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A Throwback to Group-focused MMORPGs

William Murphy Posted:
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Saga of Lucimia is a great example of gamers helping themselves by making the kind of game they want when no one else will. We caught up with Project Lead Tim Anderson to chat about the passion project, its goals, progress, and when we can expect to see the fruits of the team’s hard work.

For the uninitiated, Saga of Lucimia is a return to the group-based MMORPG. One of a handful of such MMOs in development right now, SoL aims to give fans of yesteryear’s games a new place to call home. In Tim’s words, “We’re fans of the group-based MMORPG. We appreciate the true meaning of the word sandbox. Games where you go explore, do what you want, adventure, with no on-the-rails content. There will be no quest hubs, no minimaps. It’s going to be up to our players to determine what to do, and where to go.”

The Saga of Lucimia team is calling their game a melding of classic EQ1 and D&D tabletop adventures. Dungeons will take time, exploration and travel will take time, because the journey is just as important as the destination. And Tim’s not shy in saying that there will be zero solo content. They don’t want their game to be about logging in, tuning out to the world, and questing to some level cap without ever interacting with other players. There will be small group-content, with the goal being that most overland (non-dungeon) mobs will take 2-4 people to take out. Lions, tigers, bears, trapping, and harvesting will all be things you want to do with your own caravan of heroes.

There will even be a mechanic where, depending on the size and amount of loot your party is carrying, wandering bandit parties and monsters will track you down and attack you to keep your party on its toes. There will be things you can do without the help of others, like making components for crafting, but the general gameplay is intended entirely to be about you, your friends, and your guilds doing content together.

Tim’s aware that this makes Saga of Lucimia a niche game, especially since it will also be a subscription-based experience, and they wouldn’t have it any other way. “We have a target subscription number of 5,000 paying customers. If we get that, we can get half of our team [Ed. – 12 people in total working on SoL now] to go full time. If we manage to impress enough people to get 10,000 subscribers, then it means all 12 of us can make Saga of Lucimia a full-time gig. If we get more than that, then it’ll just be gravy which we can pour into more content for the game.”  Given the success of the recent EQ1 progression servers, Tim’s confident that there’s a market for this kind of game, and he may just be right.

The team of twelve working on Saga of Lucimia are all rookies to the world of game development, but not development as a whole.  The original 5 people who began making Saga all spent time playing games together, even on the EQ progression servers, and would all spend time talking about how they’d love a new game in the vein of EverQuest, but updated. Eventually, they said “Why wait for someone else to do what we want? Let’s do it ourselves.” All of the coders are coders by day, gamers by night, so they’re melding the two in coding Lucimia with Unity 5.

Tim’s the creative director of the project, as Lucimia is based on a series of novels he’s been working on for years. He’ll be publishing chapters of the book on the website for the game to help lay the foundation for the world and the lore. And while there will be a primary storyline (think LotRO without the standardized questing), Tim expects that the main story quest will take the first groups about 18-24 months to get through, since by the virtue of the questing it won’t just be laid out before you how and what to accomplish the goals. 

The quest line will be 100% optional though, and not necessary to progress through the game’s content. There won’t be traditional experience, levels, and classes. Taking a cue from Ultima Online, SoL will be primarily skill-based, relying on players and their actions to improve their fighting prowess. And while SoL won’t have traditional quest hubs, there will be camps, cities, villages and the like where you can talk to NPCs and get an idea of what and where things of interest might be. A vagrant in a village square might tell you about how he lost his home to a horrendous horde of spectres for example, and you could in turn see what’s going on there.

Overworld content won’t be the main place to get gear and items though, as Saga of Lucimia will be teeming with dungeons, all of which will be non-instanced. Tim mentioned that they may “phase” them for different numbers of groups to keep them from being overcrowded and trivialized, but you’ll never have a fully-private area where you won’t see other players.  And learning a bit from the issues Daybreak’s EQ1 servers have experienced, Saga of Lucimia will let groups spawn mobs that are tied to progression of the story.  In this way, spawn-camping and griefing via spawn-camping will not be possible.

And for those wondering, yes: there will be corpse runs. You won’t lose XP, but the team wants you to learn how to play, to strategize, and to fear death. If you don’t run back to your corpse, you’ll lose all that shiny loot. Tim and his team think this is plenty enough incentive not to die. 

Combat will be traditional tab-target, but in appreciation of Vanguard’s defensive targeting system, Saga of Lucimia will adopt a similar setup to help support and healing be more functional. Tim and crew are also fond of keeping things simple, but deep in terms of versatility. “We’re talking 9-12 skills available at a time, tops. There are also three primary stats you’ll choose are character creation. These tie into your skill masteries, and those pools are from where you’ll draw your abilities.”

Also interesting of note is that Saga of Lucimia will be episodic in nature, following the chapter-based setup of the books. In the beginning of Saga of Lucimia’s story, magic is scarce. Everyone starts off mundane. No healing, no mages, but as you play you’ll uncover relics that will allow you to start obtaining these abilities. When volume 2 arrives, say a year in, magic will be rekindling and you’ll be able to progress down new paths to become apprentices and adepts in the magic arts.  The team is also working towards allowing players to teach others such abilities. Let’s say you’re the first person to discover the spell of teleportation on a server. Do you teach this? Do you horde it for yourself? Do you sell lessons, or just keep it for your guild?  Each server will have different levels of where players have progressed in the story.

I mentioned before that progressing through said story will take a good deal of time. This is because you’ll actually be adventuring through the world. You and your guild will have a caravan, complete with wagons, pack mules, and supplies. You’ll have just one back-pack, and you won’t be keeping suits of armor and broadswords in it (hence the need for a wagon).  Healing, at the early stages of the game, all takes place out of combat, so your wagon and caravan becomes your own portable safe-haven. This doesn’t mean you won’t have roving mobs to deal with, but it helps to you know… “circle the wagons”.

There’s no instant travel in Saga of Lucimia, except in the case of your group’s wagon and caravan. Say you’re unable to play for a week or two, but meanwhile your guild or group moves on and travels further through the world. When you log back in, you’ll be able to “port” back to them via a waypoint. It’ll have its own set of limitations to prevent having some uber-powerful player “carry” a group through the game’s zones. But Saga of Lucimia wants players to know that even those who are time-limited can have fun and progress, even if they miss out on a few adventures with their mates from time to time. It’s like D&D in this way, you might miss a night at the table, but your character and party will always be there waiting for you. And thanks to the skill-based progression, you’ll still be able to help your group.

The team is about 16 months into development now, having officially formed their studio in July. The legal side of things is based in Austin, but everyone is remote at this point. Over the course of the next year, the team will slowly migrate to Austin.  They’ve got their first internal server up and running, having completed some tests with the community. They’ve got the initial pre-alpha overland zone and starter dungeon up and running too, which will become the “free trial” for the finished game when it fully launches in late 2017.

The goal at launch is to have 40 overland zones, 10 fully-featured dungeons, and 6 cities to begin with. But that’s all far down the line in 2017 when the game’s ready for all players. Early Access will be coming in mid-September, which will test the overland zone and then they’ll be adding the rough form of combat… Tim notes, “Our early access isn’t for promotional purposes, but rather for the folks that are really passionate about the game like we are. I mean, it’s going to be really rough for EA. But since we don’t have a QA department, we’re relying on the fans to help us out.”

Rounding out our interview, I asked Tim if he had anything in particular he’d like to say to the MMORPG.com community, now that Saga of Lucimia is beginning to gain some steam and traction on our site.  “We’ve been doing this under the radar for the last year and a half. It’s nice to see it snowballing. We hope you’ll see the game we want to make and want to help us make it. We’re not the game for all players of all types. We’re the game for players who remember what it was like to be part of a world and a community, not just a videogame. This is the game for those players. If you want a Dungeon Finder and 15 minutes hard-mode loot piñatas, this isn’t it.


William Murphy

Bill is the former Managing Editor of MMORPG.com, RTSGuru.com, and lover of all things gaming. He's been playing and writing about MMOs and geekery since 2002, and you can harass him and his views on Twitter @thebillmurphy.