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Nick Witcher Speaks

Dana Massey Posted:
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More answers from the people bringing Rome to life

Roma Victor has developed a large cult following. As it inches closer to release, we get some more answers from the folks at RedBedlam about the evolution of this historical MMORPG.

MMORPG.com: No matter how deep an MMORPG is, it is only good if people see it. Tell us how you will enthral players in the first five minutes to ensure they stick around and enjoy themselves.
Nick Witcher:

Depending on the choices made at character creation, each player will have either an NPC master (Roman Empire) or an NPC village elder (Barbarian). Their role is to introduce and guide the new players through the basics of the game's control system, player navigation, combat etc.

The new player's NPC masters give out various rewarding quests and tasks and instructions to complete them. These quests include the basic skills and crafts that the player needs to start and survive in the massive world of RV, for example hunting wild animals, fishing, gathering or foraging for food, supplies or resources and numerous other possibilities.

Players can always go back to these important NPC's for further quests, but they'll soon discover that they can find even more things to do either by interacting with other NPC's or indeed players, since players themselves can set fairly open-ended tasks and rewards for other players to complete and earn. It's also worth remembering that nearly every object featured in the game can be crafted by the players themselves.

MMORPG.com: For what type of player will Roma Victor cater? The hardcore, casual or average gamer?
Nick Witcher:

If your definition of a hardcore player involves someone that yearns for PvP, guild wars, politics, loot and power-gaming challenges, then yes we cater for the hardcore gamer. I'd also have to assume a casual player to be interested in the more social and community-centric aspects of the game and in particular the agriculture, crafting, services and production side of things. We reckon we cater for them rather better than most other virtual worlds currently do to be honest.

RV has to be one of the most open-ended MMO games available and RedBedlam has always believed that the market has a place for an MMO that looks to involve as many of the different player types in one game world with no artificial arbitrary borders or boundaries imposed upon them. That's our aim and I think we're very close to achieving it.

MMORPG.com: Many companies try to play out story live on the servers. Will you?
Nick Witcher:

Yes, it's pivotal to the whole game experience and really encourages roleplay among the players. Having an active story arc to involve and immerse the community in helps to progress the game. We have some great historical events to follow and will be role-playing pertinent characters at that time in history, behaving as we believe they would have behaved given the circumstances. KFR will be playing Commodus, the reigning Emperor of the Roman Empire, with other members of the team playing other characters from the era as required.

Kanoth, RedBedlam's Community Support Manager is currently playing the character of Aelius Longinus, a Roman military commander acting as provincial governor of Britannia until the imminent arrival of the infamously oppressive and fierce bureaucrat, Ulpius Marcellus. Although a popular and fair man, Longinus is largely unaware that beneath a layer of obfuscation, the province he runs is secretly riddled with corruption. This is likely to make the inevitable crack-down of Ulpius Marcellus all the more punishing and local leaders of both Romanised and non-Romanised Celts must decide how to react to the changes.

MMORPG.com: As a small company, you face more challenges than the big guns. How have you dealt with this and created a game that has such hype?
Nick Witcher:

Basically, we've got to where we are by facing down these challenges; and the number one advantage of having no heavy artillery is that you're forced to depend upon heightened creativity and innovation in order to out-flank the enemy. ;)

We also always knew that we would only stand a chance if we really involved our community from the start and listened to what they were saying and wanted from an MMORPG. In nearly all industries, the majority of companies strive to listen to their customers and provide them with what they want. We felt this wasn't always true in the virtual world industry at the time and that decisions were obviously being made either with little understanding or without much concern for the end user. At RedBedlam we always intended to do things differently and we believe that we have been rewarded by this approach: the proof is the incredibly loyal community following that Roma Victor now enjoys.

MMORPG.com: Talk briefly about your favorite little nuance of Roma Victor that the average fan would probably be unaware of – no matter how small it may be?
Nick Witcher:

Sorry, I can't be too brief as this is such a good question. RV is all about nuances and there are many, but the following are some of the team's current favourites. The first we jokingly call the 'taking the piss' factor, which is a mechanic built into the NPC AI behaviour. For example, you might be in a Roman military base and you drop a piece of litter right in front of an NPC solider. He'll probably ignore it, but leave that piece of litter there or drop some more litter and you'll begin to get on his nerves. There is a chance that he'll just snap and beat you up on the spot. In the same way if a barbarian was to walk up to a legionary and give him the full Roman chest salute then there is a strong chance that the soldier will take offence. You don't want to offend legionaries. Non-Citizens wearing togas or showing off Roman military hardware can also wind NPC's up the wrong way too. In fact, there are many ways to upset our NPC's!

Secondly, the unit formation system is quite unique. In most MMO games if you take on a group of mobs they'll either surround you, stand still or run off. When facing a number of foes, it's common for a group of players to have one of their number go and selectively 'pull' one or two mobs back to the rest of the group to make the encounter more survivable. This isn't quite so unnaturally easy in RV. For example, take a standard Roman military unit – the century. The century usually aligns itself in a four rank, twenty column unit. If a handful of barbarians wanted to try and engage the century they'll have to be clever, patient and skilled. Even in a large group, attacking a century head-on is often suicidal – especially if it's a century of legionaries and not just auxiliaries.

As your large group of hostile players approaches a legionary century the first rank will hurl its pila (Roman military javelins) at them. The first rank then draws their swords and falls back to be replaced by the second rank. The new first rank then throws its pila and draws swords. Finally, as you draw closer (if you've survived the first two volleys), there's a final volley from the third rank, which comes sailing over the heads of the first two ranks. Then it's the mêlée.

If you attack one of the flanks, the century will wheel about to face you as a unit and advance. That would be bad. Best to attack from both flanks simultaneously. If one group starts doing much better or worse than the other group however you still might find that the century simply wheels round to face one group and then does a swift in-position about face to deal with the other group. Even with a couple of well balanced groups trying to pick stragglers off at the flanks is not easy. The NPC's would work together and very rarely will one or even two allow themselves to get drawn far from their colleagues without some level of support.

My own personal favourite is the weather and land fertility and the effect it will have on the game. To use some simple examples, if it hasn't rained recently you will have to find ways to water your crops, whereas if it rains a lot then your flax won't dry out properly and flax is a very useful resource when dried out. If you have a lot of horses in a field and their dung is widespread then the fertility of that land area will gradually increase contributing positively to your crops.

Finally I have to mention the trade routes and the supply-and-demand system. All the resources in Roma Victor have to come from somewhere and much of this is 'done' by NPC's. NPC's can react to a demand for goods by setting up a trade route and so long as that trade route is available and unblocked, NPC's will buy and sell along it, reacting to the local variations in supply and demand. Of course players can exploit these economic dynamics themselves and as you might expect these features have as significant an impact on the political situation as they do on the economy!

Thank you Nick!

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Dana Massey