Interview: Questing in Saga of Lucimia, Part 2

Welcome to Part 2 of my interview with Saga of Lucimia‘s Executive Producer Tim Anderson covering quest design in the sandbox PvE title. If you haven’t read Part 1, you can find it here. If you have, read on for the rest of the interview.

 

The literary definition of a quest places a heavy emphasis on lengthy and difficult travel, which seems to be something your team has really taken to heart. Saga of Lucimia even features a caravan system for groups of players on lengthy journeys. How will players use these caravans while on a campaign?

We still haven’t ironed out the final design of the system, but the goal is to facilitate real life. We’re not designing a game that requires players to invest 60 hours a week to play. It’s designed for players who are, like us, busy working adults who have 15 – 20 hours a week to set aside for their primary passion: an in-depth MMORPG.

The major purpose of the caravan is to provide one of the only fast-travel waypoints you’ll come across in gameplay, and to keep you together with your group and guild regardless of real life. When you form a caravan with your seven other friends (or with the guild), the leader will be able to set up a camp during adventuring sessions. These camps act as temporary waypoints so that if someone needs to log out for life and miss a couple of sessions, they can log back in and meet up with their caravan at the last logged camp location.

Caravans are moving outposts. You can’t carry 50 halberds in your multiple 50-slot backpacks; you get ONE backpack and it holds basic sundries defined by your weight limit. Meanwhile, your extra gear is stashed in the wagon(s). You have pack mules and mounts. Food supplies and extra crafting supplies. And after you’re done with a campaign, it’s how you get your loot back to town.

Caravans are also how players will move gear from city to city, outpost to outpost. Banks are not global; they are local. There are also no global auction houses; there is only local. Crafting resources are also local. So there will be all sorts of caravans, such as merchant trains moving goods from one city to another, and not just adventure caravans.

There will be limits on how far away you can get from a camp waypoint before you are kicked from the group. What we don’t want is players using these “fast travel” waypoints as a way to skip past intended game content. Such as a raid-geared player with a fast mount and the ability to get from one point to another in a fraction of the same amount of time someone else would then planting a camp waypoint across the world and thus trivializing travel and the danger of the world.
Remember, the Fellowship didn’t just up and leave from Rivendell. They spent weeks planning, gathering supplies, and preparing for the journey as part of the “caravan”. It was well-stocked, and ready for almost any situation once they left the shelter of the valley.

saga of lucimia

What kinds of dangers will players face while on a journey with their caravan? 

Multiple.

Mounts and pets can die. They can’t be resurrected. Who hauls the wagon if your horses are killed, and your extra gear if a pack mule dies? When angry trolls or a giant or a wyvern comes sniffing for tasty horse flesh, will you have the strength to defend your caravan, or do you flee, looking for the nearest guard post or safe haven to seek shelter?

Wagons can break down, be attacked, and be destroyed. You’ll need crafters along for the journey who can not only repair your gear, but also keep the caravan moving forward.

Then there’s Hunters & Seekers. While in some games you can cast invisible or sneak your way through a zone, that won’t happen in our world, not all the time anyway. Hunters and Seekers are large bands of mobs or single high-difficulty raid mobs, who roam the zones at random and seek out player characters and caravans. In many cases they will be able to see through an invisibility spell via infravision, they can hear footsteps, smell flesh, and beyond. Only a well-geared team working together and using all of their combined skills will be able to mask their presence…but not always successfully.

We’re also working with the concept of an aggro radius attached to the caravan, which will then attract nearby mobs, such as bandits from the next canyon over if you’ve got a wealthy haul. The lighter the load, the less attractive it is, but if you’ve got plenty of loot and backup gear, you’ll be a juicy target for unsavory types. The bigger the load, the wider the aggro radius, and the warier you’ll have to be.

 

With such a heavy emphasis on travel and campaigns lasting for long, how big is your game world going to be to geographically support these kinds of journeys? 

We’re shooting for 30 – 40 overland zones and 10 dungeons for Volume I. Zones vary in size. Our smallest at the moment takes about 15 minutes of real time to run across at the moment, and that’s unpopulated and with the ability to swim regardless of armor.

As we fine tune things, we’re expecting the smaller zones to take 45 minutes to an hour to cross by following the path, assuming a caravan. Mounted players who are couriers, for example, or who are heading out on a short adventure or the like, will be able to make that journey more quickly. If you want to explore that zone completely, you could likely spend several game sessions before you see the entire zone.

The larger zones are planned to take several hours to get across if you follow the path, and provide dozens of hours of exploration if you want to explore every nook and cranny, not counting all of the countless lore, quests, and the like you’ll discover along the way.

And we haven’t even gotten to the dungeons yet, which we’re working hard to ensure provide a truly epic experience of weeks’ and months’ worth of content per dungeon if you plan on exploring every nook and cranny, unlocking every door, solving every puzzle, and delving to the very depths to uncover the lost Relics of old and bring magic back to the realm.Saga of Lucimia April 30 - 2

One of the cleverer features of caravans is that groups of players will be able to transport offline characters who logged out at the caravan with it when the caravan moves, which seems necessary in a game with a heavy emphasis on travel where the wilds are practically impassable without a group. How will quest progression be handled for the offline players in a caravan? Is it handled group-wide, or will everyone have to log on before it can be progressed?

While the caravans and camps are designed to help facilitate real life and help players deal with travel within the game, we have no design plans for any sort of offline advancement. Those who work for their rewards earn their rewards. Achieving something while you are offline = not earning it.

 

Modern MMOs typically include a lot of convenience features like quest arrows, NPC quest icons, map markers, etc… Saga of Lucimia is instead making the bold assumption that its players are capable of using their brains to figure things out without that type of artificial aid. What kinds of changes will be made to the way information is disseminated to players to facilitate that?

First and foremost, forget about any sort of quest tracker that updates itself automatically after you talk to an NPC. In our world, you have to pay attention to the dialogue. Not only will important details regarding locations and quest objectives be detailed within dialogue, but also rumors and hearsay that can lead you to other adventures. You’ll need to take your own notes, and we’re working on an in-game journal where you can keep such details.

Let’s say you hear four or five NPCs in town talking about the wyvern threat in Stockhold Canyon four day’s west. There’s a good chance that there’s actually something going on over in that area that an exploratory party of adventurers could find attractive.

We will also be changing the location of NPCs from time to time, and we won’t be letting players know when that happens. The same thing goes for world events and content changes. We won’t be updating players with patch notes telling them where to find these new adventures. We might give them a hint that something wicked this way comes, but it will be up to players to follow those hints and find out where the content is located.

Let’s say Ranger Bob is in location X for three months. Then, whether it’s a scripted change or a dynamic change, or a manual one even, he moves. Maybe he has to take care of a sick relative down south. Or he headed north to help with some giant problems. He’ll leave clues that clever players (and those with the proper skills, like tracking or Perception-based abilities) will be able to pick up on, clues that will lead to his new location.

But you will never, ever, get a glowing icon or glowing trail leading you.

As far as quest NPCs, you’ll never know who has a quest until you hail them and work your way through their dialogue, since there aren’t any glowing icons telling you who you need to talk to. We’re still working out the final details, but the basic idea is that some quests will be able to be accepted by anyone, while other quests will be locked behind faction, languages, and conversation-related skills like negotiation or bluffing.

And many times, NPCs will have a lot of what you might assume is fluff dialogue about local life, but if you pay attention, you’ll find hints about things like recent sightings of The Wandering Hermit, or the count who was looking for help reclaiming his family’s ancient territorial castle.
Those who truly immerse themselves into the world will find a rich and ever-changing experience.

 

Add-ons can do a lot to enhance the gameplay experience, but unfettered they can really do a lot of damage to any game attempting to deliver an immersive questing experience. Are you planning to include add-on support at all, perhaps with an extremely limited API, or do you think it’s just not worth the potential problems?

Zero add-on support is planned at this time.Saga of Lucimia April 30 - 6

It might be a bit early to ask this question, but for players who join the game a few years down the line after most of the community has progressed through the initial quests and campaigns, it seems like it might be hard for them to find the group required to do so. What kinds of systems do you plan to put in place to motivate veteran players to go back and participate in quest-lines and campaigns they’ve already completed once before?

First and foremost, since we don’t have levels, players can go back and group up with people regardless of when they started playing. Someone playing for 10 years could still come back and help someone starting out for the first time without any issues. The content might be trivial to him/her due to their maxed-out skill points, but even so.

We’re also working with a somewhat linear world in terms of a timeline, which is the closest we come to having any “theme park” elements. The Volume II world will be much different than Volume I is; magic will return to the realm, many questlines that were available in Volume I will no longer be there, and things will constantly be moving forward down our Volume I, II, III, and IV timelines. This will keep players on a relatively level playing field, and ensure that everyone is relatively on the same page as far as content goes, as every couple of years the world will be progressing down a pre-set timeline.

We’ve also got a system similar to the conversation points you could earn in Star Wars: The Old Republic. By participating in quests with other players, you earn reputation points, and those points can be applied towards a variety of in-game rewards related to NPC merchants.

 

I want to say a very big thank you to Tim and the entire Saga of Lucimia team not only for this interview but for this amazing sounding game.

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About Ethan "Isarii" Macfie

A lover of social gaming and virtual worlds, Ethan hails from a land flowing with craft beer and free-range chickens - Portland, OR. Best known for his work at Tamriel Foundry and The Errant Penman, he continues his search for a new MMO home as the Hobo Gamer to this day. Find more of Ethan's writing on his blog at The Errant Penman and on Twitter at @ethanmacfie.