Philip Blood: There are many factions. For example, the Gargoyles dislike the Tyvens (though the Tyvens love the Gargoyles; go figure). These factional elements affect interaction in the game world.
Player actions change everything; we cannot stress this enough. The entire game design is based around the idea that every player's journey though this game is as different as possible and that their decisions and actions change their experience and the world. You make your choices and live with the consequences. Should you kill that prisoner, let him go, or just turn him in to the authorities? Each choice will lead to a consequence. Players may do whatever they wish, but there are always consequences to their actions. CoS won't stop you from doing evil; do what you want, but be aware that you will pay the price. Is the price worth the action? You decide, just as in real life.
Blood: We do use an icon-based abilities system for combat; however, please note that the Holy Trinity or Tank System or whatever name you use for the typical set roles for players in MMO battles won't work in CoS. We found this system to be old, tired, repetitive, and unrealistic.
Instead, in CoS, everyone does everything. Sure, you can specialize, up to a point. You can be better at some things than others. But a wizard will still have to fight toe to toe at times, and a warrior will still have to heal someone, and a healer will still have to throw spells, etc. Even though we have 1890 abilities, there is no Taunt ability; you cannot make all the monsters attack one person (the tank). The monsters have varying amounts of intelligence. They will decide logically, emotionally, strategically (all depending on their intelligence level and other factors) what they want to do. This means that you will be facing group tactics by your enemies, and no single system (like the Tank System) will work for all situations. Learn, adapt, and outthink your opponents, but you will have to keep evolving your strategies because your opponents will certainly do so. We are writing a full A.I. system for enemies in combat; it is one of the most important parts of CoS.
The game is level- and skill-based. You go up levels, get skill points, and distribute those. You also get study points that you may put into whatever abilities you choose to learn. On top of that, as you practice abilities you have learned, you can get better at them (though there are practical limitations to how fast). So our system uses study and practice to improve your abilities, with no caps or limits. This is true of character levels as well.
Massively: You say that mobs never respawn. Do you then have an organic system for populations to repopulate? Will herds migrate, grow, and diminish dependent on world conditions (such as weather, predators)? When you mention having AI of varying intelligence, is that referring in part to natural AI predators that can roam the wilds culling the herds or will players be the only predators?
Blood: Mobs are monitored in a given area by density. When the density drops below a set value (because players kill some monsters, for example, or some monsters move out of the area on their own), the game will send a new set of monsters and give them an objective to accomplish in that area. The monsters will then travel there and get busy with their objective. We are not talking about animals here. CoS is a quest-driven game. You will not be killing bunnies or rats. You will be killing monsters, enemies, soldiers, etc. They always have an objective, and killing them always matters -- it changes the way the world history unfolds. Remember, tomorrow is not a repeat of today in CoS; it is really the next day in history, and things will change.
Blood: Well, we are going to run some alpha tests with players, but the date for that is in flux. We are running a Kickstarter program that started on October 9th. Simply put, the more funding we get from Kickstarter, the sooner (to a point) we will reach alpha, but we will reach alpha, no matter what. Kickstarter will just change how soon we get there. When we reach alpha, people who helped us get there (this includes Kickstarter donators) will be among our alpha testers.
But Kickstarter is just one means of getting funding. We are currently meeting with publishers and investors to get the funding we need to take the game from alpha to beta, and eventually, gold. We did not do this previously because of a simple fact: This game is too new, too innovative, for publishers and investors to risk their money before we reached alpha. We had to prove it could be done (and have done so, thank you).
Massively: What features of the game are you personally most excited about?
Blood: This where I am about to wax on indefinitely, but I'll try to keep it to a minimum, which won't be easy!
Quests: Forget what comes to your mind in MMOs when you see that word. Those aren't quests; those are grocery lists, like "fetch me five ogre noses." None of that in CoS! Every quest is a grand adventure, written by a novel-quality writer, and each one starts out simply but turns into a massive story that culminates in a grand climax. Even more exciting than that, they aren't the same for each player. Each version of that story unfolds differently in each Reflected World. These changes are based on that particular player's history, current situation, and choices. It is altered and changed to fit into that player's personal story, so no other player will experience it quite the same way. It's your personal story
Living World: In CoS, the gameworld does not reset to the same day. Every day is a new day, with the world changing through time. NPC live their own lives, doing what they want to do when they want to do it. Every tree and bush continues to grow. Kingdoms come and go, battle lines change, towns burn to the ground and are rebuilt or become ruins. Factions change, NPCs die (and stay dead), seasons change, events transpire, and the world continues to evolve, every day. You can't come into a town you were in yesterday and expect it to be the same today. The shopkeepers might have been taken over by Infestlings, and now they are acting somewhat normal but are trying to lure you to your doom. Monsters are on the move, with actual objectives to achieve; they aren't standing around waiting to aggro on a player. Your enemies are actively hunting you, setting traps, and going after the same things you are. This is a dangerous living place, so beware.
Gameplay choice is another exciting element. You can go on an epic quest or group mission that takes weeks, but you can also take on a one-night League Action or go on an expedition to dig up ancient artifacts. You can run into an adventure, right in the middle of what you are doing, and get involved. You can deal with a crisis or go monster trapping. If you want to hunt down that evil bastard that robbed you, go bounty hunting. There are also minigames.
If none of that is your cup of tea today, and you want cooperative play, go into a Community Reflected World and join a bunch of other groups and take on a big objective or join a campaign with lots of players together or do an incursion into enemy territory to see how far and how much you can hold for how long. CoS offers many choices of gameplay, something for every mood. We hang our hat on gameplay, and this game is chock-full of endless fun.
Massively: Is there anything else you'd like folks to know about your game?
Blood: Many things, but I can go on about CoS forever. We could go into mapping or the way we deal with realistic tracking of your enemies. We could talk about how you can create your own character classes and get any of the 1890 abilities or some of the 120 super-powerful uber abilities. Or we could talk about how our death system keeps life interesting. We could talk about guild towns and villages and competitions. And we could talk about how CoS has no endgame because there is no end to advancing your character or going on quests. There are whole chapters of game design we haven't talked about in any depth, but this interview can only be so long.
Let's leave you with this thought: In the end no player will ever see an entire Reflected World, not in one lifetime. This world is too big to ever explore completely, and the game will keep evolving within that world. We look forward to sharing an adventure with all of you in Citadel of Sorcery.
Thanks so much for your time, Phil!