RIFT’s Scott Hartsman Talks Transfers, Events, and the Future (INTERVIEW)
GF: One of the really interesting pieces of marketing you guys have had going over the past few weeks are the weather forecasts. I saw one of these on TV, and thought it was a real weather forecast until I heard the forecaster mention ‘Shimmersand.’ That got my attention pretty quickly. Where did that idea come from?
SH: One of the things I love about Trion is our marketing partners here in our wonderful publishing department. Between them internally and the agencies they’ve worked with, they’ve come up with some really clever stuff that has consistently made me either groan or laugh, but regardless it’s always gotten my attention. In this day and age, just getting people’s attention, and if you make them smile in the process, you’ve kind of won. When I first saw the cut for the weather stuff, I thought it was hilarious. I mean, they actually got real weather forecasters to do that. Those aren’t actors; those are people who either are or have been weather forecasters before. The delivery was just perfect. The first time the team saw them, we were all like, “Oh my god, this is ridiculous. But it’s great.”
GF: Let’s talk a little bit about where you’re going. One of things I’ve noticed in game is that the number of guild quests is very limited. You’ve got close X rifts, kill X number of the opposing factions, kill X number of instance bosses, or gather a blue million artifacts. Are planning to expand those offerings?
SH: I’m not sure a ‘blue million’ is a real number *laughs*, but yes. We recently expanded it ever so slightly with the individual gather and supplier quests that you get in your crating area. They let you contribute as an individual and earn guild XP. That’s baby step number one. For later steps, there are some things we are discussing for the future for guild-style gameplay, where taking part in certain activities as a guild would also earn you guild XP. To me, we’ve got the basics covered, and now it’s about looking at what are interesting and fun guild activities that guilds can do as a group that cause them to then earn guild XP.
You’ve got the base level of weekly quests, but then you’ll also have other stuff that you’re doing that’s fun that will earn your guild XP. I think having both types of activities will end up being really important.
GF: Guild banks. You’ve said they’re coming, and you’ve talked about them vaguely, and said “Yes, they’re coming.” Is there any kind of timeline on it?
SH: We will have timing on that soon. I can say very clearly that I have not been shy about saying they are in development. Now I will say that they are actively in development, and I have seen them function. So, that’s really on I can say on that.
GF: What else can we look for when 1.3 rolls out? I know you mentioned there’s another event coming that incorporates what you learned from the River of Souls event. Anything you can tell us about the event?
SH: The specific details of that are really still under wraps, but one of the things I can say is that we learned very clearly that compressing everything into too short an amount of time is just not a winner. What we have been very much looking to do is make sure that there is a progression that you can come back and check on every few days if you choose, or you can be part of it every day. Also, making sure that there is a progression through stages that occurs over a long period of time – meaning, stages that last for days instead of a half-hour. Making sure that there is enough new stuff coming out to make it last a much longer time than a Saturday afternoon. That, thematically speaking, is the sort of thing people can look forward to: Stuff you are able to do that spans a much longer period.
GF: In 1.2, you added the Shadetouched Weapons quest, and more recently, you added the Dragon Eggshell quests.
SH: Ah yes, give us this day our daily eggs. You know, it’s not that bad. If the Shimmersand event comes up once, you’re set for a day and a half from a 45 minute event. Even internally to the team, it’s hilarious what a difference in the takeaway from that is. The event people like me, who do every event that comes up, their response is “What’s the problem?” The people on the team who do nothing but run Tier 2 instances all day and all night are like “Eggs, I‘ve got a month’s worth of them. What’s the problem?” But it is something we’re watching, and as the story progresses, I would expect to see them begin to show up in other activities as well, which should ease the pain for some folks.
GF: Thus far in RIFT, crafting is very valuable. Not only because you can sell things to make money, but also because the gear is valuable, even to players who are raiding. That’s somewhat unusual for an MMO world, where crafted gear tends to decrease in value as you level. Going forward do you forsee that continuing, and will there be new things for crafters to make, whether interesting, fun, or just plain useful?
SH: Yeah, crafting is something that we are continually improving and iterating on. At the moment, the crafting lead and her boss are going through a couple of different skills, like Apothecary right now. They’re trying to remove some of the pain from that. We’re pretty happy with the base crafting systems. We would like to go through recipes and individual components to make things make a little more sense than they do right now. Once we get through that, we’ll turn back and look at what the next big, cool thing for crafters is.
Another core idea is that we don’t want to push so hard to add things that we don’t have time to react to the way people are actually using the systems. Right now, we’re reacting to the reality of what’s out there among the players.
GF: Before we sign off, I want to ask you one more question. If you had to convince someone to play your game who never had seen the game, never played the game, and never touched an MMO, what would you say?
SH: Come to a world that’s always under attack where you get to be the hero or the villain, and there’s always something interesting going on and waiting for you to join in.
That’s really what pulls me in time and time again in our game. I go home from work, and I’ve been thinking about playing long before I get there. So I go home and play. The thing in our game that strikes me as so different from any other is this: When I’ve played MMOs in the past, I would have the idea to log on and go do something. So, I would log on and go do it; maybe it’s fun, maybe it’s not. That’s fine.
In our game, I plan to log in and do something, and then sometimes I do. Other times, other interesting stuff is happening and I end up getting swept along with it. Before I realize it, five hours have passed, and I haven’t even come close to doing the original thing I came online planning to do. I like that feeling, and I think it’s something that you can only get playing RIFT.
We’d like to thank Scott for taking the time to sit down with us, and we hope to get a chance to chat with him again after E3, when he can finally talk about all this stuff that he couldn’t talk about. You can get more info about Rift on our RIFT game page, or on the game’s official site.