Pathfinder Online

Pathfinder online logo

I love pointing people towards projects with potential. Today I want to share with you Pathfinder Online, a fantasy sandbox MMO currently in the very early stages of development by Goblinworks.  I could give you guys a lot of the big picture ideas, but their FAQ already does it for me.

How is Pathfinder Online different from World of Warcraft or any other fantasy MMO?

Most fantasy MMOs, including World of Warcraft, are “theme park” games. In theme parks, you’re expected to work your way through a lot of scripted content until you reach the end, and then you play end-game content while you wait for the developers to release more theme park content so you can continue to advance your character.

The other end of the MMO spectrum is the “sandbox” game. In sandboxes, you’re given a lot of tools and opportunities to create persistency in the world, then turned loose to explore, develop, find adventure, and dominate the world as you wish. You and the other players generate the primary content of the game by struggling with each other for resources, honor and territory. There is no “end game” and no level cap.

Pathfinder Online is a sandbox game with theme park elements. You’ll be able to create your own place in the world of Golarion, complete with complex social and economic systems. You’ll form ad-hoc or permanent groups ranging in size from small parties to large settlements and even huge nations, and interact with others in your world in a realistic, unscripted fashion. You’ll also be able to participate in scripted adventures, though, with the outcome of those adventures helping to determine the shape of your world. [Source: Official FAQ]

I often pine for the mechanics of sandbox games.  I talk about worlds where players create social units and fight amongst each other for the upper hand.  The times when death was a bad thing and not a form of quick travel.  I talk about adventures instead of quests, skills instead of levels, persistence instead of scripted temporariness, and what it was like to play games not focused on getting to the end but instead living in the world as if it were real.

Pathfinder Online has several blog entries that take these ideas and expound upon them, describing why they’re important to Goblinworks.  I encourage you to read what they have to say on the various subjects.  I’ve read and agree with a lot of the things they’re saying.

There is a long road ahead for Pathfinder Online.  The picture Goblinworks paints is, to me, an ideologically perfect one.  Whether or not this game even launches, it’s the ideas I support and want you to support as well.

Thanks to @Merketh for tipping me off to the Goblinworks blog entries.

  • Crossing all the fingers and toes on this one.

    There really hasn’t been anything even close to sandbox released since Darkfall has there?

  • I already want to play this game.

    I was thinking it’s like a medieval EVE, and then I got to the part where it says he worked with CCP. I liked the security system in EVE. I just hope this game doesn’t fail.

  • Xsyon… I still keep an eye on it… but that game is still in a late alpha stage of development. I understand they needed to “release” they ran out of money but there are games in early, closed beta that are farther along than that game. I know their team is small but they also seem to be moving along fairly slowly too.

  • Ironic… I just spend a large part of the morning reading the message boards on Pathfinder Online.

    Of course a good portion of the discussion has been about how to deal with PVP, loot and death penalty… and the discussion is going the same way as it always seems to with these types of things.

    If you are for full loot pvp you are just a ganker.

    If you are not for full loot pvp you are a baby and should play WoW.

    I have been more interested in the discussion of how to handle leveling and skills and also their goals as far as player population goes. It is so different from what we see so often that I will be keeping an eye on the boards.

  • My brother used to play a game where PvP deaths lost a random item to looting (can’t remember the name of it). So folks would keep their bag full of stuff they didn’t mind losing trying to reduce the chance they could lose a piece of armor or weapon they loved.

    I always thought that was a pretty balanced idea for the hardcore/carebears.

  • There’s a news item on Massively about Pathfinder’s death penalty. Sounds quite odd.

    Isn’t Glitch a sandbox, talking of most recently released ones?

  • I was thinking about gear loot yesterday actually… and I came up with the idea that games today are far too lenient with encumbrance. I know we’re all used to having 4 – 8 bags all 20+ slots filled with breastplates but you could make it fair to both sides if the strongest characters could hold 200 – 250 pounds, and the breastplate you want to loot off someone weighs 185 pounds.

    Gear should be bulky and restrictive if it’s not being worn. Even a sword should be a huge burden if you’re not wielding it. Even a set of robes should get in the way if you aren’t wearing them. Gear not being worn should have large movement and combat penalties that stack. You can allow full loot but have mechanics like this that just make in impractical in most situations. Not only that but it just makes sense. If you’ve just killed one or two people and you want their armor, it should require either a drawn cart, or your complete attention and strength.

  • When I see something like this, my first thought is “so, is this a real game studio? or a couple of clowns in their bedroom”. Because, no offence to the clowns in their bedrooms who have created amazing things in the computing field, an MMORPG simply needs more resources and experience than that.

    So, looking at Goblinworks “About” page was informative. One of the founders of Wizards of the Coast, the former CMO of CCP, and the lead dev from City of Villains. That’s enough to make me add this one to my “pay attention” list.

  • EVE is really the only Sandbox game that still exists worth mentioning. You couldn’t hope to dream up some of the ‘player generated’ content that exists in that game as a developer.

  • Yep, this one does look interesting. Although, I have no idea when we may actually get to play it, so I’m not too excited.

  • I want this game to come out, but mainly so we have another case example of where sandbox theory runs into how players actually behave.

  • @UnSub: Can you elaborate? I can think of two sandbox styles that worked very well: UO and SWG. It was 100% on the players to make the experience enjoyable, and we did.

    I look at Darkfall, and I see a game with exploits and design errors in design. It was impossible for theory to meet reality when there were barriers in the way.

  • Darkfall could have been soooo much better if they had just stuck to their guns regarding skill decay.

    Without skill decay the game became a huge pile of dung on TOP of its multitude of flaws and errors.

  • Why don’t we ever see a PVE Sandbox MMO? They all seem to rely on PVP (especially at higher levels) to provide the meat.

    My ideal sandbox is a huge AI entity trying to destroy the world, and the players all having to cooperate and coordinate to push it back and build defensive settlements to keep it at bay. The system would generate some content (like dungeons) for you to reinforce yourself or get resources beyond the usual sandbox stuff. But it would all be dynamic, and cooperative, instead of a grief/gank fest.

    That’s my dream mmo.

  • Doing some more digging, this really looks to be referencing heavily from some of EVE’s mechanics. There will be an equivalent to highsec, lowsec, nullsec, the same type of concord / police / marshal NPC punishment devices, etc.

    Awesome, and thanks for getting this on the radar.

  • I actually had a back and fourth discussion with a Developer about this game. I like everything about it except for being fre for all PvP, full loot. They claim they will add anti griefing mechanisms but I seriously doubt it will work. I dont care how you add it up, but the one thing I despise about any game of this sort is the ability to have all your hard work stolen in mere moments because soemone on a particular day decides to make you a target. Is it realistic? yes, but this is a game and when will developers understand that Sandbox does not have to equal FFA PvP.

    Give me a full on AC/EQ model Sandbox PvE game with harsh death penalties and even harsher leveling speeds. 2-3 years to get to max level like Asherons Call is the way to go IMO.

  • It’s not full loot, they’ve already stated it will be only inventory that drops (and if looted by others it will be a random %, the rest destroyed). Your equipped things will stay with you when you re-spawn, so there won’t be naked running back like Everquest had, nor will you lose your whole set of equipped gear.

  • I have a more basic concern. I have been contributing to this blog for a few years now (I first learned about Keen’s blog through his AoC beta videos) and since then I have yet to see a MMO that hasn’t fallen on its face in the end. All of the paradigm games repeatedly referenced (SWG, DAOC) are long dead (I don’t put WoW into the paradigm category or we all would be still playing it Pandas and all) and nothing has stepped up to replace them.

    So are we just wasting our breath in the end debating the potential existence of some gaming Platonic form, when deep down we know that such a game will only exist filed away in the theorycraft section of these blog pages? It seems so easy to devise the perfect MMO borrowing from the successful portions of previous games (3 factions, involved crafting, sandbox elements) and yet where is the resultant product bred of hybrid vigor?

    I think I will wait on 3 games to either confirm or dispel my suspicions that we are perpetually doomed to the 3 month or less new MMO gaming cycle; either GW2, Secret World, or Dominus will restore my faith in the genre, or I will just have to reconcile myself to spending more time with my girlfriend…

    A look to the past’s look to the future of MMO hopefuls: