Salem : Puritans, Permadeath, and Open PvP in a Fantastical New England
is one of the freshest concepts we’ve seen come to the MMORPG
category since innovative games like style="font-style: italic;">Seed,
of Spellborn, style="font-style: italic;">Love,
each made their brief splash in the aughts. It’s also a study
in contrasts – the Puritanical meets the black arts, a
familiar New England meets a fantastical past steeped in folklore and
Native American influence, and a lighthearted style meets truly
hardcore game concepts (like real-time crafting and building,
permadeath, and full-time open PvP).
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To help us understand this colorfully contrasty game, we met with Game
Designer Bjorn Johannessen, who makes up exactly half of the Seatribe
development team. Lead Programmer
Frederik Tolf ran the demo as Bjorn
got into the particulars. Given the small team size and
gathering / crafting intensity of the game, comparisons to style="font-style: italic;">Minecraft
were rife. “I’m comfortable with those,”
laughed Bjorn. While style="font-style: italic;">Salem
do seem very similar on the surface (though style="font-style: italic;">Salem
has much better – if not cutting edge – graphics),
Seatribe seems avid to support and explore the social side of the game
much more than their vaunted forbearer did.
First up was character customization. As Frederik tossed lots of
different outfits on a maids-a’-milking looking female
character, Bjorn explained that the game will have plenty of character
customization depth and a variety of period weaponry –
everything from clubs and pitchforks to blunderbusses and muzzleloaders.
style="font-style: italic;">Ursus dissimulans
A highly dangerous animal, but, owing to
its intense aversion to the
odor of alcohol, never known to attack an inebriate. One bottle of Uno
beer has been proven to be a complete safeguard even in thickly
A biggish beast, standing about six feet
and walking erect. The slender
body makes it possible to hide completely behind the bole of a ten inch
tree. The pelt is long thick, and black, and the tail is carried
recurved. Looks like a French sheepdog’s. Almost impossible
to tell whether the critter is going or coming, and practically
hopeless to locate its face—if any. The short, well-muscled
forelegs are equipped with grizzly-like claws.
Its food is chiefly intestines. Leaping
from its hiding-place with a
demonical laugh, it swiftly disembowels its victim with one swipe.
Sometimes the fiendish howl frightens the prey to death before the blow
The Hidebehind is never found in the
open. He always conceals himself
behind a tree trunk. His marvellously quick, stealthy gait makes it
possible for him to stay constantly behind his prey, no matter how
quickly the suspicious victim may spin about in the hope of glimpsing
the marauder. The beast can go seven years without eating.
Henry Tryon, published 1930.]
Items will also consist of tools, such as axes made of stone or metal.
Bjorn noted that items of varying quality will have an impact. Having a
variety and scale of items in style="font-style: italic;">Salem
is especially important given that when your character dies, the only
part of him or her that will live on will be their items. These items
will be given to the next “relative” getting off
Magic will likewise be in the game – it wouldn’t be
witchcraft – but Bjorn explained that magic
won’t be overt, if no less creepy. “Players
won’t be casting fireballs at each other,” Bjorn
noted. “It’s impact will be far more subtle, like
turning your neighbor’s cow’s milk to
blood.” Such actions will undoubtedly have socio-economic
impact. For example, perhaps your milk will sell for a higher price,
but you risk the early society’s religious and social powers
to bear against you as a result.
While witchcraft will originate from other players in your early
Puritan society, you’ll also face environmental dangers
– both real and mythical. Each of the 25 x 25 km maps will
have a civilization rating that will directly affect the relative
brightness of the area, along with the type and deadliness of creatures
you’ll encounter. Civilization rating can by increased by
building farms, churches, smithies, mines, etc. But the less you have
to fear from outside threats, the more you likely have to fear from
your fellow neighbor. Bjorn hinted at intelligent options to keep your
person and holdings safe from rampaging players while on or offline,
but for now they’re keeping mum on PvP specifics.
Getting back to the external threats,
Bjorn referenced actual several books chock full of lumberjack lore
that had served as source material. Creatures such as timid Squonks
(from href="http://books.google.com/books?vid=OCLC05859596&id=cNgW5S102uMC&pg=PP11&lpg=PP11&ots=O9dQoeJvT_&dq=fearsome+creatures+of+the+lumberwoods"> style="font-style: italic;">Fearsome Creatures of the
by W.T. Cox) and the much more dangerous, intestine eating Hidebehinds
(from href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fearsome_critters"> style="font-style: italic;">Fearsome Critters
by Henry Tryon) will infest the darker portions of the map. And,
despite the Puritans’ peaceful dealings with the natives,
Indians will also inhabit the area as a faction to be trusted or fought against.
Endurance, hitpoints, etc. will be tracked by a veiny
“cardinal fluids” meter at the top of the
screen. Build actions are among the most costly in the game,
and like every action, it will take lots of real time to complete the
action. But unlike in other online games, you can pick up, say,
chopping down a tree, where someone else left off, or chip in as the
work’s being done. (Yes, it takes time to serious time to
chop down a tree, just like anyone who’s chopped down a
Christmas tree in sub-freezing weather knows). Likewise, the map can be
transformed a la style="font-style: italic;">Minecraft,
but this likewise carries a high cost.
Given the concept, Halloween would make for a perfect release date, but
all we could get out of Bjorn is that style="font-style: italic;">Salem
will release later in 2011. In the meantime, stay tuned for more
details on Salem
in an upcoming exclusive video interview at Ten Ton Hammer!
To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our Salem Game Page.