Introduction from / of Scott Hartsmann and the Rift project
Hi, I’m Scott Hartsmann, the executive producer of Rift. Aside from converting oxygen to carbon-dioxide and taking up space at a desk, I am in charge of a studio full of what is, easily, the most talented developers I have ever worked with across all disciplines of the game. We have got a pretty amazing team full of experience; about half of the team has hardcore MMO experience and the other half of the team has hardcore, single-player, high quality, AAA console experience. So, we have these two different sets of specialties trying to learn from one another and draw the best from each other’s pasts. We get to bring the best of both worlds to play in our MMO where we’re able to do things like have amazing-quality graphics that are running, at least on our current build, 75 frames per second on high end hardware, which is generally not something that you see in the MMO-space. Usually you get, “ah, its an MMO, we can have crappy performance, its okay”. We are not that. We are trying to make sure that everything we do actually does shine.

We are making an MMO that we consider really fun. We have been in testing for about 8 months now with real users playing a real MMO and we are going through our beta stages. Rift is, quite obviously, a fantasy game which I would imagine most of you know by now. We’re set in a world amidst a war between the Guardians and the Defiant with a bit of a bit of a faith versus technology theme. We have a world that is at the nexus of all of the known planes in its universe. The story of our game is the story of what happens when all of those planes collide with an otherwise unsuspecting planet.

How does the game run in terms of compatability?
The engine scales all the way down to really crappy, old hardware. We have actually got two renderers built into the game; we have a low quality renderer for somebody who is coming over from other games who may have perhaps nine year old hardware. The game will run just fine and they’re able to play with their friends. If you really want to see it shine, having something (system) made in the last four or five years is definitely recommended. For us, its mostly about making sure that we are making a game where we can get as many people to come on in and play and not have to worry about barriers when they are trying to have their friends play with them.

Can you go into detail on the definition of what these “Rifts” are in the context of the game and how they work in terms of the consistency of the game-world?
Fictionally speaking, a rift is what happens when two planes of the world intersect. Telara is the defender of the nexus and all of the planes in its universe, a rift occurs when one of these planes intersects with Telara and the boundary between these planes and Telara becomes very “thin”. Eventually, that boundary can tear and you end up with these “rifts” poking through and you have all of the denizens of these planes actively trying to take over Telara. The longer that rifts go untouched, invasions will end up spawning and they will end up taking over parts of the world. At its core, that is the fiction for the game.

In terms of gameplay mechanics, we have got all different kinds of rifts themselves. They are designed to be sort of a massive-social experience where that, combined with our public grouping system, lets people just walk up and immediately be part of an event and be rewarded for it. We also have simple rift events at the low end which is what people have seen the most of in the betas; they get progressively more complicated and progressively more interesting all the way up high end, expert mode rifts where players are actually going out and finding ways to actually open up rifts and luring out specific invasions. There are also raid-rifts where you and 10-20 other people all do raids via these rifts. These are not “instances”. They are in shared space. We do have raid-instances, but the general dynamic content system is all in a shared world.

Mechanically speaking, think of a rift as a building block. One of the key features of the game is these gigantic, zone-wide events that we have which people have been playing in the betas. You can be in our game and just wandering around a zone, minding your own business, when all of a sudden the skies go dark and zone objectives come up for everybody in the zone. Suddenly it is you and 500 other people actually playing through the story where we have rifts taking place, invasions taking place, quest objectives going on and it is just gigantic, massive chaos... and a whole lot of fun.
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