Back in December, Citadel Studios hosted a big party for backers of Shards Online with Pre-Alpha 3. We caught up to the always running Derek Brinkmann to find out more about PA3, what lessons the team took away from the event and what the future holds for Shards.
MMORPG: Now that Pre-Alpha 3 is over and done and you've had (holidays!) and time to reflect, what lessons, questions, concerns, celebrations did you take away from the event?
Derek Brinkmann: Hey Suzie. It’s great to see things settling down from the madness of the Pre-Alpha 3 launch. We consider the Pre-Alpha 3 launch to be a huge success. Pre-Alpha 2 launched in July but it feels like it has been forever since we had a major release.
People came out in huge numbers to try the game and we are seeing more pledges now than ever before. We are actually fast approaching the 200k mark for total crowdfunding pledges raised which is absolutely amazing.
MMORPG: What changes will be made in the immediate future as a result of PA3?
DB: We have actually already made a ton of changes since we launched Pre-Alpha 3. Lots of tweaks to the combat system and AI. Our playtesters have also helped us hunt down some pretty major showstopping bugs and exploits. It wasn’t long before people figured out they could drag the Greater Demon of Kho, the toughest boss on the map, into town and lay waste to everyone including the guards.
We’ve also realized that player run merchants are absolutely necessary to really get the player economy up and running. We have a ton of people who are enjoying the crafting aspect of the game but they are having trouble selling their wares. We plan to roll out this feature in the next minor release in a few weeks.
MMORPG: Fully understanding that things are fluid, where do you see the game heading in the next few months and 2016?
DB: Right now our players find themselves trapped on Celador, a map with tons of stuff to do, but really the game is called Shards not Shard! So our absolute priority right now is getting our next few maps, Catacombs, Outlands, and Two Towers up and running to open up the game to new frontiers.
We are taking a two pronged approach to this. The artists and content devs are focused on bringing the Catacombs to life while I’m focused on bringing our cluster technology online which allows the maps to be connected together.
MMORPG: When can we expect the actual "shard hopping" feature to go in, so players can cruise around clusters of shards (servers)?
DB: On my internal development environment, I already have 5 maps connected together in a cluster and I’m hopping from map to map freely! I’m planning on opening an “experimental” cluster for our current playtesters to try in a week or two.
But this is just the first pass on the technology and we won’t consider it ready for primetime until our Alpha launch.
MMORPG: What about the proposed "possession" feature, where server admins can take over NPCs and enemies to give a more guided GM Event sort of feel? Can you talk a bit about how that's coming?
DB: We are super excited for the “possession” god ability. It’s slated to be implemented next after clusters. I personally can’t wait to jump into a dragon and burn my fellow players alive!
MMORPG: Do you still expect the game to be in Early Access on Steam this year?
DB: Yes! We will be making an announcement about official release dates in our next newsletter (which you can sign up for on the front page of shardsonline.com, but suffice it to say that we still plan to get to Steam this year.
But you don’t have to wait for Steam to try out the game. You can join our ever growing number of playtesters by pledging 40$ or more to the project. You can be in game in minutes after pledging!