3-faction PvP. Besides integrated voice chat and combat-ready ferrets, is there a more sought-after feature in modern MMOs? Fortunately, Trion Worlds' upcoming Update 1.9: Conquest will be bringing 3-sided warfare to Rift, among a host of other features, including Mentoring, Global Chat, the Barbershop, Instant Adventures to the Silverwood, Freemarch, Gloamwood, and Stonefield regions, the new Primeval Feast Sliver, and the Summerfest World Event.
We got to sit down with Trion Worlds' Chief Creative Officer and Executive Producer Scott Hartsman and Design Producer Hal Hanlin to chat about the upcoming update, and have a lot of goodies to share.
Starting with Instant Adventure, the Trion Worlds team has been finding this newer addition to Rift's game systems to be very useful on the development side of things because of its modularity. They're able to experiment with new ideas in a "safe" forum, rather than trying to tinker with something in a multi-layered 20-quest chain. For the four new lower-level Instant Adventures, the developers have been playing with different gameplay ideas and lessons learned from previous ones. Hal's favorite iteration in particular is the randomization element present in the new Instant Adventures, where you might think you're doing a standard kill quest, and suddenly a rare mob shows up, you get a cool temporary ability, or some other variation occurs. In terms of bringing Instant Adventure to other zones, Trion Worlds is planning to go much further with the feature, but want to first see how it pans out for Rift's current overall gameplay in conjunction with Mentoring.
Mentoring is another area in which the devs are taking a "Trion" approach, meaning that they're putting it out there for the community to play with and experience, and will improve and tweak it over time. Scott and Hal mentioned that they think a lot of MMOs don't include mentoring because of the deceptively massive amount of work it takes on the engineering side to implement, particularly with all of Rift's souls to consider. Still, it seems like the Mentoring system will be a fun way to seamlessly dip into any of the lower-level content that you've skipped or would like to experience with a friend, and will be well worth the development effort.
You may be curious, as I am, about how all of these new features that Trion Worlds is adding to the game over time will affect the leveling process in Rift. Scott and Hal are very enthusiastic that the variety mixes the options for advancement in a good way, providing a lot of things to do with no "right way" to level your character. They felt that the low-level vanilla choose-your-own-experience was lacking, and that Instant Adventure and the other new features fit right into this void. Anecdotally, Hal mentioned that he's been mentoring with his son to experience some of the lower-level content together, and Scott has been leveling a new character from 1-50 without doing any quests at all! In fact, Scott is determined to take on Conquest as a pacifist, with no PvP whatsoever, and only engaging in PvE objectives. I'd love to see a dev diary on how that pans out.
The Barbershop will be a fun addition for players who want to re-customize their characters, and is another feature with a deceptively large number of systems at work just to get it functional. Thus, the first step in 1.9 is to get this feature live, with re-customization based on existing options, after which Trion Worlds will be adding new stuff to play with in staged releases over time.
Rift will also be getting global, cross-server chat, with which Trion Worlds is taking a wait-and-see approach to determine how well it works. Rather than over-legislating global chat from the get-go, out of fear that it will be overwhelming to players' chat logs, they'd prefer to put it out there and see how it is used and received, and tweak it accordingly. In addition, while cross-game chat a là Battle.net is certainly on their radar, the Trion Worlds team's overriding priority is the speed and quality of individual games' updates.
And of course, there's Conquest. Rift's 3-faction PvP system will provide many different activities and objectives including face-punching, and in response to feedback on the public test server, the team is working on making those objectives more clear for all players. From the outset, the design philosophy behind Conquest has been to move away from systems where players have to grind rep between 3 different factions or play for eight hours a day to feel like they're advancing and contributing to their side. Trion Worlds is interested in players creating fun, malleable teams with their friends, and to that end, players will be allowed to switch between factions and will receive varying rewards based on their participation.
These kinds of rewards range from buffs that wear off after a day or so to persistent items that can be bought from in-Conquest vendors with earned currency. Conquest currency is rewarded from your PvP actions in 3-faction battles as well as PvE against the colossi bosses that are unlocked at the end of a match, so there are rewards for general participation as well as sticking it through for a full session. These rewards include purchasable trinkets, essences, and more, and we were told that there will be a variety of stuff for hardcore and casual players to do.
Additionally, the Trion Worlds team approached Conquest without concrete match time limits in mind, preferring to look for a nice balance between players instead. They wanted to avoid the kind of PvP where hundreds of players end up "banging on a door" for two hours, and instead create a scenario with features like visible battle lines on the map and other strategic elements, and where you can use your base as a mode of defense, with turrets and things to buff. They also wanted to make it possible for 1-2 people to sneak around the map and still affect the tide of battle, which would require enough time in the session to implement. Scott and Hal find that sessions have been lasting between 1.5-3 hours on average, and there's a max PK limit in place to ensure that matches don't overstay their welcome.
There are also several smaller-scale updates coming to Rift, like new weather effects, and the ability for mixed-level parties to all move at the speed of the group's highest-level mount, which both the public test server players and the devs themselves felt was a much-needed revision. 1.9 will also bring the Primeval Feast Sliver and the Summerfest World Event, so there's plenty to do in Rift, particularly until Storm Legion is unleashed.
As for what our hosts are most looking forward to in Update 1.9? Scott is excited about seeing all of the features and game systems in the scale of live servers, in addition to playing his Conquest pacifist! For Hal's part, Conquest has much improved his enthusiasm for PvP in general, and he's been ninja'ing around the battlefield making other teams scamper around their defenses. If Rift ever implements a 2v2 arena system, I'd posit that the pacifist/ninja duo would provide for some ridiculously fun PvPing.
Thanks again to Scott Hartsman, Hal Hanlin and Trion Worlds for chatting with us about Conquest!
Are you looking forward to Update 1.9: Conquest? Let us know in the comments below!