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by Eric Arevalo

We recently had the opportunity to conduct an interview with Peter (Calistas) Tyson, Community Liaison Manager for Dragon Empires. In this interview Peter provides us with some very informative answers as well as giving us some special hints on what is to come. Dragon Empires is an online RPG currently in development and should be available for beta testing in May 2003. Read on to find out about many of the unique and interesting developments that are occurring with Dragon Empires and why it looks to potentially become a winner when it is released.


DRAGON EMPIRES INTERVIEW WITH PETER TYSON

1) THE STORY BEHIND THE GAME

Famed author Piers Anthony has created the back story and pre-history to the world of Dragon Empires. What do you think of his contribution to the game and will the story have a major impact with events in the game? What can you reveal to us at this time about the story within Dragon Empires?

Piers has had a unique contribution to the game in that his own style of storytelling has come through distinctly. His work has been mostly focused on setting up a starting point in the world’s history which we are working from. The back story isn't something we have released yet but I can tell you it involves a titanic struggle that occurred eons ago and the only other hint I can give you is that the Dragons did not always look as they do now. Can't tell you any more just yet, hehe.

2) THE GOALS BEHIND THE GAME

Dragon Empires seems to be full of creativity and talent not very often seen in the world of online roleplaying games. I have gotten tired of so many other online roleplaying games because they never brought anything new and kept using the same dull and unimaginative gameplay. What are some of the major goals in the design of Dragon Empires and what will make players like this game over others in this genre?

One of the major goals is to allow players to log in and spend as much or as little time in the world as they like and yet for the player to still feel that they are able to do something useful. From hunting monster, fighting for town ownership, organizing your manufacturing (which runs whether you are online or not) or hunting outlaws (or being one) there is a lot to do and different ways to focus your character. What's more, it's easy to switch between game objectives and to explore new tasks and roles.

As to why players would like our game over others I think the first reason is that it is dead gorgeous! Of course, the impact of the game look wears off after a time and you're left with the meat of the game and there we still think we are ahead. We have PvP arenas, city capture (and enhancement with tax take), worldwide PvP between clans and individuals for those who chose to do that and some interesting ways of advancing your character other than just leveling. There's also our manufacturing and economics system which is responsive to players and removes much of the tedium by automating a lot of the processes.

3) THE ART IN DRAGON EMPIRES

Dragon Empires is described as one of the most beautiful worlds that has ever graced a computer screen. It is readily apparent from seeing screenshots that much attention and care has been given to all facets within the game world, from detailed terrains, character and monster models to a detailed weather system. What goals are the artists trying to accomplish within Dragon Empires and what do you hope players will enjoy about the unique look within this game?

The art team is trying to create a unique and distinctive world, one that is different from those that have come before it and leads the genre in terms of style, originality and beauty. The goal is also to create an aesthetically pleasing environment rather than just a functional world. We want you to go 'wow' as you cross each mountain, enter each new town or dungeon or explore a new area.

4) CONTROLLING THE GAME

Often a major criticism against online roleplaying games is that they have a very confusing and complex interface. How is the interface being handled within the game and is it an easy one to understand and use?

Since we hope players will be playing the game for a long time we have made the user interface very flexible and customizable. It should also be quite intuitive. There's also the possibility of future player customization, but we'll have to wait and see on that one!

5) MANY UNIQUE PLAYING STYLES

Dragon Empires offers an excellent amount of diverse playing options in the form of joining small groups, player verses player combat, clans, trading, and a crafting system. Please tell us about the benefits of each of these playing styles and what players will find the most unique out of each of them that they may not have seen before.

I think we want to offer every player a niche they are comfortable with as well as giving them the option of trying something new. We hope to never be 'just' a PvP game or 'just' a quest/monster bashing game or a game with 'just' a cool economy. By offering all three (amongst other) play options players can dabble in different game play elements depending on their mood. If you're really busy just log in and fiddle with you Aurachrome manufacturing unit, got some time, org anise a dungeon raid or go hunt some players.

We also believe that different play styles lead to a diverse community. A world 100% full of crafters is no fun (who will they sell their wares too?!), likewise, a world packed full of PKs would get pretty boring after a while as you'd see nothing but the same old killing and being killed. By supporting a variety of play styles we think we'll end up with a much more colorful and compelling world.

6) FEEDBACK FROM THE COMMUNITY

I must first compliment the continual release of newsletters to the public in which you continue to discuss the progress that is occurring with the game. Most interesting is a recent newsletter in which you mention the addition of new features based on feedback from the community. It is rare to find this level of support from a developer to its community and it is most welcomed. Why do you think it is important to use feedback from the community?

Because it's their wallets we want to get into! Seriously, we accept that the combined gaming experience of our fans is always going to be greater than ours. There are people in our community who have been playing multiplayer games since the late 70s when I was still working out how to put legos together. Thus, where appropriate, we have sought community feedback and incorporated it. One area where this has come to the fore most recently has been in feedback about PvP and quests.

We have always wanted a strong PvP system but some of our community pointed out that they really only enjoyed PvP where there was some tangible reward or loss involved to make it meaningful, which they felt our system didn't have. After much discussion we agreed and now we have a limited loot system between outlaws and bounty hunters and traders. With quests we originally thought we'd leave them out because our audience wouldn't be that interested, (this being more about Guild v Guild than story telling). However, after chats with the community we discovered that this was still important to the players so we're building a quest system now.

In the end we let players get involved where possible. However, we do have our own strong vision of how the game is shaped and structured which means not everything the fans would like will go in. It's all about balance and I think we have a good balance of input from the community right now.

7) THE QUESTING SYSTEM

In a recent newsletter is the mention of a questing system which was not originally planned for Dragon Empires. I think this will prove to be a very popular feature within this online roleplaying game. Why was this feature added and how will it benefit Dragon Empires?

It was added because the fans wanted it! However, this doesn't mean we'll just throw in a standard boring system. As with everything we look at we'll try to come up with our own unique spin on it. While planning is still being done for this system what I've heard so far about how it will work sounds pretty good.

8) USING A MOTION CAPTURE STUDIO

I find the use of a motion capture studio for Dragon Empires appealing. What are some of the benefits you hope to achieve with this system and why have you decided to do this?

Motion capture helps provide natural and fluid movement and I think this will compliment the overall style of the world very well. One of the biggest reasons for doing this was as a time-saving measure. A couple of days in a motion capture studio can give you a lot of animation that might otherwise take weeks to produce.

9) FUTURE ADDITIONS AND THE BETA

The beta is scheduled to appear in May 2003. You almost have your initial goal of 100,000 signed up beta testers. This is indeed very impressive as it shows the amount of enthusiasm from players all across the world. What other possible features are you planning to add to Dragon Empires that you can reveal to us now as well as what you hope players will experience in the beta?

Extra features? Well, I can't really say without getting it from the boss can I? Perhaps I can hint, the final game should see cities that are more customizable than we have previously indicated. That's enough to get me shot I am sure! As for what players will experience in the beta? A lot of bug finding experience I hope! We want launch to be as stable as possible and we'll make sure this happens through thorough beta testing.

December 2, 2002

Official Dragon Empires website.




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