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Introducing a 'Hardcore Sandbox MMO'

Suzie Ford Posted:
Interviews 0

MMORPG: Divergence Online is described on your Indiegogo Crowdsourcing Campaign page as a “hardcore sandbox MMORPG”. A lot of games have made that claim in the past. What makes Divergence Online different than the rest? Can you give us a nice overview of the game for those who don’t know it yet?

Ethan Casner: Absolutely. The core of our project is derived in, what was referred to on our Indiegogo site as, “The Pursuit of Gaming Truth”. What this means is a departure from the “faked systems” that have cropped up in recent years; Dozens of games all making the same claims, using terms that are meant to describe specific features and instead passed along as “buzz words of the day”. When we say “hardcore”, we mean quite literally, “open PVP at all times in all places, no exceptions and in some cases the possibility of permanent death for characters. When we say “sandbox” we again literally mean “a completely open-ended experience, both in advancements of character and in the way the game world is presented both”.

MMORPG: How far along in the development process is Divergence?

Ethan Casner: A lot of the “heavy lifting” is ready. What this means is that these types of games generally have to spend a year or more creating the infrastructure just to support the features they want, such as database, back end and handling. Although the game has a good ways to go before we'll feel comfortable letting people log in, as you can see in the video, you physically can do those things right now. With the structure nearly complete to support the kind of game we want to make, it's just a matter of plugging in various features like our combat formulae and cleaning up character creation and management.

MMORPG: How soon could backers expect to see the game in its beta or finished stages?

Ethan Casner: At least six months, but what we're considering “beta”, but with the way our development process works we're planning on having contributors actually logging into the game much much sooner than that. Our way of saying “thank you” to our contributors is a sort of “module-based development practice”, wherein we plan to let people log in and test individual functions within the game as they're developed instead of waiting for the entire game to be ready. One week players might be throwing punches, the next they could be digging holes in the ground and placing harvesters. We want our community and following to grow along with the game.

MMORPG: Your page mentions “giving the end user real features”. What does this entail?

Ethan Casner: It's our belief that the kind of players we're hoping to attract aren't easily “fooled” by common “tricks” in MMORPGs. They know when they're being led down a corridor from one zone to the next and they know when their “crafting skills” are really just busybody work meant to prolong their advancement and give artificial longevity to the game. They also know when they are actually firing a weapon or making a difference in the world itself that will still be there when they log in tomorrow. None of this kind of “trickery” exists in Divergence or ever will. The mountains you see across the ocean are a real place you can go to. There aren't 10,000 meaningless “achievements” with mildly clever titles assembled out of pop culture memes to “keep you busy” in attaining, nor will anyone be grinding faction simply because must to advance. In Divergence, advancement is something that happens to you while you're having fun in the world, and that's how we think it should be.

MMORPG: When you say that Divergence’s world is modifiable, how modifiable do you really mean?

Ethan Casner: I have to be careful how much I claim here just because that system is 75% complete but changes might still need to be made. However what I can say is that as far as we can reckon, there is no other game available that can match our current systems on the scale we're offering it. In Divergence, any player with the right tools and skill (and remember you skill goes up just by doing things) can raise, lower, or bull-doze the terrain, plant trees or shatter them into splinters for raw materials or even plant a garden of rare flowers should they choose. In many cases a player can even paint the terrain, or plow the dirt away and expose the precious marble beneath. Some explosive devices can even be used to facilitate mining.

MMORPG: Your page details five divisions in the human race alone. Will this be true of all the game’s races? How many other races are you projecting to include?

Ethan Casner: At the very least, we're looking at five breeds of humans, two of Veli (Vindicator and Verrator) a Lokri species, the synthetics (AI) and we're hoping to at least include D-Tanix and two other races, but these are the kinds of additions that really are determined by how much funding we can muster.

MMORPG: Players are being actively engaged in purchasing characters that will be included in the game. How many players have taken advantage of this option and how do you plan to place their characters into the game lore and how much flexibility are they being given to create those characters?

Ethan Casner: The majority of players will end up playing humans, Lokri and synthetics because those are species you can “make a career with”, although a far higher percentage of people have already bought Vindicator and Verrator than I anticipated. The major difference between these “bought characters” over others is that they each have to be written into the story by someone, most likely myself actually. Every single Verrator and Vindicator for instance must be accounted for. They must have a reason for being stuck on Rook (our planet) at the time of the mass crash landings and as a survivor, they must have a designation appropriate for their species. For Vindicator, this means a two-part name such as “SRN-36” (pronounced Sern thirtysix” and Verrator use their own, somewhat more fearsome naming convention such as “Vivisector”. It's a lot of work, figuring out where each and every character fits into the story, but I'm happy to do it.

In addition to Veli, we've even had a few people buy first-generation Solitus characters, which are an ultra-rare original breed of humans which all other Solitus humans in Divergence are now descended from. Every single one of these characters must have at least 300 years of backstory associated with them, but again, it' a joy to work with these people.

MMORPG: How much longer is your crowdsourcing campaign going on? Where can interested people find out more?

Ethan Casner: Around 20 days left I believe and it's just over halfway there! They can check it out just by heading over to  http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/divergence-online

MMORPG: Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know?

Ethan Casner: I'm glad you asked that, yes I do actually. We'd like people to know that we do have a policy of “grandfathering in” people who contribute. What this means is, say you buy a Vindicator for $100 on the site, and then in two months we decide to run another crowdsourcing campaign to fund an increase in our number of playable races, and in that campaign there is a perk for a unique Omicron harvester, a synthetic shell (body) for AI players or something else of that nature for $80, which was $20 less than you already put in. in this scenario, we automatically “grandfather you in” to having that new item free of charge.

Just like when the VRTek rifle became available, anyone who already bought a Vindicator for $100 was automatically granted that perk as well. This is our way of promoting people to contribute “now” when we actually need it as opposed to later.

Not only does our contribution system work backwards but forwards also. If you put in $50 then at a later date decide that there's something else you want for even more money, such as access to your own island, with a simple email we'll credit you what you've already spent towards that new toy of your choosing.

Not everything works this way, such as the solitus upgrade, but almost everything else does and it's plainly listed in a perks information if that perk is included or excluded.

Thank you for your time and hope to see you on our forums!


Suzie Ford

Suzie is the former Associate Editor and News Manager at MMORPG.com. Follow her on Twitter @MMORPGMom