El Somni Quas developers issue a design manifesto

    
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We introduced El Somni Quas to you last week — it’s an old school sandbox created by an indie team in the Czech Republic. But that team is keenly aware of some of the genre’s stereotypes and assumptions about indie projects and Ultima Online-inspired sandboxes in particular. Jiří Wallenfels, producer of the ESQ project, sent Massively Overpowered a copy of its planned manifesto to try to explain just what it is ESQ is all about and why this indie crew thinks it can pull off what so many others have not. We reproduce it today with Wallenfels’ permission.

A lot of people ask us, what revolutionary or new features do we bring? In general when coming up with a product you have two options that work: Either bring some revolutionary new idea and do your best or take existing ideas and implement them better than those before you. To give some examples, Minecraft is truly revolutionary and successful. On the other hand iPhone also caused somewhat of a revolution, but it is not revolutionary idea. Apple simply took already existing ideas (some older than a decade) and did perfect composition, far better than any other before. Apple has been doing this for over two decades and it still works.

We have seen plenty of innovative gaming ideas in our genre, and it is almost always a fail because these innovations are brought only to showcase the innovation and are ignoring basic gaming principles. The trend is to give everything to players as fast as possible without any obstacles; the trend is to dazzle and impress. This causes a big fluctuation of players as a consequence of short game play time. Players flock to new ideas, as they are dished out generously and rewards are quickly available and are ever so shiny. These games are then invariably abandoned with the same haste, to the despair and surprise of creators. How is it possible, then, that old and significantly more hardcore and less dazzling games are still running for years and years with very loyal communities? These projects should long be dead according to the current paradigm of gaming. Nowadays innovative creations are usually running successfully for few short months and then they are forgotten with the playerbase collapsing rapidly. Let’s simplify a little bit and sum it like this: If you can max your character in 2 weeks, you become bored with the game. The bigger the challenge, the bigger the satisfaction when you finally manage to achieve it. And this is the driver for real players, driver that lasts.

We do believe that good gaming concept will never become obsolete, so we have chosen to take principles we liked from games we enjoy and make a composition that fills demand currently present in the niche MMO market. Why invent a squared wheel to bring some new concept if there is such an obvious gap? There is no fantasy sandbox + FFA + loot + PKs MMO (that we like so much) immune to simplifying trends. We know that no commercial company will or even can ever do such a game because community that would welcome it is relatively minor and it would never ever repay the incredible amount of money necessary to commercially produce such game. But in our team we are able to do such game with far lower budget. It of course places some limitations on us, but nothing with impact on gameplay, and that is what is going on.

Now you ask what makes us think that we can indeed produce such game? Well, we do have one big advantage. Since 2002 we are have running a FFA Ultima Online shard. It is using Ultima Online principles (sandbox, FFA, loot, PKs), but it has a completely custom exp/level/class/race system with hundreds of spells, abilities, PvP rewards, multiple players ritual spells, complex magic item systems, and so on. We have the system, the ruleset, and an economy model that has been improved, tuned, fine-tuned, and honed for over 13 years of its existence. And we know it works; it has kept its faithful players for years and years. In essence, our goal is to transfer this system to modern 3-D environment and add some improvements and tuning because of that switch to 3-D (most significant would be “no tabulator” combat), but we really don’t have to tune exp gain, drop from monsters, PvP rewards/system rules, craft system difficulty, overall gaming risk/reward ratio, etc., because this is already done and proven by 13 years and cca 30,000 players who played on our server during those years.

From the project management point of view, we have an absolutely clear scope, and we know precisely what we want to do. Everybody who was leading development of similar gaming projects knows that a huge amount of time is spent by discussion on how this and that will actually work, what will fighters do, how much experience will you gain, and so on, and after that it takes still takes years to tune these numbers to not have critical issues in game balance and game economy. We don’t have to do this; it’s done and tested. We only need to tune in the changes caused by switch to 3-D. Also, we have the core team who built one online game already and was able to sustain it for those long years.

We are not resurrecting the old game as many of you thought; rather, we are resurrecting the old school principles (sandbox, FFA, loot, PKs, death exp loss, non-linear dungeons, overall gaming challenge) but in custom and up-to-date system.

We also know very well that such gaming style is not for everybody, so we will not try to attract mainstream players. We want to attract players who like games with challenge and adrenaline where your gaming skill really counts, not just the level of your character and time you spent grinding mindlessly.

[Source: ESQ dev missive]

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Draugris
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Draugris

Hmm they say “because community that would welcome it is relatively minor” and i think with 30.000 players on their servers over 13 years, they are right. This is a niche game.I don´t know if i would play something like that, FFA full loot pvp breeds a horrible community. The spirit of ultima online is gone for a long time, players changed, things like server / realm pride are gone and the attitude of people also changed for the worse. What can be done well be done not for a reason but for the lulz. I´am fed up with those cyber bullies only brave in a 5vs1 or when outgearing the opponent..

Lethality
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Lethality

Craywulf Lethality You can keep saying whatever you like, RPGs are progression-centric, and having visible levels adds to that experience for players. It’s a core tenet of the genre. You may be wasting your time expecting otherwise.

Macros
Guest
Macros

Craywulf Lethality Progress is hidden in any RPG. No matter if behind experience, or training skills. Result is very similar. Quality and fun factor of system depends on its designers. Leveling, or skills are not good or bad, only implementations are. Reason, why so many MMOs are failing nowdays is wrong understanding what is MMO. Companies are trying to make MMOs as much casual as possible and failing again and again. MMO is different kind of game, you are not playing it on mobile 20 seconds a day. MMO which have potential to keep players for decade cant be casual. And it is upon creators, which audience they want to target and what is their business model. Make game, attract mainstream, earn money as fast as possible and close it in one year. So you make everything simple, pay for win model etc…Or you want to have game with stable community and have smaller, but stable income for decade, then you have to offer some values.

Craywulf
Guest
Craywulf

Lethality I suggest you reread my posts, leveling =//= MMOs. Only people like you and Macros are convinced that its proper MMO progression mechanic. There’s going come a time when the industry changes this because the casual market outweighs the hardcore grinders. It will happen, its just a matter of time.

Lethality
Guest
Lethality

Craywulf Macros One way or another, you’re leveling in a game. Wether it’s visible to you or not, it’s going to happen if you’re playing a proper RPG. 
Besides, it’s not leveling… it’s just “playing the game” – if you like the game, there shouldn’t be an issue.

Craywulf
Guest
Craywulf

Macros Dude let it go. I am totally okay with dismissing a product in development. My attitude is based on my limited experience with MMO genre and what I know of it thus far. So thanks for educating me about UO. I never sad I played UO, andvyesbi would say I have about a decade of MMO experience having played Everquest briefly, both Guild Wars games, City of Heroes, Tabula Rasa, and had trial run of EVE as well as Warcraft. I am sure I am missing some others. I think over the last 10 years I’ve tried  at least 25 MMOs. So I think I have pretty good understanding of why I have such strong dislike (not hate) for leveling.

Macros
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Macros

Craywulf Macros OK, so you hate UO, but it came out you never played it, you even didnt know, that it has skill system. You hate some new game based on information, it has exp system. Nobody have seen it yet, but you already know, which flaws it will have. Such attitude really decreases value of your opinions, one would guess what else you didnt play, but you are making statements like you played it for decade.

Craywulf
Guest
Craywulf

Macros Do you really think after all this time I spent dismissing this game that I am going to play it? No thanks.

spacetail
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spacetail

You know you can integrate consequences into the game mechanics instead of relying on players to enforce them. The dishonor system in vanilla wow is a good example of this, a flawed one, but a good one that proves devs can do something about it.
Bounty boards, stacking debuffs and unfriendly NPCs are just a few ways a game could discourage senseless griefing. It still gives players the choice to engage in it, but at a cost.

spacetail
Guest
spacetail

I know what you said. My point is the system can’t be that bad if it held down players for that long. It seems like a good way to craft the mmo these guys want to make- very niche.
If they tune their costs to accomodate 20k~10k players it will be a success. The issue with big MMOs focusing on archaic systems is that they expect to attract many more players than that.
I do think theres a small pocket of players out there that can make this a success.