Trion’s fantasy MMO is going free-to-play starting June 12. We spoke with creative director Bill Fisher on the upcoming conversion and what it means to new and existing players.

Trion announced yesterday that Rift is joining the majority of its peers as a fully free-to-play MMORPG this summer. Existing players will retain their six character slots and five bag slots (free players get two characters and three bags), while anyone who has purchased the Storm Legion expansion gets to keep the new souls added in that release and that free players will have to purchase separately.

Rift is keeping its subscription option, and so-called Patron players will enjoy a suite of boosts like faster mount speed and passive reputation/money/XP gain rate increases to help them accumulate loot and experience faster than the unwashed masses. 

Rift is one of the more successful Western MMORPGs of recent years, though obviously nothing on the level of World of Warcraft. Check out GI’s extensive critical thoughts about the game here.

Read Rift creative director Bill Fisher's answers to our initial questions on the conversion below.

Why now? Rift is one of the last of the major Western subscription games to go free-to-play; what sparked the decision? 

The single biggest reason for this change is the feedback we’ve received since Rift hit alpha. Players have asked for Rift to be free since the beginning via our in-game feedback, in emails written to the dev team, and in a variety of other reports we receive, we’ve watched this feedback pile up over the years and we’ve had our eye on the competitive market. 

We’ve been working out the details of this transition for quite some time. We set out with the goal of identifying what the best possible business model was for Rift – what would be the model that made people feel like they were getting value for their money if they decided to chip in, we don’t want to force players to just pay to remove pain points. I think we’ve got that model at this point.

What are you doing to enhance the newbie experience?

Enhancing the newbie experience is an ongoing process. We’ve made tweaks over the last few months that are not super sexy or marketed – but we’ve watched the conversion of players from Rift-Lite [the extensive free trial mode introduced in 2011 – Ed.] and it’s had some serious impact on the game. Streamlining the starting zones, cutting down on pop-ups, and removing some of the aggravating aspects of Freemarch and Silverwood such as looping back into quest areas multiple times have had an overall large impact.

What are you doing to make sure the massive influx of newbie free players doesn’t irritate your existing players? 

Actually, we feel that new players will add to everyone's overall game experience. As new players start, they will be spending time learning the game's mechanics in starting zones before they can work their way up to the content in Storm Legion. However, higher level players can enjoy playing the game together with some of their friends that are just starting with Mentoring, which lets them enjoy playing together while still gaining XP and rewards at each player's respective levels. As the population grows, there will be more potential allies to raid with or even potential guild members.

What are you going to sell in the cash shop?

We will be selling quite a few things on the Rift Store: a number of new services including Weapon Transfiguration, Race Change, Sex Change, Faction Change, as well as boosts to speed up your gain rate of exp and tokens, and tons of mounts, pets, and costumes! 

We will also be offering equipment with stats – but we keep to the following rule: The best items in the game must be earned. You can’t simply log in, and buy the best weapon in the game.

Will there be any conversion available between game-earned currency and cash-bought currency, or trading of cash-currency for game-goods (or game-currency) between players?

Yes! We’re also introducing a new item: Rift Exchange (REX), which is purchasable for real money, but when consumed grants Credits (real money currency). REX can be traded or sold among players, so it allows for a more fluid exchange of currency types between players, and allows all players access to Credits at a price determined by the players. In addition, the new Rift Store offers many items for dual currency: they’ll be available for game currency and also available for credits. However, the best gear in the game won’t have a credits price – you have to go out and earn it.

What are you locking behind paywalls as far as classes, souls, or content?

We are not locking our content behind paywalls. Every continent, every quest, every raid, and every dungeon is completely free. You can play to level 60 with no restrictions on your ability to level.

The things that new users that have never tried Rift before will have to pay to unlock is a pretty short list. If you want access to more storage space, more wardrobe slots, and more role slots you can buy each of those individually. The additional four souls that came with Storm Legion are also a separate purchase – however all of the classic souls are available completely for free.

The full press release is available on page two.