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Dungeon Runners: E3 Overview

MMORPG.com Writer Carolyn Koh is attending this year's, modified, E3. Yesterday, Carolyn attended a session with NCsoft that saw her make her way through all of the games that they were displaying. In this article, Carolyn fills us in on Dungeon Runners, what's new and why the game was created.

"Wheee! Hack! Slash! Hack! Wheee!" That was editor Jon Wood's impression of Dungeon Runners from E3 2006 and this still sums up what Dungeon Runners is all about - a fast paced, casual hack and slash, dungeon crawling mmorpg.

Lead Designer Mark Tucker and Associate Producer Tommy Lieberman greeted us early this first day of E3. Mark was in a caffeine induced perky mood as he talked about this game and its origins. According to Mark, NCSoft was looking at the alternative pricing model and did a, "Hmmm.... We can do this! What have we got that we could use?"

Searching among their assets, they found this little game that had been shelved many times and asked Producer Stephen Nichols to take a look at it, then they asked him the question, if he thought the game would work on the alternative pricing model; i.e. free to play. He thought it would, and now, we have Dungeon Runners.

"What do you guys know of the pricing model?" We were asked. I began describing it then stopped, telling him that I wasn't doing his job for him. Basically... it is free to download and play. However, for $4.99 a month, players will get stackable potions, bank space, a voice chat and will be able to unlock higher quality weapons. All pretty much desirable, especially when players are holding in their hot little character hands, a brand new weapon which could be so much more uber if only they paid NCSoft $4.99 a month. "For the price of a latte!" Mark enticed, "You could get all this."

"Diablo II? Never heard of it!" declared Mark as he described Dungeon Runners - complete with health potions, mana potions and town portal scrolls which got you to town and back to the dungeon in a hurry. The game was designed with a goal of 15 minute dungeon crawls. Most missions, claimed Mark, are playable in that time frame.

"This isn't a casual game as defined in the industry. It isn't like Hearts or Tetris or Diamonds. This is the game that we hardcore MMOG players call casual because it can be consumed in 15 minutes," said Mark. "This is the game you jump into with your guild mates while waiting for the server to reset, for the raid to start."

Fast to get in and fast to play is their motto. Their group matching system is the fastest around, Mark claims, showing us the live system. A quick match, a teleport to, and you are hacking and slashing in the same dungeon as some people near your level. The difficulty of the dungeon scales to your group size and level, and does so on the fly so that you aren't left with a dungeon of scaled to a group of four should two decide to leave.

The name of the game is also fun. The quests can be pretty silly, as can the names of weapons and their descriptions. I've heard of "Cardboard Ghetto Sword of the something or other" and "Crossbow of the bipolar ladybug" spells described as "Grandma behind wheel" and "Crazy fast." There are also a lot of player choices and many features were put into the game because of player feedback. These include the character movement choice available. Players can choose to use a point and click system or the WASD keys. There are some really tough areas with an actual death penalty. Of course, the more difficult the dungeon, the greater the rewards. No pain, no gain, after all.

Respeccing your character may be done at anytime without penalty or cost. All stat points can be reassigned, and all skills are available to the player. Tommy piped in at this point. "There are no class restrictions, but level restrictions to skills and weapons."

Dungeon Runners is essentially MMOG light. Completely instanced except for the gathering area, and the graphics are stylized and almost cartoonlike. This game is a bit reminiscent of WoW as well as Diablo II. But, there isn't a cow level. I asked. Mark did say with a wink though that there may be hidden levels, just none, he assured us, which had to do with bovines.


Carolyn Koh

Carolyn Koh / Carolyn Koh has been writing for MMORPG.com since 2004 and about the MMO genre since 1999. These days she plays mobile RTS games more, but MMOs will always remain near and dear to her heart.