BigBizkit: Thanks for joining us today. To start this off, why don't you, David, introduce yourself and the team.
David Wilson: My name is David Wilson and I am the Director of Marketing for Abstract Era Entertainment. Today I have with me our Lead Art Director, Jack Wayne, along with a member of our Character Creation Pillar who is well known as a mod developer in the Nexus community, who we will introduce a bit later in the interview. We here at Abstract Era Entertainment really appreciate the chance to tell your members about our title: Seconds from Silence. We’re sure they’re going to love it and they are specifically the type of gamers that we want to hear from during our ongoing development. Thank you for having us!
?Could you tell us a bit about Seconds from Silence? What kind of game is it and what made you want to develop it in the first place?
David Wilson: Seconds from Silence is a moddable MMORPG being developed for PC and consoles. In Seconds from Silence players will embark upon their travels and decide what they want to be and what they want to do. Gameplay will simulate, but not be limited to, living a life in a medieval fantasy world where the laws of the land are governed by the players that own them. There are no specific roles that any player will be locked to but instead, players will decide what role they want to play within the world. Any player can choose to be a king or a commoner, mercenary or thief, adventurer or pirate, blacksmith or alchemist, vampire or vampire hunter, sorcerer or priest, trader or bandit, holy paladin or an assassin for hire… or whatever they want to be… that’s just to name a few. There will also be several epic storylines and endless adventures to embark upon.
We here at Abstract Era Entertainment believe that the best games are the ones that make you feel like you can make choices without limitation. Two good examples of this type of game model would be games like The Witcher 3 and Skyrim. These titles did have main storylines but they also gave players a sense of freedom. It is this sense to freedom that we wish to expand upon and take to the next level.
Take for example that in Skyrim, when you first step out of the cave, escaping the headsman’s axe and dragon’s attack at Helgen, there is this somewhat unexplainable feeling of awe and adventure that hits you. There were these chills that you got once you realized that you’ve really been set loose and were free to do whatever you wanted. To be able to choose to follow Hadvar, or Ralof, or neither of them! We loved that feeling of freedom of choice, to explore the unknown and dive headlong into an epic adventure, to do whatever you wanted to do and not be stuck into any linear storyline.
If that wasn’t great enough by itself, later, you discover that you can even create mods and share them with a community of passionate gamers on mod sites such as Nexus Mods to truly personalize the adventure. Now imagine being able to have that entire experience and much more, including mods, with your friends in an MMORPG. Our decision to develop Seconds from Silence wasn’t a decision at all; it was made as a result of that vision.
Without spoiling anything, what sort of setting and story are we to expect from the game? What were some of your inspirational sources?
Jack Wayne: Seconds from Silence is heavily inspired by Skyrim and The Witcher 3, however, we have taken care to ensure that gameplay is new and unique while maintaining a sort of familiarity for those who loved these aforementioned titles. You might consider Seconds from Silence as a hybrid of the two titles but developed in a manner such as to complement them rather than be a continuance or copy of either. If you enjoyed the gameplay of either of these titles then we are certain that you will feel right at home in Seconds from Silence.
The setting for Seconds from Silence occurs within a medieval fantasy world known primarily as the Shifting Continents. Players will set out to explore vast lands spanning several miles and even set to the high seas to explore strange new islands and even more continents. Daring adventurers will venture into the dark depths to bring light to caverns, dungeons and long since lost ancient civilizations hidden deep under the ground. Whether across the ocean, around a mountain or beyond the horizon, there will always be adventures and quests to undertake.
David Wilson: I’d like to add that as Seconds from Silence is non-linear, players will go wherever they want to go and do whatever they decide to do. For those interested in a great story, they can set out to investigate a rumor of what evil they heard of from the local folk. If conquest is their ambition then they can establish a kingdom, battle their aggressors and lay claim to their divine right to rule over the lands. If they are more nefarious in deeds and have an eye for riches and plunder then a thieves guild, bandit camp or pirate vessel will be more fitting for achieving their goals. Through interaction with one another and with the NPCs within the world of Seconds from Silence, the adventure is truly never-ending.
What would you say are the core mechanics of Seconds from Silence? What sets it apart from other MMORPGs?
David Wilson: Gameplay in Seconds from Silence will allow players to build the world around them. Players will build many different types of structures from cabins up to and even including entire kingdoms. If you are a king and you own lands, you can build whatever you can defend on them. As a king, you can also allow other players to build their homes in your villages, cities and even allow other players to farm on your lands, provided they agree to pay the king’s tax of course. But beware as other players can also establish thieves guilds in your cities and rob your people of their goods as well as stir up trouble. Otherwise, they might put together a raiding party and attack your villages to take whatever they want. As such it’s important for kings to defend their lands and that is where the guard and King’s law systems come into gameplay.
One key factor that is an issue with most freeform games is that anyone you encounter tries to kill you without warning or reason. This type of kill or be killed environment that is often the typical result of poor planning is due to there not being any consequences for such actions. That is why we are designing Seconds from Silence with two key factors in mind: The first is that due to how progression works, players will value their character and they won’t want their character to die. The second factor is that the actions you take in Seconds from Silence will have consequences and players won’t break the King’s laws without first carefully considering how to escape the King’s justice.
We are also designing the game so that attacking a city or village will not be an easy thing that just one or a few random new players will be able to do, provided the city has proper defenses set in place, its people will be able to defend themselves. Players will be able to establish city guards when founding any new city or to request the ruling king set in place some of his Royal Guard to defend the city from any attacks (guards can be NPCs that you hire or require your subjects to provide). Players can also assign guards to patrol and protect the lands they reside on.
In Seconds from Silence, you will have guards and soldiers that you can assign to patrol your lands. If someone breaks a law and anyone sees it, they will report the lawbreaker to the guards, they will, in fact, RUN to do so. As soon as the guard is notified they will do a few different things based on what the captain of the guard or king has demanded them to do upon such a report. If they are unable to capture the lawbreaker then a bounty on the lawbreaker can be set as a reward for anyone who brings them to justice, dead or alive (or required to be alive or dead specifically, as these are also options). Once a bounty has been set on a player, anyone with the means to do so, through alchemy, magic or tracking skills (among other methods), can use these methods to find the lawbreaker.
We could go on for a long time discussing the many unique elements of gameplay within Seconds from Silence but one of the big ones is that there will be King’s Law and depending on the king, it will be feared and well respected. When traveling in Seconds from Silence, be sure to respect the laws of whoever owns the dust beneath your feet, lest you become part of it.
Jack Wayne: The idea of the Skinwalker race came from Celtic, Irish and Native American lore of a mythical creature that could steal the appearance of those unlucky enough to cross their path. Skinwalkers are beings that take upon themselves the physical appearance of those they come into contact with. All a Skinwalker needs do is simply look upon another creature and by focusing on their prey they assume their form. A Skinwalker is considered a natural chameleon of sorts, however, it takes skill for a Skinwalker to take upon certain forms and maintain such foolery. It is wise to carry runes and also etch warding runes in place else you too become quite not yourself.
David Wilson: Just before he took our gold he swore he saw a mirror, but there was no mirror in that cabin… we killed Fredrick for his greed but then I saw him once more on the morrow… a Skinwalker had gotten the best of us! Oh, poor Fredrick, how will you ever forgive us now? - Anonymous
Pure blooded races are not the only options for players to choose from as they can also choose to be a mixture of two different races. In the world of Seconds from Silence, these half-bloods are known as Halflings. A Halfling could be either an Elvish Human or a Goblin Orc to point out a couple of examples. Racial enemies are typically incapable of producing off-spring and this - among other reasons within the lore behind each race - is why such creatures are considered abominations hunted and killed by all who become aware of their existence.
In one of our earlier conversations, you pointed out that modding will play a big role in Seconds from Silence. What aspects of the game will people be able to mod and how? Do you plan on releasing mod tools?
David Wilson: It is our intention to make modding an entertaining and desirable activity in Seconds from Silence for anyone who wishes to truly personalize the whole experience. Knowledge of Unreal Engine will be helpful, however, it will not be necessary. Modders will be provided with the "SFS Modder Toolkit" to prepare their mods for integration in Seconds from Silence as well as for sharing on sites such as Nexus Mods. We are looking into setting it up so that modders will be able to use the Nexus Mods very own Vortex mod manager to install mods developed using the SFS Modder Toolkit. As we wish to promote modding in Seconds from Silence, the SFS Modder Toolkit will be easy to use and will have all the necessary functions for modders to develop mods compatible with Seconds from Silence.
We are developing Seconds from Silence to support three different general sections of modding:
Replacing skeletal aesthetics - This section covers the visual appearance of skeletal models as well as animations. Modders will be able to change how an existing skeletal model appears during gameplay. For example, they may develop a new model that replaces the "Leather Boots" model or a breastplate, etc. They will even be able to develop their own hairstyles and even replace the body model if they so choose. Modders will be limited to using existing skeletons within Seconds from Silence, however, this should not be an issue as there are different skeletons, each with their own hierarchies to choose from.
Replacing static aesthetics - This section covers the visual appearance of static models. As players will be able to build many different structures within the game, there will be walls, foundations, stairs, and so forth that Modders will be able to replace with their own models and textures. The SFS Modder Toolkit will allow Modders to import their custom asset and check the mod to make sure it meets the requirements of the asset they are replacing (this will be described in far more detail through the SFS Modder Toolkit documentation). Additionally, this section will allow modders to replace the visual appearance of existing weapons and shields, as these are considered moveable static meshes in Seconds from Silence.
Curation submission - This section covers assets that are submitted to our team to be provided as a new asset within the game. If a modder wishes to add an entirely new legendary sword within the game that other players can find and use or a completely new asset in general that is not a "replacer" of an existing asset, they would submit the asset through the SFS Modders Toolkit for review by our Curation Team. If the asset is approved then we will program the "asset slot" into the game, however, players must download the asset from a mod hosting site such as Nexus Mods and install it. Please understand that we will not host nor include the new asset in the default installation, however, we will add a slot for the asset to be installed.
Regarding Abstract Era Entertainment as a studio, what can you tell us about your team and your various backgrounds in gaming and modding?
David Wilson: Abstract Era Entertainment consists of people that not only enjoy working in the gaming industry but also enjoy playing whatever games they can get their hands on. Having just under 30 positions filled by highly devoted developers, we consider our team to be a fairly tightly-knit group. Developers working on Seconds from Silence oftentimes play games with one another and have worked together on past projects for other studios. Our studio may be small compared to some other indie studios, but we are always looking for talented additions to our Development Team and we intend to expand our team as often as development requires.
One key requirement during our hiring process is that any candidate that we consider must have a minimum of three years of experience having worked specifically on an MMORPG title. Our developers were also required to have a minimum of one year experience working within the Unreal Engine. Yet another matter that we consider a plus when adding any new member to our Development Team is that they have had past experience with developing mods for another game (like Skyrim), which did present some challenges. The majority of our developers have all had a love for modding the games that they play. It was, however, to our surprise, somewhat challenging for us to find developers that met our minimum requirements and also had experience not just using mods but also developing mods.
We were very excited when we were able to acquire a known modder in the Nexus Community who fit the bill for our team. Some of the members on the Nexus may be familiar with Nightasy as he has developed and shared mods on the Nexus Mod sites for several years now. Nightasy has worked in the gaming industry for over five-plus years, using a variety of different engines. Luckily for our team, Nightasy also has been able to connect us with other talented mod developers who he has worked with in the past. The input we have received from Nightasy with regards to the development of the SFS Modders Toolkit has been quite innovative and we consider him an invaluable member of our Character Creation Pillar.
What was the process of going from modders and video game enthusiasts to developers like (for those among you where this would apply)? What lessons did you learn from modding that you are able to apply now?
Nightasy: It was actually modding Bethesda titles that made me want to work in the gaming industry in the first place. I didn’t even know mods existed prior to that and one day I was just browsing the web and came across a link to Nexus Mods. It straight up floored me, completely changed my gaming interests and I haven’t stopped modding ever since. For me, a game that can’t be modded just doesn’t quite keep my interests anymore. Heck, I’ll still pick playing FO4 and Skyrim to this very day over a game that can’t be modded.
I was so passionate about developing mods that at one point I even wanted to teach other people how to do it and made an entire video series about modding. I was nowhere near as educated as I am now but I loved modding so much that I just wanted to help other people learn how to mod. It wasn’t too long before I found myself developing mods as well as teaching people how to mod, far more than actually playing games. One day I just decided that since I spent all of my free time making mods for games that I might as well go to college and do it for a living. So I did the whole college scene and set myself to task to learn everything I could about game development and I haven’t looked back. It was the best decision I ever made.
Modding is a challenging task for anyone to undertake, especially since most games do not support it. It requires a lot of testing, a lot of dedication as well as a ton of trial and error (and a hex decoder or two along the way). It taught me that where there’s a will, there’s a way and it taught me how to go about solving problems. One of the most important things that I learned from modding is that I love it so much that I hope everyone will someday get to experience the joy of creating mods themselves. There’s a sort of accomplishment that you can’t get anywhere else when you hear from other community members on the Nexus that they love using your mods.
Jack Wayne: Rest assured that we have taken careful consideration during our development to ensure that mods will not provide any player with unfair advantages. Mods that are installed are visual only to the player that installs them. Player's will be able to request that other players also install the same mods so that they can see them in their game as well. Upon approving such a request, the mods will only replace the visual aesthetics on the original player’s lands and assets that the other player owns. The beauty of that is that this will allow players to create their very own unique culture and other players will be able to see it without having it affect their own lands. There are some restrictions in place for mods and we are taking measures to ensure that mods will not be capable of conflicting with fair gameplay.
David Wilson: To point out one example of what Jack is referring to is that we predict that certain concerns may arise in the community of people that will play as thieves or assassins. Asset materials (also referred to as “shaders”) have strict rules set in place to prevent mods from making your character glow on another person's client, there are also size restrictions and so forth. No worries, you will still be able to hide in the shadows. The SFS Modder Toolkit will provide a checklist for any asset that a modder wishes to customize. In order to export the mod from the SFS Modder Toolkit, the mod must meet those requirements. For example, if a wall doesn’t have a hole in the center of it, then the mod that replaces the wall can likewise, not have a hole in it.
Any new asset that is approved by our mod curators will be balanced within the game. The modder will be able to select from a list of defined options that will determine how the asset will be integrated once a player decides to install it. For example, if a modder releases a new legendary sword of old and this mod is approved, the modder will have to select whether this sword can be crafted at a forge or if the sword must be found within the world.
If the sword can be forged, the strength of the sword would be determined by what is required to craft the sword. The more resources the sword requires in order to create it, the more powerful it will be and so forth. If the modder selects that the weapon is unique then it will have a soul in Seconds from Silence.
If a player finds the sword in a dungeon and then another player finds another one of them in a buried treasure chest, one of the swords is considered a reincarnation of the first. As a reincarnated weapon it will begin to drain the first one anytime they are near one another until one of them is destroyed.
Jack Wayne: The modder will select an existing model to be used as the default appearance of the new asset. Any curated asset will need to be installed by a player in order for the player to see the modder's visual version of it.
David Wilson: We will also be providing a server kit for modders that wish to make game mechanic changes. The modder will be able to host their own server, make changes to game mechanics (such as damage multipliers, arrow traveling speed, running speeds, unique skill trees, etc.) though players will still need to have an active account with Abstract Era Entertainment. Additionally, any characters and assets that exist on that server will not be transferrable to the official servers.
You mentioned that your development process is based on a “four pillar” approach. Could you elaborate on that?
David Wilson: The Four Pillars of development are as follows: Character Creation, Combat, Building, and Ruling.
Developing Seconds from Silence is no small task and contains a ton of unique and interesting things that players will be able to do. As there are so many different elements of gameplay in Seconds from Silence we divided them into what we refer to as “The Four Pillars” of development. Each Pillar Team is dedicated to completing that pillar’s elements of gameplay. This allows our team to stay organized as well as focus on their dedicated tasks. The Four Pillar approach also allows our team to separate the various elements of gameplay into unique pillar testing clients for individual feedback.
Jack Wayne: The Four Pillar approach is essential in our efforts to complete the overall game and ensure that every aspect of gameplay is provided with equal attention to detail during development. All aspects of gameplay within Seconds from Silence are divided into the Four Pillars and overseen by our most experienced developers. As such, we ensure that tasks are always completed and quality standards are well maintained within the art direction guidelines that have been set in place.
Regarding one of the pillars “Character Creation” in particular, is there any way for people to help you guys out with testing?
David Wilson: We are glad that you ask that as a primary goal for our having reached out to the Nexus is to recruit alpha testers for each of the Four Pillars of development. Each pillar maintains its very own alpha testing client for alpha testers to test that specific pillar of gameplay. We have just launched our alpha testing sign up page for members interested in testing Seconds from Silence. Anyone that wishes to participate in alpha testing and in doing so assist our team with user feedback may take the following steps:
- Visit www.secondsfromsilence.com/register/?
- Register an account. (The account you log into the site with is the same account you’ll use to log into the alpha testing client if you are selected for alpha testing).
- Visit www.secondsfromsilence.com/four-pillar-testing/?
- Sign up to test in each pillar that you wish to be considered for testing!
Alpha testers will be randomly selected once enough members have signed up for consideration. Upon being selected as an alpha tester, you will be instructed via email on how to begin your participation in our testing process. It is important to note that all alpha testers will be required to agree to the terms and conditions for testing Seconds from Silence prior to downloading any alpha testing client.
Upon being selected as an alpha tester, in any pillar of development, you will be given access to download and login to the alpha testing client released for that pillar of development. As an alpha tester, you will continue to have access to that pillar’s testing client until all alpha testing has finalized and the game is ready to be launched. You will be able to not only play Seconds from Silence but also provide us with valuable feedback during development!
??Last but not least, is there anything else you would like to say to our community?
David Wilson: We here at Abstract Era Entertainment wish to thank all of you for your time and interest in our title, Seconds from Silence. As Seconds from Silence is officially being developed to support player modding, we highly value any feedback we can receive from the Nexus Mods community! Again, thank you and we hope many of you will join us in alpha testing for Seconds from Silence!
Thanks a lot to David, Jack, and Nightasy from Abstract Era Entertainment - the indie studio behind Seconds from Silence. As always if there are any mod authors or mod projects you'd like to hear about, don't hesitate to send a message to Pickysaurus and BigBizkit.