So Rift Does Break a Mold…

Thank KTR for the lead, in a marginally related story. But in a recent interview with MMORPG.com, Trion Worlds COO Scott Hartsman said regarding Rift:

The overall stability has been far greater than we could have hoped for in our wildest expectations. It’s precisely because of that stability that our engineers have been able to focus on a lot of the gameplay improvements that we’ve been trying to make and the gameplay tuning that we’re doing right now.

So now we have an inkling of just how Trion managed to get a requested feature like public grouping out the door so quickly: because, as he put it, “instead of our engineers running around because our servers are on fire, they’re able to react calmly to actual gameplay improvements that users care about.”

An MMO development studio using a beta for what a beta is actually for. This is just not how things are done, Hartsman. Really, it’s just appalling.

Kidding aside, this is why, even though I’ve cautioned against inflated expectations, I have also predicted that Rift will do very well; because Trion has given every indication of being a studio that has its shit together. Last September I asked the question: “Is Trion the next CCP? Or is Rift the next Vanguard?” It’s this quote from Hartsman that has me 98.2% convinced that the question’s been answered. Trion may not have done anything as mold-breaking as EVE, but they look to be in a position to get off to a very solid start, while keeping a stable enough base that they actually have a foundation to build on, and without having spent so much money in making the thing that they have a huge cash gulf to overcome right off the bat.

The comparison between Rift and Warhammer has been very common of late; I made it myself the other day. But while the two games share some of the same features and have a broadly similar look and feel, the situation under the hood might be widely different. It’s probably just as fair to make the comparison with another game that looked very polished and stable right before launch: LotRO. Which actually did prove to be polished and stable, and which could also be said to have had the last successful MMO launch. That was close to four years ago, which is ages in MMO years. We’re due for another one.

At this point (even though I’m still not buying it,) I’m more confident in Rift’s prospects than I am in SWTOR’s… or even those of Guild Wars 2. Part of that is how well Trion seems to have handled Rift’s development and marketing, and part of that is how well Trion seems to have handled the budget, which I suspect is far, far lower than what’s being spent on SWTOR, or Guild Wars 2 (which I’m starting to think is closer to SWTOR in this department than people suspect.) Maybe even less than was blown on Warhammer.

It may even be that Hartsman’s history at SOE – of bringing product out with a small team and a tight budget – may have helped Trion to do this with without selling the children for scientific experiments.

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6 responses to “So Rift Does Break a Mold…

  1. Indeed! We actually had an email on our last podcast asking us if we were just playing Rift because it “works”.

    Of course we like what we’ve played so far, but beyond the acceptance of the games look and feel, we responded with “yes” and that alot of MMO’s have been released broken or with a rocky enough of a start that they can never get to where they should/could have been. It’s sad but true.

  2. Trion raised over 100 million dollars from venture capitalist and media
    companies. Granted that money is probably split between at least 3 projects.
    I wouldn’t call their budget small.

    Scott does run a tight ship. My impression is that his teams tend to be better
    organized than industry norm which is why he seems capable to do more with
    less.

    It is probably worth reading his blog even though it is so rarely updated
    because a lot of the principles he discuss there have been applied to RIFT.

  3. It sounds to me like their “Enter the Rift” promo might not have been as full of smoke and mirrors as originally thought. They did say they would ship in a content-complete, highly-polished state, and would change the genre the day they shipped. They did not say how they would change the genre, and everyone (myself included) latched on to the rifts themselves being a feature that “nobody had done before”, etc. etc. Note that Trion Worlds themselves did not make that claim.

    What if they simply meant that the day after Rift’s launch, it would become completely unacceptable for MMOs to release in a beta/alpha state?

    • I think a culture problem exists though. As long as the IP is something that can amass an audience, that audience will accept the games launch to be less than perfect.

  4. This has been truly difficult for me. I laid an ultimatum at my feet for commenting on Rift on my blog and discussing it over the Twitterwebs. Then today, Trion and Scott announce that they will cater to BOTH PvE and PvP players….I mean, this is unheard of in this industry.

    So, yes, I think Trion IS offering a new change to the genre.

    “The Customer Comes First”

  5. I’ve read they’ve spent $50M on RIFT, and have 800K preorders. The game could be in the black at release, if initial subscription payments are included.