And with all that, do you know what everyone's jabbering on about in the forums? Housing. Housing, housing, housing!
It doesn't surprise me; as a long-time proponent of player housing, I know full well the powerful attraction and appeal housing has when done right (emphasis on the last three words there). Housing gives players a sense of attachment to the game world, an outlet for creativity, and a personalized place to socialize. And finally we've heard the first concrete details (with video footage!) of RIFT's dimensions.
There's no avoiding it; there's going to be a huge housing boom in RIFT come this fall. So what will it look like?
Telara real estate 101
If you don't have the time or patience to sit through the above shaky-cam video of Trion's presentation on dimensions at Gamescom, here's the skinny. The team deliberately went a slightly different way for RIFT's housing, so instead of buying or constructing a house, you'll be acquiring little pocket dimensions for your own personal use. These dimensions are based on actual locations in the game, including overland locales and dungeon vistas. Basically, Trion wanted to repurpose these areas, both for nostalgia value and to get the most of its art team mileage.
In the presentation, the devs showed a dimension based on Faen's Retreat from Shimmersand. The dimension version of Faen's Retreat is surrounded by mountains on all sides, like a bowl, but is otherwise similar to the real deal.
As you collect dimensions (yes, you'll be able to acquire more than one), you'll choose your favorite to begin decking out with all manner of items and decorations. From the video, it's apparent that this system allows free-form placement on all axes. The devs even showed how one of their own turned a nearby tree into a tree fort with some cleverly placed props. Decorations can also be resized, allowing for a small barrel to become a huge one or an even tinier one.
Among the items that can be placed are plants, animals, traditional objects, dynamic light sources, and building blocks. These items will come from crafting, quest rewards, boss trophies, achievements, and vendors.
Dimensions may be as private as a player wishes, but Trion Worlds is certainly hoping that they'll be used socially as well. Other players can be invited into your world, and the game will have achievements based on your visitors. Trion also is considering allowing dimensions to be rated and exalted in the public sphere.
Guilds may own their own larger dimensions, offering a place for members to congregate and party as needed.
As if all of this isn't exciting enough, Trion revealed that the dimension system is connected with the game's scripting abilities, meaning that players will be able to script special events for their home. One example that was shown was a "cloudseeker" device that, when placed, summons dark storm clouds and rain. Other potential uses for the system include placing NPC bartenders, making the sky change to a different background, or throwing a huge birthday party. Trion would even like to turn the keys of the wedding dimension over to players to customize and operate it as they like.
The team stressed that the dimension system just got out of alpha and that the devs have a ways to go before solidifying details.
It's important to keep expectations in check, especially since all of this is just being shown for the first time and is very much unfinished. But what do I think? I am ridiculously excited, my friends. Out of all of the many, many features going into the expansion, dimensions is the single biggest bullet point for me.
A year or so ago, I remember lamenting how "unsticky" RIFT was, meaning that I was in the game world but didn't feel as connected to it as I should, as invested in it as I should. That's where fluff and festivals and all manner of small details come into play, but in my opinion, the two biggest sources of stickiness are guilds and player housing, the former because the social connection is a strong motivator to stay with a game and feel involved with others, and the latter because the game is opening itself up to you and inviting you to make a virtual home there. As silly as it may sound, player housing helps me mentally settle in a game world in ways that I couldn't as a former nomad. I like knowing my character has a place of his or her own.
When Star Wars Galaxies shut down, I recall watching several videos and slideshows of incredible player housing. I was amazed at the talent and creativity that people put into decking out their virtual homes, a similar feeling that I've had with other games like EverQuest II. However, I've never played full-time in an MMO that made extremely flexible player housing a priority, and I'm looking forward to it with bated breath.
In contrast to the other title I play regularly for Massively, Lord of the Rings Online, RIFT's idea of housing feels like the difference between breathtaking freedom and rigid conformity. There's so much in the way of choice here: You control the dimension you want, the resizing and placement of items, the building structures, the scripted events, the weather itself. Just thinking about it makes my fingers itch to be actually doing it.
For roleplayers, this system has to be an immense boon, especially if Trion adds a lot of interactive elements. There are so many unanswered questions at this point that I want to be cautious about speculating too much, but to be able to set up your own small stories and act them out is an RPer's dream.
For guilds, it provides not only an excellent place to congregate but a place to work on as a team. According to the devs, it's quite possible that some dimensions will be unlocked only through raids and other challenging group content, meaning that guildmembers will need to band together to attain their home. Plus, I can imagine how guilds may chip in for decorations and ideas for everyone to enjoy.
For individuals, it provides a haven from the hustle and bustle of leveling and fighting. It's the "creation" side of the coin that's been badly needed ever since the "destruction" side got all the attention. We need to be able to plant roots in this world, to own a part of what we've been trying to save for over a year and a half now.
This seems like an excellent beginning.
Whether they're keeping the vigil or defying the gods, Karen Bryan and Justin Olivetti save Telara on a weekly basis. Covering all aspects of life in RIFT, from solo play to guild raids, their column is dedicated to backhanding multidimensional tears so hard that they go crying to their mommas. Email Karen and Justin for questions, comments, and adulation.