SOE Live 2012: An exclusive look at the future of Free Realms

SOE Live 2012  An exclusive look at the future of Free Realms
SOE Live might be over and done, but it wouldn't be complete without news from one of SOE's kid-friendly titles, Free Realms! The game's been around for three years, but it hasn't showed any signs of slowing down. In fact, over the past year, the game has seen new areas, new minigames, and even a special world event in Shrouded Glade.

The dust is still settling in Sunstone Valley, yet the team announced even more new additions coming to the game in the near future. Along with it is a new philosophy aimed at making Free Realms more social and designed around what the players wish to see in game. Free Realms Producer Clint Worley sat down with Massively to give us all the details. Grab a slice of vampire cake and check out the highlights below!

First, Worley talked about some of the recent changes to the game and what went into the decision to add overland mobs out in the world. In short, the devs want to keep everyone engaged; combat was the easiest system to start with. So far, he said, players have actually reacted very well to the changes and are having a lot of fun teaming up to fend off the various threats to Sunstone. However, he added that SOE has plans to make all of Free Realms' content more social. There are some players who enjoy combat, but for each player who enjoys combat, there are players who enjoy decorating, building, and hanging out. Right now, many of the non-combat jobs are isolated because they involve playing solo minigames or hopping into instanced areas. SOE wants to address that and make it possible to team up with other players as you level up your jobs.

He added that the devs do have plans to add overland mobs to older zones, but they're cognizant of the fact that there are some locations that are unofficial social hubs, and they don't want to disrupt that, so they'll take care in choosing locations to populate with mobs.

Player-focused

In addition, SOE is approaching future design with a focus on what the players want. Through the years, developers have learned that while the designers on the team have ideas about what the game should be like, it's really the players who are the driving force behind future design. So far, the devs are getting great feedback on the new content, and they have lots of great ideas and suggestions from the players that they plan to work on down the road.

SOE Live 2012  An exclusive look at the future of Free Realms
Weekly updates

Next, Worley talked about parachuting, the new little game that was added last week. It's available in Seaside, and players can complete a few introductory quests as well as get a 10-use tattered parachute to get started. Players can choose from a variety of permanent parachutes that are available in the cash shop, and there are already builders who have constructed all sorts of fun parachuting courses in their house plots. Worley said that the parachutes are part of a larger plan to add small, weekly updates that will bring new activities or new items. What the designers don't want to do is put their heads down and work on another big update with huge waits in between for players. Fans who have been with the game for a long time love the game, and it's an experience that they're going to come back to. But there are plenty of new players coming every day who don't always stick around. The rapid update schedule should help the game retain the newer players, since there's something new to do each week. Last week it was parachuting, and this coming week it will be the new house walls, floors, and windows.

Ponyvale

Shifting gears, Worley talked about the next big update, which will include Ponyvale, another new area to the world of Free Realms. The developers are still working out all of the details, but their overall goal is to make sure that all of the content and activities take place out in the world. However, these activities are not purely driven on combat; he explained that they're going to work on a cooking mission in which players can craft in their houses or in the overland areas and join up with each other to collaborate. SOE hasn't discussed cutting the current minigames and understand that there are plenty of players who like them, but the team wants to come up with games that are more social. It creates a much more fun and immersive experience, and it gives players incentive to try it out with friends, ask questions, and work together.

SOE Live 2012  An exclusive look at the future of Free Realms
Fans might recall that there was talk about ranching and restauranting. Worley said that right now, those systems aren't up to par, but both are definitely still on the table. His team is currently working out the details about breeding pets through ranching, for example.

Good news for artists and builders

Worley next talked about Player Studio. While Free Realms has a relatively younger playerbase, anyone who wants to submit items for approval will need to be above the age of 18 and will need to be familiar with some of the tools and programs that are needed to make assets. However, SOE also has plans for players to design a house plot, package it up, and then sell or give it to another player, who can then unpack it as-is. That will all be done in game and will use the current UI to allow design, so it will be much more kid-friendly and easy for all to use.

As usual, Free Realms will be in the holiday spirit this season, so as Spooktacular winds down, players can gear up for the return of Snow Days. Overall, the future of Free Realms certainly looks busy, and players can keep an eye on the official site for more specifics down the road.

What happens in Vegas doesn't stay in Vegas, at least where SOE Live is concerned! Massively sent intrepid reporters MJ Guthrie and Karen Bryan to this year's SOE Live, from which they'll be transmitting all the best fan news on PlanetSide 2, EverQuest II, DC Universe Online, and the other MMOs on SOE's roster.

This article was originally published on Massively.