[dropcap size=big]D[/dropcap]evelopers heading to Kickstarter to fund their dream MMO isn’t terribly unique, just look at Pathfinder Online and The Repopulation. What is unusual though, is someone funding a project as unique as Identity. As we’re covered previously, Identity isn’t your typical MMORPG; it’s closer to an online life simulator. Want to head into the woods and hunt? Go for it. Want to make a living as a trucker? It’s up to you! This incredibly ambitious project is being put together by Asylum Entertainment, a mysterious group of developers headed by John VanderZwet. We recently caught up with John to ask him a bit about Identity.
Cliqist : Can you tell us a little about yourself?
John VanderZwet : I, John VanderZwet, have been a gamer since I was a kid, spending far more time than I probably should have in front of a TV and PC. I’ve been a part of the video game development industry for roughly 15 years or so now in everything from design to programming and technical art (which is very different from real art, as you can tell from the painting I did in the apartment footage). Several years ago I began working on Mortal Online, which became the first MMORPG to use the Unreal Engine. About one year ago I founded the Gaming Asylum and created what is now Asylum’s Altis Life, which is still today the closest thing to Identity. Our mod Altis Life exploded in popularity right from day one due to unique systems which had never been in a game like it. Today we continue as the most popular game and servers of its kind and have a staff of over 30 awesome people behind it. That said, the engine which Altis Life is based on can only go so far and thus we realized that in order to make the game we truly wanted to play, we’d have to build it from the ground up. That new game is Identity.
Cliqist : Tell us a little about Asylum Entertainment, Inc? What’s the story behind the name?
John VanderZwet : When we founded the Gaming Asylum for Altis Life, I chose the name “Asylum” for its real meaning, being a safe haven. The first Asylum server was one I put together for the DayZ mod in its earliest days because we were fed up with how riddled the game was with cheaters. Plus the name just sounds cool!
Cliqist : Can you explain in your own words what kind of game is Identity?
John VanderZwet : Identity is an open world sandbox MMORPG that focuses on player interaction instead of grinding levels and gear. We wanted to create the ideal roleplaying game where you can become immersed in the world and truly leave your mark. At its heart, Identity is a game of cops and robbers but it then goes so far beyond that. For anyone who hasn’t played our Life games, imagine a world like Grand Theft Auto where everyone you meet is a real player (including the police), houses you see are lived in by real people and everything is fully persistent and in some cases realistic.
Cliqist : What video-game, film, literature or artwork do you believe influenced Identity?
John VanderZwet : The biggest influence of course came from Asylum’s own Altis Life, although Grand Theft Auto 5 and PayDay 2 were also two games which we really enjoyed and hope to bring some of their fun into another kind of environment.
Cliqist : “A modern-day open-world MMORPG with complete freedom and a focus on player interaction” please elaborate.
John VanderZwet : Identity is a true “sandbox” MMORPG. By this we mean it’s open ended and you do not follow any sort of linear progression that was set out for you by the designers. You don’t have to follow scripted quests to level up and you don’t need to spend the first month of your time grinding up your character’s abilities before you can play with your friends. You have the freedom to do anything you want to as soon as you create your character and log in. Player interaction is at the very core of Identity. VOIP technology allows role-playing situations in a much more natural way than other MMOs provide and game mechanics never get in the way of feeling like you’re on an adventure with or without friends. You can be whoever you want to be, not who the game allows you to be.
Cliqist : What kind of difficulty level can gamers expect in Identity, would there be settings for both casual and hardcore gamers?
John VanderZwet : Identity can be enjoyed by very casual or extremely hardcore players. The two ways this is realized are by giving a huge variety of gameplay experiences available and by allowing players to rent their own servers and customize them to an extreme level. For example, if you’re looking for action you could join a gang and try to hold territory from other rival gangs. If you’re more of a peaceful type you might rather play with some of the social systems, run a business, become an artist and so on. That said, nobody is completely safe from robberies and bad apples out in the world, but those criminals will be punished, too.
Cliqist : What kind of game-engine will you be using for Identity?
John VanderZwet : Identity is being built on a modified version of Unreal Engine 4!
Cliqist : Can you give a general break down on how the funds collected from the Kickstarter would be used?
John VanderZwet : We’re raising $150,000 on Kickstarter, although a game like Identity is going to take far, far more money to produce. The $150K will be used to “kickstart” development immediately and at the same time works as a proof of concept for publishers and investors with which we’re already in talks. The $150,000, combined with my own personal investment, will be used to set up an office and hire several more developers to get working right away.
Cliqist : Why should backers fund Identity?
John VanderZwet : Backers should fund Identity because there’s nothing else like it on the market today and we’re a team that’s done it before. If you’re a fan of roleplaying games it’s your chance to get into an immersive world where you can do things that you simply can’t in real life. Live as a cop, a paramedic, a bank robber or anything else you can imagine in a world where everyone you meet is trying to make their way too.
Cliqist : Do you feel that $150,000 is enough for the kind of massive MMORPG your planning to make here?
John VanderZwet : Not even close! Kickstarter’s name is perfect in our case because our fundraising is for doing exactly that, kick-starting. We have a lot of very eager and excited investors ready to take us the rest of the way and we’re constantly evaluating options.
Cliqist : Would you be offering DRM-Free copies as pledge/add-on for backers that might request them?
John VanderZwet : There’s really no need for DRM with Identity. The way it works is that anybody can download the game for free, create and account and customize characters. Once you’re ready to enter the game you’ll need a passport stamp which we expect to cost around $10 to $15 USD. That will give your game account access to the world.
Cliqist : Can you close us out with a Identity related haiku?
John VanderZwet :
Had to have that car
But got caught by the po-po
It hurts to sit down
Thanks to John for answering my questions!
To learn more about Identity you can check out our previous coverage, or head over to the Identity Kickstarter campaign before the funding period ends on February 4th.