Shards Online: Alpha Launch This Week
Citadel Studios have announced that the alpha test for Shards Online will officially begin later this week:
We are excited to announce our official Alpha Launch date! Starting on January 13th, Shards Online will enter the next phase of development with our much anticipated Alpha Release Build. Those who have pledged $20 will be granted access to our Alpha servers on January 9th!
Access to our Live Test Shard is currently available to all Pre-Alpha Playtesters by using the Experimental build from the dashboard.
A summary of new features the alpha version will bring to the game can be found in the banner graphic to the right. Among the changes are an overhauled starting experience for new users, a minimap, an allegiance system to complement the game’s PvP experience, UI improvements, an overhauled resource system, and three new areas to explore.
There’s also going to be a European server opening up:
We are pleased to announce the upcoming launch of our Europa universe. Europa is a parallel universe on the Shards of Aria official shard. We hope these regions will improve the gameplay experience for our large and growing European audience. Players may move freely between these universes using the new Gatestone item, allowing players from both American & European continents to explore Celador together.
Meanwhile, project lead Derek Brinkmann has penned another letter, the main focus of which is what still needs to happen before Shards Online is ready for its appearance on Steam:
Based on the feedback we’ve received from our current playerbase, there are a few things that need to happen before we can consider ourselves ready for Steam.
- Larger world map: Celador our main game world is undergoing a redesign that will result in it being almost 25x larger and more diverse.
- Mounts: Tamed horses will be able to be mounted and ridden to allow for faster travel across the new expanded Celador.
- Archery: What fantasy game would be complete without bows and arrows?
We also have a programmer on the team who’s main priority is to expand and simplify the modding capabilities of the game.
One last bit of news, however, may be a point of controversy; someone who is more connected to the Shards Online community will have to explain how well this particular change — concerning crafting — has gone over:
Cosmetic items have taken on a new roll in modern MMORPGs. Mounts and other cosmetics are widely used to provide an extra inch of end game content. You’ll also find a wealth of these items used in micro-transactions, powering the free to play MMO market. Whilst both are viable models, as former UO players and developers we feel that the prestige and importance of these items has fallen way behind their former glory.
So what has changed? The recipe system has been removed and all basic craftables and furnishings have been made available to crafting characters. This includes all basic armor and weapon types and everday furnishings for your home. This leaves a large number of items which are being repurposed as rewards, rares and valuable items to be discovered by players across the game world.
To my eyes, this seems like a fairly significant upset of a key feature of MMORPGs. But, equally, it could be that my understanding is, shall we say, a bit old, and that what MMO players look for in a game has shifted significantly over the last few years. Are resource gathering and items crafting really on the way out?