In Part One of our interview, we chat with Scott Hartsman, Creative Director of Trion, to get the scoop on PvP and PvE in Rift, as well as what makes Rift a "social" MMO and why Rift will be so unique as an MMO
Every now and then, when we talk to MMO development companies about some of the new things they're doing, we get that odd little sensation of rightness. That is, sometimes you hear of the ideas that are going into new MMORPGs, and boy does it make you want to play the game! This is definitely true of Rift: Planes of Telara (Rift), an incredibly ambitious (from a graphical and game play perspective) MMORPG currently being developed by Trion Worlds.
For those of you who don't know, Rift originally debuted at E3 2009 under the title "Heroes of Telara," but it has since changed that name to "Rift: Planes of Telara" to better reflect the theme of the game. In Rift, the two factions, the Guardians and the Defiant, are fighting a fierce war against invading planes of existence, known as "Rifts," which have suddenly begun to appear on Telara, leaking all sorts of baddies onto the planet. In addition to this, the Guardians and the Defiant are also fighting a particularly fierce civil war - with the Guardians staying loyal to their silent Gods, while the Defiant seek to defend Telara by their own strength alone. As an MMORPG, Rift has some incredibly ambitious plans, so whether you're interested in their stunning next-gen graphics, or their innovative "soul" class system, or even their unique take on the MMORPG genre as a whole, this is definitely one game you should be keeping an eye on.
We decided to catch up with Scott Hartsman, Creative Director of Trion, to get every little bit of new info on Rift that we could possibly get! In Part One, we talk with Scott about PvP in Rift, what really makes Rift a "social MMO," and we get a fresh perspective on the MMO genre as a whole. Tomorrow, in Part Two, we talk about Rift's innovative 'soul' system and how players will grow into heroes in Rift: Planes of Telara.
ZAM: Before we begin, while most of our readers are aware of what Rift: Planes of Telara is, there's a good chance that not all of them are really sure what, exactly, sets this MMO apart from its competitors. What three elements do you think really "define" Rift as being unique?
Scott Hartsman: If I had to pick three elements, the first would be the fact that we're trying to make sure that there are only interesting things going in the world; activities that stand well beyond what you would see as static content in other games. It's not to say that we don't have stuff that you would expect to do in MMOs, but we also have a lot more dynamic content, like invasions and the game play elements that revolve around fighting back the invading planes of existence (rifts). What's really cool is how changes begin to occur on the planet as a rift appears; these rifts will, literally, affect the area in which they appear, and players will instantly be able to recognize when a dynamically spawning rift has appeared nearby. As well, we're planning to really develop on the theme of Rift: Planes of Telara, which is the idea of players at war with these planes of existence while also being at war with each other.
To be honest, we want to do a thousand more things with this IP than we can do at launch, and I think that's a great thing. The core of the IP is the interaction of the planes with Telara. The moment you start speaking of extra-planar existences and exploring those, you end up with a whole lot of stuff.
Finally, we're also very proud of how high-res Rift is. Our team has an incredible amount of experience in the MMORPG world, so we're really leveling up the graphics that people have come to expect from MMOs. Most MMOs on PCs have come out about half a generation (graphically speaking) behind the consoles, and we want to change that.
ZAM: Here at ZAM.com, some of us are huge fans of PvP and the freshness it can bring to an MMORPG. Now, we already know that Rift will have copious amounts of PvP, but how will it all work out? Where do your focuses lie?
Scott Hartsman: Well, we really don't want this experience to be some kind of foreign thing that nobody can wrap their head around. We want PvP in Rift to be familiar, but to have that unique twist that sets us apart. We do, however, have our PvP and our PvE servers - we're making sure that we're not forcing PvP on anybody if they don't want to do it.
But it's not to say that players who avoid PvP will miss out on all the game, either, as we have an incredibly well developed PvE game that you can play the entire way through. On the other hand, on our PvP servers we also have parts of the world that are highly contested, and this ties into the concept of invasions and rifts. Finally, we'll have some PvP instances in Rift, so that both PvE and PvP players can come into a slightly more controlled setting.
ZAM: You mention invasions and the potential for Rifts to dynamically grow stronger if players don't react accordingly. While this sounds really ambitious, apathy in the player base can often debilitate ideas like this. That is, what happens if players just can't be bothered to defend their planet or their territories? Will the game suffer as result?
Scott Hartsman: Well, when you create a game where players are, essentially, janitors, you can certainly end up with a lot of apathy. We really don't want to make players run around saving the world and, if they don't, it all just goes to hell. That's what I mean by making players become janitors. Instead, we want players to go around and take part in defending parts of the world for tons of incentives and rewards, rather than the potential for suffering. Making a game like Rift work is really more about the reward structure; make it worth their time and they'll want to come because they want to, not because they have to.
ZAM: On that note, then, what happens if it all swings one way? In MMOs where faction versus faction play is heavily emphasized (World of Warcraft, Warhammer Online, Aion), one side often gets a huge advantage in numbers, and this can often translate to a server dominance where one side has, literally, taken over all of the zones, resulting in a severely inhibited game for the losing faction. How can you deal with this?
Scott Hartsman: It's more a matter of defining what "taking over a zone" really means. Does it mean the other side can't do anything? No, of course not. Players should think of it as being about "who has conquered the invaders in a given area and has gotten the reward for doing so." It's not who has put up a fence. Of course, there will be lots of direct conflict and all of that, but by the same token, that kind of activity can take place in the overland (consensual PvP) or on the warfront (PvP instances). At the end of the day, everyone wants to get some game play value out of the game they're playing.