We begin with “A Look Back: The Planes of Heroes of Telara“, taking a look at the many iterations of RIFT that have come and gone, and what the game was like before it was known as RIFT.
The First Game
RIFT is actually Trion Worlds’ first game, releasing on March 1st 2011. Trion Worlds was founded in 2006 and began work on a game project that would eventually be known as RIFT. Trion recently celebrated their 10th Anniversary on the 8th January 2016!
The Planes of Heroes of Telara, RIFT
RIFT was not always “RIFT”. In fact, it underwent quite a few changes before launch!
Heroes of Trion
RIFT began as an original concept under the project name “Heroes of Trion“, with a live demonstration of an area called ‘Castle Bay’ that was later renamed as Port Scion.
The Siege of Castle Bay
Castle Bay introduced a dynamic event known as “The Siege of Castle Bay”. [r]
Below is the concept art for Castle Bay, found in data files:
You can check out the original storyboard that has been archived over at Digital Game Museum here.
The basic premise for the project was that a trading port known as Castle Bay gets invaded by Dragonians and Imps, signaled by the destruction of a trade ship attempting to dock.
Players must fight through the horde of Dragonians towards an elevator to the parapets to fight off Imps that are firing arrows down at them.
The siege is broken once the enemies have been defeated, and a new trading ship arrives safely at dock.
At the time (~2007) there were very basic attacks and emotes like cheering. The main showcase was the technology to allow for dynamic events like the siege, which was quite unique compared to the static nature of other MMOs at the time.
Heroes of Telara
The game was later publicly known as Heroes of Telara. This name was used during the game’s E3 2009 trailer.
At this point, Trion had yet to introduce the concept of ‘Rifts’, and the main draw of the game was about general dynamic events and grouping that could occur throughout the world of Telara.
If you watch an interview done about Heroes of Telara, VP Russ Brown mentions that you could group between 5-25 players, and there were group quests called ‘Heroic Quests’ with players from different levels carrying out varying objectives. Heroes of Telara planned to start with only Humans, Elves and Dwarves, with other races being added later on.
The Heroes of Telara twitter account still exists! Unfortunately the site ‘heroesoftelara.com’ is no longer there.
The Beginning of Port Scion
The initial ‘Heroes of Trion’ project with Castle Bay would later make up the basis for Port Scion, the city lodged between Silverwood and Freemarch. In its current version in the Live game, the city is overrun with creatures from the Plane of Death.
Although there were a lot of holes in geometry, Port Scion actually existed – it wasn’t just concept on a piece of paper.
In 2014, Lead Content Designer MikeD shared an image that compared Port Scion to existing towns in the game from back in 2009. The city included a sizable port area that connected Silverwood and Freemarch, as well as a massive inner city area with distinctive quadrants/districts.
You’ll notice that the right quadrant later became The Battle for Port Scion warfront. The left quadrant has the base for what later became Meridian, and the bottom quadrant has the main building in Sanctum. Combining those together can probably give you a decent scale of the city.
Today, Port Scion is not accessible. The port area has been removed and replaced with a broken bridge that used to connect Silverwood and Freemarch. There remains, however, a round indent in the map fog where the old assets used to be.
Will we ever get to retake Port Scion?
RIFT: Planes of Telara
In April 2010, the name RIFT: Planes of Telara was adopted after the introduction of Rifts into the game. [r]
Then Creative Director Scott Hartsman (now CEO) mentioned that Rifts were a “central element to the story” and would provide a stronger connection to the world. Also, Trion didn’t want to shoe-horn players into the ‘Heroes’ role. [r]
An old map of the game had Port Scion: City pointed out; the left half of Shimmersand was called Firesand Desert and Planetouched Wilds was originally Cliffside Vale.
An alpha heat map shows what Firesand Desert and Cliffside Vale originally looked like:
The right ‘white’ area near Shimmersand eventually merged with the zone, and the large left portion that made up the bulk of Firesand Desert was scrapped. It seems as though there were several paths and a main town area in Cliffside Vale as well.
Port Scion Spotted!
As of April 2010, Port Scion was still a thing. If you watch the RIFT: Planes of Telara Dev Diary video, at 3min 24sec in you’ll see the port area of the city in the images, with the main city itself clearly untouched by the Plane of Death.
The original starting area for the Defiant faction was not the broken down factory setting currently in the game. Instead, they started off in a place called Shadowlands, a moon of Telara.
In the distance you can see that Telara has been overtaken by Regulos, the dragon god of Death. In this version of the game, the dead are moving through the soul stream and their souls are being captured using machinery in the Shadowlands. The souls are then used to create Defiant Ascended.
You can check out a quick view of the Shadowlands in the RIFT: Planes of Telara E3 2010 Gameplay Demo video.
Unfortunately the Shadowlands was scrapped prior to RIFT’s launch.
Telara Chronicles (Comic Book)
In 2010 in association with Wildstorm, Trion Worlds released “Telara Chronicles“, based on the earlier version of the game, RIFT: Planes of Telara. Although not cannon, all the original big wigs are there, including Asha Catari, Cyril Kalmar, Aedraxis Mathos, Alsbeth Rothman, Orphiel Farwind and Atrophinius.
As you can see, the comics were based on the earlier version of the game that included the Shadowlands. In the cover art above, Telara is in the background engulfed by Death, and Asha Catari is in the Shadowlands with their telltale glowing trees.
All five chapters of the comic are available in hard cover as part of the RIFT physical collector’s pack, alongside a section at the end called “The History of Telara”, with information on the Bloodstorm, planar invasions, the factions and Rifts.
The digital copy of Telara Chronicles Issue #0 is available for free. You can download it from the writer of the comic, Ricardo Sanchez’s website here. (Choose “PDF Download” for direct download).
Digital copies of Issues #0-4 of Telara Chronicles are still available from Comixology.
Perhaps due to it being a bit of a mouthful and since people were referring to it as ‘RIFT’, between the announcement of the game’s first beta and the beta event itself, Trion dropped the suffix ‘Planes of Telara’ and the game became known simply as RIFT. [r]
Pre-orders for the game began in early January 2011, with a cinematic showing off the opening of a Rift tear and the animosity between Defiants and Guardians. The video was later re-uploaded on the RIFT channel in 2013 below:
(Character modeling and texturing for the Kelari and Raven done by Heber Alvarado).
RIFT launched on March 1st 2011 with 6 races (Mathosian, High Elf, Dwarf, Eth, Kelari, Bahmi) and 4 callings (Warrior, Rogue, Mage, Cleric).
RIFT underwent quite a few changes prior to the launch of the game in 2011. The scope of the game, its level of dynamic content and even the game’s name evolved over time. It’s quite surprising that the game didn’t originally have Rifts at all, and that Port Scion actually existed at one point, even appearing in a Dev Diary video!
In the next “A Look Back” article, we’ll take a look at what RIFT’s maiden year brought to the game.