Just a quick note, I have returned to blogging on my old blog at Corpse Run. Come find me there! Hope to see you there soon!
Earlier today the embargo was lifted on the stuff that happened outside of the Round Table. Most of the stuff that was covered in the embargo had to do with out tour and what we saw while taking the tour and talking to devs in each ‘department’. We were lucky enough to talk to folks from every department including the Raid design team, the UI team, Art and animation and Localization.
I am going to break this report down by department to make it easier to read. Even with the embargo lifted, there are some things that I saw that I can not talk about, so please understand this up front. I will let you know everything that I can talk about. At the end there will be a lot of screenshots as well as some shots from inside the studio mixed in.
The Art and Animation Folks
Our first stop was in the art and animation area. This area is really large and the workstations are very impressive. Each station has a very large Wacom tablet, as well as two monitors for working. I was impressed that most of the monitors had a window up with the Official Forums on it. Matter of fact, I saw that throughout the studio. Just another example of how much Trion listens!
As far as new information is concerned, there is not a lot to speak of, we did get to see a couple of team members working on character customization. Things like skin tones, beards and the like were all being worked on, so hopefully we will see some new stuff in that area soon. We also were shown how the animation team animates each model and it is really some cool stuff!
Rift Event Team
The Rift event team is in a smaller room but their setup is almost identical to the Art teams. They were working on new Rift events, which they say will be ongoing work. They are determined to keep the Rift events fresh and not allow them to become the ‘same-old-same-old’ after awhile. We were shown a Rift raid and, though I can not say a lot about it, I will say that it looks really nice. The team pointed out that they have not even touched the tip of the iceberg with what they can do with their tool-set and I think we are all going to be surprised with the flexibility and power that this tool-set delivers. There are going to be some really, really cool stuff coming down the pipeline!
The Raid Design Team
Next up, we headed to the Raid team and what a visit it was! I am not going to be able to speak much on this front but I will try to get in what I can. First, we saw Hammerknell! It was absolutely awesome. Everything from the look (its beautiful), to the layout (its big!), to the bosses (awesome!) was jaw-dropping. If you are a raider and looking for a new fix, Rift will more than fill it for you. The raiding will be incredible in this game. Incredible.
We also got to hear a bit of their design philosophies and, even better, the team’s high enthusiasm. These are folks who clearly love what they do and it shows in the care and hard work they put into their jobs. Lucky bastards!
We were fortunate to talk to the UI team next and were filled in on what they have planned in the future. Some I can tell you and some I can not. What I can say is that add-ons are going to be in the game at some point, though they are still working out what they want to allow them to do. They are really being careful with this aspect because they want nothing in the game that can ‘play the game for you’ but they do want some stuff to make certain things easier.
They also let us know about a new feature that will be hitting very, very soon. I can not say but you should be hearing about it any time now.
We were fortunate enough to see some very cool things here. We were shown a real-time map that has the average player FPS in colors all over the map. They can tell at a glance what areas are getting low FPS and then take a look at optimizing that area. They can also pull up just about any information they want from the UI. Gold distribution, PvP hotspots….just about anything.
Yes, Trion knows what you are doing!
Quality control doesn’t sound like a very sexy job but it is absolutely vital to the Trion team. These are the folks that hammer out the patches and make sure they are not broken before we get them. With Trion’s track record, I would say they are doing a pretty damn good job! They are also some of the hardest working folks at Trion. They regularly stay late to test patches before they go out. Remember all the late night patches during the beta events? Yeah, thank them!
This is also the home of Amary, who writes some of the most amusing patch notes in the business. I imagine translating all the technical stuff into easy to understand language for us normal folk is kind of difficult and Amary pulls it off with flair.
Final Thoughts on the Trip
Well, that about does it for my coverage of Gamer Day 3. I want to end this by thanking everyone that I had the privilege to meet during my trip. Everyone, from the other fan-site operators to the Trion team, were unbelievably cool. I really hope I will get to see them again in the future and I will certainly be talking to them through Twitter, email, phone and every other way I can.
I know that a lot of what I have written in my posts over the last few days may be construed as ‘fanboy’ talk. But, you know what? That is fine. After watching other MMO devs more concerned with hype than truth, moving as slow as an iceberg with every fix and not listening to the players at all, what Trion is doing is very refreshing. Trion is the model by which all other MMO development teams should be judged. I mean that whole-heartedly. Trion deserves to succeed and I think they will.
So, thanks to everyone who has read my articles the past two days. Between the plane flights and all the writing, I am totally exhausted but it was all worth it. I am going to leave you with a few more pictures and screenshots from my trip.
Filed under: Blog stuff, Developer Quotes, General Rift Commentary, Screenshots | Tagged: Animation, Massively multiplayer online game, pvp, rift, Twitter, User interface, world of warcraft | 12 Comments »
Rift Podcast has posted their new Podcast for the week and this one is audio from the Round Table! There is also a surprise ending that consists of all the folks from the fan sites getting drunk and talking about Rift.
Listen to it right here! Its worth the listen and I am very glad I was able to be on!
Let’s continue where we left off! I have a whole lot more to go over, so buckle up and get ready for a ton of information!
The State of Raids and Expansions
Starting off with todays post with a question from Draegan (of Rift Junkies) in which he asks about a comment that Trion recently made about having more raid content than they had originally planned for launch and what allowed for that.
Scott stated quite simply that the team kicked ass, simple as that.
Hal: Yeah, what he said was right. The team said, “you know what, what we have is good. We can make another one, I had this dream….
Hal, Scott and Russ then used this to illustrate a point about their team. Basically, because the servers are so stable and they are not having to put out huge structural fires the team is able to work ahead. A byproduct of this, Russ says, is that the morale of the team is so high that the team works that much harder. He goes on to say that they receive emails from the team at 2:45 in the morning talking about a new raid idea they had.
Russ: At 2;45am I have people working on my game. Not because I am sitting there, kicking them in the nuts saying you need to work on this game. Its because they love this game and that is how you make a great game.
Arithion (Of Rift Podcast) moves the conversation along by asking about the UI in raids and the possibility of a guild calendar.
Scott says that he has a Power Point presentation with an entire list of things that they want to add into the game at some point, it was just a matter of prioritizing it and getting it organized. He says that most everything that players have been asking for is on the Power Point presentation. I, of course, asked to see the Power Point presentation. He said no.
I go on to ask what their expected release schedule was in terms of content patches and expansions. Scott replied that they have an outline of how they want it to go for the next few years but it entirely depends on release and what they see afterwards.
Scott: Very literally, its promise nothing right now, until we see what happens when the rubber hits the road.
Arithion asks if the racials in the game currently will be the racials at launch. Scott says that the abilities will be but not the +stat modifiers.
Scott: From the start we wanted to make the racials impactful. We aimed for impactful but kind of went the wrong direction. I will say that flat out. We made them as impactful as like an incredible activated high level trinket. So where, your racial was magically ten percent of your power. Holy crap that was not what we wanted to go for ever.
Instead they wanted to shoot for impactful fun. I had to ask who came up with hibernate, the single worst racial ability ever. Scott is quick to take “credit” for that, to much laughter.
Scott: To give you an example of development teams not always agreeing with one another; Hey, Russ, what did you think of Hibernate?
Russ: Oh, my God….
The conversation immediately after this was really funny. Russ says that the original idea was good but that they kept changing it with things like not being able to be used in combat and then killing you after awhile.
Scott: But, wait! We’ll put zzzz’s on it!
More on Future Content
Draegan asks if content planned after release will be solely raid content or do they plan five man and solo content as well as new zones. Scott says that their immediate plans are to extend raid content but they do have other content as well. They are wanting to make sure that raid content is solid, fun and complete first and then build from there.
Scott: We’ve been in production on post-launch content for quite awhile now.
Russ: Oooh, yeah…
Scott: Again, its a weird luxury to have, honestly. I’ve never worked on a game where we were this far on post-launch content pre-launch.
I ask if they are planning on EQ2-style progression, in which the expansions come with a level cap raise or DAoC-style progression, in which the expansions do not increase the level cap but give you other types of advancement.
Scott says that they have not gotten that far yet because they are so focused on launch and content immediately after but that they are fortunate to have members on the team that have created both vertical and horizontal advancement. He also adds that his first job in EQ was the design of the AA system but that they have to be really careful with any type of AA implementation. Due to the way AAs worked it could get really confusing as far as who was more powerful than who. You would have one guy who was level 72 with `26 AAs and another that was level 75 that had only 4 AAs, causing confusion and problems in content design. They want to avoid that.
Draegan is next up with a question and this one is a really good one. He asks how long it takes to implement new dynamic content, from design to actually getting it onto the server.
Scott: It depends entirely on the complexity of the Rift. Anywhere from an hour to a month depending on how complex the thing is. I mean, you could build an entire zone out of our Rift tech right now.
He goes on to state that they could create a smaller event in an hour and implement it immediately onto the server with no patches. The toolset they have allows them to do some really crazy things in real time without even turning stuff down.
Draegan continues with questions by asking if they have plans for GM led events. Scott says that they can and are doing that right now. GMs can spawn events and so can the server itself. He says that they have decided to make the big events a top down decision and not solely a GMs discretion.
Scott: The interesting thing with doing it with GMs manually is that it really doesn’t scale to success.
He says that in the early betas they had developers playing the role of GMs and doing it manually to prove to themselves that it doesn’t scale well and they found out that it did not. They still can schedule events for a certain time but the world is not dependent on it and the servers handle most of it themselves.
The Soul System
Draegan continues to monopolize the questions (Just kidding, Draegan! They were great questions!) by asking how easy or hard it was to implement a new Soul. Russ says that it depends on the Soul and Arithion says she wants a ninja in the Rogue archetype.
Russ: A ninja in the Rogue class? Only if a pirate is the warrior class! So, a new soul is not simple. One that is a fully, honest to God new Soul and integrates into all the other things. Just for balance. That will take awhile. If I wanted to make a soul that allows you to dance in the city, I could do that pretty quick.
This seems like a perfect opportunity, so I use this to ask about the fluff Souls that they had talked about earlier in interviews.
Scott: We’ve been concentrating on getting interesting things out in the world through collection rewards, story-line quest rewards, the racials. So, we’ve been focused on that. We only had certain amounts of bandwidth to do the fun stuff. So, we are trying to get the fun stuff integrated into all the right places.
Russ continues by saying that the tricky thing about souls is how it works with all the other souls. They want to make something thats fun, not just something that is an add-on. Scott says that it would need a lot more planning before they talk about that.
Scott: I mean think about it. Imagine you are sitting around as your Reaver/Paladin warrior and you decide you want to run your cook soul that puts on your chef hat and makes you run around yelling “Bork, bork, bork!!’, wouldn’t it be really annoying to have to swap out your warrior soul to do that?
The conversation then takes a turn into talking about what things Trion can track in the game. Scott says that every single thing that you do in the game can be tracked. How many times you respec and anything that affects yourself, the economy, a creature or another player can be tracked. I ask if that means if they know how may times I have ganked somebody.
Scott: Oh yeah. I can’t tell if you ganked them or just killed them legitimately but we know how many times you killed them.
Come on, Scott! Ganking IS legitimate! :)
My next question was about the PvP souls and whether they should get their own slot and not take up one of the three slots as they do now. Scott says that there goal is to not make them a required Soul for PvP. They want to make them available if you want them or want to do a specific thing but not completely necessary.
Scott: Thats the other reason you can only put 21 points in them. They are not full 51 point souls for that reason.
Auto-face and Auto-run
Arithion asks if they plan to implement an auto-run feature like Lineage II and Aion.
Scott: No, no, no, no, no, no. We are also not doing auto-face. Don’t get me wrong, the first time I saw a game with auto-run and auto-face I thought that it was really cool and useable. And then, the bots came. And anything that bots make that much easier, we really won’t do.
Okay, I have to admit, at this point I cheered. I am so very tired of the auto-face arguments on the forums. Hopefully they will quit now, once and for all. No auto-face people!
Scott says that they understood that seeing your target during a fire rift was difficult so they changed the target UI and they added the tracking abilities.
Next up, I ask when we are getting to go to the Planes themselves.
Scott: So, I won’t answer that question but I will answer a different one. The thing that is always tricky to do when introducing new content to any game, is that you always need to make sure you are always showing something ‘cooler than’. So, if you are interested in our game today, what we show you tomorrow should probably be cooler than whats there today. You want to make sure that the next thing you are releasing is cooler than what you just released and, speaking as a guy that actually did release and expansion that was all about Planes at one point, its really difficult to go to a place ‘cooler than’ once you go all Planes all the time. Our plan is always show more and greater, without jumping the shark. You don’t want to do the Arthur Fonzarelli moment a month after you launch.
After some talk about Guild broadcasts and server broadcasts (they are doing Guild and server broadcasts but they are not doing world-wide broadcasts, as in first time a raid is completed.), I asked if there would be an Armory type feature. Scott says that they have thought of one but that they wanted to get the game working first before they put effort into something like that. He says that if they had one today he could think of about ten features that would not be in the game.
Scott then says that he would not be surprised to see an IPhone and Droid app soon. It seems they have devs in-house that have done apps before.
I ask how Trion intends to deal with Gold-sellers and spammers. Scott says that they already have a spam filter in-game that gets more intelligent as spam is reported. Similar to the spam filter in your Gmail account. As far as hackers:
Scott: We already do things like track speed hackers. Track people who are trying to do bad things to our client that I can’t really go into detail about. I mean we already get reports on them six times a day and CS is even banning them in betas and even canceling pre-orders. That is fifty dollars we do NOT want.
Arithion asks about character customization and if we will see more of it in the future. Scott says that we will see more skin tones, hairstyles and other things but they have to be very careful with adding to much because of the impact on performance. Everything they add to character customization can have a drastic impact on frame-rates and they have to guard against adding too much and ending up running like Vanguard. Since they support these open, huge events it would be a shame to open up character creation and then no one could play the events because of performance.
Scott: We can’t de-rift Rift by making cooler characters. By the end of the day if its Rift gameplay versus characters, Rift gameplay has to win otherwise we don’t have a product.
Scott does say that they will have to do a “barber-shop” type feature in the future.
The rest of the Round Table slowed down a bit as we asked more questions that they really could not answer. I am going to do a bullet point for the remainder of the info.
- They have plans for more World PvP and an extension of the Wardstone system but they are unable to reveal much about it yet.
- They have thought about doing a Darkness Falls style contested dungeon but they want to see how popular it might be. (hint, hint!)
- The game currently supports X-Fire and SLi, as well as multi-core processors.
- Port Scion can not be talked about yet but it will be a big deal. They have big plans for it that they are not quite ready to release. I am expecting an open PvP zone with a major twist.
That about ends it. There were more questions asked but they could not be answered or released. I am assuming that the answers are all in that damn Power Point presentation. Damn you, Scott!
Again, I want to thank Scott, Russ, Hal and the rest of Trion for this opportunity to sit down and ask these questions.
Also, I should have my final thoughts on stuff covered by the embargo later today and my final thoughts on the visit! See you all then!
Just arrived home from my visit to Trion for Gamer Day 3 and I am exhausted. It was a very busy few days and between the plane flights, the tour and the drinking I am pretty exhausted. However, I wanted to put a little something up to tide you over until the “embargo” is lifted on Monday morning. So, today I am going to start with the general outline of our visit and tomorrow I will go in-depth about the round table discussion.
At the end of the studio tour yesterday, we were able to sit down with Scott Hartsman and Russ Brown, the Executive Producer and VP of Development, respectively. I am going to cover what went on during the round table, as well as some details of my trip and experiences. This will all be covered tomorrow so stay tuned for that.
Arriving in San Francisco and Dinner
I arrived in San Fran at about 1:00PM local time and I was totally beat. A long night at the airport and two plane flights, just about did me in. I went straight out and caught a shuttle to my hotel, the Sofitel Hotel in Redwood City. The hotel was amazing and, conveniently enough, right across the street from Trion’s studios.
After checking in and getting up to my room, I went straight to bed for a nap. I must be getting old.
I woke up about four hours later and got ready to meet Trion and the other fan site operators downstairs in the hotel bar for drinks. I want to take this time to thank all of my fellow fan sites whom I had the pleasure to meet during this trip. Each and everyone of you were fantastic and I think I made some long term friends during this trip. Thank you to Ciovala of Telarapedia, BCTrainers of RiftIRC, Draegn and Teljair of Rift Junkies and Arithion of the Rift Podcast. You guys made the trip that much better and I thank each and every one of you!
At this time we all sit down for drinks and the Trion team started arriving. We were lucky enough to meet Cindy Bowens, community manager for Rift, MissDoomCookie, Defiant Lore Lead, Erick ‘Zann’ Adams, Assistant Community Manager and even Dead Simon himself, Simon Ffinch. There were other Trion folks there as well so forgive me if I don’t name them all. I had much to drink that night!
After a few drinks, we headed out to the Mistral Restaurant for dinner and more drinks. We were joined by even more Trion folks, including Scott, Russ and Hal Hanlin. The dinner was fantastic and so was the company. I was able to make some suggestions about the PvP servers to Scott and Russ but I am sure they won’t remember them! Worth a shot though!
I will say that it was awesome to see that Russ feels the same way about PvP, ganking and griefing as I do. I bet he is a terror on the PvP server and it is pretty obvious why he has played a rogue in all of his demo videos. I have thoughts of him ganking some poor sap on his rogue and giggling like he does on all of his videos. Just perfect.
After much fun, drinks and laughter at dinner we all loaded up in various cars and taxis and headed back to the hotel. A few folks made a pit-stop back in the bar for a nightcap but I was just too tired. Yes, I am getting old. I went to bed in preparation for the big studio tour the next day.
I want to warn you before you start reading this part that I have to be really careful with what I say. The majority of hard information about Rift and what we saw will be in a post on Monday morning but I can give you some generals thoughts on the studio and the people we talked with.
As I said, Trion’s studio is right across the street from our hotel. So, it was a quick walk over Friday morning. Trion takes up two floors of the building, with art, animation and design on one floor and human resources, public relations and such on another. They have a lot of space and they make use of all of it.
Seeing the studio just makes me want to work for a game company even more. The studio is full of “geek” memorabilia. Everything from movies posters, to anime, to games and everything in between. It is divided into ‘departments’, with art and animation in one space, raid design in another and UI design in another. We were able to visit each department and ask questions of each. I will have more on that on Monday, as well as some pictures of the inside of the studio.
After that, it was demo time and we all were able to sit down to some honest-to-god Rift fun and then off to lunch. Lunch was served up inside the studio, which was good because I don’t think anyone wanted to leave.
The day at the studio finished off with a Round Table, attended by all the fan-sites, a few press members, Scott Hartsman and Russ Brown. We were able to ask an hour worth of questions and Scott and Russ answered everything they could answer, with much humor and laughter. It was a great time and I will have a break down of it tomorrow and if you happen to read this Scott, I still want a look at that damn Power Point presentation!!!
After that it was off to dinner at a local brew-house, with much beer drinking and talking about the days events. Sadly, we had to say our good-byes to Cindy and Amary as they headed home while we went back to the hotel for one last night in San Fran.
Luckily, Erick ‘Zann’ Adams was staying in the same hotel with us and he came back for drinks. The rest of the night is a blur as we attempted to put together a drunken podcast, listened to Zann sing an original song about Madden football (wtf?!?) and watched Teljair piss off Draegn by using ‘netspeak’ all night.
I actually have video of Zann performing his Madden song and I will upload it for the right bribe. Or I will not upload it for the right bribe. I really want to hear what Arithion can salvage of our drunk podcast because the majority of it was unairable. Good luck with that Ari, you will need it!
Unfortunately, my time at Trion came to an end last night and I had to fly back to Dallas this morning. I had an amazing time, got to see a lot of really cool stuff and met a lot of really cool people. Hopefully I will have the chance to this again and I hope to see all the Trion folks and my fellow fan-site operators again in the near future. It was an amazing experience. It truly was.
Again, look for my run down of the Round Table tomorrow and even more information about our tour on Monday. There is a lot I want to share with you all and I think you will enjoy it!