Exclusive Alganon Interview - The Appeal of Out-of-Game Advancement
A few months ago, the Ten Ton Hammer staff was introduced to a game
that was intriguing in its premise, yet was flying completely
under-the-radar. But now, as more effort is placed in the marketing and
discussion of Alganon,
the MMO public is beginning to take notice of the game.
One of the most intriguing aspects of Alganon is the “study system.” While players will still advance their classes through the normal means of completing quests and fighting monsters, players will also be able to “study” to improve some of their statistics and allow for alternate advancement through simple real time progression. Think of it like a blend of a normal MMO advancement with the time-based advancement of EVE Online. To learn more about this system, we fired some questions at Alganon community manager Mathew Anderson, who gave us all the details.
The study system is a major part of Alganon's gameplay.
Mathew Anderson: The Alganon study system was designed to reward players based on real-time accomplishments, in addition to all of the rewards that come from gameplay time. This way, a player who has casually played Alganon for a year and properly managed their studies can compete with a power gamer who plays 18 hours a day for a month.
A player could log on to Alganon and choose a field they want their character to study. For example, a character who has met all of the prerequisites could choose to study Swordsmanship. After they initiate that study, their character will progress in this area, whether they are online or not. After the required time passes, their character gains the boons that come with a completed study rank.
Different studies will take different amounts of time to complete, and higher ranks in a single study will take longer than the earlier ranks. For example, the first rank of swordsmanship may only take a few minutes of real-time to study, while the first rank of strength training may take hours, and the fifth rank of swordsmanship may take days.
Ten Ton Hammer: What skills and/or abilities can you enhance with the study system? Is it focused on crafting skills, or will combat skills be included in the study system?
Statistics and alternate advancement are the prime foci of the study system.
Much like enchantments and gems in other gains, these statistic gains are much more advantageous to a lower level player. Those players who take a more casual approach will find that the stat gains they receive from studies help them to catch up with the hardcore players who simply have more time to play.
That's not to say that these stat gains are completely worthless to players who prefer to race to the endgame. One point of endurance may only grant you 10 additional hit points, but every time you look up to find you have nine hit points left, you'll be glad you set time aside for that one rank of endurance training.
The second way that studies effect characters is by providing alternate forms of advancement. This is most common in the crafting areas of study, but also assists casual players who enjoy endgame combat, but are unable to schedule time for raids.
For example, you may see a powerful soldier wielding a trinket like the Badge of the Peacemantle, and want one for yourself. Looking in the Library, you may find it to be a 10% drop from Warlord Ha'skik - one of the hardest raid-bosses in the game. Many players will get a raid group together, and charge the gates of Warfiend Karr in order to claim one of their own, but what if you are a casual player, whose real life activities prevent them from scheduling raid times? Or what if you are the type of player that prefers to stay in town and craft, and never play the raiding game? What do you do?
We can do the same for rare crafting recipes, allowing the more adventurous to obtain them from raiding, and the more "economically minded" to obtain them through a combination of studies and quests. This allows us to keep certain recipes rare and hard to obtain, but allow equal access to raiders and those players who choose to never leave the city gates.
Since we are able to use the study system to gate access to quest chains, training, crafting recipes, and even item use, we can provide players with alternate ways to remain competitive, without requiring everyone to run the same undead-infested fortress over-and-over-and-over-and-over again.
Ten Ton Hammer: When a player is "studying" are they learning passive enhancements that make their character more potent in everything they do with a particular skill? Or are they studying active items like different spells, different abilities, etc.?
Anderson: A study is usually targeted to a specific 'category' such as swords, tailoring, or tactics. This way there is no 'bad study' a player can put time into, just systems they can build upon as their character grows.
The initial release of Alganon will focus on studies that enhance basic skills related to combat, tradeskills, and a few other general topics. After the initial release, we will be extending studies to include class-specific areas.
Ten Ton Hammer: A time-based training system (like what you have with studying) is an uncommon trait in an active MMOG. Why did you decide to include something like the study system in the game?
The Alganon devs wanted a way for players to be able to catch up quickly to their peers.
But they are also a ton of fun. Everyone on the Alganon team loves them. Like many of you, we have libraries full of games that still sit unopened, because our current MMOs devour all our free time.
Every single member of the Alganon team is a passionate MMO player who loves to raid, to PvP, to craft, to heal, to tank, to nuke, to loot... these are our favorite things, but nowhere in that list does it say that an MMO has to be jealous to be fun.
We want you to have a life outside the game - we want you to succeed at work or in school, spend time with your family, network on MyAlganon.com, even go out and play other games.
The study system encourages players to do just that. As long as you remain a part of Alganon, your character continues to grow, so that when you return, it is easy to catch up with those players who spent every waking moment inside the game. Not every game can say that.
Right now, as I answer these questions, I am losing ground on my favorite MMOs. My friends are leaving me behind, moving on to greener pastures and harder dungeons. Doors are closing and I may never get them open again. I am losing. It's a horrible feeling. We don't want Alganon players to feel that way.
If we were playing Alganon right now, we'd be progressing. As we did this interview, we'd be getting stronger, faster, smarter. Doors would be opening for us. New adventures would be waiting for us the next time we logged on. That's a great feeling. That's the game I want to play.
Ten Ton Hammer: Are there any limitations to how much a player can "study"? Can a level one character max out all of his studying simply by making sure he logs in and readjusts his study queue?
Anderson: When Alganon launches, there will literally be years of studies available. If a player wishes to focus on combat, they may first choose to max out Tactics, Anatomy, Swordsmanship, and Marksmanship. That alone could take 6 months.
Other players may wish to focus on enhancing tradeskills by studying Mining, Expedient Blacksmithing, and Rare Alloys. There will always be something to study. There will always be some way to improve your character, and more will be added as the game continues to grow and expand.
We are going to build a "study queue" system that allows the player to manage and plan their studies, but it is undecided how far in to the future a player can queue their studies. We don't want a player to set up 6 months of studies and never enter the game.
Ten Ton Hammer: You are going to be including classes in Alganon? How will studying affect those classes? Will players be able to enhance their class through studying?
Initially, class-based studying will not be included in Alganon.
Later, as the game develops, we will add studies that are specific to a given class, but we're going to look to how our players approach the classes before we finalize and implement class-specific studies.
Ten Ton Hammer: How much will "studying" actually influence the game? Will players with the highest amount of studying (ie - have had characters the longest in the game) be some of the most powerful characters?
Anderson: An extra 1% here and there quickly adds up. Characters that are older will have that extra edge that younger characters just don't, and, in the right hands, that edge can be the difference between victory and defeat.
However, even if they focus all of their studies in a single area, players will never have a game-breaking imbalance. Studies will never result in a player doing double damage, or one-shotting an opponent. Instead, they will provide an older player with more situations where they have a small advantage.
When a younger opponent realizes you have the upper hand in close combat, and decides to move to range, you can show him you have the advantage there as well. A younger student that has only studied Fire and Flame will lose their study-based advantage if they switch to Cold damage. An older character, however, may have studied both and has more options available to them. An older player is more likely to study Lore and History and use the alternate progression paths to improve their gear.
Ten Ton Hammer: Is there anything else you can tell the Ten Ton Hammer readers about Alganon?
Anderson: It's coming along great. We just released our second in-game video and have a lot more planned this month. Keep an eye on the main Alganon website (http://www.alganon.com) as well as the MyAlganon website (http://www.myalganon.com) as we're going to be announcing some new features over the next few weeks!