GZ Interview: Legacy Online takes real-life economic principles into the cyber realm

Legacy Online takes real-life
economic principles into the cyber realm

By Michael Lafferty

Capitalists of the world, unite! The time
for you to vie for a vast-reaching moneymaking empire is drawing nigh.

Of course, you will have to prove that
you have what it takes to negotiate the deals, to build the right portfolio
and to attain the status necessary to run for mayor or planetary president.

Sega.com, in partnership with Oceanus Communications,
is taking the world of finances online with a massively multiplayer online
game called Legacy Online. The persistent world features real-time strategy
gameplay founded in community interaction. Publication of the program is
part of Sega.com’s online developer program. Originally entitled Star Peace,
Legacy Online is slated for a March release.

Jason Kinne, the producer of Legacy Online,
took time to talk with GameZone about this project.

Question: Explain a little about the
concept behind Legacy Online?

Jason: “Human nature dictates that
we are primarily motivated by money, power or prestige.  Legacy Online
let’s you create your ultimate legacy by becoming a business success, running
for political office and/or performing good acts in the community.

“Each player is given $100 million dollars
to set up shop on a newly inhabited planet and, if you are a savvy entrepreneur,
create a business empire. Once you are making money, you can then run for
office, which empowers you to impact the politics of an entire town or

“This game parallels many aspects of real
life such as the rule of supply and demand, and competition. In addition,
the quality and location of your businesses impact your success. Keep in
mind that the game environment is set up by the players. They decide where
to set up their business be it residential housing, bars, car dealerships
or liquor suppliers. How well a community functions is determined by the
actions of the players — especially players who have risen to political
office. In order to make a successful run for office, a player has to have
visibility in their community, which can be achieved by paying for city
improvements such as colleges, libraries of even parks.  Players that
are successful in their bid for office, have to maintain a high quality
of life for the citizens or may be challenged in the next election. We
think of Legacy Online as the “thinking persons sim.”

Q: What genres will it fit into?

Jason: “Legacy Online is the only
massively multiplayer online real-time economic strategy game that combines
a realistic economic simulation, with a complex political and social framework.
Our objective was to create a game that essentially combines several game
genres into one cohesive and highly entertaining experience. We believe
economy provided a good starting point, so we began by developing an economic
model that mimicked a contemporary human society.”

“Q: How interactive is this world?

Jason: “As we’ve said, the game
environment is created by players and all actions have an impact of some
sort, be it positive or negative. Community is important for several reasons.
You will need supplies to keep your business up and running so negotiation
and deal making are important. And, if you have political aspirations,
you must win the popular support of the people.”

Q: Because this is a strategy game,
does the world evolve in real-time?

Jason: “Every Legacy Online year
is equivalent to 12 hours in real time.

“Legacy Online is a real-time strategy
game that takes place on persistent worlds. Your companies continue functioning
(gaining or losing money) even when you are not online.”

Q: What type of characters will players
be able to use as their avatars? How customizable are the characters? What
type of skill classes are there?

Jason: “There are no avatars. Players
create their in-game alias and are then provided with $100,000,000 from
the IFEL (Interplanetary Federation for Extraterrestrial Life), the organization
that regulates earthling settlements on the otherworld colonies. Players
are then free to create their companies and build their empires. In order
to start investing the money provided by the IFEL, players need to create
a company. A company licenses all of its technology from a Seal Company
— Seal Companies are not run by players. There are four main Seal Companies:
PGI, Mariko, Dissidents and Moab.

“When a player creates a company, he or
she must first choose the Seal they want to associate with. This will determine
what a player will be able to build, the technologies that will be available
to them, and how their buildings will look and perform. Making good use
of each Seal’s advantages, while minimizing their inherent drawbacks, is
a fine art. But it is one that is crucial to grasp if a player wants to
be successful.

Q: Tell us about the environment in
which players will find themselves?

Jason: ‘Besides actual players there
are sim citizens — they inhabit houses in cites, work in factories, purchase
goods and services. Players need to provide these sim citizens with work,
jobs along with goods and services. Just like in the real world, you need
to ensure you are targeting the right demographic group.

“As simple as it appears, this cycle is
very delicate. It is up to investors like you to make it work. The economy
has to be carefully balanced and expanded otherwise the world might suffer
adverse consequences.

Q: Are there safe zones for players
to learn in?

Jason: “Each world has a pop-up
interactive tutorial that guides newbies through the basics and helps get
started. The tutorial is complemented by an online Strategy Guide and FAQ
section. However, the benefit of interacting with other players cannot
be downplayed — no one, no matter how good, gets very far on their own.
In-game cooperation/collaboration between players is complimented by specially
designated Legacy Online Ambassadors. Ambassadors are made up of long-time
players that are not only extremely experienced, but are also capable of
identifying and explaining the game’s many nuances. Regarding levels: all
worlds are presently set at the same level of difficulty. It’s important
to note that more developed worlds are easier to settle, as much of the
basic infrastructure is already in place. So we always encourage newbies
to start on worlds with large populations and a fairly advanced economy.”

Q: Because the game takes place in the
future, how was the concept for the architecture and world arrived at?

Jason: “The idea was to achieve
an eclectic look, nothing too futuristic, in order to make it look believable.”

Q: How do players level up in this economic-based
game? Is there a guild system in place?

Jason: “There are six regular levels
in Legacy Online. The first two are designed in such a way that you have
some protection as a new player. They are Apprentice and Entrepreneur.

“The following two are intermediate levels,
Tycoon and Master. At these two levels you can really expand and consolidate
your companies. The last two levels are advanced: Paradigm and Legend,
is when it becomes time to start considering *Transcending.

“Recently, we have added the possibility
of unlimited leveling, we’ve called it the Life After Legend program (Legend
was the highest level before this program). You can keep leveling as long
as you meet the increasingly steeper requisites and pay the incrementally
higher fees to do it.

“*Transcending: at the Paradigm level and
higher, you can decide to transcend and start all over again. To transcend
you have to first build a special building, called a Mausoleum. Upon its
completion, your company will be wiped out and you will gain a certain
number of Nobility Points, depending on the level you are at (50 at Paradigm,
100 at Legend, 150 at Beyond Legend 1, and so on). The only thing left
behind, that shows you were ever there, is the Mausoleum-inscribed with
your words of wisdom.

“The Mausoleum is your immortal legacy,
and nobody can destroy it.

“Once you have transcended, you start all
over again from scratch, on the same or another planet. The number of Nobility
Points you have allows you to play on more than one planet at the same
time (at 200 you can play on 2, at 400 on 3, at 800 on 4, and so on), or
build special facilities reserved for advanced players.”

Q: What do you consider the learning
curve for this game to be? How complex is the economic system?

Jason: “The economy in Legacy Online
is extremely realistic, just like in real life, everything is connected.
Every action you perform will start a series of reactions, the ultimate
consequences of which are often hard to predict. The learning curve can
be a bit steep but with the tutorial, Strategy Guide, Ambassadors, and
other players to help, a newbie can find his or her way in the Legacy Online
worlds in no time.”

Q: This game was originally released
as Star Peace. What changes have taken place to

reinvent or re-release this title as
Legacy Online?

Jason: “Gameplay has been completely
revamped in order to make for a more dynamic experience, while also ensuring
that newbies can more easily and quickly become a part of that experience.
The interactive pop-up tutorial, which will be further enhanced by the
retail launch, also represents a significant change from the original Star
Peace version. The bottom line is this game is about creating your legacy,
hence the new name.

Q: What kind of server base do you have
in place, and how many people can the world hold at any one time?

Jason: “The ratio is one server
per world. While we are presently undergoing some performance modeling
to ascertain the optimum number of players per world, that figure will
likely be approximately 500-800 players/world.”

Q: The MMO genre is really taking off
with numerous titles either just released or in the works. What are the
main points that you think will draw players to Legacy Online?

Jason: “First off, it’s a unique
game in the mmo genre. One of the key elements that sets Legacy Online
apart is that it’s a game where you play with or against hundreds of other
players at the same time. There is no other massive multiplayer online
game like it. In games like Ultima Online and Everquest, the actions of
one player have consequences on the gameplay of only a few other players,
if any. In Legacy Online everything and everyone is connected, like in
the real world.

Q: To whom will this game appeal?

Jason: “The majority of our players
are between 20 and 40 years old, but we have a significant number of players
who are younger and older that this age range. A very unique element of
gameplay in Legacy Online is that you can play as much or as little as
you want and still be successful, making this game great for both the hard-core
as well as the casual gamer, which is why we believe the age range is so

Q: What elements do you consider essential
for a successful MMO and how does Legacy Online fit into that niche?

Jason: “The key for any MMO is that
it needs to be easy enough to become addicted to, yet complex and dynamic
enough to hold a players interest for an extended period of time. We feel
that Legacy Online does both very effectively — in fact we have players
that have been playing for several years. For instance, Legacy Online’s
leveling system ensures that players are constantly challenged by steeper
requisites in order to achieve the next level. For players that are more
socially minded, the political component provides another dynamic element
that enables players to test their political savvy and engage in city building.
Another important element to ensuring players stick around is the addition
of new features. We plan on regularly introducing new features so that
the game is never static and constantly evolving.

“Also the fact that a player can play as
much or as little as he or she wants is very important. As we stated above,
this element ensures the game’s appeal to both hard core and casual gamers.”