The last time we were able to check in on RIFT during E3, it was in the wake of the announcement of the Storm Legion expansion. We apparently caused a bit of a storm of our own by awarding the Riders of Rohan expansion for LotRO our Best Expansion award soon after, with many outraged gamers unable to comprehend how the upcoming RIFT expansion wasnt the clear victor.
But heres the rub; when we saw Storm Legion at E3, there was little more than a basic overview presentation and a few minutes of a single world event being soloed by a buffed up dev character to really sell us on the merits of an entire expansion. Thankfully the expansion is much further along in its development cycle at this point, so at PAX Prime I was able to check out many of the core includes to give it a fair shake this time around.
The first thing you need to know about Storm Legion is that its simply huge. Scale factors into just about everything. The landmass being added to the game is massive, as is just about every other element found within. Its not that the original game ever really felt claustrophobic, but by comparison its entirely possible players will feel as though it is once they get rolling through Storm Legion content.
The second thing that stood out for me and I apologize in advance that this will probably dominate much of the remainder of this preview is the killer player housing system that will be added in a major patch just prior to the expansions release. In other words, while the player housing system (called Dimensions) is being developed as part of Storm Legion, it will be a free feature to all players, regardless of whether or not they pick up the expansion.
Whats interesting to me is that Storm Legion is the second MMO appointment I had at PAX this year that showcased player housing. Call me crazy, but I love it when theres such great synergy going on across multiple titles; especially when it harkens the return of a much beloved MMO staple that somehow got left in a random gaming ditch ET style by developers far too long ago.
While many MMO devs still dont understand the appeal of player housing, in the case of Trion the decision to include it was entirely based on popular demand. The Dimensions system itself is kind of like EQII player housing on crack. With giant bees. Much like everything else shown for Storm Legion, expect scale to be a huge thing in the player housing department.
At present there wont be any 100% utilitarian includes, but according to Trions Russ Brown theyre looking at getting certain things added. For example, with the massive amount of options for placing objects in your Dimension that can change the skydome, weather, or time of day, player housing really, really needs some method of storing things you dont want to actively use. Either that, or the more world-changing objects may need to have some sort of on / off switch added since their effects are produced once placed in your Dimension.
Thats a pretty common issue with MMO expansions though more loot, more features, and more cool stuff to craft all equals more things to fit into rapidly insufficient storage. Even if the folks at Trion dont want players to get too much free storage by adding some kind of containers to the player housing areas, I would at least suggest adding something that can only store items specific to that part of the game. If we can have bags that automatically filter gathered items, weapons, or other specifics, it doesnt seem like too far a stretch to expect a treasure chest that can live within your housing areas.
Potential storage considerations aside, Dimensions represent the coolness of user generated content in a basic form. Players will gain their first Dimension at level 7, and will eventually have multiple Dimensions to tinker with and customize to their hearts content. Any objects that you can place in your Dimensions can be scaled in size, rotated, or even placed in such a way as to appear floating.
Given that Dimensions provide both interior and exterior space to work with, the placement possibilities for objects are sure to spark loads of creativity amongst players. In fact, the first thing that sprang to mind while I watched how objects can be scaled and placed was the idea of creating your own platforming puzzles which would be a total blast if youre into that sort of thing.
Certain objects can also have a direct impact on the overall look and feel of your Dimension. One example shown would change the default skydome display, and players will potentially even be able to recreate any sky found in the game within their Dimension. Another example discussed is an object that could produce rain or other weather types, and yet another that could change the time of day from daytime to nighttime to suit your preferences.
The potential level of player investment that this type of system brings to the table is off the charts, and its great to see Trion fully embracing the concept in an era when player housing has rarely made it into most triple-A MMOG releases. It also represents another giant green check mark in the win column for Storm Legion which is shaping up to be a great expansion for RIFT overall.