Revival: Let Me Tell You a Story

Illfonic's dark-fantasy horror RPG is redefining online roleplaying.

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything longer than 140 characters. Then again, it’s been a while since I’ve really been inspired to. That all changed recently with my discovery of Revival. For the first time in a long time, there’s a glimmer of hope for the future of virtual worlds.

What Is It?

Revival takes place in the world of Theleston, a Lovecraft-inspired dark fantasy horror setting. It has been in development for more than a year at Illfonic, which you may be familiar with as the developer of the Star Citizen FPS system. Being developed and released in stages, they’ve recently begun selling housing in the game’s first city, and will soon allow players to walk around inside their purchased homes. 

Oh, and, did I mention that Revival is a MEOW? It stands for multi-player evolving online world, a term conjured by loremaster Chris “Ombwah” Holtorf in an effort to more accurately describe what playing… er… living in the world of Theleston is like.

This isn’t marketing lipservice or PR-speak. The developers at Illfonic are keen to message the game away from a run-of-the-mill MMORPG. That over-used term tends to allow players to start slotting features in their minds and setting some kind of pre-ordained expectations. If I’ve learned anything about Revival over the past few months, it’s that standard assumptions should be chucked out the window. Even calling it a sandbox seems to short-change the potential of the game.

What’s the Difference?

There are so many features and systems that are slated for inclusion in Revival it seems hard to pick just one that sets it apart. Is it the hyper-realistic visuals and attention to detail? Maybe the persistent cities and housing? How about the unbelievable book system?  I could go on, but the more I think about it, the more clear the answer becomes: live storytelling.

You know how the early forums of every new MMO always has that one thread filled with players waxing nostalgic about how great live events run by a game master were, and how badly they want them back? Well, Revival is bringing it back big-time, mixing in old-school roleplaying and cranking it up to 11.

Let’s be clear: this won’t simply be a GM spawning some random monsters now and then. To bring all of this storytelling goodness to life, Revival will employ full teams of live storytellers, including design, art, programming and more. 

Using the game’s hidden tagging system, the game will know about things players have done, places they’ve been and people they’ve met. Storytelling teams will use the player’s activities to foster engaging stories where the players are the star. Just like proper roleplaying should be.

In fact, I can’t write words any better than the Revival website spells it out:

“Storytellers are not mere custodians of a lifeless mechanical world, rather they are the architects of fantasy. More than the ‘man behind the curtain’ -- our Storytellers walk amongst the players, on the streets of our cities and in the depths of Theleston’s wilderness.”

This has some pretty wild implications. For example, it means each server will grow and evolve differently over time. Different player characters, different storytellers, different experience. This could extend to events of cataclysmic (or celestial) proportions, which could literally change the face of the world. In fact, even your very own home could be destroyed. Remember, we’re dealing with the likes of C’thulhu here! 

Combined with the living world systems, Revival is set to deliver a truly next-gen virtual world experience. 

Sounds Great! Where Do I Sign Up?

While you can’t play the game yet, you can currently buy property in Crown’s Rock, which is the game’s first city. I picked up a nice cottage on the Blackwell server, just outside of the north gate with a patch of land for farming. Soon, you’ll also be able to buy boats as well. 

It’s important to note that this is not a crowd-funded game, but selling real estate this way will help Illfonic realize their vision more quickly.  Buying now also grants you some special powers as a founder, including the ability to access a secret IRC channel and harass… er… mingle with developers. 

This is a team of experienced developers, particularly from the MMO space. Lead designer Adam “Snipehunter” Maxwell and loremaster Chris “Ombwah” Holtorf were creative driving forces in the creation of RIFT and the world of Telara, among other games. They and others at Illfonic are extremely active and embrace interactivity with the community. There is no filter here. Devs are free to speak their mind and answer questions without a PR bodyguard nearby. It’s a breath of fresh air, that’s for sure!

Those of you who know me know that I tend to favor games that skew toward the “virtual world” side of things more so than the “video games.” So I’m here to tell you, I am all-in with Revival. Even if another line of code was never written, I am more than willing to support a group of folks who were able to articulate this vision of how a no-compromises virtual world should work. There’s something special happening with Revival. It’s a game that will be very important to the genre.

My advice, if you’re even marginally interested? Head over to the Revival website. Read every word on every page. Then read every word of every blog post. Finally, hop on the forums and start discussing with fellow Revivalists. You’ll soon find your head spinning in what might seem like disbelief. But once it sets in, you’ll realize you’ve found the place you’ve been looking for for a long time. Welcome to Revival.

This is just scratching the surface of Revival. Are you intrigued? Would you like to hear more? Let us know in the comments or over @ZAMofficial on Twitter!

- Bill “Lethality” Leonard


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