Dragon of Legends is currently on the Square Enix Collective where its concept is to be judged by the public. In short, it’s an action-based MMORPG for PC and mobile that takes from “the mythic cycle of Gaelic Ireland and Norse mythology.”
That’s not really enough to distinguish it from the many other MMORPGs out there, so Siliconera decided to investigate it further, bringing lead designer Nathan Dworzak along for the ride. Speaking to Dworzak, Siliconera finds out that Dragon of Legends is the MMORPG that he and his friends have wanted to play for years, since they discovered the genre some 20 years ago.
More than that, it’s an MMORPG that’s meant to play similar to Square’s classic RPGs Secret of Mana and Secret of Evermore. It turns out that Dragon of Legends will also provide players with an interesting dilemma related to racial politics: can they forget their conflicts with other races when faced with a bigger threat or not?
First off, why did you want to create an MMORPG and why one with, as you put it, an “old school feel”? What does “old school” mean in this context?
Nathan Dworzak, designer: Video games have always been a part of my life, and since I was a child I was mystified and totally engrossed with the ability to be able to manipulate and control the images I saw on screen. I was able to go on countless adventures and explore so many different worlds by myself, but I always felt like something was lacking in that experience. A big part of going on an epic adventure is to share that experience with others, and reflect on the hardships you have overcome with your friends.
To me, playing with others is the pinnacle of a gaming experience, and I find the MMO setting makes that multiplayer component even better. When I was growing up the internet was just in its infancy, and games were just starting to experiment with using an online multiplayer component to them. One of the first games I experienced with multiplayer support was The Realm Online, which came on a demo disc packaged with The Incredible Machine. This was the first time where I was able to experience actual real player interaction within the game world and it brought entirely different dimension to what I thought possible in the game world.
No longer was I fighting alone against an endless amount of computer controlled enemies, I was fighting against other real people. Based on my interactions with them I could form alliances in the game to conquer even harder trails, or turn on them effectively becoming “the bad guy”. This freedom of choice in the online setting opened up my imagination as I dreamed of what would come next in gaming’s evolution, but the game my friends and I continuously hoped for never came – so now we are taking it upon ourselves to create the experience we have always wanted.
The “old school feel” we are tapping into primarily relates to the aesthetic choices we are making, as well as the gameplay mechanics. Many older games focus on action based combat, almost arcade-like in a sense. The control systems that these older games used were flawless, and made the gamer feel like they were in total control of every single action the character was making – and with Dragon of Legends we are striving to recapture that kind of gameplay, but adding a lot of new modern mechanics and technological improvements. Essentially, Dragon of Legends is our own contemporary look back at the past.
What mythological and historical sources are you pulling from to create Dragon of Legend’s fantasy world and how have they shaped it?
The two biggest cultural influences in Dragon of Legends are of the Norse and Celtic peoples. During the game’s initial conception, I was lucky enough to travel to Europe where I spent an extensive amount of time in Ireland and Scandinavia. While there, I travelled the countryside and got a first hand look at the environment and obtained a sense of where these peoples originally came from.
I did a lot of research into the historical writings of these cultures, as well as spent countless hours wandering their museums absorbing all of their traditional heritage as I could. I also had the opportunity to see their armor, weaponry, and cultural artifacts in person. These experiences I had abroad drastically helped the forging of Dragon of Legends’s universe, and are strengthened because of them.
It seems that you’re pushing a character’s race as a big identifying factor for players in the game. Is that correct and, if so, why? Are you looking to experiment with how people interact with different races and their own in the game?
At the beginning of the game a character’s race will play a big impact, as factions are pitted against each other, each fighting for their own survival. There will be a lot of hostility between the races at the beginning, but over time an even greater destructive force will be put in front of them to overcome. At this point, it will be up to the players to decide whether or not they will set aside their differences and work together in unison, or continue on their path to wipe out the opposing force. That being said, players who are on the same faction are not entirely safe even from their own people, and could potentially be backstabbed by their own countrymen. There are races and there is conflict, yes, but it is going to be interesting to see how far those lines of loyalty and betrayal become blurred in the game world.
You say that players are given character-specific story lines to pursue. How specific are we talking here? Will every player get a unique story and, if so, how does this work?
In addition to the overall narrative arch of the story, players will be given class storylines to follow which provide a more in-depth look into their role in the world. There will be a direct path to follow which will unfold almost the same for everyone, but the unique story aspects unfold during the time spent in the game world itself. Each player will have their own unique journal, which functions as a life-log, which will record all of their actions and be publically viewable. With the vast amount of activities, side adventures, and user created quests available, it’s highly unlikely that players will meet another with the exact same journal.
Could you explain how the combat in Dragon of Legends will work, and especially how it’ll work in co-op, with multiple people?
The combat in Dragon of Legends is influenced heavily from Square’s earlier games Secret of Mana / Secret of Evermore, so if you’ve played those that is what you can expect in our game. Actions will unfold in real time, and players will have to maneuver accordingly on the battlefield based on the situation. And don’t worry, the magic system we have isn’t like it is in those games at all – they are cast in real-time without the need of going through several screens.
Every player will be able to progress through their own class-specific story without the need of a party, but the hardest and best content in Dragon of Legends will need a complimentary team of classes. Each class has a specific role on the battlefield and they are all integral in their own way. For example, the Norse Bondsman is heavily armoured and will be able to tank and soak up a lot of damage, while the Norse Ranger is only lightly armoured – but provides the much needed damage output to bring down the hardest foes. There is a natural synergy between all the classes, and more details will be revealed about what those synergies are in time.
Will it be possible for people to play through all of Dragon of Legends without ever using the co-operative multiplayer feature? Is that something you want to enable?
There will be sections of the game that players will be able to complete without the co-operative feature for sure, but we are striving to bring back that sense of camaraderie and social interaction that comes with encountering other players in the game world. I’ve played far too many MMORPGs that feel like a single player game that has other people running around. In these types of games there is little or no incentive to party, let alone talk with another player. We are trying to change that. By making every class important in their own way joining up in a group and exploring the game with allies will not only speed up the questing process, but will grant several bonuses for doing so.
With a cross-platform MMORPG are there limitations that you’re making on the PC and console versions to ensure they play the same as the mobile version?
We want Dragon of Legends to run on essentially anything, so yes there are a lot of things to consider during the development phases. Effective memory management for example is a big issue. On the PC, computers have no problem running and rendering complex programs, but when mobile is brought into the picture this becomes a constant concern. The coding must be done in an intelligent way to accommodate all of these different system specifications and we are going to great lengths to ensure Dragon of Legends functions correctly on all devices without giving a fair advantage to one device over the other.
You’re hoping to have players make their own user-generated content. What kind of content will this be and how will it be created and shared by players?
We will be providing the community with a set of custom built tools that will streamline the creation process, meaning that even the non-artist will have a simple time creating graphic content. This kind of content includes armor, weaponry, and various other cosmetic apparel right now, but eventually players will be able to build and share their own housing and dungeons. In addition to these, a wide variety of content will be accepted including lore, philosophies, histories, poetry, and music. This content will be submitted to our community forums and based on a voting process – the best pieces will be included in the main game. Players will be rewarded in-game for their efforts, and will be recognized in the community as a content contributor.
How are you handling the free-to-play model here – what are you charging for and will you be looking to offer deals or promotions?
Our model follows the “ethical F2P” model, meaning that there will be no items up for sale that grant an unfair advantage over other players, and that the entirety of the experience will be given at no cost to the player. This model is currently being used in League of Legends and Path of Exile, and we are aiming to follow their lead by providing players with purely optional cosmetic upgrades. More details as to what those actual items are will be revealed as the game gets closer to launch.