After two long years of waiting, Trion has finally pulled back the curtain on what’s next for RIFT: Nightmare Tide. Announced during this week’s State of the Game letter, Executive Producer Bill Fisher tantalized fans with hints of what’s to come. We had long heard rumors that the expansion would send us to the Plane of Water but had little idea of how that would take place or what life would be like once we arrived there. With a few hints under our belt, we sat down with Bill, as well as Lead Content Designer, Mike Daugherty, and Community Manager, Eric “Ocho” Cleaver, to talk about just what players can expect from Nightmare Tide.
The Dreams of All Telarans
While the producer’s letter painted Nightmare Tide in broad strokes, we wanted to focus in on what Nightmare Tide will deliver. When we asked the team to explain, Bill was quick to point out that going to the Plane of Water doesn’t mean we’ll be underwater the whole time. “Only about ten percent of the core game is under water,” he said. The team also seems quite aware that many player simply don’t like to play under water and find it claustrophobic. The Song of Dreams mini-saga, in fact, was a test bed for ideas they were considering for Nightmare Tide. They knew they couldn’t make an expansion that was 100% under water, however, so they’ve made an effort to design areas that feel submerged actually taking place on dry land.
The more the team described, the more it became clear that Nightmare Tide is less about water as you might expect it and more about its permutations, its hidden horrors, and its associations with the ethereal. “It is the dreams and nightmares of all Telarans made manifest,” Mike shared; which, like any good dream, may result in a twisted, and sometimes disturbing reality. I mentioned the work of H.P. Lovecraft as an inspiration and it’s clear that the themes popularized by the classic horror author are at play here, most prominently, Mike says, in the icy wastes of the Tarken Glacier zone. Insanity is an interesting theme and one not uncommon to RIFT but it seems we may be getting a little Mountains of Madness in our Nightmare Tide.
Moving on from thematics, I was eager to get into specific details. The team wasn’t able to reveal too much yet, with many elements of the game still being developed, but we did talk about their philosophy coming out of Storm Legion. What lessons had they learned? Without hesitation, Bill answered: focus. “I would say that Storm Legion was a little too spread out,” he said, “and the original game was a little too claustrophobic.” With Nightmare Tide, Mike and his team are making sure that the content going into the game carries weight and impact. We won’t be seeing a new Volan, unfortunately, but, Mike says, they had to give up on other ideas to make that happen, so it’s currently being put off as a possibility for the future. This time around, the focus will be on providing a better variety of content within their targeted themes.
“One of the things I’ve seen come out of this,” added Ocho. “Is that it actually seems to spawn even more creativity… It’s like one thing leads to ten things leads to a hundred things that [the team] is really excited to share. Because everything has such a tight, focused core, it’s able to spin into so many more amazing things.”
But how about the story and questing experience? The team likes the approach they took with Storm Legion, reserving quest hubs for introducing big story characters and having players discover new quests along the way, but we can expect things to be slightly more compact than last time around. Carnage quests will also be making a return, though it’s clear that there is still some mixed opinion on how these appeared in Storm Legion. Changes are being made to answer concerns both “inside the dev team and outside the dev team,” so we shouldn’t expect them to appear just as they did last time. Exploration, however, will remain a focus and finding quests along the way is a natural part of the experience.
Leveling pace was another item we touched on but the team wasn’t ready to talk about it just yet. With Storm Legion, Trion increased the pace of old world leveling and is considering the same for levels 50-60 but isn’t committing to anything quite yet. Instead, Bill says the team is working on another idea, something different but akin to mentoring. They’re not quite ready to disclose what that might be but getting players into the action is something they’re preparing for, without devaluing all of the content they’ve already created.