Mythic Entertainment reveals new Imperator details, E3 plans

Dark Age of Camelot developer discusses its upcoming project...now, and at this year's E3.

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GDC, San Francisco--We had a chance to sit down with Mythic Entertainment president Mark Jacobs and executive producer Matt Firor to discuss the studio's upcoming online game, Imperator. While Mythic has made a name for itself with its team-based "realm-versus-realm" combat game Dark Age of Camelot, the studio's executives were quick to point out that Imperator won't simply be limited to player-versus-player or player-versus-environment play, though it should include some forms of both.

Jacobs and Firor explained that as part of the game's unusual premise, which posits what might have happened had the Roman empire never fallen and instead persisted into future times, your character's development will not follow the typical path that most such games use. That is, you won't choose a character from a selection screen of races, then allot skill and attribute points you don't even understand. You'll instead begin the game with an opening cinematic that shows your character on his or her last legs of training at the Roman academy (on a huge space cruiser, no less).

Every character in Imperator is a superior physical specimen with some kind of exceptional attribute (such as strength, speed, or intellect), and as such, all characters begin their lives on the fast track to the high rank of Roman praetor (no time in the legionnaires necessary). You'll play out your first 10 levels of the game in this introductory area where you'll receive elite training in the game's combat system and learn its unique technology, rather than killing 40 rats with a rusty dagger to gain a level. Unfortunately, your cruiser is attacked by the Roman empire's great nemesis...the Mayans, who have also emerged in the future as a force to be reckoned with. As such, your training will actually take place as your space cruiser attempts to defend itself, and you'll emerge from it as a level-10 character. Mythic plans to make sure that the first 10 levels will pass by relatively quickly, considering that the game is planned to have a character-level cap of 100, and considering that the studio plans to make this training area in levels 1 to 10 completely playable on the show floor at E3 for anyone who happens to pass by. (GameSpot reporters will definitely be doing so.)

Once you've gotten a feel for the game, you'll be able to choose your character's base "archetype," which has been tentatively named "close combat," "ranged combat," "support," and "special" (Mythic is not revealing the details on the latter). Like with Dark Age of Camelot, you'll start your career as a base character class, then later graduate to an advanced class. Currently, the studio plans to affix three advanced classes to each archetype for a total of 12. Firor explained that part of the reasoning behind offering a smaller, more-focused set of character classes was to make each individual class more interesting--a lesson the team is taking from Dark Age of Camelot.

After training, the Mythic executives explained that most players will embark on a series of "character development quests" that will earn them favor with powerful factions and eventually lead them to the top ranks in the Roman hierarchy. The details of this content were not disclosed, though the studio is dedicated to creating a fully fleshed-out "endgame"-- that is, content for veteran players who reach level 100 and are no longer looking to gain more experience levels. This content could involve player-versus-player battles or additional quests (Mythic is not disclosing any specifics beyond its plans to build the base game and grow it over time with successive content additions). The studio's execs did reveal that the game will at least have some reflection of Roman culture (which, Jacobs points out, was actually a melting pot, rather than a homogeneous land of the same-looking guys all wearing horsehair helmets), such as gladiatorial games.

Imperator is scheduled for release next year.

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