3 things Konspiracy Games is doing to redefine the MMORPG
Bosses? NPCs? Hours of mindless grinding and waiting?
Who needs that?!
When you think of an MMO, you’re probably thinking about moments of fun, scattered between hours of endless grinding and farming that kept you playing longer than you could have believed or wanted. The time spent crafting items, draining away into nothingness.
Konspiracy Games knew this about MMOs, how you barely get to enjoy the game, because of the hours of work, just grinding and farming, with short moments and tiny glimpses of enjoyment scattered in between. Instead of building a game based on grinding, they took the idea of an MMOARPG with a new focus in mind.
This wasn’t just to “copy” other MMOs. It was to make them better.
WoW and other similar games have built so much lore, only to find that most players don’t even pay attention to it. Rather than adding the storyline, Konspiracy developed Blossom & Decay so that if the players were interested in the lore and quests, they could build it themselves, and if they wanted to just grind, or farm, it was up to them whether they wanted to stay in game, or go to work or school and have their avatar do all the work.
Konspiracy Games noticed how people paid no attention to the story in their favorite games, and just focused on grinding until they got the gear. So rather than adding a storyline, they simplified the how they went about doing things in the world, and let the players make a tale of their own, a tale that would play a part in the outcome of their game.
Here’s what Konspiracy did to make playing an MMOARPG much easier.
1. Asynchronous play.
Playing an MMO, you think of the constant grinding and farming you’ll need to do, just to get what you need to enjoy the game. If you look at that time farming and grinding, it makes up almost 90% of the gameplay. There are some who enjoy it, but to do away with it entirely would make your gameplay, rather the time that you spend playing the game that much more enjoyable.
How this idea came about was from two places:
The push for making it mobile.
With great new mobile apps comes great new features. Because of the rise in mobile games, Blossom & Decay becoming a mobile game as well, was a MUST. Making it mobile would mean that you would be able to check on the game, or leave the game, without having to worry about canceling crafting, because you got a call, or got some other life distraction, far more pressing than getting your item crafted.
It’s easy to see why MMOs are given a bad rap for not being user-friendly. To make matters worse, most of them leave you waiting for things to happen. A need to put that waiting in the right place fueled this decision to make asynchronous gameplay. Because of this decision, players of Blossom & Decay are able to schedule things to happen for the time they are away.
Going to the right place means you will be able to automate certain things, like for example, having a mine gives you access to ores, and when you’re away, you can automatically mine ores and rocks so you can spend time in game doing things that matter, or automating more things for when you’re away.
This feature will be one of the strongest points of Blossom & Decay.
2. Emergent Storylines.
The first strongest point though is the story that emerges from the game as players join and start playing. As the players interact in interesting ways, a story comes through, told by what the players have done, and when.
“EVE online was too much of a ‘table-calculator’ game and did not focus on the events that made the game what it is. Rather than focusing on the little charts and graphs, we focused on making this type of game simpler and easier to use, but keeping the stories that are created by the players intact.” says Harald.
Griefers and player killers can be easily taken care of by putting bounties on their head, and if there are multiple people involved, such as a band of bandits, your clan can work together to take them down, and the winners each get the bounty prize. Basically, the players get incentives for being moderators.
3. Play from anywhere.
The end goal of this game is to make it so that you can get it anywhere. If you want to play it on your phone, it’s just a click away. If you want to go from where you left off on your phone, you can log in on your computer’s browser, and keep on playing. What makes them able to do this is making it entirely web-based. To install an app that is only a couple of megabytes, is not too hard. Especially if all you need to run it, is a browser engine.
Once available, you will be able to play the game in the browser. For now, it’s still in development, and a lot of work needs to be done before it is ready.
Until then, keep checking konspiracy.de to stay tuned!
After a talk with Konspiracy Games, we discussed some interesting things and ideas. Check out what their creative Director had to say.
Tell us a bit about your game, in your words:
Blossom & Decay is a full loot, sandbox MMO ARPG for browsers and mobile that is focused on emergent (player generated,) narrative and is set in a fantasy realm defending against unending tides of evil.
The most important points are maybe that everything in the world except the terrain is created by players --so there are no NPC traders, quests, pre-existing cities or even roads-- and that the crafting part is done in your offline time, meaning that your character stays in the world and can craft, trade, and be attacked, but also defend themself, your property and that of your friends while you are not actively playing.
What are you currently using to run the game?
The whole engine is custom built, because every platform we looked at had its own limitations. The server runs on google infrastructure and is coded with node.js / LUA / ReDis. The frontend is built with pixi.js.
It seems to have a pretty extensive map. Is this procedurally generated or done by hand?
The map is completely procedurally generated and in fact infinite. We wrote a reddit article where we describe it in more detail. https://www.reddit.com/r/proceduralgeneration/comments/7vhp04/thoughts_on_procedural_2d_map_generation_with/
Are you planning on making different maps on different servers, or are you keeping them all the same?
[All players will always be in the same “instance” (although that doesn’t imply it has to run on one single machine, just that you can travel to any other player theoretically). But there are starting points at different spots on the coast (increasing amount with growing player-base). So you can either start in a very colonized area or in the completely unexplored wilderness.]
Harbours on the coast will be connected by boat travel using offline time or you can choose to walk to the next harbour along the coast.
Some of the greatest games take elements from other games they loved, like how Minecraft blended Dwarf Fortress and Rollercoaster Tycoon, as an improvement on an already existing concept. What are some of the games that inspired this idea?
The art style is definitely inspired by SNES action adventures. We tried to aim for a more gradient-heavy variant of “A Link to the Past”. Harvest Moon and Stardew Valley have a feel that we also wanted to bring in. The gameplay and “sandboxyness” is a homage to early / vanilla Ultima Online and the player-driven narratives from EVE online. So take a bit of EVE and Ultima and put it in a fantasy setting with action combat. There is also inspiration taken from games like farmville and clash of clans, offline play tries to bring in that casual component.
Blossom and Decay plays around with time a lot, such as letting you spend time in game while not playing it, and gives the feeling that you’ve spent less time while playing it. What made you decide to change the in-game time, to a more abstract value, or was that something that came about through shift of night and day in-game?
We were aiming from the start from a MMO that also allows you to have a normal life and not fall back when your friends play more than you. That’s why we went for design decisions like a very flat power curve (rather gaining more strategic variety than gaining pure DPS). So your char making progress while you are offline and using this offline time as a kind of resource followed naturally.
I personally also played some Async MMOs on mobile long after quitting any grindy mmo and liked how they fit into my schedule, but always was missing the ability to go into the world. So these games tend to feel a bit abstract to me and I am less emotionally invested. That’s why a mix of both seemed reasonable.
Are you guys going with a soft-launch, like Minecraft or a hard-launch, sort of like Pokémon Go when it does get released?
Veeery soft (we actually play already with a small group of testers, so technically it’s a silent launch.) We really respect that sandbox as well as MMO need a lot of balancing. Combined, even more. So we’ve decided to grow the player-base slowly and adapt the game, not launch something with such a rocky update curve that everybody’s gone by the time things stabilize. We also just do not have the marketing power and resources to go for a huge media driven launch, we need to grow organically.
Games like Minecraft have seen griefers that try to defeat the purpose of having open worlds. What are you doing to mitigate these types of players?
The world is very open, so griefers can be dealt with. But if you are weaker than the griefers they become a gameplay factor themselves. Same as on the UO server I played, where at some point admins assigned one of the cities to the player killers and made them a clan everybody else was fighting against. That solved the problem pretty much.
The player-drivenness will not end at buildings and trade, we are also working on a justice system where clans can declare criminals and war, set bounties, define law in their areas that is enforced by all members (online and offline) and share their “criminals list” with allies.
So it’s the responsibility of the local clan to compel more friendly players to join up and deal with gankers and griefers to stabilize a the region. In many ways, these skirmishes could be the first quests, or plot points of the game’s history.
On a larger scale (like when someone tries to destroy your village or city) we’ve considered delay mechanics, so to lay a siege, someone really needs to spend resources and collective organizing for some days. So defenders have time to realize it, react and call allies for help.
As clan complexities evolve we are determined to change with the tide and that includes even making some features harder to get through some form of verification or paid vetting. So that Zerging and other behaviors can be banned.
A feature that stood out to me the most, was the AI mode, where you can program your actions to be on repeat. Was that something that you were able to accomplish to deal with the lack of NPCs and the game’s ability to be completely player driven? Or is it an idea that the game was based around?
It was absolutely there from the beginning. We tried to focus our game on “emergent narrative” rather than on scripted stories because we all felt that a scripted story loses its meaning in a MMO where everybody “saves the princess”. We wanted to avoid a grindy race to the top that makes stories empty or repetitive.
In most MMOs I did quests for the reward and didn’t care much about the story, the only real stories I cared about were things with actual influence on the game world (like when a PKer clan took over a region in UO). So why not make all narrative (except for background enveloping action) created by and relevant to the players ?
For that the world needs to be malleable to players. And that sandbox only works if it is populated.
Looking at games like Ark where your body stays in the gameworld as inanimate object and your buildings get destroyed by some players while you are offline was not satisfying. Instead we want to have attack and defense, trade, crafting and resource acquisition happening with a mix of online and offline players. So the game was intended from the start to be a mix of synchronous (like WoW) and asynchronous (like Clash of Clans) MMOG.
Is there any advice you’d like to give to your fellow developers?
It’s not just a lot of work, try to be mentally prepared for years of work without big results, so also think about the team you bring along for the ride. It helps if you’ve worked together before, but also to maintain a consistent conversation about the vision, and take the time to keep it clear (basically talk about it all the time.)
But also allow the vision to evolve, and try stuff so you can stick with what works.
It sounds easy to say ‘stick with what works,’ but it’s also very easy to get mired in the details of an idea. We kind of roughnecked our way to a playable prototype as fast as we could… On hindsight, even using dummy graphics and allowing for first-draft crappiness helped to know what we had because we were playing it. Before there were too many unknown unknowns. …