The premise of massively multiplayer online role-playing games makes a lot of sense--these are games that let you create a character who goes off on adventures in a vast and colorful online world with thousands of other like-minded players--but until a few years ago, the technology to make these ambitious games a reality just wasn't available. However, there are plenty of online RPGs available now, including popular and established games like EverQuest, Dark Age of Camelot, and Ultima Online, and there are plenty more in development. But there's one that's apparently more popular and more successful than any other--Lineage: The Blood Pledge, from Korean developer NCsoft, a 2D game that lets you play as fighters, wizards, and elves in search of fame and fortune in a colorful fantasy world. The game reportedly has several million subscribers and is still going strong,
But the developer has decided to create a sequel for its incredibly popular game, and it will attempt to improve on the original game in many ways, such as by adding new features to encourage you to form long-standing player associations and engage in political dealings among these groups and by letting you participate in exciting, large-scale field battles and sieges. The developer has also commissioned Epic's powerful Unreal graphics engine to help make Lineage II as visually impressive as any upcoming online RPG. To get more information about the sequel, we interviewed the game's lead game designer, Raoul Kim.
GameSpot: One of the most significant and obvious differences between Lineage II and the original game is the graphics engine. Could you explain why you chose to use Unreal technology for the sequel, rather than a different graphics engine?
Raoul Kim:When we started our development work, we looked primarily at three engines to use for Lineage II: the Unreal engine, the Quake engine, and the Lithtech engine. Among them, the Unreal engine was the most attractive to us because of its powerful editing features and its outdoor-rendering ability. They were all good products, but in the end we decided to use the Unreal engine because of its overall outstanding performance.
GS: Does the new engine let you expand on the gameplay of Lineage in ways that the old engine couldn't? Could you give some examples of new game features that the engine lets you use?
RK: Before I answer that question, I'd like to say that I don't think 3D graphics are always superior to 2D graphics. Due to their long history, 2D graphics techniques have advanced greatly in quality and format. Compared with 2D, 3D has been used in games for a shorter period of time. However, 3D does allow us to create many things that we could not do by using 2D.
We did not decide to use 3D in Lineage II simply because most games today are [also] using 3D graphics. As other studios have their own reasons for using 3D, we also decided to use 3D because it is more appropriate than 2D for the things that we were going to create.
For example, one of the main features of Lineage II is siege warfare. Using 3D Lineage II allows us to portray siege warfare that requires a higher level of strategy. Since now we have the concept of height, both the attacking team and the defending team can come up with strategies to utilize height. Also, it is now possible to attack the enemy during a siege by using a flying unit such as a dragon.
Clans and Soloing
GS: As we have heard, Lineage II will have lots of new races to play as and lots of new character classes, though at the beginning, players only have to choose their gender, race, and whether they will be a fighter or a magic-user. Why the big change from the original Lineage's classes and races?
RK: While technically Lineage II is a sequel to Lineage, the two games are different in many aspects. The time setting of Lineage II is 150 years earlier than Lineage's time frame, and players can now play as characters belonging to races that existed in Lineage merely as NPCs. Of course, the changes in class structure give players more options and add diversity. We think that's a good thing.
GS: Will players of different classes be required to group together in order to effectively fight monsters and have adventures, or will Lineage II let solo players go on adventures alone?
RK: While Lineage II is basically intended as a solo-play game, we also gave significant consideration to group play as well. In fact, you can have a lot of fun either way. There are a lot of things to do and a lot of adventures in the game when you play solo. Grouping together with others is much more critical at higher levels of the game. That's when castle sieges occur and when players must group together to overcome high-level monsters. Overall, people can enjoy the game either by playing alone or by playing with others as a group. We made sure that people will have fun in both cases.
GS: One problem that casual players have with online games like these is that they are very time-consuming, especially finding a group to adventure with. Will Lineage II have brief quests or other features to help players with tight schedules play for an hour or two and still get something out of the game?
RK: We are definitely aware of this issue. There are plenty of ways that players can have fun in Lineage II early on in the game and have fun for shorter periods of play time. There will be plenty of monsters to fight at the early levels, and you'll always be able to party with others and adventure with your friends. With the stunning visuals in Lineage II, players will want to go out and see all the sights in the world and interact with the NPCs and creatures in the world.
GS: As we've seen from some of the impressive movie trailers, it seems like the game will promote large-scale battles between lots of players. How do you see these battles playing out? Will they be fought between players from rival guilds or different races or different geographical areas?
RK: Of course, the game was created with a system that provides incentives for large-scale warfare. When a clan (in the English version of Lineage II, the terms "guild" and "blood pledge" will not be used) takes over the castle in a region, it can enjoy numerous benefits. Lineage II's basic political and economic systems are based upon those of the manor system of medieval times.
The lord of a castle becomes the lord of the region where the castle is located. In order to take over a castle, numerous clans will be fighting in large-scale wars. And since there will be many castles in Lineage II, some greedy clans will not be satisfied with the ownership of just one and will attempt to expand their influence. Therefore, there will always be large-scale wars among power-hungry clans. We will also see occasions in which less-powerful clans unite with each other to go against a powerful clan.
Of course, there will also be clans or individuals that are not interested in achieving power, but enjoy the game's other aspects. Lineage II offers many different elements for these types of players to enjoy.
Making the Jump to 3D
GS: If battles will have that many players and characters onscreen at once, what measures are you taking to make sure that areas don't get overcrowded? More importantly, what technical features are you working on to make sure that these crowded battles don't slow down the game performance significantly?
RK: Lineage II will use a third-person view. Although 80 to 90 players might show up at once on one screen, people will not experience any performance downtime that might prevent them from enjoying the game. In reality, although hundreds of people are fighting in a siege war at the same time, even when 70 players are displayed on the screen, the screen will look completely filled up. However, we are working on a solution for occasions when more players are displayed. In this case, characters in distant locations will be portrayed by simplified modeling, and characters in nearby locations will be drawn in their original form. Of course, when the characters in remote locations move closer to the screen, their simplified form will gradually gain more detail, and users will not detect the difference.
GS: The original game used a real-time mouse-clicking system for combat, similar to Diablo. Will Lineage II feature a similar system? Could you give us an overview of how combat will work?
RK: One of the reasons that Lineage is successful is due to the fact that it allows people to easily play with simple mouse controls. As we develop Lineage II, we are paying particular attention to these strong points of the original Lineage and will reflect those in the final design of our game.
However, since Lineage II utilizes 3D, there will be other ways to interface with the game besides using a mouse. We've added more control systems that utilize the keyboard to offer more options for players. Of course, it is also possible for gamers to customize their own game interface. Basically, a war can be fought just by mouse-clicking. When you click your mouse once, without having to click it repeatedly, you can continue your attack in the war. Of course, you can cancel combat with a single mouse click also.
GS: We've also heard that Lineage II will have a new magic spell system. Could you describe how magic will work in the sequel?
RK: In Lineage II, in order to use magic, you'll need to have a spellbook. A spellbook can be purchased from a store or obtained by defeating monsters. To use special magic, you'll have to be at a certain level, and when you take the spellbook to an applicable NPC, you can learn to use it. After learning a magic skill, your player will no longer need to possess the spellbook to use it. The types of magic available in the game have increased greatly. Now, people can select specialized magic that will work best in a specific situation.
GS: Finally, is there anything else you'd like to add about Lineage II?
RK: After spending a lot of time and effort, we are getting closer to launching the game. Lineage II offers many unique systems that are clearly different from existing online RPGs. I am confident that gamers will find many new sources of enjoyment with Lineage II. I hope many people will have fun playing the game.
GS: Thanks for your time.