With Sword Coast Legends finally ready to embark on its final release journey, we managed to catch Dan Tudge, SCL Game Director, to chat about how the last month of game development has gone and much more.
MMORPG: First off, thank you for taking the time to sit down with us. Most of us have no idea what it’s like to be at a studio on the cusp of a game launch. So to kick things off, what are things like at the studio right now? Is it high stress or a time of celebration as you get ready to send Sword Coast Legends out into the wild?
Dan Tudge: It’s been a long journey for the team and there certainly is some stress right now, mixed with a little anxiety. We are all exhausted, pouring our heart and soul into SCL over the last few years. Largely though, we’re all feeling very proud of what we’ve accomplished and cannot wait to share it with gamers around the world. And we’re just getting started. We have a lot more we want to add, but we’re going to need to get a bit of sleep first. ;-)
MMORPG: The game has been receiving many changes and updates, leading to the short delay of the PC version. What sort of improvements have been made since announcing that delay?
Dan: We’ve focused on a lot of areas, including player feedback, bugs, networking improvements, graphics performance, story tweaks, combat, economy, and difficulty balancing, which can all really be summed up as polish. We just really wanted to take some more time to add that polish -- it’s what SCL and our players deserve.
MMORPG: One of the biggest selling points for SCL has been offering a real, dungeon master-driven Dungeons and Dragons experience. Storytelling is obviously huge here. We know that dungeon masters have a powerful toolset to design their areas and missions. What kind of tools to DMs have to tell the stories they want to tell?
Dan: When players create and run a module they have a bevy of features they can use to tell their story, creating their own custom creatures, NPCs, locations and quests. They can live roleplay interacting with live players as an NPC or creature using /say within chat or using VOIP. They can even have players roll a D20 in game to pass a difficulty check. We’ve already had hours and hours of fun playing through some very interesting stories in player created modules.
MMORPG: Will players have any freedom within the campaigns, outside of strategic combat?
Dan: They most certainly do. We have already played several player created campaigns that have little combat, instead choosing to focus more on story. Many have been live roleplayed with a DM.
MMORPG: As a DM, what’s the balance between being able to prepare ahead of time and change things on the fly if the players do something unexpected?
Dan: On the tabletop the quality of the game is often driven by the amount of time a DM has prepared, whether that be rolling up their home brewed campaign or reading ahead in a module. With SCL the experience will definitely benefit from a well prepared campaign. However, DMs can also react very quickly (on the fly), dropping in new areas, random encounters, story NPCs, etc.
MMORPG: Is there any concern about trolling, i.e. players being thrown against unbeatable odds? Likewise, are there any tools planned that will allow the community to highlight talented DMs or particularly helpful players?
Dan: I think you’ll always find a certain amount of trolls in any game and we have put systems in place to help manage that. The community rates DMs and modules and are able to report offensive players and content. Of course, you can always kick a troll from your game as well.
MMORPG: Will characters be able to transfer between campaigns? If so, is there any concern about players gaming the system? For example, power leveling campaigns or rooms with just treasure chests.
Dan: Players love their characters (I know I do) and one of the best features of SCL is character portability. You can play your own story solo or co-op, hop into another player’s story, play a campaign, and run a dungeon crawl all with the same character. It works really well and allows players to invest deeply in their characters.
MMORPG: SCL is more than just a creation toolset. Tell us a little about the single-player campaign. How long do you anticipate players will spend with it before they join their friends on their own campaigns?
Dan: The length of the player campaign depends on what difficulty level you play it at and how much of the companion quests and side content you do. I have consistently spend well over 40 hours on every play-through.
MMORPG: In previous interviews, you’ve mentioned that n-Space plans to support the game with future DLC. We know the Rage of Demons is incoming and that you have hopes for other campaigns down the line. Do you have a target number of campaigns you would like to ship in the next year? How about places/events you’d love to visit in SCL’s story?
Dan: We are not talking too much about where we are going next (outside of Rage of Demons). However, rest assured there is no shortage of places the team and I want to visit within the Forgotten Realms, some that have never really been featured before and some familiar classics we’re all dying to revisit in SCL.
MMORPG: How about other DLC? I think the console versions of the game in particular have players wondering about the small downloadables – races, classes, unlocks – the things that are common on those platforms. What’s in the pipeline on that front?
Dan: We have a huge list of our own ideas as well as feature and content requests from our community that we are continually adding to our backlog. I personally sifted through 500+ requests from our community just last week. We plan to update SCL as often as we can with additional features and content, some paid and some for free.
MMORPG: Let’s talk about the console versions. Development is obviously different on different platforms, but why the longer wait for PS4 and Xbox One?
Dan: It all comes back to that polish. Both console versions will benefit from a more polished PC version and the only way to do that was push the dates for all platforms.
MMORPG: Thank you for taking the time to chat! Any final thoughts heading into launch?
Dan: Get out there and explore the Realms. For the Dawn!