In today’s post I want to set aside the game. What I really want to do is talk about the company making the game, Trion Worlds. Let’s forget about whether you like the game or not. Maybe you love it, maybe you hate it but I think one thing should be agreed on by everyone who plays or follows MMOs. That is, quite simply, Trion should be the model on how future developers interact with the community, run their beta and develop their game. If you compare the development of Rift to WAR, Age of Conan or a whole slew of other MMOs pre-release, you will see a refreshing difference when it comes to how Trion does this.
“As to NDAs, the rule I’ve always gone by is my “time before release rule” in order to judge the confidence the publishers have in their new game (doesn’t apply to ports or games that are already out in other places). I add a +1 for every week prior to release that the game’s NDA has been lifted and come up with a score. If <4, there’s a lack of confidence in the product, if you are >8, they really believe in the game. WoW had a great score (the highest I believe) and some of the MMOs that failed, had, as expected, low scores. A score of 4 is just about the minimum you should expect from a MMO publisher.”
I say he was right and his own game proves this. Warhammer Online‘s NDA drop happened only a scant few weeks before the game went live. We can now see that Mythic had little confidence in the game and rightfully so. By contrast Trion dropped the beta NDA a full three months before release. Now, it must be said, there is still an NDA covering the Alpha participants but I have seen very few MMOs allow beta players to talk so freely about their game so long before release.
Access to the Game Pre-Release
With the release of the newsletter last week, Trion opened the flood gates to the beta servers. Each subscriber now has VIP access to the beta servers, which allow for automatic entry to every beta event. In addition, each newsletter subscriber was given a VIP key that allows for 25 more people full access to the beta.
For all intents and purposes, the Rift beta is now completely open. With the number of VIP keys available from the subscriber newsletter and websites like MMORPG.com giving away hundreds of keys everyone who wants in can get in easily. Never have I seen such open access to a game this far out from release. WAR went open beta just 11 days before release. Age of Conan just 22 days before release.
Not only are they allowing unprecedented early access to the client but they are letting players see more of the game than most developers do. The current beta client will allow leveling up to level 30 but future beta clients will allow access up to level 42, only 8 levels before the cap. Age of Conan capped their beta to level 20 which, coincidentally, is the exact level in which content ran out. Trion is allowing access to the full world at each cap. Dungeons are open, War Fronts are running, Rifts and invasions are running. Bottom line, by the time the beta is ended you will know whether the game is worth buying or not.
Responsiveness to the Players
Trion has also set the precedent when it comes to listening to the players and responding to their complaints and suggestions. Look at the list of things Trion has added, fixed or improved upon since the first beta client and you can not help but be impressed:
- Players wanted to gain access to Souls sooner. Trion completely changes the Soul acquisition system, making Souls easier to get and giving them the ability to get them sooner.
- Players thought the combat was a bit too unresponsive. Trion adds ability queues and changes the way key presses trigger abilities. Combat is now much smoother.
- Players thought Rogue energy regenerated too slowly. Trion now allows energy to regen during the GCD.
- Players thought that invasions and Rifts were not powerful enough and happened too infrequently. Trion unleashes the events upon Telara.
- Players wanted Open Groups ala WAR. Trion puts them in.
- Players complained about the lack of anti-aliasing. Trion adds it.
- Players complained about Tab Targeting. Trion fixes it.
The list goes on and on. They have even more in store for the future, fixes to Racial abilities, master looter and a whole slew of things that the community wanted. Every developer claims to listen and many try but I have never seen a developer do so as quickly as Trion does.
Polish and Promises
I have talked about this before but I wanted to state it again; Trion promised only what they could deliver. They did not promise the moon, only to have to pull features before release. They under promised and over delivered. Exactly the opposite of most developers. The game, in its current state, is more polished, complete and bug free than WAR, AoC and even Aion was months after release. It runs well, there is a distinct lack of bugs, all features are present and accounted for and everything works. Compare this to most other MMOs on release and the difference is striking.
You May not Love the Game but You Should Love the Company
As I said above, you may not like Rift and that is fine. Just like other MMOs, it will not appeal to everyone. Some are looking for a game that is radically different from prior MMOs and if that is the case, no Rift will not appeal to you. Some don’t like the graphics, the combat or the lore and that is okay too. I understand that. But, no matter what you feel for the game itself, every MMO player should love how Trion is handling this release. It is the standard by which every other developer should be held accountable.
For too long we, as MMO players, have stood by and watched as developers released buggy, unpolished and incomplete messes onto the gaming public. We watched as they hid their faults behind NDAs and open betas that just began a scant few days before release. We watched as they promised to do anything and everything and then failed to deliver even the basics.
Finally, we may have a developer that does not do that. That is not afraid to let players see what they have to offer pre-release and that is not above listening to player suggestions and then implementing them quickly. Whether you like Rift or not, you should applaud that.