Exclusive Art and Housing Q&A with Neos Land CEO Jacques Rossouw
There was a time when the only games we got were the ones that guys in suits thought we wanted. Crowd-funding stood that old concept on its ear, and here to put another stick in the eye of the establishment is Jaques Rossouw and his team at NeoJac Entertainment. They just started a Kickstarter campaign for their new game NeoÂs Land, and so far I really like what IÂm seeing. Wanting to learn more, I put some feelers out and landed an interview with Mr. Rossouw about the new game.
Ricoxg: Mr. Rossouw, thank you for taking the time to talk to me about your new game. IÂve heard this term Âcrowd-designÂ applied to NeoÂs Land. I donÂt think IÂve heard of that before. WhatÂs a crowd-designed game?
Jacques Rossouw, CEO of NeoJac Entertainment: What we mean when we say that NeoÂs Land is a crowd-designed game is that we basically allow the community to design the game from the ground up. The community holds round-table discussions about components of the gameÂs design and we take that feedback and attempt to put it right into the game. So they decide what features theyÂd like to see and we try to implement them.
Ricoxg: What are some of the features want that you guys will be implementing based on what the community has said that they wanted?
Jacques: We started the round-tables about two months ago and the first thing everyone wanted was a housing system. They wanted to be able to construct houses, but not be restricted in how they build them. So we came up with a sort of grid system where you can build your house wall by wall. ItÂs a modular blueprint system so you can put the pieces together however you want and build your house through this grid system.
Then the community had more discussions about it and there were some concerns about people building houses just anywhere and everywhere. There was some worry that we might end up with forests full of houses and houses in bad spots, so we took that feedback and tried to find a way to act on it. What we did was to come up with a system where houses are built on these grids that you buy with in-game currency, but you have to find the grids first. That allows us to control a little where people build, but players donÂt start off knowing where all that is. They have to probe for these grids, and when they find them, they can build there.
Ricoxg: How do you keep someone who finds a grid area from being greedy and just buying them all up?
Jacques: YouÂll also have to pay upkeep on your house. You can buy up all the grids and build on them, but itÂll cost you a lot of money to do it. Also, it helps cut down on abandoned houses so you donÂt spend half an hour running past empty house after empty house.
Ricoxg: So what about player crafting and that sort of thing? Will you be able to sell stuff out of your house?
Jacques: Oh yeah. Crafting will be a very important component of the game. One big part of that is that there will be no world auction house in the game, so youÂll have to go to someone whoÂs selling something if you want to buy it.
We really wanted to promote interaction in the community through trading. We want people to go look for deals. Say a certain area will have a lot of a particular resource, and that resource is relatively cheap in that area, but as you get farther away the price goes up due to the cost of transportation.
YouÂll see that sort of ties into the inventory system a little as well. Items will have weight to them. That means you canÂt go mine a bunch of stone and put it in your inventory because itÂll be too heavy. YouÂll have to get a cart, or a wagon, or something like that and maybe you need a friend or pack animal to help you carry it.
So you might see players setting up a transportation business to move goods between cities. TheyÂll need places to meet each other and store shipments, maybe sell items as well. Player housing isnÂt just prestige, itÂs where traders might conduct meetings, house livestock, warehouse goods, setup shop to sell stuff. Things like that.
Ricoxg: I heard there was some confusion about land ownership with the Kickstarter campaign, what was that?
Jacques: Well, one of the rewards that we have in Kickstarter is that you can actually own land if you get involved early. If you buy it now, you get a specific number of grids that you own, but we have a system in the game where you can attack someoneÂs land and attempt to take it over. So then we had a problem because it wouldnÂt be fair for someone to pay real money for something like land-ownership and then just have it taken away from them in-game.
So we went back to the community with it. ItÂs a crowd-designed game, this is a design question, so I said, ÂletÂs see what they think.Â So the community held a round-table and they came up with a solution IÂve never seen in a game. So youÂre not going to buy land exactly, but rather buy protection for it.
When you run around in the world scanning for buildable grids of land, say you find some and you buy it and build on it with in-game money. Now at this point, you havenÂt spent any real money on it and that land isnÂt protected. Another player could come and attack it and maybe take it over. In addition to that though, you could pay to have the land flagged as protected. Players could still break into your house and maybe steal stuff from you, but they canÂt take over the land.
Protecting land costs real money, but it stays protected once itÂs been flagged. That attribute will follow the flagged grids even if you trade it, so that land now has greater in-game worth and you could maybe sell it for more if you decided to and the next player who buys it will get the advantage of buying land thatÂs been flagged as protected.
Ricoxg: How do you attack or take over land?
Jacques: We havenÂt finalized it yet, but itÂll probably be something like where you have to attack it and spend time capturing it or something. We donÂt want it to be quick. Also, one of the things weÂre looking at doing with it is combining it with an API to notify you when youÂre offline that something like this is happening. So maybe you get an email or a text to tell you someone is attempting to attack your land, and youÂll have time to go logon and defend it.
Ricoxg: IÂve also been reading that youÂre going to have player-made dungeons. How does that work?
Jacques: We have designed dungeons as well, but weÂre really excited about the ability for players to make their own. When youÂve built your house, you can get a blueprint for a trap-door that will create an instanced space under your house. WeÂll allow you to set options on it to allow everyone in it, just your friends, or maybe just yourself. When you start off, you may not have anything there at all, except for a hole or something. Once down there, we have a voxel system for creating whatever you want.
You donÂt have to, but say you decide you want to make that basement into a dungeon and you need monsters in there. Instead of just allowing players to spawn their own monsters down there, which would create problems with like gold farmers, you go harvest some item in the world. Say maybe some sort of hay that spawns ogres or something, but whatever it is doesnÂt just attract ogres. Instead it might attract like a dragon, or something else. So thereÂs a small element of randomness to it as well.
Once you have your dungeon and itÂs populated, if you open it up to other players, they can go down and try to fight the creatures in there. If they defeat them all and clear the dungeon, you have to go find more stuff to spawn new ones with, but what happens if they donÂt win and all the players get killed? Well, as the monsters kill players, they get stronger and get more stuff. They also keep some of the loot from the players that died. The dungeon goes up in rank as players attempt to clear the dungeon and fail.
Ricoxg: LetÂs say IÂm not involved with the game yet, and IÂm not sure whether I want to be involved with it now or wait until later in the development. What would you say to me to encourage me to get involved now?
Jacques: Players getting in now will help us build the game. ItÂs not like weÂll stop doing round-tables at some point, but right now is when you can have your hand right in the development of the game. And itÂs not just generic mechanics and stuff like that. The world right now is a clean slate. Players will be deciding where they want to go, where to build, what the world looks like. There are some basic things in the game like some NPCs and maybe some buildings, but there are no towns or anything. Players will be deciding where the towns will be.
WeÂre not just using alpha and beta for testing. WeÂre using them to build the world with the communityÂs help. This is a crowd-designed game, and that means the players are who decide what goes where.
To learn more about about Neo's Land be sure to check out the currently running Kickstarter campaign. It's a great opportunity to help shape what could prove to be a very interesting sandbox MMOG experience from an early stage.