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Some Assembly Required: Citadel of Sorcery interview reveals a dynamic world

MJ Guthrie

When word filtered to us that a new virtual world was in the works with unique features, I said what any other sandbox-loving player would: Yeah ri... er, I mean, "Show me what you've got." And that's exactly what the folks making Citadel of Sorcery did! And they didn't just tease me with a couple of phrases and leave me dangling; they offered a deluge of information about the upcoming game. In fact, they sent me enough to complete five different articles. That's more Some Assembly Requireds than you can shake a stick at.

Not only did I get to learn many facts about Citadel of Sorcery, but in sitting down and talking with Philip Blood, Director of Game Design at MMO Magic, Inc., I also got to experience first-hand the passion that the developers have for their game.

Philip graciously answered a barrage of questions (perhaps part of the reason the interview grew so long!) and helped paint CoS as a game that might satisfy the longing of players who yearn for a vibrant, living world where their choices make a difference. Unlike traditional games, CoS promises a vast world where each player will experience the game in very different ways. In all, the game sounds innovative and exciting. But don't just take my word on it; check out the details for yourself in this in-depth interview.

City of Sorcery pre-alpha screenshot
When Citadel of Sorcery's devs talk about a vast world, they mean truly vast and multiple worlds. Each of the countless Reflective Worlds, all mirrors of the original, is 900,000,000 km2. Because each world developed independently after the shattering according to the lore, each will have different development paths. These lands are so large that a variety of transportation methods will be available, from mounts to flying mounts to tools for extremely fast travel, though even the fastest travel is not instantaneous and players can see the world flying by as they zoome around. This allows players to see the world and pick out places they may want to visit at a later time using conventional methods since faster methods cannot be interrupted mid-flight.

City of Sorcery pre-alpha screenshotReflective Worlds are precisely how players will have such different experiences when playing. For instance, if you happen upon a quest in which you must resolve an issue with a ruler who wants to break away from the rule of the Citadel (the main ruling body), your experience and another player's will never be the same. In one world, the king may be led astray by a minion of the Citadel's enemy, Morphael, whereas in another, the same king is actually himself evil and preparing to lead an attack on the Citadel. The choices, actions, and overall adventure will be very different. So when players help one another, they will never actually repeat content.

Interestingly, there will be no quest log or NPCs just hanging around waiting to dole out quests in-game. Instead, the game will know your story line and then progress from there organically. Each mission undertaken will be like an epic novel. Due to the involved natural stories in the game, there will not be anything resembling mission generators or content-for-cash shops for CoS. However, there will be opportunities for players to create content by erecting businesses, decorating and using homes, and roleplaying. Yes, roleplaying! The devs are actually considering the needs of this group of gamers (Philip admitted to being a roleplayer himself).

Oh, and a point of note: There will not be permadeath. Player characters live to be many hundreds of years old, so even after 10 years of play (at the current rate of five real hours equaling one game day), PCs will never appear to age much.

Now on to the interview for details on crafting, housing, choices, combat and more!

The interview
Massively: You say you chucked out all of the typical elements of MMORPGs and started over. Are there any elements that you kept?

Philip Blood, Director of Game Design: Absolutely! CoS is incredibly innovative, but there is an old rule of "don't reinvent the wheel." We kept what was good about MMOs and tried to change and improve areas that were tedious and repetitive or cookie cutter. For example, we kept the icon-based skills (abilities) system made popular in several MMO games. However, just because we kept the system doesn't mean we didn't try to vastly improve it!

We feel that the problem with icon based systems is something we call "whack-a-mole," which means that the player just pushes the next available attack icon when it lights up. In CoS, every choice of an ability you use in combat will be important. You can adjust how strong you want it to be, as overkill is wasteful to your power. You also have to monitor different levels as you fight to keep your character in balance. In other words, just whacking away indiscriminately will actually do you harm. There are also bonuses to your character for doing certain things at certain times. All in all, this and much more means that you need to weigh each choice for the best results.

Player housing
Massively: Will there be player housing? If so, can players decorate freely, own land, or own multiple properties? Will there be other types of shared player buildings (taverns, shops, inns, apartments)?

Blood: Yes, there is player housing with full decoration of homes. Players may also start a business, though they are limited to one. Both player housing and businesses are built around a guild hall or garrison. Any guild may give or lease lands around its guild hall to its members, who may then build housing and a business on that land. If players move guilds, they can demolish and recoup much of their money so that they may rebuild at a new location. Villages and eventually towns will be built around guilds. Garrisons are a game-run equivalent of a guild hall where players who do not wish to join a guild may also build a house and/or a business.

City of Sorcery pre-alpha screenshot
Massively: Describe the economy of the game (universal or local, currencies or barter-based, or something unique?). Will players be able to own shops, transport goods, and even smuggle?

Blood: The economy of the game will take place in the Citadel Tiers, as the center of all
operations, and at the Garrison or guild towns and villages. There are both game-wide player auction systems and local auctions that players must actually attend and bid with emotes to win. You can barter items as well as use cash.

The game-run stores are supplied by players. Players will find that if they sell to a store, they will gain rapport with the shop keeper, who will tend to offer them better deals and sometimes special items they keep "in the back." Items sold to a store are put on sale to other players; items that don't sell are moved to a physical auction house. There, players may view items, and if they show up at the auction, bid on them. Items that don't sell at a physical auction are destroyed. Smuggling is definitely something that players will encounter and deal with in the game, but this will happen during the deep quests and other types of story-driven gameplay, which is the heart of all play in CoS.

Massively: You mention that words like crafting have little meaning to your game. Does this mean we won't see any or that it will permeate the game thoroughly? Will players have the ability to create things for themselves, be they gear, foods, drinks, traps, or such?

Blood: Crafting... well, it has meaning, just not in the traditional sense. What we mean is that we decided to remove the repetitive and tedious elements of crafting, so we created our own system, which we call Crafting by Adventure. What it means is that every item you obtain has a potential value. They start out as what we call mundane. As soon as you start improving the item, you start using up the potential. Once the potential is used, that item cannot be crafted further.

As you find better and better items, they have a higher and higher potential. Thus, you will always be working on your custom equipment, no matter how far you progress in the game. There is a lot more to this system, like how things become Soulbound or how you can create your own personal custom monogrammed set with extra powers or how you can destroy and recoup an element from an old piece of equipment. But at the heart of this is the fact that you do not run around digging or mining on some rock; you never stand at a loom or forge and hammer for hours.

You decide what it is you want to do to your piece of equipment, and then go on adventure go get it. You might need a special gem to insert or a glyph to embed, or you might want to place it on the altar of a frost giant to gain cold damage. There are many things you can do, but it is your choice how you use the potential and what you make each item into in the game. You can even sell items once they are crafted and get your name permanently attached if you used up enough of the potential.

City of Sorcery pre-alpha screenshot
Massively: How many characters can we roll?

Blood: Well, you don't really "roll" characters. We don't start the game like most MMOs you may have played. We don't want you having to spend a lot of time making decisions about your character that are really important at the time you know the least about the game, which is when you start. So all you have to do is name your character, pick a gender, design a body, and go. You won't even be stuck with that body later. You don't pick a race; everyone starts as human but has an opportunity to transform into another race later, which is part of our lore. You also don't have to pick a class. Since we don't have classes, you can learn anything and become any type of character you want throughout the entire life or your character.

As for characters slots, we will be offering several, but this brings up a very important point: It is not necessary to play multiple characters in CoS (though you may for roleplaying purposes). If you want additional skills and abilities for your character, just go get them. There is no advantage to restarting a second character, not even for storage (since we don't limit this). You can't get anything by starting a new character that you don't get by just adding it to your current one.

The interview continues and comments open up on page two!

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