Champions: Return to Arms Q&A
We talk to Sony Online Entertainment about its recently announced follow-up to Champions of Norrath.
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Sony Online Entertainment's Champions of Norrath was a welcome bit of online action for PlayStation 2 owners when it shipped earlier this year. The Snowblind Studios-developed game blended action adventure gameplay with RPG elements and set players loose in the rich EverQuest universe. The game's story picks up in the wake of the champions' defeat of the god Innoruuk. The foul-tempered deity's remains, shards of hate that have spread across the land and infected much of the locals, are obviously causing some trouble. The main focus of the game will revolve around stopping Innoruuk's followers from collecting the shards and resurrecting the evil one. We checked in with Clint Worley, producer, and Todd Carson, assistant producer, on the game to find out what to expect from this latest adventure for the PlayStation 2.
GameSpot: Looking back, how satisfied were you with how Champions of Norrath turned out? What are you especially proud of? What do you wish you would have done better?
Todd Carson: We are very pleased with how Champions of Norrath turned out. Specifically, we are proud of the giant leap we took going from a single-player game to accommodating four players online. I think in this industry there are always things you look back on and wish you could have done better. While Champions of Norrath is a great game, there are a couple of aspects that we plan on improving in Return to Arms. We are going to improve the interface for online play in several ways, one of which is to add chat functionality. We also want to adjust the need to visit the "shop" so frequently by reducing the number of items but increasing the amount of gold that drops off of monsters.
GS: How did your experience developing Champions of Norrath affect Champions: Return to Arms' development?
TC: Our experience developing Champions of Norrath really helped us get a quick start putting together a feature list for what we want to add and what we need to change in Return to Arms. We had a running list from the last several months of development of Champions of Norrath. We also have a much better time planning and scheduling since we have a good idea of how long it takes to create new environments, monsters, abilities, weapons, etc.
GS: When did development start on the game?
Clint Worley: Development of Champions: Return to Arms started right after the original Champions of Norrath was completed. SOE and Snowblind both wanted to make another game that included many of the things that were unable to make it into the original game as well as a host of new features. The logical step was to make a sequel title that allowed players to follow a new storyline with their old characters and to also allow new players to join in with the new title.
GS: What can you tell us about the game's story?
TC: The story is based around the fall of Innorruuk from Champions of Norrath, though you do not need to have played it to have a good understanding of what is happening in Return to Arms. Your goal will be to discover and rectify the apparent chaos that is revealing itself on many of the different planes of power since Innorruuk was slain.
GS: How is the gameplay system changing?
TC: The gameplay in Return to Arms is based on a mission system with a new mission selection UI (user interface). We're also bringing back unlockables. You will be able to unlock different aspects of the game including side quests, new items, and art assets through our medal system.
GS: What can you tell us about the two new playable races?
CW: One of the new playable races will be the Vah Shir Berserker. The Vah Shir resemble tigers, and the Berserkers are known for their awesome melee power. Expect to see new abilities and skills that will open up completely new ways to battle the attacking monsters. We also have another playable race that we will be announcing soon, and I can assure you that it will be a very interesting addition to the game.
GS: What sorts of new locales will we be seeing?
CW: Return to Arms sends the player on missions and quests through brand-new environments ranging from the Plane of Air to the depths of the Pit of Ill Omen. I can assure you that all of the environments stay true to the amazing art quality of the original title. There are more than 10 new environments with more than 50 gameplay areas along with a mission system containing nonlinear side quests. We also have some additional surprises in store that we'll be revealing in the coming months.
GS: What can you tell us about the new spells and abilities? Will the originals be back, and will they be changed at all?
TC: All of the original abilities will be back along with new ones. At this point we have not modified any of the original abilities. However, several new abilities are being added for each class. Both of the new races will also have a complete list of abilities that include some radically new skills and animations. For example, the Vah Shir has a couple of abilities related to throwing axes.
GS: How will your save from the original Champions of Norrath work with Champions: Return to Arms?
CW: Returning players will be able to bring their original Champions of Norrath characters (saves) to Return to Arms via a new importing feature. Saved characters along with all of their items and gear can be used in the new title. This allows players to start off playing at a higher difficulty level, and it also allows them to have access to the new armor and weapons earlier than a player that starts with a new character.
GS: What can you tell us about the game's multiplayer component?
TC: We are continuing with the four-player online and are making some improvements to maintain a consistent frame rate. We'll have all new multiplayer and online gameplay options, and we're working on changing the front-end UI. We'll be revealing more details as we get closer to launch, so stay tuned!
GS: Will there be any support for the PS2 hard drive?
CW: We have no plans to support the PS2 HDD at this time.
GS: Thanks for your time.