Shards Online: a new approach to an MMO

(also Why I Don’t Like World of Warcraft Much Anymore)

I can’t remember where I learned about Shards, but it caught my attention. The thing that really caught my eye was the fact that you could create your own server within their multiverse (for want of a better word). You can make your own rules, your own quest chains, etc. This really appealed to me. And the announcement of their Kickstarter launching hit my email yesterday.

I’ve played World of Warcraft since its vanilla release, i.e. before the first expansion, and frankly, I’m kinda bored with it and have been for a while. They’ve adopted a viewpoint from a class of players that are of the opinion that only end-game raiding and PvP are what the game is good for, and that if you don’t get to max level in the shortest amount of time possible, then there’s no point playing.

I am not of that opinion. I like exploring the world, and I’d like new and more complex content in the older and lower level areas of the game (yes, I have several max-level characters, that’s not the point). But that doesn’t happen. When expansions come out, almost all of the new content is in the new area opened up. So the game expands, but doesn’t develop. The only significant exception to this that I can think of was when the Cataclysm expansion released and several areas suffered significant upheaval, and I created new characters and ran it through the changed zones and had some fun. But then those new characters get to the level of going in to the intermediate and more advanced zones, and that content has not changed, so it always eventually becomes the same old grind to level up.

I’ve played other MMOs and seen different ways of doing things, which makes me like WoW less and less, to the point where I’m considering stopping it (other reasons are at play). Sony’s Vanguard has been a tremendous amount of fun and has some excellent mechanics, but it’s been sunsetted and will shut down at the end of July. City of Heroes had some great stuff, such as both Exemplar and Sidekick modes, but it’s long-gone.

Shards looks to remedy this by providing dynamic content. I’m not sure if this will be through the developers being actively engaged in making new content, or if they’re relying on people running their own servers for this. Another thing that I’m curious about is player mobility. It seems to me that the game could be quickly unbalanced by one person who runs a Monty Haul shard giving out BFGs like candy, then taking said BFGs to low-tech worlds and laying waste. One thing that prevents this is a tactical combat system where HOW you act in combat is as important as what you’re equipped with. And as always, the server admins are gods, so they can squash you like a bug if a munchkin gets too out of hand.

But for me, perhaps the best selling point is that they’re Mac-friendly: they’re preparing Mac and Linux releases, and are contemplating a Steam distribution. And like the soon-to-be-departed Vanguard, Shards supports what looks like a good crafting system and the ability for users to make houses, presumably this will also let people create guild halls.

The Kickstarter ends on Thursday, June 12, their goal is $320,000 and they’re not quite 10% there at the moment. $20 right now (quantities are limited) will get you a digital copy of the game. And the people behind it, Citadel Studios, have some good chops: Warhammer Online, Ultima Online, etc.

This looks pretty good to me, and goes far beyond the ‘click, kill, and collect crap’ model of so many games. (tip o’ the hat to Deb for that phrase)

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  • Logrus  On May 14, 2014 at 11:48 am

    All shards within a cluster share the same rule set. Your character will reside in a set cluster and can move between linked shards within that cluster. You would create a new character to play on a different cluster. (This helps prevent farming in lax rule sets then transferring to more difficult ones.)
    There will also be Citadel Clusters where ongoing development and content will continue to be deployed and maintained.

  • wynnmercere  On May 14, 2014 at 12:18 pm

    I’ve never really gotten into any of the MMOs – not even the Roman themed Gods and Heroes which I beta tested years ago. I don’t want to fakemake friends or pledge allegiance to a guild to move forward in an adventure. I guess “I don’t play well with others.” I have much more fun in solo computer world building games. I’m still playing a lot of very old PC games and enjoying them.

    • waynezombie  On May 15, 2014 at 8:11 am

      MMOs are not for everyone, which is not a problem: there’s plenty of different games out there. Speaking of world building, there’s a new Sid Meyer game just over the horizon. It’s debatable whether it’s Civilization 6 or Alpha Centauri 2, but it’s definitely science fiction world building.

  • Kabalyero  On June 4, 2014 at 3:49 am

    This is more than an MMO. It will let you create your own game world using it’s assets. The kickstarter is ending soon. Help it reach its goal. ^_^

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