By W.B. Wemyess (Tagspeech)
Answers from Don Danielson, co-founder of Forged Chaos
Recently I had the pleasure of interviewing Don Danielson, from the indie studio Forged Chaos. We discussed their upcoming project Trials of Ascension, and the features therein. It's an ambitious project featuring sandbox combat, an open world, and plenty of immersion. You can read more of our exchange in the transcript below.
Tagspeech: This is W.B. Wemyss. Pleased to have you here. So why don't you start by telling me about yourself and what you do?
Forged Chaos: Certainly. My name is Don Danielson, and I'm one of three co-founders of Forged Chaos and am also the Lead Designer.
Tagspeech: Alright. So, what's the vision for Trials of Ascension? What kind of game is it, and who is it made for?
Forged Chaos: ToA is targeted to the general MMO playerbase with a focus on those that prefer a challenge and can really appreciate the idea of risk vs reward. The vision of ToA is to immerse the player into a world where they can make lasting impacts in the ways they want, while ensuring each character's journey is truly unique by implementing features that are unique to the MMO landscape.
Tagspeech: So this is a full-fledged MMORPG project, then?
Forged Chaos: Yes
Tagspeech: Wow! Well, it's very ambitious, then. Do you feel there's a market for a more hardcore MMORPG? What differentiates it from similar games?
Forged Chaos: I do feel there is a market for more hardcore MMORPGs. Nearly every feature we have can be seen as different from similar games. Ranging from our innovation system where a player has a chance to learn something unique just to him or her, to our combat system where we allow unprecedented control of your attacks and blocks, there is something new for nearly anyone in the MMO genre.
Tagspeech: Yes, your combat demo made it seem like War of the Vikings or Mount & Blade in how things are controlled. But tell me more about the innovation system, I'm curious about that.
Forged Chaos: The innovation system allows any character in the game a chance at a "light bulb" moment, where they receive a new way to create or do something that is uniquely theirs. They can do whatever they wish with this newly found knowledge -- give the kowledge to others, sell the items made from the innovation, anything. Beware though, innovations can be involunentarily taken from you via the interrogation skill.
Imagine being a smith and getting an innovation that allows you to make armor that is more durable, or an herbalist that innovates a completely new healing agent?!
Tagspeech: Sounds neat. And no two players get the same innovation?
Forged Chaos: That depends. Each innovation we create will have a number of times it can be discovered. This will always be a very low number; 1-4 is what we're thinking.
Tagspeech: Sounds interesting, certainly. How do you feel the combat will work on a larger scale, since you're creating an MMORPG? Do you anticipate latency issues?
Forged Chaos: We fully understand that by moving away from the "target lock" method of combat many MMOs have embraced, latency, or lack thereof, will become critical, especially once at full scale. It's already been a primary focus and we keep it in mind with every design we implement. So far, all tests have shown incredibly positive results.
Tagspeech: That's good. Let's talk more about immersion. How do you define it, and how to you intend to make this game as immersive as possible?
Forged Chaos: I suppose I define immersion along the same lines as everyone else -- I want to be removed from the real world as much as possible while playing a game. I want to feel as though I'm in that world, heart pounding when I hear a strange noise, palms sweating when I know a fight is imminent.
We're doing a ton of things to give a more immersive feel! We're doing away with the minimap, there is no global chat, numbers (hit points, item stats, etc) will be kept to an absolute minimum, there will be true darkness at night, our dynamic spawning system will do away with the constant and predictable static spawning of creatures, you name others whatever you want (no floating names of "ICUPee" running by). We take immersion very seriously in ToA!
Tagspeech: Very good. And what about the world itself? Is it completely open? Are areas and zones instanced? Is it possible for players to built outposts or structures, or are cities and settlements pre-made and permanent?
Forged Chaos: The world will be completely open, with the only zoning is to dungeons, which our GM staff and dynamic spawning system will produce.
Players will build nearly everything in ToA, houses and cities included. They can build their settlements wherever they wish so long as they can claim the land and keep it from others that may take a liking to it.
Player-owned structures will be build section by section, not as a whole single unit. This means you will see a never-ending diversity of buildings while still allowing us to maintain a consistent aesthetic look.
Tagspeech: Wow. This is all sounding like a lot of work. Are you confident you'll be able to finish everything on-target? What's the development window looking like for completion, and do you have a publisher, or is this crowd-sourced?
Forged Chaos: It's certainly a lot of work, but we're confident we'll get it done. If it ever turns out otherwise, we are always quick to tell the ToA fans accordingly. We have an *amazing* community that has been generous enough to seed our technical demo that we are currently working on.
Once complete, quite a few of them will be joining us in our demo as we show it off to the world in preparation for our return to KickStarter.
There is no publisher at this time. We received a few offers back when we were Shadowpool Studios but they all came with the caveat that we gut our designs and make ToA more "mainstream" and we weren't (and still aren't) interested in that option.
Tagspeech: I admire the dedication. Expand on that. What exactly did they want you to change?
Forged Chaos: The biggest deal-breaker was perma-death. To clarify, ToA perma-death is not one death and your character is gone forever. Each character gets 100 lives. They wanted this idea removed in its entirety.
They also wanted us to show stats on everything, use a minimap, global chat was a big deal, and all the other trappings of a typical MMO of the time.
Tagspeech: Why do you feel like limiting players to a number of lives is a good design decision? What does it add to the experience? Would players be able to regenerate their 'life count' at any point?
Forged Chaos: We look at it as each character is a story. It needs to have a beginning, middle and end. A story that never ends stagnates, and we see that all the time with high level characters. The "now what do I do?" syndrome.
Furthermore, it introduces a real risk vs reward system. Many gamers talk the talk, but will they walk the walk? It's easy to say you'll be the hero and save your king by taking the arrow for him, but who will really do this when it means you're one step closer to losing your character?
Lastly, it allows anyone to be top dog for awhile. Make it to the apex of your abilities and rule the world for awhile. Sooner or later, you'll run out of life counters, and the next guy or gal gets to be king of the hill for awhile.
Oh, no, life counters are not recoverable.
Tagspeech: Sounds intriguing. We're coming up on the end here, so is there anything else you'd like to add?
Forged Chaos: I'd like to encourage your viewers to read more about ToA and not dismiss it out of hand because of the dreaded "permadeath" word. We've lost track of how many times we've heard the story of how someone dismissed us for one reason of another, only to give us a chance later and read more about us and fall in love with us. I'd also like to point them to our Forged Chaos youtube channel, where they can see that we are bringing fresh ideas to the genre such as dynamic spawning and "sandbox combat.”
Tagspeech: Certainly! I think this transcript alone will be revealing, in a good way. It's been a pleasure discussing this with you. On a personal note, I'm looking forward to seeing your project develop. It sounds like a breath of fresh air.
Forged Chaos: Thanks so much!