Stash Aims to Bring Back the Magic to MMORPGs
Stash is a fully funded turn-based MMORPG currently closing up a Kickstarter. We caught up with the CEO Michael Hartman at Frogdice to talk all about the project, its housing system, its unique take on combat, and what players can expect now that the game is moving deeper into the development phases.
MMORPG: How does turn based combat work in an MMORPG with tens, hundreds, even thousands of players sharing the same space? If I'm just a random passerby do I have to wait for your combat turn to resolve so I can continue along my merry way?
Michael Hartman: Each combat is an instanced scene, so other players in the game are not affected by the time it takes you (or your party) to resolve a combat. If you are running around the world, you can just move around or through another player/group in combat.
MMORPG: How is your Base of Operation core to the game? What functions does it serve to draw the player base together and make players social?
MH: Philosophically, we kept the BOO in the forefront of our minds as developers at all times. We made sure to integrate it wherever possible. Players own a little piece of the world that is theirs and is very important.
More specifically, there are a number of features that make your BOO a core feature: 1) All crafting takes place in your BOO. You build various crafting machines and place them either indoors or outdoors. 2) Your STASH is in your BOO. That's the primary storage for all your loot! 3) If you have a pack animal, you can use it to send items back to your BOO while adventuring. This helps with inventory management and means you can stay out in the field longer. 4) There are all sorts of trophies and special treasures that you find in the game that can be displayed in your BOO. 5) You can invite friends over to your BOO to hang out, chat, roleplay, or just show off your piece of the world. This adds to the social nature of our community. 6) There are tons of items for your BOO that can be interacted with for instant fun or to trigger mini-games. If players choose, they could easily spend the majority of their time in their BOO and have a blast.
MMORPG: What makes your community great? Why would we want to be a part of it?
MH: With everything we do, we always think about how it will impact our community. We try to make sure every decision we make will be a positive one for our community. Our community is incredibly positive and supportive of each other. This starts, of course, with playing our games together for mutual enjoyment. Over time it includes much deeper things like helping each other through tough times, starting new businesses, relationship or family struggles, raising kids, and a million other things. We've also had countless hundreds of people meet spouses through our games and start new Frogfan families! From the developer side, we invest enormous resources into making sure negativity does not creep into our community. We do not tolerate abuse, sexism, or racism. As a result, we have a very diverse and balanced population with people from over 70 countries and a 50/50 split of guy/girl gamers. The best reason to be part of our community is what I like to call the "Cheers effect." When you become part of the Frogdice community you always have a group of people to hang out with that care about you. That's extremely valuable and hard to find online these days.
MMORPG: How are players rewarded for exploring your world?
MH: Every region has a couple of fixed "dungeon" locations that are hand made with lore and story in them. I should mention that whenever I say "dungeon" that could be any type of adventure location - a tower, ruins, fortress, cave complex, etc. Many of these are hidden and tucked away such that you need to explore to find them. When you are the first person to find a special location, whether it is a dungeon or a landmark, you get to name it (subject to approval of course). Some of these are really hidden and we will add more over the years. We are working on some additional bonus and perks for finding these locations and landmarks as well. Additionally, there are always random, procedurally generated dungeons you can find that are directly tailored to you or your party's level and size. By exploring you can find new and interesting content that is challenging and rewarding. Simply going to the exact same dungeon over and over is less rewarding and also less exciting.
MMORPG: How does the lore of your world have meaningful impact on the players while they are in game?
MH: Knowing the lore of our world will definitely provide hints as to where you can find cool dungeons and other locations. It also provides context for many of the competitive elements of the game (specifically, religions and clans). We have some great writers on staff and finding the lore they have created is a real bonus treat. It is a type of loot all on its own. But perhaps most significant is the fact that players can become part of the lore. As players build a reputation for themselves through their accomplishments and by developing interesting characters, their fame and recognition will grow in the community. We are always paying attention to this and look for opportunities to build interesting characters in the game lore forever.
MMORPG: How do GM run events work in Stash?
MH: GM run events have always been a huge part of our games. These include staff taking over NPCs to interact with players, large invasions of monsters that need to be repelled, huge global plot lines that can change the world depending on how players handle it, fun competitions with prizes, and a whole ton of other neat things our incredibly creative staff and volunteers come up with.
MMORPG: Since GM events can be very resource intensive how frequently do you plan on having them?
MH: We've been blessed to have many incredibly creative and generous people in our community who volunteer to assist us in this area. In addition to staff run and created events that require code support, we create systems and code that allow our volunteers to run events. We haven't named this group in Stash yet, but in our older game Threshold they were called the STEA (Social Tourism and Entertainment Authority). We expect that between staff and volunteer events, there will almost always be something going on. At a minimum, there should be something cool happening every week.
MMORPG: How relevant is crafting in Stash? Are you concerned that a lack of BOP items will just flood the market and squeeze crafters out?
MH: Crafting is incredibly relevant in Stash since the absolute best gear in the game is typically crafted. There are legendary non-crafted items in the game that are spectacular, but crafters can create legendary items as well. In addition to armor and weapons, food is important for both healing and stat training, and potions are vital for additional buffs. It is a terrible misconception in our industry that Bind on Pickup/Equip is required to maintain an economy. You only have to look at real life to see that is not the case. In fact, the ability to trade/sell an item you no longer need adds tremendous value to an item. Imagine how much less you'd be willing to pay for a car or a house if you would never be allowed to sell it. Instead of artificially binding items to you, we have other ways to cycle items out of the economy. A big one is the ability to donate gear to outposts, kingdoms, and temples to boost their defense ratings against attackers and to compete against other outposts, kingdoms, and religions. Competing with other players to make your outpost, kingdom, temple, or clan the best is a huge part of STASH and there are a ton of ways to participate in that. We believe there are tremendous benefits to avoiding the BoP/BoE trap. It allows players to share items more easily with each other and sharing is one of the most basic human actions that builds community.
MMORPG: Since you don't have a planned level cap is content in Stash scaleable? Will I care about level 10 dungeons when I'm level 100?
MH: The handmade dungeons/locations in a region do not scale. They have a fixed level range. The random, procedurally generated dungeons in a region scale within a certain range for that region. While you will not go to a level 10 dungeon when you are level 100, there will be an unlimited amount of content options for you at any level range thanks to the combination of hand made and random adventures in regions appropriate for your level.
MMORPG: How do you plan on capturing the players attention and keep them playing?
MH: This is definitely one of our areas of expertise. We've kept people interested in Threshold, a text game, for 20 years. There are a number of things that will keep people excited about playing Stash: Our community: There are so many different ways people can play and interact with each other in a positive way. This makes our virtual worlds feel like a second home. Players own a piece of the world they can constantly develop, upgrade, design, and decorate (their BOO). This is also a social space with infinite utility. A meaningful world that players can change: Through world events and large competitions, player actions will affect the world in a significant way. Constant competitions between groups that are bigger than the player: religions, kingdoms, clans, outposts, etc. Roleplaying. World lore, world events, and the competitions all work together to make players feel like they are part of a living breathing world. This makes roleplaying more viable and possible. Unlimited advancement. PvP and Clan Wars: Perfecting your combat tactics, plotting against enemy clans, and attacking each other's outposts. There is no open world PvP, however. It is kept to arenas, clan wars, and battlefields.
MMORPG: Since there is no level cap there can be an extreme disparity between players’ levels, will there be a mentoring systems in place to help friends play together if one is extremely higher level than the other?
MH: Absolutely! A higher level player can mentor lower level players so they are all operating at the higher level player's level in a group. This makes it possible to explore the world, dungeons, etc. together.