Atlantica Online Dev Journal: Mercenaries Are Your Friends And Study Buddies
Our Atlantica Online Developer Journal series continues today with this piece on mercenaries in the turn-based combat MMO.
Once we decided that we wanted to develop a game with turn-based action, having gone through the pros and cons of a turn-based system, we thought, what next? What could go with our turn-based action to make this new game more unique and distinct from all the other MMORPGs out there and make the game exciting and fun to play at the same time? There's no point in producing a game that's different than other games but too difficult for people to grasp or just not that interesting for players.
We turned to the idea of being able to control multiple characters with your one turn. This ability to move and maneuver a whole team of characters has resulted in Atlantica's mercenary system. This feature would be the second key component, after the turn-based combat, in making Atlantica the kind of game we wanted to develop - fresh, unique and fun.
Having multiple characters to manipulate is also part of the plan to build a game that requires players to think and be strategic. We didn't want success in Atlantica to be determined by how fast you can click a mouse button or press keys on your keyboard. We wanted to break from the gameplay that's so common among many MMORPGs, of hacking and slashing your way through your enemies.
One way to get players thinking and being strategic would be to give them lots of options - make them pick and choose from a lot of choices. So the first thing would be to create many different mercenaries, with a variety of attributes, weapons and skills, which players can select. And we're still coming up with more mercenaries that will be added with future updates to Atlantica. Next step is to force players to decide what formation to put their mercenaries in, with their positions in the 3-by-3 grid an important factor in determining how effective they are in combat. Finally, give them yet more options; this time on what move to make during their turn - do they attack, guard, use magic or do nothing and build up action power. Plus, having to decide all this for up to nine characters within a short 30-second time adds to the tension players will feel as they take their turn, hopefully ratcheting up the excitement players will experience.
In the early stages of developing the mercenary system, we initially imagined mercenaries would be similar to items a main character in other MMORPGs can come to possess, like a special weapon or equipment; the mercenary as an item that just extends the abilities of the main character. But as we got further in the development process, we came to see the mercenaries differently, as we started to give them a background. We started to get attached to them, developing a sense of affection for them. They were now much more than just extensions of the main character; they came to have their own distinct identities that are complements to the main character. As we came up with the quests that players need to complete to obtain some of the mercenaries, giving these characters a sort of back story only intensified our attachments to them.
Speaking of the background of the mercenaries, one of the enjoyable parts of creating Atlantica was choosing which people or characters from human history we would use to be our mercenaries, as they leveled up and get upgraded. Some were pretty obvious, like the archer would evolve to become Robin Hood, although we twisted it a little by making Robin Hood a woman.
Incorporating real people or characters from the myths and legends of different cultures was going to play a part in developing the game. In fact, it's something that we like to do here at NDOORS, using history and real-world elements in designing our games. We like the idea of the world of the game being something that's familiar to people and not some unknown, completely fictional creation.
When it came time to create the story for the game, we wanted to use the legend of Atlantis as the starting point. There's something about that story - perhaps it's the wonder a highly advanced civilization that just disappeared off the face of the earth conjures up - that just perseveres. And it's just so mysterious; to the point that we can create our own version of what happened to Atlantis. And we get to let our creativity come out a little in the process, especially with the mercenaries.
A little bit of nationalistic pride kicked in when we chose who the Swordsman, one of the most common mercenaries, would become. There are countless great warriors who could have wielded the sword in Atlantica, but we chose Gyebaek, one of the great generals from Korean history. Hopefully, this might spark players to look up the name Gyebaek and learn a few things about him. And maybe do the same for Napoleon, Leonardo da Vinci or Joan of Arc, who the Artilleryman, the Inventor and Lady Knight mercenaries become, respectively, and round out their knowledge on these historical figures.