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style="font-weight: bold;">Previous
style="font-weight: bold;">#1
- href="">General

- href="">The
Rift System

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Soul System

- href="">Combat

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#6 - Loot
and Gear

One of the most anticipated upcoming MMOG titles is undoubtedly style="font-style: italic;">Rift: Planes of Telara,
from Trion Worlds. Here at Ten Ton Hammer we never stop working in
order to bring you the newest and most up to date information, such as
our ongoing Q&A sessions with the games developers. 
Stepping it up a notch this week we wrested our own Benjamin J. de la
Durantaye from his cozy Canadian confines and sent him packing to
Southern California to extract even more info, straight from the
source. Ben was a part of a community event put on by the games
developers last week, bringing together media, the games design team
and some of its most passionate fans.  Join us as we sit down
with Studio Lead and the game’s Creative Director: Scott Hartsman for
an exclusive interview.

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Ton Hammer:
for hosting us, can you tell us some of the
highlights of this community event, what was the inspiration for this

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Scott Hartsman, Trion
Studio Lead, Creative Director:
is the first time I have ever worked on a game that hadn’t launched
yet, and we wanted to use this opportunity to find out what the
community values and cares deeply about. Usually you launch it into
Alpha or Beta testing and then start gathering feedback; this is nice
to get that opportunity pre-launch. For instance last night we spoke at
length with some community members about guilds and this morning we
were able to come back here to the offices and start planning some
implementations of what we learned.  This event was really
great for us because we were able to bring the majority of our team,
many of which have been working on this game for four or five years,
and they all got to experience the passion the players have for the
game – it’s a huge morale booster for these folks.

Ton Hammer: We noticed the team was quite large, in fact when it came
time for the open mic Q&A there didn’t seem to be as many
questions asked as one would have anticipated. Do you think this is
because of your open relationship with the community?

Scott Hartsman:
: So true, the event was really about two things: exposing the
developers to the community and giving the community open and
unfettered access to the developers.  The developer to
community ratio was so strong that chances were if you had a question
you could simply tap someone on the shoulder and have it answered,
rather than getting up in front of everyone.  Several of our
leads that I talked to today were happy to tell me that they were able
to answer 30 to 40 questions.

Ton Hammer:
you think the game benefits from a face to face relationship with the

" style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman";"> style="font-style: italic;">Usually you launch it into Alpha
or Beta testing and then start gathering feedback; this is nice to get
that opportunity pre-launch.."

Scott Hartsman: .:
Absolutely, face to face - there is no substitute. I know we live in
the internet era and everything is done online, even MMOs are all about
making friends online but nothing replaces meeting people in person and
getting the nuances of facial expression and vocal
inflections.  Plus you get the opportunity to ask follow-up
questions and get them answered right then.

A perfect example – last night there were lots of guild members,
officers and leaders there and we got into a discussion about numbers
of guild ranks. The question was asked of us about how many guild ranks
there were in the game, we told him and the response was that while our
number was good, it simply wasn’t enough. He was using many more ranks
in his guilds current game and their guild used them in a very specific
manner. He told us that if he wasn’t able to have the same number of
ranks they may not migrate to our game when it launched, he just
couldn’t see demoting his members simply because we didn’t provide
enough ranks.  Those are the sorts of small details that, if
we are just sitting at our desks all day, we aren’t going to be
thinking about that.  Now that we are face to face and can see
that this is something he is very serious about, he was talking to me
and Russ Brown, our V.P. of development, and we looked at each other
and said, yeah we are pretty sure we can handle that fairly easily.

Ton Hammer: What
kind of systems are in place to promote community within the game?

Scott Hartsman:
Guilds are a huge thing for us, making sure guilds are more than just a
chat channel.  Guilds will have ranks and rights based system
where you can assign rights based on ranking.  You can
customize your own ranks. We have guild perks which help you build your
guild over time with guild quests and functions, these perks impact
performance and out of combat bonuses as well.  On top of that
we have customizable chat channels and in addition to the standard area
channels you also get level based channels that open up as you gain
levels. You can chat with folks on other servers during our cross
server battlegrounds as well.

Ton Hammer: How do you balance the rift system between competitive
players and cooperative players?

Scott Hartsman:
The overland dynamic content: rifts, defeat the invaders, defeat the
footholds, all of those sorts of objectives are social events that are
definitely more the merrier.  Then we have competitive endgame
with a specific war front that you won’t get access to until max level
as well as the various end game raids. We are still working out some of
the specifics on how some of the overland rift raids will work. I was
talking to a PvP player who was very smartly trying to figure out how
things may work, he wondered that if they gained the ability to lure
out a specific raid boss, would they have a main force attacking that
boss and a defensive force guarding that raid to make sure no one else
bothered them during the encounter – and yes you will be able to do
that. I like that people are already planning how some very specific
PvP tactics will come into play.  I think there be enough
there to keep both types of player interested, there is already enough
there for people to start creating their own emergent gameplay based on
our systems.

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alt="Rift: Planes of Telara"

Ton Hammer: How much thought has gone into end game at this point, will
it ship with raid content already in place?

Scott Hartsman:
Absolutely,  we have some end game elements that have been in
testing, if you count warfronts,  when we started raid testing
and expert dungeon testing, it’s been several months now.  We
have two separate roadmaps, one for 1 to 50 and a much more detailed
one for level 50 onward.  We are intentionally making a game
that doesn’t need to have the 1 to 50 content extended to create
gameplay.  We want the 1 to 50 leveling to take as much time
as we have available content, we don’t want it to be a grind.

We aren’t going to be one of those games that plays one way in beta and
then you get to launch and it’s like, hey everything is now 10 times
longer, enjoy the launch game! People would rightfully freak out and
that would kill a lot of the fun in the game. We have been pacing the
game the way we want it to play in alpha and planning out what end game
tiering will look like after that.  We have two tiers of
expert mode dungeons, we have got raids both interior and exterior, we
have the PvP instances, we even have end game level crafting and
reputations.  You will be able to log in and have your choice
of six or seven things you can do, we don’t want to get in the trap of
being a game where folks feel like they have nothing to do. One half to
two-thirds of our design team has transitioned to end game already and
our QA team is actively running their own playtests that they can get
feedback right into the designers hands.

Ton Hammer:
the other way then, how would you rate the replayability of the early

Scott Hartsman: 
That is definitely a concern of most MMO players, myself included, and
our goal is to make sure that the game is so fun and functional as you
play it up that you are willing to do it again, and that you will look
forward to more content being added over time.  I have played
three guardians and a couple of defiants up, and while you will see
some of the same things again for sure, but between the way we update
content in the game as well as the dynamic gameplay there are lots of
different types of things to do. If you wanted to skip a zone entirely,
you could play a bunch of warfronts to gain levels.

Ton Hammer:
about specific zones and instances, mobs seem to be specifically
placed, is that a design element?

Scott Hartsman:
We don’t have spray and pray spawners, we don’t say “yeah we need about
10 cows over here, just drop them in and let them wander about”,
everything is hand placed both inside and outside. It can actually be
far more traumatic to do it that way since we are developing art as we
are developing content, you can go back into something in alpha and be
like “oh hey look all the mobs are now underground.”  There is
no way to really get a hand crafted challenge with the appropriate pull
puzzles and the amount of fun with random spawners. With that being
said there are elements in the world that occur with less
predictability, like the rifts and invasions themselves, but even then
there is a method to the madness.  If you see an invasion
spawn you can look on the minimap and see where they are headed, and go
there to defend it as an event – those are less predictable but not
entirely random.

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alt="Rift: Planes of Telara"

Ton Hammer: How do you balance risk vs. reward in terms of loot in the
game, are there multiple paths to end game items for all players?

Scott Hartsman:
There are different routes for people to get interesting things; you
won’t get the same things multiple ways generally. If you doing a lot
of rift content for example then you will get essences that can create
items with entirely customized stats, which is pretty cool. Different
activities will give you different kinds of rewards; there are some
activities that will lead up into useful rewards. Warfronts and
artifact collections will net you some good gear, but there will be
enough incentive to make you want to raid to get that gear. I think
people focus too much some times on their not being able to get
everything in the game based on the way they want to play and I don’t
think you need a game where that’s the case – if you make the
activities fun enough players will want to try them with their friends.

Ton Hammer:
When can players look forward to hearing more about crafting?

style="font-weight: bold;">

" style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman";"> style="font-style: italic;">We
want the 1 to 50 leveling to take as much time as we have available
content, we don’t want it to be a grind. We aren’t going to be one of
those games that plays one way in beta and then you get to launch and
it’s like hey! Everything is now 10 times longer, enjoy the launch
game! People would rightfully freak out and that would kill a lot of
the fun in the game. "

Scott Hartsman:
Thematically the idea for crafting is that it needs to be accessible
enough that the average person can have fun with it. It needs to have
enough of a unique edge that you as a better crafter than me can have a
way to express what better means through the items that you make.
Thematically that’s what we’re going for and we will be doing a more
detailed release on that over the next six weeks or so.  At
the same time we will start talking about what content exists within
the game to support crafting, it is more than just what you can see in
the UI. Crafting is important to us.

Ton Hammer:
crafting be more for the causal player or the hardcore crafter?

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Scott Hartsman:
It depends, I think there will be enough of a system there supported by
enough content to where it’s going to be approachable and fun to a
casual crafter, but it will be more fun and more involved to a person
who wants to get more into it.

Ton Hammer: Is there anything else you want to tell our readers Scott?

Scott Hartsman:
Just that the last couple days have been exhausting and fun, trying to
make a game while this event goes on. It has been very rewarding to the
dev team to get to meet the players and see the level of passion that
exists, especially for the members of our team that haven’t worked on
an MMO before.

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alt="Rift: Planes of Telara"

We would like to thank Scott and
everyone at Trion Worlds
for their hospitality and for taking the time to sit down with us. Stay
to Ten Ton Hammer for our continuing coverage of what looks to be a
promising title.

To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our RIFT Game Page.

Last Updated: Mar 29, 2016