MMORPG: You titled the game (for now) Revival as a reference to the entire MMORPG genre. What are some of the old elements that you want to capture in the game?
Illfonic: This game means a lot to us here at IllFonic. A lot of us that are here have worked on MMOs before, but we’ve always been under the knife of producer run, marketing driven development. Because of this, things have gotten really bad over the past decade with the genre. Players are tired of being lied to with fluffy gimmicks. The end result is, they’re getting the same game over and over with a slight twist. It’s not really always the developers fault. It’s usually suits or some producer who ruins it for the compassionate designers. Soon, we’re going to really start engaging players. We encourage players to stay open and communicate with us as much as possible. Nexuiz was forced out the door, way before it was ready, and we want to make sure we don’t make that mistake again. Although we got almost all features in Nexuiz (on the PC) the fans were requesting from us, it was too late by the time THQ went under and put Nexuiz in a bizarre limbo state we haven’t fully been able to recover from. With F2P, we are able to develop the game at an extremely relaxed pace. We aren’t locked into a marketing deadline or have to worry about a cert process that we’d have to plan and lock dates in around.
We decided to do this project because we are finally in a spot in our careers where we are able to do so. Sandbox MMORPGs on a F2P system give us that ability. The MMO genre is split into ‘theme park’ and ‘sandbox’ MMOs. The thought of playing an online role playing game used to be looked at as real role playing. You would become the entire persona of another person in a living, breath world. You would have past history, the characters you interacted with would react to you based on who you are, just like in real life. That is the essence we are going to bring with Revival. It’s a very ambitious task, and something we’re looking forward to fighting for. An MMORPG is supposed to be an online world, not an excel spread sheet.
MMORPG: You talk about giving players the freedom of choice in the game. Can you tell us your philosophy on this freedom?
Illfonic: There are all sorts of players in the world. Not all players are going to like everything we do and design. I’ve heard the, hilarious term, Carebears used a lot. It’s a true statement that lately most MMOs have been softened up to the point that when you login and play you pretty much just sloth into your chair and zone out. You don’t care about other players, you don’t care about the world, the city you are in and why it is there. I also don’t believe in these extremist hardcore players that want to make such a grueling and punishing experience that it just isn’t very fun for your average Joe. We’re not trying to split players up either. So we’ve come up with ways that can make most people happy. Some ultra-griefers won’t like it, some super-carebears who like all corners wraped with bubble wrap won’t like it either. F2P lets us really explore this with the game’s fiction and how we tie into micro transactions. Now, F2P has a bad rap right now because most F2P games are built to try to ruin people’s lives by feeding off their addictions. We don’t believe in this. I believe in lots of really dirt cheap things instead of the player with the most money in real life wins. If we’re touting Role Playing Game, we can’t also be saying you have to be rich in your 1st life to play well in your 2nd life. That’s like going to a D&D table and the player with the diamond dice is better than you because he can afford it.
For some reason, a lot of MMOs have adopted the situation where you are all players in the same play. You all play the same game, until the end game. You are playing a storyline that is drilled into your player. Revival is a game where you take the story where you want, when you want. How you play has serious consequences to your player and the world around you. When we first launch Revival, we may have a quest around a cave to go hunt someone or something like that. That quest will go away, and come back again after a period of time, every time a player does it. Eventually, we’ll completely take the quest away. Some quests, you will only get one chance to ever do it. With our Live Storytelling aspect, you have a shot of witnessing and being involved in something that will never happen again. If there is a quest about stopping someone from building an army – if you do not stop that person, that army will be built, and that army will attack in full force. If you do not stop the army from being built, whatever it was that they’re attacking could be destroyed forever. All players are unique, they all experience something different, just like in the real world. A game should be built to reflect that as much as possible. We want to give as many choices to the player as possible with this. We don’t want you to play a certain way, we just want to give you the means to play and discover your character yourself. We’ll adapt together. It won’t be developers forcing players, or players forcing developers. We are building a world where we have to watch and see where it goes.
MMORPG: The game has a strong karma system to police player actions. How does this work? Also, how does it impact entire populations?
Illfonic: This is an extension of our player choices system. In chaos, there is someone trying to maintain order. But that order is always broken up, it’s a constant battle. We are building a system that ties directly into this. We may write a deep story in a town, but if the town goes so bad, we can’t even save it anymore. It will be lost. We will be saddened by this, and may at times enact ‘godly powers’ to help push things along. But, we will never really intervene. The karma system for players is based on every single action they make. Good, bad, or doing nothing at all will affect the players lives. NPCs, Gods, monsters, creatures, and luck itself will all be ticking away on the player on every level. This also affects the world around them. Town’s will completely go into the gutter and eventually vanish if players don’t pay attention to the city. It is possible to do economic warfare in Revival. If you want a city removed for whatever reason (maybe an enemy guild, you don’t like it, whatever), you can ruin the city’s economy and force it to collapse on itself, without ever lifting a finger for combat. We’ll have some safe zones, not many, where there’ll be immunity from this effect for gameplay sake. This is based off the criminology theory of “broken windows”. If a city and its inhabitants don’t care about the city and their surroundings, it will show. We don’t want to build a golden world for players. We want players to decide what kind of world they want to live in.
MMORPG: The sandbox concept is making a strong comeback in MMOs. How does Revival embrace this approach to the world?
Illfonic: Sandbox MMOs certainly can mean a lot of different things and it is very broad. To some, it’s very specific, to others it’s called ‘hybrids’. We only use Sandbox MMO because we feel it’s the genre that best defines what Revival is. We don’t have classes and creature difficulties are relevant to context so there’s no fields upon fields of LEVEL X SPAWN. There is player housing, in depth crafting, an open market that is driven by the player but tied deep into the games actual economy. What this means is, NPC vendors are very reliant on player interaction. NPCs buying your expensive gear is easier than an Auction House, but there is actual supply and demand. If the NPC vendor doesn’t need your item, he won’t buy it. Players actually effect the world. Not just in the “big even happening tonight!” style, but also on the very tiny movement level (butterfly effect).
MMORPG: Can you give us some insight into combat and skills? What will players be able to do with their characters?
Illfonic: Combat is very heavily real time and skill based. Although there is an RPG system at the back bone, the combat will depend on player’s feeling the anxiety of combat. All weapons have their own class, and some weapons you can’t get good at unless you seek out a trainer. There are tomes to teach you ancient styles and new techniques. You’ll also advance your combat through practice, watching other players, etc. Each weapon has multiple combat moves. You shoot with a bow and arrow/crossbow from first person. You must actually land blows on your foes in order for it to count. Most importantly, there is no 1-0 hotkey bar in Revival.
MMORPG: You want to keep the world open, but also will add elements of content with direct stories. How are you working them into the open world system?
Illfonic: In most MMOs the world is linear, it forces you to progress along a difficulty curve to the end game areas. Revival uses actual quest hubs to help players really learn the area around them. But there is no order to these quests. The quests also won’t lead you to the next town over. They are more like bubbles around cities and other important areas. The content team, especially the live team, keeps updating, removing and adding quests throughout the game world. We won’t always tell players about these quests either. It’s up to the players to engage these quests. There’s also smaller quests littered. Some are irrelevant to any type of big story arc. These update quite frequently. Our Live Storytelling component, especially tied with the Elder Gods, will leave players and the world around them constantly guessing on what will happen next.
MMORPG: MMOs have definitely crossed every genre line, but has always had its roots in high fantasy. Can you tell us what is it about high fantasy that works best in an MMO?
Illfonic: Fantasy just provides exactly that, a fantasy. Sci-Fi is great, I love it a lot, but there’s just always something about the old tale of “Off to slay the dragon!” that just isn’t old for us. With us using Lovecraft’s works as a huge source of inspiration, it really lets our imagination go into new areas. Sci-Fi you have to tie things into logic and science. Fantasy, we can just say it’s magic and get away with anything. In star wars, for example, light sabers play a huge role for the Jedi. It seems like that’s more of a desire to be in a fantasy setting than a Sci-Fi setting. Melee combat is almost completely irrelevant in today’s combat. It would, undoubtably, be almost completely removed in future fighting. We like fantasy because it allows us have more up close and personal moments.
MMORPG: The game will be free to play which still gets a lot of opinions from players. Can you tell us how you will be using this pricing model?
Illfonic: I haven’t been paying attention to what players don’t like in the MMO space (in regards to F2P). I left the whole scene when F2P was just starting. From what I can tell, it seems that most players had the concept of ‘Pay to Win’. It surprises me, because that is definitely something we have to consider if we ever hope to bring Nexuiz to F2P. But that’s an Arena FPS, with extreme twitch gameplay. I’ve been curious as to, exactly what are they doing to players to make them feel like someone who is paying is getting a better advantage over a player who is not? We don’t believe F2P should be like this. You should be buying things to help make your experience in the game better, not make you better than other players. We believe in the penny slot system over the $10 slots like most other F2P games have. We have an immense amount of things that can be purchased throughout the game, all carefully designed to not allow players to just buy their way to the top. We don’t want to bully the players into feeling like they have to buy something in order to have a good time. We’d much rather entice you, like evil little gremlins. It’s almost like webcam girls. They sit there, and they lure you, but they won’t give you what you really want unless you pay. That doesn’t mean you can’t have as much fun as the other perverts in the room, you just won’t get the full bang. I want players to yern for the things they desire and feel gratified afterwards. I don’t want to be ‘that guy’ that has the house party and tells people they have to buy cups at the door or they can’t drink out of the keg. How’s that for an analogy?
MMORPG: We understand it is early in the development process, but are you happy with the achievements your team has made on the game? When do you see beta happening (since everyone will ask)?
Illfonic: We’ve barely had a full team working on our prototype (most of the company is currently wrapping up a work for hire project). How small the current team is right now, and what we’ve achieved, only tells me how realistic our goals actually are. With the awesome help from Crytek and great methodologies, I feel really great about this project. The biggest things players should realize is that we aren’t in a rush to make this game. We also aren’t going to ‘finish it and release it’. We’ll be pushing the game out to a live state, where players can start playing, at its 35% mark. We want the game to grow with the players and the fans communicate with us to make sure we make it the best it can be. That date is still to be announced, but I would imagine we’re looking at about Summer-Winter 2014.