We interview Hal Hanlin, Chris Junior, and Bill Fisher about Conquest
The first play test just ended for Trion's newest open-world PvP content, and the next test begins this Thursday. Hal Halin (Design Producer), Bill Fisher (Lead Game Designer) and Chris Junior (Senior Systems Designer) chatted with ZAM about what this huge new PvP format will hold... and the trials and tribulations of balancing such a a major undertaking. Read on to learn more!
ZAM: Conquest is the news on everybody's lips. Tell us about the newest innovation in PvP!
Bill:It's really about the feel of open-world PvP, that's what we're going after and we keep saying that phrase but that's it: the feel of open-world PvP, the feel of large scale conflict, the feel of not knowing what's over that hill and what's going to happen. It's something you really can't get out of a warfront, which is a little more structured and quicker action.
ZAM: We've heard the prestige ranks are changing in 1.9? What do you hope to accomplish with this change?
Chris: Yes, there will be 50 ranks. There will be a whole new set of armor and weapons for our max-ranked players. We'll drop down the previous armor to make room for the new ones, and we're also increasing bolster at the same time to help out new players and keep some balance.
Bill: We're trying to add more progression and more carrots for people to go after, and trying to close the gap a bit in power. I know that sounds a bit odd when we're adding stronger gear, but we really are raising our bolstering system pretty significantly so the new players getting in shouldn't become dog meat nearly as quickly.
ZAM: So, give us the history of Conquest. When did the idea first come around; a new, huge zone for PvP, three factions, etc?
Bill: The idea behind large-scale PvP is something a lot of developers here have really been interested in. We've had a lot of stuff on our plate as you know; Rift puts out more content than anything else on the planet! And we finally felt that it was the right time to investigate this, and we had a lot of people interested in the goal of capturing that feel of open-world PvP and to solve the problems that come with it. There're a lot of problems that come just with PvP servers, what with faction imbalances. So doing something like Conquest really just fit into where we thought we should take Rift at this time.
Hal: Another thing that's important for people outside of the Rift universe to understand is that the world of Telara changes. It has evolved in the year + since we began, and part of that change is the factional war between the Guardians and the Defiants has escalated… but we've realized that we're all fighting these same big monsters. So we have the opportunity to let the people who really thrive on PvP to branch out; both working against their opposing faction and with them in Conquest.
ZAM: Why DO you have three factions? Are there any differences between the three? Do players get to choose which one they side with, or are they randomly assigned?
Bill: Whether or not they're ultimately going to be able to choose when the feature goes live is undecided right now. As we said before, we're tackling a lot of different issues right now with factional balance; but we really wanted to go with the three factions to give a different feel than the other PvP available currently. As for the factions themselves, the primary differentiator between them is that they all are assembled from across different realities, and they have different views as to what the purpose of the Ascended ultimately is. Nightfall, for example, believes that the Ascended must continue to ascend; that they shouldn't just be stagnant in the world as they currently are. The Oathsworn, regardless of being Guardian or Defiant, believe that the Ascended are here to protect all realities, and the Dominion believe that by inserting their will upon all realities they can make a better world for everyone.
ZAM: How are the match compositions set up? I can understand the appeal of having two smaller teams group up against a larger third group; but are the sides all kept relatively the same size?
Bill: There was actually a little bit of a bug in our last play test (laughs). We actually have limiters on the differentials between team sizes, but we had them set a little bit high by default, and for our next play test on Thursday that differential will be a LOT smaller. We don't intend one side to have triple the number of another side!
ZAM: How often do new Conquests start up? Do they come about every, say, X hours… or as soon as they have Y amount of players queued up?
Bill: Ultimately, that too is to be determined as we go through our testing phases. Right now we have a number of ideas up our sleeves; but as we get closer to the launch date we're going to lock it down. The goal is to have the right number of Conquests launching! We also don't want to destroy warfronts by adding this system, as we feel this will drag a pretty significant number of people away from those while Conquest is running.
ZAM: On to the objectives! What do players focus on? Have there been tweaks made during Beta, such as diminishing or buffing turret strength, or the power of the crafting buffs?
Bill: Oh man, there are a lot of changes that have happened just in the last couple of days! We had one of our "tear-down meetings" where we went through seventy-five line items and checked everything piece by piece. My brain is a little bit fried by it, but off the top of my head we adjusted the number of control points that were needed to start the end phase of the game; we massively adjusted hit points on pretty much everything; we increased damage output on almost everything on the map; there're really too many things to list: check the patch notes. We're going to be constantly tweaking and changing things up until a week or so before it goes lives on the servers.
Hal: There are other things too. Just in terms of messaging for example, making sure players know where their base is, letting them get into and out of the Conquest in fluid manner. These were all things that tested very well with our last group, and our next test this Thursday will hopefully see the new batch of players nodding and smiling at the end of it. And then we'll have a whole new list of things to change!
Chris: One of the great things about the stress test is the massive amount of feedback from players who have never seen the features before, and seeing how they react to the content and learning what they experience and what they want. We want to get a lot of bodies in there to make sure the servers can take it, but we also love the feedback more than anything else. After seventy-five items this week we're hoping there are a little less next time but if there are still seventy-five new ones we'll go through them too.
Hal: It's absolutely wonderful to have somebody come on and just be there for the experience and to play it, but if we just wanted the number of moving entities we could just run bots through there. But what we really want to see is how the three factions collide. Does it make sense? Does the layout of the capture points make sense? Does the resource gathering make sense? This is a case of the more feedback we get, the better the end product will be.
Bill: One of the other important things I wanted to note, and something I wrote about on the forums: we didn't post a lot of information about how to play Conquest on purpose. We really wanted people's first impressions, to see what they would do. We're obviously been working on this for a while internally, and we know how things work. But we needed to see how people unfamiliar with the zone would react; and that's really what the unveil of Conquest was about for us.