This week we spoke to Derek Brinkmann and Tim Cotten about Shards. This team has an impressive resume of games under their belt. Going all the way back to Ultima Online they have now banded together to create Shards. This sandbox style RPG with MMO capabilities not only builds an impressive world for players to explore, it also puts the toolset in the hands of the players to create their own worlds. Citadel Studios now is about to unleash Shards on the world in a few weeks with a playable demo at PAX East. Here is a bit of a preview.
Derek Brinkmann explained that sandbox games really are there to pull players off the rails of themepark. The concept gives us a place to play in with few rules and allows us to create our own stories. Shards takes this inspiration from the original Ultima Online which did not host specific quests, but created zones and areas for players to write their own legacy. Some recent games have made sandboxes more about crafting and building, but Derek wants Shards to be about adventure, not just creation.
The lore of Shards covers a multicultural universe with many different zones. The shards themselves are game areas for players to explore. They can range from fantasy to almost steampunk in nature, but always staying true to a core ruleset. The team will have an official cluster of shards (or servers) that follows a conflict of the gods. These gods tie the shards together. Tim and Derek explained that they were inspired by the Greek gods of old with all of their conflicts and problems. Characters will ascend in a way to be able to explore different shards on their own bringing with them knowledge from the other areas they have already explored.
The way it works from a technical standpoint is the clusters of shards will all have different properties. Think of them as server clusters from an MMO. Some clusters will be PvP heavy, or even perma-death. While others cater to PvE or open trade. The shards themselves break down into cities, open areas, dungeons, and even a colliseum shard where players can gamble, fight, and trade. When you log in you will see a list of clusters to choose from and you and your friends can decide where you want to go. Clusters will also be rated by players so you'll have an idea upon logging in about some of the top places to go and play.
Citadel wants everyone to know that their philosophy centers around the community. After years working on some very heavy MMOs, they understand how critical community is. Their vision is that community is just as important as the product. Guilds have already begun to contact them about their own cluster of shards to hos... but more on that later.
We asked about how the game will play out in terms of weapons and characters. The team has always been heavily inspired by Final Fantasy VII and they wanted to capture that style of world. The merger between magitech, steampunk, and fantasy will create the shards players explore. They have a combat designer who is working now on a base system to encompass all weapon types across a balanced system. With games like Dark Age of Camelot on their resume, they definitely understand PvP and are making sure the system works well for when players battle it out. Yes, they definitely see hardcore permadeath PvP servers in the game. However, if players want to PvE, explore dungeons, trade and not die horribly in the process there will be plenty fo clusters that are not as "hardcore".
Derek and Tim ended our conversation going back to the community. They want to give players the ability to host their own private cluster of shards and create their own world. They are giving the toolset to players so that they can define the rules on how their cluster will run. You can keep it simple and just give your players god powers to traverse the zones and play the normal game. You can also go in depth by creating your own items and monsters to populate the zones. They will offer scripts to create your own mods for the world. The pie in the sky for the team is that they will eventually be able to give players the ability to edit their own maps and host their own shards.
Shards has some great concepts and a solid veteran team behind the game. We are very excited to try the first playable demo at PAX East in two weeks and will bring you full coverage on the game then.
Garrett Fuller / Garrett is the Industry Relations Manager for MMORPG.com. He cosplays as an orc, plays X-Wing on weekends, and loves Adventure Time. You can follow him on Twitter (when he uses it) @Gfulls.