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The Mercenaries of Atlantica

Atlantica Online Developer Journals - By Guest Writer on January 06, 2009

The Mercenaries of Atlantica
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Happy new year! For this first developer's journal of 2009, I'd like to continue from my last entry, and go into more detail about Atlantica's mercenary system; more specifically, how we're going to add new mercenaries as the game evolves and hopefully, with players' help, grows.

But before doing that, let me remind you that Atlantica's mercenary system is the second of the two main features we devised to make our game different from most of the MMORPGs out there. The first is the turn-based action, and the combination of turn-based combat and multiple characters to manipulate and move, we thought, would add a new level of strategy and tension into our gameplay, making Atlantica more fun and exciting in the process.

These two features would go with a storyline based on the legend of Atlantis, and the Atlantica world would be populated by characters and locations based on real people and real places. Mercenaries, too, would be drawn from historical figures or fictional characters from legends and literature. One example is the Witch mercenary, who becomes Morgan Le Fay, the sorceress of the King Arthur myth.

As the story of Atlantica evolves and expands, with new quests and new regions opening up like North America, we also plan to add new mercenaries to go along with the upgrades. So when we develop a new mercenary, the development team asks ourselves these questions, usually in this order:

  1. What is lacking for the main character right now? What could be done to further make a player's main character more well-rounded?
  2. Are there any issues about the game's balance that players are bringing up, or that might be controversial?
  3. Will a new mercenary fill a need or address a controversy among players?
  4. What will be the concept behind the mercenary?
  5. Who can we base the new mercenary off of? Is there a historical figure to draw on, or perhaps a fictional character?

In addition, we analyze statistics such as which mercenaries, and in what kind of numbers, players are using. We try to see how players are utilizing them in battles, in both PvE and PvP, as well as observe how players are upgrading them and evolving their mercenaries.

What creating new mercenaries really comes down to is finding out what players want, and what elements could be modified or added to make the game more enjoyable.

We begin the process of developing new mercenaries by discussing how they can be added without changing the main procedures of the game or upsetting the balance of the battles. How mercenaries relate to one another is the most important thing to consider when creating them. What kind of effect will their skills have on the other mercenaries? Could they completely replace other mercenaries? What kind of interactions could they have? Also, new mercenaries, since they will usually start out at a higher grade, should have superior skills. So what kind of impact will their greater strengths have on players' strategies?

Once we have a basic concept for the mercenary, we start thinking about who we'll base the new mercenary on, looking for a real-life person or a well-know fictional character. Having this real-world connection can give players a sense of empathy for the mercenary, because players now might know something about the character's background and what kind of abilities the mercenary has. When an identity is set, we finalize the mercenary's skills to fit with the character's image, while also considering the balance with other characters.

Then we create the quests for how players will recruit these new mercenaries. Mercenary quests are required to obtain mercenaries at grade C and above, and having an interesting scenario for acquiring the mercenary, that ties in with the character's backstory, adds to the role-playing fun. We also take into consideration how the mercenary will be able to be upgraded, and how players will be able to acquire the items and/or wealth needed to upgrade without disrupting the balance of the game.

This is the process we went through to develop the two newest mercenaries, the Spartan and the Sailor, which were part of the new content released last month. They are the first two grade B mercenaries, available to players at level 100 and above, and each has unique skills that should be attractive to players. The Spartan, who can eventually become the legendary leader Leonidas, can use a spear and a shield simultaneously. The Sailor, who when upgraded becomes Anne Bonny, can handle two swords at the same time.

We hope players enjoy these new additions to Atlantica. And we look forward to bringing you many more new characters into this world.