BEING UPDATED SEMI-LIVE
MMORPG.com managed to convince Scott Hartsman and his PR handlers to answer questions live in a special forum thread beginning at 7PM EST on October 25th, 2013. Here's a compilation of all his ArcheAge-related responses:
Hi, everyone! I’m Scott Hartsman, the CEO at Trion Worlds.
I’ve been working in online games of all sizes and shapes and MMOs for almost my entire career, as everything from a GM, designer, engineer, director, producer, to this current gig as a CEO. This most recent job is all about making sure that great people are able to make and run great game services that provide the best experience for our communities that they possibly can.
The most notable games I’ve been involved with were launching Rift as its exec producer, and working with EverQuest and EQ2 different roles in the years prior. In that time I’ve worked at companies of all sizes, too – From bootstrapping a couple startups, to working in midsized companies, to working in an MMO division of a massive multinational company.
In my own time, I’m a dedicated (mostly PC) gamer – I’ve been a hardcore RIFT and EQ/2 player (among other MMOs), am a more recent Defiance player, and still try to check out as many MMOs as I can. I also enjoy the Skyrims and Borderlandses and Bioshocks of the world, while being a Minecrafter, a former Puzzle and Dragonner, and a recovering Magicholic.
I kind of like games.
Also, earlier this year we adopted a corgi. His name is Kirby. He’s just about the greatest thing ever.
Feel free to ask me anything about what’s going on at Trion, in games online or off, the business side of games or startups, being half of a pair of new dogparents, or anything else, and I’ll answer whatever I can beginning in a half hour!
I should probably also be a good CEO and mention: In honor of RIFT's return to Steam, which just launched minutes ago, we're kicking off a week of celebration in both RIFT and Defiance, with all kinds of bonuses and excitement in both games -- details going up on our blogs shortly!
Regarding payment models...
Do you still have to decide which payment-model you gonna choose for ArcheAge?
If yes, which one do YOU(!) prefer?
1) We're still working with XL on the specifics. They have a lot to do in supporting four different partners and their unique billing systems, and we want to make sure it's done right.
2) I like RIFT's current model for a lot of reasons. The zero barriers to trying and bringing in friends is the hugest advantage - People travel MMOs in packs. Barriers prevent that behavior.
>>>>>>>1. Are there any plans about Trion Worlds re-opening an European office soon/hire german and french full-time CMs
1B. do you plan to sell the EU publishing rights for your games to another publisher?
2. [ArcheAge] Do you really want to translate and publish this game at its current state or will you wait for the announced expansion in Korea including many game changes ?
3. Payment models: What are your personal thoughts about the Rift F2P change, since you weren´t part of Trion Worlds when they changed the payment system?
3B. Do you plan the rebirth of a Pay2Play model for (one of) your upcoming games?
Thank you for your time, Scott!
Edited down to just the question parts for length!
1. No plans of opening new offices right now -- We've got EU native speakers in the headquarters office, including the FR and DE community reps. There've definitely been some bumps during the transition, but making sure it's all working the right way is a big priority.
1B. Hell no.
2. We have a lot of faith that XL is on the right track with what they're doing with the game. We've been actively translating it for quite a few months. It's quite huge.
3. I think RIFT's model is extremely well designed and well executed. It's a big part of why I came back to Trion.
3B. Not at the moment.
Regarding sandboxes in general...
I feel like I am part of a Playerbase that has been ignored for quite some time because of the success of theampark style games like World of Warcraft.
That's Right I am a Sandbox player that enjoys robust crafting (Like SWG and Wurm Online) I also enjoy open world PvP and No instancing.... We are seeing some Sandbox's on the horizon but while they are exciting they are not hear yet so I like many others are skeptical....
Honestly the Last great Sandbox other then Eve was SWG Pre NGE.... As has been proven by a large follow base on this sight alone. There is a large un tapped market of guys like me, waiting for the next UO/SWG. Does Trion have any plans to investigate this genre and market in the future?
Yes - That's a lot of why we wanted to bring ArcheAge here.
Long bit about ArcheAge's general status...
any word on the status of archeage? Its been radio silence for the past few months. I am really excited about this game. Hoping for more info.
I have a lot of words on the status of ArcheAge. So many that I may have anticipated this question and written something last night.
For such a young game, ArcheAge has had a lot of excitement in its life. We all know that a company launching its first MMO is a truly massive event.
In shipping an MMO the difficulty ramps up and up as you open it up more - Then on launch day, you're 24/7, live, and people are giving you their hard earned money for your game. On the inside, it feels like it couldn't possibly be the case, but the work actually gets harder.
It's absolutely brutal on development teams even in the best case. Having gone through it multiple times myself, even if you've done it before, you forget exactly how stressful it is, how hard all hands will end up having to work, and how long they'll have to do it.
The whole time, you're dealing with launch tech issues, and gameplay systems that didn't turn out the way they did in alphas and betas, and trying to figure out the best solutions to everything.
The whole time you're doing this, things have stayed that difficult for months in your first launch, and you hope to get into a solid cadence of being live, so you can start supporting other efforts.
With three other locale partners (in China, Russia, and us in the West), XLGames didn't have that luxury of going immediately from the Korea launch into locale launch ramps for all three partners. Hell, immediately launching into full simultaneous support for three other partners would have been practically impossible when a game's launch goes flawlessly, and we know that the initial Korean launch faced many challenges of its own.
We've been in touch with them the whole time - The relative quiet has been for a couple reasons:
1) They needed time to sort out what's best for their game, so it can be the biggest success possible in ALL locales
2) It's important to us to not be the kind of publishing partner that applies undue ship pressure to force them to make bad decisions. That happens a lot in games. We're not that.
Their team's now confident that they've got a solid path planned out for improvements to ArcheAge, that will benefit all of their partners. We think they do too. Since they already have live customers, they're going to be addressing their plans for their existing live game very soon. The head of AA on their side is actually doing his first interview about this today as well.
That's the real trigger for us. We look forward to the coming weeks of reopening discussions with our communities about ArcheAge and its future here in the west.
Expect them (and us) to start talking about things like: How their updates are going to be bigger, more stable affairs. How they're ensuring that all gameplay systems are fun and rewarding, so people aren't funneled into playing one optimal way. And how they're making the game experience more approachable, while keeping a solid level of difficulty that maintains that tension we all feel as we're playing through a dangerous world, gaining power and becoming more successful as we go.
Both Trion and XL feel strongly that these are vital elements that all of our audiences want to experience, and that's the direction everything's headed.
Some of you have probably noticed that over the past few weeks we've kicked off a regular posting series on our existing games' sites of what's going on inside of Trion in all of our games -- I'm extremely happy to announce that as of this next set, we'll be adding ArcheAge to the mix that we'll be openly communicating with you about on a regular basis. Some updates are about the games themselves, others are about what's going on inside from groups you seldom hear about who are just as vital to shipping and running our games.
You can sign up for those updates as well as the beta at http://www.archeagegame.com
And based on the size of this answer, I think we can consider this the first in that series.
Regarding Mail.RU's recent fiasco...
nice to see you around!
Speaking for the German fans of ArcheAge I want to ask you two questions:
When Trion announced to bring the game to the West we were really happy to get a publisher with such a good reputation. However, over the the past year our happiness turned into huge disappointment because we feel left alone by Trion. You got any words of love to share with us?
Are you taking the recent drama regarding mail.ru's presentation of the free-to-play model in Russia taking into consideration in your decision about the payment system of ArcheAge?
1: I bet that the 1000 words of love i replied with earlier on the subject might answer your question!
2: Yep, we read the same Internet you do. We've been talking with both mail.ru and XL regularly. Everyone wants the same thing, which is great: A great game that's accessible, fair, and enjoyable to the largest number of people possible. Truly.
Everyone wants a great experience. From there it's a matter of making sure that it ends up that way.
My personal letter/question to Mr. Hartsman...
Hello Mr. Hartsman, I’m “ArcheAdmin” Mark. I run ArcheAgeSource.com, the ArcheAge fansite. I built the Facebook page Trion currently uses for ArcheAge and ran it for over two years. When I visited Trion's room at E3 2013 an early build of ArcheAge was being demoed for the press. Since then there's been very little information released about ArcheAge. The one Trion employee who regularly checked the ArcheAgeSource.com forums was James "Elrar" Nichols. He was part of the layoffs that came about after you took control, Mr. Hartsman. The remains of Trion's community team haven't bothered to be active members of any ArcheAge fansites (Dahanese is registered but doesn’t participate).
Why hasn't ArcheAge been given more attention by Trion? Is there a legal issue preventing Trion from telling us about localization progress? ArcheAge fans need to be a part of the development process. The fans’ concerns need to be addressed. Their opinions and complaints have to be acted upon while the game is still in an "alpha" state, before a faux (marketing) beta is held and an irreversible, negative public opinion of ArcheAge is formed.
Have Trion brand management, public relations, marketing and business intelligence employees been paying attention to Mail.ru's (the Russian publisher) handling of ArcheAge in Russia? If they have, you should have been briefed about how Mail.ru was willing to listen to customer feedback and make major changes to their version of the game, not just little tweaks, in order to please Russian ArcheAge fans. Mail.ru also attempted to introduce a poorly-planned Free to Play model for ArcheAge and thousands of potential customers rallied to force the company to provide an alternative.
Trion's window of opportunity for successfully, profitably releasing ArcheAge feels like it is rapidly closing. Fans are losing interest and becoming excited for other sandbox MMOs in development. Potential fans are being turned off or turned away by the images they see of the Korean version of the game which show potentially immersion-breaking features that Western players don't seem to enjoy. These issues can be addressed and fixed, but no one at Trion seems to care enough to directly ask the ArcheAge fan community what needs to be done.
Mr. Hartsman, here are my questions condensed into short form:
 Why hasn't Trion been showing us more of ArcheAge's localization process?
 Why aren’t Trion employees on fansite forums (not general purpose websites like this one) attempting to solicit feedback directly from the most knowledgeable potential customers?
 Why isn't there dedicated community managers for each of Trion's game properties? Is it too expensive?
 Why isn't Trion bringing ArcheAge to more conventions like Gamescom and PAX? Is the event budget being cannibalized?
The time to start focusing on ArcheAge was three months ago.
You can contact me directly at [email].
Hi, Mark! Thanks for the easily quoteable version:
1) Hopefully answered in the large AA answer a bit ago.
2) While we read them, we haven't had time to participate while in this quiet period of transition. That'll change soon.
3) There are more community folks than there are games. It's just a different structure.
4) Conventions are a blast - I love them. I was raised walking distance from GenCon and practically grew up at that show, have worked every E3 (save one) since the first one existed, and even worked a PAX 3 days after a knee surgery. Hired one of our engineers from one. I like them too - Promise.
That said, the cost of doing the big convention blowout has gone through the roof over the past few years - They're the second least effective way a company can spend its money. (The least effective being throwing it into a pile and burning it.)
Realistically, there's a balance based around finding ways to participate without doing the expensive all-encompassing blowout. The shows are great, especially the ones where we get to interact meaningfully with players. Expect us to be doing more of that in the future.
More general information about how Trion will handle ArcheAge's launch...
I am in the Archeage boat as well i kinda got a few questions as well.
1) Are we going to hear about a release plan/date as this game is highly awaited and we have not hear anything concrete or really anything at all.
2)The westernization as mentioned above will be be just on looks and not changing aspects of the game? And if it's changing gameplay what changes are being made?
3)What is the payment model looking like for archeage as this has been a big area of discussion giving attitudes about the russian model,p2p,b2p and f2p and i know a lot of the big concern here is f2p being a botfest with gold farmers,hackers,and usually includes a fair amount of pay to win (ex items not gained in the game without someone paying real cash for that gives huge advantages) russia new model seems better but i like the buy to play myself with a fluff shop so what system is going to be in place? and details please price etc
1) Answered part of it in the first big, big AA answer.
The best I can tell you is that we're planning on applying a similar order of events that worked exceptionally well for us with Rift - Ensuring we have a 24/7 alpha running for stability and ongoing update testing, then expanding it into the beta, then into events, then setting the launch date once we're confident in the betas. A good number of the same people on our side are fulfilling the same roles for ArcheAge that we did in Rift's launch.
Given the now-firmed-up plans on what XL is doing with the core game, the teams just yesterday began the process of locking down the dates for the different stages.
2) Think of it this way... It's less about looks and gameplay, and more about languages (3 of them, remember) and operations.
On one layer, there's the mass of technical integrations and operational infrastructure work to be done. One example: Not all companies' patcher frontend and patch server backends are created the same. There's a dozen different ways to solve that problem. Their way is perfectly good, but we need a way that ties into our update server infrastructure. Multiply that kind of work across about 20 or 30 technical topics.
The next layer up is translation localization - MMO's tend to have around 2mm words. We have 3 languages, so, let's say 6mm words. MMO's also tend to have a whole lot of proper nouns. Proper nouns in Korean look a lot different than proper nouns in English, so new words frequently need to be invented, and be made to be consistent across the entirety of the game. Dictionaries need to be made and you need to make sure everything's consistent and cohesive in its new form.
The layer up from that is there's business model and accounts integration - The game needs to integrate with our account backend, and needs to integrate with our billing system, in a way that's compatible with a) the tech on both sides desires for business model from both us and XL and c) the gameplay itself.
That's really what we've been focusing on. That's a massive amount of work on its own.
We are making gameplay comments after observing the existing locales, and finding that most if not all of our observed issues are already on the list of things that XL plans to address for all locales.
We don't currently have any blanket gameplay requests specific to our locales. If there ever were any, it would result based on playtesting with western players playing the game, on our service
3) Details will be coming - We can all agree that pay to win is bad, though, that's for sure. The best things must always be earned/played for. If they're not an enjoyable part of the game, there's a far bigger problem than business model!
At the same time, I think there's a lot of undue concern around bots, assuming that one protects and manages their game correctly. Granted, there have histtorically been a few MMOs that haven't done a great job here, so some amount of concern is absolutely valid.
We'll be sharing our security and anti-botting techniques with XL if they'd like us to. That tech has been extremely successful in RIFT. In terms of running the service, and ensuring our CS has the same access to immediate data that they have in our existing games, they'll go at it with the same discipline in managing-out bot accounts -- The goal being to ensure that no matter what the specifics of the model are, we're in the best shape we possibly can be.
A few more launch/beta plan details...
I forgot my Archeage questions:
I play AA on Korean servers and I've heard rumors that XLgames decided to do Russia and China first and US/EU last which would mean that XLGames has unintentionally delayed the US release.
Does Trion solely get to decide on US/EU release dates, or does XLgames also plan the release dates?
Also it seems that XLgames is working on adding a lot of new content (including new races, Dwarves and Warborn - yeah!) and revamping some early themepark-style elements into more sandboxy elements - is Trion and XLgames planning to have this completed first before the game is ready for US/EU?
1. Hopefully addressed in my first massive AA reply!
2. We have to plan and execute on them together - Since MMOs are online services, launching them isn't at all like doing a territory launch for a single player game. The teams physically at XL and at Trion both have to be working on the same launch at the same time. Kind of addressed this in my massive AA reply.
3. That's one of the big considerations in choice of launch date. If we both decide that having improvements in place will make for the best western launch, it is absolutely possible. We're both aiming for the combination of "best" and "most reasonable."
Regarding if/when official ArcheAge forums would become available...
It's Erik! Are there any plans for an official ArcheAge forum and how is your community management? Is this Interview the beginning for more community work? And, last but not least: is the ArcheAge EU release still going to be accomplished by Trion?
1. Hi Erik!
2. Yes, we're sorting through the specifics around the next iteration of what we do for both forums and blogs across the company right now.
3. Overworked, but in general, they seem all right.
4. I hope so!
5. Yes! See previous Huge AA Answer.
Regarding crafting mechanics and server types...
1) Are there any plans to revert any of the crafting mechanics back to their Korean CBT state, such as item decay?
2) Has any consideration been given to different rule/server types?
1. We don't have specific gameplay requests for AA West at the moment -- XL is already starting to talk about their future plans with their live players, and we'll be following on there.
2. Not at the moment - That said, I also love the concept of those in general, but they take a shockingly large amount of work.
In response to Fido from the German ArcheAge fan community...
my name is Fido and i am the operator of "Let´s Play ArcheAge - The german video magazine" on Youtube. At first I want to thank you for being our "interview partner" tonight. Don´t worry, i´ll make it short, the other guys here will ask enough questions about ArcheAge
1. A few months ago the german ArcheAge community ArcheAge-Online.de held the community event "A letter to Trion Worlds". Some of the letters were handed over to your ArcheAge team at the E3, the complete collection was sent to you by air-mail from Germany. At the time the event happened you didn´t work for Trion Worlds I just wanted to know: Did you ever get these letters?
2. More an invitation: If you´d like i invite you to be my guest in my Let´s Play series, some chatting and chiling in the sun of Ark included. We can do this in english language of course
Haha - Thanks, Fido
1. Was gone for quite a while. Didn't know about them - I clearly need to find out what happened to them!
2. Would love to once life gets back to some semblance of a more calm pattern, as I also mentioned to another gentleman earlier in the thread. Definitely better for both of us that it would be in english!
Repeating information about ArcheAge's unknown release date...
Hi Scott I wanted to thank you for being our guest tonight.
Now for my question the last news I heard about the release date for Archeage was the end of this year beginning of next. Is there anyway you can give use a more concrete release date?
Thanks! Good to be here.
Addressed the release process and how we go about determining the dates each step of the way in another reply - Hope that answer works for you!
Thanks to Dengar for the shout-out!
First off, glad to be participating in this! I met you once at a gaming convention when some other reporter was talking to you about WoW having such an advantage over RIFT, you mentioning how proud you were of your team, and I kinda stepped in, not immediately recognizing you, saying that I felt like WoW just had the time advantage and that I honestly felt it was Blizzard that was having to catch up to you guys. You just turned to me and said, "Let me shake your hand" and it totally hit me who you were. I was super embarrassed at the time, but obviously it's a memory for me.
Anyway, big ArcheAge fan here. I was wondering though, if Trion would give any preferred treatment to a certain fansite that's been the center of ArcheAge news since before you guys signed up to localize it. I know they've got a lot of experience with the game in at least Korean, and some of them have played several versions of the game too. Would bringing them in to test before closed beta to the general public perhaps help speed up the game's development and localization?
Hahaha - Hey! Good to run into you again.
Yes, we expect to be working increasingly closely with dedicated fansites and their communities. Feedback from the most knowledgeable people, and working it into the development process, is something we strive to do wherever possible.
Has Scott played ArcheAge? Yes, he has.
Scott, i've got a personal question to you:
Which games are you playing in private?
Have you already play ArcheAge?
I started playing Defiance when I came back to Trion a couple months ago, for fun, not for any official work purpose. The concept of doing massive events in a shooter is really compelling. As a player, I was really thrilled to see the weapon improvements roll out last week.
I checked out FFXIV for a little while - I think they did a fantastic job on their relaunch of that game. It's really great to see someone succeed at a relaunch. Their dev team clearly busted ass, and I'm happy for their success.
The past couple weeks I've been ducking into and out of one of our more off the wall prototypes for both fun and work.
Yes, I've played ArcheAge in korean (with numerous cheat sheets - my korean is profoundly terrible), but it's been a while since I've spent large blocks of time there -- That one's next up on deck for me to dive into at real depth. That will actually begin this weekend.
Regarding where to register for beta...
a 24/7 alpha
Where may i register? ;-)
http://www.archeagegame.com/ for starters, more specific elements to be determined later. I suspect that if it doesn't happen, I'll be getting a mail from you on this site anyway.
Final question answered...
How close would you say we are to a beta for ArcheAge?
1) Quit staring at your computer and go fix the fence!
2) Go ahead and accept the beta invite you got from the 'other' game...
3) Don't get too wrapped up in that new character...
4) Check your email...
Love this question.
Accept beta invites, but don't get too wrapped up in them - But if your fence is broken, you should stop checking your email and fix it.
I hope that helped.
And on that note, it appears to be about two hours past the end of the Q&A time - Thank you all for your questions.
I had fun staying late to answer as many as I could. This was a blast. Looking forward to doing it again!