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Developer Info Round-Up

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This blog post is a quick primer to catch players up with some basic info that we've talked about before.

This blog post ONLY covers things we've already talked about. One of the pillars of Project: Gorgon is exploration -- and I definitely don't want to spill the beans about some of the upcoming features yet! But after years of development, some of the stuff we’ve talked about in the past can easily get lost.

Be warned: Aside from the "General Info" and "Business Model" sections, a lot of this is very detail-oriented. If you haven't already played a fair amount, it may not make sense. And you shouldn't need to know any of this to play. This is more for existing or returning players that want to know where things are headed.

Also, I’ve probably missed a few important things here -- I'll update this post over the next week or two with any other info that needs to be added.

So without further ado ...


General Info


The game is in alpha.

All aspects of the game are subject to change.

This game is not in beta, where we have the design ironed out and we're adding content and fixing problems. It's late alpha, where we are still trying to figure out how some of the key parts of the game fit together.

It's important to understand that, during alpha, plans change -- a lot. We don't have a detailed roadmap; we have to experiment to figure out what works. Some games have detailed roadmaps during alpha because they start from a known quantity: "We're like <game X> but with <w, y, and z> done differently." We don't have that luxury; we often have to change large parts of the game's design when we learn that our original plans suck.

(We're slowly winding down alpha now, so the complete overhauls are getting fewer and farther between, but they still happen.)


You will be buffed. You will be nerfed.

There have been many nerfs to the game and there will be many more. All existing play-testers will no doubt be nerfed in the coming months, often many times. There will also, of course, be a great many buffs as well -- but when your favorite sword gets nerfed, sometimes no amount of buffs in other areas will make that seem okay.

Getting nerfed is painful, and if that's the sort of thing that sends you into a rage, this is probably not a good time to be involved with the game.

So why, if alpha is such a pain in the ass, should you bother playing? Because your feedback can have tremendous impact right now. Every overhaul and changed design plan is an opportunity to shape the game; many suggestions have already turned into game features! And with such a small, tight-knit group of alpha players this is also a great time to become a leader in the community.

Plus, as an extra incentive, you can keep all the levels you earn during alpha. Read on …


There will not be a full player wipe at launch.

The characters you are building now in alpha will not be completely wiped out at launch. We will be wiping some aspects of your characters, but not everything. In particular, we will be wiping items and money, but we won't be wiping most skill levels.

Why not wipe everything? Because alpha testing is hard. Putting a lot of hours into an alpha game that can and does change all the time is stressful! You deserve some reward for dealing with all the bullshit involved in alpha development.

So why wipe items? After years of alpha, there will be some players with billions in cash and assets, some of which came from bugs that slipped past us. That makes it very hard for a fun player-to-player economy to develop. That’s always a tough challenge, in fact, but wiping items and money is a basic foundational step that will give the economy a fighting chance at launch.

And remember: this is at official launch, which is still a ways away. We aren't even in beta yet!


The game will be optimized during beta.

One of the other important pieces of development that won’t happen until beta is optimization. During beta, the game will be made to run better -- and look better. But it’s not worth it to spend a lot of time optimizing during alpha, when entire areas often get redone. For example, there have been something like four complete rewrites of the Serbule area ... and there is probably one more major overhaul still in the cards!


The GUI is being rewritten.

When we started developing the game – back in Unity 2.5 -- there wasn't much in the way of GUI support in Unity, so I had to code my own GUI framework from scratch. That's what's in the game now – and it’s ugly, and buggy, and very hard to maintain.

Recent versions of Unity have a completely new way to do GUIs, and while it's far from perfect, it's already better than our old home-brew framework. So we've outsourced a complete rewrite of the GUI using this modern Unity system.

That’s why a bunch of bugs and quirks in the current GUI have remained unfixed -- it's not trivial to fix them in the current framework, and the whole GUI is being replaced anyway. Outsourcing this has let me focus on other parts of the game in the meantime. One down side of outsourcing, though, is that the timeline is a bit more nebulous. I'm not yet sure exactly when the new GUI will be ready to go live.


PvP will never be a major aspect of the game.

This is primarily a PvE game. There will be an arena with ranks and points and so on, but there won't be "open world" PvP.

Why not do open-world PvP? Two reasons. First, we don't have the manpower to do it well, and half-assed PvP doesn't attract a lot of long-term players. Second, I don't want PvP to detract from the PvE game.

There are already lots of pretty great PvP games out there. Why add mediocre PvP to this game just to check off a list of "expected features"? We're indies, so we can just tell it like it is: if you need PvP in your MMO, this is not your game.

That said, if we end up attracting thousands of PvPers who really want a (horrifically imbalanced) "PK World" separate from the existing PVE worlds … well, we can talk about it.


This is an adult-rated game.

The game has no ESRB rating or similar yet, but we consider it "rated R" for adult situations, language, drug and alcohol use. There will never be dramatic blood, gore, or (particularly sexy) nudity, however.



Business Model


The game is Buy-to-Play

You will buy the game on Steam. We haven't set a final price, but I expect it to be around $40.


There is an optional VIP subscription plan.

There will also be an entirely optional monthly subscription plan that provides some convenience features. We haven't decided on a price, but it'll be cheap.

Some convenience features we've already discussed for the VIP plan include extra inventory space and a skill called Autodidactism that lets your character slowly level skills by reading rare books while you're offline.

We have some other VIP features planned that we'll talk about in the future, but being a VIP will not give you access to any special gear or equipment that would make you more powerful in combat.

I really hope to make it worthwhile to buy the VIP plan, but realistically, I suspect a big part of its draw will just be that it's a way to help support future improvements to the game.


There will be content updates after we launch.

We are aiming to produce new content updates every two months once the game launches. The game's first story arc will unfold via these content updates during the first year after launch.

A typical update might include new areas, dungeons, monsters, and NPCs, as well as new skills and things to do -- all included in the basic purchase price.



There will be occasional expansion packs.

It's important for an MMO to have "expansions" because it helps increase visibility -- it's a new thing for reviewers to talk about, a new item to see in Steam, and a way to remind old players that the game exists.

But since we are doing free content updates, I expect that our "expansions" will be pretty rare and mostly used to add entirely new dimensions to the game: like a seafaring system, or deep-world mining.

You will need to buy the expansion to access the expansion's features. I don't anticipate having an expansion for at least a year after the game launches.


We will be launching on Steam Early Access soon.

Our Steam launch will occur in two parts: Early Access, and official launch. Early Access is Steam's version of beta -- the game is still unfinished, but Steam users can pay for it early to play it early. Then when the game is ready, we'll leave Early Access and have an official Steam launch.

My original timeline for the Early Access launch was … about 8 months back. I’ve delayed because I want to finish as many fundamental aspects of the game as possible before getting a large influx of new players.

To be very frank: the more big nerfs I can get done before the game is on Steam Early Access, the better! There's a big batch of ability revisions coming up, so Early Access is at least a couple more months away.

And remember: When we go to Steam Early Access, nothing will be wiped -- all characters and accounts will remain just as they are now. You will need a Steam account to play: Kickstarter patrons will be emailed Steam keys early; others will need to buy the game on Steam and synchronize their Gorgon account with their Steam account.

We are also working on doing a "pre-Early-Access sale" to let players have a last chance at getting some of the perks that were available during Kickstarter. This is something we're still working on internally so we don't have more to say about it yet.

… And for players who hate Steam: I understand. But since we're such a small team, Steam makes the most sense to focus on first. After the game has launched, we'll work on providing other ways to purchase and play the game.



Combat, Skills, and Leveling


You will never be able to have more than six active abilities for any given combat skill at a time.

This comes up a lot, so I should explain that this is a set element of the game's design.


All combat skills are under balance review; many skills will be nerfed and many will be buffed.

Remember: We’re in alpha. And that means that we aren't even in the "kinda-sorta balanced" phase yet -- we're still in the "let's see if this idea is fun, and if necessary we can tone it down later" phase.

So skill balance will change a LOT in the future. We've been making broad changes, waiting to see the ramifications, then making more changes. I know it's frustrating and tiring for players, but there's really no way around it.

It's been a while since the last batch of changes so you can expect some more broad changes soon.


Treasure effects undergo the most changes, which includes both balancing the numbers and rewriting them to be more interesting.

The aim is for each combat skill to have 50-60 different random treasure effects at level 60, and a few dozen more will be mixed in at higher levels.

When treasure effects change, we try to automatically adjust existing items whenever possible. When old items can't be adjusted to fit the new designs, we mark the items as "Legacy", which gives players a month to find a replacement before the item stops working.


Level 60 is about the halfway point in the level curve.

Each combat skill can (eventually) be raised to level 100. You can also gain additional levels via synergy bonuses, and high-level equipment will further raise your effective level. So the "end game" monsters will range from level 125 to 150 … maybe higher.

So while level 60 is past the "newbie experience", it's not at all into the "high level" part of the game.


Many long-time players are VERY overpowered.

Because players have been stuck at the temporary level 60 cap for a long time now, many of them have gathered sets of VERY powerful gear -- making them effectively level 85 or more. That's temporary, of course, because the level cap will increase and gear will be replaced. But right now those players have outgeared all existing content by a large margin: they are overpowered gods.

Since this is temporary, it’s not a big deal. And being overpowered during alpha is fun! But it does become a problem when players don't realize how overpowered they are. For instance, new players often see these overpowered players and expect to be able to reach similar power levels quickly -- even though getting gear of that caliber can be extremely time-consuming to assemble. And when overpowered players forget that they're overpowered, their feedback can often be less helpful to me. So this is something to try to keep in perspective.

How can you tell if you're overpowered? As a rule of thumb, level 60 solo-monster encounters should take 15-25 seconds, and these encounters will typically involve fighting two monsters at once. So If you can kill multiple level 60 solo monsters in under 15 seconds, yep, you're probably overpowered. Congrats!


Synergy Bonuses will be more broadly available.

As mentioned above, synergy bonuses let you raise a skill up to 25 levels beyond its (eventual) cap of 100. But there will be 50+ synergy levels available for each skill, so you will have lots of choices about which skills (crafting and non-crafting) you want to level to get those synergy bonuses.


Each combat skill has a non-combat aspect as well.

Combat skills have "partner skills" that give them boosts. For instance, Unarmed fighters have Meditation; Swordsmen have Calligraphy; Hammer users have Buckle Artistry. Most such skills are optional, but will give you an important burst of power if you invest in them.


There will be many, many more noncombat skills in the final game.

I can't say exactly how many skills will be in the final game – the design has hundreds more skills, although when I go to implement these designs they tend to clump together -- but it will be lots! And we'll add more skills as well with the bimonthly updates after the game is released.

You aren't intended to learn all the skills yourself -- at least, not in a reasonable time frame -- and at higher levels, specialized sub-skills will further differentiate what each player knows how to craft, thus promoting a vibrant player-trade economy.


There will be more ways to enhance gear and abilities.

At higher level there will be many more ways to improve your character's combat abilities, including sentient weapons, "master" versions of abilities, and new kinds of protection. These are relatively easy things to add after we get the basics hammered out a bit more.


Food and drink are expected to be used by every player.

It isn't always obvious right now due to balance problems, but the final game will be balanced around the idea that you are regularly using food and drink of appropriate quality level. ("Snacks" are optional and won't be factored into the balance.)

It's really important for the game economy that players consume these items regularly. In fact, their exact purpose is less important than the fact that they're needed! So we may change what they do to make food more important.


There will not be instanced dungeons.

The game's server tech simply doesn't support instanced dungeons. An indie MMO engine has to choose its features very carefully, and this is a design decision we made very early in development.

The reason we made that trade-off is that I like shared dungeons better than instanced dungeons anyway. The play experience is different -- for instance, instead of hanging out in town Looking For Group to play through a particular dungeon start to finish, you are more likely to start by heading for the dungeon itself. These are big, BIG dungeons -- many of the existing dungeons will end up being several times larger in the final game – with a more organic flow that makes it easy to join up with other players in a less formal pickup group. The large spread-out design of the dungeon allows you to keep going for as long or as short as you want, and if someone needs to leave early you can find or join other players right within the dungeon.

It definitely has pros and cons (compared to instanced dungeons), but when they're working well, community dungeons are a really great experience.


Spawners will be smarter.

We are experimenting with more intelligent spawners that can scale a bit better to the number of players in an area.


Getting free levels and loot won't be as trivial.

Tagging along with higher-level players for free loot is not something we've worried about yet -- because alpha – but it won’t be something you can do in the final game.

Similarly, we'll need to limit players' ability to "zerg" an encounter by attacking in huge numbers. Manticore encounters, for instance, are designed for 3-4 players. Right now players can make these encounters extremely trivial by attacking in groups of 10 or more.

Problems like these, as well as addressing how loot is distributed, how "level twinking" works, and whether dungeons need accessibility gates or other restrictions, are questions that we'll tackle in beta, not during alpha.



Race Details


For the standard races, you can level up your racial traits.

The three existing playable races – humans, elves, and Rakshasa -- have very minor racial traits to start, but you will be able to "level up" your traits, adding some additional benefits and penalties. This will be entirely optional.

For example, elves are a very clean race. All elves get a small XP bonus when they stay clean and a small XP penalty when they get dirty. If you level up your elven racial traits, those benefits and penalties will become a bit more pronounced -- and you will even start to see "stink lines" coming off of other players when they're especially filthy. (Other benefits and penalties will be unlocked as well; this is just one example.)


There will be three more races.

The additional races are orcs, fairies, and dwarves. Unlike the existing playable races, these races are intended for more experienced players, not complete newbies. They will need to be unlocked via quests – although the quests are around level 30, so you only need to learn the basics of the game to unlock these races.

The advanced races also have more pronounced racial features, and their racial features are already “leveled up” as soon as you start playing. For instance, fairies have the racial attribute of flight -- which is pretty great! -- but there are some pretty big downsides as well. (Things we can’t reveal yet!) You can't opt out of the stranger racial traits; being a fairy is a package deal.



Skill-Specific Details


The Battle Chemistry skill is likely to change a lot.

All the other combat skills can be leveled to 60 now, but not Battle Chemistry. That's because it's likely to change a lot -- maybe even split into two different skills. The problem is that it's too diverse: it does a lot of different things, but none of them very deeply.The programmable golem has a lot of potential that I want to bring out, the mutagens are interesting and could be really fun with a bit more sophistication, and this skill was originally supposed to have the "best area-effect attacks in the game", too. But it can't do all of that stuff at once, and trying to do all of it half-assedly results in a clunky skill with identity issues.


Animal Husbandry is in the works.

You will be able to breed and raise new pets and mounts, and sell them to others if you wish. Some of the in-game pet stats that are currently under-utilized (such as Enthusiasm and Happiness) will be involved in animal husbandry. There will be many other kinds of pets to tame and breed, as well.

Animal Husbandry is quite time-consuming -- it can take a week of real time for a baby animal to gestate -- so this is probably something you'd do as a side-activity, not as your main "profession".


There will be "specialty" versions of many combat skills.

As an example, Sword will (tentatively) have Greatsword and Rapier specialties. You can raise both specialties if you like, but you can only use one at a time.

These specialty skills provide new abilities while still letting you use a portion of the main skills' abilities. For instance, the Greatsword skill provides you with some new heavy-hitter attacks, as well as letting you use traditional Sword abilities like Finishing Blow and Decapitate. The Rapier skill has new utility abilities, but you can also use classic Sword abilities like Parry and Debilitating Blow.

Specialty variants like this will give us some more ways to specialize. Off-handed daggers, axes instead of hammers, crossbows instead of bows ...



Everything Else


There will eventually be a "breath bar" when underwater.

The current system (using Metabolism) is just a quick solution while the new GUI is being made.


There will be mounts.

Horses first, and others over time. There are several horse-related skills involved in caring for your mount and maximizing its benefits.


Players' current ability to get an insanely high run-speed will be nerfed.

But to avoid inconveniencing people too much, we're delaying most of those nerfs until mounts are ready to go.


Item storage will be more convenient

As an example, you'll be able to access all the storage-boxes in a city from one place. These sorts of convenience features are postponed until the new GUI is finished.


There will be more inventory pack space.

... and more convenient ways to organize your items into bags.


There will be lots of ways to travel.

Beyond just riding a horse, turning into a bird, etc., there will be several other modes of transportation.


There will be housing.

Housing will be pretty basic at first, but after the game has launched we'll make it nicer and more elaborate in the bimonthly updates. Most housing will be instanced, meaning that when you enter the door to your house you're transported into a private little house interior that's exclusively for you.

(If you're wondering how we can have instanced housing but not instanced dungeons, this is a special case. The server can handle instances where no combat is allowed. So you won't be able to fight monsters inside your house! But you'll be able to craft and shop and have visitors and much more.)

Guild halls will have a shared-world public area (where guilds can set up vendors, for instance), as well as a private backroom area for guild members only.


A bunch of the game's data is available to third-party website developers.

Like most MMOs, it is against our terms of service to data-mine the game client, because that's considered reverse-engineering it. But that data can be really helpful in creating third-party support websites that really enhance a game. Most games just turn a blind eye to data-miners... instead, I wanted to make their job easier without making them break our TOS. So most of the game-client data is available as JSON files, including item descriptions, ability info, leveling curves, recipes, and treasure effects. These JSON files are auto-generated with each update of the game, so they are always up to date. The game's icons are also uploaded to our CDN periodically, so fan sites can reference them directly. The documentation on all this is a bit lacking (cough... very lacking...) but I'll improve that soon with a how-to document.

An example of a cool fan-made site is Gorgon Explorer.


There will be a special "chat API"

This API will let programmers connect the game's chat with other chat services. I envision the main use being connecting guild chatrooms to other chat services such as IRC. But it can also provide lots of other benefits.

Guildmasters will be able to connect outside chat services to their guild chat. We'll see how things develop from there. (For instance, since players can create custom chat rooms, we might let players attach chat services to those custom chat rooms.)

I mention this feature for completeness because we've talked about it before, but it's been delayed until the beta, so it won't happen for a while.


There will be bards. And vampires. And mail birds. Weather Witches. Two more animal curse forms before the game launches...

And a lot of other stuff! But this is about 2500 words too long as it is, so we'll just stop here. If you have questions or comments, please post them in the forum here.


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