alt="rift" src="http://www.tentonhammer.com/image/view/93125"
style="width: 250px; height: 384px;">

With
the latest beta over and launch just a short time away, gamers are
waiting with bated breath for style="font-style: italic;">Rift
to be unleashed on the MMOG market.
Game aspects such as multiple souls, dungeons that you unlock over
time, and the dynamic rift invasions all have made style="font-style: italic;">Rift
the game to
play. Ten Ton Hammer sent our own Jeff “Ethec”
Woleslagle to glean more behind-the-scenes information from Design
Producer Hal Hanlin, who gave us quite a few details on the design
process for style="font-style: italic;">Rift.






Ten
Ton Hammer:

Because we hear it all the time, how do you feel about style="font-style: italic;">Rift
being
called the ‘apex of style="font-style: italic;">WoW
clones’?



Hal
Hanlin:
There are a lot of
MMOs out there, and we don’t
compare ourselves
to those. We hold ourselves to the standard of standing tall
in an industry that people think style="font-style: italic;">WoW
created. I have all the
respect in the world for style="font-style: italic;">WoW
– they’ve expanded the
MMO market in ways
no one thought possible or have foreseen at the time. If they
had not done that, the player base might not be sufficient to release
games like Rift,
or any other game that breaks the mold.



Ten
Ton Hammer:
If there had not
been WoW,
would say 500,000 people be enough?



Hal
Hanlin:
 Back before style="font-style: italic;">WoW
came out, 40 to 100 thousand was considered a
success. Now that people have seen what style="font-style: italic;">WoW
has
done,  producers talk to each other and say, “Well
let’s just
shoot for 4-5 million.” Of course, they
don’t amp up their
production beyond the revenue of those expected 40-100 thousand
subscribers, but we’re used to that aren’t we?


href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/95676"> style="border: 0px solid ; width: 580px; height: 322px;"
alt="rift" src="http://www.tentonhammer.com/image/view/95676">

Random invasions will happen
in zones, preventing players from falling into a trance of grinding

Ten
Ton Hammer:
 What do
you think makes style="font-style: italic;">Rift
absolutely unique? What isn’t
derivative in any way?


" style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman";"> style="font-style: italic;">We’ve shown
people everything they wanted to see. If they didn’t know to
ask for it, heh, that’s a shame. We have a huge amount of
content we could talk about, but we have the ability to go from an idea
to a testable event within a week. Given that we can do that, I
don’t think the players that come to our game will ever be
disappointed."

Hal
Hanlin:
 No one else
has elves. *laughter* I think it’s our method
of
putting together these elements in a way that is different and
incredibly well polished. We hold ourselves to a quality of
production that is not seen in the MMO industry, or even among console
games. We hold ourselves to a standard that puts ourselves in
front. We weren’t content with just a quest system,
or a
skill tree system, we went further.

 

Did we invent most of these
features? No. But we
made them better. style="font-style: italic;">Pong
had two sides, does that make two
faction PvP a copy of style="font-style: italic;">Pong? *laughter*



Ultimately we’ve brought a focus
and a
tradition of excellence to a
genre that hasn’t seen that before. We have the
potential
with our technology to deliver a service that has not been done
before. Our servers were built specifically for this game,
and not based around 10-15 year old technology and architecture.



Ten
Ton Hammer:

The most
interesting thing to me is the speed we’ve seen
Rift
come
about, once it was rebranded less than twelve months ago. style="font-style: italic;">Heroes of
Telara was announced a few
years ago, development went dark for a
period of two years, but once the game came out of concepting, what
enabled things - from lore to all the pieces that make up the MMOG, the
most complicated type of game on the market - to come together so
quickly?



Hal
Hanlin:
 For one
thing, we had hundreds and hundreds of
pages of lore for our quest system, and then the Rift system brought it
all together. Once the technology made the merging of these
two
systems possible, things happened! 


href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/95675"> style="border: 0px solid ; width: 580px; height: 322px;"
alt="rift" src="http://www.tentonhammer.com/image/view/95675">

Perhaps the best part about
Rift is its multi-class system, which makes everyone a hybrid!

Ten
Ton Hammer:
Everyone who
played the
beta has noticed that as suggestions and bugs were posted, they got fixed
and actioned (or responded to) almost immediately. The
overall voice
of players who have played your game is very favorable. Is
that unique
in your experience?



Hal
Hanlin:
 Incredibly
so. We don’t buy
into any
specific production dogma. We’ve had almost 4 years
of
practice
working with this platform. Everyone who has been out here
knows that
if they want to do this new event, we have the tools and processes in
place to get this new event in. The design team is
experienced enough
within the company, and experienced enough within the industry, to have
the middle of the night epiphany to create something, and they go to
the art direction, who then goes to tech, and then the producers, and a
matter of weeks later we have Raid content ready to go live.



We’ve
lived up to the things our CEO has said, and I was initially thinking
we couldn’t! He set the standard for us and gave us
the tools
needed
to make it happen. We have all of the marketing and hype
behind us,
the feedback, and more. All of our departments are working
together
and are not individual entities. We get an idea, we implement
a
prototype of the idea, and test it. If it doesn’t
meet our
quality
standards, we try to polish it up a little, and if that
doesn’t do it,
we throw it out entirely. It’s easier to craft a
new zone
from scratch
than it is fully fix a lesser one.






Ten
Ton Hammer:
 The
perception among your
fans is that you’ve done a good job of being transparent to
your fans. That counts for a lot in today’s market; MMOG fans
are a
pretty jaded
lot. What have you done differently?



Hal
Hanlin:
 We’re
not making
promises we’re not keeping. We say we are your next
MMO. Why? We
have graphic superiority, innovative and fresh gameplay built from a
foundation you’re already familiar with, a class system
you’re going to
feel is intuitive and wish it was in your next MMO and more.


href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/87176"> style="border: 0px solid ; width: 580px; height: 322px;"
alt="rift" src="http://www.tentonhammer.com/image/view/87176">

How do you kill what has no
life? A big sword!!

Ten
Ton Hammer:
 For
better or worse, the gamers we talk to
feel like they know
everything there is to know about style="font-style: italic;">Rift.
Do you have any aces up your
sleeve?


" style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman";"> style="font-style: italic;">We weren’t
content with just a quest system, or a skill tree system, we went
further. Did we invent most of these features? No. But we made them
better. Pong had two sides, does that make two faction PvP a copy of
Pong?"

Hal
Hanlin:
 We’ve
been more open about this project
than any
other project I’ve been on. E3 2008, which you
mentioned
before, was
very heavily scripted because it was a technical proof of concept
piece. At Cologne with Russ Brown [Trion VP of
Development], I was
doing demos up in the executive area and it became really clear between
us that our game is awesome. We’re not going to
blow off the
market
hype, but at the same time, when talking to people new to the game,
there’s no smoke and no
mirrors. Our game
is good enough to stand up
on its own. 



Ten
Ton Hammer:
 Put
another way, you guys really
haven’t
talked about your road map after launch. Given the long
record of
mainstream market disappointments in the MMO space in the last few
years, do you feel like you owe the player something to make them
invest time and money into the game?



Hal
Hanlin:
 We’ve
shown people
everything they wanted to see. If they didn’t know
to ask for
it,
heh,  that’s a shame. There are
level 50
expert dungeons of
everything currently in the game, and they’re not just your
typical
heroic versions, they open up new wings entirely and there are 40% more
bosses in these. We have raids we’ve talked about
and raids
we haven’t
talked about. We even have raid Rifts we are currently
testing. We
have a huge amount of content we could talk about, but we have the
ability to go from an idea to a testable event within a
week. Given
that we can do that, I don’t think the players that come to
our game
will ever be disappointed. It’s our game
too. When
I go home, this is
what I play. Not because I’ve been told to, but
because I
want to.


href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/94846"> style="border: 0px solid ; width: 580px; height: 322px;"
alt="rift" src="http://www.tentonhammer.com/image/view/94846">

Looks like things are going to
get hot around here!

Ten
Ton Hammer:
 Those
are some very short development cycles.
It sounds like you
have a lot of confidence in your design team and this game.



Hal
Hanlin:
 
I have crazy confidence in them! This is not confidence based
on faith
either, this is confidence based on watching what they’ve
done and are
doing right now. I’ve watched them do the work from
start to
finish
and they are without a doubt, fantastic. They work together
and keep
all things coherent and transparent.



Ten
Ton Hammer:
 Last
question. So we’re
less than a month from launch. Is there anything about the
game you
want to point out that maybe you feel us as the press hasn’t
done a
good enough job highlighting?



Hal
Hanlin:
 The
enthusiast press and the
foundation press have listened well. I would love to have
some great
bullet to present you with right now, but candidly we really have
gotten some attention about everything.




Our thanks to Hal Hanlin for this interview.



To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our RIFT Game Page.

Last Updated: Mar 29, 2016

About The Author

Jeff
Jeff's interest in online games stretches back to organizing neighborhood Unreal tournaments as a teenager, but when a college roommate introduced him to EverQuest, an interest became an obsession. Jeff joined the Ten Ton Hammer team in 2004 covering EverQuest II, and he's had his hands on just about every PC online and multiplayer game since.

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