We learn more about this sci-fi MMOG that launched in March
Marko Dieckmann, the Managing Director of Duplex Systems, talks to MMORPG.com about Face of Mankind. It has been quite some time since the game went live and Dieckmann admits it is off to a slow start, but feels things should soon change for the best. Find out more.
Can you tell us about the success of Face of Mankind so far?
Face of Mankind had had a slow start, primarily due to advertising and retail not being launched yet. This will change in the near future, though. Our publisher has made detailed plans promoting advertisement and retail, which should boost the player count significantly.
How have things been working out with the Milestone 2 patch?
Milestone 2 is the sum of all the experiences gained during our rather long beta testing phases from 2004 to March 2006. The concept of Face of Mankind, with its skill-less system and more player freedom than any other MMOG, is very innovative, however this also has the side effect that it is difficult to make it solid and balanced.
With Milestone 2 we plan to go even one step further and give players more freedom to affect the shape of the game. The role of the GM will become more administrative, their job becoming more support and stabilizing than controlling.
Milestone 2 will also be the ultimate revision for the mission system, a key feature of the game. In Face of Mankind all missions are created by players, except a few very simple jobs, that we refer to as "basic missions", being created automatically.
We are currently working on all planned Milestone 2 features. New character additions such as faction clothes, civilian clothes, hair styles, faces and shoes have been added recently (see images). The other features have got the following priorities. You can expect the features to be implemented in this order:
Implementation of new faction structure
Mission system revision
Adding new aliens and alien planet
Adding reporter system
Adding court system
The political structure of the game seems to be pretty complex. Can you tell us about the departments and elections?
Departments will be the ultimate tools for the players to shape their role in a faction. Each faction can have a totally different departmental structure, which will give them more options to distinguish from each other. A department is a section of the faction with defined leadership, purpose and meaning for the faction. Departments are defined with a function and an area of responsibility. Functions can be things such as "Mining", "Production", "Trade", "Defense", "Offense", "Supply", "Intelligence" or "Secret Service". Each of these functions defines the type of missions that can be created by the department members. The area of responsibility is a set of worlds assigned to the department, where their missions can take place.
The department leaders can also have a special title, such as "Chief" or "Director". In conjunction with the department name, such a player could be presented as "Chief of Logistics and Supply" for example.
Elections are another tool for players to shape the story. Elections are held for special positions, which we refer to as mandates. A mandate can be "Senator" or "Judge". The candidate nominations are handed through to a faction leader (a GM), who then creates the voting ballots and sets a duration for the election. All players in the game will then be able to vote.
Senators will play an important role in the entire universe. The senate can make important decisions concerning the factions or events in the game world. More details about the senate can be found here.
Judges will also play an important role in the new court system. Players will be able to hand in cases. Each case can have a real trial if it was accepted by at least 5 judges. You can read more about the court system in our game forums at this link.
As part of a department what type of duties can players expect from their leaders?
Department leaders are responsible for managing the department, which means accepting/removing members or assigning special ranks to certain members. Mission creation can be done by all members of the department with rank 4 or higher. This means that the leaders have to delegate out enough high-rank positions in their department for efficient performance of missions.
For players who may not know much about Face of Mankind can you give us a little background on the storyline.
The universe is set in the distant future of mankind. Currently it is the year 2400. The human civilization still has a presence on Earth, but has also colonized many deep space planets and moons for the mining of raw materials. Raw materials on Earth have been totally exhausted, so spreading out onto other solar systems was just a matter of time and necessity.
The civilization is ruled by a single government, called the "Dominion". There are 9 factions in Face of Mankind of which 2 represent the Dominion officially, namely the "Law Enforcement Department" and the "Freedom Defense Corps". The others consist of 3 clans ("Guardians of Mankind", "Brotherhood of the Shadows" and the "Mercenaries of the Blood") and 3 corporations ("Colonization and Mining Guild", "Eurocore" and "Vortex Inc.").
The current political situation is far from being stable. There are many bloody conflicts between the various factions, which are all striving for power. However another threat is on the horizon. This new threat will be introduced later in the storyline.
In the future, with Milestone 2 in place how will players be able to make decisions that will impact the storyline?
With Milestone 2 we want to give much more power to the community. It is the goal of the developers to only be responsible for administrative work and support. We don't plan on laying out the entire storyline before the events actually take place. This would mean the players couldn't change the outcome.
First of all, what is a story? A story is a series of events taking place in the game world that affect the whole of the game and all players in it.
Aspects such as changes to factional relations (wars, alliances), law enforcement responsibilities of maintaining "Dominion" government, and the economical and social situation of the universe.
These will all be in the hands of the players. The only control mechanisms we will have are the faction leaders, who are played by GMs. But their role will change to a pure administrative one, and of course they will keep things within the boundaries of the game mechanics.
So, all these things are the story. However the more important question is, how can you make the story transparent to all players? How can you make everyone feel involved, even if only a minority actually is making a certain decision?
To conquer this, a very important, most likely underestimated, feature will be introduced with Milestone 2. Namely that all important actions will be logged somewhere, allowing others to read it. We call them "Chronicles". The ultimate goal is that new players will be able to dive into this new world by studying all the events that really happened in the game and then influencing the outcome of the future hence leaving their own mark in the Chronicles.
How has player combat been throughout the growth of the game? Are there any changes planned in the future?
Combat has always been a key aspect in Face of Mankind, since we incorporate a truly real-time FPS system. Several improvements have been made, for example more accurate hit box detection. You can now aim exactly at specific body parts like the head, shoulders, torso, arms, legs, feet and even hands and the server will recognize these hits accurately and calculate damage based on armor, used weapon and ammunition type.
As far as I know, there are not many other MMOGs offering such a detailed system, maybe not even one.
There is always room for further improvements, though. We would like to support a more tactical combat system instead of the typical FPS of "who can run faster and hit better" kind of thing. A few balancing features will be implemented in the future, for example realistic shot deviation while moving and damage affecting the movement and/or visual capabilities if a player is hit.
With the new update players seem to have a bit more control of the outcome of the game. Will this open up more opportunities for the developers and GMs to enhance content and game play?
Definitely. Since players are able to shape the universe, we will have more time to add new content and continue improving game play as well as adding new features.
Player crafting is always very important for MMO players. How has crafting grown in the game and what areas can players expect improvement?
The economic cycle has always been one of the most innovative features in Face of Mankind. Everything in the game has to be produced by the players. This creates very dynamic markets and gives a lot of power to the players. We only control the basic prices for raw materials along with basic mining and production costs. The rest is controlled by the Dominion citizens. Each faction can define tax rates on the colonies they own. The economic cycle is closed, which means all money that is spent will go somewhere else and won't be lost.
A few months ago we introduced the new real-time mining and production system and we've balanced it a lot since then. The only thing we still need to introduce to complete a believable economic cycle is item decay. Item decay means that items that cannot be destroyed, used or emptied (such as weapons, implants, clothes etc.) will age and at one point become unusable. This feature is on our to-do-list.
Are there any plans in the future for Face of Mankind to put out an expansion or more updates?
Milestone 2 could already be considered an expansion pack with all these new features and content. After Milestone 2 we will certainly have more time to add new content, such as new weapons, NPC's, implants and/or role-playing items, the options are endless. We are also looking further into the future and have formulated some plans on how we can bring the Face of Mankind concept into a new next-generation title. Details about this new project can't be revealed yet.