As Forsaken Studios creative director, I have the honor of helping focus the team’s efforts and influencing the overall design of our game and its mechanics and systems. No small task, nor is it one I take lightly, but it is one that I believe warrants an introduction of myself to the community, and a briefing on the goals and aim of the project, as well as what I will do to help ensure this game is the one that so many of us have been waiting for..
You probably noticed I said ‘us’. That is because I myself am a long-time gamer, having spent more than 15 years of my life playing MMOs of all kinds. Theme-park, sandbox, PvE, PvP; you name it, I've probably tried it. I have been in dozens of guilds and clans, and led my share of them. I've been a fairly quiet, mostly positive presence in many game communities over the years, and if I were to tell you my screen names many of you would probably recognize one or two of them, particularly those of you from some of the newer games out there. But I digress; my point is that I am, and have been for quite some time, one of you. I have been up well into the morning and late to work because of games that I fell in love with, and communities that demanded my response to that one last post before I ran out the door. Most importantly though, I am a father of three children, and I have a life that demands my attention outside of my monitor from time to time. That gives me an understanding of what ‘casual’ gamers are looking for and need, no matter how 'hard-core' a gamer I might want to be. All of that combined gives me an excellent perspective for understanding where the players – you guys – are coming from when you discuss what it is you want from a game. I plan to put that experience with the games and the communities to good use and help develop a game that you will love, even as you curse us for making you late to work or miss hours of sleep.
Let me add that these are the goals and intended end results that I am shooting for, not necessarily a promise that the game will be like this. Rather, this is my personal promise to you all that I will do everything I can to guide the project towards these and other similar goals, and how I envision it in my mind. However, we have a long road ahead of us, and there are obstacles and technical limitations that we cannot predict waiting for us around every corner. I ask for your support, understanding, constructive criticism, and, most importantly, your suggestions to help us make the game better for everyone.
First and foremost, I want to belay any fears or concerns that we, like many open PvP sandbox-style games out there, will be focused solely on combat. Combat is great, but we are well aware it is not the only element of great games. It is, of course, an important feature of the game, and we are absolutely going to do our best to ensure that it is smooth, intuitive, and fun. However, harbor no doubts; it will not be all our game has to offer. You will not be playing a game that is built around combat, where the entire point and purpose of playing is to either battle or support battles, and endless or pointless wars.
It is my goal to provide players with a rich and fulfilling economy in which every item is created or handled by players. That massive economy will play a part not only in players’ personal adventures, but also player-founded cities and NPC cities. I intend for it to feel like, finally, the NPCs are living in your world, and not the other way around. When we say we're giving you the sand and tools to make what you want of the world, we're not kidding, and your fellow players and the NPCs will be affected by what you do with those tools. Even if it means a city’s population starves or emigrates to somewhere that will better meet their and their families’ needs, leaving a veritable ghost town behind. The crafting system we have planned is one of the most daunting tasks we have ahead of us, and not just because we made a single profession have tens of thousands of options that result in only a handful of items actually being useful. Instead, it is because we are taking our time to ensure that every item has a purpose, a value, and is actually useful. Say goodbye to lists of filler crafting items to increase your profession’s skills to get to the useful items at the bottom of the list, and say hello to professions that, from beginning to end, are useful, needed, and not only a viable play-style, but a deep and fulfilling one. Whether your calling is to be a shipbuilder, an engineer, architect, doctor, apothecary, alchemist, miner, forester, hunter, farmer, brewer, tailor, jeweler, smith, fisherman, chef, or carpenter, you will find your profession is as important to the game world as the next. Everyone will have a purpose and role to fill that is kept in demand by a well-balanced economy and realistic world. That, to me, is how a player-driven economy should be.
Territory and politics are not forgotten either, and are some of the most commonly discussed topics within the team. I am personally working on territory systems that I hope will not only give players the ability to stake and shape their claim on the world, but build it into a kingdom or remain as a small city-state that keeps to itself at their leisure. No more 3 a.m. alarm clock raids on enemies’ territories to take advantage of time zone differences. The territory system has features planned to ensure that wars are not won in an odd-hour raid, but through tactics, attrition, and skill, with the needed support of strong economies and logistics. Expand your borders by force, trade, or political dealings, and defend your own with walls, defensive towers, outposts, keeps, castles and fortresses and NPC guards patrolling under your orders. Enlist player-run mercenary guilds to serve in your guard forces, militia, or army, if you can afford them. Set and enforce every law as you wish in your land instead of abiding by laws set by the NPCs. Raise taxes to make your coffers swell in preparation for war or expeditions into the unknown, or lower them to promote growth and try to steal citizens from your neighbors. Bear your land’s heraldry on your shields, cloaks, and flags, identifying yourself as a defender of your liege’s honor or raise a rebellion and fly your own flag as you vie for control of the capitol. Enter into negotiations for peaceful terms and trade agreements or enact embargoes and close your borders to your neighbor under the penalty of death. These are just some of the choices, the options, the possibilities that I hope to bring to you. War and endless PvP need not be the only answer, not when we offer so many tools for you to make the world what you want – and, I assure you, that is just a glimpse of my goals.
What if the mundane is not for you? What if you don't fancy yourself a farmer or a warrior? Well, perhaps exploration suits you, and we have you covered there as well. With a massive world planned, multiple continents each serve as a unique environment in their own right. They are separated by unforgiving oceans that hide countless islands, with uncharted areas that you could find yourself lost in due to navigational errors or relentless storms. More of a scholar? No problem! Hidden throughout the entire world we will have relics of the old world for you to search for, gather, and study. It's not just an egg hunt though, as items you find may change the course of the world, unlock new skills or recipes for crafting, reveal details to help you find lost areas of the world, or explain how to defeat a legendary beast that is ravaging your homeland. And all of this in a unique language that you have to collect pieces of and use your brain to decipher. Don't bother with Google though – it’s not a real world language, nor does it draw influence from one! You never know, you might uncover the secret to a new magic spell in some lost ruin that might bring you riches you’ve only dreamed of on the player-controlled market. Be cautious however; you never know when that simple cave you're wandering into might turn out to be the home of an ancient evil.
So the bit about magic caught your attention did it? The magic system we'd like to unleash is something that I have never seen in my MMOing ‘career’ before. It brings to light the fact that magic is useful for more than just roasting opponents. Utility and versatility is a magi's bread and butter. Make no mistake though: a magi is not to be trifled with. They have the ability to build and customize their own spells with the components that they gather and keep in their spell books. This allows them to create truly devastating spells that are so powerful they are as likely to rip the magi apart as turn you into a pile of ash... or just light the candle next to you and laugh as you pee your pants. They are not all powerful however. They have limits, and magi sometimes face hardships beyond what the average person could imagine as a punishment for what disciples see as blasphemy.
What's a disciple? Well, don't worry, it's not a class. I would never dare ruin such a dream by boxing players into set roles and skill sets. It's just one more path a player can choose to walk down. In this path, players devote their lives to the worship of a deity in return for gifts and aid – often in the form of magic which the disciple can call down to aid them or others, or smite the wicked... or the pesky good guys. However, the deities have all vanished from the heavens somewhere in the midst of the main plot and it will take incredible determination, dedication, a lot of followers – and likely some good old fashioned sacrifices – to summon an old god back to their rightful place where they can look down over us pitiful mortals. Players also will have the ability to create their own religions and attempt to gain enough support from others to actually will a new god into existence. Deities are fickle though, and disciples will need to work to earn their newly-summoned god’s favor. You, after all, don't control the deities’ actions, so be careful what you wish for, especially if your newly-summoned deity has a twisted sense of humor.
About that plot. Just because this is a sandbox style game doesn't mean there is no main storyline. In fact, the entire world is the way it is because of a story that stretches over thousands of years that all lead up to the point in time when you enter the world and help decide the course of the story from there on. Will you be a hero, a villain, or maybe just the farmer in the middle of nowhere, tending your crops? Better pray that group of adventurers that just ran by doesn't stir up more trouble for your harvest! The main story is just one single piece of the massive puzzle, as there are countless off-shoots of lore and history in the works for you to enjoy and partake of, as well as dynamic events planned to occur randomly, based on certain requirements being met, or by the discretion of a team dedicated solely to making the world seem alive and forever changing.
Speaking of the world being alive, let’s not forget the creatures of the world, from the simple critters scurrying past your feet to hide beneath a bush, to the herbivores struggling to survive and migrating to find food and water. Even the predators that follow and track their prey will seem real – especially if it is you they are hunting. There is, after all, a reason fences and walls were invented. Just because you are in your village doesn't mean you're safe from the hungry hunter. I haven't even mentioned the multitude of legendary creatures, but there will be a variety. Some will lie in wait, hidden away from the world except for when they need to eat, or breed... Others may actively hunt other creatures, or even players, attack villages and possibly even castles. Someone really should track that beast down that keeps destroying your neighbor’s farm, but are you going to do it without an army? Maybe it's better to just post it on the tavern’s notice-board and see if some group of heroes is up to the challenge. Might want to do something about it soon though, as the population of NPCs in the city is dwindling, they're all scared and leaving for safer pastures. Yep, that's right – I even want the NPCs to react to the world around them, and ask for your help if they have nowhere else to turn. Don't worry though – no exclamation or question marks over their heads. You will actually have to socialize, if that's your thing, to find out if someone needs help or has a task that needs doing. Just don't take too long getting back to your estate. You know what they say about the mice when the cat’s away. Someone needs to keep those slaves, servants, and hirelings in line. You did remember to restock their food and water stores, make sure they had the materials and tools they needed before you left to drag your gladiator off to the city arena to try to make some gold off his blood, right? Let’s hope the new guards do better at keeping vermin and beasts out of your mine this time. It took days to clear them out and clean up the blood and bones of the last work force you lost. Ah... the simple joys of a game world that seemingly lives and breathes.
I honestly could go on for several more paragraphs, but I think it's best to leave some things for later. Having said all that, this is my vision, my take on that game I and so many others have been looking for. It may take a while yet, but you have my word: it will be worth the wait, especially if I have anything to say about it. So if you share my interest in the game that I just described, if you enjoyed the bits of my vision of what this game should be, then you have found the right place. Just don't blame me when you're losing sleep or are late to work!
I certainly hope this little post gave you a bit of insight into my vision and the sort of goals that I have set for the team. Most importantly, I hope that it helped clear up any assumptions or rumors about what we're intending or what the game is all about. I look forward to seeing this community develop with your help and support, and please, spread the word about what we're trying to accomplish here.