So far in the Into the Super-verse column space, we have touched base with two of the three upcoming City of Heroes spiritual successors: namely, Ship of Heroes and City of Titans. But I wanted to make sure that we gave some time to the third project, which is why I reached out to Valiance Online’s Aaron Victoria to see what was happening with the game.
Out of the three MMOs I’ve mentioned, I think that Valiance Online is the one that has struggled the most — with publicity, recognition, and speed of development. So it was great to hear Victoria’s take on what’s happening with the game and how this scrappy team of developers is making superheroes a reality.
Massively Overpowered: Please introduce yourself and your history with this project.
Aaron Victoria: My name is Aaron Victoria and I’m the programming director and producer for the project. Regarding my history with the it, I was one of the original founding members of the game and have worked as the programming director on the project since its inception.
So to someone completely ignorant of Valiance Online, can you give the elevator pitch for the game?
Valiance Online is an open-world, superhero themed MMORPG with an overall emphasis on the superhero life experience. Players are able to participate in combat-related missions, but are also able to experience a life outside of combat with the ability to partake in non-combat, role-playing such as jobs and careers.
How are you looking to differentiate Valiance Online from other superhero MMOs, past, present, and future? What do you think will be unique to this title?
One of the unique aspects of Valiance Online is that it’s not solely based on the combat-experience. The team has been working really hard to implement features that allow this alternative gameplay style to thrive.
For example, one of the most prominent examples that players will notice upon entering the game is that Valiance has a highly organic, open-world landscape that includes wilderness and wildlife outside of the traditional cityscape. Players will be able to venture into these open-areas to hunt, gather, camp, and even investigate various elements found within these areas.
Furthermore, our systems director has created systems that allow players that follow these gameplay paths as a means to progress their characters’ levels and social standings as they would with combat-related gameplay.
How is Valiance being funded right now? Who is working on it, and are they all volunteers working remotely?
Valiance Online is currently funded through both personal finances from our executives and crowdfunding from our community. Our core team consists of 14 contracted company entities, each entitled to a financial share of post launch profits, and should not be considered “volunteers.” The entirety of the staff is located at remote locations around the world; this also includes all externally contracted resources.
In regards to financing, our executives finance server costs and maintenance primarily, and have financed some internal hardware for our core team. All external contractors, which currently consists of 2-D artists, 3-D artists, animators, and voice actresses/actors are financed with crowdfunded income provided by community.
In your opinion, what makes for a successful superhero MMO?
Personally, I believe the most important aspect of any successful MMORPG is knowing your audience, understanding your audience, being transparent with your audience, and delivering what your audience desires the most. As someone that has developed MMORPG technology for various companies over the last 16 years, I know how expensive MMORPG development is, and how important it is to maintain proper financing for such infrastructures. There is so much financing behind these to facilitate the maintaining of servers, expansion of server infrastructure, server security, and employing a proper workforce to ensure the longevity of such an undertaking.
With that said, I feel the key to accomplishing success in this field is to keep those that are keeping your project thriving, at the highest point in your decision making process. It’s obvious that developers will never be able to appeal to every member of their community or to each of their individual desires, but there is always a very strong majority leaning in a particular direction on any given topic.
I believe that you have to recognize this element, engage your audience regarding that majority, and deliver what works for them, even if it may be contrary to what you want as a developer.
An example would be that you have recently introduced a plasma rifle into your game. This rifle completely bypasses armor as its special attribute, and your player-base is very vocal about how it is not working within the structure of the game. In this case, they have built characters based on the long-standing armor system and their expectation that most items will adhere to it. You’re left with the option to either frustrate your community, sparking outrage and division which will surely weaken your financial capabilities and your ability to maintain the project further. Or, you have the option to simply recognize that it is not working, remove it, and continue on the path that will ensure an operational balance between your audience and the project.
These elements are the basis of how I feel, and is what I believe will keep our project in a position a successful position in the future, as well.
What state of testing and development is Valiance in right now?
Valiance Online is currently in a very late alpha state. We reached Phase 1 of our Project Goals during the month of November last year and began investing in external contractors for the financing of 2-D art, 3-D art, and animations in order to replace existing pre-alpha and early alpha content.
This work is expected to be concluded within the next 3-4 weeks, meaning that the Skyeline region of the map will be complete at that point. This will be a large milestone that will lead us into the final alpha build of the game, and our focus will be on polishing that release, testing heavily with donors, and following up with a few open-public weekends throughout the last months of this year.
Throughout 2020, we’ll have our core game finished, and will be focusing on expanding our world, branching into Iron Valley, our cyberpunk, dystopian district, and Harbor View, our industrial district. We’ll be hosting continuously for our donors, while hosting occasional open-public weekends for the general public.
We’re hoping to release the game at some point next year, but we’re still working to establish proper financing for the full launch of the game. Once we’re fully capable of launching the game, we’ll speak more on that.
Over the last few years, news and developments from Valiance Online seemed to come slowly and sparsely. The general opinion at MOP has been that while the game’s art style and attitude looked fantastic, the actual progress was grinding to a halt. Can you speak to this, especially in light of your recent post on the subject?
Yes. As stated earlier, we achieved our first crowdfunding milestone during November of 2018, and afterwards we decided to focus primarily on transitioning our written and conceptual designs into content that can be visualized and implemented in-game. Until very recently, there have been very few updates that aren’t essentially “technical” consisting of largely back-end development, non-visual, and programming elements. We didn’t feel that much of what was being done in those areas would constitute being labelled as “meaningful” content to most public viewers.
Therefore, we’ve been sharing those weekly updates on our forums and across our social media platforms until more meaningful news becomes available. We’re currently preparing for a massive patch that will usher in the final phase of our alpha client, and the completion of most core game elements. Following this patch, news articles will become more frequent and more robust as the next few months will be directed towards custom art assets, missions, jobs, and voiced performances for non-player characters.
When might we be seeing a character creator, if one is in the works?
Our character creator is in its fourth stage of development, and will be present in our upcoming patch. We’ve recently done lots of optimizations to the last iteration including the introduction of many new sliders, shaders, and customizations. We’ll share new videos and images of the progress within the next few weeks.
What are some of the challenges that your team has been dealing with lately?
One of our biggest challenges happens to be one that has been ongoing for quite some time, and that’s the fact that we’re all working in our free-time, unpaid, while contractors are working full-time, paid. Since the server and client technology is extremely expensive, our remote work situation requires members with actual access to the software to be core members. Therefore, as contractors are finishing work, we’re having to import their content into our live repository from their generic repository for security reasons. This means that we’re testing their initial implementation in the live game, since they aren’t able to do so. This adds an extra thread of work to our normal workflow.
This also means that we’re always trailing behind our contractors, while also trying to keep them in an active development cycle to ensure crowdfunding is being properly utilized in the most effective and efficient way possible.
What are some of its recent successes?
In regards to our most recent successes, I personally believe that our transition from a modular/procedural environment system to a fully organic system has been one of our greatest decisions, and one where we’ve seen lots of success. Players returning after the next patch will immediately notice a dramatic change to the atmosphere of the world due mostly to this element. We’ve mapped out the entire current landscape of San Diego and transitioned it into our era’s San Cielo, and I feel it is one of the teams most notable successes thus far.
Finally, if you could have any two superpowers yourself, what would they be?
That’s a great question! You know, I’ve always said if I had the choice I’d only need two. I’d want the gift of clairvoyance (being able to perceive threats or potential pitfalls before they occur), and the ability to teleport (being able to travel great distances instantaneously). I believe those would give me the edge in most of life’s dangerous encounters.
Thanks Aaron! We appreciate you bringing us up to superspeed on this game.