MMORPG: Will there be a Feat system in the game for players to specialize in?
Ryan S. Dancey: Feats have an expression in Pathfinder Online but they're less "binary" like they are in the tabletop and more "gradual". Characters will have lots of abilities and some of them will be similar to the Feats players on the tabletop are familiar with; but those characters will develop and improve those abilities gradually over a long period of time rather than getting a significant up-front mechanical bonus all at once.
MMORPG: For those unfamiliar with the Pathfinder world can you give us a short history of Golarion and how it’s presented in the game?
Ryan S. Dancey: Golarion was built from the ground up to support a diverse range of fantasy stories. Erik Mona and the publishing team at Paizo Publishing wanted to make a "home" for all the classic tropes of sword & sorcery fantasy. So there are places drawn from many real-world mythologies and histories like Egypt and Nordic culture. But there are also places where Vampires run the kingdom, where ancient magical wars have devastated the ecology, where strange alien technology is mixing with swordsmen in loincloths.
The River Kingdoms, where the MMO is set, was envisioned as a sandbox even before the MMO was proposed. It's a place where groups of characters can raise a flag and declare themselves lords of all they can control. One of the most successful Adventure Paths, a series of linked tabletop adventures produced by Paizo, called Kingmaker was set in the River Kingdoms.
Far to the north of the River Kingdoms is a place called the Worldwound. It is a portal to Hell, and demonic forces are attempting to invade Golarion through the rift. Armies from across the world have mobilized to fight this incursion, and many of the people who are going to join the fight travel up the Sellen River, which forms the western border of the River Kingdoms.
At a juncture of this river is a town called Mosswater. It has become overrun by mysterious monstrous forces and made the river route impassable. People disembark below the town and portage around the danger zone. This creates a melting-pot of people from all over Golarion concentrated in this area that we call The Crusader Road. It's a perfect solution to the question of how do we represent the diversity of the world in a small area of geography!
Of course, Pathfinder is a fantasy world, and that implies things like gates and teleportation. We'll have lots of opportunities to create content set in the many geographical regions of the world as time progresses. Tapping the diversity of Golarion is a long-term key to the game's success.
MMORPG: What are your plans for the game in the coming months as funding continues? How can players get involved early in the process?
Ryan S. Dancey: The Kickstarter is the best way to participate right now. After the Kickstarter, the best place to get your voice heard will be on the forums at Paizo.com . We plan to have our own community site for Goblinworks in 2013 but for now our home base is the Paizo system.
We publish a Development Blog every 2 weeks at goblinworks.com and that's the best place to get the latest info on the game and its development.
MMORPG: A lot folks on our forums have been discussing the "sub for beta" or Early Enrollment. Can you comment on the why and what this is all about?
Ryan S. Dancey: Early Enrollment is a new way of looking at the start of a Sandbox. Mark Kalmes, our CTO, compares it to the trend towards "internet Beta" for things like GMail and Minecraft. It's not a traditional "beta test" where the purpose is to find bugs. Early Enrollment is the period where the game is most malleable to player input. It's the time when core systems will be implemented and prioritized with community feedback. The game will be focused on expanding features, content and systems, less on "bugs".
Being a part of Early Enrollment will be a unique experience for anyone who has ever said "if only they'd listened to the community before they built the MMO". Sandbox games need that kind of intense player feedback to get things right - without it, we're shooting largely in the dark about the needs and desires of the player community. Early Enrollment is our process for making that feedback loop function with high efficiency.
Of course, if a player would rather wait until the game is essentially feature complete, they can skip Early Enrollment and wait until Release. After Release we'll be focused more on adding new content to existing systems rather than making new systems. Release marks a transition from a game being built to a game being expanded.
I know that if I was a player interested in Pathfinder Online, I'd want to be in as early as possible so I could have the most impact on how the game develops. We're offering players that opportunity with Early Enrollment.
MMORPG: What about how it'll all work after release? What will the model be then?
Ryan S. Dancey: In Early Enrollment, we'll be using a simple subscription model, because it's easy and familiar. As Early Enrollment progresses we'll be building the systems we need to support microtransactions. When enough of those systems are in place we'll be able to open a cash store and let folks shop with MTX currency.
By Release, we'll have the capability to let players choose to either pay via subscription, or pay via MTX, just like Turbine does with Lord of the Rings Online and with Dungeons & Dragons Online.
There will be some ability to "play for free" on a trial basis but we have not yet determined how that will work in practice. It will be something that we work on during Early Enrollment so that we get a good balance between giving people a chance to decide if Pathfinder Online is right for them, and still maintaining a healthy business.
The core of our MTX strategy is selling training time, just like EVE Online does with PLEX. Players will be able to buy training time in increments - we assume 1 day, 1 week and 1 month. They'll be able to sell that time on in-game markets for in-game Coin. Just like PLEX, that means that some players will be able to buy all the training time they need because they're able to generate enough in-game wealth to afford it. Other players will be supporting those people by selling them game time, and getting in-game Coin in return, making it easier for them to play without worrying about sources of income. It's a great system, well tested by CCP.
The cash shop will also have minor consumables, convenience items, and "bling" - stuff to make your character unique and distinctive. Our commitment to the community is that nothing sold in the cash shop will be better than goods that can be crafted and created by characters in-game and that nothing we sell will be de facto necessary to have a top-quality character.