Residents of Telara might be used to regular invasions from the elemental planes, but even the most battle-hardened Telarans will be in for a surprise with this week's 1.1 patch. Beyond 12 pages of changes, the update is set to add in the game's first world event, in which the plane of death begins a global assault on Telara that looks to dwarf everything seen up to this point. But what the heck is a world event? Scott Hartsman, Chief Operating Officer of Trion Worlds, gave us the low-down.
“It's the next logical step for us, right?” Hartsman told us. “It's taking everything we've done and cranking it up yet another order of magnitude.” Events, which are a regular occurrence in Rift, are massive in their own right. Players in a zone will need to close a dozen rifts, defeat a few hundred enemies, and protect the area's cities in order to succeed the massive public quest. World events up the ante, with this first one bringing every zone under assault by Alsbeth the Discordant; undead will march on every city with a week of story-driven events that all players can participate in. With this event comes new loot, new mounts, and a riftload of new content to explore.
Depending on the server population, time of day, and other factors, different segments of the story-driven events will spawn in multiple zones at once, and players of all levels will need to work together in order to move it forward. Hartsman thinks these types of events will resonate well with Rift subscribers, just like traditional events have since launch. “It's one thing to have you and your raid, or guild, all pulling for stuff. It's another feeling of 'holy crap' entirely when it's you and everyone else around you. It definitely brings a new sense of urgency, and I think it scratches an itch that really only this kind of stuff can.”
In fact, the event's length was adjusted based on fan feedback. Originally, they weren't sure how players would react to putting their quests on hold to fight off an invasion, but the reception has been so positive that they've extended the length of the world event from a few days to a full week.
And even after the week is over, the event will leave a permanent mark on the game world. The River of Souls, a new 20-man raid instance, will be opened for the highest-level (and highest-geared) players, adding even more to Rift's already robust end-game. Hartsman says that handling updates this way gives players the best of both worlds, saying that, “Everybody gets to participate in the event, everyone gets to genuinely contribute to the advancement, everybody gets to feel they're a part of the story, and then there's new content for upper-level players.” He says that this is going to be their method on introducing high-end content, and that they want to make sure they have “constant content added on to the end of the experience.”
Trion plans to continue to adapt the game based on the reaction of players. They hope that this type of large, overarching event can become commonplace in Rift, if that's what everyone wants. “For this first one, it's as much of a learning experience for us as it is for the players. This is a brand new scale for us—we've never seen it played through at this scale. Just like we were in beta, we'll be taking feedback, we'll be taking reports, we'll be watching server metrics and figuring out what we did right, what we did wrong, and, more importantly, what we can do better next time. We know we can always do better next time, and we're never really satisfied with anything we do, so there's always this constant eye on what we can improve for next time.”
But if you're playing Rift and, for whatever reason, uninterested in rifts and events, Trion isn't going to force you to participate in saving the world from the undead scourge. “It is not going to be 24/7, and it won't put the rest of the game on hold. That's not what we're doing. This is an addition of new events into the circulation with new loot, new items, and new pages of the story.” Then again, if you're playing Rift and not interested in rifts, Telara just might not be for you.
The update is currently slated for release this week, with all signs pointing towards the patch being available on live servers as soon as Wednesday. Hartsman said they would delay it if they feel they needed more time, but I'm hoping to be defending the planes from Alsbeth the Discordant sooner, rather than later.