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!

Part One of My Trion Visit

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.


Dinner with Trion, Rift Junkies, Telarapedia, RiftIRC and Rift Podcast.


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.

The Tour

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.


Trion's Building Reminds Me of the Decepticons.


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.


Playing Rift with the folks from Ten-Ton Hammer, Curse and MMORPG.com!



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!



Great Rogue (Assassin) PvP Video from Beta Four

Thought I would post up this nice PvP video from Beta Four.  This was done on my server (Lotham) and is really a nice video.  Take a look:


You can find the thread where the creator talks about his spec and such right here.


Updated:  I meant Beta Four, not Five!

Rift’s Enviable Position

If you take a look at the big name MMOs released in the last three years or so, you will find a very common denominator with each of them.  That is, they all released with bugs and/or a lack of content.   Funcom promised the moon before they released Age of Conan.  They talked about the tavern brawls, the siege system and full support for Directx 10.  All were listed as features for release and all were dropped.  In addition, there were huge gaps in content in the game.  Indeed, levels 20 to the level cap was devoid of content.  Players were faced with grinding mobs to hit the level cap.  On top of all of that, there were huge performance problems and the game ran terribly for just about everyone.

Warhammer Online was in a similar boat.  They, too, promised many features that they had to drop.  Four capital cities were gone by release and only two survived.  They had major performance problems as well and their in-game mail system was not even working (really, how do you mess up a mail system?).  This was all compounded by the fact that the Tier system was broken to begin with and just not fun.

Finally, Aion released.  It, arguably, released in the best condition of the three.  The game engine ran pretty well.  There were few huge bugs and it ran pretty darn smoothly.  Their problem was in content.  There was very little after the first 20 levels or so.  Like AoC, players were forced to grind mobs to level and the lack of content showed, as players left quickly after the initial free 30 days.

Contrast those MMOs to Rift.  Unlike AoC and WAR, Trion has not promised the moon.  They have instead promised only what they are sure they can deliver.  There will not be a massive cutting of features before release.   In addition, what is in the game works.  Very few bugs exist in the beta client.  The performance is solid for most players and the game just works.  Finally, there is content.  Content from level one all the way up to the level cap (don’t ask me how I know this, I just know!).  And, even at the level cap, there is content.  Trion has announced two end game raids and ten heroic dungeons at level cap.  In fact, there is as much end game content in Rift as WoW had on its release and that is not even counting the PvP content, the group raids and the Rift raids.

So, what does that mean for Trion and Rift?  Very simply it puts them in a very enviable position.  A position that few MMOs, if any, have enjoyed in the last four years.  Unlike WAR and AoC, Trion does not have to spend the majority of their post-release time fixing major bugs.  They don’t have to worry about rushing content that was promised for release out the door.  Unlike AoC, WAR and Aion, they do not have to worry about rushing content out to fill in content gaps during the leveling experience.  They have all those bases covered.

What it means is that Trion is going to be able to concentrate on adding content in a much more focused environment.  They don’t have to rush it.  They can concentrate on adding content that they wanted in the game but did not have time for.  Stuff that they haven’t even talked about.  I have heard people lament the lack of fluff in the game so far.  Stuff like Guild Banks, Barber Shops, a more full-featured Pet system.  Trion did not promise that stuff because they knew they could not get it in the game in time.  Unlike other developers, they promised only what they could deliver.

But, once release hits, they will be able to start adding in that content.  Adding some fluff to the world.  Maybe adding in some additional leveling areas or racial starting zones.  All that stuff that is not 100% needed in the game but that everyone enjoys.  They will be in a position to add it because what is already in the game works.

I believe you will see a lot of content patches post-release.  In my opinion, Port Scion and its PvP zone will be one of the first major content releases but I also think we may be seeing a lot of smaller content updates.  Things that add fluff and additional features.  Trion has put themselves in a pretty enviable position and the players are going to benefit from it.

Really, I just think its nice for a developer to promise only what they can deliver.  Don’t you?

On the Eve of the First Beta Event, I Return.

Howdy folks!

Yes, I am back.  Where have I been, you ask?  Well, working a lot for one.  Working retail during the holidays is a time consuming, soul destroying experience.  But, that is not all I have been doing.  There have been other things. Can’t really speak of those but they have been keeping me busy!

Yes, I am still very, very excited about Rift.  Perhaps even more so than I was, if that is possible.  The beta events are starting and the hype is starting to build.  Even some of my favorite bloggers are starting to talk about Rift.  I eagerly await their impressions, which will have to wait until after the NDA drops unfortunately.  I think, of the three bloggers I linked, Syp and Keen will probably enjoy the game but Syncaine will dislike Rift because of its “theme-park” attributes.

Still its nice to see Rift is finally garnering some attention.  The Trion team deserves it.  Even if Rift does not end up being the “holy MMO grail” that you hope for, Trion has certainly done a fantastic job getting it ready and interacting with the community.

Speaking of which, there is a fantastic new “teaser/hype” video that was released today on Massively.  This is the first video that I have seen in which Trion actively turns up the hype-dial to 11.  It is a great video, take a look at it below!

You will be seeing a lot more from me in the upcoming weeks as the beta events get into full swing!  I am back baby and I am ready for Rift!

A New Rift Podcast and a Chance to Win A VIP Beta Slot!

Fantastic news this morning, as we get our weekly dose of Rift: Planes of Telara Podcasting extravaganza!  You can find the full Podcast here.  The news is very cool as we see our first chance to receive a VIP beta key.  You can win one in two different ways.

First, you can come up with a Rift Bumper Sticker slogan.  Simply come up with a nice, catchy slogan that would fit on a bumper sticker for Rift.  The slogan has to be PG-rated and catchy.  If yours is catchy enough then you have a chance at the VIP beta key!  There are also a couple of other prizes, such as a copy of the Rift comic or a Rift t-shirt.

The second contest is a bit more involved and concerns the design of an entirely new Soul for Rift.  Come up with the name, the description, strengths and weaknesses and a few of the abilities that the Soul uses and post them up.  The best Soul design gets the VIP key, with the runner’s up receiving a comic or t-shirt!

Pretty awesome contests and you can find the exact details for each here and here.  So, what are you waiting for?  Get you design hats on and get to work!  A possible VIP key awaits!!

Also reported at Rift-News!

Lots of News and Videos Too!

Been pretty busy at work the last couple of days, so I have missed a bit.  Consider this the “catch up post”!   Onward to the Rift: Planes of Telara news!

Let’s start out with the Fride Dev Chat on IRC!  You can find it right here.  Below is a transcript!

  • %Abigale> Welcome Scott and Russ 🙂
  • %Scott_White> Hi everyone.
  • %Russ_Cahalan> hello all
  • %Abigale> I asked the guys to tell you a little about what they do before we start with the questions. 🙂
  • %Scott_White> Hey all. I’ll just talk a little about who I am and what I do here.
  • %Scott_White> I’m Technical Art Director on Rift, pretty much specializing in anything environmental or special effects related.
  • %Scott_White> THe most visible stuff I do is the visual effects, but also setting up a lot of under-the-hood stuff, working on optimization…
  • %Scott_White> Figuring out challenges with the team, stuff like that.
  • %Russ_Cahalan> I am the lead animator on Rift. I work with various groups of people to make sure the animations in our game work well with gameplay
  • %Russ_Cahalan> and of course to make them look as good as possible =P


  • Daft asks: Are we going to see weather affects?
  • %Scott_White> Well… yes.


  • Oabe asks: Weather effects? Will we have dynamic weather animations?
  • %Scott_White> I can talk about weather a bit. A few of our zones have a particular weather occuring within them now, you may have seen rain or snow.
  • %Scott_White> As far as dynamic weather we can accomplish that and would love to see it in the game actually.


  • Ciovala asks: How do you create your animations? Do you use any motion capture or NaturalMotion?
  • %Russ_Cahalan> Early in the project we decided to hand key all of our character animations for several reasons:
  • %Russ_Cahalan> one was that we were certain that the motions would have to be pushed larger and faster than they would be in real life, and that is easier done by hand.
  • %Russ_Cahalan> two was that in my experience it’s more difficult to change motions that have been mocapped. When we hand keyed we have more control over the motion and can do more iterations
  • %Russ_Cahalan> that results in motions that work better with the gameplay
  • %Russ_Cahalan> and finally, we realized it would be hard to put a mocap suit on dragons and other fantasic creatures


  • Nalerian asks: can you describe what you think is the coolest looking thing you have helped create/place in Telara so far?
  • %Scott_White> For sure the coolest thing is the rifts themselves.
  • %Scott_White> Was a serious team effort to bring the rifts to life, visual effects, animation, modeling, audio, huge amount of work in those things.
  • %Scott_White> We got to see the life rift on a 3d display early on, and it was pretty awesome.
  • %Scott_White> One more cool thing is I’m really happy how much animation we’re able to accomplish on world objects. We’re able to bring a lot of motion and life to the world itself.


  • Oabe asks: Will there be emotes and can they tell us their favorite?
  • %Russ_Cahalan> We do have quite a few emotes for the player characters, and we have a set of emote-like animations on almost every creature as well (we call them attractors)
  • %Russ_Cahalan> my personal favorites vary depending on the character, but I like the dances, and some of our more humorous emotes like /facepalm and /rude.
  • %Russ_Cahalan> Because we made unique motion sets for each of our race/genders, each has unique emotes and dances


  • Anasazi asks: are there going to be weapons that drip acid or have live fire swirling around them etc doing elemental damage?
  • %Scott_White> Quick answer, yes!
  • %Scott_White> We’re currently working on a number of awesome new weapons which all will include visual effects.


  • brammator asks: will there be weapons with unusual animation, like flying around swords and bending staves?
  • %Russ_Cahalan> We don’t have any animation sets that will have flexible weapons like chain swords, whips, or flails currently
  • %Russ_Cahalan> the player animation sets are currently pushing close to 500 each, and those include 10 different sets per race/gender to cover the weapon categories we have in game
  • %Russ_Cahalan> those cover a pretty wide variety of weapons, and give a good amount of visual variety between players of different races
  • %Russ_Cahalan> We do, however, have some weapons that contain motion. But those are generally VERY special weapons, and are highly desirable. You will probably learn more about that as we get closer to release.


  • WarpCode asks: what kind of challenges have you faced in getting the static content and dynamic content to mesh together seamlessly?
  • %Scott_White> That has been a real challenge.
  • %Scott_White> The greatest question there was how much lies on the design vs art side of creating the world.
  • %Scott_White> I think we’ve reached a good balance on that, leaving enough dynamic while giving art enough control to make the world look great.
  • %Scott_White> We loved seeing a rift open, but then had to ensure as much as possible that the npc’s for instance, react to it and don’t just go about business as usual.
  • %Scott_White> Artists like to set much of the world to make it beautiful, but design needs to leave a lot which can be changed. Just a balance there.


  • Daft asks: For combat animations, are we going to see multiple movements for certain spells or single movements for each spell?
  • %Russ_Cahalan> We have a variety of combat animations per race/gender. Those include separate animations for melee and magic combat moves.
  • %Russ_Cahalan> We have taken a lot of effort to let designers (and players) have as much freedom and flexibility as possible, so we made sets of those combat animations in each weapon category as well.
  • %Russ_Cahalan> so for example, for fireball, you will have a different animation depending on whether you are holding a staff or a dagger. Melee moves are similar in this respect
  • %Russ_Cahalan> for melee, we have a variety of moves, light slashes, spins, thrust, uppercut etc, and magic we have ones that throw projectiles, or are more omnidirectional
  • %Russ_Cahalan> The designers have given each class a variety of abilities which can help vary the feel of the animations as well. Cast times, channels, instant etc
  • %Russ_Cahalan> and this is sort of tangential, but it was critical to us that the animations never restrict the player (except when the designers wanted). What I mean by this is that when you do an instant ability, you can do that while running, jumping, swimming etc.
  • %Russ_Cahalan> so we have “upper body only” versions of all of those animations across all of the weapon types as well. So you can see how all of that can add up quickly =P


  • Oabe asks: Particle effects… how about lag? We all love lush particle effects, but it sucks when they take our frame rates down to nil.
  • %Scott_White> There are a number of questions about particle effect performance, so I’ll try to address those.
  • %Scott_White> We haven’t yet optimized the particle effects so they will be getting faster. Also theres a system coming to adjust what you see more based on your settings.
  • %Scott_White> Right now everyone pretty much sees all visual effects and it can be pretty processor and graphics intensive.
  • %Scott_White> Pretty sure I’ll be spending a lot of time in the near future improving exactly that.


  • Haaken asks: Are we gonna see character mood stances / posture animations similar to EQ II, where you can choose a “mood” and have your character act accordingly in both walk and idle animation? (Sneaky / stealthy, shy, scared, proud etc etc)
  • %Russ_Cahalan> We do not have a SWG style “mood” stance change. We had considered trying to do this, but it would have severely limited the number of race/gender combinations we could have made for launch.
  • %Russ_Cahalan> Instead we focused on giving each of our race/genders more animations in general, and making their basic “personalities” significantly different from each other.
  • %Russ_Cahalan> MMO gamers come looking for a wide variety of experiences, of course. Some demand humor, some want serious drama, others want super aerobatic moves and others want realism.
  • %Russ_Cahalan> we tried to balance all of those things (and more), and provide as many diverse options for gamers as possible
  • %Russ_Cahalan> while not breaking the fun for any one group


  • Ravel asks: How do you combine effects with sound. Is that a team effort or done by one person per effect?
  • %Scott_White> Adding audio to effects is a team effort.
  • %Scott_White> We have a sequencer tool to combine visual effects and audio, as well as time the different visuals together.
  • %Scott_White> The audio dept has done some pretty amazing stuff with the audio in the game, effects and otherwise. It’s really an underappreciated part of the game but sooo important and powerful.
  • %Russ_Cahalan> since there’s limited time left, I am going to run down a few quick answers to some of the questions I see on the list:
  • %Scott_White> sounds good
  • %Russ_Cahalan> we have lie down (sleep) emotes already in game. We have sit on the ground already as well. We are in the process of discussing sitting in chairs.


  • %Scott_White> Someone asked about vfx on flowers, when you see something like that it generally means something can be used. In this case that’s likely a harvestable resource.
  • %Russ_Cahalan> we have limited face animation controls. Due to the amount of characters that we want on screen at any time, we limited these controls severely so it would not hamper performance in game for something that is usually subpixel
  • %Russ_Cahalan> We do not have cloaks, but we do have long robes
  • %Russ_Cahalan> there are currently no attacks that you can do while mounted
  • %Russ_Cahalan> your character will animate during crafting and gathering
  • %Scott_White> Someone asked about colorblind gamers. Yes we have that in mind, and at least a few of our team are colorblind as well. Different shape banners and symbols in addition to different colors, for instance.
  • %Russ_Cahalan> your character can be affected by explosions by getting knocked back, but it is up to the designer’s discretion if the gameplay makes use of that (we have both kinds)
  • %Scott_White> Generally buffs will not have a lengthy or permanent visual effect.
  • %Russ_Cahalan> there are camera shakes in game. Some large monsters and other things make good use of this =)
  • %Scott_White> Yes, there are camera shakes. A number of larger monsters use camera shake in animation or combat, as well as some seriously big visuals such as rifts.
  • %Scott_White> Ditto russ.


  • %Abigale> Ok, folks… that’s about all the time we have for today. These guys are pretty busy and have to get back to work 🙂

Next up, we have a great video interview with Adam Gershowitz from Realm: LFM.  This one shows some more footage of the fire Rift and a bit of character creation.  The video really shows off the graphic and environment effects well, probably better than any video I have yet seen.  It also is very obviously from a newer alpha build, as there are more character creation options, seemingly more and varied particle effects and animation and I also noticed “spell pushback” which I had not seen in previous videos.  One other thing of note, there are apparently at least 200 people in alpha right now.  That is two hundred people far luckier than I.  I am jealous.

Last up we have a another new video from G4TV.  This one shows some awesome footage of Scarlet Gorge.  It does an amazing job of showing just how large this zone really is and it looks beautiful as well.  One other great thing about the video is that, for the first time, we get a really good listen at the in-game sound.  It really sounds well done.  I can not wait to play!  You can find the video right here!