Article by Safwat "Helium02"
Tired of guns and gangsters? Wanna try a new non-violent game? If it's so, you've reached the correct address, because PersistentWorldZ is out with a new game called Z-Opolis.
Z-Opolis is a world that sits between dreams and reality, where players get to live out a fantasy life that revolves around making friends and having fun. Sounds attractive? Find more details in this interview with its developers.
Hello, please introduce your self and the company you work for.
Hi, I’m Kevin “Z-Man” Hannah, here at PersistentWorldZ, a Game Service Provider (GSP) based in sunny Irvine, California. We started the company in response to the fact that when we looked at all the available MMORPG’s here in the U.S. we found that they all revolved around conflict, were not “kid friendly”, and definitely did nothing to appeal to more casual and occasional gamers (who outnumber your usual hard-core gaming crew 20 to 1). We thought that it was time for an alternative...
How did you come out with the idea behind this game? Tell us more about its background.
With the idea of putting together an MMOCG (or Massively Multiplayer Online Community Game, as we like to call it), that was non-violent and could appeal to casual gamers (including lots of girls!) we drew up the “purple prints” for Z-Opolis...you might have guessed that purple is my fav color! The key was to mix 4 elements:
Engaging, easy-to-learn game play
Community that allows players to interact whenever, whenever and however they liked (Z-Opolis could be likened to the ultimate chat-room)
Delivery of exciting dynamic web content and games for players to experience in-game alone or with other players
The ability to buy virtual and real stuff all from in-game
The outcome a fun, virtual 3D game world that can also exploit everything the web has to offer.
At first look, this game looks like "The Sims". Was this game affected in anyway by Sims game? Were you trying to take advantage of "Sims" success?
Z-Opolis allows players to live virtual lives as you do in The Sims (Online), but done with a fantasy feel rather than a realistic feel. We wanted players to do things they couldn’t do in real life... yes you need to get a job to earn Dizzies (our virtual cash), but how about being a Hunter who captures Mephitz in the Dread Desert, or a Designer who can create the Whacky Witch costume?
The Sims was the proving ground that gamers didn’t need linear game play focused on “kill something, get a bigger weapon, and then kill something else”. They also appealed to less hard-core gamers, and to girls. So, yes, in those terms we were influenced by The Sims.
And when The Sims Online comes out we are quite happy to take a place alongside the EA 800lb gorilla.
About the graphics, what engine have you used in this game? Will we see "unusual" performances?
The graphics engine we licensed provides vibrant 3D isometric graphics but without the need for a 3D graphics accelerator card. The client as a whole runs well on a 300 MHz machine with 64MB of RAM, over a 56K modem.
What sort of game play can a player expect? For example, will the gamer be able to build houses, buy clothes or build relation-ships with any other character? How about interacting with different objects?
Game play combines escapist fantasy with the things in real-life that are fun - music, movies, TV, and books, etc. We stimulate a broad range of player emotions while challenging them with living successfully within the game world. Players can chat, find their friends, express their emotions, individualize their avatars from a huge array of clothing, turn their room into a unique living space, develop their abilities and learn new skills, take a job, play word and puzzle mini-games, marry, and keep a Z-Pet that develops based on the treatment it receives.
Does the game have any limits on the number of online players? Will players be able to choose different characters and play as family members in the game?
Z-Opolis is a single shard massively multiplayer game so 100,000’s of players can play together. Since there is no violence in Z-Opolis and every map is open to every player (except for private rooms and clubs) you can consider it the “ultimate chatroom”. The whole idea is to hang out with other players while in pursuit of your own virtual life goals. Socializing online will never be the same.
In Z-Opolis a dream world avatar is still connected to a real world player and reflects their true essence. Consequently, every male player will be able to have a single avatar chosen from: boy, teen, or young man. Every female player will be able to have a single avatar (per account) chosen from: girl, teen, or young woman. Each player can pick their hair and clothes, with enough combinations and permutations to make everyone unique! However, beyond the initial limitation, as a player learns to mold Z-Opolis around them they will be able to find or make special items that allow them to change gender and age.
And, yes, if players want to they can play family roles.
How do characters develop?
A player needs to develop two main attributes: Intelligence Quotient (IQ) and Social Quotient (SQ), as well as their proficiency at any of the 6 different types of job they can take: Gatherer, Hunter, Miner, Chef, Designer, Engineer or Trader. After all in the virtual world you still need money, or in our case DZ’s (more colloquially known as “Dizzies”), and the best way to get it is to earn it.
Players earn IQ by playing mini-games against other players, by being successful in the Quiz Box where they compete answering general knowledge questions, by racing through The Labyrinth and finding treasure chests before other players can, by finding or trading extra special items, or even by finding the right combination to make special items (to increase IQ) themselves.
SQ is earned through positive interaction with other players. The more buddies a player has and the higher the friendship level they have with each, the more SQ they have. Lose friends, lose SQ! There are also treasure chests that increase SQ in The Labyrinth.
It is a combination of IQ, SQ, job level, and money that determines how successful a player can be in Z-Opolis... not really that much different from the real world.
Where are you with launching the game?
We did a very limited open beta trial that started August 1st and finished at the end of September. We received constructive feedback as well as gaining a supportive, positive, on-going player community.
This month we switched on credit-card processing and removed the ability for players to play anonymously (from us); a critical factor in promoting a kid-safe environment.
During October we are only charging $1... a great deal!
Do you want to conclude or add anything else about the game?
Although we hoped that a non-violent, "family friendly", MMOG would inspire players to co-operate rather than compete, help rather than exploit, we as a team have been blown away by just how great our players have been!