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Opening the Door to the Citadel

William Murphy Posted:
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MMORPG.com: Can you give us an overview of Citadel of Sorcery? There are probably quite a few readers who might not know what it's all about.

Phil Blood: Citadel of Sorcery is a Triple A, Fantasy MMORPG title.   This game was designed from the ground up to give new and better game play.  At the heart of our game, we feature deep epic quests worthy of novels and movies.  Your story is personal, and you will not go through the game in the same way as every other player.   What you do and the choices you make matter.   The game does away with many of the limits typically imposed on players, allowing you to make your own character class and customize all of your equipment, in both powers and looks.  Combat is not a slug fest; it involves strategy and opponents that will use varying intelligence, group tactics and learning A.I.   Crafting is done through adventures and takes all of the tedious repetitive parts away.  PVP is featured in an Arena where other players may watch and wager.   Guilds own land, Guild Halls, and can give or lease land to their members, who build their own functioning villages and towns, running their own shops.  Stories are not episodic, and enemies and friends you make along the way continue throughout your adventures.  Explore what may be the largest MMORPG fantasy gaming world in existence, the full size of earth, easily 9 million times larger than a typical fantasy MMORPG.  No player will EVER see it all.   Citadel of Sorcery changes nearly everything about this genre, bringing what players have wanted in their MMO game for years.

MMORPG.com: What makes CoS so different from other MMOs on the market?  How will it stand out from the crowd?

Phil Blood: Everything, but I’ll explain.  Let’s begin with Quests.  These are the granddaddy stories of our world.  Each one is an epic adventure where you go on a real story driven quest.  What you do will impact the Reflected Worlds.  You might go on a quest to stop a war, or find the secret weapon that will turn the tide of demon infestation in an entire Kingdom.   No matter what it is, this will involve a huge story where you are the key player, and the decisions you make will change how it all unfolds.  These stories are customized to your player’s history, and therefore, not the same for every player.  What happens in the story changes based on YOUR actions, and the grand climax will unfold based on what you did and how you take on the challenges.   These Quests take about the same time it takes to read an entire novel trilogy, something like two weeks, or more to play.   However, when you aren’t in the mood for the most epic story you have ever seen in a fantasy MMORPG, we offer many other types of stories.  These include things such as League Actions or Expeditions, which take about one evening to complete.  Or Adventures, which are events that you may happen upon during your Quest.  These are still important stories, they just take an hour or so to finish.  There are many other types of play, such as Crisis, which are emergencies that take place and you must respond NOW!    All of these take place in our Story Reflected Worlds, where solo or small group (up to eight) may go adventuring in their own, entire, Reflected World.  However we don’t stop there, we also feature Community Reflected Worlds, where thousands of players and groups may adventure together in massive multiplayer driven game play options.   Game options in these worlds include things such as Warfare where many groups work together on large objectives, or Incursions where groups work at penetrating through No-Man’s-Land into enemy held territory, or Campaigns where Citadel forces or Guilds organize assaults against major objectives.  There are even more choices, Bounty Hunting, Monster Trapping and many other mini games.

Another important difference is change.   Time is real in our world, we don’t endlessly repeat the same day.  Tomorrow really is a new day.  The world changes, situations change, lands change hands and people change.  Every NPC is living a life, as are our monsters and other enemies.  Those opponents have their own agendas, and they are always pursuing them.  There are no monsters standing around waiting to be killed and popping back in existence.  Everything is working toward a goal.   When you go out into the world you may be hunting some things, but they may be hunting you.  The world is a real place, where you have to stay on your toes, all the time.  There is only one safe place, the Citadel of Sorcery… or is it?  Dark Sorcerers rule there, and you are out to bring them down from within.  The entire world story is progressing, the back story matters because it simply isn’t done; it continues and you will help shape the future world as it unfolds.

Your story is also personal.   CoS features Quests that are written by novel quality writers, but they are processed through what we call the True Questing Module.   This analyzes the players past history and current situation, and then alters the story so that it becomes part of that players continuing story.  Each of these stories takes place on a different Reflected World.   If by chance you went to another RW (with another group) and happened to get a similar Quest, it would only be similar, but not the same.  That world and that situation would alter the story so much that you might as well be in a different Quest.  Reflected Worlds are NOT instances, they differ significantly, particularly in the stories and situations of the world.

Another major element that sets CoS apart from other MMOs is the size of the world.  Players can become explorers for as long as they wish.   They can never explore the entire world.   Ten years after the game launches, players will be finding new locations that no other player has ever seen.    This is possible because of our Trident3D system called PlanetForge.  This system has been in development now for three years and is ongoing.  However we can already generate an entire planet and have done so.  This planet then uses many systems to erode and soil type every part of the world.  It then starts growing plants, all of them.  Every tree, bush and flower is unique.  Every blade of grass exists and is not just a normal mapped texture.  This is a world of unprecedented size and detail.  But like the rest of the game, it is not static; it changes.  As time continues, all the plants continue to grow, weather takes place, and change happens.  This is a living planet, where our living NPCs and stories take place.  We are all explorers in CoS, even the developers, since no one has seen this planet before.  Because of this, we added a major part of the game play, mapping.  This involves exploring areas of the world and filling in parts of your map.  Other players will explore other parts, and you can sell or buy, find or obtain parts of the overall map.   Your personal map will never be completed; it is an ongoing project throughout the years you spend in CoS.   With a world so large, we created new ways to get around this massive world.  These include new kinds of mounts, stepping stones that zip you along roads to receiving stones, and a kind of in atmosphere worm hole system that lets you fly special mounts through air corridors, while watching the massive world go by at breakneck speeds.

Though there are MANY other differences between CoS and other MMORPG games, we can sum these up saying that we took out all the time sinks and repetitive grinds, that players are used to wasting their time on in a game, and exchanged them all for fun game play content.

MMORPG.com: What's it like being an independent developer of such a massive project?

Phil Blood: There were many difficult hurdles to overcome.   However, since our core team came from other major game companies, we all knew how to make a game and how to work together as a team.  The biggest issue was funding; we didn’t have any.  Before we started, we spoke to several of the big publishers out there about the concept of this game.  They were all intrigued, but in every case the answer was always, “We love the concept, but it’s too risky to develop.”  So, the only way we could get the game made was to make it all the way to a playable Alpha without publisher backing.  This took large sacrifices by many people, over 100 at this point.   They have all donated their time and money (which are really the same thing), for over eight year now.  It took this long because the team was small, and we had a mountain to climb.  We started with nothing, not one line of code, and engineered an entire engine and all the tools needed to build a game world with a kind of game play never seen before.  In fact, no engine and tool set out there can currently make CoS the way we have done it.

The good news is, we built the engine, made the tools, and are running our online servers in Pre-Alpha right now.   They have been running nearly non-stop for six years.  The game is solid, and it works.  We are closing in on an Alpha build, and see nothing that will stop us from reaching that goal.  However, we would like to speed it up.  This is the main reason we are going to put the game up on Kickstarter on October 9th.   There are a few bottlenecks in our production that could be improved with a few more key personnel.  The Kickstarter funds would help us get those people and significantly speed up the march to Alpha, though we will get there regardless.  After Alpha we will go back to those publishers and show them a working game that will be amazing.

MMORPG.com: Most people would say Indie MMOs are impossible to make. What would you say to those Debbie Downers?

Phil Blood: That one is easy to answer; we have already gotten the game world running.  All we need now is to add more Art, Writing and Level Design content using the existing tools.  All the major risks are completed.  However, they are not incorrect is saying that this is (nearly) impossible to do.  We knew that when we set out to make the impossible.  It took millions of dollars personally invested by the team, you don’t see that often.   These same people had to be so committed that they would work for eight years, without pay, to get us to this point, another nearly impossible task.  The support of our families has been the strength of this team, allowing us to pursue an impossible dream and make it real.  This is a game that we were told could not be made, we did it anyway.

?MMORPG.com: How does your monster system work? I've been told that when you kill something in CoS, it stays dead... is that true? Can players make something extinct? How do new mobs enter the world then?

Phil Blood: Yes, its’ true, monsters remain dead, shouldn’t they?  We want a realistic world, where what players do matter, so we can’t have the world resetting every few minutes.   Here is how it works.  Monsters have objectives in an area; they are up to no good.  They want to achieve their goal.  When your paths cross, you may choose to stop them, or not.  If you don’t (or another player doesn’t) they may achieve their goals and things will go worse for the Citadel.   However, you may stop them from achieving success, by killing them or drive them off.  Be aware, that if you drive them off, they may take a dislike to you and start hunting ways to do you in!   However, should you kill of a group of monsters bent on evil, soon a different one will get a new objective in this area and start working toward that goal.  You won’t run into monsters at the same rate you do in simple grid system MMO games, but you will cross paths.   Tracking is a HUGE part of our world, so important we give it as one of your ten starting abilities.   You will cross paths often and may choose to follow, or to get ahead of those mobs, but they may cross your back trail and do the same to you!  As for making something extinct, this is certainly within the possibilities of our world, if you managed to kill that entire race of monsters, the game could not send more.  However, there are always new evils being made by Morphael or the Demons.

MMORPG.com: Can you tell us about the classes and skills available in CoS? It's not the traditional "Priest, Warrior, Rogue" sort of system is it?

Phil Blood: This is a short answer, it’s either there are no classes in CoS or there are unlimited classes.  The fact is, you make your character what you want it to be by the skills and Abilities you learn.   There are 1890 Abilities, and every player may get any of these Abilities in any mix.  On top of that there are things called Uber Abilities, and there are over a hundred of those as well.  Each Ability is completely different and not a power up of another Ability.  Each of the Abilities may be improved, but that doesn’t make it a new one.  All Abilities are useful throughout all of the game, no matter how far you advance, which means you can go get any Ability at any stage of game play and have it be useful.  No need to restart a character, just go get that new Ability you want!  Although, you certainly can start a new one if you choose to.   For those that don’t want to plan out an entire custom class of their own, we do offer a University which will help them by giving them a plan to follow, but it is up to the player to follow that plan or to adjust it if they choose.  There are no limits to player advancement and no level caps; we intend players to take their character all the way through this massive story, and then onto any sequels we make in the future.

There are systems in place to keep players from becoming just ‘mud’.   These involve the Uber Abilities, which require a kind of specialization to obtain one.  This means that our system works more like going to college.  You can pick a major and specialize in it, but you may also learn general education and even have a minor or two.  This system ensures that Characters have an identity, even though they may still get any Ability they choose or any mix of them.  It’s up to the player.

MMORPG.com: What about social features, such as guilds and the like? How important will they be in Citadel of Sorcery?

Phil Blood: MMOs are a social game, and we haven’t forgotten it.  Guilds are very important to us; they give players a home in a world of (possibly) millions of players.   To help make Guilds more enjoyable, we are giving them lots of controls.  We want Guilds to be a living place, in a minor way, almost a RTS.   They construct their Guild hall, and continue to build on it and improve it over time.  The more they improve it, the more they can offer to their members.  But we want to support small Guilds as well, so there are ways for them to band together and compete with the larger guilds.   Guilds get to go out into the Reflected Worlds and choose a piece of land to lease from the Citadel.  Once they have it, they may start construction.  Guilds can then give or sublease land out to their members around the Guild Hall.  Those members may then build housing, and if they choose shops.  These shops are open to any player (not just Guild members).  Guilds may also compete against other Guilds in the Arena and in other challenges.   These   are merely some of our Guild options, but there are many more amenities and features that Guilds may use.

MMORPG.com: What can you share about crafting?  With everything you've shared this far, I get the feeling it won't be traditional...

Phil Blood: You are correct once again.  Our world is about questing, and so we wanted Crafting to tie into that.   So instead of collecting a bunch of reagents or ore, etc., as a repetitive task, we decided to create a system we call Crafting by Adventure.  Every single item you obtain may be crafted.   This means that you can turn objects into exactly what you want.   You do this by going on adventures to get the things you want to improve your item.  You can embed items imbue them, change their looks or meld them.  The options are amazing, but every item has a potential crafting value.  Once you use it up, no matter how, it is completed. You can sell items you craft and can even get your name permanently attached, or you can make them personal as a Soulbound or Monogrammed item.   However, you will always be on the look for a new, higher potential item, which you may begin fashioning into your next greater item.

MMORPG.com: Let's talk about the combat now, that little system that players spend 90% of their time with.  How is it handled in CoS with a skill system so diverse, and what about PvP?

Phil Blood: Combat is certainly dear to our hearts, I mean; this is a dangerous world with everyone and everything out to get the Fallen Heroes.  You WILL be fighting, a lot in fact, because everyone fights.   Let’s talk about that.  This idea of roles that each player takes in every battle won’t work in CoS.  We opted for a much more realistic battle concept.  When in a battle, the fight may come to you at any time.  Your opponents will be analyzing you and looking for ways to beat you.  This means that if you think you will just stand behind some warrior with a lot of armor and cast some spells, well… that will work sometimes.  Other times a more intelligent opponent will recognize your strategy and decide to come stick a sword through you.   A famous quote from a great fantasy author, Steven Brust, is, “A knife in the back of a wizard will seriously crimp his style.”  So, in our game it is best to be a bit more diverse.   You can still be a wizard, but you’ll want to have a sword or axe ready just in case.   Good armor is also a great idea, and we have magic robes that do as well as plate armor. Ain't magic great?  Remember that guy named Gandalf?  He fought with a sword.  But this isn’t just about wizards, it’s about EVERYONE.  There won’t be pure healers, fighters, or archers.   You will have specialties, but everybody does a little of everything.  The game rewards players for this.  During a battle, you will need to keep a balance in your character.  We’ll talk more about this at our Alpha release, but players will need to use their Ability choices wisely in each battle.  You have to keep thinking and adapting your strategies in every battle.  You can no longer expect to use the old ‘Tank’ or ‘Holy Trinity’ for every battle.   Actually, it won’t really work for any battle, since there is no ‘taunt’ Ability (not even in 1890 of them).

Combat goes even further than that.  Players can use fakes; they can see what their opponents are doing and counter the attacks, as well as other twists.  In the end, it means that it is no longer sufficient to just mash the button for the next attack; you have to look at the situation and choose the correct response for the optimal outcomes.

MMORPG.com: Okay, I apologize now if this is too early to ask, but what about Citadel of Sorcery's "Endgame"? It's pretty much a given that most MMOs struggle in this area.  How will CoS be any different?  What's your recipe?

Phil Blood: It’s not too early to ask, there is simply no End Game in the traditional sense of the concept.  Endgame comes when players max out and then start doing things like repetitive Raids.    In CoS there is no end to advancing your character; there is no end to going on quests; there is no end to the game in that sense.  You continue on in a living world.  I’ll ask you, what is the End Game in your real life?  When do you stop learning?  You don’t; you continue on throughout your life, and that is how CoS works as well.


William Murphy

Bill is the former Managing Editor of MMORPG.com, RTSGuru.com, and lover of all things gaming. He's been playing and writing about MMOs and geekery since 2002, and you can harass him and his views on Twitter @thebillmurphy.