RIFT’s Scott Hartsman Talks Transfers, Events, and the Future (INTERVIEW)

GF: The LFG tool seems to be working really well so far since you added it in 1.2. Are there more changes coming to it, and if so, what changes can players look forward to?

SH: We actually have the ability to look at all of the dungeon queues across all of the servers in real-time through an interface, which is sweet. You probably noticed that we launched it and immediately made some tweaks to it. There are also a couple of tweaks coded that haven’t rolled out yet. One of them is changing how we calculate if you are eligible for a given tier of dungeons. We’re redoing a lot of the logic around that to make it a lot more clear to players. The interface around it is going to be about a million times more clear than it is right now. Also, we’re working on another fix that lets players reconfirm the role they want to play when their group joins the queue. There’s still a little confusion around that unless you’ve been using the toll for a while.

It’s basically smaller tweaks targeted at usability at this point. The other thing we’re keeping an eye on right now is this: Experts and higher level dungeons are zipping along great on most worlds, but the experience for those leveling up isn’t as good. Because of our free trial and Ascend-a-Friend, there are a ton of people leveling up. But even though there are a ton of people out there using the LFG tool to register for dungeons as they level up, the timing isn’t lining up for those folks to have a good experience. So, we’re trying to find the best solution to get those people together to use the system.

GF: You’ve recently started free trial and Ascend-a-Friend programs. What’s the response to those been like?

SH: It’s shocked the hell out of me, honestly. We have been intentionally very aggressive in how we go out and recruit people to play the game. There’s no secret about that. From the first ad on, we understood that putting out an MMO in this market, with so many people out there who may have been jaded on MMOs from the past and so on, we had to go out big and we had to stay big. You have to be making enough noise and getting the word out for people to give you a shot.

That same strategy went into all our programs like free trials and Ascend-a-Friend, and carried down to all of our things like sales and ads. That’s why you see the game on sale all over the world, with one having a sale on the game this week, and another next week. The idea is that we’re really aggressive, and that we look like a good game for people to come and try. Both free trial and Ascend-a-Friend got off the ground really well. We haven’t had problems with either one.

The first day we had the free trial, there was a flood of newbies in the city (I’m not going to say which side they play on), and there was a flood of adorable little questions like “Where’s the crafting hall?” and such. Gigantic floods of real newbies are awesome. That’s something that has been sustained since the day we launched the program. I’m thrilled it’s around, and I’m happy that more and more people are coming to check the game out.

GF: I have a pretty good idea which side they are all playing.

SH: Actually, it’s pretty even. Obviously, globally doesn’t matter, because everyone only looks at their own server. Globally though, it is almost perfectly even, at least in terms of people who are online at any given time. On individual servers, there are some where it is 5% one direction or the other, there are one or two where it is extreme. Honestly, that’s a lot of what we hope to remedy with our server moves. We’ll take some of those servers where it’s extreme, and only open up the low side as a destination for moves. We are looking to bring balance to the Force with our server moves.

GF: The newest thing you’ve announced is server transfers, and using some sort of Jedi magic (since we’re using Star Wars references), you managed to make them free. Not only are they going to be free, they’ll be available once a week, and from what I understand, they will be initiated in-game. Is that accurate?

SH: Yes, I walked through it with a programmer yesterday. It’s the coolest thing I have ever seen. OK, one of the coolest things I have ever seen.

GF: So, how much downtime is involved in the transfers, or are they instantaneous?

SH: Yes, it’s instantaneous. Takes about a second. Like I said, it’s really slick. I say this to everybody who will sit through the sentence: Our engineers impress me to absolutely no end. No two ways about it. Our engineers continue to impress me every single time we put in a new feature. They exceed anything I would have thought possible, and this is from a guy who used to be an engineer. Let me put it this way: Me in my engineering days would not have been hired by our engineering team. I am fairly certain of this.

They’re really good, and the fact that so many of them play the game means that they understand the quality of experience they’re looking to ship. They ask themselves, “When I go home, what do I want to sit through?” and then they make a system that they would want to sit through. It works out pretty well.

You’re sitting at character select, you click transfer, and the list pops up. Select your destination, and it’s done.

GF: Does the character take everything with them?

SH: It will block you if you have mails or auctions. You have to go in and clean those out before you can transfer. I can’t get too much into the guild stuff right now, but there may be guild things that could prevent you from moving your guild by the time transfers go live. But a guild leader will be able to move their guild name, level, and experience to another server, and then re-invite everyone else when they show up. If your guild moves, you’ll log in and get a message that says “Hey, your guild has moved over to server X. You should go join them!” You don’t have to, but you can if you want. Stuff like that.

Here’s the overall philosophy behind all this: Happy customers stick around longer. That’s what we think. That’s the beginning and end of it.

Back in the day, WAY back in the day, in the Everquest, Ultima Online days, nobody had real life friends that played online games, so you made all your friends online. These days, you have friends all over the place, and you probably do have real life friends playing the game. The world has changed a little bit. For us, we want to make sure that when you suddenly discover that your buddy from college or from the old job is playing on another server, you can click a button and go play with him. Chances are, you’re going to be happy, you’re going to stick around longer, and then everybody wins.

That’s the underlying, super-secret goal in all of this: Happy customers stay with companies longer. This is the bet we are making, and that’s why we call it a grand experiment.

GF: With regard to transfers, will you be allowing players on PvE servers to transfer to PvP servers, and vice versa?

SH: We absolutely will, and I’ll tell you why. We spent a lot of time considering this. I have leveled up on both types of servers, and speaking just from my experience, and the math behind this backs me up – the leveling is really not that different. In many cases, it’s zero difference. The traditional line of thought, that it’s so much harder to level on a PvP server, well, it’s really not. Besides, even if it was, the PvP server would probably appreciate it – all those soft newbie PvE targets approaching. Plus, the PvE player is happy too, because he’s where he wants to be. I think in the end everybody kind of wins.

Conversely, you get a lot of people that want to go the other way. They rolled up with a group of friends that insisted on playing on a PvP server, I’m max level , really not digging it, and would love to go play with some other friends on a PvE server I’d love to go play with. Most of the appeals we’ve seen from people are pretty genuinely that: Please, please can I just go play with my friends, and we want that answer to be yes.

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9 Comments on RIFT’s Scott Hartsman Talks Transfers, Events, and the Future (INTERVIEW)

matt hurd

On June 3, 2011 at 6:27 pm

i hated rift and the river of souls event made it worse for me, lvling wasn’t that easy and constant rifts/invasions paired with the event invasions made it really hard to do quests, yes i realize rifts were a big selling point of the game which i liked on paper, but they were too frequent and interruptive, especially when you’d get jumped by 6 monsters and had 1 mediocre aoe, so you’d die and there was a death penalty in the game, it was unpleasant, i also felt that skills were not very important as at lvl 25 my strongest skill on 2 characters and 6 souls were all the starter skills. there wasn’t very many aoes, and that made the lvling/gameplay feel slow and tedious (which was only made worse by the constant rifts of OP monsters and river of souls event).

it was generally an unpleasant experience and a huge waste of $60 for me, i tried getting a refund with 2 weeks left on my first month of subscription, but they said if you made it too lvl 2 (yes 2, you wouldn’t even be out of the half rate walk through at lvl 2), you were ineligible for a refund.

i have no interest in what trion plans to do, because if it’s anything like rift, or has to do with rift, i think it will be incredibly tedious and repetitive.

dawg

On June 4, 2011 at 12:41 pm

Really? I love Rift. I found levelling to be quite easy. zone invasions are fun, and fairly easily avoided. I have 4 skill bars of skills that I use, and maybe 8 or 9 skills that I use frequently.

Enkeli

On June 4, 2011 at 4:11 pm

I love Rift, I do wish there were more starting zones simply to make it more interesting to level alts. But overall I am completely addicted to this game.

Javilionaire

On June 7, 2011 at 5:44 am

On the contrary. I’ve found that there is barely anything to do. All raids are locked. Dailies competed. Rifts are repetitive. T2s are WAY too easy now. If Trion starts making raids and dungeon even MORE easy, they’ve lost a customer as I don’t want to o through the whole terrible, awful WoW experience.

If Trion cares about the customer, they will not make dungeons or raids any more easier. This is what WoW did and it is now dying.

Truck69ff

On June 7, 2011 at 8:27 am

I love rift! Anyone who says that they hate the rifts and invasions should just go back to wow and never leave. Rifts are soo easy to close. Sure a major rift and at unstable stages you will need help at times but for all minor rifts which are the ones your most likely to see you can solo. If you dont want to do the unstable stages then wait for tumer to expire then kill. If you can’t do then then delete toon, delete the game an go back yo an easy dumbed down game for morons calles World Of Warcraft!! There also is soo much yo do. If all raids , dungrins and rifts re closed then maybe do some pvp? Not for you then create another toon and level them. With the 4 classes i doubt you have 3 50′s that are fully geared with all their professions maxed and have every arty in the game. So stop your complaining and either enjoy the game or leave for your good old dumbed down cartoonish game that a 5 year old can pawn you at!

Celtar @ Dayblind

On June 7, 2011 at 9:27 am

So far I am finding the game very enjoyable. A fresh point of view on a familiar theme. Rifts are great because they make things happening in the game more fluid and unexpected.

I actually am using crafting across the board, I tend to play three characters at any one time so far I am mostly focusing on two though. I use armor I craft, I use runes I craft, I make potions I use as well.

As a long time gamer who has played a lot of online mmorpgs over the past near twenty years, I’ve experienced a lot. What comes through with Scott and Trion is that they care, will they get it right every time? Nope, but they will try which is what we should want as gamers.

Do I think that the game has room for improvement? Yup, I’d say that Scott would agree with that. That said the game is a lot of fun and I look forward to spending the next couple years or more enjoying it. Hopefully I’ll end up playing for even longer.

mambome

On June 7, 2011 at 1:55 pm

I agree, Rift is the best MMO experience I’ve had since EQ1.

citizenx

On June 7, 2011 at 2:39 pm

Great game and you have to hand it to Trion for continually working on the game, making it better. There is only so much that can be done on any given time, but if you look at just how much they have done since release, it is unheard of. Now, we are getting 1.3 with free character transfers and another world event? Seriously…this is a great game.

I thing this is only going to get better as time goes on, so we are really just looking at the tip of the iceberg.

Kudos to Trion. Keep up the great work!

Kio@Addiction

On June 8, 2011 at 5:40 pm

Being a part of that 1/10th of 1% and a member of Addiction, I will say that I have definately ran out of stuff to do in Rift on a daily basis, and have both Greenscale’s Blight and River of Souls cleared in 1-2 nights weekly, I am sure 99.9% of other guilds do not accomplish this nor have seen all the content that Addiction has. The raid content is by no means easy, but it was most definately 100% enjoyable and entertaining.

As other guilds progress through the game I can only hope and believe that they will enjoyed their time with the Rift content as much as I did. I don’t play it daily anymore but I still log on a few nights a week to clear the raids and hit up warfronts.

I will certainly go back onto a more hardcore gaming schedule when new content comes out as I have found most of the Rift content to be very enjoyable and am largely looking forward to Hammerknell and all the other future content.