The rough character models don't quite match the ambition of the concept art, but even so, Neo's Land has a real chance at success as a niche MMO. Canadian developer Neojac Entertainment has been accepting community ideas (and now with the launch of its Kickstarter campaign , money), and converting them into an MMO with a design-by-committee approach that has created what sounds a lot like a fantasy EVE Online: a subscription MMO with a simulated economy, open world PvP, non-instanced player buildings, and extensive crafting.
Before Neo's Land, Jacques Rossouw and a small team spent a couple years creating a server-side MMO engine called Atavism Online, which works with the popular Unity 3D engine. Now Rossouw plans to license the engine—which could lower the barrier for indie MMO development—and complete Neo's Land with the help of $100,000 CAD from Kickstarter.
"Neo's Land is a fantasy MMORPG where the community provides content and has a direct say over development and the state of the game," Rossouw tells PC Gamer. "They literally own the process of world-building and have a big impact on how the game is being developed. We're doing a series of roundtables. It's been said a few times by developers that the community can help build the game, but it's never been done at this scale."
According to Rossouw, "pretty much everything" will be up to the players. Neojac will create content, but the $100,000 in Kickstarter funds will be used to develop a "plug-in" system which allows for assets and concepts to be rapidly implemented. "We've done all the heavy lifting by developing the engine, and now all they have to do is put whatever they want in the game. Just tell us, and we'll put it in."
Even the business model was decided by community roundtables. "One of our roundtables was about monetization and how the players want to pay for it," says Rossouw. "You wouldn't believe the feedback in regards to this. Everyone is looking for—they don't want the free-to-play system anymore, which is directly the opposite of where everyone's saying the industry is going, but this is directly from our players. Everybody is getting to the point where they're a little tired, it seems, of free-to-play games. It allows a certain group of players into the game, and a certain way it's being played. A lot of people, the hardcore players, don't actually enjoy it that much.
"So, what we did is we implemented a subscription system, because that's what they were looking for. But they also wanted a little bit of freedom in regards to subscriptions. We're following something similar to EVE Online, where they have the PLEX system. You can generate in-game currency and pay for your subscriptions that way. It's a little bit of both worlds. You have the free-to-play system or something nearly to it there, if you spend enough time in the game, and you also have, for the people that don't have that much time, they can buy their subscriptions."
Also similar to EVE is open-world PvP with safe zones protected by guards—Rossouw describes destructible, player-built cities, a simulated economy in which players can craft everything, and an exciting PvP scenario in which a player rises from mayor to king.
"We have a system where, if you have mayors from different towns, they can group together and go to the next level," says Rossouw. "They can become a king, at the end of the day, and maybe rule a certain amount of land. Two kingdoms could fight against each other and declare war on each other. You have a stance towards your neighboring towns. But definitely, buildings can be destroyed...how we built our engine, originally, was to allow as much freedom for players to use as possible, to let them do pretty much whatever they wanted in the world when it comes to creating stuff—spawning mobs, even creating quests and stuff like that."
Neo's Land may also feature some parallel thinking with EverQuest Next, with a recently added voxel system. "We wanted players to really be immersed when they're digging in the ground, so we implemented a voxel system into the engine. It allows players to literally go dig in caves, similar to Minecraft, but it's got the high polys and stuff like that. We're excited. It's something very similar to what EverQuest Next has announced as well."
SOE is also taking a similar design-by-committee approach with EverQuest Next, but as Rossouw points out, not at this level of detail. The plan for Neo's Land, for now, is to launch playable version this winter. Everyone who donates to the Kickstarter campaign or on the official site will have access to alpha and beta versions without a subscription fee, which will kick in at release, though it will be possible to buy land with real money.
At the time of writing, the Kickstarter campaign has earned about $3,000 CAD in a few hours.