Interestingly, I didn't find out what kind of mistake I made from the head honcho of Bitbox, Vladimir Piskunov. I found out from someone who has been playing for a long time and was invited to play at the Life Is Feudal booth. His name is Bill, and he's the "superfan" who demoed the game for me. He explained the ins and outs of the mechanics until I started having Ultima Online flashbacks. We discussed the skill system and trekked around the world, and then reminded me that LiF will eventually be an MMORPG. And I could certainly see how. If sandboxes are your thing as they are mine, then maybe this game is up our alley.
Inspired by the roots of MMORPGs
After Bill's introduction, I spoke to Piskunov himself, who told me he became an MMO gamer early on. Ultima Online and Shadowbane were his games of choice, and when Darkfall didn't live up to his expectations, he decided it was time to make his own game that was exactly what he wanted. As he told me during the interview, "Why not make the sandbox of my dreams? I confess: This is the game of my dreams."
What makes up the game of Piskunov's dreams? Life Is Feudal strives to be a game with realistic consequences and realistic rewards. The crafting system is robust and requires cooperation between different types of skill masteries to create quality items. You can also play the game without ever picking up a weapon and still enjoy it. At the same time, if crafting is not your thing, you do not have to craft to survive (although you might have to find friends to craft for you). Bitbox has also created a skill system that feeds into the consequences of the game along with a karma system that encourages cooperation and punishes those who are willing to risk being evil.
Breaking down the systems
The skill system itself reflects UO or similar games. If you want to be good at gathering wood, you have to chop down some trees. Piskunov explained that players are masters of the skill tree at level 90, though you can rank up to 100 skill points in one tree.
Piskunov also explained that it could take a month to gain 90 skill points in one tree -- unless you get a mentor. It's not in the game just yet, but there will be a mentor skill tree that allows you to attend "school" taught by another player, allowing you to gain skill levels in specific professions faster.
One does have to wonder why there are 100 points in a skill system that requires you to only use 90, and here's the reason: When your character is killed, you immediately lose skill points. How many? That's relative to your negative karma. If you have a lot of negative karma, you will lose a lot of points. Basically, that means that you don't want to kill someone or there will be serious consequences.
When can we get this in our grubby hands?
As I finished my brief conversation with Piskunov, I did get a tentative window for the release. As we know with gaming production schedules, things can change quickly, but as of right now, Bitbox is looking to release Life is Feudal (the player-hosted version) next September. Look for early access and other pre-release information before then. And shortly after, the MMORPG version will release.
Thanks to Piskunov for speaking with us!
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