Adam 'Gersh' Gershowitz shares the secrets of Souls in a roundtable discussion with Rift community members. Plus join in our Storm Legion Beta Giveaway!
It’s been a busy week for all things Rift. Patch 1.11 hit live servers on Wednesday, bringing a huge number of class changes in preparation for the expansion’s launch next month. The second closed beta test of Rift: Storm Legion started on Friday, coinciding with a flurry of screenshots and live streams as the NDA dropped -- In fact if you want a chance to participate in the beta, go here now! Some of the team at Trion even participated in 24 hours of non-stop gaming to raise money for Extra-Life.
With all of this going on, senior producer Adam ‘Gersh’ Gershowitz still found time to chat with members of the Rift community about the class changes in Storm Legion. The roundtable inquisition was also joined by some of the top Rift raiding guilds, unearthing some fantastic insights into how Trion approach class design, from defining items like Synergy Crystals to new signature abilities.
Is balancing already complete in Patch 1.11? It feels like encounters have become easier.
Gersh: Long story short, we put a base level of balance into the game. But, like it or leave it, when you have a game that’s as complex as Rift, and as many changes as we tried to make with Storm Legion, you’re almost going to have a launch situation again.
We have some really good beta players, who have been helping us out a great deal. It helped get the game to a really solid point; however, that’s the reason we’re doing a patch like 1.11. The important thing about it is to give players a chance to get used to the classes before the new content is out. That way, the day Storm Legion comes out, they can start playing. But it’s also our way of getting a bit of an open beta, with all of the various system changes that we’ve done.
So yeah, I’d say that class balance is in a pretty good state, but there are going to be outliers, and as thousands upon thousands of people try to figure out what’s the new best combination, we’re going to find a lot of different outlying situations where ‘Hey, this is too strong’ or ‘Hey, this is too weak’, and that’s really the final stage of our Storm Legion beta testing.
The one other thing to note, is [level] 50 balance used to be the point where everybody said ‘this is where I compare my character’. It’s important to note that the level 50 balance is now not the measuring stick for everything. There are a number of changes that we’ve made that will progressively occur as players level from 50 to 60, where it’s a little more unbalanced at 50. We left it that way on purpose because we didn’t want a completely jarring experience for players.
There might be situations where certain abilities were a little bit more potent at 50. We want to ease them back, but we’re easing them back gradually as we go from 50 to 60. Or a particular piece of gear, or a trinket - Golem Inductor – that was over-tuned or over-balanced. We’re addressing a lot of these things, but some of those changes are more gradual. What you’ll find is 50 balance now will probably be a little bit wonky. It’s not going to be horribly off, but at the same time, it’s not going to be completely indicative of what the level 60 balance is. As people rank up, they get new talents and abilities that change the way everybody plays.
Players did get a little more powerful with Storm Legion, especially because you can go into those higher soul point abilities. We are OK with some of the existing content becoming a little bit easier, even for existing 50 players. It’s part of our plan – we want to make sure this stuff opens up to more and more people as we go on, especially now that people have a choice to go ‘Do I go raid Infernal Dawn, or do I get level 51, 52, 53?’. We want to make sure those things are accessible.
With the Bard soul changes, can they now queue in Looking for Group as a healer?
Gersh: Actually, with the Bard and Tactician, we don’t allow you to LFG as a healer, mainly because they don’t fill the role of being a tank healer. The situation is, if you have a really good Bard-Tactician rogue, and they’re well geared, they may be able to keep up a really good tank. But because they don’t have the tools that main healers have, like Clerics and Chloromancer on the Mage, they’re still more specifically a support healer or group healer. They’re built more for raid healing; they’re built more for supplemental healing. They put out some really good HPS, but it’s not necessarily focused on an individual. We don’t want a situation where people get into a group and go ‘Hey, I’m a great AE healer, you’re an [average] geared random tank, I can’t keep you up because I don’t have the healing output I need on a single target.’
People seem disappointed with the Chloromancer changes from Spell Damage to Casting Time, because it lost synergy with other souls. Going away from doing large amounts of damage to create large amounts of healing – it lost a bit of fun.
Gersh: The Chloromancer is one of those examples where we lost a little bit of gameplay in terms of overall balance. I know our Mage designer is currently working and looking at player feedback on that, seeing how we can pull some of the synergy back in, but I don’t think you’re going to find that by increasing my damage I increase my healing, is going to be the synergy moving forward.
The main reason for that is inherently, while the idea is a lot of fun, and the reason why it’s fun is because I do lots of damage and I do lots of healing, it is a bit flawed from a balance standpoint. The two things that they’re doing, ‘Hey, my damage is getting better and my healing is getting better’, are basically what you’d refer to as ‘the Road to Godhood’. If you have extremely good damage and extremely good healing, then you become the Class.
We’re trying to find the best combination to still keep the Chloromancer fun, to have the synergy between the souls, and still have the idea of healing and attacking at the same time. It’s a little bit tricky; it’s a very dramatic change. We do know that there are some players out there who like it, there are a good number that are dissatisfied with it, and that’s why we’re doing things like 1.11, and we’ll continue to keep an eye on it.
Clerics have been the lowest DPS in general. Are there any plans to get them on the same page or will they always be underdogs because they’re the only ones that can fill all four roles?
Gersh: Our ultimate goal is to make sure that all of the DPS classes are on pretty even footing. Right now, the designers are working to try and get all of the DPS classes a lot closer than they are, even right now in 1.11. We’re still doing quite a lot of balance on the classes, especially when we start talking about expansion balance, so I would expect to see improvements in that regard.
The important thing to note there is the difference between good DPS and hardcore raiding DPS. For your general player, ‘I can kill monsters, I can do dungeons, I can do Rifts, I can do PVP without getting slaughtered’ is a little different than ‘I’m in a hardcore raiding guild and 2% matters’. I think what you’ll find is they may lag a little bit behind in terms of DPS, from the hardcore raiders.
There may be situations where some of the more DPS focused souls, with more combinations of abilities, will be able to eke out the extra couple of percent, and that’s just going to be an ongoing thing that’s going to be very difficult to deal with. Not just with Clerics, but with all classes – it’ll constantly be rotating as we do changes. But our overall goal is to get all classes relatively ball-park close to each other.
Druids had scaling issues from the start of Infernal Dawn to the end. Has this been addressed?
Gersh: We’ve done a lot of changes under the hood, in the way that changes are done, designed and authored, and the way that we do items and stuff, to hopefully help some of these scaling issues. Some of you are in beta right now, and you can see that the balance isn’t quite there yet, but like I said, it is a work in progress.
Are there plans to simplify rotations, or will you keep complex rotations with a higher payoff?
Gersh: I think the natural thing that comes out of having these complex classes and this many combinations, comes back down to this: if you have a very savvy player, that knows the game very well and squeezes every last little bit out of it, they’re probably going to come up with things like complex rotations.
But one of the important things we’ve been trying to do with Storm Legion is to make sure that the default rotations – the thing that players just come in and play with – may not be super in-tune with everything that a class does or all the options that they have, become a lot more viable. What we’re trying to do is bring a little closer, the difference between people that use the game as-is, without any macros or anything else, and the expert players at the other end of the spectrum. That way, you can come into the game and play with fewer buttons, but at the same time, there is still some expert knowledge that you can use to eke out more.