Welcome to Project: Gorgon!

Project: Gorgon is a 3D fantasy MMORPG (massively-multiplayer online role-playing game) that features an immersive experience that allows the player to forge their own path through exploration and discovery. We won't be guiding you through a world on rails, and as a result there are many hidden secrets awaiting discovery. Project: Gorgon also features an ambitious skill based leveling system that bucks the current trend of pre-determined classes, thus allowing the player to combine skills in order to create a truly unique playing experience.

The Project: Gorgon development team is led by industry veteran Eric Heimburg. Eric has over a decade of experience working as a Senior and Lead Engineer, Developer, Designer and Producer on successful games such as Asheron’s Call 1 and 2, Star Trek Online and other successful Massively Multiplayer Online Games.


Town Hall - July 11, 2021

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Welcome to our second ever Town Hall! Over the past week, we've collected many questions in Discord and asked you to vote on which of them you'd like to see answered the most. We hope that you're enjoying these Town Halls, because we certainly are! It's great to have an opportunity to dive deeply into the questions you're most interested in. Today we have some pretty dense answers, as well as some that are short and sweet.

Remember, lots of these questions are about detailed game content or mechanics, so some of this stuff may not make sense unless you've played a while already.

Monger asks: What are the milestones you want to hit in the coming year? What challenges do you see that may prevent you from hitting those goals?

We have a lot of internal milestones that probably aren’t super exciting, but are very important, ranging from “finish removing the old animation system” to “do a balance pass on item gifting values”. But let’s just focus on the content milestones, since those are much more visible.

Here’s what’s left on the list of MAJOR content needed before I consider the game finished enough to leave Early Access:
  • New outdoor areas (x3)
  • A “main” dungeon, or several mini-dungeons, for each outdoor area (x3)
  • The city of Statehelm
  • Statehelm’s mega dungeon
  • Mounts
  • Vampirism
  • Playable Orcs
  • Playable Dwarves
  • Major revamps for existing outdoor areas (x4)

But we aren’t trying to do all of that in the next 12 months! That’s just what’s left before the game is ready to ship. Creating content has traditionally taken Sandra and I a long time, and even though we’re getting better at it, most of the milestones above could easily take two person-months of effort -- each!

So part of the timing will depend on how well and how quickly the VIP plan grows -- when we’re able to hire more content creators to help make dungeons, that will speed up the schedule a lot. In fact if we could hire two more, maybe we could launch the game by Christmas of 2022! I would like that.

In terms of risks, I guess there aren’t many risks in hitting the milestones themselves. But content milestones are fuzzy. I mean, we could put out all the new outdoor areas real fast if they didn’t need quests and points of interest and NPCs and unique things to do! So the real risk is that we rush these areas and features, failing to give them a unique Gorgony vibe, and end up with really thin or cookie-cutter content that fails to keep players interested. And we’ve learned that no outdoor area is going to be amazing in the first iteration, so we also have to allocate time to iterate on new areas, as well as on the bigger dungeons.

To answer the 12-month question, I’m not really sure which of these we’ll get to in 12 months. We don’t schedule that far ahead; it’s more of a “sprint” type situation, where we have a big backlog of tasks, and we pick several for each update. (And in the meantime we start outsourcing assets that will be needed for future updates.) But in 12 months I want to have Statehelm, mounts, and at least two new outdoor areas added -- those are the higher-priority goals right now.

Rutting asks: What abilities/mods to abilities that provide a sprint speed boost are likely/certainly to be retired when mounts are introduced?

We haven’t gotten to the stage of planning individual item changes yet. I’m sure there will be some gear/ability/item revisions, but ... well, I’m getting ahead of myself! Let me explain how speed works and why it will change. This may get a little technical.

Right now, every point of speed increases your movement by 1 meter per second (m/s). A brand-new player, wearing nothing and using no special buffs or abilities, has a sprinting speed of 8 m/s, which is about 18 miles per hour. (I know it feels slower, in part because of the over-the-shoulder camera, but in real-world terms it’s quite fast.)

Adding 10 points of speed increases that to 18 m/s, which is 40 mph, and you already see some gameplay side-effects: monsters often can’t keep up, or have a hard time tracking you. Crank your speed another 10 points and sometimes even your own pets can’t keep up, which is impressive because pets have the ability to auto-match your speed!

And that brings up an important question -- if pets can match your speed, why can’t pets keep up with you when you’re running at 50mph? The fundamental problem is that this is a ground-based, melee-centric fantasy world, not a racetrack. Monsters (including pets) must plot a course around obstacles to find a path to you. And although that calculation only takes an extremely tiny fraction of a second, when you multiply that by every monster in the area it can really keep the area’s sub-server busy!

Many players don’t realize it, but most outdoor areas have a LOT of monsters in them. For instance, as I write this, there are 1,798 monsters alive and well in Serbule Hills. The area’s sub-server is responsible for helping every monster (and pet) in that area move around, so when a bunch of those monsters are moving at once, it’s under heavy CPU load. And if those paths have to be re-calculated constantly because their target is moving at highway speeds, it’s under way more load. If you’ve ever noticed monsters reacting “sluggishly” to your movement, that’s probably what you’ve experienced: the sub-server is struggling to calculate all the navigation paths that the monsters need to catch up to you.

So if some players are able to move so fast that they “break” the game -- becoming practically immune to wandering monsters that just can’t keep up, while at the same time generating lots of extra server load -- why haven’t we nerfed speed already?! Because we still want to let you travel quickly! Trudging slowly around the map isn’t a lot of fun, especially for players who have spent hundreds of hours in-game already and just want to get from point A to point B.

That’s where mounts will come in. Mounts give us a very clean “on/off” switch for combat. If you’re on your mount, you obviously want to travel, not to fight. So we can remove your ability to fight while mounted -- which means that we can change how AI deals with mounted players. Most lowly monsters that see a horse ride by would just ignore it. Others might take a few pot-shots. Others might be more clever, possibly even spawning roadblocks or something. The point is that these monsters are NOT trying to sprint at 50mph through heavy woods while simultaneously trying to stab you with a spear.

Until mounts are ready, we’ve basically been ignoring the problem with speed mods. But when we do rebalance them, part of the change will be to make most of the existing buffs NOT work in combat, because monsters are never going to be able to perform well against super-speed opponents.

In terms of individual buff numbers, there’ll probably be a few specific nerfs, but I think the main change will be a little subtler: we’ll change how speed scales. Right now it’s a linear scale where 1 point of speed is 1 m/s. We’ll switch to a gradual curve, where the first few points of speed are 1 m/s, but adding more and more points gives diminishing returns.

Deldaron asks: Of all the planned additions to the game, what are you as the creators of the game most excited to implement and why?

Well that’s a tricky question... because we’ve been working on the game for like eight years now and we’ve already implemented a lot of the stuff we were most excited about!

In terms of the stuff left to do, I’m excited about Statehelm -- I’m hoping to get the feel of a crowded city, which is very different from the rest of the game. I’m not sure how successful we’ll be (there’s lots of tech limitations to overcome) but I’m excited about that. I’m also excited about orcs because I think they’ll be fun to work on and fun to play. (For advanced players, that is.)

Sandra is most excited about Animal Husbandry. The faux genetics system is a lot of fun to develop, and we think a certain niche of players will be really excited to experiment with all the different factors that go into running a successful breeding program.

Lunaera asks: So I heard that current battle chemistry is planned to be split into two separate skills. Presuming that is still the case when the split occurs will current BC players have both skills at the level they do now? ... will we have to learn each skill or will we know it automatically if we know battle chem?

At one point I’d mentioned splitting Battle Chemistry into separate skills, because I don’t like how the current version of Battle Chemistry is just a big sack of tools, without a coherent combat experience, or even coherent flavor like Psychology. (Psychology could also be described as a big bag of tools, but the focus is a little tighter and better themed.)

But when I prototyped some possible changes, they didn’t work too well, so I’m waiting for better ideas to come to me. It’s not like the current version of Battle Chemistry is ruining the game in its current form -- it’s something where, when I finally have that “Eureka!” moment, I’m willing to jump in and make major changes. But not until I have a good enough idea.

To answer your questions: if/when the skill is split in two, one of the two skills would still be named Battle Chemistry, and players would retain their current level in that skill. The new skill would be named something else, and players would need to acquire and level that new skill separately.

Cyder asks: Have you played any games recently that have inspired not-yet-implemented PG content? If so, what games and what content?

I have been inspired by other games recently, but I don’t want to talk about specific content because I’m not sure that we’ll have time to do those things. But for a vague answer, one of the inspirations for Statehelm’s game mechanics comes from Yakuza: Like a Dragon. (BTW, that’s a fun game and you should try it.)

There are always lessons and knowledge to be gained from playing any game, though. Right now I’m playing Fallout 3 again, and I discovered that I remembered basically nothing about this game, it’s been so long since I played it. I remember some main-quest story beats, but who cares about the main quest? All the side-quests are like I’m playing a brand new Fallout game, and it holds up pretty well. (It just really, really needs higher-resolution ground textures.)

Here’s a good example of a lesson to be learned: Very early in my playthrough of Fallout 3, I received the quest “Blood Ties”, and tried to complete it. I searched around for clues and eventually received a clue from an NPC who told me three different places the bad guys might be at. So I went to all three places, and none of them were right. So... I left and did other quests. When I finally stumbled on the answer, the area was trivial and the rewards were pointless. The quest was obviously supposed to be an early-game quest, but it failed. Why?

I spent a while trying to piece together what happened with this quest, and what changes could have fixed it. The clues were really thin and easily overlooked. It turns out that there were more clues to be found at the beginning, but they required really high skill checks. The main clue that would have sent me to the right place required level 90 in Medicine, which is impossible for low-level players to achieve. And the clues I did find were basically red herrings, so I spent over a half-hour just looking for this map marker -- and that’s too long; I was really bored by the end.

What changes might have helped? I think having explicit skill check indicators would have helped -- I would at least have known that there WAS more information to be found. And probably there needed to be other skill-based ways to get the information, not just Medicine -- like a locked computer terminal or something. And I guess at a meta-level, it’s not very practical to lock game knowledge behind a really hard skill-check if players who don’t have the skill can just google it!

So anyway, there are always things to take away from a game, tons of details to study and try to learn from.

BetaNotus asks: A variety of sentient races living in Alharth and surrounding regions have already been seen or mentioned in-game, and have at least somewhat established cultures. ... Are there any other moderately sentient races around, which have not been encountered or mentioned yet?

The answer to that is not very satisfying: yes, there are potentially more sentient races; there’s a bunch of races with at least a few sentences of notes in my lore documents. But whether they show up in-game really depends on how we plan each area or dungeon: if none of the existing monsters seem to fit, we’ll often search through notes and find something else that fits the need, and then invent a reason why that monster is in this area.

Just paging through my notes, the fae realm has a bunch of sentient creatures we’ve never seen in-game, and there are three (arguably four) main species of sentient “demon” (which have nothing to do with each other except all coming from “space”). There’s also a couple more sentient races in the gob-lands (deep beneath the ground), and a bunch of sentient races in the Crone Hegemony which we haven’t seen much of (harpies, centaurs, minotaurs, etc.).

Of course, not all of those may ever make an appearance in Project: Gorgon.

ProfessorCat/Thunderbird asks: Without the game having instanced dungeons or outdoor farming areas, the potential for overcrowding is a certainty. Is there a player base number you have in mind to create multiple servers? Otherwise, what is the plan to address a server sustaining 1k+ players online at once.

Yeah, the basic plan is that if the world gets too full we put up more worlds.

We’ve had sustained player populations in the 400’s before and while it was very crowded, we were able to react to that info (by making more newbie areas) pretty quickly. So part of the answer is that when populations get heavy, we’ll see where players are getting bunched up, and add more content there to smooth things out. We’re also planning more high-level outdoor areas, which will help stratify high-level players a bit more. The game world will be able to handle a lot more players than it might seem.

But even when the game is at full size, there is a point where things will just get too crowded and it’ll stop being as fun. The magic number for us is 1000: when we sustain peak concurrent populations of 1000 players, it’ll be time to open a new “shard”, that is, an entirely new server farm running a different copy of the game world, with different characters.

I know this raises new questions like “Will we be able to transfer our characters?”, but the answer is that we don’t know. If we had to launch a new game server next week, the answer would be “Hell no!”: the servers would be utterly separate, because that’s what the currently-written code can do. But I can’t predict what services we’ll be able to offer by the time we reach that point, or what will make sense in terms of gameplay needs.

Deldaron asks: This game and its community caters well to player run events and there has already been some development to empower admin to support such events - what future additions if any are you playing around with for more player driven content and what types of things have you considered, but ruled out? (e.g. player written quests, behavior restrictions on custom titles or guilds, and things like the archduchy)

Player-made quests was something I was excited about early on, but it’s a lot of work to automate, and basically impossible to balance. And when I realized that no matter who designed it, one of us employees would have to balance it, and then we’d have to maintain that content forever... that’s made it a lot harder of a feature to shoehorn into our development schedule!

But generally speaking, yes, I do want to do more community-related content. I’ve been pondering having, say, a web-form where players could write quests, or even write NPCs, and then other players could vote on the ones they were most interested in seeing, and we’d implement them. Maybe as an occasional contest or something like that.

I’m also slowly evolving our internal content-making process to make it more data-driven, which I hope will open up new avenues for player-provided data. And I haven’t ruled out a crazy-complex system where players can build their own dungeons and add monsters and everything (kind of like City of Heroes’ dungeon generation tools)... but something that massive would happen long after we leave Early Access, probably as part of an expansion.

Fennal asks: What sorts of specialized craftable armor types (ex. nimble gear, winter leather gear) might be seen for organic toolcrafting armor or the long-awaited metal armorsmithing armor? Might we see a use for the dragon scales in crafting such armor?

I’m going to skip this one because some of those new armor types will be available in the next update. So just wait a bit and there’ll be very concrete answers in-game!

Matrusal asks: will there ever be other animals playable such as a snake?

Animal forms are something I add when I’m inspired enough. (When I’ve figured out how they’re going to work, and I think it sounds fun.) I suspect we’ll add at least one more before the game leaves Early Access, and there’ll be more added in monthly updates after that.

Sandra notes that it’s unlikely that we’ll add a snake animal form, however. Snake models are not an easy shape to work with -- too long, thin, and low. A biped or quadruped reptile would be much better -- like maybe a monitor lizard.

Cyder asks: Advanced combat skills have been talked about a little. But only in the context of weapons, at least since electric pig got canned. Are there advanced animal skills in the pipeline? Such as Fire Spider, Warg, Bull.

There’s nothing like that planned right now; that’s the sort of thing that we’d add in our monthly updates after the game leaves Early Access.

Experimenting with Charged Pig showed that combat sub-skills are really hard to balance: they add another layer of complexity on top of the existing skill. If the existing skills were already pretty well balanced, that wouldn’t be too big a deal. But they’re still pretty imbalanced, and we’ll need to make a lot of changes to them. So I don’t want to add another layer of complexity on top of an already INSANELY complicated balancing spreadsheet!

But when we’re happier with how things are working, it’ll be possible to layer more complexity on top.

ProfessorCat/Thunderbird asks: Will flight inside dungeons exist as it used to? When the fae were released, indoor flight was removed for potential perching. Since then we now have Drevas intervention as an anti perching mechanism.

Flight in dungeons won’t be returning universally, no. Some of our dungeon tilesets just aren’t designed for flight. It’s often possible to perch on just a single jutting polygon on the side of a wall, out of reach of monsters, and they can never hurt you. Sure, maybe the Dreva protection stops you from killing them, but whenever you’re a little overwhelmed by the enemies you can just trivially fly to safety any time you want. (And Dreva’s protection isn’t anywhere near perfect, either.)

In some cases we’ll be able to allow flight, though. Some of the dungeon tilesets are very clean (in terms of their geometry) and I think we might be able to allow flight in them, with maybe a few monster AI tweaks. That won’t happen immediately, but as we add or revamp dungeons.

Saewulf asks: Is there ever going to be a Fill All option on wells?

I’ve resisted adding this feature for years because it was slated for a certain user-interface feature. But I’m not sure we’re going to need that feature after all.

Right now, if you select any interactible item in the game world, there’ll be a button that lets you interact with it. On wells, for example, the button says “Fill Bottle”. Currently we can’t add a second button; it’s just the one. So the idea was that eventually we’d be able to have multiple buttons, and then the well could have a “Fill Bottle” button and a “Fill All” button.

Filling bottles at the well is a great example for when multi-buttons would be useful, but I haven’t come up with a lot of other examples where it would make sense. Most of the time, you also need some instructions, and if we’re going to show you instructions we can just bring up the NPC dialog window (the one that’s shown if you talk to an NPC). That window can already support multiple buttons.

Since it seems like there’s not a lot of use-cases for it, I probably won’t bother adding multi-button interactibles. Instead I’ll probably rewrite wells so that they make you perform a looping animation (like what happens when you chop wood). And every second or so while you’re doing this animation, more of your water bottles fill up. When you want to stop filling bottles, you’d just move away to stop the animation.

So anyway, yeah, that’ll happen at some point soonish.

Gameplay Clarifications

Lastly I wanted to mention a few things that I’ve seen players talking about -- and unintentionally give out incorrect info.

Rarity-enhancements: If you have a buff that increases your chance to find items of a certain rarity, that does NOT reduce your chance of finding higher-rarity items. For instance, if you have an item that gives you +5% chance to find Rare items, that doesn’t mean that some of your Legendary items will get retroactive turned into Rare items due to your buff. It’s been implemented so that rarity bonuses are always a good thing. (Well, unless you’re intentionally trying to find low-rarity items, I suppose...)

Warden+Druid: It’s possible for a few animal forms to use both the Warden and Druid skills at the same time. This was accidental -- when I was creating Warden I just didn’t notice that it’d be possible. (This is because Warden started out as “Charged Pig”, and pigs can’t use the Druid skill.)

Warden and Druid aren’t designed to be combinable -- it’s overpowered. I mentioned on the forums that I’d have to figure out what to do about that. I thought maybe I could tweak the skills to make them combinable... but I’ve tried that out and I don’t like it. It feels like a big nerf to one skill or the other. So at some point in the future, we’ll explicitly disallow combining these two skills. (You can, of course, still BE both a warden and a druid, you just won’t be able to use both skills simultaneously.)

This isn’t obvious in-game right now, so please help communicate that to new players if they’re considering using both skills together. It’s fine for now, but those builds will eventually just not be possible.

Thanks for the great questions! In a few weeks we’ll ask for more questions in Discord, so if you haven’t joined us there yet, here’s the link: https://discord.gg/projectgorgon
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Project: Gorgon