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July 18, 2007
E3 2007 - Fury Beta Preview

By Mark Arsenault

The latest foray into the online world of PvP centric MMOs comes from Auran, an Australian developer that has been making a wide variety of games since 1995. Fury is their most recent endeavor, and Auran boasts a team of internationally experienced developers that have worked on such titles as Asheron's Call 1 & 2, Star Wars Galaxies, Ultima Online, Mythica, Middle Earth Online, Need for Speed Underground, Magic and Mayhem and many more.

Closed beta opened up for Fury.  The High Spec Renderer is already available, and has been since before the Closed beta opened. The graphics are significantly higher quality, however the HSR only runs on high spec machines. On lower spec machines the game automatically defaults to the Low Spec Renderer, as this offers significant performance gains during beta with the engine not yet being optimised. The graphics for the LSR are far from final and not representative of the quality that will be available at release.   Most other features were enabled though, in order to test the overall functionality of the game with a bit of a load on the servers.

Auran has boldly stated on their website that their intention is for Fury to be a revolutionary form of online PvP gaming. There is no real leveling concept at all, aside from moving up through PvP ranks. There is also no questing, aside from "trials", which are given by individual trainers. Trials are really nothing more complicated than accomplishing very basic PvP goals in order to unlock skills.

There are 8 basic class archetypes, and these only determine what your starting skills are, weighted to individual preferences. These skills can be changed and modified at any time, via the gathering of specific "essences" and delivering them to the appropriate trainers for skill purchase. The archetypes and their corresponding schools of magic are as follows:

  • Destroyer (Death Magic) - fighters that are recklessly powerful, dual wielders - the true masters of melee combat
  • Invoker (Death Magic) - lay waste to enemies with powerful single target and area of effect fire magic 
  • Warden (Growth Magic) - scions of the forest, their attacks are infused with nature's power of the wild 
  • Oracle (Growth Magic) - hasted movement abilities, and have great control over elemental charges within selves and others 
  • Overlord (Decay Magic) - these warriors have mastered control over elemental charges, and use 2-Handed weapons to deal an arsenal of melee and stun abilities 
  • Defiler (Decay Magic) - the use dark wisdom to corrupt the minds and bodies of their enemies via powerful disease-based magic 
  • Champion (Life Magic) - they can withstand massive amounts damage, shield others from harm, and self-resurrect 
  • Healer (Life Magic) - they heal themselves and multiple targets at once, cure afflictions, and resurrect others, yet still have a wide variety of offensive magic

Players start out by selecting the look and feel of their character, without any attention given to stats or class. Once exiting character creations, they are presented with a well laid out tutorial that shows them all of the basic functions of them game. The end stage of this tutorial is to speak to all of the archetype masters, and select the one that seems appropriate to the player's gaming style.

The tutorial makes it very clear that the real battle is the fight for essences, which are the lifeblood of the realm, and required to unlock memories of the past (i.e. hidden abilities). Once you have enough essence of a specific archetype, you can talk to a guide, and have options presented to you on how to spend your points. Characters will usually need to undergo trials to complete the skill unlock, by spending essences and picking up pre-requisite skills. There is a graphical bar to monitor progress towards skill goals, and once the bar is full, you can pick the reward from the guide, and the skill is unlocked and available for use.

Not all skills are available at the same time, players must pick and choose which ones they vale the most, and then socket them on their character. More kills and more damage dealt on the PvP battlefields result in more essences once the match is over. Buying skills and completing trials give players "excellence points", and once a certain level is reached the players' rank goes up accordingly. As rank increases, more equip points become available, which in turn allows for more gear and skills to be simultaneously socketed. Since gear and skills use the same pool of equip points, players must constantly balance these versus their rank, which is arguably the trickiest part of character development.

Since characters can potentially be many things at many times due to the wide variety of skills available, the game developers designed a feature with they call "incarnations". These let players set specific combinations of skills and equipment within their current equip point totals, and quick swap before battle to set their play style for the next fight. This feature allows players to experiment with various combinations, or to provide specific skills to their group that may have been lacking on the last PvP battlefield attempt. As much as managing equip points is tricky for development, incarnation management is tricky for defining the players role at any given moment. Both add elements of perpetual change that provide a lot of enjoyment.

The essences that are required for skill purchase are attained from PvP combat, via individual performance on the battlefield, as well as by accomplishing specific objectives. At this point in the beta, there were three different PvP battlefields available:

Vortex " 12-16 players, 4 groups, 17 minute game timer, unlimited respawn, time to respawn increases proportionate to death count " Objective: Compete to capture and hold 4 vortex crystals to win. Must capture them and bring them back to base

Bloodbath " up to 32 vs. 32, ungrouped players, 10 minute game timer, unlimited instant respawn " Objective: Earn blood points and gather blood tokens from slain enemies to win - team with most when timer expires wins

Elimination " 4 vs. 4, 5 minute game timer, no respawn after death " Objective: Be the first team to eliminate the other, best of 3 rounds

Combat is fast, furious and almost impossible to predict. Since players can have potentially any skill in the game, it cannot be known what to expect until the fight actually starts. Even then, most good players seem to save their special attacks and abilities until the end of the fight, in order to keep their opponents guessing. An added bonus to winning fights on the battlefields is that characters regain health from killing an enemy, proportionate to damage they inflicted on them before they died.

Depending on the scope of each battle, with respect to number of players involved and the number of kills each side is responsible for, spoils become available to roll on. For 2 minutes after the end of each PvP match, a list of cash, armor, weapons and other miscellaneous gear is shown to each participant. They have 3 rolls they can allocate, either on 3 separate items or all on the same item. The cash spoils are evenly distributed amongst all participants. There is generally more gear available to roll on than the number of players involved in the match, so provided everyone does not roll on the same items, each player will walk away with something they can use as a potential upgrade. Items and coin won are sent to the player's mailbox, to be retrieved once exiting the battlefield.

Overall, I was very impressed with Auran's claim that they were going to revolutionize PvP combat. They definitely have come up with some features that are very unique, and sure to provide countless hours of entertainment for players. In a later beta stage, I will be able to fully test out the graphics and performance aspects of the game in PvP combat. As everyone knows, lag kills - hopefully there won't be any. :

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