‘Taking Trion to Task’ | Rift: Storm Legion

Published on December 6th, 2012

We interview Trion Worlds to find out what exactly is in RIFT’s first expansion.

Usually whenever you approach an MMO studio to ask about their latest work, you usually get one single developer which addresses any and all enquiries you can chuck at the unfortunate individual, even if it isn’t something that directly parallels their work on a game. At Trion Worlds that doesn’t happen, we flung a bunch of questions at the Californian outfit and they responded with replies from not one, not two, but three different developers. All these responses are care of Simon Ffinch (Design Director), Adam Gershowitz (Producer) and Scott Hartsman (Exec Producer) or ‘The Hivemind’ if you will. Here’s what we asked them, along with their replies…

Taking Trion to Task | Rift: Storm Legion

RIFT's new continents have a load of new bosses just dying to meet you!

Since RIFT launched, it has received content updates every two months. How difficult is it to keep up that momentum and why do you think a lot of MMO developers happen to struggle with regular updates?

It’s been important to us to find meaningful ways to stand out in ways that matter to players. The foundation for this style of development was built into the foundation of RIFT – in technology, in tools, and in team. Even so, it’s humbling that people have noticed and reacted so well, and that our particular style of quality-at-speed is something that people have really recognised as valuable to them.

What sets the two new continents – Brevane and Dusken – apart from the existing one?

While developing the initial RIFT, we always knew that we wanted interesting and fun dynamic content in the game. Exactly what form that took went through several iterations until we arrived at Rifts, Invasions and massive zone-wide Events. With Dusken and Brevane we were able to both level up the dynamic content as well as tie the zones more tightly to the events taking place in them. We’re also viewing Storm Legion as a step forward in presentation of static content. Quest camps full of ‘exclamation mark farms’ aren’t a great way to adventurously exploring a huge, new world. Our Story Quests now act as the backbone for one’s travels, while the newer-style discovery quests, carnage quests, as well as the dynamic content one can find really get people out and exploring, while being rewarded well for it. Visually, we also learned a lot doing classic RIFT. These lessons have been carried forward into the new world, from art style improvements to graphics engine upgrades, and more. Some of the vistas and scenery that people will enjoy on these two new continents are truly mind-blowing.

Taking Trion to Task | Rift: Storm Legion

Good to see the purple colour palette hasn't changed.

We will see the two remaining dragon gods – Regulos and Crucia – meet their maker in this expansion?

You can expect to see a final showdown with Regulos, the Lord of Death, before everything is said and done. Crucia has a much more expanded role. People will be fighting against her forces every step of the way. She’s a bit more complicated. She has always been the Dragon of deception and control, and she reveals a truly terrifying power in Storm Legion. She takes direct control of people’s minds, essentially inhabiting their bodies to carry out her plans of conquest. Her fate has yet to be revealed…

If you had to put a number on it, how many hours worth of content would you say there is in Storm Legion, give or take?

This is probably one of the most often-asked and difficult to answer questions. It depends so much on one’s style of play. For someone wanting to participate in all the content (Story Quests, Instant Adventure, Onslaughts, Conquests, Carnage, Dungeons, Warfronts, Artifacts, Puzzles, Cairns, Raids, Chronicles, Dimensions, Warfronts, Fishing and Crafting, Hunt Rifts, Invasions, Zone Events, Achievements, and more) then there are literally hundreds or thousands of hours.

Taking Trion to Task | Rift: Storm Legion

Quests now have a much more noble purpose than just padding out the progression curve.

At launch, RIFT was criticised for having too many forgettable quests padding out the progression curve. How has the development team responded to that and is less really more?

We’re using Storm Legion as a big opportunity to address this. Quest content in Storm Legion has a significantly different feel to it, and the integration of Instant Adventure into zone development helped to create a unique experience as well. There’s a lot more choice now. If the quest structure was previously a straight line of 3-4 parallel errands per camp, you can think of quest content in Storm Legion as more of a tall tree with many branches. You get to choose how long you want to explore each branch – whether you want to explore any given one to its fullest, or move on to something else. The core Story Quests form the backbone of your Storm Legion experience. These are the main-line story for the area you’re in. Think of them as the places you go back to once you choose to progress to the next area. They’re the trunk of the tree. As you go out into the field on any given branch, you can discover more things to do. Some of the first things people will notice are the Carnage and Discovered quests. Then people can explore and do as many of these as they like before choosing to return back to the trunk to move on to the next step. Or if questing is something that people just choose to not take part in, we built Instant Adventure tightly into the entirety of the expansion to give people a more action-based way to play. It’s really about giving people ways to play the game that appeals to their desires and schedules.

Taking Trion to Task | Rift: Storm Legion

RIFT's magical portal tech remains just as relavatory as it was last year.

The soul system is getting a massive overhaul in Storm Legion. What exactly are you doing to this immensely flexible system?

The soul system at its core still has the same goals of ultimate customisability and letting people play how they want to play. Quite a few of the changes were ‘under the hood’ focusing on fun and usability. We added the concept of Purposes (Presets) in a live update earlier this year, and Storm Legion expands on it significantly by adding more presets to choose from, and by making the system also set up hotbars if you choose. They’re a great way to get someone into the game quickly, or to try out a new type of gameplay with a lot less setup time. While all the power of the advanced mode is still there, more robust Purposes make the soul system far more approachable. Almost every soul got a number of tweaks to improve synergy with other souls, improve gameplay, or overall just plain make some classes more fun to play. This is especially true for newer players who can now play without having to worry about dozens of abilities and complex macros needed to make everything work.We also added four new souls to the game. These new souls represent completely new gameplay options for players and some extremely creative combinations with older souls. Warriors have picked up a ranged magic user in the Tempest. Thanks to the Harbinger Mages now have a melee option, and both the Defiler and Tactician bring new gameplay and strong synergy to their respective callings.

Player housing is something us MMO players all tend to obsess over, whether it’s in our favourite game of choice or not. Why do you think this feature is highly valued by gamers?

Housing gives people a way to truly express their creativity and share it with their community. It hits on a fundamental desire that extends even beyond gaming. The desire to make one’s mark; to create; to express; to build. When it’s done right, it’s a fun activity in and of itself. We all form connections with our characters, and housing helps develop a side of that character when they aren’t out in the world. Role-players love that they get a whole new way to host events. Hardcore achievers love that they can show off treasures. In our office, we’ve had a ton of fun just jumping around public Dimensions and seeing what crazy things people have built – it’s like a fun art show. Everyone can get a canvas and some paint and put it out there for others to see.

Taking Trion to Task | Rift: Storm Legion

Storm Legion boasts potentially thousands of hours worth of content.

A considerable contingent of Trion Worlds worked on City of Heroes in the past. Obviously it’s a competitor’s product, but are you sad to see that MMORPG get put out of service?

It’s always sad to see a beloved game’s time end. Even beyond people who’ve worked there in the past, there are likely even more here who played it and enjoyed it for the new things it brought to the genre. It’ll be missed!

What has been the response to the RIFT Lite initiative? Are there any plans to extend the free level cap past 20?

Lite has been one of the best things we’ve done for RIFT. Giving people an ultra-easy way to check out the game is something that’s become increasingly important as time has gone on. We do plan on doing more with this program in the future, but for the moment, all of our focus is universally going into Storm Legion.

Taking Trion to Task | Rift: Storm Legion

We have no idea what this is, but as monsters go it looks rather interesting.

This is impossible for me to answer. It’s like asking me to choose which one is my favourite child. However, I am very excited to see the reactions to some of the more epic zone events, the general scope of both of the continents, and I will be interested to see who the first person to complete every Hunt Rift is. The Puzzles are an order of magnitude more involved and I am curious to see who the first to solve all of those. Then, of course, there are Dimensions. If I you held my feet to the fire, and told me I had to chose one thing it would have to be this. This is where we get to see the creativity of our players, and I have come to know that we have some of the most amazingly creative people out there playing RIFT.

Storm Legion launched for RIFT last month, and you can learn more about it by visiting the expansion’s official website. If you read last month’s MMOZine you would have seen this interview in its full glory in our spectacular final issue, linked here, but don’t worry we forgive you!

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