Project: Gorgon - A new approach to MMOs
Project: Gorgon - A new approach to MMOs
An indie MMORPG with the deep gameplay of the classics, all the features of a modern game, and a unique immersive feel.
An indie MMORPG with the deep gameplay of the classics, all the features of a modern game, and a unique immersive feel. Read more
About this project
Kickstarter is a bust, but we aren't dead yet! Visit ProjectGorgon.com For Latest News!
Thanks to everyone who pledged! We fell far short of our financial goal, but we hit record high server populations, and the new players' enthusiasm is infectious and wonderful and very much appreciated. We're looking into other funding options now. Check the blog on ProjectGorgon.Com for more info.
Project: Gorgon is a 3D fantasy MMORPG (massively-multiplayer online role-playing game) for PC, Mac, and eventually Linux. It has an unusual, original feel, freely mixing ideas from older and newer MMOs with a whole bunch of ideas never before seen in any MMO.
It's designed for players who want to explore a deep world with complex game systems and a tight-knit community that is friendly enough to actually chat while they group.
You can play a very early version of the game right now, at projectgorgon.com/play-now, and see for yourself if this is something you want to be a part of.
"We already have plenty of MMOs," you may be thinking to yourself. "This is just another generic fantasy game. I've already played this."
No, you haven't. And unless you've been playing MMOs for over a decade, you may not even know what you're missing!
A decade ago, World of Warcraft came out and changed the MMO industry forever. It's an amazing game, and completely worthy of its success, but it had a nasty side effect on the MMO industry: other game companies saw the success this game had, and suddenly every business plan was to "be the next World of Warcraft." (I was there, making MMOs. It was a weird time.)
Each new MMO tried to copy as much of WoW as possible, assuming that was the secret to capturing the same audience. And now, a decade later, the term "MMO" is almost synonymous with this sort of directed MMO experience. Don't get me wrong, it's a fun experience! But it's only one possible kind of MMO.
If you've been playing MMOs for the better part of the last decade, you might be bored of them. You might naturally assume you'd seen everything there is to see in the genre. Fortunately for you, you couldn't be more wrong.
Originally, each new MMO found its own balance between the two extreme design ideas of "tight, directed game”, or “immersive, explorable world". After World of Warcraft, MMOs all seem to use the same answer. But we answer this basic dichotomy in a totally different way.
Project: Gorgon heavily rewards exploration. Go poke in corners and see what you find! Entire dungeons, hidden NPCs, all kinds of items, even entire skills and abilities... all waiting for you to discover.
Don't worry if that sounds intimidating! There'll be a solid tutorial, of course (and you can see an early version in the game right now). And to help get you started, we'll have "directed storylines" that are akin to classic MMO quest lines, and help tell the overarching story. But once you're comfortable, we hope you'll go exploring – because most of Project: Gorgon doesn't have signposts.
When you play Project: Gorgon, we want you to feel like you're immersed in a whole new virtual world. Rather than try to manage this with just some pretty graphics and excessive backstory, though, we’ve designed the game with dozens of gameplay features that make you feel like you're really there, interacting with the world, such as:
- If you're on fire, you can jump in a lake to put it out. That kind of real world touch can have a subtle effect on your strategies – especially when you’re fighting a fire mage!
- You can drop items on the ground, and other players can pick them up. What's so great about that? Imagine laying down a trail of literal (virtual) breadcrumbs to lure one of your friends into the woods.
- Shopkeepers really keep inventory, so you can buy the items other players sold them. Want to help out the newbies? Sell your cast-off uber weapons to the shopkeep in the newbie zone and watch them go to town.
- Each non-player character (NPC) you meet has their own goals and interests, and rewards players that choose to be their friend.
- You can inscribe messages on items, write books, even leave notes for other players. Make your name as an in-game poet, or just record your best kills on your sword.
And lots more subtle but very immersive stuff like that. These aren't the big features that make an MMO, but all of them combined make for a very unique world feel.
I've been making MMOs for a long time and I have a lot of crazy ideas I've always wanted to try out. A bunch of them are in this game:
- You can discover "words of power" and then say them in chat to activate their magic.
Skills are all intertwined in interesting ways. Want to be the best swordsman ever? Practice your calligraphy to get better hand-eye coordination with the sword!
- A unique dual death-penalty system. Explore the world without fear of death, but when it comes time to fight boss monsters, you'd better take it seriously!
- Want a scarier game? Customize your death penalty. Why should a game only have one death penalty, anyway?!
- "Behavior badges" recognize what you do in game. Want to be a vegetarian? Okay, just don't eat meat! Pacifist? Fine. Refuse to wear helmets? Sure, okay. The game recognizes these things, and many others. Players can see it on your character sheet. You don't get anything special for it -- just recognition of your choices.
Plus we have lots of weird crafting ideas, fun new ways to let players create content for one another, and a lot more in the works.
A lot of the game is about killing monsters and taking their stuff, and you'll do often. So we’ve designed Project: Gorgon to keep the experience fun and interesting. Our combat mechanics are fresh and we’re still trying out new ideas every week in development. Loot is randomly generated; monsters each have unique abilities; and dungeons have puzzles, traps, and terrifying bosses!
And the combat skills! These are entirely free-form. You can learn as many combat skills as you want, and use any two of them at the same time to create your own personal "class". There are many skills already in the game, plus many more to come. Some of the current ones are:
- Battle Chemistry: Create huge explosions! Inject yourself with mysterious mutagens! Program a pet golem!
- Unarmed Combat: Grapple and control enemies using a situational-aware combo system that varies based on where you are and even what day it is.
- Animal Handling: Tame animals and train them to become ferocious fighters. Then breed your best and sell their offspring to other players!
- Necromancy: Seek out corpses and graveyards to raise your army. No graveyard around? Well... there's always the corpses of your friends...
That's just a sample. There's also Sword Fighting, Combat Psychology, Staff Fighting, Sigil Scripting, Mentalism, and more.
You can learn as many skills as you can get your hands on... but sometimes, power comes with down sides.
You can become infected with lycanthropy and gain access to very powerful skill sets. Roam the world in a pack and wreak havoc! But come the three days surrounding the full moon (the real-world full moon!) you'll be stuck in your beast form. New opportunities come open, but others close. There is no cure for lycanthropy.
Becoming a druid gives you great power, but you have to vow to drop everything when there's a natural emergency, be it a forest fire, a monster invasion, even just an insect pest. And nature doesn't let you shirk your duties. Ever.
Summoning arch-demons also has a down side... well, you get the idea. Characters slowly become defined by the choices you make and responsibilities you accept.
Taking this idea to another level, you can unlock special playable races, each with their own pros and cons.
We want to attract the friendliest community around, and we're planning features to help make that happen, like:
- Live events with story focus
- Mechanisms for player-created quest content
- Player housing (some landscape, some instanced)
- Player-managed shops and stalls
- In-game communication tools like bulletin boards
- Bookshelves where you can submit your own stories (and players can up vote them)
- Guilds that can set role-play and gameplay rules like "must use hardcore death penalty", "vegetarians only", or "only werewolves allowed"
We'll also be working with the alpha and beta communities to prioritize and plan other features that they recommend.
It’s a sad fact that lots of indie MMO projects crash and burn. They have great ideas but they can't bring them to fruition. This is very frustrating for developers and gamers alike, but it’s completely understandable ... because making an MMO is insanely hard. It's the hardest kind of game possible! And if you don't have lots of development experience, the costs and delays can spiral out of control very quickly.
That’s why it’s important that we've already spent nearly four years on Project: Gorgon. We’ve done the hard, boring, critically important part: developing the tech, creating the art pipeline, and prototyping game mechanics. We're not quite in "production mode" yet, but we're close. Yes, there will be hiccups and hangups and bugs along the way -- there always are. But I'm completely confident that we have the foundation that will get us to the goal. That's because I've literally done this all before. I've coded the networking. I've optimized the AI. I've refactored the game mechanics based on feedback and metrics. As the lead developer, I'm quite confident that we are on the right track, and I have the experience to back that confidence up.
And more importantly, you can try it right now and see what you're getting yourself into. Go try the alpha version at projectgorgon.com!
(Soapbox mode. For the record, I really encourage you to never back any indie MMO project unless you can see actual gameplay firsthand. It's just too risky! Making an indie MMO is beyond hard... I've been a game developer for well over a decade, and a programmer for a lot longer, and this indie MMO is the hardest project I've ever worked on. And it took me years just to get this far. So it breaks my heart to see a bunch of excited gamers spending money on games that will supposedly be made from scratch in 12 months, by a team who's never even made games before. That's a recipe for vaporware, and players will become jaded and distrustful of crowd funding. Don't let this happen. Please insist on seeing some solid progress before you invest! Soapbox off.)
I'm Eric Heimburg, the lead developer, and I started working on MMOs way back in 2001, including Asheron's Call 1 & 2 and Perpetual's Star Trek Online. I've also worked as a network engineer and as an indie game developer and pro-indie proponent. I have production experience, design experience, and coding experience. Unfortunately I am the worst artist in the world, and I know nothing about sound.
For about a year, I've teamed up with SHOGN's artists, mainly Aaron Victoria, Vincent Beaudet, and Will Barry. They've removed almost all of the "programmer art" now, and are continuously refining the game's look and feel. They really care about making this the best-looking game it can be, and they've already vastly exceeded my highest expectations of "what an indie MMO can look like." With another 18 months of work, I seriously can't imagine how good this game will look!
Music is provided by the immensely talented Conor Brace, who understands the thematic elements of the game well and will continue to create the soundtrack. He also provides much of the game's sound effects and ambiance.
My wife Sandra Powers also plays a role in the game's production and planning, as well as some of the game coding. She was a producer for Asheron's Call 1 and EverQuest 2, so she knows the realities of MMO development like few others.
This Kickstarter will allow three of us -- myself and two artists -- to work full time on the game, and the others to work part time. If the Kickstarter goes beyond the minimum goal, we're excited to be able to hire on additional help! But first things first.
Risks and challenges
After almost four years of internal development, we have a really good grasp on what the game engine can and can't do. We aren't worried. But there are a few areas that are a little risky:
We use the Unity game engine as our client middleware. Unity now supports certain flavors of Linux, but that support is still kind of buggy. It's been getting better and better with each update of the engine, so we expect it to be very solid by the time we launch in 18 months... but this is something out of our control, so it's a risk.
We don't yet know exactly what the minimum specs will be for the game, because we haven't optimized it much yet. If your machine can run the outdoor parts of the game well right now, then you'll be fine. But if right now you get crappy framerate, we can't 100% guarantee you'll get a good framerate when we're done. We are aiming for a nice low min spec, but we just don't know the exact details until we do the hard work of optimizing every scene and every asset.
Ideally we'd like to charge players a $5/month subscription fee. That would allow us to focus on making a fun game, rather than spending half our time making Item Shop stuff to entice you to give us money. But we don't yet know if a subscription will be tenable, because so many other games are free. If it isn't, we'll use a typical free-to-play (f2p) model.
We'd like to skip all the bullshit that comes along with a f2p model and just ask players for a very small monthly fee -- a fee that's cheaper than a single burrito per month. We think this is eminently reasonable, but our audience may disagree. So you'll help us figure out a business model that will work for you and for us. We'll be polling you, and experimenting during the development process.
Just to clarify: if this Kickstarter is successful, we'll definitely have the funds to *complete* the game. But in order to keep the game running for years to come, we must have a business model that keeps players happy *and* keeps us in profit.
(Because we aren't yet sure how the business model works, we're offering a generic "Gold Level" account privilege as one of the rewards. If we use subscriptions, it will be a subscription to the game. If not, Gold Level will be a premiere access level in whatever payment model we end up using.)Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
Because we aren't yet sure how the business model works (either a $5 monthly subscription, or some sort of free-ish to play model), we're offering "Gold Level" account privilege to cover all the bases: if we use subscriptions, it will be a subscription to the game. If not, Gold Level will be a premiere access level in whatever payment model we end up using. (For instance, it might give you approx. $5 worth of shop credits each month.)
Deaths by smiting carry no death penalty. (For instance, if you're playing in Hardcore mode, none of your items break due to being smote.) You can't smite somebody if both you and they are in PvP mode, and deaths from smiting don't count toward team kill counts.
So basically, smiting is just a mild nuisance, sending you to the graveyard and forcing you to run back.
But it also has an up side. There is a "Dying" skill in the game, which you level up by finding new ways to get killed. The first time you're smote you get a nice big chunk of Dying XP. So it's quite possible that people with the ability to smite others will have players lining up for the privilege.
Well, barring some other source of $100k, Project: Gorgon as envisioned here won't get made without Kickstarter.
We really do need money to finish the game. It requires 18 months more work to reach the quality and content levels it needs to be successful. So if the Kickstarter doesn't succeed, we need to find that money somewhere else.
The MMO engine is being used by a couple of other aspiring indie MMO teams, and we'll continue to support them as long as possible, so it's not like everything would disappear overnight. And we'll all keep making games, somehow or another!
Right now, in alpha, the game has three outdoor areas, each bigger than the last. It also has about a dozen dungeons, give or take, depending on how you count them. There's actually quite a lot of content there already! Hundreds of quests, 80-some-odd skills, and much more. But this just covers the early part of the game. The current level cap is 50 for most skills, and in the final game, the level cap will be 125.
When the game is completed, it will have something like 15-20 outdoor areas, instead of 3. (The exact number will depend on how the details work out -- we will likely consolidate some planned areas to make them larger and more compelling.) We'll continue to add new content, including outdoor areas, post-launch.
Two of the new outdoor areas are nearing completion now, and they're pretty interesting. We'll show them off in a Kickstarter update soon.
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