My Time at Palia

Or How to Lose a Community in 10 Days

First off, I want to acknowledge that I had a completely different article in mind for this game. From the start I wasn’t all that happy with Palia, but I wanted to give it the benefit of the doubt since it was still in Beta. As in, we’re still so far away from a 1.0 version that I’m wondering if the game will ever be in a finished state.

Initially I had planned to spend 2hrs/day on this game, to treat it like the cozy casual F2P game they advertise it as. I wanted to see how far in the game content I could get in just a month, give it a little vibe check, and discuss the pros and cons of the game at various weekly check points. Unfortunately with their latest hotfix decisions, the vibes have deteriorated for me and I felt compelled to discuss it.

How did we get here? What were the dreams we were sold on and how does reality compare? What state are the vibes in?

A Little History

For a lot of people, this past month or two is when they first heard about Palia. It seems that they started a pretty big campaign to attract more people to Open Beta – which opened on Aug 10. However, I’ve been around the project since 2021.

Some context on Singularity 6: some of them are former Blizzard, Epic, and Riot Games employees. Those are some pretty big names in the MMO world. I had high hopes when I heard some of the original WoW team were behind this project. Now, I think that really hurt this game rather than helped it.

Something that keeps coming up is that this is a small indie developer team that makes no money. The record is a bit more complicated.

Singularity 6 spun up in 2018, according to their LinkedIn page. Currently they employ 195 people, most of whom live in California, and the biggest department seems to be their Design team with 77 people. It really does show that most of the budget seems to have gone into design, the game is visually nice to look at.

They are currently through their Series B funding. According to Crunchbase, their biggest funders are FunPlus, Andreessen Horowitz, LVP, and Transcend Fund. Most of these contributors are the usual venture capital groups, only FunPlus is a F2P developer and publisher. To date, they’ve managed to raise $49mil USD over 3 funding rounds. Not too bad, honestly, for a company that’s existed for 5 years.

Their first funding was $2.5mil USD in 2018 in seed money. In 2019 they secured $16.5mil USD in Series A funding. The vast majority of their funding came in Series B to a tune of $30mil USD from 6 different investors.

Also important to note, as recorded on PitchBook, all four board members are from the venture capital groups. Two are from Andreessen Horowitz and the other two are from LVP. One of the AH members claims to be representing themselves, but they are a partner at Andreessen, so I have to wonder how much they truly are representing themselves and not business interests.

EDIT (Aug 17, 2023): Looking over their board members, we also see that at least one is a former Business Executive of Tencent. Another two had previous experience with EA (one as a VP, the other as COO.) Why do I bring this up? As investors with an interest in getting their investment returned, it’s important to know who you’re giving to and who is pulling the financial strings behind the scenes.

It’s clear that they have the capital and now that they’re in Open Beta, that money will continue to come in through funding rounds and whale players. They’re going to be fine as a company. Still, it’s important to note that most of these people have been in the MMO space before, are familiar with it, and seemingly were getting at least funding help from a F2P publisher who should know that territory.

So why does the game suck so much?

Vibe Checks

Let’s move on to the promises that were made. I’ll be focusing on the Gameplay First Look article they release in July 2023. Half a month before they began Closed Beta.

Promise 1 – Character Customization

A screenshot of the Palia Gameplay First Look article. It reads: "There's a whole plethora of options ranging from face shapes, skin tones, voices, as well as hairstyles and clothing options for you to choose from. The initial set of outfits seen here are always available as default options that you can go back and swap to at your convenience. You can mix and match to your heart's content! We plan to add more customization options over time, including body types. Please stay tuned!"

Reality Check 1

Customization is fairly limited.

You get to choose between two body types: a top-heavy seemingly male body, and a bottom-heavy seemingly female body. They look pretty generic, honestly, and without any sliders to change proportions it just feels like an ugly Roblox skin. As of writing this, they’re still teasing that more body types will be forthcoming. Face shapes are kind of a joke; there are a few options for basic face shapes, but they largely look the same to me and I ended up picking Generic Round Option 2.

Skin tones and voices…yikes. There are a few different voices to pick from, most in a mid-tone range, and none were super unique. There’s no sliders to change pitch or anything, you just pick one. I ended up with the middle mid-tone because it was the least annoying to my ear.

On the skin tone front, I got to give them credit. This is the first game I’ve ever run across that didn’t have enough options for darker AND lighter skin tones. They basically seem to have said “yeah, mid, let’s just keep everything super mid to avoid controversy.” It’s 2023, my guys, we expect a wide range of skin tones at the very least – a color picker at best.

Hairstyles are ok. Again, just another mid set of options. People have noted that there isn’t an afro option, just as much as their aren’t really a lot of long hair styles either. Also, no facial hair as an option, which has bothered plenty of people to the point S6 has promised beards are coming. Once again, they seemed to say that they just want to be mid tier. You can pick a combo of two colors for your hair, but the color options and patterns are limited, so it’s a big shrug from me.

Clothing. I’ll go into this a bit more when we talk about the Premium Shop, but for now know that the free outfits are super mid. There are three pre-defined color palettes per clothing option, some of which are locked behind different body types. You have a hat, top, bottom, and accessory slot. The options for both the hats and accessories are incredibly limited at the moment. Tops and bottoms are the only thing you can “mix and match to your heart’s content”, and even then that isn’t true thanks to clipping issues.

Vibe Check: Not really the vibe

Promise 2 – Skills

A screenshot of the Palia Gameplay First Look article. It reads: "Here's a full list of the skills you can immerse yourself in: Foraging, Mining, Hunting, Fishing, Insect Catching, Gardening, Cooking, Furniture Making. As you progress in the game with all these skills, you'll also be able to build, decorate, and expand the home of your dreams. We offer a variety of housing options, such as different room types, furniture sets, and even some quest exclusive rewards!

Reality Check 2

The skills are…you guessed it…mid.

They’re repetitive and get old pretty fast. Now, don’t get me wrong, I expected a certain level of repetition when it came to skills. But, seeing as this is pretty much the only gameplay in the game at the moment, it’s a bit disappointing.

Also, I need to mention the accessibility issues here. This is what truly makes it mid for me. As a person with an able body, I can do all the mini-games, but even I’m finding that the motions required for it are beginning to strain my wrist.

For example, fishing. In order to pull in a fish you need to hold left-mouse and follow the fish in a cross-hair. I’m fine with following the fish, I’m less fine with needing to hold down left-mouse. I’ve about worn a hole in the side of my mouse now and my wrist begins to hurt after only a few fish. This wouldn’t be such an issue if I had the option to turn off the skill mini-games, as has been requested in the Accessibility Feedback Discord channel. (Also, at the time of this writing, they’ve pretty much nerfed controller support. So those that were able to work around their disability to play can no long do so.)

Every skill requires some kind of manual input from the player. For skills like Hunting, Foraging, Bug Catching, and Gardening some easy manual input makes sense. Mining, Fishing, and Cooking really shouldn’t require that much input from the player to complete. (I’d get into how the Cooking mini-game is broken and requires multiple steps…but honestly I feel like you’re beginning to get the picture.)

Furniture Making is the only skill I haven’t mentioned. Mostly because I barely do it at this point. I can’t get the materials required all that easily and a lot of the sets I just don’t want to make. Why? Because I can’t sell any of the furniture I make but don’t want. So, I just don’t make it. I did get a pretty bouquet from Jel and a bunch of free low level stuff from waterlogged chests, but eh. They’re just mid.

As for the rest of the promise, eh. Yeah, you can expand your lot and your house for lots of gold. There are, as far as I can tell, maybe 5 furniture sets total and I don’t think there are any dye options. So, I don’t really know what they’re talking about in letting me design the house of my dreams. I kinda feel like I’m caught in someone else’s idea of what a cozy home looks like.

Vibe Check: Not really the vibe, but close-ish

Promise 3 – NPCs

The only thing to note here is that you have a couple handfuls for characters to talk to. They give you fetch quests to do on a weekly (lol more like daily) basis. You can give them gifts. They sometimes say cute things that make you like them. They have a “personality system” that lets you choose a response based on the four elements. Also, you can romance a few of them and they’re all default open to anyone’s advances.

Reality Check 3


I largely don’t have a problem with them, they’re just kind of there. I like them, to an extent, but I’m beginning to feel like a lot of them are just based on tropes. Some have even pointed out the subtle racism in some of the characters and I’m beginning to see it too. Also, there’s a hint of ableism showing that I’ve heard described as “the good disabled person.” I can’t speak to those in-depth because I haven’t completed any of the character related Friendship Quests.

For me, the “open sexuality” of the characters is kind of a cop out. I get that programming a dynamic sexuality is difficult; Sunnyside (which is slated to come out in 2024) had to build one completely from scratch and I’m not asking the S6 team to try and implement that. What I am asking for is some level of believable diversity that isn’t “everyone is just default pansexual so that we can avoid controversy over NPC dating options.” You can easily have gay, straight, and pansexual characters that exist for the player to romance. It would just mean sacrificing the illusion of choice.

Also, why should I want to date an NPC in an MMO game? I’m used to MMO weddings between players; I love me a cute RP wedding, ok. But…dating an NPC is just weird to me. It would make sense in a solo game, but it’s just kind of a weird choice for an MMO.

Lastly, the personality system. I actually liked this part…but it ultimately didn’t add up to anything meaningful. I can still choose all the options whenever they’re presented. I mostly choose air, water, and fire responses but, again, it’s not like it adds up in a personality matrix or something. This has good bones to it and I would love to see more thought and utility go into it. As it stands, it just sort of exists as a fun little dialogue choice.

Vibe Check: The vibes are mixed

Promise 4 – Social MMO

A screenshot of the Palia Gameplay First Look article. It reads: "What exactly makes Palia a multiplayer game? Here are a number of activities you can do with others: Harvest resources together! Loot is shared as long as everyone has participated. Cook recipes together! Invite folks to your home and set up a bustling kitchen with dishes ready to be served. Decorate your housing plot together! While everyone has their own plot, you can grant editing permissions to your most trusted pals, and get to decorating together...and more!"

Reality Check 4

I haven’t done a single one of these in the two weeks I’ve been playing this game.

I’ve certainly been active in the server chat (the main and only chat outside of whispers and party chat.) I’ve even made a friend. Albeit I made that friend because they were having an issue finding a specific foragable, since the spawn rates had been tampered with so much that it almost never spawned. And, since I couldn’t whisper them without being their friend first, I had to add them just to do a basic chat function.

Party chat, so I’ve heard from others, is also weird and broken. In fact, according to the Discord bug reports and feedback channels, all party aspects are broken in some way. Either people aren’t getting loot distributed evenly, the party keeps falling apart because the system kicks people, or the mini-game for cooking doesn’t work right. Also, you can only have up to 5 people in a party, I believe. Seems kind of low for a social MMO.

Other aspects, like the request system, are a joke. There are so many limitations to the system to make it not worthwhile. I tried to request leather for a quest I was on…and I had to request 5 pieces one by one. I couldn’t ask for a stack, even though other things I could ask for a stack of 10 or 20. There’s also no option for me to leave the request open for more than an hour. So if I don’t get what I need in that time frame, I have to request it all over again.

Also, no in-game player to player mail system. If someone gives me my request, I can’t send them a thank you. How can I build a friendship or community if I can’t even do a basic kind gesture?

Other people have also noted that there is no incentive to partner together on the epic mobs. After a certain level you can basically take them down yourself. I’ve also called out flow trees (which are special harvestables) in the server chat just to have one person come by and take it out. I don’t know, just seems like I could do all of this solo.

Bonus: With the most recent hotfix (0.166), the spawn rates for just about everything have changed. This makes some things even more rare than they were previously, while barely fixing an issue people had with silver and clay nodes. I’m not going to get into the hotfixes too much, but their prioritization leaves something to be desired.

Vibe Check: Completely misses the vibe

Promise 5 – Premium Shop Pricing

This is the only section that will deviate from the Gameplay First Look. This comes from their business model post made in February 2022.

A screenshot of the Palia business model article. It reads: TL;DR (but we highly encourage the full read!) Palia will be free-to-play. Palia will monetize cosmetic items. Palia will not monetize things you earn through gameplay. You won't need to buy loot boxes or get content through a rotating store. We commit to being open and honest in communicating decisions or changes we make in this space."
A screenshot of the Palia business model article. It reads: "Respecting your choices. We don't want to monetize through tricks. Our products should be able to stand on their own as valuable purchases. In general, our store will have items that are directly purchasable and available all the time. There may be exceptions to this, but there will be specific reasons why in each case. The key take away is that you won't be forced to buy loot boxes, or be overly pressured by the fear of missing out (FOMO) to get that one item you wanted before it leaves a continuously rotating store. We think that by providing a shopping experience with high agency and low pressure, we'll hold ourselves to a higher standard of products and you'll leave the shop feeling great about your decision to spend (or not spend!)"

Reality Check 5

Told you we’d come back to this.

I’ll be honest, I looked at the Premium Store once. Because I was forced to in order to complete a quest for Jel. That is already off to a bad start for me.

I still don’t understand the pricing scheme here. PaliaCoins are the Premium Currency of this game. You can buy those in bundles from $5 USD to $99 USD. The more you spend, the more you get, obviously. They only accept credit cards at the time of writing and all of the pricing seems to favor USD spending players.

Again, the outfits aren’t really all that custom. Each outfit, at most, comes in three parts. Most outfits are just a top and bottom. A few are one piece. None of them really seem to be stylistically related to the free options, honestly.

Each “bundle” has three outfit options that have three color palette options to choose from. I honestly couldn’t tell you how much a bundle costs just from looking at the shop screen. And, given that they keep promoting a false discount, I’m even less sure about what they cost. Most accounts that I’ve heard say the total bundles cost about $50 USD, which is far too steep for such low effort customization.

I’m not sure how this structure meets their “not monetizing through tricks” promise when it’s been repeatedly demonstrated that this sort of shop is inherently predatory. It’s definitely obfuscatory, if nothing else, and that’s a big red flag for me.

There’s also some confusion on what counts as “cosmetic”. Players had assumed that it meant only outfits or things to add to your character were cosmetic. Now that they’ve introduced pets to the Premium Store, there’s a lot of doubt and anger that something so highly requested would be kept from players. Especially since it’s not like they do anything for gameplay, they largely just exist to follow behind you and apparently don’t even have idle animations. Yet they want me to spend money to get a “free” one and about $30 USD for the set of recolors.

As for loot boxes, they kind of already have these in the game, they’re just something you can get “for free”. If you spend a certain amount of gold in the general store, you get a coin to redeem at said store, which is essentially a gacha machine. It’s random whatever is inside. How is that not a loot box? Because it’s free?

I don’t know about any of you, but this is the biggest red flag and broken promise of them all for me.

Vibe Check: Extremely not the vibe

Goodbye, I Hardly Knew Ye

I’ll be real, the red flags are bit too bright and garish for me. Especially after the latest hotfix turned the brightness way up…HEY-OOOO!

Speaking of the latest hotfix, yikes. I wont get into it but I will give my general impression: Oh hey, EA, I didn’t know you were behind this project too. When are the big bug fixes going to be coming out? Ya know, the game breaking ones people have been complaining about since Alpha/Closed Beta.

Overall, the vibes are poor. It’s giving very little for the amount of money they’re asking for when it comes to the Premium Shop. “You don’t have to buy it, it’s F2P, whiner. There’s no FOMO.” I didn’t ask for your opinion, Ken, sit down.

I was originally going to give this game a month but the hotfix has pretty much ruined that idea. I’m not interested in further frustrating myself gathering resources that are now more scarce, looking at a bright world that would benefit from some toggles and sliders, or finishing out any of the limited quest lines for mediocre rewards.

Two weeks in and I see a lot of people rethinking their commitment to this game. It could’ve been a lot of things. A lot of people had high hopes, myself included, and this soft launch/Open Beta has killed any interest I had in being a part of shaping this world. It’s clear to me that S6 wants to court whales only and I’m not a whale. I’m just a regular old F2P player who wanted to have fun.

I may check in on it at the end of the year and again when they are finally at version 1.0. Until then, eh. I’m bored already. Think I’ll go check out some other cozy vibe games for awhile instead.

Overall Vibes: Not the vibe I was promised and they are continuing to deteriorate. Best of luck, S6. Might wanna roll another game up real soon.


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