Today we have a special treat.  J.C. Smith, lead developer of The Repopulation, agreed to answer some questions about their upcoming MMO.  If you are not familiar with The Repopulation, it is a SciFi Sandbox MMORPG which draws inspiration for many of its features from Star Wars Galaxies and Ultima Online.

As of this writing, they are having a Kickstarter campaign.  They’ve already reached their funding milestone, and are now working toward stretch goals.  You can gain future beta access by helping with their funding. They are also working on getting The Repopulation on Steam, which you can support using their Greenlight page.  Now on to the Q&A!

1. The Repopulation is a sandbox MMORPG. Will there an ongoing world story that a player’s actions will truly affect the outcome?

Yes and no. We’ll start it off with a curve-ball. We do have an outline of certain events that will need to happen as the game progresses, and players will not be able to affect those types of important timeline events. For example, at some point (no spoilers) the action will spread to other planets and eventually throughout the galaxy. Players will be unable to affect those types of events because they are required for the post-launch features to unfold.

Players will be able to affect the world in a number of ways though. Our engagement and world events systems are designed with this in mind. Engagements for example are affected over a large area and often have longer term goals that which players do have a direct impact on.

A good example of this type of engagement exists near the Tikt Tunnels. These tunnels are a cave complex which are the home to Faugea. Faugea are an intelligent species which has a spoken language, which players can learn if they gain their trust. There is a village not far from the Tunnels, and the village attempts to keep peace with them. The problem is, players don’t always listen to the villagers. If players keep the killing of the Faugea to a minimum, an ambassador will arrive in the village, who will offer players missions and train them to speak the language. Faugea will have a very low presence outside of the tunnels in this case. If players choose to treat this cave as a dungeon, however, that is also an option. The Faugea will blame the villagers, however when this happens.

This goes through a series of escalating states, and any players in the nearby area will have hints as to what the tension level is. They can see this both in the engagement text, by the number of Faugea outside of Tikt, and also in the reactions of some of the villagers. Once things begin escalating the Ambassador is also withdrawn from the village. If players continue to slaughter Faugea, they will begin sending hunting parties and doing some damage of their own. Eventually they will send a giant invasion force that will set the city on fire if players do not stop them. This brings new engagement spin offs from putting out the fires, to helping rebuild the city.

These types of events also These types of engagements are common, and they are often things that happen over hours or days, rather than minutes. They can completely alter the spawns and affect the visual appearance of areas. There are often spin off missions that are only available at certain certain. And they also affect the games NPCs.

Each of our NPCs can have a slew of different personality traits. This includes their personality, profession, mood, dilemma, the cause of the dilemma. Those traits are used to determine which generated missions that NPC can be a part of. But they can also change, which allows the NPC to be a part of different missions, or to allow certain missions to now take place which couldn’t before. NPCs will often talk about these things, to other NPCs and to players, and they can mention the cause of their dilemmas when they do. So if a certain player caused them wrong they may bad talk the player, but if you aided them they could also sing your praises.

So you’ll see a lot of things such as this. Where there are different things going on as you return to some of the same locations, as a direct result of something that players have done.

2. Player choice has been mentioned quite often. Given this, will players be able to build a farm and just harvest crops all day long, never having to journey out into the world to explore and fight in the world of Rhyldan?(Separate from Structure Based Harvesting). Can they choose to be a street performer in the big city, never needing more than the enjoyment of entertaining other players. Many players have been burned by the “Player Choice” “Play how you want to play” advertisement that has been tossed around the last couple of years.

You’ll be able to grow some plants through the horticulture system, and those can be extracted for resources. It might be hard to completely avoid combat, sometimes you’ll run into danger accidentally. But you could simply go out and buy some harvesting tools, harvest resources without ever having to go out and hunt mobs. Certain types of resources of course will only be available by extracting the corpses of mobs. Things like Tissue, Meat or Hides, for example.

We do have an entertainment skill line. This line allows you to dance, play music, tell stories, or to manipulate the crowd. When you do so nearby players receive buffs. The way these buffs are designed they will grow in power and duration based on the number of entertainers and by how well they interact together. And similar to SWG, you can /tip those entertainers to reward them for their services.

There are also missions and engagements which are targeted specifically at non-combat trainers. Cities for example can often run low on a certain type of item or resources and will offer a bounty for players craft or harvest what they need. Players receive a small reward when they turn those in, and once the supply has been restocked the highest contributors will gain additional bonus rewards. There are also a number of missions that will reward you for harvesting or for filling trade skill related work orders. The mission system has a filter so if you only want to receive a certain type of mission (Harvesting, Crafting, Diplomacy, Underworld, etc) you can filter out other types of missions.

The most important thing to note is that our skills are not tied to combat. You gain skills simply by using their abilities, or through the Skill Imprinting system (where you spend SI to upgrade a skill). There are also mastery levels of most of the games species, resources, and many crafting recipes. They allow players to increase their effectiveness in a given activity through practice. The more setlangs you kill, the better you get at killing them. The more times you make a certain component, the better you become at making it. This encourages players to work together and use specialists if they want to create the highest quality crafted gear, for example.

3. The Shell game. Will there be truly unique shells that players can acquire in game that are only unique in appearance?

For players new to Repop, shells refer to armor or weapons. Our armor and weapons are not items of power. They simply determine the baseline stats and the type of armor or weapon you are using. But they also determine how the armor or weapon looks. The stat customization of players comes from fittings, which are upgrade slots that each equipable shell contains. You get 5 fitting slots for each piece of armor or weapon.

This was a key part of our free to play design. It allows players to customize how they look to a large extent, without sacrificing stats. We plan for most shells to be crafted, with some shells being boss mob or mission rewards only, and others to be cash shop only. But we won’t make every shell available in the cash shop. Some of the better looking and higher end shells will only be available through adventuring, because we felt that it’s important for players to have some appearances which are status symbols. It shows that they have earned them and allows them to get oohs and aahs from other players. That’s important.

4. On the subject of Animal Breeding. How will the appearance be determined? Will there be a chance of specific animals that one breeds appearing in the wild, such as some escaped and began breeding on their own? Will a player be able to sell the animals they breed to other players?

We don’t currently have animal breeding in the sense of taming two pets and letting them repopulate. You can create hybrid species though using the genetic engineering system, however.

How this work is you extract DNA and tissue samples from the corpses of mobs and then you use them as ingredients through a genetic engineering recipe. These recipes simply call for generic tissue or DNA and any will do. The combination of your ingredients and the types of them go into a calculation however, and determine what types of results you will receive. This allows you to make some hybrid species if you have the skill and the resources to do so. The hybrids are useful because they have some abilities from both of the parent species, as well as some unique ones.

You can sell or trade pets. Some pets will require some skill to handle, but it’s easy to handle them than it is to tame, engineer or build (robotics) them.

You won’t be able to release them into the wild. We plan on creating a dungeon maker system post-launch and you should be able to use them to stock your dungeons in the future. For now though they will only be used as pets or mounts.

5. For player housing, how large of homes will players be able to obtain? Will players receive benefits from performing certain actions in their home?

Some of the plots are good sized, and designed for both a home and garden, or to be used for organization buildings. You won’t be able to have a Beverly Hills sized mansion, but you can build multi-story structures.

You’ll be able to place certain types of useful objects into your homes. We haven’t finalized the list of what will and will not be available, there’s a few things that we haven’t quite decided on yet. But you can expect to be able to place things like crafting stations or skill imprinting stations into your homes.

6. Bank Space, weight limits, item management. Will players be returned to weight restrictions? Will players need to return home to drop of their bountiful gains from gathering or to sell junk loot? How big is the starting storage that players will receive, and will they be able to upgrade this space by actions in game, or will the before forced through RMT to purchase the extra bank space?

Weight limits are something we mulled quite a bit over. In the end though we decided against them.  You will be able to increase your bank and inventory space through the one-time membership system or piecemeal in the shop. We don’t have a set size yet for inventory. We’ll be listening to feedback during beta and trying to find the sweet spot for both. We may also allow players to increase the space through an in-game mechanism, but we also need to ensure that we give players incentive to purchase the one-time memberships, as well.

We don’t have much in the way of junk items. Most items in Repop are either resources, collectibles, training items (for abilities or recipes), books, or equipped items. We don’t have any hirelings who you can send off to go sell for you though ala SWTOR.

7. On the subject of selling one’s wares. Will there be a central auction house/trading post, or will players interact with other players in order to sell their goods? Alternatively, can players have vendors in their homes? If so, will there be a way to search these vendors for items?

Both. We plan on releasing a feature on this not too long down the road to better explain how it works.

You’ll be able to check auctions/orders from anywhere in the world. If you travel to a player owned shop (inside of a player city) directly though you will bypass the auction fees, and save yourselves some money. This is meant to encourage players to visit each others shops as we feel it’s better for the games social aspects.

The ongoing Kickstarter campaign also has a stretch goal at 115k which will allow players to turn their character into a traveling shop. They mark certain items for sale and other players will be able to interact with them and automatically purchase them in person.

One other key thing to note in regards to this is that we also have an Order system. Rather than the seller setting the price and the buyers then purchasing it, this system allows the buyer to set the criteria of what they are looking for (grade, item, etc), and the price they are willing to pay. The sellers can then read through those requests and fill them automatically to collect that pay and remove that offer.

8. Gold Farmers/Spammers. How are you looking at reducing their presence in game?

We’re going to be aggressive in dealing with them. We’ll be implementing an auto-detection and a player reporting system. Spammers are the larger concern and we’ll deal with them swiftly.

9. This is the second round of funding you guys are doing through Kickstarter. Are there any more planned?

No, we have no others planned. This is probably a good time to clear up some common misconceptions about our reasons for running another Kickstarter campaign. I think to some users that raised a red flag as though the game was in danger. That was never the case. It’s quite the opposite.

We felt like we were ready to start ramping up testing to larger number of players in a few months, and as a result of that we needed to start locking down our feature set for launch to avoid feature creep. We had a number of features that we wanted to squeeze into launch, but we didn’t feel they were “must-have” features so if we couldn’t squeeze them in they were easy to push until launch. Some of these were our own ideas, and some were things that users suggested on the forums and seemed like great ideas.

With beta rapidly approaching, we just felt like if we were going to get any of those features in, we’d have to increase team size and start working on them quickly. But our budget is tight, and we just didn’t have the resources to get it done. None of these were promised features, so it wouldn’t be like we were cutting anything of that nature. But they were all worthwhile features.

So it was decided that we should just run a second Kickstarter in the hopes of seeing some of those features made. We didn’t want to pull people off other areas, as there’s still a lot of content to build, se we’d need an increased budget to bring on some additional staff. What we liked about Kickstarter was the short duration. It allows us lay down a set in stone list of features for launch by the end of January, avoid any delay from feature creep, and to provide our players with features that will allow us to have a better game at launch. It made a lot of sense for us at this time.

10. For me, beta access is one of the big draws of becoming a backer. How soon will you guys be letting backers into the game?

Many of our backers are already in alpha testing, but that number will be growing significantly in March. There are different guarantees for different pledge levels. We don’t plan on inviting any new faces into alpha testing until February, however. Larger scale testing really requires us to start moving to more production ready servers, so we are likely to be lose some time moving to new servers next month, and beginning the next round of testing and beta preview weekends for backers.

We’re calling the permanent access during this phased Closed Alpha Round 3. We’ll be using the Beta Preview Weekends like mini-stress tests. Each weekend we’ll be inviting in a higher number of players. Some players will get multiple invites. Because these are three day openings, they will give us a chance to see what areas need work network wise, and then have four days to respond to that before the next wave. This is expected to be a short phase with Closed Beta starting once they have been properly stress tested and any glaring bugs have been fixed.

11. Is there anything else you’d like to tell prospective backers?

I’d just like to thank you all for your support over the past 2 1/2 years. We’re really excited about this upcoming year, and look forward to seeing you all in-game soon.

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