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A True Cross-Platform Sandbox MMO

William Murphy Posted:
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MMORPG: Right, so let’s start off with the basics – what is Albion Online, and how is it different from the usual MMORPG fare?

Stefan Wiezorek: Albion Online is a medieval themed sandbox MMO, which offers true cross-platform play between PC, MAC, Linux, and iOS and Android mobile devices. All players share the same persistent world on one big server and across all platforms.

Our goals are to create an MMO with an old school feel to it that offers territory-based guild vs guild battles (GvG), full loot, a fully player-driven economy and item based character development, without punishing the player with an endless grindfest, but keeping death meaningful at the same time.

MMORPG: Can you share a bit about the cross-platform play?  How is that possible, and are you at all worried about different platforms having advantages over others in PVP or anything like that?

Stefan Wiezorek: Whatever the supported device of your choice might be to log into the Albion Online server, you access the same game world across all platforms and play the same character. You might for example make raid preparation on the tablet during your daily commute, have a browser window open at work to keep an eye on your lands and in the evening it all happens on your gaming PC. Everyone is playing in the same world on one big server.

AO is played from a fixed isometric perspective, similar to Ultima Online or Diablo. This makes it perfect to be played on touch devices as well as with mouse and keyboard. Our guess is though, that professional gamers will head into important battles with the latter combination.

MMORPG: Well, let’s talk about some of the defining features of Albion.  First, can you detail character customization and why your team is putting such an emphasis on the system?

Stefan Wiezorek: Character customization is largely based on the items that you carry. Thus, if you want to play as a mage, all you need to do is to craft and wear the required items. Stats, active and passive abilities are derived from those items. For example, you can choose between range, attack speed, and different types of damage bonuses for a bow.

By this, you avoid the need to grind up multiple characters if you want to play different classes and roles. At the same time, it provides for a huge amount of customization and the creation of hybrid classes. You can for example combine any mage staff with any armor piece. We will soon start to showcase different builds and combinations on our website and Facebook page, to give everyone an idea of the endless combination possibilities.

MMORPG: There’s no leveling, either. So where does your power come from?

Stefan Wiezorek: Your power will come from your equipment, all of which is player-crafted. This makes the concept of leveling unnecessary in our opinion.

There will be an achievement system that gives you access to some additional bonuses, such as faster wood chopping or gem mining.

And your own growing experience will of course provide you with knowledge about which strategies and equipment combinations work out best for you. But unlike other games you can directly wear the best armor set, the problem is rather to get it and not too lose it right away, because in addition we do NOT believe in exponential progression. We think that a linear progression is more beneficial, meaning that a small group of low tier players still can be a threat to a high tier player.

An example from last week’s alpha test: I was killed by a fully tier 3 equipped player, while I only had access to tier 2 gear. However, knowing the system I crafted a setup which was the exact counter to his setup. I went back with my tier 2 gear and was able to kill him.

MMORPG: Why did the team choose to make your gear the determining factor of character customization? How does this system work?

Stefan Wiezorek: Albion Online, at its core, is about ownership of territories and resources combined with a fully player driven economy. Placing more emphasis on items fully fits this logic as it makes sure that you will actually gain something from owning and defending territories.

On the other hand, we never liked the fact that nowadays most MMORPGS force you to grind for a very long time before you have a character that can compete in PVP or boosts your stats. And even if you have finished the grind, you will still often be limited to just one class. In Albion Online, those restrictions do not apply.

Items in Albion Online are categorized into tiers, currently ranging from tier 1 to tier 7. The higher the tier of the item, the rarer the resources are that you need to craft it. With the way the game is currently balanced, each tier will be three times rarer than the previous one, while the item itself will only be about 20% more powerful. This way, we make sure that characters and guilds with lower level items will be able to compete.

MMORPG: And the resources for the items you craft, there’s no “special secret” to obtaining them?

Stefan Wiezorek: You obtain resources by mining various spawn points, plus some by hunting. The higher the tier of the resource, the rarer the spawn points. And for higher-tier resources, you need special tools to harvest them.

Currently we have a very basic setup in place, but of course in the long run, we will add plenty of items and ways how to get them.

MMORPG: Let’s keep talking crafting then… can you give us an overview of the system?

Stefan Wiezorek: In order to craft an item, you will need access to the relevant crafting building. For example, if you want to craft a tier 4 sword, you will need access to a tier 4 warrior’s forge. You can either use a forge that somebody else built for this (for an extra fee) or you can build it yourself – hopefully with the help of your guild, as the buildings require quite some effort.

The next step is to gather the required resources for your sword, in this case, metal and gems. You will have to mine the required ores, smelt them into metal bars, mine the required raw gems and cut them into proper gems. Then, armed with the required resources, you take them to the forge and craft your sword.

During crafting, you can choose the passive and active abilities on the items. A higher-tier sword might have powerful slow and stun effects, or you might want to chose extra magical damage. Every item will have its own special character.

MMORPG: So, everything in the game is player crafted? You start stark-nekkid then?

Stefan Wiezorek: Yes, everything in the game is player-crafted. When you start out, you wear a simple robe – so you don’t have to streak. There might be some neutral / NPC buildings, but this won’t change the core principle that the economy of Albion Online is run by the players themselves.

MMORPG: Albion’s also going full-loot in regards to PVP, but is PVP on all the time?  Are there any safe havens for the less competitive folks?

Stefan Wiezorek: It depends where you are. In certain newbie zones and NPC cities, you will be safe from other players attacking you. The same goes if you are inside of territory that is owned by your guild. But if you roam around open territory, the full-loot PvP makes travelling and gathering exciting undertakings.

If you stay inside of your guild’s territory, you can play the game without any PvP at all. Instead, you can focus on building and maintaining your guild’s buildings, as well as mining resources to keep the guild economy running.

Of course, every guild needs some people, who are willing to fight – if one of your territories gets attacked, you have to defend yourself or your guild will lose control of it.

MMORPG: Can you go into some detail then about the territory control, the village building, and all of that?

Stefan Wiezorek: When your guild claims or conquers a territory, this territory is surrounded by a magic barrier which will stop enemies from entering.

If another guild wants to attack you, they do this by declaring their attack (we call it “siege”) ahead of time such that the defending guild has enough time to create a team of defenders. The time slots in which a siege is possible, can be set by the defending guild. This prevents that you are attacked at 4am in the morning, when you cannot muster your best fighters.

The guild vs guild (GvG) sieges happen in the territory attacked, giving the defenders the additional advantage that they know the territory very well. For a fight, the number of attackers and defenders is pre-set, making blobbing impossible. Currently, the GvG sieges are 5 players per side.

To help out peaceful guilds against more aggressive ones, there is a bonus system that gives peaceful guilds a defense bonus if they are attacked.

In addition we even implemented a mercenary system, which allows you to hire player mercenaries who will fight for you. The system even supports bonus mechanics like win-bonuses that are getting paid out to the mercenary when your guild has won the siege.

In addition to the 5v5 (GvG) sieges, we will also have large castles and fortresses which you can conquer and fight for in large sieges. Owning such a castle will allow you to take taxes on all silver earned on surrounding territories.

The building of a village is quite straightforward. In each territory, there is some land that can be build on, and in order to do so, you simply place the building site on the territory and then you have to gather and bring all the required resources to the building site. Once it’s all there, the building will be completed. Larger buildings require quite a lot of resources and it will be a team effort to complete them.

MMORPG: And are the houses and buildings safe from NPCs?  Is it just players that could destroy your hard-earned shelter?

Stefan Wiezorek: If your buildings are placed inside your guild’s territory, they are safe from attack – except your guild loses the territory in a siege.

If they are on neutral grounds, buildings can be destroyed. However, we want to make sure that destroying them is not that easy and takes a lot of effort. We want to make sure that people won’t be able to easily destroy buildings just for fun. But again: if you want to be sure your buildings are safe, build them in an area controlled by your guild.

MMORPG: Last question then… when can we see this thing in action?

Stefan Wiezorek: We plan to have a proper closed beta towards the end of this year. Until then, you can follow us on Facebook or Twitter to keep track of updates, including screenshots and in-game videos.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/albiononline

Twitter: https://twitter.com/albiononline


William Murphy

Bill is the former Managing Editor of MMORPG.com, RTSGuru.com, and lover of all things gaming. He's been playing and writing about MMOs and geekery since 2002, and you can harass him and his views on Twitter @thebillmurphy.