Are you tired of hearing the term "Next-Gen" being applied to every new MMORPG? Are you so annoyed with the claim that you've completely tuned out that particular catch phrase? Me too. Surprisingly though, I've actually come across one game that has me honestly considering: Is this it? Am I finally witnessing a game worthy of being called "Next-Gen"?
There Is No Spoon
The creators of Revival are moving ever-closer to their first full year of development as the team has just released their 50th weekly blog. That's a bit deceiving though, since the lead developers on the game have been working together and on the core concepts of Revival for more than a decade. As more systems-design and framework gets constructed, developers on the game are finally able to start sharing some of what Revival will feel like when it is complete.
The most innovative aspect of this whole game, when compared to other MMORPGs, is a complete engine redesign from the ground up. I'm not just talking about a custom engine to emulate the many systems and game features that MMORPGs we're familiar with already contain in some form. I'm talking about a complete overhaul of thought on how future social-based world-simulation systems should connect and interact with each other.
The Devs at Illfonic aren't simply thinking outside the box for Revival, they're reimagining the box so that thinking outside of it is no longer necessary.
The Five C's (Understanding Core Systems)
Nearly all MMORPGs currently on the market consist of a handful of core systems that interact, with a myriad of additional micro-systems bolted to the outside that don't typically impact the core systems in any meaningful way. There are generally five core systems for the majority of MMORPGs ever made (I call them the "Five C's"): Climate (the world), Combat, Crafting, Collaboration & Character-Progression.
If you had to describe the gameplay of your favorite MMORPG, it would be highly unlikely that you'd describe it without crossing into one of those five core systems. Even more disturbingly, you could probably describe very little about most games that go beyond those five core systems. Some games try, but they typically leave the core systems behind when they do so - or they're often only connected by a thread to just one or two of them.
The reality is, although this model has been bulletproof for years in terms of the fun it can provide, it just isn't as interesting anymore. As a result, the level of entertainment people are actually getting out of it has been greatly reduced. The numbers are quickly declining, and the loss of interest in MMORPGs is getting painfully obvious. Sadly, because of how established the model is and the raw statistics on how successful it has been, developers are slow to deviate from it.
Until Now, That Is...
I should first state that Revival isn't the first game under-construction to attempt to break free from the gauntlet of the "Five C's". However, it is the only upcoming MMORPG on my radar that isn't satisfied by merely innovating from under the iron fist - but instead seeking to shatter its vice-like hold completely.
I'm going to briefly touch on each of the typical core systems listed above and describe how Revival is handling them dramatically differently.
Through these core-system break-downs, I'll prove how Revival isn't simply claiming "Next-Gen" by re-skinning the same core gameplay and adding a few new bells and whistles like the rest of the fakers out there. I'll explain how it's actually different; and more importantly, how no other game to date, has attempted anything like it.
Breaking Down The Core Systems
In your average MMORPG:
The Climate is the game-world in which players navigate. Usually it will have various zones, instances, and even scripted events that can physically alter it (usually within the confines of an instance). Most of these worlds feature primarily two-dimensional exploration, with limited verticality via flying mounts (and frequent extra-dimensional instanced space). Aside from a daylight cycle and weather aesthetics, these worlds are painfully static.
The Climate of Revival will be similar to what has been described above (visually), but will feature realistic weather simulation and other environmental factors that will drastically alter gameplay. Heat/Cold play a major role (think Ark: Survival Evolved), but moisture and other elements will also be altering the play-space. Additionally, day-night cycles, moon cycles, and other astrological cycles will also affect many of the game's subsystems - including combat, magic, and NPC behavior.
In your average MMORPG:
As the most heavily innovated element of the traditional model, combat has a ton of variety in the current stock of MMORPGs. Unfortunately most all combat systems I can think of are still tied completely to Character Progression, which puts massive limitations on how even the most unique combat-systems can be used. It's tough to allow freedom and flexibility into a combat system that's paired with one full of level, class, and race restrictions.
For Revival and its level-free progression, combat is much more free and utilitarian. Most importantly, combat isn't the singular avenue through which a player can progress their character - nor is it the only source of conflict and tension. In reality, combat is actually a lesser thing in Revival, comparatively; except in that the improved freedom of advancement should make it feel more expansive (when in reality it won't be drastically different).
The largest innovation the developers have mentioned thus far is in regard to group combat situations. Melee characters in Revival will be capable of interlocking into shield-walls (emulating realistic medieval combat), and moving as a unit to strategically influence a battle. Likewise, magic-wielding characters can collaborate to group-cast single spells and cooperatively produce results that are greater than the sum of their individual abilities.
In your average MMORPG:
Another heavily innovated-upon element of traditional MMORPGs, crafting has seen all sorts of different ideas and concepts - though very few have moved beyond the concept of acquiring materials and utilizing some type of UI menu to create the end items. Most games are satisfied with the status-quo of having some combination of harvesting/trade professions that allow players to create by cooperating together (or advancing the skills of alternate characters). Sadly this model makes crafting underwhelming for people who actually like to create things and feel proud of their various wares.
For Illfonic's team, crafting will be much more detailed and involved. It will include a multi-step process for the creation of most valuable end-items. Even the basic process of harvesting and applying trade skills will feature interesting skill-based mini-games that will actually affect the resulting quality of end-items. More than just a replacement for a crafting-progress bar, these mini-games will allow for experimentation and many will have hidden features that can only be seen/unlocked through a unique skill/study progression system.
Collaboration is a blanket word that describes both the various social systems of a game, and also the interaction between players and non-player characters. It is a term that attempts to describe how any given character interacts with other entities in the world, be they friend or foe.
In your average MMORPG:
As one of the more complex elements of MMORPGs, collaboration still can be broken down into simple concepts. For most games today, collaboration usually resembles a master-slave relationship. Games utilizing a traditional NPC/Social model typically feature numerous NPC entities that assign content for a player's character - who may or may not need to collaborate to complete that content. It can be as simple as a single NPC "asking" a lone player to complete a mission, or as complex as multiple guilds raiding a perilous dungeon complex with powerful super-mobs; either way, the players are generally at the mercy of NPC guides who determine how and when they collaborate (particularly with fixed instances).
This is a difficult one to answer, mostly because of how limitless the possibilities feel right now. In Revival, many NPCs, locations, items, and even other players will have hidden "tags" that determine interactions and behaviors. Based on what tags you have hidden on your character file, the NPCs will react differently to you, new intractable objects will be "revealed" and even items will cause different effects. All of those things will greatly determine your course in the world and how and when you collaborate.
Karma-based tags will also have moral impact and influence what is and isn't available to your character in their current state. Due to changes in the underlying tags of the game-world, collaboration between individual players, NPC-interactions, and even between larger organizations (NPC-driven or player-guided) may or may not be possible; and will certainly change your tag-state and alter future interactions.
It's tough to explain in simple terms, but hopefully that gives you some idea about the underlying framework that will alter the way players interact with one another, and also with NPC game entities.
Last but not least, Character Progression/Advancement is another one of the more complex MMORPG elements. After all, it's what truly separates an RPG from other MMO game types. If you can't progress or advance in some way, the persistent role-playing element of these MMO worlds is completely lost.
In your average MMORPG:
While the variable methods for advancement appear massive and detailed at first glance, when you generalize these complex systems into their functional components, the variety gets alarmingly less pronounced. Most games feature a combination of a steep vertical power climb (via levels or an equivalent name) with a narrow path of horizontal customization and/or specialization; all of which is achieved through some form of experience resource passing through set milestones.
The only true variant from this depressingly static model are games that allow cross-classing - which even when restricted allow for much more customization and experimentation. Sadly though, without being able to make any type of permanent impact on the world, customizing and advancing your character up this massive vertical climb is the only form of identity and influence players ever achieve.
For this upcoming dark-fantasy MMORPG, character progression goes way beyond a numeric designator and cleverly generic skill-trees. Your advancement isn't tied simply to a base power or set of abilities that grant increasing utility or identity to your character. In Revival your progression happens there, but also in much more important and exciting ways.
I briefly described some of the profession skill/study system above - as well as the underlying tag system that impacts collaboration. What I didn't yet inform you, is that the combination of those systems (and also your combat skill progression) will all influence your individual character story, status, and role in the world of Revival. Progression will no longer be a finite and predictable outcome that can be mathematically quantified.
Putting It All Together
The skills and abilities you have progressed (combat and non-combat) and the tags that you have acquired (which you will only have a general awareness of) will not only determine what future potential paths you can take - but also what lasting legacy you leave in your wake. You will carve out a unique role in the world of Revival, determined by your specific combination of all of the variable factors above and your individual taste of choice as you move about the world and take action.
Your progression will be theoretically unlimited (without the need for continuous content updates), as your skill/ability repertoire and your ever-shifting tag-state constantly evolve. What you have achieve will be less about generic numbers/levels/titles and more about what events you have participated in and what role you played in them.
That is the true beauty of what the developers of Revival are working so hard to achieve. That description above, of the combined interaction of several common systems (redesigned from the ground up), is what sets this game aside as something truly "Next-Gen".
Don't Read Too Far Between the Lines...
As my final parting note, I'd just like to specifically state that I am in no way trying to "sell" anyone on this game as a "WoW-Killer" or "the One".
All I'm merely doing is pointing out how poorly past games have claimed "Next-Gen" without actually changing their core-gameplay in any substantial way. Innovating with a single system that's still following the same model and merely adding a few new bells and whistles has not ushered us into a new generation of MMORPGs; and it never will. To truly become "Next-Gen" an MMORPG will have to force us to completely rethink how these core systems, that have been built and arranged almost identically for over a decade, have to dramatically change.
I believe that Illfonic and the developers working on Revival are finally attempting to do that.
Whether or not they manage to ultimately do so... well, that is an entirely different question altogether!
To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our Revival Game Page.