Dragon Blogger PAX Interview 4/21/2018
- Dragon: I just wanted to go over the game. What inspires you daily on this game with what you are doing?
- Jeffrey: I take a lot of my inspiration from the moment that I first started playing MMOs. There is a first love that you have in the genre is usually your first game because it sort of opens your mind to what's possible. My first one was Anarchy online and it was like a revolution in my head of what a game could be. I imagined a lot of stuff could be possible in this game that really ended up not being possible. I wrote a story in my head of what I really wanted to be playing and that game wasn't that. It kind of fulfilled a goal for me during that time but that that idea of what an MMO could be is what we work with every day with AoC.
- What can you do in an MMO that's different from any other game is based on what kind of community has what kind of players you have and how they work together. We want to create systems in this game that bring people together, create friction, and create opportunities for stories that are bigger and better than anything I can personally write and design. We want to recapture that magic that MMO’s used to have back in the day and bring the genre forward in a way that kind of reimagines what MMOs could have been had they taking a different direction a long time ago.
- Dragon: There are a lot of games out now and coming that don't charge you a monthly fee. Which is cool because you can either get the game free or maybe pay a little bit up front for the game and then you know it's free, you might be able to buy a buff which is not cool in my opinion, like a hammer that nobody has that’s incredibly powerful. It kind of makes it horrible for everybody else. A lot of people quit because of that. Then there's other guys, that will make it totally free, if you want to buy a shirt that says your name on it you got to pay money for it. Then the whole MMO thing where you have to pay per month, there's kind of a benefit to it because - I’m cheap myself - there's typically going to be longevity, lots of updates, sometimes add-ons, so many different things that maybe the free guys won’t do as often. There’s that value on the game. Unfortunately, I haven't done as much research as I should. I’ve been interviewing so many different people. Actually a few interviews I’ve asked “Does this game do that?” and they’re like “No” oh that was another one I’m going to do, sometimes you just get mixed up. The game looks beautiful, Jeffrey knows a lot about it, so I’m going to put a lot of it on you.
- Jeffrey: It’s an interview that’s okay
- Dragon: So you don't start a little conversation before and so I've been looking at this screen. The graphics look amazing. Take us into the game or maybe talk a little bit more about it.
- Jeffrey: This is our Alpha Zero level. We just launched it in late December of last year. It's kind of our our Tech Alpha. We're preparing for our big Alpha launch that's coming in Q4 this year. This is basically a way for us to get players in and really bang on our tech, make sure that the login flows work, that are persistence works, that all the things that go wrong during a launch all function the way the we expect, in a live environment, not just a test environment. This is here for us to get players in, they can do some stuff. The content is not really there. It's still a big world, it's a four-by-four Zone, 16 square kilometers, and there’s stuff for people to do. There’s monsters to kill, there’s 5 different dungeons, there’s questing. Most importantly our Node System is there in place and ready to work. so yeah that's kind of the the short and sweet of it. *This right here is where players start. They enter this portal from another world called Sanctus. Sanctus is a place of low magic, low technology and players are sort of the first expeditioners that are coming through this portal into this world of Verra.
- Dragon: Is there a story as to why the world is the way it is now?
- Jeffrey: Yes, I can get into it a little bit. I can set the stage and that’s about it. The main story in how things got to the way they are now. A long time ago everyone lived on a planet called Verra. Something cataclysmic happened that forced people from that world to another world called Sanctus. Verra is a place of really high magic. Sanctus is a place of no magic whatsoever. People escaped through these portals into the world of Sanctus. They had to rediscover technology because so much of their current technology was based on Magic. They had to re-figure out how to interact with the world. Thousands of years go by, a long dark age passes. This history falls into myths and legends. After this time passes, these portals reopen. The players are going to take the part of people coming through those portals once again back to the world of Verra. Rediscover that magic, rediscover their history, and try to figure out what happened to this world to force them out of it.
- Dragon: So, their back on their original world?
- Jeffrey: Yes. They'll step out into this world. They’ll get introduced to it through some of these Quest Giverers. They'll talk to you. They’ll wave to you. You’ll level up. There are 10 levels available in this play through, four classes. You can build a balanced party with it. You can do a bunch of the stuff you can do in an MMO. What I’m going to do right now is do a quick run through. My speed is really high right now. It's GM speed. I'm just going to take you through the world of Vera as it is right now. As you can see it's a huge World. It’s full population. The main thing that differentiates us from other MMOs is it we have a living breathing reactive world. Our world is separated into zones, which are separated into what we called Nodes. Nodes are Invisible zones of influence that listen to everything that a player. As players gain experience from killing things, gain experience from doing quests, gain from crafting things. The node is also gaining that experience. Once a node gains enough experience it levels up and then starts to attract NPCs to it. What you see here is sort of the wilderness of the world. It’s a blank slate when players arrive. On day one, when we turn on the servers, there's going to be just the wilderness, monsters, dungeons, but very little in the way of civilization. It’s up to the players to decide where and when and how civilization evolves. I’m going to bring you over to one of our nodes.
- Dragon: Actually as you're saying that, The day it opens up it’ll be like this. Let’s say I start playing the game a year later. I’m not going to get this I’ll get a different environment? More evolved?
- Jeffrey: Yeah, it'll be more evolved. The world will be more developed. There will be places for you to go, events that are happening. The world will be very different on day 60 than it is on Day Zero. We’re going to keep track of the history of the world so we can tell people the story up to the current day. A player who is brand new who has come in at the 6-month mark, can take a look at the server, what each server has done, and how he servers tackle the storyline. Then they can decide for themselves what community they want to join. What version of the world they want to take part in. Each server is going to be very different from other servers as time goes on.
- Dragon: Back in the day when I used to play WoW, every server was essentially the same. Except you had different people playing. Here every node is essentially different, there might be some similarities, one is leveled up much higher one maybe hasn’t been touched much. They will get a different experience. After I've been playing this game, say I've been in there for 4 months, can I go to another node?
- Jeffrey: Yeah, you can go anywhere you want. Each Node as it levels up begins to lock out nodes around it. Say this node gets to level three, it will prevent any neighboring nodes from leveling past two. As nodes level up, not only does civilization move in, but the monsters around it also change. There will be roads built between different nodes that have developed. Those roads will be safer areas than areas further in. Monsters will level up. Monsters will de-level, new monsters will come in. Based on what nodes develop it changes the Ecology of the area which changes the experience of the area. Different quests proc based on what race has ascended. You're going to get a different story as well.
- Dragon: The monsters I see today, probably won't be the same monsters I see four months from now in that area.
- Jeffrey: Right. Maybe there's a bunch of demons in this area to start with. It's a craggy undeveloped monstrous place. It's dangerous. Players come in, they start clearing out those monsters. A city forms and those demons can't stay there anymore. Maybe it's a religious node and that particular node has the power to keep demons at bay. Those monsters might move out of that area and go to another Wilderness Area that they weren’t in before. The idea is to keep any given day changing. We don't want people to login just to do dailies. We want people to login because they want to see what's new in the world.
- Dragon: Another great point, you can build homes or build whatever.
- Jeffrey: Right. Once the node starts to level up and gets to the village level, people can start putting down freeholds. Freeholds are basically a plot of land where you can build whatever you want. You can put housing down there, social buildings, a little industrial complex. Based on what you want to do as a player. We want to give people lots of tools to tell stories between players. We want to give them the opportunity to shape their world.
- Dragon: A lot of what you’ve told me so far has been really unique and then now especially that you can build your home, your business, your community. Can other people come and destroy it?
- Jeffrey: Yes they can. We are a PvX game. Everything hangs off the node system. The node system is our core and then everything kind of feeds around that. The nodes function as an engine. It provides content for the PvE side and then the PvP side is what kind of creates the dynamism of it. When a town is leveled and it’s leveled as an elf town lets say. It’s offering elf amenities and elf quests. If I’m an orc and I don’t get the kind of benefit I want to from that. I can get my dwarf buddies and my human buddies to come siege that town, [14:26] bring it low, unlock the other nodes that are around it and start trying to build an orc city. It's like this feedback loop that keeps content changing, keeps the world changing and it creates really cool stories.
- Dragon: That is truly unique. Going back to WoW, WoW was the last real MMO I played. It consumed me.
- Jeffrey: it was a great game I played it a lot too.
- Dragon: I won't go into what happened, but a lot happened. You went to different areas, the server I would always go to was Illidan, everybody where the towns where, everybody knew where everything was after a short point. and you can raid it but it didn't really matter. I can raid it I can pillage and destroy. I can do anything I want, get rid of it and build my own. That's amazing.
- Jeffrey: That is what I pictured back in the day. That's the ultimate promise of the MMO. We are people and we do human things. Instead of creating these systems that separate us and put us in these silos, against this backdrop that doesn't really change, let's keep the world as dynamic as our players are. Adjust it based on what they want to do and create those stories. What were the best stories that you remember? Any of the stories that were told in dialogue or any of that or do you remember the stories you participated in? The weird raid boss wipe that you had. Those are the stories I love hearing and telling. It’s creating tons of opportunity for that to happen.
- Now is sort of what might happen as you're experiencing in this node. I'm a human right now. I spent maybe an hour in this area and a couple of my buddies are out here too, and we've been killing stuff and crafting stuff and eventually the node levels up to the first stage.
- Dragon: All the players will see that?
- Jeffrey: Right. These couple of NPCs have come in. This Commander right here, he has a quest for me, these guards are here, and there's a merchant here. Now I don't have to go back to the starting area to do all that work. I can just do it here. Because I can do it here, more players will spend more time here. A couple more hours go by 8 hours or so, maybe, and it'll level up to the next thing. Now we’ve got an encampment. More guards have moved in. The creatures around this area can change, some roads have been built, and now there's more quest givers, more merchants, more amenities. This is all human themed, because the humans are doing the work. Let's say because this place is so cool, and I really enjoy this area, I continue spending a lot of my time here. A week goes by, maybe 2, depending on how many players are in this area, and I'm going to level up to a village. Now we have a human Village, and we have just proced a boss event. This guy has come with the leveling up, he's going to try to bring this node back to level two and the people who were citizens here need to get together and take him out so that he doesn't kill all the NPCs around here. That's kind of what the nodes bring. They did bring change, they bring differentiation. The nodes look different. This is a very human town, with very human guards, and very human people. I can change that, let's say the Elves where ascendant. It's now an elf node. Now everything is elf themed. All of the buildings have changed, the guards go on different paths, the monsters have changed again. It keeps things different, moving, and changing. Right now in our experience we only have up to level 3 so I can’t show you anymore.
- Dragon: That's awesome. That gives you a lot of opportunity to have a little more time maybe for the level ups to develop a few more creatures. Since you’ll be patching it probably will be introducing new things each patch.
- Jeffrey: It's one of those things. That's why we have a subscription model. We want to really be able to forecast the size of our development team. So that we can continue to put out more content. We want this game to have a long life span. The only way to support that long life span is to continue to provide content. Different ways for people to interact with the world, different organizations, different levers for players to play with.
- Dragon: That's really awesome. Are you able to show any kind of battle?
- Jeffrey: We will go
- Dragon: He already mentioned it but you won't be going this fast. He has it in a developer mode again.
- Jeffrey: Alright, so here’s a little guy. I’m playing a mage right now. We don’t have any sense of Auto attack in this game, so all of our attacks are active.we want people to play the game we don't want the game to play itself. We have kind of a mixture of tab targeting and action-based skills. Some of the things you'll see are skill shots, that lightning bolt with a skill shot Fireball was a tab target ability. We think movement is really important and making things dynamic and not stationary, we want people to be able to move around while casting. That goes into the PvP side of things. Because again we want people to have fun and having fun is keeping people engaged, keeping the pace fast, and letting people build what they want to build. In this game we've got eight different Archetypes. They’re split among for physical types and four Magical types. On the physical side we’ve got Tank, Fighter, Ranger and Rogue - On the magical side we've got the Summoner, Bard, Mage, and Cleric. Those guys fill the base Archetypes that your going to find in just about any MMO. Then we change that up with our subclasses. Of those 8 Archetypes you can subclass those 8 archetypes again. You can go Tank/Mage, Bard/Cleric, Bard/Fighter and change up how my core Archetype functions. Once I choose a tank, I'm always going to be a tank of some kind, but if I subclass Rogue for instance I might be more of an evasion tank than a mitigation tank. If I chose Tank again so I was Tank/Tank than I’m going to be a really powerful mitigation Tank. My kit changes based on my subclass. If I’m a Tank/Mage I’m not necessarily going to get a Fireball, that’s really a mage thing, but what I will get is access to the elemental sphere, and with that elemental sphere I could say take my shield bash which knocks somebody down when I use it, and I'm going to apply my Elemental fire to that ability, as an augment. Now that changes that Shield Bash ability so now instead of knocking someone down it sets them on fire. Instead of being a control tank I become more of a DPS tank. I can kind of change how I play and the feel of what I’m doing.
- Dragon: When you kill one of these guys, is there anything that you need to collect from them, maybe for a potion?
- Jeffrey: Yeah. We've got a pretty in-depth crafting system. Crafters will be kind of the main drivers of our economy. There’s not going to necessarily be a ton of loot drops, like I may not get a sword from that little guy, but I will get something that will help me make a sword. That puts the economic power in the crafters hands. I might go sell them to a crafter, I might bargain with a crafter to make me a cool sword. We want that interaction between players to be really meaningful. We really want to keep out of the picture as much as possible.
- Dragon: You've already gotten over a lot of stuff. Thank you so much for your time. Just one more quick question.
What kind of a system does AoC need to run relatively well?
- Jeffrey: Yeah, I think our minimum spec right now is targeting a (GTX) 960. Basically, the goal is to have a computer when we launch where five years back be viable. So we're not targeting super high-end systems. Unreal gives a lot of capability to turn down fidelity as we need it. Right now it plays extremely well even on lower end systems. We haven't done optimization passes yet. I have a feeling we're going to do better than computers that are 5 years (back from launch) old, but we'll see.
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