E3 Expansion Preview
"Settlements", a recently announced expansion to Horizons, explained
He looked like a new man. An excited and re-energized David Bowman and I met on the floor of E3 to talk about Horizons, the game’s growth and upcoming expansion tentatively titled “Horizons: The Settlements”.
Since the new year, Bowman says that Tulga and Horizons have undergone a renaissance.
“We now have greater confidence in the future of the company,” he said before rattling off statistics. In January, the game retained between 1 and 3% of those players who downloaded the trial. Soon, that number was 19%. This month? 54% of people who downloaded the trial subscribed to the game.
With improved fortunes, Tulga finally took steps to return their title to retail shelves with Settlements. The expansion will include the entire game and, as a thank you to those who have stuck with them, be completely free to current subscribers.
They’re also moving their small research and development team into a second project: Dark World Online, which we will discuss in depth in a separate article. The question here though is how will two titles impact Horizons?
“Horizons only benefits from this,” claims Bowman. He notes how their team is producing a brand new client for Dark World Online, which as a result of their shared technology will be a much needed upgrade to Horizons once it has been adequately tested. He also points to increased hiring across all projects.
Settlements returns to the core values of Horizons and expands them. Crafting and property are the main features he was willing to discuss.
“[We want to] further differentiate the product on the strengths of the product,” he said.
One of the things they’re doing is a completely free-form decoration system. Players will be able to craft furniture and decorations and place them wherever they want inside their houses. Don’t like the chair there? Move it a little to the left. As long as you keep it indoors – Bowman wishes to avoid garage sales on front lawns – you can do whatever you want.
Another addition is gardening. Their game is all about resources and crafting, so why not move that into the property system and let people produce their own resources? This, combined with the planned expansion of food, will allow people to be farmers, decorative gardeners, etc.
Before the expansion, they’re hoping to increase the value of food as well. Currently food modifies the timer on the death penalty. Unfortunately, ambrosia nullifies it entirely. As such, David suggested they may completely remove the supply of ambrosia – so start hoarding now. As such, food and cooking will become more important.
“Dragon lairs rock,” Bowman said emphatically. This ties into their next expansion of racial style housing. Dryads and Dwarves will be able to build houses in their own unique style. Rather than a 2D plot that most bipeds can buy now, the Dwarves and Dryads get 3D plots. The Dryads build up into trees and the Dwarves down into the earth. This, combined with new art, should create a dramatic variety in the player created urban areas.
David is also excited about companion animals; he refuses to call them pets, as that carries associations with what other MMORPGs have done. At E3, he had three types to discuss: familiars, guardians and pack animals.
Familiars do not personally do anything. They’re a pet you select that empowers you to do special things when they are with you.
Guardians are AI driven animals with their own personalities. Thus, you need to be careful. Low level aggressive creatures will attack anything that moves, something that can get you killed. Other types include monsters that only attack when you’re attacked, only when you’re group is attacked, etc. These creatures cannot be controlled, only go with you and do what they feel they should.
Pack animals are a more mundane way to help crafters carry large amount of goods. Think flying cargo disks, but slightly different.
“The expansion is not limited to this, but we do know [that we can do all of this] today, so we’re not making any promises beyond what is listed,” said David Bowman at the end of the interview. He clearly in this regard has learned a lesson from the history of Horizons.
David Bowman looked like a man who had finally turned a corner. He was excited and full of life. Now, he wants to make sure his game can follow him.
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