Trion and the Rift dev team are very excited about the upcoming 1.5 update to the game that is scarcely six months old. The update, called “Ashes of History”, is set to debut on Rift servers sometime the week of September 26th, “barring any complications” according to Executive Producer Scott Hartsman. If it all comes off without a hitch, or at least only minor glitches, the 1.5 update is the most ambitious one to date.
MMORPG.com had the opportunity to sit in on a conference call between Rift’s Design Director Hal Hanlin, Executive Producer Scott Hartsman and Senior PR Manager Chris Schmidt to talk about Ashes. The discussion broke into several main areas: The new Chronicles dungeons for duos and soloists; the Planar Attunement system; veteran’s rewards and other smaller, yet important, areas. The trio fielded questions from representatives of several gaming sites and were happy to reveal some interesting new information about 1.5.
The new Chronicles system is a specially designed pair of dungeons (for now!) aimed directly at players who have yet to experience end game content for any number of reasons and to expose players to the huge overarching storyline contained in Rift. The Hammerknell and Greenscale’s Blight dungeons have new content and a new story geared to pairs of players or to ultra-buffed single players. When asked why there was a need to “overhaul” the end game content, Hal Hanlin was quick to say that overhaul implies that something is changing or being eliminated and that that’s not the case with Chronicles.
“It is flying in the face of conventional MMO wisdom, not by replacing or changing existing end game content, but rather by making sure that everyone can participate in the end game. At level 50, NPCs celebrate you.” Hanlin said.
Chronicles begins with a NPCs acknowledging that the level 50 player is “fully Ascended” and allows them entrance into a personal celebration of that fact. This starts the journey to the larger Chronicles dungeons that can be played in pairs or as a super buffed soloist.
“The goal is to do the Chronicle of Attunement to celebrate your own greatness”, Hartsman said. “After the celebration, characters can play duos. [The dungeons are] designed to be challenging but not designed to break you.”
Hanlin further emphasized the fact that the two Chronicles dungeons arriving with Ashes allow duos allow players to “play unique content that is special for them and to see new places”. It’s about making content accessible, not softening it, according to Scott Hartsman. The content in the Chronicles dungeons, while taking place in areas with similar names to larger raids, is unique and generally features a small portion of the larger raid dungeons. For instance, the Hammerknell dungeon for Chronicles features only three rooms and a corridor from the much larger Hammerknell raid. Lastly, Chronicles is geared difficulty-wise for pairs of players that can complete an instance in 20-40 minutes, biobreaks included!
When asked if this was “catering” to casual players, Scott Hartsman jumped in by saying that players will need to “give it a try” and that it’s the feeling of the development team that there is something there to appeal to everyone. Hartsman also said that “hardcore vs casual is not delineated by us” when developing content.
Chronicles dungeons will also bring new ways of earning loot into Rift by placing chests inside that are filled with consumable items, artifacts or gear that players can use. Bosses will drop expert quality loot. The loot will not always be the same or in the same places which gives players reasons to continue to interact with the environment.
Planar Attunement is another end game addition for level 50 players. At level cap, characters will continue to earn experience, not to level up, which is a separate mechanic according to Hartsman, but to spend points in one of six planar trees. By so doing, players will have access to elemental powers from each of the six planes: Air, Death, Life, Fire, Earth and Water. When Planar Attunement is fully implemented into Rift, each elemental tree will feature three tiers but only one will launch with the 1.5 update.
Hartsman was asked whether this new attunement system was a way to ramp up to an increased level cap. He said, “It is not related to a level cap increase. It’s a parallel system.”
That said, level 50 players will again earn experience which can be applied to one or more of the planar trees. Hartsman said that some players will choose to focus on a single planar tree while others will spread points more widely. This, he said, is a way for players to further customize their characters. Players can choose which planes to focus on for specializations, persistent lures for specific types of rifts, convenience items, stat updates and more. Interestingly, the Planar Attunement system is completely open-ended. As long as players are earning XP, they will have the opportunity to spend those points in the planar trees.
The Rift site was updated yesterday to show off some pretty nice rewards for subscribers. We were told during the call with the Rift team that these rewards will be retroactive to the launch of the game. What this means is that folks who have been subscribed since Day 1 will receive the 1, 3 and 6 month rewards. Former players rejoining Rift will have their accumulated subscription time added to their accounts if they re-up and rewards will be handed out accordingly. Additional rewards will be given to players subscribing for multiple months rather than one month at a time. All rewards will be sent out via in-game mail the day that 1.5 launches.
Rewards include gear, drinks, a mobile mailbox (to receive mail wherever players are) and a personal vendor that can be summoned anywhere, any time to buy and sell items.
Interestingly, not all of the rewards are free. Hartsman indicated that some of the rewards will need to be purchased from the personal vendor but that these items are very unique and worth the cost to buy them.
Ashes of History World Event
A couple of weeks after 1.5 launches, the Ashes of History world event will begin. Both Hanlin and Hartsman indicated that this was going to be something special in that it will drop hints about a world beyond Telara and focus on the recreation and rebuilding of ancient Travel Stones. From what can be gathered, the event will focus on stopping two dragon cults bent on invading Telara in a fiery way.
There is no set date to launch the world event as developers want to give players ample time to experience the other goodies contained in 1.5. However, Hartsman did say “about two weeks” after 1.5’s launch might be a good guess.
Other Nuggets of Information
Ashes of History is bringing some big changes to Rift. There is no question that the changes are interesting and will go a long way to keeping Rift viable for level capped players. We’ll report back after 1.5 deploys to give you our thoughts about the changes.