Neonga and Mad Otter Plan a More Ambitious MMO for Facebook

Most large developers already on Facebook have passed on the idea of making a massively multiplayer game for the platform. But a growing number of smaller outfits and new entrants are looking to try out the genre, including the Oregon-based developer Mad Otter and its German publishing partner, Neonga.

Mad Otter is working on A Mystical Land, a light MMO based on the open-source Torque engine built by Prairie Games. Like any browser-based MMO, A Mystical Land (henceforth AML) will require players on Facebook to download a file to play.

That download, combined with a casual Facebook crowd that’s averse to almost any extra steps, are one big reason that most developers won’t try a Facebook MMO. But as we point out on this morning’s emerging games list, there are already a couple with hundreds of thousands of monthly active users.

AML lead designer Damon Slye has a partial solution for the download, having broken it into chunks within the game. He doesn’t think the download alone is a big reason for slow adoption of Facebook MMOs, though.

“The ones that I’ve seen were just not very good,” Slye says. “The model is a little different, I think, for a game like this. You’ll have more engaging gameplay in our game, and we’ll have players playing for longer, but the challenge we’ll meet is that it’s still casual and easy to get into. It’s not a hardcore, stat-based MMO.”

Some of the play in AML will revolve around the typical fetch and fight quests that most fantasy RPGs have, with some level of grind involved in leveling up. But it will also include time management mechanics — for instance, the ability to eat a meal several times a day in order to make your character stronger or hunt daily bounties.

Mad Otter is also cognizant that many Facebook gamers might have no idea what to do in the game. “We’re learning more and more to put the game on rails for some people. If they want to say hey, what’s the next thing I should do, then it tells them,” says Slye. “It’s definitely still open with movement and freedom of choice. But when we get to a fork in the road and there are two choices — how do we let players know what the normal choice would be?”

Once players get into the game, they’ll be able to pick from various professions, including some that are peaceful or crafting-based. Although it won’t be a feature at launch, Mad Otter plans to eventually offer villages for groups of players to live together in, with player populations who naturally support one another.

For now, most of the work is going into getting a basic version of the game launched. It’s still in closed beta, but the artwork and style looks great; the challenge will just be finding Facebook players patient enough to learn the ropes.