Blizzard ushered in a new mark for all developers seeking to emulate their success when it released biggest MMO ever in World of Warcraft. Since that times many have released, peaked, declined, and ultimately shut down while others straggle along, managing to hit some level of success. But none have been as big as Blizzard's hit title, yet most MMOs still only attempt to emulate that success, using it as a barrier, which you can only hope to hit, rather than surpass.
If you want to topple the giant, you're going to need to improve on it's most fundamental issues. Sure the developer has had ten years to iterate on content, to understand what fans desire, to correct what has received negative remarks. But there are still many areas where almost all MMOs are flawed, including World of Warcraft, and one Russian developer could be on the verge of changing that.
Allods Team. The name probably doesn't ring a bell, but the Russian studio, part of the Mail.ru group, has brought together many well known developers who have worked on titles including Evil Islands, Etherlords, Silent Storm, Heroes of Might and Magic, and IL-2 Sturmovik. They've also developed what one Obsidian Entertainment employee calls "the first big, top-tier MMORPG out of Russia," in Allods Online, named after the studio.
After wrapping up that project, however, Allods Team wanted to something, something innovative, and that's exactly what it's doing.
Meet Skyforge, the MMO where you become a god.
In the eyes of Allods Team, players become ridiculously powerful in most games, so from the get go, you're an immortal. "In the universe of Skyforge, each world is protected by a greater god, gods derive their power from their followers, their worshipers, and the greater god protecting this world, Aelion, has disappeared," Eric Demilt, Development Director at Obsidian Entertainment, tells us. Given this lack of a protector, the gods have began invading the planet in an attempt to seize control of its followers, hoping to build their own power. As you progress through this experience, eventually ascending to godhood, you'll things that no other MMO has ever done before.
With the support of the folks at Obsidian Entertainment, developing additional classes, creating additional instance content, and providing Westernization, support, Allods Team hopes the game will resonate well around the world.
In its eyes, part of the issue with traditional MMOs is their forced micro perspective. Most of the time you're just a cog in the machine, doing the actions assigned to you and not seeing the effect your actions are having on the world. Skyforge's Divine Observatory seeks to change that.
"[The Divine Observatory] shows all the adventures that are available to you at any given time. All of the solo stuff, all the group stuff, all the PvP events, all the big raids, and dynamic content," Demilt illustrates. "So you have a macro view of what's going on in the world rather than, in a lot of MMOs you have a micro view.
According to Demilt, this overview of Aelion includes "a timer on it as well that shows you it's status so you know when to check back to see if it's been updated."
"We want a dynamic world where there's a lot going on, where these gods are fighting these epic battles as well as getting through questing and all that stuff."
While the Divine Observatory may not be the biggest change in the universe, we can vouch for the perspective it provides. Without it many of the events happening in Skyforge would be like quests in any other MMO.
But it's the class system that is truly revolutionary.
"One thing we found particularly frustrating in MMOs is choosing your class early on," Demilt admits. "It's a critical choice for you gameplay but when you have the least amount of knowledge about the game." If you don't like your class after tens or even hundreds of hours into the game, you're faced with a rather large demotivational factor. "I'm just kind of stuck. You have to go back and play through all that content again to level up this new characters. It's a big point of frustration for a lot of people and it's no necessary.
"So what we've done is abandon that traditional notion."
"Players can develop any class they want at any time, as long as they've unlocked it, and switch between them at any time when they're out of combat."
Upon leveling up you can assign your points as you desire into a skill tree that Path of Exile fans would feel right at home in.
"You can put your points, your rewards, into new abilities and new unlocks for your class or you can go into the upper level which is the overall prestige for your class and those are perks that affect your character no matter what class you're playing.
"You're just as combat viable [in a new class as you are] in one that you've spent 50 hours on."
Swapping back and forth between classes just to switch up the tempo is great. The Cryomancer freezes enemies and slides along the ground, making for a slippery target while the Gunner carries a Gatling gun-like weapon that can switch between three different firing modes, oftentimes rooting him in place to launch heat-seeking artillery at the enemy.
The ability to switch things up on the fly means that you can adjust your playstyle depending on what friends join you, which enemy you're about to face, or what composition results in the most fun.
It's been a long time since we've had this much fun with a class system and Allods Team with the help of Obsidian Entertainment looks to be making an extraordinary number of classes that will keep players coming back time and time again.
The best part? Skyforge is a free-to-play experience.
And while we may not know until well after it releases, we can't wait to get more hands on time with Skyforge, it may just change the MMO as we know it.