MMO Success: Standing on the Shoulders of Giants
Lars Butler, Founder & CEO of Trion Worlds, Inc gave a lecture on the success Trion Worlds has seen within the MMO space in the West. Coming off the success of the MMORPG game Rift, Trion is looking to expand into other genres of the MMO space including the RTS genre in the form of End of Nations (developed by Petroglyph) and also the action game genre via Defiance, which experiments with a whole new gameplay format where the online world's continuity runs alongside a live action TV show being produced by the SyFy network. So lots of REVOLUTIONARY stuff coming out of Trion Worlds in the coming years - and I use the caps to emphasize how many times Lars tossed the word out there during his speech. The talk was very broad and high-level in breaking down how Rift became such a success in the West (the other two unreleased games were merely previewed) but general concepts covered were: Building off previous MMOs, Games as a service, and interconnected devices.
Standing on the Shoulders of Giants
Lars attributed much of Rift's success to it being the "next generation" of MMORPG. By this he means it builds directly off World of Warcraft, the current dominant MMORPG on the Western market today, which in turn built off of Everquest, which in turn built off of Ultima Online. Each of these games had their breakthrough features that attracted the masses but came along with their own set of shortcomings that left people yearning for the next best thing. The slide Lars put together for this part of the talk says it best:
Here you can see the progression, where each product's shortcomings are addressed by the next successful game in the genre. Obviously Rift comes with its own set of shortcomings, though I suppose Lars wasn't willing to give away the keys to success for whoever plans to try and upset Rift from the top of the heap.
Games as a Service
Giving the players what they want in a game is only part of Trion's success in the MMO market. Trion doesn't just make a game that is released and then patched to fix only bugs and issues, they put in place an entire service functioning around the game to provide the players with constant updates to the world and functionality of the gameplay. Using Rift as an example, Lars revealed that there have been 9 major updates since the game's launch in June of just this year, bringing along with them a 60% increase in the amount of features in the game. Their latest planned update is set to be the biggest yet, tripling the size of the original game world and adding a whole slew of new features to the game. Trion aims for the AAA quality experience you find in single-player games along with responsive support and heavy commitment to flawless game operations.
Trion realizes how connected we are to the internet these days, whether it's through our desktops, laptops, mobile phones, tablets and even now our TVs are getting in on the party (fridges too but lets draw the line somewhere okay?). Therefore they have devised RIFTconnect, which extends the Rift experience to social, web and mobile apps to keep the players engaged and immersed even when they aren't actually playing the game at home on their PC. As the power and capability of these devices continue to grow there will only be more ways to leverage them to extend the game world beyond a single machine and make it available to the player wherever they go.
One of the things from the talk that would be most interesting for GameDev.net readers is the service known as Red Door. That's the link to the original press release and although Lars only briefly touched upon the platform during his talk and didn't reveal any new information, he and his manager now have my business card so hopefully when more details are revealed I can share it with all of you.