Project V.I.L.E. Interview with Ashley Hodgetts

Project V.I.L.E. is the working title of an MMOG in development at Australia’s VILE Studios. They hope to launch this PC (Xbox 360 may follow later) title later this year and promise a skill based system with unrestricted PvP, among other things.

WarCry Q&A: Project V.I.L.E. (Working Title)
Answers by Ashley Hodgetts (Creative Director, Vile Studios)
Questions by JR Sutich

WarCry: What does the acronym V.I.L.E. stand for?

Ashley Hodgetts: Project V.I.L.E stands for nothing; the title is just a working title which we have decided to go with until a more appropriate name can be picked.

WarCry: Is the PvP free-for-all or is it zone restricted?

Ashley Hodgetts: There will be absolutely unrestricted PVP against the other factions. For the first time the ability for players to be able to “switch teams” and backstab their team mates in certain PvP Arenas. Yes, you will most definitely be able to run a raid on the lowbies in their beginner areas but you’re going to have to watch out for that faction’s NPC and player driven defense networks. So many games say that they are PvP driven, but they seem to forget what Player-Versus-Player is all about, the mass slaughter and conquering all.

There is going to be Player-Vs-Player, vehicles, Mechs, fighter-craft as well as money to be made from the whole thing.

WarCry: Will there be full looting of defeated players?

Ashley Hodgetts: We have decided to reward PvP’rs with a three tier looting system, where by a player who kills another in a general questing/leveling area, will be able to take a small share of the opponent’s experience points as well as honor points for the first few kills – then they will become only honor kills. The PvP looting system in an arena environment is different, kill an opponent and you will be rewarded credits and reputation from particular factions, while the opponent will be deducted reputation points. Also for major arenas, we will be looking at a payment system, where by all players who enter pay a cover charge (lets say 1,000 credits) and the winner of the event receives the total credit pool.

In the case of a Call To Arms, its all out! Players who attend these world events will have the right to full loot the opposite faction and will also be rewarded by their government for successfully removing the heads of their kills. (Removing the heads of other players would see them out of the action for a small cool down period.)

We are working on ways to reward the victors of PvP that would be fairer to them, as the opponents could leave their gear in their storage facilities and there would be no cool loot.

WarCry: Why was a skill-based system chosen over a class-based?

Ashley Hodgetts: Let’s say you’re a soldier in your group ready to battle in a squad-based instance but your group already has heaps of soldiers and you need a medic to help support the group – in most MMORPGs you would have to drop a player and pick up the healer or just not run the instance. Well the idea behind our skill system is to allow anyone the chance to become any “class” or profession they want and still give them the flexibility to retrain in another area if they decide that profession isn’t for them. Players would also be able to keep some of their existing training and mix and match to suit their needs – like in real life. With special PVP arenas/Squad-based raids , some skills (i.e. Gunnery & Piloting) would allow players the ability to pair up into one Mech/vehicle to get better results – with the pilot adding +bonuses to the mech/vehicle and the gunner getting +bonuses to damage, accuracy etc.

WarCry: You do realize that a skill-based system is a complete nightmare to balance?

Ashley Hodgetts: In the past a traditional skill-based system is awful to manage in-game. Without giving away too much of the inner workings of our system, its more a hybrid of the two. If a player wishes to drill down into a “class-specific” character, then there is an appropriate path they can take in the skill sets. If a player wants to be more PVP or an all-rounder, they can do that too. The objective behind this system is to give more flexibility to players and let them interact more with one another and not wait around for the right class to come along before they can play the game. Also, unlike most MMORPGs who leave you in the dark as to what paths they should best take, we will have an integrated skill manager, which will help players (if they need the help) choose which path is right for them.

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WarCry: Will the PC and Console versions use the same user interface? Will all versions connect to the same servers?

Ashley Hodgetts: Currently, as the last PR mentioned, its only coming out on PC first. We are looking into a Xbox360 release a little further down the line. Obviously there will be slight modifications as an Xbox controller is no keyboard but this wouldn’t affect the console gamer at all. We plan on making the multiplatform online experience as seamless as possible, which means players can choose whether or not they want to join the PC gamers or if they would like to be on console dedicated servers.

WarCry: How do you plan to not have to “dumb-down” the PC controls or avoid over-complicating the console controls?

Ashley Hodgetts: I won’t go into too much detail here as we don’t want to give this away so early. We won’t dumb-down the Pc game nor would we make the game too complicated for console. Unlike some MMORPGs where your UI is full of many different abilities and items and, well crap, we believe simple is best. It’s not going to be so simplistic that its boring and you have nothing to do, it’s just not going to be all over the place.

WarCry: What is the premise behind Project V.I.L.E.? Why do we fight?

Ashley Hodgetts: Well other MMORPs say they are all about the story and that monetary rewards and items come second. We know this isn’t the case, everyone is after the cash, the items and the thrill of Pvp, so we have decided to make the primary objectives of Project V.I.L.E. to get rich, get the gear and kick-ass in PvP. There is also a storyline and adventure behind all of this but we’ll touch on that some other time.

WarCry: How will the combat system work? Is it a true FPS or will it only simulate the FPS experience through hidden random rolls?

Ashley Hodgetts: The combat system in Project V.I.L.E. is somewhat special. In the main environments, it will be pretty much the hidden roll tables as this is the main way MMORPGs are done But when you enter Pvp Arenas, you can go into FPS mode and fight each other as if you were playing a normal first person shooter. This has been made possible by our proprietary 3D engine, which is going to add that extra level of fun to online gaming.
Also, in squad-based raids (Party Instances) you will be able to choose FPS mode or RPG mode against NPCs.

A unique feature to Project V.I.L.E. is that instead of using stupid horses (mounts) to get from area to area, we have integrated an array of vehicles and Mechs which players can obtain and customize for transport and PvP. Mechs would be used to help give players that extra DPS (damage-Per-Second) they need for some of our bigger instances as well as mech-vs-mech or even mech-vs-players in massive PvP battles. Vehicles like hover bikes, tanks and other killer toys would be used to pilot through certain areas and add that extra dimension to the gaming experience.

WarCry: Let’s say I loathe having to kill rats in order to level up to where I can finally start having fun in PvP. Will the game allow me to create a max-level combat character, like Guild Wars? Or perhaps level up through PvP exclusively, like Warhammer Online?
Ashley Hodgetts: First of all, PVP starts from the first level/band. Obviously the lower level areas will be heavily guarded but the fun starts right away. I hate grinding to reach pvp status, it’s stupid. As I mentioned before, everytime you kill an opponent you get a small amount of experience points, the more pvp, the more experience. So if you decide that Pvp is better than doing the missions, then by all means go kick ass in the areas where more enemy players are playing. You will be able to level/skill up through missions, Player-Vs-Player or a combination of both. If you’re anything like me, you’ll go on a rampage in the PVP.

WarCry: Outside of Medic, Trooper, and Pilot, what are some other skill sets that will be available?

Ashley Hodgetts: Skill sets follow a basic category/profession to which they fall under:

Each profession has its own hierarchy of skills a player can choose. These are just some of the professions available – also they may vary by the time beta testing is completed.

  • Assault Troopers
  • Spec – Ops
  • Enforcer
  • Medic
  • Pilot
  • Ranger
  • Agent
  • Freelancer/Smuggler
  • Bounty Hunter
  • Scientist
  • Engineer / Mechanic

WarCry: I see on the website that players will have to defend their species? How many different species choices will be available?

Ashley Hodgetts: We are looking at around 6-9 Species per faction, each with their very own abilities and merits. This might go up or it might be reduced once final beta testing is complete.

On top of all of this, players will be able to run offline training, where by players can attempt to complete high level instances on their own with a simulated group to give them basic training in some of the most difficult instances. Obviously, the skill level and exact game play would vary immensely and the outcome(s)/drops would not be saved to the online character. The amount of training would be recorded and could be accessed in game by other players to see that they have that additional commitment.

In societies there are rules, and in Project V.I.L.E. if you are caught breaking these rules, you get punished. Smuggle illegal goods onto a planet, get caught – you go to jail. Raid lowbie areas and get outnumbered, thats right u spend time in that faction’s jail system.

What we are trying to push is the fact that in Project V.I.L.E you can break the rules, commit in-game crimes and make a fortune but if you get caught, you have to do hard time in-game. When a player gets arrested, they are fined automatically and placed in a holding instance, where they must remain for a period of time. This time period is real-world time i.e. 2-10 minutes and to prevent them going onto auto run or jump off until the time is up, they will be asked random questions – all of which is designed to keep them at the computer while their character serves the time.

Reputation, PVP points and your trustworthiness will all contribute to your character’s attitude. Backstab team mates, commit crimes and deal in shifty business will lead you down the dark path, making you hated by some and respected by others. By choosing a side, you could gain the respect of your government and your fellow faction members and lead them to victory or you could become the most feared player in the universe, gaining an army of followers to claim lands for your very own.

To help friends and new players enjoy the game with friends who already have been well-established in the game, a higher leveled player can mentor a lower level player. This gives the higher level player the ability to earn reputation and points for helping lower players get through the missions.

**Unlike other games where a high level player helping lower players would reduce the points earned by the lower player and even penalize the other high player.

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