In this week’s interview with an indie developer, we talk to David Wells, head of communications and community manager for Fairytale Distillery. They’re currently working on an MMORPG which managed to really tickle some nostalgic feelings in me as it is heavily based on Ultima Online, a game I have great love for.
Of course it’s not the only game which heavily inspired Das Tal, so we touched on topics such as the loot mechanics, leveling, etc. One of the things you should be most interested in is that in Das Tal the world periodically resets, meaning that ‘newer’ players have no disadvantage over long-term veterans and can really compete at the highest levels. Interested in learning more? Read on!
Thank you for taking the time to speak with us about Das Tal and your Studio, Fairytale Distillery. Could you tell us a little about how Fairytale Distillery started?
No problem, thanks for chatting to me! Fairytale Distillery has really formed with Das Tal as its backbone. Alex, Sebi and Filippo have worked together since a few years back, and Michail, Isabel and myself joined the team late in 2013. Alex and Sebi moved into their office in Munich and began work on Das Tal over a year ago. The company was only officially established recently, as it became necessary when we reached this stage in development.
Where did the name Fairytale Distillery come from? How did you go about choosing it as the name of your studio?
Choosing names can be tricky! As it was, Alex and Sebi had been tossing around ideas for quite some time before settling on Fairytale Distillery; they were trying to think of words which represented what we try to create in development. The final name comes from Sebi’s love of classic fairytales, and Alex seeing a metaphor for game design in the process of distilling. Like refining something down until the best quality substance remains.
Das Tal looks heavily inspired by Ultima Online, which is an MMORPG that holds incredibly memories for some of the ManaPool team. What aspects of Ultima Online are you hoping to carry into Das Tal?
You are spot on with that observation. Ultima Online is a very influential title in our design process, although Alex normally points to Shadowbane and Gothic as his main sources of inspiration. We often receive comments like, “Oh, it is like a modern revamp of UO!” and while that is understandable, it is not entirely true. Alex has a lot of love for some of the systems in UO, but there are also many things that he wants to do very differently. If there was one thing that we want to carry over from UO very strongly, it would be the Sandbox element. There are plenty of ‘Sandbox’ games around at the moment, but a lot of them are full of quests, safe zones and PvP flagging. We want to create a Sandbox environment that leaves the decision making with the player, just like Ultima did.
One of the features you mention about Das Tal is the custom, time-boxed worlds. Could you explain what you mean with this exactly? How will it work in practice for players?
I love answering questions about time-boxing, because it is easily my favourite system in Das Tal so far. Put as simply as possible, time-boxing means that each server will be ticking down to an end event from the moment it begins. When that end event takes place, that particular world of Das Tal will be no more. A new world of Das Tal will replace it, with randomly generated environment and a community-created set of features. Players will start exploring, battling for map control and developing their characters all over again.
The first thing people picture when they hear about this system is how disappointed they will be when one world finishes and they start fresh in another. Luckily, the starting over in Das Tal isn’t the same experience as it might be in typical MMOs. The most important thing is that levelling up in Das Tal is not about killing slugs and other little insignificant beasties. Character development in Das Tal takes place through exciting PvP and world events such as defending resource areas from attackers, or besieging an enemy base. Some MMOs make the player push through hours of mundane gameplay and reward them with end game content. Das Tal offers players exciting gameplay from day 1, and the opportunity to replay it all after shuffling the deck.
Much like UO in the past, Das Tal will have open PvP and a Full Loot system. Could you tell us a little about how the loot system will work? How will you prevent frustration from new(er) players and balance this with the feeling of reward and satisfaction of veteran players of Das Tal?
The basics of the full loot system are fairly straight forward and can be seen in a variety of other games. When a player dies, all items on their character drop to the ground and are free to loot by any other player. The only change we plan to make to this system at this point is allowing low level gear to not be dropped. This will certainly give newer players some breathing room, and means that players who set about ganking newbie players actually have more to lose than their targets.
I’d like to mention the combat system briefly, as I think this is what will really bring balance to the newbie/veteran equation more than anything else. The combat system of Das Tal is completely skill based, meaning that all attacks are aimed and timed with no TAB targeting or click-to-target abilities. While a geared player will deal and withstand more damage, the winner of a fight will be heavily influenced by who is landing their skills and choosing the best skill for the situation. I think the most frustrating thing about being a newb in many MMORPGs and encountering a high level player isn’t that you die, it is that you can outplay the other person and die anyway, landing 7 attacks to their 1 and dealing no damage. That is something we want to address. It goes without saying that we also want to make said combat fast paced and intense, with lasting satisfaction. As PvP is at the core of Das Tal, this is one of our main focuses.
Could you tell us a little more about the Player Settlements and Siege system? What can players build or own? What will sieges accomplish?
Every time a new world of Das Tal is created, the layout of the environment will be randomized. One of the things that will be distributed around the map is ruins. These ruins are the only thing that players will be able to construct settlements on and are the only construction element we have planned in Das Tal so far. We have talked about further construction and it is entirely possible, but these settlements will be he extent of it for now. Players will gather resources and use them to restore the ruins, and they will be able to restore various chunks further to increase the services the settlement offers. A fully restored settlement will offer training, storage, crafting facilities and a respawn point.
Sieges will be the way that players push and pull for land, as having a settlement in any given area will mean a significant tactical advantage, with a respawn point and reinforcements close by. Different areas of the map will have different characteristics, meaning some settlements may be more desirable than others. Apart from that, the siege system is designed to be a good bit of PvP fun. Alex actually wrote up a feature for our weekly blog in which he discussed the siege system in depth.
What other activities will keep players engaged and coming back for more? Will there be dungeons or specific sets of gear to acquire?
In Das Tal we want to create an experience that is quite different from other MMORPGs. While players will be developing their characters and pushing to obtain higher quality items, we want the game to focus on replayablility and the enjoyment of the gameplay. With an open class system and a game world that is different every time, we want players to think, “Hey, maybe I will try this next time,” and, “wow, this was a really unique game world this time around,” rather than thinking of themselves as having a set end goal and a maximum potential. So I guess it is the unique experience of each world that we hope will bring people back for more.
The economy will involve both resource warfare and a player-driven economy. Could you tell us about how this will work and how much influence the players will have on the economy?
Resource areas will be generated randomly when the world is created, just like the settlements, and will be of various types and sizes. This means that players will need to go to different areas of the map to acquire certain resources, and makes it possible for players to dominate an area and cut off access to resources under their control. Denying resources to enemies could seriously decrease their ability to make quality items, making them easier to face in PvP.
No items enter the world other than through player crafting and some basic starter gear, and there is no official currency. We predict that the main use for trading in resources and items will be buying other parties off, whether it be a donation to a larger clan asking for mercy or a payment to a mercenary group for assistance in a siege. The option is there to trade items and resources; what players do with the option is up to them.
We’re very interested in hearing more about the character development as well. You’ve mentioned that there will be a class-less character system, so how will players customise and develop their character in Das Tal? Should we expect an old-school Ultima Online style skill system?
Players pick their skills according to the armor and weapon types they want to equip, as certain skills only work with matching equipment. As they use these skills they level up, becoming stronger and more efficient. Players can swap out skills and use different equipment as often as they like, but will need to progress each skill independently. Strengthening skills will open up others, allowing for a wider variety later in the game.
Are there any features you are particularly proud of in Das Tal which we have not already covered?
We talked a little about resource gathering earlier, but I want to say that I am proud of the fact that Alex has turned what is typically a time consuming, boring task into an interactive PvP experience. I have spent a lot of time AFK chopping trees and travelling around looking for sparkly rocks, and I think stepping away from that is the right move. The gathering system used in Das Tal will offer more enjoyment for the time invested.
When can potentially interested players expect to be able to take a first real look at the game?
We have a prototype running nicely at the moment which does a pretty good job of showing off the art style, and we will be releasing an alpha build with this setup ‘reasonably soon.’ Other than that, I hate to be ‘that guy,’ but we are just going to toil away and keep everyone up to speed with our progress. There will definitely be a free public alpha.
Thank you very much for your time, it was an absolute pleasure!
Pleasure was all mine guys, can’t wait to chat with you again soon.