Grecca Interview: A Step Into the Ancient World
Questions by Bryan King (Bryan), OnRPG Journalist
Answered by Gren
Grecca is an online roleplaying game based on a fictional variant of our own ancient world. The game has yet to be released, but shows potential as an MMO with heavy emphasis on PvP, building factions, and fighting for your own survival from the time you log on. Today, I had the chance to speak with Gren, the Lead Designer for Grecca.
OnRPG: Hello Gren, please give readers a brief introduction about yourself.
We're a small team of game enthusiasts who have been working on this project for several years. The lead members of the team consist of myself, Merlin (our Lead Programmer) and Arus (our Lead Artist). Basically we set out to make the kind of game that we wanted to play, because it didn't seem like anyone else was planning on doing it.
OnRPG: Alright, first things first. When and where does this game take place? Is there a storyline involved?
The game takes place in a world very much like our own, the way it would have been between two and three thousand years ago. All the cultures and regions in the game correspond to some sort of historical equivalent. The reason for this is that we want to be able to deliver the style and theme of that time and place without players feeling like they're in for a history lesson.
As for a story; no, actually. This may sound strange, but what we've found over years of playing MMORPG's is that the drama and conflict that happens between the players is far more involving and relevant than whatever artificial plot the developers tack on to give the world context. Don't get me wrong, the world will be full of conflict, intrigue and drama - but it will be on the players terms. What we're providing is a setting and game mechanics. As for the experience itself, that's up to you guys.
OnRPG: The setting in this game this game must give your development team an advantage in development, are there any parts of the game world that players will see here that they won't be able to see anywhere else?
Well, antiquity is one of the more interesting times in our own world's history, and it's sadly under represented by games today. When it is represented, it's usually done in a gimmicky sort of way that exploits a few bullet points of the culture such as the pantheon or what have you, and never really gives you anything in which to immerse yourself.
Because it takes place in the ancient world, we're talking about the moment in history when nomad tribes are starting to come together and form villages, towns and cities. It's a very raw struggle of man vs. the chaos and uncertainty of the world around him. We're reflecting that through the game mechanics. Every piece of civilization you find in the world will be there because another player (or group of players) put it there.
OnRPG: What features differentiate Grecca from other MMOs?
First of all, Grecca is all about the competitive experience. I know a lot of games out there tout this same thing, but it's not the same. Every aspect of the game is geared toward competition. Even if your character spends their whole life picking berries or mining ore and never even equips a weapon, he/she is still part of an overall war effort against the world around you. Every little bit of progress you make helps your village, your guild, your clan, or what have you.Grecca also features a real time combat system. I realize we're not the first to tout that either, but you can count on getting a PvP experience where your instincts and your reflexes will count for more than how much grinding you've done or how you've built your character.
Every man-made object in Grecca is made by a player. If it's not, it doesn't exist. You will never find a town that players did not build. You will never find a sword that wasn't forged by a player from ore someone had to mine. You will never wear clothes that didn't used to be some other critter's skin. Also, the resources these items come from do not grow on trees (well, I guess fruit grows on trees actually), so you can imagine how that will inform the competitive aspect of the game when two villages who've never met each other before suddenly find out they're both relying on the same region for mining and there's not enough ore for everyone.
OnRPG: Can you tell us about the "faction" system? How will this be used to benefit players?
The faction system is possibly one of the most complex elements of the game. When you say "faction" you could be talking about anything from what culture your character belongs to down to what family you're from, and everything in between. Each type of faction behaves very differently and has radically different goals. Unfortunately the details are beyond the scope of something I could explain in an interview, but there is a slightly more adequate description on the site.
However, I can say that the most important type of faction for new players will probably be their village/town/city. These are other players who you (hopefully) mutually rely on for survival. Players from the same town aren't just expected to cooperate because they happen to have spawned in the same place; factors like common enemies and safety in numbers make team work a necessity. Not that you can't be a lone wolf if you really want to, but one should expect a rough ride.
OnRPG: Also, please give us details about the cultures within the game?
We have four cultures planned. They are Grecca (the first culture to be added and also the games namesake,) which corresponds to ancient Greece. The next culture to be added will be the Crescent Empire, which corresponds to the ancient Persian Empire. Then we'll add Valle, which are a mix of celtic/gallic/germanic/norse inspired barbarians from a cold and harsh mountainous region. The last culture to be added will be Pandora, which will be the equivalent of ancient Rome.Each of these cultures will be stylistically distinct. What we're aiming to deliver is the theme of each culture. You will instantly be able to tell the difference between a Greccan settlement or a village of Valle raiders.
Ancient setting, forging weapons
In addition to the aesthetic variety, there are very significant differences in how each culture works in terms of influence and control. Remember, we're not governing the factions in this game. That's the player's job. What we're providing are the tools and functionality for governing, ways to gain and lose influence, ways to use influence once you have it. These will vary drastically depending on what culture you belong to. For example, the Greccan culture is an early democracy, so struggles for influence over cities and so on will have a lot to do with debates, laws (which can change depending on who's in charge), and the peoples votes. By contrast, Valle is a brutal warrior society who gain or lose influence based on ritualistic dueling or all out blood feuds; it doesn't matter how well you argue in Valle, the strongest and most brutal will end up in charge.
OnRPG: How do players work to survive in the world of Grecca, whether it be battling or using resources, how do players work to keep from death?
Well, the important thing is that survival is your responsibility. At the bare minimum that means you need food, shelter and clothing. But it's not that simple; where are you gonna get these things? How are you going to defend yourself while you're out hunting/foraging/mining etc. for them? And what if (see: when) some other town gets desperate and decides to raid your village for resources they can't get on their own. Even if you're a pacifist berry picker, you might find yourself being chased around your own house by hostile players.
With that said, it's not a free for all. Before you can raid a village, you have to defeat any players willing to defend it. Once that's done, any remaining villagers can still attempt to resist you in the village itself. There's a system in place to balance it all out. It's not like the first time you get successfully raided you'll lose the whole town, but it's definitely not a nominal outcome by any means.
Some people may hear these things like raiding someones village and taking things out of their house and think the game experience will just be one series of abuses after another. Fear not. For all the ruthlessness, the purpose of this game is for you to have fun; by "you", I mean everyone from the hardcore PvP'er to the pacifist who just wants to make sandals for everyone. All of these systems are designed carefully and reasonably.The world will be harsh, but it will also be fair.
OnRPG: What visual elements are utilized to bring to life the setting, while pleasing players?
As a team we have a great fondness for the 2d classics that made us love video games in the first place. These days, someone sees a 2d game and their first instinct is to assume it's a cell phone or a browser game, and I think that's unfortunate. There's a lot you can accomplish in terms of precision in 2d games.
We have a fantastic artist on the team creating hand drawn, completely modular 2d sprites. She puts a lot of care into everything she draws and is constantly revising and improving existing assets. Artistically speaking, the game is in the best hands anyone could hope for. That's my opinion, anyway.
In terms of atmosphere, the game will feature day/night cycles, weather and seasons. Also, areas of the world map considered "wilderness" (anywhere without someone living on it) will generate randomly every so often, so that players aren't visiting the same exact places for the same reasons day after day.
OnRPG: Will players be able to create their own true persona? How is customization a part of the game?
If we want players to immerse they have to have a character that means something to them, and aesthetics are a big part of that. From the very beginning you will be able to customize the following: skin color, eye color, hair color, hair style, facial hair style. Once you're in the game itself, your character can accumulate tattoos, scars and piercings as well. This is all in addition to your clothing and equipment, which obviously changes your appearance.
OnRPG: Will character progression be a major role? How will players feel like they're getting somewhere in the game?
Character progression plays a significant role in the game, but it's not the player's only goal. We want players to have a solid "end game", and by that I mean we want you to have plenty to work toward even if your character is completely maxed out.
It's important to understand that in Grecca, it is possible (if very unlikely) for a brand new character to defeat a grizzled veteran of many battles. This is because combat relies heavily on your own skills and instincts as a player rather than your characters stats. That's not to say that your stats and equipment don't matter, because they do. It's just that their effect is more subtle than is the case in most games.
OnRPG: Is there an economic sector to the game? Will players be able to craft and sell items; is there any differentiation between the common economy in MMOs and Grecca?
Crafting and trading is a huge factor. Every item in the game is created by players, and no one player will have enough skills to make everything they could ever possibly need by themselves. Unlike many MMO's, we don't plan to place any sort of restrictions on players abilities to trade between themselves. In terms of economy, money is entirely optional. It has to be created like any other item, and it's only worth what someone is willing to trade for it. In this way, the value of money will vary greatly depending upon the social context in which it exists. It's worth noting that money is specific to the city that it's created for, and may or may not have value to other cities and cultures. Also, only the ruling faction of a city can create money.
OnRPG: What types of weapons, armor, and items will be prominent within the game?
Well, in terms of variety there's swords, axes, maces, spears, bows and thrown weapons in addition to shields and various other miscellaneous combat tools. In regards to authenticity, the weapons and equipment of each culture will stylistically reflect the theme of that culture.This seems like a good spot to mention another huge difference between Grecca and a lot of contemporary MMORPGs. Equipment (meaning weapons, armour, clothes, supplies, etc.) is transient in Grecca. What I mean by that is just because you acquire a sword doesn't mean that sword is yours forever. It just means you're currently the one in possession of it. If you fall in battle, your enemy will probably loot that sword, along with any other valuables they have time (and space) to make off with.
That might seem overly harsh, but you can always make new equipment or find someone to help you make it. You can also store extra equipment in your dwelling for just such an occasion. Make no mistake. Everyone will get KO'd, everyone will get looted. It's an experience that will be common to all players at some point or another. Also, equipment is not everything. The difference between a good sword and a crappy sword is fairly subtle. Don't get me wrong. There's definitely a difference, but it's no substitute for skill.
OnRPG: Since this game works on realistic terms, will new players be sheltered in some fashion until they can stand on their own two feet, or will they be left to fend for themselves like everyone else?
There will be some sort of system for protecting brand new players for a very short period of time. The more important factor is that it is in someone's best interest to take that new player and mentor them, because they may not have all the fancy skills and gear that you do, but next week they might be watching your back, or defending your town from a raid while you're logged off. There's no way to over emphasize how critical teamwork is to success and survival.
OnRPG: What future updates or expansions does your development team plan to add to the game?
Well, our first priority is to get the game playable as soon as possible. Once that's done, we're gonna work on adding the other three cultures as well as fleshing out some other important aspects of the game.
OnRPG: Are there any events that you guys plan to let the community join in on?
The community will be welcome to join in on any events that we host. Unfortunately, I don't have any details on this for the time being. Sorry for the somewhat lackluster answer.
OnRPG: When can we plan to see an open beta or a full release? Do you guys have any testing stages open for players to join right now?
We're actually planning on conducting an open alpha test sometime in the next few weeks. As for the beta and actual release, we hope to be in beta by mid-summer and have the product ready by the end of summer. Grecca will be free to play.
Also, for the last few months we've been hosting occasional demos on the weekends just so people can get in game and get a feel for the combat system and so on. There will probably be a few more of these before alpha. Any registered member of the forums is welcome to join us for those demos. We'll usually post details a few days in advance under the Alpha Testers section of the forum (must be logged in to access that section).
OnRPG: In conclusion, why should readers visit www.grecca.net right now?
We periodically post news of progress that the project makes as well as upcoming dates and times for tests or demos. Also, anyone is free to socialize or ask questions to the Dev Team on the forum.
OnRPG: Do you have any other comments to add?
Thanks to everyone with an interest in this project. We hope to see you soon.
OnRPG: Thank you very much for your time!
Thank you. :)