After trying Rift for a while now (for purely academic purposes you must understand; I suffer for my scholarly activities...) exploring more about Trion Worlds usage of social media I stumbled upon End of Nations. By stumbled upon I quite literally mean I accidentally found out about it when I was researching how they acquired their last round of funding to produce Rift (some interesting stuff here and here to). Further exploration did find a sizeable amount of info about End of Nations, including a very well developed website for what looks on the surface to be quite an interesting game.
To use a lot of acronyms in a short sentence, End of Nations is an MMORTS, with strong PvE and PvP elements and which uses a F2P (no, really, I'm not making this up, it's like an arcane language for the un-initiated isn't it!) business model. It's from their announcements, a persistent online world, though as an RTS geared towards 50 player battles I'm guessing that it's going to be heavily instanced, presumably using ladder systems or similar to provide continuous challenges in PvP (though, Trion Worlds, and thought out PvP systems aren't words I'd put in the same sentence as of the time of writing this blog post...).
While that's all interesting in-itself, as while it doesn't invent a new genre or anything, large scale RTS games have of course been tried before, and the degree to which the game is instanced, which I suspect will extremely heavily edging towards near completely instanced, really makes the persistent world element rather questionable. If you have two teams (let's call them Destruction and Order), and you allow these players to meet in a PvP game through instanced Battlegrounds only, and you unlock various RvR content as the wins push backwards and forwards... is that a virtual persistent world? The RvR situation may change, and the game may give the appearance of being a functional world, but it's very far from that. An explorer player is unable for example to travel around the game world and watch the seagulls etc.
Personally, I'm not that bothered about the semantics of if the game constitutes a "virtual world" or not, I'll leave that to academics with slightly larger vocabularies (actually more often, in my experience, they simply have very large expensive thesauruses and an innate need to obfuscate simple matters with indecipherable language, but that's a different blogpost...) . The persistent nature of the world actually opens up quite interesting possibilities (especially when we throw social media, groups and clans/communities into the mix) and throws up some interesting questions. Will the world be completely open to attack all the time? I remember for example an acquaintance of mine explaining Dark Age of Camelot's RvR system and people ringing around to each other at 3am in the morning when they knew everyone else was asleep to assault an opponent's Castle/Keep . Or will, like the sailing naval game Pirates of the Burning Sea, will people only be open to attack at certain times?
While all interesting side issues, what really caught my attention was Trion Worlds use of social media, on the plus side; a community forum which gets regular traffic from game designers, good youtube and related video usage, reasonable blog mentions (if you look hard enough). All seems good. Until you realise that Trion Worlds also have a huge (ah... a very debatable word I'll admit!) MMORPG community which are hardly cross selling to at all. To put this in comparison, you just need to look at how hard Activision Blizzard are cross selling Diablo 3 to the World of Warcraft community, they are leveraging that MMORPG community as hard as they can to try and get Diablo sales though every outlet they have.... and on the other side Trion Worlds hardly seem to have mentioned to their players; look, cool new game, if you like Rift, and think we're good game designers, try this, it's great! I've scanned through the Rift website, I've looked through the forums, I've even had a scan of some old e-mails they've sent me. Nada, nothing, no attempt from Trion Worlds to cross-sell a game to me.
So I ask a simple question (or two): Why aren't they using their community better? Why aren't they leveraging and cross-selling better?
While I'm sure End of Nations's will at some point get some kind of cross selling action (the marketing team should all be sacked if that doesn't occur) the lack of even putting the game on Rift players menus for awareness this early is quite shocking.
33 minutes ago