Pathfinder Online Interview

By Rudy Villalobos
pathfinder online interview

After a successful Kickstarter, Goblinworks has been hard at work producing what they believe to be the “next-generation Massively Multiplayer Online fantasy roleplaying game.” The hybrid sandbox/theme park fantasy MMO, Pathfinder Online, is Goblinworks most ambitious project to date. We had the opportunity to ask Ryan S. Dancey, CEO at Goblinworks, a few questions about the MMORPG edition to their already popular series.

How will players level up in Pathfinder Online?

Your character earns XP in realtime, regardless of what you're doing or if you're even logged in to the game or not. You spend that XP to buy ranks in skills, which are perquisites for various character abilities that you unlock by doing interesting things in-game.

When you unlock the right combination of skills and character abilities, you earn recognition as having achieved a level in a pre-defined path we call a Role. But you don't have to follow those paths and you can make your own character concept as you see fit. Roles are a template, not a straightjacket!

How will roleplaying function in the game?

Sandbox games are inherently different than theme park games (like World of Warcraft) because your actions are persistent and player characters do a lot more than play heroic adventurers. If you want to roleplay a pirate in the game - be a pirate. If you want to roleplay being a merchant - be a merchant. If you want to roleplay being a spy - be a spy! Your in-game actions are actually meaningful beyond simply killing monsters, getting loot, and powering up.

Persistence is a critical factor. You can build structures everyone else in the game can see. You can take and hold territory as a member of a group. You can engage in warfare, diplomacy and trade with other groups. These kinds of systems make the game "more real" to the players, and vastly expand the range of what I call "real roleplaying" for those interested.

Can you elaborate on the player-run economy?

We are going to have a virtual economy, which is different from a simulated economy. Most theme park games have simulated economies - there's a thing in them that looks like an economy but really isn't; prices don't follow laws of supply and demand, the currency isn't a medium of global exchange, etc.

A virtual economy functions just like the real-world economy with the proviso that everything in it is digital, not a real-world good. Markets determine prices. Players determine supply and demand. Variables like scarcity and distance are relevant.

The key difference is that everything in the Pathfinder Online game will be crafted by characters rather than purchased from NPCs or found as loot. When you kill a monster you'll mostly get harvestable components that you'll have to process and craft into something useful. Every sword, piece of armor, potion, cart, and wall in the game will be built by player characters.

The game is being designed so that no one area is self-sufficient. You'll need to trade resources with people living in other areas to craft useful goods. That means there will be trade. The game assumes that you buy and sell locally, so you have to transport your goods to a market; and you can arbitrage supply and demand if you want. The in game currency will be used as the medium of exchange between characters for services as well as goods - you'll be able to hire other characters to help you do things like guard your caravans or serve in a mercenary army.

How will the crafting system in Pathfinder Online work?

The crafting system in Pathfinder Online will begin with a system very similar to the system in EVE Online. You'll travel to a place with the requisite facilities to do the crafting job you want to do. Once there, you'll load in the raw materials required for the job, which will then produce a cost and a time estimate. You click a button and after the necessary time passes, the finished goods are delivered to local storage for your use.

One thing that is different from the EVE Online system is that the quality of the input materials dictates the quality of the finished good. You will be able to source components with a wide variety of quality which means your goods will also have a wide variety of quality. There will be a price spectrum that correlates to item quality and you'll be able to fine-tune your personal production chain to get the most value from the markets and customers you're trying to serve.

How will spellbooks work?

You equip a spellbook and that opens additional options you can select for your character to perform (essentially, "the spells"). Each spellbook has a limited range of spells and thus options. You'll be able to customize your spellbooks to some degree. Switching from one spellbook to another will be a time consuming process and not something you'll do on the fly in the heat of combat.

What can fans of the Pathfinder RPG expect to see in Pathfinder Online?

Lots of lore. Many familiar monsters, magic items, and spells. A lot of game mechanics that are familiar in name and function. NPCs and NPC groups from the canon. The Pathfinder pantheon.

What are some of the challenges when converting a tabletop RPG into an MMORPG?

There are three.

First, the tabletop game is not realtime. Players can debate and discuss actions as long as they wish before declaring what their characters will do. The online game is realtime which means you have to be ready and able to act as circumstances dictate and you can't pause the game to coordinate with your friends.

Second the tabletop game is a subset of the online game in terms of scope. On the tabletop virtually every PC is a heroic adventurer. In the online game you can be many more things - spies, diplomats, soldiers, merchants, teamsters, politicians, farmers, explorers, etc. This requires us to have a very different system for advancing a character's abilities over time and allowing players to customize those character abilities according to their needs rather than some pre-defined hardcoded classes.

Third the tabletop game is usually played by a small group of less than a dozen people who all get together at the same time and place. The online game is a 7x24x365 game. Groups will scale from less than a dozen to more than a thousand people. This expanded social graph requires many structures and mechanics not present in the tabletop game that become crucial to the functioning of the online game.

What is the development team currently working on?

They are on Milestone 2, which is due in mid July. Milestone 2 is the first iteration of the "escalation system", where a small group of monsters is seeded into the world which generates the need for players to respond to their presence, and if left unchecked, the monsters become more numerous and more powerful. This is the engine that drives the PvE part of the game - the content where the players interact with the server, rather than which each other. It forms a skeleton for the rest of the game to flesh out with players interacting with other players.

What would you say to a player that has been playing World of Warcraft for years and is looking to switch to a new MMORPG?

You will finally get to play a game that delivers the original promise of the MMO - you will have a persistent, meaningful impact on the game world, the game world will react and respond to what your character does, and you will interact with other players in very meaningful ways beyond simply grouping up to kill monsters.

What advice would you give to an indie studio looking to use Kickstarter to fund their next project?

Kickstarter is a place to monetize a community, not to create a community. Before you launch a Kickstarter, you should find a way to form a social network. You can use message boards, Facebook, Google+, etc. and you can start with friends and family, but in order to raise money on Kickstarter you need to have a number of evangelists ready to help spread the word and you need to know who your target audience is, where to find them, and how to speak to them. Community comes before money.


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