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Identity: Out to Create an Ideal Game

Interviews By Suzie Ford on January 26, 2015

Identity: Out to Create an Ideal Game

MMORPG.com: Give us a bit of background on Identity. How did the project come about?

John VanderZwet: A little over one year ago Asylum founded one of the very first servers for an Arma 3 game mod called Altis Life.  With our unique features and gameplay, Asylum’s Altis Life quickly grew into the most popular game of its kind with 5 servers at capacity almost every minute of the day.

We’ve done so much with Altis Life, and we continue to develop it still, although in order to create that ideal game we want, with all of the features we imagine, the only option was to create a new game from the ground up in an engine where we have no limits!

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MMORPG.com: How many developers are currently working on the project? What are some of the other games developers have worked on in the past?

John VanderZwet: We’re still a pretty small team of only a few dedicated developers, although we’re going to be expanding the team quite a lot very shortly.  While the gameplay is based mostly on our mod Altis Life, where we’re both recreating many of the awesome features as well as expanding on them, I’m also a former developer from Star Vault where I helped to create the very first Unreal Engine MMORPG called Mortal Online.  While Mortal Online was created using Unreal Engine 3, which is 10 years older than Identity’s Unreal Engine 4, it’s still going strong today and acts as proof that Unreal can be turned into a powerful MMORPG platform with the ability to hosts hundreds or even thousands of people on a single server.


MMORPG.com: Where are you in the development cycle? When do you anticipate backers and testers being able to try out Identity?

John VanderZwet:  We’re still quite early in development of Identity, having produced a prototype and some of the fundamental back end systems.  We’re dying to play the game ourselves, but it’s probably a couple of years from being released at the retail level.  People who back us on Kickstarter will have the chance to join our very first testing phase which will be months sooner.

We are not going to provide any sort of “early access” game like many studios are doing now.  We’re quite committed to giving a real quality game and don’t want anyone playing an incomplete game that’s anything short of awesome.

MMORPG.com: What sort of game is Identity? What special features will it include?

John VanderZwet:  Identity is an MMORPG in scale, but not at all like other MMOs on the market as far as gameplay goes.  It’s really something unique and incredibly fun.  It’s a modern-day sandbox game where player interaction is important.  That’s not to say you can’t play alone if that’s your thing, but random events that you don’t expect will have you meeting all sorts of people.

To give an idea in a short summary for those who haven’t tried our Altis Life, imagine a world like that in Grand Theft Auto with freedom to be whoever you want to be without level restrictions, combined with crime similar to PayDay 2, all in a big open MMORPG.

You can make your way in your choice from dozens of jobs and a handful of very detailed careers.  While some might like the idea of joining a gang and controlling turf or robbing banks, others will opt for the other side of the law and become police officers.  Police is just one career where you can move up the ranks into SWAT, detective, and a few more roles.

Still, you can avoid all of that and live a lawful life in pursuit of wealth and power.  Start up a business, transport goods or even run for government to control laws and taxes.


MMORPG.com: There are many projects that aim for the open-world MMO sandbox ring. What separates Identity from the pack?

John VanderZwet:  We’ve done this before and we know what both works and is fun to play!  Our main focus is always on fun mechanics.  We don’t overcomplicate systems but keep them fairly simple so that they’re easy to understand and fun to play with.

Identity brings everyone together in a game that not only offers something for all kinds of people, but offers them something that’s really fun to play!

Most MMORPGs tend to be science fiction or fantasy, and while I enjoy both those myself, Identity stands apart being a game built from the ground up as a modern role playing game.  We give those who like action loads of exciting things to do, but we’re also building Identity to be ideal for roleplayers who want to get immersed in the world.  All the tools are there to be who you want to be, from character customization and home ownership to the ability to talk by voice from your character.

MMORPG.com: The KickStarter page indicates that levels are being removed. How will players feel a sense of progression throughout the game?

John VanderZwet: Traditional leveling in an MMORPG is a terrible design.  Think about it: it’s a linear system that tells you what you can do and when you can do it.  It also keeps you from playing with friends who spend more or less time playing than you! It does work in making people feel like they’re gaining something, but it’s so artificial.

In Identity you do still gain experience points of a sort but you instead use that experience to unlock bonuses and abilities.  For example, as a detective you might progress and learn to check an item for fingerprints which can show you who’s used that item recently without gloves.

The idea is that your character can grow and improve over time but being new to the game won’t make it impossible to compete with people who’ve been around a while.

MMORPG.com: “More casual games than we can list”. Why the emphasis on casual games like karaoke, etc.?

John VanderZwet: The goal of Identity is to create a world where you can interact with other plays in all sorts of ways and get completely immersed.  Players of Altis Life will know that some of the absolute best moments you can have in gaming come from interacting with interesting and weird people!  For example, we’ve held Altis Idol events where players would sing for a reward.  Most of the singers were absolutely terrible, but that’s the fun!

Identity is absolutely full of exciting things from working as a cop or paramedic to street racing or controlling territory in gang wars.  That said, sometimes gamers are lazy and don’t want to get involved in anything that might be time consuming when they’re busy.  For those times we have fun mini-games like the cinemas (which play real movies), paintball, casinos and so on.  Combat is a lot of fun but most people like to have some downtime, too!

MMORPG.com: You will allow players to host their own servers alongside the official servers. How will that happen? Will server hosts be required to pay a fee? How will new content be added to these independent servers?

John VanderZwet: Servers will be rentable from partnered companies for a fee, similar to how it’s done with first person shooter games.  You’ll have loads of options to change the way the game plays.  We’re talking dozens or hundreds of configuration choices so that you can truly create a unique experience.  We fully expect some players to create servers preferred over even our official ones!

MMORPG.com: Does Identity embody ‘survival’ mechanics?

John VanderZwet: Identity doesn’t really play like survival games (DayZ, H1Z1) but you do need to eat and drink.  What you eat and drink can matter too, as you can get poisoned, drunk or high on drugs (different drugs have different effects, both positive and negative).

If you really wanted to you could play your entire existence in survival mode.  Buy a cabin out in the forest, hunt animals or fish for your food and brew your own alcohol.  Some properties even have gardens for growing crops both legal and illegal (depending on the governor’s laws).

MMORPG.com: Is there open world PvP? If so, when a player is killed, what are the looting mechanics?

John VanderZwet: This is one of those things that can be controlled quite a bit by server owners, so I’ll fill you in based on our official server rulesets!

There is open world PvP but it’s not as black and white as other MMORPGs.  What I mean by this is anybody can be engaged in PvP at any time but they have options.  For example if being robbed you can comply with the robbery and hand over your cash on hand.  In doing so you’re relatively safe, but if you decide to fight them or run that could be another story.

The looting mechanics are similar to Asylum’s Altis Life in that much of what you’re carrying is lost on death, but not everything.  Things that can be lost include cash on hand (don’t worry, you have banks) weapons and more advanced items.  You’re not going to lose simple items like your clothes though, unless they’re more advanced clothes with utility.

We’ve done a pretty good job in balancing threat and loss.  You should be afraid to die as that motivates you to try and live.  At the same time we understand that sometimes loss can be nothing but annoying, and so there we draw the line since people play games to have a fun time.

MMORPG.com: If you could tell readers any one thing about Identity, what would it be?

John VanderZwet: One thing we’ve never discussed in public yet is the water!  Water surrounds the land and you’ll be able to get all sorts of water vehicles for transportation and utility.  There are small single person vehicles, speed boats, fishing trawlers and even yachts.  The ship you see for a moment in the videos is a player-owned yacht which was named by the owner as “Asylum Life”.  What makes yachts a little different is that they function almost like a house; they have persistent storage and all sorts of furniture.  They can’t be customized on the interior quite as much as a house or apartment, but there’s a lot of cool utility inside!

We’re still in early development and we’re already building something very cool.  If Identity is your sort of game we’re always in need of backing on Kickstarter.  Spread the word!

Suzie Ford / Suzie is the Associate Editor and News Manager at MMORPG.com. An avid gamer, Suzie lives in the desert Southwestern US with her own personal minion.