Very nice interview. This gave a little more behind-the-scenes on the business development philosophy of Arcen, which is helpful for people who are thinking about investing in a pre-alpha game.
One comment in particular got my attention from a design perspective, though:
[AVWW is] aiming to create this world that you care about, and that is full of memories that, on varying levels, matter to you and the characters that are still alive.
This goes directly to maybe one of the most crucial distinctions between types of gamers -- what I call those who want to "play in" a gameworld and those who want to "live in" a gameworld.
The former are the casual gamers who don't get attached to storyline or characters, and who don't follow the "lore" of a gameworld. They're just there for the action and to beat the game; the setting is nearly irrelevant. Once they've burned through the content, they move (preferably with their friends) to the next new game. (Note that there's absolutely nothing inherently bad or wrong about this style. It's just what some people enjoy.)
The "live in" gamers have a different perspective. They invest in a particular gameworld; what makes a game fun for them is the degree to which it allows them to immerse themselves in the culture and architecture and lore and landscapes and systems of the gameworld. It's still important to have some amount of standard rule-based gameplay to provide reasons to interact with the world of the game, but the rules-of-play part definitely takes a backseat to the worldbuilding. (Note that worldbuilding doesn't necessarily imply deep simulation as in Dwarf Fortress. It just means some attention was paid to defining a literary sensibility for the gameworld and being internally consistent to that sensibility in all the game design elements so that there's an illusion of depth.)
It should also be noted that when I say someone wants to "live in" a gameworld, I don't mean they've lost touch with reality and actually think they're existing inside the constructed world of a computer game. What I mean is that there are gamers who enjoy pretending that the secondary reality of a computer game is real -- they like the sensations of pretending to be in a particular place in the gameworld. They enjoy the sense of place that the created world offers, and so they invest something of themselves in that world -- they care about it.
Most games are all about the "play in." Although a nod may be given to world depth, the majority of games cater to what is probably the majority of gamers, and that majority is more concerned with playing in a gameworld than living in one. Happily, there are lots of games created for these gamers.
The "live in" gamers, on the other hand, don't have many benefactors. Not many developers "get" what these gamers want, which is what led to the debacle of the original Star Wars Galaxies being turned into a WoW clone. The "play in" gamers didn't mind so much, but for the "live in" gamers, the ones who had invested themselves in the richness of the worldbuilding systems, it was as if the developers had crept in during the night and put everything to the torch. Because they were invested emotionally in SWG as a unique place to "live in," its demolition generated an outpouring of dismay that hasn't been seen before or since in the MMORPG universe.
All of which I mention in order to note that these people are, I think, still wandering. The SWG refugees, after their exodus from that gameworld, have been looking for a game that creates the same kind of distinct sense of worldiness, where there's a true sense of place unapologetically baked into the design of the game from the ground up.
Minecraft has something like that, but not all of it. If, as many suspect, ZeniMax Online (the sister company of Bethesda Softworks) is developing some kind of Elder Scrolls Online MMORPG, the deep lore of the Elder Scrolls universe is expected to play a large role in that game, so maybe it will wind up being the "place" where the SWG refugees and others who are looking for a gameworld to "live in" will migrate.
Or, given the quote above, perhaps A Valley Without Wind will go there to some degree. With features like transmission of the persona to someone we've once met, the retention of places we've once known, and the fast simulation of the passage of time when returning to a place (which is a feature I specified for my own Living World game concept), it's possible that AVWW will have the core elements needed to create a world that feels like a place. That will be particularly true if the presentation of places and people in the gameworld feel deeply satisfying, and if the dynamic elements of the gameworld seem to interlock.
If so, then AVWW may turn out to appeal strongly to the "live in" gamers. That would be good in that these folks tend to create stable and positive communities to support their preferred gameworld. On the other hand, the example of SWG points out the difficulty of ever changing such a gameworld in any significant way....
Once again, I'm really looking forward to see where AVWW goes on this. Not because I personally want it to be one kind of game or another, but to see whether, if worldiness is emphasized by AVWW's designers, my theory about "live in" gamers flocking to such a game winds up being confirmed by reality.
Flocking is good, assuming you're OK with attracting people who instinctively get nervous when you talk about making changes of any size to "their" gameworld.