Last Friday, Revival updated its weekly blog (per the norm) with yet another glimpse into the deep differences between this MEOW and a typical run-of-the-mill MMMORPG.

If you have absolutely no idea, what in the hell Revival is, or why it's worth talking about - you need to check out one of my recent column entries where I make the case for why what this game is doing matters, and on a very grand scale.

What I like about the blog update this week, is the peek we get inside the mind of Kedhrin (the Creative Director for the game), and in-essence, a look inside the rationale behind the whole Revival team and project. It isn't just a "Hey, here is what's new!" type of deal, as the team consistently attempts to give readers increasing insight into both what Revival wants to become - and also... how productive that process is actually turning out.

Now For the Rundown

Difficult Scaling is the topic of this week's blog, and Kedhrin attempts to share what that mechanic means in an MMO like Revival and how that system operates within the context of Revival's highly unique goals. The systems-creation in Revival, lead by mastermind Adam "Snipehunter" Maxwell - whom I've grilled ceaslessly in the past on his work with this game, has been approached from the ground up with an entirely different mindset.

The game isn't looking at combat as the "bottom-line" experience for players, and thus, every system being constructed for that experience has to serve much deeper functions. The reason I mention that, is because 'difficult scaling' is something most MMORPG veterans would associate specifically with its relation to combat.

Not so in Revival.

Their Words, Not Mine

Here is an excerpt from the recent blog, that I will break down after you've had a moment to digest:

"When we raise difficulty in an area, it means we are averaging out the players that are in that area and essentially rolling some chance that you might encounter more bad guys that are more in line with the people of that area. I’m referring to NPCs too, not just players. Remember, NPCs are extremely important in the world, so even if players aren’t around - our virtual DM system is reacting to what is going on."

"With that in mind, just know if I think I’m giving you - as your character - a difficult enemy, it means it is a difficult enemy that roughly fits your skill level, tagging system tags, local conditions and karma."

"Now this isn’t a cut and dry system. Every area has a population we call the 'minimum fill'. This fill is determined by what makes sense for a region both aesthetically and how far it is from heavily populated areas. Smooth rolling hills? probably not too dangerous. Large, jagged mountains that take a long journey to get to? Guess what you’re going to find there? It definitely won’t be pretty fun times."

"That is how we populate areas. We also don’t populate areas like an ocean of enemies just standing around waiting for combat like in 99% of all MMOs. Our enemy NPCs have job roles and things they’re doing, just like NPCs in cities."

"This means you might have a light forest area filled with things you’d expect to find there - small woodland critters, a few big bad guys, big animals lightly scattered around. Not too much, but not too little. This 'minimum fill' is always there unless we’re doing an event that overrides it or the [Virtual Dungeon Master] is doing its equivalent thing, directing NPCs and the like into an area based on triggered events and conditions."

Filling Your Head With Fantasy

That was a big chunk to process, but consider the potential in non-combat terms. We're talking about contextual mob selection, placement, and challenge that truly makes sense with the circumstances (that isn't simply a "gamified stratification" of content set for arbitrary reasons).

More importantly, we're talking about actual  player influence in the world, without anyone hardly lifting a finger.

If the make-up of the player base (and also NPC-base) of an area experiences a significant increase in skill, ability, experience, or population - the game itself will adjust the difficulty in that region accordingly. If you're not catching on to how significant that is, consider the fact that most typical MMORPGs force you to go where the content is appropriate for your power, experience, and circumstances (and many of them even fail to do that).

The developers aren't in control. We are.

We  get to choose where we want to go (technically). I mean, they really are in control, but so the control is so subtle that it will feel like the creators really are Oz the Great and Powerful, pulling switches behind the curtain. If it's executed properly, we're never really going to know that we aren't enacting our will upon the world around us - and actually  changing things!

And I haven't even begun to delve into the possibilities that the live-storytelling team (a.k.a. virtual game masters) will be able to do with these mechanics. I almost look at them as a balancing force to the power of player agency we're finally going to get to experience. If you aren't aware yet, other MMORPGs just don't do things like this.

They're too dangerous.

Why? Because they've been built for years on a foundation that would implode if players were given any real agency.

Player Agency Is Beyond Essential

In today's MMORPGs, real player agency would be the destruction of worlds. Cities that can't be destroyed (for the game to properly function) would be leveled. Entire zones (that the early-game tutorial requires to be safe and newbie-friendly) would get filled with dangerous atrocities that would obliterate a fledging players experience.

There just aren't any checks or balances built in to these games to allow for that kind of player agency, and sadly - nobody has tried to change that. Nobody has considered creating systems to counter-balance giving players real power and influence in a digital fantasy world. Everything prior to Revival has been an illusion of power. Everything prior has been players running in place on a treadmill of increasing difficulty (and rewards and accomplishments) that never actually impact their ability to influence the game or become more (or less) meaningful to the players around them.

In your average MMORPG you don't matter, and that's just the way these games have been designed. It's the sad truth of the matter. Which makes them more difficult to enjoy as an interactive, shared-story multiplayer experience; at least in my opinion. It's tough to even justify calling any of them "multiplayer" or "role-playing" games at this point.

Yet another reason that Revival continues to peel back the veil over my eyes layer by layer as it re-imagines everything we thought we knew about these kinds of games and about what this genre can actually provide for players. If you're not paying attention yet, you should be.

I'm not saying you need to climb aboard the hype train or anything, but if you aren't investigating this upcoming game yet, you ought to start considering it.

To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our Revival Game Page.

Last Updated: Mar 29, 2016

About The Author

Alex has been playing online games and RPGs for quite some time, starting all the way back with Daggerfall, EverQuest, and Ultima Online. He's staying current with the latest games, picking up various titles and playing during his weekly streams on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday evenings with both MMOs and MOBAs being feature plays. Hit him up on Twitter if you have a stream request for Freeplay Friday! Two future games he's got a keen eye on are Daybreak's EverQuest Next and Illfonic's Revival.