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President John Kennedy spoke those words as he described the New Frontier - his vision of the kinds of challenges the United States would attempt in the 1960s, including sending astronauts to the moon and returning them safely to the earth.
His point was that sometimes to be great we must accept hardship along with the glory.
For more than a decade gamers have asked for a specific kind of game: A massively multiplayer fantasy roleplaying game where their characters were the most important figures in the world, where they could have a real impact on the world, where they could create kingdoms and wage war and peace - and a community to belong to that would be friendly and helpful and would have a meaningful impact on the design of the game.
During that time dozens of games were made which just didn't match those desires. Those games, which we call Theme Park games, had rich storylines driven by NPCs, and beautiful hand-crafted worlds that players could visit but never change, where the factions of the game were controlled by the developers with little player input.
A little more than two years ago we set out to finally make the game that so many people wanted to play. We knew it would be very hard. Making a game that doesn't look like the games that dominate bestseller lists and have become successful franchises is extremely risky. Massively multiplayer games are the hardest, most expensive, most technically challenging games to make. But we embraced hardship as a virtue - doing a great thing often means doing a very very hard thing.
Our community gave us the ability to move forward. More than 8,000 people pledged money to back our two Kickstarters where we collectively raised over $1.4 million to help fund development. Our investors have contributed even more capital, believing in our vision and our team.
Since last summer we have been transparently testing the game with a large group of players in our Alpha. Thousands of players have logged in, played the game, and provided feedback which we have incorporated into the game in a process we call Crowdforging.
They have watched a process of continuous and steady improvement. Every aspect of the game has been upgraded during this period. They've seen our commitment to the ideals of Crowdforging kept.
Wednesday December 31st, all that hard work will come to fruition as we reach a critical milestone and transition from Alpha into Early Enrollment. The dream of thousands and the desires of many thousands more will at last become a reality.
There is a great story about Ernest Shackleton and an ad he placed in London as he prepared for his Antarctic expedition. The apocryphal ad said:
"Men wanted for hazardous journey. Low wages, bitter cold, long hours of complete darkness. Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in event of success."
As the story goes, adventurers lined up en masse in response to this ad, responding to the great opportunity to be a part of a unique and historic undertaking.
In a similar way Early Enrollment will be the story of Pioneers - players who are ready to take on the challenge of making a real, persistent world come to life in the face of great adversity.
It takes about 5 years to make an MMO. We are in the 2nd year of that 5 year cycle. Most people have never seen a game in this early phase of development before. Years of work remain to bring the game up to the bar set by the huge Theme Park MMOs.
Why begin play this early? Why would people choose to pay to play a game that isn't finished?
The Pioneers know. They know that when you wait 5 years to play an MMO all the critical design choices have been made. All the game systems are locked in place. Decisions made by designers working in isolation and secrecy define how the game will be played. Players can't have any meaningful input into the process. The best ideas from the community cannot really be implemented. The wisdom of people who have played many other games and considered their merits and flaws is absent from the design process. The Pioneers know that to have their voices really heard, they have to be bold, take risks, and start early enough in the process so that they can really, truly, matter. To the Pioneers goes the honour and recognition for success.
Early Enrollment begins with huge momentum developed during the Alpha.
The game world is gigantic. It is approximately 18 by 20 kilometers in size. It takes about a half-hour to walk from one edge of the map to the other.
Unlike most Theme Park games we have just one single shared server. Everyone plays together in one big shared world. The actions of every character can influence the experience of every other player.
The character system is absolutely phenomenal. Your characters can train hundreds of Feats, wield dozens of weapons of more than a dozen types. Your characters can cast dozens of spells, cantrips and orisons. They can learn to craft hundreds of weapons, armor, and other gear. They can become harvesters of minerals, plants, magical essences, and middens. If you wish they can pursue Role achievements which are like the classic tabletop RPG classes of Cleric, Fighter, Rogue and Wizard, or you can mix & match Feats and abilities as you see fit.
The NPC and Player-run Settlements provide a wide variety of places to live and interact. Basic training is available from NPC Settlements, and the Player-run Settlements will be able to offer even more advanced training soon (a game system that enables this called War of Towers has been thoroughly tested in Alpha but it won't be turned on for a few weeks in Early Enrollment). Player-run Settlements will also be hubs of activity for crafters and merchants, and since there is no fast travel or global storage, players will need to physically move their goods from place to place to make the best markets.
Early Enrollment marks the very start, not the end, of our iterative Crowdforging-driven development process. We have now built the basic features required for a compelling persistent world - a functioning economy, a vast territory filled with monsters and danger, and a variety of Settlements for the players to control and manage as they see fit.
Our design objective is to maximize meaningful human interaction. Our game consists of many systems that interact in a wide variety of ways as determined by the players. The results of those interactions will be the source of the stories their characters create in the world. They will be the most powerful forces. They will be the soldiers, diplomats, spies, traders, bandits, explorers and crafters that will fill the game with light and energy and purpose.
We will be working alongside the community to keep adding new features, improving the content in the game - more and better graphics, upgraded user interfaces, sounds, and more and more game systems. Our team will be releasing updates on a regular cadence. And the players in the world will be able to guide us and help us make the choices of how to allocate our time and resources to best serve their needs, not theoretically, but through actual play and real experience.
It will be hard. But it will be awesome!
If you backed our 2nd Kickstarter and you received a Crowdforger Reward (Pioneer, Buddy, Guild or Alpha), or you have purchased Alpha Enrollment or Early Enrollment since the Kickstarter, you will be able to begin play immediately. If you purchase Alpha or Early Enrollment you can also begin play immediately. Early Enrollment costs $100, and it includes 3 months of game time as well as the game client and some additional perks.
If you purchased Explorer Enrollment from our store, you'll be able to begin play in one month. You can always upgrade an Explorer Enrollment package to Early Enrollment in the store. Explorer Enrollment costs $50 and includes 1 month of game time and the game client software as well as some additional perks.
If you have an Open Enrollment package from the Kickstarter or from the store, you can also upgrade to Explorer or Early Enrollment through the store and accelerate your access. Open Enrollees are scheduled to begin play in January of 2016.
Our game uses a unique real-time based XP system. Characters gain XP through the passage of time, not through being logged in. So the characters that are created in the first month will be the characters with the most XP for all time. A special perk will be in effect that backdates XP to the start of Early Enrollment for the first month so no matter when you purchase an account, if you create a character in Month 1, you'll have that maximum XP.
Our community is extraordinarily active and helpful. You will find them gathered on the message board forums on paizo.com, and on the forums on goblinworks.com. 33 Player-run Settlements have been seeded into the game world already and you can learn more about them and contact them on the Land Rush Leaderboard. We are privileged to have such a large community of enthusiasts who are as passionate about the game as we are and who are working incredibly hard to welcome new players.