Mechanist Games’ Narrative-Driven Browser MMORPG City of Steam
The Chinese MMORPG studio Mechanist Games have been quietly at work on a browser MMO ‘City of Steam’ for about two years, and recently announced plans for Reality Squared Games to publish the English version. We’ve been following the development of this narrative-focused steampunk game for a while now, and hope the connections with R2 Games will help bring this browser-based MMORPG to a wider audience.
Explore Steampunk City of Steam in Your Browser
City of Steam has already had a few rounds of closed beta testing, and I was able to participate in their December closed beta. The game is scheduled for an open beta release later this year, but no formal launch date has been set.
Mechanist’s City of Steam will be a browser-based MMO, with the traditional art and production values of an MMORPG but without requiring a major download or high system requirements. Without those barriers to entry, Mechanist Games can woo players who are fans of steampunk and fantasy narratives and who may not be hardcore MMO gamers. The game story, set in a detailed steampunk realm, is revealed through interlocking narrative-focused mission chains. Each characters in City of Steam begins with personal quests, which introduce the gameworld and allow players to begin setting up their home. Decorating a virtual home, especially one to be visited by other players, has been used successfully in many freemium games like Habbo Hotel, Travians, and even Sims Social. (I’ve really enjoyed stealing, that is, acquiring attractive items to furnish my virtual home in Morrowind as well.) City of Steam has 11 playable races and 4 character classes, and each combination leads to different abilities and different quest options, for a complex, engaging narrative.
Besides story, the game focuses on crafting and exploration. Players can build and modify crazy steampunk fashions, powerful weapons and vehicles. The final game will also include a player auction hall for trading parts and selling finished creations. Here’s some concept art for steampunk creations.
The game will be free to play, with the option to purchase additional items. Mechanist Games has said a few times that virtual upgrades will add to gameplay without enabling the pay-to-win system or the unbalanced gameplay that plagues freemium games.
With the rise of free-to-play, free download games, and even the accessibility of pirated games, I think there can a be an expectation of free play. I don’t fully agree with that. I think game design is an art and a craft, and that dev teams deserve payment for their craft. But I don’t think making an unbalanced game, and then asking players to pay to rebalance the difficulty is good game design. (I’m looking at you, Robinson, Zenonia 5, and many other not-free freemium games) I hope Mechanist Games will be able to make a profitable City of Steam without falling into this all-too-common freemium trap.
What’s Next For City Of Steam
Mechanist Games have recently partnered with Reality Squared Games to release the English version. Mechanist is already at work on Turkish and Arabic translations of City of Steam, to be published by DAO Games in those areas. Since City of Steam is a browser game, it doesn’t require a publisher in the traditional sense of getting games boxes on store shelves, so I expect Reality Squared Games’ role to have more to do with marketing City of Steam and making the game accessible to potential players. Reality Squared Games is the publisher of freemium multiplayer games, like Crystal Saga, so they would be well suited to releasing a browser MMO. City of Steam is currently on Steam’s Greenlight as well.