Making games is pretty awesome. Making games that help kids in hospitals is even more awesome. This past April, Trion Worlds put together a digital bundle of original creations for their game, Trove, to raise money for Extra Life. The Extra Life Bundle was released on the Trove in-game store for $20 with 50% of the proceeds going to Extra Life. In total, the bundle wound up raising $40,000 for Extra Life and Children's Miracle Network Hospitals.
The robust bundle of digital animals, items, and dragons was designed with the help of the Trove community. The in-game collection included six allies (a griffon, corgi, panda, tree frog, dragonfly, and paper crane), four mounts (a platypus, a corgi named Guinness, a bulldog named Rowdy, and a centaur), twelve new styles of equipment, and two dragon eggs that unlock Yorinn the Dusk Shadow and Erel the Ironbolt. I don't know about anyone else, but dragons are pretty freaking cool.
How exactly was this all thrown together into an awesome package? What kind of work goes into making a digital bundle for a game like Trove? I sat down with Andrew Krausnick, Trove’s executive producer, and Jordan Rosenbaum, Trion Worlds’ associate brand director, to learn how they brought Extra Life into Trove.
“We’ve done Extra Life for a number of years here [at Trion Worlds]," said Andrew Krausnick as we began our conversation. 2016 will be Trove's second year raising money for Extra Life. Last year the team sprinkled Extra Life-inspired creations throughout the world for players to interact with as a promotional event during Game Day. This year has been a bit different.
The Trove team decided to try something new for 2016. They approached Kumar "Atronos" Daryanani, their lead content designer and huge proponent of Extra Life, with a suggestion to present the Trove community a chance to help design new creatures and stuff for the Extra Life Bundle. Daryanani took that idea and ran with it, streaming his work as he got busy creating rough versions of the assets that would become the bundle. As he streamed, community members watching could donate to the team and the size of their donations would determine the size of the things Daryanani created.
Obviously, the process to create usable assets for Trove took longer than one stream from the lead content designer. “We can’t do it all in a day, even though [our designers are] pretty quick. We spent about a couple weeks adding VFX, additional polish, additional audio, all that good stuff, before we launched the bundle. And just the sheer volume of stuff is… it was huge,” explained Krausnick. “That’s two weeks we don’t spend making other things. Everything we put in the game officially, we want to make it worth it, right?”
For those who have never played Trove, it’s a free-to-play, open world crafting game, similar to Minecraft, but based on voxel rendering as opposed to pixel rendering. The voxel visuals lead to a distinct visual style and allow for a greater degree of flexibility in designing new in-game content. “For a lot of video games it can take a very long time to make content and put it in [the game world]. There is this super long pipeline.” Krausnick elaborated, “But we are a creative voxel game […], the whole game engine is built around the creation of new creative assets for Trove, and our community often contributes to that process. We just designed the game so that it can be expanded in interesting ways. We love finding reasons to go deep on [collaborative creation] and Extra Life is one of those reasons.”
When I asked what the most popular kinds of things the team has created in Trove, Krausnick and Rosenbaum laughed, “I would say there are two things our players really love. One is dragons. They always love dragons. I cannot explain or stress enough how much that is true,” Krausnick chuckled.
The other thing Trove players love: Pets. Trove's pets are adorable or cool looking creatures that sometimes confer additional powers on their masters. For the bundle this year, a hefty amount of time was spent crafting entirely new animations for the pets the development team created for Trove. “People wanted like a bulldog or [a platypus,] different kinds of these pets,” Krausnick stated. “We actually ended up making new animation rigs for those. That was fun because we get to use them on other things that we can add to the game in the future. It was a chance to get some input there, make some new stuff, and let the animators stretch their legs.”
Trion Worlds' participation in Extra Life has largely been driven by awesome members of the Extra Life community within the company pushing for bigger and cooler partnership opportunities. “The impetus to do Extra Life came from individuals working at Trion and that’s how we choose to do a lot of our projects,” said Krausnick, “People have a passion for something, and they get the opportunity. They make a pitch and get the chance to promote it, push it, and make it an official event.”
However, the Extra Life Bundle isn’t the end of Trion Worlds’ fundraising efforts for Extra Life. Game Day is still coming on November 5th and their team has a goal of $100,000. For the company, Extra Life has become something on everyone’s radar for at least one day a year. “It has gotten to the point where each development team puts together their own promotion for 24-hours of fun to support Extra Life,” stated Krausnick.
Each game, Rift, ArcheAge, Trove, has their own audience and now have their own, day-long community events when it comes time for Extra Life’s 24-hour gaming marathon. Trove specifically has learned from past years of streaming and their next step will be applying that experience to craft bigger and better events. “We are actually going to try this year to build up more hype towards the big day. We are starting this process of taking community feedback, creating assets, building up our team, and then making an even bigger event on Game Day itself.”
Concluding our time together, Krausnick shared some words to which I think we can all relate to our own Extra Life experiences:
We want to make the Extra Life event the biggest thing we possibly can. We want people to be excited for a variety of reasons. Supporting a good cause, getting cool stuff into the game, and hanging out with friends; the whole thing. We want to make sure that we keep growing that hype every year and figuring out how to dial that up to the next level.
Let's all figure out how to do better and make helping children the biggest thing we possibly can!
A huge thank you to Trion Worlds for taking the time to chat and for the amazing fundraising campaign they ran with the Extra Life Bundle in Trove. Here is hoping the Trion Worlds' team can reach their $100,000 goal for this year!
Trove is currently available on PC and will be coming to PlayStation 4 and Xbox One later this year.