Rift Update 1.7 - A Ten Ton Hammer Interview with Adam Gershowitz
Update 1.7 is about to hit the live shards and we wrangled away Design Producer Adam Gershowitz from his busy schedule to discuss some of its finer points and what the content team has been up to.
Ten Ton Hammer: Update 1.7 is packed with additions, updates and improvements; which ones are you most excited about?
Adam Gershowitz: We consider 1.7 a content-light but feature-rich update and while we aren't rolling out a bunch of new dungeons or raids what we are working on is a ton of quality of life changes. This patch has been really focusing on cleaning up a lot of little things that we have been getting consistent feedback on from the community. The team is really excited to finally get those things taken care of. For me personally, I am really excited about the PvP changes and the introduction of the mercenary system. The reason I am really excited about that is that I am just like everyone else and I hate waiting in queues. We are constantly battling and making sure that we can provide rapid gameplay and we think this will be an interesting way to do it and it will add an exciting dynamic into the game.
The other thing that I am really excited about it, and I can't speak too much about it under threat of death and dismemberment from Hal, is the new event that we are going to be launching with 1.7. It won't happen immediately when the patch hits, but shortly after. It's still under wraps but it will feature some brand new gameplay that we haven't done before.
TTH: Some players are worried about the difficulty level of end-game being reduced too dramatically due to some proposed boss changes in Hammerknell. Can you give us some insight into the process behind these changes?
Adam: That's a tough thing, it isn't tough to give you insight but it can be tough to make people understand why we are doing it. We have a variety of different players playing the game and in the case of Hammerknell, or any top tier raid, you have those initial world first guys who want to do everything as fast as possible - and for them we like to make sure the content is as challenging as possible. But over time it doesn't make sense for us to keep that content that hard because those players are going to move on to something new and more exciting and other players wont get a chance to experience that content. Our initial tuning is always about challenge and difficulty but over time we ease up on that and will continue to do so to make it more accessible for all players.
Most of these changes are happening because we have a new raid coming out and we want to make sure that those hardcore guilds as well can finish gearing up their members or get those final few drops to make sure they are ready to go for that new raid when it pops. We also know that many guilds are bringing new raiders into the zones and this should help them get those players up to speed quicker.
TTH: What can you tell us about the PvP rank changes?
Adam: The main reason we went from 8 to 40 and removed some of the restrictions from the items wasn't to necessarily tamp down the curve, but it was to give players more to look forward to in every play session. If you're familiar with how the old system worked you know that with the eight ranks that the first rank went pretty good and I got a bunch of items, the next rank was a little longer and I got a bunch of items, the next rank was oh my god I've got to wait a while to get a bunch of items. Then it started to get to the point that you had to grind a *LOT* of time and then when you got there you got a ton of items and rewards all in one fell swoop.
What we did with removing those restriction and expanding the ranks allowed us to dole out the rewards in smaller increments even though the time from start to final rank is essentially the same. It feels a lot better, people feel more rewarded and it also helps with the balance because you don't have situations where people spike, your consistently getting upgrades and getting better.
"What we did with removing those restriction and expanding the ranks allowed us to dole out the rewards in smaller increments even though the time from start to final rank is essentially the same. "
Adam: The game is a really diverse one and there are lots of things we want to do with it.We map out at a high level which things are more or less important in terms of release and we move things around at every milestone. We also pride ourselves in being able to rapidly respond to the needs of the game, but at the same time there are things that, even though they are lower priority, that we have wanted to do. Non-stabby actives as we call them, and one of those was weddings. So this has been something we have been working on and planning and kind of moving along at a stately pace while, yes, we have been working on what some players might consider higher priority issues.
The other thing to note when dealing with features like this that our development team is a pretty diverse group that has various skill sets and strengths.When it comes down to it you don't want a podiatrist to do your brain surgery, even though he is a doctor and went to school for a lot of years, but he isn't really good at taking apart a brain and putting it back together again. The same thing can be said about designers, artists and engineers. The designer who is really great at providing a top-notch roleplaying experience might not be the same designer that is good at fine-tuning a raid or balancing a class. We really do play up to the strengths of our team and that effects when we decide to do which feature. Overall there are definitive features we want to get out and some have a longer horizon of when we want to get them out, like weddings, while some have a shorter horizon such as fixing major bugs or more popular main stream content like Ember Isle or a new instance. We try to cater to all players as fast as we can get to them
To answer your other question, we absolutely have a lot more non-stabby activities planned in the future. Weddings was a real big first step for us and we want to see how popular they are with the community. So far on the test shard they have been really popular and based off that we will see which activities to release in the future. We look at everything our players are playing and make our design decisions based on player feedback.
TTH: The new Chronicle, River of Souls: Chains of Death is packed with lore, are we going to continue to see greater lore elements in future Chronicles?
Adam: We have experimented quite a bit with different lore elements in each chronicle, from the initial Chronicle of the Ascended which is loaded with lore to Greenscale's Blight which is more of a mini-raid and features less lore. River of Souls is the evolution of that, we found that players liked a good amount of story and they enjoy a good set of encounter challenges so we have done our best to balance the two. We have gotten a lot of feedback on it and if we continue to get good reception on it then we will probably continue down that path.
TTH: What can you tell us about the new 20 player raid Infernal Dawn?
Adam: That's the big question right? It's coming pretty soon as far as raids go. We have just started internal testing and at this very moment there are folks here playing through it here and on our PTS through private invite that are testing some of the encounters. The zone isn't done, the encounters aren't done, we are still tweaking the art and balancing the game so it will probably be a couple of months before its ready. The main thing we are doing with this raid is to make sure that we learn from some of the mistakes we had on earlier raid releases. We have a lot more players with a ton more expertise and knowledge of how the game works now than we did earlier. After the game has been out for a year you gain some really good players that know the finer points and our designers are a lot more experienced, so we are able to give it a really high level of polish.
Even though we had considerable player involvement in developing Hammerknell it was released within a few months of the game being launched and even with the experience of prior raids, most players were barely ready to hit Hammerknell. One of the nice things with Infernal Dawn is that we have a lot larger pool of players to pull from for testing. It's no longer just 3 or 4 top guilds, but we have a lot more people that have gotten through a lot more content, that are helping us test this out.
TTH: Can you talk to us about the new Calling Purposes that are going live in 1.7?
" I've never worked at a studio where more people have played the game and they have stuck with it and love it.
Because we are players and are passionate about the game, we have no plans to slow down our content development - we aren't just making a game to sell, we're making one that we want to play and our developers never want to stop creating. "
The second part of this system is that even though someone may have played all the way to 50, they may not have tried a lot of different builds during that leveling process. Now that they are at max level they want to try new roles; for instance you may have played a DPS Warrior and now at level 50 you want to try your hand at tanking. Starting at level 50 with a completely empty soul tree and trying to figure out where those points need to go is pretty daunting. We wanted Calling Purposes to fill that role for them. Depending on player feedback we may implement more features, such as player created and shared templates of more complex builds for advanced players.
TTH: Can you tell us anything about what to expect in 1.8 and beyond?
Adam: Yeah, I can give some general teasers. We have Infernal Dawn, which is our new raid coming soon. Expect some awesome stuff around our anniversary, I can't say too much about that, but the one year mark is huge for us so we have a lot planned around that. We are working on a variety of non-stabby activities. We've got some more raids, some more dungeons, some more Master Modes, and some more Slivers planned. We are really happy with how Instant Adventure worked out so we are looking at how we can spread that more throughout the game world and how we can improve that experience as well.
So yeah, the first year has been chocked full of content and the second year is going to be no slouch either. We have no plans to take our foot off the gas; So yeah, the first year has been chocked full of content and the second year is going to be no slouch either. We have no plans to take our foot off the gas; I've never worked at a studio where more people have played the game and they have stuck with it and love it. Because we are players and are passionate about the game, we have no plans to slow down our content development - we aren't just making a game to sell, we're making one that we want to play and our developers never want to stop creating.
We want to thank Adam for taking time out of his busy schedule to go over the upcoming patch with us and we cant wait for the next one, which at their current pace should be in a few more weeks! For more on the game, be sure to check out Rift at Ten Ton Hammer and the Rift official site.