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Interview with Lars Kroll Kristensen

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The CEO of Runestone goes in-depth with Garrett Fuller

Runestone is hard at work for an April 3rd targetted launch of Seed, an MMORPG that features no combat. CEO Lars Kroll Kristensen took the time to answer some detailed questions from our own Garrett Fuller about this game, with features that may surprise some readers.

MMORPG.com: Seed offers a very different approach to the MMORPG community. Tell us a little about the concept behind the game.
Lars Kroll Kristensen:

The basic concept is, that we want to create a game where story and role play is the core game mechanic. In order to ensure and keep that focus, we have even excluded combat as a game mechanic. We all love combat based games, but there are already so many of them out there, that we don’t feel the market needs another one. Besides, many of the people that primarily play for role play, aren’t all that interested in combat.

MMORPG.com: Set in a science –fiction world, but being stranded on a hostile planet colony creates a very interesting environment for players. What facilities or features will players have to build their characters?
Lars Kroll Kristensen:

Characters can of course be tailored visually. Players can choose between the two sexes, three basic body builds in each sex, hairdo and color, beard type for the guys, and a few other parameters. As Seed does not have any classes, the choice of “career” is a matter of choosing which skills to train while playing. Skill training is partly based on learning by doing, partly on being taught by other players, partly on “time-training”, where a skill slowly increases over time.

MMORPG.com: MMORPGs span the realm of different graphics. Seed graphics are very unique. Explain the choice that was made to give the game a cartoon or comic book look while still maintaining a very mature story line.
Lars Kroll Kristensen:

We want our characters to be able to express a wide range of emotional stances for obvious role play reasons. This is easier to accomplish in a comic book style than it is in a photorealistic style. Also, we want the game world to express a science fiction style that is fantastic, rather than hard sci fi. Not science fantasy, like “star wars” or hard Sci-fi like “2001”. More like the European comics tradition of e.g. the comics series “the Valerian” by Mezières – Christin.

MMORPG.com: In a world of endless landscapes in MMORPGs, the game has an enclosed look which is all tied into the story. How did developers and artists work to create this theme?
Lars Kroll Kristensen:

The background story, with colonists living in a big terra forming machine kinda dictates a situation where space is a valuable resource. The gameplay is centered around maintaining the colony, making sure it doesn’t break down completely, while striving to expand the living space. Most of the choices the players will be facing are tradeoff situations, one of the tradeoffs being: What should we use this space/location machine hardpoint for ? Our art department has had a lot of fun coming up with interiors to this massive machine the colonists are living in. And even if we do have a mostly “confined space” theme, we also have our larger locations, like the massive 400 meter “canyon” areas, tying other locations together.

MMORPG.com: The NPCs play an intricate part in the story. Can you tell us about the emotional models and language machine used to create the Artificial Intelligence?
Lars Kroll Kristensen:

The NPCs all have a set of emotional states they can be in, changing the way they talk, react to interactions and emotes, vote, ask and give favors etc. As such, the emotional engine in itself is a state machine with a little extra. The language machine was originally intended to provide a text based interface for talking to the NPCs. Various focus testing feedback, and development resource constraints have forced us to put that aspect a little on the backburner for now. For now, we concentrate on using the language machine “under the hood” to provide very dynamic and structured emergent events for the story system. Thus, when a player e.g. repairs a broken service hatch, this can generate an event the story system can use to start or move forward a story. Also, the NPCs can react to these events directly. Later, we anticipate slowly adding the most interesting language features to the NPC interface, in order to make NPC interaction even more interesting than it is right now.

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