(Long) Extensive feedback from open alpha

So, I played about 4 or 5 hours during open alpha (kids wouldn’t let me do much more that weekend, sadly) and I took some notes regarding my feedback and suggestions. I haven’t had time to really type anything up until now, but I made notes while everything was fresh in my mind… I’m kind of glad I’ve had extra time to digest and gather my thoughts, though.

The Vibe

I’ve played a LOT of MMOs. Certainly not all of them, but I consider myself a big fan of the genre. Overall, I disagree with the direction the genre has taken since the huge commercial success of WoW. I got a decidedly old school vibe from Orbus while playing, and many of my suggestions will be in an attempt to enhance that feeling. If you (devs) aren’t interested in heading that direction, I’m probably about to waste a lot of time for both of us. However, I think that building so many systems fundamentally based on player skill (archery, sword combos, rune spells) combined with the sense of exploration and new/unknown-ness of having an MMO in VR have already made a strong push in that direction.

I’m not calling for a return of the hardcore grindiness of Everquest, but instead hoping to recapture the old feeling of not knowing what to expect over the next hill or in the next cave. Admittedly, recreating that sense of wonder in any lasting way would be challenging in today’s world with Google and game wikis, but I feel like it’s an important part of what MMOs should be… and I feel like Orbus is well on its way with the minimalist in-character interface design. I think that randomness is the key to expanding that feel in the game world. Wilderness quest givers who don’t spawn in the same place every time and don’t stick around forever, loot from randomly rare-spawned monsters, unguarded loot that randomly spawns in hidden corners of the world (first thought to come to mind - a “sword in the stone” type random spawn, players might think it’s a setpiece and not even think to try to pick it up).

Here is a sort of bulleted list of further suggestions to help enhance the old school vibe I’m getting from Orbus so far:

  • Keep the interface minimalist and immersive - the compass is a stroke of genius! Talk of a simple hand-drawn style map the player could refer to (with no player location indicator or quest markers, of course) seemed like a good idea as well. In addition, I’d love to see some signage in the game world. Legible markers at the entrances and exits of towns, as well as crossroads in the wilds, would ease navigation significantly in an immersive way as well.

  • The gravestone left behind on death reminded me of older MMOs as well. What about death penalties? I believe I read somewhere that lootable player corpses are planned for the future, but what about experience loss, etc? (I instantly thought of DAoC’s system of losing experience on death, but you can reclaim it by praying at your grave.) It’s a tough balance to have death be penalized but not overly punishing, but I think it’s important to prevent people from getting to max level without learning the basics of the game (cough WoW).

  • I’d love to see an emphasis on grouping for content outside of dungeons and world bosses. The fire-breathing lizard near the garden in the starting town is a key example of this. Older MMOs were less friendly to solo play than modern games, and I think the genre lost a LOT of its social nature because of that change. Don’t bar players from playing solo, but look for ways to strongly incentivize grouping (older MMOs did it through monster difficulty, experience payout, and downtime). I made many lifelong friends while grouping in old MMOs nearly 20 years ago now, and I’d love to see a return to the emphasis on the second M.

  • How about a skill tree or other skill advancement during the leveling process? This is a staple in both older and newer MMOs, but older MMOs had the nuance of making you always feel like your skill points were spread thin and your decisions really mattered. Regardless, the absence of this system was one of the few glaring flaws in the alpha, in my opinion. Starting as a character and immediately having all the special arrows, or sword combos, or musket orbs… I would have loved to have them doled out over time to give a sense of progression. Even more, I would love to make permanent (or nearly permanent) choices about which ones I would have access to at the cost of others. I would also love to see skills advance to add more versatility. As a ranger, I often wished that I had a dagger or shortsword on my hip to grab when enemies got too close, for example. Things that add versatility like that would make great advancement opportunities as well.

As for more generalized feedback, I had some ideas as well:

  • Using the Steam loading screen (and unannounced/unpredictably at that) really hurts immersion (and caused some mild nausea for me on one occasion, unexpected change of movement). It might be better to switch to fixed loading points with an in-world loading screen if full game world streaming isn’t an option. (I can’t begin to imagine that technical complexity, but I know it is done in a lot of games.)

  • Locomotion woes. I think smooth locomotion should be an all or nothing prospect if at all possible. If there are technical issues or balance concerns that prevent sliding in combat, at the very least have a warning pop up when smooth locomotion is selected warning the player that they will stop moving when entering combat.

  • Additionally, I think we need some feedback so that the player is aware that they’ve entered combat. On more than one occasion, I stood there for a good 10 seconds asking myself if I’d stopped because of server issues, lag on my end, a crash, etc. only to start taking damage and turn around. Maybe a screen edge flash and/or an attention-grabbing audio cue?

  • The SAO menu gesture is a cute idea, and I enjoyed it a lot when it wasn’t happening on accident constantly. Perhaps limit it so that the menu only pops up when swiping down with the player’s non-dominant index finger? (Should be able to infer which hand is dominant based on how weapons are equipped, right?) I think players are most likely to use their dominant hand for dialog selections, so I think this would greatly reduce accidental activations.

  • More loot, especially at low levels! Each level and tier of gear really matters when you’re weak. I was disappointed that I only got, I believe, 2 equippable item upgrades in my entire play time. I don’t want to be buried in random drops at low levels, but this, too, helps the sense of progression.

  • Speaking of, is a stat/inventory UI overhaul in order? I suppose it depends largely on if complexity of itemization is something on the horizon. Many of us RPG vets love having a variety of stats to min/max, and I was a little saddened by how few stats were tracked on the stat screen. This may be a longer-term (post launch) goal, but I’d love to see more variety than the utilitarian basics that were in alpha.

  • I’d love to see different tools or techniques for different types of gathering. I felt pretty silly whacking mushrooms with a pickaxe. Maybe a spade or something for gathering plants? Or maybe even pulling them up with your bare virtual hand?

  • And finally, what about fast travel? I know that the teleportation rituals exist, and they are certainly an understandable option, given VR sickness concerns. However, I’d love to see some more options for getting around the world a bit quicker. I don’t have any suggestions that I think are great without being super obvious, but I truly hope this is something you discuss internally. The world will only get bigger (we hope)!

Overall, I have to say that I LOVED the game, and I’m looking forward to playing a lot more of it. Even if you aren’t trying to capture the niche “old guy grasping for the glory days of archaic MMORPG gameplay” market. (There are dozens of us! Dozens!)

If you somehow read all of my ramblings, thank you for your time. If not, I totally understand. This got really long.


A couple quick answers off the top of my head:
Abilities will be unlocked over the leveling process.

Groups can achieve up to a 1.6x exp bonus multiplier.

Death currently removes 40% durability and only 10% if you reclaim your grave. Eventually you’ll drop all tradeable items on death.

Loot will eventually have various stats and the artificing class can craft augments to boost various stats or abilities.

A lot of good points and quite a few things are already planned to make your dreams come true!

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That’s great! I obviously didn’t know most of that stuff, though I have been trying to read up where I can.

My only critique is that item durability loss has proven to not be enough of a deterrent to player death in games that I’ve played in the past. (Durability loss is what WoW does, but it matters so little in the game that I honestly forgot about it until you brought it up.) I’d like to see it a bit more punishing than that. Although, dropping items that can be looted by others is, of course, a heavy cost. One which might err on the side of being too punishing, depending on exactly how it’s implemented.

Currently as far as I can remember a death causes 40% durability loss and you recover 30% of it if you make it back to your grave. So if you die in a hard place and die again that is 80% loss and then die one more time and Opps, all your gear is broken and needs repaired.

So you get 2 chances after death to get to your body. I’d say that is harsh enough.

I’m super stoked for next test. If you ever see me in Orbus feel free to stop me to say Hi and I am always willing to help new people. :cowboy_hat_face:

I would counter with two arguments:

  1. Who’s dying three times in a row in the same place in an MMO? I think I died 4 times total during open alpha, and 3 of those were before I noticed the con diamond above monsters (ie, I was fighting things I had no business trying to fight because I didn’t know better).

  2. Three strikes and you repair is a minor inconvenience / gold sink, not a harsh penalty. Back in my day, we lost levels. I’m not requesting that we go back to that, but multiple deaths should cost a bit more than a few minutes walking and a bit of gold. When the death penalty matters, people play differently. You position in a place where you can get back to your body easily, you run from bad pulls or unlucky adds, etc. - there are always tactical contingencies. I feel like those considerations add depth to the minute to minute gameplay, and I miss that. It’s like playing poker for money vs playing with chips that don’t mean anything. If there’s nothing meaningful on the line, someone at the table is going to bet like an idiot all night and ruin the fun for everyone.

Apologies if I sound combative, that’s not my intent. I’m just attempting to support my original positions. All of my suggestions are just suggestions, none of this stuff is a deal breaker either way. I’m definitely going to be buying/playing!

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Currently Dram (Gold) is extremely rare. It only comes from completing a finite amount of quests. Unlike wow where gold is as plentiful as the grass that grows around you. So repairing is a fair penalty for now. I’m not sure people immersed in VR will enjoy being punished too harshly but all the systems are in their early form including the penalties and are subject to change and improvment. Riley has said in the past he plans on a mixture of both rewards and penalties. We will soon see what Riley has in store for us.

Cheers :cowboy_hat_face:

Losing XP and thus levels is a BRUTAL punishment for merely dying.

…especially with an always-online game, as Diablo 3 Hardcore Mode players can attest to the brutality of a lag spike or a server hitch during combat causing a death! O_O

Severity depends heavily on the amount of experience lost. In Dark Age of Camelot, you lose 10% of your progress to next level and regain half of the amount lost by visiting your grave… So, only 5% loss if you get back to where you died. It wasn’t so bad most of the time, you never lost levels like in EQ, but you also never hit max level if you played badly and died frequently. Before WoW came along, experience loss was the death penalty in every big name MMO and we were all playing on dialup back then so a LOT of xp was lost to connection troubles, yet we all scrambled to log back in as fast as we could and get back to it.

D3 hardcore has permadeath, regardless of why/how you died, and a large portion of the community still chooses to play it, knowing a server hiccup can take their character away forever at any time. It just requires a very different, more methodical method of play. It’s also quite a rush to win a major boss fight, etc. with so much on the line.

Also, I got a good laugh out of “merely dying.” Is there something in the game reality that should be a bigger deal than that? I think death should be a pretty significant inconvenience. That’s still a huge step down from how I’d classify it in real life. :slight_smile:

Penalizing death in a video game then comes down to the question of "Do you want more of a simulation, or more of a game?"
I play to have fun. =)

“Death is but a door, time is but a window. I’ll be back.” Ya know? :wink:

I agree when it comes to punishingly difficult games. I’m older now, I work full time, I have a wife and kids, and my reflexes aren’t what they once were. I’d rather play for fun than die over and over and not get anywhere in the few hours a week I can spare.

That said, MMORPGs are historically not difficult games. Orbus doesn’t seem to be shaping up to be overly difficult either, and that’s totally ok! In fact, of the dozens I’ve played, I’ve never come across one that I would rank as difficult. The minute to minute gameplay is generally pretty chill, and avoiding death is pretty easy if you pay attention to what you’re doing. In low difficulty games, especially cooperative ones where I rely on other people, I prefer a harsher death penalty because (like in my poker game analogy a few posts above) it ensures that everyone is taking things seriously, which results in fewer deaths for everyone.

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Open PvP you can die a lot. I would camp people then they would bring all of their friends and camp me, then I would bring mine and camp them again. Wiping on new content as you figure it out can have multiple deaths especially if undergeared. I don’t think an extreme stiff death penalty is the way to go. Although I wouldn’t mind it, but I’m sure a lot of people who don’t like pvp and get killed over and over would be upset.


Speaking, again, based on genre conventions, the full death penalty usually doesn’t apply to PvP deaths. Death is kind of a foregone conclusion of PvP - someone is always going to die - hence the penalty is usually reduced to just running back to where you were, maybe minor equipment damage. It isn’t really fair to punish players for participating PvP (except in abuse situations, like camping lowbies, but that’s another conversation).

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I completely agree with all of OP’s suggestions. (I am one of those “dozens”)

-Leveling up should be significantly more difficult when playing solo.
-There should be a death penalty (dropping tradeable items sounds fine, but I would prefer 10% exp to next level loss, since you could avoid the penalty just by not carrying tradeable items)

I would add one thing:

-It should take a long time to reach the max level. Being max level should feel like an accomplishment.