State of Trove

When MMOGames asked me to write a piece previewing the features of Trove I jumped at the chance.  By some quirk of fate I was in the initial round of invites for the game and have been fortunate enough to watch this game evolve over the past year.  However as time has crept closer to the deadline, I have realized just how hard it is to accurately sum up the game that Trove has become.  This game has been an interesting experiment in which Trion games set aside a small team of resources, gave them large amounts of creative freedom and then made the entire development process transparent by adopting Reddit as their official forum.  The resulting process has been something quite unlike anything else I have experienced, and the community that has sprung up to support the game is a large part of its success. Trove sits at an intersection between several different successful gaming genres, and I feel the only way to adequately explain the game is to talk about where the influences come from each of them.

 

Sandbox Constructions Games

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In the earliest phases of development, Trove was a relatively simple voxel based building game.  Players had the ability to add and remove large technicolor voxel boxes from the world allowing them to build rudimentary structures.  With each rapid revision of the game the level of granularity has increased, and now includes a fully fleshed out crafting system and the creation of a number of highly detailed objects that you can place in your own creations.  The place where Trove diverges from the tradition structure of the building game is that the world itself is temporary and ever changing.  To combat this the players are given a “Cornerstone” or structure that can be moved throughout the world with the player.  Each time a player moves their cornerstone it also moves their spawn point with them, allowing the focus of the game to shift to exploration more than strict base building.

The world itself is made up of several different biomes, each with their own traits and creatures.  While Minecraft made the attempt to focus on “simulation”, Trove has focused on creating fun places for players to explore.  As a result there are biomes for Wild West, Snowy Spaceship Graveyard, Cybernetic Landscape, Lava Mountain and Spooky Forest just to name a handful of the overall themes.  The world themselves are divided up into level ranges, and can be accessed through either portals in the central hub world, or ones that players can craft and place inside their cornerstone.  For players wanting to tackle larger scale projects, there is the ability to create “Clubs” or a group that players can join.  Each Club has its own custom world that they have the ability to change the appearance of and create grand structures, with the ability to link multiple club worlds together through player crafted portals.

 

Battle Arena Games

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The building aspect of Trove is extremely enjoyable, but would quickly get stale if the game did not also have a robust combat system.  One of the failings of Minecraft has always been that combat in the game feels like it is tacked on as an afterthought.  As a result Trove built itself around an action combat engine.  All new players enter the world as a Knight, the most basic of classes centered around a melee theme. Where the game borrows from the MOBA genre is that each of the classes has a fixed set of abilities including a passive ability, basic attack, two active abilities, and an “ultimate” ability.  So for the case of the Knight the basic left mouse button attack swings their currently equipped weapon.  The right mouse button attack unleashes a powerful ground slam that radiates out in a cone from the Knight.  The primary special attack on the 1 key charges towards the enemy dealing damage to everything in your path, but can also be used to fly across short distances making it a helpful navigation tool as well.  Finally the ultimate ability called “Iron Will” causes the Knight to be surrounded in an energy shield regenerating their health and at the same time reducing all incoming damage.

Since the launch of alpha the Trove team has been releasing a steady trickle of classes for the players to experience.  Each one has its own leveling path, unique abilities, and gear preferences.  At the time of writing this article the Knight, Gunslinger, Fae Trickster, Dracolyte, Neon Ninja, Candy Barbarian and Ice Sage are available.  Players get access to the Knight for free, but the others have to be purchased either by accumulating an in game currency or by spending actual money.  The pricing schemes are not egregious however, and players are given a daily login bonus of the in game currency that adds up quickly simply by regularly playing the game.  Some of the classes can do some really interesting things, like the Neon Ninja has a not unsurprising stealth mechanic and the Dracolyte ultimate quite literally turns the player into a large dragon.  Since the player can change back and forth between classes freely in the hub world, it gives the game a large amount of replayability once you have maxed one out

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Online Role Playing Games

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While the class design aligns heavily towards the battle arena game norms, the bulk of the content design draws largely from Online Role Playing games like its sister game Rift.  What sets this game apart from games like Minecraft is that it has a large amount of dungeon and even raid content for the players to complete.  Through out the many biomes are sprinkled pre generated dungeons that have clear objectives to complete them.  When an objective has been achieved a large red X appears both on the in game map, and over the building in the world allowing players to easily see what content has been cleared.  Through completing this content the player can craft keys that unlock more difficult content that requires multiple friends to complete in an almost raid like fashion.

Another component that places this game firmly in the MMO camp is the way loot works.  Any critter you kill in the world has the chance of dropping interesting items that have an MMO style rarity system that improves in quality as you level up.  Much like everything in Trove it takes a tongue and cheek approach to loot rarity, with highest tiers being “Rainbow” and “Shadow” after you have progressed the more standard rarity tiers that Rift has.  As players collect items, they can also use a special player crafted machine to destoy the item and collect the “appearance”.  This allows the player complete control over how they look in the game world.  While they have the standard weapons that look like Cloud’s Buster Sword from Final Fantasy, they also have more whimsical weapons like guns that look like Super Soakers or a melee weapon that looks like a Pink Flamingo.  Most of the weapon designs were submitted by the community through the official “Trove Creations” reddit, and when an item drops it shows the name of the player who created it.

Trove: Sum Of All Parts

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The challenge when writing this overview, was trying to figure out how best to explain exactly what Trove is as a game.  While I spent time painstakingly breaking it down into the sub-components, the entire game is so much more than those parts.  The community that exists around the game has been excellent, and their creativity has acted as a chain reaction to constantly feed new ideas to the developers for how to make a better game.  More than anything I feel like the mission of Trove is to be fun, and not take itself too seriously.. and in that it accomplishes its mission.  As with any “unfinished” game there are quirks and issues, but the game that exists feels more polished each time I sit down to play it.  With the rapid evolution of the game over the past year, I cannot even begin to fathom how detailed it will be after another year of time incubating the ideas the community feeds into it.  The game is currently available to play for free, and if anything I have written in this article interests you I feel like you owe it to yourself to check it out.  If you play it, leave us a comment about how you enjoyed the game.

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About belghast

Belghast is a 30 something husband, code monkey, podcaster, blogger, streamer and life long gamer. As the sometimes guild and raid leader of House Stalwart, his focus is generally on the more social nature of games... that is hanging out with friends and playing awesome things. Visit his blog here: http://aggronaut.com