This afternoon, Santa Monica, Calif.-based 7 Studios unveiled the details behind its upcoming PlayStation 2 title, which had been announced during this year's E3. Called Legion, the title is a large-scale 3D "action strategy role-playing game" (or ASR for short) that is built around the King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table medieval mythology.
The team of ex-Westwood designers has been working on Legion for nearly six months, and even though the game is not slated to ship until 2001, its direction is already coming sharply into focus with a PC version to release shortly thereafter. Unlike traditional real-time strategies, Legion will stress the importance of smaller units and environment interaction, rather than resource collection and micromanagement of armies, much like Blizzard's recently announced WarCraft III.
"We think Legion is revolutionary because it represents a game that combines familiar elements of action, strategy, and role-playing, and ties it all together with a completely new interface," explains 7 Studios managing director Lewis Peterson. "Our goal is to take the best and most addictive elements that have made real-time strategy so popular, such as limited resource management, control over many units, and destruction of large structures and fortifications, and merge them with the action and intensity that console gamers have come to expect. Add to this an addictive role-playing aspect of character development, quests, magic armor and equipment, and we feel we have an experience that will interest a broad audience of game players."
Players will take control of up to four Knights, and each knight will have his own set of troops, which the player will train in a number of disciplines, including archery, swordsmanship, and magic. Because of Legion's emphasis on action and strategy, players will have to focus on how their knights are trained and equipped, since nearly every decision will have an impact on each of the Knight's troops.
Legion drops the traditional mission-based RTS format for a more free-flowing, quest-based style of gameplay. The world will be inhabited by the same characters and artifacts that make the Camelot legends so intriguing, including Morgan Le Fay, Arthur, Lancelot, Excalibur, Gwynevere and Merlin.
Beyond that, little else is known about Legion, as it's still nearly two years away from completion. However, we went straight to the source for more answers about the game, and we talked with 7 Studios design director Erik Yeo a bit more about Legion.
GameSpot News: Why did you choose Sony's next-generation PlayStation console as Legion's primary platform?7 Studios: A few reasons:
First, we love the hardware and what we can do with it. Adding connectivity (that is, multiplayer capabilities) to a powerful machine like the PS2 creates what we feel is the closest you can come to the ultimate game system.
Second, we saw a hole in the current console market that we think a product like Legion can fill. We feel like we have an opportunity to create a new (and fun) experience for console players.
Finally, leading on the PS2 allowed us to start at an even level with everybody else. It's a new platform to everybody, and we like that.
GSN: Obviously, developing a game on a brand-new system like the PlayStation 2 requires you to jump over unexplored technological hurdles. How hard has it been to adapt to the PlayStation 2? How different is developing a game for the PlayStation 2 from developing one for the PC?7S: Developing for new hardware is always difficult. Our programmers have a lot of experience working at the hardware level, though, and they are really having fun. But ultimately, hardware is hardware, and there is a learning curve involved with every platform - just as there is in supporting new graphics cards, sound cards, and optimizing for different CPUs in the PC world. The nice thing about working for the PS2 is that we know it isn't going to change for a while, so we can really optimize.
GSN: You mention that Legion will offer multiplayer gaming. Expand on that. Will the PlayStation 2 come with Internet support?7S: The multiplayer capabilities of the PS2 played a big factor in why we chose the PS2 as our lead platform. We want to be among the first to develop a great multiplayer experience for the console - beyond the split screen or link cable. We'll be discussing specifics on how multiplayer works later.
GSN: Are you developing Legion to be compatible with a PlayStation 2 mouse, or will it be controlled by the standard controller?7S: We are designing Legion to work optimally with the standard controller that will ship with the PlayStation 2. We are not counting on a mouse to play the game.
Unlike other real-time strategies, Legion seems to be downplaying the importance of resource management and stressing environment interaction and exploration. Doesn't doing so remove the sense of urgency found in classic RTS titles like Command & Conquer and StarCraft?
Resource management is still very important in Legion - we simply believe that it doesn't need to be done in the same way it has traditionally been done. We are trying to simplify the process, not remove it from play.
GSN: Will there be more than one race in Legion, or are the knights the only selectable units?7S: Race will play a part in the strategy of Legion, but it won't divide the game into sides in the same way most RTS games have done. There will certainly be other races in Legion - elves, dwarves, humans, giants, as well as various dark races. We are taking certain liberties with the legends of King Arthur, and introducing certain knights that will be nonhuman.
GSN: Is there a rigid structure to the quests in Legion, or is it somewhat dynamic? What about random quests?7S: There is a set number of quests, or missions, the player will need to accomplish to finish the game. These are story related, and are therefore decidedly nonrandom. However, the player will not be forced along a set pathway with only one or two choices after each mission. We are providing random quests (or missions) that will give players a chance to take their knights (and their armies) into battle, gain experience, and find magic items that will help increase their abilities.
GSN: You mention recruiting and training Knights. If Legion won't focus on the classic RTS "central base," then where does this training and recruiting take place?7S: Training (that is, building up levels) takes place on the battlefield, through combat and experience. How players recruit and expand their army is a detail we are going to be talking about later.
GSN: Will players be able to manage more than four knights at any given time?7S: Probably not. But because each Knight controls a number of troops - all of a similar discipline, we feel that four divisions is enough to give players strategic options without overwhelming them with too much micromanagement.
GSN: Talk a bit about the game's 3D engine. What features do you plan to implement, and how are you making it stand apart from the crowd technologically?7S: We are spending a lot of time on our rendering system to allow our artists to go crazy with the characters and effects. Another major goal is to free up cycles to spend time on our collision, physics, and other systems that are critical to our goal of making the world extremely reactive and dynamic.
GSN: How big a role, if any, will neutral populations and NPCs play in Legion?7S: That's still to be decided.
GSN: How many hours would it take an average player to go through the entire game? 7S: Again, it's too early to tell.
GSN: Although premature, can we expect to see more Legion titles in the future?7S: We hope so, but that's up to the gamers to decide!