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Web meeting talks brushes on the combat mechanics of Spellborn

Friday, March 20, 2009

Web meeting talks brushes on the combat mechanics of Spellborn
By Michael Lafferty

Game will bring unique elements to the MMO space

The Chronicles of Spellborn, a fantasy-based massively multiplayer online title, is moving through closed beta toward the open beta, so the folks at Acclaim though it might be a good time to host a Webinar meeting with some of the principles involved in the development and release of the game.

Howard Marks (Acclaim CEO), David Perry (Acclaim CCO), Matthew Florianz (Spellborn Sound Designer), and El Drijver (Spellborn Lead Game Designer) tackled some of the aspects of the combat system within Spellborn – a system that is rather unlike anything currently in the MMO gaming space. What makes this system unique? Many things, actually, that begin with the fact that there is no auto-lock for targeting. You are a free-floating targeting system and actually have to train the targeting reticule on the target and manually maintain that in order to effectively attack that target.

And that’s just the beginning of this combat system. The environment plays a tactical role in how combat plays out.  

“This is not a game where you sit back and type the right key,” Perry stated.

Because there is no “fire lock” in the game “a lot of the skill is based on your position in the world and how you move, one of the Spellborn designers noted. And individual world objects play a role. For example, if a ranged attack launches an assault and your character sees it in time and ducks behind a tree, the collision-detection system effectively allows that tree to block the attack.

“The strategic placement in the world plays a role in the combat,” it was stated.

Acclaim plans to open the game with one PvP (player-versus-player) and one PvE (player-versus-environment) server. As one can imagine, combat is at the heart of the game, but this is not a game where you sit back and punch buttons randomly. Players will be forced to think about what they are doing, where they are in the world and what skills they are using.

 “If you are using the wrong skills at the wrong times, you can work against yourself,” Drijver said.

One of the panel members asked what about expanding classes and Drijver was quick to note that “We look to expand the classes we have rather than add new classes. What we did is tie a style to the classes.” For example, if you want to be brutal and melee, you pick a warrior. The dev team is looking to use the existing archetypes and disciplines and expand on that. “This is what we are working on for now and long term,” he said.

So why choose manual aim rather than auto aim. It was explained that it goes back to the origins of the game, and how players could – in other game arenas – influence dice rolls. The development team wanted to stay away from that. “We wanted it to be if you can swing your sword and hit something, you should be good; if you can dodge you shouldn’t be hit.

“It’s really a unique system how it became. It makes the game pretty intense.

“We didn’t want dice rolling. Another thing we didn’t like was root, polymorph or something that incapacitates the player. We don’t have any of these complete-block mechanics in the game.”

The game does have a PvP element to it but, as Drijver said, “The game is currently live without many PvP objectives and goals and we are working on that.” One of the upcoming things is arena battle for players to fight randomly and to register teams. There will be awards – and that is one of the elements the dev team looking to add in the next patch.

Another element that will be coming along involve demon chests tied to the eight demons. The chests are, thus far, cloaked in mystery with the onus on the players to find out where they are and how to find the rare keys that will open them (three will be needed per chest). Adding an interesting element is that the chests will be located in PvP areas and players can be attacked while trying to open the chests. It was stated that if a player carrying a key is attacked by another player and defeated, that key will switch from the inventory of the defeated player to the inventory of the victorious one. “The chests are persistent. They will have a couple of locks, three – most of them will have three – and anybody can open a lock if they have the key to it. If all three locks are off anyone can open the chest.”

What is unique about Spellborn that allows players to approach things in a different manner and still be competitive?

Drijver explained that “The system is so free and so complex. It’s how good the player is.” Thus far there does not seem to be a template for each class and “players have not found the best setup yet. We have the skills that are very diverse. The customization is very deep and is very wide (sigils help customize the weapons and armor).”

Will the cover system favor melee classes as opposed to caster classes?

“Not really,” Drijver said. “If you take Matthew’s favorite class, the rune mage, you put a flame circle around the tree and they will be burning no matter what way they run. So far we have not had any problems” (with the classes) and environmental strategic elements.

It was pointed out that all the skills are themed with classes so players will always fight with a certain style. And everyone starts with the same three skills – “it’s a pretty sophisticated system” – and it builds up from there, starting at about level 10 and continuing to add depth through level 30.

The last question asked about improvements to the guild system and what was coming to make this a deeper experience. It was here that the dev members were a bit elusive, only saying that “guilds are very important for us – guilds and high houses. We want to make the guilds and high houses community tools and working entities. The tools for the guilds will definitely be expanded. We are not going to focus for now on an in-game guild forum when in the future we have a feature that makes it obsolete.”

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