A few weeks ago, I attended a press event for a new game assuming I would not be impressed by the offerings. Instead, I came away thinking that not only do I want this game, but my kids are going to want this game, and a lot of our readers are going to want this game, and it has the potential to nudge forward the MMO genre. I may have squealed with excitement into our work chat.
The game is Palia, and it’s being developed by Singularity 6, which turns out to be a 50-person studio made up of a bunch of former devs from the likes of Riot and Blizzard, something that is becoming increasingly common as devs bail from AAA corporations in search of a place where they can create something unique and niche instead of another generic shooter or multiplayer slog. In this case, Palia is being described by its team as a “community simulation massively multiplayer online game” – very definitely an MMO, but without much in common with the combat grinders and murderhobo sims you’re used to.
Set in a cutesy but beautiful fantasy Breath of the Wild-like environment, the game essentially offers a 3-D multiplayer virtual world where players can live out and carry on with their daily fantasy lives. Players can expect extensive character customization and fashion, crafting skills like cooking, lifeskills like fishing and farming, activities like climbing and gliding, a robust housing system with “more than 1000 decor items,” a multi-year community storyline, guild-like neighborhoods… really, it’s all the “social” content that is just an afterthought in most MMOs, brought to the forefront here.
“Palia is a community sim massively multiplayer online (MMO) game set in a high fantasy world with robust online multiplayer features and a 3rd person perspective that adds a new layer of depth to the sim genre, giving players a deep community experience in a vibrant living world. As players explore this new world full of wonder, they decide how they fit in, what they want to do and how they want to play. […] Together with a massive online community, players will uncover the secrets to humanity’s past through an evolving narrative that will take years to fully unveil. Palia is a gorgeous, cozy world that’s constantly evolving and features deep customization systems, a compelling cast of non-playable characters, and a massive online community of other players to share and explore it with.”
“We started Singularity 6 to make games that bring people together,” co-founder Aidan Karabaich says. “Inspired by some of our favorite titles, our game lets you forge your own destiny, exist in a beautiful setting, and give you a sense of being at home. We expect the players to be a huge part of shaping the game, and we can’t wait to see what they do in Palia.”
The MMO genre has several of these social-stuff-first cooperative MMOs on tap right now: tiny MMO Book of Travels, Raph Koster’s incoming game, Spry Fox’s under-construction non-violent MMO, even Chronicles of Wagadu with its roleplay-centric design. This is clearly something a lot of designers – and their investors – think gamers want, and it’s unfortunately a type of content that’s been third-tier at best in modern MMORPGs. Palia might just make it out before all of these, setting the standard for what people expect out of what is essentially Animal Crossing New Horizons the MMO or Glitch 2.0 or Stardew Valley Online.
Hardcore combat fans might groan at the idea that this game is designed to be cozy, cooperative, and collaborative rather than violent and that “open world adventure” is not the core of the gameplay loop, but there’s still plenty to do.
“Whether a player is an aspiring chef, a big game hunter, or a bug catching extraordinaire, Palia provides a variety of gameplay options that are engaging solo, but even better together. As they play, a series of robust simulation systems bring the world to life, respond to their actions, and consistently change the game. Players will meet, befriend, and romance a compelling cast of characters that live out their days and evolve over time with stories of their own.”
A few other noteworthy bits from the presentation:
- The housing in particular impressed me; at one stage in the trailer, there’s an interior shot of a house that, as devs put it, had seen every item hand-placed by the player owner, including a mandolin that’s clearly been tipped at an angle. Housing is not an afterthought, in other words. Apparently, you can help your friends work on their homes too.
- Monetization is obviously an open question; the studio wouldn’t elaborate on its plans, saying it wasn’t ready yet. However, the team several times referred to Palia under the “games as a service” heading. Also worth noting here is that this company is well-funded through investment, so we’re not anticipating the typical new MMO crowdfunding shenanigans.
- Yes, you really can romance some of the NPCs. You cannot, however, romance the Miyazaki-esque golem. Yes, I asked. Sorry folks. The takeaway here is that the NPCs are unique with their own stories and lives.
- Players will all be human, not some of the more interesting species you’ll find in the NPCs, but the costumes and outfits seem to offer enough weird options so you won’t mind being human too much.
- As I’m an economy player myself, I took special notice of the crafting panel, which looks a lot like Glitch or even Guild Wars 2.
- The combat in the game is entirely optional and avoidable. There’s no combat PvP, merely friendly competition. The devs stressed that it’s not meant to be a pressure-filled environment, and players won’t need to worry about death.
- While this isn’t explicitly a kids game, it nevertheless seems at least kid-friendly. The studio discussed its plans to deal with toxicity and griefing at length, at least partly with AI. “Toxic behavior will not be tolerated,” Community Lead Edaleen Cruz told press.
- The other side of that coin is the social matchmaking tools that will help put players together with their friends “no matter what server they are on.”
- While the pre-alpha is on PC, the plan is to eventually put the game on every platform possible.
If you’re eager to play, then make sure you register for the pre-alpha over on the official site, as those signups are now live. While we don’t have a launch date, we do know the pre-alpha is set to begin this summer.