Act 1, Scene 1, Enter Untitled Online
My hobby: releasing games with placeholders and temporary elements. The other game I am developing is still using programmer’s art after months of its release. I can surely do better than that! To prove that right, I have an upcoming game which already triumphs in that category with its name - Untitled Online. The only way it would be better is if I called it Untitled Online(1). Although it is not released at the time of writing, it certainly deserves a few introductory words.
A Cliche Come True
Smart indie people have been saying that it is a terrible idea to make a custom engine or to develop an MMORPG. Part of me deeply agrees with that. Problem is, my other part (seemingly the dominant one) just went “why not both?”. Untitled Online is an online game with heavy compromises. It needs to look like an MMORPG while remaining easy to develop and extend. This has made several interesting decisions in terms of game design. If all goes well, my next post should be exactly about that.
Untitled Online has an open world to explore with fantasy-themed flora and fauna, as well as minerals and other miscellaneous materials. Whatever it is that you stumble upon your adventures - you can interact with it. See a mushroom? Harvest its cap and brew a deadly poison. Found an endless desert? That is a lot of glass for you. That tree has a creepy face on it? Feel free to chop it down, those logs might make a great bow one day. If you think I am bluffing - here is a render of all the available recipes.
Jack of All Skills, Master of None
The activities players can do are categorized into nine different skills.
Out of the nine skills, only one is related to combat. In fact, it can be completely ignored by players and they could play the role of a pacifist skiller instead.
Performing activities award experience points in the corresponding skills, and they level independently - there is no global level for the player. There are levels for mining, smithing, etc. all separately. New levels unlock new recipes and new harvestable resources. You cannot mine the highly-desired Vulcanic Ore right away - you do need to get a few levels first and also need a better pickaxe for that. Your iron pickaxe might just melt upon touching the ore.
Items can be combined by the player, and if the combination is something meaningful, a new item is made. That is crafting. Remember your usual health potion in every role-playing game ever? Untitled Online has them too but in this case, it may just be a little untraditional. First you would have to dig up some sand that you turn into glass vials at a furnace. Then you venture to a nearby well and fill them with water. That water is no good, it needs distillation, which you can do at a fire. Now that you have a vial of distilled water, you may start adding the ingredients that either turn it into a liquid that heals, or one that explodes upon shattering and use that as your new throwing weapon.
What is Done, What is Left
What you have read above is what Untitled Online has right now. That makes the game a sandbox with no real objectives other than leveling skills and getting better and shinier equipment. There are tons of game mechanics to be added of course, but this may be a good moment to get some early birds playing and testing not only the game but the engine too. The networking has been made from scratch, so the earlier it turns out that it cannot handle more than three players, the easier I can fix or rework. :)
That being said about the current state, here are the long-term plans for Untitled Online.
As the flora and fauna are rather rich, it would be a great opportunity to make the world dynamic through random and recurring events. An old shed could get invaded by monsters every-now-and-then and have players work together to fend off the waves of creatures. A super-rare, soared-after herb only blooms once a week - time to group up for a gathering party in the nearby forest. A tree spirit with the exclusive Druid Staff occasionally walks the land, but has to be found and defeated first.
Instead of shops owned by NPCs, a global marketplace is to drive the trading in Untitled Online. Players will be able to put their items up for sale for a specific price, and buyers can browse and search the available offers. This will make economics completely player-driven, creating exciting opportunities for merchanting and price manipulating.
Quests are going to serve multiple roles. First, they should tutor the players - teaching them how to play the game, and later on revealing recipes and unlocking locations. Instead of having an in-game guide that shows all the possible item combinations, I would like players to learn them by experimenting and through quest rewards. Second, they should tell a story. Similar to the philosophy of achievements in Arena, instead of repetitive quests (“Kill 10 Blizzard Implings”, “Collect 10 Spiderfang Amaranths”), they should all receive a unique plot that also reflects on the lore of the world. Third and last, they are to give fairly decent rewards to make questing a viable option for leveling and acquiring an upgrade to the equipment.
Player-versus-Player content is going to be a nightmare to implement and balance, but my current plan is to allow it nearly everywhere, while punishing it severely. Killing other players would put a bounty on the actor’s head, who may then be freely attacked and killed by anyone, receiving a “good citizen reward”. Protected areas would still exist, but instead of disabling Player-versus-Player actions, strong NPC guards would patrol around who attack everyone with a bounty on sight.
Finally, the last major concept is making Untitled Online community-driven. First piece of the plan is setting up a public GitHub repository where players may suggest new content through pull requests. Then I need a voting system to have players decide whether or not they want them added to the game. Whenever something passes, the creator receives the prototype of that item (probably a custom effect along with a custom rarity) so they can show off and get recognized for their awesomeness. :)
This is also something I want to write about in a separate post, but long story short, I am getting equipment to record audio and video so I can do proper devlogs of progression in an entertaining and informative format. This should start before September when I will be creating videos weekly to get you all up-to-date with everything.
As for August, my plan is publishing way more posts here, which has been going awfully so far, but hope never dies. Having said that, thank you very much for reading and I will catch you in the next post. :)