GDC Online 2012: Age of Wushu's wide-open world

Justin Olivetti
J. Olivetti|10.10.12

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GDC Online 2012: Age of Wushu's wide-open world
GDC Online 2012 Age of Wushu interview
There are two thoughts that most people have when coming across Age of Wushu. The first is, boy that looks pretty. The second is, but is it just another forgettable Asian grindfest with a glossy coat of paint?

Snail Games Associate Producer Colin Miller agrees with the first but not the second. At GDC Online, Miller sat down with us to pitch why Age of Wushu deserves your full, undivided attention -- and eventual patronage.

Age of Wushu is a martial arts sandbox MMO that takes place in gorgeous ancient China. If you've ever seen a period piece from that country, you already know how graceful these stylized fights can be; now you'll see them in an online game. Developed in China, Age of Wushu is ready to stun Western audiences with the help of Snail Games and its crack dev team.

GDC Online 2012 Age of Wushu interview
Choose your path wisely, young grasshopper

Players begin their journey in Age of Wushu by picking a martial arts path, and then they follow that up by heading out into the world for fame, fortune, or mere enlightenment. Combat's handled with a standard targeting system augmented by player-bound AoE attacks.

While most of the martial arts schools are hand-to-hand (with one range-specific class), Miller says that it's not as basic as getting up in someone's face and staying there. He describes the martial arts as "melee fusion," using various attacks and moves to either draw in opponents or close the gap quickly. "Your character is always moving," he noted.

It starts to get interesting, however, when you acquire new "flying" skills out in the game world. For example, you may defeat a boss who drops a scroll that lets you run up walls in classic Chinese martial arts movie style. Another possible option is double-jumping in the air.

You won't just be attacking computer drones, either. Age of Wushu is primarily centered around PvP, with a few safe zones surrounded by seas of open opportunity.

If you're worried about out-of-control player-killers, Miller said that there's a system in place that will start putting pressure on notorious PvPers. "It's PvP with consequences," he said. "You can even be executed by NPCs if your notoriety level is high enough, and you'll get a massive 24-hour debuff after that. You also have the option to put a bounty on someone's head."

Life in ancient China

It's not all flying combat and ganking. Crafters have a special invitation to come in and see what the game has to offer. There is blacksmithing, tailoring, lumberjacking, cooking, fishing, and more. You can choose two production skills and three gathering skills. Crafters can even go head-to-head against each other for prizes and experience.

Snail Games says that the economy is one of the bigger parts of the game. There are several little auction houses represented by NPCs in stalls (or offline characters in stalls). Players will really need to depend on each other. For example, there is no food in the game except what chefs make, and without food, players will find their hitpoints slowly dropping.

When you're offline, your character remains in the game and goes about his or her business. Others might see your avatar sweeping stalls or chopping down trees until you come back for more. It doesn't mean you're safe; the game will give quests for others to kidnap you (or other offline characters) and then bring you to interesting new locales.

You can also pick up what are called "life skills"; they allow you to engage in several mini-systems, such as mastering board games and playing music.

GDC Online 2012 Age of Wushu interview
Bringing the east to the west

One of Snail Games' biggest duties in bringing Age of Wushu overseas is tackling its localization. Miller said that this was a huge job, covering everything from menus to the user interface. However, the toughest part of localization, according to him, was the quests.

"It's a difficult translation sometimes, Chinese to English," Miller said. "For games like MMOs, it's super-important to get these things right." Word-to-word translations don't always convey the same message; "quest complete" when translated from Chinese turned into "can be submitted" in English.

Miller said that the team is keeping the cash shop reasonable. It will offer only cosmetic options and faster travel, although if you pay for a VIP access, you'll be able to level faster as well.

Easy on the eyes and your computer

Age of Wushu is pretty forgiving in regard to computer hardware, although we weren't able to get precise specs. Miller told us that it runs fine on a laptop, although if you have a beefier machine, you can crank up the visuals for those jaw-dropping vistas.

Age of Wushu is scheduled to head into beta next month and is offering special deals for players who want to get in on the ground floor and secure a few goodies. We shared a concern with Miller that several players are reporting that Snail Games has not sent out a confirmation after the players pre-purchased the title. Miller said that this was an "extreme concern" to the team, explaining that these purchases went through, but the website glitched and returned an error message to the players. The team fixed it and is working hard to send out individual confirmation emails to affected users.

Massively sent two plucky game journalists -- Beau Hindman and Karen Bryan -- to Austin, Texas, for this year's GDC Online, where they'll be reporting back on MMO trends, community theory, old favorites, and new classics. Stay tuned for even more highlights from the show!
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