MMORPG: Talking about emergent behaviour, Are you ready for seeing what the players do when you add that win condition, and changing or balancing the game depending on how it impacts it?
Coleman: We absolutely will, but that’s not just a before launch thing. That’s forever, for the rest of this lifetime of the game thing. We’re going to be adapting to player behaviour and taking player input to come up with new ideas and rules to keep the game fresh.
Every new campaign that starts with a new map and a new ruleset is a new opportunity for us to make a completely different experience. As a designer, that’s what I’m personally most excited about. Because usually with an MMO I get one launch, and I know that financially that may be true. But from a design standpoint usually I’m locked into the rules set that we decided to launch with, and I can’t make changes to that without it being a major community problem, unless it’s clearly a change for the better. But usually these changes aren’t universally liked.
Walton: We’re going to do the balancing thing while we’re in test. You guys know like anybody who’s played a few of these things, they play differently after launch than they do in test. So the balancing can never all be done in test. You go live and suddenly everything’s not aligned, and they change again. And they save their best tricks for live too. If they find something cool, they’re going to hold it and try to spring it on us in live.
MMORPG: But isn’t the season setup the beauty of it all, where you can say “next season, we change the rules set”?
Walton: Exactly, it was one of the core pieces of the puzzle. Let’s not be stuck with one way. Because then you’re nerfing or “You’re changing my experience!” No, we’re promising we’re going to change your experience. And when the players like something, we’ll do more of it. If they don’t like it, it’s interesting but let’s not do it again.
MMORPG: Finally, to wrap up, what one thing has the community done that has surprised you more than anything else so far?
Coleman: When we first brought on the EKs [Eternal Kingdoms], and we let them drop parcels, and we gave them the first building set, it took less than a day for someone to create a Great Wall of China that went up the mountain, along the top of the range and back down. That was not the intention - they were supposed to build castles, but it was pretty damn cool.
MMORPG: Did it work as a defensive strategy?
Coleman: I don’t think it was ever used for that, I don’t even know if we had the ability to turn PVP on in your EKs back then, I think they were just showing off.
Walton: The first world was completely filled with buildings. Every building spot was taken within 3 days.
Coleman: Which, having been on UO, was not a surprise to you.
Walton: I was just surprised so many people were playing.
I think the other thing that surprised me a little bit was how angry people got that we had a couple of races that didn’t have a male and female. Everybody wants to be everything. We adapted to that - we started with thirteen archetypes, and now we’re race/classes, which is different and we have a lot more of them.
Coleman: We’ve gone back and added females to everything except for the monsters. The Minotaur, Guinecean and the Elken. Specifically the ones that I’m very nervous that we make them look like females they will just come off as silly, and that people will be playing them for humour, but I can be be talked out of that. If Dave Greco [Lead artist] does a really cool concept for one, then I could be sold easily. We did it for a female centaur, where we went back and made her, and she’s awesome.