Shards Online is a game that in its understated way is going to change the way MMOs are developed by bringing the community to bear in a way that has never been done before. Citadel Studios is committed to creating something different and unique that places the powers of creation into the hands of the people who love MMOs so they can provide experiences to players who are oftentimes disappointed by the genre these days.
Even in its pre-alpha phases of development, the Shards team and its server admin community are hard at work to show off not only a gorgeous game, but to shine the light on the vast amount of potential and possibility that exists because of what modders will have access to when all things are in place.
Pre-alpha 2 is currently available with backers at the $200+ range running their own servers. The pool is somewhat limited by the number of pledges at that level, but it is pre-alpha and it is a work in progress.
“We’re still in testing at the moment and Shards is not quite ready to be played full time yet. Pre-alpha 3 should see a lot more stability and be much more stable and ready to play. This current stage is to get modders comfortable with shards and the tools available to them.” Derek Brinkman, CEO of Citadel Studios, said.
“It’s amazing what these guys have done in these custom shards. It’s cool to get the other side of the coin with players using tools to create their own worlds. Rust and DayZ feature official servers and community servers. It’s a rough parallel to what we’re trying to do. We’re taking that concept and applying it to a fantasy setting, something no one else has done. The closest comparison is Neverwinter Nights. It seems to make perfect sense to let players run their games and decide how they want to play the game. You can find a server that’s perfect suited to your play style. Every shard can and will be vastly different from one another.”
Player-creator, Chris McKillroy says, “It’s a medium like writing.”
Chris and his team of two other core developers are hard at work on a player-created shard called Tales of Arcanima. Chris and his team also have the Collabatorium, a place to share scripts, a repository of sorts that already has over twenty users. The hope is that this group will grow over time.
Entering the shard, players are met by a Message of the Day to find out what’s new on the server, Tales of Arcanima, a story that Chris has had in mind in one way or another for over a decade.
From the Shard’s description:
“Arcanima Description: Arcanima is a world of custom original lore. It is a roleplay server with a strong focus on community and storylines. Read more about it here.”
Chris describes his creation as, “Arcanima is an artificial word I created, something that incorporates Latin roots in soul and arcane, a fancy word for the unconscious. All forms of art have an element of unconscious “mixing in” during the creative process. Arcanima focuses on this process. The background utilizes this process in lore and play. The core artifact in the game is the book “Arcanima”.”
That is Chris’s world, but Citadel’s dream is that every modder will be able to make something utterly unique and completely unlike any other shard. To assist in that, player-creators already have access to the same offline editing tools that developers have and can use them to build their individual shards. Later, a new set of live editing tools will allow modders to build and edit while the server is live and players are active in the game. It is both a way for teams to work collaboratively no matter where in the world they are and to enable the ability for live unscripted events for players, something similar to DM/GM tools.
“The long term goal is to remove all the restrictions to modding. Even people who have no scripting experience will be able to create something unique.” Derek mentioned. “We’re going to take it to the ‘nth’ degree. There are a lot of live server abilities that will be available soon that will be really cool and will allow for live activities and events.”
Even those without coding or modding experience have a place, Derek said, “Teams can put together community servers – writers, coders, everyone will have a spot.”
Chris further articulated, “It’s not just focused on my story and my server, but it’s the team process. I want people to have fun and not boss them around.”
“We are breaking out modding into two phases. Server side modding can change the game as long as you use the assets we provide. In alpha right now, it is server-side modding with custom story and game play.” Derek explained. “In phase two, you can add your own monsters, maps, items and all that. Client side modding is where it will open up and go absolutely crazy.”
“You can do so much with different sizes and coloring already.” Chris said. “It’s not like making all new things, but they can be scaled and tinted. It’s not perfect, but it’s a beginning. More is coming and that’s cool.”
Citadel is 100% behind giving modders the tools and examples they need.
“We’ll be releasing new maps and looks over time. We’ll have Tower of Babel, a huge dungeon where tons of different styles are merged together. Terminus is a horror-sci-fi kind of map. We’ll be constantly releasing maps, like in beta at least every few months. Modders will be creating their own maps as well. Maps will constantly increase and the number available to use in your own worlds will explode over time.”
“What people create will only be limited by their own imagination.” Derek said.
“This game is a platform where the limit is not the technology, but your imagination and desire to create something.” Chris added.
Derek further explained, “What Shards Online is is much more than an MMO Maker. The base game, the one we are making, is a game to provide the starting point for your own creation." There will be a whole world and fully-supported MMORPG from Citadel themselves when the game launches next year. Derek continued, "We give the gameplay code to our modders right from the start. They need it to work from examples. The best way to do something is to find it already done and base things from that. ‘Here are our tools, knock yourself out’.”
“Shards is all about the freedom to create and explore beyond any economical means. It’s run by players, but not by companies looking to make money.” Chris expanded. “The interesting journey is the journey about the shards created by people who are not constrained by money and profit. It is about freedom.”
When speaking of the overall malaise and dismay with the current crop of MMOs, Derek said, “Dismay in the MMO community is due to the fact that the whole theme park thing has been beaten to death. But nobody is taking it to another perspective. Why did the devs always have the best idea for a game? Ultimately they decide what the best is. In Shards, it’s the communities that make that decision. It’s not one guy, but the community that forms around a given ideal like RPers or hardcore PvPers. In Shards, it doesn’t matter if you’re the minority. You can do it yourself, or you as a community can make it happen. We give a voice to the people who feel they don’t have it. It’s a modern interpretation of what an MMO should be.”
Summing it all up, Chris said, “Shards Online is the biggest revolution since the invention of the typewriter.”
I'm not sure I'd go quite that far, but in if I were betting on a game to set a new standard in MMOs, I would put my money on Shards Online. It is a gamer’s and a builder’s paradise only limited by the desire and imagination of those who both create and play it.