As we have every other Friday for months, we present to you another Tactica Online mini Q&A. In this series fans have the chance to present questions to Luke Carruthers, the main man behind this tactical MMORPG.
Many online games use the pursuit of better loot and character development as ways to keep players interested in playing for the long-term. Since these do not apply to Tactica Online in the traditional sense, what are some of the hooks built into the design to make players addicted to the game and keep coming back for more?
When did fun gameplay become inadequate? Perhaps Tactica Online has an advantage, being without a subscription fee, but having to rely upon treadmill tricks to keep players around seems like a doomed effort. As soon as they find something that’s more fun, they’ll leave anyway, and the fact that players form communities means they’ll take others with them when they go. We’d much rather deliver an experience that keeps you coming back because they enjoy it.
Of course, if you’re taking this approach, it’s important to recognize that any game that stays the same inevitably becomes uninteresting, so one of the keys to keeping things fun is regular change. This needs to be balanced against allowing players to become comfortable with the game as it stands, which means you have to carefully walk the line between too much change, overwhelming players with the need to relearn everything, and too little change, leaving veteran players with increasingly stale gameplay.
The sale of in-game items and characters for real world money has been a hot topic. Although the basic design de-emphasizes some of these elements, the design also places players in more direct competition than ever. With this in mind, what is your company’s stance on this issue?
Let us be clear: the sale of accounts and items for real-world money will not be allowed in Tactica Online. Allowing it will have a negative impact upon other player’s enjoyment of the game. This can be hard to enforce, but it’s something we will be vigilant about policing.
As you note, the game design isn’t conducive to the sale of items, because the scarcity isn’t really in equipment, it’s in your skill, so we don’t expect it to be as big an issue as it has been for some other games.
With the popularity of Neverwinter Nights and moves from companies like Nevrax with their expansion to Ryzom, will Imaginary Numbers ever consider the idea of making tools available for players to create maps, content and arenas?
We don’t have any specific plans for Tactica Online in this regard, but it’s an interesting idea, and we’ll be following what happens closely. From an industry perspective, we think the move towards collaborative content is an important one, and that it will become increasingly common. Of course, from one point of view online games have always been about collaborative content, so this is merely a more structured version of the things they’ve traditionally offered.
The real challenge of course is not in making the tools, but in ensuring the quality of the player’s experience, or at minimum enabling them to form accurate expectations. There are lots of systems that might potentially work, but very few that have been tried in a practical context.
As of today, where does the game’s development stand (how far along?) and when do you anticipate some form of external testing?
We’re actually starting the first stage of external testing right now. A very restricted set of people are helping us with what we’re calling Technical Testing. It’s focused on the server infrastructure and network performance, and will lead into wider public testing in the future.
Along with the Technical Testing phase, we’re starting to release more information about skills and the different factions, and the official forums are going live.
The next stage will be a limited Alpha test, and it will begin the focus on gameplay testing and balance. We expect it to start in August.