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Rift: Building A New Realm
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Rift: Building A New Realm

March 28, 2011 Article Start Previous Page 4 of 5 Next

I'm interested in your plan for updates. People have tried all kinds of methods. "Do we do roll-in content updates? Do we do sort of mini -- not expansions -- but chunks every so often?"

SH: Yeah.

"Do we do big expansions, huge expansions, profoundly change the world?" What is your philosophy?

SH: So, I've worked a couple different ways before. We're trying to... Again, a lot of this comes back to what other people on the team have worked on, what I've worked on, how all of our experiences blend together.

Our initial plan -- given that we have this dynamic content engine, we can add content incredibly rapidly, which is phenomenal for us. And we can do it without having to wait for new world space to be created. So, we can always be telling new stories.

We can always be introducing new enemies. We can always be pushing the story forward just through these events that you're playing. And so for us, our goal is to do things like that monthly and then punctuate it with larger key releases at the time it's right to tell the next chapter in the story.

So, yeah, there is this overall story that gets told over N number of months/years where we do have the general chapters already planned out. We know who the bad guys are. We know all of that.

The only thing we really don't know yet is what specific events, what specific pieces of content are, and what specific live features are players going to be wanting as most important... You've talked to many developers. I'm sure you hear a line that goes something like this. "We've got our content planned out for the next five years." Bullshit. I'm sorry. You don't want to do that.

We have a skeleton of where we want it to go. We know the chapters. We know the story we want to tell. We hope that that ends up being the story that is going to be the one we should be telling. But a lot of it at the end of the day is going to come down to, in terms of features and events, where the players in our game that need more stuff to do, what level are they, all that stuff. We still are very... We're very data-driven as well as having our own ideas.

I've heard that a lot, but more routinely and depending on whom I am speaking to, I hear, "We let our players tell us exactly where we're going to go, and we respond rapidly to what they want, and we test the fuck out of everything."

SH: Right. Sure.

Your game sounds like it's architectured in a way that makes it more possible, but in the past, that was not something people were planning for. But then when we see what's happened with social gaming and the way people can respond rapidly...

SH: Yeah. That's one of the things we've architected our team around in general. There are not many companies that I know of that would be putting on an open beta yet still so confident in their development that they were able to update it every day, which is exactly what we're doing right now.

Every day that we've run a beta, we have updated it each day with feedback and data from the previous day, and we've continued to do that through this beta. So, we are definitely doing some of that as well.

The storyline stuff I was talking about was more of the high-level story arc. But for instance, the entire concept of our evolution to a public group system was spurred on from beta feedback and beta play. We had individual developers of the game assigned to specific servers through our own beta to keep an eye out. Data is good and data is great, but data tempered by human experience is even better.

So, by having our own data coming in from the servers, how many people are participating in these events, how many people didn't get the opportunity to even participate -- what's the rate, what's the frequency -- what we had done is we adjusted the rates of all these things such that a given user who logged in and played for a half hour had a 95 percent chance of seeing one of these events happen.

So, it was using real data to feed back into this, then once we got that rate into a place that we were happy, we realized the next barrier they were running into was, "Man it's such a pain in the ass to actually form a group."

We launched this huge time-sensitive zone event. People spend 10 minutes trying to assemble for it. So, there's two ways to do that. Yes, you can extend it out in 10 minutes. Where's the fun in shouting for groups and doing all that crap? Instead, we'll put a system together.

I can press a button over your head if you have it set that way, and I can join you. [Trion PR] Katie can join you. [Trion PR] Chris can join you. You can walk up to a raid, you can press the merge button, and join your group into their raid, and now we can fight the Godzilla that's approaching. A lot of that has been driven by both objective and subjective data and feedback from the betas. And if we can keep doing that forever, I will be a happy camper.

You hear a lot about how more games are more solo these days than they were in the past. They are that way not because players don't like other people; it's because people just don't want the pain in the ass. And so, pardon me, when grouping up and trying to do stuff becomes a zero-friction activity, people enjoy the crap out of it.

And that's where we decided again we want to try and make the Rift-iness of Rift to come through. That really is what it is. It's about how can we pull together people in ways to where they're going to find themselves, "Where did the entire day go? Holy crap. That was amazing."

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