As Novel Inc.’s Empire and State goes into Open Beta on Monday, April 25th, a little later than originally expected, but a sneak peek into the game showed quite a bit of player activity despite the holiday weekend.
“We expect the starter nations to be replaced by player created nations very shortly,” said Toby Ragaini, Director of Product Development at Novel. He was judging by the amount of player activity in the game, a level which both Toby and Mike Marr, Creative Director at Novel found encouraging and gratifying.
Empire and State is an MMO-RTS, an empire building game with combat on a high level; which is to say, you’ll be sending your resources in to support your nation in battle, but not controlling individual armies on the field of combat. A browser based game, it was fundamentally designed as a free-to-play game and monetizes accordingly. It was also designed with core gamers in mind, with the world and economy conceived akin to an EVE Online style open sandbox. The game is a little more casual than a full downloadable MMO but contains all the trappings, as Toby explained.
“We’ve designed Empire and State for the core gamers who want this kind of experience but do not want to or have the time to commit multi-hours at a time to a game.” Said Toby, “Let’s face it, core gamers are getting older and have other obligations that take up their time, and casual games are not providing the same satisfaction. Convenience and accessibility doesn’t have to be shallow and vapid.”
RTS games have a certain cadence of play and utilizing a browser interface works well with the genre, allowing players to log-in during the work day to perform various tasks that take real time to complete, such as research, building, harvesting, crafting and training. These are features we already see creeping into current day MMOs; players asking for and getting the ability to log in and check their inventory, auction house and crafting queues via the web or even their smart phones.
“Empire and State is more about strategy than tactics, said Mike Marr as we went into game features.
In Risk fashion, the game is about control of tiles on a hex map. Players of the nation owning the hex continually contribute to fortification and opposing players contribute to its storming. It is a statistics based model and the conflict will take time to resolve. It’s about groups working together to achieve a goal, not the actions of a single player.
“It not about mastering the UI, but about marshalling forces and coordination of resources,” Mike continued.
Players have asset lockers which can hold properties and vehicles. Properties are buildings which can be factories or resource harvesters such as iron mines and oil rigs. Vehicles are combat or cargo although some are dual function. Players start with three slots and have to purchase Novel points to buy more as each building or vehicle uses one slot. Other monetization points are the replenishment of stamina and energy that is required for actions, and the ability to speed up factory production. The expectation being that the serious players will pay to play the game whereas the more casual players might be satisfied with the three asset lockers and being a part of a greater whole.
Given their plan for an open ended environment and the expectation for player nations to replace starter nations, we asked players could expect a wipe before launch. The official response is that while certain features may change due to player feedback during open beta, Novel planned on keeping player characters intact.