PAX West 2017: FrostKeep Studios’ REND shreds survival MMOs

Logo_Rend-1168x526Frostkeep Studios’ Co-founder Jeremy Wood and developer Jordan Leithart ambitiously hope to re-invigorate survival crafting MMOs with their faction-based PvP survival MMO Rend.

Wood and Leithart are no strangers to the MMO genre. Wood worked at Blizzard for 10 years on the original World of Warcraft, and Leithart worked on Carbine Studios’ Wildstar. (Much of Frostkeep Studios small team comes from both Blizzard and Carbine. You can read more about them here.)

But with Rend, Frostkeep hopes to solve some common pain points for fans of survival MMO games (like Ark: Survival Evolved and similar fare).

Often in survival MMO games, large dominant factions eventually come into power and become so entrenched that there is little to no hope of ever toppling them. Survival is difficult for inexperienced players, who are easy prey for powerful factions and their players. PvP conflict stagnates, and with it so can much of the fun. Often, the only option for new players is to find another server to play on—or give up playing the game altogether.

Solving stagnation with an end game

So how do you ‘fix’ PvP stagnation and prevent a single faction from dominating a server and entrenching themselves to the point that they are nigh-invincible?

Simple: Reset the server.

Rend screenshot (Alpha) of your faction’s Divinity Stone. Credit: Frostkeep Studios

Frostkeep wants to encourage conflict but drive everything toward an end game. Rend has an actual victory condition. When one of the three, twenty-player factions fills their faction’s Divinity Stone with power, they win the game. And then the server resets.

Don’t think of it as The End. Playing Rend is more of a very long-form game of League of Legends or other PvP game. Achieving victory simply ‘ends’ the match. In this case, the match may take months. But eventually someone will win.

And you still get to keep a number of progression perks that persist outside the server reset. These will help when the new sun rises on a newly spawned and randomized world. You can explore and discover it all over again, and you and your faction members will be free to try new strategies, skills, and character builds in your quest to win the next game.

Easing in new players by grouping and shielding

One frequent problem faced by new players in survival MMOs is that they are almost immediately at the mercy of damn near everything and everyone.

For example: Once in an early build of Ark: Survival Evolved, I was running around with barely more than a hide on my back and a pointed stic when I got jumped, blinded, and eaten by a poison-spitting Dilophosaur.

Rend screenshot (Alpha) Credit: Frostkeep Studios

Rend addresses this by shielding you and your faction’s bases, and enabling newer players to lean a bit more heavily on their faction in the early game for support. Basically you don’t necessarily spawn naked and alone. You spawn naked with your friends.

But Rend also strictly controls exactly when shields come down and you will be forced to defend yourselves (and your stuff).  At pre-determined times once per week, The Reckoning drops all shields and swarms of demonic creatures storm every faction’s fortresses and lands. You and your faction will know when the shields are coming down, so you’d be prepared to fight. And with every Reckoning, these creatures get stronger.

And if you survive the onslaught of the Reckoning, you’re still vulnerable to enemy factions, who can also now raid and destroy your bases.

Basically, when the shields are down, both PvE and PvP action kicks into high gear.

The Reckoning will be regularly scheduled at different times for each server, enabling players to select a server based on their own play schedule so they can be active at those crucial times. You don’t necessarily have to be online all the time, but if you leave your lands and keeps undefended or can’t help your faction at critical points, you may find someone trashed your bases and stole your stuff the next time that you log in.

Factions make stuff, but you can make better stuff

Helping your faction is important, but you can still embark on your own quests and build your own personal bases with their own defenses, crafting stations, furniture, etc. And you won’t immediately have to worry about getting raided and plundered by far more powerful players and monsters.

Rend screenshot (Alpha) of a personal keep. Credit: Frostkeep Studios

In addition to the general items unlocked by your Faction’s crafting ‘tree’, personal crafting enables you to refine and improve items for yourself, researching specific items within a larger set and customizing those items (basically ‘socketing’ them) with your own enhancements.

For example: If your faction has unlocked a ‘Bows’ tech tree, then everyone in the faction can make bows. But there can be many different possible bow blueprints and many types of bows that can be unlocked and created by each player. And you can further refine your own bow and customize it with additional enhancements.

Interestingly, while it’s possible for other factions to raid your personal base there are elements at play that can often make destroying stuff less fruitful than just stealing it. As a survival game, resources and blueprints are important. If an enemy is active and productive, you may have more to gain by letting them produce—and then break into their home and just steal their stuff. Stolen blueprints and resources can be useful to you and your faction. So why kill a golden goose when you can just steal the eggs?

Meet the Rend factions

Rend’s factions consist of the Revenant (purple), the Order (orange), and the Conclave (green).

“Our factions are loosely based upon the types of players we saw that seemed to be naturally drawn to each other,” Leithart explains.

Put succinctly, the Revenant faction is sneaky, the Order is militaristic, and the Conclave is smart and tactical.

Like traditional MMOs, Rend will also feature a fully realized set of skill trees to choose from. Eight skill trees are projected for launch, and your “class” will consist of selecting 1 primary skill tree and 1 secondary skill tree. You can progress and purchase everything in your primary skill tree, whereas you can only progress through a portion of your secondary skill tree. Any combination of skill trees can be selected.

Everyone can contribute—even fishing dude

Although the focus on Rend will be active and competitive PvP play, you don’t necessarily need to be a frontline fighter to contribute to your faction’s success.

During our interview, I jokingly mentioned that there’s always that “1 person” that seems to eschew grandiose quests and crushing raid bosses in favor of passive skills like cooking or fishing.

“There will be skills suited to nearly everyone. For example, if you’re more interested in architecting traps, bases, and crafting instead of more active (and stressful) PvP combat, there will be skills that cater to those players,” Wood says.

“And that gives me an idea,” Leithart adds, “I think we may need to add fishing to the game.”

Dear Frostkeep Studios: If fishing makes it into Rend, please consider naming a fish after me.

Dig deeper to find the true power in Rend

While you may be initially a bit ‘shielded’ in your faction’s starting fortress during your character’s ‘underwear-and-spear’ days, Rend’s world will still be rife with resources to collect and dangerous creatures to fight and loot.

Like other survival MMOs, you and your faction will begin nearly naked and need to find basic resources to survive. Expect to gather berries to eat and punch trees for bark until you can craft basic survival tools, goods, and structures.

Because of the shields you can lean on the strength of your faction without straying too far into the wilds where you might get killed and robbed by some unscrupulous Noob-crusher that delights in smashing noobs even just to take the fur tunic and the board-with-a-nail-in-it you worked so hard to craft.

But eventually, the bigger, deeper, scarier world beckons. When you and your faction become powerful enough, you’ll want to explore Rend’s cave system.

A key feature of the cave system is that it’s dark. Really dark. So dark your gamma slider will not avail you here. Heat can kill you here (don’t forget to hydrate—this is a survival game after all), and if there’s any light at all it comes from deadly lava, so you’ll need a sustainable light source to fully explore the caves, fight their deadly denizens, and gather precious and more powerful resources.

Of course, in such a dark area having a light also makes you an easy target. Know what else can make you a target? Sound.

Clanking around in heavy armor with a torch in the bowels of Hell’s own echo chamber is sure to let everyone and everything know there’s a tin can stomping around to kill and loot.

Frostkeep makes this even more interesting, because sound and voice chat are location-based. Players (friend or foe) in the same location can hear each other’s sounds and communicate with one another. It’s easy to imagine the chaotic, shouty-sweary skirmishes that could erupt as enemy factions stumble on each other in the darkness.

Get wasted for ultimate power

Go deep enough into the caves and you can find a portal to someplace even more awful—literally the most dangerous zone in the game. The environment and monsters are at their deadliest here. But the loot is game-breaking awesome.

Welcome to The Eternal Wastes.

The eternal wastes are all ice and cold. Eternal blizzards reduce visibility to near zero, and you’d best bring something to warm yourself with or you’ll freeze to death. Rend’s most horrible monsters also live in the Wastes.

But in the Wastes, there are ancient tombs waiting to be discovered, and therein lie the mightiest of mighty artifacts waiting for those bold enough and powerful enough to take them. After finding a tomb, you’ll need to craft a special key to open it, and then delve into the icy depths where more horrors and an epic raid boss await. Defeat this boss, and your reward will be a unique and earth-shatteringly powerful artifact.

 “The artifacts acquired from tombs are basically game-breaking awesome stuff. These items can effectively turn you into a raid boss,” Wood explains. “An artifact grants ridiculous powers unobtainable through any normal means—jumping 30 feet into the air for example, teleporting, all kinds of stuff. We let balance go completely out of control with these items, because once factions start acquiring them it’s probably getting pretty close to the end-game.”

In addition, once a tomb has been raided it does not reset, i.e. it cannot be opened or raided by another faction. This could itself make for an interesting conflict—what if another faction gets wind of you opening a tomb and somehow arranges to attempt an ambush to take your key?

Wood continues, “Of course, owning this gear also makes you a potential target for enemy factions—and if they defeat you, they can take your stuff too. It may not always be prudent to flaunt what you’ve got too openly.”

At this point in the game a faction is getting close to winning—or maybe they’re all close to winning. If every faction has managed to acquire some of this epic-level gear, the ensuing battles should be action- packed—and hopefully leave everyone giddy and excited when an ultimate victor emerges, tales and stories are told over drinks—and the server resets so you can do it all over again.

Rend is currently in an alpha state, and Frostkeep Studios hopes to make it available via Steam Early Access in 2018.

More information about Frostkeep Studios and Rend



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