For those who might not be familiar with the game, can you tell us a little bit about Mortal Online?
Mortal Online is a first-person sandbox MMO set in a believable fantasy environment. Although the game is not necessarily about PvP, its core is built around player skill and PvP as opposed to experience points, levels and a PvP-mode glued on top. Mortal Online revolves around player-to-player interaction more than solo-journeys and quests; it has full loot, sandbox crafting, housing and very seldom follows the streamlined design-rules and automated systems of modern cookie-cutter MMO's. In short, it's a niche skill-based fantasy game for a mature audience. The game is currently in Beta stage with nearly 10.000 accounts.
It's very difficult to describe Mortal Online in a few sentences as it is very different from most of the MMOG's out there. Now please understand I don't use that cliché for marketing purposes, it simply is a niche game that some will like because of its unique approach and some won't because it's too different from their style of play or what they are used to. The game does not necessarily build on or "learn" from the errors or the steps taken by big-name MMO's; it's designed from scratch simply because we want to evaluate each design-choice from the questions:
* How does it affect player skill and player interaction?
* Is it believable and immersive?
* While staying true to the above, what's our take on it and how do we make it fun?
It's very easy to see that many of the systems in modern MMO's are there to actually take away from the amount of player skill and player-to-player (PtP) interaction needed, whether it is minimaps, auto-maps, levels, quests, auto-loot, auto-loot-distribution, auction-houses, global chat etc. It makes them fun and gives them a flow, but it also makes them casual as anyone can play without much thought (and that's also where the big money is). Now obviously we want Mortal Online to be fun to play and successful, but we're not ready to make compromises on our design principles: Player Skill, Player Interaction and PvP, Immersion and Believability. Therefore a lot of the features one would expect to see in a modern MMO are different, or we have simply removed them.Why the decision to make the game fully first person POV?
There are several reasons behind this decision. During the prototyping of the game we experimented a lot with different view-options, but it soon turned out that the aim-based combat we strived for was next to impossible to implement in third-person view without a lot of immersion-breaking graphical gizmos (Mortal Online is aim-based and features several hit zones just like Age of Chivalry, Unreal etc.) Furthermore it became close to impossible to sneak up on people for stealing from or an ambushing them, it became too easy to look around corners etc and all this took away a lot of the tactical elements of the game not to mention immersion. Additionally, I personally wanted a game where I didn't feel like I was watching my character and giving orders by pressing buttons; I wanted to be the character.
In the end we went all-in on first-person view and built the game around it; from aiming in combat, first-person footsteps synched to movement, double-vision when getting exhausted, blood and sweat in your eyes, first-person spell-effects etc, to mounting a horse by taking the reins and getting tunnel vision at high speeds. This is also fundamentally different from MMO's that offer a "first-person view" by zooming the camera all the way in, where you just feel like a bodiless levitating camera and get a ton of graphical glitches as the game is not meant to be played that way.
Many people, some of them on our forums, say they like third-person view more and want us to include an option for it. Although I do understand them it would become impossible to balance out the differences between the two modes due to the reasons stated above. I also think that request has to do with the play-style of the games they have previously played in third-person and the assumption that Mortal Online is somewhat like those games. It isn't, and to me it's like suggesting a third-person view for Counterstrike; it would perhaps work if you solved the aiming-issue, but it would nevertheless be a totally different game.Are you concerned that as an independent development studio looking to break into the MMO market that your game will be overshadowed by big studio games?
No. Mortal Online is a niche game and we don't see ourselves as competitors to the big names out there. To be big you have to have mass-appeal, and to have that you will have to cater to casual players, in turn meaning lowering the difficulty of everything from combat, PvP and crafting, and introduce a whole dimension of solo-play features such as quests and story progression, not to mention easy-to-understand concepts like levels and classes. And that's the opposite of our game.
Instead we hope to attract a core audience and grow slow but steady by delivering something different, and I come to think of EVE Online that I have very much respect for. I do think we will have an initial inflow of players (small for the other companies but big to us) from other games wanting to test our game, but I honestly think most of them will go back to whatever it was they played before. We hope to be able to keep those who are looking for sandbox game play, PvP based on player skill, or simply something genuinely different - but those who just want another cookie-cutter MMO with different graphics (this time set in first-person) will probably be disappointed.
Can you tell us about the advancement system in Mortal Online?
Mortal Online has no levels or generic experience points, only skills. You advance by practising your skills, by using them in the game. At the same time we want new players to be able to actually make a difference early on, so the so called Primary Skills won't take much time (approximately a week or so) to fully master. When this is done you are fighting on the same terms as anyone else, character-skill-wise. Now, as combat in Mortal Online has a lot to do with player-skill you will probably have to practise a lot longer before you can compete in a one-on-one fight, just like in a FPS game, but at least there are no virtual numbers that decides the outcome of your battles, it's your own skill.
The Primary Skills are essentially keys that unlock Secondary Skills. There is a cap on the number of skill points for the Primary Skills, so you have to experiment with how to train (or re-train) your character as those decide which Secondary Skills you can use. The Secondary Skills are the bulk of the skill-tree and takes a lot longer to master. In everything that has to do with PvP they will only give you a slight edge in a one-on-one fight, but they will for instance let you use several different weapons, fight more opponents before resting, take better care of your weapons etc. Many of the Secondary Skills are not directly related to PvP, like gathering, crafting, taming etc.
This means that although there definitely is character advancement in the game (by character skills and getting better equipment), most of the advancement is based on playing experience and player skill. You have to experiment and learn which weapons suits your particular playing style as there are no "best" weapons. You have to experiment with skill-builds to do the same. And you will have to learn how to evaluate mobs and your opponents (as there are no levels) and how to fight different skill-builds and weapons. If you are into crafting, you will most probably be able to find a sub-set of a sub-set to specialize in and be famous for thanks to the multitude of possibilities in customization.Can you tell us how classes work in MO?
There are no classes in the game. I'd better say this first to avoid confusion, as by "classes" most people mean some kind of template you choose from the beginning of the game that also defines your character's options and progress in the game. And no, we don't have anything like that.
What we do have are certain "professions/careers/pursuits" you can choose to pursue in the game. I'd rather not call them classes. Basically, there are NPC Guilds (as in medieval confraternities of workers, i.e. a Tinkers' Guild, or secret societies) you can join if you fulfill their initial requirements. These organisations are not to be confused with player guilds or clans; you can of course be a member of both. Joining an organisation can give you a title and certain benefits, sometimes in the form of special abilities and/or skills. But at the same time you have to give up something, like the option to fully customize your skill-tree to your liking, money or time etc. It's definitely not always the "best" choice. This is a general and very basic description of how this concept will work, as you will have to find and explore these possibilities in the game yourself.Can you tell us how combat will work in Mortal Online?
Combat is initiated by drawing your weapon, meaning you enter combat mode. This is very seamless and simply means you enter your combat stance, where you will be slightly more protected at the cost of movement speed and more stamina drain when moving fast. This takes care of bunny-jumping and too fast circle-strafing. Combat on mount is the same as combat on foot; you have no virtual restrictions on what you can do or not on a mount, and your mount can also be trained, equipped, hurt, killed or stolen (and you can not put it in your pocket). Needless to say, mounts and mounted combat fill an important role in the game.
There is no "targeting"; the combat is aim-based and you charge and strike in the direction you want. Each character features several hit-zones or "hit boxes". As each hit box has its own armour part, there is no generic defence value or "AC" and that makes a huge impact on combat. Simply put, if your opponent lacks protection on his/her left arm that may be a good spot to aim for. Likewise, you may choose to use more flexible armour on your right arm to increase the speed of your strikes, but at the cost of protection. The hit boxes also means that you can do more damage by hitting your opponent's head and that you have a slight chance to disarm him/her if you land a blow on his/her sword-arm. Furthermore the weapons and shields have their own hit boxes; it's possible (and recommended) to actively block strikes by holding up and aiming your weapon and/or shield against your opponent's blow. Characters also have general collision, meaning you can block the path of your opponent and even push him/her.
Archery uses trajectories, meaning it's possible to shoot over walls or in fact straight up in the air hitting yourself in the head on the arrow's way down. The aiming-techniques for spells depend on what spell you want to cast. Some spells shoot in a straight line, some are like archery, some use a cone or a sphere for hit detection, others are projected onto a surface, while a few use targeting and are homing. However, we have chosen to only have a handful of important spells for direct PvP-combat. It's tempting to go wild and design a multitude of combat spells, however we want mage-duels to be about coordination, reaction and possible counters, and it's simply not possible to predict your opponent's next move if there are too many combat spells. Ultima Online is definitely our biggest inspiration here.
No targeting, first-person view, character collision and hit boxes also means tactical manoeuvres and training in groups becomes very important. You cannot have archers or mages randomly sending in projectiles or AOE's into the midst of battle as they risk hitting their own. Furthermore it's possible to really use the environment by taking advantage of line-of sight, choke points, terrain height etc.
MMORPG.com:PvP is going to be a major focus of the game. Can you tell us how that system will work?
The game has it's foundation in PvP, meaning both the rules around PvP as well as a purposeful, exiting PvP experience. Don't get me wrong here, it's not to say you have to PvP in the game, but I personally don't believe you can design a PvE game and then add some PvP features in afterwards and get a great result. Purposeful PvP inevitable has consequences on the whole game design and playing experience, and a big game always run the risk of scaring away its casual customers if that impact is too deep. Already by having full loot, we are steering Mortal Online into a niche genre.
So, the game has full loot, meaning if you die someone can loot all your equipment. You are also free to fight anyone anywhere. But there are also consequences, administered by the players themselves as well as a flagging system. The flagging system keeps track of your actions and sets your flag accordingly. If you for instance steal from or kill someone that's innocent (neutral) you will be flagged as a criminal or murderer. People can call the guards on you if you are in a guard zone, some NPC's won't trade with you etc. For murderers additional penalties apply. The flagging system is deep and very hard to explain by words, but pretty easy to grasp when playing.
It's also worth mentioning that guilds at war will not be affected by the flagging system. It's very possible to fight out your battles in a city, attacking and killing members of the opposing guild will not lead to a murder flag. You are still flagged if you attack other people though.
MMORPG.com:What tools will be available to guilds?
Guilds can be formed when someone owns a large enough house or building and then acquires and activates a Guild Stone. The guild stone (and building) then acts as the central point for the guild where members are accepted, promoted and titled. Declaring wars are made with the guild stone and it can also upgraded with more abilities such as guild chat. Guild property is administered by storage spaces such as chests, with the ability to set rights. There will be a lot more to guilds, especially when it comes to building upgrades, keeps and fortresses, but I'm afraid it's too early to talk about as many of these mechanics and sieging most probably won't be in at launch. We have decided on getting a solid foundation for one-on-one and group-vs-group combat before we move on to the next step, although a lot of it is planned and some aspects already tested.
What kind of options are available to players who might prefer to play solo?
I have mostly been talking about the PvP aspects of the game, but there are indeed a lot of features that has to do with solo-play. Gathering, refining, crafting and building are typical examples. The sandbox crafting is definitely worth mentioning, as the weapon crafting alone has over 142 million possible combinations of grips, handles, blades, heads and materials - not counting bows or shields. The armour crafting has even more options. Each piece and material has its own pros and cons and there's no such thing as a "best" weapon, not even a "best" sword, or a "best" short-sword. Instead players will have to try different compositions to suit their skills and playing style, and often discuss the various options with you as a blacksmith.
"Gathering" or "farming" in Mortal Online is also rather different. You actively have to hunt many animals as they will flee and not mindlessly attack any player in their vicinity. Also, neither bears nor terror birds drop gold or swords, and their value instead lie in meat, skin, teeth/beek and bone, if you have the skills necessary to skin and process them. Many creatures act in groups, and the more intelligent ones will use different tactics depending on who they fight and what happens to their group. Rare locations, items, creatures and ingredients will have to be searched for and that can be done alone or in small groups.
As the NPC vendors will only sell the most basic items and only very few creatures will drop crafted items, the crafting and economy is player-driven. There is a lot of money to be made in both crafting and trade, and logistics and transporting of goods (and defending these caravans) will be very important.
There are no regular "quests" in Mortal Online. There are however a lot of events, special places, artefacts, and rare creatures and beings in the world waiting to be discovered, used, protected or killed. Exploring the (map-less) world and finding the clues to these quests, puzzles or enigmas can often be made solo if you are prepared to take the risks.
Nothing of this is really solo-play, as eventually you will have to sell your masterpieces to other players to make money, or you will have to agree with another player to transport his or her goods someplace. Or you may have trained a skill to perfection and written some skill books that you need to sell to other players to get money. I do understand that a Massively Multiplayer Online Game doesn't have to be about people actually interacting online, but however strange it may sound this is what Mortal Online is about.
What, in your opinion, are the features that set Mortal Online apart from the competition?
If you've managed to read this far, I hope I've been able to shed some light on what those features are. We are not afraid our game won't stand out; rather we're afraid people will find it a bit too different ;)
For those of you who want to know more and get a better overview of the game, I can recommend the PowerPoint presentation at http://www.mortalonline.com/files/presentation/MortalOnlinePresentation.rar
(You don't need PowerPoint to watch it, just read the included .readme file on how to start it.)
I would also like to take the opportunity to mention that if you are quick you may still have a chance to pre-order a boxed or Digital Download version of the game. As a bonus the pre-orders give free access to the Beta all the way to launch, planned for Q4 this winter. Please see https://account.mortalonline.com
Thank you for reading, hope to see you in game!