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E3: DARK AGE OF CAMELOT INTERVIEW [Author: Lum the Mad]

Lum: How are these entered from the outside world? Portals or doorways or something of that sort?

Matt Firor: There will actually be, this is a dungeon under Stonehenge, so in the middle of Stonehenge will be kind of a ramp down, you would go down the ramp and zone in through there.

Mark Jacobs: And you see, we go from a very nicely laid out area to a very rough hewn cave.

Matt: The backstory behind this dungeon is that this is Uther Pendragon’s burial chamber. Underneath the actual burial chamber is an older cavern which is inhabited by Celtic [reavers?] which predate the Romans, so there’s a mid level and a higher level on top, and then down below, it will be pretty varied. It’s the kind of thing where you have to go down a narrow staircase, you see a couple of different levels.

Lum: Do you have a set level range for this dungeon?

Matt: This one, I think, is 12 to 15 on the upper level, then, like, 13 or 14 to 17 on the middle level and 20 plus on the bottom. And as Mark was saying, what we really need right now is object lighting, dynamic object lighting, torches, things like that. We don’t have that yet.

[The character navigates to a huge chamber with a tomb in the middle and a huge statue of a dragon in the rear.]

Matt: This is Uther’s burial chamber. The detail here is pretty impressive, especially on the statue. We have two tapestries here, one on each side.

Lum: I assume once this goes live you won’t be able to take such a leisurely stroll through the area.

Matt: [laughs] Oh no, there will be quite a few creatures here. Actually, though, the quest and the story that goes along with this, some of the monsters are good, actually. Uther is not evil. They will actually help you, that’s part of the quest.

Lum: You’ve been starting to work on the PvP system a little, how are you planning on balancing the transition from players doing dungeon crawls such as this to basic PvP interaction?

Matt: Basically, we’re actually pretty happy with the PvP system we have now. Essentially, based on our calculations, we’re actually in the right ballpark, nothing is crazily out of whack. There’s a couple of things we need to fix, we know that some spells are overly powerful, we know that paladins are a bit overpowered in PvP. Those are just specific cases.

Lum: Have you been doing any testing of realm points yet?

Matt: No. That will probably come with Hibernia. The way we set up monsters is interesting. We take a monster that’s 20th level, and they have exactly the same power and hit points as a player of that level. So basically players have been testing the PvP system as they go up in levels. That’s kind of the underlying baseline for everything. Of course the monsters don’t use spells as intelligently as players do. There are no paladin monsters. So that’s the experience we’re working with, that some things are a bit over-powerful…

Lum: I’ve heard that one problem is that only one nation has minstrels, which enhance the speed of their group, so that basically anyone from that nation with a minstrel can run away at will.

Matt: Yes, we haven’t put in Skalds for Midgard yet. That’s coming. We’re putting him and the Friar in in the next few weeks.

Lum: What about trade skills, have you done any work on that?

Dave Rickey: Trade skills will be implemented using a tree-based system. They will actually be time-based, not usage-based. We’ll be looking to reduce carpal tunnel syndrome.

Lum: So you’ll start doing something, and it will be a timer before it’s finished?

Mark: You’ll still have to sit there. It won’t be something that you do and then put it in your backpack and move on. But it will be geared not to thousands of repetitions to get up to the next level, but we’re trying to make it so that it is something that you can do, between the time that you create something special, we’re not going to say OK, to build an arrow it will take so long. That would be unplayable.

Lum: What sort of things will players be able to build?

Mark: Pretty much anything. You’re going to be working on arrows, you’re going to be working on your armor, working on weapons. We want to seperate out the repair skills from the creation skills. Most people don’t really want to become crafters. But almost everyone wants to be able to fix their own stuff. So we wanted to implement something that would not necessarily be the same as creation.

Lum: Are there things going in that would allow players to create items that would better personalize them in the world?

Mark: Absolutely.

Lum: Clothing, etc..

Mark: We would definitely like to go there.

Matt: We can do things like if a blacksmith makes a sword, you can right click on it and it will say “Mark Jacobs’ sword”.

Lum: I was thinking more in terms of actual appearance.

Matt: Right, dyeing, making things different colors, special kind of sword models that only comes from player crafting, we will be doing all that.

Mark: It’s a question of how much time we have before release to get in all the very unique and special weapon textures, clothing textures, colors, et cetera.

Lum: Are you planning on implementing any mechanics for assisting players selling items to other players?

Mark: Oh, absolutely.

Matt: We don’t have the trade window in yet, obviously.

Lum: I meant things beyond that. Like marketplaces, that kind of thing.

Matt: We’ve been looking at something similar to the “Looking For Group” system, not like in Everquest with the auctions, but “Looking for Items” list, where you can check a list of everything people in your area are selling.

Lum: So that would be like zone-wide classified ads, I guess?

Matt: Yeah, actually, very much like that.

Lum: How persistent would that be, would you have to be logged on…

Matt: Only in your immediate zone. That’s just what we’ve discussed so far, since it would be easy to fit our “Looking For Group” system to that. We could do that pretty easily. Another thing about the skill system that’s pretty cool is that you don’t have to go up in player levels. Like Mark was saying, it’s time based. You could actually not kill any monsters, and actually be a very good smith. That’s what is good about being time based as opposed to experience point based. For example, you could go up in player level by killing things, and that uses the skill system that we have, a number of points per level that you trade in. This one will work the more you work, the better you get at it. A totally different set of skills not combat-related.

Lum: Is there a hard cap to those?

Mark: There will probably be one. We haven’t gone into enough detail yet. I assume there will be a hard cap. How high will that cap be? We don’t know yet.

Lum: Going back to PvP, you have special zones set up for testing that currently. When do you plan to begin testing invasions, where players can go and start hitting other realms?

Matt: Later on in the summer. Basically we have to put in the filter zones. Hibernia will come first, and then the middle zones.

Lum: So it will be like an interim realm?

Matt: The frontier zones. They will actually be contiguous, and you will have to go through them to get to an opposing realm.

Lum: I take it you don’t plan on testing the Realm Point system until after Hibernia, then?

Matt: The Realm Point system is actually a lot of status. There’s not a lot of game enhancement.

Lum: But I thought that that was why people were fighting, you would kill your enemies and then get realm points that you would spend on things.

Mark: A lot of advantages are coming down the road. Things like horses. Housing. That sort of thing will be tied into the realm point system.

Matt: Titles. Special titles.

Mark: We wanted to stay away from realm points being something that would in turn be very unbalancing to the game. More houses or titles. Eventually you get better treatment from shopkeepers. You would actually be more well known within the realm. Would something like that be unbalancing? We don’t know yet.

Matt: It’s a status thing. You get better chat commands. You can lead multiple groups. You can have “Sir Whatever” over your name.

Lum: Are you planning on implementing a guild system over and beyond the three realms?

Dave: Yes, the player associations.

Matt: We’ll have that and it will work very similar to the other games of this type. Player associations will have a leader, and will show what association they are with, and you will have a guild symbol on the back of your cloak, from a library that you can select from. The cool thing about this is that, this is definitely planned, housing. We’ll have prebuilt housing and associations can rent out a house. If they rent it out the guild symbol will appear on the awning as well.

Mark: We believe in urban development. [laughs] Zoning. We will have areas with housing, and we will have other structures within major areas. But we wanted it to be very controlled, we don’t want the kind of chaos you saw in other games with player housing.

Lum: One thing that’s impressed me a lot is the melee styles you have implemented, that makes melee classes a lot more interesing compared to other games, are you planning other little benefits like those for other classes?

Matt: Well, it kind of boils down to a class is either a spellcaster or a fighter. Spellcasters of course have spells, and they have abilities, intrisically different to combat styles. Some classes have all combat styles, some classes have all spells, and some are a blend of the two.

Lum: The skills are kind of linear right now, are you planning on introducing any skill trees like you mentioned for trade skills?

Matt: Probably not, not short term. We want to get in the most of the ones we have, and branch out later. We don’t have enough diversity in skills right now. We have to make a wizard who specializes in air different from a wizard who specializes in fire. We actually want to make them work differently.

Mark: A skill tree is much more difficult to implement. A linear skill system is much easier to implement and balance. One of the things we’ve been working on the past few months is to give more skills to the players, and they still want more, more, more. It’s hard to balance.

Lum: Let’s talk about quests for a bit. You’ve got some in right now. Do you plan on having any way of players introducing any?

Mark: That is a whooole big kettle of…

Lum: Yes, it’s a big question.

Mark: That is a big question. Realistically, the answer is no. Would we like to have something where players can have some greater effect using the quest system? Possibly. Nothing overly ambitious. That can create more problems than it’s worth. Would we have something potentially down the world where players need specific items, and it could be done within the concept of Dave’s economy, so that whatever quest the player introduces for an item. For something. What he gets in return can’t be used for cheating. “If you do this quest I’ll give you a million gold!” Would we like to do something like that, that doesn’t introduce more problems? Sure, we’d love to.

Lum: I was thinking more in terms of a way to draw players into the story. I guess tools for automating that.

Matt: That.. we’d have to look hard at the possibility of exploiting that.

Lum: Oh, you’re not planning on launching with any exploits, are you?

Matt: Only five or six. [laughs]

Dave: One problem with our implementing player-built quests is that the tools that we use are not designed for the end user. We’d have to design new tools for the players to use to implement this.

Matt: The biggest problems with quests right now is that we have a whole lot of quests and no one knows where they are.

Lum: There’s no spoiler sites out yet.

Matt: Well, yeah. [laughs] We’ll have town criers and wandering people that actually talk to you about it.

Lum: I haven’t had a chance to log into the beta recently, but wasn’t there implemented bars where you could go listen to rumors of quests and things like that?

Matt: Yeah, you go up to a town crier or a barkeep and you click on them and they actually give you more direction or something to do. Some direction or lists out a bunch of different places for the player to go, actually how to get there. Another big complaint right now is that no one knows how to get anywhere.

Lum: Mapping is a big problem.

Matt: Yeah. The adventure one, it looks at your level and says “here’s 4 quests, talk to this guy or this guy”. You could give new players, or even mid-level players some idea of where to go.

Lum: You’ve got a really interesting system of item decay in place, where things will decay a lot more so than other games. Have you been seeing any problems with that? Any complaints?

Matt: We haven’t heard one complaint about it in six months. People have gotten used to it. We haven’t actually looked at it lately.

Lum: How close are you to releasing Hibernia to the beta testers?

Matt: July. Close to the end of July.

Lietgardis: Is there any reason for players to fight monsters on the surface as opposed to in dungeons?

Matt: Right now, because there are no dungeons yet.

Mark: Down the road, there’ll be reasons to fight in both. On the surface, players don’t feel claustrophobic, they’ll have a good idea of what they face, they’ll have a wider field of vision, will know nothing is coming up behind them. So for certain times it’s nice just to whack something in a field or outside the guild hall. But we also have dungeons, basements…

Matt: We’re actually planning a newbie dungeon under Camelot. To actually give the city some life. Go down, kill some things in lower levels, get used to the idea of an enclosed space…

Lum: Send your noobs into the sewers!

Matt: Yeah. [laughs]

Mark: We want there to be places to go. Newbie dungeons, newbie… obviously right now everything is newbie.

Lum: What about the ability to solo, have you looked at that yet?

Dave: I think we’ve shown that we’re committed to solo ability in general.

Mark: We have to be. I love to solo.

Matt: As far as soloing in the dungeons versus soloing in the outdoors, dungeons tend to be a little more dangerous place. As always, when you solo you’ve got no margin for error, so you make a mistake, you die. You will probably make more mistakes in dungeons.

Lum: Any plans for beyond Camelot, are you working on other games at the moment?

Mark: (brightly) Why, ye…

Matt and Dave in unison: NO! NO! We are currently working on CAMELOT! NOTHING ELSE!

Mark: (somewhat abashed) *Right now* our plans are to get Camelot out the door.