PlaneShift Interview With Luca Pancallo-Part One
KeyWord: PlaneShift Date: 03-24-2006
Summary: create a virtual fantasy world in which a player can start as a peasant in search of fame and become an hero. The team focus the efforts in the reproduction of a real world with politics, economy, many non-player-characters controlled by the server that will bring to life our world even without players connected! Recently, Simon had a chance to ask Luca Pancallo,the founder and project director of PlaneShift.

PlaneShift is an upcoming MMORPG,The objective of the PlaneShift Team is to create a virtual fantasy world in which a player can start as a peasant in search of fame and become an hero. The team focus the efforts in the reproduction of a real world with politics, economy, many non-player-characters controlled by the server that will bring to life our world even without players connected! Recently, Simon had a chance to ask Luca Pancallo,the founder and project director of PlaneShift.Here comes the first part of the interview.(click here for the second part of the interview)

MMOSITE:To start, before getting into the heart of the questions, can you tell us something about you and your team? What makes you and your team come together to do this game?

Luca Pancallo:
My name is Luca Pancallo, and I‘m the founder and project director of PlaneShift. Our organization has currently two levels, the first is represented by Atomic Blue. AB is a non-profit organization made to create great games and to protect the development and the assets from a legal point of view. It costed us much time to develop such an organization and I‘m very proud it now exists. AB is currently used for PlaneShift, but will be used in the future for other projects. The second level is the PlaneShift Team, a group of rpg enthusiasts that strive to reach the same goal: build a MMORPG free for players, with roleplay and quality as primary objectives. Our team is scattered all around the globe, from Canada to Australia, from Russia to Italy. We are about 15 core developers and many contributors. The mix of skills required to make such a game are really overhelming and only with the help of many different developers we can match commercial standards.

MMOSITE:For our readers who are not familiar with the game what do you want to say about your game?

Luca Pancallo:PlaneShift is born long time ago, from the lack of good quality RPG on line. Being a totally free project, we proceed at slower pace compared to commercial companies, so in the meantime they filled some of the major gaps, Everquest, WoW arrived and the roleplay started to be present online. I still feel the lack of roleplay in the objectives those game give to players, and from the fact there is not much experience and will to promote roleplaying inside the virtual world. Giant steps has been done, but I think the need to pay a monthly fee is what gives players a reason to become power gamers and exploit any game bug just to level up and "use fully" their money.

MMOSITE: As fantasy theme is very common in MMORPGs, and there are so many RPG games out there, how do you make your game stand out from others?

Luca Pancallo:PlaneShift has a very unique flavor in fantasy gaming. The whole world is inside a giant stalactite hanged inside an hollow world. Players are not yet realizing they are "caged" into it, mainly because there are vast open spaces and very high roof, so it looks like an outdoor. The player will slowly discover the boundaries of this world and start to realize they are kind of trapped, and there are many interesting plots to find exists, wonder about the surface, about where the tunnels inside the rock will bring, etc. Our races are quite interesting also, mixing a bit of old style (elfs, dwarves) with new ones like Kran (very big rock humanoids) and Klyros (creatures with affinity to earth, air and water). Another big differenciator is the flexibility we have in adding new features. Having an open source engine, players can propose new features or even implement those themselves. I can say that until today we‘ve build the foundation of a mmorpg and it costed us a lot of work to provide something that commercial games already have, but from now on, with a solid foundation, we can finally start to add the features we always wanted in the game.

MMOSITE:Your website states that the game world will be changed by NPCs even without players, which means the world can evolve itself, so what were your main considerations when deciding such conception and what does it mean for players?

Luca Pancallo:At the present time the game is starting to focus on crafting and trades, we are releasing new patches to enable it and to have players craft weapons, armors and other items. This will be a big change in the economy and on overall gameplay, but the next step is surely to have a more self-evolving world. This is one of the basic objectives of our development and we are finally close to implement it. We want NPCs to be able to develop themselves even without any player interacting with them, we want NPCs to build new villages and to seek new hunting grounds. All this is not possible without the basic bricks of NPC movement, resource seeking, wandering, etc... The NPCs will look very "alive" and real with our next developments. One of the crucial points here is to balance performances with quality, but we have good plans to make it real.

MMOSITE:The game creates a very interesting environment for players, where people start their adventure in Yliakum, an underground city which has eight levels, can you tell us more about this, and what kind of game world do you want to present to the players?

Luca Pancallo:The world is somewhat peaceful in the cities, but quite challenging outside. All major cities have high fortifications and many guards to watch over the invasions that come from the Stone Labyrinths. The labyrinths are a large maze of tunnels that extend from the stalactite into the crust of the world, with outposts, villages and other races living inside the tunnels. Much of this is still under development, so I‘m giving you the future vision, not the actual one. At the present time players can explore the main city (hydlaa) a number of underground dungeons, Ojaveda the city of feline-humanoid called enkidukai, and the death realm.

The death realm will be an integral part of the game. It‘s the place where dead souls go, but also the place where many evil-aligned players can start to build their web of power. The whole architecture of the death realm is very different from the living world, with huge bridges made of bones, steep stair, floating eyes watching you. It‘s currently made of a flying citadel and few cells for eternally imprisoned souls. When a player dies, he will be transported to this dark realm, and he will not be able to return to the living world, until he finds the exit or he completes a quest. In the future, as we expand the realm, it will be much harder to come back, so players will really start to fear dying in game. We would like to expand the death realm to create a parallel dimension where other guilds, jobs, magic can start to create a separate society. I expect fights or even wars between the two realms as they expand. Powerful wizard will probably be able to travel from one to the other without the need to die. Different monsters, physics rules and experience will be provided in this thrilling realm.

MMOSITE:Can you give PlaneShift fans some details about the storyline behind the game? What role do the players play to develop the story?

Luca Pancallo:I must say that at the present time we described little of the story behind the game. There is a public history published on the web site, but that‘s just what players can gather also ingame, it‘s the knowledge of the inhabitants of the land. Much different is the real story behind the stalactite and why players are there. This is kept secret and we will unveil it very slowly as we proceed with the development of new areas and quests for the game. What I can say is that Talad and Laanx, the two main gods, are currently away from the lands for a specific task given by greater gods, they are learning and, if they manage to understand something of it, they will probably be back with some news to hydlaa people. There is a hidden full greater scale of events compared to the one that players are seeing now.

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