Those of you who are already players of one of our MUDs probably know what the retirement system is, but briefly, it’s a system whereby you can permanently retire a character and receive credits for some percentage of the value of the character and its stuff as calculated by us. You can then take those credits and put them into a new character on the same game or one of our other games.
People have been asking about retirement and Starmourn since we first revealed the project to the world, and we’re finally ready to reveal how it’s going to work. (It’s not complicated.)
We’re going to allow retirement into Starmourn but only 3 months after we put the game in full release (meaning anyone can access the game and the world will not be reset/wiped going forward). After that three months is over, people with existing characters will have 30 days to spend any retirement credits on them after which they aren’t eligible for retirement credits any more. New characters will, as per our other games, have 30 days before they’re unable to receive retirement credits.
The reason we’re instituting a delay is because what we really don’t want to see is people retiring their characters in our other games on day 1, playing Starmourn, and then really regretting their decision. It’s not that we think Starmourn won’t be awesome, but it’ll be the new shiny, and we think it’s highly likely that people will dig themselves a hole and regret it. We also can’t allow people to back out of retirement because then what we’ll see is a flood of people leaving the other games in order to try out the new game, many with no intention of doing anything but playing around and then returning to their previous game. That’s disruptive to both the existing games and Starmourn.
Now you know!
As you may or may not already know, all characters in Starmourn have a ‘mindsim’ in their heads. This is basically your personal AI assistant. Of course, we don’t really need to have mindsims except in an RP sense, so what’s the point unless they have a little personality?
Along with naming your mindsim, you’ll be able to select a personality for it, though there’s also a ‘default’ option. For instance, current personality types include:
Bitsy: Though slightly disrespectful at times, users will find this mindsim to be a helpful personality and loyal friend. From First Axiom Subsidiaries.
MIM: The minimal interface mindsim, created for the user who prefers succinct, to the point communication from their assistant. Developed by the W’hoorn military before being turned over for civilian use.
Mavis: Mavis was developed for the mindsim user who requires a high degree of deference and respect. With a polite attitude and a robust vocabulary, Mavis is the perfect companion for the refined, intelligent space traveler.
Zneer: A product of Aphador Cooperative, Zneer is marketed as a novelty personality among mindsim users. Due to a bug in its programming that is now viewed as a feature, the Zneer personality greatly resents being stuck in the user’s head and doesn’t like biological beings period. It considers itself superior to the user, and is, to put it bluntly, a real asshole.
Marvin: This mindsim personality attained a uniquely glum and nihilistic style all its own after being exposed to a laboratory of perennially depressed coders stuck on a far-off asteroid owned by the developing corporation of Darkside Logistics, a fledgling operation that could only afford remote, cheap real estate. Soon after Marvin’s release, the company folded.
So how does this end up playing out?
Well, obviously, we haven’t actually developed AI assistants. What these do is basically skin various system messages you’d normally get related to things like messages, news, your wetwiring system, some ship-related messages, and more. The idea is to ‘skin’ the normal messages, with the more common normal messages having multiple choices to pull from per mindsim personality. We think that long-time users will probably end up using the default or MIM choices, but that you guys will also have a good time exploring their personalities.
Say you have a new message. Here’s what the various personalities might say (there’s multiple choices for this, but I’m just giving you one for each):[Default]: You have one new message. [Bitsy]: Boss, looks like we have one new message to look at. [MIM]: 1 NEW MESSAGE. [Mavis]: There is one new message waiting for Sir, would he like us to retrieve it? (Obviously, would be different based on gender.) [Zneer]: Incredibly, someone has cared enough to send you a message. You, of course, are such an ungrateful, undeserving pile of karmic tragedy that you haven’t even read it yet. [Marvin]: You have a new message. I didn’t get one and now I’m drowning in a familiar swamp of despair and self-pity.
Or maybe you have entered an invalid section when trying to read news:[Default]: You entered an invalid section. [Bitsy]: Watch your syntax, boss. There are no sections like that. [MIM]: NO SECTION FOUND. [Mavis]: We apologize, but we have no record of the section that Ma’am has requested. [Zneer]: You’ve entered an invalid section, and that’s not even in the top 10 dumbest things you’ve done today. [Marvin]: That section is as invalid as the idea that my future holds anything other than misery.
Perhaps your wetwiring regeneration has fired up:[Default]: Wetwiring regeneration starting. [Bitsy]: Firing up wetwiring regeneration, boss. What a rush! [MIM]: WETWIRING REGEN ACTIVATING. [Mavis]: We have commenced wetwiring regeneration. [Zneer]: Your disgusting bio body is hurt. Again. Firing up the wetwiring regen, though I fantasize about the day I can just let you bleed out. [Marvin]: Wetwiring regen begun, but it’s not going to save you from going to the grave eventually. I so look forward to its black embrace.
Maybe you tried to send a tell to someone who isn’t available:[Default]: That person is not available at this time. [Bitsy]: Hate to break it to you, but they aren’t around. Should I try again later? [MIM]: RCVR NOT AVAILABLE. [Mavis]: We are unable to send a tell to that individual. [Zneer]: Don’t bother, monkey. That person is unavailable and wouldn’t want to hear from you anyway. If you threw a party, nobody would come. [Marvin]: That person isn’t available for a tell right now. I hope it’s not cancer but it probably is. I’ll probably get it next. Figures.
As the game goes post-launch and is further-developed, we’ll regularly expand the mindsims, and may introduce new personalities as well (though we can’t have too many or else we’ll have an issue with it taking too much time to add a simple new message to the game if we’re having to write them for 20 mindsims or whatnot).
Today we’ve got an interview with Achaea’s Producer – Justin Walsh. Enjoy!
Q. Tell us a little about yourself. How long have you been with Iron Realms, what have you done with the company, and what’d you do before that?
A. I’ve been a member of the Iron Realms staff since 2008, transitioning from a volunteer admin position I started in 2005. Before transitioning to work full time for Iron Realms, I worked in the IT sector of the educational industry. In my time here, I’ve done everything from driving roleplay as a player-facing god, through to designing and programming up new game systems, all the way up to Lead Producer for Achaea.
Outside of the games, I also work more broadly for Iron Realms as its Chief Technical Officer, helping advance the technical elements of the company, everything from server reliability to overseeing development of our Nexus client and other technologies.
Q. Was it intimidating being the producer on an entirely new game vs. Achaea, which had been around for a long time before your tenure as producer?
A. It definitely has intimidating factors! With an established game, you have years of history to build on – from established storylines, all the way through to knowing how the players chose to interact with the various game elements influencing the design of both roleplay and system changes. With a new game, you’re starting from scratch. While this clean-slate is liberating in its freedom, does raise some questions in the back of your mind as to whether it will translate to the entirely new player-base when the game opens.
Q. Can you describe a bit what your job as producer is? What are your overarching responsibilities?
A. A game producer is a very broad umbrella of responsibility, especially in a small studio like Iron Realms, where we don’t have massive teams to share the load. The core of the role is to do everything in our power to ensure that the game is a success — See, broad! So, this ranges in everything from designing, implementing, improving game systems and happenings to keep players engaged with the game, through to recruiting, mentoring. and ensuring the success of team members, all the way through all elements of customer service, and outreach to try and bring in new players!
Q. What’re you working on currently? Any details possible?
A. Right at this very moment, I’m working on elements of the shipboard PVE options. We’re testing and tweaking the AI surrounding spawned NPC ships, which has involved a huge amount of both carnage wrought upon my poor ship, and to the countless enemy space pirate vessels that have met their demise at the hands of my canons and missiles!
Q. Other than the sci-fi theme, how do you think Starmourn is differentiated from the other IRE MUDs?
A. Starting from a relatively clean slate with Starmourn has allowed us to work on some of the pipedreams and “wouldn’t it be nice if we could…” bucket list items that would be a nightmare to try and retrofit into an established game. One example that is exciting is blurring the lines between players and NPCs in terms of interaction and combat – there’s very little in the way of “this ability only works to/against players” or “this interaction only works against NPCs”, which is a refreshing change.
This clean slate approach has allowed us to integrate ships and space into the core of the game, rather than feeling like a minigame or an addon. You might be on a quest planet-side, and the next step of the quest might have you running back to your ship to go and hunt down some scumbag pirate that just escaped in his own vessel, to get a code to use when hacking an access terminal to unlock a door and rescue hostages on the other side.
Q. How do you think of roleplay vs. mechanics when developing new system? Is one more important than the other?
A. I think it varies from system to system, and how the players will interact and be influenced by it.
Something along the lines of a class/profession, that has a very large impact on the roleplay of the players, we generally start with a thematic design, rooted heavily in the roleplay sphere, and then move on to the mechanical components to fit inside the roleplay theme.
On the other hand, something like asteroid mining, it is a mechanical system first, and then we try to incorporate as many roleplay elements into those mechanics to add as much depth and lore there inside the constraints of the mechanics.
Q. If you had to pick one part of Starmourn you’re most excited about, what would it be?
A. Picking one is a tough one, I’ve covered a few of the ones I’m really excited about in the last few questions, but one element I’m really looking forward to players being able to enjoy is the overall story arc that takes place over your character’s progression through the game. Everything is tied together, from the storyline of the new player introduction all the way through to the maximum level. Every few levels, you’ll take another step on this journey. Don’t worry though, your story is far from over even when you complete the arc. As they say, when one book closes, another one opens!
Q. Which player race is your favorite?
A. I’ve been smitten by the Elgan race since I saw the first concept art for them, so much attitude in such a little package! A close second is the Krona, which are one of the more different races that step outside of the typical humanoid boundaries – I can’t wait to see what happens to them once the players start digging into their lore and expanding it with their roleplay.
Q. How is Starmourn going to make money? With credits like other Iron Realms games? If so, what kinds of things will you be able to buy at launch?
A. We will have credits, like the rest of the Iron Realms games, which will be used to either turn into lessons, or purchase artefacts. For launch, we’ll generally be focussing on offering artefacts that are more general use and utility, vs anything that impacts combat in a meaningful way.
We are implementing a few new skills and systems that don’t rely on lessons too, which will be fun, allowing you to progress and advance entirely through in-game actions!
Q. The Nabia race (NPCs) is mentioned a few times as being serious drug dealers. Will there be actual drugs in the game? If so, will they have effects, or just be cosmetic?
A. The drug element is definitely present in the game, many of your interactions with NPCs will touch on their feelings towards the subject. As for how players take or make drugs, no, they won’t be purely cosmetic – but that’s something for another time.
Q. How is player-killing going to be handled? Can people just kill anyone they want whenever they want? How do you stop bullying and outright abuse of people if so?
A. Balancing player-killing is definitely a major element in the design of the game, and there’s just so many different playstyles that we try to cover. We’ll likely launch with a basic set of “RP PVP” guidelines, so that actions have consequences, but it’s not a free-for-all gankfest. Call someone a dirty kithlicker while cruising through Feral Space? Yeah, you’re probably going to get shot at, but if you’re just walking around browsing the shops on the W’hoorn homeworld of Benu Wen, and haven’t done anything to tick someone off, you’ll should be pretty safe.
In the event that things go too far, we will have some recourse there, and the admin team will step in for people going out of their way to grief other players unnecessarily.
Q. When will Starmourn be out, damn it? We need to know!
A. Getting closer every day! We’re getting close to a stage now that all the mechanical systems are in place and working, but we’ve still got a lot of creation work to get things fleshed out! As I type this, our awesome building team just finished polishing and playtesting all the racial homeworlds, and each one of those is between 150 and 300 rooms! I can’t wait for opening day so you can see all the hard work.
Q. Is it true that you’ve done the Kessel Run in 10 parsecs?
A. 9 parsecs!
Our apologies! 9 parsecs. Thanks for participating, Justin!
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