Part Four of My Visit to Trion: Embargo Lifted and Final Thoughts

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

The Art/Animation Team

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

Rift Event Lair

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!

U.I. Design

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!


Q&A Headquarters

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.


More of the Art Team

Map of Telara

Demo Time!

Rift Junkies and Rift Podcasts Coverage of the Trion Trip

Besides my coverage of the trip to Trion, there are a few other excellent posts covering everything.  Both Rift Podcast and Rift Junkies have some great things to say about the trip!  You can view them at the links below.


Rift Podcast has their coverage here.


Rift Junkies posts their thoughts here and here.


Thanks to Arithion from Rift Podcast and Teljair and Draegan from Rift Junkies!  Make sure to read their thoughts and support both sites!

Rift Podcast: Round Table and Drunk Edition

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!

Part Three of My Visit to Trion: The Roundtable Completed!

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.

The Racials

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.

Character Customization

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.

Wrapping Up

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!



Part Two of My Trion Visit: The Roundtable (First Fifteen Minutes)

The single coolest part of my visit to Trion was our chance to sit down with Scott Hartsman, Hal Hanlin and Russ Brown in a ‘Fan-site Roundtable’ format.  We were able to have an hour of dedicated time with the head-honchos of Rift and ask them any questions we wanted.  Of course, they could not answer everything we asked but they answered what they could and even when they could not they were sure entertaining.

So, I have struggled with how I want to present this round table to you readers.  I could do a verbatim blow-by-blow account of the roundtable, full of direct quotes, transcript style.  Or, I could do a more free form account, with some direct quotes but also with my opinion and commentary.

After much thought and trying both ways, I have settled on the second approach.  Let’s face it, this is a blog and a blog means opinions.  So that is what I am going to do.  I am sure the other sites will fill you in on the exact wording and a blow-by-blow account and they will probably do a better job of it than I could.  So, read on to find out what was asked, how it was answered and what I thought of the answers!

The first thing that I must state, up front, is how dedicated, enthusiastic and intelligent both Scott and Russ came across.  I have read, watched and heard many an interview with the two but interviews can be deceiving.  I can unequivocally state that what you hear in their interviews is what you get in person.  Scott may know and understand more about MMOs than any single person I have ever heard.  He understands how they work.  He understands what the user base wants and he is determined to get it right.  Russ is the same way and may be even more enthusiastic.  His ever present giggle was in full force throughout the round table and his enthusiasm and excitement is contagious.

The Roundtable Starts

The round table started out with a question posed by yours truly.  I have been rather disappointed in the lack of pet options for the pet Souls, specifically the Beastmaster and Ranger pets. The lack of options and the ‘sameness’ of the pets is particularly irritating when you played a hunter and WoW and saw their pet training system.  Scott was quick to agree that the pets do look too much alike but replied that it was a lot of work to change the pet system and, though it was something they were looking at, it would not be something we saw by release or soon after.

I was expecting this really.  Looking at the quality of the rest of the game, I figured that Scott and company were probably not completely happy with the current pet system but I also knew that it was not something they could really change by release or immediately after.  I am very happy that they are looking at it, however, and I hope to have a more ‘full-featured’ pet system in the future.

Next up, we had Arithion asking about the possibility of Titles giving a stat when equipped ‘ala LotRO.  Scott and Russ both agreed that there was no reason to do this because they had so many ways to add stats your character already.  The foci system, the crafting system and general gear all already do this and adding yet another one would be overkill.  I pretty much agree with this and don’t think it is needed.  Arithion clarified that she was thinking of just a single stat per title and they said they might think of that.

On the State of the Game and What Has Changed Over Development

Draegn then chimed in with a question about what the biggest change Scott implemented after coming on board was.  Scott talked about a white board in his office that started out with around 400 ‘to-dos’ and now is completely finished.  He stated that the biggest thing that he has seen is how they are starting to expose the story and lore more and more.  He also talked about how a lot of what we think is ‘new’ features are things that they have had planned from the beginning and we are just now seeing.

Scott: Alot of what we talked about before was technology, technology, technology and then it finally came time to talk about the game, the game, the game.

Arithion quickly followed up that answer by asking if they were happy with where the game is as it is about to be released.  Both Scott and Russ agreed that they were farther ahead of where they thought they would be at this time.

Scott:  Russ and I have to do board slides for our board meetings every month or two and its really need being able to fill out the slide where you are “not only did we do all the stuff we said we were going to do but here’s all the things we totally did not think we were going to get in the game.

Russ then talked about how they would put things into beta and it would totally change from what they originally intended and they ended up going in a totally new direction with things.

Draegn continued by asking what the biggest surprise was, where they thought something was going to work but ended up going 180° in another direction.

Russ: I would say nothing has gone 180°, which is good, I would say like invasions and the soul system have went better than expected.  I don’t know if its like 20° but look at  some of the classic concerns we had; “This class system is too complex for users”.  This is a problem we have to solve.  No, its not.  It was a problem that didn’t exist.

Russ continued by talking about invasions and how they were worried about what solo players would do during an invasion. That turned out to be a false worry because they found out players would “kick the shit out of them!”.  He said that they were worried about having to hand hold players but that they found out they did not have too and players would figure it out themselves.   They spent a lot of time worrying about stuff that was never a problem to begin with.

On Listening to the Player Base

After a bit of small talk and joking, Arithion asked a great question about whether it was possible to listen to the fanbase too much and how you balance that.

Scott: I can tell you what you absolutely can’t do, is go out and read the forums and just look for pure volume  of screaming and you can’t look for ultimatums and you can’t look for those kinds of things.

He also says that they still have to pay attention to the things players are saying and take a hard look at them.   Russ chimed in by saying that you have to look at the heart of the problem and not necessarily the specific feature.

My next question was if there were topics on the forum that are posted so often that they are just completely tired of them.  I used the example of arenas and flying mounts.  Russ was quick to chime in on this!

Russ:  Well I will tell you this, I will be honest with you.  There are things, when they are posted up, they cause physical physical pain to the team.  But we need those, right?  Because they keep us honest.

Its at this point that Russ breaks down and tell us the truth: he hates player housing.  But he goes on to say that they need players telling them this and that he would rather have  passionate players telling them they need player housing than not.  Even though it causes him considerable pain.

Scott comes in to save the day for fans of player housing by saying that he loves it but has concerns over the social aspect of the system.  He understands that there are a lot of players who want housing and they will be looking into it for the future.  Russ makes a funny comment that everyone at Trion reads the forums and every time that there is a thread about players wanting houses, he gets about 60 emails from the team pointing it out!

Our next topic was one that was brought up by me and one that is near and dear to my hearts.  That is how Trion balances ‘convenience’ features with the need for a living, breathing world.  I specifically mentioned flying mounts, the ability to teleport to dungeons and WoW’s Random Dungeon Finder.  These are things that are great convenience features but, in my opinion, tend to harm the open world and the server community.  This was a topic that I really wanted to hear Scott’s and Russ’ thoughts on and they were happy to oblige.

Scott began his thoughts on this topic by mentioning an interview that he did recently where he stated that they were not terribly concerned how long it took to get to max level because they wanted the journey to be fun and they knew they had a healthy end-game at the end.  He said that because of that comment, many players took that to mean that Trion doesn’t care about a living world and the leveling portion of the game.  Which is not true at all.

Scott: The amount of time something takes and the fun you have while doing it are not things that are tied together.  And, so, the same can be said for the immersiveness of the world.  The amount of time that things are forced to take and  the value you get out of world style game play are two totally different things.  I think a lot of times people will assume they are tied together because they have always been tied together in other games but we are making our game.

On the Possibility of a Random Dungeon Finder Coming to Rift

Arithion asked the question that we were all dying to know and that is if we will see a Random Dungeon Finder in Rift at some point.  Scott quickly stated that it was something they are thinking about and it is possible that it would be cross server.  He knows a lot of people do not want to see one but he says the value may be worth it in the end.  I ask him if they have thought about how a cross server dungeon finder would impact the server community and Scott says that it may not be cross server.  They are still looking at options.  He goes on to say that he has found that LFG tools do not work.  They spend weeks creating them, asking for opinions from the community and then get it into the game and no one uses them after the first week.  He believes that what is needed is one that actually makes the group for you.

Scott: People love groups.  Its a fallacy that people want to play solo all the time.  Its that people don’t want to be ‘that guy’ that puts himself out there and shouts in a channel to try to pull a group together for the next 45 minutes and probably fail.  Thats not a fun experience.  Half our game is in dungeons, half of our game is in raids and if no one is using them, we have failed.  The only thing that has proven to get people together is when you can help them form groups.

After some debate back and forth, primarily with Arithion and I on one side and against the RDF and Scott advocating for it, Scott makes a very valid point and that is that we have one reference point for the RDF right now and that is WoW.  Just because the WoW RDF does it one way, does not mean that Rift’s RDF would do it the same way.

Scott:  You are falling into a trap that a lot of people fall into and that is:  MMO does not equal WoW.  Lots of games have succeeded before WoW and lots of games will succeed after.

I think that this is a valid point and if Trion is able to design a random dungeon finder that lessens the impact on the server community and on open world, I am all for it.  My only point of reference is WoW and I think it was horribly done but that is not the only way to do it.  I guess I am in a ‘wait and see’ mode for this one.  Only time will tell.

I had originally planned to cover all of the round table in one post but I have come to realize that this would be simply impossible.  The above information was only the first fifteen minutes of the round table and there is another hour to go!  I am going to continue through out the week releasing more info from the round table, so check back often.  Next installment will have some information about Raids, PvP and the infamous Power Point presentation!

Be sure to listen to the Rift Podcast for audio of the visit and the infamous drunken podcast segment!  Also, check out Rift Junkies, Telarapedia and RiftIRC for more coverage and another take on the roundtable!

See you next time!

More Beta Questions Answered.

From my post on Rift News:

Abigale (Senior Community Manager) posted some answers about beta in the forums today. You can find the complete post here. In the post she addresses some of the questions that came up in the previous beta post, posted on Saturday. Take a look:

Hi, All-

I’ve been reading your posts all weekend about the news of our beta plans. Thanks for all your feedback. And I know there are lots of questions! I will try to answer what I can in this post.

A lot of people are concerned that Rift will only be tested during weekend events. I made a post to respond to this concern in the original thread but it is pretty buried at this point. So I will post this again.

Alpha has been going on for some time. There are a number of people from the community in alpha. We will continue to add more as we need them. This is where the testing will be happening 24/7. This testing will cover all leveling and content. We will be looking to the beta sign up thread as we fill these slots.

Beta will be conducted as I explained. Regular beta codes and sign ups here on the forum get you a chance at one of the beta events. A VIP All Access pass signs you up for all the events. These tests will be during certain times and may be testing specific things. More info on that will come later.

Beta dates have not been announced yet. And it will still be a while before they are. Sorry, but we just aren’t ready for that yet. You will not know when we add more people to alpha as they will be under strict NDA. But we will announce when we are going to start the beta events.

The beta chance emails have not gone out yet. You should receive them in the next couple of days

You only need one code. If you have several codes from cons, the comic book, etc, you only need one of them. They all put you in the same pool. Extra codes do not give you extra chances. If you add a VIP code, it takes precedence. Again, it puts you in one VIP pool so you don’t need more than one code. We will be giving away a lot more of the VIP passes, both here on the forums and in contests.

As for a lot of your other questions, I can’t answer them right now and may not be able to answer them at all. We have told you a lot about how our beta is going to work and how community people are being included. But we can’t give you every detail of our beta plans. Some things just won’t be released to the public.

And some details are still being discussed. As we get closer to beta, we will release more information. But I can’t answer any other questions right now

The most important thing I wanted to get across is that the game is being well tested. It’s already started and will continue through to the launch of the game. The beta events will be adding to that.

As I also mentioned in my other buried post, please remember that our primary goal is to test the game. The needs of marketing and community come after that. We have a very experienced team here and I trust their judgement as they work out the process.

I’ll try to answer other questions as I can. But right now, that’s about all I can tell you. You’ll have to stay tuned for further details!

A Message from Scott

Scott posted a development update on the Official Rift forums today.  In it he covers the past, present and future development of Rift: Planes of Telara.

Hi, folks. Now that we’re coming out of a fresh round of releases, demos, conventions, and a bunch of other excitement, we wanted to take a minute to give everyone an update on the state of the game, its testing, and this past convention season — all with an eye on the road from here on out.


Since we opened these forums in April, we’ve been consistently blown away by the passion and dedication of those of you who’ve come to join us.

We’ve seen new game-related sites open up, we’ve seen existing sites embrace the direction the game’s taken, we’ve seen the return of friends from games’ past, and we’ve been enjoying seeing this turn into a healthy, growing community that’s always willing to welcome newcomers.

Thanks so much for helping us get to where we are so far. You’re a lot of the reason that people have heard about us. Your dedication to the game, telling your friends, and letting others all across the Internet know what we’re building helps out more than you know.

You get a lot of credit for that, and we’re definitely grateful. 🙂


When you sit back and think about it, it definitely doesn’t feel like it’s only been a few short months since we first announced what this game “Rift: Planes of Telara” was all about.

This was the year that the game went from the stage where it was “this game we’ve been playing internally” to having our first outside hands on it.

The first externally visible version was front and center at our unveil event in April. Then we went on to E3 in June where some lucky folks got to take it for a spin, and then finally on to GamesCom and PAX where both European and US players could get some real, quality hands-on time, ask developers questions they wanted, and write freely about their experiences.

On the inside, it can be a pretty nerve-wracking experience. No matter how experienced (or even jaded) a developer ever gets, I think that deep down we all want everyone to enjoy what we’ve made.

So far, we’ve been thrilled to see that most people who try it see that it’s going to be something special, as they see the unique, cool things we’re adding to what people think of today as AAA MMOs — and that the game they’re playing is far more polished than they ever would have expected.

Even we were shocked when a group of folks who weren’t even attending PAX made the trip just to come to our first US community event a couple weeks ago, and the enthusiasm of the European audience at GamesCom was really infectious. (Especially the guild that kidnapped one of our systems designers and showed him around the bars in the city — Thanks for returning him, by the way.)

If that kind of excitement doesn’t leave someone with the desire to do a great job, I’m not sure what would.


Once you have something that people enjoy, MMOs still take a lot of testing to get right. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that we’ve been building a fully featured publishing and operations platform at the same time we’re building the games to use it. That makes for a whole lot of moving parts, a lot of lessons to learn along the way, and means for some very careful alpha and beta planning.

At the same time, we’ve been consistently thrilled by the interest from all fronts in helping test out the game, from really early on.

Most who’ve tested other MMOs in the past already understand that the more times we can iterate everything before launch, the better the whole package is going to be in the end.

No matter how much we’d like to invite everyone who’s interested the instant they want to come help, we have to have plans that will let us perform those iterations as quickly as possible, which also means scaling up in the smartest way we can.

Please do know that what we’re doing is all aimed at making sure the game we end up with is the best quality it can possibly be the day that it launches, by taking the best combination of experiences from all of the MMOs our team members have launched in the past.


We’ve made no secret of the fact that our game has been in Alpha for a little while now. It started out with close friends and family like most games, and we’ve been slowly ramping it up ever since — with some people who’ve been excellent testers on some of our team members’ previous games, as well as with testers from different places on the Internet that have no problem sharing their 100% blunt opinions at all times. (We firmly believe that you don’t improve by only having people around who agree with you.)

While this has been going on, there is a ton more that’s going on behind the scenes that no one really ever hears about — we’ve been building out everything from our processes, to our QA, to the all-important ability to react quickly and smartly to feedback.

We still have a long road of testing ahead of us, and we’ll continue scaling up our alphas and betas. There are still a whole lot of chances ahead to help with the game.

One thing we want to make absolutely certain that people understand is that we’ll always be keeping a special eye on those who choose to participate here in our forums and continue to support us both here and on other forums and blogs far and wide. You’re a lot of the reason for our success so far, and we definitely plan on doing as well by you as we possibly can.

Whether you’re hearing about special promotional chances to get into beta events from a convention, or a focused testing phase totally unrelated to future beta events – There will be a lot of different ways to get into our tests in the future, and we’ll be sharing details on specific programs and phases as their times get closer.

In the meanwhile, do know that we are genuinely grateful, and we look forward to having you help us out as soon as we can!

Thanks very much,

– The Rift Development Team

Scott Hartsman Takes Some Time to Talk to Rift Fans on the Official Forums

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:

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.)

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.

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,

– Scott

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?

– Scott

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.