abc
Podcast 1 (Q&A) by: Forged Chaos
 

Podcast of 14 january 2013 (Q&A)

transcribed by Ildefonse

Please let me know of any inaccuracies or mistakes.

Since the referral competition is no longer in effect, have you considered or come up with alternative plans for doling out starting settlements?

Yes, we have a possible solution that we're working on. It wont be as automated as the referral system we had in place, but we certainly want to give everybody the best possibilty of winning one of these cities based on the amount of people they bring in. It might be more manual, but we certainly want to help those that are helping us by bringing in more people.

I've seen ingame screenshots ages ago, are they still correct?

No, they're not. They're actually very dated. Compared to what we have now, they certainly show their age. Don't get me wrong, the engine and the graphics at the time were ok, but even the screenshots that we showed were pre-alpha. The screenshots that we can generate now will pretty much blow those away.

How will the inventory function?

The inventory is going to be pretty straightforward, the typical one square per item sort of thing. But we will only give you so many squares and everyting will have a weight, so you will basically be dealing with volume and weight at the same time.

Will your inventory be visible to the outdoor world or exposed to other players in any way?

If you mean that when you equip a backpack it will be shown to the world, the answer right now to that is no. But if you mean can other people see into your inventory, then yes, via skill.

Will your inventory influence your ability to sneak, run or jump?

Yes, through encumberance. Your encumberance will impact a lot of your actionable abilities.

Trials of Ascension is much older than Sword Art Online, but have you drawn any inspiration from the series or are the similarities merely a coincidence?

Considering we've never heard of it, no. We didn't hear about it until we started to get the members influx through their videos. But it's certainly an interesting series and I can see some relation, but no, there was no influence there.

Is there day and night in TerVarus?

Absolutely, the day is going to be very bright and the nights are going to be very dark. We've actually been testing the light levels of the night and all I can say is, don't forget to bring a bunch of torches.

Varl: You know all those games you always wanted to play where it was dark? You thought it was going to be dark and you'd grab a torch, but then you'd say "I don't really need these…", well you're gonna need them in ToA.

How is ToA pronounced?

It is pronounced tee-oh-a, not "Toa". "Toa" sounds kind of cool, but yes, use the acronym.

How are innovations determined?

Simply, by us. We'll determine every innovation that goes into the game. If it's a grand innovation, a small innovation, a stacked innovation or a series of innovations that will need one another. Then, we'll put them into a pool and as they're drawn out they're drawn out.

Could say something about the reputation standing with settlements?

Your character will have a reputation standing with each settlement and the NPC's and PC's within. So the more bad things you do to citizens of a settlement the lower your reputation is going to fall to. At a certain threshold you become kill-on-sight to that settlement. Your reputation will always try to go back to neutral when you're in negative, but it's gonna take a very long time and in the mean time you'd best stay out of that settlement.

Will all characters in game have their name above their heads? What are your plans regarding character identity?

I don't want to get into the user interface of it, but we're not going to have floating names. For the most part you're going to have to mouse over someone to see who they are, unless they're very close to you. It is kind of implied that if someone is close to you and you've already named them, that their name will potentially come up. Obviously, that's limited by line of sight, so if somebody is behind a tree, you're not going to see their name.

Will the death counter be viewable somewhere?

Absolutely. We're not going to make you guess. We understand permanent death is going to be challenging enough for some people, so we don't want you to be on the edge of your seat every time you die, wondering if you're going to come back or not.

Can you expand a bit on the currency system and NPC merchants?

First, it seems like there is a misunderstanding about our NPC's. We're going to have two types of NPC's: guards and merchants. Merchants, they do not carry an infinite amount of money or inventory, they're actually run and stocked by player characters. So whatever the player characters can put on those NPC's is what you will be able to buy, and that's it.

You will be able to sell to those merchant NPC's based on what their boss, the player character, tells them to buy. And of course the NPC has to have the proper amount of coinage on them to buy your items.

That taken care off, there will be no settlement minting. Creatures are not going to be dropping gold, unless it makes very good sense for them to have gold in the first place. We're essentially running a gold-silver-copper system.

You guys might be surprised to know that the majority of the money is going to come out of the ground, through mining.

Are players required to name their characters when they create them?

Yes.

Are names going to be unique?

Unique naming is not in the system, because everybody names each other, so there is no real need for a unique name. We won't be locking (used) names.

Has working so close with the community made things easier or more difficult?

I'm only going to speak for myself, but this time around we're looking to crowd source versus hunting for a publisher. And that changes a lot of aspect as far as public relations and dealing with people in general about your designs goes. Again, I can only speak for myself, but it's much more freeing to be more transparant with you guys. Understand, I always have to walk a balance between keeping some things close to the chest. Not just out of complex or ego, but trade secrets as wel.

I love sharing stuff with you guys, we've shown you guys more in the three months that we've been live with the website now than the whole time we've been live last time.

In addition, your input has been fantastic. We couldn't ask for a better community. I haven't had to ban one person, I haven't even had to warn somebody yet. So you guys have definitely made it much, much easier. Thank you for that.

What do you plan on the in-game technology ceiling being as far as real life technology goes?

First of all, there is not going to be any gunpowder. No black powder, no explosions, no guns. That rule won't change. Outside of that, we haven't really determined how far we're going to go technologically.

This game is based on medieval times and we want to keep it as true to that as we can. At least for the foreseeable timeframe.

Will it be possible to somehow secure a stash completely without ever worrying about someone breaking into it?

Your best bet for a secure container would be a treasury within a settlement. A treasury will be run by the settlement and it can charge you a rental fee for your vault. That's up to the settlement ruler, to set that pricing and how much they want to offer in terms of space. But treasuries are actually going to be very hard to take down.

Buildings can only be destroyed by siege weapons, they can't be chewed away by melee combat or a bunch of arrows or anything crazy like that. That breaks the realism bubble a bit, but for sake of gameplay, we're okay with that.

So the best bet is to get yourself a treasury built at the settlement you're in. And you don't need to be a citizen to rent a space in the treasury either. So store your stuff there. It can't be looted either, thieves can't steal from your personal space there. The only way to get to the items within is to destroy the treasury.

It probably goes without saying, but treasuries are going to be one of the strongest buildings. They're like real world banks, built like vaults.

Where will people be able to spawn the first time the servers come up?

You'll be able to spawn in one of the four starting settlements or the Monolith. The Monolith will always be an option for people to spawn, but the rulers of the settlements can shut of the new player spawn option at any time if they don't want any new citizens or anyone spawning there as a new character. But again, the Monolith will always be an option.

What if all four starting settlement owners shut off the ability to spawn in their settlements?

Then everybody spawns at the Monolith.

Can you build your own house without being part of a settlement?

Yes, you can. You're not going to be able to build it within a settlement border, because the only way to do that is to build it on a plot of land that you've purchased from the settlement. But you can certainly try to build a building out in the wilderness.

Personally, I would advise against it. It can only be destroyed by siege weapons, but you will have no protection of the settlement. You can't post guards around it or anything like that, and we all have to sleep, so…. But yes, you can.

Can you tell us a bit about what happened between 2007-2012? What's the story behind the change in name from Shadowpool to Forged Chaos?

That could be a whole podcast in itself. During our Shadowpool days we got pretty far with our prototype. Unfortunately, WoW came out and everybody wanted to be a clone. They wanted to clone their success, which I completely understand, but all the investors and publishers that we talked to, that's what they were looking for and they didn't like how we were so different. Well, it's not that they didn't like it, but rather we were too big of a risk because we weren't mainstream enough. We weren't following in the industries footsteps.

And I guess now, in retrospect, I take that as a badge of honour. Because we're actually coming into our own now, now that the industry has been saturated with those types of design. And that's not to say that we didn't get offers from publishers. We did get offers, but they just weren't something that we could agree to.

So I guess let this be a lesson to anybody who thinks that we put money before our designs -- we don't. We feel very strongly about our desings. That's why, when Varl brought the idea of Kickstarter up to us, at first, honestly I blew the idea off. But then I started looking at the power of Kickstarter. Kickstarter is nothing but a vehicle that allows people like you guys to fund people like us. So after a lot of conversations, we said why not, let's give it a shot, and we went to work streamlining our design.

Loestri: Yes, we had to work on it because it was just too large. We couldn't secure funding for something that large. It would have cost more than anyone would probably pay for an MMO today. Too many features, too much bloat. So we ended up streamlining the design down to its core elements and that's what we're trying to release today.

That's also why instead of offering expansions, we will slowly be putting back the features that we were not able to get into the game at launch at later dates. Eventually, we hope to get ToA to the glory that it should be, to the dream that we all had it to be.

Varl: And the streamlines that we've implemented through Forged Chaos with this iteration of ToA are so much better than what we conceived of during Shadowpool. I think the simplicity of the systems themselves are just incredible. Not just because I'm on the team, but some of the brainstorms that we've had, some of the ideas and systems we've come up with, to me are just amazing.

Brax: We've really taken the less is more approach. That's pretty obvious by our design; no mini map, that sort of thing.

To address why a different company name; for legal reasons and a number of other reasons. We still had ties to things as far as licensing goes.

Another topic, let it be known that we have sank a tremendous about of money and an incredible amount of time, both into Shadowpool and now into Forged Chaos. And over those years, I've told these guys before, I feel kind of blessed that we had the time off, because it slowed us down, we got to do our own thing. We still hung out, we still played games together and everything else, but it let our designs from Shadowpool kind of marinate if you will. From that, we pulled the much more streamlined, easier to implement systems. But don't let that fool you, those easier to implement systems are just as robust and fun to play as the old ways. We just came up with much better ways of doing it. We've learned from our old ways, we have experience.

Anyway, I found the name Forged Chaos, and we thought it kind of fit, because I'm a big PvP'er and we like to forge chaos no matter where we go :)

Varl: I'm not a big PvP'er, so we kind of yin-yang each other here. I'm more of a crafter. Brax calls me a carebear… whatever.

Brax: Well, let it be known that Varl has beat me in PvP in other games before so… he's too humble ;)

What do you plan to do in case some aspects of the game need to be balanced and how would you introduce these balance changes?

Well, in one word, organically. We're going to hold the nerf back as much as we can. We do understand, and hopefully more mature players also understand, that sometimes we're certainly fallable. We might get some things wrong, we'll back it out if we have to. But the whole idea is to tweak our issues with increments, not to ramp the dial from a 2 to a 10. We want to go from a 2 to a 3, see what it's like, then a 3 to a 4, see what it's like. And that's in the non-critical problems. Mind you, if we find there's a critical bug, we're going to be all over it.

We're going to balance over powering organically, and not "in your face". Like I said, sometimes that'll be the case and we will just have to do that. But know that for the most part we'll be looking at the incremental approach first.

Do you plan to do something about over-achievers or power gamers, if they find ways of getting things (skill gain, becoming a mage or adult dragon) faster than you intended?

Yes, we'll kill them. ;)

Well, my first thought is perma death. They're going to be racing along just like everybody else. But if they're over-achievers or power gamers if you will, they're going to be playing the game just as much as anybody else, and at a more intense level. Which means, death will probably find them more, which means that character will come to an end faster.

That aside, we'll be watching. We'll have algoritms in mind to monitor general stats of people that'll flag us if skill gain is showing to be at an unacceptable rate, that sort of thing. We can then follow up with an investigation, mainly for the macroers or someone that's found an exploit. We try to think of everything, but know that we probably won't either, so we'll be ready to counter balance things. Again, organically.

Are you willing to make big changes to the balancing of the game if the need arises or will you be afraid to anger the players?

I've never been afraid to anger you guys ;)

We'll do what's right. We won't listen to the squeakiest wheel. We'll do what's right by our vision, and what serves the followers of that vision the best.

What are you proudest of so far?

Well, where we're at. When we jumped into Shadowpool, we knew just about nothing about game design and development. Nobody can dispute that we took our lumps (?). We launched too early, we launched the website too early, we started with 36 races… It's just insane, what we were thinking of back then.

We were trying to get everything under the sun into the design. But now, we've grown, we've learned, we've experienced. We know there is a fine balance  between a perfect design and feasibility. Within a matter of months, we're a very long ways compared to three or four months of Shadowpool.

Varl: Conceptually, we are vastly further along that what we were with Shadowpool, because of the streamlining of the systems that we've implemented. There's really no comparison.

And I'm also proud of how we've been re-accepted. I was very nervous. I can't speak for Varl and Loestri, but I was very nervous on how we were going to be perceived; you know, like "Oh, this is a failed company coming back again". But, you guys believe in the design. And we want you to believe in us.

Varl: I think we all agree that we're going to be much more open this time around too, with the fans, which helps.

Loestri: And our willingness not to let the dream die, I think that's a big part of our character. We see something in the game we all want to play, and we think the public is ready for the change. There's so much stagnation in the MMO world today, that we need to have Trials of Ascension. We need to have a game that we can have more fun in. To experience new things, to try out new ideas, to be surprised… And fear, the fear factor in ToA is going to be incredible compared to other MMO's.

Varl: There is no fear in other MMO's for the most part, other than maybe fear of minor setbacks. With that fear comes fun. Pulse racing.

Brax: Exactly. I know we're getting way off topic here, but what the hell. My first MMO was just a month after UO had launched, and my hands used to shake when I would get into fights. Almost so bad that I couldn't control the mouse. And I thought, what in the hell is wrong with me. But it was the adrenaline, it was the rush, and no game, no game, not even the game right after that, Everquest, matched it, because everybody started being cared for on a level that was unacceptable to me. You can't have a winner without a loser, that's the bottom line. Not that we want people to be losers, but that's just a cold hard fact.

We were making an analogy a number of months ago when the olympics were happening. Imagine if the olympics were a lot of the MMO's of today; everybody would get a medal. What fun would that be to watch? It's just not right. And that's where we're at. That's what we want players that follow ToA to get back to. That feeling of winning really means something, and losing really means something.

Do you have any crafting skill sets like cooking, smithing, that require real world skills, like knowing how to cook?

No, we're not going to expect you to know how to sword fight in order to sword fight in ToA.

Could you explain how money is funnelled into the economy, assuming NPC's will not have infinite amounts of money?

Basically, there aren't going to be NPC's with money. The only money they'll have, is what the players put on them to purchase things for them. Zero standing merchant NPC's with money, zero civilised merchants that will just stand there and take your goods all day in return for money. That's not an option, simple as that.

What mechanics do you have planned for bows and crossbows?

Pretty simply - point and shoot. You have a radical, the radical is going to be very simple in design. It won't be this big flamboyant thing, because we don't want the interface to get in the way of the world, so to speak. But you do need to know where you're aiming. With that said, your accuracy is not going to be perfect. In fact, it's going to suck at low levels. We're going to have a cone of accuracy, that's invisible to you guys, but when you shoot an arrow it's basically going to land within that cone. And that cone of accuracy is going to get smaller as you advance in skill, therefore making your arrows much more precise at where you're trying to aim them.

Even when you're an extreme master with the bow, there's always going to be some margin of error.

As you fire bolts or arrows, will they be retrievable?

No, we can't track that number of objects in the game. Those just go away, at this point.

How do you plan on implementing swimming? Will it be a skill you have to learn? And how would you go about learning how to swim?

You'll learn how to swim by swimming, just like all of our other skills. You'll jump in the water and stay really close to where you can at least touch bottom if you get in trouble. So yes, swimming will be a skill. And this goes back to the "less is more" philosophy. Other games, everybody can swim. It's a given. Think of the opportunities that they're missing with that. You're running from bandits, and you come across a river. And you jump right into the river and swim across, because you have swimming. The bandits, half of them don't. So all of a sudden you lose half of the people that are chasing you, because they can't swim. And either they drown, or they know it and they stop. So you get to use the terrain as your friend or your foe. But when you have everybody that can swim automatically, you lose that. And I think that's sad.

Are there any plans to implement throwing weaponry?

Absolutely we're going to have throwing weapons. They're their own skill.

Will there be animal taming?

Yes, you'll be able to own and tame animals.

How will siege weaponry be crafted?

In parts. You'll have to individually build each part and then assemble those parts, on station. As it stands right now, our catapults don't have wheels.

What type of weaponry do you have planned for launch?

All your typical weaponry of medieval times; swords, axes, maces, pole arms, daggers, throwing weapons, crossbows, bows.

Will beta tests still use a separate island?

No, that idea was to prevent people from knowing TerVarus before it was time, but we've come to realise that we need you guys running around every nook and cranny of it, trying to help us find any problems with the terrain and that sort of thing. And bugs, of course. Terrain bugs, that sort of thing.

Will being a priest-like character with healing be possible?

Healing, yes. Priest, no. We've cut the religion system for launch, but we certainly want to bring that back at some point. But yes, you will be able to heal. Not through magics, it will be through salves and skill.

Will there be mini games? Especially if a pub is created, like darts of arm wrestling?

As much as I love the idea, we have to say no at the time being. Our plate is full. Trust me, as soon as we can, I'd love to have pub games like darts and cards. A lot of people like that.

How will character recognition work with people that attack you? How will I be able to name someone if they knock me unconscious first?

This is a great question, frankly, because it's not 100% determine yet. But as of right now, you won't be able to name anybody when you're unconscious, because you really won't see anybody. We'll probably disable parts of the interface so that you can't name them. That doesn't mean they're not subject to reputation penalty, because that's a game mechanic that's going to happen regardless.Right now, you can't name someone when you're unconscious, but that could change.

Will you be able to place markers on the map for places of interest?

That is another great idea, but right now no. The map is static at this point. I'm sure we're going to put that on the post-launch list though.

If someone walked without stopping, how long would it take them to reach the city closest to them?

Depends on where they're at, if they're already in the city then they don't have to go anywhere ;)
But it depends on how far away from the settlement they are. To give you an example (we talked a little bit about this on the forums), Varl and I did some test runs to check the world size. I gave him about 5 minutes to get from one settlement to the next, and in about 38 minutes he called it quits and asked me for help. He got lost a number of times, he lost a life counter. It's rough to say. I think you guys are in for a treat, I think it's going to be a shock at first, because of what the industry has really drilled into you: "here's a minimal, here's a map of the world, here's exactly where you are at any given time", basically GPS. We're the total opposite. You aren't going to get a minimal, you're only going to get directional headings if you have a compass on you. You won't know exactly where in the world you are. And this test by the way was done with almost no flora involved. It was just the terrain.

Varl: I'm telling you guys, I was turned around. I thought that I knew my world that I was making. It was amazing to experience actually, because I thought I was heading south-east and Brax is following me and I'm like, are you sure I'm going south-east? Got all turned around, and he told me I was heading West or something. What?! There's no way, I thought I was heading south-east, I know it! ;)

Will players be able to create paths or roads between settlements over time?

No, not right now. We'll certainly look into allowing you guys to lay down special models that essentially resemble roads, but that's in the future.

Can you give us an example of the power of magic?

Kaboom! In a word, great. You will be a force to be reckoned with, that probably can't be matched by any warrior, any thief. The balance there, is in getting there. If you're going to play a mage, and I've stated this very clearly, you're gonna die and you're gonna die a lot. And you probably won't make it.

And when I say make it, I mean possibly not even to your first spell. But, that's how we're balancing it. We want to lead out the people that think they want magic until they try magic, versus the people that really want it.

But to give you an example of the power of magic, I would say it's a safe bet that if you research a particular spell, like a destructive kind of spell, and you cast it on a party, chances are you could flatten the whole party. Depending on how skilful you are, of course. If you've mastered that spell, then yes, you could be a group eraser.

Varl: But just like the dragon, the trip to get there will be hard and long. I actually didn't want it as tough as Brax envisioned it, but I came around. I realised, if you're going to have magic in the game, it's got to be worth going after. The trip to get there can't be easy, you have to work for it.

Loestri: We don't want to have a game with some magic-rich environment, because magic then just becomes like a light show. Everyone in the world can cast a spell, and it really would become commonplace and unimaginative. If you look at a world where magic is very rare, and very difficult to learn, but yet has great power, then it becomes something that is worth achieving, but again it's going to be a difficult road to follow, and there won't be a lot of mages out there. And that's how we want it. It's not necessarily a balance thing so much, as it is just defining the world that we want to play in . And I think by eliminating the magic, apart from those that are really dedicated to go out and get it, we're going to accomplish that and I think that's a good thing.

Varl: And by powerful, when it comes to magic by the way, doesn't simply mean destructive. It could be beneficial as well. Magic that allows people to achieve things that doesn't mean blowing up a village to get it. Power is pretty widespread in that regard, so it doesn't only mean blowing things up.

Can you move into a house, and if that is so, can you choose to live with a friend or a partner?

Yes, you can move into a house that isn't yours, so long as you have the permission to do it. We're going to have a permission system on housing, pretty much anything that is large and ownable, like a house, buildings, wagons (when they come into the game), mine shafts that you place, ships. We have, what I'm seeing as a very robust permissions system. In other words "this person can live here", or "this person can have access to this door", without breaking the law.

But just because you don't have permission to enter a house, that doesn't mean that you can't break into a house. Same with ship, or anything like that. Steal a wagon, steal a horse, steal a ship. All those possibilities are definitely in the game.

What would be the level cap?

First of all, we don't have levels. We have skills. We're not going to tell you the number of the skill that you're on. We're completely anti min-maxer. You will be given a title, like "Apprentice", "Journeyman", "Expert", that sort of thing, and you'll have a progress bar under each title showing you how close you are to the next title. There is technically a cap for every skill, but again, we're not giving you the numbers, we're not going to tell you what that cap is. You'll know it when you reach that title. That said, good luck getting there. The cap is really high, and progression slows down a lot before you get there.

How will navigating the environment be like in terms of hotboxes for debris, rocks, trees?

Probably just how you think. You'll collide with trees, boulders, houses, just about every object in the game, including other players and NPC's and creatures as well.

Would you be able to climb up higher slopes, or will you simple keep walking in place like in other games?

Loestri: Well, we're going to have terrain that's too steep to climb. We had a choice to make with the Hero engine. To make a completely seamless world, where you can go in any direction at any time, or to, well… let's take a couple of steps back. Seamless means different things to different people. I define it as, no loading screens. It doesn't mean you can go in any direction at any time, it simply means when you move into another area you're not hit by a loading screen. Things are loading in the background as you move into the area. Any kind of load screens, we're going to keep them to an absolute minimum. But that said, we have to build the world in a way where you can't go in any direction for as long as you want. We have to design the world in such a way that it keeps you within the area that we've built. And that's where a lot of the terrain comes from that's impassable, to keep you within the world. Technically, the Hero engine allows us to create a planet the size of Earth. But I don't think you'll like the subscription rate to support such a thing ;)

Varl: And the time it takes for us to get it out ;)

Brax: Now that said, since we're talking about areas, the world is turning out to be much larger than you realize. We talk about this a lot here. When you don't have a map, and you don't have a compass, the world gets very large, very quickly. But that's a good thing, you get to know your local area. That opens up a whole industry of guides and local knowledge, I think that's great.

Actually just the night before the podcast I was showing the guys a new place that I've been sculpting, and I got lost. And I've been sculpting it for the last day or two. So I guess to sum it up, don't worry about the world feeling boxed in. It doesn't have that feel, it truly doesn't. We've got volcanoes, we've got high mountains, we've got valleys and swamps, lots of forest, jungle, plains, deserts, scrublands, you name it. We've got arctic, and we've got a number of easter eggs in there for you already. The point being, don't get hung up so much on the fact that you come up against impassable terrain. It's there by design.

Will we have crouch and prone positions?

Yes, you will be able to crouch.

Will we have clothes that have the same colour as the environment?

You see, that's the problem. Because of budget, we're going to make everything in hot pink. ;)
I'm kidding, yeah, your colours will certainly be able to be hued in various different shades.

Tell us a bit more about unconsciousness?

Well, when you hit zero hit points you go unconscious. We have a stat that will determine when you cross from unconsciousness to death. The more damage you took before you went unconscious just means your closer to death. Which also means it will take you longer to wake up from unconsciousness. So basically, if you had 1 hit point and somebody came up to you and just poked you a little bit, you're going to be unconscious for a couple of seconds. If somebody came up and they hit you with a mace up side your head, then chances are you're going to be unconscious for quite a bit longer.

Have you decided to abandon the old IRC Q&A's in favour for podcasts?

At this point, we don't know. I will admit it's much easier to talk about this than to type about it. But no, we'll probably jump into IRC from time to time. I don't know if we'll full on chat about it, I mean shoot, we might just do a Skype and invite everybody to listen to us. We're not sure at this point.

How will characters whose players have gone offline be handled? Will they stay in the world and wait? Or will they vanish?

The logout method is very simple actually. When you hit logout, you'll sit down and you won't be able to take any actions for a certain amount of time, say 15 to 30 seconds. If you do take any action or damage during that time, it will reset your timer.

You will not be able to initiate the logout sequence if you've been in combat within the last X number of minutes. So you can't run away from bandits, run around a tree and just log out. Or you can't just hit ALT-F4 and escape.

Will there be a diverse amount of crafting ingredients found in the world? And items pertaining to medicines and poisons?

Yes, almost everything you'll find for your crafting stuff will be out in the world. Medicine and poisons, yes, there's going to be stuff for those. We don't have a lot planned as far as poison goes right now, it is in the design in a very simple format, but we want to really kind of go bonkers with the poison. Different effects and that sort of stuff. The majority of the ingredients will be plant based. But almost all of it you will be able to find out in the world, be it flora or fauna.

What skills are planned for launch?

We have roughly 35 skills right now, that's up from 32 that I've posted on the website. Your standard stuff. There's combat skills, general skills and crafting skills. Magic is not a skill itself. You learn it much like the rest of the skills, by use, but it runs under its own system.

How will you connect with friends without global chat if they're not in the same area?

In a word, you won't. That's why we say, if you've got friends, make sure you all live in the same settlement. Make sure you all are based form the same area within the settlement. A tavern, a bar, a house. Absolutely no global chat.

Out of game, it doesn't matter to use. Log in to your Teamspeak or Ventrillo server, chat away all you want.

Will the game be available on a Mac?

As is planned right now, no. I would say look for that as one of the stretch goals. We do recognise there are a lot more Mac users out there than there used to be, and we want to be able to allow as many people as possible to play. That said, a lot of the macs can have Bootcamp of virtual machines installed, with which you can run either Mac OS X or Windows. And I don't see why ToA wouldn't work in the Windows boot-up.

How do you plan to handle different time zones with respect to settlement warfare?

What we used to call the 3AM ninja raids. Pretty brave statement, but I think we've pretty much eliminated that, in the way of being able to go in one fell swoop and take over a settlement at 3AM. The way you conquer a settlement, it's going to take a minimum of days, if not weeks, of back and forths. So the idea of running in there and wreaking havoc, you could try, but we're giving defenders just about every advantage. Even something as simple as a wall, that you can't go over. And NPC guards, which will be pretty powerful. They'll be able to hold their own, and they don't sleep ;)

Is it possible not to be part of a settlement in any way?

Yes, you don't have to be a part of any settlement. You can wander from settlement to settlement like a caravaner, or if you don't want to be associated with anyone, you certainly can. You probably won't be able to own a house or land or anything like that, because that's all bound to citizenship, but do what you want.

Varl: You can go rogue if that's what you're into, or wander, explore, whatever you can imagine.

Could there be laws denying access to inns or to settlements altogether to non-citizens?

This actually hits on a much bigger topic of "lord-griefing", settlement rulers that grief other people based off their power of owning a settlement. We have taken a lot of precautions when it comes to protecting citizens and even non-citizens from the lords of the settlements. But, there are mechanics in place (the settlement reputation system) where if you do enough bad things to the citizens of a particular settlement, then you will automatically be put on kill on sight. But as far as a lord specifically denying access to a particular player that doesn't have a negative reputation with the settlement, he can't really do that. A lord cannot target specific citizens or non citizens to essentially grief. Be it through taxing, or kill on sight, those sort of things.

We walk a fine line there and we realise that, but if you haven't done any harm to the settlement, they can't really do any harm to you without them answering to their own guards and their own laws.

What happens to your reputation standing in case of friendly fire?

The reputation system is going to allow for error. Things are going to happen. That's why the reputation system is going to allow for a couple of hiccups, essentially. It's one thing to accidentally hurt a friendly, versus hurting 4 or 5 friendlies in a very short amount of time.

Will there be an option to build a tree house? Will climbing a tree and hiding up there be possible?

No, not at this time.

When do we get to learn more about the world, as far as weather, location, geography goes?

We'll release a lot of that in time. We've got weather planned, we've got weather specced out. We'll deliver that as soon as we can.

Will we be able to upgrade weapons to improve their stats?

Upgrade, no. But weapons will certainly come in different qualities. But they're not going to have the effect that you may have come to expect from other MMO's, where it makes your damage ten-fold. It'll let you do a little bit more damage or make you a little quicker, that sort of thing. We're looking at weapon quality improvements.

Loestri: They'll be minor improvements. We're not going to have the magical "+10".

Will there be an auction house?

No, there will be no auction houses, not at all. There will be no statically placed NPC merchants to buy and sell all your goods to and from. All merchants are PC driven, and they're only stocked with what those PC's put on them and will only buy what they tell them to buy. So you'll have to go door to door essentially, from shop to shop, and find the goods that you want, try to sell the ones you don't. So the economy is completely player driven.

What is the planned business model for the game?

We're going subscription. We've had long, long, long talks about the revenue model. We've waffled a bit back and forth between free-to-play and subscription, but we just feel that ToA best matches an audience that is willing to pay a subscription to keep things as pure to the game design as possible.

Will there be an open beta?

We certainly plan on having a closed beta. Whether we have an open one or not, we're still not sure at this point. If we need to, we certainly will. And we'll give preference to forum members before the general public.

The End