Alpha 2 Preview - Citadel Studios is Building a True Sandbox World
Legends of Aria Alpha 2 is bringing a lot of big changes to the game including an updated UI, a dynamic map and a smoother, more polished client. We spoke with Citadel Studios' Derek Brinkman to get the inside scoop about the most recent additions to LoA and what it means for players.
Testers taking part in Legends of Aria's alpha experiences are being treated to a host of new and improved features as the game revs up for Steam release, hopefully in late summer or early fall if all goes well. Derek's enthusiasm for the latest updates to LoA shines through in every word. This is a man who really loves the game he's making. In fact, he even admitted to hating having to work on the game because he'd rather be playing.
Most notably, Aria's UI has been updated to be more streamlined and intuitive for players. Gone are the earlier days of having to sift through multiple interfaces and menus to find the things that you want to use. Hotbars have been moved with the spell bar on the left edge of the screen, the item bar on the right.
Speaking of the item bar, players can fully customize what appears there. Whether it's the crook that allows taming critters in the world or a fishing pole, equipping the item is a one click affair as is reequipping one's fighting gear. Players have the full ability to choose what appears in each of the cells provided.
Load outs and item collections will also have a place in the UI along the bottom right side. This will allow players to switch between gear sets depending on what items are needed in any particular fight.
In addition, Citadel has taken advantage of the Google Maps API to create a gorgeous new world map with several locations marked on it for players, particularly new players, to be able to find locations for hunting, where dungeons are and so forth. But don't go thinking that hands will be held. Derek is insistent that Aria is a sandbox world and every effort is being made to provide players with the most immersive experience possible. For instance, there is no general or regional chat. If you want to speak to someone, you have to find them or be in close proximity to them.
"The problem we had with [regional chat] is that it hurt the sandboxy-ness of it. It makes distance matter. It's purely local chat, not even any tells. There is guild and party chat, however, and a friends list is coming."
That "sandboxy-ness" also applies to the map, gorgeously rendered, by the way, using Google Maps API. While some locations are marked as mentioned above, it will provide little overall help. There are no player icons (including one's own) when opening the world map, no conveniently marked towns or anything else.
"You should have to learn your way around the game. If we're going all in on the sandbox, we're going all the way. It's fun to get lost once in awhile. It adds a lot to the game and makes it feel more real." Derek said.
The world will get a more dynamic feel as well with a new grid system being put into place for spawning animals. That's great news for Tamers. By using the grid system, that ensures that animals numbers within a given location stays level.
Gatherers and Tamers will also notice new targeting abilities. Taming, for instance, a first click reveals a target icon. Click the target and the player's pet will attack. Click the ground, the pet will move to that spot. Click on the player Tamer and the pet will follow. All three of these are accomplished through a single button on the interface.
"We've done a lot of small stuff that makes a big difference." Derek explained. "We've had a steady stream of people pledging. LoA is fully-funded and we're excited about our Steam release. When we arrive on Steam, Legends of Aria will be a really fun, playable game."
Speaking of Steam, the team is fully anticipating hitting the goal of release on the multi-game platform in either late summer or early fall. There will be one more big alpha update after the current one. It will bring three massive new regions -- Southern Rim, Black Forest and Southern Hills -- that effectively double the world size.
Other things players can look forward to:
- Kill boards - "Any time a player is involved in a player's death, it comes up on the online board. Red names are murderers. There's a lot of PvP going on in this small alpha and there are enough players to keep players engaged and populated."
- Overhead names toned down to reduce clutter and keep immersion as maximized as possible
- Two more Prestige classes coming in next week's patch -- Gladiator and Field Mage
- Awakening system and a new dungeon will be added for Alpha 3
We wrapped up our interview with a brief discussion about the possibility of a multiplatform release of Legends of Aria, especially on console.
"I would love to eventually get it to a console. Supporting two platforms is, of course, a lot of work. It will be something to think about after Steam. Right now, we're focused on PC."
All in all, Legends of Aria is shaping up really nicely and is something that people clamoring for a sandbox experience really need to check out. If you want in on this and future tests, you can pledge and get immediate access here.
Have you played Legends of Aria? What do you think about the direction it is moving in?
Thanks to Derek for the chat! It was fun as always!