Trion Worlds’ Scott Hartsman rebuffs financial panic rumor

    
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A business-oriented piece on Delidded Tech overnight seems to have rustled up Trion Worlds CEO Scott Hartsman in response.

Delidded digs into this week’s shareholder report from Fidelity’s Contrafund, which he believes holds convertible bonds in the long-running MMORPG studio. Author Skilliard posits both in the article and on Reddit that “the interest rate on the bond [12%] indicates that the company may be at significant risk of default,” a claim he salts further by recalling what he terms Trion’s “history of layoffs over the past five years.”

On Reddit, Hartsman says that it’s true that “one of Fidelity’s funds has had a small stake in Trion since long before [his] time in [the] job” but suggests there’s nothing to worry about because Delidded’s characterization of the funding as convertible bonds is incorrect; they are actually payment-in-kind bonds from four years ago, which explains the high interest rate.

“It’s no secret that there was a pretty big (and necessary) transition four years ago when I came back on board in this job. This note was a part of Trion’s investors getting the company some breathing room in 2013, so the company could focus on fixing the business by getting on a path to making more money than it was spending. Strategically you can think about it as a transition from a more early-stage, VC-esque ‘Growth at all costs; damn the risks’ to ‘sustainable business with growth potential, while living within one’s means.'”

He also expresses confusion over the “history of layoffs” note.

“We’ve gone out of our way to not be one of those game companies that’s laying people off every year, and we’ve been largely successful at that since the transition four years ago. (If you’re referring to before that time though, entirely fair comment.) I’m a big believer that the teams that make everything work are the biggest asset any company has, and companies damn well need to act like it.”

In fact, Trion hasn’t had any major round of layoffs in the last few years at all to our knowledge; it has famously hired on MMO royalty, shuffled community teams, and built up its Austin base, which is currently hiring.

Source: Delidded Tech. Thanks, The Future!
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rafterman

When Rift was released, and even in testing, I held these guys up as the pinnacle of the industry. Boy have things changed since then. I can’t think of an MMO company I trust less these days. Scummy practices and greed have sucked away anything I liked about Trion, if they go under they won’t be missed.

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Doctor Sweers

I became a big fan of Trion during my time testing Rift. The team was passionate and excited about the game they were working hard on. I know much of the PR push is fluff but the studio seemed genuine and I bought in. I’m really not sure what changed with Trion over the past six (?) years. Perhaps “the suits” took the place of the developers. It’s possible they made the wrong decisions when it came to business models and that placed strain on the company and their leadership….I really don’t know.
While I don’t fully blame them for what has happened with AA, after three years, I am finally canceling my two subs to the game. Call it poor design by XL games with the housing/land setup or blame the cash shop, either way, I’ve lost my patience with the game and am moving on.
As a privately held company, they tend to act as though they are a publicly traded corporation. That is what’s disappointing to me. Is there not room for capitalism within a passionate and talented game development company? I want these companies to make money when they produce a fun and engaging game such as what Rift once was. No one wants to work for free or for too little and I, nor anyone else, should expect otherwise. Telling me that I need to buy something from a cash shop, while I’m currently paying a monthly fee, in order to craft an uber weapon or item is an insult. That’s where a company will lose me as a customer. Yes, it took me three years with AA…perhaps I was just holding out hope for the game I had played in Alpha to magically reappear or perhaps I was just passing the time waiting for the next overhyped game to pull the same shenanigans.

Speaking of Shenanigans, don’t forget Super Troopers 2 launches 4.20.18! :)

Bring me passion in a game and dev studio. Bring me engaging fun in a game. Bring me depth in a game. Show up with these features and a fair business model and I’ll be a customer.

shibby523
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shibby523

You held out longer than me. Once it became apparent that the cash shop was going to play a large part in advancing in the game, I left. I was loving the PvP, but I refuse to pay or grind relentlessly to keep on a level playing field.

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Sorenthaz

I lost all respect for Scott Hartsman after he sold out hard in favor of making some easy $$$ by further ruining RIFT and contaminating every game with ridiculous F2P practices.

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netsky999

I really hate Trion
First Archeage, oh man, the infamous AA
I joined a little late, but i have good times and since it is f2p, i had good memories farming and joining a LATIN guild (there are few latin guilds in all the games i tried) it was a blast, speaking curses in spanish, and gathering for helping someone to trade….
And then came the merge, when my server was fused with naima, oh men, i thought that could be good from more players, but the merging process was a total insult, and worse, the naima players were more jerks than my server, with trade blockers everywhere, and trion ALLOWED that, not giving any option to by-pass the block
Little before that i was commenting in the forums, but the mod were from the gestapo, blocking and banning any dissident opinion
The grinding part was not a huge problem for me, but the players, and no other way to by pass the jerks was one that killed fast the joy for this game, and the RNG boxes were a huge wall to climb even for being a semi pro farmer
The worst part came when months after i deleted my TRION account, they finally decided to act against blockers, and they claimed that “RECENT COMPLAINS….”,
If that was recent, i dont want to imagine the first complains

The second was RIFT
It was good, finally a WoW clone that was F2P but again, the poor population, the fury against dissidents, and more and more p2w, it killed it in my heart

I hope TRION dies hard, and ALL THAT WORKED ever on TRION become jobless and homeless
Greed is the root of many problems now ( someone thinking 2008? )

Now im in Eve online (i doubt i can be in Star Citizen since its gonna be B2P) and although im aware of the “gankbox enviroment” the forum is good and no so much controlling, there are more players (even more than all the combined servers of archeage and rift back when i played them it seems) and plex is not a game changer, nor the skill injectors (on my way to a carrier, i already can fly rattlesnakes )

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Drago Di Fenis

Pretty much the company that could have been amazing and shot themselves in the foot with thier own greed. I have no remorse for them going under. Just hope as they go down in flames someone else that is relevant buys AA. Would be nice to play it again after the toxic P2W element is gone.

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DrSteinman

The Same company that killed Rift.
The Same company that ruined Archage for western audiences.

Yeah, his words mean nothing.

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Utakata

Trion seems to have a lot of exploding fireworks going off in the background, unintentionally or otherwise…regardless whether they are in the financial black or not. O.o

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Shiro Madoushi

Absolutely perfect!

Godnaz
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Godnaz

The sight of this makes my happy. Thanks mate.

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Alatar

I have never understood why Trion Worlds gets so much hate. But then again, I have never played ArcheAge. I played and still play RIFT at times, I’ve kept my patron status since day one. I play Defiance every once in awhile, it’s a better game than it got credit for also. I gave Trove a whirl, also Devilian. Bottom line, I see Trion as Blizzard-lite. I believe they turn out quality games, for the most part, and try very hard to listen to their community.

There are SO many more companies that do MUCH more hideous stuff. Kicking Trion is like going after a well intentioned pup that’s peed on the rug once, but not for a while now and he’s friendly and gives you lots of wiggles.

But then again, I’ve never even loaded ArcheAge. I guess that makes my perspective irrelevant, correct? :)

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Armsbend

Archeage book report: Hard sell expensive founder packs, ban people on forums who possibly hint at certain cash shop items being slightly pay to win, completely change the game on launch day, have the worst server issues of any developer in the business, make one of the worst cash shops in the industry, hire CM stooges who constantly reassure everyone that they care – all the while introducing more egregious pay to win mechanics.

need more?

Godnaz
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Godnaz

Holy shit, you nailed it.

Veldan
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Veldan

I never understood why people whined about P2W cash shop. The most P2W thing wasn’t even a cash shop item, it was APEX. As soon as you can convert real life money into game money in a game where all the best gear is tradeable, it’s P2W regardless of anything in the cash shop.

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Armsbend

A p2w cash shop is an early indicator of where things will be heading – forever. After I smell cash for advantage I know it will get worse over time so I don’t even pay attention.

Antiseptic
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Antiseptic

Following your format (sorry for what looks like a run on) for their other Korean published game.

Devilian Book Report (Reader’s Digest version): Hard sell expensive founder packs for alpha test access, Korean service goes offline when NHN decides to transition to mobile publishing (prioritizes removing PC games that aren’t doing well first so the developer Bluehole Ginno reacquires publishing rights), Trion holds community Q&A and is asked how they will be any different with this game compared to ArcheAge (producer replies they will prove by their actions that they won’t make the same mistakes; PROCEEDS TO MAKE THE SAME MISTAKES), makes last minute announcement prior to head start there will be two servers per region with one of those servers reserved only for head start players (causes immediate negative feedback that those will end up being dead servers plus questions about not needing two servers per region to begin with; Trion proceeds with two servers per region but allows players to choose any server), game launches with major issues on one of the EU servers where players lose their gear, several exploits known during alpha and closed beta went live and abused by players who knew about them (allowed those who knew about them to gear up quickly where they were able to sell their carry services to others), during the first month when these issues were ongoing, Trion updated the cash shop supply crate (chance to receive a rare mount) 4 times, developer Bluehole Ginno decides to no longer pursue trying to republish the game in Korea (transitions to working on mobile version of game which they signed a global mobile publishing deal with Gamevil), game population in both regions fell into a chasm in the first 6 weeks leading for calls to merge the servers, the promises of an aggressive content rollout never materialized (the first level cap increase from 52 to 54 came two months after launch with a pay 2 play class), Trion finally acknowledges they will merge the servers (takes nearly 3 months to perform where populations on each server continued leaving due to lack of new content), next level cap increase from 54 to 56 happens one month after the server merge where players blast through the new content in a single day (population drops off a cliff not even a week later), Devilian team is downsized to just Victoria “Firecait” Voss with ArcheAge CM Celestrata spending a very small part of her time as community manager (Rick “Dinothar” White moves to Atlas Reactor while the two who were going to be terminated chose to resign; CM Sarah “Kiwibirding” Walters and associate producer Andrew Sipotz), next update using recycled content happens 3 months later with level cap increased to 58, player population continues to shrink over next 3 months when new raid dungeon is finally added, player population continues evaporating over the next 3 months when level cap is increased to 60 and ONE recycled dungeon is the only major content update.

Brings us to the current situation where it has been a little over 3 months with no new news (the last time there was a Devilian segment for their Twitch streaming was 3 months ago). Mismanaged and nearly abandoned is a resounding understatement. Maybe a couple of hundred loyal people continue to play now. All of this is not helped by the bad timing when Trion signed the publishing deal before all the fallout happened in Korea when publishing portals began following the mobile money train (where most of the financial backing was happening).

Right now, Defiance and Devilian are vying for the bottom of the ladder. Defiance is probably just a few steps up since their forum is at least alive by comparison and their official Reddit hasn’t been shutdown.

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Armsbend

It sounds like you are vested in Devilian? Can I ask why? With PoE out there why would you bother?

Godnaz
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Godnaz

I have never understood why Trion Worlds gets so much hate. But then again, I have never played ArcheAge.

Your perspective is relevant. I’m the opposite to you. Never played any other Trion published game besides Archeage. While I’ve read they do some good things in other games, Archeage was an opportunity for them to become one of the darling publishers of the western MMO world. They received what many consider one of, if not the best MMORPG alphas.

Archeage Alpha offered mechanics and emergent gameplay very well thought out and executed. The alpha went on for 6 months and received lots of praise and attention for what it was providing where no other MMORPG was.

No pay to win stat items, minimal gear disparity and plenty of reasons to play where no one play session was the same. It was XL Games the developer, who decided to completely revamp the economy mechanics from a great system that worked, to one that became a cash grab.

The problem is, instead of putting their foot down and rescuing the sustainable livelihood of the game for western players, a game where you already paid a subscription, they went along with XL Games revamp and lied to its customers to keep the money coming in by playing middleman and victim, making promises to try and talk XLGAMES into changing things back to the way they were while pulling in hordes of cash. The corruption soaked down into the gameplay itself and eventually everyone got fed up.

Archeage is still the benchmark for open world, sandbox MMO’s IMO. Anyone who can duplicate Archeage Alpha will sit in the same company as WoW.

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Ket Viliano

I object.

The area design in AA was decidedly zone based. Even though you could, potentially, travel from zone to zone at any point along the boundary, it was difficult, pointless, and unrewarding save for one or two ’emergent’, or rather accidental, trade routes. Otherwise the area design was heavily focused on pre-set pathways.

For comparison, when it comes to open world area design, Darkfall Online gave us Agon, which, while very obviously tiled, was very open area, providing many options for travel over open terrain, with low lev mobs right next to very high level mobs. Barriers to travel were very well thought out, choke points did exist yet could be routed around, and there were some rather creative ways to get past many of the terrain obstacles. DFO also had better naval and ship combat.

The class powers in AA, and their combinations were fairly sandboxy, with many options to build your own mostly unique class, that is true. However, only the class system was sandbox, not much else.

ArchAge was a game on rails, pretending to open world and sandbox design. I played from launch day for several months, it got monotonous fast, which is why I left.