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A Return to the Roots of MMOs - Part 1

Tim Anderson Posted:
Developer Journals 0

In this month’s dev journal, were going to talk about the most recent round of alpha testing for the Saga of Lucimia, as well as upcoming goals for the next monthly build, and cover some of what we have been working on for over the past year and a half building the game up from scratch.

I’m also breaking it up into three parts, since it went a little lengthy, so make sure you catch up with all three episodes for the full breakdown!

For those of you who have been following along since we first started on this adventure, you’ve been able to see us progress from a team of six guys to a team of 18 people. We’ve gone from sharing concept art and screenshots of the earliest phases of the game, to building up and working our way through multiple iterations to get to where we are today.

As of this writing, we recently completed our first public alpha test on September 19th of 2015, as well as opened up the pre-order store for Early Access on September 15th. We have published more than 180 newsletters, 150 YouTube videos and Twitch streams featuring Q&A sessions, live music development, live zone development, live coding streams, and beyond.

There are three pillars to our gameplay: Community, Immersion, and Challenge. Out of those three, the first is the most important. Our game is a social beast, a group-based game based on the roots of the MMORPG genre, back when games revolved around the group and community working together, rather than single player components with MMORPG drapings thrown in for mere vanity’s sake, with everyone off on their Big Damn Hero quests and single player storylines and dungeon finders for instant groups and single serving adventures.

Which is why we have been so focused on transparency and community building since the very beginning, long before we had any sort of build to market to the community. It’s the number one factor for us, far more important than screenshots or videos or marketing or promotions. So much so that we have had some folks criticize the fact that we have been sharing screenshots of the earliest iterations of the game, long before we had anything even remotely close to a polished product.

Similarly, others have criticized that our videos to-date have not shown enough content: there is still no gameplay footage, the earliest pre-alpha videos had lag, and many of the earliest zone run-throughs were streamed from my laptop while I was in the middle of the jungle out near Palenque in the depths of Mexico with the wife’s family for a few months in 2014 and I was on a mere ¼ megabyte upload speed.

Which meant not-so-great visual quality. Especially compared to when my brother would stream from his rig, with flawless HD quality and a real Internet connection =P

But we’ve moved ahead regardless of the criticism, because we know that the people who are passionate about our project don’t care whether or not things are perfectly polished this early on in development. We also know for a fact that our efforts at building a community who have been involved from the very beginning have absolutely worked out for us, as is evident by the passion of our community in their sharing of screenshots, streams, and constant promotion of our game since the early days.

Another example of our ongoing community outreach is the ongoing Saturday night role-play group that I currently head every Saturday evening. It’s a pre-order tier with five players currently involved in the sessions; we still have room for three people if anyone wants to get involved. The sessions take place 750 years prior to the storyline of Volume I, and the overall campaign is meant to take around four months; we’ll finish up in mid-to-late January.

At the end of those four months, we will be taking the storyline and modifying it to be placed within Volume I as an epic questline. Players from the campaign get to choose specific items from their inventory, which are then turned into Relic items that players from the game will earn during the course of following the questline in Volume I.

We’re using 2nd Edition AD&D for the campaign, and we’ve streamed a couple of episodes on our Twitch channel, specifically to get people interested in the lore, and the ongoing Story So Far that makes up the backbone of the world behind the game.

Something else were doing for the community is every Monday, Wendesday, and Friday from October 5th and onwards for a four month period of time, we’re live streaming a social experiment on the project 1999 EverQuest server.

The idea for this actually came about as a result of the epic thread here at the MMORPG.com forums, where a handful of individuals made some claims regarding the impossibility of dungeons being able to last several months in duration. These individuals either never played EverQuest, or it’s been so long that they have simply forgotten what it was like in the early days of the MMORPG genre.

Since our game focuses heavily on zones and dungeons that are meant to last for weeks and months of gameplay rather than 15 minute “hard modes” (LOL at anything being called “hard” and yet only lasting 15 minutes), we wanted to show those folks who never experienced it the first time around what it is exactly that we’re setting out to do. And for those who may have forgotten, it’s a reminder of how things used to be.

We have two developers on the morning crew, as well as the four of our community members who have pre-ordered the game. We meet up at around 7 a.m. EST on those days and play until roughly 11 a.m. EST, and we’ve streamed a couple sessions to our Twitch channel;  we’re still leveling up at the moment, until we hit around 8 – 10 in terms of levels.

From there, we’re heading to Befallen first, where we expect to spend roughly 4 to 6 weeks of our time, and that’s when we’ll be streaming the bulk of our episodes. Afterwards, the current plan is to head to Runnyeye, where we will spend the majority of our time leveling up and exploring. We expect to spend at least 2 to 3 months within Runnyeye exploring and working our way deeper and deeper down into the depths, in the exact same fashion that players will be working their way into the depths of the dungeons in our game.

The difference in Saga of Lucimia is that we have the additional elements of mechanical and magical traps, locks, doorways, and puzzles, as well as areas where you will need to climb or have climbing gear, not to mention areas where you will need a dedicated crafter for things such as repairing the mechanism of the door, repairing the bridge, or deciphering runes for the key phrase to a door or mechanism.

What we are developing is not impossible, and it’s not necessarily new. Dungeons of this size and scope have been done before; Mistmoore, Sebilis, Karnor’s Castle, Kael, Cazik Thule, NTOV, to name a few.

The only thing we’re doing is adding some additional components to that, as mentioned in the previous paragraphs. And also not giving players quest hubs or a mini map or any sort of glowing trails telling them where to go; it’ll be up to you and your group to learn the dungeons and find quest chains the old-fashioned way, by exploring and memorizing and taking your own notes.

Our primary purpose is building a game that is all about the people and the players and the relationships and the social interaction. That can’t happen if the only thing we’re doing is trying to sell people a game, because that only turns people into consumers and customers, not fellow gamers, and not part of our community.

Which is why we’ve been out there since the very beginning sharing screenshots, sharing videos, doing Q&A sessions, and talking for months about nothing more than ideas and concepts, and showing people that we’re just like everybody else, and that more than anything else, we are interested in the relationships we have with our community members.

Stay tuned for Part Two, in which I’ll be talking a little more about community, the team, the first server stress test, Early Access, and what’s yet to come!


Tim Anderson