Sunday, March 29, 2015

Pull!: Nevergrind

Tipa alerted me to this odd, and oddly entertaining, browser title. It's heavily influenced by classic Everquest in everything but the actual combat, which is apparently derived from one of the few MMOs I never played, Phantasy Star Online.

Indeed, when you're faced with the character creation screen you might wonder if you haven't logged into EQ via some wormhole through time. The font, frames  and color palette are all eerily reminiscent. The classes and races - well, they're not just reminiscent - they're identical.

Joe Leonard, the one-man dev team behind Nevergrind, began the whole thing as some kind of fan project cum self-education program. From there it grew into a Kickstarter that's already 75% funded with eighteen days still to run.

Partly that must be because Joe really is being highly realistic with his hopes and expectations. He's only asking for $4000, which is the same amount he's already spent commissioning the very attractive and professional artwork (by Jocelyn Sarvida) you can see in the game right now.

It's a huge advantage for the funding process that the game we're being asked to back is already available and fully playable. Indeed it looks more as though the fundraiser is to recoup costs already expended than to get the game finished.

That might be seen as a problem, especially for a title that is going to be free to play anyway, but the business model does include a Cash Shop and the Pledges include cash shop currency and in-game items, meaning that, if it's a game you think you might play, then pledging really amounts to pre-ordering and paying up front for some stuff you'd most likely end up buying anyway.

There's an interesting and informative interview (once again found by Tipa) that gives some fascinating background. The hard details on costs, particularly of having bespoke art and sound assets created, I found very intriguing. Who knew it could be done so economically with such fine results?

All in all this looks like a very solid product with its feet planted firmly on the ground. I'm not entirely sure it's something I'd play very often, being mostly an MMO player, but the Everquest vibe is a strong draw and it plays perfectly on my Windows tablet so who knows? I got my ogre Shadowknight to level five in a few minutes just before I started writing this piece and he gets spells at level 9 (sounds familiar) so I wouldn't want to stop before then.

What's more, if Joe can get to some of the stretch goals, such as in-game chat, mail and player-to-player trading, who's to say it won't end up being an MMO after all? I haven't backed it yet but chances are I will, if only for a modest amount. Either way, it's a good-looking, well-presented Kickstarter for a very playable game and I'm very happy to give it what little extra publicity I can.


  1. After the first few lines my first thought was, what about IP?
    If it's that heavily influenced by EQ doesn't that imply a cease and desist notice will be forthcoming in short order?

    1. Also my first thought. I was being deliberately positive in the post so I intentionally didn't mention it but yes, it's right there staring you in the face. Joe says he's redone all the art assets to originals and I'm sure that's the case but I think he might also need to go through and change all the names. It's not just the classes and races - the mobs have the same names as EQ mobs and so do many of the spells.

      Also linking to Project99 on the launch page may not be the best of ideas.

  2. Hey guys, Joe Leonard here. As you would imagine I did quite a bit of research on the IP issue. To answer your concerns I changed everything that I thought was a point of concern. I changed the zones, the named mobs, and any item name that was not generic and "too EQ". I doubt the common mob names and skill names would be an issue. That would go against a long history of legal precedent. If that is the case then I would like to see them sue vanilla World of Warcraft which ripped off so many elements directly out of Everquest. And don't forget that EverQuest itself was highly derivative of DikuMUD. So much so that it was partially derived from its code base:

    The bottom line is that everyone steals from everyone in the creative community. Original ideas are an extreme rarity.

    1. Hi Joe! Thanks for dropping in. I'm sure you're right on the moral side of the argument and you're definitively right on the history. It's just that big companies have a habit of pointing at their big legal departments and letting the implied cost of litigation do the rest.

      As you say, though, this has been going on forever and everyone does steal from everyone else - or get inspired by, to be more positive about it. When I first played WoW (five years after launch) I found the similarities between The Barrens and The Commonlands in EQ2 jaw-dropping. Who copied who there I have no idea since the games came out almost simultaneously.

      Anyway, good luck with the Kickstarter and the game! I see you're almost over the line with another two weeks to go.


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