Trion's Next Big Thing
Trove, developed by Trion Worlds, is a Massive Multiverse Adventure game. Your character will live across a series of build-able, destructible, explore-able, and randomly created worlds. Each one will have its own objectives, monsters, buildings, and you'll live in it from the beginning until its end... whatever that may be. Things you might have created in one world, could wind up showing up in the next, as each world will pull from the hundreds or thousands of worlds that came before it. Even though a world might end, you'll carry pieces of it to keep forever in your own Cornerstone, which follows you from world to world and shares your past exploits with friends, strangers, and anyone in the next world. Trove is a game ripe for exploration, creation, destruction, and adventure. It seeks to find that sense of "newness" you experience when you first discover a new world or MMO, and to never let it go by constantly giving you new worlds to explore and conquer.
Creative Lead Andrew Krausnick and Engineering Lead Courtland Idstrom approached Scott Hartsman when he was still Chief Creative Officer with the idea for Trove: a voxel-based online RPG where the worlds created and explored are never-ending, everything is destructible, and the possibilities for exploration and creation are endless. The idea pitched then was simple: the sense of awe and wonder you feel when you first enter a new MMO or RPG is an amazing feeling. Andrew and Courtland wanted to capture that in a way that never ends, with a series of worlds that continually surprise players and beg to explored.
You might look at the video or screens, and wonder how Trove is different from say, Minecraft, Cube World, or even EverQuest Next: Landmark. When we spoke to now CEO Scott Hartsman yesterday about the project, he had an answer (as admitted fan of those games): the voxel look is going to wind up being the key similarity between Trove and other games of its ilk. But the key to Trove is in the fact that there's no cost up front (it will be entirely F2P, likely following Rift's model down the road) and that it will be focused around the building, destruction, starting and ending of worlds. Only your character and its own personal home persist from world to world. Where Minecraft or Landmark are primarily about the creative process, Trove is more about the adventure and destructibility of randomly generated worlds. Where Cube World is about recreating a Zelda-esque experience with a few close friends in a randomly generated world, Trove goes more down the RPG path with classes, crafting, building, destroying, and so forth. Make no mistake, there are definite similarities, but they're far more in the looks and the notion of using voxels than in any part of the gameplay itself.
When Rob Lashley and I talked with Scott during his hiatus on MMOFTW Live, he talked a lot about how he saw development of MMOs moving more towards smaller and more agile projects, where the developers and the players interacted from as early as an Alpha build so that you didn't need a hundred million dollars in funding to make something you hoped one day might go into the black from box sales and subscriptions. When he came back, he found Andrew and Courtland, along with other Trion staff, were still plugging away on Trove in their spare time and often staying late just to work on the game. They asked their new CEO: "Did you mean all that stuff you said to MMORPG.com?" It was time to walk the walk, and so here were are a few months later, unveiling what Trion hopes will be the perfect example of a new breed of online game: a Massive Multiverse Adventure.
So what exactly do you do in Trove? You’ll join a world in its very beginning, and see it through to its end, whatever that may be. The only things that will persist are your character, the friends you meet and make, and your own personal “Cornerstone”. The Cornerstone serves as a sort of housing for your character that travels with you from world to world. It’s fully customizable, it can be seen and accessed by other players on each world, and also will be wear you store a lot of your goodies that you obtained from past worlds. Each world will have set objectives, but they’re not aiming for an exclamation mark quest design. Instead, more like Civilization, the worlds will have “win” conditions that all players will work towards. When those conditions are met, the world “ends” and players move on together or separately to the next world.
Servers or “worlds” aren’t something you have to pay to rent or find a good one to play with either. They’re owned and managed by Trion, and like a game of Diablo you’ll be able to log in and click “create new world” and start a game there. You can leave it open for strangers, close it off to friends, or even run it entirely solo by locking it down if you’d like. Trove will be entirely free to play, and right now in its pre-alpha state they have as many as 60 players on a world at one time, but this will obviously scale up to more and more as time goes on. That said they’re not straight up calling Trove an “MMO”, not because it doesn’t share many things in common, but because the worlds aren’t persistent and the amount of players per world may never be in the thousands.
How will Trove make money then, if they’re just going to open it up in Alpha and let players communicate with the devs from the start to shape its growth? Scott said they really like the way Rift does things, and though nothing’s set in stone yet, they plan on finding a way to apply a model similar to Telara’s on top of Trove. But no matter what, the core gameplay will always be free and you won’t have to spend a dime to enjoy yourself in these fully destructible modifiable worlds.
When we asked if there would be things to do on each world for every time of MMO gamer, Scott said there absolutely would. From crafting items, to making homes, to shaping the wildlife of Trove will be a crafter and creative person’s dream. But there will be dungeons that are randomly generated, new and randomly generated terrain on each new world to explore, monsters created by the devs and the players, achievements, objectives, and on and on. Each world will be its own entirely new experience, and as the game grows and players create more content… the pool of cool stuff that Trove pulls from to create new worlds will grow as well.
The tools they devs are using to create items are pretty widely available (Scott wasn’t ready to say what he meant by that), and when it comes time players will be able to make stuff in-game, as well as offline, and import it into the worlds they inhabit. Yes, you’ll likely wind up with breasts and phalluses galore, but the beauty of Trove is that if you don’t like what you can see, you can simply blow it up and mine its resources to build something new. The world is your canvass, and the goals of each world will guide you in how to drive it from birth to “completion”. And everything you create, you can simply save and copy over to your Cornerstone for safe keeping. Once you do so, it’ll be added to the ever-expanding pool of stuff the game pulls from to create future worlds.
There are levels for your character, and you will grow in power from the beginning of one world to its end, but much like say League of Legends, your power will reset on each new world. You’ll be able to play any of the classes, and likely switch them at will or at the beginning of new worlds, but Scott couldn’t tell us more about the class and progression system just yet. Your level and stats might reset back to one with each new world, but through playing you’ll earn permanent bonuses and the like, plus all that stuff you keep in your Cornerstone, to carry on to the next adventure.
How does the “world select” work? Right now, in alpha, it’s as simple as picking one from a list on the menu. But down the road, there’s going to be a much more complex plan in place to handle how you transition from world to world. Part of that process will come from feedback on the alpha and beta tests. Part of Trion’s vision for the game is to get it out and into our hands as soon as possible, and Scott said they have only two more major tweaks to make before the alpha process begins (be sure to sign up at TroveGame.com today). Then, once that part begins, the game will become as much the players’ as it is the developers’. Trion knows the general feeling and systems they want in place, but what happens and how far it goes will be up to a collaborative effort with its fans from day one of Alpha and onward.
Trove seems like an ambitious, but uniquely freeform project from Trion. After the big budget AAA projects Rift and Defiance, it’s clear to see that the publisher/developer is not afraid to try something a little off-kilter, but on no less sizable in scale and scope. This little experiment from two gamers who had an idea just might be the cure to the feeling of loss many feel when we’ve uncovered every nook and cranny of a virtual world. We’ll be watching it closely, and playing it a ton, as soon as Alpha opens up.
Bill Murphy / Bill Murphy is the Managing Editor of MMORPG.com, RTSGuru.com, and lover of all things gaming. He's been playing and writing about MMOs and geekery since 2002, and you can harass him and his views on Twitter @thebillmurphy.