Updated Mon, Apr 26, 2010 by Ethec
Rift: Planes of Telara has done some growing up since last we saw the game at E3 2009. With a new name and new focus, this love letter to core MMO gamers was re-revealed to the press late last week in San Francisco, just miles from the Trion Redwood City studios where Studio Head Scott Hartsman (former Senior Producer on EverQuest 2) and a large cast of developers with 27 launched MMORPGs between them prepare the game for a targeted 2011 launch.
If we gave this screencap an artsy title, it might be something like "Bahmi Reaver in Silverwood"
Hartsman and company did more than change the name, they changed the overall focus of the game. Sub-classes and the ability of one character to fill any role had been major talking points at the E3 2009 reveal. Lack of a catchy subtitle aside, according to Scott, the moniker "Heroes of Telara" had several problems. For one, not everyone wants to be a hero. In Rift: Planes of Telara, players can choose between the idealistic Guardians and pragmatic Defiants. Guardians are more the archetypical heroes who remain devoted to the gods in the face of the planar invasions that threaten to rip Telara apart. Defiants, on the other hand, blame the gods for Telara's problems and feel that Telarans must rely on their own devises.
Another problem was that "Heroes of Telara" didn't convey a sense of the overarching conflict in Telara. Rifts , which Scott Hartsman described as "massively social experiences," are invasion points from the six planes of Telara. More than a few developers on the Rift team, like Adam Gershowitz, are Warhammer Online vets, so no one shied away from comparisons to WAR's public quest concept. Like PQs, rift battles occur in stages . But unlike PQs, rifts appear randomly around the world (visible on the in-game map). The basic rifts are also soloable but scale to the number of players participating. Given time, rifts will open of their own accord and offer players a tougher challenge than if players had opened the rift and taken the battle to the invading plane. Furthermore, if players failed to seal these rifts and too many appear in a certain sized area, monsters from the invading plane could begin to mount an offense, leading to perhaps an even more sinister extension of the dynamic environments concept.
Silverwood (left) and Silverwood after a rift from the plane of life is torn open (right).
But describing rifts as simply a transplanted public quest system would be to sell the concept short. The game set store at E3 last year on the concept of dynamic environments, and as one extension of that concept, the locus of the rift takes on the aspect of the invading plane. For example, the rifts we saw were all of the Plane of Life variety. When the rift was torn open, vast carnivorous-looking plants hanging down stretched down and an ominously dark green pall overshadowed the mostly cheery, bright palette imbued environs of Silverwood.
Click play to watch the newly unveiled Rift: Planes of Telara trailer:
Improvements on the PQ concept weren't just skin deep. Puzzle elements, such as clickable mushrooms which stun enemies, will add another dimension to rift gameplay. Players won't need to wait for the endgame to encounter massively sized enemies that represent a tactical challenge, such as a giant treant that served as a final boss in one teen-level rift we toured. But perhaps best of all: rewards are all about participation - the more you do, the more you get, regardless of how you "place" in comparison to other players. Forget reward chests too; loot can be retrieved at any time, meaning that if you're running back from the spawn point when the final stage ends, you'll still get your rift rewards via the user interface.