We had the pleasure of talking to the Executive Producer, Tim Anderson for the upcoming Group Based MMORPG named Saga of Lucimia. In advance, we’d like to thank Tim for taking time out of his busy schedule in order to talk to us and share this brand new adventure coming soon.
Note: We apologize about the logos not rendering correctly in our video! Sadly, when we rendered the video it looked great, however when the render was done after a couple of hours, it didn’t end up well. That is our mistake due to a mess up in the settings. However, we hope you’ll enjoy the interview nonetheless.
AG [Ascendum Gaming]: First and foremost, I want to go ahead and thank my guest from the upcoming game entitled Saga of Lucimia, and I believe your name is Tim, I could be incorrect.
SOL [Saga of Lucimia]: No, that’s correct.
AG: OK. So tell us a little bit about Saga of Lucimia and yourself.
SOL: The short version is that we’re building a group-based MMORPG. That’s kind of the short version.
AG: Don’t be afraid to expand on that a little bit, but I do have a lot of — not a lot of questions, but a few questions that we went ahead and, in Ascendum here we were researching. We were looking at your FAQs and previous interviews just to make sure we didn’t have any of the same questions.
SOL: No, that’s fine, just go ahead and ask what you’ve got and we’ll go from there.
AG: So, from what I’ve read, you guys took the game from a homebrew Dungeon and Dragons session that was created? And I’ve seen a lot of games nowadays are actually being created from that type of process, so tell us a bit more about how you went ahead and said, “You know what, this is awesome, I’m gonna make it into an MMORPG.”
SOL: It really just came down to… I had the world setting from the 90s, and then I had done some short stories around 2008, when I had first started writing professionally. Sold a few short stories, started working on the chapters for four book series, and then things just kind of got out of hold and sat there from like, 2008 until early 2014. And when I finally got back into it, I said, you know, I’ve got time, let’s get the rest of this book series out. And at the same time that I was researching the current MMORPG industry — I’ve always been a big fan of it; at that point in time we were starting to see Pantheon Kickstarter and so on and so forth — and when I started looking at that, I said, you know, my brother had already been working with Unity for a year and a half by that point. He’d been telling me, “You should come check this out, we should totally do this.” And then I was like, well, I think it actually makes sense to, instead of only doing this as a book series, to do this as a multimedia project, and that was kind of the start of that. So then we decided to run with it, and it’s kind of evolved since then, so we’ve got the books, we’ve got the game, we’re working on tabletop, we’re working on a lot of different things.
AG: Definitely a big franchise for the game. I mean, to think that something that started… I’m assuming it’s something really small and now it’s grown exponentially huge, right, and you guys still have a small community. The game is still in… I think it’s in alpha?
SOL: Yeah, it’s been in alpha for a year.
SOL: Actually, about two years, now.
AG: Oh, OK.
SOL: I was trying to think about that. We actually opened up our preorder store September of 2015, so we’re just about coming up on two years. I think this… We’re going to be in Austin, for the Austin Game Conference in September, and that’s technically — I think we started the store in September, if I’m not mistaken, of 2015, so we’re about two years, more or less.
AG: All right. Well, let’s get right into the hard-hitting questions. I think I’ve softened you a little bit. So the studio has decided to make Saga of Lucimia strictly a PVE MMORPG, and that’s not really a thing nowadays. Yeah, I was going right into it! Can you tell us reasons behind that and how you guys came to that decision together?
SOL: I don’t like PVP, so that’s pretty much what it came down to. We see a lot of negativity around PVP. Usually as a general rule, the only douchebaggery that you see in an MMORPG is generally related to griefing that all centers around PVP. And when we said — you know, I need to take a step back from that and say it’s not that I just don’t like PVP. In the right setting, I love PVP. So a good example of this is I’ve often said that if someone were to actually get their hands on the Dune IP and create a Dune MMORPG, that has to be a PVP game. It can’t be a PVE title because of the way the books are set up. It needs to be planets and families of the empire fighting each other.
AG: For sure.
SOL: But in our setting we said none of us are really big fans of PVP. We want our game to be centered around the harmonious relationships between players, and that general kind of vibe that you get when you’re sitting down and playing Dungeons and Dragons together. And that’s always a coordinated effort between the team and you, so doing something together and having fun over a few hours of time. It’s not about going up against each other, it’s not about ganking another player, it’s not trying to win against someone else; it’s about the five or six or seven or eight people coming together and having a good time, so that’s really what the basis for it was, was taking that tabletop environment and translating that over to the digital setting.
AG: For sure. And I mean without PVP, there’s an argument to be made that there’s no way to pay-to-win. However, a lot of people disagree. What are you guys thinking about doing to go and fight against the pay-to-win term?
SOL: In terms of… What do you mean by pay-to-win? Because lots of people have different takes on it.
AG: Yeah. OK, so like for me, for me personally, and a lot of people, like the original term is if you can buy anything in the store that’s enhancing and you can’t get it in the game whatsoever, then that’s pay-to-win.
SOL: Oh. No. We don’t even have a store. There will never be a game store, so there’s never going to be a store–
AG: No cash shop, wow.
SOL: No cash shop, no. It’s a monthly subscription. You pay your X amount of dollars per month and that gives you 100 percent access to the game.
AG: OK. And with the founder packs, I mean, you guys offer a lot in the founder packs. I don’t know if we should call them founder packs, should we call them…?
SOL: You can. Those — and we’ve had some people who have questioned that and say, “Well, isn’t that technically a cash shop item?” Yes, you can look at it that way, but the way we are doing the relic items is that you’ve basically got, when the game launches, there’s gonna be X amount of months before players are able to “level up” their abilities and masteries. So even if you do get an item at the beginning of the game with a founder pack, it’s going to be something that you grow into over the course of gameplay. When you first get it, you might only be able to access one or two components of that item, but then as you get better in the game, that will eventually be something that you can unlock more capabilities with. And then eventually, it’s not meant to be something… None of the items in the preorder store are meant to be items that are uberly powerful or that you’re gonna take with you for the entirety of your game career. They’re just meant to be a nice little bonus in a way of saying thanks to the people who decided to preorder the game and support us early on as opposed to just started at launch. They’re going to be things that are — we’ve talked about, for example, giving players a five percent run speed buff with the boots, being an example of that. That’s not going to be something that is game-breaking, it’s not gonna be something that gives one player that much more of an advantage over someone else. It’s just a nice little perk of saying, “Hey, I paid 40 dollars two years before the game came out and I got this nice little pair of boots that gives me a five percent run speed.” That’s the close we’re coming to a cash shop is gonna be the founder’s packs.
AG: Yeah, and they’re not all that bad. See, when I first looked at them, and I was like oh, this is actually pretty reasonable, I mean the prices are not bad compared to triple-A MMOs and even indie MMOs that are coming out, you know, they’re pretty expensive. And I showed this to the Ascendum community and some people had some questions like, “Well, why are people getting these relic items?” So they thought originally you would get them and you would use them day one as like, I’m a god, step down, right? So it’s cool that you grow into it like you’re explaining.
SOL: The way the relic system works is basically, if you got a — I’ll just use a relic staff as an example. You got a staff, your relic use ability, your mastery associated with that if you’re a scholar, you decided to pursue relics. So you’ve studied that. And your skill was you can go from one to 100, let’s say your skill is 15 and you come across this staff in a dungeon. You decipher the runes on it, you read a little bit, and as you come to discover, you can only actually read about ten percent of what is on the staff because your ability is only, say, 15. So at that level, you can pick up the staff and maybe you can do a fireball with it. Now, as you continue to use that staff and use other relic abilities, you’ll level up your rune craft, and you eventually get to level 25 in your abilities. Suddenly, now you’re not just doing a fireball. Now you’re also able to do flame wall. And then you get to skill level 40, and you can do a flame shield, and then you get to skill level 60, and you can do, you know, three fireballs in a row. So the relic items are basically meant to be progressed through. So one of the concepts of this is like if you were to get a raid-level item and hand that to a fresh player who’s just starting the game, in his hands, that relic item is going to be nothing more than just a normal weapon, because he has no skills related to the use of relics. He has no way of actually understanding how to use that weapon. He doesn’t have anything that allows him to do that, but as he levels up, as he grows stronger with relic use, as he researches, as he becomes wiser and smarter and more fleshed out as a character, he can then begin to unlock bits and pieces of that weapon. So the relic items are meant to be something that you have. At the very start of the game, they’re gonna be mundane. It’s not gonna be any different than having a rusty sword in your hands. But as you get better, and as you skill up in your abilities, you will be able to unlock the potential of those items.
AG: Yeah, that’s great. No, that’s where a lot of confusion drew from, is where people thought you could start with it and use it, but I like the fact that you… If you bring up another game, I don’t know, like you have an item in your backpack from the very beginning and you’re growing with it, right, so you’re learning your abilities with it, and then as you get better as you said, or level up even further, then you can start using it eventually and, you know. There’s a little bit more of a bond with it.
SOL: Right, and there are gonna be things… The items — we were talking about this a few months ago, too, about how we’re doing the relic items at launch — those are gonna be slightly different. They’re gonna be more along the lines of, say heirlooms that have been passed down through your great-great-great-grandfather or something, and because they’ve been in your family, you kind of already know how to use the very basic level of abilities on that item. So using that run speed buff is a good example. That’s a very small perk that people will have. But those items are not meant to be anything that allows a player some sort of innate advantage of someone who’s just starting the game from scratch. Like I said, it might be a small run speed buff, it might be a small hit point buff, it might be a small regen or something, but it’s just meant to be a little perk that’s just kind of like some flair that players have as opposed to pay-to-win, oh my god, I’ve got this amazing weapon that allows me to kill things twice as fast as everyone else.
AG: Right. All right. Well, you know, with so many MMORPGs available on the market right now, I think there’s a common question that doesn’t really get asked right away, and it kind of bums people out at the end when it does come out, so I’ll go ahead and ask you. It’ll be the pleasure of asking you, I don’t think it’s been asked of you: will there be IP blocks with this game?
SOL: In terms of people… You’re asking people for people who want a box, correct?
AG: No, no, no, not at all, whatsoever. Like there are games and MMOs that don’t allow people to play from… you know, Australia, or from Asia, or whatever.
SOL: Oh, no, no. We don’t have — not that in mind. This is gonna be an international game so players can play from anywhere. We don’t have any IP blocks in mind. I was thinking more along the lines of — because that’s also a question that gets asked when people are talking about boxing — but yeah, we don’t have any plans to lock regions.
AG: That’s awesome. And with that in mind, are you guys thinking about building… Is it a giant megaserver to fit all of the populations in, or are you thinking regional servers?
SOL: For now. No, for now, we’re looking at — I mean obviously we’re a small independent title, so we’re pretty confident that our launch goals are small enough that we should be able to fit everybody on one megaserver, kind of like the way Elder Scrolls Online does it. But if we need to, we can — because we’re doing everything in the cloud, so it’s very easy for us to spin up another digital server and it can be based in London, it can be based in Australia, it doesn’t really matter. But that being said, the goal is we’re going to launch with one server and then if we need to do more than one, we will.
AG: That’s awesome. So in previous interviews, you guys have mentioned that you’re very serious about producing group activity and not having really any sense of solo play in the game, and that you’re not really aiming to make this game for the masses, as you’ve said, and as you’ve put it, actually. How does group play define Saga of Lucimia?
SOL: I would say it’s more along the lines of how does group play define an MMORPG? We don’t have — I mean, with the exception of being able to run around a city and roleplay with other characters, research some war, so on and so forth, there’s really not a lot you can do on your own. Even going outside of the city gates, you really want to have one or two people with you. It’s kind of the way I’ve always looked at it, and we’ve got this up on the website I believe in the FAQs, that Dungeon and Dragons is never about one person sitting across from the DM. I shouldn’t say never, it’s very rarely. It’s almost always about three or four, or five or six, or more, players getting together and having a session. So we want that to be the core foundation of our game, getting together with several friends and going out and doing something. The other way to look at it, and there’s a blog post up on the website and I can’t remember the name of it off the top of my head… I think it’s “Storyline: What Defines Epic”? That might be the title. But basically, it goes back and looks at something I wrote a couple years ago. We’re looking at — if you look at a story like Jason and the Argonauts, The Fellowship of the Ring, Dragonlance novels, these are all adventures that take place and revolve around a group of heroes coming together who are combating something that is so epic in scope that it’s impossible to do it alone. And even in The Lord of the Rings, as a good example, looking at the Fellowship, at moments in time there are members of the Fellowship who are off doing things. Might be on their own, it might be with one or two people. You know, you’ve got Merry and Pippin off doing this, you’ve got Frodo and Sam off doing this, you’ve got Gandalf riding off to Minas Tirith, you’ve got Aragorn doing this, but at certain moments, they’re all coming back together for the core components of that quest. And then they’re also doing things like leading armies, and things that are more than just working within the Fellowship. So that kind of is basically what we’re looking at, is having a game where the storyline and everything around the encounters that the players have and the adventures that the players have is based on having that group element, that epic storyline moment.
AG: For sure, and personally I’ve never really understood why there are players that are so focused on solo play in an MMORPG. You know, especially when it’s called MMO, massively multiplayer online, that you’re expected to be playing with other people, and there are a lot of players that wanna go and do it by themselves. And I’ve argued that quite a bit with different podcasts and different interviews, so it’s kind of cool that you guys are enforcing that you have to work together, and if you don’t, you’re not gonna really have that much fun.
SOL: You’re really not gonna be able to do anything is what it comes down to. And we’ve had — there’s been a handful of people who have complained, and that’s naturally, because most of the MMORPGs that are developed in today’s environment are developed to appease all players of all styles, so you’ve got solo play, you’ve got group play, you’ve got PVP, you’ve got PVE, you’ve got dungeons, you’ve got solo content, you’ve got raids, you’ve got all this other stuff. And they’re also all, mostly, free to play, because they’ve all got cash shops. That’s the easiest way to make things accessible to all players. We’re not interested in being accessible to all players. We know we’re a niche title, we know we’re a small market, but we also know that there’s lots of other people out there like us that want to play these types of games. Pantheon is a good example. We get compared to Pantheon a lot, and that’s natural, because they’re like, the only other PVE game out there being developed right now with an old-school mentality. And even they have some elements of, they’re actually going to have a PVP server if I’m not mistaken, even though they’re not tailoring their game around PVP. But yeah, for us, it’s always been about that. I love all games, and if I want to play a single-player title and I wanna do something by myself, I go load of Mass Effect: Andromeda, or Dragon Age: Inquisition, or The Witcher. I go play a single-player title. But when I wanna play an MMORPG, I wanna play an MMORPG, and I have no desire to solo in an MMORPG, so that’s kind of our basis for this.
AG: For sure. And with that emphasis of group-based activities in the game, are you guys looking to maybe have an LFG system, or are you relying on the community?
SOL: It’s mostly gonna be the way it used to be, which means you actually gotta communicate with other players. We’re talking pre-looking-for-group stuff here. So we’re gonna be working on — there is a… Why am I blanking here? A community bulletin board system, there we go, I was blanking on the word. We will be putting in a bulletin board in the taverns, and they’re gonna be local, so the way these work is basically you’ll go into a tavern setting and — did you ever play Lord of the Rings Online?
AG: I did, yeah.
SOL: So, you go into the tavern, at least in the early days of that game, everybody’s gathered around the minstrel NPC and everybody’s playing instruments and hanging out, roleplaying, so we envision our taverns being that type of scenario, and then on the wall, there will be a bulletin board where players can post looking-for-group messages, I’m looking for a group, or I’m looking for more for my group, or this guild is recruiting, etc., and they’re gonna be local, so if the players wanna find people in a certain part of the world, they’ll need to go to that part of the world and look on the bulletin board and figure out who’s in that environment. Also using the forums as a place of community, but really what we want to focus on is we want people to be reliant on communication with their fellow gamers. Actual relationships with the people around them, as opposed to just sticking their stats in a random-looking group finder and then instantly being put together with four other people who — because every time, I mean, I’ve played the hell out of Star Wars: The Old Republic, we’ve all played World of Warcraft, you know the whole world has played World of Warcraft, Elder Scrolls Online — these are games where I can literally go play my solo adventure, put myself in a looking-for-group finder, and in 35 minutes or 45 minutes or whatever, I get put into a random group with a bunch of strangers I’ve never met before, we go off and do the dungeon, we generally never even talk to each other, we do the mission, and then 15 minutes later, we’re all gone and we’re back to our solo grind and I might never, ever see those players ever again. Honestly, after two years of playing Star Wars: The Old Republic, as much as I love that game because it’s BioWare and I love their stories, after two years of playing Star Wars: The Old Republic, I cannot say that I met not even one person who I created a meaningful relationship, and I can’t say that I met anybody that I ever put on my friends list, or ever grouped with more than one time, because it’s just not set up that way. Whereas I can go back to EverQuest 1, and I still have a core group of people that I gamed with, you know, 15 years ago. I still game with a good chunk of those people, and we’ve continued to game over the years because we met and we got together through old-school communication, of getting to know each other and not just being… Fleece123 random name, you know, whatever, I’m Tim, this is John, this is, you know, etc. We get to know people on a first-name basis because those relationships build up to them. So, no, we don’t have a looking-for-group finder. We feel that that’s very detrimental to the community, but we do have a bulletin board system. But you will be required to communicate with your fellow gamers and be friends with people, and be friendly.
AG: That’s great, because a lot of games — and I feel you entirely on that, you know, LFG system has been… has just kind of ruined the whole aspect of community quite a bit. I’m a big guy on community, I love community, so it kind of rattles me. So what you just said, a lot of MMOs are currently being developed. They’re using Discord GameBridge, which is kind of like what TeamSpeak used to do, or still does. It integrates it’s voiceover IP system into the games. Is there a chance of that, of you guys doing that?
SOL: We don’t see any reason why we wouldn’t allow it. We’ve said since the beginning that we were going to incorporate voice chat into the game, but there’s really no need for us to work on an in-game voice chat system when Discord exists, so we’ll be incorporating Discord to some level.
AG: OK. Yeah, ’cause they have integration.
SOL: As much as we’re all into roleplay and everything else, my background is, after all of my years of MMORPG, I’ve always been a roleplayer but I’ve also always been a raider. And I write for a living, so the less I have to type when I’m gaming, the happier I am, so I’m a huge fan of hands-free voice chat all the way, so we absolutely will be incorporating that.
AG: That’s awesome. Is there something you’d like to tell people — new people — that are just looking at Saga of Lucimia right now, and also fans that have been with you since the beginning?
SOL: Not off the top of my head. I mean, the FAQs page is pretty detailed in terms of what we’re about. We get some people who make the mistake of believing that a group-based game equals hardcore. I think that that’s a myth. There’s nothing hardcore about needing to group up with other people to play a game. It’s just community-based gaming. We talk a lot about, you know, it’s group-based, you need to get together with other people to go out and do stuff, but that doesn’t by default make it hardcore. It just means you gotta get up with other people and go out and do things. But yeah, the FAQs page pretty much has everything that we’re all about. We’re coming up at the end of this year. We’ve got a build coming up next weekend, so for anybody who’s wanting to kind of hang out and play in the alpha, you can head over to the preorder page, check that out. We’re gonna be at the Austin Game Conference in a couple of months. A little less than two months, actually. That’s September 20-21. And then we have team meetings down there… And we’re still all playing D&D, so, you might really want to pay attention because my brother and I actually are working on a super-secret project right now, which we haven’t even shared with the rest of our developers yet, which is related to — we’re having a big — every year when we have our team meeting, we do a D&D session when we’re together with the team, but this year we’re doing something extra special. We’re gonna be revealing all of the videos, because we’re basically documenting everything we’re doing right now in the building process of creating this campaign. I mean, we just did, recently you can see on our YouTube channel, or our Facebook page, one of our community members took the world map and did a pyrography version of it, so he actually burned it onto a piece of wood and sent it to us, so then my brother and I went and found some 150-year-old barn wood, and then created a frame for it. We like to do hands-on projects as well, so, that’s in the works.
AG: Yeah, for sure. All right, and where can people find you if they’re interested in Saga of Lucimia?
SOL: They can find us at sagaoflucimia.com, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. Also Twitch, but we don’t do a lot with Twitch at the moment. We will be doing a lot more with Twitch in the future, so, definitely want to stay tuned to that.
AG: All right, man, well thank you once again for taking time out of your busy schedule for this interview. Because to be honest, like I said, I love community-based things, especially when it’s a game, so I’m pretty excited for the game to release and we’ll be looking for it for new information on your social media platforms.
SOL: Sure. Well, we got a lot of stuff coming up. Usually what we do is these builds come out every few months, so this one’ll be this weekend, and usually we have about a month of decompress after that, so there’s gonna be a whole slew of screenshots and videos coming out. This will be the first one… I think this will be the first one that anyone is livestreaming from the team. I think Elloa’s planning on livestreaming, Giovanni, he’s Eldaran — he’s planning on livestreaming. I think Aggelos from the Dungeon Crawler Network, he’s planning on livestreaming. We’ve told people in the past that they’re welcome to do so, but we’ve been testing so many other features and functionality over the past that performance has never been that great, nothing’s been optimized, and this is the first build that we’ve actually got things somewhat optimized. We did an internal test a couple of weeks ago, and comparatively speaking, the last build people were getting 20-30 FPS and this time people are getting 60-80, so there’s a pretty big difference. And I know, for example, our last build we had some players, some of our community members who are on older laptops, who were getting, like, 7 FPS, and then this build they were able to get 18-20, so we’ve done quite a bit of optimization. But there’s still a long way to go, and at the end of the day we’re still building a newer title, so, it’s not going to be like World of Warcraft where you can play it on a 10-year-old system. People are gonna need something that’s relatively, it’s in the last couple years, if they want to have a fairly smooth gameplay session. But this is also alpha, so there’s a lot of un-optimized content out there. So that’s something for people to keep in mind if they’re gonna preorder and jump in. We’re not doing typical early access. This isn’t meant to be promotional. We’ve had our store open for two years. So players can come in and help us build, help us test. There’s a section of the forums, for example, for our dev tavern folks, who are anybody’s who’s at the patron level or above, which a patron is like 200 dollars, and they have a special section in the forums where they can talk directly with the developers about things that the general public doesn’t know about in terms of giving us feedback and helping us tweak different mechanics and features. And then they get a special newsletter that goes out once a month, so, this alpha is… Our game, our early access is all about the people who wanna be there, becoming a part of the community from the very beginning and actually helping to test the game, as opposed to just — you know, we had somebody ask recently in Dungeon Crawler Network if we were ever gonna have an open beta, and the answer to that is no, because we’re not doing anything free. Everything we’re doing is behind closed doors. It’s open to anyone, but, the whole concept of “we’re just gonna throw everything out there for free” so that people can test things when they’re not really testing it, they’re just playing it for free — we’re not on board with that. The other reason for that, too, is we’re trying to keep things behind a paywall because we’re trying to avoid players creating a Wiki in advance, so everything that people are testing in early access right now, none of that is actual live game content. It’s features and mechanics that we’re asking you to kick specific buckets. We’re saying, “Hey, we need you to test these 10 systems today, test these 10 systems,” and you get to run around in our zone. And the training camp zone that we’re using will eventually become the trial zone that players can download and play for free for, like, 10 or 20 hours before they have to make a decision about whether or not they want to buy the game and continue. Which some of the old games used to do that. I think EverQuest 1, you had the… I forget what it was called now, but there was a downloadable client that you could get which put you in a zone that you could play around in for a few hours. EverQuest 2 had the trial isle-type of scenario, so we’ll be doing that with our training camp zone.
AG: All right, man. Well, once again, I want to thank you for this interview, and I wish you guys the best and I cannot wait to see how the game progresses from here.
SOL: We are having lots of fun, so that’s the most important thing.
AG: All right, man. Thanks.
SOL: All right, cheers.
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