What gives a company the edge these days? Trion holds the answer
The world of MMO games is a vicious one. Many times we’ll see promising ideas from a company, just to watch its game sputter and die in an over-saturated game market. So what makes a game company survive and thrive?
Trion’s plugging right along; not only has its flagship game Rift been a commercial success, it is currently in Beta testing for its second game, End of Nations. How does Trion manage to buck the odds? Here are the five factors that I think give the company its competitive edge. If you agree or disagree, comment after the article!
1. Frequent content patch releases
Within a year of Rift’s official launch, on February 24, 2011, seven separate large patches, adding content, had been released. Now to be fair, World of Warcraft did the same thing in its first year and then slowed WAY down. The difference being that Trion’s goal is to release high quality content at a break-neck pace going forward as well. When gamers are always looking for the best new thing around, Rift has kept the goods flowing while other games have slowed down their development.
2. Adopting what works from other games (and leaving what doesn't)
When Rift first came out, I had to struggle to describe it. “Well, it has active events like Warhammer’s Public Quests, a talent tree system and questing similar to WoW, which in turn was inspired by EverQuest…” I realized that I just kept comparing this new game to old ones I had played. And why was that? Because Trion had the foresight to not reinvent the wheel, but to take the best parts of existing wheels and piece them together. It’s not enough to just be creative in this industry; that creativity needs to extend to activities people actually enjoy. Rift has done this in spades; as Scott Hartsman told me before...
3. “Having verbs other than ‘stab’”
Most MMOs have combat these days, and Rift has been no exception. However, the team at Trion has done its best to include other activities; “We love to give our players something more than just “go kill creatures, or other players.” We refer to it internally as “verbs other than stab”." To this end, Rift has non-combat events and festivals. My personal favorite is the artifact system, where glittering artifacts can be found in hard-to-reach spots (or right out in the open) all over the world. Finishing a collection usually only grants a random reward and some experience, but players can also earn titles, pets and rare books of lore.
The concept has been a main priority in recent patches: February’s patch introduced player weddings, April’s patch included fishing and the survival secondary skills, and June’s release included stylists to change character appearance. Most of the patches also include world events full of non-combat oriented activities.
4. Innovative ideas
While I fully applaud Trion for adopting ideas that work from other games, no game can last without its own shtick. For a while I lamented that Rift would fall into that category where it was good… but nothing special. Sure, rifts and zone events could be fun; but what else was there? And then Chronicles was released. Hey, sweet! Soloable or two-manned dungeons that are lore heavy? Sign me up! Even better was the creation of Instant Adventure (IA): now players could queue together and rampage across the entire zone as the game set up goals just for the IA players to knock them down! The most recent patch, in June, expanded upon IA by adding in a mentoring system that allows players to manually lower their level to that of their newbie friends, and by putting IA quest lines throughout the lower-leveled zones.
The innovation has not come only with Rift; End of Nations is a unique idea all by itself. The MMORTS genre is not unheard of (StarCraft, anyone?), but EoN will take the concept a few steps further: the game is entirely online, takes place in a dynamic world which changes as one side wins or loses, and it will run from the start as a subscription-free game. The gameplay is also unique; there’s no “base building” as in StarCraft, but rather players have a squad of units that can be reactivated in exchange for materials that slowly replenish over time.
5. Quality AND Quantity
Quick releases are fantastic and all, but is all that content worthwhile? So far Trion has been spot-on: patch 1.6 for example introduced an entire new continent (Ember Isle). That addition alone could be an expansion for some games… so of course Trion outdid itself when it announced the first expansion would triple the size of the current world. Usually we’d call that a new game! I believe several other game companies should get behind the idea of giving players more, rather than less.