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MMO Success: Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

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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.

Interconnected Devices

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.

Red Door

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.
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Very interesting read, thank you for posting it.

In the second image, with the 'progression' of 'leading MMOs', Trion Worlds list a shortcoming of WoW as 'SD Graphics', and a 'Breakthrough' of RIFT of 'Plus Active 3D' graphics. I assume 'SD' is some kind of backwords terminology for 'not HD', right? I also assume Trion is taking great liberties with that term, as WoW I'm sure can easily be running at a monitor resolution greater than 1080, as most monitors in the past 7 years have had better than that (And it's not really a 'Breakthrough' of RIFT, it's just the progression of hardware).

Ignoring that though, what is 'Active 3D' graphics? Tessellation?

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Yea I forget what "Active 3D" is exactly but SD does mean Standard Definition. Although the older games could be played at high-res, the textures themselves were still not HD

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But again, that's not a 'breakthrough' that RIFT brought into the gaming industry (or even just to MMOs) - it's just the progression of hardware.
Also, in reverse, it's not a 'shortcoming' of WoW when it was released, it just got outdated with time.

The only reason for RIFT to add it as a 'Breakthrough', is so that RIFT has one more checkpoint, and WoW has one less. I'm also curious (as someone who hasn't played either games) how WoW has 'limited customization' and RIFT has 'extensive'.

Regardless, adding 'more' of something that was already there (whether customization or graphics) isn't a 'breakthrough'. You know what [i]has[/i] broken through? WoW's subscription numbers.

It's rather arrogant for Trion Worlds to even list RIFT as a successor, when WoW still has 9 million and decreasing, but RIFT has less than 2 million. Since Trion won't release their numbers, The Old Republic might even have more. RuneScape might even still be ahead of it.

Again, I say all this as an impassive observer who hasn't played either game (The last MMO I played was Dark Age of Camelot, and before that, EverQuest).
I do like how Trion thought to show it as a progression of new primary features while keeping the features of the past games - interesting way to look at it and measure yourself.

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