Massively chats Heaven, Hell and destructible churches with Faxion Online

It's been only a short time since Faxion Online launched, and despite some issues with performance and balance, the game is already seeing a strong, dedicated playerbase. Perhaps the PvP-centric world, along with its open, skill-based class system, has encouraged this sort of dedication. UTV Ignition Games is fully aware of the issues that are in the game now and has promised that it's on top of them. The game was created with a smaller team, time frame, and budget than most games that we talk about here on Massively, so it's important to note the growing pains.

How do you divide your time between balance and performance? What do you do, as a developer, when the loudest wheels are squeaking about one issue, while others claim they have no issues at all? These are the quandaries of the smaller developer, especially a developer running a game that obviously offers something different.

We took some time to ask Mike Madden, Director of Product Management, and Frank Lucero, Studio Head, about their concerns as well as what they see happening in the future. So click past the cut to see what they had to say!
So how has the playerbase received game the game so far? Granted, it's only been a few short weeks, but surely the players are already vocalizing their opinions. "There are always those who say a game is never ready, whether the game is in development for five years or 15 months like ours," said Mike Madden. "But we didn't have any server collapses, and the game is still stable. The majority of players are able to play the game at an enjoyable rate."

Frank Lucero seemed to feel the same way. "When we get down to the point of what I call 'opinion problems', like maybe this should be balanced this way or maybe this should be balanced that way, then I'm feeling comfortable. It's not like something is broken. Our server uptime is like 99.9 percent. The players are on the boards complaining about the right things. Although we do have to deal with performance, which is the one that's on our radar right now. But so far, so good."

PvP balance is something of an evil, tentacled beast. How do you balance, especially in a game in which players are constantly finding creative new ways to use the open skill system to play differently? The developers have been addressing that with state of combat posts, showing what players might expect going forward. "We're not going to go off on our own and make changes and then let them see the results," Madden said. "Rather, we'd like to let them know what we see, what we'd like to do, and then ask for that discussion. We don't move too many dials at one time, maybe two or three and see how it settles in."

What about players who might want to jump into PvP right from the beginning? What advice would they give a newbie?

"One thing that has come up on the forums and that we're discussing is that we don't want level 60s coming in and decimating level 10s or 15s who are just trying to get their blades dirty for the first time in PvP."

Lucero expressed concern: "One thing that has come up on the forums and that we're discussing is that we don't want level 60s coming in and decimating level 10s or 15s who are just trying to get their blades dirty for the first time in PvP." Within the next few weeks, he told us, new players will see attempts at fixing the issue. "My advice to new players would be to follow the initial early quest line and learn a little bit about their characters, learn how the multi-class system works, for about the first 10 to 20 levels, and from there venture out and go find some PvP. That's been a tough one for us, because we've had situations where we've set up quest lines early, and people say: I don't wanna do this PvE stuff; I wanna start killing people. But then they get there too soon and don't know how to use their characters or abilities well enough to survive. It's been a fine line to figure out how much PvE a player needs to be able to stand up in PvP."

The developers have added the Shade, a newbie-friendly PvP area for players to get their weapons bloody without too much consequence. They've also optimized the starting quest lines to speed up the leveling and learning process without forcing the player to hoof it around the streets of Purgatory for too long. Monitoring feedback from the forums is a priority, and the playerbase helps fill them in on what might be working... and what might not.

One aspect of Faxion that is often overlooked (or at least isn't talked about enough) is the multiclass system. Essentially, players can make whatever type of characters they would like. If a player would like a healer who can also wield a sword, he can do that.

Mike Madden emphasized the importance of open character creation. "That was the intent all along; instead of going with the traditional class base, we wanted to devise a system that not only lets you make the character you want but is also systematic content. Our experience in Shadowbane showed us that those players will find and fiddle with that system to almost no end. What happens in the end is that players will find a counter to almost everything. If one player turns out with a very powerful build, someone else will come along and figure out a way to stop him."

"If you want to be Gandalf with two swords, why not? The developers want players to be able to make that character if they want."

If you want to be Gandalf with two swords, why not? The developers want players to be able to make that character if they want. Also, a player could pick an initial class based on looks but still build him to act like another. A massive-looking warrior type might turn out to be a powerful healer. There are plans for adding more hair options and customizations, as well. The cash shop already sells some vanity items along with items that will speed up the offline learning process. It turns out to be a pretty successful model, and has "absolutely been validated."

So what can players expect from the game within a few months? No dates were given specifically, of course, but the devs have a pretty detailed list of where they want to go. It's a solid plan six months out, one that is sure to balance new content and optimization on the priority list.

"I can tell you the direction we might be taking and some of the themes we are looking at," said Madden. "One of the first things we want is to increase the guild vs. guild interactions. So we're looking at an inquisition system, where even within the main faction, guilds could go to war. Those wars can carry over into what were once protected areas. We think even the bystanders of that will be encouraged and see some pretty good PvP action within the city and still be protected from it. Beyond that, we're making guilds more like a character, growing thanks to the contributions of its members. How devoted you are to your guild can be proved by donating to your guild, which in turn can be used for guild-wide buffs or levels of advancement."

It's interesting to note that the size of the guild will not matter. Guild activity determines success. This will encourage tight-knit, active guilds over massive ones with many inactive members. These guild upgrades will eventually lead to "Holy Wars" in which guilds can manage, own, destroy, and siege churches -- physical structures in each zone that players will attempt to conquer. The zones were inititally made large enough to include room for these future buildings. Guilds within the same faction will even be able to challenge another guild for its church.

The server will eventually reset the structures, although player characters will always remain. Imagine it as a game of football, something that the development team uses as a prime example of how their game might work. Football, after all, is governed by a set of static rules. However, the game changes when the players get involved. Server resets also give a new sense of hope to guilds or players who might not have made it far enough last time or who might have lost a structure. During the Shadowbane days, there was no busier time than right after a server reset. There are concerns about players losing something that they have invested heavily in, so UTV has decided that while the structure might be lost, the ability to have one is not.

So what has been the biggest complaint about the game so far? "Performance is still the largest complaint," said Lucero, "but the game is the first to launch on this platform. We're bringing some hands on board to help them work through the issues. We're going to get there; we're going to get this thing to run how people expect it to run." How about the biggest compliment? The devs say that would be the players' assertions that the cash shop is not "pay to win" and that the development team has been honest and upfront. "We are players, so we care as much as they do," said Madden.

For the future, he adds that UTV will be hosting events and always adding new fixes and content, but players "better start making their character because you can do offline advancement and come back when those future options come on." The game is free to download and play, so if you want to take him up on his offer, you can at the official site.

We'd like to thank the team at UTV Ignition Games for taking the time to sit with us. It looks like the future is bright in the battle between Heaven and Hell.
This article was originally published on Massively.