Dark or Light

Interview With Stephane Quilichini - Lead Designer

Richard Cox Posted:
Interviews 0

Dark and Light Interview
Stephane Quilichini, Lead Designer

MMORPG.com: First of all I would like to thank you for taking the time out of your obviously very busy schedule to answer a couple questions for us. Before we get started can you tell us a little about yourself? What, if anything, you've worked on in the past? What exactly it is you do on the Dark and Light project, etc?

My career path has been somewhat atypical for this kind of project, which is often the case for people who work in this industry and who are 30 years old and more. I'm 39, and I've worked with the first PCs (Apple II, ATARI ST, Amiga, PCs, etc.) since I was 14 years old. I always enjoyed games: board games, and, of course, the first video games. I've been involved with the project since the first circle of Dark and Light project creators was founded. My contribution was essentially based on game design concepts, thanks to my recent hardcore gamer background.

We will start with some questions from myself, and then we'll wrap up with a couple questions from some of the MMORPG.com members:
MMORPG.com: Very little information has been released about Dark and Light (DnL) for quite some time now. Is there any particular reason the community has been left in the dark? In other words, why do we hear so little about what's going on over there?
Stephane: We indeed had a tough time at the end of the summer holidays, since some members of our team left, and some others joined. We had to find some ways to finance the development delays. But this is often the case for many long term projects such as DnL.
MMORPG.COM: Can we get an official confirmation that the release date is now scheduled for April 2005? And how confident are you that that will stick?
Stephane: The official release date is April 2005. This will be tough, but it's still our target today.
MMORPG.COM: With the next big reveal coming up fairly soon can we expect another wave of participants being added to the Beta?
Stephane: We only let 2,000 players in, out of the 130,000 registered players. We have a few more optimizations to make so that the Beta client can run fine on lower-end computers. We prefer remaining in closed beta for a few more weeks.
MMORPG.COM: Do you have an estimate as to when Open Beta will start, or if there will even be one?
Stephane: For now, we do not plan to set an Open Beta like people usually do for this kind of game. We prefer a massive Beta test with players who have previously registered, in order to make the final mass balance. This phase will start rather late in the development process.
MMORPG.COM: So many games are being cancelled lately, the most recent of which being Dragon Empires, what do you feel DnL has to give it the staying power it needs to survive in this obviously harsh genre? What does it have that other games don't?

We learned the end of Dragon Empires with great surprise, and it scared people here, especially our investors. But we thought about it, and DnL has 2 great assets over the competition: client technology and server technology, which are really innovative for the genre. Both these technologies combined allow us to create an ambitious game design that brings some fresh air into the industry. The support our community shows us is also a great help to continue working on the release of a game that, we hope, will be like nothing you have ever seen.

MMORPG.COM: Along those same lines, there are some big name games that were recently released; EQ2 and WoW for example. What do you feel that DnL has that these other games don't? Games like EQ2 and WoW with their HUGE marketing budgets are MUCH more in the consumers face, sometimes overshadowing other; potentially better games that aren't getting as much press. If there was one feature that DnL has that you feel is done better than anyone else or that no one else has, what would that be?

Yes, we are no match against these two marketing juggernauts that are Sony and Blizzard. This is why we started Internet marketing a long time ago, in order to spread the word. Thanks to this, even if the marketing budget was minimal, we are still in good position among specialized websites. But if you have good leaders in one sector, the other sectors usually benefit from it too. The market is still developing really fast; you can see it with the huge success of WoW that got many subscribers without taking Everquest players away. I think that we have our fans as well, and of course there will always be people who go from game to game. But this will certainly go both sides.

DnL has its own assets over these giants. A unique world, with a client engine that really gives you the impression of being part of the world; this is a unique feature, and our new Beta testers seem to really marvel at what they see on their screens.

MMORPG.COM: What is your favorite aspect about DnL?

Exploration, no doubt. We, as developers, discover beautiful places every day that change according to seasons. A horizon line 50 km away, flights 4,000 m above the ground, no zoning times...all this brings a very different approach to this kind of game.

MMORPG.COM: DnL's world seems HUGE. This has actually been more of a curse than a boon in a lot of the previously released games. What is being done in DnL to prevent this from being another bad decision? In most games with huge worlds you have extremely large areas with little to no content, extremely long travel times, etc; will these problems exist in DnL?

The world of Ganareth is a genuine ecosystem; every area of the world develops at its own rhythm, regardless of the number of playing people in the area. And there is a large city, Al Drifa, which is the starting point for many quests in the game, and the location for many guild houses. Most transportation networks start from this city as well. We want players to be able to live by themselves or with a group, according to what they want. We regard our world as "content to discover," as opposed to being several independent zones. There are several transportation means, more or less efficient, that will help players in their explorations.

MMORPG.COM: Everyone seems to be making such a big deal about special items, either in-game or real life items, given for pre-ordering and in Collector's Editions. Are there any plans as to DnL doing the same? And if so any thoughts on what we might be able to look forward to?

We are indeed working on such an offer, because our fans asked for it. Once again, we will try to bring this a special touch, as opposed to what people have done before. Again, we hope to propose you something in January.

Now for the questions suggested by some of our members:
MMORPG.COM: {Blacksac}: As an explorer in DnL you can make maps, allowing you to sell them or give them to others. What systems are in place if any to prevent someone putting up the whole map of Ganareth on a web page, potentially spoiling the work (fun) of making maps for other people, and for oneself? Will the terrain and resources change so much that older maps will be out-dated over time? Can people alter their own maps to give misleading information?

Having the whole map on Internet, and having it in game with its special functions are two completely different things. For instance, automated travel paths need you to have specific map sections in order to be available.

MMORPG.COM: {Orgeee13}: Will there be a Thieves guild in the major towns, and will it be possible for one to live out his/her career in that town and become rich by working for the guild?
Stephane: Our goal is to give our GMs and players the tools they need to decide how they want to run the world. Guilds already exist in the world; our goal is to gradually replace them and the associated functions, to gradually switch to a player-run system.
MMORPG.COM: {Keldar}: You said that if there were enough people interested in having horses in the game, the dev team would add it. Are you working on it? Are you thinking in adding a floating city? Will be any kind of aquatic (Dolphins, giant turtles, etc) mounts? You said that you can shot arrows or cast spells in a flying mount. What will you do to prevent griefing with that? A warrior won't be able to fight versus a flying dragon since it will be out of range, etc.
Stephane: Yes, many players are asking for horses, so we are working on them. We wanted to create things that are different, so, as examples: We plan to develop the undersea (but not for the initial release); and a warrior will have to use a bow to try to hit his target from a great distance (if he behaves just as a simple warrior needing shorter distances for accuracy, he will be "disadvantaged"). But, he can use a flying mount or ask a spell caster to help him, or buy a scroll containing a spell that can help him.
MMORPG.COM: {Nosferu}: Will one be able to own a boat? If so, are there different types of boats? Will one be able to build player houses anywhere or are player housing restricted to predefined areas? Owning NPC players is a nice feature (guards, merchants etc), but for casual gamers it is problematic to pay a typical maintenance fee (as some games have). Will it be possible to buy the NPC characters for a fixed amount? Will there be a journal of what happened while one was logged off?
Stephane: We do not plan to include in the initial release anything related to water, including boats.. Technically, you can put your house anywhere in the world, but players can only buy a piece of land in pre-determined places. GMs will control the system, and will only give guilds the authorization to create additional village places in order for players to purchase the land. Merchant or guard NPCs have an upkeep cost to remain active, and this is the only way we can imagine the system, because we need to keep the cash flow within the game. There is a diary for each merchant NPC owned by a player, even when the player is logged off.
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Richard Cox