This weekend, I had a chance to speak with lead developer Joshua Halls, who took the time to walk me through the sandbox MMO and give me an update on what's new and what's still in the works.
As is tradition, I began my hands-on with a look at the character creator. It's got everything you'd expect, like custom sliders, first and last names, and a choice of starter armor. It also gives you the option to select your character's voice, and most importantly, the nation you'd like to be a part of. At the beginning, your two choices are One World One Nation and the Free People's Republic. Later on, you can switch sides or go rogue as a third faction, which adds all sorts of opportunities for intrigue.
I quickly went through the opening tutorial, which is an instanced area that introduces the basics, like the cloning system (death), crafting, and basic combat. Action mode is target-based and puts you into first-person shooter mode, and there are a variety of weapons at your disposal when in combat.
I next looked at the various skills that a player can work on, and that's where things began to get interesting. Players can learn a variety of combat and non-combat skills, and each player can pretty much level up every skill in the game. Progression does slow down as you get higher in skill, which prevents the inevitable gap between veteran and newer players. And Star Wars Galaxies fans will be happy to know that they can pick up the ability to become an Entertainer. As with the SWG class, this skill allows you to master different moves, and if performed successfully, they buff those around you. The more players who join in, the stronger the buff for everyone around.
Another intriguing skill on display was animal handling. Players can tame animals in the wild and then feed and care for them as they grow stronger and aid their masters. There are actually three ways to get pets, and the first is by using your skills to find and tame baby creatures in the wild. You do have to feed them and keep them healthy or they regress, but over time, they'll grow stronger and become powerful aids. The second way is to build robotic pets through crafting. They do require some upkeep, and they can break down, but players can trade or sell these to other players. The last way is through genetic engineering, and if players get the necessary DNA, blood, and hides from corpses they've killed, they can essentially build a new creature a la Dr. Frankenstein.
My next stop was Fort Hudson for a look at engagements. These are random events during which NPCs will begin to spawn and attempt to take over an area. If the NPCs are repelled, players will earn rewards, but depending on the area, if the invaders win, some will eventually reset while others will remain indefinitely. Players who are working to drive away the invaders can be auto grouped, and it's a very inclusive type of gameplay. Another part of the PvE experience is the addition of bosses who can randomly spawn during engagements and out in the open world. The twist is that they have randomly generated abilities, so even if you have faced a particular boss before, he might have completely different attacks and abilities the next time around, forcing you to stay on your toes and be ready for anything. Halls told me that overall, the PvE side of the game is fairly complete and the next focus is on PvP content and siege design in particular.
I got an overview of player-made buildings; there are a few options for players who are interesting in building a place to hang their hat. For individual players, there is instanced housing that's safe from attack. This is also where individual player homes out in the world will go if the town where they're based is attacked or they languish for too long without owner upkeep. Out in the open world, there are three areas where players can purchase plots and build on them. You can build individual house plots or larger cities, but those are potentially under threat. In fact, Halls said that there are four regions, with about 190km in contested terrain inside the game.
Of course, given a world that large, I wanted to know how players would get around quickly. Luckily, players can craft vehicles! Player vehicles can be launched only from garages, but there are also combat vehicles that can be launched anywhere in the world. I got to see a Silver Racer, which is a sleek, two-player hovercraft-type vehicle. With a vehicle like the Silver Racer, passengers are pretty much just that; they can't assist in the control of the vehicle. Combat vehicles, however, seat 5 to 10 players and make use of the fitting system to allow players to upgrade them and add things like extra guns and armor. With combat vehicles, passengers can also help man guns and provide protection while traveling through dicey areas.
As we saw in the recent crafting video, there's a fairly deep system of tradeskilling in The Repopulation. Players can craft a variety of fittings to put into armor, and as mentioned, they can also craft things like pets and vehicles. While armor shells won't deteriorate, fittings will, and players who can craft those fittings are the ones who can repair them. When it comes time to shop your wares, players can use an in-game broker to sell items and request items, but you can also set up your own shops to sell things and bypass the auction fee.
Death and hardcore server
As we wrapped up, Halls talked a bit about the death penalty. It's not intended to be punitive, and the only real penalty is cloning sickness, a debuff. If you die repeatedly within a short time, it can stack and reduce your abilities, but the good news is that it's only temporary. However, there are plans for a hardcore server, and if you die there, your corpse can be fully looted by other players. Because of the increased challenges, there will be some differences to the siege system and item drop rates there, but any safe areas on the normal servers will either be gone or be restricted.
The Repopulation is currently in alpha testing, but the devs are planning to expand beta soon, with a target launch date sometime later in the year. There is currently an Early Adopter program that allows fans to invest early and lock in some nice perks as the game continues to develop.
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