So what is Trove, exactly? It's something radically different for Trion, though it's plainly drawing upon lessons learned from the studio's other titles. Trove is a multiplayer universe of worlds where creation, destruction, and adventure go hand-in-hand. It's a sandbox, an RPG, a toolset, a public space, a private space, a free-to-play experience, and according to CEO Scott Hartsman, a passion.
We spoke with Hartsman to get a handle on what Trove will bring to MMOs and how it's looking to differentiate itself from the rest of the pack. So take one last look at the cute bug above and prepare yourself for an endless adventure through endless worlds.
Trove originally began as nothing more than a small side-project by a couple of Trion employees. They started out by speculating what a game would look like if it focused on the feeling, seeing, and exploring of brand-new worlds. A couple of months later, the two-man team brought it to Hartsman and other higher-ups, who gave the project their blessing. Several months after that, Trove debuted on an internal test server and quickly became a very popular past-time within the company.
There is something infectious about Trove's passion, Hartsman told me. He witnessed it first-hand as employees would crowd on the pre-alpha server and enjoy creating and destroying in equal measure. When the dev team released its toolset to everyone in the company, virtually overnight the number of weapons and creatures that existed in the game multiplied several times over.
Trove went from being a side-project to an internal prototype to a product that Trion is ready to put out to the world. Alpha sign-ups are starting on the official site, and the studio will go from there to see whether the excitement the team feels will spread to the larger gaming community. Even with the turbulence that Trion is weathering this year, going forward with Trove is seen internally as part of the privilege of being an independent studio and crucial to the long-term growth of the company.
Hartman had a difficult time classifying Trove because the game doesn't lend itself to a nice, neat category. While it will be an MMO with persistence and have many players interacting and adventuring together, it won't be a conventional MMO in any respect.
So the concept behind Trove is that the game will contain "a universe of worlds" that players can travel between. While Hartsman was cagey about some of the specifics of the game, he repeatedly suggested we rethink how MMOs work; in this case, each world should be thought of in the same way as a mob spawn. Worlds will be created when players log in and could (but might not) disappear when they log out. The universe of Trove will expand and retract dynamically to fit the population.
There are two types of worlds that will be encountered. Public worlds will be created by the system, randomly generated with specific objectives. Hartsman compared it a little to Diablo's maps in how each run-through will be a little different in terms of layout, but the core objective will remain. Public worlds also have the chance to hold unique or special resources. Then there are private worlds, where just you and your friends (or just you!) can go off for a grand adventure of your own.
In terms of numbers, worlds will hold more people than Minecraft and fewer than a typical MMO server. Right now in alpha, Trion has seen over 60 players in a public world, but the company fully expects to witness a couple hundred as time goes by.
If Trove sounds a little too transitory and random for your liking, then listen to this: There will be two persistent aspects that will survive your world-hopping. The first, of course, is your character. The second will be a plot of land -- your cornerstone -- that will be relocated to whatever world you've visiting. It's true mobile housing for a virtual age.
So what about your avatar? Will you be a human Bard, a pig Warrior, or a blob of dots floating in harmony with nature? Again, Hartsman was coy about specifics, saying only that the team is committed to providing a fully customizable experience with some familiar RPG tropes, like levels and weapons and loot. According to the trailer, there are at least dumpy, stylized people who can wear a wide array of spiffy helmets.
One interesting detail we were able to coax from him was that Trove will allow you to multi-class to your heart's content. A player will be able to master all of the classes if desired. Now what these classes are is a fascinating, if unanswered, topic.
What sets Trove apart from other experimental contemporaries (such as, say, EverQuest Next Landmark) is that Trove wants to integrate its creation and destruction within the adventuring experience proper. It's a game first and foremost with a powerful toolset second.
For instance, you might be trying to get to a dungeon that your friends told you about. However, on this particular world you find that the dungeon's entrance is covered by a hill. No worries; you can put down your sword and pick up your shovel for a little digging. Uncover the doorway and off you go into the scary unknown!
But don't worry; there will be tons of building in this game. In fact, if you make a particularly cool structure or perhaps creature, the game could adopt it and incorporate it into future worlds. The studio will even ensure that you can create content outside of the game and import it for others to enjoy.
The fireflies and the bees
Going with voxels was an intentional choice for the team, and not because it was seen as the trendy thing to do. The fact that voxels have been accepted as a type of expression for both destruction and creation plays right into what Trove is attempting to accomplish.
Trove's many worlds are, well, cute -- cute as the little ambient bees and fireflies that flutter around them. The use of bright colors, cel-shading, and puffy clouds are aimed at plucking the heartstrings of old-school gamers while enticing the newer wave that seems open to this faux-8-bit style. The music will look to the past for inspiration as well.
With games like TUG and Landmark looking to corner the market on creatively customizable worlds, Trove will need to show that it can bring something to the table that gamers aren't getting elsewhere. Hartsman told us to wait and see, and so we shall. Looking at the imminent alpha testing, we hope that might be much sooner than later.
You can sign up for Trove's alpha test now on the official website.
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