Ryan Dancey Talks Pathfinder Online Community and Influences

After two successful Kickstarter campaigns, Ryan Dancey talks about what makes Pathfinder Online unique and how he attributes his success to the community.
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To complete a Kickstarter project is no easy task. However, Goblinworks has defeated the odds and successfully executed two separate campaigns for its sandbox MMO, Pathfinder Online.

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Ryan Dancey, CEO of Goblinworks, was kind enough to talk with me about the state of the game, how it got started, and how important the Pathfinder Online community is to the game’s fruition. 

How long have you been creating games? How long have you spent working on Pathfinder Online?

My first published game credit is Legend of the Five Rings Imperial Edition, the first set in the trading card game by the same name, which was released in 1995 as preview cards at GenCon.

I have been working on Pathfinder Online since early in 2011.

How has your gaming past influenced Pathfinder Online? Are you a big fan of MMOs?

The biggest influence on Pathfinder Online is the experiences that Mark Kalmes (our CTO) and I had while we were employees at CCP, who make the EVE Online science fiction sandbox MMO. Mark previously worked for Cryptic on City of Heroes. We have both played many hundreds of hours of MMOs.

I believe that virtual worlds are the mass entertainment medium of the 21st century, and will have the same scope of impact (or even more) that movies and television did in the 20th century.

What part of the game are you most proud of?

Our community. We have been able to create a really awesome community of people who share our vision and values and who are helping us to transform the way MMOs are made. Couldn’t do it without them.

What do you think separates Pathfinder Online from other MMOs?

There are relatively few sandbox MMOs compared to Theme Park MMOs like World of Warcraft, Elder Scrolls Online or WildStar. So that’s our critical segmentation. Of the current sandbox MMOs, only EVE, which is a science fiction game, has scaled up over 100k players. We’re hoping to replicate that in the fantasy genre.

While we’re on the subject, can you explain the concept of a “sandbox MMO,” and why the concept is so unique?

Sandbox MMOs are the promise that the concept of “MMO” offered from inception but have usually failed to deliver. In a sandbox game the primary interaction is between the players, not between the players and the environment. Sandbox MMOs have a lot of persistence. Players are able to modify the game world, not just through their characters becoming more powerful, or by crafting consumables, but by creating structures, engaging in territorial control, and by being part of an economy where virtually every item in the game is crafted by player characters.

Your website claims that your game is based on the Pathfinder tabletop game. Can you elaborate which features will be carried over and how it will transition into an MMO?

That’s a very complex question.

For licensing reasons we cannot use the D20 game as expressed in the tabletop game. Tabletop game mechanics, which allow each player to take as much time as they want before making decisions, aren’t well suited to realtime online games anyway. And the Pathfinder Online game will be a superset of the tabletop game. The tabletop game is focused on heroic adventurers, whereas the Online game will expand that focus to include all sorts of other potential roles: diplomats, spies, explorers, crafters, teamsters, soldiers, etc.

We are deeply integrating with the lore and backstory of Golarion, the Pathfinder homeworld. Pathfinder Online is set in the River Kingdoms, which was featured in the Kingmaker Adventure Path for the tabletop game. The gods, regions, nations, and factions of Golarion will be well represented in the online game.

The game mechanics themselves are designed to capture the flavor, rather than the mechanics, of the tabletop game. Players will find a lot of very familiar systems in the online game. Being familiar with how the tabletop game works will be a plus.

Pathfinder Online has had two successful Kickstarter campaigns, raising over $1 million; what do you think attributes most to your success?

I think that there’s a lot of interest in a fantasy sandbox MMO. I think that Pathfinder is a wildly successful game. And I think that the community rallied around the Kickstarters and made sure they were successfully funded.

I often tell people that Kickstarter is not a place to form a community. It is a place to take a community that has already formed and give them a system to show their support.

I noticed that you update your Kickstarter backers often on your progress and developments. How important is interacting with your fans to you?

It is critically important.

Our community is at the center of everything we do. We funded our project with their help. We will develop the game with their help. Their actions, as they play the game, will define the game more than we will. Keeping our community informed as to our progress, plans, ideas, hopes and dreams is absolutely required if we are going to be successful.

If there was anything you could say to your backers and fans who want to get involved with Pathfinder Online, what would it be?

Tell your friends to get involved!

After we ended the Kickstarter in January of 2013, we had a long gap where there was no good mechanism for people to back the project if they missed the Kickstarter. We now have our on-line store ready to sell new memberships.

Early Enrollment will be starting later this year. Now is the time to buy a slot. The first month of Early Enrollment was sold to the Kickstarter backers and we’re rapidly filling up Month 2.

If you’re as excited about this project as I am, you can lend a helping hand at the Goblinworks website, here

Learn more about the current Pathfinder Online features and the exciting, new prospects on their way. You can also sign up for the game’s alpha to experience Goblinworks’ labors for yourself!

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Danielle Marie
All I'm saying is, no one's ever seen me and Batman in the same room.