Storm Legion and the Power of Choice
Trion Worlds is the kind of developer that will make anything they can to give their players plenty of choice in how to play their flagship game Rift. That very ideal takes to new heights this November when the game releases its first expansion: Storm Legion. I sat down with Trion’s Scott Hartsman, Simon Ffinch, and Mike Daugherty to talk about the many, many ways Rift is reshaping its dynamic content and evolving their own systems in Storm Legion. From a brand new system of Rifts to a system lovingly called “Carnage”, there is something for every type of PVE player in Storm Legion. Every aspect of Rift’s dynamic content, the very basis of Rift from the beginning, has new mechanics, new challenges, new systems, and they shared it all with us.
First up on the docket are Hunt Rifts. They’re a new flavor of Rift new to Storm Legion that give directed and story-driven content to the player as they go about the new expansion. They come with their own set of currency, items, and other rewards. One thing the team remembers from the original launch of Rift was that players loved the rift events, but that they tended to take a back-seat to questing as you got on in the game. Hunt Rifts, like every other bit of dynamic content in Storm Legion, is Trion’s way of putting things like Rifts and Invasions and Instant Adventure at the forefront of the game so it’s not just a parlor trick and namesake, but a true mode of play in Telara.
They’re sort of the evolution of “Expert Rifts” from days of yore, in that they allow players to hunt and play in the open world and outside of dungeons for real loot drops, as well as their own form of currency to get more progressive rewards. There are NPCs that tell a story about what Hunt Rifts are (hunting down vicious elemental lords and drawing them out of rifts to strike at them before they attack Telara), and they guide you through how to accomplish them. There’s a whole progression path towards unlocking them all, and as an estimate Scott and Mike said they believe there are about 50 to 60 (a “sh*tload” as Simon said) different Hunt Rifts to work through and play with when Storm Legion launches. You finish one, unlock the next, and so forth. But players who want certain gear can and will be able to repeat them, while the completionists storm through them all (no pun intended). Every player will have to unlock the Hunt Rifts for themselves, but like all good social MMOs, if you stumble upon a group of people doing one you haven’t yet, you can get credit for it by joining in.
On top of Hunt Rifts, there are a plethora of new Zone Events that really take the system far beyond just zerging the map. These involve new tactical objects that players will be able to place in the world, upgrade, and use strategically to assist their parties. Things like turrets, healing stations, and so forth will be an integral part to success in these new Zone Events. The idea is for players to have unlimited options and the ability to swap back and forth between tasks to progress and never feel shoehorned into one path through the content.
This brought up the nature of Dynamic Content in general, and I asked Scott how the team felt about Guild Wars 2’s Dynamic Events, being that Rift was largely the first title of this recent crop of MMOs to really bring that sort of content to the forefront of the game. He said that he believes ArenaNet did an excellent job recognizing further that just having quest hubs was no longer going to cut it and that dynamic content was the next big step in MMOs. But he also believes it’s just the natural next step of what Trion did in Rift when it launched. Meanwhile Rift has been and will continue to evolve what they built into their game from the ground up. Instant Adventure, Zone Events, Rifts, Hunt Rifts… it’s all adding to the choices a player has to play their game.
We then talked about Quest Hubs in general, and I asked the team if this focus on more and more dynamic content was going to eventually lead Rift to do away with quest hub progression. The answer is no. The way Simon put it is that Questing through a zone is like the spine of that zone’s story and content. It’s there to show you what’s going on in an area from a lore standpoint as you go from area to area. But the key is that they never need to be required anymore, like they were in the beginning of Rift or they are in some of the other big name MMOs. You don’t have to go out and collect ten “bear asses” as Simon put it. You can, as they recognize many players still love questing. There’s something zen about going out and accomplishing those tasks. But if someone just wanted to do zone events, rifts, and other dynamic content to level through the game… they can. It’s all about choice, and giving players plenty of it.
One final cool new feature, and a way to give players even more stuff to play with in the open world, is Carnage. It’s a whole new system, complete with its own achievements, gear, and dedicated rewards. Basically, this is a system for the folks who score high as “Killers” in the Bartle test. As you’re roving about the world, you kill a creature, and you might be tasked with a Carnage Quest, telling you to kill more and more of them in a certain amount of time. As you go, you’ get rewards, XP, and achievements based on your success rate. It’s like a “hunter mini-game” that rewards you for acting tenaciously and without remorse. You’ll get paid in currency, experience, and gear for just exploring and slaughtering stuff. What more could you ask for?
Wrapping up, I asked the team if after all the stuff they’ve added to Rift, all of the content they keep pumping out… does it ever feel like the well’s running dry? Simon was quick to chime in: “God no! There’s always more. The amount of things we put in the development queue just because we can’t do it all at once is always growing.” He believes that in 2013, a year from now, the Rift we’ll be playing will be even more varied and deep than what we’re going to see in Storm Legion. Scott added that expansions are a way to give MMOs that “new car smell” all over again. It has to revitalize the game, and even though Rift’s been receiving regular updates like no one’s business, Storm Legion adds even more new content, new zones, and new stuff to Telara. It can and should feel like a newer model of the game, and that’s what Storm Legion does.
With a release date of 11/13, and a beta phase not too far away, it won’t be long until we all smell that new car for ourselves.