Immersing Players in an Epic Handcrafted World
Fantasy Tales Online is a new title currently in Steam Early Access that developers call a handcrafted pixel world with an epic journey for players. We had the opportunity to chat with Lead Developer Benoit Girard and 'Jack of All Trades' Gabriel Perez to learn more.
MMORPG: For those who may not know much about Fantasy Tales Online, please give us a thumbnail sketch of the game and its major features.
Gabe Perez: Fantasy Tales Online takes players into a handcrafted pixel world where they are immersed into an epic journey of building their characters and tackling challenges one by one. Players along their journey will choose how they want to specialize their character, whether it's in stealthing, stunning or sheer damage. They will choose from thousands of item possibilities, and go onto tackle puzzles, unique dungeons, and epic bosses. Once they are able to join a town they can choose how their town shrine empowers them to take on harder enemies in the world as they amass treasure and decorations for their player or guild houses.
MMORPG: How long has FTO been in development and by how many developers?
Gabe: FTO has been in development honestly longer then I think we care to admit. Something that started as a passion project really became something we heavily invested in about a year ago with one of our team members taking a sabbatical from his work and then continuing to work on the game part time. There are only 3 of us in the entire team Howard, Ben, and Gabe. There are perks of having such a small team like being able to talk to the founding members very easily, and having players’ voices heard. We take the small team approach to interacting with our community where we spend a lot of time interacting with everyone that we can while we work.
MMORPG: FTO recently launched into Early Access on Steam. What can players expect to find in its current state?
Gabe: We think that we have a lot to offer as an Early Access title especially coming from an indie team. The first playthrough that players make in the game will easily be able to account for over 50 hours of gameplay. A lot of the core features you would expect to find in an MMORPG are already present. There’s a few parts of the game that still need polish like the crafting system and the mobs but overall we hope players will see the quality stand out among Early Access titles.
MMORPG: Do you have a general window for when you might expect FTO to launch?
Benoit: A bit cliche but when it’s ready :). We’re going to be basing it off partly in user reviews, we will make sure that we’ve polished any issues that affect the gameplay and quality of life. A big variable as well is we’re hoping the early access release will give us funds to hire some help which would be a big boost. There are also a few key systems that we need to add in still like PVP, and the opportunity for a sandbox experience.
MMORPG: What are the post launch plans for FTO?
Benoit: We’ve floated around a few ideas. For players we want to continue working on the game as long as possible. We have a lot of flexibility there since we have no investors to exert pressure on us to ‘sell-out’ and have really low upkeep cost for running the game. Once we release we will have the game engine fleshed out which means we can focus on content update. Building the engine has taken a lot of time and without that burden we know we can put out competing update each month.
For developers we’ve recently put out our Map Editor and we’re going to be watching how players use it and what they build. We got our own start working on MMO by building 3rd party servers for other game. Players can be really creative and so we think that if we give them the right tools they can build really cool stuff. We plan on spending time to improve and polish these tools. If this takes off we’ve also floated around the idea of spinning it off into a dedicated MMORPG Marker software for people who want to build a standalone game. But there’s nothing final here, we really want to see what our players want.
MMORPG: What revenue model will FTO use?
Gabe: We are launching as a F2P title through steam and intend to stay that way. We do have a subscription if players choose to help invest into the game, that grants a subscription buff of +5% HP, +5% EXP, +5% Magic Find, Increased Crafting Times, and more inventory space. Players are also able to help the project through our Cash Shop that is not P2W and instead supplies mostly cosmetic items, or items that can be obtained through short game play time.
We’re particularly proud that we’ve gotten this far without any external funding. Players might not realize this but it’s a huge benefit, particularly for a F2P game, not to have external pressure from shareholders to maximize profits and push us into a pay-to-win game.
MMORPG: Why did you choose the graphics style that FTO uses?
Benoit: When we started the game Unity didn’t exist yet and the Unreal tournament engine had a huge licensing fee. Things have changed since. But there’s something really exciting about pixel art. It bring a lot of nostalgia in players, the graphics age very well and honestly it's what inspired us. We all loved playing the classic SNES titles and think that the pixel graphics really stand out.
MMORPG: The Steam page says that FTO is an old school MMO that in essence requires grouping for best results. Is there anything for the casual player who prefers solo play?
Benoit: We’ve done a lot of the play testing alone so nearly everything is balanced to be playable alone. We plan on putting clear warnings for the few quests that require a partner and giving users a way bypass that content. We’ve got a few plans for co-op puzzle for example but players will still get the full experience by side-stepping that content. Sometimes you just want to play a game and can’t find anyone and we get that.
The only content that will not be soloable is our “player raids” with bosses that we design with the intention of players having to coordinate together to tackle the challenge. We encourage players to work together to make parties or join a guild if they want to tackle these objectives.
MMORPG: What about crafting and PvP?
Benoit & Gabe: We have our base crafting system currently in place for Potion Making and have already gotten a lot of feedback around it. Based off the feedback we want to continue to improve the base system while expanding it to further jobs like tailoring, blacksmithing etc. Players are able to make all recipes, but the ingredients are what they need to spend time finding, hunting, gathering. The more rare the recipe for crafting the more rare the ingredient might be to acquire.
We’re already getting a lot of request for PvP and we’re listening. PvP is something that’s going to take a lot of planning, balancing and though to get right. For the time being we have to work and get the PvE part of the game into a good state to allow us to dedicate time into producing a good series of PvP updates and tuning. We’ve discussed a few ideas such as sandbox survival shards with aggressive PvP rules for hardcore players as well as MOBA area for guilds to challenge each other. But, as a small team, we’ll need to wrap up some stuff before we can start working on it.
MMORPG: Anything else you’d like to add?
Gabe: We are very grateful for the exposure that we have gotten this far. As an indie team it's always been a challenge to tell people we have been making an MMORPG and be taken seriously. We want to let all the players know that we appreciate their support and wouldn’t be where we are at without them.