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Dark World Online E3 Preview

Previews By Dana Massey on May 17, 2006

Tulga Games returns to the plate with a sophomore product

No one saw this coming. Tulga Games, led by David Bowman, is making a new MMORPG. I’m of the school that believes everyone deserves a fair chance. Bowman has not been involved in an MMORPG from concept to release since Asheron's Call. Before that, he worked at Bungie on Myth II and the concept of Halo. Ironically, David Allen also announced a new game this month. Rather than argue who was right, they’re both getting the chance to prove themselves anew. For David Bowman, that chance is Dark World Online.

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Dark World Online is a PvP focused game that pits three factions against each other in a territorial battle for control of areas and resources. The main resource they fight over? Humans.

That is not to say that they plan full out PvP anywhere.

“Free form PvP where you can kill anyone anywhere leads to neurosis,” quipped Bowman.

Instead, players will find themselves in a world where the three factions have a base safe zone, but can then span out and fight for control over areas. Thus, frontiers and safe areas can change over time. The core of the game is definitely PvP, but not completely without restriction.

Set in the near future, DWO’s is a world much like our own, although no real locations will be used. It is a world where vampires and werewolves exist, but the average human is completely unaware.

The werewolves are bent on destruction. They hate humans, they hate urban sprawl and their goal is to return Earth to nature. Thus, they destroy things and eat people. The vampires need humans to survive. They use them to feed off. Rather than destroy, they harvest their enemies.

The slayers (humans) simply want their brothers and sisters to live happy lives unaware of what is going on around them. They use technology – remember, near future – some forms of magic and hand-to-hand weaponry to defeat their enemies.

Bowman spoke of Louisiana as an area that had inspired the team so far. A location rich in vampire history, it offers a perfect starting point. He stressed though, that no matter what they do, their Louisiana will be as Gotham City is to New York.

In terms of core mechanics, the combat will be a mix of PvP and RPG style. At this time though, he was not able to say more than that.

The mechanics of territorial control are also not nailed down, but the conversation kept coming back to the concept of humans as a resource. This means, vampires may buy nightclubs in a city to attract human prey. The idea is that the humans will go where the world is most attractive. This extra level of tug-o-war adds an element beyond simple capture the flag that promises to be intriguing.

The game will also have some PvE elements, but those are definitely not his primary focus. The design direction of the game has them doing PvP first. Once they make that rich and fun, they’ll apply what they learned and what makes it fun to their AI scenarios.

Beyond combat, Bowman insists there will not be crafting. At least not as you know it in Horizons. Much like that game is focusing on its strengths for its expansion, Bowman wants to do the same and make sure every feature in Dark World Online supports what drew people to it in the first place.

The research and development team at Tulga had been hard at work on three concepts for quite some time.

One was what Bowman described as a “designer’s dream”. He revealed no details, but brought up the example of Spore. It was a game so revolutionary that game designers would get excited. He then asked: how many game designers are out there? They decided they need to earn more trust from the consumers before they could pull that off.

Another fell short for a simple reason: it was too close to Horizons. Bowman has no interest in doing the same thing twice and competing with his own product.

The decision was thus made to go with Dark World Online.

Bowman sees DWO as something very different from Horizons. The theme, the PvP nature and the projected “M” rating show this to be true. They’ll do what it takes to stay true to the idea. That means blood, that means guts and that may even mean nudity (although no sex). Nothing is set in stone yet, save the often repeated quote that “if it fits, we’ll do it.”

“Grown ups realize that the human body is not necessarily something ugly to look at,” observed Bowman during our outdoor meeting at E3, before adding: “If we have nudity it will be up front.”

Tulga has no desire to sneak anything in Hot Coffee style.

Although vampires/werewolves/slayers are brand new to MMORPGs, it is not altogether original. They’re aware of this, but Bowman did not believe this was a problem. He points out that anyone who points out any single work their story resembles has thousands of years of storytelling to go before it. Much like fantasy, there is only so much someone can do with such an open and rich IP.

For quite some time, people have been wondering about the health of Tulga as a company. Anytime a game is not a massive hit this happens. While Bowman was unable to discuss investment, the new projects are definitely large hints. He insists they can afford the project through a full development cycle. The plan calls for a fully AAA product in both mechanics and graphics. At this time, they’re hiring across the board for their Arizona offices as they begin to ramp up development.


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