INTERVIEW: Trion Worlds

Tell us a little about Trion Worlds.

Trion Worlds is five years old now, and we are a publisher and developer of online premium games.
We founded Trion on the basis of three questions:
First of all, why can’t online games be as high quality as offline ones?

Secondly, why do larger online games always have to be RPGs? Shooters and strategy games have a big following at retail, so why wouldn’t they in the online space?

And finally, why can’t games be truly social and fully dynamic, with worlds that are constantly changing?

To answer these questions, we’ve developed a strong portfolio of titles, starting with Rift.

We have also built our unique distributed server architecture, where servers are divided by different functions: player data, AI, physics and so on. It’s a reinvention of the typical online architecture.

More recently, Trion opened a UK office and established a European team. What plans do you have for these markets?

We think Europe is as big and important as North America – and maybe over time it will be more so.
We see it as a great marketplace for us and we want to make sure our titles appeal to European gamers and that our community becomes as strong as it is in America.

What are your goals for 2011?

We’re launching our first big titles. We want Rift to show that there is room for more triple-A MMORPGs and then start educating people on what comes beyond that.

After five years of preparation, we want to show the world what we think the next evolutionary step for gaming is. It’s not just about casual games on Facebook – it’s about core video game genres, which we believe is a much bigger market.

Before founding Trion, you were VP of global online for EA. How have your past experiences helped you develop Trion?

(Laughs) I actually work next door to Electronic Arts – I can see my old office from my window.

When we set up Trion Worlds, I already had a good idea of what did and didn’t work online. Old MMOs were static and couldn’t evolve. Casual sites like Pogo showed me the benefits of social interaction. And big blockbuster titles seemed to treat online as an afterthought.

I’d also learned that it pays to develop quality and if you want to be a long-term leader online, you need to build content that is social and evolves dynamically.

That would be very difficult to do at a large company, where you always have to meet your sales targets – it makes innovation harder to accomplish. We wanted to take the industry a step forward.

How will your first releases show us Trion’s vision for online games?

We felt our initial product should be an evolutionary step. We wanted to aim for the biggest, safest market – the MMORPG – and then innovate incrementally but significantly.

Our first title Rift is the spiritual successor to Ultima Online and EverQuest Online, the longest-running MMOs. It doesn’t change key MMO features, but adds something different, such as the rift invasion mechanic – rifts to another realm will open randomly and if players don’t close them in time, the game world changes dramatically.

Rift will be followed by our MMORTS End of Nations and our joint action MMO project with SyFy. Having spent so much time developing our technology, we’re now really excited to be working on these great games.

The MMORPG market may seem safe, but many companies have struggled to compete in this sector. How will you succeed where so many have failed?

A lot of those games failed to address the core needs and features of the genre. A new MMO should be as complete as the generational leader, but it should also address some of the leader’s shortcomings and take the next step. That’s what Rift does.

As you say, there’s a lack of non-RPG MMOs out there. What challenges have you found building an MMORTS?

The key challenge is educating consumers about what the product is and how it works. You’re also dealing with a different audience. We’re in the same position as Ultima and EverQuest when they had to convey to RPG fans what an MMO even is – that’s the challenge we face with End of Nations.

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