Lineage II has entered the 'mature' state for MMOs these days and has proven its longevity. Recently, the latest update, Ertheia, launched. We had the opportunity to interview Lineage II's producer Nico “Cryo” Coutant to find out more about the expansion and about L2's future. See what he had to say in this exclusive interview and let us know what you think in the comments.
MMORPG.com: Can you give us some background on Ertheia? What is the lore behind the expansion?
Nico Coutant: The Ertheia were actually part of the original lore, but since they were living in the Wind Spirit Realm they were not directly involved into matters of the Material Realm where the world of Aden is located. So Lineage II players have only heard about them through tales and stories, but this is all about to change…
Created by Sayha, the Ertheia call themselves children of the wind. They look to Sayha for guidance, and while they respect Einhasad, creator of life, they are neutral toward Gran Kain, and regard Shilen as an enemy.
Isolated in the Wind Spirit Realm, their unique traits diversified and strengthened, and the difference between their two main factions became stark; the Ertheia Nann, cheerful and physical, were fast becoming an eyesore to the Ertheia Surr, the fiercely proud faction of wizards. With the coronation of Navari, the first Nann monarch, the discontent of the Surr reached critical mass. In an underground hearing, Archmage Venir, the greatest living Ertheia wizard, was named the true ruler of the Surr.
It was at the height of this divide that catastrophe struck. Shilen’s 6th Seal – the Seal of Punishment – broke, and shockwaves from the resulting chaos ripped into the Wind Spirit Realm, creating a Dimensional Rift and plunging one half of the Ertheia city of Faeron into the Material Realm.
Alone and lost, more Ertheia continue to drift into this world, much of their power sealed by the trauma of dimensional travel, with their companion foxes missing. The land is foreign, and creatures covet their magic and beauty. Sayha continues to remain silent amidst their call, and they must now take their fate into their own hands. Banded together as one, the Ertheia prepare a journey to find the legendary Grail, a mystic item that is whispered to hold the power to lead the way back home.
MMORPG.com: Lineage 2 has such a strong history, when you create a new expansion, what are some of the things you take into account?
Nico Coutant: Excellent question! When adding new content to such a huge game that Lineage II has become over the past 10 years, you have to be very careful about many little details. You have to make sure the new content fits into the on-going story and game lore, that it is well integrated into all the complex existing game systems, and that it doesn’t disturb the existing players’ experience.
Technically there is also a lot of things going on behind the scenes, where you have to integrate the new content into all the administrative tools and make sure the staff has all the necessary information and enough knowledge about the new expansion to be able to communicate effectively with all the teams that are in charge of the game, and of course answer questions from the community.
MMORPG.com: How does player feedback influence the new expansions for the game? The community remains so strong, do they have a say in what developers are working on?
Nico Coutant: The Lineage II community is indeed still very strong and is always a reminder of the immense popularity of the Lineage brand. We always take player feedback very seriously, and even though we can’t satisfy all player requests, we do pick the most popular and well thought-out proposals and pitch them to the development team in Seoul, Korea. It is really a satisfying experience when such proposals do make it into the game, as it is a direct result of the community actually shaping the game itself.
As an example directly related to this new update, the original Korean version had greatly reduced its Adena and item drop rates in low-level hunting zones. Our community raised concerns about this change, and after discussions with us, the development team agreed to leave this change out of our version of the game. This is a clear example of how the community can directly affect game design decisions.
MMORPG.com: The Ertheia race will also be playable. What steps do you take to add a new race at this stage of the game?
Nico Coutant: The Ertheia had always been part of the overarching Lineage II lore, so it was easy to introduce them into the events that have been unfolding since Goddess of Destruction came out. Being the second new race to be introduced in Lineage II since the Kamael in 2007, there is of course a lot of anticipation from the players – especially our inactive player base. It’s always fun to start playing again when everyone is starting out fresh, which is something a lot of players are looking forward to.
In terms of development, it was long in the making – over a year or so – as adding a new playable race into a 10-year-old game is no easy feat. But the development team pulled it off, and the result is amazing: the new Ertheia character models look gorgeous, the new skills and animations are really stunning, and the new zones really capture the atmosphere of the Wind Spirit Realm where the Ertheia come from.
MMORPG.com: The story behind the expansion deals with the Goddess of Destruction. Can you give some background on her and how players have interacted with her in the past?
Nico Coutant: The Goddess of Destruction is Shilen, the first child of Einhasad and Gran Kain. She has had a tragic life and is now filled with bitterness toward the gods and all that she once held dear; filled with hatred for everything happy and good in the world, she waged war against the gods, and lost. She was sealed away, never to regain power again, until a group called Embryo began to try to resurrect her through blood sacrifices. Her footing is growing, but the world is holding fast to what they can to keep her at bay. Now, she patiently waits for all of the seals to be broken before making her move. Recently, Embryo released the 6th Seal – Seal of Punishment – and she is now one step closer to becoming free.
Players have never directly fought her, as she is a god. They fought incarnations of her will in the form of monsters, raid bosses, poisonous smog, pestilence, the Undead, and the like. Not to mention all dragons in the world are her firstborn children! As she gains more power in her prison, more monsters will terrorize the world, and more dark energy will be unleashed, creating turbulence that can even rip into dimensional barriers as it did in the Ertheia update.
MMORPG.com: What can players expect to find out about Shilen as they play through the expansion?
Nico Coutant: Shilen is not the main focus of this update. Though she is ever-present and continues to be the propelling force behind the strife in the world, the mortals need to learn to live on despite it all. There is plenty of evil among Humans, as Leona Blackbird has found in the Valiance update, and Shilen continues to play a hand in creating more chaos, such as the marooning of the Ertheia in the Material Realm. You follow the story of these mortals as they try to find footing in this foreign land and search for a way home, or mourn the loss of a lover, or refuse to accept the estrangement of a sister. These may look more trivial than fighting a god, but from these everyday trials, the mortals mature and grow, and eventually launch into journeys larger than themselves, becoming heroes that challenge the tides of fate.
Will the Ertheia join forces with the rest of Aden to fight against Shilen’s growing power? Or will they focus on their quest for the Grail in order to return to the Wind Spirit Realm? You’ll have to play to find out.
MMORPG.com: What new zones will players discover with this expansion?
Nico Coutant: Ertheia characters will start in Faeron Village, which tumbled from the Wind Spirit Realm into the Material Realm after Shilen’s Seal of Punishment broke. This new starting zone is specific to Ertheia characters only, and heavily features an environment from its original realm with strong winds and lush forests.
The Whispering Woods have also been added, and will be the first hunting zone Ertheia characters will explore when leaving Faeron before continuing their journey into the world of Aden.
Finally, high-level characters will get to experience the Dimensional Warp, which was created as a result of the chaos following the plunge of Faeron Village into the Material Realm. This is an instance zone comprised of 35 floors, which can be challenged by up to 4 players. A powerful Raid Boss resides at the top and various high-level items can be obtained from this new instance dungeon.
MMORPG.com: Can you give us a hint about plans going into the second half of 2014?
Nico Coutant: We are currently preparing many in-game events following the launch of Ertheia. Most events are brand new and will offer some highly sought-after in-game items as well as additional content available during the event period.
And, of course, the story of Lineage II is far from over. Even though we’ve just launched Ertheia, the developers are hard at work on the next chapter in this new storyline, and I’m just like our players, I am anxious to see where this will lead.
For now, though, the Ertheia will have their hands full just adjusting to life in the Material Realm, and embarking on their quest for the grail.