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Rift (Rift)
Trion Worlds | Official Site
MMORPG | Setting:Fantasy | Status:Final  (rel 03/01/11)  | Pub:Trion Worlds
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Interviews: David Reid Interview

By Garrett Fuller on December 29, 2010

David Reid Interview

Tell us about your role at Trion. What is it you work on day to day?

David Reid:

I am the Senior Vice President of Publishing and publishing at Trion is similar to the way it is set up at other game companies, publishing consists of: marketing, sales, corporate communications and public relations, research, and community. It is really about driving the right consumer insights and adding market research into the development process. Secondly, we make sure to drive the right amount of awareness and buzz on the games and, fundamentally, revenue when the game launches. That is really the publishing discipline in a nut shell. It is not as capitalism focused as it might sound, a lot of what it gets to is that we have a very distinctive game and we want to explain that game to people. People have more and more media choices right now and we want to really articulate what it is we are working on. We also want to explain why what we are working on is important.


So working at Trion and preparing to launch a major MMO right now, how do you see the online landscape shaping up?

David Reid:

It’s very interesting to compare this because it is similar to the way thing were going at Xbox a number of years ago for me. When you are on the cusp of these big transitions it really is about who is the gamer out there going forward? It’s not always the person we solely thought about. It is not just guys living in their parent’s basement anymore, it is a much broader industry. The MMO industry is moving there as well. Part of what we as an industry are acknowledging is that there is a core gamer audience that demands a lot of quality. They demand immersive breakthrough experiences and those are the people that when the economy tightens up they will continue to preserve their gaming habits. They will eat mac and cheese for a week if that means they can continue to pay for World of Warcraft. That is not the only target in the market anymore. There is a much larger casual gaming audience out there that is starting to emerge and that is a very different business. It is not a bad business but it is a different one. What we are seeing in the market is a lot of companies, traditional video game companies, having a tough time making the decision about which way they want to go? Do they want to make products for both types of gamers? You can call them capital G gamers or lower case g gamers. A lot of that casual audience do not consider themselves to be gamers. There have been a lot of social game acquisitions lately and it is because companies are struggling with this transition. It means you really need to know as a company what it is you are trying to do. So you have to say what is our strategy and what products are we building? So with Trion we are looking at it as we are a gamer’s business, we don’t think that is the only person in the audience but when you are a start up company launching your first product you want to be really focused on being distinctive, this is definitely a games for gamers company in that way.

What are you doing right now to ultimately connect players with their games more? Are you working on Iphone apps, Facebook, or Android areas to bring players into the game even when they are not at their computers?

David Reid:

Those are venues. We look at those as extensions of the core experience. Not as experiences all by themselves. You are not going to see us build a new IP just for that audience. RIFT is a great example, if and when we do things on those fronts we are going to do them anchored as enhancements, you know additional ways for you to be part of the RIFT Universe. Here is a personal example for me. Being on Xbox and seeing Fable come out. There was a gambling minigame. So here I am all set to play, my kids have gone to bed, and all I am doing something that I could be doing on my cell phone or on a web site. We think this will happen with MMOs. Things like the WoW armory are great. Fundamentally the gamer does not just want to be immersed in your game when they are at the PC, they want to be part of your game and the community all of the time. These are the ways to do that. So instead of adding things into the games, let’s build extensions of these games in these new venues.

RIFT is definitely a game for gamers, what plans do you have to launch that into this new gaming market?

David Reid:

Well first, there are certain traditional things you need to do with any game campaign. Retail is important, getting the word out in the online space is critically important. Running regular ads in print and media does not really change either, those traditional avenues remain. It is not just about the landscape changing it is about our role in the industry. Trion is a challenger brand right now. We are not a company that has years and years of products shipped under our belt. Individuals on our team do, we have some great veterans here. Yet, as a company we have not done this before. There is that aspect of being a David in an industry of Goliaths. It is exciting for us. You definitely have to have an edge to what you are communicating to make sure people notice it, especially the MMO audience. You can look across the landscape and see some very disappointing experiences that people have had, the potential that a lot of MMOs had in the past few years and did not quite get that far. So if you believe, which we do, that you have a game that is going to do something big and exciting, especially polished etc. you have to make sure that people hear about it. We are excited about it so we want people to be excited about it. We really want people to know what is exciting and different about the game. You will see a lot more soon from us about RIFT.

So many of our readers view Marketing teams as the big hype machine. We know you have a tough balance to work out between the game and the campaigns you run to promote the game. In handling that balance, what is your favorite part of the job?

David Reid:

At the end of the day it is the game coming together. As everyone knows, MMOs are not a standard game or even a standard software product for that matter. It is an intense process with so many details. To see it come together over a period of time. To see RIFT come together and the victories that happened along the way. To build something that had a lot of potential and a lot of excitement. It is the act of creation coming together and seeing it become a real game. There is nothing like it. It is hard, but it is also great to be part of it. When I first came to Trion the game had a different name, this was something that needed to be changed. As we started to see the lore come together and the world grow we began to realize the new name and new ideas that go with it. The game needed an identity. We got away from the “Heroes of” title because some players want to be villains. Finally we wanted to create that identity with RIFT that it is a game that shows the industry is changing, MMOs are changing and this is one of those first titles that is going to be exemplifying that.

So with the new decade coming in and 2011 around the corner, what changes do you see to the industry that are happening as a result of the last ten years in MMOs?

David Reid:

It is super important to look at where we are going with games. As generational changes happen, people want to know what is bright and exciting in the future. If you look at some of the big high profile launches in the past few years that maybe did not hit the bar, there are a few things that were endemic to all of them. One thing for sure was that it felt like many games just shipped a little too early. With a little more time it would have made all the difference. These are very expensive products and they take a lot out of you. So having the time to polish the games is really important. Beyond that you also have to add something to the genre. It is not enough to ask an MMO guild to win over one person in that guild. You have to offer something new to everybody. Look at the healer for example. You better add something different to healing for those players if you really want to bring them over to a new game. It really is about adding more to the genre as a whole. There is also a technological shift happening as well. We spoke a lot about the platform that Trion had when we first started the company. How content was going to be delivered etc. It is now time for us to turn that into scenarios and into things that actually matter for game play. The rifts that open up in the game are dynamic and show how game play is changing. As these invasions occur they can change the game drastically. Every now and then when we do a demo we walk into an area and an invasion is going on and the demo can get very rough. This type of dynamic game play is really exciting stuff. In an industry where there has not been a lot of difference, we really have something here that is really exciting. The MMO business is not a cute little business any more if you are launching a new game you better give a very demanding audience something to really look forward too. Game companies in general are really starting to think about innovation. If you went to shows this year, you are starting to see more innovations in games for the next decade. It is going to take some new great ideas in game play to be successful with the MMO audience. We are excited that RIFT falls into this category.

So a final question along those same lines, with the technology you have now, it is easier to produce content for a game overall?

David Reid:

This is a combined yes and no answer. RIFT at its core, it is a triple A MMO. It has all of the content, characters, monsters, etc. Then you add the layer of this dynamic content, which rests on top of the core MMO attributes. This adds excitement and tension to the game that you normally don’t find in other games. In MMOs monsters are just waiting for the players to show up and make things happen. RIFT is very different in this front. The monsters in RIFT are not sitting around waiting for you. If a tear opens in the wrong place the monsters are going to move out on their own agenda.

So is it easier or harder content wise? The first fundamental layer of building a game is still the work of craftsman. They are the ones who build the world. You must have top notch artists and designers putting that together. Just like the DM would in old school D&D. With dynamic content and what we are able to do, one of the designers described it like this. You’ve got this room with a bunch of bouncing balls. So in a standard game the balls are just bouncing as normal. Yet now with the dynamic content in the game we can throw a ball in that room and see what happens when it bounces off of other balls. The rules still apply, but the systems now play together in ways we had not expected. That is where you are getting the technology edge. You can see new styles of game play happening that you did not expect. So the world is still there, made by craftsman, but it is the interplay between them that we think the next generation will be all about. We will definitely see that with RIFT.