I’ve had many a days where I wished I could go back to enjoying MMOs more like I did when I started out with Ultima Online and the freedom that it represented in your character and the world. There was so much you could do. Then I moved into FFXI and WoW and loved both of those, but after so long I’ve lost that love’n feeling. There hasn’t been an MMO that’s kept my attention for very long (and I’ve unfortunately tried a few).
Along comes my buddy Anthony and he reminds me of a game I thought was interesting, but didn’t give it much time on my brain: Albion Online. He described it with an almost childlike awe that grabs at your inner nostalgic gamer and makes you say, I remember when “I thought like that about MMOs (or games in general)!” It got me thinking and an opportunity came up to be in Albion’s alpha so I took it. Man did that game take me back. I got an opportunity to ask a few gnawing questions and I thought I’d share them with you in the latest Q&A with Christian Ziegert.
Jonathan Amarelo, Head of The Videogame Backlog: So for anyone that may not know, what exactly is Albion Online and how does it differ from the rest of the MMO’s out there?
Christian Ziegert, Head of Operations at Sandbox Interactive: Albion Online is a medieval-style Sandbox MMORPG developed by independent Germany game studio Sandbox Interactive.
We want to revive the MMO space with the following differentiating features in the game:
1. Player Driven Economy. Collect & Craft, Transport & Trade, Farm & Fight. All items and buildings are crafted by players, towns and villages are formed and trade routes established. There is no one path through the game, it is the players who path their way through it, while possibilities remain limitless.
3. Many Roles To Play. Albion Online is a role play game in its truest sense: Fight your way to fame and honour as a ferocious soldier, live in peace and prosperity as a farmer, become famous as the world’s greatest armorsmith or constantly live on the edge as a diplomat or master-spy for your guild – the player driven world of Albion offers fun and opportunities for all players and playing styles.
4. GvG territorial warfare. In Albion Online, players can join powerful guilds that fight each other over territories. Guilds can form their empire by conquering the land of Albion from others, which allows them to build new cities and villages, harvest precious resources and defend themselves against the wilderness and unwanted invaders. In the form of 5-vs-5 PvP fights, guilds will fight for dominance of Albion in battles determined by strategy, preparation and skill.
5. Full-Loot PvP. In the world of Albion, the winner takes it all. Players can fight against other players in Albion’s dedicated full-PvP zones for the ultimate prize: The victorious character may take all belongings carried by the defeated.
I know it’s a sandbox MMO, but is there an over-arching story to be had or are the players the story?
With the sandbox nature of Albion Online, the world and economy is purely players driven. That means, the story of the game is ultimately written by the players themselves.
Similar to games such as EVE Online, we expect a lively meta-game developing in parallel to the pure gameplay mechanics of Albion Online, where guilds and players are involved in heavy politics, espionage and treason in order to progress and increase their power and influence in the world of Albion.
Outside of that, we are currently working on developing the lore of Albion together with the published fantasy author Peter Newman. In that, we are describing the overarching setting of a group of settlers (i.e. the players) coming to the lands of Albion in order to explore and populate them. In this context, we will also provide a lot more information about Albion’s factions – the Disciples of Morgana, the Keepers of Albion, the Undead, the Heretics and the Hellish Demons – as well as publish the first (of hopefully many) novels.
Where did the inspiration for Albion Online come from? I’m assuming there is some Ultima Online in there, right?
The two founders or Albion Online are both heavy gamers, too, and always dreamed of developing their own game that they themselves would enjoy playing.
The idea here was to revive some of the elements that made the older (pre-WoW) MMOs, such as Ultima Online, great and take them into the modern times of gaming – e.g. with the multi-platform approach. From the very beginning, it was our aim to develop a game that is not just casual but offers real depth for players to get into and still enjoy after years of playing.
What are some things that you are most excited for the players to experience first hand?
Oh, there’s really plenty of things! One thing that we are extremely excited about, though, is certainly the players-driven economy. It is a great feeling if you develop a grasp of how your actions in the game can influence so many other things that you may not even be aware of. For example a player collecting rare resources may give them to someone who crafts a higher tier sword, which is eventually sold on the player market. The character who then buys that sword may use it to conquer a new territory in a Guild-vs-Guild fight. So the rare resources collected in the beginning eventually contributed to a change of ownership of a piece of land in Albion. It is this interconnectedness that makes Albion Online special and really gives players the feeling of being a part of this huge world.
Bravo on the crafting system along with how it works with the skill tree, it’s looking pretty nice. However, while I may not be one to complain about a long grind, that is something that’s come up in a few conversations and on some YouTube videos. What would you say to people who have that concern?
As mentioned earlier, it is our aim that players are in this for the long run. We do want Albion Online to be more easily accessible than other games in the space and give players the chance to progress relatively easily in the beginning. At the same time, on the higher tiers and the more advanced spheres, it is supposed to get harder and harder for players to learn certain abilities and skills. Some people may find this boring, but we rather see it as an opportunity and reward for players who are really committed to the game over a longer period. It gives them the chance to specialize in one or a few areas and become the go-to person for e.g. crafting rare swords in the whole of Albion, which we find quite exciting.
What exactly do you mean when you say player-driven economy? Will monsters drop weapons or is everything crafted?
Player-driven economy to us means that everything in Albion is crafted by players. Monsters and mobs may sometimes drop consumables and resources but everything that is crafted – from weapons to tools, from oxen to armour – is really created by the players themselves. The world of Albion hereby creates massive opportunities to become wealthy by e.g. being a master sword smith selling your weapons for profit on the player market or as a trader who buys items cheaply in one city and resells them for a high price in another.
Crafting wise, are you guys considering non-pvp areas where a player could get the same high-end mats, but in less abundance like UO’s Trammel/Felucca difference?
At the moment, we are planning to stick to our concept with the green (i.e. safe/non-PvP), yellow (limited PvP) and red (full PvP) zones, as it matches our philosophy of allowing players an easy entry into Albion, where they are protected from PvP, while at the same time, exposing players to more dangerous PvP zones when they want to develop their characters beyond a certain point.
PvP is a core element of Albion Online and therefore, we want to give players an incentive to venture into the PvP zones, e.g. in order to find higher-tiered materials. It is of course possible for players not to engage in fighting at all, e.g. if they choose to become a farmer or crafter. However, if you want to earn your living in Albion with exploring, trading or gathering of resources, you won’t get around some exposure to PvP – so in the end, in Albion – as in real life – it’s all a matter of risk and reward.
Speaking of crafting something really cool with expensive materials… how did you come to the decision of full-loot PVP?
In recent years, a lot of the MMOs released went down a what we consider as a more casual route. Usually, when you die in these games, nothing really bad happens to you, which makes players care a lot less and possibly leads them to making irrational decisions, underestimating the risks involved.
As game designers, we don’t like this concept, so with Albion Online, we wanted to create an environment where death actually means something for players. In our game, players should think twice when attacking other players or mobs as the punishment looming when defeated is possibly very big – you’d loose everything. This principle makes players consider certain decisions and actions much more thoroughly, which is something that we – and opposing players – appreciate.
Is there a way to safeguard specific items from being stolen?
The best way to protect your items is by not dying 😉
Other than that, you can always safeguard them by leaving them in the bank (which is in every city), your houses, island, guild territory, etc. when taking on a particularly dangerous mission. When you die, only the items that you are carrying with you are lost, while all your other belongings of course remain with you.
Is there going to be any form of bounty system where a player could put up a reward for having a player hunted down and killed with proof?
Well, this is something that is already possible, although there is no specific feature implemented into the game. As part of the meta-game, players could put bounties on other player’s heads and when someone really kills the target in-game, they could simply trade some silver to the bounty hunter. It’s one of those things that players can just do thanks to the sandbox nature of Albion Online and we’re looking forward to all the great things players come up with when using the game functionalities we provide them with. Of course, it is an option that we’ll also implement a feature that particularly allows to put up a bounty on someone’s head in the future – especially when we see that many people are doing it anyway – for now, it’s not yet a focus for us though and we’re curious to see what actions will develop anyway.
I was going to ask about “skill-shot” moves and if you were going to add them, but I’ve recently read that you did. Was that a frequent request from players? Also, not all offensive moves are skill-shot based correct?
Skill-shots was indeed something that we have added ahead of the currently running Summer Alpha (Editor’s note: It’s over now). We are constantly picking up the feedback players are providing us and are always trying to improve the game according to what they would love to see. One particular area of focus is of course the PvP and how we could make it better. Currently, we are quite happy with the progress we’ve made in recent months. With the skill shots and overall concept, it starts to feel more and more like a MOBA.
As we are developing for a cross-platform setup, you are correct that not all offensives moves will become skill-shots now. However, that does not mean that we’ll stop improving the PvP experience further.
From what I’ve seen, it seems that the endgame is PVP. Will there be PVE content as well that doesn’t revolve around only crafting? I ask this because I know some people who would shy away from Albion Online if there wasn’t some form of PVE endgame as well that you wouldn’t have to fight your way through throngs of PKers to get to?
We are also constantly adding new and higher-tier PvE content, too. For example for this Summer Alpha, we have given players the opportunity to take on missions/quests with the various factions of Albion, where a user can e.g. go and kill several Heretics as part of a security operation for the Royal Army. These missions will become more and more advanced in the future and can also be a challenge for more developed players.
On top of that, we now have the first two big boss fights in Albion – against the „Earthmother“ and the „Demon Prince“. It is also PvE content, where players will have to team up with others in order to take down these powerful monsters. So in general, we don’t see the endgame as only PvP but also want to give players a lot more diversified things to do even at the higher tiers.
Are there plans on doing something fun like a personal dungeon with the abandoned bandit camp of the side of your personal island in Albion Online?
In fact, we are planning something very similar to this! We are currently working on several upgrades to player island concept as we have received the feedback that players quite like to hang out there and would like to have more things to do on them.
So one of features we are working on in this context is that players can take a ship from their island to start an „expedition“, i.e. it will bring them to a dungeon or „hellgate“ that they can play solo but where they may also encounter other players. In these special dungeons/hellgates, there will be special mobs and also resources that make the journey worthwhile for the players.
On top of that, we also want to make the islands „upgradable“ as well as expandable and at some point in the future, you’ll have the option to hire NPCs that will do certain activities (such as harvesting) for you while you are away.
Also, you can check our roadmap to Closed Beta for more details on our plans in that regard.
Is there anything that you would like to say to the readers as a last note other than “pick up a founders pack” which is a great way to support Albion Online?
Albion Online offers a lot of opportunities and roles to play, so that all players can find something that they find interesting and worth spending their time on. No matter if you’re a farmer, crafter, trader, spy or warrior – the world of Albion can provide fun for anyone!
So I hope to see many of you around soon!
I just want to thank Christian Ziegert for taking the time to answer my questions and to the PR guy that made it possible. (Not sure if he’d like me to put his name up, but he was pretty awesome!) After playing the alpha, I’m still not 100% sold on Albion Online, but it’s got enough hooks in me and I will be coming back just to see if it does fully grab me. I love the progression (even though some find it grindy). I love the skill tree and craziness. I also really love the look; it’s like a very fancied up version of Ultima Online. Given all the pluses, what’s really holding me back is the time commitment that I would want to put into an MMO and what reality dictates my time (wife, kids and life). Luckily for me, when it releases it will be Free to Play so there’s no pressure. For those of you that can’t wait, you can always buy in early! I may see you on the battlefield when the beta goes live!