Massively exclusive interview: Dawntide's Martin "Wiz" Anward

The hype-machine for Working as Intended's incoming MMO, Dawntide, resumed at the end of May with the announcement of the start of open beta. Dawntide promises to be a skill-based, open-PvP sandbox a la Shadowbane or Darkfall, with territory to claim, castles to build, sieges to undertake, and boats to navigate waterways usually neglected in other games. And though the game isn't quite finished structurally, we have to agree that what's done is beautiful, and what's planned is ambitious. Might this be the ultra-realistic, survival-of-the-fittest sandbox you're looking for?

We were fortunate to score an interview with Working as Intended's CEO, Martin Anward, who gave us an inside look at Dawntide's development and his team's plans for the future. Join us past the break as we ask him about boats, crafting, boats, death penalties, boats, ganking, boats, FOTM builds, boats, and boats!
Massively: Dawntide's been a bit quiet since last fall, but now that the game has a new CEO, Martin Anward, development seems to be picking up again; open beta is now underway, after a brief delay. What were the issues prompting both the (apparent) lapse in publicity and the delay of beta, and have they been fully resolved? How long can players expect open beta to last, and when is the projected release date? Have the team settled upon a subscription model?

Martin Anward, CEO: First a small clarification: I've been the CEO of the company since its founding; I've simply taken over some areas that our producer, Christian Hummeluhr, was previously handling. The lapse in publicity was a result of us shifting our resources away from publicity and into internal development, so that we could finish up the things we wanted before open beta. We expect open beta to last several months at the very least, but currently have no scheduled release date. For our subscription model, Dawntide will be free to start playing, but with a monthly charge, and discounts for longer commitment periods (three or six months). We also plan to offer a "lifetime subscription" alternative with a one-time charge for unlimited play on an account.

Lawless, open-PvP territories in sandbox games like UO and EVE often make for largely deserted zones filled with miscreants looking for hapless crafters to prey upon. This tends to generate gameplay oriented around and controlled by large power-guilds, leaving small guilds and casual players in the dust, with no stake in the world. How does WAI intend to address that destructive cycle in Dawntide and retain those players? How viable and competitive is home construction and gameplay in the national and border territories, for people who just want to chop wood without being murdered?

The national areas in Dawntide are intended for players to be able to learn the game and pick up their trades in peace, while the real game takes place in the lawless areas. A person who simply wants to chop wood in safety can do so, but he will never be able to get at the types of wood that other players really covet. We have two approaches to ensuring that the game does not become dominated by griefers outside of the national territories. The first is the principle that it should take equal effort to destroy something as it takes to build it. This means that a house which has taken days to build can't just be destroyed by a bored player with time on his hands; rather it takes the construction of siege machinery and the ability to overcome the defenses of the settlement the building belongs to. The second is to allow for complex diplomacy between factions, so that small factions can ally with larger factions for protection from their enemies in exchange for resources, trade, or whatever price is agreed upon between the factions. This gives players an alternative to simply joining a large faction and adds a new dimension to in-game politics.

The website notes that items you carry remain with your corpse when you die. Anyone can wander by and loot all your gear, correct? Will the game "flag" corpse looters so you know "who done ya wrong" like in UO, or will players utilize some other mechanism for declaring certain players outlaws in their territories? How is death and corpse retrieval itself handled -- must you run back to your body as a ghost? Do your items decay if you don't make it back to your body after a set period of time? Do you pay any other penalties, like repair costs? In other words, how devastating is death?

When you die, you are resurrected at the nearest respawn point rather than becoming a ghost, and will have to make your way back to your corpse if you want to recover your items. Additionally, your "health" (which determines your maximum hit points) is reduced by 10% and will recover only slowly over time. Looting corpses depends entirely on the area of the game you're in. Inside national territories, players cannot loot each others' corpses, though there's nothing preventing a monster from helping itself to some of your treasure after you die. Outside of national territories, the effects of looting depend on the laws of the area; looting may be legal or illegal, and the recourses you have against someone who looted you vary. One of the mechanics we make use of is called a "feud" -- this is when a player transgresses against the member of a faction and that faction in response can call a feud, allowing any member of the faction or its allies to attack the target of the feud for a set time period (and be attacked in return).

You mentioned in our interview last year that Dawntide draws from UO and SWG when it comes to crafting -- in fact, the economy is even more player-based than theirs. What about the actual resource gathering process -- is that the true bottleneck? Will we see machinery for harvesting materials while the player is away (like in SWG), or will all resources need to be collected by hand in real-time (like UO, and most other major games)? Is the same true of production -- will all items be crafted individually, by hand, or will there be a mass-production system more like SWG and EVE?

Most resources in Dawntide are gathered by the player, but players can build certain buildings, such as the mining shack, which will exploit and gather nearby resources automatically. Automated gathering is always going to be substantially slower than manual gathering, however. We presently have no plans for automated production, though the game's crafting interface features the ability to create a large number of the same item with a single click, rather than having to click for each individual crafting attempt.

We understand that Dawntide's character development will center on a set of 50 skills that improve through use, rather on an experience-based leveling system. To date, no game has managed to truly balance a skill-based system, even though players seem to love such systems anyway. How does WAI intend to tackle the balance problem, especially in a PvP-centric game? Can players unlearn old skills and relearn new ones to meet the flavor-of-the-month builds? Is it possible to roleplay a support character who is just a crafter or diplomat, without accruing fighting-related skills? Is WAI still considering a one-character-per-account rule, or will skills be capped per player in some other way?

Dawntide gives player complete control over their skills. Skills can be locked and dropped, allowing players to try out, swap and manage their skills. Foregoing combat skills for profession skills entirely is very much an option in Dawntide, and will allow you to specialize in profession skills in ways that a mixed character cannot. We're still considering the option of restricting accounts to one character, but have yet to make a final decision on the matter.

Sailing is one of those things that players love, but few fantasy MMOs since UO have actually delivered. Can we assume that player territories with water borders will need navies to protect those borders -- from player pirates and from NPCs? Will boat travel (like mount travel) occur in real time? Will realism (like the weather we saw glimpses of in Dawntide's preview video) have any effect on sailing? Can your ship ever be permanently destroyed by monsters or players?

Given that the world of Dawntide is largely water and that no means of teleportation exists, ships and navies will play a vital role in moving players and goods through the game. If you want to build a city on an island, ships are needed to get the resources there, and there is no law on the ocean. Boat travel occurs in real time, and we plan to implement a weather and wind system that affects the movement of boats. A ship that is sunk, whether by cannon fire or a sea serpent, is gone forever.

Thanks so very much for your time, Martin!

This article was originally published on Massively.