Rift: Storm Legion – Who put this sand in here?

James, a community manager from Trion recently reached out to me and asked if I’d be interesting in taking Rift’s upcoming expansion Storm Legion for a guided tour. While I’m not currently playing Rift, and my reasons why are well documented here, I still have a lot of respect for Trion as a company and Rift as a themepark, so I took James up on his offer and last Friday he joined Inq’s vent and set me up with a beta account and character.

I went into this with two goals; the first was to see if anything in Storm Legion was more than just “more themepark”, and the second was to ask some general MMO questions and see what info I could get out of James. I’d say I was successful in both.

As for Storm Legion itself, the feature that stood out to me most was the housing system, because just from the glimpse I saw, I can safely say this is how themepark housing should be done. The design issue with instanced housing has always been the ‘why’. Why would you want/need to zone into your own area? Many themeparks give small incentives like crafting bonuses, or rely purely on Barbie dress up to sell the feature, turning what should be a core feature for everyone into a niche space for fantasy fashion designers and interior decorators.

Rift lets you do that as well, but also allows you to set your space to public, so that anyone can zone into it. On top of this, they also have a simple +1 rating system, and you can sort public housing zones by rating. In the beta, the house with the highest rating was from a player who clearly put in a lot of time with the new system, and had created something pretty unique (he took the base house and added a second level through creative use of stone and wooden planks, among other creative uses of basic materials). As I was being shown this area, he was actually in-game and designing a lawn statue, which was actually a pretty cool moment.

And if that was all that housing offered, it would be a nice step forward. But in a rare turn down sandbox lane, Trion lets you basically place items anywhere you want, up to the skycap. So our next stop on the tour was a ‘housing’ area that some player had converted into a giant jumping puzzle ala GW2. As James was explaining this, I watched dozens of players attempt this guy’s puzzle, which again was a pretty cool moment in “hey, people are actually going to use this feature”. I can only imagine as players have more time, they will create better and more creative stuff here, far beyond just fantasy houses you visit once. (The feature needs some additions, like the ability to create a loot chest, or to display armor, but James noted that what they have here now is just the first step, and expanding the feature will be an ongoing focus)

Housing aside, the other ‘feature’ that stood out to me was the overall size of the new zones; they are huge and more Rift-like than many of the games original zones. Also good to see is that the expansion is aligning to have the death rifts fighting the air rifts, a point of focus I thought the original game greatly lacked after rifts were overall nerfed at the end of beta. I’m not sure if this expansion is going to push the zones into complete three-way battles (death vs air vs players), but it should at least be closer to that.

I also saw the new raid that will be ready at release, as well as the first raid to be added post-release. They both looked interesting visually, and certainly captured that epic feeling in terms of mob and room size. Getting one-shot by different bosses and then having James one-shot them with GM powers was also pretty cool.

Since this was beta, we did run into a few issues, mostly around bosses showing up. But considering we were teleporting around so often and using GM powers to kill stuff, I’m not too worried. Even at its original release, Rift was a polished product, and Trion has always been quick with the fixes and updates. That there is no NDA around anything I saw or talked about with James, including the raid that is very clearly still in development should tell you a lot about how confident Trion is in their ability to deliver a solid product.

Moving away from the expansion itself and to more general topics about Trion and the MMO genre itself, I talked with James about Rift staying a subscription MMO when so many others are forced into F2P. He noted that Rift has always been profitable for Trion, and that they have a good balance between players who subscribe long-term and those who come back for a month or so to see an update. As the updates are frequent and substantial, it’s no surprise that the flow of returning players is as well.

Another major competitive advantage Trion has with Rift is that everything around the game was built to allow for rapid content development, something that is pretty obvious when you look at all the updates Trion has released since day one. The size and depth of Storm Legion also drives this home.

It sounds like a pretty obvious thing (being able to provide update to a game who’s business model is based around updates), but take a quick look around the themepark space and compare Trion’s release pace with its main competitors. The biggest design flaw around the themepark space vs sandbox titles has always been content creation being slower than consumption, and Trion has set themselves up well to minimize, if not outright counter this.

If themeparks are your thing, I’d say the way Trion handles Rift is how you’d want your themepark handled, and I’m actually curious to see just what players eventually do with the housing system. I think Rift players and general themepark fans will be very happy with Storm Legion, and the general direction Rift is moving in.

13 Responses to Rift: Storm Legion – Who put this sand in here?

  1. Just commenting to say that this was a very well-reasoned piece. I like how you give Trion credit where it is due, even though you seem mostly like the sort who enjoys more sandboxy type things. :)

    Anyway, see you in DF 2.0! :D

  2. Aerynne says:

    “Rift lets you do that as well, but also allows you to set your space to public, so that anyone can zone into it. On top of this, they also have a simple +1 rating system, and you can sort public housing zones by rating. In the beta, the house with the highest rating was from a player who clearly put in a lot of time with the new system, and had created something pretty unique (he took the base house and added a second level through creative use of stone and wooden planks, among other creative uses of basic materials). As I was being shown this area, he was actually in-game and designing a lawn statue, which was actually a pretty cool moment.

    And if that was all that housing offered, it would be a nice step forward.”

    EQ2 has been doing this for quite some time with some amazing housing as a result. That said, Rift’s housing system does look pretty amazing, so I am anxious to try it out.

    • SynCaine says:

      Note that this was a while ago, but when I saw EQ2, all you could do was place decorations, and the ‘gameplay’ around it was just seeing what wall colors people picked (not exactly, but hopefully you see my point).

      There was not enough freedom to the feature to allow for something like a jumping puzzle, or to substantially chance the actual layout of a place (to say, take a standard house and make it look like and underground cave with a very different layout).

      Have things changed and you now can do that?

      • pkudude99 says:

        Maybe not in your *house,* but guilds have done it in their big halls: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BrHnsr_aidw

        This isn’t the only one I’ve heard of, but it’s the only one I can find video of.

      • “take a standard house and make it look like and underground cave with a very different layout”

        I saw that Dimension!

        With guild halls EQ2 there is enough open space to sort of do things like that. I remember the R&H guild hall… a giant place… had some specially built areas for activities.

        But at the general individual house level, you cannot get as much change into things.

        On the flip side though, for actually playing house, EQ2 has a lot of options. One thing Rift might be hard pressed to do is match EQ2’s variety on that front, given how slow Trion was to get much variety into cosmetic gear and such.

      • Anonymous says:

        You can now have an entire island as your home and with the addition of flooring, walls, columns, and even teleporter pads build just about anything you want. One of my homes is a castle floating over my island, accessible by teleporter pad. EQ2 also has a rating system in place, so players can vote on houses.

        • Anonymous says:

          Sorry – not sure why it always posts as Anonymous when I am at work. Should be Aerynne, as it is when I post from home.

      • Anonymous says:

        I (Aerynne again) should add that EQ2 has long had a lot more flexibility than you give it credit for. I suspect there is a “bug” involved, but players long ago figured out how to build beyond their actual house/cave, and have created amazing places as a result.

        One person actually recreated Diagon Alley from Harry Potter – it took forever to load, but it was very well done, particularly since that was before SOE added all the building stuff.

      • Shadow says:

        I’ll jump in with everyone else and say that housing options and variability in EQ2 has grown amazingly so. Reading this article sent my thoughts straight to EQ2’s version, which is unsurprising given Trion’s leadership. One of the things I always liked about Rift was how much like EQ2 it was (collection quests are my favorite addiction).

        • bhagpuss says:

          According to the housebuilder from EQ2 who’s also in our GW2 guild and the Storm Legion beta, Rift’s housing is a nice first attempt but currently a lot less expansive and flexible than EQ2’s version, which remains the industry standard for Theme Park housing by a very wide margin.

          At the rate Trion add features, whether that will still be the case a year from now is an interesting question.

  3. [...] other bloggers, I was invited by Trion to go on a tour of the Storm Legion expansion.  Keen and SynCaine (can you imagine?) both have posts up about the tour already, and I expect more will pop up soon.  [...]

  4. [...] check out the upcoming expansion for Rift called Storm Legion. The feedback so far has been pretty darn positive. He did not pass up our humble blog; just a failure to communicate coupled with my idiocy [...]

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