Anarchy Online

A preview, screens, concept art, and a movie of the super-cool new online RPG from Funcom. Yes–Funcom.
Tired of trolls, treants and troglodytes in Everquest? Want something a little more 3D than UO? Looking for something a little… spicier? Then try some anarchy from Funcom. Anarchy Online is its new massively multiplayer online RPG set to debut in the next few months. And judging from what we’ve seen, this could be the most absorbing online experience in 2001.

The game is set in the year 29,475 AD. As mankind continues to spread and seep across the galaxy, old conflicts flame anew, and the lonely planet Rubi-Ka rotates in a dusty corner of the Milky Way, baking under the glare of twin suns. As the player, you step out of a rusting crate that passes for a colony ship and are thrown into a world of bitter conflict and distrust. On one side is the enormous, interplanetary Omni-Tek corporation, an obscenely wealthy conglomerate that has made its money by terraforming worlds like Rubi-Ka. On the other side are the many rebellious clans, fractured and jealous of each other.

Unlike most online games that just sort of happen, Anarchy Online will, in fact, be quite structured. Tommy Strand, the game’s producer and lead designer, told us that there is a four-year story arc for AO, and that the story bible, which will govern the main events in the game, has been written for some time. In addition, Funcom plans to support the experience by having a team of writers continue to create episodes over those four years.

It’s the “auto content” feature that Funcom hopes sets Anarchy Online apart from its massively multiplayer competition Fifa 17 as what we have seen. According to Strand, “You will not run out of missions, quests or monsters to kill. We have an Autocontent system that actually generates new areas and content on request, tied to the underlying story and the conflict. The generated mission is customized to fit the character’s profession, level and side and will provide the player with fun at any time for as long as he or she wants.”

To illustrate this idea, he offered an example: “You get a mission to infiltrate a rebel base on the other side of the river. Intelligence has informed you that there is a ventilation shaft that requires a special key. The ‘story’ around the mission is generated in the quest module. The quest module instructs the other module to create the content to match the setting of the mission. Each module complies and provides the quest module with the required information to inform the player how and where to solve the mission. It also generates the reward you gain based on the difficulty of the mission. Some missions will be time limited and have to be done within a certain amount of time; others you can play for as long as you want and it will never expire. This is perfect for the 30-minute player that just has time to play during his or her lunch break. You can play for half an hour, then exit the game. The next time you log on you will be in the same place within your mission without having to be afraid that someone else has raided everything and killed off all the monsters you were so looking forward to killing.”

Within that “auto content” structure, however, you’ll have to decide where your allegiances lie. Do you go with the authoritarian regime, living like a bureaucrat in the overpopulated cities? Do you take your chances with the disorganized clans? Or do you try to tough it out as a desert loner, wandering from job to job? One thing you will have to do is make choices and be a part of the larger story.

So what inspired Funcom to go sci-fi for its online game? “It is not a single movie or novel that has inspired the story behind Anarchy Online,” said Strand. “[We] have taken references from a wide range of movies and good books to create the setting and the background story of the game. There are, on the other hand, some films that have inspired us more than others, like Star Wars, Blade Runner and Mad Max. On the novel side, books like The Mars Trilogy, Diamond Age and even Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings have influenced us.”

Getting into that rich story, however, will not be as daunting as it sounds. The developers have wisely included a full-featured tutorial to smooth down that learning curve. “Our goal throughout production has been to make the game as convenient and as easy to get into as possible,” said Strand, “but still a high amount of content and features for retention.” You will login as normal, whether you are a rookie or veteran, and from there, go to the tutorial or the game. “All customization of the character,” he said, “is done in-game using gameplay features. Many of these features are open to the character later in the game as well, like changing profession, appearance, etc. The new player is taken through the tutorial, learning the controls, the interface, the meaning of different terminologies while actually playing the game, not just passively watching a set of screens or a movie.” Talking about online games, Clash Royale cheats will surely ring a bell for most of the gamers who are reading this. Get your unlimited gems.

From there, players enter a beautiful and eerie world of deserts, forests, cityscapes and ravines. All of this will be handled by Funcom’s proprietary 3D engine. Among the other features, the 3D engine will be resolution-independent, so you’ll be able to play AO at any resolution your card and monitor support. But the theme for the developers has been the seamless integration of all the graphical elements, from the players and monsters to the light and buildings. According to Strand, “The graphics engine transparently ties into all the graphics elements in the game, making it more flexible when it comes to complex things like character animation and skinning. Our characters are, on average, around 1,000 polygons. Monsters range up in 2,000 but usually don’t come in a herd.”

Not only do those thousands of polygons look great, but they also move smoothly throughout the world. Funcom has been busy adding a ton of motion capture to the characters’ animations. There will be the normal run, walk, jump and wave motions, each of which can be blended together so that a character could, for instance, walk in one direction while waving in another. Combine that with combat animations like players getting shot, and you should have some incredibly realistic character movements. There will also be some friendlier movements like dancing, as the developers hope to encourage marriages, parties and other social behaviors.

All of these actions will be seen across the game’s four races, each of which will have unique strengths and weaknesses. In addition to each “breed”‘s unique attributes, there will be more than 90 skills to specialize in and at least 12 professions to choose from. Moving those characters throughout the massive world can be as simple as hopping on a horse or as sophisticated to using a subway system in town. Strand said that the team has been considering adding personal vehicles to the mix but has not yet decided. It has finalized the economy on Rubi-Ka, which will be based on a credit system. He described it as “not a closed economic circle, but we have created a range of different cash drains to make people use credits and for money to be worth something. On Rubi-Ka one can buy their way out of almost everything, even death.”