Factions: Origins of Malu’s early access launch and interview


Origins of Malu has certainly had a long, bumpy road to launch. Showing up on our radar back in August 2011, this title has weathered two engine changes (each necessitating starting over), unsuccessful cowdfunding ventures, and even a name change as the design changed to offer the battlegrounds first. And this past Friday, at the very last minute, the team learned that the launch would be further delayed because of something beyond its control on Steam’s end. But that’s behind the game now, and the first iteration of the game with battlegrounds is live today.

Throughout the whole process, the team has been dedicated to bringing this game to life, going so far as to keep funding it out of pocket throughout the journey. We sat down with founder Michael Dunham to talk about why the additional wait was needed, what players can expect now, and when the full MMO is coming out.

Why another wait?

With so many delays over the years, it’s easy to just expect a few more as par for the course and then wonder whether the devs’ efforts will ever even come to fruition. At points along the way I am sure many folks keeping tabs on the game had the “vaporware?” thought flit through their heads at least once. Dunham acknowledged that delays are costly in many ways: fans, faith, funds. He knows that fans could definitely lose hope at seeing anything real. In spite of that, he is confident that the delays have all been for the betterment of the overall game, and he hopes fans will see that when they get in and try it out now.

The second-to-last delay was actually intended to take advantage of the upgrade in the unreal engine, forcing the team to push back the launch. While players won’t necessarily see all that the update entails behind the scenes, Dunham believes players will appreciate having it. This previous weekend’s completely unexpected Steam delay, however, was quite the kicker (insert kick-a-Burning-Dog-while-it’s-down joke here). It was more than unforeseen; it presented itself literally just at launch-time and was out of Burning Dog Media’s hands.

The team has definitely had a tough go of it, but Dunham told me, “We are in this for the long haul.” He hopes players can see how committed the team is to the game by how it’s powered through all the difficulties, including ponying up for the costs of development. Yes, the road has been rocky, but now players finally have something to get in and play!

Playing battlegrounds today

The Origins of Malu of today is not the same as when it was first introduced. It’s only a piece of that, and it’s better. As Dunham explained, “It’s a new engine, new game, new approach.” To start, the game is coming out in stages, with the first one being the team-death-match type battleground. This is the version that is accessible now through Steam’s Early Access program for $19.99. Dunham emphasized that players should not think this is the final version; he was quick to point out that folks who want to be a part of strictly the MMO should wait. The MMO is still coming (and sooner than many might expect!); the team just wanted to launch with the basics now so players could get their hands on a part of the game and be able to offer feedback.

So what can players who are jumping in at this launch expect? First off, early access players can expect to have their voices heard in terms of development direction. Dunham said, “If you don’t like things, we are going to be there listening.” He emphasized that the team will be actively watching and considering the feedback that players supply.

A real shocker to some might also be the fact that at the moment there is no permanence! Each time you join a battle, you create a new character.
Gameplay-wise, early access players will be relegated to only one part of the map – the wastes – which is essentially the center. Each successive release of content will move that zone line out in concentric circles. All races are currently available, although the female version of the Qulinta is not quite ready. A real shocker to some might also be the fact that at the moment there is no permanence! Each time you join a battle, you create a new character. However, persistence of characters coming in the next month or so. Dunham said the inventory and looting systems are both almost ready to go too. There’s a lack of customization, but that’s also on the docket, and lots of it. Achievements are also on the way.

Dunham told me, “We don’t want people to walk away feeling ripped off; we’re committing ourselves to a fast development cycle.” There’s a full early-access road map that details the brisk two-week-sprint schedule that Burning Dog is adhering to. (Fun fact: Astute Futurama fans may notice that the releases are all named after characters in the order you meet them in the show’s pilot!)

The full-shebang MMO

The third stage of early access is where the MMO starts to come into play. Dubbed Bender, this release includes the player building prototype. This major update has been given the planned release date of April 20th. Other aspects, like enhanced character customization and quests, will come in the following Professor phase. Early Access players will have the chance to test all these systems and offer feedback.

Come launch, how much will everything cost? The payment model will be buy-to-play – “no matter what,” says Dunham – with an optional subscription, which he notes will be under $10.00. For those who don’t want to sub, there will be limitations, like how many lives a character has in a given time frame, but there will never be any limitations in content. Dunham shared an idea under consideration: Unsubscribed players might be able to play as a creature while waiting for their life allotment to replenish. Those who play only as B2P might also have construction timers when it comes to things like housing, but all aspects of the housing system will be available.

Those who want to play only the MMO might still be interested in considering early access. Those who do purchase the early access are buying the entire game (yes, that means the MMO when it comes out) as well as one month of sub time. There’s also the chance to test the MMO elements come the Bender phase. The cost of the game itself might still increase from the early access price, but it’s not a given. Dunham said game pricing will be driven by a fair cost model.

“The past project is dead. Factions: Origins of Malu is a brand-new game.”
There have been folks who have questioned why those who participated in past betas are not currently testing the game now. Why should those players pay for early access if they were “promised” future beta tests? It’s because there is no more beta, says Dunham. He told me that the past project was a beta, as opposed to this launch, and the past project is dead. Factions: Origins of Malu is a brand-new game. As he put it, “This is different because you are getting retail copy of the game on release now, and those old free test accounts from years ago were just for testing at that point and time.”

Anyone interested in the game now can pick it up on Steam. Those who want to check it out a little before committing can keep an eye on OPTV and watch us stream battleground gameplay live with a dev on Thursday, March 26th, at 2:00 p.m. EDT.

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