Shards Online is a labor of love by a team of former UO developers who've spent the last 9 months and our own money building a playable pre-alpha game that can be freely modded by our players.

A lot of our players have asked us questions about where we're going from here (post Kickstarter), but more importantly about what the game is and how it's really unique.

We wanted to open it up to Reddit: ask us anything!

Verification: Headquarters! and

Comments: 136 • Responses: 42  • Date: 

cmsimike14 karma

(copied. I may have more to post later :))
To this day, I rank Ultima Online as the best MMO I've played.

How will this game be like Ultima Online?
How will it differ?
What sort of problems (if any) did you see in Ultima Online and are now trying to rectify?

citadelstudios12 karma

The UO experience is intoxicating.

As someone whose both played and developed it I can tell you we want to capture everything about UO that is "living world" and "action/consequence" while taking the interactivity to the next level (and improving the graphics).

As a former developer, I can tell you that the unparalleled power we had as designers and programmers with UO is something we've rebuilt in Shards from the get-go.

The entire game is built to scale and to have an extremely moddable architecture. There's a scripting engine that runs the game mechanics that is completely customizable.

The core difference is that we're legitimizing the entire concept of player run shards with Shards Online by offering you our content and codebase to do whatever you want with.

cmsimike9 karma

Excellent. Here's to hoping the Corp Por returns for some PvP action.

annihilus8135 karma

I'll see your Corp Por and raise you a Kal Ort Por.

And yes I got it off before it hit me. And no I don't fast cast.

citadelstudios3 karma

Tim: I raise you Armageddon. VAS KAL AN MANI IN CORP HUR TYM!!!

joelwinsagain11 karma

I loved UO, how will pvp interactions be handled, will player pickpocketing be at all possible like UO?

citadelstudios11 karma

Tim: I like to think of Shards Online in the same way as Ultima Online. There is no end-game PvP. The entire game is "end-game."

Snooping on inventories, pick-pocketing, stealth, hiding - all the things that make a rogue great are natural skills in Shards Online.

The real trick is that we give players the ability to enable/disable/customize these things in their own Shards (like deploying your own custom Minecraft server).

cmsimike10 karma

This is another big thing for me. Frankly, I liked how big of a dick you could be in UO. I think that was one of the biggest reasons I loved the game. Hopefully you are keeping that aspect?

citadelstudios13 karma

Tim: Heh. We like to put it in terms of "not restricting players with artificial constructs of morality that make gameplay design easier."

We like hard game design, which means building meaningful worlds where actions have consequences. Good or bad!

machinehuman3 karma

"not restricting players with artificial constructs of morality that make gameplay design easier."


citadelstudios4 karma

Tim: One thing people don't necessarily understand is that the idea of including PvP in the default rulesets for Shards Online (it's customizable) is that it allows us to create closer approximations to real-world systems.

When you think about gameplay design, think of the problem with doors - how many games have you played where you could level a small army with your weapons, but are forced to find a key that opens a wooden door?

In the SO game mechanics we are forced to deal with everything we can think of that can happen to that door: can its lock be picked? Can it be blown up? Stabbed? Set on fire?

Now extend that line of thinking to PvP: it's really easy to solve the problem and just not let players attack one another. But what about indirect traps like explosion potions in chests?

We subscribe to the "witnessable action" model of morality enforcement: did someone see or hear you do it? This allows us to create complex and unpredictable gameplay that still isn't massively exploitable (there will always be exploits, and we will find them and fix them - or at least give them our blessing and developer support).

citadelstudios8 karma

Derek: This is one of the advantages of supporting multiple rulesets. Shards Online will have both casual and hardcore official rulesets. Our hardcore official ruleset will be very reminiscent of the old UO days. We have already started on the rogue skills and fully expect to allow players to pickpocket each other (as long as they don't get caught!).

PvP in the hardcore rules will depend on how safe the area you are in. Some areas are filled with guards and the slightest attack on another player will mean sure death. Other areas, guards will be more sparse or perhaps nonexistant and players will be able to attack each other more freely.

Even better with custom rulesets, player run servers can decide just how much player aggression they will tolerate and how quickly and often the guards react.

activeknowledge8 karma

Will you have housing, and if so how will you handle it? My favorite part about UO was the fact that land was a consumable/valuable resource, which gave ownership a whole different feeling in that game.

Fatboy Slim on Lake Superior, 1997 till whenever I was banned for being a little shit. Thanks for the AMA. :)

Edit: Far better question I'm regards to Ultima Online, one I've always wondered about: How did devs react to exploits discovered and abused in the game? It seemed that a lot of it was reactive, but that there was an adversarial yet positive relationship with those that used them as the loopholes were closed.. Just a curious party, here. :)

citadelstudios9 karma

Derek: We also plan to take it one step further by giving you control of some of the surrounding land. Grow a farm, or a garden, or maybe an awesome hedge maze!

activeknowledge3 karma

Very cool, I like you guys. Where are you based out of?

citadelstudios8 karma

We are close to Washington DC in Northern Virginia. Most of us are former Mythic Entertainment guys.

citadelstudios8 karma

Tim: Yep, Shards Online has housing - and you guessed it - housing and land ownership in SO is persistent in the actual game world.

No instances, no zoning.

If you run out into the woods and find a nice spot you want to build a cabin, well, that's yours now!

Gunga_Din_5 karma

Do you feel Shards is the final chance at making a game in the spirit of Ultima Online (Considering the UI, mouse movement and POV) ?

citadelstudios4 karma

Derek: Lots of games are still using the same mouse movement and POV. Look at Diablo III, Path of Exile and most MoBAs.

As to the spirit of UO, I never really understood why so many people have begged for more games like it and so few developers have been able to deliver.

I feel that the key is to understand how to recreate that experience on a technical level. The most important thing is that you create a world where dynamic interactions occur between objects. That is at the core of what enables players to have the sorts of experiences they remember from UO.

Nojinray5 karma

Ultima wow. Thanks for doing this AMA.

I haven't followed Shards online on kickstarter but have you announced any sort of dates for an alpha release? Also, as a small youtube channel, are you okay with people posting footage for reviews if invited?

citadelstudios4 karma

Derek: Yup we just had a preview weekend where we let everyone play for free for the entire weekend. To top it all off we streamed for over 18 hours! It was a blast.

There is a great wrap-up including videos in one of our Kickstarter updates:

We hope to be in full-scale alpha by the end of the year.

mickey_t5 karma

Hollllyyy craaaaaap I cant remember the last time I've heard about or even thought about Ultima Online. Do any of you still play it? Does ANYONE still play it?

citadelstudios9 karma

Derek: Yes people still play Ultima Online! We are actually close with the current developers at Broadsword Online Games. I had lunch with them last week actually. :)

swooded5 karma

How many tacos could you eat in one sitting?

citadelstudios11 karma

Tim: Well, let's see. In Shards Online I could eat about 15 tacos before becoming satiated according to the hunger formula.

In reality, probably three.

Four if they're Doritos Tacos.

swooded3 karma

Thanks for the reply! We'll be sure to add this information to the official Taco Tracker. Since you mentioned it, any chance Tacos will be included as a craftable food in Shards Online?

citadelstudios1 karma

Tim: I can pretty much guarantee that now I want tacos on the Londinium shard, which is steampunk oriented.

citadelstudios6 karma

If we are talking about taco bell, I wouldn't dare chance more than 3. Now if we are talking about my old taqueria from Redwood City salivates ... I think I could pack away about 10 of those right about now!

swooded5 karma

Thank you! If you don't mind me asking, what's the name of your old taqueria from Redwood City? Other Taco lovers may want to check it out when they're in the area

citadelstudios5 karma

My bad it was in Belmont,CA: El Metate Taqueria, 120 Harbor Blvd, Belmont, CA 94002

MinionDot4 karma

If you could go back in time and run your Kickstarter again, what would you do differently? Do you feel like it was difficult to get media coverage for the game, or maybe that you didn't push it to news sites enough yourselves?

citadelstudios6 karma

Derek: These are the 3 biggest things we would do differently

  1. Spend more time building a solid community before the campaign. We did lots of PR and that was successful but really we had not begun to foster our community until the campaign began.

  2. We needed a more succinct message. Our Kickstarter page (especially at launch) was very good at getting someone already sold on the idea excited. BUT it was not good at capturing new people. Way too much TLDR in both our video and page content.

  3. Make sure any build of the game we intend to use during the campaign is done and ready before we launch. I spent alot of time during the campaign preparing the game for special events.

dmurphy224 karma

Hey there,

Huge UO fan so I am super excited for this game.

My question is what will you do once your Kickstarter is over if you do not meet the required 320k? Will you continue development? Will you have to sacrifice some features of the game?

Thanks for doing this AMA!

citadelstudios13 karma

Derek: Yes we plan to continue development post-KS regardless of outcome. If there is one thing this campaign did, it proved to us that there are tons of people out there dying for a game like this.

If we do not meet our goal, our current plan is to refocus and adjust our scope for the first fully playable alpha. The last thing we want to do is sacrifice features of the final game.

atr_nad3 karma

What are the most basic roles you need in a dev team to develop an online RPG?

citadelstudios5 karma

Derek: The least you can make a game with is a programmer and an artist. This is assuming your programmer can do network, client and server programming and your artist can do graphic design , character art and environment art AND assuming that you can both handle game design.

dbltnk3 karma

I closely followed your KS campaign. Lots of good content updates. Great feedback by the press. And still it got stuck around 50k for most of the campaign duration.

What are you learnings from this experience? What would your advise to someone starting a MMORPG campaign on KS be?

[edit] I'm working on a game with some similarities so feel free not to answer if we're too close to each other in the market. =D

citadelstudios3 karma

Derek: Take a look at my answers to MinionDot some good lessons there. But I can also tell you one more important thing I learned:

It's very easy to get someone who has backed projects before to back your project. The hardest part, is getting someone who has never done it before. They need to learn about Kickstarter (many people thought they lose the money even if the campaign wasnt funded) sign up for an account and then pledge. This is extremely difficult to do if you do not have a celebrity name behind you. I would look at other projects that got funded and see how you can appeal to those same people.

mrvoteupper3 karma

What in the world happened to UO2?

I remember seeing the launch picture for it (I thnk it was something like guys on top of giant trees or something). AND THEN IT GOT CANCEELED.


citadelstudios5 karma

Derek: Electronic Arts has always struggled with understanding Ultima Online. There were several Ultima Online reboot attempts throughout the course of history. Their failures ultimately resulted from the upper level management at EA's inability to grasp what made UO so unique from other online games.

ASayre3 karma

What were your feelings on the UO Emulation community? Eg, RunUO and such?

Also, if any of y'all pass through Seattle, would love to buy you a beer!

-A former RunUO Dev

citadelstudios3 karma

Derek: Most emulation servers for online games operate in a legal gray area as they are technically using the company's software in a way outside their EULA.

We are excited to give players who wish to operate and customize their own game worlds a completely legitimate and fully supported method of doing so.

And when we are at PAX Prime next year, maybe I'll take you up on that beer :)

wynand10043 karma

Will Shards Online be available on Linux?

citadelstudios2 karma

Derek: This is one of our goals for alpha. We just can't commit to it 100% right now. Keep an eye on our product page for updates on this.

AnAmazingPotato3 karma

Will I need an absolute beast of a pc to play it?

citadelstudios3 karma

Derek: Right now the pre-alpha build is a bit of a resource hog because we have not had much time to optimize. We expect that once we have an opportunity to work on optimizations that the game will run on most modern machines.

artyen3 karma

Hey Shards team! Thanks for doing this AMA. What are your thoughts on the current saturation of the freemium payment model in the MMO market, do you think it's helped or hindered the industry?

citadelstudios6 karma

Tim: "Both" is the easy answer. The rise of freemium has really made MMOs more accessible to a wider audience of players (younger people without credit cards) while making excellent returns-on-investment for the publishers.

On the other hand, a flood of cheap, knock-off games with unending pay-to-win mechanics sours the genre for many as well.

With Shards we intend to charge you once for the game itself (client and server), and if you want to play for free on community servers or run your own: go for it!

If you want to hang out with us on "official" shards, then we'll charge a small monthly premium so we can afford customer support and ongoing content development.

We ourselves are not going freemium.

insomsanity2 karma

UO was the reason I spent most of my time in high school trying to sleep. I was hooked instantly the first time I encountered a PK. I quit when Trammel took over, and picked up the game later for several more years on freeshards under pre-Renaissance rulesets. Still the best time I've ever had in gaming, and I've played nearly every MMO since.

I'm so excited to see player ran servers. Nothing against you guys of course. But you have to understand how I'm STILL bothered nearly 15 years later how EA ruined everything I loved. Anyway, rambling...

Whats the death system like? Saw there is a perma death option which is interesting. When is the alpha going to be live? This game looks incredible to me and I can't wait to play.

citadelstudios3 karma

Derek: I'm glad you are excited! Even though it seems our campaign won't succeed, I hope you will head over there and back us. Every backer we get is a show of support that will help us with our next phase.

Currently, in the pre-alpha build, if you die your backpack (ie the items you are carrying with you) drop to the ground.

What we expect to happen in the final game (for the hardcore rules) is something like this: (of course its subject to player feedback) Your spirit can call out to an elder mage that has the ability to ressurect. He can transport your body to him through magical means.

We are considering adding constitution to the game. When you are ressurected you have a chance at permanently losing some constitution. There will be ways to bolster your constitution but eventually if your character dies too much, you will be unable to continue. Again this is something we are considering for the hardcore ruleset. The casual ruleset will be much more forgiving.

NorbitGorbit2 karma

do you have a separate business manager to ensure that the game can self-sustain?

citadelstudios2 karma

Derek: We do not have a dedicated business manager at this time. But several people on this team have that sort of business experience.

We also crunched the numbers several times and once the game is in players hands we are confident that we will be able to continue to maintain and improve the game.

NorbitGorbit1 karma

is there a standard metric or formula to use in making that determination or is it different for each project?

citadelstudios2 karma

Derek: Puts on boring business guy hat Well at our early stage you generally do what are called "pro-forma" financials. Which is you basically come up with a few scenarios regarding revenue and operating costs and see if they balance out. The math isn't all that crazy if you have a good idea of how you plan to monetize. The tricky part is determining costs and projecting sales.

raseru2 karma

Will we be allowed to max all skills or will we be limited to a certain amount of total points?

citadelstudios2 karma

Derek: There will most certainly be a skill cap on your master skills.

However, we have a few ways to keep things interesting. First, you will be able to deactivate certain skills in order to gain in others. Skill points in inactive skills are never lost, and players will be able to adjust their character’s specializations periodically.

Second, there will be several specialty skills for most master skills. These specialty skills do not count towards your cap but are directly affected by it's master skill's current level.

Rattatoskk2 karma

I just backed this project. Are you guys going to do a relaunch if it doesn't meet it's goal? I can't imagine how many people didn't back simply because they just didn't know about it.

citadelstudios2 karma

Tim: Thanks for backing us!

Derek mentioned in one of the answers below that one of the key things we didn't do was build up our community before launching the KS itself - we had plenty of PR coverage, but very little community involvement until these last few weeks.

The game is going forward no matter what! We will find a way :)

AcePharaoh2 karma

Do you plan to put this game on steam? I'll buy the game regardless but I was just curious.

citadelstudios2 karma

Tim: It's certainly a possibility! But it's too early to make that decision yet, given that we're working on the post-Kickstarter plan first and foremost.

poofpoot2 karma

I used to play UO on my PC and have been looking for a Mac version for a long time. Does it exist?

citadelstudios2 karma

Tim: Shards Online, luckily, might actually have one along with a Linux version if we can raise the funds!

I personally have been using a Mac for development and run the Unity SDK on board to run and test the game; we just don't have a non-Windows build at the current time.

AcePharaoh2 karma

Will shards have the ability to import custom assets? I would love to be able to create an entire race of creatures unique to my shard/cluster.

citadelstudios3 karma

Tim: That's a key long-term goal - you probably won't see it in the alpha release of the game (we're currently pre-alpha if you've seen the gameplay footage).

It is something that the entire architecture of Shards is built to do, I should say.

SkinnyGeorge2 karma

My biggest gripe with the game was the hot keys and not being able to change the graphics settings. I have been playing allot of UO recently on a free shard and because your game felt allot like UO I was trying to use the hotkeys from UO instinctively. Will you have a "classic" keyboard layout with UO hotkeys? Or will it be an option to change key bindings?

citadelstudios3 karma

Derek: I'm guessing you are referring to the pre-alpha build everyone played during the preview weekend. Never fear! The game will have reconfigurable keybindings as well as lots of additional client settings for you to tweak.

holmedog2 karma

I didn't have much opportunity to watch the livestreams, and I assume everything is at ridiculously early stages, so I'm curious how you feel about combat length.

One of the annoying things about UO (and many MMOs) after a while was how "spiky" the damage had to be. So you start out and it takes you ~30 seconds to kill a skeleton, and you may end at half health, but it feels good. Later on, one or two hits from a dragon will drop you to half health.

Also, bards? Provocation was one of my favorite abilities, although I think it created huge balance issues with the game.

citadelstudios4 karma

Tim: Let me tell you two things about bards: 1) Barding skills will be in the game, make sense, and be useful (like Provocation). 2) I always wanted to add composition (think MIDI) and live performances to UO but never had the time.

As far as combat damage goes, here's an applicable lame joke: So a drake, a wyvern, and a dragon walk into a bar. Alcohol is highly flammable and the ensuing explosion kills everyone in a two screen radius.

cryospam2 karma

I LOVED UO, but the isometric view is kind of showing it's age and at the end of the day made me decide not to back you guys, what made you guys stick with that? Was it nostalgia, ease of programming compared to making something in cryengine, unreal engine, heroengine, or any other 3d engine?

I feel that with the popularity of Minecraft, the gaming world is ripe for a real 3d sandbox mmo, whereas there are a bunch of isometric ones already out there.

citadelstudios7 karma

Derek: There are tons of reasons for going with the fixed 3d camera. We believe there is still a place for games with this style. Look at all of the very successful games using this camera angle: Diablo III, League of Legends, Path of Exile.

The fixed 3d camera makes for very unique and tactical combat as positioning and timing are everything. This is much harder to do with an over the shoulder camera.

It also makes it much easier to create a truly persistent world where all the items can be placed in the world and used as decoration. When you decorate you house, you will know that the way you view it is exactly the same as how everyone who visits your house will view it.

im_always_fapping2 karma

What do you think of the trolls/griefers of your Ultima Online games? What would you use to deal with them?

citadelstudios5 karma

Tim: As Lord British learned during his assassination in the original UO Beta at the hands of Rainz: there will always be griefers! There will always be trolls!

One of the greatest lessons in our time on UO was discovering where the lines between unanticipated (possibly fun, emergent) gameplay and actual abuse were drawn.

On our official Shards rulesets the players themselves will have just as much power to fight back against trolls and griefers (verbally, physically, magically, and economically) as UO, if not more.

We're working on making criminality quantifiable in the actual game :)

Parallel to that, we will not tolerate true abuse: there's a reason that modern online MMOs have customer service and game masters. We will enforce a safe environment that still allows an immersive experience without allowing out-of-context threats.

The default ruleset is very free and in-game consequence driven, and it can be customized to disable or alter PvP and other systems that give rise to classic troll behavior.

You'll never be able to stop all trolls - we prefer to give players enough in-game tools to deal with them themselves!

twiitar2 karma

Can I stand behind somebody's horse, drop brown-dyed wool on myself and then make the owner go bonkers about the misdeeds of his animal?

citadelstudios2 karma

Derek: We love roleplayers! And we expect roleplayers to love Shards Online. Because of the immersive and realistic nature of the game that it will be a great fit for the RP community.

Player run servers will take that to the next level since admins will be able to essentially play dungeonmaster and drive stories in realtime!

SirTEPL2 karma

What was your main inspiration for the look of shards?

Also, What made you decide shards could have different genres of appeal?

(Fantasy, Sci-fi, ect)

citadelstudios3 karma

Derek: We drew inspiration for the art style from both Ultima Online and Titans Quest. Of course we are aiming much higher than those games for overall graphical quality.

We chose to create a very colorful world without going too cartoony.

The decision to encompass multiple genres was an easy one. The very nature of the game with its many isolated worlds gives us the perfect opportunity to make it work.

naitfury2 karma

I miss UO. Do you guys believe that UO in this day and age, with wiki's and database mining, would still be as much fun?

citadelstudios3 karma

Derek: Yes! Things like wiki's make games like this even more accessible to players. If players do not want to spend the time to figure out the minutia of the game, a wiki is a great resource for them.

The players that want to figure things out for themselves don't need to go to the wiki, or they can work to discover new secrets to post on the wiki.

stormc2 karma

Hey there! It was actually the first time I backed a game on KS and if you plan on relaunching with a smaller campaign, I will surely come around to back you up there again. I love UO, I have been working in the freeshard and nwn pw scene for a long time and I am finally looking forward to a way of bringing those ideas to life without working in that said legal grey area or this makeshift solution that persistant worlds in NWN are right now.

So my question is aimed in this direction as well: Will the game be able to communicate with sources outside of the binary/scripting engine, like databases, websites and the like? If not, is there any way to implement or invent a way to restrict shard/cluster access on a per account basis? The goal would be that a potential player of a(/my) cluster/shard registers at a website first and only after approval from the admins gets the ability to log into the cluster/shard. Thanks and keep the good work up!

citadelstudios2 karma

Derek: Thank you so much for your support! We actually talked a little about APIs during the preview weekend. I mentioned that since players will have control on their own servers, they will be able to decide how much of the API is exposed and to whom. Alot of the API support will depend on resources. The more funding we get, the more resources we will have to devote to stuff like this.

TechnoBulldog1 karma

As an aspiring game developer / programmer, is there any insight you can offer into the development process for your upcoming game? Like the problems you deal with, the tools you use to overcome them, your daily schedule, etc?

I might be late, but I thought I might ask anyways. Thanks for doing this AMA!

citadelstudios6 karma

Derek: I could write for hours talking about this. Once the campaign is over, I will write up a nice juicy blog post on this subject. I'll let you know when its up. :)