In the first on an ongoing series of exclusive interviews with Trion
Worlds, Ten Ton Hammer seeks out as much information as they can about Rift: Planes of Telara,
the upcoming, action-packed MMOG. This time, we talk to Scott Hartsman,
Creative Director and Trion Redwood City Studio Lead. If you have any
questions that you wish to be asked in future interviews, post them in
Ten Ton Hammer: When you go into a dungeon or raid, are you able to switch your roles? (Submitted by Khalathwyr)
Scott Hartsman: Absolutely. You’re able to acquire up to four roles by visiting your trainer, and once you have those roles, you can switch back and forth between them any time you choose out of combat. You can’t do it in the middle of a fight. That would be kind of goofy. Other than combat, you can switch at any time. I’ve noticed that it is extremely useful just for soloing through the world. You run into a place where you need a little bit of stealth, and so you switch. Later on, you run into a place where you need a little bit more tanking, so you switch. It makes you feel that you have a ton of tools at your disposal. It’s really cool.
Ten Ton Hammer: That is cool. One of the things that pop immediately into my mind about that sort of thing is that when devs are designing encounters, dungeons, raids, etc., you always have to take into account every possibility. A lot of designers don’t want to limit things to where you need to have a specific class for a certain fight. But if you’re able to change on the fly, then you’re actually able to do that.
Scott Hartsman: It definitely helps. At the end of the day, players are always come up with interesting ways to beat the hell out of things that we create in ways that we didn’t expect. If you want to take a good example from a different game such as, “Yes, this fight is imminently doable if you bring nine paladins with you.” If that turns out to be the strategy, then guess what? That’s fine because anybody can become a paladin; technically any warrior can become a paladin for the fight, assuming they went that way and got that soul. It’s not that we’re trying to design fights that require nine of a given class, but we sure could, I guess.
Ten Ton Hammer: I guess the point is that you’re not limited.
Scott Hartsman: Yes.
Ten Ton Hammer: Does the map of your world extend eastward into the islands? (Submitted by Khalathwyr)
Scott Hartsman: Aha! The launch world, in fact, is as it is right now, meaning that the map that you see is the world that we are launching with. It is that and a goodly number of interiors, instances, and dungeons.
Ten Ton Hammer: So when it comes to the islands, is that a hint that there’s going to be boats for travel and perhaps even player boats? (Submitted by Khalathwyr)
Scott Hartsman: Right now, the world does not extend out that way. The mainland is the launch content.
Ten Ton Hammer: Are you still going to shoot for what you want at launch or are you saying, “We’d like to have this in for launch, but we can’t. We just don’t have the time so we’re going to put it in a later content update.”?
Scott Hartsman: Our launch content is our launch content. We already are at the point, and we have been for awhile, where we have the launch content planned out and have what the post-launch content looks like for the first few updates. We’re not doing the, “Oh, we didn’t finish it. I guess it’s live content now.” The launch world is scoped very specifically to fit into our development time window. Some of the post-launch content, such as the art, is already started. This is a very intentional roll-out plan.
Ten Ton Hammer: How random are rifts? Will there be known spots where players can camp and wait for them to pop up or are they really random and can strike anywhere?
Scott Hartsman: There will be some known spots that are very intentionally set the way they are because of the story. Just because something is a rift doesn’t mean that it’s a part of the global world invasion system. There are some that we’ve placed for story. There’s one in a war-front for instance, which is one of the gameplay elements there. In general, there are hundreds and hundreds of places where they can possible pop up, and that’s just based on the mechanics of laying them out and making sure they look good and play well. For instance, if we had a system where it was literally any place in the universe with developers unable to say, “Not here,” where a rift would open up, then it could do so on top of an inn in town. That would be extremely frustrating and make for bad gameplay. You wouldn’t be able to fight anything that was there. There are just some realities of game creation that make us steer them. We can’t say, “Yes! It’s absolutely anywhere, including places you could never get to and places that would piss you off!” The idea is to make sure that the gameplay is fun. It is highly random. If you waited in a specific spot for a rift or an invasion, you would be disappointed. It is not camp-a-spot gameplay.
Ten Ton Hammer: Are there any free update contents planned for after launch? (Submitted by Khalathwyr)
Scott Hartsman: Absolutely. That is one of the core tenets of the game. We have the ability because of the underlying architecture of the game and dynamic content engine to be able to add content in a way that is more economical than most games can. That’s a huge part of the value that we’re hoping to bring.
Ten Ton Hammer: Grouping or crafting, which offers the best loot?
Scott Hartsman: Interesting. We have a ton of different ways for loot to get into the game, so I don’t know to say whether it’s grouping or crafting. The last time I went over the list with the itemization guys (and the number and crafting guys as well), the number of vectors by which an item can enter the game…there’s 25 of them. There’s everything from soloing to random world drops to war-fronts, PvP loot, questing, crafting, raiding, grouping, and so on and so on. The way we think of the majority of our crafting loot is that if you go through the trouble of crafting something, you’re always going to prefer that item to something you get from soloing. Sometimes, you’ll get items that are preferable to grouping. Overall, there’s a ton of loot and we keep hooking up more and more ways to make it happen because there are 11 or 12 different types of gameplay activity that you can do…actually it’s more than that…all the way up the line. We need to make sure that if you play a certain way, you’ll get rewarded and it needs to be fun.
Ten Ton Hammer: Do you have an auction house or a broker system designed yet?
Scott Hartsman: Yes. We actually have it in the game right now.
Ten Ton Hammer: Does it have any unique feature like posting want ads?
Scott Hartsman: There are some features that we’re calling utility features and we need to make sure that we have enough time to spend on the stuff that we really, really care about, such as souls, rifts, and invasions; all the things that make Rift unique. Stuff like mail and auctions are things that we will add on to over time, but we need to make sure that we have the basics and that they are able to do what they need to do.
Ten Ton Hammer: Lastly, what about beta? Everybody wants in!
Scott Hartsman: Actually, we just started doing solicitations for folks to submit their guilds for beta and there is the official thread being tracked on our forums. We are at the point where we want to start to build the pool of guild-less people who played MMOGs. We want to know who they are and get them registered on the site. If you don’t have an account on our site, we won’t be able to find you. We want to have you in. We’re putting the collection of people together right now. Consistent to what I was telling people at PAX is the current goal is to be in our beta event by the end of the year, and we’ll see how it goes from there.
Our thanks to Scott Hartsman. If you have any questions about Rift: Planes of Telara that you want to be asked in future interviews, please post them in our official Rift forum.