I’ve been keeping one eye on Worlds Adrift for several months now, as many of the concepts put forth by developer Bossa Studios are right up my gameplay alley. Sandbox? Check. Real physics? Check. Airships and grappling hooks? Oh yes!
I had some questions for the devs, though, including how they plan to keep an open PvP world from devolving into a gankbox as well as how they plan to monetize Worlds Adrift. Click past the cut to read Bossa Gamer-in-Chief Henrique Olifiers’ responses to those questions and more.
MOP: We haven’t heard much about the game’s proposed business model as of yet. Has that been decided upon? If it’s free-to-play, how does the team plan to balance the need for revenue from cash shop items with a freeform sandbox world where the players create all of the items and content?
Henrique Olifiers: Very good (and thorny!) question indeed. We’ve been discussing the many models and alternatives with the community on the game’s forums for some time, and we got to a good solution in the end.
The game will be pay once and play. Being an online game with ongoing development and hosting costs, we’ll also have a store where players can buy customisations and convenience items (such as extra inventory slots, character renames and similar), with the golden rule being not selling anything that can affect gameplay balance. And we mean it.
The first people think of when reading this is “XP boosters are fair game,” but we would have some trouble with that since, well, Worlds Adrift doesn’t have XP. Actions in the game are all player-skill based (like, say, in Quake or Counter-Strike, where you are better at headshots because you aim better, not because you have level X or weapon B).
We’re trying to come up with models that work best for the players and the game alike, without harming its future prospects. This seems like a fair balance to strive for.
Bossa has said previously that due to the physics, the game has to be open PvP. That said, the dev team has also stated a desire to avoid turning Worlds Adrift into a typical FFA PvP gankbox. How exactly do you plan to do this, and what other MMOs have you looked at and learned from, either in terms of how not to do it or in terms of inspiration?
Worlds Adrift is staged in a single universe powered by persistency (everything you do affects the world forever), physics (every object is really in the world, and behave as such) and AI (creatures are born, grow, procreate, have their own needs and goals). The best way to explore all the possibilities opened by these pillars is to allow for total freedom for the players with no artificial systems interfering.
In our experience, every time one designs a system to insulate players from others, be it no-PVP zones, instances, reputation, PVE-only and so on, more problems are created than solved. At the core of griefing is a single issue: lack of appropriate balance of risk vs reward. A griefer is usually someone with very little to lose, but with the ability to inflict considerable damage to those with a lot to lose. This is how we tackled the problem: for someone to challenge another player, the investment needed is such that there’s equivalent risk at both sides of the situation, and since it’s a physics-based sandbox game, one cannot develop a master strategy that always trumps anything else.
So, in Worlds Adrift, a would-be griefer will find himself being surprised by others as often as he manages to surprise, therefore he or she is no longer a griefer, but a player. Make encounters with strangers a rare occurrence, say every hour or so, and a balance is established between tension, risk, reward and altruism — a word rarely associated with online experiences.
Another minor aspect related to this problem goes as this: In traditional massive online games one can be a dick to other players all the time but still interact with NPCs that serve your needs. Well, in Worlds Adrift all you have is other players, so if you can’t rely on them, you can’t really go anywhere without being ostracised and hunted, so your decisions will have consequences.
There’s a long list of technical features that make the game very, very unique and different from anything out there that we know of. But those are just means to an end. The most important aspect is the freedom enabled by these features.
Worlds Adrift is not an MMO in the sense most people interpret the word, as meaning MMORPG. Worlds has no XP, no grinding, no scripted missions, no NPCs — it has no elements of RPG at all. It’s immediately different from anything else at its very core, based on player skill and ingenuity rather than stats. It’s the freedom the game gives players to do anything they want in their own way that sets it apart.
Suppose you decide to become a pirate and arm your ship to the teeth with cannons. You make the decision of having a ship with a low profile, with a large area on top to accommodate all the weapons. A very sensible (and obvious) choice. Fine and effective, just as effective as loading a lot of junk onto the deck of a small ship, tilting it above your target, and raining down metal chunks over the crew below and making their ship overweight and unable to fly anymore, crashing it against an island. Or perhaps you tie a large tree to the underside of your ship with long cables, and use it as a ram against other ships. It’s about being astute, thinking, and making it so because the physics-based gameplay allows you to do so.
We’re acutely aware that the path to the MMO of the future is littered by the broken promises of MMOs of the past. Our way of getting around this is by showing gameplay videos of the game in action as much as we can from now onwards, explaining how things work, how they are different, and what one can do inside the game. We don’t take this task lightly, though: there’s a lot of justified skepticism around, so we’ve got to show people that Worlds Adrift is indeed something quite different, and hopefully much better.
Do you plan to include functionality for players to create their own in-game missions or tasks?
No, none whatsoever. It’s the basic philosophy of allowing players the space to come up with their own solutions to what they want to accomplish, to communicate and organise with their friends in a crew, against the free world around them — be it friendly or hostile. Every time we add a system to organise and regiment a particular interaction, say a “bounty hunting board,” we close down a myriad of interesting possibilities to the players to add a rich, social tapestry of interactions to it.
Worlds Adrift is about freedom, about subverting everything around you to serve your own goals, to survive, become better, and change the world around you as you play. Then it’s on to explore the vast world full of lore we’ve carefully crafted to serve as a backdrop to the player’s interactions, struggles and victories.
In other words, if one thinks there’s the “right way” to play Worlds Adrift, one is playing it wrong. It’s precisely about playing it the way no one else thought of, and therefore doing something unique in the process, something worth experiencing, remembering and sharing. As game developers, if we get this right, we will go to bed with the sense of a job well done thanks to many, many happy players.
Sounds great, thanks for the taking the time to field our questions!