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Chatting Trion’s ‘Glyph’ with Scott Hartsman

Michael Bitton Posted:
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MMORPG.com: Glyph seemed to have started off as a unified launcher for Trion games, but it’s now grown into something bigger. What went into Trion's decision to broaden out the scope of the Glyph platform?

Scott: Even way back in the company’s DNA was always the idea of having our own technology and figuring out how to open it up to more developers, so that’s always been part of the core. When it came time to double the number of internal games, because remember it was Rift and Defiance for a long time that were out in front of people, when we had to add Trove and then ArcheAge really rapidly we came to realize that now would actually be the perfect time to go the next step and just open it up even further. Because if we can handle four games, then we can also handle twelve, we can handle twenty, we can handle one hundred. So we came to the conclusion that now was the time; the backend tech was all there, scale was definitely there.

When you look behind the scenes at the volume of business we’ve been doing over the years, the volume was already greater than what some game stores do already.  At the time, we were what 25 million transactions and 50 million downloads from almost every country on the planet, and so we already had all of that going. Doubling the number of games from two to four is really what pushed us over the edge to say, “All right. Now is the time. Let’s do this thing.”

MMORPG.com: Can you talk about your focus on providing gamers DRM free games with Glyph? Why this particular angle?

Scott: What we were looking for is how can we get as little technology between users and playing games, that’s really what it came down to. When you look into DRM, there’s things that work well and things that don’t work so well. But instead of spending time trying to parse through and figure out what the best way was to do DRM that would provide a fantastic user experience, that’s our trump card, user experience is our overriding trump card for everything.

We’ve already turned down games that did not have a user experience that fit into our model, because we don’t want to go and make a lousy user experience just to make a buck. We kind of just wanted to sidestep that completely.  And then we started looking at the kinds of developers that are OK with distributing in that model, there’s a great overlap between those folks and the kind of people that we actually would prefer to be lending some muscle to in the first place.

If you take a look down the initial group that we had talked about, for all of those people, there is essentially a story that says this is why we want to see this person go well. I think Wasteland 2 is obviously one of the bigger ones and when you look at that developer in particular, you’ve got this amazing phoenix from the ashes story where inXile, founded by Brian Fargo, fantastic story about them getting the right to their own IP back, as well as how much they support, you know, they’re a Kickstarter game, how much they support other developers. I think Brian was the one who actually started Kick It Forward, and so when we look around, we go that’s exactly the kind of person where if we can help them do better, we want to.

MMORPG.com: Will games downloaded via Glyph be required to be launched from the Glyph platform? Or can gamers simply use the platform to download their games?

Scott: Yes, but for this launch there’s no actual button on screen for you to do that. It is very intentionally something that people can either figure out how to do for themselves in the meanwhile and there will be full support for it later as we get from this beta out into the real rollout over the coming weeks.  We are not explicitly doing anything to stop that.

MMORPG.com: Anything like Steam Big Picture mode in the works for Glyph?

Scott: That speaks more towards the long list of feature improvements that we want over time. That is absolutely one thing that I think they’re doing insanely well and I think it’s fantastic. We’re taking a really careful approach in terms of what specific features we choose to put in. We want to make sure that everything we do is incredibly clean, incredibly lightweight, and like I said, as little of a barrier as possible between a human being and the act of playing a game. Would we consider something like that? Absolutely.  But at the same time we’re not going hog wild in terms of trying to throw lots of features there for features sake.

MMORPG.com: What benefit is there for developers to make their titles available on Glyph?

Scott: The biggest thing we heard from developers, the first one was, “OK. You’re the first publisher/partner/whatever that actually talked about user experience, much less said it was a thing you are actively caring about.” I think the other one is that there’s a lot of games coming out lately and a lot of the time developers end up having to discount their stuff to practically nothing before they’re able to get noticed and that makes it increasingly hard to, as more games are doing this, and as more games come out, it becomes harder to just make a reasonable living much less a huge success, unless you’re a top five game. And so you have more developers that are looking for a place where they are going to be able to work with a partner who’s able to invest significant time in them.

That’s another reason we’re limiting the number of games, because what we do is we have these developers able to take advantage of our marketing scale, all of our internal systems for how we run our own games, and then we’re also going to be helping them get the word out about their games too, so all that kind of thing takes human effort on our side.

When a developer puts their game on our service and when we get a cut for that, the way we see think about that is that’s money that they are investing in us, and we need to give them a great return on their investment. We never want them to feel like the cut that we get is the price of admission for being on our platform. For us, it’s like, hey, thanks, you’re investing money in us. We want to work for that, we want to earn that, and we want to make sure that you working with us as a partner walk away going, “Well, these guys are great.”

MMORPG.com: This might be a longshot, but will gamers who own versions of games on Glyph on other platforms be able to receive DRM free versions of these games on Glyph?

Scott: That is a slight longshot, but it’s not the craziest idea in the universe. One of the things that’s great about working on PC in general is this open platform where we’re making up the rules as we go. There are places where, and you see this happening all over PC, where two companies are maybe competitors in one area and partners on another. Steam is a perfect example of this, where people will ask, “Are you competing with Steam?” And we look at that and go, “Well, kind of, but not really.” Because they are an aggregator and we’re a curator. At the same time, we’re actively partners; our games are up on Steam.  RIFT has been the number one selling MMO on Steam since it launched. In that aspect, we’re partners.

I was actually up there last week and we were having talks about how we can make our partnership even better. I would love more creative things like that for a couple of reasons. Number one, it’s crazy player friendly, which is fantastic. Number two, PC is the only place you get to see companies do stuff like that. I would love for us to be able to do things like that in the future.

MMORPG.com: Anything else you’d like to touch on about Glyph that we maybe didn’t go over?

Scott: We really want this service to make the games the star, where we know that players don’t particularly care about a platform, what they care about is the games. That’s what lead us to making our stuff as light, clean, fast, and getting out of the way, as quick as possible.  And then making sure that they always have a great experience with the games once they’re there. That’s really been it for us and it’s been fantastic to be able to do more great stuff with great partners.

Michael Bitton / Michael began his career at the WarCry Network in 2005 as the site manager for several different WarCry fansite portals. In 2008, Michael worked for the startup magazine Massive Gamer as a columnist and online news editor. In June of 2009, Michael joined MMORPG.com as the site's Community Manager. Follow him on Twitter @eMikeB



Michael Bitton

Michael Bitton / Michael began his career at the WarCry Network in 2005 as the site manager for several different WarCry fansite portals. In 2008, Michael worked for the startup magazine Massive Gamer as a columnist and online news editor. In June of 2009, Michael joined MMORPG.com as the site's Community Manager. Follow him on Twitter @eMikeB