PAX West 2017: How RIFT is making player exploration worth the effort

Although much of the RIFT demo at PAX West focused on showing off the Celestial Storm update, it was another aspect that captured my attention. While I was speaking with Senior Design Director Simon Ffinch as we toured around the Celestial lands (in god mode once Ffinch discovered he took a level 11 into the level 100 area!) and watching players participate in a zone event, I learned the stories behind a number of Easter eggs peppered throughout the game. Games will always do new content and updates, but how many honor their fans by adding them into the game?

The particular story that touched me involved the little dragon collection in the new zone. Ffinch shared the story that one of the artists in the company that does outsourced art for the game was a huge, huge fan of RIFT. Named Dragos, he was celebrating his 40th birthday, and the company wondered if RIFT could do something. And do something it did! Instead of just swag or in-game loot, Dragos got an entire baby dragon collection created honoring him.

Called Dragos’ Dragons, these teeny tiny fellows are scattered throughout the new zone, hidden in places off the beaten track. Ffinch emphasized to me that folks really have to explore to discover them.

“I was devious,” he said. “If I’d actually made him targetable, people would go around and /tar, /tar in order to try and find them. You can’t target it; you can’t highlight it: You’ve got to find it.”

Collecting them all gives the player a title: Dragon Babysitter. Ffinch also shared that a number of other items he’s made over the years that are named after real people, especially kids. Can you imagine being immortalized in your favorite game? Ffinch even shared the story of someone donating $5,000 to Extra Life if an artifact set were made in game named after him. Finch’s response? “Done!”

The baby dragons aren’t the only thing hidden away. Ffinch explained that he was always one to explore and try to get to crazy places in MMOs, but he was already irked that there was never anything there — no reward at all for getting to some insanely hard-to-reach place other than a screenshot. That’s why he puts artifacts or puzzles in these places as reward those who go through the effort to exploring every nook and cranny. This just inspired me to dive deeper into RIFT: So forget playing it as a game; I just want to go explore and find all the things!

Massively Overpowered was on the ground in Seattle for PAX West 2017, bringing you expert MMO coverage on Ashes of Creation, Ship of Heroes, Dual Universe, and everything else on display at the latest Penny Arcade Expo!
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