Shards’ project lead talks development, pay-for-mods, and more

    
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What’s up with Shards Online this week? Well, quite a bit according to project lead and Ultima Online veteran Derek Brinkmann. MassivelyOP recently caught up with the Citadel Studios founder to ask him about the sandbox title’s development roadmap, some new additions to the dev team, and his opinion on the game industry’s recent pay-for-mods controversy.

The full interview is just past the break!

unnamed (1)MassivelyOP: What did you think of the recent pay-for-mods controversy on Steam and such? With Shards shaping up to be heavily player-driven after launch, have you given any thought to potential monetization issues stemming from modders wanting to profit from their work?

Derek Brinkmann: I think it’s a great to give modders the opportunity to make some money from their hard work. There has actually been some spirited discussion about this subject on our forums. Honestly though, I don’t think most modders are out to profit from their creations. They just want to make something fun for others to enjoy.

In the case of Steam, it seemed that Valve was trying to profit from their hard work. This was a mistake because these content creators are a vital component to PC gaming. It’s one of the advantages they have over mobile or console platforms. If anything, Steam should be paying them!

In the case of Shards Online, we will be allowing communities to host servers that can support hundreds or even thousands of players. In this case, we are going to work to find a way where these admins can legitimately collect donations to help cover their server costs. It’s not exactly the same thing, but often times, these community servers will be running custom mods tailored specifically for their player base.

Concept_Tethys-Godess-Of-WaterWith Brett Robinson’s recent introduction, we’re wondering about the size of the Shards team at this point. Can you talk a little bit about the number of developers involved and whether or not you’re looking to grow the team in the near future?

It’s been great to bring on some additional people in the post-Kickstarter era. Brett Robinson brings a ton of valuable experience to the team. Not only has he been a content developer and systems designer on multiple titles (including one of my all-time favorites, Dark Age of Camelot), he also was heavily into modding Neverwinter Nights. Not to mention, he is really hyped about the project. That helps a lot!

In addition to Brett, we also brought on another programmer. His focus is primarily on coding the AI and new content for the points of interest on the Celador. Right now he is working on the graveyard and it gets spookier every day. From the lunatic groundskeeper to spider nests and ghostly heroes, it is really coming together. Oh yeah, he is also responsible for the back-talking cultist AI which is hilarious.

Right now we are actually happy with the size of the team for getting to alpha. When alpha is released and Shards Online is kicking butt, we hope to bring even more passionate people into the fold.

How’s the development roadmap looking? Are you still on track for the Celador preview this summer and Celador alpha in the fall?

Things are going great! We are a little behind getting the servers into the hands of our pre-alpha admins, but in other respects, we are way ahead. We’ve already let our playtesters into certain parts of the Celador map and the feedback has been amazing so far.

I’m confident we can get to alpha by the fall. At the same time, we are going to make sure we are ready to launch. Our top priority is that our Alpha is packed with enough fun and rewarding systems to draw people in and keep them engaged as we continue development.

Concept_Born-from-ChaosWhat’s been the most challenging aspect of Shards development so far in 2015? And the most rewarding?

The real challenge is juggling all of the development priorities we have going on at the same time. Right now we are working on getting the server into players’ hands, adding content to Celador, working on new systems like animal taming and housing, and building out the second map, Catacombs, all at the same time! On top of all of that, we are responding to issues and bugs that pop up during playtests. It’s not easy, but it’s amazing what you can pull off when every single member of the team is passionate about what they do.

The most rewarding aspect is, without hesitation, our community. Just when I think our community can’t get any better, someone does something to raise the bar. We have multiple people working on fansites, playtesters leaving pages of feedback in our private pre-alpha forums, and a great crowd in our IRC channel. We have over 200 people signed up to be the first to run community servers and I cannot wait to get it into their hands.

I know I sound like a broken record, but it is because of our passionate core community that this game is going to succeed. It’s never too late to join us either. We are accepting pledges on our product page right now. Even if you can’t pledge, you are welcome to join us babbling about Shards Online and everything else nerdy on our chat channel.

Thanks for your time!

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DarynGuarino
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DarynGuarino

I plan to run a private server for actual friends and family, but would love to cover my server costs and my time.  If I can get my people to pay me $X dollars per month to play on my server under my style of GMing and my rules and my world, give me that option.  And if the money collection is automated through the game, I am more than happy to give Shards a percentage of my take.  And, don’t kid yourselves, I’m going to try to do it via paypal or some other recurring charge service anyway (like I did with my old RunUO server back in the day) whether it is condoned and official or not.

The “you’re competing with the pros and they don’t charge” is not an argument.  The free servers cannot offer the solitude that my personal private server can.

If people are willing to support something/someone they enjoy, let them.  If people want free servers, not a problem, we have plenty.  Want a server with 24/7 GM support?  Great.  Want a server where the GMs barely exist?  Great.  My friends and family want something a little more exclusive, no creeps, no griefers, personalized GM support (when he has the time), only trusted players on the server, safe for our kids, plus my custom content and rules.

Bottom line is that my time, style, and effort as GM/coder plus my server costs have value that my friends are willing to pay.  If I can sell it, let me.

bensku
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bensku

Woo, more news about SO. This time the subjects are very important also.

blast tyrant
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blast tyrant

No problem with a paid mods setup if that is the deal going in, if everyone who intends to make a mod knows the score from the jump I don’t see any issues with it.   If Shards has anything close to the design freedom of something like Neverwinter Nights I’ll shower it in cash like my name was Fat Joe.

Armsbend
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Armsbend

I like all of the things this man says.

Damonvile
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Damonvile

dirtyklingon Kirin

hardy83
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hardy83

Kirin Oh yeah. That was totally the problemw ith paid mods on Steam, up, people wanting everything free, there was ZERO other issues with the system Valve implemented at all. NONE! >.>

omedon666
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omedon666

Another issue that’s relevant and important in the SO-specific “charge for access to my world” debate is the fact that the official servers are no longer charging a subscription fee as of current information. People hoping to charge admission, even just to cover server expenses, never mind “we have cool mods (that we paid for or made ourselves) here,” has to realize that they are competing not only with Citadel’s professionally run servers, which are not charging that admission, but also with the vast expanse of free-to-try games out there, both avenues giving the advantage to the competitor.
Personally, I expect to eat all fees to host a world for friends, because as a volunteer, I can’t guarantee a professionally accountable presence, given that I have a job, so how can I charge for my presence as a host when I can’t be there all the time.
Not as relevant to the modding debate, but modding’s not the only expense that some potential world-runners have mentioned passing on to players.

Damonvile
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Damonvile

omedon666 Big companies hate the word free, unless it’s really just a trick to lure people into their cash shop. Seeing all these free mods getting downloaded millions of times is an untapped revenue for them. There’s no question where this is going to end up, and no question who is going to lose the most because of it.

omedon666
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omedon666

As the resident Shards Online community “pro free modding” crusader, I personally don’t have a problem with voluntary tip jars for modders, and I have also never felt entitled to modders’ work.
What I am is boggled to find that we have seemingly crossed a line away from the mindset that let the NWvault happen, and I think a hobbyist, volunteer venture like writing mods or hosting a game for friends loses something when an overtly mercenary mindset usurps a generally share-friendly venture.
No one should do these things to get paid, it kills the very idea of it. If cash is made through tips, that’s not a terrible thing, but something breaks when these hobbyist, volunteer ventures leave the town square and enter the market square, in my not-even-remotely-humble opinion.

cursedseishi
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cursedseishi

@Kirin
Nope. Outrage wasn’t over modders not getting money. The issue was how Blatantly terrible the system was.
Valve took 25%. Bethesda carved out another 50%. And in order for a modded to see any money from it, they had to sell $400 worth of the mod because they needed $100 in profit at least. Valve also had just a 1-day grace period before giving you the finger, and pretty much encouraged people to scam and rip off real modders with the above payment system. Why even bother trying to see if my $1 helmet mod will sell, when I can pop over to Nexus, grab a major helmets add on, toss mine on the cover, then boast $4 for it on Steam when another scammer is posting the same thing with their own crap helmet to differentiate for $5.
People were caught, mind you, uploading the same exact mods with different names and charging out the arse for em.
I hate to say it, because I have a huge number of games on there, but Steam is garbage. It’s garbage in the truer sense than the crud-stained diapers I saw at my old job… Why? Because something in that diaper was and still is of much more use than Valve is now. What have they done with steam lately? Greenlight? Early Access? Paid mods? And now letting devs ban whoever they please with absolutely no proof required of them?
And yet, they can still absolutely kill any indie developer they like by refusing them a release on their store with that same broken Greenlight system.
Uuugh… I need to say something positive before this rant poisons me.
I’m 100% with Klingon and Omedon. I may not of backed it on Kickstarter… But I can really get behind where these guys are coming from and going towards. The best thing, and what Valve should of done instead, was implement a tip jar rather than a price. If they made enough? Sure take a cut out, but at the end of the month or quarter, give the dev money even if it wasn’t a lot. Support them, not restrict them.
… I… Uh… Might back these guys now, or look for a way to at the least and do it…