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Rift: Planes Of Telara Interview – Hal Hanlin Explains The Nature…

Towards the end of the first day of our recent Trion Worlds hands-on event, Design Producer Hal Hanlin took a small group of us aside and ran through the specifics of how Rifts will function in-game. What follows is a near-complete transcription of Hanlin’s demo presentation, plus his answers to the queries which arose during the course of it.

Rifts and Tears:

“A Tear is a point where [one of six] Planes is pushing through and colliding with the reality of Telara. You can either open it yourself, into a Rift, which gives you a higher bonus to your contribution (better loot,) or you can let it open on its own. Either way, Tears become Rifts, and when you see a Tear in the world there’s no way of knowing which Plane is going to come out of there.

But you can get special objects that let you open a specific type of Rift. If you wanted to get more Planer Essences [a certain type of loot] from the Fire Plane for instance you could open Fire Rifts specifically. If you wanted to go into enemy territory in PvP style and open a rift and just leave it, that’s fine too!”

Invasions:

“What happens from Rifts is Invasions. There are Rifts, Tears and Invasions.”

At this point a Water Plane Invasion was rather handily trashing a town full of NPCs near the character Hanlin was controlling. He swears this was unplanned.

“It’s not too punishing. If an entire town is wiped out [by an Invasion] we’re not going to make it sit that way for a day. We’re just going to let it sit for a small amount of time and then it’ll come back – but only when you clear [the Invasion.]

Wardstones keep Rifts from forming. Invasions will target wardstones – if wardstones are destroyed, it creates a ‘foothold.’ Footholds can summon more enemies to invade locations. When an Invasion force destroys a wardstone, they put their own in its place.

It’s up to [the players] to clear [an Invasion] out, otherwise it’s going to spread. What will happen is you can get into a situation where you have footholds, footholds, footholds and then more Rifts and the zone is literally overrun. That’s not a failure, that’s actually great news from a gameplay point of view. It’s not a bad thing to have Rifts, it’s not a bad thing to have Tears, it’s not a bad thing to have Invasions. All three of them have a gameplay element.

Invasions might stay in their zones, but they might invade across the world. It doesn’t matter. The people who designed it were not insane, so if it spawns an Invasion, it spawns an Invasion at the level of its destination point. So if you’re a level 10 guy and a level 40 zone spawns an Invasion to come and kill you, it’ll spawn a level 10 Invasion. It won’t try to stomp people with ridiculous stats.”

Is it possible to open Rifts, lure attracted enemies to important NPCs and do some extravagant griefing?

“What we’re not trying to do is create game that’s grief-free, because there’s no such thing.

Our technology is unique in that we have the ability to do crazy things if we need to. If something becomes egregious, we have the ability to just put an event on here that’s a bunch of NPCs at level 51 that’ll stomp through and kill everything. Can we do that? Absolutely. Will we? Only if something becomes a problem. We don’t want to be a Dungeon Master that’s not our goal.

We have awesome Invasions, awesome Rifts and eight factions that all hate each other. There’s plenty of gameplay here to keep people occupied.”

The rewards for closing Rifts:

“We incentivise people to go out and kill these [Rifts,] so people do kill them. One of the greatest pieces of equipment we have is called a Focus and you can get multiple different Foci. You can buy them, or you can get them as quest rewards or whatever. And these are trinkets that you can customise with Planer Essences [objects which give various bonuses and are rewards for defeating Rifts.] You can also get bigger and fancier ones, depending on how much you’re willing to pay.

You get different [Planer Essences] that do different things and you can further customize your gameplay.”

Plane vs Plane combat:

“The six Planes are all fighting each other.

I’ve seen Fire and Life [Planes] both attacking nearby points of interest, and they’ve both conquered them and then they’ve sat and fought back and forth. It was like a constant little border war between the two.

The first day we knew we were onto something, we had this nascent technology and we turned it on and went home for the weekend, came back, and Silverwood [a zone] was taken over by the Life Plane. It was just Invasion after Invasion and it was crazy. We thought ‘awesome’ and spent the next two hours stomping on everything.”
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Is there any chance that one of the Planes can completely take over a zone?

“That’s an example of something we have on the books that won’t be in the shipped game. Eventually you might see a ‘zone of Life’ thing, but we wanted to focus on getting this gameplay and nailing it.

We can be more reactive to our community than any game has ever been. Simply because we don’t have to cook an entire world to make a couple of data changes. Everything you see out here [in the world] is just data and it’s existing on the server. This guy appears here, he has a brain, we don’t have to microscript his behaviour.

Then if you guys, the community, come in and say ‘we really want to see this’ then that’ll start guiding us. And we can be more responsive because I can change that guy to, say, a water elemental literally by changing a single number on a single file and suddenly a water elemental is running around out here.”

How Rifts can directly affect gameplay:

“Many of the mobs have alignments. Goblins are aligned with the Plane of Fire. They worship the red dragon who is the Plane of Fire’s god. They benefit from having fire around them. If they are near a Fire Rift, they are ‘Planar touched’ and will be more powerful, because fire has taken over. Quest content is therefore modified by this being a fire area.

If a Life Rift opens up it’ll attack the goblins, so there may be fewer quest mobs available if the Life Rift has taken over.

One of the coolest things we had was when Russ [Brown, VP of development] and I attacked a Fire Rift. We killed the Fire Rift, but just as we were summoning the Guardian wardstone, a Death Plane invasion came over the hill and attacked us. You get some cool triangular gameplay that way.”

How the Rifts choose targets:

“The Rifts hate each other. Every time an Invasion comes into the world it calculates any number of targets it can attack. It may be a player faction target or a Planer faction target, but the more targets there are the greater the likelihood just from sheer statistics that it’s going to pick an enemy Planer faction. For instance, if there are ten Defiant wardstones in the area and thirty Water footholds, and a Fire invasion comes in – it has a three in four chance of picking a Water foothold to go and attack.

Should we decide, for some reason, to say ‘Water and Fire are allied this week’ – that’s all data. That’s the stuff I was talking about before. It doesn’t require a patch, we can monkey around with that as much as we want.”

Is it hard coded that Fire dislikes Water, or just more statistically likely in that example?

“We don’t have a ‘he hates him more than him more than him’ system. We have the data points where if we decided to, we could implement that. It’s engineered incredibly well. We’re taking a neutral stance. This is ‘everything hates everything, so how does that play?'”

How are you going to take in community feedback?

“Right now we have the Alpha forum and we’re constantly sifting through bug reports. Sometimes it’s a suggestion, sometimes it’s a ‘no’, sometimes it’s a ‘gotta fix this today’ and we are constantly sifting through that. If we get a ton of comments, for example, that are all about one type of quest, well that gets compiled into a single report and looked at.

Basically if there’s been an MMO that you’ve played and loved, someone here [at Trion] made it. Someone here has supported it. Someone here has fixed the horrible bugs that it had. We really have a great pedigree for understanding what’s important to change and what’s not, and we have an engine that really lets us make small changes without a radical amount of underlying changes. It’s not a license, it’s not carte blanche, we don’t want to walk in and just change a zone. But we can do things like ‘hey, this mob is using a brain that really makes no sense.’ Cool, that’s great feedback, it gets changed.”
 
Trion are currently accepting applications for their Rifts Beta test and you can sign-up right here.

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