Getting into the MMO-genre is a challenge for any developer and even considering to start developing one takes... Well, frankly, it takes balls. And it seems like the people at Avatar Creations have them - they are not only bringing out a sandbox MMO, they are doing it as a small indie-developer. We sent them a couple of questions to find out more about Perpetuum, their Mech Warrior meets EVE Online MMO that's launching this Thursday.
First of all, how did Perpetuum get started? And for the people that haven't heard about the game, can you tell us a bit about the overall concept behind the game?
Perpetuum is not just a game - it's an independent game world with its own rules and physics, which players can populate as they see fit. The game takes place on the planet called Nia, which is inhabited by a sentient robotic lifeform. Humanity in a desperate attempt to get access to the much needed energy on the planet infects and takes control over some of these robots - this is where the story is currently at. The players are in a foothold situation on an alien planet trying to get organized and build out a base of operations to supply Earth with energy from Nia.
Perpetuum is a single-server, persistent sandbox MMORPG. What this means is that everyone plays in the same game world, they do whatever they want inside the confines of the physics and rules of the world, and every action a player does can only be undone by another player or the natural rules of the world.
Most of the team behind Perpetuum wanted to get into game development well before we started working on the game. The core team found each other through the Demoscene, later friends and family, and eventually some of our beta testers have joined us in the development.
How big is the actual team?
We're 10 man strong.
Making a MMO is hard, even for big companies and publishers. How has it been for a small, independent developer? Have there been any challenges you didn't anticipate?
It's been a huge challenge and we took it head-on. We're a very eager bunch of guys who just wanted to create something on their own. We're very happy that we actually made it to the release as each and every one of the team worked incredibly hard to get to this point. Looking back, most of the challenges during development were things we knowingly took on, and I can't recall a time where anyone would have given up due to a particular problem we were facing.
What kind of marketing do you expect to do for the game?
Being a small indie team that's a tough one - but we have ideas on how to make the game more public, and as we get more players we'll be able to make Perpetuum more known to the world.
Often, both developers and players like to define their MMOs as either theme parks (World of Warcraft) or sandboxes (EVE Online). How would you define Perpetuum?
Perpetuum is definitely a sandbox game world. It was always meant to be one, we feel that MMO games shine most when they incorporate the player community into part of the gameplay. The sandbox format is a great way to achieve this as players don't just go through a bunch of story missions over and over again, but get organized and make their own goals together - be it a small thing like setting up a mining operation or something bigger like taking over an area of the game and controlling everything in it.
As a long time EVE player, it's hard not to notice that at least your UI and the offline skill progression systems are quite similar to CCP's internet spaceship game. How much inspiration have you taken from them when building your game?
We looked all around for inspiration, mostly the real world. We wanted to build a complex game with complex possibilities for player interaction, and we felt the best place to mimic was the world we live in: the trading system works just like any online store would if we could teleport stuff over the Internet. When designing the crafting system we looked at how humanity would react when faced with new and alien technology and built crafting around those core ideas. The idea of a complex sandbox single-server world might be very similar, but most of the Perpetuum team never played EVE.
One of the criticisms against EVE's offline progression is that newcomers don't stand a chance against veterans. Whether that is true or not can be discussed, but is that something you have thought about in Perpetuum? If so, do you have any plans to level the playingfield somehow?
Newcomers in any well designed game won't have a chance against
seasoned veterans. A level 10 character won't be on par with a level 99 one - however if there's a cap to where players can level to, the level 10 character can eventually catch up. In Perpetuum we don't just have a single tier of levels in which players can progress, we have several dozens. A new player can reach the cap in the extensions of his choice fairly quickly and with that he'll be just as good as the older characters - the only advantage of older players being that their characters can be more diversified.
How have players taken to the game during betas? Have they done anything you didn't expect them to do? What kind of reactions have you seen?
The overall reaction to the beta was very good. We see a great
community in the making and we're glad to be part of it. Of course we had some mischievous players try to break and exploit the game rules on several occasions, and the fixes to those incidents resulted in a very stable game with no currently known exploits. We feel that our players really appreciate our hands on approach to developing Perpetuum and we hope to keep as much of that attitude as possible after launch.
Where do you hope to take Perpetuum in the future? What's your first priorities after launch?
The development won't stop for a single day. We're constantly adding and improving game features. We picked this time for launch because we feel that we have a very good starting feature set for the game, but the content we launch with will only be the beginning. We have a long list of ideas we want to implement, things like player built settlements with complex infrastructures, terraforming, hybrid robots, etc.
Thanks for your time, guys!