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Pathfinder Online Q&A With Goblinworks CEO Ryan Dancey



  • wmmarcellinowmmarcellino Member UncommonPosts: 94



      Could you talk a little bit about how you see the balance between individual combat power vs. leadership/combat multipliers?  I'm very interested in what our options are for unit leadership in Mass Combat, so what might be some of the trade-offs between those roles might be?


    Do the RIGHT THING: come be a Paladin with us!

  • Areks-PaxAeternumAreks-PaxAeternum Member Posts: 3

    Will settlement territory (claimed hexes other than the ones surrounding the settlement) mesh with the others owned by settlements in the same kingdom?


    And will we have to place a watchtower or fortress in every hex we wish to claim or will there be a seperate claiming system in place for settlements to claim more hexes?

  • rsdanceyrsdancey Member Posts: 106


    Some background for readers perhaps not as current on the plans as others.

    Early Enrollment is our term for when we begin monetizing the game. It will begin in the 3rd Quarter of 2014. Early Enrollment is designed to enable us to commence play with a very small, very constrained game environment, and for the community to help prioritize and select features for implementation and iteration as they engage with the game. In order to avoid putting a million players into a desert of content, we are going to cap the number of new player accounts that can be created each month during Early Enrollment to 4,500 (or so), which, given expected attrition rates, will allow us to slowly grow the player population in a manner consistent with our ability to deploy new content (new territory, new character options, new monsters, magic items, spells, and character abilities, etc.)

    Settlements in Early Enrollment:

    There will not be player-created Settlements when Early Enrollment begins. Sometime during Early Enrollment, there will be Settlements controlled by players via the Guild Rush Leaderboard (a promotion we started during the Kickstarter, and will expand on in much more detail sometime next year). The point where we have enough systems implemented, and a robust enough economy, and a large enough player population to enable us to allow territorial control will be the point where player-created Settlements will enter the game. This will also likely mark the transition from Early Enrollment to Open Enrollment, where we remove the artificial limits on the rate new accounts can be created.

    There will be some kind of civilized area in the game when Early Enrollment begins. It will not be one of the 3 major NPC Settlements we've described for the Crusader Road - it will be more like a neutral trading fort in the wilderness where everyone keeps a wary eye on each other, and a hand on their daggers. Throughout Early Enrollment we'll be adding more territory and more complex constructions, and that includes potentially reaching one or more of the three big NPC Settlements.

    Game Mechanics in Early Enrollment:

    You'll be able to create a character. That character will gain XP in realtime and apply them to buy skills. You'll be able to earn "merit badges" (proof of doing something meaningful in the game), and the combination of XP, merit badges and the skill system will enable you to unlock a variety of character abilities.

    There will be a lightweight economy consisting of some harvestable resources, some intermediate components crafted from those resources, and some finished goods crafted from those components.

    There will be some monsters to fight, and some reasons to fight them, and some worthwhile loot to receive when you kill them.

    There will be a combat system that will give you some options as to what to do when so that your player skill will have an effect on the outcome of a combat. You'll be able to choose targets, choose actions, and to move around in combat. There will be consumables used in combat, and some system for replenishing them.

    There will be sufficient territory so that players will have a sense of being "out there, alone in the wilderness" if they choose, or "in the thick of it, surrounded by other characters" if they choose that.

    Economic Activity:

    It's crucial to the entire game. It's more crucial than the monsters. So we'll be laser focused on it, paying attention to it every day, and tweaking it continuously as a part of Crowdforging.

    Complex Game Sysetms

    I suspect that we will not begin testing Mass Combat until close to the end of Early Enrollment, sometime in 2015. But bits and pieces of it may come into the game earlier even if the ability to fight as an army against another army is not ready. Some of the base mechanics, like forming a unit and acting with cohesion have applications beyond siege warfare.

    Caravans and mass transport of goods is going to be something I expect will be implemented in the mid-term of Early Enrollment. People are going to get tired of making mule characters very quickly and I expect the Crowdforging consensus will be to move on caravan mechanics quickly.

    The Map

    Yes. When, I don't know, but we are gong to do that.


  • rsdanceyrsdancey Member Posts: 106

    @Canan -

    We have several ideas for Fast Travel, and we haven't decided which to implement yet. We need to ensure that people are not just teleporting all over the map; we want you to have to physically travel from point to point. But we also understand the tedium of doing that over and over and over again, especially in safe areas where there is little risk of ambush. So there are conflicting game design needs that we need to balance.

    No, I do not think any character regardless of ability will be able to equip and use any item. You will probably need to have some character ability to unlock the option to use most gear. And because of our Keyword system, even if you can equip a given piece of gear, you may not be able to get maximum use out of it unless you have the requisite character abilities that enable the use of those keywords.

  • rsdanceyrsdancey Member Posts: 106


    The issue of reputation and alignment "recovery" is a big one. There are obvious paths that lead to easily abusable/exploitable systems, and we need to avoid them. My best guess at this point is that it will be a combination of realtime passing, plus some in-game activities that must be completed, plus potentially some kind of ritual conducted by characters with divine aspects to them. But I'm just guessing.

  • MumboJumboMumboJumbo Member UncommonPosts: 3,219
    Originally posted by rsdancey


    3: I think yes almost certainly. When, unknown. How, unknown.

    As interesting & honest as your other questions were... ^woot!


    Some of mmorpg-players biggest concerns recently and specifically, have to do with the changes in monetization methods of online games and the rise of F2P in mmorpgs with a cash shop, which Pathfinder Online will also have for eg Goblin Works blog:


    You'll use Skymetal Bits to purchase four kinds of things:

    1. Enhancements to your account: Things like having multiple characters, paying for skill training, and other premium services
    2. Convenience consumables: Things that your characters might want to use in–game in lieu of relying on always having specialist characters with you while you adventure, or as a way to recover from an encounter that goes horribly awry
    Can you say with complete confidence that Pathfinder Online will avoid P2W in eg convenience goods or any other aspects of negative impact of monetization on the game experience for players aka "Coercive Monetization"?
  • Areks-PaxAeternumAreks-PaxAeternum Member Posts: 3
    Will there be contracts in EE?
  • rsdanceyrsdancey Member Posts: 106


    Crowdforging will have a bunch of different processes.

    Sometimes we'll come to the community and say "we can do A, B or C. The votes of the community will determine what we work on next".

    Sometimes we'll present the community with a list of things and say "here's what we're going to work on in the next increment. Prioritize these things from want it first to want it last" and the community's input will guide the planned prioritization.

    We will likely have some form of player council like the EVE Online Council of Stellar Management that will be a representative body for the players to channel their suggestions and feedback through that will meet with the developers regularly and be a conduit for those ideas.

    Over time we'll probably add all sorts of other ways for people to make their ideas known and their opinions felt.

    In terms of the stuff we're writing about in the blogs I am sure that there are parts we'll still be waiting to begin implementation of 5 years from now or longer. Having a grand vision is a way of ensuring that we give ourselves motivation to continue to strive to make the game bigger, better, and more compelling.

    The biggest challenge we are going to have is overcoming the institutional knowledge of the MMO community that small games from first time publishers typically fail, and getting people to invest in our ideas for how we can overcome the traps that have caught so many of our peers. And the best way we know of to achieve that is to have as close, open and transparent a dialog with the community as we can, so that everyone sees what we're doing, how, why, and when. Keeping people's expectations framed realistically is a big part of that.


  • AndiusMeuridiarAndiusMeuridiar Member UncommonPosts: 91

    1. If questing is supposed to look like missions from EVE where will the quest givers be found? 

    2. Will players owned settlements be able to have quest givers from friendly factions?

    -Andius Meuridiar, Grand Master of The Empyrean Order


  • MumboJumboMumboJumbo Member UncommonPosts: 3,219
    Originally posted by rsdancey



    The biggest challenge we are going to have is overcoming the institutional knowledge of the MMO community that small games from first time publishers typically fail, and getting people to invest in our ideas for how we can overcome the traps that have caught so many of our peers. And the best way we know of to achieve that is to have as close, open and transparent a dialog with the community as we can, so that everyone sees what we're doing, how, why, and when. Keeping people's expectations framed realistically is a big part of that.


    Wow (not ironic!): That's a brilliant answer.

  • rsdanceyrsdancey Member Posts: 106


    The biggest challenge we have is scalability. We know that one trap a lot of MMOs fall into is that they fail to scale. When you put 100 players in a space, they lag out or crash. When you run 100,000 transactions through the market, the database queries grind to a halt. When you try to manage thousands of persistent connections, the game can't handle the load and people can't log in. When you have hundreds of people simultaneously creating accounts, the billing system fails. When you deploy a patch, the host for the new code is overwhelmed and can't keep up with demand, etc.

    These are the known problems. And we'll deal with them as best we can. The scary things are the unknown problems that will be unique to Pathfinder Online, the scalability issues we won't find until we implement a system and it fails spectacularly. The knowledge that there will be such problems is one reason we're taking the "velvet rope" approach to Early Enrollment.

    There's really no world building challenges. The Golarion campaign setting is awesome. We have a team of great people on staff who love creating stories and have decades of experience doing that so I have no worries about our ability to fill the world with cool stuff.

    The marketing challenge begins with overcoming player skepticism as I already addressed. By Open Enrollment we'll have the same challenge EVE Online has: generating enough new player account creations monthly to offset churn and show growth.

    Here is my definition of a sandbox MMO:

    The primary mode of the game is players meaningfully interacting with other players in a persistent environment where their actions have a lasting and visible effect on the experience of the other players of the game.

  • rsdanceyrsdancey Member Posts: 106


    1: Yes, you'll be able to back the project prior to Early Enrollment. One of my earlier responses in this thread covers that topic.

    2: Pathfinder Online is not a single-player or small-group experience. The center of the game world is "my shared community" and the bigger that community is, the more "powerful" you will be in the game. Working within that framework you will have a lot of options to play characters that are similar to, or at your option very different from the characters on the tabletop world. But at every stage, you'll be meaningfully interacting with other human beings and some of those interactions will involve conflict and combat not of your choosing. Some folks love the idea of that kind of game and some don't, and I don't judge either as being right or wrong.

    3: Yes, I think there will be oodles of Alts. Its an inescapable function of the fact that it is impossible to assert the link between a character and any given human.

    4: As with all systems, mounts will start simple and then become more complex over time. There's a nearly infinite fractal space that can be explored by Crowdforging what you do with mounts and we'll have to wait and see if that is something the community wants to do.

    5: No there will be no "I win" gear. There will be high-end gear that will be better than low end gear, and there will be highly trained and accomplished characters who can use it to great effect. But our goal is a flat enough power curve where a mob of low level, moderately equipped characters could beat a highly evolved, expensively equipped opponent.

    6: Way too early to tell. I'm unclear how well EVE's security system actually works. Most of the large Alliances have moved beyond it, from what I can tell, because people who want to be spies create alt accounts on alt IP addresses from obfuscated geographical locations and can forge/duplicate the documents needed to establish the bona fides of their fake personas.


  • rsdanceyrsdancey Member Posts: 106


    We haven't talked a lot about mass combat yet because most of that design is still in the most basic concepting stage.

    What we want is a mechanic where you form into a unit, and if everyone in the unit is acting coherently, the unit is vastly more powerful and more protected than the same group of characters just standing around acting individually. But we also don't want characters forced into those units in order to do many of the common pursuits in the game; you should not have to be in an army to go down a hole and fight orcs to get their stuff and power up.

    Within that basic outline is the implication of officers and leadership, and the ability to control and command units of units, siege weapons, special forces, healers, and exotic things like giants, elementals and dragons. The how and when of such things will be a factor of the community's desires as we Crowdforge.


  • rsdanceyrsdancey Member Posts: 106


    A kingdom is a social structure, not a physical structure. Settlements will bind themselves together in many different ways. Sometimes they'll be in close physical proximity and sometimes they won't.

    There will be a mechanism to assert control over a hex, and that mechanism will almost certainly involve structures, and defense of same. Exact mechanics are still being debated.

  • rsdanceyrsdancey Member Posts: 106

    I am often asked about the monetization of the game. Here's what I tell people.

    Our goal is to earn money from everyone who is playing the game regularly. And we think the best way to do that is a combination of an ala carte microtransaction system, and an all-you-can-eat buffet subscription. Sometimes people with subscriptions will engage in microtransaction purchases as well.

    Our cash store is going to be built around the idea that you mostly pay for experiences; bling for your character, mounts and structures, or access to prepackaged content of a more "theme park" nature. We'll provide some convenience items as well because it's foolish not to do so. And there will be stuff in the cash store for people who have a lot of money and want to give it to us that the average player won't be able or willing to afford.

    What we are not going to do is create a system where failure to purchase certain things means that you'll be crippled or meaningfully less effective than the average subscriber. If you choose to use microtransactions exclusively, and you spend less than the equivalent of a monthly subscription, you will be less powerful than the average subscriber. But if you're a subscriber, or someone spending about as much money as a subscriber, you will not feel disempowered vs. those who are willing to pour money into the cash shop. They will just have cooler hats and mounts with more sparkle.


  • rsdanceyrsdancey Member Posts: 106

    @Areks-PaxAeternum: There almost have to be contracts in Early Enrollment, and very early in Early Enrollment. If we fail to implement a contract system, players will create one themselves ad hoc and then we'll be faced with trying to manage a game system beyond our control and that would suck.

  • rsdanceyrsdancey Member Posts: 106


    The base case is you go to an NPC controlled structure and find someone with a "!" over their heads.

    Could those people appear in a player-controlled structure? Yes, of course they could. There's a part of the Inn system we promised the Kickstarter backers that implies a friendly NPC resident ("Norm!").

    Could those NPCs be scripted, player-controlled state machines with variable dialog trees, variable multi-part, branched, persistent questing trees? Yes, of course. Will they? Only Crowdforging will tell.

  • furbansfurbans Member UncommonPosts: 968

    1.  In the PvE blog it was mentioned wandering monsters of the likes of dragons or demonic demons and how the community will need to band together to take down.  Will there be a system to prevent a zerging tactic or will the stats of the mob remain static.  With no fast travel I suppose that will prevent a zerging tactic from ever happening or the liklihood very small.  Will the number of people taking down a boss like mob ever affect the mob's stats, like how GW2 has a scaling mechanic based in active participants?

    2.  Will quests delve into the lore at all?  In EVE the agent system was extremely bland and too much there was a exact same mission spread across the universe.  Will there be stories at all in these quests or will these story like quests be restricted to modules?  Can you ellaborate on the modules that was mentioned in one of the blogs?

    3.  Can you provide details on the game's music?  Will their be pieces posted for you followers to listen to, who is creating the music, what quality can we expect?  And if you are making a quality music can you please make a jukebox feature like in EVE? 

    4.  Will the game be a tab targeting or aim style soft targeting combat?

  • MumboJumboMumboJumbo Member UncommonPosts: 3,219

    I really appreciate the answers, Ryan. A couple of last questions:

    1. The other major problem or concern in mmorpgs is the quality of the community and the player experience as a consequence. Because Pathfinder Online will incorporate PvP openly, to enhance gameplay (risk/reward) and combat (skill & teamwork), how do you square that circle of players being able to enjoy better gameplay as well as a better social experience?

    2. Is the Pit Fighter Tool still due for late 2013?

    3. Finally, what are some of your personal favourite game systems, of any kind, mmorpgs and otherwise?


  • rsdanceyrsdancey Member Posts: 106


    There will be wandering monsters that a solo player or a small group can overcome and they will be relatively common. And there will be substantial, really powerful creatures that occasionally threaten a hex that will require a lot of characters to overcome. The exact mechanics of the latter are only the most hazy of concepts right now.

    We are not going to spend time or money on much development of narrative stories told through quests. So they'll be bland. It's very possible that over the very long run, you'll see us do some storytelling and some overarching narrative development, but that's a back-burner project compared to the need to get systems implemented and iterated as fast as possible.

    We haven't done any work on music yet. It will be one of the last things we work on prior to Early Enrollment.

    You'll use tab targeting or something similar.


  • rsdanceyrsdancey Member Posts: 106


    The community is the key to the whole venture. If it is allowed to become toxic, we'll be sunk. So protecting the integrity of the community is key to our long term plans.

    Against that objective comes the anonymous assholes of teh interwebz. Can we successfully ward our community from their misbehavior? I think we can. Our approach is multi-layered: game mechanics, game masters, community managers, and of course, our selective enforcement power to separate individuals from the game and the community if they prove to be unwilling or unable to be good citizens. There is no single magic bullet. All of these things must be deployed in parallel and in a mixture and matrix to fight the barbarians at our gates.

    The Community will be its own best defense. If we develop standards of behavior generally intolerant of assholerly, the number of such will be constrained.

    TBH I have not focused much on the Pit Fighter tool; I suspect we'll have to update and revisit that plan before the end of the year.

    Ryan's Personal Game System Favorites:

    I am a dedicated poker player. So I know from assholes. But there's a lot of knowledge in the poker world about how to run highly competitive, very conflict-prone events in ways that keep the level of misbehavior to a minimum, and so I want to learn from that. Poker itself is one of the richest, most compelling game experiences ever and demonstrates that you can get nearly infinite replayability from a very small selection of components and systems if you harness the human element to the game at a fundamental level.

    I really liked the idea in City of Heroes that you could Sidekick a lower-level character to be an effective and useful add-on to a group of higher level characters.

    I'm playing a lot of League of Legends and I appreciate the depth of character archetypes they've been able to create from some simple game mechanics and gear selection.

    The way that WoW teaches you how to use its UI and understand its basic game systems is brilliant. The first 20 levels of the Draenei race in WoW are a master class tutorial on how to teach someone how to play an MMO without making them feel like they're reading a manual.

    I am learning to play the guitar with Ubisoft's Rocksmith, which is a "real guitar" version of Guitar Hero. I was entranced with Guitar Hero the first time I saw it and immediately recognized its potential. Another game that melted user interface with clever mechanics to make something very engaging from very simple bits. Doing it with a real guitar is infinitely more satisfying, but I don't know if I would have attempted it without mastering Guitar Hero first.

    The quest log of Warhammer Online is an aspirational-level goal for Pathfinder Online. I'd love to get to something that rich and useful someday.

    Public quests from Warhammer, Rift and Guild Wars 2, plus Incursions from EVE are definitively better ways to engage a lot of people in a shared world in a common goal than anything that came before. That's why they're proliferating.

    The first time I rode down into Mexico in Red Dead Redemption, with the soundtrack rising to a heroic creshendo was one of the greatest moments I've ever experienced in a video game. At the end of that game, tracking down my father's killer and murdering him in cold blood was another.

    I could probably write a book on what I like about tabletop RPGs, especially D&D / Pathfinder. And I liked Magic: The Gathering so much I ended up doing my own CCG (Legend of the Five Rings) and then working on six more CCGs before I left that field. Way too much for this format. :)


  • rsdanceyrsdancey Member Posts: 106

    Ok folks, I think that's enough Q&A for one day. :) Thanks for dropping by and asking so many great questions! If you asked something and didn't get a reply, please ping me directly ( and I'll be happy to answer if I can!

    Thanks to MMORPG for hosting, and let's keep this dialog going, either here or on the Pathfinder Online forums!


  • furbansfurbans Member UncommonPosts: 968

    Last few questions, thanks for taking the time to do a Q&A.  And have to say the whole concept of making an MMO that encourages if not requires social interaction on a massive scale hitting home.  Too much MMOs seem to have lost the Massively in MMO.

    1.  Will there be collision barriers in the game.  Like melee forming a line to engage the enemy where the enemy cannot run though like they were ghosts to engage the less "tankish" characters like some frail mage or archer?  Will formations play a role at all or how a few could hold a pass against a large number and succeed but would fail in an open plains scenario due to being swarmed by all sides?

    2.  Will holding a dungeon instance be an issue?  Like say a player finds a dungeon instance and enters to holds the instance that locks all others out while waiting on some buddies to come along even though it might be an hour or two.  Will dungeons be a rarity that cutthroat tactics evolve or will there be more than enough ample instances to support the desire to engage in dungeoneering for all?  Also can you describe the length of a dungeon?  Will it be a relatively short 30-45 min adventure or will it be a lengthy 2-3 hour adventure?


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