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Star Vault | Official Site
MMORPG | Setting:Fantasy | Status:Final  (rel 06/09/10)  | Pub:Star Vault
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Interviews: CEO Interview

By Garrett Fuller on January 22, 2010

CEO Interview

While this interview was written quite some time ago the CEO of Star Vault, the company making sandbox MMO Mortal Online, was finally able to answer a few of's Garrett Fuller's questions about the game and its current status.

Can you give us an update on Mortal Online? Readers have wanted to know the status. Things have been dark for a while.

Henrik Nyström:

We are currently in beta, all the core features planned for release are in place for testing and tweaking and we've even managed to add some we didn't think we'd have time for until after launch. At the same time there's constant polishing and balancing going on and there's a lot to do in very little time! Recently we had to take a break for the Christmas holidays and this was right after a major patch that unfortunately introduced a lot of new bugs. Bad planning you might say but we felt we had to take the risk as we really needed to test all the new stuff. It didn't turn out well, and to our frustration the game had to stay in that shape before we got back to fix it. Since we are a very small team that has been working nonstop for quite some time now, we just had to get some days off on the holidays, spending time with friends and families. As there will be no rest after release either we really had to charge our batteries if only for a week or two.


How has the game performed in early beta testing? Are you still working out the bugs?

Henrik Nyström:

It's gone up and down when it comes to server stability, when adding huge systems/features into the game it always comes with new bugs and things to solve; it's simply how game developing is. We've decided to develop the final stages of the game in this open environment to get as much feedback as possible, but that also means a rough ride for us and the testers. Thanks to them we are able to quickly identify bugs and solve them. We have a really good, direct communication with our testers who give us valuable feedback when developing the game.

Talk about how the skill based system will work for players. Can you tell us how the system balances out?

Henrik Nyström:

The skill system in Mortal Online may seem a bit strange until you understand how the system works. The skill "tree" is not a straightforward ladder; instead you may need skills from different areas to unlock new skills. For instance Riding and Archery are two separate areas, but you need them both to be able to learn Mounted Archery. Most skills require you to practically use them to get better; however several skills can be found and learned by books. There are lots of skills to be discovered and they define your character combined with your race and attributes. There are no pre-defined skill- or "class"-templates, you just pick (and discover!) and elaborate with the skills that suits your play style. You can mix any of the skills as long as you fulfill their requirements, but you have a limited point pool so you cannot be good at everything. As of now we have more than 200 different skills and the number will grow as new features are added after release.

There have been posts about full nudity in the game. Can you tell us why this choice was made?

Henrik Nyström:

Mortal Online is a mature game, and we think that if the players can handle blood and gore and chopping off heads, they will cope with seeing natural human bodies. The nude body has always played a major part in the culture and religion of our own world, and as the lore of the game is heavily inspired by ancient cultures it would have been very strange not to include it. As players can see naked creatures, statues and art in the game, it would be kind of strange if they themselves ran around with magical underwear they couldn't take off. In this perspective it's not about what nudity brings to the game; it's about us not wanting to enforce an artificial censorship. I guess the European/Scandinavian way of looking at nudity is a bit different from for instance the official US-American one; here nudity doesn't necessarily imply sex, for instance it's often seen in non-rated movies. We could never have imagined the initial fuzz when players discovered that nudity was in, but then again I guess that had a lot to do with everybody running around naked as they didn't have any starting clothes at the time!

Tell us about your Flagging system in combat. How does it work?

Henrik Nyström:

The flagging sounds a bit complicated on paper but is rather easy to understand once you get into the game. Basically the system will flag you gray for attacking or stealing from "neutral" players or loot, and if you kill enough neutral players you will be flagged red for a long duration of time. You are always free to do this anywhere and the system will never stop you from doing these actions, however neutral players may call the guards on you in guarded areas. Players who attack, steal or kill a gray or red player won't get flagged gray themselves. Red players who get killed will also lose some of their attributes if they resurrect too soon after killing many neutral players. The flagging system is an important core feature of Mortal to keep the game from being an endless "quake match", and also means you have to be really skilled to be a successful murderer or assassin. That said, if it's war you are after there are ways to join these as well; for instance between members of guilds at war the flagging system doesn't apply.

The crafting system is something that many players are looking forward to. Can you give us an insight into how complex it really is?

Henrik Nyström:

The crafting process starts with for instance mining ore and cutting wood, and goes through the process of extraction, refining and alloying to the crafting of the item itself. All these stages are tied to skills and a single character will definitely not be able to learn every nook and cranny of the system. To give you an example, extraction of metals is, as most things in Mortal are, a combination of real-life science and fantasy. It is done in several stages and there are many different devices for refining the ore, most of them dependent on catalysts that can be more or less effective. Refined metals may also often be alloyed before crafting. The crafting process itself has many different options depending on what you want to craft. For instance a weapon is crafted in two pieces; the grip (or handle), and the head (or blade). You may choose any material for the head, and there are two for the handle, and you are free to combine the majority of heads and handles as you like. Which items you put together, the "shape" of both items, the properties of the three materials, and your different crafting and material lore skills all contribute to the quality of the weapon. The crafting of armors, shields or bows, or the construction of a house, all have similar options.

The Beta trailer shows the game in first person view. Will there be other views available to players as many MMO players are used to third person?

Henrik Nyström:

The first person view was chosen by us early in the production of Mortal Online. It's entirely build to fit first person view and there's lots of features and game play content that center around it. Simply just adding a third person view option would really affect game play and we would have to redesign the entire game to fit third person view, especially the aim-based combat. There are several reasons why we chose first person, for instance you have to be more careful in the world and literally watch your back as there could be a thief or an ambush around the corner. If you are a thief yourself you have to sneak up on your target as you would in real life, and to detect you the target needs to hear you or look over the shoulder. Many "interactions" in first person are unique for a mmorpg and we have a lot of really cool features in store. We are sure that most people will quickly get used to and like the perspective in the same way we and our current testers do.

What plans do you have to bring more players into beta; will there be contests or give-aways?

Henrik Nyström:

We will have a short time of open, free Beta before launch. This is both to be able to really stress-test server performance and give players a chance to try out the game.

What are the biggest challenges in building this type of game from a development stand point?

Henrik Nyström:

There are quite a few challenges in building a game like this, especially with a small team. Game play wise there are built-in difficulties with the sandbox environment; you never know what the players will do without all the "usual" restrictions that come from levels, experience points, instances and the inability to attack or loot other players. Production-wise, it's frustrating not to be able to deliver all features as fast as you like with these limited resources. This means we've ended up in situations where we have to release feature A to test it in time, but without feature B that clarifies its purpose and "explains" its set of rules for the players, who sometimes go mad. If we had more time, more staff and a big QA team behind locked doors the facade of the game would have looked very different, but at the same time it's extremely rewarding to have the honest feedback of real players. Last but not least we constantly worry about finding and eliminating all bugs on major systems, and how to best prioritize the order in which we produce, polish and balance features to make "everyone" happy with our choices.