You may not have heard of Origins of Malu before, but something tells me that after this preview, you’ll be keeping an eye on it. Do you miss Star Wars Galaxies? Do you miss science-fiction MMORPGs that let you be a crafter and make your entire game focus around that? Do you miss making your own houses, towns, and shops? Do you wish more games allowed players to make their own factions and vie for control of territory as opposed to just grinding rep with some NPCs? Do you wish more games would allow players to truly change the world based on their actions? Well, then you’ll want to pay attention to Burning Dog and their independent project, Origins of Malu. Because if they pull off half of what they’re attempting, there will be a lot of happy gamers out there.
I met Burning Dog’s President Michael Dunham, an energetic and passionate Canadian gamer and developer with a penchant for Broken Lizard movies at PAX Prime 2012 where his team was showing their game to crowds for the first time. Now, several weeks later, Michael and his crew are ready to pull back the curtain on even more of their work of passion and they were kind enough to do so with us here at MMORPG.com. The basics of Malu are straightforward enough. Let’s put it this way: Origins of Malu is a sandbox sci-fi and fantasy MMORPG where three races work to live together, form player-controlled factions, and literally shape the world through crafting and building. Today, we’re going to focus on a few of the systems that Burning Dog is ready to talk about, and probably their most ambitious to boot: the crafting itself, and the Dynamic Faction System.
SWG’S FORCE IS STRONG IN THIS ONE
The crafting in OoM is no joke. You’ll do everything from plant trees to build houses block by block. You’ll place things in the open world like foundations, walls, and be able to build just about anything you like with the tools the devs give you. It’s goal is to be almost Minecraft-like, in that you can scale and size the pieces, and do everything yourself, or you could pick from pre-fabricated designs given to you by the developers, or even pre-fabbed designs made and sold by the players themselves.
And while the independent team of contractors located throughout the globe can’t yet guarantee that you’ll be able to terra-form the world and change the terrain, the goal is to eventually allow players with the right skills to move mountains, create rivers and lakes, and so forth. But you can build floating islands, structures, and change the eco-system with your plants and trees. If you don’t want to get that in-depth with the crafting, and just want to make “A Shop”, you can with the pre-fabricated models. Think LEGO, and you’re onto what the team’s goal is for the breadth of scope in OoM’s crafting and building. There are even defensive turrets that players can build, and they choose where the guns sit, how many guns there are, and so forth. Obviously there will be certain rules and logic in place to keep things quasi-realistic and fair, but the goal is to give the player as much control as possible without letting them go crazy with a 9 million gunned turret for example.
Everything, not just buildings, will be crafted and supplied by the players. There will of course be NPC towns and things of that nature, but Burning Dog wants the players to guide the world once they hand it over to you at launch. If this reminds you at all of Star Wars Galaxies’ glory days, it may or may not be coincidental. Like anyone else that’s a veteran of the MMO world, Michael and his team have been playing these games for as long as any of us, and they too miss the days when the world of an MMO was driven by the players and not just some story on a writer’s desk.
THE DYNAMIC FACTION SYSTEM
The other main feature we’re going to share today is OoM’s Dynamic Faction System. This part of the game is very PVP oriented, though it’s important that we mention right now that if a player doesn’t want to partake in PVP and get wrapped up in the warfare between factions, they never have. All they have to do is make sure they’re part of a guild (or no guild at all) that doesn’t take part in the faction warfare, and they’ll remain un-flagged for PVP and can go about their business as they want to. They can pick up on the warfare if they go “mercenary”, but we’ll get to that later.
Now, let’s explain this system. Essentially, a faction in OoM is a collection of two or more guilds that meet certain requirements and ally to forge onward for power and territorial control in the world. That’s right. We’re not talking about Horde of Alliance here. We’re talking about the players taking sides, and duking it out for server supremacy in the open world. There will be certain rules in place so that there are not four hundred factions on a server (guild size, guild longevity, activity, etc.), but by and large Burning Dog expect a few factions per server to be on the front lines. They’ll form, assign committee members so that each Guild is represented within each faction, and the committee will vote on issues such as where to start new settlements and so forth.
Worth noting at this point is that if you’re a part of a faction, you will be flagged for PVP against other factions. Like I said at the outset, if you wish remain PVE oriented, you won’t want to partake in the faction system. But what they do will determine the shape and scope of the world, so you’ll want to at least pay attention to what’s going on with them, even if you’d rather just craft your life away and stay off the grid.
But how do these factions gain and lose territory? Essentially they’ll construct these massive crafted obelisks known as “Markers”. These will take a ton of resources and cooperation to make, and once constructed the committee will vote on where to place the next one. Once the vote is approved, a “carrier” (a player tasked with planting the marker) will have to carry this thing on foot to the location. He’s going to be defenseless, slow, and need back-up, so you’ll want to make sure your Faction goes with him to protect him from the others. If he dies, the Marker goes back to base-camp and you have to start over. The idea is for this little trek to be a massive group activity where the entire faction has to work together and defend this one guy. He’ll have some defenses himself as the carrier, making it harder to kill him than a normal player, but he’ll need you and your friends to get the job done.
Once he makes it to the location and plants the Marker, it’ll be in its warm-up period. During this time it will still be defenseless, so you all will want to stand guard, place turrets, and defend it during the half-hour or so it will be getting to full capacity. If placed correctly, and near enough to other territory Markers, you’ll get stackable Faction bonuses that apply to your guilds as long as the Markers are out there and working. And they’re hefty ones too, plus they determine where your faction’s land reaches, so if you lose the Marker, the land is lost and so is everything in it. But don’t fret, when you’re offline there will be defenses in place to protect these markers and it won’t be easy to take them down without your faction being notified. The team’s even looking at making it so that you could get text messages or emails if someone attacks one. But they can’t stop “attacks in the night”, as it were. That’s part of the risk of having this faction and territory.
BURNING DOG’S HOPE
I could probably go on even more about each system, but I think I’ve given you enough to chew on for now. I asked Michael to give me some parting words on what it’s like being an Indie project with such big aspirations. He said that Burning Dog is the definition of “Independent”:
“We are Indie. We’re people that got tired of the same old MMO, and so we all got together to make our own. We’ve got devs from other games working in their spare time on Malu, and we’ve had some of our staff taken by other studios because of the work they’re doing here. We all have full-time jobs, but we’re doing this because it’s a project of passion for us. It’s all about focusing on the mechanics and the gameplay, the systems we hand over to the players. It’s going to take us a bit longer to get it going, because we’re doing it with like zero budget… but it’s because we want to prove that you don’t need 300 million dollars to make a fun game.”
If they manage to make it all work, something tells me its budget will increase, because the players will flock to it like the salmon of the Capistrano. Godspeed, Burning Dog. We’ll be watching Origins of Malu grow.