This week, adept MMO Rift welcomed patch 1.6, the biggest content update so far. But plans for the MMO, now eight months old, stretch beyond that.
To an expansion, Eurogamer asked executive producer Scott Hartsman?
"We do have longer-term - we have a couple of different Tracs [a tracking system for software development projects] of development going on. There's actually seven of them," Hartsman revealed.
"In addition to the live zones that we've released, we released Hammerknell, we released a new Warfront, we released new slivers, we've got the largest zone that we've ever done in the 1.6 update, and it's all about adventure in shared space in the world, which is definitely something that we're doing better than anybody else.
"But we do also have a Trac of longer-term projects as well. And really I can say about them is, clearly we are working on longer-term projects also.
"A good, healthy MMO," he added, "does actually need to be able to plan for the future as well as support the existing players that you've got right now."
Rift has a live update team responsible for incrementally adding new content and tweaking gameplay through patches, which have arrived thick and fast since launch. But some larger features are too big and take too long to be added this way. And it's those that make perfect candidates for an expansion.
Hartsman explained: "There are some quantum leaps forward that would be a little too much to put into a live game. For example, if we have a content-plus features system that's going to take a year, clearly it's the kind of thing that it'll be done when it's done.
"We think of it in terms of what wouldn't make sense if we released it by itself; what needs more context? And by context I mean a level-cap raise, a new set of areas to play and so on.
"And there's also just the ones that plain take a whole lot of time."
When Rift launched in March this year, Hartsman said Trion had a content plan "that took us out multiple years".
"The process for us in general is, very simply, to look at what our users are saying and what's going on on the servers - and we figure out what to do next relatively rapidly from there," Hartsman shared.
"We started out, right off the bat, with a plan that took us out multiple years. And we revise it every couple of weeks.
"We started out with a fairly loose blueprint and went, 'OK, until we get better info, this is the path we're on. Revisit it a month later.'"
Because of their patching routines, MMOs change considerably after initial launch. Rift has, in eight months. So a year from now, what will Rift be like?
"If I could tell you the answer to that question, let me tell you..." teased Hartsman.
"If I could tell you the answer to that question, let me tell you..."
Scott Hartsman, executive producer, Rift
Rift patch 1.6, From the Embers, introduces a new zone called Ember Isle. There you'll find dragons Laethys and Maelforg; there you'll find a new winged dungeon with two expert modes; there you'll find a new 10-person raid zone; and there you'll find a new sliver called Rise of the Phoenix. And there you'll find much, much more.
"It is a high-end zone, but you know, with a game that has a reasonable advancement speed, we do have a large number of high level players," reasoned Hartsman. "We found over the last few months that our zone events and our invasions are some of the stickiest and most engaging content that we have. Building an entire zone from the ground up around the concept is something that we've been looking forward to."
Hartsman pledged to keep adding content to Rift "at a pace you've never seen before". Another example of this is Rift Fae Yule world event, which is timed to coincide with the Christmas holidays.
After that, Hartsman said Trion will get around to that Instant Adventure feature that mysteriously disappeared from the patch 1.6 slate.
"In updates to follow [1.6] even, we've been beginning to talk about a feature we're calling Instant Adventure, which is a system that gives people a way - people tend to have the most fun in our game when they're playing with other people in a frictionless way. Instant Adventure is designed to give you those stepping stones," he said.
Away from content, Rift has begun beta testing in Russia. Meanwhile, in Korea, a small team of has been beavering away for four months - no beta dates are available to share yet.
Rift was a rare success when launched earlier this year. It was Trion's first MMO, incredibly enough, and launched smoothly with a full compliment of gameplay features.
"Trion has proved that it is possible to produce an exquisitely polished, content-rich MMO from the moment of launch, setting a dangerous precedent for upcoming releases in the process," wrote John Bedford in Eurogamer's Rift review.