The good people at Trion and Rick Sanchez were kind enough to come out to New York Comic Con for us and hit us up with a panel on their upcoming, highly-anticipated game, Rift: Planes of Telara, and a brief taste (if too little) of End of Nations, their as of yet no-release-date-provided MMORTS. Rick focused predominantly on Rift, and you can't blame him, as all of the enthusiasm in the room seemed to be for the forthcoming fantasy MMORPG.
Rick equated Rift right away to its brethren of the genre (WoW, Everquest) telling us that at its heart, Rift is an achievement-based MMO and a title that is intended to appeal to fans of its predecessors. He quickly listed off a grocery list of gameplay features, from crafting to guild raids, guild achievements, PvP, auctions, factions and Guild Quests, and promised an abundance of content that will keep you playing well until an expansion comes along. He then went on to claim that any MMO elements you've ever wanted in a game are going to be present in Rift: “Pick your little slice of MMO heaven and we're going to give it to you”.
While he spoke, Rick treated us to a slideshow of some of the visuals from within the game, which did look stunning. He was eager to point out to us that these images were not renders of visuals, but rather in-game visuals, which should make for a very striking visual experience while playing the game. With all of this emphasis on the striking visuals, you may be rolling your eyes about having to drop the money to update your computer. Don't fret! Rick enthusiastically stated that Rift can run on pretty much any computer that can run WoW. You may sacrifice visual quality if you don't run a terribly high-end machine, but you won't lose out on consistency of framerate or smoothness of gameplay.
He touched on the mythos of the game itself, outlining the eight-faction structure, two player-controlled factions (The Guardians and The Defiants) and six more Environmental, or Rift Factions (the Planes of Fire, Earth, Air, Water, Death, & Life). Each of these factions wants Telara for themselves, leading to widespread fighting and violence. The Defiants believe that the use of technologies, unearthed from previous, lost civilizations, will help to restore Telara to its former glory. Their mission is to use these gifts to defeat their enemies. The Guardians are a group who believe they've been charged by the Gods to protect Telara and they consider the Defiants' use of technology to be collaborating with the enemies. Their dual mission is to prevent and defeat the Rifts, while preventing the Defiants from their unholy use of technology.
While you choose your faction, and you're charged with fighting the opposing player-controlled faction, you are (regardless of the decision you make) compelled to fight against the Environmental factions. Because of the Dynamic Content of the game, the actions of the Environmental factions are left unknown and unpredictable. You never know when you might log back into your game and a Rift may have opened overnight, laying waste to a city of yours, or of the opposing faction. You could discover that the Plane of Fire has taken control of your home base, costing you your town and any achievements or quests therein.
Rifts can open anywhere, and at any time, regardless of whether you are there or not. Once opened, they will fight to take over the area in which they are, make it more like their home plane, and then move out, keep spreading like a virus until someone is compelled to stop them (whether it be you, the other player faction, or one of the other environmental factions). Each time a Rift opens, those creatures have their own goals, desires and needs that they are trying to achieve. This can play into your goals, as well, as you can choose to either fight against these creatures, or, should they be attacking your rival faction, aid them.
Rifts can appear in two ways. They can happen randomly, as determined in-game, but you can also call a Rift. There are two reasons you may call upon a Rift: You could use it to advance your own character and quest, to obtain XP, loot, etc., or you could do it to throw a wrench into the works of your rival faction. For example, if you're playing a Guardian and you and some of your buddies wanted to overthrow a Defiant city, you could choose to open up a Rift within that city, to weaken or distract them from when you make your move.
These encounters, Invasions, are one of the best ways to obtain loot, experience points, etc. Because of that, Trion emphasized the importance of making these encounters truly community-oriented experience. You can organize a group to close a Rift, and make it quite a substantial encounter. Each Rift has an assigned level, and if your group is able to successfully defeat the encounter and surpass the threat, a timed bonus level begins. The longer you and your group are able to surpass the provided threats within the time frame, your bonus levels continue, and get more and more difficult. With that increase in difficulty, so too do the XP and Loot improve. Rick was also keen to advise us that you don't actually have to be the last man standing in these encounters to obtain your loot and XP, as it's all divided out by level of contribution, so that if you were to die moments before killing the final enemy, you would still be awarded the treasure and XP that you had earned during the encounter.
We were also provided with a taste of Rift: Planes of Telara's class system. From the get-go, you choose a 'Primary Calling' (be it Warrior, Mage, Rogue, etc.) and that is how you begin. However, what sets Rift apart from its kin is that you actually get to shape the build of your character as you advance, rather than having your path set out for you. This is achieved through the game's “Soul” system. Souls are a part of Rift's quest system that serve as attributes/skills that you can add to your character to enhance the shape of your character's class. So, say for example you have chosen Warrior as your Primary Calling. As you advance in level and unlock further Souls and Soul slots, you can choose to focus solely on warrior souls, building yourself the ultimate warrior, or you can intertwine warrior souls with a soul that allows minor healing, or ranged attacks perhaps, to explore the diversity of not only the game's capabilities, but your own imagination and the story of your character. Rick claimed that there were so many different combinations of souls in the game, that even the developers had not yet figured out every individual combination, and how it would effect your gameplay.
Bare in mind, your Soul selections are not forever. As you advance in level, your soul slots increase, but your souls can actually be interchanged and customized throughout gameplay. For example, if you were a Warrior who had been travelling with a group and had interjected a Rogue Soul to obtain a ranged attack, but one day you found yourself online without your buddies and wanted to travel on your own, you could swap out that Rogue Soul for one that maybe granted you some healing abilities; “You get to pick how you want to play the game at any given time”. This sounds like a feature bred out of frustration with other game structures in which when you choose a Tank, you're a Tank until the end, unless you want to start a whole new character. You can experiment, try other elements of gameplay, and flesh out a very complex character on your first shot.
Naturally, the Soul system makes for a lot of interesting possibilities with regards to the game's PvP system as well. Even if you encounter the same opposing player 50 times, there's a good possibility that it would never be the same fight. The possibilities really do seem to be limitless.
End of Nations
Now, while the emphasis of the panel was on Rift: Planes of Telara, Rick did touch at the beginning of the panel on a game that I, myself, happen to be looking forward to quite a bit, the MMORTS End of Nations. He opened the panel with an appealing trailer for the game, setting up the post-apocalyptic, war-ravaged setting beautifully. The game takes place after the collapse of the world, the crumbling of governments, the destruction of the economy, under the Totalitarian fist of the Order of Nations. Like in Rift, Trion is creating a true and persistent world. While you're away, your armies can roam the Earth and engage in battles.
Rick explained that Trion's goal is to make the gameplay of EoN as truly massive as possible, pointing out that typical RTS games have 2 on 2 battles, 3 on 3, or 4 on 4, but lack that truly massive appeal. Pulling out another video for us, Trion boasted that they can accommodate (at the time of that video and of this article) up to 51 separate, player-controlled armies on one map at any given time. Obviously, there are smaller maps with fewer players, but Trion really is attempting to push the boundaries with this yet-to-have-a-release-date title. I, for one, am looking forward to a release date. Eagerly.