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[Shards Online] Massively's First Look
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FreedomShot
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Massively's first look at sandbox Shards Online

by MJ Guthrie on Apr 29th 2014 3:00PM
Trailers, Video, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, New Titles, Miscellaneous, Sandbox



How many games have you played only to find yourself uttering the phrase, "If only I could run my own server"? Chances are, there at least one or two titles you''d love to make into a private playground for select friends using your own personal ruleset. Lucky for you, in Shards Online, you'll be able to do precisely that!

Announced last month, this upcoming sandbox by former Mythic Entertainment devs is built on the premise that players will run the majority of the virtual worlds how they want to. Do you want a fantasy world where you can boot those who ruin immersion? You got it! What about the ability to take over mobs and fight the players while spouting personalized comments? Yup, that too. What if you want a hardcore world where survival is for the fittest? Mm-hmm, starving to death is an option, as is permadeath. And how about a world where gameplay unfolds around players as they explore rather than offers questing on rails?

That's the theory behind the game. But how do these ideas hold up in practice? Last week I sat down with Citadel Studios co-founder Derek Brinkmann to witness a demonstration of Shards Online and talk all about the plans for the game. And what I saw certainly looks promising! So if this idea tantalizes your gaming taste buds, keep reading to get the scoop. I've even added a teaser video.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zkPotPfg7uE

How will player-run worlds work?

Brinkmann, who was a lead developer for Ultima Online for seven years, explained that the eponymous shards are personally run worlds. These shards can be individual because every one is an alternate reality. The shard itself is a relatively small area, currently built to sustain 34 players; the plan is to have shards that can support 64 players, although there is also consideration for shards that can hold up to 128 players. Shards have different maps, meaning there is a variety of terrains that owners can utilize.

Obviously, that doesn't sound very massive. The massively multiplayer part of this MMO is found in the fact that shards can be connected to one another through clusters. Players then can travel between all shards in a cluster through gates. Clusters, which can have thousands of players, run standard rulesets (PvP, RP, etc.) and even custom ones. Although a single player can control a cluster composed of many personal shards or shards belonging to others, Brinkmann said the devs see clusters as something run more often by gaming communities. Perhaps a guild wants to make their perfect fantasy setting and makes its own system for members to enjoy. Or perhaps a multigaming community wants to make a large world open to anyone. There are many possibilities, especially when you take into account modding!

If you know anything about modding in such games as Skyrim, then you've got an idea of how it will work in Shards. Shard owners can customize the game to fit their playstyle. Don't like an update that the devs dish out? No problem -- don't implement it. Brinkmann elaborated:
"It just makes sense to let [players] mod the game as well. This allows players to decide how they want to play the game by picking a cluster that suits their playstyle. With the custom rules, there are many layers to the modifications that you can make to the game. You can create very simple mods without knowing any scripting and just doing some simple tweaks, or you can go all the way down into our scripting engine and completely change the game. You can create new skills, new abilities -- you can wipe the entire game and create your own stories and your own monsters. You can go crazy with it!"
What about those who don't want to join any of the player-run worlds because they don't find any good fits with rulesets, because they are waiting to create their own, or because they just prefer how the company runs things? Those folks will have a place to play as well! Brinkmann told me, "Shards is a complete game. The official rules that we will provide [make up] a complete game with its own stories, its own gameplay, and everything." He added that Citadel will host a few clusters with different rulesets as well.

Because of the variation in rulesets, players who want to move to a different cluster will have to actually re-roll, just as if they were changing to play on a different server in a standard game. That way no one can become super powerful on a shard/cluster with relaxed rules and then decimate others on one that has a harder set. On the same note, if you want to change your shard's cluster, you'll have to make a new shard; you can't just move it between clusters.



What good is owning a shard if no one wants to get on it to play, right? Keeping in mind that the current state of Shards Online is, as Brinkmann put it, somewhere between a prototype and an alpha, these are the tidbits of info and impressions I picked up from my live demonstration.

The game itself is fixed isometric, so all those who are comfortable with games like Diablo and Marvel Heroes will be pretty fluent with the controls. According to Brinkmann, it'll control a bit like Diablo, but the combat resembles traditional MMO combat more, utilizing timing and tactics as opposed to being a clickfest. The ability hotbar is actually broken into two different sections, with those based on learned skills (yup -- it's skill-based!) on the right and those based on current equipment on the left.

During the demonstration, Brinkmann showed off many of Shards Online's sandbox features. If you want to see what a merchant has for sale, you don't pull up an interface; you look at his cart and in his boxes! And by look, I mean rummage through visually because again there is no interface, just the container or shelf. The inventory pack is currently the same, but Brinkmann admitted that it gets hard to find things when they are all piled on top, so the devs are looking to change at least the inventory space to a slotted interface that can be organized.

You can also get stuff by making it. If you want to make a spear, you need to collect the necessary items and then craft it. Each item you recover from the world will have a list of items that can be crafted from it.



You can even whip a crafting bench out wherever you are and make your items, leaving it for others to use or picking it back up. This is actually quite useful on shards where players can actually starve to death because you need to make a knife to get the meat from a deer -- after you hunt and kill it, of course -- in order to eat! In another interesting twist, avatars do not like raw meat (go figure), and so players will have to cook it by making a campfire, all before perishing!

One of the best perks of the game is the ability to participate in player-generated content. Not only is there housing that players can place anywhere and decorate any way they like, but players can be a part of a dynamic storyline. How? Well, server administrators are the gods of their respective servers. Shard owners can play in player mode along with everyone else or in god-mode, where they can run around invisible at fast speeds, appear as different things (from a ball of light to a giant elemental), spawn items in the world (even giving them a decay timer so they disappear if not picked up), and take control of NPCs to give players a uniquely personal experience. If you've been itching to try your hand at virtual world DMing, it looks as if your time is coming.

When asked when players might be able to jump into Shards Online, Brinkmann said that plans are to invite more testers to the game before the end of the year. Current players testing out the demo can kill stuff, use skills, loot, and equip things, but there is definitely more to do, including making new maps and adding graphical effects. "We haven't quite hit our graphical target," Brinkmann explained. "There's a lot of polish that still needs to be done to get us to the standard that we want to hold to for our game."

http://massively.joystiq.com/2014/04/29/massivelys-first-look-at-sandbox-shards-online/

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Wed Apr 30, 2014 2:37 pm View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail AIM Address Yahoo Messenger MSN Messenger ICQ Number
OmegrAve
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Holy shit. If they pull this off, really pull this off it'll be nothing short of...I don't know, revolutionary.

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Totally. I find it difficult to imagine though.

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Post Re: [Shards Online] Massively's First Look Reply with quote
FreedomShot wrote:
upcoming sandbox by former Mythic Entertainment devs


I didn't have to read anymore than that. I'm interested, very. :D

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FreedomShot wrote:
Totally. I find it difficult to imagine though.


I can actually see this working, it kind of reminds me how how Guild Wars 1 worked; communal hub with everyone but when you went adventuring you had your own private version of the zone for just your team.

I mean look at WoW or any mainstream MMO I guess; you do most of the levelling stuff solo and only group for the dungeons and group content. Do you really need other players in the levelling zones with you? Once you get past that hurdle, customising the world to your preferences becomes a lot easier.

We all wanted multiplayer Skyrim, would TESO have been better without all the players crammed into the same area together? I dunno, but I can see this one working

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It failed kick starter and I missed the open weekend. Anyone try it?

It does look interesting. If it works on a touch screen tablet then I would def play.

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Mon Jun 16, 2014 7:53 am View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail AIM Address Yahoo Messenger MSN Messenger ICQ Number
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I am DLing the client as I write

Early Alpha for backers only.

Reasonably excited.

I will update. On fashioned games are growing on me. Just not "Rogue Style fuck you in the ass"

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Got my fingers crossed on this one Freedom, hope it realises the potential.

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Its funny because this is essentially the current state of Ultima Online. Most people avoid the Mythic/EA servers because they don't like the current rule set, instead playing on older rulesets from back in early 2000 where there where no safe areas and everyone played on the same facet. (i.e. anyone could attack anyone outside of cities)

I wish this was also had an isometric viewpoint though, I think that works the best for games of this nature but alas..

I may give this one a spin if its sandbox fantasy, much better than sandbox space.
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Not sure I like the MOBA style pvp in this one.

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Kirbs wrote:

I wish this was also had an isometric viewpoint though, I think that works the best for games of this nature but alas..

I may give this one a spin if its sandbox fantasy, much better than sandbox space.


Have seen the screenshots? It is isometric. And it is fantasy.

I did not get on as the test was only 5 hours and I was asleep....FFS 5 hours. My ass is 5 hours.

Your flaming asshole is 5 hours For Fuckers Crackers UP MY ARSE 5 hours.

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So this is now in Alpha version 3 and getting better. It is the most Ultima like game I have played outside of Ultima but last time I checked in it still needed a lot of work.

The idea is that you can visit multiple shards (worlds) with your persistent character, these shards can be Dev made or player made like in Sword Coast.

I think it is worth keeping on the radar if you like RPGs, isometric semi MMOs.

If you do end up getting the urge then please use the referral code below:

http://shardsonline.com/pledge/?referral=7c-5e88

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Thought I would give this a bash to see what its like, it basically is ultima online. I'm kind of disappointed that there is a 32 player limit. I don't really feel 32 players is a big number considering the basics of the game, I'm pretty sure it should be at least 64 , maybe even 128.

I really love the game play though,its so raw and scary. I always loved mining in UO and this brings back big memories. But its weird, there is literately 8 servers and only one of them is full. Surely a game like this would have more beta testers?
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mdk
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I love the look of this, but why only 32 players? Is it because it's Alpha?

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There are 128 player servers as well that might not be up yet but I have seen them.

I am not sure what the final limit will be but it is a lot higher than 32.

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