In anticipation for Camelot Unchained’s new class announcement we chatted with City State’s Mark Jacobs to get all the insight on the Drengr, a Viking Warrior with brutal attacks and defenses alike. Read on to find out all about the new class and what it brings to the table.
MMORPG: Can you start by giving us some background on the lore of the Drengr? Capturing the spirit of a Viking Warrior is no small task.
Mark Jacobs: Well, actually the Viking Warrior was the easiest of all three of our Realms to do first. With the tremendous amount of useful lore we can work with, coming up with the different Paths to fill the system was relatively easy (except for the axe). First, what I wanted to do was draw on the rich Viking mythology. Second, I wanted to create recognizable Paths where each name would give our Backers an idea about how it functions without even having to read all the descriptive text.
Take Thor, for example. For many people, the first thought people will be of his hammer, Mjolnir. They will see it in action, whether from the Marvel Comics character or various other depictions. So, they will know that this Path will not be one where you sit around and bake bread, heal people, etc. Instead, we think they will immediately see themselves in the thick of battle, smashing foes with Mjolnir and occasionally throwing it at a nearby target.
We hope to do the same with the other Paths of course, and while some of them will require a bit more research, they all tap nicely into Viking lore and mythology.
MMORPG: The interesting thing about your all’s class design is the “Path System”, can you explain how this works for character progression, for all classes?
Mark Jacobs: Thanks! We think it is interesting too. In terms of how it works for all classes, you have to start with the core of our design philosophy for them: the ability of each to essentially build its own abilities. While we will supply the components (runes for example), the players decide how they put them together and use them. In essence, we want to give them a very wide-open class system where, as we say a lot, their choices matter.
Now, while we could have simply left it at that, we had to also look at the impact of such a wide-open system on how our players have to interact with each other during their time in Camelot Unchained. My feeling was that without some way to more easily identify their skills to one another, a lot of the LFG stuff was going to get quite complicated for them. After all, when you have a very wide range of potential abilities, finding that perfect person to complete your 8-man could get quite difficult. At the same time, we want to maintain the feeling of a wide-open system. So, that’s when I came up with the idea of Paths.
The easiest way to look at Paths is to think of all your skills/components laid out on a big sheet of paper. Then you overlay another with holes cut in it. Think of the type of “secret agent decoder” things that has been part of both the real world and movies forever (remember the scene in Con Air where John Cusack decodes the messages being sent to John Malkovich in prison?). In this case, when certain holes are filled in, the player has completed a step along the Path progression and gets a reward from the Path Master.
One of the key things about this system lies in its simplicity; it might seem rather complicated, but Paths are truly simple in that they are totally voluntary. Players don’t have to alter the way they play the game, build their abilities, etc. unless they want to, and they will walk down the Paths automatically. They can then choose to visit a Path Master and see what rewards they may have unlocked. And since the vast majority (if not all) of these rewards will be cosmetic, there won’t be additional pressure to hurry through the game to get an unlock that could help the players in RvR.
MMORPG: Now specifically, what are the differences between the paths of the Drengr, aside from the weapon of choice (Thor – Hammer, Freyr – Sword, Odin – Spear, Sol – Shield, Forseti – Axe)?
Mark Jacobs: Right now the key differences boil down to the weapons and armor that a Path favors (though armor is not locked in), as well as the types of gameplay differences for each. For example, those who want to play a shield-focused tank should look at the Path of Svalinn, since not only do they eschew two-handed weapons, they also may get to dual-wield shields. Followers of Thor, on the other hand, like to mix it up by being in the middle of the battle wielding Mjolnir. Odin’s spear is even more formidable at a distance than Mjolnir can be.
MMORPG: One of the great parts of DAOC, was just how varied each of the Realms felt. Can you speak to how the team is approaching the multi-faction design in Camelot Unchained?
Mark Jacobs: Great question! The Drengr are a perfect example of how we would like to differentiate the three Realms of Camelot Unchained. Here, we are using Viking lore and mythology to serve not just as the inspiration of a class but also within the core gameplay the Path as well. For example, the god Thor and the image so many people will have of him, help bring to life both the gameplay of the chosen Path, and the weapon it favors.
By setting up the class/Path in this manner, we allow Viking players to be more immersed in the actual lore of their Realm as well as to have some very distinct and different gameplay options for the class. This will, we hope, help build Realm pride and further differentiate the three Realms. We want all their respective classes to feel not only different from each other, but also very much part of each Realm and its lore, mythology and stories, even if things have changed a lot due to the Piercing of the Veil.
MMORPG: How does one progress down a specific path, and can they freely mix and match and change paths at will?
Mark Jacobs: Progressing down any of the Paths is easy; it happens as you play the game. You can always go to a Path Master to show you how far you have progressed down a Path, as well as commit to one or more by visiting other Path Masters. In terms of changing Paths, you don’t need to do this, but you are free to decide that you don’t want to progress farther down one by either abandoning the Path affiliation or simply by not using any of the abilities associated with it . FYI, even if you decide to abandon your affiliation with a Path, you will still keep all the components/abilities that you earned from simply playing the game.
MMORPG: With the likely balancing woes of such a system, how is the team set to combat “Flavor of the Month” syndrome and over-nerfing/buffing classes?
Mark Jacobs: Well, FOTM is generally a big issue in any game that allows easy respecing of talent/class trees/abilities/etc. We have said right from the beginning that Camelot Unchained will not have easy or plentiful respecs. This will help lessen the possibility of FOTM issues. In terms of over-nerfing/buffing of classes (Has that ever happened in MMORPGs before? :) ) we do hope that this wide-open system will also lessen the pressure to buff/nerf too quickly within a particular class. The inter-class debate of “Whose class is OP?” will always continue, from the Beta through Live, but at least some of the pressure within any class will be lessened a little bit.
MMORPG: What about someone who likes to change things up and experiment a lot? Will they be able to flop around their given class at any time? If he wants to be a defensive Drengr one day and then wield Mjolnir the next, can he and can he do so effectively?
Mark Jacobs: The Path System is perfect for those who want to experiment with different gameplay styles and then pick the one(s) that suit them best. Given that this game is built around a horizontal progression system as well, it does mean that a player can decide to try being a dual-shield wielding Svalinn any time, just to see if it works for him. The player needs to be effective, since we have said that as newcomers enter the game, they too must be effective, but he also won’t have all the skills and abilities of the more experienced. At least with this system, you can experiment with different play styles anytime you want with the same character, without fear of getting completely locked out due to your prior choices.
MMORPG: You mention that the Forseti (axe) path is one that’s not quite solid yet. Can you explain some of the team’s thoughts on how the axe path might fit into the Drengr class?
Mark Jacobs: Well, in all honesty I haven’t taken this concept to the team yet, as I did with most of the Drengr/Path System. One of my current thoughts is to take the Forseti to the max with a dual-wielding, axe-throwing warrior. I’m also considering just giving them the biggest, nastiest axe that we can create and letting them enjoy that too. Unfortunately, there is a bit of a dearth of mythology/lore for axes that is on par with some of the items that I’m currently using in the design. OTOH, it’s not essential that everything is drawn directly from lore, is it? And the idea of having a dual-wielding axe-focused warrior is pretty cool in and of itself.
My thanks, as usual, to MMORPG, for this interview and for the continued coverage of our game.