I was listening to Massively Speaking yesterday where they interviewed Scott Hartsman, head honcho at Trion Worlds. It’s a great MMO podcast to even begin with, but it was also a great interview. One of my big concerns with Rift, coming off of a lot of play time during Beta 4, was the mushiness of the invasion system. Players need focus and sense, and the middle portion of the dynamic content system seemed to lose both. Hartsman eased my fears in the interview because he talked about how we were seeing the early use of tools in their dynamic content system, and there was a lot more to come.
In Beta 4, there were two extremes to the dynamic content system. On the simplest end, a rift would open. The rift would bring with it a few waves of mobs, and then it would close. To add a twist, the rift could send invasion groups to quest hubs. This end had focus with only one rift and sense because players knew that it would stop if invasion group was beaten and the rift was closed.
The other end were the massive Events. I only was able to participate in the Battle for Freemarch, but it was great fun. In the Battle for Freemarch, tons of death rifts opened up. The Defiant set up two weird devices to collect Shadestone. Shadestone dropped off of powerful invaders, and when the collectors received 200 and the Event boss was killed, the Event ended. If the two devices were destroyed the zone lost the Event. So, even though the zone completely and radically changed, players had focus to kill stuff to get Shadestone, and they had sense because the Event had a win/loss conditions.
The middle was where it got mushy. At one time I remember the southern half of Freemarch was flooded with water rifts and invaders. There was no event happening. It was just that the zone was doing poorly against the onslaught. I joined up with a small ten man raid, and we did our best to whack-a-mole the invaders, footholds, and rifts. I have to say after 20 minutes, I didn’t feel like any progress was being made. It was easier just to ignore the water rifts and hope my questing area was “safe” or to just log off and come back later when the zone wasn’t flooded. In other words, there was no focus because there were too many to handle, and there was no sense because it did not seem like we could strike back in a way to win.
In the podcast, Hartsman said that what we saw was just the beginning of their dynamic content system. The rifts, invaders, footholds, and events were just tools in a large toolkit, which was growing every day. Due to their tech stability, Hartsman said they were able to focus much attention on the front end of gameplay, which the players saw in the change of soul/point distribution between the beta events. The dynamic content system was also getting a lot of focus.
I actually saw this in the middle of one of my times with the Battle for Freemarch Event. It seemed that in the middle of the Event, the Plane of Life decided it would also be an awesome time to launch their invasion with half a dozen rifts on the west side of Freemarch. It was apparent that things were going wrong, players didn’t know which was the greater enemy, invader mobs were piling up on each other in weird ways, and Trion eventually just nuked all the rifts and invaders. I didn’t see any similar pileups in the Battle for Freemarch Event the rest of Beta 4.
Hartsman also hinted at quite a few undisclosed tools in the toolkit. I had honestly written off their dynamic content system as PQ 2.0, which is really a good thing, but now I am wondering if they actually do not have the ability to be “revolutionary” instead of merely iterating and “evolutionary.” I think that if they pull out the mushy middle and replace it with smaller, different Events that would help a long way towards that end.
I am heavily anticipating Beta 5, even though it seems smack dab in the middle of the work week. I won’t be able to put in as many hours, but I am looking forward to the couple hours I can. Trion is listening to our feedback, and they are showing us.