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Classes Q&A

By William Murphy on July 02, 2011 | Interviews | 0


Can you tell us a bit about the three factions in Prime: BATTLE FOR DOMINUS?

Sanya Weathers:

The information we've released to date is on the website, but briefly - the Salent are the geniuses with high technology, including genetic manipulation. One of the subjects of their manipulations, the Rodon race, eventually rebelled. They started out with super strength, and with their Salent-augmented brains and tech, why should they take orders from the eggheads? Humanity was minding its own business until the Rodons invaded and nearly destroyed Earth. The Salents, feeling somewhat responsible for this state of affairs (along with some undisclosed reasons), offered to augment human beings and supply technical support much as the Salent once did for the Rodons. Humanity accepted, and then started to wonder if they'd been played for suckers. Now the three factions are more or less on even footing, and they all need the element of Prime in order to advance. And now the battle is on for the control of Dominus - the most concentrated source of Prime in the galaxy.


The press release mentions that there will be six classes for each faction, totaling 18. Are these 18 unique classes, or are they more mirrors of each other with some distinctive flair between factions?

Sanya Weathers:

Unique mirrors? The archetypes in each faction share some abilities, and others are unique to that faction. So, a Hunter Killer, a Spy, and a Wraith are all stealth classes, and that archetype shares some abilities - but each one has some abilities that are unique to that faction. We were going for unique feel without OMGKILLME balance problems.


Can you list out the classes, along with a brief description of each for our readers?

Sanya Weathers:

All of them can be found on the Prime site.


I love the idea that you're sticking with a hard set of 15 skills for each class. That should make balancing a bit less tricky. But how is the team approaching that aspect of the awfully murky world of MMO PvP? Namely, what's the staff's vision for keeping people competitive?

Sanya Weathers:

I don't understand the question. What do you mean by keeping people competitive? I mean, no one ever sets out to say "boy, I think we'll make this class necessary and this other one into a stupid vestigial option that no one chooses." ;)

The fifteen skills for each class actually differ - there are some skills that are essentially mirrored, but plenty of unique ones as well. As for PVP - our intent is to focus on balance with PVP. If PVE is unbalanced in the process, we will change the PVE, not the classes.


With the three-faction approach, a lot of talk is undoubtedly going to bring up Dark Age of Camelot and their revered RvR system. How does the team look at these comparisons, and what's your goal for Prime's competitive aspects?

Sanya Weathers:

I am not sure why there hasn't been another three faction game since 2001. There ought to be half a dozen MMOs for us to be compared with by now! We certainly hope to meet the need people still have for fun, competitive PVP without the "eating your own young" aspect that tends to make PVP games into flash-in-the-pan products. Three factions with protected homeworlds, dangerous border worlds, and an OWPVP central planet is a good map design. Restrictions in the form of hardcoded factions, no communication, and the aforementioned protected homeworlds have introduced thousands of people to the joys of PVP, and we're excited to bring that into a new decade.

With that said, this is not DAOC2. Only EA can make that game. Also, it has been ten years, and a lot has changed in the MMORPG universe.

We've got several things that are unique in the genre. Our ability and skill system is totally different, and we think an improvement on the level based paradigm. We also offer a real reason to fight - the need for Prime in order to advance your civilization - that is entwined with crafting to an extent no one has yet tried.

Sorry I can't be more specific - information on those things is coming in future infodumps on our site.


Can you talk a bit more about re-specs and how they'll be initiated in Prime? There's always the desire from communities to have a careful balance between having them available and having them too available. How will Prime handle this issue?

Sanya Weathers:

We think "too available" is one of those problems that looks worse on paper. The fact is, this is a game. You should be having fun with your game. You should feel free to experiment and be flexible. You shouldn't invest a hundred hours and realize that a decision you made when you were still learning the game is now keeping you from playing the game the way you want to play it. At this point, I am personally too old and too cranky to want to bother with a game that insists I chain my feet together before I jump into the pool in the name of "meaningful decisions." A meaningful decision in a game should be more like "should I kill this weak looking dude running solo who belongs to the enemy faction's mega guild?"

Also, I know from experience at this point that making it hard to respec leads to cookie cutter characters (with everyone following a template that was anointed the One True Way a year's worth of patches ago), and people without access to respecs quitting the game. Feh, I say.

Now, you won't be able to respec in the middle of a battle, or even in the middle of a battlefield. But our intent is to keep things simple.


Of all the classes announced, and I don't mean to put you on the hot-seat here... what's your personal favorite and why?

Sanya Weathers:

Try that on a Marine, son, we old sailors don't fall for that one anymore.

In the interests of not antagonizing the nice reporter man, I will grudgingly confess that I am a tank player. I look for the biggest, unga-thump meatshield class, and then I look for things to whomp. I am a simple girl, really.

John Kenison, our VP and co-designer, is a healer, usually. Warren Weems, president and co-designer, is an assassin type which means I hate him. I'm actually oversimplifying as far as the designers go - John also enjoys crowd control and other group-oriented classes, and Warren is an alt-oholic who will die if he can't try everything. But basically, the three of us are almost a functional group.


One last thing before I let you get back to actually designing the game: as fans of the genre, you must be aware of the many pratfalls of the MMO industry. If there's one thing you think is the most valuable lesson an independent studio like yourselves can learn, what is it?

Sanya Weathers:

To not answer hubris-y questions like this one, because whatever I say will be the exact point on which we execute our own pratfall?


Okay, seriously. The main lessons we think we've learned is to pay attention to obvious truth. Don't overpromise. Compete on your own terms, not on the terms defined by a competitor. Cross reference feedback (what people say) with metrics (what people do).

Furthermore, we've learned about the power of community. Pitchblack hired me because they knew I had the same attitude towards customers that they did - and that is that MMORPG customers are allies and colleagues, not enemies. The amount of time people dedicate to an MMORPG makes them feel invested in the world, and you can either whine about the problems that causes (the sense of entitlement, the demanding tone of voice) or you can embrace the amplifying power of that emotional investment. We choose to embrace it - the community-built tools, the fansites, the word of mouth, the instant response to my pleas for data and bug assistance, the sheer joy of a thriving message board.


William Murphy

Bill is the former Managing Editor of MMORPG.com, RTSGuru.com, and lover of all things gaming. He's been playing and writing about MMOs and geekery since 2002, and you can harass him and his views on Twitter @thebillmurphy.