Endless Story - A Rift 1.1 Q&A with Hal Hanlin

On the eve of Rift’s first world event, Ten Ton Hammer sat down with Producer Hal Hanlin to discuss exactly what players can expect in River of Souls, the 1.1 content update that promises to change Rift forever. What levels can participate, how rifts and invasions will change, what sort of rewards players can expect, and hints as to how River of Souls will impact the lore of the game, and what not to expect this time around will be discussed in Ten Ton Hammer’s Rift Update 1.1 Q&A.

Jason Bolton, Ten Ton Hammer: We’re all excited to hear more about the River of Souls update, the introductory parts of which kick off tomorrow. How exactly will the content update roll out?

Hal Hanlin, Executive Producer: We begin a series of events that lead up to our next raid encounter, and one of the first things people are going to see is that we have some new UI elements. We also have a world event that’s going to explain what you’re supposed to be doing at this time.

At this time, players can progressively start working towards some great items. The first two stages are going to be throughout the entire world, and if players are a high enough level, they’ll be able to participate in the final stages. We’ll set a date and time for when the final stages are going to begin.

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Stillmoor, home of the Endless Court, has that same sense of gorgeous foreboding that's come to characterize Rift's environments.

Ten Ton Hammer: What level will players need to be to participate in the event and in the raid?

Hal: For the raid, you’re going to have to have very high level gear from the gear progression in order to succeed, and you’ll have to have a team that knows what it’s doing. That said, anyone can participate, provided they can actually get to the final areas – and these are scattered throughout a number of different locations – but it’s going to be at their own risk. They may draw aggro and get one-shotted if they’re just too low a level.

Ten Ton Hammer: What can you tell us about the items that will help players through the event? Are these temporary items that will only last as long as the event?

Hal: The idea is that there will be some things that are only given out during the event, but they are long term items that you’ll be able to hang onto. There is a mount, the Spectral Horse, that will be provided during the event and it is a permanent inventory item, but it will only be available during this period of time and not afterwards.

Ten Ton Hammer: Will this final raid be for 10 or 20 players?

Hal: We do have 10-man Rift raids in which people can participate, but currently this is slated for 20 players.

Ten Ton Hammer: Will the event length depend on how quickly players move through the content per server, or does the event run according to a script?

Hal: Some portions will be player-driven, other portions will depend on when we pull the trigger.

Ten Ton Hammer: How long will this event run?

Hal: The event is going to heat up towards April 9th, but it will run long past that.

Ten Ton Hammer: Do you hope to iterate on the emerging gameplay that occurs around the rifts, invasions, footholds, etc. in this content update?

Hal: That’s one of the great things about our system – we are creating entirely new invasions, entirely new bosses with new abilities that are going to be spilling out during this period of time. Then, once we have gone past the opening of River of Souls, the lion’s share of these new invasions and colossi and rifts will become part of the core of our game. Just because they haven’t been here before doesn’t mean we don’t think they’re valuable; they certainly continue the story of our world.

Ten Ton Hammer: Will any new factions be revealed in River of Souls, either to fight against, learn lore about, or gain reputation with?

Hal: This really goes to the core of the update. The Cult of the Endless helps perpetuate the story about Alsbeth the Discordant. People that have been playing probably understand that she’s a major player, but they might not understand how important she is, and we clarify her relationship with Regulos.


Video: Alsbeth - All Will Serve

[video]http://video.tentonhammer.com/rift/RIFT_Alsbeth.flv[/video]

Ten Ton Hammer: How has the response been so far to the current endgame content, and is River of Souls a response to the feedback you’ve gotten?

Hal: It’s been phenomenal. We took a few chances prior to beta, and as Scott pointed out, we kind of wrung our hands for weeks trying to determine what we should do – should we allow different areas to be overrun, what if questgivers die, etc. As soon as that content met the public, we realized that it was ok, because it gives players the opportunity to take the fight to the planes. They clear out the spaces, they have the sense of achievement.

That, on top of the core questing, crafting, etc., became radically popular. All the sudden you hear a trumpet or the sound of a zone event starting and you drop what you’re doing – you know this is where the great gear comes from, they’ll be able to experience this in a massively social way. All the sudden, an hour has passed, the dust is settling, and they go back to what they’re doing. But they’re always expecting something to come charging down on them.

As far as what we’re rolling out now, we’re demonstrating what our platform can do. Players who have gotten used to seeing rifts of a certain planar type in a certain zone – Silverwood’s always going to be fire and life – no, we chose to do that because it helped tell our story. Guess what? We’re about to tell a different part of the story, so different planes come into play.

Ten Ton Hammer: Rifts and invasions definitely help give the world an epic and dynamic feel. So, overall, you’re happy with the pacing of the game and the speed at which players are getting to endgame?

Hal: Yea, and one of the exciting things that we get to groove on when people are talking about the game is that you can progress through rifts and invasions, through warfronts, through quests, or through dungeons. The fact that players have so many things to turn to has really been a positive for us. People feel that there’s always so much to do, and that’s a great feeling as a developer when players are clamoring for more, and it’s right there waiting for them to consume.

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A new 20-man raid will form the capstone of the River of Souls update.

Ten Ton Hammer: Speaking of warfronts, are any new warfronts on the radar? It seems like the PvPers are among the most vocal in the Rift playerbase.

Hal: We’re still under wraps on that. I’ll simply say that we have great respect for our PvPers and we’ll be showing them some love someday soon. The majority of the developers enjoy PvP, so yea, PvPers will not be a forgotten contingent.

Ten Ton Hammer: Are any class changes – I don’t want to say nerfs – with the update?

Hal: One of the things that Scott and Lars have really hammered home to us is the expectation that we will be incredibly nimble with feedback. We take feedback seriously, we respond to it intelligently, and we do so in a way that takes advantage of our platform.

We want to make sure that we don’t punish players, but we want to make sure that we’re responsive. If players are clamoring for something, we’ll consider it. If it’s right for the game, we’ll implement it. And we can do so faster than any developer I’ve ever heard of.

Ten Ton Hammer: Is there anything else you wanted to emphasize about River of Souls?

Hal: One of the things I wanted to drive home is that the story is core to our game. As you play through, we really want you to get the sense that the planes and the cults that are trying to access the planes and free the dragon gods – it’s important that they understand why we’re trying to do all this, and we’re trying to do it in a dynamic way.

Our events are going to continue to be benchmark-setting, we’re trying to stake our ground with how dynamic our storytelling can be. We can be nimble, we can bring more story out to the front. If players want to hear more about a certain thing, they’ll need to get on the forums to tell us which stories they think are the coolest so we can start thinking about how to tell those stories in greater detail.

Ten Ton Hammer: Is the goal for the game to have an episodic feel?

Hal: The game already has an episodic feel because of the multiple planes and hierarchy of the planes, and as you progress through them, you start to see which planes are oppressing which and they all hate this one, etc. How we roll that out is – well, let me say this, we don’t want it to feel arbitrary ever.

We want it to feel story-driven, and if you want to call that episodic, okay. The gameplay is awesome and fun, but absent a story, it’s just experience points. Which is cool, you can have a lot of fun getting experience points. But for those people that really want to have a connection to what’s happening, the story is there.

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Alsbeth awaits!

Ten Ton Hammer: As impressive as putting out a content 30 days after launch is, players always want to know what’s next. We won’t ask you for details, but is this the content release timetable you want to hold yourselves to?

Hal: As Scott repeatedly points out, we shipped with more to do at level 50 than what you might even begin to consider typical. We’re demonstrating now, with River of Souls, that we have a very ambitious, lifelong plan for this game. We’ll do what we can to entertain them, but in the meantime… hey, look, a rift! (laughter)

One of the things we really wanted to demonstrate with this is that we’re not just going to prop up the endgame fans – which we certainly do want to do – but we want to give early- and mid-game fans something to participate in as well. It’s a win for everyone. Yes, we are opening up the raid content, which is for the people that progressed all the way through the tiered stages of the dungeons. But we also wanted to do it in a way that lets players of any level participate. It’s about using our existing systems in new and exciting ways.


Ten Ton Hammer wishes to thank Hal Hanlin and the Rift team for putting up with our off-color Elvira references and telling us a bit more about the 1.1 update. For more on the game, be sure to check out Rift at Ten Ton Hammer and the Rift official site.

 

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