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Wardog Studios | Official Site
MMORPG | Genre:Sci-Fi | Status:Development  (est.rel N/A)  | Pub:Wardog Studios
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Force of Arms: An Interview with Wardog Studios

Recently, Staff Writer Joe Iuliani had the opportunity to sit down and ask ten questions of the guys down at Wardog Studios, the company that's making the Mech-based MMORPG, Force of Arms. Patrick Hamilton and Jeff Newcomb take the time to provide the answers.

MMORPG.com:

What were some of the driving influences behind designing a Mech based MMO?

Patrick Hamilton:
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Well the MMO market is young and is populated heavily by Fantasy based titles and very little Sci-Fi.  We had thought that the large publishing companies would have produced a Mech-based MMO by now, and that was attempted some time ago, but few have been released.  So we have taken the initiative of developing one, while also applying some unique entertainment and business features.  It helped to have an existing Mech System to work with, just a matter of transferring the tabletop system into a computerized environment on a massive scale.  Force of Arms (the pen and paper version) was never published, due to its complexity, taking about one hour per player with one Mech; thus four players with one Mech each will take about four hours to play out.  That wouldn’t work out under a ping pong table in the garage, but in a computer environment, all of the modifiers, references and calculations are transparent to the players and processed quickly, allowing Force of Arms to be an enjoyable system.

We’re taking the Phased Approach of releasing Force of Arms.  The first phase will be a Mech-vs-Mech combat system, the core of our efforts.  Since we’re a small company with a fairly unknown intellectual property, we need to build a community.  We do not have the luxury of waiting three to five or more years to develop such a system, so by taking a Phased Approached method, we will be able to go live much sooner and then expand the game afterwards.  This method was executed with the older pencil and dice RPG and war-games; release the core rules and then add expansions, compendiums and supplements later on.

As mentioned before, the MMO market is still young and there is plenty of room to work with.  Since there are so few Mech MMO titles out there, we are confident that we will succeed with Force of Arms.

MMORPG.com:

What level of cooperative play will there be in FOA?

Jeff “Tex-Mechs” Newcomb:

Phase I of Force of Arms is being developed mostly as a PvP system, and as with most PvP, even if a game isn’t explicitly designed for cooperative play, we recognized early on that players will normally band together to defeat the other side.  We don’t plan to shackle players together (like in WoW or FotR, to name a few).  Instead, we’ll give them some fairly powerful tools to implement the most effective strategy for themselves.  There should be target links, playcards, command overview, satellite recon, and few more that we’d like to talk about, but then we’d have to lock you in a trunk until we release…

MMORPG.com:

Any plans for a “guild” system?

Jeff “Tex-Mechs” Newcomb:

Houses and guilds are pretty standard faire these days, and we consider guilds as the backbone of MMO’s, so we decided a while back that we might want to support them with some code.  Looking at some of the games on the market today, we feel that our “guild” system (whatever it’s eventually *cough* called), will dwarf most systems players are used to.  We’ll be implementing some simple tools that will allow “guilds” to trade and take care of administrative functions to be sure, but the door is open to things like specialized housing, customized Mechs, specific weapon systems developed through cooperative research at the guild level….  Frankly, we’ve never understood why so many developers make a half-hearted attempt at implementing usable code for their player base in this area.

MMORPG.com:

How do you plan of penalizing greifing in PVP?

Jeff “Tex-Mechs” Newcomb:

Actually, there’s an interesting feature in our game, a karma system combined with non-lossless death that should have quite an effect on the motivations of players.  We’ve spent the last three, almost four years now, watching what’s available on the market to deal with player killer (PK) fiends, wolf packs, spammers, dorks of all shapes and sizes, and think we’ve come up with a decent system to deal with them effectively.  Notice we don’t use the word “fair.”  Also, it is important to remember that just because someone keeps getting his or her ass kicked by someone who has more skill; it’s probably not greifing if the weaker party gets taunted.  Get a better Mech or learn better tactics.

MMORPG.com:

What are some of the flex spending benefits?

Jeff “Tex-Mechs” Newcomb:

First, there’s a huge benefit to players who don’t have the money (or desire) to pay real dollars for “extras” in game:  We will never, ever, sell a player an item or ability that will benefit (or trump) player skill.  Players tend to spend money on “things,” just like in real life, so we’ll be providing services to players like terraforming for “guild hall” placement, inventory control, ultra-specialized bling, things that make the typically un-enjoyable portions of any game easier to deal with or customize, so you can focus on playing the game and having fun.

MMORPG.com:

What extent do you see the terrain changing?

Jeff “Tex-Mechs” Newcomb:

Phase 1 will be fairly static, although there is a terraforming process going on.  You’ll see changes begin to occur once the players let us know that the rest of the game is sound.  Although our lore places us on a barren, desert world, as we’ve begun constructing the world we’ve come to see how bland it is when compared to some of the offerings out there.  We’ll stick with our lore, but players should know that things get a lot greener in later chapters.  Also, terraforming is a cooperative (or even competing) element for the engineer-minded players (crafters).  Combatants may get the glory, but someone is going to have to make the world a livable place.

MMORPG.com:

What will be the advantages of Player Settlements?

Jeff “Tex-Mechs” Newcomb:

Players who get together into settlements are probably going to do so for the typical consolidation of power scenarios we’ve seen in other games, for purposes of trade, solitude, guilding, political power, or even location.  There is a difference between a guild and a trading association, and some are run by enterprising entrepreneurs who offer no service other than a prime location to barter goods and services.  We know that in every game, ours included, players will always be one step ahead of developers when it comes to things like land use, trading zones, city planning, etc.  We want our players to know that we’re interested in helping them make their experience more immersive.

MMORPG.com:

Could you describe the Multiverse platform that will be used for FOA?

Patrick Hamilton:

The Multiverse Platform is a system to allow for multiple environments, such as for games, socialization, military or business needs.  As such, the platform offers a number of capabilities, which we are planning to take advantage of.  One example is that the platform allows for a “world” to be of 4,000km by 4,000km by 4,000km, with accuracy done to one millimeter and with the scalability to allow essentially an unlimited number of users for one server cluster.  The platform allows for us to user near realistic weapon ranges for armored warfare, talking kilometers here, not less than 100 meters, or 500 meters or 1,000 meters.  We can use the different environmental aspects besides land; such as sea, air and eventually space.  

Also the system uses the Ogre 3D graphic engine, which enables us to allow users to provide their content into the game environment.  For example, we will allow players to create their own Mech models and implement them into the environment.  In the future, we will have tools or at least parts, to allow non-graphical users the means to create their Mech designs, as well as other vehicles or items.  That was one of the features I liked with BattleTech of customized fighting machines; but such a feature could not be used on a massive scale, now it can.

MMORPG.com:

What led Wardog Studios to choose the Hero system for character creation?

Patrick Hamilton:

We realized early on that creating our own unique system was going to be a quite a chore due to the amount of detail we wanted.  The HERO System by Hero Games has been around for more the twenty years and therefore a proven system with a lot of available content.  The HERO System is skill based and is one of the most sophisticated systems out there in the RPG market.  By choosing the HERO System, we have the access to that content, a proven system and thus less chances of reworking or nerfing the game, extensive amount of documentation, tapping into an existing community, and allowing characters to start out as heroes rather than as adults with skills of an infant.  There has been talk within the MMO community about wanting to play skill-based systems, and the HERO System will deliver.

MMORPG.com:

How well do you think the casual gamer will fare in FOA?

Jeff “Tex-Mechs” Newcomb:

One rule:  No level grinding.  We outfit our incoming players with decent equipment so that they can join their friends on the field of battle, even if their friends have been playing for a year or more.  The emphasis is on the skill of the player, the understanding of advantages/disadvantages when creating their Mech, and their ability to work tactically within squads and platoons.  Arena combat will have a solid ranking system in place to ensure that players of certain skill levels will be evenly matched, until such time as they should have the skills to pursue tougher, open-ranked players.

MMORPG.com:

Thanks for answering the 10 questions, but I always like to push it 11.

Coming from a Mech point of view who would win in a war between Robotech vs. Gundam?

Patrick Hamilton:

We decided to ask our fellow members, and they all agreed that if a person really wanted to find out, they’d have to play Force of Arms, since we’ll have a quality representation of both systems in our game.  

The other answer was that with 4,000,000 Zentraedi warships, how can you go wrong?

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