A Discussion of Infernal Dawn with three of Trion's Best!
A group of Rift reviewers from all sorts of MMO sites gathered together on Wednesday to discuss the game’s newest update, Infernal Dawn. Hal Hanlin and Adam Gershowitz started the show, and Scott Hartsman showed up to answer all our questions about patch 1.8, which comes with big changes: a new raid, new auxiliary skills, Leaderboards, the Guild Finder, and more!
Question: Chloromancer is getting some changed in 1.8. Could you describe the challenges with balancing this calling, and what brought about these changes?
Adam: The Chloromancer is probably one of our hardest souls to balance, mainly because it does two things at once… it heals and it deals damage. A lot of the things we were working on this patch were very PvP-focused in a lot of ways, so we were working on ways to improve some of their PvP heals without making their damage go crazy in PvE. A lot of changes we made in this patch in general were for healing in PvP, but most of them shouldn’t affect the PvE experience.
Question: 1.8 brings fishing and survival. Why were they chosen as the first auxiliary skills; have you been working on them for a while?
Adam: Fishing and survival have kind of come a long way. We sat down and said, ‘We’ve put a lot of nice core content in the game in the last year, so we want some more casually oriented things you can do without fighting, or while relaxed and talking with a friend. We started that with weddings, and then we went down the list of what things were really popular within the office and from players asking. Some things just came up over and over again, and fishing was one of those things. So when it came time to put more non-combat things into the game, that quickly bubbled up to the top. Not to mention we had somebody super excited about fishing in the office… that helped!
Question: Is there anything in the works to try and entice new players in 1.8?
Scott: We definitely have a few things planned out. We have the normal marketing and sales; expect a bunch of pushes for 1.8; and from E3 on this year, you can expect some other cool press and marketing pitches too.
Adam: Another thing we’re doing besides promotions are things for new players. One of them is Instant Adventure being put into the low-level game, and coupling that with a really good mentoring system. We’re going to have tons of great ways to come in the game and get linked up with their high level friends.
Question: Hammerknell was the first raid since launch that introduced a new tier of difficulty. Can you tell us what you learned from that development, and how the new raids benefit from that?
Scott: The biggest thing from all of it is answering ‘What is the right amount of challenge… hard enough but still fun?’ We phrase it a little more bluntly in the office when referring to it; basically, we don’t want to be punching people in the face. We don’t want to create situations where the entire success or failure of the raid can be messed up by one person getting a lag blip or one person missing a single cue. In a normal, healthy raid difficulty environment we have players angry with us or angry with the content… but we don’t ever want to create a situation where characters are angry with each other. So, yeah, ‘face-punching’ is the kind way of putting it.
Adam: Like Scott was saying, a big part of it was making sure the encounters were more team-based, where you succeeded or failed as a team, and not the ‘Oh crap, I have a debuff on me, I need to run away or I’ll kill the entire raid!’ kind of feeling. There are still mechanics like that in Infernal Dawn but they’re much less harsh. We were still a new company when we released Hammerknell, only a few months into the game. Not only did we not have a perfect handle on what our best players could do, but our best players were still figuring out what they could do.
Scott: That content began development before high level raids even existed in live!
Adam: And it was a really good raid! But it’s not nearly as polished as Infernal Dawn. With Infernal Dawn we started development many months ago, and we’ve been working closely with a lot of our raid players making sure that we have challenging encounters that don’t spawn guild burn-out and have really good rewards. Overall, Infernal Dawn is quite exciting for us, and a number of guilds are really exciting about getting into it.
Scott: Over the next couple of weeks you’re going to hear about how we’re going to stage out some of the encounters so you don’t end up with people feeling like they are forced to bust their heads against stuff that they just aren’t geared up well enough to accomplish. That’s another core lesson we learned from Hammerknell and guild breaking. We’ve thought about this a lot!
Question: About Survival: can you tell us more about tents and bedrolls?
Adam: The tents and bedrolls basically started out as Role Playing items, but now they serve two purposes. For RP, you pitch a tent (cue laughter) or a bedroll and have your own little campsite. From a gameplay perspective, it’s a way to get a little bit of rested experience outside of the main cities. You might be in a situation where you really don’t want to head back to town: you might need to take care of the kids or eat dinner. That’s where tents and bedrolls come in handy as long as you find a relatively safe location. They’re much smaller buffs, so it’s not a situation where you’d pitch a tent and log out for 12 hours and then come back with full rested experience.
Question: Will fishing and survival be just for fun, or will they confer an advantage?
Adam: Obviously we made it as a fun sideline activity: we have a fishing derby; we have fun fishing collections, tons of fishing achievements. But people fishing for a benefit in the game or want to sell something to people… all of the survival-created materials are better than in-game drops. We’ve improved the statistics on the food, and the bonuses that are handed out; and in almost all cases they should be better than vendor items. You can also pick up artifacts, and tents and bedrolls, and one of our designers is really passionate about it and has a whole laundry list of stuff she wants to put in the game. It’s definitely going to be a lot more than just a casual way to kill time.
Question: Could you explain what fishing poles will do?
Adam: Each one of the fishing skill levels has a unique pole you can make. Right now the only benefit is that it allows you to use more powerful lures, so the higher level you get, the more powerful lures you can get and the more accurate you can pick out the things you want to fish. We’re looking at taking that even further, with ranged-cast fishing. You’ll notice that we have special nodes in the world that if you fishing around them or cast your lure near them you’ll get special bonuses to certain types of fish. We’re definitely going to play around with that a little bit more down the line by making the fishing rod ranges a little different.
Question: Trapping is no longer included in 1.8. Why did you choose not to include it, and will it come back at a different date?
Scott: We throw stuff up all the time, and some of it makes it and some of it doesn’t. The version that you saw was something we looked at and went “You know this isn’t quite cutting the fun bar.” So we’re going to focus on the two that were going to work, because they’re what we’re happy with. Some of the things that make it to live are good, and some fall under, “That wasn’t the greatest idea.” Trapping falls under that.
Question: Lore question! Dragon cults have crept up again. Will they continue to make trouble in Telara, or will future content focus on brand-new groups?
Adam: Obviously we have the six dragons, and as we’ve dug deeper and deeper into the lore we’ve found a greater role that Laethys plays in the universe. So her cult therefore is climbing to ascendency. You’re going to see a great deal more of her effects both in world events and future instances.
Scott: Expect more of the remaining dragon cults as we get more into bigger and bigger things later this year.
Question: Will there be any extra benefits or achievements for getting onto the Leaderboards?
Adam: Right now the goal was to get the leaderboards out there and find the activities people found fun and track them. We’re definitely looking down the line if leaderboards are super popular, something like rewards for them. But we do want to be very careful because an activity like the leaderboard can easily break guilds or communities apart, especially if there’s only a reward that only one person can get. So no reward in the near future but it’s definitely on the list of long-term things to do if it’s a popular feature.
Question: Tell us more of the mentor system? When is it coming?
Hal: We are working on it continuously, and on early level instant adventures. The two have dovetailed nicely together and we wanted to make sure that we have sufficient content in the one before we release the other. So it’s in the very near future but I’m just not ready to tell you a date yet.
Scott: The general idea of “instant adventure everywhere” in combination with mentoring does something really interesting for pretty much everybody in that if you’re level 50 and have been level 50 for quite some time it might be really neat to go back and get some planar attunement levels in some zones you haven’t played in for a really long time. So giving more people more reason to play in more spaces is the overall goal.