A rising star at this year's PAX East, Shards Online is an indie MMO with a lot of veteran hands in its development. These folks, who now make up Citadel Studios, have worked on titles with worldwide fame such as Ultima Online, Warhammer Online, and Dark Age of Camelot, and now they're bringing their expertise in to make a whole new experience for players.
A sort of sandbox RPG, players will get to explore the growing multiverses or even create ones with their own rules. The possibilities are quite literally, endless.
Those just logging in will of course be treated to an 'official' style server -- RPG elements, a fantasy world reminiscent of Ultima Online, lots of developer-built content, the whole nine yards. But the beauty of this game really lies in what it's possible for players to do to extend their fun:
Think loads of alternate universes, with differing themes available like Sci-Fi, Steampunk, IRL, Horror, and anything a potential admin could think of to bring to life. Think battlegrounds and mini-games designed by players, with fully fleshed out rules, monsters, mechanics, and maps. Think of the complete freedom to go off the rails of the proverbial 'themepark' MMO, with tools delivered directly to the player to make experiences not tied down by the developer's whims. And maybe best of all, a rating system which will showcase the best shards, decided by the people who play them.
Not only will Shards Online feature Lua to enable an extensive modding system, but in-game menus allow admins complete freedom to design their own worlds and content with no prior scripting knowledge as well. We were lucky enough to watch the development team play, and were treated to amusing delights like fire-breathing bears, placeable buildings, and more all made possible by the intricate yet simple-to-use framework laid down in the game's current build.
Those who love to run their own servers and communities will be tickled by the long list of options. Hardcore types can set hardcore rules so the server conforms to their playstyle, and your shard will be linked to other worlds with similar rulesets so you won't have anyone in a more casual world screwing up the delicate balance you've worked to maintain. Have an idea for your very own MMO? Make it right within the Shards Online multiverse: You can script encounters, come up with crafting systems, spawn resources, tune mob fights, and pretty much anything you could do while designing your own game. You can even host on your own hardware for ultimate control.