Updated Thu, Dec 20, 2012 by gunky
City of Steam works a little bit differently. There are still storage spaces, and you can still access all your stuff from any terminal, but there's a logical reason for it - these storage terminals are pneumatic tubes all connected to some massive underground system, evidently operated by dwarves. When you access the terminal, it sends a request to the tube guys and they shoot your container straight to you. Sure, that's a justification for a common game mechanic, but it's a damned good one, and better than I've seen elsewhere. It's the little things like this that make the game what it is.
Another cool thing about this storage system is that the first time I encountered one, it was in an adventuring instance. It wasn't hidden in some crowded room in some bank in the middle of a town. It was in a spot where a player might commonly have a pressing need for it. We've all had those moments where we're in the middle of a dungeon or instance or whatever, and suddenly realize we forgot to vendor our trash loot and stash those ingots or unpolished gems or super-heavy armor, and have run completely out of inventory space. In most games, you would have to run out and hit a vendor and/or a vault to make room.
The very best thing about the storage tube: it was standing right beside an Alchemer in that same dungeon. An Alchemer is basically a healing potion vending machine that also buys your junk. These machines are constantly restocked, likely by the same system of underground tubes that feed the storage terminals, and give players a convenient way to prepare for and recover from tough dungeons. These services are not located in every single dungeon or adventuring area, and there some to be found in rest areas because that's sort of mandatory, but their inclusion means that the developers are also gamers, and they are designing what they want to see in games.
This also includes the cash shop. Everything sold in the cash shop (with the exception of some cosmetics and the like) is stuff you can get in the game by normal means - there are no exclusive potions or other pay-to-win items. The devs at Mechanist Games feel that pay-to-win items tend to limit the lifespan of a game, and that the ability to earn valued items through normal gameplay gives players the incentive to keep playing.
Gabriel was also keen on introducing me to the item mod and crafting system. Modding is fairly simple and straightforward - you don't need special tools or a workbench, you just select the thing you want to tweak and cram mods into it. The current system is rather limited - one mod at a time - but Gabriel assured me that they were planning on expanding on this in future builds.
There are some rather unfortunate limitations to the mod system, however. While mods applied to weapons are visible and can drastically alter the look of them, armor and clothing mods are invisible. Gabriel explained that this is because there are a lot of resources already used for un-modded armor - so many pieces, and so many variations and combinations. Making the mods visible would require a ton of new resources, which would cripple load times and frame rates. This is not a graphically-complex game - the largest map we visited was around 3 - 4 mb in size. Add a bunch of crazy armor mods on a bunch of people running around on each map and that means much longer load times and lag.
We talked in some detail about future plans for City of Steam. Gabriel was unable to go into any real specifics - this is still mid-way through closed beta, after all, and so much is subject to change - but he did say that they are expecting to go into open beta testing in "spring-ish." In the meantime, they are working on improving a number of systems that testers have tried and found lacking - keybinding, for example. This is something they wanted to add to closed beta because so many testers started asking for it, but there were larger issues that needed handling first, and custom keybinding will not likely be seen until open beta sometime early next year. He also mentioned more customization in the character creation menu, adding more variety to skin tones. They plan on sticking with realistic tones and avoiding hot pinks and electric blues and the like.
It's pretty clear that the developers are enthusiastic about the future of City of Steam. And the beta community is too. How about you? Share your thoughts in the comments!