When readers want the scoop on a launch or a patch (or even a brewing fiasco), Massively goes right to the source to interview the developers themselves. Be they John Smedley or Chris Roberts or anyone in between, we ask the devs the hard questions. Of course, whether they tell us the truth or not is up to them!
Now, in terms of the whole "long level grind" I'm really not sure where you got that statement. There is no true overarching level in this game, and since the vertically of each skill is a lot less than in every MMORPG I've played, I wouldn't characterize this the way you have. Plus, we were very clear with our Backers that this wasn't going to be a game where you max out your character in six weeks or even six months, so I have to take a bit of exception with this part of your statement.
[Editor's note: We said the equivalent of a long level grind; the design docs specifically call out other games' "too easy" and "too fast" leveling and "rush" to finish characters, while emphasizing CU's characters' "gradual" improvements by "small amounts." That implies a long progression curve relative to comparable MMOs. We appreciate Jacobs' clarification on that interpretation!]
Jacobs: Our Backers have overwhelmingly shown their support for the concept of a non-fast leveling game where they will be rewarded for being veterans, but not to the point that new players have no chance to succeed. This is how we pitched it to them, and as our KS showed, they supported it. They understand how important it is for new players to come into the game and be useful, and to reward veteran players for their achievements. If you think doing so creates a grind, please show me how to design an RPG that features no leveling at all in abilities, skills, spells, stats, etc. and is still seen as an RPG. I will be in your debt. Besides, if the players are having fun and not focusing on the whole "I need to kill 10 more NPCs to get 100 EXP", it's hard to call that system a grind.
Again, you have to remember what I've said about the difference between a horizontal leveling system with a small amount of verticality and vertical one. In our case, the veterans will have more skills than new players, but, for example, you can only fire off one active sword ability at a time. So, the fact that the veteran player has a lot more skills gives him a slight edge (with cooldowns and recovery time factored in), and the small verticality in the skills gives him another. However, it won't be the same as it is/was in most MMORPGs, where a veteran can kill a beginner just by sneezing on him.
Are players' Daily Reports and the data within going to be made available to guilds, to guild leaders, or on an external website?
Not likely. We may give players the choice to share them, but this is something we will think about over the next two years.
So often sandbox MMOs will say "players are in control of the story" when what they're really saying is "the game has no story." Is CU really going to have no over-arching plot or hook or GM-driven events or roleplay?
Well, considering how much time I have already spent with the Becoming™ stories and the fact that we just completed a Stretch Goal for a writer, I think it is safe to say we will have more going on in the world than some announced sandbox games. While it is true that the players are in control of some aspects of the story, the fact we have a place like The Depths™ is another indication we will have more than some games of this type.
Will we have story arcs like some games? Time will tell, but the thing we won't have is major changes to the game/gameplay due to the written word. OTOH, I am a fan of GM-run events dating back to my MUDs. While they don't fit well in many MMORPGs, I can see them in this one, at times. As a matter of fact, we also discussed this idea during our KS+ for an enhanced RP-server ruleset, so it is something I will continue to think about going forward.
Thanks very much to Mark Jacobs for answering all of our tough questions this week. Here's a recap of our coverage of the colossal BSC event: