Right off the bat players will notice that Rift is indeed a traditional MMORPG in terms of interface and mechanics. We didn't get to see much in the way of different menus and that sort of functionality, but the game does employ the standard highlight and hot-bar mechanics that have become a staple of the industry. Simon's answer when I asked why the studio had decided to stick with the traditional controls was clear-cut and to the point, "Why fix what isn't broken? It works and it's fun, you know?" They want players who pick up Rift to be able to quickly get into the game without much of a learning curve, and then later throw them at the things that make Telara stand out from a gameplay standpoint: Rifts, dynamic events, the class system, etc.
I couldn't argue with that decision, especially when I saw just how playable the game seemed in such an early alpha stage. The animations are gorgeous and Simon told me that they have something astronomical like over 10,000 plus animations in the game and that each class, character, and mob has a wealth of different movements to pull from. The armor and clothing on the Inquisitor Morgan played flowed and bounced very fluidly, and when I asked if the game was going to have an extensive array of armor and weapons with customization available, Simon assured me that they team is working very hard on making sure players will have oodles of options available to them and that dying for armor and clothing was already available in the game.
Before we moved onto the highlight of the tour (the Rift system), Morgan and Simon took us into one of the game's early instanced dungeons. We didn't have time to explore it too deeply but the Spring Terrace is a PvE instance set up for groups of five. Simon informed us there will be action available for raids of 10 and 20 people as well. The important part to remember about the dungeon wasn't the mobs and mechanics involved, but the way dungeon quests are handled. Upon entering, every player will be given the quests for that instance automatically. No looking all over the world to find the right quest, no need to share with your friends, or finish this or that quest chain. "We assume," Simon said, "that if you're inside the dungeon you're probably going to bloody well want the quests. So we give them to you."
We were running short on time then though, so before we got to see much more of the Spring Terrace Morgan used her developer tricks to port us near a Rift that the developer had set up for us to witness in the demo. Simon informed us that Rifts won't be a static occurrence in the game, and instead will open dynamically based on the players meeting certain criteria, or even just at random times of the day. As an example Simon mentioned that the team could set it so that one day after players in an area had collected a certain amount of loot a Rift might open, or it could be based on the completion of an instance. A small party beats a boss and this triggers a Rift to open somewhere. Obviously the possibilities are near limitless, and they really wanted us to know that Rifts aren't just Public Quests with a fancy graphic. They don't always happen in the same way, they don't always happen in the same place, and they don't always happen for the same reasons.
The actual opening of a Rift is very much like a Public Quest when it comes to gameplay however. There are many different objectives that can occur when one of the Planes begins to seep into Telara, from the killing of specific enemies, to the use of specific objects, as well as timed encounters and all that. This specific Rift was a demonstration of the basic mechanics, and it was quite a sight to see a sort of temporal rift in the world creating a visible distortion around it, a harsh light emanating from the thing. As Morgan proceeded through the steps of the encounter, the light grew larger, the enemies pouring in more varied until finally the massive plant monster that looks like something out of a Lovecraft story we saw in the trailer ripped into Telara and began pummeling her.
Morgan pulled back for a brief moment to show us how the sky around the area of the Rift had changed greatly and it was apparent that players from miles away should be able to see where a Rift might be occurring and head to the aid of their fellow players in such an event. As she used her hammer and developer-invincibility to beat down the giant plant, Simon pointed out to us how each character that takes part in an encounter gains loot as they participate in the Rift. No stopping to loot corpses, it all goes into a sort of personal sack that you can check out once the fighting's done. The longer you participate and the more you actually do during the encounter, the better you'll be rewarded. But this system ensures that everyone will get something for helping.
And with that our brief tour of Rift was complete. There is still so much more to see of the game. Guilds, the class system, PvP, and all of that are yet to be revealed but Simon promised that they were going to include all the "Greatest Hits" players have come to expect from a Triple-A MMORPG. That's a pretty bold claim to lay down, but with the financial backing Trion has at their disposal, the developer should be able to do just that. As we get closer and closer to E3, I'm certainly hoping we get to learn more about Rift and see just how far they are able to take the dynamic content side of things. When all is said and done, that is their true ace in the hole, and hopefully they can really take advantage of the technology at their disposal. It certainly looks promising.