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MMORPG | Setting:Fantasy | Status:Final  (rel 06/09/10)  | Pub:Star Vault
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Introductory Interview

By Jon Wood on September 07, 2009 | Interviews | Comments

Introductory Interview
MMORPG.com:

For those who might not be familiar with the game, can you tell us a little bit about Mortal Online?

Mats Persson:

Mortal Online is a first-person sandbox MMO set in a believable fantasy environment. Although the game is not necessarily about PvP, its core is built around player skill and PvP as opposed to experience points, levels and a PvP-mode glued on top. Mortal Online revolves around player-to-player interaction more than solo-journeys and quests; it has full loot, sandbox crafting, housing and very seldom follows the streamlined design-rules and automated systems of modern cookie-cutter MMO's. In short, it's a niche skill-based fantasy game for a mature audience. The game is currently in Beta stage with nearly 10.000 accounts.

It's very difficult to describe Mortal Online in a few sentences as it is very different from most of the MMOG's out there. Now please understand I don't use that cliché for marketing purposes, it simply is a niche game that some will like because of its unique approach and some won't because it's too different from their style of play or what they are used to. The game does not necessarily build on or "learn" from the errors or the steps taken by big-name MMO's; it's designed from scratch simply because we want to evaluate each design-choice from the questions:

  • How does it affect player skill and player interaction?
  • Is it believable and immersive?
  • While staying true to the above, what's our take on it and how do we make it fun?

It's very easy to see that many of the systems in modern MMO's are there to actually take away from the amount of player skill and player-to-player (PtP) interaction needed, whether it is minimaps, auto-maps, levels, quests, auto-loot, auto-loot-distribution, auction-houses, global chat etc. It makes them fun and gives them a flow, but it also makes them casual as anyone can play without much thought (and that's also where the big money is). Now obviously we want Mortal Online to be fun to play and successful, but we're not ready to make compromises on our design principles: Player Skill, Player Interaction and PvP, Immersion and Believability. Therefore a lot of the features one would expect to see in a modern MMO are different, or we have simply removed them.

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MMORPG.com:

Why the decision to make the game fully first person POV?

Mats Persson:

There are several reasons behind this decision. During the prototyping of the game we experimented a lot with different view-options, but it soon turned out that the aim-based combat we strived for was next to impossible to implement in third-person view without a lot of immersion-breaking graphical gizmos (Mortal Online is aim-based and features several hit zones just like Age of Chivalry, Unreal etc.) Furthermore it became close to impossible to sneak up on people for stealing from or an ambushing them, it became too easy to look around corners etc and all this took away a lot of the tactical elements of the game not to mention immersion. Additionally, I personally wanted a game where I didn't feel like I was watching my character and giving orders by pressing buttons; I wanted to be the character.

In the end we went all-in on first-person view and built the game around it; from aiming in combat, first-person footsteps synched to movement, double-vision when getting exhausted, blood and sweat in your eyes, first-person spell-effects etc, to mounting a horse by taking the reins and getting tunnel vision at high speeds. This is also fundamentally different from MMO's that offer a "first-person view" by zooming the camera all the way in, where you just feel like a bodiless levitating camera and get a ton of graphical glitches as the game is not meant to be played that way.

Many people, some of them on our forums, say they like third-person view more and want us to include an option for it. Although I do understand them it would become impossible to balance out the differences between the two modes due to the reasons stated above. I also think that request has to do with the play-style of the games they have previously played in third-person and the assumption that Mortal Online is somewhat like those games. It isn't, and to me it's like suggesting a third-person view for Counterstrike; it would perhaps work if you solved the aiming-issue, but it would nevertheless be a totally different game.

MMORPG.com:

Are you concerned that as an independent development studio looking to break into the MMO market that your game will be overshadowed by big studio games?

Mats Persson:

No. Mortal Online is a niche game and we don't see ourselves as competitors to the big names out there. To be big you have to have mass-appeal, and to have that you will have to cater to casual players, in turn meaning lowering the difficulty of everything from combat, PvP and crafting, and introduce a whole dimension of solo-play features such as quests and story progression, not to mention easy-to-understand concepts like levels and classes. And that's the opposite of our game.

Instead we hope to attract a core audience and grow slow but steady by delivering something different, and I come to think of EVE Online that I have very much respect for. I do think we will have an initial inflow of players (small for the other companies but big to us) from other games wanting to test our game, but I honestly think most of them will go back to whatever it was they played before. We hope to be able to keep those who are looking for sandbox game play, PvP based on player skill, or simply something genuinely different - but those who just want another cookie-cutter MMO with different graphics (this time set in first-person) will probably be disappointed.


Screenshot

MMORPG.com:

Can you tell us about the advancement system in Mortal Online?

Mats Persson:

Mortal Online has no levels or generic experience points, only skills. You advance by practising your skills, by using them in the game. At the same time we want new players to be able to actually make a difference early on, so the so called Primary Skills won't take much time (approximately a week or so) to fully master. When this is done you are fighting on the same terms as anyone else, character-skill-wise. Now, as combat in Mortal Online has a lot to do with player-skill you will probably have to practise a lot longer before you can compete in a one-on-one fight, just like in a FPS game, but at least there are no virtual numbers that decides the outcome of your battles, it's your own skill.

The Primary Skills are essentially keys that unlock Secondary Skills. There is a cap on the number of skill points for the Primary Skills, so you have to experiment with how to train (or re-train) your character as those decide which Secondary Skills you can use. The Secondary Skills are the bulk of the skill-tree and takes a lot longer to master. In everything that has to do with PvP they will only give you a slight edge in a one-on-one fight, but they will for instance let you use several different weapons, fight more opponents before resting, take better care of your weapons etc. Many of the Secondary Skills are not directly related to PvP, like gathering, crafting, taming etc.

This means that although there definitely is character advancement in the game (by character skills and getting better equipment), most of the advancement is based on playing experience and player skill. You have to experiment and learn which weapons suits your particular playing style as there are no "best" weapons. You have to experiment with skill-builds to do the same. And you will have to learn how to evaluate mobs and your opponents (as there are no levels) and how to fight different skill-builds and weapons. If you are into crafting, you will most probably be able to find a sub-set of a sub-set to specialize in and be famous for thanks to the multitude of possibilities in customization.

MMORPG.com:

Can you tell us how classes work in MO?

Mats Persson:

There are no classes in the game. I'd better say this first to avoid confusion, as by "classes" most people mean some kind of template you choose from the beginning of the game that also defines your character's options and progress in the game. And no, we don't have anything like that.

What we do have are certain "professions/careers/pursuits" you can choose to pursue in the game. I'd rather not call them classes. Basically, there are NPC Guilds (as in medieval confraternities of workers, i.e. a Tinkers' Guild, or secret societies) you can join if you fulfill their initial requirements. These organisations are not to be confused with player guilds or clans; you can of course be a member of both. Joining an organisation can give you a title and certain benefits, sometimes in the form of special abilities and/or skills. But at the same time you have to give up something, like the option to fully customize your skill-tree to your liking, money or time etc. It's definitely not always the "best" choice. This is a general and very basic description of how this concept will work, as you will have to find and explore these possibilities in the game yourself.

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