Yesterday, I had the opportunity to sit down with Rift producer Adam Gershowitz to discuss the forthcoming update to the game, Patch 1.1, and how it will effect the players who are walking around the world of Telara. Players can be excited as the patch will be rolling out “Very early in April” almost in time to commemorate the first month of live play in the game.
The patch is known as the River of Souls update and isn't just a new zone that's being opened up, but a whole event structure that will be going along with it. Adam was very clear that this will be the first of many massive world events. This is the first time the team will be telling a story that takes place across the whole of the server, all at one time, so that when the patch launches it'll affect the entire world of Telara.
Alsbeth, one of the prominent NPCs in the game, has unlocked the power of the River of Souls, which is where the souls go on their way into the afterlife. She's unlocked this power and is drawing it back to Telara in an effort to push hard into the actual realm of Telara and to assume control of the world. It's a massive event that all players will be able to participate in as they push into the River of Souls in a bid to put her down once and for all.
The ever-present, ever-growing story that will be implemented will be, as Adam pointed out, server-wide. While the patch does implement a new instanced raid geared towards those of you who are end-game players at the moment, the dynamic nature of the world of Rift means that the patch and the event therein need to accommodate all players and will allow for that variety in level.
The largest piece of content released in the patch will be the Raid, which is of course geared towards the 50th level characters out there. The River of Souls, which is what the Raid is known as, varies from the original format of other raids in the game such as Greenscale. Greenscale is a structured story in which you move from boss to boss, to boss, whereas The River of Souls will be a more open environment wherein players can choose how they want to progress through the zones. Adam harkened back to the existing dungeons as examples, where some are more open and some are linear. Adam equated River of Souls to an open experience. Players will be able to try out a variety of different encounters, for example, if they're having problems with one, they may want to move on and go to another, rather than pound away on the same one over and over again.
However, as this is a world event, no matter where you are in the world you will have the opportunity to participate in bits and pieces of the storyline, regardless of your level. When the event is pushed along and you're in the final struggle against Alsbeth, pushing her forces back to the River of Souls, that will actually be playing out throughout every zone in the game. Every player, of all level, will be looked to to pitch in in a bid to achieve success against Alsbeth, and when she's been pushed back, that's where the Raid will begin for the end-game players.
When asked about the choice to dive into the world of Alsbeth the Discordant, I was told that at the end of the day, the bad guy of the game is Regulos. The desire was there to set the tone of the whole experience as having been against Regulos and his forces and in a bid to do so, the Death Rift theme was chosen. Alsbeth, as one of Regulos' most dedicated followers, was almost a loose end of sorts that needed to be tied up in story before the team felt they could dive into the stories of the other dragons. From the beginning of the game, Alsbeth the Discordant has been a part of the story and to have her focus heavily on the first live update patch was important to the development of the game as a whole.
The patch expands beyond just the unlocking of the River of Souls and how that will affect all players, ranging from balance fixes to small pieces of content updates such as performance boosts, unlocks, collections and achievements that will be staying with your character forever. If you do not play through the patch as it progresses, you may lose out on vanity-packs, polymorph potions, new mounts, and a variety of other features that will lock away once the event itself has actually passed. That being said, a lot of the content will be carried over once the event has passed; Players who join the game during this world event won't see a world entirely turned upsidedown, but will see these new story pieces integrated with their play experience. For players who join after the event is over and the River of Souls has been opened, will still be able to play through echoes of the content, as the special events that will be opened in the early days of the patch will stay with the game and become part of the content rotation. The new zone events, the new rifts, and the new encounters will be at the forefront throughout the unfolding of this story, but once it's completed, will be shuffled into the regular rotation, so to speak.
Like I said, players should expect to see Patch 1.1 “Very early in April”.