When I had a chance to sit down for a Q&A with Virtys about the Therian Saga the last time, I hoped I’d be able to catch them again soon. It looks like soon has come more quickly than I’d expected! The translations of the first expansion has finished and is slated for release tomorrow, so naturally I had a lot more questions to ask! As luck would have it, I was able to catch Francois Desrosiers, known in game as Falkarma, and get a few more answered.
One of these days I need to sit down and write up a more detailed review, now that I have spent more time in the game I can speak a little more intelligently about its depth. There really does seem like there’s no end to this game – the next land area is nearly here and I haven’t even scratched the starting one yet!
But you’re not really here to listen to me talk, so let’s move on with the show…
There’s a lot of excitement that I can see in-game about the coming of Lanfar, but for those who are less familiar with the game, will you explain a bit about what’s there?
Lanfar is a semi-secure land, mostly under the control of the Falconers. You will sometime be attacked by wild beasts (directly on the map), some dungeons will be very dangerous, and there will be strange aberrations that appear upon summoning – you don’t know what they are yet, but the storyline will give you some hints. You will also discover some strange tribes of “hybrids” (I will not tell you what they are), which will give you more information about the continent’s past. You will also go to the port of Maliken, which is almost the equivalent of the city of Hawkoria.
Expansions in games often change the gameplay experience for players by introducing new systems, or changes to pre-existing systems. Will Lanfar do this? If so, how?
In this release there will be no big game changes in mechanics. Lanfar has been available to players for a long time in French. There will be much more gameplay concerned with home, mine, inn and quarry. Since the landform difficulty is higher, you will have to understand how to create your building successfully and how to raise your landform skills to do tasks on the map. There are also many more resources; you will have to understand their uses and how to transform them, and ultimately create very cool stuff with them.
You will also get to go back to Hawkoria and discover things you had missed because of your low skill level. The game is not linear in difficulty; there may be tasks accessible near the beginning of the game that can be done only by advanced players.
Will naval and aerial skills be obtainable in Lanfar? What kinds of things will they be used for?
Not yet. Naval is high on our target list. You will be able to create ships and explore the seas. That will be great news for some specialists, especially carpenters. In the Lanfar, you will be able to use NPC boats to travel to some places.
For Aerial, it’s still a long way off, but maybe one day very advanced engineers and carpenters will be able to create flying ships using the power of an extremely hard-to-extract crystalline cluster that a jeweler will have cut using a special chisel made of metal obtained only by killing a metal dragon. Not to mention the sails made of a magical fabric weaved from fiber from a plant that grows only in the…. Ok, ok… I like flying ships, but don’t expect to create them easily ;-)
You have to keep in mind that we are using a perpetual development cycle, so there will be new mechanics and features in the game as long as we have players supporting us.
Some of the companions have skills that players don’t have – investigation, strategy, stealth, etc. Can you tell us a bit about what these are?
These are the Secrecy/Security skills. This is not something that will appear in Lanfar. These skills will be mostly used in a PVP setting. If you check on the map, you’ll see the Vallero territory. This land will make very good use of these trades. We plan to introduce those skills with the Norstria territory release, where they will allow you to survive in that strange civilization.
Are there more companions who have stories like Yraen?
Yes of course! But I will not spoil the adventure. These are the story-based companions. You’ve probably noticed that you can’t drop them. Wojtek is also one of them. As I mentioned in the promotional video, we wanted to make sure we had a storytelling system on top of our sandbox system. This is very important to give the player an understanding of the game setting. Games that are only sandbox are often cold and you don’t feel immersed in them; we don’t want players to feel they are playing a mathematical simulation.
A word on that: we know it’s strange that everybody in the game has their own Yraen, but we think the benefit of storytelling is greater than the illogical nature of the thing.
Will all trades eventually have things to put in concessions like the mines and quarries? It’d be cool to see logging forests, herb gardens, cattle ranches – are they planned?
Yes, that’s something we have delayed because even though Lanfar is dangerous, it’s not that hard to work at a camp. Our current plan is to remove the possibility of passive workers at camps, to force the use of these zones. Having them in the concession will also give the player a terrain bonus, a trade skill bonus and more importantly a security bonus (based on the security score of your home or domain).
Horticulture and Breeding are linked with these zones, which is also why they are not really in-game yet.
This will appear just before we open very hard regions in the game.
What are your intentions for group play? WIll we ever be able to group together in dungeons, or invite other players to our houses?
Group play in the current game is there, but invisible. Most craft is broken down into trades, so you have to create a team to build things. We have a concept on the table to allow a player to become the “companion” of another player for an advanced craft, but it’s not ready yet.
Your home will remain private, because the gameplay is balanced that way. In Lanfar, you will have to create an inn, at the right place, to recruit good companions. This is a really hard thing to do. If other players could invite you to their inns, you would not have any of the difficulty, and could not feel so proud when you successfully complete your goal. We had to be very careful when we created the guild, to ensure that single player gameplay would not be rendered useless.
For groups in dungeons, we have cool ideas. They will not be the existing dungeons, because they are balanced for single players and based on the main storyline. Group dungeons will be about action-adventures, not storytelling. More on that later.
We also have plan for “global events” that will allow the whole community to achieve a goal. More on that later too. ;-)
Are there plans for player created UIs? Or a more modifiable UI? I’d love to be able move my chat window, for example…
We do not have an open API for now. We often have requests for it. In the Silverlight version, your best option is to put pressure on us to improve the chat. The way the game is made, it is technically possible to create an external chat system. Our plan, for now, is to check these possibilities when we are ready to make the move to mobile and stand-alone versions.
Any thoughts about game-related goodies? Such as cloth or poster maps, T-shirts, varanus stuffed animals? Or how about an Yraen action figure? :)
Being a big fan of the Ultima series, one of the greatest achievements I think we could have with the goodies is to have a cloth map. We do not have any clear plan for goodies yet, but I’d like to explore new options when the time comes. The game is, in big part, about crafting and artisans, so maybe we could look to offer real artisan work, instead of plastic toys.
T-Shirts would surely be our first step. We will have to check for an international provider for them.
One of the things that I love about Therian Saga is its difficulty and challenge. So I have read the comments in the Lanfar announcement about making things easier with a sinking heart. Will you talk about the decision to do that, and its reach? How much easier have things been made? What changes have been made to make things easier? What is the speed bonus?
The game will remain hard, but we have to make sure players survive their first game session if they’re to really get hooked to the game. The game is very different from the majority of games, which is not something players expect at first (especially if they get to it by clicking some random publicity). So, our real difficulty is to keep players long enough to understand that the game offers something they’ve wanted for a long time, a game that is complex and that you have to conquer, not merely a matter of following flashing quest icons.
In the end, players that have had a good first play session,will be curious about what we have in store for them later. This is why we put lots of time into getting the player’s first play session right. Most of the changes, and the x3 temporary boost, are related to that.
Bonus question: A word on Difficulty:
Why is the NPC unclear (he lies!)? Why hasn’t that the quest told me exactly where to click? Why is that the game does not tell me I will die if I fight a dragon? Why is it that I can’t pay to win this fight? Why is it that I have to guess what plant I need for a good mobility potion, there are tons of plants with tons of qualities!?! Why is it so hard to create an Inn?
These are questions we often have. The best answer we have is that we believe that feeling successful is directly related to the difficulty of doing something. If you have to work insanely hard to achieve a goal, you will be far happier when you succeed in it. We wanted to make sure we offer that to players.
Thanks very much, Falkarma! I’m looking forward to seeing Lanfar tomorrow!
If the game sounds interesting, you can read my initial preview, learn more about the game and play on the official website. Register, tell them Pherephassa sent you, and hopefully enjoy! They also have a Google+ page, Facebook, Twitter and forums.