Rift: Planes of Telara Round Table Interview


posted 2/4/2011 by Jeremy Duff
other articles by Jeremy Duff
One Page Platforms: PC
From what we have seen thus far, it seems as though Rift is geared toward the more mature, dedicated gaming audience where other current gen MMO’s seem to have gone the opposite direction and geared things more towards grabbing the the casual online gamers. Is this something that was done intentionally and is there a certain audience that you are looking to attract?
The visual style for the game is definitely supposed to be high res and highly detailed as opposed to overly stylized and “cartoony”. That is very much an intentional choice. That is what our artists are amazing at, it is what they are passionate about and that is the world that we are making. The gameplay itself is set up to be very accessible to somebody who has little MMO experience all the way up to somebody who has been playing them for a really long time. What we are trying to go for is for someone with little experience to be able to walk in, pick it up and go “okay, I get what I am doing here, I am able to have fun and this does work”. Then the more time that they spend with the game and the more that they choose to learn about it, the more complex they will realize that the game actually is; we intentionally set up the game at the low end so that it is approachable to people who haven’t played MMO’s before. We don’t throw a ton of new concepts at people right from the outset and yes, that is very intentional. People have to feel like they’re at least understanding how to do basic things such as navigating the world and defeat your opponent(s). Otherwise you end up with a game where its not fun. Its kind of like how much fun would it be to wander around in the car and have no idea where you are going? You’re lost, you’re frustrated... it just isn’t fun.

We definitely have a couple of easy steps at the beginning and then, within the first hour or two of gameplay, people get out into a shared world and start seeing these big zone events and start seeing invasions. They start seeing rifts and see their world taken over which is something that nobody else is doing. It is difficult to train someone for the concept of “your world is about to be taken over... be ready” when a lot of the experience is a result of emergent gameplay. We kind of have to step people up and into that; get them comfortable with their character and then see how they do on their own.

How are you going to handle this shared world and these zone events when you have players of a wide variety of levels?
The way that it works right now, if you come into a big zone event players can group together with one another and they will discover that being “over-leveled” doesn’t make it any easier. The level of challenge is retained across the levels. As far as grouping up with friends of different levels and doing dungeons, you can do that right now but we are also, post launch, going to be looking into adding new types of systems that will address this issue and make it easier.

Can you describe what the game’s end-content will be like, in general?
What is there in terms of the end-game? A metric crap-ton... I don’t know how else to say it.

We intentionally designed the game around making sure that we were going to have plenty of end-game content. I think that one of the biggest mistakes that people have made in the last few years is rushing games out the door when there was just a certain amount of progression gameplay and a gigantic cliff of nothing to do once you get to the end. In terms of hours of playability, I am 99% sure that we will have more end-game content than we do have leveling content by the time that the game ships. The way that it works right now is that there are lots of zones to level up through, lots of dungeons to play through, then, once you get to the max level, there is a bunch of new options that will open up to you.

If you are a PvP-er, there is the option of leveling up your prestige, which is kind of like an end-game PvP-progression leveling system. That helps you unlock abilities and PvP-souls. On the PvE-side there are two regular dungeons that are for level 60 players then, as they gear up a little bit, they will be able to take on the expert modes of the dungeons. There are two complete tiers of expert mode dungeons which give you a chance to revisit dungeons that you have played through before and entire new areas will unlock in the dungeon which will progress the story even further. You end up playing through larger experiences as well. At the same time you will have single-group, expert rifts out in the world which are on par in difficulty with our expert mode (post end-game) dungeons. You also have 10-man raid rifts out in the world as well as 20-man raid-instances. We will be shipping the game with one right off of the bat and we will be talking more in the future about the events we’ll be unlocking not too far into the future.

Back on the PvP side, we also have one, high end warfront which is our instance PvP. It’s reserved for max level players; it is the Battle for Port Scion, which is really kind of cool. We will have new types of dynamic content events that will take place in the world as well; we are going to be showing off one of the samples of the new-types which is Ancient War-stone combat which is like a PvP / land control / takeover game. This also takes place in the shared world and it will also exist at the high-end. We have spent a lot of time making sure that there is sufficient “stuff” to do once you get to the max level because for a lot of us, myself included, we love the journey, the journey is half of the fun, but the other half had better be there too.

It’s easy to see that there is a lot of story behind Rift, is there a “progression-plan” in the game that relates to the persistent world that leads to a vanquishing of the common enemy?
I will answer the question indirectly but I think you will be able to figure out whether it is a “yes” or a “no”. I think that story in general, whether it is fiction you are reading or whether it is an interactive story that you are playing through like an MMO, is more satisfying when they have a logical conclusion. When they have a satisfying ending as opposed to an “older school”, Mario-”your princess is ALWAYS in another castle”tale. Its better to tell stories that do actually have a flow and do have their major turning points and actually end. Then, you get to tell a new story.

In terms of progression, one of the things that we have been spending a lot of time on over the last few months as we run through beta is writing down the specific plot points that we are going to be steering towards over the coming months and years. This helps us figure out exactly what shapes the updates to the game are going to take and what new events, zones, and characters will be there to clearly and visually show the progression of the story. We have the story that we want to tell first... which leads us to figure out what environments to tell it in... which leads us to figure out which characters need to be there to show it off. This all comes together to be broken down into the update plan or event plan we’ll use to tell the story now and forever.

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