Destiny's Sword is an upcoming MMO that is trying to move the genre in new ways with its emphasis on mental health as a component of a character's development. But what about the more typical MMO features that players expect? We sat down with 2Dogs' Ken Hall to learn more.
MMORPG: Please, introduce yourself and tell us what you do on Destiny's Sword.
Ken Hall: I’m Ken Hall, and I’m the CEO of 2Dogs Games and the Creative Director of Destiny’s Sword.
MMORPG: In your blog, you explained mental health as a gameplay element in Destiny's Sword. However, our readers would also be interested in some of the more "mundane" aspects of an MMO. For instance, will Destiny's Sword feature player classes that are typical to most MMOs?
KH: We didn’t want classes to define our characters, much like a profession doesn’t define a person or preclude them from gaining other skills.
There are skill archetypes in Destiny’s Sword - they are: medical, engineering, and combat - and within those archetypes there are skills that suit certain roles that we’re familiar with, such as tank, healer, DPS or control, but none of these roles are set in stone, and evolutions and hybrids are definitely possible.
Each character has their own personality, which means they'll have aptitudes for certain skills and they also have desires and motivations. Sometimes, as in real life, what the character wants to be isn’t what their best suited for. That makes for some fun discussions :)
But more importantly, instead of the skills defining how a character is used, in Destiny’s Sword, how a character is used will determine what skills they are able to advance.
It's really up to the players to decide what kind of situations they want to put their characters into and to work with the characters to pick the best compromise of what the squadron needs and what the character is hoping for in terms of skill development.
MMORPG: What does a typical fight look like in Destiny's Sword? Is it Turn-based or real time?
KH: Combat in Destiny’s Sword takes place in real time. If you do nothing, your team will fight without you, but they won’t do as well as if they had the benefit of your leadership (not to mention your orbital support weaponry).
While the combat takes place in real time, the characters themselves will take turns attacking according to their initiative. We chose to go this route so that it limited the information overload for the players. Players could study the battle and absorb the tactical information and use that to make strategic decisions both within the battle, and over the course of multiple engagements.
We also wanted to make sure there was time for players to be able to pick up on the cues when their characters were struggling or not performing as expected.
MMORPG: How do characters progress? Are there levels and if so what is the level cap?
KH: Characters will progress via their achievements. The more things a character does, the more points they gain to unlock skills in related fields.
For instance, the more a character heals someone either on the battlefield or in a metagame surgical procedure, the more medical skill points the character gains and can use to unlock further medical skills.
There is no hard cap on character development level, but they do have a discrete lifetime.
Characters age continuously during the game, and they also have a set tour of duty. While we haven’t set a final value for this, we are thinking it will be on the order of 4-6 months.
After a character's tour is up, they may opt to retire (you’ll still hear from them from time to time, but they will no longer be part of your roster). If you have built up a strong relationship with a character, and if they’re predisposed, they may re-enlist for another tour.
Also, when a character retires, if they have hit certain thresholds of achievement and development, there’s a chance they can become legendary characters.
Legendary characters get assigned to the support ships - you can no longer use them in battle, but they now apply bonuses to all players in the guild, and reduce the cost of development of similar skills to theirs for all players as well.
Alas, even legendary characters aren’t permanent, but there’s always a constant supply of new recruits waiting for their turn to get into the action.
MMORPG: Tell us about the skill system. How does a character feel stronger over time?
KH: As mentioned above, characters unlock new skills via gaining related achievements. In this way, how a character develops is partially down to the situations they’re placed in and the skills they subsequently use.
For combat soldiers, developing mental resilience is key. While you can train characters physically to a certain point, it will only have so much impact on their overall performance. Maintaining their sharp mental focus is much more impactful.
As characters progress, they will become more proficient - more accurate, more evasive, etc. But a much larger part of progression will come from technological development.
As combat soldiers unlock new skills, they gain access to more powerful weaponry and more effective armors, giving them increased combat capacity.
For the medical and engineering characters, progression is more closely tied to their skills themselves. Development of the support ship facilities and technologies also plays an important role in increasing a character's effectiveness.
Complex injuries or repairs will require a high skill level - for instance, a very junior medical character will be able to set a broken arm, but you’ll need a well trained specialist to deal with a fractured spine or a traumatic head injury.
The good news is that the healing and repair processes are community-driven, so you’ll be able to work with other players in your guild to cover any gaps you might have in character capability.
MMORPG: Can you give us an example of a typical quest?
KH: Our special missions game mode provides explorative, narrative quests, very much in the style of a table-top, tile-based boardgame.
There will be a variety of different mission types, including: patrols (move through a series of waypoints), escort (guide and protect a unit across the map), seek (find some object(s) hidden somewhere in the map), defend (protect a location on the map from enemy attack), etc.
In our special missions, multiple players work together (likely up to 16 at a time), and the primary goal is to get everyone across the map safely. This is by far the most important victory condition.
As players move across the map, they turn over the tiles they land on and they are faced with a variety of scenarios. As players move through the map, they consume their limited number of movement points. They simply cannot cover the whole map, so they must decide when and where to focus their attention, and when to cut and run for the exit.
Split up? You cover ground quicker, but you reduce your pool of available skills within each group. Got a driving skill? Maybe you can find a vehicle to speed up your progress.
Different tile events may require certain skills to resolve successfully.
Do you have a character with the required diplomacy to negotiate their way out of a dicey situation with the locals? Do you have a character with the engineering skills needed to hack into a bunker or disable an alarm? Do you have a medic with the necessary skills to help treat an injured local.
The outcomes of these events can also influence later scenarios further into the mission.
Did you help the injured local? Maybe they are able to guide you to the item you seek. Did you fail to disable the alarm? Maybe the enemy has been alerted and they will blow the bridge ahead of you.
Some events will act like fly paper or quicksand.
Perhaps you will ‘experience a traumatic event,’ if you have a character who has recovered from a mental health issue, they can guide you through and you may carry on. If not, you have to wait for another player to come and try to free you.
Some events may be chance based, leading to the whole group of players getting stuck trying to release each other. There will be some tough choices ahead...
Some events will favour low-level players (win a battle while taking less than x damage); other events may favour more advanced players (win a battle while doing more than y damage).
In this way, groups of players are encouraged to have a diverse range of player levels and character skills if they want to have the best chance of succeeding.
MMORPG:In the past you have spoken of including "robust social features". What does this mean? What features are we talking about?
KH: A great example of the depth of our player interactions is the guild hall.
The guild hall is one of the core sections of the support ship where players can hang out together and interact. Guilds can customize their halls, changing the decor, lighting and even the configuration of the room itself.
Players will be able to invite friends from other guilds to visit and show off their achievements, including their wall of honor, which will list their legendary characters as well as those who have fallen.
But sections like the guild hall also have more practical uses. Players can spend their social currency (which is the reward the game gives for interactions where one player helps another) to put on special events in this space, including weddings, funerals and parties.
If a player has lost a character in combat, then throwing a funeral will help their remaining characters gain closure and cope better with the loss. Other players who attend the funeral will also see their characters gain benefit, and those players will receive some social currency for attending and helping with the recovery process.
Players can also throw parties in the guild hall. Parties are a great way for the characters of any players in attendance to blow off steam.
But these events are also gateways that allow characters of players in attendance to interact - sometimes in a very simple fashion, like becoming friends or having scuffle, but other times becoming more complex story lines that drive player to player interaction.
For instance, one player's character may later reveal to them that they lost an item at the party. The player will then have to ask other players who attended to see if any of their characters found the item. In effect, the players become part of the story and must actively interact with each other to resolve the story line.
This is just the tip of the iceberg of potential player and character interactions that are made possible by our Insight Engine technology.
MMORPG: What typical non-combat features are included in Destiny's Sword? I.e. crafting, fishing, resource gathering, riding, housing, etc.
KH: The majority of non-combat gameplay revolves around the daily lives of the characters. The successful player will have to do some degree of management - discipline, training, motivating, supporting.
There are a wide variety of life events that the characters will experience, and many of these will require the player to engage with other players to resolve, as mentioned in the previous answer.
There are also a plethora of crafting and tech development options, along with a whole system of medical recovery that requires players to coordinate to assign medical characters to perform surgical procedures on injured characters.
The special mission quests are where players can really experience a wide array of non-combat activities, such as driving, swimming, diplomacy, interrogation, rock climbing and more.
These activities are highly interconnected with the narrative, and these experiences can have profound and lasting effects on your characters (both positive and negative).
MMORPG: Will players engage with one another in an instanced hub or be able to see each other regardless of where they are in the world?
KH: Destiny’s Sword is not an open world sandbox, where players can wander freely around. It is however, a persistent shared space in which players create shared stories and experiences.
This means that all of the players on a server can interact with each other in various ways: meeting in combat, working together in a guild to complete quests and develop their support ship, or by chatting with other faction members and by participating in our global DLC story events.
As our first project, we had to keep the scope constrained on Destiny’s Sword, but the game will continue to bloom with our future development.
We have lots of exciting ideas for large-group player interaction possibilities that we will continue to work on post release.