Game Design Philosophy

What motivated you to make Palia? Was it a lack of similar MMOs?

Palia has definitely been a labor of love. I’ve always been a big fan of community sim games, going back to Harvest Moon on the SNES. Bringing that kind of game into an immersive fantasy world at the massively multiplayer scale really spoke to me as a player.

Additionally, I’ve personally been really impacted by the amazing online communities I’ve gotten to be a part of through the various MMOs I’ve played deeply over the years. Building a game that can foster that kind of community experience around a different kind of core game experience was really the spark leading to the overall company vision.

 

How is a community based MMORPG different from the "standard" MMORPG?

While we do share some feature overlap with traditional MMORPG’s, Palia’s genre is Community Simulation MMO. Which means our core loop and primary gameplay systems have a very different focus. One way we like to put it is that all of the sideshows in an MMORPG (crafting, gathering, housing, etc.) are our main events, where we pour all our energy and resources.

 

Many activities in MMOs involve minigames. What can we expect from Palia in this vein? Is there a unifying design philosophy behind minigames?

Aidan, Game Director: There is definitely a broad set of minigames available in Palia, and at first glance there may seem like there is a large departure between each instance you encounter; but there are some unifying principles:

--Fulfill the Player Fantasy--
What fantasy are players attempting to live out by engaging with this minigame? Minigames should find their inspiration from the real life execution of that player fantasy. If I’m fishing, it should feel like fishing.

--Game over Simulation--
While we find inspiration from real life, and some elements of simulating the real thing are crucial to us achieving our first goal, we prioritize player experience over a meticulous recreation of reality.

--Keep it in the World--
Whenever possible, we avoid bringing up full screen UI elements that take you out of the world of Palia. Both because we’ve designed this world to be a charming place to spend time in, and because we’ve filled it with other players, dynamic living world systems, and a bevy of ways to interact.

--Fun Solo, Better Together--
We are supporting players playing the game ‘solo,’ whether because you’re waiting for friends to come online or it’s your preferred way to play. However, the presence or involvement of other players should be a boon to whatever experience you’re engaging in.

--Accessible Depth, Opt-in Challenge--
With appropriate time and effort, all players should be able to find success when engaging with the skills of their choosing. However, for players seeking to demonstrate skill and mastery we create optional, advanced goals to achieve.

 

How is Palia approaching the replayability design? What are you doing to make the game truly replayable, so that players look forward to coming back each day?

This has been a key component we’ve been considering since the inception of Palia. The intention has always been to design Palia to be a game that can last for decades. That means regular content updates and a variety of systems built with replayability in mind.

Additionally, we expect that a huge aspect of the game that will keep it fresh and exciting are the other players you’re engaging with and building a community around. We’ve already seen exceptional creativity from the pre-alpha players, and expect the potential for other players to improve and expand your experience with Palia to continue to grow as we approach launch and beyond.

Finally, we know that not every feature in Palia will resonate to the same degree with every Palia player, and that’s not only ok, but intentional for many major systems. However, if you’re a person that enjoys community simulation games and doing activities with friends, then we’re doing everything we can to build a game for you.

 

When it comes to player progression, how does Palia intend to keep players playing and keep coming back?

Aidan: Hi Skunk,

This is definitely a valid question that calls on us to evaluate what our long-term plans are for Palia.

Many of our game’s features, including skills, have been designed to be expanded over the game’s lifespan through patches and content updates well beyond launch. Whether you’re a new player just starting out or a long-timer with many hours, we want our patches to provide a wide variety of content that appeals to a number of different playstyles and preferences. This can include, for example, a new furniture set that has the missing piece you need to finish out your tavern-themed game room, or a series of quests that finally gives you a satisfying conclusion to your favorite villager’s coming-of-age arc. Larger updates will contain exciting things like entirely new maps to explore or even new skills added for you to dive into.

To expand more on our some of our plans for Palia, we brought in Sixers Eris and Bourbon to comment on home décor and skills:

Home Decoration

Eris: Think of your home as your base. No matter what adventures you set off on as you explore the world, you’ll always have a space to welcome you back. We really wanted to capture the pride that comes from slowly building out a space that you can call your own. Thus, the ability to decorate and customize your home will be core to your experience in Palia. We hope to provide lots of indoor furniture options, outdoor decor pieces, and many other ways for you to find what fits in the home of your dreams.

Skills

Bourbon: Skills are a core part of Palia’s gameplay loop. We made the decision for skills to have, as you mentioned, “limitless level caps” with the intention of expanding each track out over time. As you progress in a skill, you gain medals that you can use to claim rare materials, or exchange them for unlockables that are meant to be an indication of your effort. For example, if you have a koi pond in your garden, it’s a sign you’ve invested your effort into the Foraging skill. You can also choose to exchange your medals for other unlockables, recipes, and exclusive items. This way, we’re rewarding players for their time in progressing these skills, but providing different reward systems for their type of play.

Aidan: In the future, we’re aiming to develop more community activities such as shared communal spaces, social gathering events, and sandbox-type gameplay. We’re still in the early stages of design for these, but we believe this is one of the most fun ways to get players to keep coming back.

 

What is the vision for PvP in Palia?

Aidan, Game Director: The core vision and target experience for Palia centers around creating a collaborative, cozy, and safe multiplayer experience. An inherent part of providing that safety is that players know that they exist in a world largely devoid of physical, social, and emotional threats. As such, we feel that player versus player (pvp) combat is antithetical to our core experiential goals.

Additionally, this is an area that many great games we love have invested in deeply, and since it’s not our core, we’re unlikely to produce an experience that measures up to player expectations were we to divert our focus into this area as well.

Having said that, we do believe that there are some competitive play opportunities that can make sense in our world, in large part because they’re the kind of light hearted competitive experiences we expect to find amongst family or close friends. A Sunday afternoon card game can be cozy. Racing on the beach can still feel like vacation.

Additionally, many of our core systems ladder up quite naturally into an option for a little competitive play. I know I’ve spent a lot of time with my family watching cooking competitions, and maybe you’re eager to be recognized for your interior design skills?

Regardless, the thing that will remain consistently true is that competition is not our core, and any competitive options we add will not impinge on the core game experience, and we will strive not to tempt you into engagement with their rewards.

 

How accessible will the game be for people who are sensitive to flash, or have hearing problems, as well as for people with reading difficulties? Will you use a dyslexic friendly font?

Can the game be played on adaptive controllers? As some people with disabilities have difficulty playing games.

We want everyone who comes to Palia to be able to play! This involves a lot of work, though, and we definitely won’t be able to get to it all at launch. While there are some known issues that we are committed to getting into our launch scope, there are still areas we need to educate ourselves on, and getting feedback from players on what hinders them enjoying Palia is always a great start. We expect to continually add features to support accessibility, and we expect to continually get feedback from our players on how we are doing and how we can improve in that space.

We will be testing the game for visual sensitivity as well as making sure we have individual volume controls to help with audio clarity. There are other features we have planned in regards to both visual and audio difficulties (like colorblindness mode), but depending on the scope some may or may not make it in time for launch.

For controls, we do plan on allowing for free key binding which should allow for integrating with other devices, but full controller support may come at a later time.

TL;DR Accessibility is always part of the conversation, but we will be rolling out bits and pieces as we go.

 

What is your vision and approach towards transportation around Palia?

Fundamentally, we view this as a balance between immersion and convenience, and believe that the importance of these 2 elements shift as you spend more and more time in a space. We’ve been focused on building a world worthy of exploration, so as you’re discovering each part of the world for the first time, minding all the details can be rewarding and important. As you play longer, you’ll start to engage with new systems that soften the navigation burden over time.

At a high level, being present in the world is something we think is important in Palia so we’re trying to strike a balance that keeps Palia feeling like a tangible, interconnected place without allowing the need for immediate gratification to ever get too sharp. There should be joy in the journey, not just the destination.

 

With climate change & wildlife protection being such big topics in the real world, will the game feature such elements as well?

I am thinking of things like replanting trees, making sure our impact on an area isn’t harmful to the flora & fauna living there, or animal rescue & rehabilitation.

Our first priority is, of course, making sure the game is delivering a great experience to players. However, there are a variety of themes we take into consideration when trying to find the right direction for a feature.

One of the themes we think has a lot of synergy with the values of Palia is indeed conservation. This particular theme can be difficult to balance with a game so focused on acquiring resources to make progress in the game, but we’ve found a couple methods already we think help speak to that direction and are always keeping an open mind on opportunities to support it in the future.

A couple elements that come to mind:
- Players are able to plant new trees, as well as grow a variety of crops
- Players can progress skills like cooking without leaning on wildlife if they so choose

We are interested in hearing how players feel about these themes and elements, so please share your feedback when you play the game 🙂 

 

What sort of time scale(s) are being considered for the day-night cycle?

Our desire is for Palia to be a game that is flexible and allows you to engage in a way that makes sense on your schedule. As such, our day/night phases are set up in such a way that you’ll be able to experience each phase regardless of when you typically play.

There is something just inherently pleasing about having a manageable routine to tend to at the start of each day, and that is certainly present in Palia. However, we know that it’s very easy for this to get to a point in which it dominates your experience with the game, preventing you from pursuing the goals you’re most excited about. Keeping the amount of work in check even as the complexity of your housing plot scales up over time is something we’re keeping a close eye on as we continue to develop and iterate on the game.

 

I read about hunting and fishing features. Will it be possible to play Palia in a non-violent way or do you have to hunt to progress in the game?

One of our core values for Palia is allowing the player to “play the way they want to play,” and yes, this particular desire has been expressed by quite a few in the community and on the development team. Our economy is already set up in a way where you can acquire the items themselves without needing to directly engage in the skill or activity. But to take things a step further, we’re also looking into adding in item variants so you can use options not sourced from creatures.

 

I know Palia is a passive game with no PvP but will there be weapons we can make or use to go hunting or fight monsters/animals?

We want to provide an experience to our community sim audience first, and there are exciting possibilities to go beyond that. It's helpful to remember that while Palia is a community sim MMO, it is not an MMORPG. MMORPG's are typically about slaying foes and getting stronger, but Palians spend the majority of their time engaging in gathering and crafting activities, developing relationships with NPC's, and building up their plot of land.

We have absolutely heard the feedback from players that they want some form of combat gameplay in Palia, and have a few plans in the works. Currently, our Hunting skill is closest to this in feel. (More details soon) Players can hunt Palian wildlife with a bow and arrow for their hides, meat, and other valuable materials to craft and cook.

Our first goal is to provide a stellar experience to the community SIM audience, and then anything is possible for expanding the game in the years (and hopefully decades) that we will be adding to the game!

 

Hi, I have young children, and we would like to play a game in an online setting and saw that Palia could be a calm enough setting that they would enjoy it.

But I need to know, will there be any plans to add family friendly filters? So say I could lock my kids accounts down so they cannot speak to others or others speak to them outside preset lines?

Some other games have done similar in the past, but either are now gone, or on their last legs (gamigo style).

We are currently rating Palia as 13+. Not because of content we think wouldn't be appropriate for someone under 13 years old, but because of the themes we will be exploring in our story. A useful comparison would be the films of Hayao Miyazaki. We do have high standards for what we permit in our chat, and are committed to making our players feel safe.

 

Is the team planning for a big release of new content at launch, or will most of the content be discoverable during the playtest phases?

We plan on releasing new content and features regularly throughout the testing phases and after launch. Some releases will obviously be larger than others, but we expect to have something new on a monthly basis post launch. So while we aren’t really planning some grand reveal, there will definitely be many exciting things in store with each playtest, launch, and beyond.

 

How do you plan to maintain a sense of community and togetherness within the vast amount of servers? Will there be a Phasing approach?

To make sure we're on the same page, I'm assuming Phasing refers to a system in which some aspect of a player's state in the game determines which of a set number of potential versions of the same map you actually appear on when entering that area. This is commonly done to allow for changes in the world to occur, but as you highlight, comes at the cost of potentially segmenting the player base across socially undesirable lines.

Common concerns with Phasing as it exists in other games are some of the reasons we’ve chosen not to employ that approach for Palia.

Excluding some international restrictions, you will be able to play with any player, any time you like. Our server structure is fairly unique in the MMO space, and we believe it will be one of the features that helps us foster a sense of community and togetherness.

It's also important to highlight that groups above a certain scale also tend to struggle to create lasting community and social connection. That's why systems like Guilds exist. To take a pool of thousands or millions of players and cut that down to a manageable number of players with shared goals and expectations. We're betting on our server structure to help us meet this challenge too.

 

Festivals have always been a big part of most traditional life-sims, with some being original creations and others reflecting major real-world holidays. How will Palia handle holidays in-game with the accelerated day-night cycle?

Aidan, Game Director: When it comes to all the nitty-gritty around how events reflect the day-night cycle, or number of events throughout the year, those decisions will be determined after our current phase of work. Right now we’re focusing on designing and testing the fundamental functionality, which will inform a lot of those choices!

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