At the beginning of a day spent with the Trion team talking about Rift (as Ten Ton Hammer and some other press folks did recently) you might be tempted to interpret their tangible enthusiasm as the result of drinking their own Kool-Aid. Stay a while, though, and see what they're presenting, and you begin to think, why not? After all, theyÂve concocted a heady brew. Not only has Trion put out a dozen named free updates for Rift since launch, but their upcoming first expansion, Storm Legion, more than triples the size of the original game. ThatÂs a production schedule that might leave any development team wondering where they can get some of TrionÂs Kool-Aid for themselves.
Not only is the game larger with tons more land mass to explore, Trion has also added 7 new dungeons to Telara, 3 new raids, one new Chronicle, more instant adventures, four new souls (one for each calling), 10 more levels (increasing the level cap to 60), player housing, and a multitude of story-filled ways to work toward defeating the dragon Crucia and her minions, including facing off with Crucia herself.
ItÂs Big. Really Big.
Those gathered at TrionÂs Rift: Storm Legion press day in San Francisco were treated to a preview of some of the new content coming to Rift. Gamers have become accustomed to MMORPG expansions including some new island or starting zone, if weÂre lucky, but that wasnÂt enough for Trion; they dropped in two huge new continents.
ÂJust one continent [in Storm Legion] is bigger than the entire land mass thatÂs in Rift at the moment,Â said Simon Ffinch, Rift Senior Design Director, proudly displaying the expansionÂs new map. ÂSo the game is now three times larger.Â
Seeming to prove the vastness of the new expansion, the developers frequently found themselves lost (even while navigating with dev tools) during the demo. And they reveled in it, as if to say, ÂSee? We told you this xpack was huge!Â
ÂMost of our playerbase are level 50,Â said Ffinch, Âso we thought, ÂLetÂs give them lots of fun stuff to do.Â
But, while Storm Legion does cater to level capped players, that doesnÂt necessarily make it uninviting to new players. ÂWe get new people entering Rift all the time,Â said Hal Hanlin, Design Producer. ÂWhat we do, is have the mechanics in place to get new players quickly into the [expansion pack] content, if thatÂs what they want. We speed up the leveling experience, and then, when you figure in mentoring, you can move through the content quickly and get up to the new stuff where you can explore with your friends.Â
Read on for information on Rift's new player housing and more.
One of the most oft-requested features from Rift players will arrive with the new expansion: Dimensions, RiftÂs version of player housing. If youÂve thought of EverQuest IIÂs housing as a sort of gold standard when it comes to what can be accomplished, you ainÂt seen nothing yet. Dimensions are aptly titled, because RiftÂs player housing adds a whole new dimension to what can be accomplished with this mechanic. They give players a multitude of options to build in huge indoor and outdoor sandbox spaces, as well as a highly functional toolset for fine tuning.
Players will have a vast array of items to build with, and different ways to attain them including questing, drops, and crafting. Dimensions takes player housing beyond simply laying out furniture items--youÂll have things like planks, rocks, trees and tiles that you can place, as well, and theyÂre designed to mesh together seamlessly. There are also a variety of Dimension spaces from peaceful, tropical coves to craggy hillsides.
The toolset is intuitive and functional--thereÂs one tool that moves items on an X, Y, Z axis by dragging colored arrows in the desired direction, and another similar tool that lets you drag colored circles to rotate them. And just about anything goes with placement. Want to set a table hovering in the sky like a flying saucer, increase its size, then build a ladder to it and put your bed up there? Go for it. The Trion team showed us something that a few staff members had spent several hours creating. (This occurred during a Dimensions demo, during which the devs in the room chanted gleefully, ÂShow Âem the boat!Â) The Boat was moored in a placid harbor, looking for all the world like a small sailing vessel, and it was built entirely using the Dimension system. We saw all kinds of interesting builds, including a childrenÂs playground gym complete with a slide, in an upcoming Dimensions video trailer that should be publicly released soon.
ÂAnd this is just what weÂve done internally,Â said Hanlin. ÂWe know that whatever we do, our players will do it better--theyÂll take it to eleven--so we canÂt wait to see what they accomplish when we launch.Â
A few other cool things that we learned about Dimensions include:
- There will be guild Dimensions
- ItÂs entirely possible to create cool jumping puzzles in a Dimension (and thereÂs no death due to falling in the housing spaces)
- Your Dimension can have an NPC bartender
- You can add sound to your Dimension with music box items
- You can name your Dimension
- There are XML hooks in Dimensions to support third-party add-ons
Want still more on Dimensions? Check out our PAX Prime Preview.
Read on for the details on Storm Legion's four new souls and questing updates and additions.
Four New Souls
Storm Legion adds a new soul to each calling in Rift. Three have been revealed to date: The Tempest, a Warrior soul focused on ranged DPS via furious lightning-based attacks; the Harbinger, a Mage wielding summoned weapons and poised for melee damage (ÂLike Gandalf with a big sword,Â said Hanlin); and the Tactician, the newly-announced Rogue soul thatÂs Âa master of magitechÂ focused on gadgets that deal AoE-based damage, support and healing. The Cleric soul, the Defiler, is still under wraps, so we canÂt reveal more.
In addition to the new souls, there have been plenty of tweaks to the existing mechanics. Purposes (pre-made templates) have been expanded to make things easier for those who prefer not to go the min-max route. Trion has also wisely added build-and-go auto-fill and Âtrain allÂ functionality to make getting back into the game that much easier for those who want to spend less time customizing a character and more time slaughtering bad guys.
So much fine tuning has been going on recently that Trion told us that the latest class changes amounted to 56 pages of update notes.
Changes to Questing
DonÂt worry, there are still quest hubs in Storm Legion just as there have always been in Rift. (If Guild Wars 2 has taught us one thing, itÂs that some players still like quest hubs). But with Storm Legion, Trion has focused on giving their players a multitude of options, so they can play the game their way. The quest hubs in Storm Legion itself will feature more story-driven quests--Trion doesnÂt want you quick-clicking through the quest dialog, so story quests are designed to capture your attention.Storm Legion also adds a new quest type called carnage. I encountered a carnage quest during a free-range hands-on session with the expansion. While wandering the Kingdom of Pelladane, I came across a mob that wanted to beat me up and take away my lunch money. I took the fight to it (quite handily, since the press were given level 55 toons dressed up in great gear with which to wander level 50 areas) and as soon as it hit the turf I was rewarded with a quest to kill 25 more. ThatÂs what carnage is all about--getting quests while youÂre out in the field that will reward you for what youÂll probably be killing anyhow.
In addition to the story and carnage quests, there are also plenty of new instant adventures as well as a new type of dynamic content called hunt rifts.
Coming November 13th
Two important elements seem to define TrionÂs approach to Storm Legion:
- ItÂs all about options
- Size matters
If youÂre ready for Storm Legion, you donÂt have much longer to wait; the expansion will launch on November 13th, and itÂs currently in beta.
Not only has Trion delivered a constant stream of significant free updates, but their first expansion will provide a staggering amount of new content as well as a multitude of ways to experience it. Honestly, we donÂt know what more players could ask for in a MMOG expansion. Drink the Kool-Aid, folks--itÂs laced with awesome.