Mobin talked to Ethan Casner, the project manager of indie sci-fi MMORPG Divergence Online. The game is being labelled as a hardcore third person shooter MMOG and aim to take a different route in many aspects compared to other games. Read more after the jump.
The MMO Gamer: Hello! Could you begin by introducing yourself and telling us what Divergence Online is all about and how you are involved?
Ethan Casner: My name is Ethan Casner, I’m the Project Manager for Divergence Online. It’s a hard-core 3PS Sci-Fi MMORPG we’re developing. In addition to performing the role of Project Manager, I’m also the creator of the Divergence universe in all it’s rough and ever-evolving glory so to speak. Divergence is a universe set a few hundred years into our future where human and alien civilizations collide, often violently and will carry an M-rating for violence, language, sexual themes and substance abuse. It’s currently a PC-only game but an apple port is something we hope to have the resources to attempt in the coming months.
The MMO Gamer: Now I’m sure some people who have heard about, or are just now hearing about Divergence Online are wondering what exactly a 3PS game is. Would you please explain what it is exactly?
Ethan Casner: A 3PS is what a lot of games calling themselves FPSs are. It’s a third-person shooter, very similar to an FPS, the primary difference being that by default your camera is slightly above and slightly behind your character. “FPS” however has become sort of a “catch phrase” thrown about nowadays to describe a variety of similar gameplay systems as it is not commonly looked at as it’s actual meaning which is “First-Person Shooter”. Gears of War, for instance, is not an FPS, it is a 3PS such as ourselves.
The MMO Gamer: What are some of the newer things you have added to Divergence Online to make it unique amongst some of the 3PS games out there?
Ethan Casner: The biggest difference between our game and other 3PS games would be that Divergence isn’t just a 3PS, it’s a 3PS MMORPG. To be fair, MMO combat will never compare to to FPS/3PS combat, so I’d hate to be compared in that department to games such as Gears’. Our goal is to get a close to the feel of combat in a traditional FPS/3PS as possible, with the capabilities of an MMORPG such as character progression and a persistent world populated by (hopefully) thousands of players at the same time.
The MMO Gamer: I know Divergence is independently owned, and you implement many of the things the community says into the game. How have you benefited from this remarkable decision that many game developers tend to ignore?
Ethan Casner: There’s an example I’ve been using to answer questions relating to this policy of ours and it goes like this.
When SOE gutted SWG of one of it’s best features; it’s skill-based progression, arguably 10,000s of players who chose to end their subscriptions were left without something they needed.
When it was proposed on our first website early in development before we had even begun to implement combat and saw how many people were desperately pandering for a skill-based system, we simply said, “Sure. If they don’t want those 10,000 subscribers, we’ll sure as hell take them!” and voila, skill-based progression was added to the roadmap for Divergence. No board meetings, no bickering with IP owners. The entire decision took less than an hour to indoctrinate.
Since then we’ve put many other key features to vote and in many cases were surprised by the outcome. I myself only begrudgingly agreed to put permanent-death on the docket thinking almost no-one would go for it, but at the close of polling it was discovered that something like 90% of everyone who took part in the poll was hoping for some form of permanent death. And once again, with a simple conversation that took no more than a few minutes I relented to the team (at the time), “OK, if that’s what they want. Let’s go with it.” and permanent death went on the same roadmap.
It’s great to both have that level of connection with your potential customers, and also the agility to make decisions in the blink of an eye.
The MMO Gamer: How is the PvP in Divergence online?
Ethan Casner: We have an open-pvp system going into affect that I’m sure will be at the least mildly controversial. The point of Divergence is “freedom”, and you can’t have real freedom without the ability to pull our your pistol and blast someone in the face when they insult you. Does that mean one can expect psychopaths to be kicking in the doors of dance clubs and spraying rounds at helpless patrons every day simply because they can? Unlikely when you consider that in Divergence, faction is everything. You’re given the freedom to do as you please, but with the understanding that you had best be prepared to reap the consequences of your actions, just as in real life. In that scenario, not only would that individual be KOS from then on to the guards posted outside and inside that establishment, but would be quite unwelcome in many other important places as well.
The MMO Gamer: Could you please explain the “Hybrid Interface” introduced in Divergence and how it adds in overall gameplay?
Ethan Casner: Absolutely. Our “hybrid interface” allows the player to switch between what we call “RAG Mode” (Run-and-Gun Mode), a 3PS style combat system with crosshairs where turning the mouse equals turning your character, and “MMO Mode”, which gives the player auto-attack fucntionality in addition to granting the user a cursor and essentially making the game operate and feel like a common MMORPG in terms of targeting, movement, and camera operation. All-in-all, we expect the player will most likely switch between these modes several times during each fight as the ads/disads each mode provides simply allow the player to let the game perform actions such as attacking for them, or take over total control of their actions and aiming.
The MMO Gamer: How is the balance between the two different forms of gameplay, PvE and PvP?
Ethan Casner: The difference between PVE and PVP is blurred in Divergence, first of all. The main balancing mechanism between PVP and PVE in Divergence is that In many cases the game simply makes no distinction between the two. This is for the purpose of giving the player a much more “immersed” feeling while playing. In many cases, a player will get the same amount of XP for killing a player as an NPC, and with the escalating feudal violence between the human factions, there will be no shortage of blood.
Players can also loot both PCs and NPCs, making botting and AFK macroing extremely foolish as another player discovering your character being “unmanned” would be like discovering a pot of gold. To allow players to still go AFK inside of the world without being a target for murdering marauders however is a new system we’re hoping to implement before launch. This system will, when your character goes AFK, temporarily convert your unmanned character into something of an NPC itself, allowing it to auto-attack assailants and defend itself as a normal NPC in the PVE world would do, further blurring the lines between PC and NPC, PVP and PVE.
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