Artizens is a Kickstarter-hopeful co-op game in which you roam 2D landscapes, murder gigantic creatures in elaborate boss-battles, and use their grisly gubbins to craft new items and weapons. And to ensure that your loot retains a suitably heroic individuality, players can draw every bit of it themselves. As someone who moonlights as an illustrator, this excites me a great deal. As someone who has seen how user-generated content usually manifests in games, I am also a little scared. Oh god, the penises. So many penises. I talked to Kai Skye, co-founder and programmer, about the shape of this online adventure, their ambitions for item trading and how best to fend off the potential wangalanche.
As with any game featuring user generated content, there's a risk the game will be quickly filled with offensive material - are you thinking of implementing any sort of moderation system or peer review?
This is an important issue that has been on our minds since we started developing Artizens. On one hand, we feel that it is not the dev team's place to impose any value judgement on how our players want to enjoy the game. On the other hand, we cannot allow content that personally insults or harms any of our players.
Some games choose to require custom content to be approved by a moderator before being able to appear in-game. However, we don't like this because we expect that the majority of our players will be creating appropriate and interesting content. It is not fair for us to force them to go through an approval process before they can enjoy their creations. We want players to be playing as their custom character right away.
Instead, our plan is to have a two level system, which includes, (1) immediate personal hiding, and, (2) flagging for permanent takedown. Personal hiding allows you to select individual players and revert offensive gear to its default appearance. This is extremely fast, easy to do, and still allows you to play alongside those players. Flagging allows you to report a player for direct moderator action. This is appropriate for violent images and hate symbols that are against our terms of service.
We feel that this simple two-level approach will be sufficient for early versions of the game. As our community grows, we'll be looking for feedback about how we can make moderation more effective without imposing constraints on our players' creativity.
Can you talk a little about how you envisage trading? Will it be in-game currency or is there any hint of real money transactions a la Steam Workshop?
Trading in Artizens happens in town at the trading post. It will be entirely community driven, meaning that all of the materials, drawings, and gear are placed into the market by players and traded among players.
To facilitate trading, we have an in-game currency called shinies. You will start off with shinies that you can spend on items at the trading post or new expansions to the game. While playing, you can earn shinies from the community by selling your creations to other players at the trading post. New shinies are added to the economy by purchasing them with real money.
In Artizens, you don't earn objectively better items over time. Instead, the items you earn become more specialized in fighting certain monsters and more complex in how they can be used. We want players to purchase items on the trading post because they are excited about having a cool appearance or trying a new playstyle and never because it gives them an unfair advantage.
What's the process of getting a drawing into the game?
Getting your drawing into the game starts by deciding on the piece of gear you want to customize. Each piece of gear has its own canvas and default look that you draw on top of. This lets us keep the hitboxes in the game consistent with what you draw and prevents game-breaking drawings such as entirely invisible characters.
In the early versions of Artizens, players will go into the Workshop to download a template file for their piece of gear that they can draw on top of. Players can use an image editor of their choice and we'll make it easy for players to launch a free image editor directly from the game. In the future, we may create an in-game drawing tool to make this process easier and faster.
Finally, when you're ready, you can upload your image to the game through the Workshop. As soon as the upload completes, the item will appear in your character preview, and you're ready to go!
You've emphasised the customisation aspect - but how does the adventure game side work? What's the structure of the world - is it a series of sidescrolling levels connected by a hub? Is there an order to them? How does multiplayer work in comparison to something like Monster Hunter or an MMO?
You start off in our hub town where you can see and chat with many other players. The town includes player apartments and workshops, the trading post, and mission headquarters. When you go to mission HQ, you can team up with three other players who are in town and pick a mission instance to go on.
In mission HQ, you choose a mission from a list of semi-random missions that take place in different locations. You'll only have a small number of them available and they'll be different each time you go to mission HQ. You can increase your rank by successfully completing missions, which unlocks harder monsters and greater rewards.
Missions are composed of 10 or so interconnected side-scrolling arenas. They are non-linear, so there are many ways you can get from one arena to another. Monsters will move among the arenas, run away, chase you, etc. so the play in these locations will be pretty dynamic. You can carefully prepare for a fight by setting up traps and waiting for the monsters to come to you, or you can charge in with your team and take the monsters down.
Is there an intention of having community created levels and monsters at a later stage?
This is certainly something that the Artizens team would like to have at a later stage. For now we are focusing on perfecting the missions that are available at launch.
Although you can't create monsters to fight yet, you can customize friendly monsters and have them play alongside you as pets. There are also Kickstarter rewards available for working on game content alongside the team, from designing a new weapon all the way up to designing a mission with us.
The boss battles in the video seemed a lot more complex than simply chipping away at a health bar - can you describe in some more depth how combat works?
Fighting against engaging and dynamic monsters is a huge part of playing Artizens. Monsters move from arena to arena, so you'll have to keep track of where they go, and strategize about how to approach them. Each monster has its own abilities and attack patterns that you'll have to learn to defeat. Monsters can be crippled and their body parts can even be destroyed if they take too much damage. As the fight progresses, monsters may become more aggressive, or alternatively, become weaker and start limping.
Players who are skilled at movement and aiming can target a monster's weak points to gain an advantage.Weapons have different types of attacks that are more effective against some monsters than others. There are weapons for close hand-to-hand combat and long range projectile weapons. We have gear for exciting fast-paced movement abilities such as dashing and teleportation.
Does the co-op aspect play heavily into the tactics required for taking down a beastie?
We're a big fan of co-op games that require good teamwork in order to succeed. In Artizens we'll have a variety of different types of missions that encourage teamwork, from fighting monsters, to escorting friendly characters, and finding hidden treasures while avoiding monsters.
There will be many support abilities that apply buffs to allies and debuffs to monsters. Monsters can be inflicted with status ailments, such as stun, which gives your teammates a chance to land their critical strikes. Like in Monster Hunter, if you coordinate your attacks, it's possible to create some very fun openings when fighting monsters.