Interview #2 of 2.
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MMO news, editorials, and more.
Interview #2 of 2.
Continue reading “Sean Chiplock Talks: Eternal Return Voice Acting”
Interview #1 of 2.
Continue reading “Minh Ton Talks: Eternal Return Voice Acting”
Filling in time.
Continue reading “Silvy Talks: On The Quality Of Ewin Gaming Chairs”
This week I got the opportunity to chat with a couple of the folks behind MapleStory, a game that you may have seen a fair amount of coverage here in recent months. Yes, this game that launched in 2003 is still going very strong, with major content updates coming out on a rather impressive schedule.
You see, every time I talk about MapleStory there are some questions that I see revolving the content that I’m talking about and often times I don’t exactly have an answer. Who is the Black Mage, what are these theme dungeons, what’s the deal with the Reboot server, etc. So we brought Nexon on board, and they were happy to provide two of their own to give us some answers; Nam Jun (NJ), Global MapleStory Lead Game Designer, as well as Young Mi (YM), Global MapleStory Leader of Planning and Designing.
Us: What is the current state of the MapleStory story for those that may not have kept up with the game in recent times?
Nam Jun: Going back to the story from last winter in 2018, Black Mage, the character that reigned as the “final boss” for a long time in MapleStory, was defeated. Black Mage had planned to destroy Maple World, and to create a new world without transcendents. Empress Cygnus of Maple World formed an alliance in order to fight against his great power, and triumphed after a hard fight in Tenebris, located at the end of the Arcane River.
After Maple World found peace again, we then presented players with ‘Pathfinder’ as the next storyline, which included a new Explorer Bowman class captivated by ancient artifacts.
Us: How do theme dungeons factor into the overall plot of MapleStory?
NJ: In theme dungeons, we sometimes include hints or characters that may relate to the future plot, or provide players with a glimpse of different events that take place in various parts of Maple World that may not necessarily tie to the main plot. When players play through the theme dungeons, on top of each job’s story quests, they’ll be able to enjoy the added fun that comes with understanding MapleStory’s supplemental plot.
Us: How many total classes are there right now?
NJ: There are a total of 45 classes at the moment.
Us: Can you explain what the idea is behind having temporary characters like the Beast Tamer and Pink Bean? Why not make them permanent?
NJ: Because MapleStory has 45 different jobs, we’ve been servicing some jobs to only be available to be created or played during a certain period. For example, Pink Bean, one of the most beloved boss characters in Maple World, was specially made available as a playable character for a limited time, so players can experience something new.
Us: Are there any functional differences between named hero classes and explorer classes?
Young Mi: Heroes refer to the five heroes who have sealed the Black Mage, and therefore praised most highly in Maple World.
Explorers are new heroes that appeared in Maple World after the heroes who sealed the Black Mage have disappeared, and they try to protect the peace in Maple World.
Regarding the functional differences, we do try and make a general distinction by giving each job a unique story, theme, function (combat method), and etc. So we’d like players to experience those differences and enjoy them in various ways.
Us: Has the Pathfinder class been positively received?
NJ: Yes! Pathfinder drew attention as the first Explorer Bowman Class character to be released in a while. We also received feedback that she was enjoyable to play with given her exceptional hunting abilities–dealing high amount of damage and displaying excellent secondary skill functions—and her superior abilities when it comes to bossing.
Us: Do the burning character events bring back a high number of people who may not have played in a while?
NJ: Absolutely! We heard a number of people saying they returned to the game after hearing the news that a Tera Burning Event (benefits until Lv. 200) and a Burning Event (benefits until Lv. 150) will take place back-to-back this summer.
Players will be able to level up their character quickly with the burning event providing various equipment, items, and the perk of 1+2 leveling. So a lot of new and returning players, and of course the existing players who are leveling up various characters for link skills and Legion bonuses, usually take advantage of this event.
Us: What are the tradeoffs of the reboot server for people who might be looking to come back to MapleStory?
NJ: Reboot server is a special server where trade between other characters is limited, and obtained meso rate is 6 times as high and EXP obtained is 2.5 times than that of a regular server. Because trade is limited, more time and effort may be needed than in regular servers in the beginning stages of growing the character to obtain equipment items.
However, players can benefit from the feeling of achievement by leveling up their character, and earning equipment items on their own.
Us: What is next on the plate for MapleStory?
YM: Right around the corner, we plan on proceeding with the world merge that a lot of people have been looking forward to. We also have various new events and contents in the works.
We know players will be most curious about the story after the battle with Black Mage. An entirely new story is planned to unfold, beginning with the story of Explorers standing up against a newly approaching danger. We hope that you look forward to it as the story continues.
I’d like to thank Nexon for getting us this Q&A session, as well as both Nam Jun and Young Mi for taking time out of their busy schedules to answer them.
Those of you who keep tabs on the industry will remember that Entropia Universe turns 16 this year, meaning that not only can the game now drive in most states, but it retains its discount card along with the other long-lasting MMOs. As it goes, I had to know what their secret was. Thankfully MindArk was kind enough to let me chat with their CEO Henrik Nel to answer my numerous questions.
The full interview is below, and once you are finished I highly recommend checking out Entropia Universe for free.
MMO Fallout: Entropia Universe launched in 2003, which in the gaming industry is basically three lifetimes ago. What is the secret formula that has kept the game running so long?
Henrik Nel: If we told you it wouldn’t be a secret would it? We are very proud about our real cash economy. Having the game being built around it has created something truly unique which can’t be found anywhere else in the gaming industry. We have achieved a level of trust after 16 years where players can feel confident about their investments being secure and treated with bank level security. It also helps that our community is very mature, entrepreneurial and newcomer friendly.
M: Being free to play, Entropia lacks a barrier to entry. Does Entropia still see a lot of new people peeking their heads in?
H: Yes, we do have a constant stream of players eager to check out the game. Even though some our players started over a decade ago, it is still very possible to start from nothing and
play with them on an even field with some cunning strategies quickly.
M: It seems like growing technology is the biggest threat to older MMOs; with some titles shutting down simply because they have hit their ceiling with new operating systems/hardware. Have you had any major technical hurdles to cross with Entropia now being old enough to get its learner’s permit?
H: In 2009 we made the change from Gamebryo game engine to Cryengine 2. With that change, we had to re-develop a lot of our systems to adapt with the new game engine. As many of the developers are still around from that time, we still possess the knowledge from that transition which will make another upgrade much smoother. We do actually have a graphical improvement just around the corner which utilizes Cryengine, but unfortunately I can’t go into detail about it just yet.
M: How would you most succinctly describe Entropia’s real money economy to someone who only knows it as “that real money MMO”?
H: In Entropia Universe everything has a real-life value since all items has a PED value. PED is our in-game currency which is exchangeable with USD at a 10:1 ratio, so if you loot an item
worth 1000 PED it is worth $100 in the real-world. Your avatar skills can also contain a PED value so everything from your weapon to your acquired skills is worth real USD. Just like in the real world, the actions you make inside Entropia Universe have a real economical consequence.
M: Similarly, I think that for a lot of outsiders, their major experience with Entropia is through these record-breaking land deals. Can you give a brief detail on how land ownership works and how people end up spending tens of thousands of dollars investing in virtual property?
H: Sure, a good example would be the Crystal Palace Space Station which was originally sold in 2009. The player who purchased it at the time got access to four different domes filled with unique creatures only found there. These creatures offer users in Entropia the possibility to loot rare and unique items and in exchange the land owner receives a small tax from the users. The land owner also needs to stay vigilant and listen to the users of their land too as they to possess the ability to alter the look and feel of the area. If done properly, they, just like anybody else in Entropia Universe can withdraw their profits to their real-life bank account.
M: And for a final question in that category, how would you bring in a gamer who is curious but afraid that they will need to put in a substantial investment to get started?
H: Try it out and see for yourself, speak with other players when you are on the inside. There is nothing to stop them from downloading it as it is free to play. We do have Starter Packs for new players which are intended for people that want to start out with a smaller investment, but again it is not a prerequisite to enjoy the game. The Starter Packs are made in such a way that they are extremely helpful for all newcomers. Another important thing is the great society we have inside the game, that as well as the mentor systems really help new players to get a great start and a good way to meet new friends.
M: What kind of content updates does Entropia see these days? Looking at the website there appears to be a steady flow of events for players to participate in.
H: You’re right, we do have a lot of events which is suitable for a lot of different users no matter if you’re a high level or new user. And we have some very interesting content updates coming out this year, with new systems attached. But as Entropia Universe is a Real Cash Economy I can’t go into details on this as it might affect the in-game markets.
M: Has the idea of an Entropia Universe 2.0 ever been tossed around the office?
H: It has been tossed around for sure, and while you should never say never, it is nothing that we are planning to do in the foreseeable future.
M: With many MMOs making the leap to other systems, is the plan to keep Entropia PC-bound?
H: In the future you might very well see more parts of Entropia Universe on other platforms, we already have an Android app connected to our systems, which we have had since 2012. With Virtual Tycoon users can craft and trade while on the move. But currently, we focus a 100% on our PC platform.
I want to extend a big thank you to Henrik Nel and the folks who helped make this Q&A a reality.
Laura Naviaux Sturr, chief publishing officer over at Daybreak Game Company, sat down with Gamesindustry.biz in order to discuss the developer’s last year, certain hurdles, and how the company is looking forward. Over the past year, Sony Online Entertainment was spun off into its own company under a new name, saw massive layoffs and the closure of several titles, shuttered development on Everquest Next, and saw several high profile names jump ship including John Smedley.
Despite these layoffs, the company is growing and hiring.
“DC Universe Online continues to be strong and we’re bringing it to Xbox this spring. And EverQuest, it’s hard to believe, will turn 17 next week. Both [EQ and EQ2] will have fully fledged expansion packs this fall. And then there’s PlanetSide 2, of course, which we brought to PlayStation last year.”
One aspect of development that Daybreak has embraced over the past year is early access, starting with Everquest Landmark and moving on to zombie survival game H1Z1. H1Z1 was spun off into two separate products and two development teams, with one taking on the survival aspect and the other handling the Hunger Games-styled arena survival mode. The inaugural invitational for H1Z1 was the most viewed event at Twitchcon 2015, throwing in $173,000 in prizes.
Daybreak sees potential in VR, as a source of future premium content and potentially what could bring back subscription-based games. You can read all of Sturr’s thoughts at the link below.
Paladins is a MOBA game that puts emphasis on players being able to customize their characters via collectible cards, at least until Hi-Rez decided not to. While originally billed as a game that would carry a small number of highly customizable heroes, a recent interview with Erez Goren has revealed that the developer plans on limiting just how much the cards can change a character. In the interview, Goren points to play tests revealing that players wanted more heroes, but heroes that were easily identifiable much like they are in Dota or League of Legends.
“People don’t seem to appreciate the variation on a character as much as they do having a new character that does things that particular way.”
Check out MMO Fallout’s coverage of Paladins here.
(Source: Rock, Paper, Shotgun)
The past year or so has shown RuneScape to be one of the oddest games I’ve ever had to cover here at MMO Fallout. While traditional MMOs branch out with expansion packs, often times altering their names to match the latest version, RuneScape is one of the first that I’ve seen to actively spin itself off into new modes. Granted this has always been the case, with the original RuneScape existing alongside the updated version as RuneScape Classic, but what Jagex has done with these new titles is to create entirely separate entities, actively developed, with their own communities and economies.
Old School RuneScape popped up in 2013 with a crazy premise: Reboot the game as it was in late 2007 with active content development that would only be implemented if 75% of the (voting) community approved of it. In September this year, we saw the launch of DarkScape, a pvp-oriented mode with open fighting, multiple Grand Exchanges and banks, and a world very different than the one players were used to. Last month saw the launch of Deadman mode, a hardcore variant of Old School.
In Deadman mode, dying means not only losing the items in your inventory, but a notable amount of experience and a substantial number of items in your bank as well. Killing others is just as dangerous, as it means being stranded out in the open for a good half hour before you can get back into the safety of town, a marker over your head letting everyone know that you’re carrying goods on you.
I had a chance interview with Mat K, product manager for Old School RuneScape, to discuss how the game mode came to be, where it has been, and where it is going.
Connor: Deadman was community polled, correct?
Mat: That’s right, yea. When I started playing RuneScape back in 2004, and my wife introduced me to it, I sat there and thought you know what would be really good is if this game was a pvp game, there was pvp everywhere. Little did I know at the time it used to be back in classic, but it’s taken me ten, eleven years, but I finally got us a proper hardcore pvp version of the game out there, and it’s just great.
Connor: Was it difficult to pitch Deadman as something to put active developers on?
Mat: No, not at all. The biggest challenge for Deadman was the technical challenge behind actually making it work rather than the content challenge for content developer. Fortunately we’ve got Ian Gower on our team who does all the technical side of stuff, which we needed and he was up for it. It was a real big challenge for everybody but everybody wanted to make it work so they could see the value in it.
Connor: How closely connected are Deadman and Old School in terms of updates?
Mat: The way it currently works is that the basic game is going to be the same for both, so if we make an update on Old School that same update will be on Deadman as well. It doesn’t have to remain that way, we can put them on completely separate builds and develop them separately as things go forward, but right now it works on the same build mainly because it is easier for us to do it that way.
Connor: Do you see Deadman evolving into its own product the same way DarkScape was pitched?
Mat: It could do. Deadman’s been out for three weeks, it’s too early to say whether it will or it won’t. We’ve got the option to do it, and if it gets super big we can give it its own website and its own development team and everything else. But we don’t want to rush that too early, right now three weeks in we need to watch what’s going on to see how the players react to it, see what they’re doing in the long term, look at the viability of it in the long term, and if it needs more support we will do that, if it doesn’t then we won’t.
Connor: Speaking of players, has Deadman brought back players in the same way that Old School did?
Mat: Loads, and these players aren’t going anywhere else, they’re staying and playing the game which is wonderful.
Connor: So it does have good retention?
Mat: Absolutely. We’ve had hundreds of thousands of players and out of the core group of players who actually play the game, we’re talking a retention of over 90%. It shocked us when I got the report through today and I had to go back and double check it to make sure it was right, and it was so that’s how much it shocked us as well.
Connor: DarkScape was something that came out of Deadman, correct?
Mat: Not really. They were designed very separately. We had the idea first, we were developing what we wanted it to be and polling it through the community, and at the same time the same idea was going through RuneScape, can we make a pvp type of game work. They were developed completely independently and some of the mechanics we came up with arrived at completely separate places. So it wasn’t a result of Deadman mode, it arrived along the same sort of thinking.
Connor: From my own play time, it seemed that gold farmers were initially a problem but then disappeared. Is the Deadman environment too hostile?
Mat: There’s been no problem with gold farmers at all, there was a lot of noise on day one where I think they thought they could make a lot of money by selling stuff really expensively, but there’s been no large influx of bots at all since it came out. We track those numbers very carefully, it’s been much lower than we ever expected it to be. I think it’s because you just can’t farm gold in the game because you’d be killed doing it, if you tried to use a bot to do it you’d be dead in no time at all. It’s just not worth a bot farmer’s efforts to actually do that.
Connor: Have you seen a noticeable problem with players using mule accounts, alternate accounts to safely store items?
Mat: Not significantly, we’ve got some reports that run that as well. What a lot of people seem to be doing, we’re absolutely fine with, is they have multiple accounts that do multiple things. So you’ve got one account with a set of protected skills and another account with a different set of protected skills. They can trade between those accounts and move the items around there, that’s what most people seem to be doing, but mule accounts in themselves haven’t appeared yet.
Connor: Do you have any ideas for where the game is headed that you can share?
Mat: It all depends, we’re three weeks in, it is too early to say for sure where we’re going. We’ve got some great ideas of what we want to do, for example what we’re looking at doing next year is to run a tournament in Deadman worlds, so effectively we’ll create our own Deadman world for a four day long event, we’ll ramp up the exp so you’ll get ten, twenty times the exp, and throughout those four days we’ll start taking away the safe zones. At the end of the four days, we’ll put everybody in one spot, everybody will kill each other, and there will be a winner, and that winner will win a whole lot of cash.
The other big question that players are asking about is can we turn it into a seasonal thing? Again, that’s something we’re quite happy to do if it is the right thing to do, but three weeks in we don’t want to make those decisions yet because we don’t know how it’s going to be in another month’s time. We need to watch carefully, make the sensible decisions now, make the sensible changes now, but watch what the long term impact of making these changes will be and then we’ll make the decision.
Connor: What is the status of the Grand Exchange in Deadman mode?
Mat: There is no Grand Exchange in Deadman mode itself, what happens with the Grand Exchange in Old School is we take the value of items from that to work out the value of items when you die so players can get the most expensive items. We’ve got no plans to put the Grand Exchange into Deadman mode mainly because it will make the game too easy.
One of the core things we’re focusing on at the moment is to make sure that we’re supporting the players who want to play Deadman mode for what it is, so for the core group of players that is a very hardcore and difficult to play game and if you die you lose an awful lot of things. Now there’s some players that are coming to us and saying it’s too difficult, it’s too hard, but if we start looking at why people are not playing the game and are moving away to our other games, we then run the risk of turning Deadman into something that is too easy for our core group of players.
Connor: The game has been balanced where guards are more deadly, but there are also updates like health insurance. How do you decide what updates get polled, what goes past polling, and what isn’t up for debate?
Mat: The way we look at it, what is the best thing for the game long term. If there is an update which isn’t critical for the long term success of the game then we’re quite happy to poll it to the players and let it work out, but if it’s critical we have to make the decision of do we poll it to the players, will the players vote for it to start with, and then we can make that decision on a case by case basis, there is no hard rule.
For example, we made some changes to the death mechanics when people die in guarded zones, and that was something that was designed to stop a particular form of gameplay that was damaging to the game. So we made that change, we weren’t going to poll it because it was going to damage the game if we let it continue, and we will continue to do that. As long as it isn’t critical to the long term success of the game, we will poll the players on everything.
The hitpoint insurance, for example, was something that as far as we were concerned wasn’t going to be a major changeup to the game going forward. I think it was a good thing to have, but we let the players have the final decision on that one.
Connor: Do you keep stats on how much is being dropped and killed off of players?
Mat: We do, I can’t remember one off the top of my head. Everything in game is monitored so I have an analytic team that I send an email to and they come back to me with numbers, but we do monitor everything.
Connor: A few of the Jagex mods livestream Deadman mode. Do you as well?
Mat: Yes, I did it for the first week and it was very good fun. Nobody managed to kill me which was quite nice.
Connor: What is your greatest kill?
Mat: About twenty minutes chasing my wife all over the place until I finally killed her. We’ve got a very RuneScape family, I play it, my wife introduced me to it.
Connor: It sounds like many of the Jagex employees are people who have been playing the game for quite a while.
Mat: Everybody in the entire Old School team apart from Mod Gareth have played for ten years plus. We’ve all grown up with RuneScape and this is why we love doing what we’re doing, because this is a game we grew up with. None of us, apart from Ian obviously who started making it, thought we’d end up making the game that we loved playing, so it’s a dream come true for all of us.
I’d like to thank Mat K for taking the time out of his day to come talk to us about Deadman mode, and I would also like to thank everyone who put in the effort to make this interview possible.
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.
The story behind Missing Worlds Media and City of Titans is one of true inspiration and dedication. When NCSoft announced that City of Heroes would sunset along with Paragon Studios, members of the community rose up to answer the call to action. By the time City of Heroes shut down for its final maintenance, plans were already underway on several spiritual sequels to fill in the empty void of super hero MMOs. The subject of today’s discussion is City of Titans, code-named The Phoenix Project, under development by Missing Worlds Media.
Last year, Missing Worlds Media put their project to the test, via a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to purchase software and license engines. The team is made up of volunteers who initially met up to try and save City of Heroes, and then turned their focus on creating a new home. The Kickstarter was a massive success, bringing in $680,000 compared to the $320,000 goal.
I managed to sit down with a few members of the Missing Worlds Media team: War Cabbit, Nate ‘Dr. Tyche’ Downes (Tech Lead), Timothy Ross (Writing Lead), and William Strickland. Not all of those are real names. Thank you to everyone from Missing Worlds Media for taking the time to come talk to us.
Connor: So how big is Missing Worlds Media right now?
Nate Downes: We have 83 active members, with 144 people total volunteered.
War Cabbit: Eighty five as soon as two people respond.
Timothy Ross: The number is not set, of course. We have slowed recruiting down, but not ended it.
War Cabbit: We are, I confess, always looking for experienced 3D people who are willing to assist with the project.
Co: How do you collaborate without an office?
TR: We use a number of different remote services to work together.
WC: We have a chat server, which really keeps us tightly connected, we have a document server, a code repository, a graphics repository, and a game server.
TR: You can imagine the amount of money we save by not having to pay rent on a physical building, not to mention working out transportation and then STILL having to have remote systems for our people in, for instance, Bulgaria.
Co: Do you have any people on City of Titans that worked on other games?
WC: Oh, certainly. From paper and pencil to computer.
WS: A few. You can tell by the way they jump when you drop something.
Co: Do you have any contact with the ex-developers from Paragon Studios?
ND: Informal. I had a biweekly D&D game with Castle, for example, and I’ve talked to Statesman at PAX Dev last year.
WC: Not technically – they’re forbidden. We have well wishes, the occasional shout-out and a number backed us. That is, they can’t give us help with the project but if we didn’t have their blessing, we wouldn’t be where we are.
Co: How is the reaction to the new Unreal licensing deals? I’ve seen very mixed reactions especially among independent developers.
WC: Well, we’re not using it. Which is a darn good thing – it’d be ruinous to a group our size, per-person. Our licence got set up three months before they announced that.
ND: Their licensing for new clients is a boon for independent small-team developers.
Co: So the monthly fee is per person on the project?
WC: Something like, if I recall. Nate?
NC: At least per-person working with the engine directly. As our goal is to have everyone working with the engine on one level or another, this could get very pricey for us.
WC: You get six-eight programmers, it can add up. It’s great for single-person tinkering, though.
Co: Has the Unreal 4 engine been smooth to work with so far?
WC: It’s beautiful.
TR: It has exceeded all of my personal expectations so far.
WC: It’s like getting your hands on a Rolls Royce. Damn thing is machined.
WS: It’s also friendly, and the Epic staff have also been friendly. It’s almost like they want people to actually buy and use their engine, or something.
Co: Unreal 4 has better systems for types of damage, if I’ve been reading correctly.
TR: Not just damage, but it really pushes the envelope for what a game can deliver.
WC: It does. It is a ten or fifteen year platform – which is perfect for us. I’m dead serious about treating City of Titans and Missing Worlds Media as something like Marvel Comics – we are here for the long term. We can keep pushing it for the MMO’s lifetime. We may have to do CoT 2.0 and 3.0 sometime, but we’ll handle it.
Co: To what extent is City of Titans going to be procedurally generated?
WC: We intend to lay out the roads by hand, but have the ‘road’ itself, the grade, the turns, be procedural in nature – same for the train tracks and power lines. We’re going to design the character of our neighborhoods, and then procedurally generate the blocks. There will be individual landmarks that we want exactly so and will build ourselves. Eighty percent of any average location will be a procedural block. If we can get it working finely enough to make procedural mission maps that always make sense, I’ll be even happier.
TR: And if we run into problems, we may be able to fix the rough spots the old fashioned way.
Co: You’ve ended preproduction, correct? What does that mean?
ND: No, we’re ending it. Last few bits need to be finished up.
WC: When it ends, we are essentially ‘building the game’ and no longer ‘designing the game’.
TR: Among other things, it means we are now building the systems that will make actually building the world not only much easier, but probably actually fun.
Co: Going on to content for a minute. How are the roles set up? There are five primaries and multiple secondaries for each?
WC: We have a number of primaries and a number of secondary options. By mixing and matching them, we create classes. At the moment, at launch, we are going to have five classes, created by the intersect of primary and secondary.
TR: Where it gets fun is the modular mixing and matching with secondaries, which results in what we call Classifications.
WC: To simplify: Scrapper would be Melee/Defense, Tank would be Defense/Melee. If you choose the right Masteries, of course.
TR: Melee is the Role. Melee/Defense is the Classification (but it will have a better name). That Classification would have 5 power sets at launch.
Co: The community is very dedicated and supportive, I’ve noticed.
TR: We love our community.
WS: We ARE our community.
WC: That’s the best thing we brought over from CoH. A very strong culture of helping each other.
TR: And we fully welcome all of the great folk out there who never had a chance to play CoH, and even those who never wanted to. Besides the fact that this is a great time for superheroes in a lot of different media. Who hasn’t watched The Avengers and thought, “I want to DO that!” Including people who have never played an MMO.
Co: When are you looking at a release?
ND: Release, likely in 2016. But accessible beta, late 2015.
WC: And costume creator before that.
Co: And one more question before I guess we can call it a wrap. Is there, or will there, be a way for people to pledge who missed out on the Kickstarter?
ND: We have been discussing a second-chance opportunity for those people, yes. We want to finish getting the people who did pledge with Kickstarter processed first.
Co: Thank you for taking the time to answer some questions.
WC: Been a pleasure.
TR: Talk to us anytime.
WS: Thanks for having us, Connor.
Check out City of Titans at the official website.