Rift's next update will bring plenty of gaming goodness for raid-phobic and PvP-focused players

Waves of Madness Water vs Death

We Rift players are a pretty lucky bunch. Over the past few months post-launch, we've received almost-monthly major updates with some pretty quality content. That content has pretty obviously been focused on keeping raiders entertained, however. The River of Souls, the Golden Prophecy, and the soon to be opened Hammerknell are all filled with large-scale PVE encounters.

The rest of us, however, have been left with the fairly unsatisfying River of Souls world event and the long-lasting Waves of Madness event. Substantial content for non-raiders has been pretty sparce, but not for long. Soon, level 50 players will be finding plenty of new ways to enjoy themselves through alternate advancement, new adventure stories in Telara, and upcoming changes to PvP. We talked with producer Scott Hartsman to get all the details.

Alternate Advancement

The upcoming Alternate Advancement system was definitely the most suprising reveal of our State of the Game conference call with Hartsman. The system allowing players to continue gaining XP after they've hit the level cap, and will allow them to earn more rewards and become more powerful as they continue to play at the endgame. Each time a player fills their experience bar, they'll be given points which they can spend to customize their character further by unlocking new abilities and powers. As Hartsman put it, players will be learning how they can “use the power of the planes against them.”

Those Hammerknell baddies won't know what hit them!

Those Hammerknell baddies won't know what hit them!

This is something that players have definitely been waiting for, and a welcome addition to a still-young MMO (developers usually wait until this sort of alternate advancement system is desperately needed before implementing it). Rift's current endgame, while content-rich, only allows players to advance their characters by equipping new gear. That same ol' carrot-and-stick method of enticing players to get better and better gear works for many players, but a vocal portion of the population has been asking for a more robust endgame experience for awhile, and this addition looks like it will deliver it to them in spades.

Alternate content

Hartsman also said that they want to shift the focus of the endgame away from having raids as the only options. As early as the next major update, players will have two flavors of content added to their menu: Instant Adventures and the Chronicles of Telara instance.

Instant Adventures will adopt the "feel" of the major world events that have occured so far, but will allow players to set the time and place for these major events themselves. The final goal is to have a combination of invasions, rifts, battles inspired by the current major zone events, and other "new and unique elements" that Hartsman declined to expand on right now. Your rewards for these adventures will be distributed in a similar method to the current Rift system, but will not necessarily be similar to the existing rewards themselves.

The Chronicles of Telara instances will allow players to experience story events similar to what players currently do in raids, without having to bother with all those other players! These instances, similar to normal instances in structure, will take place in unique, epic locations, and will have you fighting against (and alongside) important figures in Telara. Harstman mentioned that the first one is currently going through internal testing, that it takes place in Hammerknell, and that he finds it to be a lot of fun.

I'm very excited about these additions. Both of these experiences will be perfect for a guild like mine, who have players all over gear/progression map. I'll be able to get in game, gather a group of my virtual friends together, and, without having to worry if they're geared enough, we'll be able to play epic-feeling content that's worthwhile for all of us.

Trion's puttin' on the Barry White for PvP

PvPers will also be getting a lot of love this summer. Already announced is the new play mode Escalation (Hartsman still refused to describe how it works at this point), which will begin in the Whitefall Stepps Warfront. Hartsman also mentioned that new maps are on the way, although they won't come out this summer.

Trion has found the addition of the world PvP hotspots through the daily quests to have been very successful, which I'm glad to hear--I love 'em. Even on my PvE-RP server, players are picking up the quests, turning on their PvP flags, and going to town on their foes in an attempt to cash in on the favor rewards (the PvP-specific experience that's used to gain ranks).

The most exciting part of the entire conference call for me was when the discussion turned to the PvP rifts that'll launch with patch 1.4. Using the existing Raid Rift tears, players will be able to open a PvP rift, with the faction that opened it gaining bigger rewards the longer they keep it open, and the opposing faction gaining rewards for closing the rift. It sounds like a fun twist on the old King of the Hill archetype: pick your spot to throw down your flag and challenge anyone to take it from you.

During the call, there were another few points brought up that are worth mentioning:

  • Balancing skills for PvE vs PvP: Trion will keep these two completely separate, by changing the way skills work in PvP without affecting their use in PvE, and vice versa.
  • Ranks splitting for PvP (keeping higher ranked players in separate queues than lower ranked players): It's not currently planned, but it will be looked at in the future and is a definite possibility.
  • New Prestige ranks (PvP levels): Two new levels will be added, raising the cap to eight.