Interview with Chris Mancil
While at E3 Trion Worlds revealed that for the past few years they have been working on Heroes of Talara, and new fantasy mmorpg that is expected to launch in 2010. Dana Massey had the opportunity to talk to Chris Mancil, the game's Director of Community Management, while at the conference.
For many years, the only thing anyone knew about Trion Worlds was that they had raised a lot of money. At E3 2009, the company finally revealed their first major MMO project, an epic fantasy game called Heroes of Talara.
“At its heart, Heroes of Talara is about making heroes,” said Chris Mancil, the game’s Director of Community Management.
It’s a line many games have used, but Trion has a new idea on how to achieve it. On top of regular MMO quests, one core feature of the game is dynamic quests where players should have a chance to change the world and get recognition for it.
For example, in the demonstration they presented, imps and demons began to attack a town that the character had just left. There, was essentially a giant quest open to everyone in the area, regardless of level. There were groups of imps and they had lit the town on fire. The quest was not instanced at all and the town was significantly different. On the fly, Trion was able to swap out the buildings for ruined, burning structures without so much as a loading screen.
Both lower and higher level characters could contribute to the quest in their own way. Even if a character was brand new, they could help out through fire fighting while higher level players tried to take down the demonic invaders.
Eventually, once enough demons were killed, a giant demon appeared. Whoever killed it (or did the most damage) gets recognition across the server as a Hero of Talara.
Once the demon had been taken down, immediately fireworks began to go off and the townspeople returned to the city to cheer their new hero. The fires were out, the buildings restored to their former glory, ready for another day. However, while the snap was sudden, Mancil did point out that had no one saved the village, it would have been destroyed, which could unveil a new line of quests, just as its rescue could.
While the version we saw was abbreviated, Mancil said that the eventual goal is to make this style of content accessible to hundreds of players simultaneously and that even the players who do not necessarily kill the demon get some kind of recognition for their contribution.
These kinds of quests happen in three ways. They’re not live events, in that GMs would need to enter the world and play the demon. Instead, they can either be triggered through a timer, a trigger in the world or the random decisions of the Trion team.
“Every time you login, something is new,” explained Mancil. They want to create a world that goes beyond the regular day-to-day MMO experience and encourages players to react and take on world altering events.
They also are giving the players a lot of flexibility in how they approach these events. Rather than make new characters each time someone wants to try a new class, a single character is capable of being any of the game’s traditional fantasy RPG classes. At any point while in town, they can simply swap with the click of the button. Each class, though, has its own level. It’s not as if players can jump from level 50 Cleric to Level 50 Rogue, even if they had not levelled up that far as a Rogue. They need to level each individually. During the swap, they also automatically change gear, although exactly what happens with inventories between classes is not yet decided.
On top of this, the game focuses heavily on subclasses. The best loot in the game is subclass cards. These can be employed on the fly, regardless of time or location to alter the core of the class to suit the group or encounter at hand. For example, a Warrior is generally more of a tank type, but when alone, he can turn himself into a Berserker to fight multiple monsters at once. Then, later on, when fighting the epic demon, he changed into a Summoner type to bring in multiple skeletons after it became apparent that melee wasn’t going to cut it.
The theme of heroism returns in the way combat happens in Talara. There are two major differences from the average MMO. First, the NPCs are rarely if never wandering around aimlessly, waiting to be killed. They have their own goals and motivations. Players tend to find bandits skirmishing with guards, not sitting around a camp fire. The second is that as each player wants to be a hero, they better damn well fight like it. The combat is one vs. many, as players take on many monsters at a time. In our demonstration, the warrior would knock back multiple enemies with a giant, stylized staff. Beyond this, though, the combat is intended to be very familiar to fans of MMOs. It uses special abilities and hotbars.
Artistically, the game makes a lot of nice strides forward. Humanoid enemies have expressions on their faces that actually change. No longer do they look like wax figures as they blindly smack players. The game’s artistic style is stylized, but “realistically rendered.” The effect is a very detailed, high-fantasy world that looks full of life. When they say stylized, they don’t mean cartoony or World of Warcraft. This is a much gritter artistic vision.
The game also has a very deep draw distance for scenery on the horizon, all of which is able to be explored. When something is visible over the hill, players can actually walk there. For example, they showed us another zone, which seemed to have its own theme, but was only distantly visible.
Trion is also very proud of their server technology, which enables them to do things like swap out entire towns for burning ones on the fly. It also has dynamic load distribution, which means that if one player is in one are and 100 are in another, their servers will react and provide the area with 100 players more processing power, which should improve their performance.
Heroes of Talara is scheduled to enter Beta testing very soon and Trion hopes to launch it in 2010.
Also, be sure to check out our video interview with Trion!