Last week, the guys behind the indie sandbox MMO Das Tal stirred the MMO community pot by comparing their game to XLGAMES and Trion Worlds’ ArcheAge, pointing out that AA has had a rocky start and vowing to do better by the player with their own game. The statements from David Wells really struck a nerve within the MMO-verse, and we reached out to him and colleague Alexander Zacherl to comment more on the comparison and their own game’s design.
MMORPG.com: What was the real intent of the article concerning AA and Das Tal?
Alex: There were two main reasons for the post:
1.) We are trying hard to get better at explaining what Das Tal is and what is not. Is it a Sandbox MMO even though our game worlds don't run forever? We've had a pretty big discussion about this in our forums. One of the ways of explaining our goals is by comparing our plan for the game with what's already existing. Dave has been playing a lot of ArcheAge recently so that was his obvious first comparison. I'm currently spending a lot of time in Pathfinder Online and plan to write a similar article later.
2.) We're trying to build up a community around our game and for that we need content for people to talk about - both writers like you and fans like the people on our forums. Interesting stuff to talk about even when the game is not ready for everyone to play yet. We're currently on Square Enix Collective and so we're trying to release something interesting every other day. We've also talked about other indie MMOs such as Project Gorgon or Shards Online before. Though this was the first blog post in a while to be picked-up by the press. We've got a couple more reveals planned for the next days though: a PvP video, a video showcasing all our current abilities and then more details on our first MMO feature playtests (resources, crafting, settlement building are now nearly in).
David: Being the origin of the words, I feel I should also add… While I am directly discussing two games, one that I am working on, the piece was a personal assessment of my own experience of ArcheAge. I wrote it as a paying player of ArcheAge, and really just aimed to outline how it might affect my own approach in the future. And heck yes I wanted to get people talking - what we are doing is trying to challenge the current state of MMO's, and that can't be done without pointing out what we are challenging.
MMORPG.com: What do you think was the main problem with ArcheAge's launch, and how the game was handled by XLGAMES and or Trion? How will Das Tal avoid those similar problems?
Alex: This is very hard for me to say because I was not behind the scenes when Trion launched AA in the west. So I'll answer this from a design perspective, not from a business and operations standpoint.
- Housing slots (in our case: settlements slots) will not be grabbed in the first hours after a new server starts. This part of the game will have a ramp-up that will give everybody a chance to participate. And since we'll have a siege system in place even if you fail to secure a settlement for your clan at first you always have the chance to challenge an existing settlement owner and try to take over their town.
- A lot of players have complained about AA being "pay to win". I'm not going to speculate on if it actually is. But we're doing everything to ensure that Das Tal is not. We're very much aware that in a game like ours we cannot ever sell any form of in-game power in order to not tilt the balance towards high-paying players. So we would not sell XP bonuses or make player housing (settlements) available only to some (paying) players. It's equal footing for everybody.
MMORPG.com: What is the main focus of Das Tal? How will this game be the sandbox you personally are hoping for?
Alex: The main focus of my game design work for Das Tal is to create a high density of meaningful interactions between players. That means: Ample PvP fights on a small and medium scale, accessible territorial warfare and a ton of diplomacy between guilds. The sandbox aspect in Das Tal does have nothing to do with us trying to simulate a physical world or with having our players dig holes in the ground.
As a designer (and as a player) I love Sandbox MMOs for the sole reason that they allow us to get in touch with other people - to compete with them but also to build lasting social connections. Themepark MMOs (especially in the post-WoW era) have massively segregated players into tiny manageable instances, distracted them with quest chains and shiny baubles and did everything in their power to prevent people from actually interacting with each other in a meaningful way. We don't enjoy that kind of gameplay at all.