Rift: Interview with Josh York, Trion Systems Designer: 1.7 Itemization and Beyond

We got a chance to wrack Josh York’s brain in regards to Trion’s direction for itemization with 1.7 and beyond. With the latest game update we see Trion flexing it’s muscle in creating a itemization system that should give the room to grow as we inch closer to the one year mark. With these changes, we are probably going to be seeing a new tier of content very soon. Hopefully these changes will help create a smoother transition to new game content.

The biggest test to the new itemization system will come with the next tier of content. Previously, PVP gear remained the best in slot option due to being able to get a full set well before the natural saturation point in Hammerknell. With the new PVP changes and gear more easily gotten, at least there isn’t a major grind. Hopefully the implemented changes allow a much smoother transition for new and returning players along with long time veteran players.

Josh York is an up and coming developer for Trion, and you might remember him from an interview we did when he was part of the QA team. He’s working with the Itemization team and we thought he was the perfect person to talk to about the new itemization system in 1.7!

Keep reading for the full interview.

RIFT Junkies: Hello Josh! Why don’t you tell us about yourself?

Josh York: Howdy!

My name is Josh York and I am a Systems Designer at Trion. My focus at Trion is mainly on rewards and itemization.

RJ: With 1.7 Now live, one of the major changes is the revamping of higher end gear and their stats. What changes did you guys make?

JY: The Itemization team was super busy in 1.7! Our primary goal was to smooth out item progression across the game so that players can transition more easily from one tier to the next. This required us to touch a lot of items, including high end gear. Here are some of the upgrades that we made to high end gear:

  • All high end gear got slightly more powerful.
  • We Improved the stat distribution on several items from Hammerknell. A good example is the Medallion of the Eel. Take that Criterion’s Medallion!
  • We improved Relics from HK by adding procs and rebalanced the stats so that they are more desirable.
  • We upgraded trinkets from the top floor in Hammerknell.
  • We added Focus to Cleric gear that was previously targeted to ‘pure healers.’
  • We also got to sit down and improve how our loot tables work in Raid Dungeons. Say goodbye to Murdantix dropping 3 Cleric tanking items!

RJ: What are some of the main changes with regards to Expert Level Gear, Tier 1 Gear and Tier 2 Gear? How are things being weighed differently? What is being added or taken away?

JY: As you know, we merged our Tier 1 and Tier 2 Expert dungeons together to form the new Expert Tier. It just made sense to do the same with itemization and to keep things on the same page so we did the following:

  • Old Tier 1 gear was upgraded slightly. These items are now considered ‘Antiquated’ and no longer drop (since Tier 1 no longer exist.)
  • ‘Expert Tier’ dungeon drops all share a similar power ranking and are much better than the ‘Old Tier 1’ counterparts. So if you have a favorite item from Realm of the Fae, then you can snag the greatly improved version of it from the new Expert version of that dungeon.

RJ: What changed from release to now that made you want to do such a change? What was your design philosophy before and what is it now?

JY: As our high level playerbase matures and migrates through the game it only made sense to open up more end game options. High level players for the most part had moved past Tier 1 dungeons and were doing a lot more Tier 2 dungeons. We wanted to give you more content!

RJ: For example, Rogues were easily capped with crit by the end of River of Souls, has that or will that be adjusted in the future?

JY: This is a great question and is one of the many interesting parts of itemization to me.

Player taste evolves over time and changes based on the players gear level. Level 50 players at launch were stacking Crit like it was going out of style, but as players near the stat caps they transition to stacking Spell and Attack Power.

A big part of item design is keeping up with the times and creating interesting and relevant rewards. Rise of the Phoenix and Drowned Halls are good examples of creating itemization that is ‘sensitive’ to what players want at a given tier and both resulted in creating some interesting choices for players.

Future itemization is certainly going to require a lot of TLC, but players will be excited and that excites us!

RJ: What were some of the biggest adjustments that you had to make? For example, you are changing the amount of focus on some items in Hammerknell. What were some of the bigger gaps that you’ve found that you had to smooth over?

JY: It was a large scale operation, the biggest challenge was making sure that the little details that make things interesting for players didn’t get lost in the frenzy, and understanding those interesting things well enough to tweak the items how we wanted them tweaked. There were some items that we wanted to move up to ‘best in slot’ so they got a little more focused upgrade.

RJ: There were many situations where trinkets and other proc related items were just not good in Hammerknell. For example, some items that procced damage, just weren’t good, or even better than some Expert-Level gear. Are you going over those and fixing them in anyway?

JY: Some of the Hammerknell trinkets needed some love, and some of them had cooldowns that were just way too long, so we upgraded all of the Hammerknell trinkets. You can put away those Wind’s Breaths and Forlorn Crystals!

One of the things that we’re going to do in Infernal Dawn is bring the +damage procs up to the DPS levels of the Attack and Spell Power Procs. This will give players more customization options.

RJ: You have mentioned that Hammerknell’s loot tables are changing so that raids won’t be getting so much Cleric Tank gear. Can you tell us what you’re doing to fix this and how it’s being done?

JY: Ever been on a Hammerknell raid where Murdantix dropped all Tank loot, or 2 pieces of Cleric Tank loot that was only useful to one guy in the raid? Well, those days are over.

The drops are still random, but they are laid out a lot better. I’ve gotten some good feedback on this so far and am looking forward to getting more!

RJ: In regards to crafted items and planar purchased items: are they being balanced with everything from instances? How are you changing them and will we see a larger place from crafted items in raiding tiers; i.e. recipes dropping from Akylios?

JY: Crafted items cover a very broad section of Rift so each ‘tier’ got a slightly different treatment.

Dungeon dropped recipes went through a process similar to the items from the Expert Tier, except that we didn’t Antiquate any of them. Old ‘Tier 1’ crafted items and recipes are now simply part of the Expert Tier.

We also tweaked the cost of many of the recipes to bring them in line with where they made sense.

Planar items got upgraded with everything else and will still be a great way to gear up and jump into some Raid zones!

We definitely want to add more crafting recipes to raid zones in the future, so keep an eye out!

RJ: PVP Gear is being adjusted as well. Can you go over what is being changed?

JY: Well, the whole PVP system went through a lot of really cool upgrades, but there are too many to list. Here is the gist of it from an itemization standpoint:

  • The Rank requirement on PVP Armor was removed, but Crystals and Weapons still require rank.
  • PVP gear simply got better from the start to match the expected level from PVE.
  • We added Vengeance and an extra boost of Endurance to all sets.

You can check out more PVP information on our forums.

RJ: How are you balancing maxed out PVP gear with maxed out PVE gear? Are you adjusting stats to compensate the speed one can get PVP gear and use it for PVE?

JY: We balance PVE and PVP gear in a variety of ways, the primary way is through the use of the Hit, Focus, and Toughness stats for PVE gear and the Valor and Vengeance stats for PVP gear, we also put a nice healthy dose of Endurance on PVP gear survivability.

We don’t mind people mixing it up a little, we want people to be able to jump in and play with their friends, but the gear sets won’t be optimal.

RJ: Is there anything else you would like to add?

JY: Thanks a lot Rift Junkies! We look forward to seeing you all again, we have moved to a shiny new building since you last visited.

There are lots of exciting plans for 1.8 that I can’t wait to tell you about, but for now: keep the feedback coming, we read the forums, we play the game, and we’re the coolest dev team in town. :)

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