Asynchronously Good Times Ahead
At the end of last week, I sat down with Alexandre Maltais and Eric Belanger, the cofounders of Virtys and the General Manager and Lead Developer on Therian Saga, respectively. Billed as an asynchronous MMORPG with a sophisticated crafting system, Therian Saga has been a project at Virtys now for five years. Making an MMO is no small task, but Virtys is a small group. Read on to find out why they made Therian Saga and what exactly we can expect from the game as its Open Beta moves along.
The Virtys guys began the journey of Therian Saga from concept to development in French, and then once they had a solid base to work with, they began opening it up to an English audience. Ever since it went into Open Beta, thousands of people continue to wander into the game and it’s all holding stable. It can’t be stated enough that this is a five person team with another dozen or so contributors mostly doing art, music, and translation. Therian Saga’s brand of MMORPG is the heart and soul of what it means to be an indie MMO developer, so it’s nice to see the team finding some success. They’ve had over 70,000 folks file in so far, and a large portion of them are becoming “invested” players that log in more than five times or more than five days in a row. But what made Eric and Alex look to create an asynchronous MMORPG, mostly with 2D art, that continues when you’re not actually online to play?
Eric is a big MMO gamer, and like most of spent more than his fair share of time raiding in WoW. He was always so bored between the “progress” part of playing the game. He wanted results. When he got to the cap, it was “raid or die”, and way back then he thought of the idea to make a game that never stops with progression even when you’re not playing. That’s where the asynchronous part comes in. Like EVE, you can play for as little or as much as you like, but if you’re smart about your playtime you can queue up a bunch of crafting, traveling, adventuring and more for your character to do when you’re offline. In a lot of ways, it’s like MMORTSes such as Travian that have “build queues” going over the course of hours. It’s not necessarily meant to be actively played for hours at a time, but Virtys made sure to give Therian Saga lots of dungeons and explorable locations you can fight through and quest in as well.
There are over 20 various skills to develop, and multiple trades to take up for crafting. But you don’t just collect a few ingredients, press a button, and magically have a house. First you have to get the wood, then refine it, make planks, create the foundations of your house, build up the walls, and on and on. There are simple items, but the more complex you go, the more complex the process. That’s why Therian Saga’s bread and butter is the economy game.
Another thing about the crafting is that every material in the game has its own set of properties or skills. So a bronze sword will behave differently than an iron sword. A bronze mace might be better than an iron mace, because bronze is adequately suited to crushing damage while iron might be better at cutting. The same can be said of making potions. The many different plants combine into many different types of potions. What makes the best healing potion? What makes the best buffs? It’ll take experimentation to figure out.
There’s a main storyline in Therian Saga, alongside the sandbox crafting and economy elements. As you progress, you’ll uncover locations, learn what happened during the 700 years before your time. Mainly, the story is there to teach you about the history and why the game’s called Therian Saga. The team at Virtys will be making ongoing additions to the storyline, no more than three months apart from each other. During the in-between time there will of course be smaller patches, but they’re hoping to do large story-based content every quarter or less.
The biggest and most recent new feature added to the beta is the addition of Guild functionality. The game now has trading guilds, cooperatives, and soon Therian Saga will have competition in the form of the long-term goal of territory and resource control. Guilds are the first big step in the ultimate goal of their competitive plans.
Virtys is a small indie studio with a passion for the niche game they’re making. They’re integrated with their player-base, not far from them. A player once asked Eric if it was possible to make companions renamable, and Eric patched it in that night. They maintain and always want to have a transparent relationship, because they believe an MMO should be developed in tandem with their fans, not apart. It’s free to play, but not pay to win, as all shop items are pretty much just about accelerating time needed to do things. But even with cash items, players can only “skip” ahead three hours per day. You can’t just buy your way to the end of the game, or skip everything all the time. What’s more is that the in-game cash called “Blue Crowns” can be bought in the game’s auction house as well, so even free players can get the cash perks.
You can play in Therian Saga’s open beta right now, and look forward to the game coming to tablets and across all devices (all playing on the same servers) hopefully soon. For now, it seems like Virtys’ little game might be the perfect MMO to kill time when you’re other MMO doesn’t want you to progress.
Bill Murphy / Bill Murphy is the Managing Editor of MMORPG.com and lover of all things gaming. He's been playing and writing about MMOs and geekery since 2002, and you can harass him and his views on Twitter @thebillmurphy.