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Trion Announces MMORTS  End Of Nations , Renames  Heroes Of Telara
Trion Announces MMORTS End Of Nations, Renames Heroes Of Telara Exclusive
April 26, 2010 | By Chris Remo

April 26, 2010 | By Chris Remo
More: Console/PC, Exclusive

After years of drip-feeding information about its multiple in-progress MMOs, online-focused studio Trion Worlds has exclusively briefed Gamasutra on its plans going forward.

Today, it's unveiled the massively multiplayer strategy game End of Nations, renamed its previously-announced Heroes of Telara to Rift: Planes of Telara, and provided initial details on its collaboration with the Syfy television network.

The company plans to ship Rift and End of Nations next year, while its still-untitled Syfy MMO has a release date to be determined.

End of Nations

End of Nations, which Trion considers to be "the world’s first premium massively multiplayer real-time strategy game," was initially conceived by Trion and is being developed by Petroglyph, the Las Vegas-based strategy-oriented dev house founded by former employees of Westwood (Command & Conquer series).

"We needed an external partner," Trion development SVP Nick Beliaeff told Gamasutra. "It couldn't be another startup [like Trion], beacuse in an industry ruled by Murphy, that's just asking for pain. Petroglyph was a perfect partner: they owned their technology, had shipped titles on that technology, sold a few million units of RTS, and are absolutely passionate about creating an MMORTS." That deal came together about two years ago, and Petroglph has been working on the game since.

The game is set in the mid-21st century, and pits two player-controlled factions against a global superpower.

"Imagine if all the economic difficulties just get worse and worse, and the global infrastructure begins to collapse," explained Beliaeff. "This [superpower] is a combination of the United Nations and the military-industrial complex. They have superweapons they've created over time, and they have the chance to deploy them under the guise of restoring order to the world."

Players can battle against one another in faction versus faction battles, as well as cooperate to take down the larger "Order of Nations" faction. Unlike most massively multiplayer games, all of these battles take the form of real-time strategy conflicts.

"A lot of people have tried MMORTS, and none have succeeded," Beliaeff said. "One of the things we learned is that you have to make a game that appeals to the core RTS player."

For that reason, End of Nations is aimed at existing RTS aficionados. "We're not looking to convert World of Warcraft players," Beliaeff stressed.

Thus, the game still allows players to jump right into matchmade or custom RTS battles. But when they want to participate in the larger conflict of the world, they can enter the "war room," which includes a global map, missions, leaderboards, social interfaces, and more ("The idea was, 'What would CNN look like 40 years from now?'").

And the large-scale online infrastructure Trion and Petroglyph have developed for the game means End of Nations can, according to Beliaeff, support battles of sizes ranging from one-on-one to 50 players on a map measuring 20 square miles.

"We've asked people what they think about RTS, and there's a general feeling that games like Company of Heroes is different than Command & Conquer, which is different than StarCraft, but there hasn't been the next big step forward," Beliaeff said. "Well, we've got the scale and scope; we've got the persistence; we've got the 'massive.'"

Rift: Planes of Telara

In addition to publicly revealing the name of its MMORTS, Trion has renamed its more traditional fantasy MMO Heroes of Telara to Rift: Planes of Telara.

The basis of the game's setting is that the world of Telara is situated on a "nexus of planes," where players can summon and enter interdimensional rifts to participate in a wide variety of shared quests. Thanks to Trion's proprietary network technology, the company claims these rifts can be dynamically opened practically anywhere in the game world, although the content within them is discretely crafted.

Beliaeff says the name change came after Trion identified that rift mechanic as one of the game's most important elements, deciding to put it as front and center as possible.

"We've learned in the past year to really narrow down what makes the game special," he told Gamasutra. "We figured out one of the best ways to leverage our technological advantage happened to tie in with the mythology of the rifts. When we had people play the game, we talked about the different features they gravitated towards, and players told us rifts were the coolest part."

"With our core architecture, our servers are not bound to geography," Beliaeff explained. "Once our assets are on a player's machine, we can place them anywhere in the game. It's not that in the zone, there are these three specific [types of] monsters; for us, data is data and we can place it wherever we want."

Because of that ability for the designers to switch the content of areas on the fly, "there's really that sense of exploration and adventure," Beliaeff said. "It's not, 'Hey I've mapped out this zone and I know exactly what monsters are here.' With the rifts, it's 'What's here today? What's here tomorrow?'"

Trion says it plans to move into closed alpha testing for Rift "in the very near future."

The Syfy MMO

Trion still isn't talking much about its MMO collaboration with Syfy, which was first mentioned back in 2008, when Syfy was still known as The Sci-Fi Channel.

But Beliaeff did tell Gamasutra about the project's origins and its intended scope, which will merge the events of a Syfy-produced television series with player achievements in the game itself.

"The Sci-Fi Channel has always had a big passion for games, and has such a synergy with their audience that they wanted to get there in a really meaningful way," Beliaeff said. "We wanted to take it beyond the traditional licensee/licensor relationship. We live in a connected world. We can really do something nobody has done before."

Beliaeff wasn't willing to discuss mechanics in detail, but he called the game "more of an MMO action game" than an MMORPG, and said it is set on Earth, between 50 and 100 years in the future.

For example, he described, "if the show mentions there's a plague in Africa, in the game we can do a deep dive to Africa, where the plague is ravaging everything and there's a whole quest line for your guild to go through. Then, the name of the first guild to cure the plague gets actual airtime."

As Beliaeff observed, "The show is on for its episode arc; the game is on every minute of every day."

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Chris Remo
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Perhaps it's also when humanity has figured out how to instantly teleport dead individuals back to a point in space and time they had arbitrarily reached several minutes ago, or how to create ammunition clips that, when discarded, return the unused shells back to another unused clip, or how to genetically engineer humans to heal grievous wounds over a few seconds, or how to construct first-aid kids that take instant effortless effect, or how to employ any of the other absurd video game conceits in the other genres that aren't RTS that you don't for some reason call out every time a game making use of them is discussed.

Kumar Daryanani
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I was going to point out that Command and Conquer uses the same tropes, but Remo did it for me. Sure seems like unwarranted amounts of hate going on, but it _is_ Monday morning, I guess.

Personally, I'm excited for all three of these games and I'm looking forward to see what new stuff they bring to the table.

E Zachary Knight
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That was a huge dose of awesome on my Monday afternoon.

Chris Remo
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Tim's comment is a dismissive bit of snark that has little if anything to do with the actual story. He's made it clear countless times in the past that he's not a fan of that particular RTS gameplay model. The point of my reply is that it is utterly unnecessary to point out the same tired points about gameplay idiosyncrasies in every story about a particular genre. That's not discussion, it's harping. This story doesn't even reference that gameplay mechanic.

Joshua McDonald
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Stephen, you probably haven't seen the number of times Tim has done this exact same thing. If there is an article about an RTS, he inevitably will show up, bash that particular mechanic, then leave. Sometimes people ignore him, other times it fires off a repeat of the same discussion that rarely has anything to do with the article in question.

He may be a professional. He may do some great stuff otherwise, but if he uses gamasutra as the staging ground for his crusade against RTS's, I hope people tear down his comments.

ken sato
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Aside from personal comments...

MMORTS has always been a particular interesting but frustrating in that so many units coordinated by more than 2 players can get rather confusing and can make map sizes particularly painful to stare at for any length of time. The level of detail for such small units for particularly large army battles can devolve into pixel on pixel combat action.

If we take a look at DOW or SC2, you can see the miniature figure influence of 2mm and 5cm table top combat and model groupings. Anything smaller and limit on how you can distinguish individual figures or their states (full / damaged) can get troublesome. This is compounded by the number of armies and over all scale of terrain which even modern military coordination uses symbols and forgoes the instant time scale updates. (Side Note: E.E. Doc Smith, Lensman, Letter from the department of the Navy and battle bridge set ups. It looks like '24' and war room connection has happened before...)

So over all, I guess what I am interested in is the number of players and level of combat per update tick. The design of map and interaction per scale, something you have to limit if you want actual individual units, boggles the mind once you have large scale armies with multiple unit types. Then there are the animations, and special abilities...

Final Note:

The gaming industry is wide and diverse, with many unique personalities, opinions, and perspectives. Some are pointed and direct, consistent or scattered (I tend to fall into either case depending on coffee consumption level and amount of time to devote to organizing my thoughts--in either case I feel I am woefully always short. My apologies.) So Tim's point has a point because he is unable to accept that mechanic of build/spawn. Ignore it, it's a personal issue. If he has a better mechanic such as purchase queues A.I. generated, or fixed T.O. & E. per battle, so be it.

In any case, this article is interesting that SyFy looks to have a partnership division developing with publishers. An interesting addition to funding for development from a marketing stand point as well as production stand point to determine what deliverables and time line will be necessary for development, something that MMOs have traditionally been flexible on. So it will be interesting to see how this turns out as the number of media outlets from online to commercial TV look to be poised to expanding or creating new areas of development and creating new revenue streams.

ken sato
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The real point that I got was that this partners up real good with digital distribution.

The critical note is that DD is not PR & Marketing, you cannot just put a title out in unlimited numbers and expect it to sell but that expectation is always there once it isn't tied down to media and the expectation to keep the costs down.

So, on the whole of it, it puts another requirement into the skill set for project managers / producers and executive staff...and that is they're going to need media business experience in negotiating deals and contracts. This isn't as simple as it sounds as gaming entertainment has always tried to keep one foot into commercial development. While studios in the past have tried to maintain gaming arms--they have had some problems and been less than profitable. Gaming publishers have tried to maintain close development partnerships with major entertainment studios and that has been more-or-less successful but risky. So television might be better or worse. I don't know but I am interested enough to keep an eye and ear out.

Derek Smart
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I came

I saw

I laughed out loud

I left. In one piece

michael ross
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Ok so I just spent half a lifetime typing a comment for my explorer to crash...nice.

2nd attempt in brief this time. What I think casual gamers would love to see with this particular game.

1. Effective matchmaking, even on drop-in drop-out games. This would facilitate a truley casual RTS experience. The only caviats would be to enable private games and the ability to majority boot troublesome players (nothing new). I would just hate to have to know 50 other people, or join a random guild, to ever be able to experience a 50 player epic co-op.

2. Streamline resources. On a large scale control points become messy, another option could be to treat each person as their own nation. Wars are generally costed using existing funds, the biggest country can usually fund the biggest army. Because this game aims to provide you the ability to 'level up' your general, as your general gains in level so should the $'s he has allocated when he joins each match. Then each cycle income is earned once again based on your generals level. I understand there would be complexities around balancing matches, but you cant create a groundbreaking game without breaking new ground.

The benefits I see this providing is forcing people to start small and learn the mechanics of their units, growing in size and complexity the more they play...exactly the way any real RTS currently works, just in the MMO 'living' environment. The other benefit is providing players with a good understanding of the resources they have at their disposal up front, meaning their sole focus can be on effective deployment of troops and protection of key units.

3. Variation, synergy and customisation. Each of these three aspects, while individual in their own respect all relate to the same end product...longevity of gameplay. Being able to use bomb squads to lay down explosives and detonate themselves is one thing, but getting them to lay down explosives which your artillery can target to increase the explosion by 100% is another thing completely. Then you could use that same bomb squad to turn a standard hummer into a vehicle rigged to explode on impact, a perfect option for using a relatively cheap unit to pave a way through a heavy line of defence. With enough of these quirks built into the gameplay it means players are constantly experiencing something new they didnt expect.

Customisation should add to this by enabling players to tweak the units at their disposal to operate in a way which suits their style of play. An example would be to deploy an engineering bay which enables you, for a price to improve the speed of all of your vehicles by reducing their armor level (making them lighter), or alternatively improving the weapon damage while making them more expensive etc... In game customisation is far superior to pre game customisation simply because it enables you to react to the environment you find yourself in.

Marc Letford
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Tim coninues to think RTS - MMORTS usually involves a lot more supply issues in game. Whilst not microgrinding us all into ammunition, games typically involve a logical narrative to explain that. I would hope there is no need to belabour the bandwidth and packet issue in a MMORTS either so I will assume he is discussing thelast centuries genre, RTS. I'm still waiting on the explanation for WoW's inability to experience true character death, with all the associated false reactions to situations this generates, that so put me off that game. We wont even go near the magic sky faerie aspects..

Another point is my continued shock, usually aimed and reserved for the player base but incredulously even here with developers, at the ignorance of the existing genre games, developed and run by indies for the last 12 years. Does noone do their homework anymore do all comments here have the same depth of thought and real experience as Tim's?

End of Nations wil be the first AAA title in the genre - they have that right. And, looking at the long term gameplay possibilities, it may be they have either solved or bypassed some of the learnt genre issues. Good luck to Petroglyph and Trion with this, may it bring more bodies to the slaughter.