What do you ask of developers when a game is about to go into open beta and launch around the corner? They are in the polishing stage. Systems are being tweaked, bugs are being squashed. So what would be most desired information? All the bugs being worked on? The balancing issues? Whether the mages are still underpowered? They are all being worked on.
"We're in the changes due to beta testing and feedback stage of the game," said Tony Hilliam, CEO of Auran Games, the developers of Fury. "For example, we've tweaked the speed of acquiring ranks, but slowed down the rate that skills are acquired." The reason for that came from beta testing. Acquiring ranks faster means that players reach competitive rank faster.
Tony was playing a Vortex game and assisting his team in winning, so he called Adam Carpenter over and we talked about recent additions and decisions made by the Fury team. A big patch recently went in which implemented a new match-making system. "We're using a modified Glicko2 system," said Adam, "which was developed for rating chess players." I was impressed. It is a robust statistics-based ranking system. Glicko and Glicko2 http://math.bu.edu/people/mg/glicko/ was created by Mark Glickman, Ph.D. of the Harvard Statistics Department (currently at Boston University) which extended the Elo system (the first statistically based ranking system for chess) by incorporating a measure of uncertainty of a player's rating.
What was used before? I wanted to know. Adam grinned a little sheepishly, looked around, then whispered, "A total hack system." At the same time as the Glicko2 system though, Auran is running two other programs in the back ground. A variation of Trueskill http://research.microsoft.com/mlp/apg/trueskill.aspx - a ranking system developed by Microsoft Research for their Xbox Live program, and an internal measurement system. This is all being done in order to develop the best ranking system possible for Fury. These people are serious. All of this data is being collected and analyzed to make sure that the ranking system is fair and accurate, in order to create the best match-making system possible. "We've got data going back to the first matches played that we can look at," Adam told me.
We spoke about the recently revealed business model next. Why the dual system, I wanted to know.
"Well, Fury is a hybrid game type. It's an MMO and it's an FPS," said Adam, "and we'll attract both types of players. We'll have the very casual players and the hardcore ones. The ones that don't care about ladders and stat tracking, and those that do. We intend to support all of them. It's very much a value-add system. Players can either play for free, or they can pay a monthly subscription and gain the tools and bonuses that are valuable to them."
A good distinction, I thought, as there are those who love to play PvP games for the thrill of the game, but don't care where they stand on a ladder. Those that will play so often that they don't care for the "rest bonus" either, and will gain all the gold, essences and gear they need through drops.
"There's no need to pay to play our game. The additional fee is a convenience fee," Adam stressed, "Not a game breaking mechanic. You don't get better abilities, you don't get better equipment. You get convenience." Some of the conveniences include:
From there, we segued to their gold shop. I can hear the gasps of outrage from readers right now. Yes, Auran Games is selling "Game Cards" at the approximate exchange rate of USD 10 to 130 gold, so players can buy better gear. How does that affect the game then?
"Fury is not gear dependent," stated Adam firmly. "The best gear in the world will not best a skilled player. This game is skill dependent."
Tony jumped in at this point, "The best set of golf clubs in the world won't make you a better golfer. Likewise, the best gear in the Fury won't make you a better player."
"It's all about experience and skill. We had a retail event in Australia when we announced Fury. We pitted our worst players - Tony and three other marketing guys - against the best FPS players there, and we smoked them all," said Adam.
"They still won prizes though," clarified Tony. "So it wasn't all bad for them!"
Another mechanic that will limit the player from "buying" victory is the Equip Point feature in Fury. Rank determines the number of Equip points that a character has, and all equipment and abilities have equip points. A player equipping the highest level armor and trinkets there are in the game will end up with few points to spend on abilities. To put it another way, you may have twice or ten times the Magic:The Gathering cards than I do, but both you and I take the same amount of cards into a game. It's still deck construction and strategic skills that will take the day.
Auran is serious about their game. "We have over 120 achievement ladders and avatar stats logging that rival Battlefield2," said Adam, "Players will be measured in every way possible and they have to be confident that any match, any contest we run will be as fair as it can be." I asked about the Fury Challenge (details on the website: http://www.furychallenge.com/ ). How are you planning to make that fair, I wanted to know.
"Well," said Adam, "Pre-Order sales will begin in a week and although these players will have VIP access, that is, the ability to play mid-week, player ranks are capped per week. There's no luck involved either. Your best ten matches will count."
For the Fury Challenge, the first weekend, September 14 - 16, 2007 is practice time. The next two weekends are the competition weekends. There are a total of seven ladders. Four for individuals, consisting of one in each game type (Blood Bath, Vortex and Elimination) and a combined game ladder. The other three are clan ladders in Vortex, Elimination and again, a combined game ladder.
It's close to launch. Beta is ramping up, final testing is in place and the Challenge will fully stress test the match-making system and their contest rules. There is not much left to say, but "Game on!"