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A Medieval Sandbox to Roleplay In

Suzie Ford Posted:
Interviews 0

The Black Death is an in-development survival MMO by Syrin Studios and set to be published by Greenman Loaded that literally came out of nowhere to storm the radar of fascinating upcoming titles. We had the opportunity to speak with the small indie development team from Syrin Studios to find out more about them and one of the more unique titles currently in the making.

MMORPG: Please introduce yourself and tell us a bit how you became involved in The Black Death.

Syrin Studios: We are Syrin Studios, a small developer with a passion for great multiplayer games. Survival is one of our favorite genres and we wanted to make a game that took the experience in a new direction. After seeing the power of Unreal Engine 4, we saw a great opportunity to create a unique experience unseen in today's MMOs; a sandbox game that facilitates realistic role-playing in the medieval period, allowing players to live their life through a wide range of professions. This is much akin to “life” mods, such as Dark RP and Arma3-Life, of which we are big fans.

MMORPG: The Black Death has almost literally come out of nowhere and is nearly ready for release! How did it happen that the project has kept such a low profile?

Syrin Studios: We are a small team (7 of us) and have been heavily focused on the development of The Black Death, leaving little time for marketing and promotion. However, we recently signed with Green Man Gaming who have been really good at helping us plan and push the marketing side of things. The Black Death will initially launch through Steam Early Access as we’ve reached the stage where feedback from the community is vital to refine the game.

MMORPG: What can you tell us about Syrin Studios and Small Impact Games?

Syrin Studios: Syrin Studios manages all business aspects, while Small Impact Games handles the games development. We are made up of ex-AAA developers looking to create games we'd love to play and hope others will enjoy.

MMORPG: Tell us a bit about the game itself. Where in Medieval Europe is it set? Are you utilizing existing historical locations?

Syrin Studios: The world of The Black Death is created from the ground up and heavily influenced by Western European civilization during the 14th century, when the plagues of the Black Death were running rampant. At a time when humanity is on the brink of existence, players adopt a medieval profession and use their skill set to survive by any means. By creating our own world we have been able to form a landscape with a range of unique and diverse locations, whilst maintaining a moody Western European feel.

MMORPG: The information on Green Man’s site indicates that there will be a number of professions. Can you tell us what those are?

Syrin Studios: Players initially choose from three professions, each with their own advantages and disadvantages; Militia (combat orientated), Merchant (crafting and economy) and Peasant (cultivating the land and gathering). All professions can take part in combat, crafting and gathering, but each specializes in different areas. As players progress they are able to gain access to further professions which are even more focused. Within each occupation there is a range of titles that players can achieve and use, such as Farmer, Master Weaponsmith and Swordsman.

Within the Militia profession, you can progress to the Knight or the Blacksmith. The Knight is more combat focused, specializing in two-handed weapons and the heaviest armors, whereas the Blacksmith sacrifices some combat skill to become a more skilled craftsman. The Monk, Huntsman, Minstrel, Noble and Guardsman make up the rest of the current professions. At the beginning of Early Access we will have six available, with the others becoming playable as we progress towards full release.

MMORPG: What about the “bestiary”? Besides remaining plague-free, what will players be facing off against in The Black Death?

Syrin Studios: It’s a harsh world, and there are many dangers the players will face besides keeping up their strength. There are many types of animals in The Black Death, ranging from rats, cows, goats and foxes to hostile boars and wolves, looking to make you their next meal. This passive/hostile theme is carried across to the NPCs that inhabit the world. Peasants and merchants, living day to day in these turbulent times, will run if they sense danger. Guards attempt to keep the peace and often will be seen around the remaining settlements. Whilst not normally aggressive, they won’t hesitate to punish anyone who threatens the safety of their village. There are also victims of the plague trying to survive; some mad, desperate and violent, others too weak to move. Close contact with these unlucky souls can lead to infection. From the destruction of the plague, Bandits have become an ever-present threat. Attacking all they come across, murdering and stealing, they take what they want in order to survive.

MMORPG: One of our readers made a fair point when asking if The Black Death would become “another zombie survival” game. How do you respond to that?

Syrin Studios: In The Black Death, the closest enemy to Zombies would be the plague victims, but these can range from weak and submissive, begging to survive, to those that are desperate and violent, driven mad by the pain and suffering that they have endured. It won’t be a bite or a scratch that kills you in The Black Death, it will be a rusty dagger in the back or that dubious peasants pitch fork. The much larger NPC threat is from the rising number of bandits. We also have a range of other friendly/hostile NPCs and animals to create a diverse gameplay experience.

MMORPG: Is The Black Death a ‘true’ MMO in terms of a world server with hundreds, if not thousands, of players taking part? Or is it a more limited “MMO” akin to ARK: Survival Evolved?

Syrin Studios: We are testing the capacity of our servers. Currently we are leaning towards a player count of under 100 per server. We want to ensure that we don’t sacrifice gameplay performance for large server capacities.

MMORPG: The site mentions a ‘unique combat system’? Tell us what sets The Black Death’s combat apart from others?

Syrin Studios: We wanted our combat system to be fluid, visually striking, simple to play yet hard to master. We have a large range of different weapon types including daggers, maces, two-handed swords, spears and bows. Players cycle through three different attack stances when they draw their weapon. We don’t have a button devoted to blocking. Instead, players must match their stance against their opponents’ oncoming attack in order to successfully parry.

We have two types of damage: bladed damage, caused by weapons such as swords and spears, which mostly damages health and can cause bleeding, whereas blunt weapons such as maces and clubs predominantly cause stamina damage. With these blunt weapons players can be knocked down to the floor before they are killed.

MMORPG: How do you see the in-game economy developing since “everything has a price”?

Syrin Studios: To support different play styles and professions in The Black Death, we wanted our economy to provide another survival mechanic. This gives non-combat-focused professions a way to survive in the world. Although all professions can enter combat, the merchant for example is more proficient in turning raw materials into useful/valuable items, from meat stew to clothing and weapons.

We also think an economy is important for simulating medieval life and ultimately will improve the player's role-playing experience. For example, to maintain a realistic feel to the environment we have pre-built hundreds of purchasable houses within The Black Death, which players can buy and sell. These range from small hovels to large manors, allowing players to show off their wealth. We are excited to see the mischief that players will get themselves and others into over a bit of gold coin!

MMORPG: Will The Black Death be free to play? If so, will there be a cash shop? How do you plan to avoid the “pay to win” issue that many F2P MMOs have encountered?

Syrin Studios: The Black Death is going to be a premium price game, not free-to-play.

MMORPG: Will preorders become available? What about early access and beta?

Syrin Studios: The Black Death will be entering Early Access in the coming months. We are excited about the chance to get people playing it and getting feedback and ideas from the community!

MMORPG: You will be launching on Steam? Do you have a more precise idea beyond Q1 2016?

Syrin Studios: Unfortunately we can’t provide an exact date yet.

MMORPG: Anything else you’d like to add?

Syrin Studios: We are looking forward to getting the game out and are excited to see how it develops with the aid of the community!


Suzie Ford

Suzie is the former Associate Editor and News Manager at MMORPG.com. Follow her on Twitter @MMORPGMom