Recently, MMORPG.com sat down to talk to the folks from Mindfuse to talk about their MMORPG, Gatheryn.
They call their title an "advanced casual online game." The developers have taken a full 3D MMO and put the focus on casual games. The idea is to provide a casual, yet immersive experience for players.
Gatheryn employs a Victorian Steampunk setting, similar to stories by Jules Verne or the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. It's the introduction of science fiction or fantasy elements into the steam era, which in the case of Victorian Steampunk, is during Britain's Victorian Age.
Players who join the world of Gatheryn are on their way to a chain of isolated islands in the middle of the ocean. On these islands, there exists a technology that allows for endless steam power. The story is that players have chosen to travel there so that they might make a name for themselves.
In Gatheryn, character creation is fairly detailed. It allows players to customize their faces, hairstyles, and the like. The game does not, however, for the player to make long term decisions about their characters in terms of classes, alignment and so forth. The idea is to bring more casual players in with a highly customizable visual character, without overwhelming them with decisions that will affect the rest of their gaming experience. Even clothing will be customizable, with players able to adjust the color and other elements. Wearables and fashion will play a large role in the game, according to the developers.
Once out of character creation, players are placed straight into the game's tutorial. In true Steampunk fashion, the tutorial takes place on the deck of an airship. The player is taken through the basics of the game: how to move, how to chat, how to talk to an NPC, etc.
As we learned earlier, part of being in the world of Gatheryn is looking like you belong, and not only does the game provide players with plenty of opportunity to outfit themselves in many shops, but they've also gone so far as to make the shopkeepers themselves into pivotal parts of the game.
"Talking to shopkeepers is really important," we were told, "they all chat, they all have gossip, and they can give you information about places you should go in the world and quests that are open."
As a social game, it was also important for the developers to include a number of social features: chat, friends lists, in-game mail, attachments, all couched in the trappings of the setting. Mail, for example, is sent through a mail kiosk. Letters are sent through pneumatic tubes (those old fashioned things where you put a case in and the tube whisks it away) that run all over the island.
Early testing of the game indicated to the developers that casual players tended to enjoy the emote aspects of the game that more seasoned MMO players take for granted and so they have been given a lot of options in that area, going so far as to provide dance studios where characters can learn new dances.
"Providing the players with lots of activities in the world and lots of exploration is really important," we were told.
With that in mind, the islands are as interesting and beautiful as the developers could make them. In the interest of immersion, the game makes use of a day and night cycle (accelerated and not based on a 24 hour clock), weather, weather patterns and the like.
Peppered throughout the countrysides, there are loads of items that players can interact with. If you see some gears by the side of the road, you can pick them up. Stumble across an apple orchard? Go ahead and pick yourself some fruit. Enjoy collecting seashells on the beach? Go for it!
Traditional crafting, mixing items together to create something, does play a role in the game's system, but instead of stopping there the developers have added in some mini-games to make the crafting system a little bit more interesting.
The game makes use of a convention that they are calling micro-games. They are, as the name would suggest, something less than a mini game but still significant. Item gathering, for example, is considered to be a mini game (sometimes you find better stuff than others). We were also given the example of kicking a tree. You may as well give it a go. Sometimes there's treasure in them there trees.
Mini games are pretty big part of the game. At launch, the team plans to have at least 15 different mini-games from potion making to crafting furniture and more.
Gatheryn will include housing in order to keep players invested in coming back from day to day. Players who choose not to subscribe to the game can use silver in order to pay rent on a player apartment. Players who choose to go the subscription have their rent included as well as the option to upgrade to a larger space.
Homes have both public and private areas. While most areas are private, players can designate areas in their homes as public. They can also designate roommates, who gain limited access to and responsibility for their homes.
Pets in Gatheryn include both live animals and clockwork friends (it just wouldn't be Steampunk without clockwork creatures). Pets can be cared for, played with, have things bought for them and generally spoiled just like any real life companion. Players who don't tend to their pets risk having them wander off to be picked up by other players.
The game is free to play with microtransactions (players can purchase additional silver to speed along getting things that they want in game), or they can subscribe and get a monthly stipend of silver as well as more permanent items like the apartments.
When it launches, Gatheryn will be the first game launched using Simutronics' Hero Engine. It offers players a unique gaming experience that, while it may seem light to the hardcore MMO gamer, has the potential to appeal to an audience that hasn't really been introduced to the genre or those who in search of something a bit less demanding on their schedule.