Scott Hartsman (COO of Trion Worlds, developers of Rift: Planes of Telara) spent some time talking directly to Rift fans on the official forums this evening. In my many years as a MMO gamer I have seen a number of top developers speak directly to the fans, either on official forums or unofficial ones. Mark Jacobs, of Mythic Entertainment, was famous (or maybe infamous🙂 ) for this. He spent many hours of his time on unofficial forums, both for DAoC and Warhammer Online, and posted about players concerns and questions. I have always found it refreshing when I see a developer do this, a direct line of communication with fans is always a good sign of a development team that cares about its fans.
One thing that jumps out at you about Scott as compared to Mark Jacobs is his brevity. Mark would post long, almost encyclopedic, entries when answering fan questions. Nothing wrong with that at all but Scott was very much to the point in his interaction this evening. He assuaged a lot of fan fears and pulled the curtain back a bit on where Trion is going with Rift and what they expect down the road.
Here is a short summary of his posts:
- On saved hotbar settings when switching between Soul specs:
Each role saves its own hotbars.
That isn’t a wishlist or “some day” item — That’s how it works in game right now.
The soul system would be a much less fun experience without it. We treated that as a core part of the system.
(Hm. I should possibly go back to the “kill six bugs” thread and point out that it was decisions like this, and making sure that we had a solid 1-50 leveling experience all finished, that led to other things being shifted until later, like the tech required for super-exciting introductory quests.)
- On the first quest being a “kill x number of creatures quest“:
The “kill six bugs” quest that begins the current Defiant experience did what it had to do — It helped get us to alpha, and gave us a very simple starter experience we could use as a step toward the rest of the experience that picks up later.
In the time since that build, we’ve been working toward levelling it all up, including the intro. Just wasn’t there for PAX.
No need to panic on this one.
- On whether players will be forced to PvP on PvE servers or whether participating in a Rift on a PvE server will cause the character to flag for PvP:
In general, on PvE servers; neither.
- On pre-orders starting to show up on Gamestop and other retailers:
Exactly right. As soon as one of the big boys decides your game might actually launch and be good, they guess at a price and post it up for preorder.
First one to guess and post ends up setting the trend for the others.
I’m going to reply to this on an outside forum, but wanted to post here first:
The way that alpha is currently set up, you can communicate across sides in chat that has spatial qualities (think of them as in-character) — /say, /yell, /emote.
Each side gets their own private comms for out-of-character channels (think: tells, zone chat, trade, etc). Places where there’s really not collaboration going on.
I think it would be great to be able to launch like this. I think there’s also at least a 75% chance I’m being naive, but we’d all like to give people a chance.
The core reasoning isn’t the abstract “that would be a customer service nightmare!” – It’s that we do have to set a bar for the experience of the service as a whole. That bar can’t be dominated by swearing and epithets aimed at people’s race/religion/orientation in a system-supported communications channel.
That’s not a good experience that keeps people playing premium games.
We’re not saying that all chat is expected to be all hugs and bunnies and people singing Kumbaya, but at the same time, we won’t be having our game turn into xbox live chat. If it goes that direction, the opposing sides won’t be able to communicate. Depends entirely on what happens between beta and launch.
Hope that makes sense,
- On the Starting Experience at Pax and Gamescom:
This must be “Reply To Huge Threads” night!
I’m supposed to be working on schedules right now – This is far more fun.
I mentioned part of this in the Kill Six Bugs thread, and another part in the Will My Hotbars Save With This Whole Souls Thing thread but it bears repeating here.
The newbie experience we showed off at PAX was solid fun for a lot of people. That said — It was, entirely unashamedly, the alpha newbie experience.
Let’s talk about the things it did show: It was very playable, rock solid, showed that souls are real, abilities are real, combat is smooth, animations are good, movement is fluid, characters look great, rifts look awesome, rift loot works, contribution works, many types of quests function smoothly, rewards exist and work, and as a bonus, did have a pretty interesting story on both sides for those who chose to read it.
Remember, we had to make sure to have an experience that was entirely approachable by someone who had never played an MMO before. It would have been a huge mistake for us to chuck someone onto a high level character with all of the souls discovered, then have them make headway against high level, advanced types of dynamic content.
Not for a brief walk-up demo at a convention, anyway. To the majority of the people who played, that would have been the antithesis of fun.
That we already have a game that works so well that people are talking about the quality of the content is incredibly high praise for pretty much every system that sits under it all.
Yes, we’re going to be levelling up the starter experience.
For the moment, however, I’m going to think the team should be taking comments like this as a huge compliment to all of the things that are already in place. How many games have you played that didn’t have them solid by launch?
Very informative answers and straight to the point. You have to love it. I really love that hotbars will be saved between Soul specs, I actually started that thread and was worried about it. Moving buttons onto your hotbar can be a tedious process. Having to do it every time you switch specs would be a nightmare.
I am also very happy that the PvE’ers will not be forced into a play style that they do not enjoy. Personally, being a PvP’er, I would be bored to tears if I did not have the option to gank or be ganked once in a while but I am happy for those who do not like that style of play.
I am also very happy that the initial quests are, for the most part, just placeholders for alpha. I kinda expected that but it is good to hear that acknowledged officially. I bet we end up with some pretty epic quests to begin the game by the time it releases.