Guns of Icarus Online: Adventure Mode Q&A with Jess Haskins

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Last year, I wrote about Guns of Icarus Online, an interesting, atmospheric shooter set on board opposing steam/dieselpunk airships. Since then, developer Muse Games has unveiled a Kickstarter campaign for the long-awaited paid expansion, Adventure mode. Muse’s stated plan for Adventure includes three key elements:

 

1. PVE and co-op gameplay, unlocked at the Kickstarter’s threshold of $100,000;

 

2. An in-game economy and faction system, flagged as Muse’s first major stretch goal ($350,000)

 

3. Worldbuilding tools, flagged as the second stretch goal ($500,000).

 

Muse has stated that, should it secure more than $100,000 but less than the full $500,000, all Kickstarter backers will receive a “season pass” that will entitle them to future elements of Adventure Mode as and when they are released.

 

Read on for my email Q&A with Jess Haskins, Designer and Chief Nomenclator at Muse:

 

2013 04 16 ff3372f4d9a73b6e0b3ef6bad53fd524_largePeter Sahui: I’d like to begin with one of my main questions– what will Adventure Mode look like if the Kickstarter receives less than the $500,000 it needs to be feature-complete? In particular, what sort of game will Adventure be if the Kickstarter receives the $100,000 needed for PVE but not the $350,000 needed for the player-driven economy/faction system?  (e.g. will it consist of pure PVE arena comp stomps, will there be some kind of scaled-back metagame, etc).

 

Jess Haskins: If we receive less than $500K, we might need to change our release plan and build to Adventure Mode in stages rather than all at once, starting with co-op missions, for example. Then it’s up to us to continue to push towards the ultimate vision and to find resources other than Kickstarter to make it happen. Ultimately we’re committed to making Adventure Mode and making sure our Kickstarter backers will get what they pledged for. If we don’t get full funding with this campaign then it may take us longer, but we’ll get there.

 

PS: How do you see the relative balance between PVP and PVE content in Adventure? Will it be possible for players in Adventure mode to opt out of PVP?

 

JH: There will definitely be options for co-op and solo play in Adventure, but PvP is a major part of the Guns of Icarus Online experience and is the main component of the inter-factional conflict that shapes the world. Even if you play only missions where you never encounter other players in direct combat, in some sense you’re always helping one faction or going against another, so you’re engaged in some level of PvP struggle on the wider scale. It’s difficult to say just how much of one or the other there will be as a relative percentage, but PvE missions will always be available to provide a break from playing with other people, allowing players to see the world and take on challenges at their own pace.

 

PS: Will every player need to own the Adventure expansion in order to participate in PVE?

 

JH: Yeah they will, PvE and Co-op will be part of Adventure Mode.

 

 

PS: My next couple of questions are about Adventure’s design – I’m wondering about the extent to which it will feature RPG/trading sim elements, vs being a pure shooter. 

 

In particular, could you elaborate on how trade runs will work? Will they simply be a mission type in which an employer pays us a flat fee (assuming there’s in-game money) to move goods from A to B, or will we be able to buy and sell our own cargo?

 

JH: Player cargo is a tricky thing since it requires a full-fledged economic system, and balancing the economic currency generators and sinks on that scale gets to be a very daunting prospect. This is why personal player cargo, aside from cosmetic and vanity items, is one of our stretch goals rather than a foundation.

 

In our economic simulation, towns will be the ones who will be exchanging goods and the player is the one who actually carries out each trade via missions to collect, deliver, or intercept cargo on behalf of a town or faction. In addition to fees and other rewards for a successful mission, players will also gain influence with the towns they are working for, which is the way to get very quickly enmeshed in the politics of the world!

 

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PS: One of my favourite parts of “freelance captain games” (everything from Sid Meier’s Pirates! to Freelancer) is upgrading my ship as I go from rags to riches. Will this be an option in Adventure mode and if so, how will it work?

 

JH: Adventure certainly offers us more possibilities in terms of customizations, upgrades, and the costs of running your own ship and managing resources than Skirmish, in which everything must be freely accessible to everyone and balanced for competitive PvP. We still have those challenges in Adventure, since we don’t want a new player’s ship getting preyed on and dominated by some souped-up veteran’s ship that’s bristling with all the latest powerups. That’s an experience that’s never fun for anyone (even the veteran, although they might tell you otherwise). But we have a lot more systems to work with, to give players a sense of challenge and progression while still ensuring that PvP matchups are fair.

 

For example, one of the elements that we would like to introduce in Adventure is the idea of weight as part of ship customization, which adds an interesting element of choice to missions. As you gain capabilities, more types of missions may open up to you, and you can reap greater rewards. Do you fly a big, heavy ship with a lot of cargo space and take on bigger delivery jobs, or do you allocate that weight to heavier weapons to protect that smaller haul? Do you forgo weight entirely to keep your craft light and maneuverable, even if it means smaller payloads and more vulnerability to attack? Those are the kinds of choices we want captains to be making when they outfit their ships and plan for missions.

 

 

PS: Speaking of which, since Muse plans to add NPC boss ships and biplanes to Adventure, will you also be adding new player-usable ships?

 

JH: We will definitely be creating new ships as we go along. There will most likely be some new types of ships that are designed exclusively for Adventure mode, but we expect several of the new models to filter back and fill out the roster in Skirmish as well. As we develop Adventure, we always have an eye to what we can bring back and use to enhance the Skirmish experience at the same time.

 

PS: I noticed that Muse patched an in-game manual into GOIO, addressing what IMHO was a lack of adequate documentation at launch. What sort of documentation/tutorial are you planning for Adventure?

 

JH: We miss the days when new games came packaged with a big, fat 50-page manual full of instructions and illustrations and lore. We thought that particular era was long gone, save the occasional nostalgia project on Kickstarter that promises an old-school printed manual for kicks — no one wants to read anything any more, they just want to jump right in and play! Parts of our game look a little similar to other kinds of games out there and might seem familiar, but it’s actually pretty different from what you might expect, so communicating all the novel mechanics and interactions to players while still welcoming them into this new experience is a challenge.

 

When we added the in-game manual, the biggest surprise was that anyone was even sitting down and reading it at all, but it’s proved a valuable reference source for players. We’re also working on tutorials, more informative contextual prompts, and ways to connect players directly so we can ultimately have a wide range of learning tools. Whether you’re the type who likes to jump in and experiment with everything, go through a more guided experience, sit down and thoroughly digest written information first, or even work with another live person who can show you the ropes, you should be able to find a way to learn the game that suits your own style.

 

Most of what you learn in Skirmish, how to fly and fight and work with a crew, is the same stuff you’ll be doing in Adventure, so most of those tools will still apply. We’ll just expand on that for anything Adventure-specific that players need to learn, but we’ll always aim to accomodate a variety of learning styles.

 

GOIO Adv Faction Art

 

PS: Finally, do you have any last message for our readers?

 

JH: Just that we’re incredibly grateful to all our players and fans who have taken a risk and supported us as we tried something new, and we think we have the best community out there. I think I can state without bias that our players are friendly, enthusiastic, passionate, exceptionally intelligent, and uncommonly attractive. We’re grateful for everyone who’s “gotten” it, who’s taken to our strange new world and helped us make team-based multiplayer online airship-to-airship combat a thing. Guns of Icarus Online is a dream project for us, and we’re excited to be able to go on to the next phase of development and realize the true potential of the setting in Adventure Mode. Come join us, it’s going to be a wild ride!

 

PS: Thanks for your time!

 

The Adventure Mode Kickstarter, at the time of writing, has just reached its initial goal of $100,000. It will remain open until 21 May.

 

All Guns of Icarus Online images taken from the official website and Kickstarter page.

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