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Independency: Divergence Online - Diversity in Gameplay

Column By Lisa Jonte on April 10, 2013

According to its creator, Divergence Online is a, “Hardcore sandbox mmorpg that brings back the glory years of truly massive online games where player freedom wasn't just a tag-line, it was the whole experience.”

With two weeks to go on his Indiegogo campaign, Ethan Casner, the brains behind the virtual brawn that is Divergence Online, is just a hair’s breadth away from achieving his funding goal. Recently, I had the chance to talk to Mr. Casner about his game, its potential, and the more than six year Odyssey it has been to bring it to life.

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The first thing we discussed was factions and their function within the game. In fact, I didn’t even have to ask, as Ethan is eager to highlight the differences between factions in Divergence, and what they’ve come to look like in other, more mainstream MMOs.

“I just don’t tend to use the term “faction vs faction” because I don’t like how rigid that makes the game seem. Sort of “Make Character! Choose Faction! Fight people with different Factions!” when the faction system is fluid in Divergence. Your faction is whomever you’ve made it a point to be friendly with and can change at any moment.”

I personally liked that vision of factions; the fact he and his small team seem to be setting them up as living (and potentially dying) things. But I wondered, would new factions be possible in the wake of the old? How might they come about? Or could there someday be just one ancient faction still standing and essentially running everything, like the Empire?

“Think of Factions in Divergence as “global guilds” with more advanced features. They come, they go. They’ll split and shard off onto hopefully new ones whose enemies will do their best to stomp out. The “starter” factions, the ones that exist in the lore itself out in space and on other worlds obviously are officially fleshed out. They have their own characters, their own armor and clothing designs and all that jazz. If enough players make enough of a concerted effort to create and sell a brand in Divergence though, we’ll eventually give them “official” status and see about working up some original assets.”

Ethan also spoke of the diversity of game-play that will be available. Players can truly chart their own course, and that course need not involve battle.

“We want cantinas filled with dancers like “back in the day SWG” competing for tips from the soldiers and equally as importantly, our harvesting and object assembly system will blow people’s minds.”

No one true way to play? Tell me more! But one thing did concern me, however, and that was Ethan’s mention of dancers and tips. I had to know how he saw that playing out with regard to gender. I had to know if his vision was default-straight-male, with attendant limited choices, or if there would be a chance for both dancers and soldiers to be as varied as his potential player base. 

“I expect that the gender makeup of dancers will be around the same as it was in Star Wars Galaxies. The overwhelming majority females. Certain gender biases exist and always will, such as pretty much any AI giving announcements over a loudspeaker for Omicron will be an English female voice, all VRTek will be masculine. Differing ideologies attract specific personalities.

Gender in the game controls half of your animations and which models of clothing and armor are applied to your character. That’s all.”

No set direction for gender preferences or politics, one way or another, allowing for individual choice? Perfect.

We moved on to talk about land and the contentious part it will play in Divergence. Land figures to be an extremely important part of the game, from its cultivation to its defense against those who covertly (or not so covertly) covet what is not currently theirs.

“Constantly stolen, constantly contested. The ultimate power which all other power is derived from is force. When we take away annoying text messages that pop up in front of you that say, “You can’t place a house here, you don’t own this land”, what we’re left with is “who is willing to fight for it”. This is where society comes into play. Our species learned long ago that it’s better to band together into a community for mutual protection. It’s ingrained in us and although there will always be renegades, even they have their own spheres of protection.

I find a spot of land I like. I say unto the universe, “This is my land”. Then I put down a house moments before I also put down a huge goddamn turret programmed to kill all non-friendlies (specified by faction criteria, friends list, whatever) on sight. That right there is how “ownership” is determined in Divergence. Perhaps I don’t really even like the desert and I just recognize that it’s a good location. Perhaps I offer it for sale on the open market, but then again all I’m really offering is “my vacating it". An offer is made, a sale goes through, I pack up my stuff and I leave.

Or perhaps I’m less of an opportunist scumbag and I just want to have my plot in my township with my friends. We all put down our houses and form a perimeter of walls and defenses all set to attack anyone not of our allegiance unless otherwise specified.”

There is more, so much more to Divergence Online and my conversation with Ethan Casner. Drop a quick comment and let us what you think of what’s been revealed so far.  And be sure to join me here next time for Part II, when we discuss more about the inner complexities of the game, and of the long haul to move it from dream to reality.


Lisa Jonte / Mother, writer, artist, editor. One time (print and web) comics creator, and former editor of the fem-centric GirlAMatic.com; now a secretive and hermit-like prose writer, (and not so secretive nor hermit-like blogger.) A gamer since way back, (no, seriously, waaaay back) her collection of gaming paraphernalia is older than most game store clerks.

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