Salem Interview with John Rickne – Paradox Interactive
By MerryQuiteContrary, OnRPG Journalist
Paradox Interactive is the publisher of such games as The War of Roses, Mount &Blade, Magicka and Salem: the crafting MMO. Salem, currently in closed beta, is their first free to play title.
Salem is set in the American Colonies of the 17th century in a persistent, mutable online world. Salem’s features include open PvP, permadeth, crafting, farming, and building systems. Salem has a wonderful Burton-esque art style with an American Gothic vibe. Salem is currently slated for a 2012 Q3 release.
I had the opportunity to chat with John Rickne from Paradox Interactive about Salem’s place in the F2P market.
OnRPG: Tell us a bit about yourself and your role with paradox interactive.
My name is John Rickne and I work with the marketing team at Paradox Interactive. I’ve been an avid gamer for as long as I can remember, growing up playing board games such as Axis and Allies with my dad and eventually transferring over to RTS and FPS when I discovered computers. Warcraft III was my main game when World of Warcraft was announced so the transition to MMO’s happened then and there, in the original WoW beta. Since then I have loved the concept of MMO’s and played more than several, although mainly WoW and EVE-Online. The latter got me deeply in love with the sandbox MMO concept. I started out working in the games industry early last year and have since then worked on and off with a lot of eSports-production with companies such as Fnatic, DreamHack and several production studios.
I’ve worked at Paradox for a little over two months now and at the moment I am fully dedicated to Salem. That means I do things such as customer support and GMing, but first and foremost I spend time with the players and the game to make sure the customers get their voices heard where they need to be heard – for the good of the game.
OnRPG: Salem is Paradox Interactive’s first foray into the free to play market. Why a crafting MMO?
There is a serious lack of games that give players enough freedom, and the demand is even bigger. People want wider levels, broader choices and the ability to actually do something in their game outside of the exact things the developers intended. Salem meets a lot of these demands and adds the super-tense concept of permanent death in a game. It’s a second life within a game, mixed together with a little fantasy and a crazy community.
OnRPG: What type of player-base do you hope to acquire with Salem?
I am going to be so bold to say that the type of players we have now, in the closed beta, are what we are looking for in Salem. The game is aimed towards people that love freedom over everything else. Someone who can’t bear the idea of losing months of work in an instant will have huge problems playing Salem, but the thrill of permadeath and full freedom makes the game so much more enjoyable for many. People often call it a very niched game, but I disagree. I think there are large amounts of players looking for more immersive and “risky” games, just look at the recent success of Arma II due to the Day-Z mod. There are almost no rules in-game to prevent players from doing whatever they want, be it with the economy, other players or their own experience. We aim to let players fully control the world.
OnRPG: Because of the open PVP nature of Salem and perma-death as a feature, how will griefing be dealt with?
Griefing, by definition, is when a player harasses and harms players in a game in ways that are not intended to exist and thus exploits the game itself. Salem is intended to have full freedom and therefore the concept of griefing does not really exist within the game. The game is supposed to be self-regulating where players make sure justice is served.
OnRPG: Seatribe, the developers of Salem, already have a crafting type game in Haven & Hearth, What is different about Salem?
Many people call Salem “Haven and Hearth 2” but I disagree. That’s like calling Call of Duty “Counter Strike 2” simply because they share genre. The sandbox-mmo / permadeath genre is still very small and unexplored so it’s easy to think all of the games in the genre are just the same, but that’s just like calling all MMO’s the same because “they have guns”.
Salem is in a different time period, it is 3D, it is supported and produced by Paradox Interactive, it has different options, functions and goals. The biggest thing it shares with H&H is the genre and the fact that they share developers.
OnRPG: Seatribe claims to specialize in forum drama. As a game master what kind of challenges will that present with Salem?
It does present some unique challenges but I would not call it troublesome. I consider the Salem forums to be a crucial part of the game itself. The “drama” that takes place is essential for the game to work and in my opinion one of the biggest reasons to play. What Seatribe does is promote the idea of living out your character in more ways than in the game itself and the forum is like a big town square or a bar where everyone gathers to talk about events that have occurred, hatch plans and slander their enemies. Just like real life.
Of course I have some forum parts that are not as roleplay-oriented, such as the tech-support and suggestions forums. So far I have never experienced any of the drama leaking over to the “out of game” sections.
OnRPG: How does Paradox Interactive hope to compete with a F2P market that is already saturated by not only South Korean games but triple A titles going F2P as well?
Free to play is the new thing for everyone and it’s hard for us to not go with the stream. It has been proven several times that games where players can chose whether to spend money or not tend to be more profitable. The thing that sets Salem out from most F2P-games is the fact that there is no “pay to win” aspect in the game. It is merely for convenience and cosmetics. A player can only buy silver, which is the same currency as one can get in the game, and for silver you can buy just the same items as other players can without paying real money. There are no such things as experience boosts, extra item slots or stronger guns.
This fact combined with the game’s uniqueness and it actually being a lot of fun to play sets Salem up for a bright future in the F2P market.
OnRPG: Do you have any tantalizing hints or new information you can share with our readers?
Haha, I wish I had super-secret things to share but we’re very open with most of our future plans for the game, be it content or features. Upcoming things, for those who did not know, are things such as witchcraft, domesticated animals, creatures from the deep lumberwoods, endgame purity and player controlled market stalls in Boston.
Another thing that many do not know is that Salem is being developed by two, yes you read right, two people. That is probably the thing I am most proud and amazed by.