PAX West 2017: Rend expands world size, adds more MMO elements
Wondering what happened to Rend since its big debut at PAX East? Frostkeep Studios went decidedly quiet over the summer after the three-faction sandbox’s first alpha. Did something happen in that alpha that made the devs change their minds about creating the survival game? After meeting with Jeremy Wood, Co-founder, and Jordan Leithart, developer, at this weekend’s PAX West 2017, I learned that Rend very much is still a thing; in fact, now it’s a even bigger thing. The devs didn’t change their minds about making the game — they’ve increased the scope.
Wood noted that after fan reactions, the team knew it had something good, “something people were excited about. In order to do that justice, then we needed to expand our vision a little bit.” He said the game was too contrictive — it “needed more.” So more it is. Rend is making some big changes, from dramatically increasing the size of the map to adding in more MMO elements to the game. And after checking out these chances, I am more excited to jump in the game myself when it is expected to reopen its doors to testing this fall.
When you have a good thing, you make more of a good thing. In order to accomplish this expansion, however, the game needed to go dark for a spell. “One of the things we decided we needed to do was greatly increase the the size of the map so we could add more sandbox elements,” Wood said. “And we couldn’t really support the old map while building the new map at the same time, so we just took down the alpha so we could really focus on pivoting the game into the bigger scope.” How much bigger is the new land size? Wood explained that it was triple the size of the old map and supports 12 biomes now instead of three, everything from swamps to forests to deserts.
He also emphasized that different biomes will be home to different resources. Additionally, each biome will have its own “gate”; this means that the requirements to survive in that area will be unique. Some areas will be easier to adventure in while others will be more difficult. For instance, the swamps will be filled with poisonous gasses that will quickly kill those who are not equipped for dealing with it.
With more land comes more creatures to fill it. Wood emphasized that Rend now easily has twice the number of creature types than was expected. I can say the glowing-antlered elk are truly beautiful. And almost every creature can be made into a mount — if you can capture its spirit in the other world and get back before you die!
Survival games are really scratching certain itches for MMO players, especially those who want to explore and make a real impact on their surroundings. So why not add more MMO elements? Wood noted that the founding team members all worked on MMOs (World of Warcraft, WildStar), so they’re borrowing heavily from MMO systems and bringing those into the survival genre. That includes classes, traits, and perks to help personalize your character.
One area this game has been lacking in, Leithart noted, was personal customization in crafting — there was no individual personality to your character. Before, he explained, “There was nothing you could do to distinguish yourself from somebody else in your faction.” Everyone could build whatever the faction had unlocked. Now, players will get to specialize using progression trees that will offer a variety of options within whatever tier the faction unlocks. With this change, a ton more items have also been added to the game. “Our item system and crafting is ballooning,” Leithart said. “That’s what we are doubling down — items and crafting.”
Additionally, Wood said that players will be able to skill up in a single recipe, becoming master of that recipe to the point that they have very low chance of breaking the item but high chance of critting on the craft. Leithart then added that an additional system (item affixes) is being added to items to randomly generate the stats on the items, meaning that even bows from the same recipe could come out with different stats. Using this, crafters can continue skilling up working on a single bow trying to craft desired stats instead of crafting bow after bow after bow to level.
Another MMO element is the end game raid experience deep in the cave. Called Hellscape, the Eternal Wastes, Wood said “It’s the hardest place to survive, both environmentally and monster-ly.” The top end resources are located here as well as locked tombs that contain unique artifacts (that can only be looted once per server reset!), but players will want to face this area in groups.
In most survival games, when you start it is you against the world. In Rend, however, players are dropped into one of the three factions. Why go with a faction system? This gives players have instant allies who are working toward the same goals. Wood explained,
“Our goal from the beginning was to solve some of the big problems with survival games that drive people away, which are, number one, getting your base raided at 4 o’clock in the morning and you log in the next day and everything you have is gone. That’s not enjoyable. And then two, there’s always one big group that owns a server and you’re never going to compete with them; they’ve been on that server for six months and you started yesterday, and the only reason you’re still alive is because they haven’t gotten around to killing you.”
Previously, the faction warfare centered around the bases: protecting your own or raiding another during the scheduled Reckonings when the protective shields drop and the massive monsters attack. Tester feedback, however, was that conflict outside of that was too hard to find. Wood revealed the solution: control points.
Control points are pre-spawned small structures scattered around the map that players can claim and fortify against attack. When you capture one of these points, all fortifications still standing become your factions’; that means any leftover walls or turrets are now yours to use. Think of the possible resource savings for a surgical strike as opposed to just demolishing it all. Holding each control point will grant faction bonuses, such as a boost to harvesting.
As Wood put it, “Lack of conflict isn’t necessarily as interesting as conflict, but conflict where you know you’re never going to win is never interesting.The chances of one faction monopolizing all the control points is slim as the giant creatures will also attack the control points during the Reckonings, so a faction could be spread very thin trying to defend all of its holdings. The balance of power can definitely shift.
It is also important to note that players will receive reward for participating in faction conflict, even if they don’t win. By contributing, they will be able to further customize their character with meta progression rewards. “We want to reward you more on how much you participated and how valuable you were to your faction than whether or not you won,” Wood said. “Winning will give you a bonus, but the main source [of meta progression points to spend] is going to be your faction participation.”
One of the changes that excited me most was the new ability to add personal bases to the land. Wood noted that while everyone contributed to the building of the base in the first alpha, few actually participated in construction. Wood said the team decided personal base building was needed, so the new plan for the game gives everyone that opportunity to design and plunk down a habitation of their own. Of course, this abode is out in the open outside of the barrier walls of the faction base, so players will have to think of ways to protect it. That could be by settling in a very dangerous area that many can’t access easily, like the poisonous swamps, or fortifying it.
As the devs showed off this system using a little place built on a hillside, I was impressed with the flexibility. While still the familiar modular style of snapping elements together, you could be so much more creative than a simple box. I was especially happy to see the ability to place on 45 degree angles. Wood explained that making this change to personal bases involved quite a bit of work. He noted that for faction bases the land was purposefully cleared and flat, ready for easy building. Unfortunately, the rest of the world isn’t, so tech had to be upgraded so that building could happen on the uneven surfaces of the land.
For those who just envisioned the land being littered with tons of (possibly hideous and half-finished) structures the devs are planning to address this. Although the exact mechanics are not set, Wood explained that building one size-restricted plot will be a given, but perhaps the ability to build more or larger places might be dependent on your faction’s ranking. Leithart also noted that the idea would be to allow friends to join together and essentially merge their plots into one bigger one and co-build. This would also work for clans within the factions. Many more decorations to personalize your space are also planned.