Tribute to the Gods: Revival Interview with Creative Director Kedhrin Gonzalez

So, did Revival‘s housing announcement get you a bit curious about the game? Did you catch that Illfonic, the team behind Revival, is the same team working on the FPS part of Star Citizen and wonder about the connection? Or maybe you just feel like seeing what a small company’s trying to do to bring forth their idea of what an MMO needs to be? No matter the case, Revival’s Creative Director Kedhrin Gonzalez answered a bunch of questions from us, ranging from real money transactions to fighting your way back from the spirit world. Join me after the break for all the details!

 

The Interview

 

Laguna: Originally when we spoke, you said the game would be released first when you were about 35% done. Is that where you’re at now?

Kedhrin Gonzalez: Revival is taking a stage based approach, instead of focusing on the ‘entire game’, it is features and making sure they are right before moving forward. While we are planning the features we want to add, we aren’t overwhelming ourselves with them all at once. This allows us to develop more naturally and with way less stress than normal game development – which means a better game for the fans. We started over with Revival when we switched engines to Unreal Engine 4, so we had to go back from scratch but that is ok. We definitely had a lot of hiccups getting started, but I’m happy that this boat is now sailing steady. The end results will be way better. The game is first focusing on 6 stages of development which are outlined on our website. We are currently in the middle of Stage 1, which focuses on an offline housing client where players can purchase a house, explore it, decorate it with props and get involved with development. From there we go to an island city, then add an explorable island off of that. With these 2 areas, we develop all of our core features and expose it to a small selection of players to make sure it is exactly where we want. After that, the game world opens up with 1 big content – still not a gigantic world, mind you. We want to develop slowly and carefully. We’ve worked on plenty of MMOs before… developing ridiculous amounts of content right out the gates is a bad move.

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Laguna: You chose to sell in-game housing and ships for real world cash, rather than do a Kickstarter. Some people feel that it makes the game pay-to-win. After some of the issues with ArcheAge‘s plot rush, many players have shown that, done incorrectly, a housing feature that doesn’t feel fair can scare players off. Will Revival do anything to attract fans without deep pockets but a love of housing, or is the early cash investment the only option?

Kedhrin Gonzalez: We didn’t do housing instead of a Kickstarter, that is a huge misconception. I understand how it can happen with all the crowdfunding going on, but that is not how we are making the game. Our initial offering of houses is limited to 500 houses per our initial cities (per server), so in the beginning there will only be 5,000 houses. Selling all of these houses will not get Revival the finances to make the entire game. We are financing Revival on our own, additional money gained on the way helps us get there faster but we are not relying on it.

Housing is not pay to win, you do not have to have houses in the world of Revival. It is mostly a luxury and something for RP elements. There certainly are things you can do in the game with a house that you can’t do otherwise (like add your crafting stations, merchant housing, be a part of city politics, etc.) but you are not punished for not buying a house. Houses in Revival are very unique, each one is hand placed by an artist, set dressed to look its absolute best and fictionally set. Stories are written about some houses and quests interact with them. Houses raise and lower the value of the city and can determine a lot of elements to the future of the city. They mean a lot, and are something we think have exceptional value to the game world. The money only offering is just a premium feature on top of an already amazing game for players not spending money. We want players to spend money in Revival out of love, not because they’re bullied into it from the lack of features to get them better than the next guy.

 

Laguna: Housing and ships can only be bought with real money, correct? But will players be able to sell their property in game for in game currency/items?

Kedhrin Gonzalez: We have a plan that will be revealed later down the road regarding this whole thing. There are just a few loops we need to figure out before we roll it out. However, it is important to note that housing is not handled in game so you can’t trade I tin for in game currency/items. However, you certainly will be able to rent rooms or the entire house for in game currency using a built in tool that helps players manage and essentially become landlords.

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Laguna: During part 2 of your release, players will have access to an offline mode, and in part 3, they can start meeting each other online. Since housing isn’t instanced (outside of regions), is part 1 in online or offline mode? When part 3 is released, will offline mode no longer be available/supported, or will the final version of the game allow for offline gameplay?

Kedhrin Gonzalez: Stage 1 and 2 are offline while we develop our backend systems for online interactions. There are a lot of statistics and telemetry data we need to collect for Revival. We want to make sure it is right before releasing it to the players who received housing. In stage 5 or 6 we’ll more than likely open another cheaper package for players to get in on some of our systems before we open the gates to the world. There will not be any offline modes after the game comes online.

 

Laguna: The game will use live GMs to run events, but at what stage do you think this will begin?

Kedhrin Gonzalez: We will start implementing the Live Storytelling system in stage 6. It is a very complex system that requires time to perfect!

 

Laguna: The game seems good for PvP enthusiasts, though you do have PvE for the basic story telling elements (i.e. cities changing if nearby wildlife all die out or suddenly revolt against the city). However, how difficult do you want the PvE to be? WoW like raids involving combat dances, or mostly hordes of mobs to slay, with true “raids” being against fellow players and/or relegated to fighting GM controlled gods on a random basis?

Kedhrin Gonzalez: One of the hard things we always run into when describing Revival is the notion that you must throw away your pre-existing notions of what an MMO plays like. The line between PVP, PVE and especially concepts like Raids are thrown out the window. You are playing in a living, breathing world. That is our focus. We’re trying to make a game that feels like an insanely rich non-linear single player experience that also has players influencing and interacting in that same rich experience. If a person is after adventure with slaying things, we have options that are easy all the way to almost impossible. The line is defined by how far you want to push your character, just like in real life. There are certainly things like dungeons, caves and other things… but we don’t have something like “this cave has that gigantic level 90 due we all have to brainlessly press 1-0 away night after night hoping to find some “purple” item, let’s all meet up here at 9pm!”. If you’re in a town and you hear of a cave nearby talking about some sort of creature in it by NPCs verbally talking to you/other players/each other about… you better get there and try to kill it, because if someone gets there before you, its gone. This is all a very carefully balanced and structured system, so don’t feel like you won’t ever get to experience action in your play sessions.

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Laguna: The game is billed as free to play, but SP (the game’s currency which can be bought with real money and through playing the game) is used for everything from gaining buffs to asking the gods to create content for you (though not outright victory). The part that stands out to me the most is the Gold servers, which talk about the use of daily GM events and chronicling of lore. Will non-gold servers still have live GM events without players spending SP to summon the gods?

Kedhrin Gonzalez: Gold servers allow access to our live storytelling features, which are the GM events you are speaking of. There is an additional subscription to get access to the Gold Servers. Our live storytelling is insanely robust and happens 24/7 with multiple crews of GM teams that have artists, designers, testers and the like working around the clock. It is like literally being on a live TV show. Every gold server will be different as they work off the chaos theory of events (with some influence from the gods). Standard servers lack this feature, but the core foundation of Revival is still there and will be radically fun. Some players may not like the concept of live storytelling, because predictability and order is thrown out the window. You may really like where your house is, your nice farm, isolated in your own little pocket of the world. But you might login one day to find it completely gone, smashed by an avalanche on the mountain from some players fighting a horde of undead the night before – forever. Gold servers and live storytelling mimic real life, there is real consequences and penalties we all stomach. Don’t worry, there are ways to protect your house in such events so you can get it back… and always know, our job is to make sure players are having a great an exciting experience… but that doesn’t mean we can keep everyone always cheeky in the process.

 

Laguna: You said only the gold servers will have the live story-telling events. Does that mean regular servers will have no GM events?

Kedhrin Gonzalez: Correct, our live storytelling is extremely in depth and takes entire teams working around the clock. That is why it is a premium feature for Gold Servers only. The amount of data needed to track is too intense for the standard servers. However, there is still plenty of generated content, constant updates and an already solid game for standard server players.

 

Laguna: If players on non-Gold servers can’t use their SP to hire a GM for events, will SP just be for insurance? Will god-granted buffs be available to these players?

Kedhrin Gonzalez: I think it’s important to note that you don’t hire GMs with SP, that’s not how that system works. SP isn’t just for protection packages either, SP is used to purchase random elements across the game to enhance and customize your gameplay experience. God granted buffs will be available on standard and gold servers using the exact same system, the only difference between standard and gold servers is live storytelling being active on them.

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Laguna: I’m a little confused about your answer about hiring GMs. Maybe it’s out of date, but your monetization section says SP is like an RP currency. The same page mentions the ability to commission GMs to make custom content. Is that content only for for real money? Also, will that option only be for gold servers, or could a free to play customer commission an RP event on a normal server (for cash or SP)?

Kedhrin Gonzalez: Yeah you can commission us for a lot of things if the price is right. Why I said its rare is because everything would be custom made, so it wouldn’t be cheap… I don’t want people being confused thinking it’s something that people would be doing all the time J you’d literally be hiring our dev team and production staff to make something for you. We’ll eventually even allow players to commission things like custom armor, or a house they work with an artist on – but these things aren’t cheap as it is literally hiring positions from within the company. This is why it’s something that’s not able to be purchased with SP.

Commissioned stuff could certainly be brought into a standard server but it would not have any permanent repercussions. On a Gold Server, a city can be destroyed forever. That isn’t the case on a standard server, as it relies on a system that is balanced and well managed with a lot of adaptive data.

 

Laguna: I’m guessing that random GM events, such as having huge monsters attack towns, may grant big, powerful rewards. However, what about events in which a player hired a GM for an event. Will GMs be able to give powerful rewards for events if a player pays enough for them, or are paid events largely “fluff”?

Kedhrin Gonzalez: Player hiring of GMs will be extremely rare and most of the time rejected, we will allow customized things with Revival but the details for that is not rolled out yet. GMs follow a strict live storytelling guideline that is determined in writer rooms and planned by GMs every day. Playing on the live storytelling servers is like being a pawn in a big tv show, almost like the Truman show.

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Laguna: Will the “game shop” (real estate shop?) be limited to just housing and ships, with SP buying everything else, or are you considering other options (exclusive vanity items, xp boosts, etc)?

Kedhrin Gonzalez: Housing, ships, permanent purchases of certain mounts, subscriptions to certain protection plans/gold servers and vanity objects will be the only things you can only spend real money on (for now). We really don’t’ want to expand it past that though. We believe in players being able to gain SP quickly and spending that SP freely. If someone is ever spending money on SP they should be spending a very small amount. We believe that players who are playing the game are worth just as much to us as players that are spending money. We want players to spend money on the additional things because they are having a blast in our core game, not because they feel like they have to get ahead of everyone else. Since we don’t have or believe in the concept of an ‘end game’, there is no need to race for the finish line. This is a virtual world, live in it.

 

Laguna: When you die, you have to fight your way out of the spirit world, yes? However, as fun as that may sound as a single-player game feature, it also separates the player from their group for awhile. Is there anyway to mitigate this, or is this an intentional design?

Kedhrin Gonzalez: This is an intentional design, this is part of the games fiction and world. Even NPCs have to go through this process when they die. There are certainly ways for players who are still among the living to help guide you through the process and get back to them. Remember, this game isn’t on a train track, your adventure is a real adventure with real consequences… not a train track to get from one zone to the next.

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Laguna: We’ve heard and seen that the game is inspired by Lovecraft lore, and you’ve mentioned Cthulu by name. For the Lovecraft fans out there, does this mean you’re limiting yourself to Cthulhu mythos, or are you making use of Lovecraft’s general style of horror-fantasy/sci-fi?

Kedhrin Gonzalez: The Cthulhu mythos goes deep with a lot of other things going on. We are diving in while expanding as we get deeper. Our gods and major fiction is heavily layered and all of it won’t be revealed for a long time. Some of it you will only ever see on gold servers too. How our fiction rolls out to players is one of our bigger secrets. After all, you don’t want someone to spoil your favorite TV show, do you?

 

Laguna: I saw something about the potential mobile support. Is this just a vague idea at the moment, or are there some specific ideas you’ve laid out/started to test?

Kedhrin Gonzalez: The mobile experience on Revival will be your connection to the game world on the go. All of the minigames we utilize for our skills will be put on the mobile device so you can practice and hone your skill on the go. You will also be able to manage various systems if you are a heavy merchant focused player. You can put bounties, send out caravans, buy the freshest slaves that just came into town, manage your employees or engage in player politics. This is all reliant on where your character is, of course. The Revival mobile companion can make sure you have full control of a lot of critical components of your characters actions while you are afk.

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Laguna: You mentioned buying slaves! Are these limited to NPCs, player characters, or both?

Kedhrin Gonzalez: Slaves will be limited to NPC characters, our slavery system is intense and has major impacts on karma and economic standards. Because of these systems, we’ve limited slavery to NPCs only for now.

 

Laguna: Slightly off-topic, but Illfonic is working on Star Citizen’s FPS mode. Is that affecting design choices for Revival at all?

Kedhrin Gonzalez: There were a ton of similarities between Revival and Star Citizen when we first started working on SC FPS. It is why Chris Roberts and I saw eye to eye on a lot of the features and theory behind the FPS mechanics. You will certainly see some cross in high level theory, but I try my hardest to keep them separate. Star Citizen is its own beautiful project and Revival is very different. I do think it is safe to say that Revival is to medieval fantasy games as what Star Citizen is to sci-fi space games. We treat each project with equal love and focus here at IllFonic.

 

Laguna: Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions, Kedhrin!

 

The Analysis

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For those who haven’t been following the game, this interview revealed some meaty information. First, for those who didn’t catch it, the game was originally developed on Cryengine, but has switched to Unreal 4. This is, perhaps, part of the reason Revival didn’t stick with the original “35% complete” goal and why it’s coming out in stages.

Though billed as free to play, the complete game is looking to be fairly premium. While the base game is offering an interesting (in concept) non-linear story with various levels and degrees of a complex karma system set to change your personal narrative in many ways, it comes across almost like a slightly more complex single player RPG than an MMO. That’s not a bad thing at all!

However, tying property to real money transactions (RMT) only sounds troublesome. I know housing is important to players these days. ArcheAge has shown that, while players like non-instanced housing to fill their game worlds, the limited quality isn’t exactly desirable. Losing out on owning a house can shatter players’ dreams. Add to that any and all features attached to home ownership, and it can certainly feel like buying property is the only way to full experience the game, especially if politics end up being tied to land ownership. Having ships also tied to just real life money has a similar effect, at least on myself as a potential player.

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Now, combine this with having to pay for a subscription fee to experience the live story telling and needing insurance to protect your house (or replace it). You don’t just have to worry about other players, but the developers causing you trouble. I love having a house in Asheron’s Call, and the monthly updates with GM events were fun too. The idea of having to choose between the two is unappealing, though I must admit that I feel like Illfonic wants to do a lot more frequent GM events than AC did. Add to it the potential to have your own custom event or even armor down the line… for those with deep pockets, the game really could be the MMO, but for someone like me, the full experience may be a bit too premium.

At the very least, I have to commend Illfonic for making something no one else seems to be aiming for. I see a lot of solid single-player RPG influences here, but wonder how well they’ll do in an MMO environment. However, I know there are people who want this sort of game, and in various discussions I’ve seen in the past, have claimed they would pay for it. We’ll be seeing how true this is in the future as Revival starts rolling out.

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