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There are dreams and there are dreams. Some dreams have pedigree, some dreams have potential. Some dreamers have the ability and expertise to make their dreams reality.

Shards is a dream made reality, a dream with pedigree and a dream with potential.
We recently were lucky enough to be given a bit of a guided tour through the concept and technology behind Shards by Derek Brinkmann and Kate Lollar of Citadel Studios.

What is Shards Online?

 
Shards are ... pointy

Shards are … pointy

If you took a sandbox game and Ultima Online and one very romantic night you might get a result somewhat like Shards Online. Citadel Studios is taking the sandbox concept and applying it to traditional gaming. The result is an isometric view customizable MMO that puts power directly in the hands of the players.
What does this mean? Well the titular Shards are in play here. Any given world, be it run on a server by Citadel Studios or by your best friend, constitutes a Shard. Shards can be connected together in Clusters to give players worlds to travel through.
Not content with forming your own cluster of worlds? These worlds can be changed in either quick broad strokes with rulesets and God powers or you can really roll up your sleeves and get deep down into the modding of the game. The core technology being worked on by Derek and the team aims to make it not just quick but easy for people to mod the game. Want a steampunk world? Go right ahead. Want all your bears to breathe fire? Combine the fire breathing behaviour with your bears and instant Mirror Universe Smokey the Bear.
The official ruleset and the official server come complete with a story explaining this multiversal multi-world concept but clearly the chance is there for people to take the technology and craft their own dreams for themselves and others.

Potential 

Over the course of our conversation I got to see a few different worlds in action. PvP? It’s in there. PvE? Easily arranged. How hard core do you want it? Do you want to have death be a punishing experience? You can mod your Shard and make it so. Want to have a sandbox survival game where the lack of food will kill you? That can be created. The beautiful dream and potential presented in Shards Online is this, these worlds are yours to play with.
The Universe is Purple

The Universe is Purple

I’ll be honest, my imagination ran away with me when I first saw the teaser trailer. I wasn’t really sure what Shards was, only that it reminded me of a book, Halting State. As it turns out I’m not the first one to mention this book to Derek and Kate. Not surprising to me really, a premise like this resonates. While we’re continuing with abject honesty, I was surprised to see the isometric view for playing. It seemed… retrograde. Dreaming in the wrong direction. That impression did not last.
Dreams have power, so does nostalgia. Soon I found myself basking in their dream and the power of my own nostalgia. It wasn’t just that Shards looks like the games I grew up on, it was the fact that I could finally take hold of those worlds and mold them in my own image.

I Have The Power

The story telling potential cannot be overstated in my opinion. You can’t just mod the world to your liking, you can be a God in it. If you’re running a Shard for people to connect to, congratulations on your sudden Deity-hood. Gods can rush around the world, sneak about invisibly and have powerful abilities. Possibly the one that I loved the sound of the most was the ability to possess. Do you have an enclave of roleplayers on your Shard? Maybe instead they’re just a party of adventurers.
Do you want to be that dragon they’re attempting to slay? Now you can. You can step into those scaley shoes and really spice up the experience for everyone. This isn’t just crafting raids, this is being the raid boss.
Granted just because you have slipped into a delightful scale ensemble doesn’t mean that players aren’t going to do their best to kill you. This may look like the games of yore, but it comes ready to take its place amongst the games of today.

They Have The Power

Players can look forward to two particular things in my opinion. First is, yes ladies and gentlemen, there is player housing. Go, hunt, bring back the riches to build your own little ideal home on whichever world you’ve settled.
Secondly, making sure it’s not just Gods that have all the fun toys, there’s the skills system. Flexibility in gaming is a wonderful thing and more and more it is the norm. I don’t think we’ll ever leave the Trinity behind but Shards Online offers you the chance to build your player character your way. Abilities are determined by both your equipment and your skills. Investing in one or the other opens up new ways for you to play. Want to bash brains with a Shield? Go right ahead. Have a skill that you want to equip? Slot it in and improve it.
Just keep in mind that your friendly neighborhood God may try their hand at creating some Shard specific skills for you to try out.
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You just have to ask him nicely.

The Future

Shards Online is currently in a focused playtesting enviroment with the team itself working on builds every week as they test and polish the core technologies. As this continues we may see Alpha by the end of the year. Be sure to keep your eyes on this one. A retro look for sure, but the dreams are nothing if not ambitious and forward looking. I was won over in a conversation. Be sure to check back for more as we get it and we’ll see if having the multiverse at your finger tips wins you over as well.
I wonder how long until someone makes the chickens Zelda Hard.
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About Jonathan Doyle

Once long ago Westwood made a space game. Earth And Beyond was the start of the journey. From there, through Paragon City and to the fields of Altdorf, there were battles. Westwood brought me to MMOs. City of Heroes refined my love for them. Warhammer brought me to writing about them. He loves all things space, sci fi, Warhammer or heroic.