Earlier this week, I got to sit down once again and have a chat with Missing Worlds Media about their upcoming game City of Titans. If you didn’t catch out interview published last year, check it out at this link. For this interview, I managed to snag project lead Chris “Warcabbit” Hare to talk about design philosophy, alignment, and lockboxes, among other topics.
A big thank you to Missing Worlds Media and Warcabbit for agreeing to talk to us again.
Connor: Start off by telling us who you are and what you do.
Warcabbit: Greetings, all! I’m Chris ‘Warcabbit’ Hare. By day… well, I can’t say what I do by day, but by night, I’m project lead for City of Titans, a crowdfunded Superhero MMO, and a spiritual successor to City of Heroes.
The last time we talked, City of Titans was ending its pre-production stage. What is the main focus right now?
Slightly scattered. Tech is at early production leading to solid and functional prototype, while Lore is actually writing what will become production-level missions. Art is iterating designs while we deal with disagreements about where to slice the body up and how to apply sliders.
Sometimes the disagreements are with parts of the engine that haven’t been written yet. This doesn’t mean we’re out of synch, it means that certain things, like Lore, are not limited by technical realities, and are able to design and test in theory rather than in practice.
So something that gets written in lore that can’t be represented in-game?
It’s… hard to think of something that can be written in lore that can’t be represented in game, within the constraints Lore already knows about. That is, the design constraints are established already. Things that are out of the ordinary, like six mile long snake-beasts are on hold, yes. But we’re working more with things that are technically possible – but questioning the game-centric nature of the beast.
We want to fill our game with story and valid choices, but we’ve found there are many players who just want to punch things. So we’re working on story structure and various other issues that are, ah, trivial from a coding issue – I mean, when you get down to it, we could throw all of Moby Dick on someone’s screen in five lines of code – but they wouldn’t read it.
Anyhow, so what we’re working on is when will people like a valid choice about good and evil, or right and wrong, and coming to the conclusion that people will not like it so much mid-mission, but end of mission is much more acceptable. Like, ‘do you turn in the 40k of drug money, or pocket it’?
Are you going with a clear good vs evil or allowing players to blur the lines like City of Heroes sort-of did with Going Rogue?
Dramatic timing and tension and various other things – if we throw a question in mid-story, it suddenly becomes much MORE important because of the rarity. We have a three axis alignment system, along with a villain/rogue/vigilante/hero (names picked from Going Rogue for this conversation for familiarity’s sake) axis.
For example, the first challenge I mentioned was (money) a Law axis question. Do you respect the law or take the cash? The second was a Violence question. Do you just beat the guy up or do you kill him? The last axis is Honor. Do you keep your word, even if it causes you pain? Dr. Doom is a villain with a strong Honor axis. The thing is, the slider-axis is actually independent of the alignment axis – the Punisher is a Violent, non-Lawful, not-really-Honorable vigilante.
Right, so it’ll still be possible to bust heads and not suddenly find your character evil aligned.
Yes. Currently, it’s up to you where your h/v slider stands. If you choose to eat puppies, it may be moved for you, but you can move it back. You can explain why. (I was controlled by the moon-aliens! It was my evil twin from Dimension X!)
The last developer diary talks about rapid prototyping and blueprints in the Unreal Engine. Could you expand on those concepts?
Now, Blueprints may not be suitable for various issues – for example, currently, there’s no real way to translate them to C++, so mantaining an analysis of what changed in source is a bit of a bear, so deep or complicated systems do need to be programmed for a game you want to perform long standing maintenance on… But they are fully capable of being everything you need to develop in. They’re sort of… programming turned into Minecraft.
At any rate, thanks to the power of Unreal, we can test five different approaches to a task in the time it would take to test one in a more traditional system. I should note, by the way, that we are going to have a more realistic interior to various missions.
Are you looking at bringing over any mechanics from City of Heroes? Like the day job system.
My metaphor has always been ‘We’re making the game CoH would have been if they knew then what we know now after ten years of face to face lessons.’ Day Jobs are interesting. We’re not doing this at launch, but I’ve actually developed something that’s a bit of an evolution of a concept Jack Emmert failed to bring to fruition. The ORIGINAL Day Jobs plan.
Can’t, really, but… Let’s just say it’s something for you to do when you’re not playing the game. Back in the day they didn’t have apps.
Is it encouraging to see the comic book MMO sort of rise from the ashes? Right now we have three games looking to fill the void left in CoH’s absence.
It is FANTASTIC. Valiance is going to launch before we’re done, we know. But we’re going to offer a richer experience. Honestly, we’re trying to figure out a way to integrate with them. And I don’t mean merge – I mean crossover events and the like.
Right now, if I remember right, we’re starting off where our characters are fictional in their universe and vice versa. So there might be an Anthem movie on a marque.
As much as people are going to hate me for saying it, I like to think City of Heroes shutting down had a lot of positive effects on the genre, as in other companies are starting to participate in it.
Mmmmm… Ask me again after we launch. There’s still a chance we might fail. I’m not getting comfy. I’d like to think that it will wind up being like Enhancement Diversification. Annoying, painful, but it eventually led to the insane glory of IOs.
I’ll finish by asking what your thoughts are on Lockboxes and other cash shop items that seem so popular with gamers these days.
That’s a very, very serious question. The pages you’d get from many of my developers on how they’re bad for gaming and bad for players and bad for ongoing development… on how they hijack the gambling urge…
I do intend for there to be things like lockboxes. But when I say ‘like lockboxes’, I mean things like ‘a parody lockbox that actually has no game effect’ or ‘something more like a magic booster full of fun consumables that have no non-cosmetic effect’ or a few other nonsettled variants on a theme. It is fun to play a chip on the wheel of fortune and see what you get.
But I feel that giving people a present and then forcing them to pay to open it is a cruel, cruel thing. Especially if they take up inventory space. I swear to you, if I have to implement them to keep the game going, they’ll at least be stackable.
I’m not saying I won’t ever do them. I’m saying I really don’t want to do them, and the general concept is one of my ‘innovate and improve’ targets, where I want to make something that is actually fun and rewarding, rather than penalizing and expensive.
What is the timeline for release?
In bits and pieces as it’s done. Not 2015, but we might have parts out earlier than 2016.
Well thank you again for coming out and talking to us.
We’re always glad to talk.