Is Skyforge the next big online RPG?

Futuristic fairytale.

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How does a massively multiplayer role-playing game stand out in 2014? No matter how much diversity the genre offers, it's still difficult to escape accusations that everything is just a World of Warcraft clone, a lingering misconception that each developer seeks to smash into pieces in its own unique way. Many studios look to their combat systems as the means of differentiation, shooting for fighting that approximates a true action-game feel, with your character responding immediately and appropriately to every mouse click and button press.

You can add Skyforge to the list of games trying to heat up the action. It's under development by the team that created Allods Online in collaboration with Fallout: New Vegas developer Obsidian Entertainment. I recently took a frost mage out for an adventure in Skyforge and was immediately struck by how similar the game was to another MMOG: Tera. I still believe Tera sets the standard for MMOG combat, so following its lead is no bad thing, and spearing floating robots and armored lizard creatures with icicles gave me Tera-level joys as I played Skyforge.

The welcoming committee has arrived.
The welcoming committee has arrived.

As in Tera, I could also charge up certain attacks by holding the mouse button down for a period of time, as well as perform contextual combos in which a single button could be used for different attacks, depending on what action preceded it. Given the similarities between Skyforge and En Masse's MMOG, I had to wonder what Skyforge brings to battle that makes it unique. Says producer Eric Demitt from Obsidian, "One of the first things players will notice when playing Skyforge is the amount of content we're able to deliver through the mouse alone. Each character class will use the mouse a little differently. You'll find that most classes do a lot more than a basic attack with just that input. We also have a big focus on delivering really high quality animations and effects, you're going to feel the power and impact of your attacks. Our open class system and deep character customization are going to allow you to do a lot of things to change up the combat equation and make it your own."

An MMOG is about more than combat, however. Such games build worlds and give you a certain amount of freedom in how to explore them, providing different races, classes, and customization options. The Skyforge universe's primary world, Aelion, recalls 2006's RF Online, which was shut down in 2008, then resurrected several years later. In one city, sharp-winged airships pass near looming glass towers and curved skyrails; elsewhere, wooden bridges hang over deep chasms, while the rocky cliffs and evergreen trees beyond evoke the American West. It's a diverse but cohesive look, and I asked DeMilt to fill me on on the the universe. What makes it unique among MMOGs?

This not the eight Wonder of Oregon.
This not the eight Wonder of Oregon.

"Skyforge is a highly-stylized MMORPG where the player takes on a larger than life role as an Immortal, wielding incredible powers in the battle to protect his world," says DeMilt. "The game's tone and aesthetic are designed to immerse the player in a glossy, space-age fairy tale, which can be seen in various settings for the game, the over-the-top combat visuals and abilities, the threats and monsters they face, and even in the highly stylized and detailed character and costume designs." Of course, terms like "stylized" and "over-the-top" mean little without context, but DeMilt luckily dropped a few more tidbits about Skyforge's background lore. "The world Aelion is unique among all others: its greater god has vanished, and it is now only protected by Immortals (player characters and NPCs--people capable of becoming gods) and a few remaining lesser gods. Without a strong greater god to protect it, Aelion is an attractive target for the armies of hostile gods and is constantly under the threat of cataclysmic invasions. The scars of these battles already mark many locations in the world."

Eventually, players will gain enough power, renown, and followers to themselves become gods, enabling to protect their worlds and counter invasions, though I'm not yet sure about how that narrative arc plays out in the game. After all, a 15-minute play session is barely a raindrop in the ocean where MMOGs are concerned. I did note, however, that I could access various adventures from a central hub area, so I asked DeMilt how the game was structured.

"[It's] like that of an amusement park," DeMilt told me. "At any given time, there are a number of activities available to the player. These include everything you'd expect in in a triple-A MMOG ranging from solo and group gameplay in large open world zones and instances, player-versus-player, events, raids, and dungeons. Like being at an amusement park, our map-room gives you a god's eye view of everything available for the player at that time and the player can choose the content they want."

Rule number one of dungeon crawling: never turn your back. Especially if doing so leaves your tail vulnerable.
Rule number one of dungeon crawling: never turn your back. Especially if doing so leaves your tail vulnerable.

There's no shortage of themepark-type MMOGs, of course, or space-age fairy tales for that matter, but I commend Allods team and Obsidian for the immediacy of their combat. The action was fun and the areas I explored were beautiful. But the question remains: just what is a skyforge? DeMilt was mum on that one, so it looks like I'll have to wait until Skyforge is released before I get my answer. The bad news: we don't yet know when that will be. Until then, it looks like I'll just have to gaze at the stars and imagine the adventures that might be waiting.

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Avatar image for Stiler
Stiler

Why do so many mmorpgs force every single person to be the "hero of the world?"


It's just such a big dispapointment from a gameplay perspective when you play an mmorpg and see hundreds of other "heroes" doing ht eexact same thing you do.


Why not let us make our OWN story? Maybe we want to be the villain, maybe we just want to be a trader? Maybe a mercenary? We should not all be forced to be some "Chosen" hero that the fate of the world rest on our shoulders (and the thousands of other players following the exact same scripted storyline).



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MoreFunky

<< LINK REMOVED >> You just described Eve.

Avatar image for Stiler
Stiler

<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> Yea eve has some great stories with its player factions and PVP, but I just couldn't stick with it when I played it, the combat was incredibly boring to me, a space sim I need to have full control of my ship (like Wing commander/Independence War, freespace).

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RoyialNetwork

<< LINK REMOVED >> I agree, i also see what Kevin is saying, but i think there a few MMOs that have done that pretty well. Star Wars Galaxies, at least when it first released was a lot like what you're talking about. You didn't pick a class, you only picked your race and started in Tatooine (at least from what i remembed). I believe the system was setup in a way that (like Oblivion) the more you did a particular thing the more you would advance in that and you could do a variety of different things. I think the system could have used some refining but i like the idea of it, its a great RPG tool as it feels natural to develop your character based on whatever you're doing rather than picking a mold to start from. The did change this in the long run, but it is something that i've always remembered and held onto and i hope to see it in a MMO or RPG in the future, it really was a great concept and seemed to work fairly well.


Regardless, i think the accusation of a WoW clone is annoying but often appropriate. Its hard for me to get too excited about most MMOs when it starts with picking a side, a race, a class, and so on. I'd like to see more MMOs approach a free-build of character. Give players the tools to do whatever they want with. I think EVE is another good example and one that has been immensely successful (albeit not for everyone) for those reasons.

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Snowx1

@Stiler You should have played Ultima Online back in the day:D. Almost matches what you are describing perfectly. I have not played Ultima Online for who knows how long though so I don't know the changes that they have made. This was before the WoW era and even Everquest slightly if I can remember that far lol. Was good though.

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Stiler

<< LINK REMOVED >> I did play UO back in the day (Lake Superior ftw).

That is what I was basing a lot of my opinion around that a game like UO back in the late 90's gave you no forced "Story" and it didn't make you the "hero that would save the entire world" and sit you on this scripted quest chain that every other player was on, instead it let you play however you wanted and make up your own stories with the other players.

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OmegaGear

<< LINK REMOVED >> You're thinking of the original Star Wars Galaxies, where you could be whatever you wanted, including a merchant, full blown crafter, a hero, or even a scumbag player killing bounty hunter. That game revolved on an economy made by the players, which included fields of material gathering machines that basically made up companies, player made towns with politics, and player declared bounties. Then it all went to hell when they decided to turn it into a theme park.

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Theseus1994

<< LINK REMOVED >> Few get it right. Star Wars galaxies (for its first 2 years or so) was probably the closest in my opinion to this ideal. Many people were strictly tailors, ran shops, organized guilds, built/decorated houses for others, ran guilds, harvested minerals for a living or were entertainers at cantinas. And there was no prerequisite storyline you had to follow to succeed, however one was available if you wished to follow it. It was a living breathing economy and was its own world.


I wish more mmos followed this path but sadly not many people prefer this type of game, or else youde think they would make more like it... Definately not for the ADD generation.

Avatar image for Stiler
Stiler

<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> Yes SWG was good in that regard, it was much like Ultima Online in that regard, even down to animal taming, player focused economy, etc.

If they just designed the worlds better (the random generation of the landscape made for some really unflattering areas on the planets) and better combat/gameplay it might still be around.

SW:TOR went in the opposite direction with it's heavy story-focus and we know how that turned out.

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Kevin-V

<< LINK REMOVED >> There's actually a pretty good answer to that: because making a game like that would be really expensive, really time-consuming, and really really hard. There are sandbox MMOs that give you certain freedoms along the lines you are talking about, but even the best of those have to draw lines in the sand. As an RPG developer once told me: "An RPG can do anything... but it can't do everything."

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Stiler

<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> I understand that, but that's how I felt playing Ultima Online back in the day.

With no quests or anything you were plopped into the world and free to do whatever you wanted, you could be good, bad, play a crafter, tamer, about any type of character you could think of you could play as.

I think more mmo's could have better quality if they just dropped the whole "narrative" approach and spending a huge budget on scripted storylines/characters, voice actors, writing a huge overarcing "single player" story and instead let players make their own stories through gameplay.

While playing mmo's most of the people I play with do not even bother with the stories, they skip all the dialogue/quest and just run from waypoint to waypoint. All of the developers time and budget for this aspect seems largely wasted from my experience. I know there's some people that do read it, but I would wager the majority of players skip that stuff.

I have yet to play an mmo that really offered a gripping story that kept your interest held and didn't feel like "window dressing" to cover up fetch quests galore and a simple "good vs evil" back drop, none of them compare to say a good single player rpg like Planescape Torment, Baldur's Gate, The Witcher, or Mass Effect.

It would just seem that the genre as a whole is better suited to a more freeform story approach where the stories are made by players through their actions, like in UO/Eve, just give them basic tools to do it.

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sohail5566

why there are so many multiplayer games

Avatar image for greaterdivinity
greaterdivinity

<< LINK REMOVED >> Why are there so many fps's? Why are there so many action games? Why are there so many adventure games? Why are there so many RPG's? etc. etc. etc.

Avatar image for Unfallen_Satan
Unfallen_Satan

<< LINK REMOVED >> More specifically, why is Obsidian making two right now?

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greaterdivinity

<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> If you're talking about their tank game they're working on, it's an entirely different market. This is a MMORPG aimed at the more traditional MMO market, while the tank game is aimed more at the shooter market that World of Tanks has shown exists and is pretty big.

Avatar image for Unfallen_Satan
Unfallen_Satan

<< LINK REMOVED >> Then I wish them success. I neither understand nor care about the business of MMO or F2P, but since I like Obsidian, I see no harm in more money for them. As long they keep making great RPG, I got no complaints. If they become a sellout, well, I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.

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greaterdivinity

<< LINK REMOVED >> Money. F2P games make some pretty big money, and they have spectacular longterm monetization that traditional single/multiplayer games don't have (even with DLC).

They've got their hands in a lot of pies (Just finished South Park and are likely working on DLC, working on this and the tank game, working on Pillars of Eternity, and likely working on at least one or two other unannounced games), which is what has me skeptical. They've never had so many projects going simultaneously to my knowledge, and I'm curious as to if they're overreaching.

Avatar image for Unfallen_Satan
Unfallen_Satan

<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> It is. I was not aware of other multiplayer games Obsidian made previously, so I am surprised that they are making two. I am also curious as to why, since these do not appear, at this point, to be incredible ideas that have to be realized.

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SlaviksG

<< LINK REMOVED >> If they'd be any good, I wouldn't mind

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