Crystalshire is a unique experiment exploring the possibility of story-driven ORPGs. The genre as a whole has become mildly stagnant over the years, with little innovation which actually affects the experience. Grinding and generic boss fights have become the norm. In my personal opinion an ORPG can become so much more by giving emotional weight to the player's avatar. Without sounding too blinded by nostalgia, I'd like to re-invent this class of game as an experience not dissimilar from the old 2D era single-player RPGs. I believe that mixing the good stories and experiences from these classic games with the ability to play through them with a group of friends is something which, although attempted in certain games, has never been truly realised. This is, however, an end-game vision. Due to the small team involved and our real-life responsibilities it'll certainly take a while to develop the software, graphics and content to the point where this vision will be realised. In the mean time I'd like to invite you all to experience the unfolding of this experiment and log on to our alpha release to see how things are and maybe even give us a few pointers.
Although still a heavy work in progress, we did start putting together a video trailer to show off just some aspects of the game.
As with most RPGs, combat is a large part of the game. Crystalshire currently has over 20 levels of character development, dozens of unique enemies to face and hundreds of items you can use to defeat them. Crystalshire currently offers three base classes; Warrior, Wizard and Whisperer. Tank, DPS and Healer. By keeping the basic roles down to the basic three we believe it streamlines the experience and doesn't overwhelm players with complicated information they need to compare and keep track of. Although they're all currently very set in to their roles, we're planning on bringing in a large amount of customisation by pushing character specification builds which will let you design your ideal avatar.
Each class is given a balanced array of skills which can be used both in and out of combat. These can be anything from directly doing damage to teleporting back home to stealing an enemy's spirit. Each skill is given a beautiful unique icon and both casting and hitting animations which really give the skills a sense of weight. Although fairly basic right now due to the level 20 cap we'll be giving players more and more unique, interesting and funny skills later on which should really bring the environment to life.
There are hundreds of unique items in the game which each bring a little something to the experience. There are hefty plate-mail amour sets for absorbing damage, brutal axes for taking people down in melee, enchanted robes for boosting spirit and health, elemental staves for raining fury down on your enemies and, of course, onions and dandelions allowing you to sit down after a long battle to eat till your health and spirit are regenerated. Each monster has a unique drop-table which gives you a chance of receiving common, uncommon and rare items from anything. You can also get unique equipment and items from the various bosses which you can fight, each of which requires a strong party to take on.
This is the one thing which makes an ORPG stand on its own. People. What online game would be complete without an active user-base and the systems required to communicate. Not only this but the genre as a whole has become well known for its ability to unlock people's basic tribal instincts and form groups of people who do things together, such as questing and boss fights.
To make sure people can communicate as quickly as possible we've designed a chatbox which allows people to personalise what messages are received and what messages aren't received. We've also created a very minimalistic interface which shows during normal gameplay. This system allows us to give the user all the systems needed to communicate but also only show the important bits when they're just playing normally.
Playing with friends is one of the big draws of Crystalshire. You can create parties in the game which can hold up to four players. In this party all experience gains from killing monsters are shared equally amongst the group. This makes it much, much easier for a healer to do their job rather than having to keep up their damage to get the experience needed to progress. Although a relatively small system, it makes a huge difference in the experience and we're hoping to use the same kind of mentality when developing guilds and other multi-player systems.
Quest systems in MMORPGs now-a-days have devolved in to a repetitive grind of collecting items, escorting idiotic npcs and killing random bears in the woods. What we're wanting to do differently in Crystalshire is create a system which allows us to design group-based stories which will play out through a series of instanced dungeons, cutscenes and npc interactions. Think back to when you'd play through Final Fantasy 6, Seiken Densetsu 3 or The Legend of Zelda. You didn't go around piling up collection missions from static npcs standing around with glowing exclamation points floating over their heads. We want to write a series of self-contained storylines which you can play through either by yourself or with a group of friends. We want to try and get you to actually feel an emotional attachment to the characters you interact with by actually fleshing them out and giving them their own story. This can lead to all sorts of exciting situations with recurring characters, awesome arch-villains and proper group gameplay. (None of this forced helping which is common in multiplayer games at the moment.)
Although we're currently severely limited by our technological advances, we've already tried to work in basic character interaction. We're planning to start work on an area instancing system soon enough which will finally give us the base systems needed to begin work on a cutscene designer and, by extension, a story system. We're really excited about the experiences we'll be able to deliver once this is finished.
Community: Crystalshire Community
Download: Crystalshire Download