Jeffrey Philipp had the opportunity to talk to David Allen and Hue Henrey to talk about Quest Online’s upcoming MMOG, Alganon. The in depth and candid interview can be found after the jump.
The MMO Gamer: Could you begin by introducing yourself and telling us what you do at Quest Online?
David Allen: I am David Allen, co-founder and President of Quest Online, creator of Alganon. I do pretty much anything that needs to be done. I make sure the right people are hired, the project milestones are on time, the core vision is shared and followed, and ensure Alganon comes together best as possible.
The MMO Gamer: First I was curious what the end goal for the studies system is going to be. Chiefly I am curious if there is going to be a hard cap for the amount of ranks you can learn on a character or if they will be able to study in perpetuity. If the latter, what are the plans to prevent players who have been playing for longer from outpacing newer players simply due to the fact that they have been playing and studying longer. And conversely, if there is no hard cap how are you going to make the increases meaningful without making them overpowered in edge cases?
David Allen: We will be launching with years of studies, and the available studies will grow over time, allowing players to focus on extended studies in the areas they are interested in pursuing. Keep in mind the study system is a “support” system first and foremost. A player can learn core studies they wish to focus on in just a few month’s time, but refining (or maximizing) those studies takes substantially longer. So one example could be a player can get +4% melee crit in 8 days, but get to that 5% crit it’s 30 days. The system is actually very well-balanced, so a player could get to max level and get great gear, but they may be lacking that 3-4% crit or 5% armor bonus that another player who has managed their studies has. This does add up, but the difference isn’t enough to cause problems, only enhance the gameplay for those who manage their studies wisely.
The MMO Gamer: Regarding the studies system, I am also curious as to your thoughts on the EVE online system that resembles it. Was it an influence on your plans and designs for your own system, and if so were there any parts you planned to improve?
David Allen: EVE has a great time-based progression system; they proved it works and works well. We have learned a lot from all major MMOGs, and simply put, all good MMOGs grow based on learning from each other. We do have a few things planned for the study system we haven’t announced yet, but these are features for next year, not at launch. Obviously it’s something that will grow and shape as the game progresses.
One last question about the studies system, I am just curious if you have had any particular feedback on the usefulness of the system, and whether players are finding that it helps. Also, a quick note/suggestion from a new player I wouldn’t mind having a slightly longer training queue.
It takes some time for the application of studies to shine, since it’s 1% here and 1% there, but over time it builds up. More importantly, it provides small differences between players. Two players, both of whom choose to play Soldiers, may choose two different weapons to specialize in. The one who specializes in swords isn’t going to see an enormous, game-altering advantage when they equip a sword versus an axe, but when they have to decide whether to have the local blacksmith craft them an epic battleaxe or an epic longsword, they’re going to choose the sword, even if the stats on both weapons are identical. The soldier who chose to study axes will make the opposite decision. Expand this concept across dozens of studies, and decisions more complex than just “sword or axe?” and you’ll see how the study system allows two otherwise identical characters to develop their own unique quirks.
We’re also taking a look at the study interface and training queue time, but the training queue is a delicate balance. The longer the queue, the longer players can work on their studies without actually logging in to the game. While the idea of players who pay us money, but never play the game, may sound good from a financial standpoint, we’d rather make a fun game, and to do that, we need people to play. A short queue time is there to encourage people to log in and enjoy the game, not just study.
The MMO Gamer: Again, pardon me if this is just me missing it because of my newbie status, and I understand the game is still currently in beta, but during my explorations I was not able to find the larger overarching plot or story. I personally am very fond of plot and story based gaming (though I’m likely setting myself up to get knocked down much of the time in this genre), so I was hoping to find myself at least tangentially entangled in some major event taking place in the game world. Are there any plans to bring that game world, it’s history and lore, and the current events of same to the forefront?
David Allen: Actually the starter quests on both continents are tied to main storylines. For example, the first quest on the Asharr side is to find out why the wolves around Andar have come out in the open, rather than hiding in their dens. (It’s not normal for the people of Andar to have a front yard full of wolves.) The cause of this strange activity leads to accusations of necromancy and the recovery of a bloodgem. This leads to the Scholars in Greenvale, and the discovery that the same madness has also infected the farmers in the area. The story continues to expand from there, as players discover the source of this plague, a secret Death-cult, and fight to put an end to the madness plaguing Asheran Forest. Even actions that may seem to be side stories or extraneous to the main story come back into the story at later levels. The quests only get bigger, better, and more in-depth the more one progresses throughout the game.
However, players aren’t forced to read the story if they don’t want to. If they just want to play the game, they only need to read the quest tracker, which tells them exactly what they need to do next. We’ve found that most players end up doing that. They tend to ignore the story and enjoy the game without it. As Alganon grows, we’ll add additional story-related features, such as cutscenes and scripted events, for those players who enjoy them. However, for launch, we are using those resources to improve gameplay, and so players who are interested in the story will have to read the quest logs.
The MMO Gamer: Another quite popular aspect of many games recently is PvP, though so far I haven’t managed to really get into it for some reason I’m still hoping one day that there will be some implementation that grabs my interest. What, if any, are the plans for Player versus Player content in your game?
David Allen: We will definitely have PvP, but we want to do it right. It is slated for the first major expansion in mid 2010. We are actually taking an approach that will allow us to balance PvP and PvE separately by giving each action the option of behaving differently based on the application (an NPC vs another player).