Last November we reported on a new Icelandic game studio and the hints of its upcoming MMORPG project from ex-CCP developers. Arctic Theory, as it’s called, is working on a title called Annex, “a persistent single-shard MMO sandbox game that will showcase the company’s Metaverse platform technology.”
After that initial announcement of the project and initial investment of $2 million, we reached out to Arctic Theory to learn more about the studio and an MMO that’s been shaped by them in some way EVE online Design.
Massively OP: Can you introduce your studio and team? How did the Arctic Theory come about?
Creative Director & Co-Founder Gísli Konráðsson: Arctic Theory is a game development studio founded by veterans of the MMO genre. Our head office is located in the heart of the Hafnarfjörður lava fields in Iceland. We have a mix of in-office, hybrid and remote colleagues.
Our motivation for starting the company was primarily a passion for developing MMO games and a desire to create something new and innovative in the MMO field. the
Founders have been working on numerous projects in the gaming industry for decades.
As some of the key people behind it EVE Online, our DNA is linked to the need to build vibrant, ever-evolving virtual worlds that players can immerse themselves in for years to come. So this is us
What funding does your studio have (internal, venture capital, crowdfunding, etc.)?
Initially, the original founders invested their own money in the studio. That made it possible for us
quickly create space to lay the foundation for Arctic theory and explore creative possibilities at a more comfortable pace. The self-financing also enabled us to create prototypes
when setting up the infrastructure in the early days of the company.
In March 2022 we also completed a pre-seed round with Icelandic VC Brunnur Ventures.
We can’t go into detail yet, but we are also pursuing other financing options
expand our team.
What is behind the two key names you have chosen – “Arctic Theory”? and “Annex?”
In all honesty, we thought Arctic Theory just sounded cool (and it still does).
Annex is still a working title, coming from the core idea of players reclaiming theirs
place in the world we and they build. While we haven’t released much lore and backstory for the game, I can report that the planet has reached a state where the natural elements have taken over. Players enter the game when only the remains of its former residents remain. Their mission is to band together and reclaim their place in this environment. It is up to the players how to achieve this.
How many team members do you have? How many have experience developing MMO or live service games?
Our core team is currently small, but our headquarters can accommodate up to 25 people
additional colleagues. As we recruit new staff, these roles will be filled in the coming months. we
we also have a network of freelancers and telecommuters filling our ranks.
Our leadership team has, to some extent, nearly half a century of experience working on live service games. One of the pillars we’ve built our company on is that we want to run our game with a small team. We believe that one of the main reasons why there hasn’t been much innovation in the MMO space for a while is that it’s a technically complex genre.
What can you tell us Annex at this point? Looking for a timeframe for a full reveal? How far is the project in development?
It is set in a post-post-apocalyptic world where a cataclysm has wiped out most of the world
infrastructure of the world. Players enter at a time when most has been sorted
and there is some semblance of normality.
Players don’t have to worry about housing or food or many of the things you would see in a survival MMO. Your goal is to explore the sandbox world, rebuild it and put your unique stamp on the world. I like to think of it as a kind of romantic gold rush era where there are all sorts of opportunities for those who want to venture into the unknown wilderness and create the infrastructure needed to take advantage of the resources and treasures that are there are found.
The gameplay is a mix of traditional third-person games where the player travels and
interacts with other players and a world builder in which players create and manage
outpost in the wilderness. The purpose of these outposts is designed for automation and
Crafting, meaning they act as factories to convert raw materials into more useful things
(Infrastructure modules, tools, vehicles, etc.).
These player-run outposts can then be linked to form settlements
which players can start to really make their mark on the world. through the settlements
Players can build permanent magnificent monuments throughout the game world. Think big
Pyramids of Gizeh or the Taj Mahal for example. Some of these creations will affect the
world in a meaningful, enduring way.
Working together, they can also build functional means of gaining access to new biomes, such as bridges over huge canyons, tunnels, zip lines, etc.
The game has been actively developed and tested for the last two years and we are doing so
pretty happy with where it is right now. The goal is to do a decent soft launch of the game over the next few months, including inviting players and streamers to test specific builds.
We will be making an announcement just prior to the event letting the media know when this will happen and where to watch the stream. The intention of this event is to let the participants create the first monument in this permanent world; something that will be part of the future story of the game for new players to find and explore once the game is fully launched.
What do you think is missing or needed in the MMO space these days? how is yours team ready for it?
The biggest thing missing from the MMO space today, in our opinion, is innovation. the
Formula that many of the MMO games follow is outdated. Studios that dare to dip their toes into the MMO genre often try to mitigate the risk by simply sticking with what has worked in the past, which has been done countless times before. This creates consistency in a gaming genre that has so much potential for innovation in both story and worldbuilding.
As MMO players, we know that gamers are hungry for something new. We are too.
Creating MMO games is a unique challenge in many ways. With thousands of players
Sharing a persistent game world is technically complex from a game design perspective.
Creating content that moves in a persistent world over a period of months and years is
Our studio, our tools and our team are specifically designed to iterate and innovate in the MMO space.
We have developers who have been involved in creating virtual worlds for the last 30+ years and have contributed to some of the most ambitious games ever made. But we place
enormous emphasis on the new generation of game developers who are not affiliated with the
Restrictions of the past, especially some of the habits of playing it safe
developed by the old guard of the MMO space. We use our experience to create one
Environment for the next generation of developers to push the genre forward.
You said you value “world progression over player progression”. Can you explain that in more detail? Doesn’t individual player progress matter to your title?
One of the game’s central design pillars is collaboration, and player progression can be limited
das. In traditional MMO games, players are often segmented based on their progress. things
For example, if I’m level 120 and you’re level 10, we can’t raid together, enter this region, share
Resources etc. There is also the problem where a player has reached the maximum level, they have that
“outgrew” a large amount of content they have become OP to be challenged and
have fun with their friends.
I don’t want player progression to limit collaboration, which means that if people want to play together, their position in a skill tree or their experience points won’t prevent it. So by shifting much of the progression to the world itself, when you and your friends want to progress, that progression is best reflected in your impact on the world.
Having the player’s progression in the world also means that it becomes a literal part of world history. What you do together makes a mark in a real, measurable way. That is a much stronger motivator for me than reaching a certain level.
We still see value in player progression, but there’s definitely a balance between that and
World progress that we actively develop and balance.
Are you primarily developing for PC or for multiple platforms?
The game is initially developed for PC, but since it is built in Unreal Engine 5, it is compatible with multiple platforms. For now we’re concentrating on the platform where we can iterate fastest, which of course is PC.
What games from other studios inspire you in your current venture?
EVE Online has always had a special place in my heart. I played the game for years before that
to get my first job in the gaming industry. As a gamer, I’ve always felt so humbled to just be a part of this vast world and the stories within it. I rarely fought in the big battles, but I did help out in a few mining operations and I loved exploring. The game made that impression on me.
Coming to CCP as a developer, I always felt like I was building something people care about and leaving a legacy in the game.
Other games that are a great inspiration are factor and satisfactorygreat building and
Producing games that provided a constant opportunity for optimization and creation. They let you choose your own brain and generate a deep sense of satisfaction as you learn and achieve more within them. And I finally think the civilization Franchise with its large-scale, constant evolution of the world.
At the core of these last three titles are experiences that we’d like to see elevated to an MMO
Space in unique, truly entertaining ways that will keep players hooked for years. We believe we are the studio to make this happen.
Many thanks to Arctic Theory for the interview!
https://massivelyop.com/2023/01/17/interview-annex-is-a-romantic-gold-rush-mmo-set-in-a-post-post-apocalyptic-world/ Interview: Annex is a “romantic gold rush” MMO set in a post-post-apocalyptic world