In our latest interview we were lucky enough to speak with Gabriel LaForge, Marketing Editor at Mechanist Games, regarding their upcoming MMO City of Steam. Gabriel revealed some of the backstory for the project as well as a little bit about the company as a whole. He explained a bit about death in the game, the vastness of the Nexus, the save system, Electrum, and the fabled “FemGab”.
About City of Steam:
City of Steam is set in the world of The New Epoch, a series of pen and paper RPG sourcebooks that illuminate an era of ambition and exploration of the World Machine by both ancient and emerging nation-states. City of Steam focuses on the central City-State of Nexus, a metropolis where players, NPCs, and enemies of all the races and cultures of the World Machine can be found. Each race, culture, and faction is richly detailed through architectural details, NPC interaction, clothing, quest dialogue, and flavorful items like newspapers. The course of history is changing, and players will become familiar with the forces driving that change from day one.
While the world at large rides a wave of industrial prosperity, Nexus itself has been left behind, its once-famed mineral wealth nearly exhausted. The Triumvirs struggle to maintain order as neighborhoods teeter on the brink of rebellion, sewers teem with mutated beasts, and abandoned factories swarm with mechanical horrors. As the Triumvirs’ influence wanes, ambitious factions emerge to fill the power vacuum. As players explore the city, they will have the opportunity to aid or oppose these groups, and in so doing begin to understand the harrowing scope of their goals.
Indie Game HQ: Can you tell us a little bit about Mechanist Games?
Gabriel: We’re an international team based in China. We have people from New Zealand, China, USA, Canada, Netherlands and other locations working on our first project, City of Steam.
We are keen on community supported development, so we are very in touch with our fanbase, openly discussing designs to see what they think; we also believe in having fun with making our games (why else make them?), so we don’t always take everything entirely seriously.
Indie Game HQ: As a China-based company, have you come across any struggles when trying to enter the North American market?
Gabriel: Many of us being North American, approaching people has been easy enough. Being China-based does bring its issues though… admittedly the gaming industry here hasn’t exactly built the best of reputations. However, in a way, we’re hoping to change that perception. We’d like to show that high quality games can come out of China. There’s a surprising amount of untapped talent here!
Indie Game HQ: How long has the lore for City of Steam been under development?
Gabriel: The lore itself goes at least as far back as 2003, when our Lead Designer, David Lindsay, began writing a series of roleplaying books (The New Epoch), on which City of Steam is based. We’re quite fortunate to be able to tap into the lore straight at the source!
Indie Game HQ: What were some of the deciding factors behind making the game browser-based versus download?
Gabriel: Accessibility. Anyone with a modest computer and an internet connection can jump in and play. It doesn’t take a big commitment or any money to get friends to play with you. And with all that, we know we can make an amazing game that is light and browser based, without sacrificing graphics or content. We’ve looked, there isn’t anything like City of Steam out there, we could really change what people can expect from a browser game.
Indie Game HQ: What caused your team to choose the Unity engine over other alternatives?
Gabriel: Admittedly, it was a risk we took. We chose Unity around the time it was starting out, saw a lot of potential in it, and took a gamble. Fortunately, Unity kept updating and adding new features as we learned more about it. Unity and City of Steam evolved together nicely in that respect.
Indie Game HQ: The Steam-o-Meter is a rather interesting tracker, but if certain levels are not unlocked is there still a chance those features are eventually added to the game?
Gabriel: Of course! They are features we are planning and working on for later on, such as Open Beta, but with enough social and financial support from our fans, we’re happy to push ourselves to get more out early for them to play with in Closed Beta. Considering how certain additions, like dwarves especially, have been anticipated for a long time, we’ve seen an amazing response from our community, from both old and new fans!
Indie Game HQ: Now that FemGab has been unlocked at the 1 million mark, can we assume the developer at the 2 million mark will do something twice as embarrassing?
Gabriel: We still have to piece together some final touches for the FemGab Cosplay (pictures coming soon, by the way). For the next humiliation, set on Andrew, we will be dressing him up as a goblin…. girl… with green makeup and all. Probably even make him do an embarrassing “cute” pose as well. It should be really funny (well, for us at least).
Indie Game HQ: What sorts of items can be purchased with Electrum?
Gabriel: A mix of convenience and aesthetic items. To keep this fair though (unlike games with a pay-2-win model), any usable items (mods, consumables, etc) that can be purchased in the Electrum shop can also be gained from drops or earned from completing certain challenges. They are still rare, hence their Electrum value, but not exclusive to paying players only. The only thing we would make exclusive would be aesthetic items and perhaps some additional quest content above and beyond the main storyline.
Indie Game HQ: How many characters can a single account have?
Gabriel: In Closed Beta, a single account can hold up to 5 characters.
Indie Game HQ: How much of an emphasis is placed on multiplayer? Can friends of separate nations team up?
They can indeed! Nations/races in City of Steam are more to determine your character’s personal storyline rather than allegiance or prejudice against other player types. You can team up with anyone else in the game, despite their race or Company (guild).
Indie Game HQ: How vast is the World Machine? Seeing as there are 4 nations and 10 suburbs there must be a lot to explore.
Gabriel: Well, City of Steam itself takes place in Nexus, an immense metropolis at the center of the World Machine. That doesn’t mean, however, that there is little to explore; on the contrary! Each suburb has its own selection of dungeons and instances, quests to complete, and mysteries to uncover. The variety in suburb environment and dungeon landscapes varies plentifully; you never feel like you’re just roaming a vast and unchanging area all the time.
Indie Game HQ: What are the consequences of death in City of Steam?
Gabriel: Nothing rage-quit worthy, trust me. If you die, you are presented with 3 choices: you can either re-spawn at the same location with a Cardiotonic potion (if you have found any), or if you have none, you can pay some Electrum to do the same. From there, you are fully healed and can continue your dungeon delving. The third option teleports you back to the last suburb you were in for free. You lose no items, XP or money, but you do have to start the dungeon over from the beginning if you choose to go again (but hey, more loot, right?).
As for death in PvP, you may lose a win and a bit of dignity, but no one’s going to run off with your treasured gear. There is much to gain from winning in PvP, but not at the other player’s expense… well maybe some bragging rights.
Indie Game HQ: Will there be a save system or can a player freely exit the game without risk of losing progress?
Gabriel: Your progress is saved automatically. Even if your browser decides to be a pain and crash on you, you’ll have retained your progress up to that point. If you were in a dungeon and quit in the middle of a fight, you’ll start over at the last entrance you took of that dungeon when you log back in (so you won’t get swarmed by re-spawned mobs once you get back)
Indie Game HQ: Is there a chance we see the game optimized for use on Linux as well as tablets?
Gabriel: For Linux, that depends on the Unity developers, as OS compatibility relies on the engine itself. For tablets, we have weighed the possibility, though considering the scope of the game, we’d be more likely to develop companion apps to City of Steam rather than focus on optimizing the entire game for mobile devices.
Indie Game HQ: Thanks for your time. Is there anything you would like to add for our readers?
Gabriel: Indeed! Swing by for our second Closed Beta season on Nov. 30th for the inclusion of dwarves as a playable race! This, as well as other features, get pushed earlier into game development with support from our fans, so giving our Steam-o-Meter a push gets you extra content for the playtest. We are also very receptive to player feedback, and welcome you all to join our community and chat with us!
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