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'Dark Age Of Camelot: New Frontiers' - Developer Q&A

by Mark Crump on March 16, 2004 @ 3:03 a.m. PST

In "Trials of Atlantis", the player sets off on a breathtaking adventure into the mysterious, unexplored depths of Oceanus, to the towering heights of the lost, ancient city of Aerus, on a voyage across the majestic sand dunes in the desert of Stygie, and on a perilous mission to lake Volcania, with its deadly lava. The player's quest for artifacts in this fantastic universe, populated with incredible and strange monsters, is a constant challenge. With the upcoming Frontiers expansion pack, we sent out our resident MMORPG guru to track down Mythic Entertainment's Matt Firor and ask him a few questions ...

WP : Who has the honor to talk to us? State your name, rank and occupation!

I'm Matt Firor, the Executive Producer at Mythic Entertainment. I've produced most of Mythic's titles from the company's first published title in 1996.

WP: Since New Frontiers is a pretty significant overhaul of the RvR portion of Dark Age of Camelot, could you give us two or three problem areas you wanted to address, and the steps you are taking to resolve them?

MF : It's become obvious over the last two and a half years that some changes need to be made to Camelot's RvR system. The game has evolved over time, and players are ingenious at finding strategies that we didn't foresee during the game's initial development. First and foremost of these is the geography of the frontier zones themselves - we've realized that all 12 frontier zones need an overhaul to add some much-needed player movement strategy. With New Frontiers the frontier zones will be full of impassible mountains, canyons, cliffs, steep riverbanks - the geography of each zone will have to be considered by players as they design their keep raiding tactics.

Another big priority is to give players the ability to find out where the action is - where the battles are - and to be able to get there as quickly as possible. With this in mind, we announced just last week a new map interface for the frontier zones that shows, on a basic level, where battles are taking place. Also, players can teleport to friendly keeps (providing they are connected in a clear chain back to their borders) - hopefully a faster way to get to where they want to go.

Also high on our list is a total revamp of our Realm Ability system to make it more equitable and fair. We realize that for most players, this is by far the most personal of all the changes that we're making, as it is the only one that really affects the player on an ability level - so, we're really going to be testing Frontiers stringently during a long beta test that will iron the kinks out before the expansion is launched.

WP: With most of the RvR action revolving around the level 50 crowd, are there any plans to add in Battlegrounds for the 35+ crowd?

MF : Definitely, although we haven't made any final decisions yet on exactly which levels get battlegrounds and which do not. The last thing we want to do is draw high level players away from the all-important final RvR endgame, so we need to be careful how we implement this.

WP: The Battlegrounds have been wildly popular with the players, looking over the maps for New Frontiers, it looks like the design concept was a "bigger-better Battleground." Was this how the design team approached New Frontiers?

MF : That was one of the approaches. We have several goals with New Frontiers, and definitely having players find action and get to it faster is one of them - this lack of travel time back to battle is one of the major reasons why the battlegrounds are so popular.

WP: How does New Frontiers affect the Battlegrounds? Will any of the new features be applicable in the BG's?

MF : We're still deciding that. We definitely want to try to introduce the new upgradable keeps into the battlegrounds, as well as swimming under water, but the frontier zones themselves come first. We'll make the battlegrounds announcement when the time comes.

WP: New Frontiers allows players to use boats, which were introduced in the Trials of Atlantis expansion, will ToA be required to play Frontiers. Also, will other ToA specific improvements, like being able to swim underwater, be available in Frontiers?

MF : Aha! Now the difficult questions start. If you hadn't noticed, starting about five months ago, the Dark Age of Camelot (sans Shrouded Isles or Trials of Atlantis) that we are selling in stores and giving away free via download and magazine cover disk is the SI graphics engine with just the original game's content. We plan on phasing out the original engine over the next few months, since players of the original game have free upgrade options to the new version. We'll start an education process on this; how it will affect those players that continue to use Camelot's original graphics engine - and what hardware, if any, will need to be upgraded. Generally, when you run the SI engine and turn off most of the higher-end effect settings, you can run that version on almost any computer that runs the original engine.

Getting back to your actual question - no, you will not need ToA in order to get into New Frontiers. But, you will need at least Shrouded Isles or the version of the classic game that has the SI engine. We will be adding underwater to that engine, but only in the new frontier zones. In New Frontiers, you will be able to fight and swim underwater.

WP: Will you be able to do ship-to-ship combat in New Frontiers?

MF : Anything, of course, is possible given enough time, but we feel strongly that Dark Age of Camelot is a game about moving across land zones with your Realmmates, conquering enemy keeps, defending your own, and trying to protect and capture Relics. Ship warfare, although really cool, doesn't really fit into that design concept. So, our current design calls for ships to aid in troop movement between the frontiers as well as provide a mobile siege weapon platform for seiging those keeps that are within range of a navigable river. You can use your ship-based siege weapon to damage an enemy ship, but that won't be the focus of the expansion. Beta testing and player feedback will let us know what the right answer is here.

WP: New Frontiers allows you to upgrade the Keeps you hold, how do you upgrade the keeps?

MF : This is precisely the feature we are implementing right now. The basic concept is that you have a level 1 keep that can be upgraded to level 10 - just as in the game now. However, now, when you upgrade keeps, you see them visually change and grow taller and add new component pieces (such as towers and internal structures). Also, you'll be able to select different parts of a keep (wall unit, tower, etc.) and add items to it such as NPC guards, NPC merchants of various types, and siege weapons.

We've changed a lot more of the keep system than just upgrading it. For example, walls of keeps are destroyable, so if you want, you can take a wall down instead of concentrating on the keep door - however, it will be far easier to destroy a door than a wall, but you will have that option if you feel the defenders aren't adequately guarding their walls.

WP: The Realm Ability system (where you gain Realm Points for killing players in opposing realms and then use those points to buy skills) is undergoing a complete overhaul in New Frontiers. You've stated that some RA's are getting removed due to not being used. Can you give us an idea of what RA's (or types of RA's) might be getting axed?

MF : All in good time. We're still working on the design for the RA system overhaul and any announcement right now would be extremely premature.

WP: You've also stated that players will get free Realm Abilities based on player or spec level, any more information about that yet?

MF : Our current plans call for some (note: some) characters to be simply granted abilities that we deem to be essential to their RvR performance. Our intention is to make sure that all classes have a choice of which RAs to purchase, and players do not feel compelled to follow a certain template in order to be viable.

WP: The biggest change in New Frontiers looks to be the transportation system, where you can quickly teleport to a battle. Because players are then able to get back into the action much faster, will you be adjusting when a player is worth points again?

MF : This is something that we'll take into account during the beta process, as we determine how fast players can get back into battles with the new teleportation system.

WP : There's a new map you can view in New Frontiers which shows where the battles are happening. Will you be able to see your location on the map? Also, any plans to introduce this functionality to the PvE game?

MF : This is something we are definitely contemplating.

Currently, defenders can just run out from their Border Keep into their Frontier, while attackers have to use the Portals. Since the portals are history, will all Realms be able to just run into the Frontier, or will there be a "loading" screen to enter the Frontiers.

You'll still have to zone into the frontier area from each realm - via a zone wall boundary, but once you zone into the frontier zones, you'll never zone again to attack enemy frontiers.

One of the hard-to-address issues in any PvP game is population imbalances. The ability for a level 50 player to /level up a level 20 or 30 character seems to have done little to affect the population imbalances, and is used more for people to create alts, or simply hang out in the Battlegrounds

: We will be making some announcements about this in the near future.

WP : Are there any plans underway to give lower-populated Realms something similar to a defense bonus, or an xp bonus? How are new Frontiers going to work on Gaheris, the only server where there is no RvR? What new features can they expect?

See my answer to the last question.

WP : The RvR dungeon sounds cool, where it looks like a version of Darkness Falls that's always open to all Realms. What levels is this dungeon geared for? How will the loot rate compared to other dungeons in the game?

MF : As with most content in the Frontiers, the revamped RvR dungeon is for higher-level characters. It won't be a loot goldmine like Darkness Falls - instead it is intended to be a back doorway to get into enemy Realms - but offset by the fact that it will take a long time to invade an enemy via this route. It also gives some PvE content in the frontiers, should anyone want to take advantage of it.

WP : One of the things I've always enjoyed about the Frontiers was the Frontier Bonus you receive when hunting monsters there. Will this system be carried over, with monsters to fight in addition to players?

MF : Generally speaking, New Frontiers will focus much more on RvR content than PvE. That being said, there will still be some PvE content there (such as the epic class quests, etc.). But, to answer your question, we're still evaluating whether to keep the bonus or not. The bonus was designed as an incentive to get players out into the frontiers to fight monsters, and then participate in PvP as the opportunity arose. Now, so many players venture out to the frontiers to RvR as a goal in itself that it may no longer be necessary to keep the PvE bonuses.

WP New Frontiers looks to be a hefty download, and one that's going to be more of a requirement than Foundations, the free Housing expansion. How are you going to distribute this expansion to ease the pain of the poor patching server?

MF : We are currently pursing a relationship with a large download site, and we hope to have the expansion hosted there. We will also make it available (at cost, plus shipping) on our Mythic Store web site - and we also plan on putting New Frontiers on magazine cover disks, much like we did with our new version of the classic client a few months ago. Finally, of course, we're going to come out eventually with an all-in-one box that contains the original Camelot and all expansions (including New Frontiers). Our goal is to have the whole New Frontiers expansion be about 120 megs.

WP : When's the Beta due to start, and how will selection work?

MF : The beta will start soon. Sorry, that's all the info I can give now - we're being really careful with the development of this expansion, and we want to make sure it is as ready to go as can realistically be expected before beta testers start getting involved. We plan to have a tiered beta, starting with a small number of players and growing from there. We'll announce this plan, the selection process, etc., when the time comes.

WP : Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions. Any last words?

MF : I'd just like everyone to know that we're taking this expansion very seriously at Mythic. We know that revamping the RvR experience of Dark Age of Camelot is a very big deal to the players of the game and we want to be sure that we keep all the good things about RvR and replace those parts that need replacing. Sounds simple enough, eh? The community will be the ones to tell us if we're on the right track as we keep releasing information about our design for New Frontiers, and once beta testing starts.

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