If you’re anything like me, you’ve hopefully realized that there can be just as much anticipation in your life over small, interesting games as with the huge, $100 million budget titles. In fact, some of the most intriguing games of the modern era have started not in a mega-publisher’s lab but at the fingertips of indie studios and developers.
So it’s without shame that I say that, yes, I’ve had my eye on AdventureQuest 3D ever since its Kickstarter launched (and subsequently cleared an impressive $368,500). The game’s hook of a colorful, charming MMO that’s seamlessly playable between phones, tablets, Mac, and PC is an intriguing one, moreso once you find out that this title is being built on the decade-old legacy of a fan favorite flash game.
Artix Entertainment invited Massively OP to sit down with CEO Adam “Artix” Bohn and Lead Writer Cysero to check out AdventureQuest 3D in action, and so we did. Foremost on my mind were two questions: Does the cross-platform gimmick truly work, and is this game actually fun?
Fleshing out the Flash
So what is AdventureQuest 3D? At first glance, the game might look like a pared-down version of World of Warcraft, especially considering its stylized fantasy look. And while the small development team is made up of passionate fans of that and other MMORPG games, AdventureQuest 3D has its own unique heritage and approach.
The spiritual successor of AdventureQuest Worlds, AdventureQuest 3D took the popularity of the Flash game and created a fully 3-D world that paid homage to its predecessor while aiming to offer so much more than that. Players will hop on their characters and start questing, fighting, and looting to their hearts’ content. At the start there will be just nine classes, but that number is expected to balloon to somewhere between 40 and 60. The team explained that instead of creating classes with multiple builds, it gave each spec its own class.
AQ3D will be free-to-play that will fund development with a single microcurrency. The devs emphatically stated that this currently will only be used to either save time (such as to acquire classes more quickly than questing for them) or provide cosmetics. “Pay-to-win” is a phrase that hopefully won’t land anywhere near this game.
From what I saw, the game was downright smooth, handling as you might expect from playing pretty much any fantasy MMO of the past decade. The animations were flashy and everything was easy to find within a button click or so. This makes sense, since it has to be adaptable to different devices that don’t all have a mouse and keyboard attached.
So this all sounds pretty routine, right? Yet that only scratches the surface of where this game begins to diverge from the path more traveled. In our conversation, Artix and Cysero discussed three main avenues where AdventureQuest 3D might just hook you: community, exploration, and events.
Speaking passionately on the subject, Artix said that one of the big failings of mobile MMOs is that there’s no sense of community around them. Mobile games like Celtic Heroes offer all of staples of MMOs — but without the soul. This is something he and his team are not taking for granted.
AdventureQuest 3D comes with a built-in fanbase of AdventureQuest Worlds players, which is an enormous home field advantage for the team. Just shy of 300,000 players have already registered to play the game, and the studio is deeply involved with many of them. Artix said that the team’s been trying to bolster the community in every way possible, from engaging heavily on Twitter to responding to testers’ ideas and behaviors.
He said that the team couldn’t stop players from constantly jumping up into trees and trying to get on top of buildings, so the devs decided to put in parkour-style challenges as a result. One player had the idea of a “million chicken army” invading the town, an idea that the devs found so hilarious that they swiftly made it happen.
And just about everywhere we went in the game, players were flocking around the devs, eager to see what the team was doing. Everyone wanted to see what happened next.
AdventureQuest 3D’s technology might be one of its greatest assets in strengthening that community. Allowing practically anyone on any device to pick up the game and play together demolishes barriers that exist in other MMOs. Hooking up with a friend is easy, too: You simply use the game to generate a simple code that, when used by your friend, will instantly teleport him or her to where you are — even if you’re on a different server.
Making this MMO as a true cross-platform product requires a lot of hard work from the team. In fact, there is one dev for each platform who works only on making sure the game runs right on it. AQ3D is also very easy to get in to play, requiring only a 50MB download to start. From there it will stream zones and clean up memory from unneeded content as you adventure. This keeps the client from ballooning into a monstrosity on mobile device.
The devs really don’t want you to get tunnel vision while playing this game. Poking around and trying new things is just as important as the kill-loot-level loop. Exploration will be a key part of AdventureQuest 3D, leading players to discover the weird, wonderful world that it contains.
I was shown a couple of these exploration points, starting with a sewage area underneath the common inn in Battleon that was accessed by clicking on an inconspicuous item in the building. A cave right outside of town contained the fearsome dracken — a half dragon, half chicken that had ties to this year’s April Fools’ Day event.
Artix threw out several more ideas that the team is working on, such as paintings that transport you to 2-D worlds when clicked, a mouse hole that will shrink you so that you can experience life as a rodent, and so on. By planting these triggers around the world, the devs encourage players to examine their environments, try new things, and encounter interesting stories.
A static MMO might as well be a dead one, at least in this team’s eyes. Part of the fun of logging into AdventureQuest 3D will be never quite knowing what’s going to happen that night, which is thanks to the devs’ desire to fill the game with events both big and small.
The NPC band on the stage in the inn, Artix explained, might be replaced by a musical performance on Friday nights. A freak snowstorm might hit the town while the surrounding environs appear warm and sunny. Or, to relate a recent example, Friday the 13th could arrive in terrifying force. The idea is to keep the community glued to the current events and excited to log in every night.
Beyond amusing players and keeping them interested, events such as these have a greater purpose: to instill in the community the sense that this is a world that’s actively being developed. After all, it’s always more enjoyable to be part of a game that’s flourishing and morphing than one that’s dead and abandoned.
Coming soon to every device near you
Following the hour I spent talking with the team and poking around in the game, I knew that AdventureQuest 3D is definitely going on my must-play list for this year. It’s a shockingly ambitious game that’s still quite small, yet you can see how the team is laying the foundation for explosive growth.
One of the newest features that just came to the game is its first fully-instanced dungeon. Even here, the team is rethinking the standard (boring) approach to come up with content that’s eminently replayable. When a team heads into a dungeon, it will have to clear a set number of “segments” before reaching a boss. Each segment will contain a challenge (such as wiping out a den of mobs or disarming traps) that has to be overcome to proceed. The twist? These segments are randomized, offering a different set of challenges every time you run the instance.
Right now the game is being updated at a rapid pace, around two or three times a day. Once it becomes feature-complete (soon), AQ3D will slow down its patches to a more sane rate. Open beta is being planned for this July, with launch following in October. The team said to expect major updates every two to four weeks, although smaller patches could go in between them.
As our time came to a close, Artix delivered his impassioned pitch to our readers: “Why play this game over a more polished one? Because this is a living, breathing game with moments that are special and won’t happen again.”