After a brief 24-hour delay, Rift players will gain access to the latest patch, 4.2 Celestial Storm, today. Earlier this week, I had the chance to sit down with Game Director Chris Junior, Design Director Simon Ffinch, and Community Manager Jennifer Bridges to preview what players will have waiting for them in the update to the now totally free Prophecy of Ahnket expansion. The good news? For PvE-centric players, there’s quite a bit of content being added and a few familiar places and faces to see. The bad? Yet another update goes by without PvP players getting love in the way of new content or even just long asked-for changes.
Vostigar Peaks, the new max-level zone coming in the update, is a war-torn area full of new monsters, quests, Carnage targets, and even more shines and jump puzzles to explore. (Damn you, Simon!!) Crucia is back and honestly, she’s not impressed with the why the Ascended have been dealing with the threat of Ahnket and her forces. Desiring power for herself, because of course she does, Crucia has landed in the northern part of the zone to challenge Ahnket’s forces in the south. While players are perfectly happy to let these two titans duke it out, this means the center of the new zone is a bit of a hot spot, with forces from both sides colliding.
Over 80 main story quests await players and Simon and and Chris were quick to show off how “endgame” this zone gets in a hurry. Monsters don’t just have a set of abilities to use that players need to survive against; some have what would be considered more “dungeon”-like mechanics that players will need to avoid. To be honest, some of the monster models, sound design, and death animations are the best I’ve seen in Rift to date, and an increased challenge is always a good thing, right?
Plenty of PvE, Not So Much PvP
This doesn’t even mention the side quests, Carnage quests, raid rifts, and so much more waiting in just this one zone — albeit a very large zone. With new land comes new shinies, of course, so artifact hunters will be back at it trying to scoop up all the collections. In true Simon Ffinch fashion, Vostigar Peaks also features a new jump puzzle that, while we technically “completed” it by making it to a treasure chest, our hopes were dashed when we found out that we made it holding none of the four keys needed to claim our prize. I couldn’t help but notice that the signpost at the start of the puzzle read, in part, “Frustration Level: Off the Charts,” so good luck to all who attempt this one.
I couldn’t help but notice that the signpost at the start of the puzzle read, in part, “Frustration Level: Off the Charts.”
Oh, and here’s a little kicker for you: Don’t think you’ll just get to a high vantage point and chart your course. Simon would never let it work that way. Instead, platforms you can jump to are only visible when you are on a platform that you can jump to them from. If you aren’t in the right place you can’t even see them … nice touch. Simon’s advice? Make sure you are looking in all directions when planning your next jump, even if it’s behind you.
On the raiding side of things, Tartaric Depths Normal Mode is a 10-person raid that was initially introduced in the Forged in Flame update. At that time, it was limited to a raider finder version. While this gave many an opportunity to check out the content using a LFR tool, it disappointed some of Rift’s more traditional raiders with its lower difficulty curve. 4.2 changes that by adding the “Normal” version of the raid. Expect Tartaric Depths to hold more challenge and require more coordination from your team this go-around.
But Do I Have to Pay?
All of 4.2’s content is free to all Prophecy of Ahnket owners — which at this point should be all Rift players, since the expansion no longer carries a fee. I took this opportunity to chat about monetization as a whole with the team. Seeing as Prophecy of Ahnket initially had a flat fee (which I though was a much better option than the previous expansion’s “totally free but we’re going to nickel and dime you with earring slots and such” approach), I asked how the Rift community at large was receiving that flat cost, only for Trion to turn around and see it go free for all so quickly.
Chris said that the community, for the most part, liked the one-fee approach and from a development side Trion itself liked this approach more, as it allowed the company to develop content without having to “price” things out as it did so. On the flip side, while most F2P MMO players are used to seeing an expansion they paid for at some point go free for all users, Prophecy of Ahnket went free exceptionally quickly and this has become a rather heated topic on the forums. New full-time Community Manager Jennifer “Yaviey” Bridges chimed in here to express her desire to make sure Rift’s players are heard and feel valued. While this very topic (along with PvP) are hot spots on the forums right now and causing quite a few Rift players to declare their departure, Jennifer is hoping to create a more stable bridge between Rift players and devs in the future. (On this note: Don’t expect Linda “Brasse” Carlson to just disappear from the forums; Jennifer provides a full-time CM for Rift but Linda will still be involved in the community as well as the other tasks she performs at Trion Worlds.)
I did ask if we could expect future expansions to be handled the same way (as in a flat fee then free at some point in the future) and asked if this method proved profitable for Trion overall. Obviously Chris wasn’t going to give me numbers or anything, but he did confirm that at this time they would probably use a similar model in the next expansion. Again, he couldn’t “lock that in” since the player feedback could change things.
Seriously … Where’s the PvP?
Next on the docket was PvP. After seeing new mounts, changes to the lockbox system (I’ll get to that in a moment, hang with me!), and all the PvE content, I almost felt bad coming at the team with a PvP question, but I had to ask. I started by pointing out how much PvP seems to have been put on the back burner in Rift and asking about new content coming soon. Chris replied that the team would love to work on PvP maps and new content or changes to the existing PvP landscape, but time and resources make this a bit difficult for now.
“We do want to work on new PvP content, maps, and more, and we have a large segment of PvP players (particularly at max level) that we need to listen to.”
When I asked if the PvE focus was player-driven (i.e., was most of Rift’s playerbase PvE-focused so financially it made more sense to develop that way) or if it was dev-team driven (this is what they want to work on), Chris replied that “It’s a little of both. We have a lot of stories to tell and PvE players that want that content so we have to develop there. On the flip side, we do want to work on new PvP content, maps, and more, and we have a large segment of PvP players (particularly at max level) that we need to listen to. Sometimes it just comes down to resources, and in previous updates and expansions when we’ve tried to spread out a lot of varied content, we found we ended up with watered-down content that didn’t please our audience. This led to a more focused approach in updates.” So I asked the next logical question: When is the “PvP patch” coming? And sorry Rift PvP-ers … while Trion may have some things they are working on behind closed doors, they weren’t ready to share what (if any) they were working on or when these updates would be coming.
Lootboxes and You — a Love/Hate Relationship
Finally, loot! That’s what it’s all about, right? Lockboxes suck. I hate them. I told Trion that as a Rift player I hated them and got some good news on this front. While lockboxes won’t be going away, there are changes coming to the system (although this will be added slightly after 4.2 actually goes live so don’t look for it today). In addition to the drops lockboxes could potentially have, they will also drop Lucky Tokens you can accrue. A new shop will be added that allows players to take these tokens and just buy the super-awesome mega mount they wanted instead of hoping the RNG gods will smile on them. While this shop may not have the newest mounts available in the lockboxes, inventory changes and will cycle as new mounts are added and even event or other special mounts appear in the store now and then.
To me, it was at least a nod to those of us that don’t have the best of luck and gave us a chance to grab a mount we wanted even if we have to wait a bit for it to appear on the Lucky Tokens store. Lockboxes also have had their tables updated so other materials that players farm for crafting have an increased chance to be awarded. All in all, while players may not feel like they’re being heard right now on the expansion “sale then free” debacle, I feel like these initial steps help address some of the concerns Rift players have — though, to be honest, I still feel a little nickel-and-dimed by Rift sometimes. Hopefully these types of changes continue to happen and reduce that feeling in me.
As we wrapped up our meeting, we did touch on one other monetary item: Primalist souls. Patch 4.2 adds four new Primalist Souls to bring them in line with all other callings. If you already own the Primalist calling you get all four of these souls for free. If you don’t, expect that purchase to be deeply discounted for a limited time if you want to pick them up.
All in all, Rift is a game in which right now I have a little bit of a love/hate relationship. I love the content (most of it … and Simon’s puzzles and artifacts drive the completionist in me crazy in a good way), but I hate some decisions on a larger scale like the nickel-and-dimed feeling I get, the 900 currencies used in the game, and other gripes that you can find on the forums each day. I feel for PvP players, even not being one myself. I hope all of this continues to change and hope that a full-time CM makes feedback easier to action upon, but we’ll just have to wait and see. In the meantime, 4.2 looks to have enough to keep you busy for a while … if you’re a PvE player that is.
Our thanks to the team at Trion Worlds for taking time out to give us a preview!