Online role-playing games have become more and more popular over the years, thanks to the likes of EverQuest, Dark Age of Camelot, and Ultima Online. Each night, thousands of players log into their favorite game as their own character--a virtual version of themselves--to explore a vast online world and seek fame and fortune with other, like-minded players.
Unfortunately, that's a good summary of most of the online RPGs that are available today. However, there are plenty of new games in development that will attempt to make playing online a lot more interesting with innovative new features--features that will hopefully keep adventuring online fresh and interesting, even for veteran players. Limitless Horizons Entertainment's upcoming game, Realms of Torment, will attempt to break from typical online RPG conventions by not having character experience levels or even character classes, but by basing combat, magic, and crafting on skills. The game will also have an intriguing "bloodline" feature that will let players create an online legacy by having children who will carry on the adventure after their parents die. We sat down with lead designer Dan Antonescu for more details.
GameSpot: Thanks for taking the time for this interview. One of the most interesting-sounding features of the game is the way it handles character creation and development. From what we understand, players won't have character classes or even levels, but they'll have skills that they can develop and improve by consulting with a master of that skill. Could you discuss the system and how it works?
Dan Antonescu: Character levels and classes will not be used. Instead, we are using a skill-based system for development of the player character. Players will be able to advance their skills to a certain point on their own through various ways. Once a certain point has been reached, they will then have the opportunity to train with a master in their profession to advance even further. This is completely optional and will not be an easy task to accomplish. Masters will be allowed to take on only two or three individuals to train during their lifetime.
The development of skills is based on how often they are used. Skills will degrade if not used often enough. Some races will advance faster in certain skill areas. A dwarf, for example, might advance faster in heavy weapons, while an elf would advance faster in bows or lighter weapons like daggers. However, there are no limitations placed on what a selected race can learn or master.
GS: Relating to character skills, could you discuss what kinds of characters players can eventually make? If they wish to play as a traditional fantasy archetype, such as a robe-wearing wizard or a knight in shining armor, will they be able to do so? What if they wish to play as a character with an unusual combination of abilities?
DA: Currently, there are six different base characters who will be available for players to choose from. Most of these fall into the traditional high-fantasy theme, so I would expect it to be fairly easy to make a traditional high-fantasy character if you choose to do so.
The skill system we are implementing is extremely flexible and will allow players to mold their characters into anything they wish at any point in time. You will be able to train new skills at any point, but maintaining numerous skills will not be easy because of skill degradation, and mastering all available skills with one character at the same time will be impossible.
GS: One of the most frequently discussed features in online RPGs is character death. How will Realms of Torment handle death? Will characters die permanently?
DA: There will be instances where a player can die permanently. However, most of the time, players will know that they are putting themselves into a situation that could bring about a permanent death. An example of this would be going on a quest that you know has the risk of death associated with it. Being killed by other players does not carry a risk of permanent death. Some special creatures may possess the ability to permanently kill you.
GS: Relating to the question of death, Realms of Torment will apparently have a bloodline system that will actually let player characters have children to extend their bloodlines. Could you discuss this system and how it works?
DA: The bloodline system is an integral part of the game. Players will be able to sire a child to create an heir who in the end will become their new character and continue their bloodline in the gameworld. Children will inherit many attributes from their parents. One example would be that they might advance faster in the areas that their parents had trained or mastered during their lifetime. Children will also inherit their parents' fame. Being born into a lineage with high fame will most likely work to your advantage. The results from this type of system should be quite interesting. I can see plenty of high-fame "pureblood" guilds being formed, while on the other hand the more infamous lineages would also have their guild structures and bloodlines in the world. Clashes and wars are inevitable.
Like Father, Like Son?
GS: What sorts of plans do you have for the game's economy? Will items, such as weapons and armor, decay over time and require repair? Will there be computer-controlled merchants to buy and sell weapons, armor, and other items?
DA: Currently, everything that is player-made and the majority of items such as armor, buildings, and weapons will be on a decay system. Trade skills such as blacksmithing will be in high demand to repair or polish up weapons and armor damaged in battle. We have not yet decided if there will be NPC merchant types in the gameworld. We may decide to include them in order to get the economy off the ground or make sure there's a stable platform to build on in the early stages of the gameworld.
GS: Relating to the question of economy, what plans do you have for Realms of Torment's trade skills? What sort of trades can players learn, and what can they make? Will player-crafted items be more powerful than items won from defeated monsters?
DA: There will be numerous trade skills available, such as blacksmithing, tailoring, mapmaking, and botany. Some may be more important to the gameworld, such as blacksmithing and tailoring, while others may be important only in times of need. Players will be able to craft everything from simple clothing to more advanced pieces of armor and weaponry. For the most part, items such as weapons and armor will not be found on creatures. Most creatures will end up dropping hides or fur or other parts of the body that can later be used for crafting objects. There will also be quest items that will rival the power of player-made objects.
GS: Could you discuss how Realms of Torment's combat system will work? Will the fighting be in real time? Will characters who use weapons have different combat skills they can use during the fight?
DA: In an attempt to make combat a little more interesting, we will be implementing a system that allows the player to perform some offensive or defensive actions based on twitch or player response time during combat. This will be integrated into the traditional system of statistic-based combat that is seen in most RPG-type games. Different weapons may also unlock different attack moves or styles.
GS: From what we understand, Realms of Torment will have an interesting magic system that will let players create their own magic by combining different spells. Could you discuss how this system will work?
DA: Players will be able to take base spells and create new spell variations by applying modifiers or factors to the existing spells. They will also be able control things such as the strength of the spells they are casting, the amount of time certain spells last, how large of an area the spell will affect, and more.
GS: Over the years, it seems that online games have moved more and more toward building communities of players. How will Realms of Torment let players form communities--will there be player guilds or player-owned housing?
DA: Realms of Torment is based heavily on community and guild vs. guild or country vs. country strife. Players will be able to build and destroy towns and cities in the gameworld. To do this, communities first need to be established that in the end grow into towns or cities. Player-owned homes is one feature we plan on implementing, but, at this time, we don't know if it will make it into the first version of release.
GS: Is there anything else you'd like to add about Realms of Torment?
DA: We're attempting bring a bit of fresh air into a genre that, in our opinion, has become a bit stagnant over the past few years. We invite everyone to visit the Web site and share their ideas and comments in the official forums. Currently, Realms of Torment is in early closed beta testing, and there will be many updates and news bits in the coming months.