Early Access First Look
In last week’s column I discussed the games that I look forward to the most in 2015. I caught some heat from readers over the lack of MMORPGs on the list. At the beginning of 2014 if I had to project what I would look forward to the most in 2015 Shroud of the Avatar and Pathfinder Online would have both been on that list. So what changed? This week I’m checking in on the development of Pathfinder Online and I’ll talk about why it missed my list of most anticipated for 2015.
Pathfinder Online opened up for Early Enrolment on December 31st, 2014. This was a major milestone for the team over at Goblinworks. They decided that Pathfinder had reached what they consider to be a minimal viable product. The development of the game has not ended, it has just reached a new stage of Crowdforging and players that backed the game through KickStarter or who purchase an Early Enrolment can start playing the game now. For less money you can wait and begin next month.
When a person starts playing this game is very important. Not only is it important so you can start providing your feedback and take part in the Crowdforging process, the ability to steer the game’s development based upon your feedback, but because your character earns experience in real time. Your characters will not earn experience based on the time you spend logging in grinding monsters, crafting, or completing other tasks. Your characters just have to exist. So the sooner you create your character the more powerful it will be. Forever. This isn’t necessarily something that will be impossible for new players to overcome a few years down the road, but it very well could be especially for a game that is going to have PvP at its core.
The game has just reached its minimal viable product stage and is currently very light on content created by the developers. Pathfinder Online is a sandbox and the biggest thing that makes it tick is the community and fundamentally this will always be the case. After I completed the short tutorial and learned about equipment and feats I wandered off into the world to start killing goblins. Less than 10 minutes into my experience I met a nice and friendly player. She guided me around town and showed me where all the trainers were at. She also offered up a “protip” that all of the settlements are laid out the same way so if you learn one you learn them all. She also told me about some of the feats I would want to choose early on and provided me some starter equipment to get me going. We then ventured back out into the wilderness together and killed a few more goblins. After a while my compatriot had to go but offered me a few more words of wisdom before she departed. She told me not to spend experience on feats I didn’t understand yet because players can waste experience and go down a dead end, and to watch out for Player Killers (PK) because they are out there. Fortunately there is no player looting in game (yet) and the PKers aren’t spawn camping. Before she left I asked her if there was a friends list in the game I could add her to. She replied no. I find it curious that the game has been declared a minimal viable product yet doesn’t have a friends list. Since the game is almost entirely based upon the social interactions of its players I’m surprised that a system such as this is missing from the game at this point.
During my time in Pathfinder Online I noticed some other interesting facets of the game. Some good and some bad. The first thing that struck me is that players jump too high. Seriously it’s like we are on the moon. I made a dwarf and from standing he could jump so high his feet were over a human’s head. I’m also not impressed with the way that characters move. This, however, could be related to the Unity engine and not just isolated to this game. I have noticed this in other games that are built upon Unity as well. To me it feels like the character movements are on a slippery surface. Looting is automatic but there is no indication of what you picked up. Hopefully at some point there will be an indication of what you just looted, possibly a text line in the chat window.
I did not get a chance to really dive into harvesting or crafting in Early Enrolment but I did spend some time with them previously in Alpha. I enjoy crafting in most MMOs and I plan on spending some time in Pathfinder Online as a crafter with one of my two characters. I’ll dive into it at some point this month and talk about it in a future column.
Some of the systems in Pathfinder Online can be considered a little complicated. Fortunately the team at Goblinworks has done a great job of creating very in depth new player instructions. While these aren’t in game they are hosted on their website. They also make for interesting reading if you are on the fence about whether you would like to try the game or not. You can find the new player guide here.
The last thing I want to talk about this week is the business model behind Pathfinder Online. Goblinworks is charging a subscription for the game. While the game in its current form is not something that more players would want to pay a subscription for there are hundreds of people who will. It is these core dedicated players that the game is really designed for and being designed by through Crowdforging. I don’t look Goblinworks charging a sub as a good thing or a bad thing. It’s just not for everyone and it is certainly not for me.
Initially I was very excited about the prospects of Pathfinder Online. To an extent I’m still excited about what the game can be. I’m just not excited about what it currently is or what I expect it to be in 2015. I also don’t see that changing much for 2016. The game is just now entering year 2 of Goblinworks’ 5 year plan. Maybe in year 3 or 4 I’ll be turned back on by what the game has become but for now it is too crude for me to get excited about (or pay for). Let me know what you think in the comments below.
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