Moonlight Games is preparing a unique genre-bending hybrid title called Consortya that combines live music with MMORPGs. We had the opportunity to chat with Andy Martin, the company founder and lead designer about how he and his team aim to appeal to musicians and MMO gamers with Consortya.
MMORPG: The site calls Consortya a “game based around live music”. Give us the thumbnail sketch of what this means.
Andy: All MMOs are at heart a social experience. Typically, you're in the town, and you go out on your quests, and come back to the town and handle all of your goods. In Consortya, the social experience is based around live music. So, when you're in the “town” essentially you're listening to live music and then you go out on your quests which also involve live music. So, that is what we mean about live music.
MMORPG: How did the idea behind combining live music performance and MMORPG elements come from?
Andy: I was making my first game in grad school. It wasn't even a game really. I was just placing these little objects, and we had a list of tasks. Like you need to do these 10 things, and 1 of them was to put a video texture in something. I was doing that and thought “OH! It would be so cool if... actually, what if I put a little DJ booth here. Then I looked in the asset archive and saw a little DJ booth, and some speakers, and a guitar,” I think. I thought “that would be AWESOME!”
So I started putting that stuff in there, and the idea just flooded over me “What if the DJ was performing live music? If it's a real person at their house or concert or something.” So the idea just blossomed out of that because I have been to a lot of live music. I'm very into that.
The MMORPG elements oddly came before and after that. I had been working on a game called GuitarRPG where the whole idea was that you use a guitar to fight enemies. So instead of button mashing to attack, you were playing riffs and melodies at them to kind of counteract what they were doing. And, that's a big dream of mine to make that game a reality in the future. But, it's really hard, and there is a lot of work with the note processing and everything.
So, I had the idea for Consortya, and then I was building the world, and I realized there needs to be more experiences. People want to enjoy live music, but they also want to go out and be interactive. So that's where the RPG elements came from. That way I can tell the story of why we're all in the concert venue hanging out. And give people a lot of fun things to do because it is a bit... dreamy, to imagine that I could book an artist to play every second that Consortya is ever open.
MMORPG: What are the main features of Consortya?
Andy: You have the concert venue, which is the social space hub where all the interactions happen. Where you can do crafting, guild work, buy items, combine items and all that stuff.
Then you have the mini stage, which is where, it's similar to that concert venue, but it's where a smaller group of people get together and really have their guild meetings. So the mini stage is where you'll put all your items. You'll have your chest to store everything and you'll interact with other people.
Then there's the questing which is the dungeon, and there's multiple dungeons. That's where you collect all of the qualms, interact with the story, and, when you're collecting all of the items in the dungeon, which range from a qualm to a new musical track by a hot artist or something like that, you usually take thos back to the ministage. Because, that is where you want to listen to the music that you've found with other people.
MMORPG: The two things that are being combined into Consortya seem very different. How do you plan to appeal to musicians wanting to get involved? Similarly, how do you plan to appeal to long-time MMORPG players?
Andy: If you think of it like a real concert venue, you're already bringing together the people who love to perform music with the people who love to socialize and drink, or whatever it is you do at a concert.
So that's what we're doing with the game aspect. There's different kinds of people. The curators love to go to concerts and analyze and critique whatever's going on and they're the people you talk to who say “oh have you seen this band” and you can't even finish talking about the last concert you went to before they tell you about theirs. Then you have the listeners, they're really chill and they go to a show typically because the curator type of person asked them to go. Then you have the performers who kind of do it because that's their job and they're traveling the country.
In Consortya I'm going to bring that same psyche of people into there. The performers will be doing it because that's kind of their job and the whole space is welcoming to them. The curators will be there because they want to discover and be a part of new music. Because, we're all limited by where we can travel to or where we can afford to travel to. And of the main goals of Consortya is to break down the barriers of that travel cost. And then you'll have the listeners who I'm expecting to be people who also really love the MMO elements. They also really contribute like the hunter gatherer back when you had people who stayed at the cave, protecting it and furnishing it and all that kind of stuff, and you had the people who went out and collected all the things that needed to be in the cave to bring back.
So you think just the elements themselves will be the appeal?
I think that people to really be into it, will at least kind of want to people who have experienced the different elements but will want to focus in a certain one. And if you have enough things for people to do, I think they'll stay active and maybe even branch out to stuff that they didn't think they would want to do when they first started. I wouldn't be surprised if someone who goes through the ranks of being the gatherer in Consortya ends up getting inspired to start producing their own music to present in there.
MMORPG: How does an artist perform live music in game? Are there any plans to add the ability for players to earn either real world or in-game currency if they become popular?
Andy: There's definitely plans for people to be able to earn the currency whether it's US Dollars or Consortya currency which we call credits. I think some people depending on the tier, there's a tier system of the concerts whether they're a tier 1 which is someone that I found that we have to market those shows. Those people in the beginning will just get real world dollars to perform.
And then in the mini stage type of performances, those people will be getting the in game currency, and I assume there will eventually develop a market where people can trade in game currency kind of like trading characters in World of Warcraft or the auction house that used to work for Diablo 3, but it kind of failed because it didn't quite appeal the right way. But, there will definitely be that blend.
How will the artist perform in the game?
We have “record what you hear” on Windows and on macOS you set up an audio output device. We have a tutorial on how to do it in the game. But essentially use whatever program you're comfortable with whether it's Ableton, Logic, or Pro Tools and you route that audio to Consortya and broadcast it. We also support the open source program called Mixxs which has a built in Netcast feature, which if you're spinning tracks is how you do it in there.
MMORPG: How do the MMORPG elements come into play?
Andy: The MMORPG elements come into play, well we'll talk about them separately. So the MMO elements come into play the second you join in. If you're in the concert you're with a bunch of people online chatting doing whatever you want. That's where you're starting to group. You'll make friends hopefully in the concert due to some activities we have that just sort of naturally get people interacting with each other.
Then you go out and do the RPG elements where you're leveling up, getting new clothing to inspire your character, really developing your brand of what your Balancer, we call them, is. That's based on what shows you attend, what kind of crafting components you tend to want to use and what things you enjoy doing in the game.
MMORPG: How long has Consortya been in development? How much longer do you anticipate you need before either an early access or full release?
Andy: So when I had the idea that was my first year in grad school which was 2011. And we entered a competition that year for entrepreneurship and we used Consortya for that. So we were developing it that year. But, we were all really new so didn't make too much progress because it was just kind of a school project.
Then the following years, I started working on it more and more. And when I graduated I spent lots of nights and weekends working on it and kind of always just thought oh it will just be this concert venue.
And, then the past 2 years I've actually been working on it under Moonlight Games' moniker at least 2 days a week. Which has been really incredible and that's why so many things have changed over the past 2 years compared to the 3 or 4 years before that.
And at the rate we're going, within one more year after we fund on Kickstarter, we should have a fully baked version of the game for people to use. Which will be an early access release candidate.
And we hope to continue development for years after: expanding the universe of Consortya, adding more quest lines and really getting an amazing pipeline of how we bring artists in to perform and let people have fun.
MMORPG: You are planning to launch a KickStarter soon. Do you have a date already targeted? How much are you hoping to earn?
Andy: We're definitely planning to launch it soon, as soon as this coming Tuesday, February 27th at 11 AM Central Time. That's the targeted date. We are looking to raise $24,226 which is a pretty precise number, but it's just based on what we need to get legal, art, and engineering all put together. Obviously that just helps because I'm also working and putting all of my savings and extra money into it. It's not a very exact science to come up with the number of what you need, but it's based on contractor rates and needs, and I wish I had an even better way to come up with the goal. If you have any resources, definitely let me know.
MMORPG: Anything else you’d like to add?
Andy: We're excited about this, and we think it's one of the most novel MMOs to come out in the last few years. And, even after working on the game for so many years and being so excited about it, we're still finding new things to tackle, new challenges to take on to try and make it even more fun. And, felt really validated when I read the book Ready Player One and saw that they had all kinds of... from bars and concert halls and questing and all these things with this whole separate world that they had in there. It really validated my idea that different kinds of people can go into the same experience and find their own purpose.