Trion was hacked recently and gave everyone three free days, even previous subscribers, which was an opportunity I gladly took because I wanted to see what Ember Isle had brought to the game. But first I'm going to describe two features that while not totally innovative, may lead to something really interesting if Trion are smart about it.
These are for all extents and purposes an upgrade to the wardstones found in the other zones, and they are found outside of quest hubs. They consist of a central objective surrounding by several gun and healing turrets, each of these objects can be repaired and upgraded four times, with NPC defenders spawn at the last upgrade. Invasions start to attack and there are repeatable quests to defeat 20 invasions. Pretty straightforward, but something I didn't know is that the more objects upgraded the more invasions that spawn, so in effect players can create scalable events on demand.
To upgrade the objects players need to spend 4 planar charges, which are easily obtained by standing in planar anomalies. These are abundant crystals found adjacent to the sourcewells that can be broken and begin to pulse, each pulse restoring a planar charge. A nice feature about these is that multiple players, no matter if they are grouped or different factions can take advantage of these pulses. This easy source of planar charges was something I looked for originally to make planar powers more useable, and it definitely works, even going to other zones I'm more likely to use the abilities because a full supply of charges is just a teleport away.
During zone events, four sourcewells out of thirteen are selected and must be defended, which with the upgrades is much easier than with other wardstones, it's rewarding too and people seem more willing to do it, which is great change. One of my concerns is that there is still 'tagging' but with not having experienced it enough, there does seem to be a looser measure of participation for the repeatable quests at least if not planar rewards.
Sourcewells, a precursor to some more dynamic events where all participation is rewarded, with players working together, grouped or not?
These are just quests, and Rift has never had the most exciting of quests to be perfectly honest, but these give the feeling of when there is a large group romping through solo content i.e. mobs explode and everyone is running around like headless chickens, so in a word, chaos. It is fun though and if I was levelling a new character 45+ (when these become available in Shimmersands and Starkmoor) these would be what I would choose over normal questing. I know that without trying them there is a lot of misconceptions going around about how they work, they are not like skirmishes in Lotro at all. A player brings up the IA menu, which consists of a choice of the two zones and a join button, the player is teleported to the zone and placed in a raid group, and a given a simple objective highlighted on the map. Once an objective is completed, the next quest pops up and either the group runs there or gets a teleport button if the new quest is a distance away.
At the moment the IA system doesn't mix well with rifts and invasions, I was in a group holding a wardstone during an event, and somehow a group doing IA got combined and it got a bit crazy with objectives popping up and a daily quest to finish 7 IA quests, that I'd picked up earlier was being completed for me even without taking part. When the zone event ended I could just teleport to where the IA was happening and finish my daily quest. I think this is where this system can go from being good to being exceptional if rifts, events, maybe some open world PvP was incorporated, or some occasional puzzles that slow down the group to communicate a bit more.
To sum it up, this feature is what WoW should be copying rather than skirmishes from Lotro. I have a soft spot for Rift because it does seem to have some good ideas like these, but they seem reluctant in taking enough departures from the status quo and differentiate themselves from the competition.