Class Design in Trove

After you’ve played one or two MMOs, class design starts to grow stale. Across the board I’ve seen very little innovation with regard to how classes play from one game to the next. While I love the combat in The Secret World, it illustrates this quite well. Yes, there are a number of different weapons all of which can be used in combination with one another but the underlying principle is the same—use ability X to build resource Y, spend resource Y on ability Z. In nearly every MMO there are classes that use mana (a full pool of resources that depletes on use), energy (a resource that regenerates on its own) and rage (a resource generated from attacking a target) and variations on those ideas but none all too different from what’s gone before them. That’s why I enjoy the class design in Trove so much, there are genuinely unique ideas at play.

Take the Chloromancer for example. The class places two types of plants (turrets) on the ground and must “grow” them with its main attack that functions as a damage ability and a heal depending on the target. Once full grown, the turrets either create a persistent damage field or explode healing allies and damaging foes. Planting requires the use of an energy pool but the main attack does not. In a way the class feels like you’re creating an environment of damage for the enemy rather than directly damaging the mobs yourself.

The Tomb Raiser is another unique class, this one focused on pets. This class can spawn up to six tiny skeletons that can then be merged into one giant creature. The more you merge, the greater the giant. However all the pets lose health over time in addition to taking damage from the mobs they are attacking. To counter this, the Tomb Raiser has a simple attack that can heal as well as a much more efficient aoe attack that heals and does damage but depletes energy quickly.

To add a little interest to class playstyle, Trion introduced last year what they call emblems that connect to your healing flasks that cause an additional affect every time you use a flask like increased damage, defense, or energy regen. So with the Tomb Raiser, I use an emblem that completely refills my energy pool every time I use a health potion so that I can indefinitely use energy to heal my minions and keep them alive until I can make the combined behemoth out of all six.

20160313161206_1

“I’m Waffle Man.”

 

Some creative elements are small, but effective like the Boomeranger for example. This class can use either a sword or a bow and has a boomerang as a secondary ability with a cooldown. Whenever you hit a target with the boomerang and catch it on the return all of your CDs are shortened, including two types of bombs you can throw (one with a random chance to spawn chickens!) The Candy Barbarian is another favorite of mine. The idea is simple but still unique; successful hits have a chance of spawning candy that increases the speed of attack. Then there is the Dracolyte, which drops bombs that must be damaged with the class’ main attack to go off. Just about every class in the game does something unexpected or unique and this with only four active and one passive ability each.

Trove didn’t get a lot of attention from the wider world of MMOs prior to its successful launch on Steam, but it should have. If there’s something that other MMO developers can learn from Trion with regard to bringing fresh ideas to an all too often stale genre, it’s in class design. If you’re tired of the same old mechanics and can look past the childish, voxel graphics there’s a lot of new combat mechanics to play around with in Trove.

Advertisements

Trove: Still a Fantastic Game

Not long ago Trion announced that any players who hadn’t logged in to Trove since August 1st would lose their names if they didn’t log in before March 7th. What’s more, there were also goodies in store for those who did log in before that date. I of course completely forgot the deadline but remembered I needed to log on and finally did on Saturday this past weekend. I guess I’ve at least logged in since August because my name was not forfeit and I ended up playing for several hours over the weekend. The game is still just as fun as ever, even more so I would imagine as I have yet to try many of the additions introduced since last I played.

What I have done since I stopped playing was log back in every time Trion introduced a new class to the game so that I could purchase the class with either cubits or one of the free class coins I had amassed. The last one I bought was the Chloromancer, one I could have received for free but I wasn’t interested in downloading Rift just for that so I used cubits instead. When I logged in on Saturday I decided to try out the new class I purchased but never played.

One of the first things I noticed is that the zones were no longer separated by levels but rather by something called “Power Rank.” When opening up my character sheet I realized they had removed the way gear and class level interacted. Before, you had a base level earned through XP like a traditional MMO but then additional levels added to that depending on gear. So my Dracolyte was base level 20 but 32 with gear. Now the Power Rank takes the place of those additional, gear dependent levels.

20160312225527_1

The Chloromancer

 

The class itself was a lot of fun. The Chloromancer has two types of plants that it can place on the ground, both of which must “grow” either naturally (which is quite slow) or at a faster rate from your main attack that also functions as a heal for allies. The first plant you can place does area damage wherever it is located. You can place several on the ground at once creating a garden of death once they all come to full bloom. I found I had to kite the mobs around in a circle so that they would stay in my death bed of roses. The second plant you unlock will explode once it has fully grown healing allies and damaging enemies caught in the blast. The final skill has the Chloromancer tossing out a barrage of both types of plants.

Because Trove is having a double XP event (I think until the expansion?), I leveled the Chloromancer quickly, reaching level 10 within 20-30 minutes. This was partly due to the fact that the new power rank system allowed me to enter higher level zones than I otherwise would have been able to before due to the stat bonuses applied to my character from my mastery rank. The downside was that it was easy to enter a zone way too difficult for my gear level. After level 10 I switched over to my favorite class, the Tomb Raiser, who has been perpetually stuck at level 19 since I stopped playing regularly. Within another 30-40 minutes I was able to get him to level 20 making him my second at the cap. Later on this weekend I logged back in and got the rest of the classes up to at least level ten including the ice sage, revenant, bommeranger, lunar lancer, and the pirate captain.

20160312234255_1

Play it cool, Frosty. We’re getting out of this joint.

 

Not everything in Trove was a welcome return however. In the brief time that I played, I noticed that chat was absolutely horrible and I eventually turned global chat off. In all my time during beta I never once saw anything approaching the typical MMO chat standard of vulgarity, toxicity, and prejudice. Now, the game seems to have attracted the same crowd as every other MMO. And it’s a shame too because this was the game I wanted to play with my son once we got a second PC. We still might but I will definitely be disabling global for him just as I did for myself.

I don’t know how much more time I’ll spend in Trove (at least a few weeks?) but it’s good to know the game is still alive and kicking and still just as fun. It’s unfortunate to see how the Steam crowd (yes, I’m blaming Steam) has degraded what was once a friendly community but I’m sure bastions of humanity exist somewhere in the game if one only knows where to find them. However the game is still beautiful, the new classes are well designed with unique themes and abilities, and jumping 40 times in a row is still just satisfying as it ever was. With an expansion just around the corner, it’s a good time to get back in to Trove.

20160312234830_1

But my princess was in another castle 😦

MMOs of 2015: Trove

Continuing with my review of the significant titles I played in 2015 is Trove. This game launched in June of last year but my time playing began much earlier than that, during the beta. I first discovered Trove in 2014 but it had yet to reach a point of being “feature complete” enough for it to catch my attention. However during the spring and early summer of 2015 it was one of the only MMOs I was regularly playing. I wrote several blog posts at the time out of a sincere love of the game and a desire to see more people give it a try. Trove was (and still is) a game that many in the MMO community simply wrote off as a Minecraft clone; I know I certainly did. It had also had the stain of ArcheAge on Trion going against it as well with everyone assuming it was a knock-off cash grab rather than the unique and clever title that it was.

2015-05-31 200015

 

Initially I saw Trove as a convenient title to play in short bursts as a secondary or tertiary MMO, similarly to how I approached Marvel Heroes. However the game became the one title I was eager to play almost every night during the 2-3 months leading up to launch. There were several reasons I enjoyed playing Trove so much. First of all, it was light weight and that was a nice change of pace. Combat was straight forward yet satisfying, the world was colorful and absurd, and gameplay was perfect for quick sessions; I could jump in and out in thirty minutes or spend hours wandering through the many biomes and dungeons depending on my mood and available time.

The balance between vertical and horizontal progression was also a factor. The Secret World may be the first official game I’ve played that lacks levels but Trove might as well have been. Each procedurally generated world was more or less the same with regard to available content despite increasing in difficulty every 2-3 levels. So whether I was playing my level 20 Dracolyte or a new class at level 1 I was able to run the same dungeons, farm the same resources, progress the same character, and more or less enjoy the same game. The only major difference was the shadow arenas that didn’t become available until you reached level 10 and entered your first Uber world.

2015-05-13 033015

 

Speaking of Shadow Arenas, one of the other aspects I loved about Trove was the ease with which you could join with others for group content. At first I thought shadow keys were a kind of cash shop controversy waiting to happen until I realized that the speed with which I was able to obtain them was not the limitation I thought it was. Sure, it took a while to earn a new key but once you were in a group if everyone brought a couple you were able to chain run shadow arenas for quite some time. While I did spend money regularly in the cash shop, I never once bought a shadow key. I never upgraded my gear to the highest available tier either but there was little reason to rush that process; there were no raids or difficult group content waiting at the end and requiring the upgrades. They just made life easier and were something to work toward.

Gear progression was another feature that I found compelling in Trove. Having some experience with Blade & Soul as well as Black Desert Online now I see that Trove was not the first to use the concept of consuming old gear to craft better gear but it was the first that I experienced and as such I enjoyed the unique approach. In general I liked that upgrading my gear involved more than just getting the right drop during a dungeon or raid like in other MMOs, but rather it required that I utilize every piece of shadow gear I earned in order to upgrade the set I was using. This made every drop a reward (especially with it all being personal loot) and also utilized the crafting process which personally I wish every game did because of how much I enjoy crafting.

I’m sure there are even more reasons why I was so enamored with Trove, but it wasn’t all perfection. The first sign of my dissatisfaction with the game was when the hourly challenges were introduced along with the dragon mounts. This fundamentally changed the gameplay of Trove late in the beta cycle and for many players (myself included) it was a change for the worst. Every hour on the hour players had 20 minutes to complete as many dungeons as they could. At different tiers you would receive a chest that when opened would grant anything from common to very rare crafting materials. The rare materials were required to eventually earn a dragon mount that with even more resources could be upgraded to an even better flying mount. With fire.

2015-06-18 031131

On paper it sounds great but in reality it turned what was essentially a casual exploratory game into an hourly frenetic race to accumulate as many of the dragon caches as you could. To maximize your rewards you needed to have every class at level 20 with the shadow gear that would allow you into the most difficult instances so that you could maximize the number of dungeons you could compete. And the drop rate on the materials required to obtain a dragon were abysmal. I don’t remember all the details but I believe you needed something like 30 to earn the mount and after opening a hundred caches—something that with my gear and class levels took a couple of weeks—I had a total of two. There was no incentive to keep doing the content, no incentive to buy the caches on the cash shop ($20 for 50 cache with the hope of getting a single rare material? No thanks), and a lot of frustration with how the feel of the game so drastically changed.

However despite my own disappointment with this direction I was excited for launch. A new pet class was being released, the Tomb Raiser, and I was excited to get my hands on it. I even spent the twenty bucks to get the special Tomb Raiser pack with two extra mounts and costumes. Unfortunately when launch day came I couldn’t actually play. I began to understand the bitterness some MMO players feel toward the “tourists” because here was this game that I had been playing happily for months when nobody else cared, many people having played far longer than that, and I had no access to the game or the class I paid for. This went on for at least a week or two; either the queue time was longer than I was willing to wait or the servers were down during the time I was able to play. I think I had a week or two of free patron service and got maybe three days out of it.

2015-06-10 035640

Without access to Trove I started paying Star Wars: The Old Republic again. Once the servers were more accessible I continued to play off and on but I never went back to viewing Trove as my main MMO. Like FFXIV though, I think the fact that it was so easy to walk away and start playing something else because of two weeks of downtime illustrates the fact that it was never going to be a game I played that intensely for years. I still think Trove is an incredibly well designed game and I return every now and again to pick up the new class and give it a try (although with the changes to how classes are obtained, even that won’t be happening any more). And if we ever get a second PC so that I can play with my kids then I might pick it back up again but for now it’s relegated to the category of “every once in a while” and will likely never be more than that.

Next time I’ll be taking a look at my experiences with Star Wars: The Old Republic, the game I not only played the most during 2015 but also one that I played for more consecutive months than any other MMO besides World of Warcraft.