PAX East 2017: Citadel Studios on Shards Online's switch to Legends of Aria
Big changes for MMOs frequently involve giving up almost as much as you gain. Not so with Legends of Aria, the not-actually-new title from Citadel Studios. Legends of Aria is Shards Online, you see, but it's also not Shards Online. It's everything you liked about Shards Online, but it's also placed into a larger context in which the ideas behind the game can have more space to develop and grow. If you liked the game before, you'll like it now, but if you didn't like the game before, you might think a bit more fondly of it once you see the changes.
The short version is that Legends of Aria has a robust "main" server set up. That means a large-scale map, plenty of things for players to go find, and a variety of different regions with different environmental effects. It is, in other words, a full-scale MMO which you can play as much as you'd like. But it's also a full-scale MMO that allows you to look at what the developers have done and say that you don't like it... and then make your own version of the game server.
We spoke to the folks from Citadel at this year's PAX East. Read on!
Legends of Aria features a larg-scale world with eight different large regions for players to explore, each with varying degrees of security. The game's official server will feature open PvP with a large safe region in the center, similar to high and low security concepts as found in games like EVE Online. A ring of guard towers clearly marks the boundary of the safe zones, so players will have no doubt about when they're leaving a safe region of the game.
Don't want to leave safety? That's fine; you can always buy stuff that other players gather from out in the world. Or you can form a group and head out there. You get the general idea. There is a significant amount of player freedom inherent to the game.
Of course, the problem is that the original Shards Online version of the game didn't effectively communicate what could be done in the game simply because it was so small. The very small servers as run by the team and players made it feel as if the game was very limited. The name change is meant to avoid doing the game a disservice; under the hood, it should all be very familiar to players of the existing alpha version.
And if there's something about the game you don't like? You can still change it. There's still full modding support for the game, ranging from the very simple options screen that allows for straightforward changes to fully rewriting the game. We took a look at one such Shards Online world, which turns the game into a class-based affair with extensive Lua scripting.
The game currently doesn't have an options screen for many of its server-wide variables, although that's planned for the future. But it's still straightforward and easy to configure. If you don't want PvP to be enabled? Turn it off. Want PvP but no looting? Same difference. Want to allow friendly players to be hit by abilities and AoE spells? You can turn that on. Want every player to start with quintupled health but lower movement speed? You get the idea.
Moreover, the game also is set up so you can decide how much of the game world you want running. If you're just hosting a small server for a few friends, you can just manually shift between regions as you go. If you're running a larger server? You can have everything running at once. It's all meant to be just as open to modding and customization.
So the short version is that Legends of Aria is still an MMO that allows players to mod and customize the game's ruleset to the owner's liking. It's just that now it allows players to have a much bigger world in the process. I don't know about anyone else, but that sounds like a bargain to me.