Ruin (working title) was last seen on the E3 2011 PlayStation stage, when the presenter wirelessly transferred his PS Vita game session to a PS3 without missing a frame of the action. As technically impressive as Ruin’s cross-platform compatibility is, I’ve learned that it’s only the beginning of what co-developers Idol Minds and SCE San Diego Studios are planning for this ambitious multiplayer action-RPG.
Ruin is still early in development, but it’s being eagerly anticipated for its PS Vita-to-PS3 cross-compatibility, addictive action-RPG gameplay, and expansive social features.
Ruin’s developers are quietly building a wide, deep social network designed to keep you interacting whether you’re on the couch, on the bus, or someplace in-between. Travis Williams, Ruin’s energetic senior producer, walked me through the game’s social ambitions several weeks ago at a media showing in New York City. From the earliest days of Ruin’s development process, Williams told me, the development team was motivated to find a way to make its multiplayer competitive mode accessible and socially sticky — important considerations given PS Vita’s always-on wireless connectivity and the game’s Vita-to-PS3 cross-platform support. “We were obsessing over find a better way to do PvP (Player vs Player), a better mechanism for getting items that you wanted from other players,” Williams said.
Enter the Lair. The Lair is your inner sanctum, your pride and joy, your seat of power. ”It’s an extension of you. It’s an outwardly facing construct that other players interact with,” Williams explained. “You’ll spend as much time equipping your Lair as you will your character.” The significance of your Lair is twofold: it adds to your offense when you’re playing, and it acts as your defense when you’re not. “If you and I were rivals, you wouldn’t attack me,” Williams said with a mischievous grin. “You’d attack my Lair.”
Your Lair enables you to enhance your offensive power – but it serves as a tempting target for other players. Luckily, you can assign monsters and boss creatures to guard it while you’re away.
Your Lair is deeply customizable, enabling you to tweak everything from its physical layout and visual style to the types of monsters and bosses that protect it while you’re off conquering the world. As you earn enchanted relics, you’ll be able to place them in your Lair to grant synergistic bonuses that enhance your character’s defensive and offensive options. You’ll be able to swap these items in and out of your Lair’s sockets at will, and where you place them in your Lair can radically change their effects. “There’s a relic called the Poison Ivy Trophy, and you could place it in your Armory and any weapon you use will drip poison,” Williams elaborated. “Or you can put it in your Beastiary to enhance your Lair’s monsters with poison damage.”
As you encounter other players over PSN, your Lair also becomes a vehicle for advertising your social status. Case in point: If you meet another player who is adorned with spiked armor, it’s a visual clue that his Lair is equipped with a powerful relic called Heart of Titan. “If you want to take that item from him, you can challenge him,” Williams explained. “You can bet on his Heart of Titan with another valuable item. If he agrees, the game will put both items into escrow while you beat the hell out of each other’s Lairs over the next 24 hours.” And, 24 real-world hours later, the player with the highest aggregate score will claim both items – and bragging rights. “The best part,” Williams said, “is that the competition and stakes were mutually agreed upon.”
A first look at two of Ruin’s relics, the Heart of Titan and the Reaper. Where you place them in your Lair determines what enhancements they grant your character.
Though Williams confirmed that Ruin will include a co-op element of some kind, he kept our conversation firmly planted on the game’s competitive mode. “It’s important for us to create an environment that’s helpful,” Williams said, “so our matchmaking service works a bit like a dating site. We match you up with players who are the Yin to your Yang.” The ultimate goal is to pit you against other people who play at the same times as you do, who have the items you want, and who provide a good match for your skill level. Meanwhile, in the background, Ruin’s social system will serve as an instigator, goading you into action against other players with an in-game messaging system and notifications. “We’re in the role of the kid who starts trouble on the playground,” Williams said. “We’ll say, ‘sure, you could go and attack that random dude on your friends list and we’ll give you 100 XP…But this other dude just hurt you, he attacked your Lair. We’ll give you 1000 XP to go hurt him back!’”
Your Lair is comprised of different sections, from an Armory and Beastiary to the Library shown in this new screenshot.
Ruin’s sturdy social backbone also gives the developers an opportunity to correct a host of longstanding gripes with social gaming, beginning with public enemy number one: the meaningless social game updates that clutter so many Facebook and Twitter news feeds worldwide. “Tom earned Gold, Tom earned Gold, Tom earned Gold,” Williams groaned. “Why can’t they just say, ‘Tom earned a lot of Gold today’ and leave it at that?” Williams wants Ruin to add context to your activities and accomplishments in a new and useful way without spamming you and your friends. Though the details are still being finalized, Williams envisions an “uber town crier” that intuits trends based on your play style and behaviors, then broadcasts it to your social network. “We can essentially craft a story from the way you interact with other players,” Williams said, “creating some context around these everyday social interactions.” Williams points to an example involving two imaginary players called Travis and Tom. “If Travis attacks Tom 10 times in one day, we may broadcast that as ‘Travis is being a jerk to Tom.’”
Two more relics: the Unfinished Warrior and the Goblin Idol. Wonder what they do?
But Ruin’s social rabbit hole goes deeper still. “There’s a reason why we want to attach importance to your in-game activities,” Williams continued. “Status reports in social games tend to tell you what somebody has done rather than what they are doing. If you’re building the ultimate sword in your Lair, and it takes a long time, we’re going to put that out there so others can see it – they might try to attack you, or steal something from you,” Williams said. “And if you acquire something huge, we’re going to make that loud. ‘Tom just found the Golden Rod of Power!’ and you’re going to be like, ‘SHHHH!’”
“Ultimately, we want Ruin to be your story,” Williams said. “When you start this game, we’re going to say, ‘This is the story of how YOU became the baddest warrior on the planet.’”