Saga of Lucimia: From Grand Idea to Grand Reality
I recently was lucky enough to sit down and speak with Tim Anderson, the Executive Producer of Saga of Lucimia, Giovanni Martello, a producer, and Robert Thompson, one of the coders. We spoke about the game itself, some of the inspiration behind it, as well as how it plans to sate the cravings of a not-so-niche market in the MMORPG world.
Tell me about the game; in an age where any game can be an MMO and have that aspect of everyone’s playing together, what sets you apart?
Tim Anderson: I think first and foremost people need to shed the concept of MMORPG, because there’s a lot of negative aspects to MMORPG’s in the recent era. I think the easiest way to think about what we’re doing is we’re Dungeons & Dragons but in an online space. So rather than it just being multiplayer, it’s actually group based. So just like a D&D session, you’re gonna sit down with your friends around a table and you’re gonna embark in an epic adventure that spans the course of weeks to potentially months. Maybe you’ll do little things in between there during little impromptu role play sessions, but it’s about you and the group interacting with the world around you.
Right on! So that group aspect… I see that you’ll have almost no solo-play in the game, is that right?
TA: I just did a new blog post today that talk about this in greater detail. Basically, if you look at the Lord of the Rings, Gandalf being the epic wizard and adventurer that he was, still only did things like research in a tower by himself. He still went off and had to have a group to back him up to handle these big epic adventures. That’s kind of what we’re looking at, is that everything in this game from just going out in the wilderness and taking on the adventures and challenges of what’s directly surrounding outposts and cities, that can be done with two, three or four people, but you’re still going to need a handful of people to go with you. Everything else when it comes to dungeons, is going to be full groups of eight players and then raids beyond that, and then if you wanna hangout and role play, craft, research lore and things like that, you can do that by yourself. Everything else will require groups of people. But the nice thing about the immediate content directly outside of outposts and cities is that it’s meant to be consumed as micro sessions of thirty minutes to forty five minutes here and there with friends. So it’s very easy to get in and get out and not have to worry about doing those long campaign sessions until you have the time with your friends once a week, twice a week, however many times a month that happens.
That’s a pretty cool distinction and concept you’re bringing over into the game here. I’ve seen on your website as well that you have a really comprehensive story going as well. I was wondering if you could tell us about the plot and story that you’re publishing on your site.
TA: The story itself started off as a D&D campaign, and the blog post that I put out this morning talked about going back to the original literary sources of inspiration. We talk about the Riftwar Saga by Fiest, we talk about Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn series by Tad Williams, we talk about Lord of the Rings and other book series. That’s really where this source material comes from. So the original material was meant to be consumed in a literary format, and we’re really just taking that and putting a digital paint job on top of it. This is not a game that was designed to be a game. This is basically an adaptation of a literary story that’s going to be consumed in a digital format. This is not a game, it’s a world, and there is a distinction between the two. At the end of the day, it is a game, but for us it’s a world. Really, when it comes to the storyline, it’s about making things as memorable and epic as possible and you can’t do that from having like grocery run like content within it.
Robert and Giovanni, what are your roles in the company?
Robert: Hey Marshall, I am a programmer, so I am responsible for putting all the fun stuff together in the back-end.
Giovanni: Mostly what I do is design of systems, like character progression and skills that everybody will be able to use and acquire. There’s something called the Mastery System that I basically put together with Tim and some of the other early team members and kinda just went to town for the first year and a half that we were putting this together. So I spent a lot of time working in a lot of different spreadsheets. Now that Robert and Richard, who’s not here are doing a lot of the back-end work that we needed since the beginning, every now and then Robert will come to me and say, “hey we’re ready to work on this, hey how does this work, or what does this do”… A lot of the work that I’ve done was in the past, and I’ll do more work in the future but we’re waiting for everything else to get up to that point where we’re starting to put in some of those other systems. And we’re close to that right now.
With the whole game being, as Tim said a World, and the whole idea that you can be a unique group going around doing these adventures, can you talk of some of these skills that you’re building to make the characters unique?
TA: You can answer this one Gio. [laughs]
GM: The systems that we have is called the Mastery Systems. The simplest way to think about it is a folder with a theme that has a bunch of skills within it. The least it would have at least 18 or 19 skills that you could acquire over your character’s life within each mastery. Things like, thievery master, musician mastery, performance mastery, tactics… Also weapons like 1-handed swords, 2-handed swords, bows, spears. They’re all kind of in their own little categories, and there’s like lines of skills within each of those. When you’re creating your character, you think of some of things you’d like to be doing over the course of your characters life and put together a couple of those themes to make really a pretty unique character. You can focus all within regular fantasy templates that you’ve seen before, you know, somebody like Gandalf or like Aragorn, a fighter or scholarly who doesn’t fight in the front lines. You could even mix and match those things, someone with thieving skills who is also a front line fighter, or somebody more along the lines of Indiana Jones, wearing leather armor. Still smart but able to take care of himself. It offers a lot of flexibility. A lot of the skills are dependent, or maybe not so much dependent, but reliant on the fact that you’ll be playing with other people. So while one skill basically deals damage, it may also have a passive benefit to groupmates, or a specific group mate that you have targeted or maybe it’ll weaken the enemy in some way. We’re building a bunch of systems to make it easier for groups to rely on one another and make kind of make sure that no one player can successfully be that self serving, “I’m just going to do damage, I’m not going to help anyone out.” A lot of their abilities are going to help the team whether they want them to or not. There’s a lot of variety, and a lot that we actually have to build and put into the game. There’s going to be a lot of tuning, a lot of altering the way that they work together, but we want skills to be fun and have a lot of different things to pick from so that your character feels comfortable for you and also work together with the other unique characters that you’ll have along with your adventures. I hope I answered that question.
GM: I tend to ramble and I’m not really sure where I started and I’m not sure where that story started but um…
RT: You and Tim have something in common there, Gio.
GM: Yep, we can just go. Well, that’s the reason this game exists, because we’re just very passionate and we can just talk about this. Before we had Robert and Richard, we had a couple people who were doing little bits of coding here and there, but for the most part it was just [Tim and I] putting out videos of all the ideas we had. I mean, we ended up putting together a successful little community just from us sitting here and rambling about all the ideas we had for a game. So it’s a blessing at times.
Robert, are there any aspects of the game that you’re working on right now that you’d like to share with us, or something that you’re excited to see people utilize?
RT: So since the last build, I’ve been working on a new AI mechanic, where it’s essentially a completely different way to approach AI to make it a bit more dynamic and modular. So it’s easier for us to play with on the back-end and expand it out and make them smart without a lot of hassle. It’s still a work in progress, we’re not really ready to show anybody anything fancy yet, but it’s pretty exciting. There’s a lot of back-end things that we’ve been working on that Richard and I are excited to try them out. Unfortunately, they may not be noticed by the community because they’re really back-end changed but they make a huge difference to how we move forward from here.
That’s cool. From the storytelling aspect, having a better AI to interact with is always a plus.
GM: Robert is also an aficionado of these types of games… So Robert feel free, if you have ideas about anything we’re doing or you’re excited about, I think you are very good at talking about some of the things about these games and what we’re going to be doing with them.
RT: You, you’re going to let me share my opinions, Gio? [laughs]
GM: Absolutely, you’re a valued member of this team.
RT: [laughs] Just messin. There’s a lot to be excited about for this game, I mean just for me I’m really excited about stuff being hard again… Unfortunately since I’m part of making this world it won’t be as much of a mystery to me, but I’m excited to share with other people the mystery of just dropping them in somewhere and them being like, “oh my goodness, where do I go? What do I do?” And there’s no one to tell you that.
It sounds like it’s going to be a lot of fun. I’ve been following along with the updates and I can’t wait to get my hands on it and play it once it’s further along and I can get a group together.
GM: It’s gonna be something that you can put together where if you have your weekly D&D nights, this is totally a game where people won’t necessarily wanna play all the time, or you can be that person that’s always in the game and you’ll always been seen at one outpost… It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, and that’s specifically what we tell people. Ya know, unless you really love this idea, we are not going to try to swindle your money out of you. We won’t tell you, “Yeah come on, it’s gonna be great. You’re gonna love it!” Because we don’t know if you’re going to love it. And if you are going to love it, typically when you start reading about it, you’ll know right away. I know there are going to be players coming on the referral of their friends who will be weary to try it and they’re like, “oh I don’t know it sounds a little too hardcore for me,” but once you get into these really communal group experiences and you have one of the memorable times where something goes really really wrong, or really really right, either way when there are these challenges and everything has meaning, you end up making memories from those things. It’s the reason we’re making this game is that we have those memories of games in the past, but somewhere in the early 2000’s game developers started steering away to get more and more people to play their games. We just don’t want to do that. There are enough people out there trying to cater to everyone. From the beginning we’ve tried to stay focused and we’ve gotten a lot of flack for that from different internet communities, ya know, but we really have a focus on what we want this game to be. Some people just won’t like it, and we don’t want to try to convince them otherwise. At least not until we can say, why don’t you come in and play it and try it with a couple friends and then tell us you don’t like it. Until that point, somebody who doesn’t play these games all the time and may not want to devote a ton of time, I could see people saying “two nights a week, or two nights a month even, we’re going to play these characters together.” It’s what we call a static group, and it’s how people play Dungeons & Dragons, which is also a basis of what we’re building our game on. It’s that high fantasy, a lot of behind the scenes dice rolls, chances for brilliant successes, all of those extremes lead to really memorable experiences.
I do actually really like that. I’ve read you guys say before that you’re not trying to be for everyone. You’re a niche game for a niche market and those people that want this kind of game, that’s who you’re making this game for. I think that’s smart.
TA: I think too it’s pretty evident that it’s not as niche as some people make it out to be. As we can see from the recent huzz and buzz about the Nostralius server for World of Warcraft, you know, there are hundreds of thousands of people, in just World of Warcraft who to go back to the days of vanilla. There’s also people who want to go back to vanilla Everquest, there’s people who want to go back to vanilla Ultima Online. There’s all of these people, I’d estimate a few million players at the very least, who are looking to go back to the golden age of the first generation of MMORPG’s from the late 90’s to early 2000’s when everything became single-player or pay to win, single serving quest lines and all the other crap that’s watered down the games in the last 15-20 years. There’s a huge community out there, and for niche games like ours where we’re not expecting to get a million subscribers, or even 100,000 subscribers, we’re happy with 5, 10, 15 thousand subscribers – when you can have a game that’s successful with a small amount of people and you look at how many people want a niche game like this, it’s actually not as niche as some people would have you believe it is. There’s actually quite a few people who do want a group based game and you only need to look at the forums and the vanilla servers to see how many are. Because at the end of the day, those players aren’t necessarily looking for just vanilla World of Warcraft or vanilla Everquest, they’re looking for the the return to group based days of gameplay, that’s what it really boils down to.
Well I think that’s about it for my questions today, but I have seen you post videos of your Alpha Testing, so I’m just wondering if the readers out there could get their teeth into this in the near future.
TA: There is no public Alpha or Beta. If anybody wants to get involved, they have to get involved with a pre-order. We’re doing everything in house so it’s all done through early access programs. But a lot of people like to wait until a game goes free to play and that way they can get in and have an early preview and get a head start on everyone else. We’re not doing any of there. There’s no preview. There’s no Free to Play, no access 3 weeks early. Anyone that wants to join can pick up a copy of the game and they get access to all of the Alphas and all of the Betas on an equal playing field as everyone else. There are various levels of pre-orders depending on how involved and how passionate people want to be and different levels of rewards, just like with crowdfunding, but we need to make sure people don’t get confused because we are not a crowd funded game. There are different tiers available for players who want to pre-order, but that’s the only access we’ve got to alpha and beta. There will not be any sort of open public alpha or beta for this game. If people want to get involved, they can go to the pre-order store and pick up a copy of the game and join the rest of us.
Thank you guys a whole lot for joining me!