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GDC 2011: Salem Report

By Jon Wood on March 04, 2011 | General Articles | Comments

GDC 2011: Salem Report

It isn't often that I'm surprised by anything that I hear at the Game Developers Conference. Sure, there are always announcements and interviews, and it's always entertaining, but I honestly can't remember the last time that I was left completely bumfuzzled by a game company's description of an upcoming game. That is, until the other day when I walked into meetings with Paradox Interactive and they told me the premise behind an upcoming MMO called, Salem.

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Salem is being developed by Seatribe and is expected to release in the US later this year. The game is set in what the developers describe as "a fantastical New England" meaning that while there may be a lot of familiar and historical elements to the game's setting, other elements are going to crop up that don't exactly play nicely with the history books.

So I'm sure you're sitting there, reading this saying: Sure, that's a pretty strange setting for an MMO, but I can't see why that surprised you. To you, I say, be patient, I haven't made it to the really jaw-dropping stuff yet.

On top of having an intriguing setting, Salem is also being billed primarily as a "crafting MMO", with a "unique crafting, farming and building systems inspired by 17th century alchemy." This means that the game promises players not only the ability to bash things with pointy or blunt instruments, but also to build, and cook and do all of the other things that were so important in the settling of the new world. This at least suggests that the game is going to have a certain amount of the depth that many players complain the modern day MMO lacks.

Still though, we're not at jaw-dropping yet, although I bet that if you've read this far into the article, you're probably at least a little bit intrigued, so try this on for size:

On top of promising an interesting crafting and farming system, the game also promises an open world, player vs player environment. So, not only will players be exposed to the dangers of the reality of colonial settlement, but they're also going to have to look out for each other, lest the bloodthirsty come knocking at their doors.

"Yeah," you're saying, "let's just add this game to the list of games that have open world PvP. it's not a new idea, it's not interesting, and you're starting to bore me here, Jon." Ok, it's a fair comment. If you're not impressed by the fact that this game is billing itself as a "crafting MMO", and you're not impressed with the fact that it's set in the time of settlers in New England, only with a "fantastical" twist, and the open PvP nature of the game bores you to tears, then you probably aren't going to be that impressed with the next word I'm going to drop on you:

Permadeath

Yup, this game is going to be a full on open PvP, fantastical settlers, crafting and farming MMO with permanent death. Now, the developers promise us that there are more details to come on each of these systems, including the fact that there actually are mechanics in place to allow players to carry over SOME of their fallen character into their next toon, but overall, from what little we know about this upcoming title, it sure sounds like it'll at least be worth looking into.

I wanted to leave you with what might be one of the most entertaining pitch lines I've ever read that was provided to me on a sheet as I left my meeting with Paradox. It's a description of the game that made me quirk up an eyebrow and wonder, in a good way, how on Earth anyone ever green lit this game for production (though I'm glad they did):

"Cast in a mold of cute-gothic Salem's lighthearted art style makes for the perfect contrast to the otherwise grim realities of open-player-versus-player combat and permanent death. Experience Squonks, Hidebehinds, Withchcraft and the fullest freedom of a sandbox conceived in Liberty."

How's that for a description?