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Pax Dei Will Enter Early Access On June 18th, Aims To Develop MMO Alongside Its Players

Stilll in heavy development despite Early Access tag

Joseph Bradford Updated: Posted:
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Pax Dei, the upcoming sandbox MMO from developer Mainframe Industries, will launch into Early Access later this month on June 18th.

The MMO, which has hosted a number of alpha tests since its announcement a few years back, is now ready to enter its Early Access period, according to the developers. The purpose of Early Access is to continue development alongside its player base. According to Mainframe Industries, Early Access is critical to building the game that they want, as the team working on Pax Dei needs an active community to help progress the development.

"For us, Early Access is really critical," Mainframe CEO Thor Gunnarsson told me in an interview last week. He continued, "Like any MMO, we need a live, active community to help us progress the game."

Gunnarsson says this is needed to truly test the studio's theories and mechanics and help "shape the game."

"Our early backers will really guide us to decide what to build next, as you know, the complexity of standing up a super multifaceted MMO is significant, but it doesn't happen in isolation. It has to be done in an open and transparent approach."

Pillars of Pax Dei

As studio co-founder and game director Reynir Hardarson explained, Pax Dei, at its core is a "social sandbox MMO" where the player interactions and dealings are very much the heart of the experience. Both Gunnarsson and Hardarson come from the school of EVE Online, with Hardarson a co-founder of CCP Games, so social sandbox experiences are right in their wheelhouse.

"Everything in Pax Dei is based around this phenomenon of maximizing human interaction, whether in competition or cooperation," Reynir told me in our interview. "Everything is about the players and what they choose to do together."

As a result, Pax Dei is completely nonlinear, with players able to essentially pick up and play in any way they see fit. Like most sandbox MMOs, this can create an incredible sense of freedom, allowing the player to truly inhabit the game world as they choose, from a sellsword hopping between guilds, working for the highest bidder, or a miner, selling their ores to help fund great building projects - or war machines. 

Currently, Pax Dei can be split between the homestead and the Wilderness. Players build structures—their homestead—to store their gear and other items, and as we've seen in the public alpha tests, these tend to form small villages as players congregate together. This is the goal, as building near each other and cooperating together is one of the key pillars of social interaction in Pax Dei.

"This isn't a game you move from level one to sixty and wait for the expansion," Hardarson explained.  "This is a world you live in, and the world is yours to explore and make, so from that perspective, the home is super important."

While the homestead in the MMO now is in a very early stage, it isn't the only aspect of Pax Dei, as players will be able to adventure beyond the safe confines of the homestead into the Wilderness to chase mysteries, resources and explore the world around them.

Dangers lurk everywhere in the Wilderness, from both player and monster alike. Dungeons are begging to be explored, and with Pax Dei, there is no real maximum group size, nor are there defined classes - you choose who and how you want to play. Dungeons can be a proving ground against mythical monsters - or rival players also vying for the loot found therein.

Since there is no party size or defined classes to balance, it can create some very interesting encounters within dungeons. 

"We have to embrace the chaos," Reynir says. 

As Early Access progresses, Pax Dei's developers aim to build out all aspects of what's currently in the MMO, but also expand upon this foundation. The player economy isn't present yet, nor are there particularly strong social systems that tie players together other than a baseline guild feature.

The economy aims to be truly player-driven, from the loot obtained by the super hardcore PvPer and adventurer to the ultra-casual player who simply wants to stay home and grow crops, selling them on the market. Every player at every level contributes to the whole. There is even a plan for players to be able to create blueprints of their player-made structures and sell on the market to help those players who want to quickly put a structure up versus building it on their own (or, if you're like me, you're simply terrible at building in MMOs).

"Basically, everyone matters in the whole economic cycle," Reynir explained.

Pax Dei also envisions the types of wars and struggles players will have over resources, land, and more that we find in other social sandbox games, again with EVE Online as a clear model. There are plans for a feudal system, with Knights, Baronies and, eventually, full fledged Kingdoms and Empires within Pax Dei.

This plays hand-in-hand with the proposed religion system, which will effectively allow players to use Miracles (the Magic within Pax Dei). Religion, like in medieval life, will play an important role in a village and the factions that control each region. Churches can be built, with altars allowing for fast travel between churches of the same religion. Priests can anoint Knights, and also do area-based Blessings to help boost crop yields or spawn rates within a specified region.

This can also mean we get competing religions, just like in real life, where players can effectively make their form of religion more appealing than another and, therefore, attract more followers and players on their side. This type of system could also spark wars, again mirroring real life, and if a religion grows large enough, you can even appoint a Pope. 

So What's Coming With Early Access?

With the Early Access launch, Pax Dei plans to be in this development phase for at least a year, building out the feature set of the MMO. However, when it launches on June 18th, players will have three different packs to choose from, starting at $39.99 for its Journeyman tier, $59.99 for the Artisan tier, and $99.99 for its Master tier. Gunnarsson states that all the proceeds from these Founder's Packs sales will go directly towards the development of Pax Dei, and each pack will provide unlimited access to the game servers during the EA period. 

The differences between the three tiers are down to the in-game perks, as usual. Higher tiers get more character slots and claimable plots of land, with the Master Tier allowing for four claimable plots in the game world. They all also get access to exclusive recipes, which are essentially cosmetic in nature from more intricate patterns on clothing or structure pieces - and these recipes are tradeable on the in-game market, meaning a player down the road can learn them without ever having bought a Founder's Pack early on.

There is no confirmed business model after Early Access, though Mainframe Industries has mentioned they are looking at a subscription model for the MMO. However, this hasn't been officially confirmed to be the case, rather they are still exploring their options for the future.

Down The Road

Speaking of the future, Pax Dei made waves when it was first announced as a "cloud-based" MMO, and that still seems to be in the works here. Gunnarsson confirmed that their plan is to bring Pax Dei to other platforms after early access and "critically to bring the game to streaming platforms" to allow players with lower-end systems to still enjoy the MMO. 

"So PC only during Early Access, our plans very much include bringing Pax Dei to additional platforms, and critically to bring the game to streaming platforms that allow players to play both on lower-end PCs, and in some cases on game consoles, but also, of course, on mobile devices. [...] So there are quite a few of these services that have become pretty successful over the last few years: Microsoft's Game Pass, Nvidia's GeForce Now, and we'll be bringing Pax Dei to these game streaming services to provide for that multiscreen access to the game."

Additionally, even when the MMO launches out of Early Access, it's only the beginning for Mainframe Industries.  The world stands to get a lot bigger, with each world capable of hosting ten thousand players at the start of Early Access, but by the end Mainframe hopes to support twenty-five thousand players. This would mean the addition of new biomes to fit alongside the more French countryside-inspired regions in the MMO today. These regions could be moving into more southern European climates, as well as the frozen north reminiscent of Scandinavia. 

There will also be a true RPG progression system, building off the barebones skill system in play today. The main thing to keep in mind is that with a flexible system like what Pax Dei is building, you are what you make of yourself.  While there will be specialization paths and you can dig deep into those trees, Reynir tells me that the vast majority of your specialization and what you can use will come from what you've got equipped. So if you want to be a DPS player, your equipment will help dictate that playstyle and the skills you might have equipped. Same with a magic user, and so on. 

At the end of the day, Pax Dei's entrance into Early Access marks the next phase of this social MMO's journey. With over 100K wishlists on Steam, there is definitely a lot of interest in the sandbox, and it'll be interesting to see how it progresses throughout the coming year. 


Joseph Bradford

Joseph has been writing or podcasting about games in some form since about 2012. Having written for multiple major outlets such as IGN, Playboy, and more, Joseph started writing for MMORPG in 2015. When he's not writing or talking about games, you can typically find him hanging out with his 10-year old or playing Magic: The Gathering with his family. Also, don't get him started on why Balrogs *don't* have wings. You can find him on Twitter @LotrLore