The stages of pre-launch development always conjure some measure of protection for a fledgling video game. It may be rough, but that’s OK, it’s still in alpha. It doesn’t have all of its features, but that’s OK, it’s just beta. When a game is still in testing and players are (mostly) enjoying it for free among a smaller community, there tends to be a lot more goodwill and shared excitement.
It’s no wonder then that some games, such as Allods Online and Trove, choose to stay in the safer confines of beta as long as possible. Maybe they stay a little too long, extending a four-year college degree to seven and begging their parents for just one more semester’s tuition. But sooner or later, it’s time to graduate, become a live game, and head out into the tougher real world.
On July 9th, Trove’s graduation will commence. Some won’t see the game’s release as any different from the day before’s open beta, but for Trion Worlds, it means a great deal. We sat down with the studio and talked about the journey this blocky sandbox has taken and how it’s finally ready to play with the big boys.
We asked Trion point-blank: With Trove having been in a non-wipable open beta (that’s been accepting money, no less) for some time now, what makes the launched game any different than what’s been running?
The devs agreed that there isn’t much of a difference, save for three changes. First, Trove will be debuting on Steam on July 9th, which is a significant milestone for any game. Second, the title will drop the beta tag for good. Third, and perhaps most importantly, the team is scooting out of the limited shield of protection that the beta label gave it, publicly stating that bugs and incomplete features are no longer acceptable in the title.
Trion Worlds is quite elated to have shepherded Trove to this point, praising the title’s growing list of features and its incredible community involvement. Trove will launch with 11 classes, including the brand-new Tomb Raiser, a necromancer with a penchant for throwing skeleton minions at the enemy.
More than just a list of sellable features, Trove’s true joy comes from seeing what creativity players unleash when given a robust toolset. The devs said that they are in awe of what some people have done, including creating massive club (guild) worlds, recreating symphonies with mag riders, and throwing scavenger hunts using signs. Over 1,000 masks, helms, and weapons have been added to the game since its alpha, with most of those being designed by players.
More tools are in development, although some (like scripting) could prove tricky if players turn them against the game or its population.
Trove’s small but dedicated team said that the game’s open development has proven to be a blessing. It’s been an experiment of sorts for Trion, but one that’s paid off handsomely so far. Crowdsourcing thrills the studio and is great for small teams, the devs said. It’s also emerging as a growing trend in the larger MMO industry.
We asked if Trion could give us any indication of player numbers. While the studio declined to do so per policy, it did say that Trove has experienced a surprising growth spurt following the launch announcement and is “in the ballpark” of other game populations in Trion’s library.
Trove might be a free-to-play title, but it has to bring in revenue somewhere. We asked what its three biggest money-makers were, to which Trion responded by saying that the cash chests (cheap lockboxes), party piñatas, and dragon caches were crowd favorites. It’s actually become en vogue in the game to throw piñata parties in clubs. An announcement is made via world microphone, and players stream in looking for piñatas to destroy. The devs set up a string of those in demonstration, laughing as a swarm of players came in to demolish the poor pink donkeys.
So what’s next for Trove? More of everything, really. The team vowed to continue to polish the title and continue expanding content. A new user interface is replacing the older one, with the team adding options like colorblind filters to the in-game map.
The game’s Mac beta is in the friends and family stage, although Trion wants to expand it “rapidly” and get it out the door sooner rather than later. We asked about the possibility of other platforms, the devs said that they were “intrigued” by consoles but had no specific plans as of yet.
Goodbye beta, hello launch. Trion Worlds thinks it’s time for Trove to get out of the nest and start making its way for real. What do you say?