Bringing a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) to life is no small task — let alone creating something that's playable across multiple devices — but Adam Bohn and his team at Artix Entertainment appear to be well on their way to creating something pretty special.
Bohn (better known by the gaming community as "Artix von Krieger") is the founder and CEO (and Paladin) of Artix Entertainment, an independent game developer and publisher best known for creating flash-based role-playing games, AdventureQuest, DragonFable and AdventureQuest Worlds to name a few.
The team continues to work on its biggest and boldest project yet, AdventureQuest3D, a MMORPG with cross-platform compatibility across your mobile devices (Android and iOS) as well as your desktop computer or laptop (Windows or Mac). The game was initially funded as a Kickstarter project back in 2015 and represents the next big progression in the company's marquee franchise.
"We have a game called AdventureQuest Worlds," said Bohn. "It's a MMO flash game that's been running for seven years and, just like the original AdventureQuest, these games have all been updated every week since they've been released.
"Our mission with AQ Worlds was to create a 2D version of WoW that you could play in your browser. Now, we want to take AdventureQuest Worlds and our previous game DragonFable, and the essence of the original AdventureQuest and build a true 3D game that you could play anywhere."
It's a massive undertaking which requires the development team to ensure the game runs smoothly across all platforms.
"All devices log into the same world, so you're playing with people who might be on their PC, or Apple phones, or tablets, or they've got a game-enabled toaster or something," said Bohn. "It sounds a lot easier than it is, and I think we've perfected how we're doing it, but every time that Unity does a major update, we have to every asset in the game. It can be a crazy nightmare at times."
Such an undertaking would be a huge challenge for a major studio, so it's even more impressive when you consider the size of the team working on the game. The team is comprised of just twelve programmers and content developers, including Bohn himself, who are tasked with simultaneously fleshing out new content for players to explore while also continuing to improve and tweak the gameplay during beta. On top of all that, each platform has its own little quirks that the team has to contend with to ensure that gamers have the same experience no matter which device they're logged in to play on.
Despite the daunting challenge, developing a cross-platform MMORPG makes a lot of sense in 2017. Though the genre is a favorite for millions of players around the world, games have necessarily been confined to one platform at a time, and typically that platform has been PC/Mac. 2010 was arguably the biggest year for MMORPGs, with the genre's biggest title World of Warcraft's reaching peak popularity with over 12 million active subscribers.
But much has changed since 2010. Most notably, perhaps, the emergence of the smartphone as an essential device that affords us plenty of power for the basic stuff like accessing social media and the internet, while also offering more high-end processing power as the technology has improved. And while there are certainly other MMORPGs available for Android, Bohn says that limitations on mobile devices up until around two years ago made it really tough to create something like AdventureQuest3D that would look and play just as good on your phone as it does on your PC.
We've also become a much more mobile society in general, thanks to smartphones and tablets granting us the freedom to do more on the go without having to be chained to a desktop computer. Even the convenience of lugging a laptop around can feel a little outdated at times.
And that's ultimately what makes AdventureQuest3D a compelling option for fans of the MMORPG that don't spend as much time behind a computer as they once did. Artix Entertainment has built up a nice following from its 15 years developing web-based RPGs, which continue to receive weekly updates with new content. The team plans to apply the same approach to AdventureQuest3D when the full game launches in October to give gamers new storylines to experience.
First impressions from the beta
If you're curious to see what this game is like, you can check out the open beta by downloading the game from the Google Play Store. The team is still fleshing out many of the early storylines, but the opening tutorial will give you an idea of what the tone that Bohn and his team are striving for — that is, a seriously deep game in terms of gameplay, customization, and story that doesn't take itself too seriously. So expect cutscenes with a whole bunch of witty dialog and puns. So many puns.
"I'd like [our games] to consistently be unusual, weird, and crazy," said Bohn. "That's how the original AdventureQuest games were, and that's what's really going to make [AdventureQuest3D] unique — it's going to be densely-packed with oddness. And that's something that the cookie cutter, 'We're just trying to run you through a loop and harvest our way into your pockets' games… They don't really offer that."
Since the game is still in beta and constantly in flux it wouldn't be fair to pass judgment on the game in its current state, but from what I've seen it's off to a great start. The graphics look excellent on my Google Pixel, from the cutscenes to exploring the world with my character.
Something that really surprised me about AdventureQuest3D on Android is how reasonable is its file (APK) size. You would expect a massive open-world 3D RPG might take up a huge chunk of storage real estate. Instead, the game only downloads assets as required as you move from realm to realm, activate new quests and interact with NPCs, and clears the cache when they're not needed.
The stereotype associated with MMORPGs is that they're huge time sinks that almost certainly require marathon gaming sessions to complete specific quests. Given mobile is such a key platform for AdventureQuest3D, Bohn says the developers have been careful to walk the line between offering quick quests that can be completed in short spurts of gameplay but without sacrificing depth and storyline for endless fetch quests.
Of course, one of the biggest appeals of MMORPGs is the ability to play alongside your friends and other players on quests. Artix Entertainment have included a really smart feature to make it much easier to meet up with wherever your friends are in the game: Summon Codes. When you share a summon code with a friend, they're able to jump into the game and spawn wherever you are. It certainly beats having to manually travel in-game to find your friends in whichever realm or server they're in.
AdventureQuest3D is scheduled for a proper released in October, but you can jump in early and play the beta. Maybe I'll see you in the game!
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