Gameplay and content of Skyforge, Eric DeMilt interview
JeuxOnLine : It seems the Divine Observatory is a "central hub area" allowing players to easily jump in "active events" in the world. Can you tell us how we will access to the Divine Observatory and its content (teleported in the heart of the action)? From the very beginning of our adventure or a bit later? Are there any requirements for access or there are some limitations?
Eric DeMilt : Yes, the Divine Observatory does serve as the central interface for quickly seeing and accessing the all the adventures available to you. The Divine Observatory is located in Aelion's capital city. Players can travel to it from the other districts of the capital or via in-world uplink terminals in adventures. The Divine Observatory displays all content open to you, and is updated every 40 minutes with new content and dynamic events like invasions. From it, you can quickly begin new adventures and activities or return to partially completed content from a previous play session.
As for where you will be brought from the Divine Observatory - in the beginning or in the middle of an adventure - this depends on the content. Overall it is designed so that you can look around and take part in the content in the best way possible: In open world locations you will find yourself in transported safe locations like an uplink terminal, in instances - in the beginning of the adventure, in PVP you will be able to jump in when your appearance will be able to make any impact on the balance of the battle.
JOL : Will there be a linear progression where we have to complete missions to unlock next missions or do you plan something more open right from the start?
Eric DeMilt : As your character develops and your prestige grows, new content is unlocked and displayed in the Divine Observatory. Skyforge is designed to allow players to easily access the content they want to play so we try to limit linear progressions which force players to play content in the way it was designed, rather than how they may want to play. Like most games we do place some limits on the amount and types of content available to the player, right from the start, and increase this content as players learn and become familiar with the game.
JOL : Divine Observatory seems to be an easy way to find quickly active contents. But most MMO players also like discovering a world and exploring it. How important is exploration in Skyforge? Will we find NPC by chance or dynamic events to jump in?
Eric DeMilt : Exploration and discovery are very important to many players. In Skyforge we have designed the game to have a good mix of exploration and discovery and ease of getting to the content you want. Players have many commitments for their time - work, friends, family, and other entertainment. Sometimes a player may only have 30 minutes to an hour to play (For me this, is after I get my kids to bed) and they don't want to spend 15 of those minutes just trying to find the content they want to play. Other times, they have more time and may want to go to content they can spend hours exploring. Skyforge contains both types of content and we use the Divine Observatory to make it easily accessible to players.
JOL : Can you tell us a bit about the content we will find through the Divine Observatory? Is it instanced or open world? And do you plan special events, narrative events or even unique events, for example?
Eric DeMilt : The Divine Observatory allows players to access all the game's content. This includes; the large open world zones where you can easily spend hours exploring and playing with hundreds of other players. Solo and Group instance content - liner content with a wide variety of gameplay, difficulty and rewards. PvP gameplay, of various types, can also be accessed from the Divine Observatory. In addition, the Observatory's picture of the world of Aelion is updated every 40 minutes so players will see new content open to them as they progress, and any dynamic content and events which are up.
JOL : Divine Observatory shows all active events in the world. But through big event for many players, can we change the world? In other words, do they have any influence on the world or the story?
Eric DeMilt : We have not gone into much detail yet about large game events or the world story and how player actions influence both. This is something we'll be talking about at a later date.
JOL : In a MMO, contents are obviously important but other players are too. What do you plan in order to help people to play together? Will I be able to use the Divine Observatory with my guild or a group of friends? What can you tell us about the social aspect of the Divine Observatory?
Eric DeMilt : For me, being in a living world and playing with others people is one of the best parts of any MMO. So, yes. If you choose a group activity while you are in a group, your entire group will be relocated to the new adventure location. The same is true for PvP The Divine Observatory makes it easy for players to see what content is open to them and to continue group with friends or to join total strangers if they like. Often when playing a traditional MMO you have a very micro view of the world and content around you and you end up looking for your friends or new content in the most antiquated interface possible. We build and render amazingly beautiful worlds, but players end up looking for groups in a tiny chat window that is reminiscent of 1980's tech.
In Skyforge, we've built the Divine Observatory to make it easier for players to have a macro view of the world. To see all the things going on around them, not just what they can see from the game camera and what they can find in a chat window. This makes it easy for you and your friends to find content and play together.
There are other aspects of Skyforge which make it easier for players to play together like our single shard server architecture so all players form a single territory are able to play with or against one another rather than being subdivided by arbitrary sever boundaries. We also have an integrated social portal which makes it easy for you to share updates, chat, and stay connected with your friends, guildmates, and people you enjoy playing with. This portal is also accessible out of game as well, on your mobile device for example, so even if you are away for the week and cannot play, you can keep in touch and up to date.
JOL : The progression system of Skyforge seems to be pretty original. There are no levels in SkyForge, but how the system works? How do you see the progression in the long term? Will it be possible to continue to reach higher gears and additional powers (vertical progression)? Or do you plan another path of progression (more and more different capacities)?
Eric DeMilt : Thank you! We felt the traditional notion of "Level" in an MMO placed too many restrictions on the design goals we had for allowing players a great deal of freedom in how they develop their characters in the Ascension Atlas. When we looked at allowing players the freedom to spend progression gems in either the development of their overall character and unlocking new classes or deeper development of a single class, levels no longer made sense. Prestige, the measure of your overall development regardless of the choices you made, was a better fit and did not apply restrictions common in many other MMOs.
The Ascension Atlas allows players the freedom to develop in both the ways you describe depending on their own play style and preferences. Players who want to develop vertically, may focus on developing out a single class thoroughly once they've unlocked it. However, another player may wish to focus on developing his overall character power on the upper level of the atlas, and unlocking and exploring multiple classes or working towards some other goal for more utility in different situations.
In addition, one of the great things about an MMO is how open ended things are. As players progress through the content in Skyforge, once the game is launched, we will continue to add additional content and progression opportunities to reward players for their activities. Initially players will be focused on developing their power, getting better gear, and gaining followers as they work towards becoming a god. We will even have interesting goals like unlocking your "god form" for players along this path, but things don't have to stop here. There will be additional progression and gameplay well beyond this initial goal.
JOL : You have PvP in Skyforge. You speak about "five different types of PvP competitions". Can you tell us a bit more about it? And do you have "open world PvP" content? If yes, how does it work and do you have "factions" or wars between guilds?
Eric DeMilt : Yes, we do have PvP in Skyforge but we haven't gone into much detail about it yet. But I can definitely say that we have chosen the most popular types of PVP for groups, raids, and solo players. Stay tuned and we will tell much more about that shortly.
JOL : How do you plan to monetize the game? In Europe, Allods Online (from the Allods Team) has the reputation to be a very, very expensive "free"-to-play MMO. What do you plan to sell in the cash shop (power, items, cosmetic items)? What kind of items will we be able to trade to other players and which cannot?
Eric DeMilt : Skyforge is a free-to-play MMO. We have not yet gone into any details about monetization and will talk more about this at a later date.
JOL : Skyforge is developed by Obsidian Entertainment and the "Allods Team". How do you work together as a team? Can you tell us why this collaboration and what are your respective domains?
Eric DeMilt : Skyforge is developed by the Allods Team in collaboration with Obsidian Entertainment. The Allods Team is an incredibly talented team and it is a great pleasure to be working with them. They are doing the heavy lifting on the design and development of the Skyforge IP, game engine and tools. Although they have applied a lot of the knowledge they gained from their previous project - the highly successful Allods Online, Skyforge is a brand new game designed from the ground up to be a unique and distinctive gameplay experience.
My Team at Obsidian joined the project a little over a year ago and we collaborate 3 primary areas. 1) Development of additional player class content. 2) Development of additional instance gameplay content. And 3) Collaboration and content review with an eye on westernization and global appeal.
Our day-to-day work is as if we were part of the development team in Moscow so, although we focus on specific things, it is not as if we work exclusively on one area, and the Allods Team works on others. We are all working together to make the best game possible which makes for a great working relationship.
JOL : Last but not least: when Skyforge will be launched? Can you give us a date for beta (and for a French-speaking beta)?
Eric DeMilt : This is another one I'd love to answer, but I'm afraid I can't at this time. Please stay tuned to our website and social channels for news and updates on the beta and release dates. Also - hope you are going to be at Gamescom this year - we are going to reveal CBT dates there!