Palia is a new ‘community simulation MMO’ from former Blizzard and Riot devs

And it's so adorable, it hurts

    
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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.

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tentimes

I’m really looking forward to this fresh bit of MMO that isn’t about how good you are at killing. I was never very good at killing. Oh, and I love the farming – looks really good.

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Robert Mann

I’ll be watching. Whether it has enough to do, especially if it doesn’t limit crafting/gathering choices by account and have a wide variety, and whether the multiplayer aspects are really good at helping bring people together instead of driving people to actively not want others around in the world at large (ala nodes, mobs, tagging, and lacking in shared benefits/etc. with so many MMOs to date)… will be keys to how the game will handle itself long term to me.

I believe that where third-rate crafting, gathering, and so on can be generic for everyone without being a major problem (focus of the game elsewhere) that if the game is going to build social activity around such things it will likely need to be far more limited for each person. In fact, that’s part of my own thoughts on where design would have to go for a good virtual world sim.

Design and social can be the focals in their own right, of course. The question is where the engagement is meant to happen, and what things will be meant to bring people together.

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Ken from Chicago

Excuse me, Bree, but “Homicidal Homeless” is the preferred nomenclature. 👍🤣🤣🤣

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Ardra Diva

not graphically that dissimilar from what EQN was supposed to be, I’m assuming this isn’t a voxel world since that wasn’t mentioned.

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David Goodman

I’ll throw my hat in. It hits enough of the marks for me that it has my interest, let’s see how it plays out.

Then again, I love house-building. It took me forever to finish Valheim’s current content because I kept getting distracted building new bases or towers or lewd troll stick figures (don’t kink shame me bro.) I probably won’t be able to pull off the troll sculptures here, but here’s hoping there’s a lot of freedom in the house BUILDING part of it as well, not just the decoration.

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Jetra_Virsai

Hello Breath of the Wild #509

I’m just meh about it. Don’t know much more than it looks like another GI type of game only with more building. Not sure what the plan is here.

Raleigh-St-Clair
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Raleigh-St-Clair

Given that many (most?) PC gamers don’t console game (well, at least the serious ones anyway), we haven’t played things like Breath of the Wild. So, OK fine, you can be ‘meh’ about it, but to many PC gamers, this will be a fun, breath of fresh air.

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Ken from Chicago

Breath of the Fresh? 😀

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Robert Mann

Gaming Mentos.

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Anstalt

Very interesting concept and it’s great to see another studio is having a go at building an MMO.

I’m not impressed by their pedigree, I don’t like either Blizzard or Riot, but the design points mentioned in the article make me think that these devs at least have some original ideas.

I’ll keep any eye on this as it develops. I doubt it’ll be for me, I’m very much a combat-focused player and the idea of humans-only really puts me off.

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_a4

I’m uninformed, only saw a few seconds from the trailer, I just hope it offers some traditional theme park progression with questing and killing wolves or boars outside of town if you catch my drift.

My perfect MMORPG would be something with the sandbox elements of SWG, but even more fleshed out and with a thorough theme park progression added on top that is completely optional – you can play just sandbox and feel like you’re making progress and never touch the theme park stuff or vice versa – just quest from zone to zone doing kill/fetch/escort dumb quests and never touch the sandbox and still feel accomplished or enjoy both activities.

Oh and no forced PvP. If this game does this, I will be so happy.

Lighthope
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Lighthope

I really don’t like the cartoon graphics. This was a big negative for me in WoW. This is worse.

Only humans in a fantasy world?

And I still have no idea what the game is about. What am I supposed to do in it?

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Gamhuin

/watches trailer

TAKE MY MONEY!!!