The Skies is ready to hit early access soon with the closed beta running this week. We had the opportunity to interview Anton Ustimenko, Director of eForb, and Anton Paramonov, Lead Game Designer, about The Skies and what sets it apart from the rest. Read on to learn more.
MMORPG: Up to December 2015, it had been a long time since any news was released about The Skies. What was going on during that period of time?
Anton U.: We’ve started developing The Skies almost 2 years ago. A lot of things happened during this time. “The Skies” is a unique game in its segment: it’s a mix of FPS and RPG adapted to a multiplayer game in a big post-apocalyptic world system. It has an economy that entirely depends on players, non-linear dialogues and quests, clan wars, PVP/TVT combats, etc. It was quite an ambitious idea to start from scratch, for a small indie team. So, our main goal during all this time was to work hard and make it happen. We’ve been deeply immersed into the development process: from building the architecture, to adding all the features, and connecting it all into one living organism. We’ve had many other activities in the background as well… such as relocations, building the best team, or forming our community.
MMORPG: What changed more recently to get things started again?
Anton U.: We didn’t quit the development itself… We had challenges along the way, but quitting was never an option. We’ve been just disappearing for some time, because our main focus was development and reaching that state when we could finally reveal The Skies to a broader audience and get their feedback. We needed this time in order to be able not just to speak about our great idea, but to show solid background and proof. Now, here it is… coming to Steam and we’re not building sandcastles. The time has come. We hope early access on Steam will provide us with great understanding for all our future steps.
MMORPG: For those who may not know, give us the thumbnail sketch of The Skies.
Anton P.: The Skies is a mix of FPS and RPG adapted to a multiplayer game in a big post-apocalyptic world system, where economy entirely depends on players. It also features non-linear dialogues and quests, clan wars, PVP/TVT combats, etc. This game is not really a MMORPG in the proper sense of the word. In our innovative project story line isn’t linear, it’s up to the player to create their own game reality and decide on his proper role in it, which makes our game open to both social players and to single ones. The main rule is pretty simple - each action leads to changes in different spheres of the game world - characters’ relations, events, etc.
MMORPG: In February, you indicated that The Skies was ready for Early Access. How do you convince buyers of Early Access packages that the project will continue and not go ‘dark’ again?
Anton P.: We understand that players have heard a lot of stories, good and bad ones, and that it is especially hard to trust the new team with the ambitious idea. What we constantly try to do is to stay in touch with the community and have them involved, as well as to be transparent. When they asked: “Hey, guys, where have you disappeared”, we replied honestly that we’ve been struggling with that or that development feature. The community has been our biggest inspiration and support, from our first steps. As long as we know what players want and we can satisfy their expectations, there is no reason for us to go dark. J We hope to go on and create the game for players, inspired by players. We’re a small and flexible team, not a big corporation, therefore it takes time to adjust.
We try to react to feedback pretty fast. For example, the representative of one big old clan, who has tested the game, has asked us if we can prepare for clans an unique armor decoration option – same day this feature went to “in progress”. For us, “The Skies” really means a lot. Understanding how to make it the game that our community will enjoy means a lot too. Therefore, we don’t plan to go dark, we hope to progress, grow and develop.
Oh, by the way, the game will be free-to-play and Premium accounts or in-game purchases are just an option. Players have the opportunity to try and decide on their own if they want to stay with us and continue the journey together. For us revealing the game play from early alpha is both a risk, cause some temporary troubles may impact the first impression, and an opportunity to get feedback as early as possible about the main idea and functionality, therefore to develop in the right direction together with the community.
MMORPG: How do you plan to keep the community involved and informed about The Skies’ development?
Anton U.: At the moment we have our community pages on Facebook, VK and Steam. We try to stay in touch via all of them, post announcements and collect feedback. Once we launch on Steam, we expect that most of the communication will happen via our group there. We’re really excited that Steam provides so many opportunities for developers not just to develop and publish their game in front of the core players, but also support community. They do a great job with all the tools they provide for this and we want to use all of their opportunities. This is very helpful for a small team like us with limited resources and time. We have one place, one platform, for managing everything.
Of course, we plan to finish our own site too, closer to Beta. Moreover, we’ll keep closed testing for polishing current functionality and balance, as well as involve people in close testing of some new functionalities in the future. For now, we plan to make this available for players with Premium accounts bought during a specific time period. We also often reveal our Trello boards showing progress and what to expect… we just cannot see any reasons not to be open with people. We really hope we’ll keep having time for this, cause already now, before launch, it gets really hectic at times.
MMORPG: How much of the game is complete so far and how much will Early Access users get to see?
Anton P.: We can say that all the core functionality is ready, but there is just bug fixing and polishing needed to all of these:
- Clans functionality, capturing and freeing the territories and points
- PVP and TVT
- Economy, trading, black market, employment
- Mini-games (for example, for break-in)
- Non-linear dialogues and quests
- Localization to English and Russian
- Extended Role Playing System
Speaking about territories:
- we have 12 square kilometers right now
- for early access launch on Steam we plan to have 16 square kilometers.
- And it doesn't include dungeons, training, pvp locations which are, of course, additional territory too and it's not small.
- our entire map is more than 200 square kilometers - so, there are many opportunities for long-term scaling. Besides, we're creating flexible tools and constructors for content creation to make this process really fast, easy, and not requiring development time and spends.
For future updates we plan to add:
- Role System (craft)
- Role System (perks)
- More of in-game content (weapons, armors, decorations)
- Female character
- Building of clan’s base
For more information, interested readers can keep an eye on our task management board or see the art and sketches that we’re working on here: https://trello.com/b/gyiXj7RW/skies-functionality-public
MMORPG: Will there be an open beta? If so, how long after Early Access begins can people look forward to joining in?
Anton U.: Open beta will be at the end of this year. However, this doesn’t mean that after people join early alpha, they will need to wait for beta to see the changes. J Every two-three weeks updates will be made and thus we hope to have a smooth transfer to beta.
MMORPG: What are the post-launch plans for The Skies? DLC? Expansions? Season passes?
Anton P.: Oh… Great question... We often find ourselves far ahead in our plans and thoughts. J We really hope that everything will go well, feedback will be great and our team will get the opportunity to develop the game and The Skies’ world further and further. We plan to expand to Xbox and PS4. We want to integrate with VR at the right time (we have really well developed storylines that could go as DLC, as virtual interactive scenes). We also hope to bring more tools, constructors for our community, allowing them to contribute into our game world too. The society, well the technological society, moves towards automatization of everything, globalization, or VR. Of course, we also try to imagine where we could find ourselves already in several years and what will be the place of “The Skies” among all these events.
MMORPG: Thanks a lot for your time. Good luck with the early access launch!
Both: Thank you very much for your great questions. It was wonderful to think about these things and to have the opportunity to share all this with the readers.