I wanted to make a post here about how incredibly bat shit insane the development pace has been at Trion regarding Rift. We’re seeing content being pumped out in a matter of months where other companies would be looking at 6-8 months. In the past half year Rift has had no less than four major updates, a 20-man raid, and two 10-man raids introduced, multiple tiers of gear, a PvP ranking overhaul, hell, I don’t really want to go into what they’ve done per se, but how they’ve managed to do it. I know this post is going to come off as a bunch of rabid fanboy wank, but that’s fine. It should come off like that. They’re doing something the rest of the industry really should take a step back and admire. That includes you.
Without further ado, I’ll send a linkback to www.soulrift.com for their interview with the main man in charge Scott Hartsman. Take some time and listen to the podcast, because it’s Scott doing what he does in being very candid and direct with answers. I’m pretty sure there’s a line of questioning in there where the interviewer jokingly asked him to share some secrets, to which Scott replied quite excitedly that he could share some secrets, and then proceeded to do so. Iteration was the word of the day. However they managed to build out the world, they did it right. Each developer has a full instance of the game on their work machines, so when they’re testing and building things out they don’t need to wait until the end of a week to push an upload to a central store to see if things break. Because of this there’s less reliance on teams to get things done and collaborate on single items at a time. Developers can take those items, and bang them out individually building against the full live version of the server (although not live) to see if things break and how, then go back and correct or iterate their code. Because they don’t have to wait to push these things to a live build, and can iterate changes very quickly, it means from concept to test to live is a very short time.
Among other things he also shared how the game was designed to be modified on-the-fly in realtime on a live server as needed. Ever wonder about the tools GM’s have at their disposal? Apparently the dudes on Rift can make anything, quite literally any object/npc in the game, to turn on or off at any time to correct an issue. There’s also triggers built into the server code that detects cheating and odd outliers. Say a player somehow shows up with 10,000 plat on him? It can be removed, the player can be coin-locked, and the loophole can be closed all before a hotfix is even thought of. Trion really has a ton of control and power, and it all comes down to how they’ve planned out their development process. Removing all of the traditional barriers to kicking out content was one half of the battle, the other was building an atmosphere of development that didn’t include firing their staff shortly after launch. Retaining your development team to continue live development has been invaluable, and it shows by the lack of bugs and blinding amount of polish.
Hartsman also confirmed that there would absolutely be a full on expansion that is already in the works. Adding new lands to the game is something they hoped they would be able to do at launch, and after the amazing amount of subscriptions, it was set in stone months ago. The full expansion started development a few months after the game launched. Considering how much they’ve been able to do with small content bursts, one can only imagine what kind of colossal expansion this could turn out to be. Rift 2.0 will likely be the version number to look for. Unfortunately, we’ve already had 1.6 confirmed, and 1.5 is right around the corner. Something he wouldn’t/couldn’t allude to was how far off the expansion was.
This is the kind of breakneck development speed that I can get behind, and if they keep it up, could ultimately de-throne the 900 pound gorilla sitting on the backs of all other MMO’s to date. Something that we haven’t seen done extensively in quite some time is the development of large new sprawling masses of land to explore. Double the size of Telara and we could be talking about a place that would start to be comfortably inhabitable by a large server population. If they build out some real capital cities as part of the expansion, or give us access to the 6 different planes, or so many other things my head might start spinning if I really start to consider what a serious expansion could look like in this day and age. The possibilities for Rift right now are endless. The promise of content on not just the next horizon, but the next dozen horizons is something I think much of the MMO community has been clamoring for. If they can pump out enough content in a short amount of time to really start to rival some of these big veteran MMO’s, I could see them really start to pick up on subs in a time when F2P is the new hot keyword, totally breaking everyones minds over where the MMO landscape is going.
I want Rift to be the next WoW. I want them to do it bigger, better, faster, and to fly in the face of what everyone expects. I want them to pick up that subscription MMO banner and make a game that anyone would feel proud to throw down 15$ a month to play, not because we have money to burn, but because we feel that it’s worth it. That’s what gets me going every time I take a step back and look at what Rift has done so far. They made me feel like they’re actually developing the game with my 15$ a month. There’s some real value here, and I think with the leadership they have in place, the iterative development pace, and the raw talent behind them that can drive them far into the future. If they can keep their eyes on their work and away from their money to avoid the greedy pitfalls that these other companies are all to pleased to dive in headfirst, this could be a game that I enjoy for many years to come.