Back then, Burning Dog Media made the bold statement that it would absolutely release its flagship game in 2012, with a target of early 2012 to boot. But as the first quarter of the year quickly drew to a close with scant information available, it became pretty clear the game is still a ways off. In the realm of games, no news is not necessarily good news... and we definitely hit a drought in news.
Now that drought has ended. In our second exclusive interview, we spoke with Michael Dunham, Producer, Jason Mitchell, Senior Developer, and Dave Cruikshank, Art Director, to learn what's been going on behind the scenes and get the scoop on more details about those very features that have sandbox lovers salivating.
The short answer is that it changed platforms. Mid-development. Yah, ouch. But pain can be a good thing. While what the devs were originally building with was great, the developers made the difficult decision to switch in order to better meet their vision. In essence, that meant the team had to throw its nose to the grindstone to make up lost ground. And while the change set development back by a significant chunk (see lack of release early 2012), it will benefit the game -- and eager players -- in the long run.
Now all that work has paid off and the team is ready to start shelling out information. To start the (hopeful) deluge of news, we have some details about factions, housing, crafting, and the economy.
Why such a major change? Because the developers wanted, as Mike stated, "organic dynamic growth for the actual factions." Think about it -- static does not equal sandbox. Forget being shoehorned into something the developers dictate; players can establish their own reasons for banding together, forge their own ideals, and build their own influence. And yes, they will be able to conquer each other, but more on that later.
Personally, the thought of losing that "safe zone" where you could avoid PvP was disappointing. I like a good fight as well as the next person, but some days, I really don't want to mess with it for whatever reason. Luckily, the change in the faction system only changed this feature rather than eradicated it. Although PvP will be open in faction areas, there will also be neutral areas owned by no factions. Neutral players can wander out in the wilds and be safe unless they initiate an attack on another and neutral factions can be developed for trade. Small PvE guilds can exist without PvP if they choose; they are neutral by default. This will prevent larger factions from steamrolling small groups and chasing them out of game. However, if a guild grows too much, it will have to make a choice.
Even with the change in factions, the previously mentioned bounty system will still have a place in game, and there is still a plan for the deserters.
How do you create factions? Jason answered thus: Create a guild of guilds. First, a group builds a guild. Guilds will start with their own binding area where they can build their base of operations (just wait till you hear about the building!). The guild can progress and level, reaching the point that it can build alliances and establish rivalries. Eventually, multiple allied guilds can form the mega-guild/faction. The faction itself will also be able to progress and level. The lands of all included guilds becomes the faction's territory (hence the political map can change, making a safe territory one day a dangerous one the next!). The idea is to promote player-driven major conflicts and wars.
Why fight? There are myriad reasons, not the least of which being to take over an established town, strip resources, obtain a tactical advantage, and plunder crops (guilds will be able to generate resources by planting crops). If one faction gets too domineering? Well, hello rebel uprising! And if someone builds a really awesome guild hall, why not take just it for yourself? Thankfully, guilds of a certain level will be able to hire NPC guards and build turrets to protect their land.
- The configuration skill set focuses on the physical items themselves, such as how they look, how much they weigh, and their rotation and slope. The size, color, tint, and even material can be changed depending on skill level.
- The sky builder skill set is about building temporary objects in the sky. These structures can be used to facilitate travel (like a bridge over gorge), provide tactical advantages (get into an enemy base), or even be booby traps.
- The next skill set is material collection, affectionately called garbage-picking for now. Here, items are scavenged from ruins and such to be used as raw materials. One key skill here is that players will be able to aggressively strip materials from structures.
- The final skill set is replication. This skill set allows players to take essences and build walls as well as make the occasional prefabricated item, turrets for protection, weapons, and even portable vendors.
First off, since the game uses a skill-based system with caps instead of class-based system, everyone has the opportunity to craft, but no one person can be the master of everything. While anyone can craft, quality and abilities will be dictated by where skill points are placed. Crafters will not be able to become totally self-sufficient. With the caps, players will even find that at some point they will have to untrain skills in order to train others up. Personally, I like how this will help foster interdependence, a key component in community building and a player-driven economy.
Speaking of economy, I can report that there will be portable vendors that players use instead of universal auction houses for buying and selling goods! Mike emphasized that "We wanna promote trade... we want people to have to go out and know who sells what; people have to talk to each other." Another thing preventing players from being self-sufficient is the loot drop system. Mobs will drop random components, not gear. As Mike so eloquently puts it, "No swords from squirrels' butts!" Woo! It appears that in-game items will be crafted by players.
Every two weeks, Jef Reahard and MJ Guthrie take a break from their themepark day jobs to delve into the world of player-generated content. Comments, suggestions, and coverage ideas are welcome, and Some Assembly Required is always looking for players who'd like to show off their MMO creativity. Contact us!