We interviewed Trion Worlds' Scott Hartsman about Rift's first anniversary and how far they've come in just one short year.
Rift has just reached its first anniversary; the mood in Telara couldn’t be more jovial! Executive Producer Scott Hartsman chatted with ZAM for a bit about the wild ride in the past year, his favorite memories, and what the anniversary world event contains.
“I was 30 seconds late,” Scott said by way of introduction, “because I was just tweeting out the exciting news: we just had our 10 millionth Lootable played on the Rift Mobile App. We’re giddy about this because it’s a gigantic number, and gigantic numbers are fun!” The Rift anniversary event began just last week, and the team has been cooking up all sorts of fun for players.
“We just did a prologue event with loot piñatas springing up all over Telara last week. This world event overall is going to be just a little bit different than what we’ve done in the past, because we’re having a very strong, celebratory/Mardi Gras theme to it. It’s the biggest of the events we’ve done so far; all new content, new minigames, new rewards. It will run for the next month or so and we’re mixing it up with all sorts of other, smaller, events… things like bonus weekends, to sale on the game, to rewards that let players go back in time to buy up items from previous world events. This is the “Pull out all the stops, holy crap, boy are we happy to be here!””
Look back into the past: before Rift launched, what were you thinking about? What were your greatest concerns and hopes?
“Will this actually work? That’s the thing, most of our stress happens during Beta. We knew we were doing smart things, but we were always waiting for a terrible thing to happen and break the game! But the secret to quality is repetition. By the time we got to Beta, we were pretty good at launching updates; and by the time we got to launch, it almost felt like just another Beta update. Luckily, it ran like it was too!
Like any company we had the normal concerns: are players going to buy the game? Are they going to subscribe? Are they going to quit within 5 minutes? We had the campaign that we loved, and an incredibly great Alpha community that went back a year or two prior to the game launching. And lots of them have stuck with us, and many more have joined.”
So, we’ve had patches that allow players to kill dragon gods, and 1.6 opened up a gigantic new map. Which has been your favorite and why?
“Ember Isle was one of my favorites; I have a couple different favorites for a couple different reasons. I mean, what other company could do this (adding, a huge new zone bigger than any single zone already in the game)? Other than that, I was a huge fan of when our first slivers came out, because I am an active Rift player and raiding is one of the activities I do enjoy quite a bit. Then again, I’m also a PvPer, and a crafter… and an explorer and a collector, so I kind of do everything! And then the update where we rolled out instant adventure was an important one to me. The ability to bring players together and keep them engaged is something I think we do in a way better than pretty much anybody. And IA was one of the best ways we’ve done that; it’s a theme we’ll definitely be sticking to in the next year for sure. I definitely enjoy the Chronicles too; when they first came out I was definitely one of those people who were running them over and over again because they were FUN! And now I’ve backed down to maybe 2-3 a week instead of a day; that sates my soloing desire for the time being. It’s also a fun way to really test out your gear and challenge yourself; when you can finally solo one of those you know you’ve really gotten somewhere. It’s like “Hey! This is meant for two people and I’m doing it with just me!” It’s great to be able to do that in an MMO.”
Rift has had several major successes across the genre; what sticks out as the greatest achievement?
“Well, the 10 millionth Lootable was a great milestone, but I think what made me so happy was the support of the company to launch a mobile add-on that has its own gameplay for free. We might look to charge for stuff in the future, but in the meantime this is something our developers were passionate about and wanted to build. And for all the things it does right now, I think it’s lovely. The fact that we can create gameplay outside the game that helps keep people in touch is something we’re incredibly proud about. And how about weddings? When I first heard people were passionate about this kind of event, I was kind of surprised; but I’m glad how it worked out and the players love it (Note: Rift won a Guinness World Record for most in-game weddings in a 24-hour period). We love to give our players something more than just “go kill creatures, or other players.” We refer to it internally as “verbs other than stab.” And being able to do all these other things are what really set aside the Rift experience.
How has player feedback affected the game?
“We pay attention to all the forms of player feedback, from both test and live servers. We get thousands and thousands of information from the feedback button every day, and all of those go into our bug tracking system where we keep track of the volume of certain keywords. We can keep an eye on hot topics this way. We obviously also scan the forums, although when playing the forum game you need to keep an eye out for trolls. My advice to our new members is “When you get trolled, just read whatever they say in the voice of Droopy Dog and you’ll suddenly be ok with it!” And obviously, we pay attention to the serious feedback and analysis. We’ve already hired no small number of people out of our community. Some were developers with experience, while others were just smart and passionate. That’s the ultimate way of taking feedback, right? Hiring them!”