Interview with Henrik about the Awakening

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Interview with Henrik about the Awakening

I recently had the chance to ask a couple questions to Henrik Nystrom (CEO of Star Vault) about the Awakening and MO in general for a french MMORPG website that I "work" for and you've already seen a small part of it here;

But here's the full interview;

Q. Tindrem is the long awaited majestic capital of the Tindremene people, it fed many dreams and discussions over the years, can you tell us more about it? How is it going to be different from other towns apart from the size?

Great question – It’s not just the scale of Tindrem, although that will be very impressive in itself, Tindrem is our capitol city, has some of the most impressive structures that we have yet seen in Mortal Online. So there will be many new things to discover some of which I obviously don’t want to spoil for our players. But it’s worth stepping back to why we’ve been waiting for Tindrem for this length of time. Simple answer is AI. AI is making excellent progress through development at the moment and this will breathe life and considerable danger into the PVE element of the game, something we have all been waiting for. But it’s not just the PVE Mobs, new monsters, (meaningful loot drops), etc. that AI gives us. We will finally have the ability to implement the guarding system as originally designed. So Tindrem will be full of life, moving NPCs or citizens that the players will be able to interact with in many new and interesting ways. So back to Guards and Tindrem; there will be roving guards in this majestic city. Lictor as is currently in game will not be there to be instantly called by players in the event they see an exposed thief or a Red player daring to tread where he should not. No, you’ll have to attract the attention of these roving guards in order to bring justice (official justice) to wrong-doers. They will of course act on their own volition if they see a criminal or a criminal act but that is far more realistic than the current system. All of the towns in MO will feel more real but more dangerous too.

Q. How strong will these guards be? Is it going to be possible for bandits (players) to attack guarded towns in the Awakening?

For high security, sure you can hit them, and try to get away, but getting away is another story in general, the high security guards will have an infinite supply of respawns and they will do high damage on players. in med security they have a limited spawn ratio, and a bit weaker in damage and hp.

Q. Can we expect new creatures and monsters for the Awakening such as the Minotaur? Can you tell us more about the new creatures that we may see in the Awakening?

So this is a very Spoiler type question. And one that I am frequently asked. The short answer is yes! You will most certainly see new monsters BUT remember that the AI re-write is about making all of the mobs in our world come to life, be far more difficult to hunt because they will migrate around the world finally ending the spawn spots and bringing both true ‘hunting’ and realistic animal behaviors. In terms of the Minotaur well he never really left the game and technically they are still in and we could choose to use them if we wanted to. Their current AI is however not worthy of the ferocity of this type of mob. Remember the Troll that you saw in some of the early BETA footage? They like the removal from play of the Minotaur were thought wasted when the AI that we currently have was acting so poorly. So new AI will bring far more ‘intelligent’ behavior, AI that will react to you, your stats. Think you can run away because your HP is too low? Think again, if you’re fighting the wrong type of mob he may very well draw a bow and start shooting at you! The same can be applied to Trolls and Minotaur, I’m sure you’ve seen the test videos of trolls picking up players and smashing them against the ground into a pulp. That is what we’re going for here, but don’t just expect big changes on the larger more interesting PVE, even the little creatures of Nave will act far more like real wild animals in life!

Q. Lock picking is a very popular feature of the RPG genre but many players are concerned about it possibly making personal storage such as houses useless, how will you ensure that lock picking is correctly balanced?

Ah yes, I think I might be to blame here as we released very little information with lock picking when we originally raised it. So this isn’t about being able to break into player owned structures it’s about additional content that will be coming in. So as an example I’m sure you can bring to mind a certain dungeon in Nave with traps on the floor and things to open. Right now you have to follow a sequence (kill a certain mob) to get what’s needed to win the prizes from that Dungeon. Not so in the future, we want our dungeons and environments to have far, far more things to do – so with Awakenings we’ll be opening some of the dungeons that we’ve been saving for the release of AI. Lock picking will for a part of some of the min-games that will be resident in these dungeons and other places too. I’m sure seasoned veterans of the game can think of several very suspicious places that might warrant further investigation with the release of this.

Q. Is the Awakening bringing any improvement to the guild interface with the new GUI?

The new GUI will be a full swap out for the existing one, everything will change and we’ll get the AAA interface that the game deserves. Worth saying that right now many of the interfaces are flexed in different ways which is confusing for players and gives the wrong impression, so expect to see wholesale change in this area.

Q. The trade brokers is a very exciting new feature of the Awakening as it will bring much needed trading tools to the world of Nave but can you tell us more about it? Is it going to be similar to other MMOs auction houses but local? The Mortal Online community developed different communities in each towns of the Myrland continent since the release of MO in June 2010, each with its own rules and history, how important is it for you to maintain this feeling of local communities?

We are always trying to balance to the Risk/Reward elements of Mortal Online. Sometimes the player-base (who can be devious in the extreme – that’s meant to be a huge compliment) get ahead of us and discover something that means we have to step in and re-balance. So when bringing in the new trading tools, foremost in our minds is to continue with this. Will there be global trade? No there really won’t; people will still have to travel in order to trade and then move their goods from say their house with crafting tables to a town in order to utilize the trading system. If we made it too ‘helpful’ then we would radically reduce the risk involved in moving goods, trade in general. Myrland is as I have said above a is dangerous place, so we have to balance that danger, keep it alive and in the forefront of players minds but at the same time give them some help to be able to sell goods and even services within a mechanic that keeps the danger but increases the flexibility of what players can do.

Q. On the Awakening page on your website, it says that you are working on even more content than what is announced there, could you perhaps tell us a little more about this?

Well I’m sure you have see the standard message that we put with all of our main patches or expansions in that we never release the full detail of an patch or expansion, We always like to introduce new content, some announced and some for the players to discover themselves. So much of the additional content will be there to be uncovered or indeed discovered!

Q. While the quality of patches have greatly improved in the past couple of months, there still are some problems that plague Mortal Online such as the lag experienced by many while crossing "node lines", optimization issues in large groups, light bugs in spider caves, etc. Can we expect some attention for bugs like that in the months to come?

You can but our absolute focus at the moment is Awakenings and the content that we are driving in for that. We have however been quietly working on Node Streaming and Node Line optimization. Just before the holidays we ran some tests with the Focus Group (our lovely player –base drawn expert testing team) on a certain Node line and saw an immediate improvement both to the player’s lag and the server side metrics that we monitor too. So whilst we don’t have the headroom to do much more on this right now – we have identified significant improvements that we can make as soon as we have the time. The entirety of the team is fully focused on the new content but that is not to say for one moment that we don’t have this on our to-do list. And of course it’s high on that list as we do fully understand how it can impact players. That said we’ve had some very large events recently with hundreds of players participating – The Sword of Tears – Vanishing Point Event to mention just one. The server coped very well with this huge movement of players, we lost one node during that event (but understand why) and general feedback was excellent overall. However there is more to do in this area for sure. At the moment when a model loads in from distance it loads in in FULL detail. Clearly this isn’t needed so in time (and not too long from now) we’ll be implementing lower detail ‘distance’ models – I don’t think it’ll look very different in-game but it will reduce the load on clients and make things a lot smoother overall. So a combination of lower rez, distance models, Node Streaming and Node Line optimization as well as some more optimization of terrain will continue to improve this area until we’re happy.

Q. The recent "conquest of Nave" patch brought many conflicts to Myrland so it surely succeeded in that aspect but do you consider "territory control" finished or will you keep improving it in the months to come, including player towns, territory control features, sieges, etc. and if so, how?

Yes, we’ll be implementing more reasons to own a town or city over time. There will I hope be some changes to the taxation system and an effective slice of profit from the Vendors and indeed the upcoming Trade House system for the Guild that controls the town. This will make ownership of territory far more valuable than it is today and really make the players and guilds want to own their local town. With that will come far more conflict and war which will lead to the kinds of epic battles and conflicts / politics that we really want to see. In addition to this and this will be big news for the players – in Awakening we will be adding a Ban List for controlled Towns and Cities. So If you as a Guild own a town you will be able to add Players to that Ban List. We’re still working through the exact number that will be allowed as this has to be balanced but it will be high enough so that you can control your town and generally deal with any trouble makers for your guild and the populous you protect.. or otherwise.

Q. What are the plans after Awakening? With the massive arrival of new players, could we possibly expect a new continent eventually? Knowing that Myrland, our current home is only one of the many continents of Nave and that you released a very teasing early version map of the world of Nave recently through your twitter account. When can we expect the real map of Nave?

He he you like to ask the tough questions! As far as a Map of the world in detail – you will not see that from SV. But we are bringing in the ability to create in-game manuscripts, books and scrolls. So players will be able to create their own in-game maps. Of course this will be very time consuming and require a lot of work in order to make the paper, inks and everything else needed. There will be no Undo function when you are drawing or writing into these systems so mistakes will be painful. So more tools to allow player to make their own maps, scrolls, inks etc but we’ll not be releasing a detailed map. Of course the level of effort required to craft these items will make them extremely valuable – and nice loot too!

Q. Finally, the ultimate question, can you confirm that the release of the Awakening expansion is planned for April 2012 according to a PDF from SV.

I can confirm that yes. Since we’re nearly half way through February already we are feeling the pressure. At the same time though the team are hugely motivated and having an absolute blast building the new content, we’re enjoying this so much because we know you will and as you know we’re in this to make an amazing, dangerous and fascinating world.

Q. We can also see that you plan to release 2 more expansion within April 2013 and to conquer the Chinese market, could you tell us more about that? Will there be a different server for China? Must we be worried about MO's hardcore features with that publisher deal?

Another good question! It’s too early at this point to talk about the detail in the next Expansion after Awakenings as of course we have a roadmap but we pride ourselves that we listen intently to our player-base and when needed we change the priority of incoming new content relative to feedback.. So after Awakenings we’ll bug fix because we know we have bugs but we will also take pause, listen to what we’re being told and adapt if we think there’s a new gap or opportunity because of the changes we have made.

The China server will be different from the worldwide server, there are strict rules for hosting an MMO in a country like China both cultural and legal – for example skeletons are a no-no, this means those restrictions have to be met, and it also means that server is restricted exclusively for China only. There will not be a connection between the China server and the World-wide server we have today. Having said that it is an exciting opportunity for MO and we’re sure that there will be content that can be developed for both environments so this really is a win-win for both communities.

Looking forward to seeing you in game! Bring your swords!

You can find the french translation for JOL here;

ALPHA footage of the PVE (Trolls and Minotaurs)

Twitter account of Henrik:

PDF file I refer to:

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