Interview with Tim Anderson – Executive Producer of Saga of Lucimia

Tim Anderson is currently one of a handful of dedicated and passionate gamers doing what many of us wish we had the drive to do: making their own video game the way they want it. The Saga of Lucimia is a project that started as a homebrew Dungeons and Dragons game, but as Tim and his friends held onto the world they created, they all realized there was something more to it. They decided that there are no games on the market that scratch the itch they crave, and when there’s a will there’s a way.

Recently I had the opportunity to ask Tim about his team’s upcoming The Saga of Lucimia.

We The Nerdy: For any readers who haven’t heard of The Saga of Lucimia yet, what’s your elevator pitch?

Tim Anderson: The Saga of Lucimia is a group-based MMORPG that hearkens back to early EverQuest and, perhaps more prominently, Dungeons and Dragons. It’s a game where community matters, where there is no solo content, no quest hubs, and players embark upon epic campaigns within the game world as opposed to single-player, single-serving questlines.

D&D campaigns are rarely just one person sitting across from a DM. Instead, it’s all about the camaraderie of six to ten or even more people sitting around the table, playing through campaigns for weeks and months, getting to know their characters and each other as friends and comrades.

EverQuest originally captured this with group-based content where very little was soloable. We’re going back to those days with our own game.

WTN: What has inspired you to make your own game?

TA: Well, this started off as a D&D campaign in the late 90s, then turned into a book series I started working on in 2008 when I was first getting going as a professional writer. It got put on hold when my content writing company took off, and then eventually my travel blog, which led to me doing social media for a living.

But in early 2014, I started to look at finally finishing up the book series. My original plan was to just finish all four of the books and then market them using my savvy connections in the industry that I’ve built up over the past seven years. But then I started to see how many indie developers were making small, niche MMORPGs, and how you could find sustainability with very small numbers…and it spawned an even greater “vision” for what I could ultimately create with the story.

I was playing on the Project 1999 EverQuest emulator server at the time with a group of guys – Richard, Giovanni, and John – who all shared the same vision for what we wanted to see in an MMORPG. We just kind of naturally migrated from there to where we are now. Our group shaman, Vincent, actually just came on board to test the waters and see if he wants to come on as the official team member 13, and is helping out with our programming/coding.

Really, it’s less of “inspiration” and more of a “there’s jack @&%$ on the market that appeals to us today.” We originally started off wanting to make a game that all of us would enjoy playing. The further we’ve come along the development path, the more players we’ve found along the way who share our vision.

There’s a huge portion of the long-term MMORPG community – the players who go back 15 – 20 years like ourselves – who are fed up with the state of the MMO market today. Single-serving questlines, single-player games where you max level in a week or two, and you never once group up or even talk to another player along your way.

That’s not fun to us. That’s boring. If I want to play a single player game (which I love, by the way; all of us are gamers at heart and we equally enjoy single-player games), I’ll play a single player game, like Mass Effect or Assassin’s Creed or etc. etc. etc.

WTN: The MMO market is notably competitive, what drives you and your team to work on The Saga of Lucimia now?

TA: See above. Namely, a complete lack of ANY group-based gameplay. Even the original EverQuest, EverQuest II, and World of Warcraft have all significantly changed and evolved since their earliest incarnations when they were group-based.

Even Lord of the Rings Online was group-based in the beginning. I was just reading a player blog saying how happy he was that the Epic Storyline content had been nerfed to be soloable so that he didn’t have to “wait around for a group” to complete the content.

We’re on the complete opposite end of the spectrum. If it’s soloable, it’s not epic. You can’t call something epic or challenging if you can do it by yourself. The greatest challenges are overcome by groups. Frodo had his Fellowship. Jason had his Argonauts. Zeus overcame the Titans with the aid of his fellow Olympians. Cap’n Reynolds had his Firefly crew, etc.

That empty void is what drives us. That, and the support of our community. It’s been rabid since we first started hitting the social media hard and heavy in November of 2014; our first crowdfunding campaign hit its goals within 36 hours of launching on January 25th of 2015, which just shows us the interest in what we are creating.

WTN: You are clearly serious about producing a game that requires group content by taking solo quests out of the picture. I’m sure this is a challenge, but do you have any concerns about players getting frustrated with a game that’s different than the norm?

TA: Absolutely not. We aren’t aiming to create a game for the masses, so we really don’t give a @&%$ about all of those solo players who have never learned how to group with someone else or have forgotten how to be sociable and team-players.

“Whoa, that sounds harsh, saying you don’t give a @&%$ about the players.” Yeah, it does. But don’t quote us out of context. We don’t care about the SINGLE PLAYER generation of 99%, instant-gratification hipsters who want their first-place medal for simply existing. There are literally tens of thousands of MMORPGS out there catering to that EXACT playstyle and mentality. Our advice to those players is: enjoy them.

We are creating a niche game. We have a niche audience. We are a small team. We don’t need 50,000 players per month to be sustainable. Nor are we trying to appeal to the masses. We have a small, tightly focused audience, and as such, we are creating content specifically for them. We are not, nor will we ever be, a game for all players.

Players who, just like us, take their gaming seriously and schedule their sessions WITH their wives, husbands, friends, families, significant others and beyond. These are not single-player individuals. Rather, they are already team-oriented. That’s our target audience.

We’re creating a virtual world where players won’t be logging in just to “play a game.” Instead, they’ll be logging in to BECOME that character, to take on the virtual mantle of adventurer, and to have a second life in the Saga of Lucimia world. A place where they’ll spend multiple sessions per week alongside their friends, families, and significant others working on campaigns and exploring the breadth and depth of the world we’ve created.

We had someone on the Google+ page a few weeks back say that, “Well, this sounds like a game I want to play with my friends and family, not with a bunch of Internet strangers. Forcing me to need eight players to do dungeon content sounds like a huge pain; I don’t want to have to group with people I don’t know.”

That player right there has lost track of what it is that made MMORPGs so much fun to begin with: the GROUP element. EVERYONE is an Internet stranger at some point. And while we do have small group content in the overland areas to cater to the in-between moments, the vast majority of what we are developing is created for the full group in mind, and raids beyond that.

We’ve also got some great mechanics in place to get players interacting with each other, roleplaying, and socializing in the cities and taverns. For example, we won’t have an instant-group-finder-that-teleports-you-to-the-dungeon. What we do have is a LFG board in the taverns where players will need to go to post and look for posts from other players.

This will put players right next to a [ton] of Internet strangers and force them to interact with people. To have conversations, like human beings. To roleplay. To get to know one another, and form bonds that lead to friendships, relationships, guilds, and beyond.

If you play well with others and enjoy grouping and epic adventure, you will thrive. If you are an anti-social hater or douchebag, you’ll quickly find yourself without groups, and eventually you’ll stop playing. We’re fine with that. We don’t want those types of people in our game to begin with.

In other words, we are the complete opposite of today’s modern MMO where it’s all about the single-serving content of, “@&%$ downtime, I don’t want to have to wait on someone else, I need my loot NOW NOW NOW NOW NOW NOW NOW!”

Do you have coin for the toll?

WTN: You detail on the website the use of a skill-based leveling system rather than traditional classes a player chooses at character creation. What’s the reasoning for this style of player progress?

TA: We want to create a world where players can be anything they want to be. Period. Locking people into a class-based game automatically restricts them. Instead, we’ve got a system in place with several hundred skills to choose from (our goal is 500+ by the time we get to launch), which allows players to ultimately create their own unique combinations of Archetypes.

This also has given us the opportunity to put in place what we feel is really one of our strongest draws for the exploration crowd. The vast majority of the skills in the game will *not* be available at character creation or in the major cities at trainers. Instead, they will only be available in the wild, on NPCs who you will have to find, discover, or in cases of books/tomes/scrolls, loot from a chest in the depths of a dungeon after weeks and months of searching.

Let’s say you are in a city. You head to your “ranger” trainer and ask about advanced tracking. He tells you a rumor of some old hermit living in the Mountains of Mist far to the north…but that’s all he knows. So now you’ve got to plan an expedition to head north to the MoM. But you don’t know exactly where. All you’ve got is your world map…the ONLY map you’ll receive in our game, since there are no mini-maps and radar or glowing icons and trails telling you where to go.

So you get together with some of your friends who are also heading in the same direction, or you meet some people in the tavern, some fellow adventurers, who are down for the action. Just like in a D&D campaign. You put together your expedition, you head out, and several game sessions later you come across an outpost in the southern foothills.

You ask around. One bartender knows of the man whom you seek. “He’s north of here, near the Penock Pass,” he says. You can have the bartender mark the general location of Penock Pass, but you’ll still have to find out how to get there on your own…and then be able to track and look for signs of the hermit.

Then when you get there, you might find that he’s migrated to another zone, based on your existing tracking ability and whether or not you can read the signs properly. Or you might be too low in your skill and find nothing.

Along the way, you’ll uncover ruins, caverns, other outposts where players will be, where you’ll find tips about nearby dungeons and people, and so on and so forth.

WTN: I know some MMO fans’ favorite element of the genre is the factor of economy. While it’s early in development, do you see a future with auction houses or a trade system that rewards crafting and business, or do you prefer a game that is more purely focused on the adventure?

TA: There will be no worldwide auction house. Everything will be local. But we plan on having a robust crafting system as well as trading system that will lead players to transport goods between cities in caravans, thus driving prices up and down in local environments based on supply and demand.

Also, everything in our game is tradeable, apart from quest rewards. That means no bind on equip. If a raid sword drops and no one can use it or wants it…you can absolutely sell it on the market or give it to an alt. Granted, the alt won’t have the necessary Runecraft to unlock its magical potential at level one, and in his hands it will just be a normal weapon until he skills up through playing, but the market will be free and open.

We’re going back to early EverQuest in this regards. While we will set up auction houses in the major cities to help players congregate, they will be local only. If you are selling a sword in Finglis Mirror, you can’t buy that while you are in Spirath. You’ll have to be in Finglis Mirror.

We fully plan on some players becoming traveling merchants, transporting goods form one city to another in a caravan setting. Part of what we are designing for expeditions is wagons and pack mules. You can’t realistically put a halberd in your backpack while also lugging around a bastard sword, crossbow, armor and shield and the like.

Instead, you’ll need wagons and pack horses/mules to transport your gear to/from the dungeons, as well as get your hard-earned spoils back to the city. But also to transport from city to city. However, bandits and other dangers abound, and you’ll have to protect your caravan along the route, or lose it all….

It’s just one more way that we are designing a game that focuses on the group, on needing to work with others, on relying on friends and allies, to form friendships and bonds so that you are doing far more than just heading out to slay a big baddie in a dungeon.

I hope there's fishing in this game

There you have it: an early look into a video game that both hearkens back to older styles of playing while also tapping into a modern audience that misses the good old days. You can read more about the game at Saga of Lucimia.com and if you are one of those players that misses the old days of group-based gameplay, consider being a part of their crowdfunding project to show your support.