Ilysia is a VR MMORPG being developed by Team 21 Studio for PCVR, Oculus Quest, and PlayStationVR. It has about 1 day left of its Kickstarter campaign as of writing this article and has already more than doubled the funding goal. Ilysia is an ambitious project that has had multiple pre-alpha events and is slated to enter Alpha in Q1 2021. I recently had the opportunity to ask the developers some questions about the game and the Kickstarter campaign.
Ilysia, being developed by Team 21 Studio, is a VR MMORPG that looks like it could become something amazing. The developers have created the seed of a world with the potential to entertain players for years as VR tech further matures. While the graphics are not up to what is sometimes expected from today’s typically PC releases the game is being developed to run on an Oculus Quest as a baseline, which means the Quest’s hardware limitations need to be taken into account. Even with these limitations though the unpolished stylized pre-alpha footage looks great for a VR title.
I would love to go over all the features for the game listed on the Kickstarter page and backer rewards, but to be honest, the developers do a great job of detailing each feature on the Kickstarter so what follows is some highlights that stood out the most for me.
Movement mechanics will include various locomotion options, an important element in VR as different user comfort levels can impact the experience. Combat will be physics-based so players will actually have to swing weapons, using the appropriate edge, and pull back their bowstring to inflict more damage. For those who prefer slinging spells, you will have the option of using a gesture-based system, button press, or a mixture of the two. PvP will also be present but it will be entirely optional, players will need to flag for PvP or travel to large area arenas that are specifically used for Battle Royal style PvP.
Humans in Ilysia, known as the Lagenans, were invaders who arrived via portals over 300 years ago. Those that remain on Ilysia are the members of the invading army that did not escape after their side was driven back by the other races. At release, you will be able to play as human, elf, or dwarf with additional races to follow.
The setting, to me, seems primarily fantasy inspired with some steampunk mixed in for good measure. The world is 16 km x 18 km in size making for a massive 288 km^2 primary landmass and will have a variety of different regions, including underwater areas, to explore. One region I found to look particularly interesting is the deserts of Ilysia, but a bit more on that in the interview below. So how will players get around this massive world? According to the developers, players can use free-climbing, airships, or personal ground and flying mounts as the main methods of travel.
As for the denizens of Ilysia, the more concept art I see, the more interested in the world setting I become. Players can expect a rogues’ gallery of characters and enemies at release like the new character concept art above. As you would expect Ilysia will also have the typical MMORPG dungeon content, but each dungeon will have 3 modes of play. There will also be world bosses for groups to overcome, known as Guardians and Titans.
What about character development? Ilysia will use what is being called the FreeForge Class System with 24 skill trees to choose from at launch. These trees will include your adventuring classes and crafting professions. A player will be able to specialize or spread themselves out to create a jack of all trades type character.
Speaking of professions, one of the more interesting aspects is players will be able to take over NPC held shops once they acquire a deed. The player will not only be able to sell to others from the location, but they will also need to upkeep the shop by completing different mechanics/chores. Certain professions can also be run as a shop out of the back of a player’s personal caravan. I kind of like the idea of a traveling alchemist myself, unfortunately for me, I am not certain if alchemy will be one of the professions available at release.
Currently, the game supports cross-platform between Oculus Quest and PCVR with the developers hoping to publish on PSVR sometime near the beginning of 2021.
Even though I found the Kickstarter page to be very well detailed, I still had questions for Team 21 Studio. Arthur Fogle (Creative Director), Xander Fogle (Technical Director), Geoffrey Fogle (Lead Writer/Modeler), and Tyler Washburn (Business Director) were good enough to take the time and answer my initial salvo.
MMORPG: On your Kickstarter page one of the regions you talk a bit about are the deserts in Ilysia and how the sands there work more like water, players will be able to use ships. Can you tell us a bit more about that region?
Team 21 Studio: The thermal vents below the deserts in Ilysia cause parts of the environment to become aerated, making the sand act like fluid.
MMORPG: Will character advancement be primarily quest based, combat based, and a mixture of both?
Team 21 Studio: In Ilysia we have a philosophy of multiple ways to advance your character. This can be done through questing, combat, exploration, and even passive professions.
MMORPG: Your FreeForge Class System, where you can choose what skill trees to specialize in, sounds interesting. What sort of limits are you planning on having with the system, if any? Will character have a maximum number of skill points to spend for example.
Team 21 Studio: Skill trees will have a cap, and the max number of points you have is correlated to your level. When reaching the max level, you won’t gain additional skill points but you will still be able to respec for a cost.
MMORPG: Will players be able to have multiple alts or will they be limited to one or two characters?
Team 21 Studio: Players will be able to have multiple characters, to explore different aspects of the game.
MMORPG: Will you have multiple servers or a megaserver? While it is still early in development can you give an idea on how many players are you anticipating per server?
Team 21 Studio: Without getting into some of our ‘secret sauce’, we will be using a mix of network methodologies to bring as many players into each server as possible. Sorry for being vague here but we’re doing some interesting things on the back end we don’t want to talk about openly at this time. What I will say is that our Pre-Alpha supported 40ish clients at a time before things got heavy on the single server we were using and we’re improving on that.
MMORPG: Will dungeons/raids be instanced or open-world?
Team 21 Studio: Dungeons will be instanced for both balance and allowing multiple people to participate in the same content in different groups simultaneously.
MMORPG: In other games where you can own property or housing there are issues with large guilds controlling vast geographical areas, for the profession buildings are you developing ways in which to deal with these potential “land rush” issues?
Team 21 Studio: Player housing in Ilysia is instanced to avoid this exact issue. While each area may have a cluster of different styles of homes, the one you own will be your unique version when you enter the door. We also think socialization is important, so we plan on allowing you to have invited guests in your homes.
MMORPG: Full Release by the end of 2021 seem ambitious, can you give an idea of how far along you are in developing core systems for the game?
Team 21 Studio: We wrapped up our Pre-Alpha in September and are currently in development for Alpha which will be available in Q1 2021. While news about Ilysia is just now starting to grow around our Kickstarter campaign; Ilysia has been in design for close to 3 years and active development for the past 12 months.
MMORPG: Many people have become more cautious in recent year when it comes to support Kickstarter campaigns, can you reassure potential backers that Ilysia will not turn into another game that ends up take X years to release?
Team 21 Studio: Kickstarter is an exercise in trust, and we are very aware of that. The only way to combat that is through honesty and community engagement. Over the past year, we have been through multiple public in-game ‘Tavern Talks’ (Ask the dev anything) as well as got through Pre-Alpha with a fraction of the budget we asked for in Kickstarter. We have always been very transparent and responsive to our community and our testers about our progress and setbacks during that entire time. In short; we hope that the trust we’ve earned from our community to date gives people the confidence that we’re not in this to let people down. Our management and development staff have decades of experience writing and releasing software and have we have our plans very specifically laid out by features and milestones to ensure we’re doing our level best to stick to our planned release schedule.
MMORPG: Have you seen the reluctance mentioned in the previous question impacting your Kickstarter campaign at all?
Team 21 Studio: While we can’t say if it’s directly impacting the campaign, we have seen people online question our integrity even going so far as to say Ilysia is ‘vaporware’ and the entire campaign is just a scam. However, we don’t pay much attention to that on account of the fact that we have already completed out Pre-Alpha with hundreds of players working cross-platform between Quest and PCVR which would be quite the trick for vaporware that doesn’t exist! Our general response to any reluctance has always been to address any concerns within the community and be as open and honest as we can. It’s the only way to combat the negativity. Just be real.
MMORPG: In you WIKI you mention the game having and upfront purchase price of $30 -$40 dollars supported by a cosmetic cash shop. Any plans on offering something like an optional subscription at release or are you steering away from any ongoing subscription models?
Team 21 Studio: We prefer the one time buy method, as subscriptions have not seemed to go over well with mobile and VR markets as a whole. While this does slow down iterative development over time with more focus on expansions, it’s the right call for where the market is currently.
MMORPG: You have noted that the game will have a cosmetic cash shop and that Team 21 Studios is “big on not having pay to win mechanics”. Will items purchased in the cash shop be account wide or character bound?
Team 21 Studio: Items purchased are planned to be account-wide, and you’re correct they’re entirely cosmetic such as weapon skins, mount skins, etc.
MMORPG: I have a number of friends, including my wife, who are not overly interested in VR and I noticed your Kickstarter mentioned a possible PC client sometime after release. Anything else you can tell us at this time for those interested in a non-VR version of the game?
Team 21 Studio: It’s something we’ve talked about quite a bit internally. We would love to someday do this, but our current focus and funding model supports VR development alone at this time. It would be great to have Ilysia be more accessible across multiple technology platforms, but we understand that it would be very expensive and present interesting balance issues to sort through, especially in Crossplay between VR and non-VR platforms if we did so.