Rift: Storm Legion Tour Part 1

Rift: Storm Legion launches November 13, 2012I had the opportunity to take a private tour of the upcoming Rift: Storm Legion expansion with Community Manager James “Elrar” Nichols.  As many of you know, I played Rift when it first launched back in March of 2011.  I played for a few months, got a couple characters almost to the max level, but didn’t continue playing because I felt like something was missing — I wasn’t hooked by anything in particular.  After this awesome tour, I’m able to see many of those ‘hooks’ making their way into Rift when Storm Legion launches November 13, 2012.

During the tour I was introduced to the story and shown the dungeon that would lead up to the new content.  I was shown the Dimension system (player housing), and also the major end-game raid zones.  Elrar also took me to several of the new zones, explained to me how the content would progress during the expansion, and provided me insights into Trion’s thoughts of Rift’s end-game and its future. I was also granted a max level character for the duration of the beta test currently underway.  So as you can tell, there’s a lot for me to share. I’m going to give you guys my honest opinion of what I saw and fill you in with as many details as I can. Be sure to check back for the full look at my tour through Rift: Storm Legion.

Read more after the break for Part 1: Dimensions!

Dimensions

Dimension Housing UI
This is the Dimension UI where you can choose which dimension you want to enter.

Dimensions are Rift’s version of player housing.  I was pleasantly surprised when I saw that players were given more than just the interior of a structure, more than just a yard, but in many cases a very, very large zone that they can literally decorate their imagination’s limits.  That sounds like hyperbole, but if you’ve ever experienced housing in EQ or SWG you know what players are capable of doing with items and a ton of freedom — Rift takes things to the next level.

Rift’s housing is implemented quite well.  The UI is brought up by pressing “[” and you’re given the option of going to your house, a friend’s house, a guild member’s house, your guild’s house, or a public house.  Visiting public houses is really cool because you’re allowed to +1 and help promote a house if you visit it and really like what the person has done.  Despite me pressing for details, the team wasn’t ready to give me any specifics about the guild housing itself other than there will be customization options to allow certain people to be decorators (via some sort of rank/permission system) and some will likely come with pre-made structures.

Dimensions can be customized to the last book.
That loft doesn’t exist until the player hand crafts it one floor board at a time.

Elrar took me through the whole Dimension system by showing me a bunch of examples.  Check out the screenshot to the left.  Every step and rail of that spiral staircase, every book on the shelf above the window, every floor board of that loft, every last detail was hand placed.  That room started off as a blank slate and was transformed and given a soul by the person who decorated it.  That same level of customization is available to you outside your house and throughout the dimension you are given.

The decorating UI is very intuitive (pictured in the album embedded below), and should only take most players a few minutes to understand and unlock its potential.  By grabbing on to colored arrows, an item can be moved in every direction.  There isn’t a grid system at work, so items can be placed exactly where you want them.  Grabbing another one of the arrows allows you to expand or shrink an item.  Literally everything scales.  Duplicating items is as simple as pressing Ctrl+D, and they even have up to a one action undo.  Maybe one of the coolest parts about Dimensions is the modding capability.  There are already mods out that bring in ‘snap’ functionality.  Hopefully the community embraces the modding and comes up with some really cool tools.

Rift Dimension Boat
This boat was crafted by hand one piece at a time. Those sails are bedrolls.

For more examples of creativity, this screenshot on the right isn’t just a boat in someone’s dimension.  This was made piece, by piece, by hand.  The sails are bedrolls.  The shields on the side are tables turned sideways.  All that existed before the creativity was unleashed was some water and rocks.  Speaking of rocks, Elrar took me to an amazing house that someone turned into a rock fort by taking rocks, scaling them, rotating them, and creating some unique.

Not only do Dimension unleash a player’s creativity, they also bolster the gameplay itself.  Crafters create a lot of the items you can use.  This means you’ll be seeking out other players to help you find that perfect decor, or taking up a craft on your own.  Elrar explained to me that certain items would also come from raids or have to be obtained through PvE, giving some players a certain level of prestige.

Sense of Place and Community

It’s important to realize what a housing system like this does for a community.  Rift has a very close-knit community that embraces a lot of social gameplay features.  In-game weddings, parties, and roleplaying happen on a regular basis.  A housing system like this provides the opportunity to create that party scene, or allow someone to go all out and have those guild meetings in style. Dimensions brings a sense of sandbox to an otherwise themepark game.  Giving people something to show off and become known for in a tight community is off-the-charts-important.  Trion is making a really great move.

Part of me feels tempted to resubscribe just to decorate a house; It’s that good.  I’m confident that Dimensions are the best housing implementation in a themepark MMO ever, and the best decorating ability of any housing I’ve seen.

Check out all of the screenshots I took from my tour of Rift’s Housing below. If you have any questions about Dimensions, feel free to ask me and I’ll answer them or get an answer from the Rift CM team.

Part 2: Raids  |  Part 3: World and Overall Impressions

Huge thanks to James and the Trion team for allowing me the opportunity to take so much of your valuable time.

  • A few additional notes:

    – You can customize the skybox of your outdoor area.
    – Currently no falling damage is taken in your dimension.
    – There are several different dimension ‘themes from different areas of the game.
    – Areas can be upgraded in levels to allow more items to be placed.
    – I believe they range in cost as well.

  • A guild member in our GW2 Guild who’s a very skilled decorator in EQ2 has been in the Storm Legion beta and was on tonight telling us all about it in detail. Her feeling was that it has a lot of potential but currently has nothing like the flexibility of the EQ2 system.

    She said that the range of craftable items is much smaller (EQ2’s is vast) and the tools to manipulate them are a lot less flexible and subtle. Of course, she, like most serious decorators in EQ2, uses an approved out-of-game tool for much of that manipulation and mods for Rift may well replicate that functionality.

    Decorators in EQ2 can and do take over and develop huge outdoor areas, entire zones in fact, through use of a semi-legal practice called “Breakout”. Rift seems to be formalizing what has been a kind of guerilla decorating in EQ2.

    Of course, EQ2 has had seven years to perfect its housing offer. Rift is coming in at a very high level and I’d expect their version to be pushing or even surpassing EQ2 in a year or two. I’m going to be getting Storm Legion so I will be able to see for myself soon enough, but I’m really not expecting Trion to come in above the current industry benchmark right off the bat!

    Housing, and player-made content in general, is starting to look like the theme of the next phase of MMO evolution. A good direction, I think.

  • @Bhagpuss: I never played with the 3rd party mod tools for EQ2 housing. I did play with the default tools for 2 years. For me, Rift’s tools are much more at-hand and intuitive. I felt like I had a lot more control.

    As for number of items, I know EQ2 had a ton. I don’t know about Rift’s number, but from what I saw I can’t imagine wanting for much.

    From the sound of it, I think Rift’s mod tools will be really good. One of their users already created a ‘snap’ mod for items which allows him to build structures with relative ease. They featured that a bit in the tour with me and during their live stream yesterday.

  • Do they do away with the “I can press 2 macros that optimize my rotation” combat? That was the weakest part about Rift for me. The combat was just dull.

  • This game has had lots of interestng stuff added within the last year or so. I just am wondering if it would be worth the boring ass leveling to reach the fun content.

  • @Fergor: yes. There is much complaining on the forums at the moment about it, but the 2-button-macro gameplay has been nuked.

  • @Fergor: Sean may be right. While I was touring the content, general chat was lighting up with several people talking about macros being gone.

  • Every soul on my Warrior was set up with macros. 1-3 keys was all that was needed to spam skills. My hot bar looked so empty compared to my other classes. Now with all the changes to skills my Warrior has no macros. I could macro a couple but most skills seemed to be designed to not play well with macroing. So I am slowly relearning playing with a full hot bar.

  • hehe, I could see Blarg resubbing just for this, he spent years in CoH/CoV simply playing with the base builder lol

  • “Do they do away with the “I can press 2 macros that optimize my rotation” combat? That was the weakest part about Rift for me. The combat was just dull.”

    Yes they moved them to Mists of Pandaria

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