Putting PvP First: Hailan Rising

By Jim Rossignol on July 20th, 2011 at 11:00 am.


GamersFirst – they of War Rock, APB Reloaded, and now Fallen Earth – have announced the development of their own, brand-new MMO, Hailan Rising. It’s going to be a traditional fantasy MMO with a rather untraditional level-free, PvP-focused design. Not only are there no levels, but you’re not even going to be skill-restricted by class. Read on for a bit more about how GamersFirst intend to pull this off for free, without making it “pay-to-win”.

GamersFirst’s Darek Connole doesn’t spend too long on the story of Hailan Rising, because he knows that what is interesting are its mechanics. Hailan, an old, lost nation, destroyed by the Gods in a vast flood, is now emerging once again from the seas. Two factions aim to capture its riches for themselves. So far, so scene-set, and we start hitting some of Hailan Rising’s more interesting features. “You’ll be in full-blooded PvP within fifteen minutes,” claimed Connole. “And that’s because there’s no levelling, and therefore no grind. That’s a four letter word to us.” Connole explained that most MMOs had a primary focus on PvE, and that had negative ramifications for how PvP played out. GamersFirst’s thought was to turn that on its head, and put PvP first. There will be raids and monsters and all that PvE stuff in Hailan Rising, but how that plays is a consequence of this being PvP first. What this means, in turn, is making sure that everyone in Hailan’s world, from newbie to ancient habitualist, is able to fight each other in the open world.

How does that work? Well, there are four archetypes that the player can choose from, but the talent tree is entirely unlocked. If you have the “Etherea shards” to spend – and these can be bought or collected in the world – then you can unlock anything on the talent board. These shards are basically talent points, with the rarest of them allowing you to unlock the most interesting or powerful skills. Of course if these talents are from outside your archetype’s area then they’ll also be far more expensive to obtain, but obtain them you can, for experimental healer-damage characters, or crazy hybrid tanks. It’s all about allowing players to create interesting or esoteric builds. This philosophy extends through the game, as Connole explained: “Every character in the game can use every weapon, so if you want to give your mage the heavy mace, you can. Just don’t expect him to be amazing with it. Hailan is all about character versatility.”

Of course with the game being free, some of that stuff is going to have to come from cash payments, too. Connole explained that the game is intended to sidestep “pay-to-win” by simply making the payments about convenience. So anything you get from the shop could effectively be earned from the game, and having a premium account (not a subscription but a paid for state that doesn’t renew automatically, unless you want it to) is “all about quality of life”. This means you don’t incur penalties for a respec, for example, and having so many possible builds means you are likely to respec fairly regularly. There are also a few offbeat tricks, like allowing you to display a lame piece of kit to the world, while hiding the fact that you are decked out with great stuff, so you can avoid being an automatic target in PvP.


What’s clever about this, however, is that the game is going to attempt to keep everyone on pretty much the same tier, in terms of power. This means that newbies, with few skills and crap gear, are “invisibly buffed”. They will still be noticeably weaker than a decked out, experienced character, but they won’t be in another dimension in terms of power, as in most MMOs. “Newbies will definitely be able to trouble experienced players,” confirms Connole. What this means is that as you grow in power and have more etherea shards and great bits of equipment to your name, so you become noticeable tougher and more versatile, without necessarily being able to one-shot those newbies who have just stumbled blinking onto the path ahead of you.

The motivation for PvP, of course, brings the game around to resources, and therefore PvE. Players will basically be fighting for control of the more interesting and more profitable areas of the world. So if you want slay the epic loot dropping beastie, the chances are you’re going to have go and slay the people who are currently in control of it. All of which means this will be a highly guild-oriented MMO. “This really isn’t intended to be solo’d,” explained Connole. “It’s very much a guild versus guild game. We want people get in there and play with and against real people.”

Which is, of course, the fundamental strength of MMOs, and of PvP generally: it’s always more interesting than fighting something control by code. Whether Hailan can capitalise on its bright ideas – as well as that innate potential of having multiplayer interactions aplenty – will be interesting to see. It’s going to be developed in Unity, so it’ll also be a test of how pretty the team can make that engine appear, and how well it can handle an MMO networking tech. Further, whether GamersFirst’s open, level-free structure and cash-shop plan survive contact with actual players remains to be seen. It’s looking pretty promising.

Hailan Rising will be entering beta in a couple of months, with release tentatively scheduled for “when it’s ready”.

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31 Comments »

  1. Cvamped says:

    Am I the only one getting some foreboding “Fury” vibes from this game?

  2. RF says:

    Sounds like every other failed PvP MMO.

    Also, “grind” is a five letter word, not a four letter one.

    • Jumwa says:

      I think they were using “four letter word” as simply an ironic pejorative and were aware of that. Well, one would hope at least!

      But yes, you’re right, sounds like yet another PvP MMO for people to run around being angry internet jerks to each other in.

  3. Eddus says:

    Imagine a world where 200 poorly equipped Lvl 1 soliders are not automatically massacred by a level 80 player pressing one button. They don’t even have to resort to suffocating him with masses of thier noobie virtual bodies. Hooray.

  4. ain says:

    Looks like fantasy EVE with less focus on the economy and more around fighting. Very promising.

    • ain says:

      Then you’re doing it wrong.
      You can be combat ready in a t1 frigate within a day and it would cost you just 300k isk, which is nothing.
      And it even stated in the article that you’ll have to gradually acquire your abilities.

    • MadMatty says:

      @ ain

      Yeah a combat ready GNAT.

      This sounds promising tho- a level system more akin to the Planetside way of balancing, but without the actual levels per se.

  5. zeroskill says:

    “It’s going to be a traditional fantasy MMO with a rather untraditional level-free, PvP-focused design. Not only are there no levels, but you’re not even going to be skill-restricted by class.” So basically, like Guild Wars?
    Im always interested in PvP RPGs, if they can keep it “pay to win” free.

    • Felixader says:

      I have looked into War Rock a while ago.
      War Rock isn’t only ugly as hell, it also plays very awfull.
      But the biggest Problem is that you have to pay for EVERYTHING.

      War Rock is very much the definition of pay to win.

    • zeroskill says:

      Pay to win destroyes every PvP oriented game in an instant. Lets hope this wont be that way then. Anyway, im interested, if only to have another PVP game besides Guild Wars 2.

  6. Stevostin says:

    “All of which means this will be a highly guild-oriented MMO.”

    This is where it stops to be exciting. Most PvP players plays without guild, because Team Schedule and team social working are just putting us off. So basically this game pitch is to say “let’s pick 25% of MMO players” (the PvP first gamers) then let’s take 20% of them (the real teamp players), and then let’s try to convince a good share of this now tiny pool of 5% of MMO players. It can still work, but it has to be damn good.

    • ain says:

      Not true at all. In any game I’ve played meaningful PvP can only be accomplished in groups.
      Most people only run around soloing or join pick-up queues when there’s nothing else to do.

    • Kelron says:

      Nonsense. Where do you get the idea that most PvP players aren’t interested in team play, other than your own personal disinterest? There’s the obvious example of EVE, but going beyond MMOs, clan play is a staple feature in many competitive shooters.

    • zeroskill says:

      You never played high end PvP in Guild wars then, which is a shame. To date the best PVP expierience I ever had in a game. And pretty much everything is centered around guilds.

    • Jhoosier says:

      My best (and, I should say, also only) MMO experience was with Shadowbane. Despite the multitude of problems, I and my friends (who were often not online together) were able to put together a loose guild and have an awesome time with PvP.

      If Hailan is anything remotely similar, I could finally dive back into the MMO black hole.

  7. Maxheadroom says:

    Is it just me, or is anyone else getting a little tired of elves and wizards in their MMOs?

    • Dowson says:

      I’m tired of static combat Wizard and Elf MMOs.
      However an Action Wizard and Elf MMO is right up my alley.

      Unfortunately I can’t really tell which one this is going to be yet, most likely the former.

    • Stephen Roberts says:

      I’ll join you on that. I’m looking forward to Dark Millenium Online purely because it isn’t bloody high fantasy.

      As for this title it sorta strikes me as a merging of the multiplayer elements in first person shooters (unlocking gear) with the character persistence and location progression of an mmo. Levels as defined by gear. Doesn’t sound like a bad thing…

  8. ScubaMonster says:

    Microtransactions usually never turn out well in F2P mmo’s. Even if you are even in terms of power, that doesn’t mean you won’t have to buy stuff or grind for an eternity. I haven’t seen it turn out well yet where you basically aren’t seriously hindered if you don’t pay.

    Also, hopefully this turns out better than all of those “great” PvP mmo’s like Darkfall, etc.

  9. mda says:

    Header Image Nerdy Alt-Text:

    Diablo absorbs fire damage, you fool!

    (i can’t remember if he actually does but it sounds about right and that thing looks pretty diabolical)

  10. Zepposlav says:

    WTB decent Ultima Online remake.

  11. Cerzi says:

    I don’t think there’s any bright ideas here – Shadowbane had this “Ethera shards” system in the form of runes for subclasses, with some being very rare and hard to get, and of course UO had the original classless system.

    It’s still nice to see an MMO with values of player interaction at its core, but the trouble is games like this should have been released ten years ago. As a result this breed is a decade behind in every other respect, barely a generation on from Shadowbane in terms of actual gameplay progress.

    Not that the other side of the MMO coin has progressed that much in ten years, but that’s because it’s a relatively limited direction. When it comes to persistant virtual worlds with functioning societies, the genre has infinitely vast space to expore.

    • MadMatty says:

      better that they go back 10 years, and then pick a new direction to branch out from, instead of this stinkpile of everquest/wow clones.

    • Red Pen says:

      This. Shadowbane had the best PvP I’ve ever played. (Aside from the high potential to breed sociopaths.)

  12. Rahabib says:

    They miss the mark on so many levels.

    “Every character in the game can use every weapon, so if you want to give your mage the heavy mace, you can. Just don’t expect him to be amazing with it” – who is going to do this then? Why not pick a weapon you can use better? So many games promise this and then people stick to what works best anyway.

    “These shards are basically talent points, with the rarest of them allowing you to unlock the most interesting or powerful skills” – so this means there will be different shards and the best ones are going to be rare? Anyone want to guess how rare before people just give up and buy the damn shards? Still sounds pay to win to me!

    I am so sick of f2p games. Honestly, I haven’t found one, that allows a new player to come in and play on an even field without resorting to extraordinarily high amounts of grind or just paying money. I am actually to the point where MMO (like our English major friend, Connole) is now a 4 letter word.

    I cant wait for a game that requires skill only. I think the consolization of games with ranks, levels, perks, etc. has ruined gaming.

    /end tirade against f2p games and their promises.

    • Cerzi says:

      Bloodline Champions = respectable F2P model.
      100% skill-based

    • hench says:

      You really think BLC is a respectable F2P model? You have to play for atleast 12 hours just to unlock 1 class. And if you want to buy the game you have to pay $90 to unlocks the full game, for $30 you get 16 out of 20 classes.

      What happend with just paying a one time fee for games? Or subscription based MMOs? I think it’s nothing wrong with paying $10 a month as long as the game get continually updates.

      I agree wholehearthely with you, Rahabib, there are no examples of a good F2P game with a cash shop. And all the “RPG” elements (ranks etc) in multiplayer games are scheisse.

    • mmalove says:

      Obligatory League of Legends plug. Game is free, new champs require a fair investment of time played to unlock but can be unlocked through in game currency, but they also always run a rotation of free champs too to supplement your favorites. Entirely cosmetics reskins and boosts are the only things exclusively cash shop. The result is they have plenty of money and were even recently able to host a massive championship with a 100k top prize, yet one can play for free and never feel like they lost a game due to pay-to-win.

    • Cerzi says:

      Yeah, I really think BLC is a good F2P model.

      It’s similar to LoL, but afaik in LoL you can still pay for an in-game advantage. Yeah, you can grind to get the same in-game advantage, but in BLC there is *NO* in game advantage. Not paid for, not grinded – it’s as pure as Quake 3, you have the same tools for each game. There’s the 4 champion rotation like LoL, as well as letting you play any champion in single player (just to test them out).

      I started playing, really enjoyed 1 of the 4 bloodlines I could play. After a week, they changed, and I tried another 4. By the end of the second week, I had enough coins to buy one, so I bought my favourite out of the 8 I tried. 6 months on I still use that bloodline in 90% of my games. I bought the $30 pack which doesn’t just give you more bloodlines, but replay showcase slots, extra team slots, etc etc. I’ve paid a total of $30 for 6 months of heavy play, and I still only use the bloodline that I paid for with coins anyway!

      You have to look at the game not just the F2P model. In BLC, there is enough depth to exclusively play a single bloodline (in fact, it’s encouraged – like Street Fighter, you’ll never get good if you just play a random character each game). So 12 hours to unlock potentially the only required unlock isn’t a big deal.

  13. Valvarexart says:

    Did someone mention Mortal Online?