Anarchy Shadowlands: exclusive interview!
20th Jun 2003 | 11:33
Game director and all round good egg Gaute Godager has been telling us all about what to expect from the latest expansion pack for online RPG Anarchy.
Entitled Shadowlands, we were bracing ourselves for an adaptation of the Anthony Hopkins film that concerned itself with the boring life of children's novelist and repressed English gent C.S. Lewis.
Imagine our considerable relief then, upon discovering instead that Shadowlands is a rather splendid addition to the already tres cool Anarchy RPG, with absolutely no connection to the aforementioned, unspeakably dreary motion picture. Hey, enough painstakingly contrived "jokes" - to the interview!
What's the story that drives the Shadowlands expansion?
Godager: The current AO story is that of the conflict on the planet Rubi-Ka, the planet 30,000 years in the future. The players, and the story, sets the stage for the conflict between Omni-Tek and the Clans who wants to rebel against the Omni-Tek rule.
In the far distant past, Rubi-Ka was inhabited by strange and mystical beings of immense power. In a cataclysmic war or power struggle the world was almost totally destroyed, and only the tiny sliver of the land that once was has survived.
This land is found in another dimension called the Shadowlands, and it was discovered by scientists from the flying city of Jobe. Opening the portal to this realm, they discovered the ruins of the ancient civilization and a landscape as varied as Rubi-Ka is uniform.
The beings of this ancient land whose servants still linger in pockets of the land, take sides with the players from Rubi-Ka. The so called Unredeemed side with Omni-Tek and the Redeemed with the Clans.
Although the beings are mere servants of the ancient powers, they are called Unredeemed because they wanted to extract more of the energy, the Source of Creation, from the land.
The world was destroyed and the original dwellers cast out or killed. Since then, the Unredeemed has been expelled from their seat of power and they want to regain it. In secrecy they have plotted for millions of years to return. Now they will.
The Redeemed on the other hand opposed the Unredeemed in the old days, wanting to let the Source be there for everyone. This ancient conflict is the stage for the Shadowlands where players battles not only to unravel the terrible truths of the ancients but also to decide the future fate of mankind.
What does the pack add to the Anarchy experience? New abilities, new weapons, etc.?
Godager: One of the more interesting things about the new abilities of the Shadowlands, are those called the "Perks".
Every ten levels or so (there are 220 in Anarchy Online) you gain a new perk. This gives the player new skill bonuses, new special moves, but also unlocks even bigger powers in the fellow player.
It is sort of like a communal skill, if you like, where cooperation is the key to a big power boost.
In addition there are new Nanos (nano programs are like spells) for each profession gained through a specialisation process. Additionally there are many many new sets of armor, weapons, implants, tradeskills, hundreds of new monsters, faction system, new music and audio and so on and so forth.
We are adding almost as much content as is in the game already, and as such this is a gigantic expansion pack.
We understand that in contrast to the original, open-ended Anarchy experience, this is a more linear affair. What's the reason behind that?
Godager: It's not really correct to call it "linear". The player will have as much freedom, and as many choices and possibilities as in the original game. The key difference is that certain areas of the game will be unlocked as a result of certain action.
Some of these actions need to be done in a serial manner, and require quests, cooperations or trial.
The reason for doing this, was to try to make the landscape, the geography or geology a gameplay "level" in the original sense of the word. We have seen that although MMOs offer players a great deal of freedom, this sometimes comes at the expense of purpose.
Always offering the player an opportunity to progress, to move on from area to area, from quest to quest, we hope to give the player a much higher feeling of purpose and direction.
We read somewhere that Shadowlands is inspired by Dante's The Divine Comedy - a pretty lofty claim. Can you expand on this?
Godager: I don't know if claiming to be inspired can be called lofty [laughs], but I understand what you mean. The progression through the playfields follows certain themes.
You start in a two-playfield area called Nascence (or birthplace), move through "Elyseum" a paradise like set of five playfields, lush, beautiful and strange.
Then you enter "Scheol" which is a two-playfields-long set of stairs going down, black, twisting, down always down. Then you enter "Adonis" which is a partly sunken two-playfields city sprawling, halfway tipping into the abyss.
From there you go through to "Penumbra", three playfields of ice-desert, and finally descend into "Inferno" three-playfield burning hell-like place of volcanoes, ashes and death. Finally, you come to "Pandemonium", where everything comes to a climax and you have to fight the final enemies of your side.
In this sense you actually travel from earth and reality on Rubi-Ka, down through the ancient paradise and into the different levels of hell. We use this analogy to describe the setting without reverting to clichés from a more fantasy-oriented context. The truth is that the Shadowlands is unique in many ways.
There are very, very few games that successfully mix science-fiction with a more "esoteric" arena for interaction, as they do so well in the Final Fantasy series. No other MMOs do it.
It is exciting for us to push the limits of what we can create, visually and thematically, without reverting to the above mentioned fantasy templates and clichés.
The Shadowlands is a unique setting; I guess that is my point.
There's some new character classes this time, right?
Godager That's right. There are two. One called the Keeper and one called the Shade. Springing from the past of the Shadowlands, these two professions (as we have always called our "classes") capture the essence of the conflict - the light and the dark.
One, the Keeper, is a giver of strength to the team. The other, the Shade, is a more dark, sinister type of profession that steal the life and power from his enemies.
Can we expect sub-quests, or will the player be aiming toward one goal throughout the entire game?
Godager There are several sub-quests in the Shadowlands. The player will have to follow the path of transition from one playfield to another, and this give him or her a purpose throughout the gameing experience. In addition there are a number of detours he could, no, should make through his progression.
This offers access to profession specialization, new armor or weapons, or simply enhances your standing with your side, for instance unlocking your Shadowbreed. (These are godlike powers given to anyone who stays true to his side).
With online gaming being taken more seriously by console gamers, any chance we'll see anarchy on a console?
Godager There are no immediate plans for an AO conversion to consoles. We are working on a port of our technology to consoles, but whether that will be also applied to AO in addition to our newer projects, is yet to be decided.