During SOE Live a few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to find out more about what Producer Clint Worley and the Free Realms team have been up to and what they are looking at for the future of the family-friendly title.
As was the common theme during the entire weekend for all of Sony’s games, Worley is repeating that Free Realms players will be given the “tools to do what they want in a way that makes it easier as opposed to us saying that this is the way to do it.”
To that end, Worley reiterated that the team is renewing its focus on “paying attention to the community and to what they’ve been wanting. The people who play it, they use the tools we give them. We want to let them start creating their own games.”
Exactly what that means remains a mystery but there is no mystery about the fact that the team has been very busy lately. Not only did they just roll out air chutes recently, but they also have a very fun new zone on its way.
Air chutes are similar to a jump pad in that players step on it and are catapulted into the air where they then deploy a parachute. Worley indicated that there is no real purpose for the air chutes but that they are there “simply for fun”. At a later point, the team is looking to place in-air objects for players to interact with and/or landing pads for accurate jumps and some sort of point acquisition.
In addition, the team has been working very hard to make sure that every Thursday a new feature rolls out. The community had made it clear that they were quite interested in smaller, more frequent updates rather than having to wait months for larger, more feature rich patches.
“Some of the things the players want can be taken care of quickly, some not so much.” Worley said. “We want to give our players more frequent updates.”
With that, he reminded me that the large Sunstone Valley had just launched and brought with it a metric ton of new features including over world combat. All combat in Free Realms used to be instanced.
“Now you see everyone fight. We are committed to moving away from instancing. Players want to see what others are doing. In that respect, we’re turning Free Realms into a more traditional type of MMO.” Worley told me.
To that end, the team has big plans for the future. Here are a couple of things that players have to look forward to seeing:
- Housing update: Coming soon, Worley promised. The team is creating a whol new set of building blocks for housing improvements including the ability to add doors and windows.
- The possibility for SOEmote, the facial recognition package now being used in EverQuest. “It’s something we might want to explore.” Worley said. “We have to watch our age demographic. SOE does want to implement it in all games. We may focus more on the voice side rather than the full facial recognition.
- Ponyvale expansion area: Worley was very cagey about what Ponyvale will be but the name certainly brings certain images to mind. He did say that it’s “very pink with lots of rainbows and clouds and unicorns. Sounds…fun. *g*
The bottom line is that Free Realms is doing very well in its niche. Worley said that the player population is very stable and that they continue to see tons of new players every day. With every content expansion, new players come in and the influx of new players is keeping the population and community vibrant and active.
We’ll keep you posted about forthcoming changes to Free Realms, particularly Ponyville.
What about you? Have you or do you play Free Realms? Let us know what you think of the recent updates and Sony’s plans for the future in the comments.
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