This week's developer live stream was a mix of game-play (from the PAX experience) with developer commentary, some Alpha Zero detail reveals, concept art reveals and the standard Q&A wrap up. For those, like myself, that ate up every bit of content during PAX week, the game-play wasn't anything new. However, it was very insightful hearing Steven and his team explain the context behind the demo, where this experience falls within the preliminary cycle of development. For example, the UI itself was characterized as "0.2" by Jeffery citing that the goal here is to be functional enough to allow developers and eventually alpha testers to be able to QA the game. Jeffery went on further in the demo run through to talk about their environmental philosophy using gathering as an example. They don't want anything that will take away from the immersion (e.g. gather-able items glowing or sparkling to indicate they are resources). The goal is here is to give players a strong sense of place - allowing players to organically discover the environment. The node development was sped up for the demo so node advancement could be shown to Stage 3, which is the village stage. In this stage, new quests, new merchant services and perhaps upgraded crafting stations would be available. Ultimately, it's bigger versions of what would be available in previous node levels and also addition of new content. This stage of the node is where players can claim property within the node, build freeholds within the node's zone of influence (ZOI) and establish player run government.
The next portion of the demo revealed a bit more about the lore, particularly the Sladeborne, who were once an airborne and beautiful race and now have been corrupted and grounded. Clearly, there is more to discover lore-wise here that the team wasn't ready to share but it was encouraging to see the depth already being cultivated for even these early denizens of Verra. As the developer walkthrough progressed, the team talked about how they wish to incorporate utility skills for each archetype in order to add another path of discovery that players can leverage. The takeaway, once again, is to not break the immersion in the world and heighten the sense of discovery. Gone are the quest arrows and UI indicators from other titles. Players must be more aware of their environment and also look to their party members to press on in their adventures in the world. In Jeffery's own words, this is a "world to discover."
The team demonstrated some of the utility skills that would be available:
Ranger - Tracking - discover direction of next quest step or even hidden quests
Mage - Magic Detection - reveal hidden areas or paths
Cleric - Cleanse - remove area poisons or curses to clear a path
Tank - Perception - reveal monster spawn points (not shown in this demo but present in PAX demo)
Steven next talked about the direction the team was heading in terms of combat - they are doing away with any auto attack function so they can allow the player remain actively engaged in every aspect of combat. To that end, they are using a combo system (also referred to as a quick-time event) which builds a character resource called "focus" that is used to fuel ultimate skills that do larger amounts of damage and potentially larger condition effects. The UI is still very early and only placeholder as they flesh out the functionality of the system. He did go on to say that skills will have different resource requirements. Some might have mana or other energy requirements, while others may use focus or a combination of mana-like resources and focus. He also discussed the weapon progression system whereby "leveling" up weapon skills would open up specific attributes like condition effects (i.e. lower target resistance)
One of the most exciting reveals in this week's stream was the Alpha Zero content reveal. Below's the summary:
Type of environment - familiarish places, what was seen at PAX but "unlocking the doors"; 3 environments (forest, floodplain and desert) are planned for the experience
3 nodes - only one location will be capable of reaching the village stage
4 km x 4 km area and each node area will cover 1/3 of the total area
Early look at Empyrean starting area
The game "shrunk down to one zone"
Different story lines available depending on the nodes that are leveled
2 of the 4 divine gateways will be present - players will arrive via the portal and decide where to go questing from there
3 distinct dungeons will be present - they will be open world, instanced content to come later
Monsters spawn differently based on the node that's developed
Character Customization and Progression
Classes available: Tank, Cleric, Mage, Ranger
Two races available: Kaelar and Empyrean
Character look presets for male or female - not fully customizable yet, but will be later
Loot drops will be in and change based on which node is most developed
Ability to buy skills (skill tree progression) - level up to about level 10
Not open play, but close
Crafting and Gathering will be in but a very small aspect
Initial Alpha Zero Goals
The team showed several pieces of concept art and then wrapped up with Q&A:
Q: Do you plan on finishing the skills on the first 4 characters before starting on the next 4?
A: No, that would be impossible. We're going to look a groups of classes and look at how they play off of each other and work together, developing them in parallel.
Q: When will the PAX merchandise be available on the online store?
A: As soon as shipping and fulfillment becomes available, hopefully next week.
Q: Will you be able to sheathe your weapon?
A: Yes, this just wasn't present in PAX demo. It will be there for Alpha 0.
Q: Are you going to get rid of the "sweet spot" bar (combo UI)?
A: Yes, this will evolve over time based on feedback.
Q: Can I just specifically focus on trade skills in game and become just as powerful/influential as I would by gear grinding PvP/PvE?
A: Yes and also potentially more powerful. The goal is to ensure players have many options to attain power within the game world.
Q: Will I be able to hide armor in head slots and will there be cosmetic slots?
A: Yes, not in currently but planned.
Q: Will certain areas have better quality resources than others?
A: Yes, but only for a limited time.
Q: Will there be persistent open world PvP objectives?
A: No plans at the moment for this however, there are plans for battlegrounds, systems that come and go that have pvp objective play and sieges could be considered objective based PvP as well, though not persistent. The game world itself will have an open world flagging system.
Q: Will Tulnar (Underrealm Race) be able to dig tunnels?
A: No, but they may potentially have Tulnar houses look like mounds (unconfirmed speculation by developers).
Q: When will you release "Nodes, Part 3?"
Q: Will we be able to hide character names, guild names etc?
A: Yes, this will be possible for you personally.
Q: Will the names for archetypes be changed to be less generic (i.e. Tank changed to Guardian)?
A: You will see different names when the full primary/secondary class combination list - that's where the "flavor" comes in. The current archetype names will remain in order to ensure the roles of those archetypes are clear for players deciding what class combination to play.
Q: Will you be at future events/conventions?
A: Yes, will be releasing a formal schedule soon™.
Q: What is your favorite class in MMOs?
A: Jeff - hybrid (druid, bard); Akil: Healers, Pet Classes; Steven: Mage
Thanks to the Intrepid team for another great stream! Looking forward to the next!