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AtariLiquid Entertainment

Dragonshard July Developer Chat Log

WarCry: Hi everyone and welcome!

WarCry: Tonight we have the please of meeting a few of the developers of the new Real Time Stategy Game Dragonshard.

WarCry: Remember if you have any questions please send them to [QT]QuestionTaker.

Liquid_Dev: Hi, this is Lead Designer Jasen Torres, Designer Charley Price, and Lead Programmer Ben Newell.

WarCry: Eint: Many RTS games focus on micro-management. While this is enjoyable to some degree, it commonly becomes far too tedious. How is micro management being handled with Dragonshard?

Liquid_Dev: Jasen: We try to focus on the elements of the game where micro-management would be fun. For Dragonshard we felt most of these elements were in combat.

Liquid_Dev: Charley: In addition we've tried to make as many abilities "auto-castable", to simplify the process wherever the player doesn't want to micromanage.

Liquid_Dev: Charley: We also have an autoformation system that promotes effective pathing both in combat and without.

Liquid_Dev: Ben: There are also interface tweaks to simplify the process of giving orders wherever possible. Things like control-clicking on a unit ability to use that ability with the units current target to speed up play.

WarCry: Orson: Was the D&D world constrictive? Did you ever want to do something you just COULDN'T do?

Liquid_Dev: Jasen: The DND world is pretty vast, so it's not too constrictive in terms of gameworld. There are many templates, monsters, and items to choose from. The only times we couldn't do something that we wanted to do was when there was an existing DND choice that fit better, since it was in the DND world.

WarCry: Soriagh: Are there any plans for Dragonshard to support any player made maps, moding abilities or perhaps implement an engine for the community to create new adventures?

Liquid_Dev: Charley: We have a robust map editor that will allow the creation of multiplayer maps including traps, monster spawns, and treasures. This will likely be released after the game is finished so we can give it that extra touch of polish and maximize user accessibility.

Liquid_Dev: Jasen: Ultimately the release date is up to Atari.

WarCry: Sokaku: Knowing that there are different playable races, what are the advantages and disadvantages of each of them?

Liquid_Dev: Jasen: There are some obvious race related abilities such as the warforged having immunity to poison. There are also subtle race related differences such as the lizard folk are tougher while the umbragen are more slight in approach and adept with magic and special abilities.

Liquid_Dev: Charley: In addition, each side has a unique monument that can lead to different playstyles and strategies. The order has a monument that can decrease unit training time, the lizardfolk have a monument that increases movement speed, and the umbragen have a monument that grants invisibility.

Liquid_Dev: Charley: As such, each of these monuments can promote drastically different styles of play.

WarCry: Eint: What is probably the most notable aspect or feature that sets Dragonshard apart from the large pack of RTS games?

Liquid_Dev: Jasen: Well, if I had to pick one, I would say it's the underworld. The underworld has so many unique experiences to any RTS game including traps, treasure, finding unique items, encountering epic monsters, and finding new routes to your enemy's base. What do you think, Charley?

Liquid_Dev: Charley: I would have to say either the flattened tech tree, which allows you to create the party of your choosing right off the bat without having to memorize a complex tech tree, or the overall RPG-ness, particularly in single player, which we think will appeal to both fans of traditional RTSes and popular RPG's as well.

Liquid_Dev: Ben: The part that I'm seeing consistently interesting in our game is how much it promotes teamwork. I think cooperative multiplayer games will be more popular with this game than any other RTS to date, largely because of the underworld aspect.

WarCry: DelmarWynn: What lead you to chose having a split hunting ground? IE the use of underground for gold and adventuring and the above ground for the main battle?

Liquid_Dev: Charley: Having both layers allowed us to get the best of both RTS and RPG games. Above ground you have the ability to create massive armies, siege cities, and engage in large-scale battles with your opponents, while below ground you have the dungeon-crawling experience with a smaller focused party, and a more traditional DND feel.

Liquid_Dev: Jasen: Even from the first concepts of the game, we knew we had to have a dungeon; it's just part of the DND experience. A big part. From the first couple of concepts through the first playable, the role of the dungeon just kept expanding until we decided that it had to be its own layer of play.

Liquid_Dev: Ben: Having the resources split between the two layers also forces the player to schizophrenically deal with both layers. You can't ignore either or your opponent will dominate it.

WarCry: DragonSlayer: it it possible to play multiplayer matches against others or the computer on random maps? where things are randomly placed

Liquid_Dev: Jasen: We discussed a relative mode of random placement on maps at various points during development. Ultimately we felt that random maps would lose the continuity that our current maps were planned for. By this, I mean that the map tends to progress and get more difficult as you get near the deeper and more dangerous areas of the underworld.

Liquid_Dev: Jasen: One will find greater treasure, cooler items, and more epic monster experiences the deeper they delve into the dungeon. We did not feel that we would be able to acheive the same feeling with a random map.

Liquid_Dev: Charley: That said, we do have a somewhat randomized win condition in multiplayer called Seal of Light mode. In this mode artifacts called Seals of Light are found randomly on monsters throughout the underworld. Each player must then return the Seal of Light to their city, capture the flag style.

Liquid_Dev: Ben: Also, I want to mention that the monsters have random treasure drops. These can change the game dynamic pretty heavily. Other random elements include our shard storms, which redistribute the shards to the game world.

WarCry: Orson: How direct is the translation from the D20/D&D ruleset?

Liquid_Dev: Jasen: The translation is 100%. And we mean it. If you're sorcerer runs out of spells, that's it. You have to wait until the next day.

Liquid_Dev: Jasen: I'm kidding, of course. Because DND is based on a turn-based rule system and Dragonshard is a Real Time Strategy, there were some liberties we had to take to adapt the gameplay to what worked best for an RTS game. Rolling dice, spells per day, and movement points don't work well in a real-time situation where a player is controlling twenty to fifty units. As such, we did our best to interject the Dungeons and Dragons

WarCry: Gatzby: Every unit in Dragonshard has the ability to gather resources, how has this changed resource management from a development perspective?

Liquid_Dev: Jasen: It changes development management from being just a well or mine that you think about once or twice a game, into a constant need and drive to explore the world and engage in combat with your enemy. Our focus with having resources be collected by all units and having resources placed (sometimes randomly, like with Dragonshards) all over the map was to give the player reason to visit and control almost every part of the

Liquid_Dev: Charley: It also removes the traditional crutch of having vulnerable peons as the foundation for your economy. In Dragonshard the resource gatherers can take care of themselves.

WarCry: NX-306: are there already plans for expansion ?

Liquid_Dev: Charley: With the Dragonshard expansion, we want to explore new horizons for the DND univers. This includes, but is not limited to the Wild West.

Liquid_Dev: Jasen: We're thinking the Umbragen tunnel their way through khyber to Dodge City, Oklahoma, where they find Billy the Kid at odds with Wyatt Earp and a struggle to control the city.

Liquid_Dev: Jasen: We're kidding of course.

Liquid_Dev: Ben: We're just trying to get the game done right now, making sure the game is perfect is our focus.

Liquid_Dev: Jasen: There are no announcements for any Dragonshard expansions at this time.

WarCry: Sokaku: Have any of the ideas for Dragonshard come out of pen and paper games played around the office?

Liquid_Dev: Jasen: To some degree, yes, the ideas have come through playing pen and paper games throughout our entire gaming careers. Many team members are huge fans of Dungeons and Dragons and are constant voices that ensure we are staying true to the Dungeons and Dragons universe.

Liquid_Dev: Ben: On a personal note, the Dungeons and Dragons Monster Manual was the first book I ever read as a child, so making sure we do the legacy justice is critical to me.

WarCry: NX-306: will DS allow also connect IP to IP or using online matchmaking system only ?

Liquid_Dev: Ben: Our primary connection methods are via GameSpy and LAN. However, we do support direct IP connection through command-line parameters.

WarCry: Eint: Sort of a fun question here. How long have most of you been playing DnD? Any 1st or 2nd edition vets? Along this same line, are there any sort of cool easter eggs thrown in for some of us older DnD gamers?

Liquid_Dev: Charley: I've been playing for nineteen years of my life. It, too, is among the earliest past-times I can remember. Most of my time was spent playing 2nd edition, but I switched as soon as 3rd edition was released.

Liquid_Dev: Ben: Well, as I said earlier, I've been playing DND since before I could read, literally. I remember with great affection not only the 1st edition ADnD books, but also the original Chainmail rule sets.

Liquid_Dev: Jasen: I grew up stealing the lunch money of guys like these two guys.

WarCry: Can you tell us more about the special items you can earn by redoing some of the chapters in singleplayer?

Liquid_Dev: Charley: Throughout the singleplayer campaign, each of the four champions that you can select can aquire unique artifacts through the quests you complete. Some of these quests are as simple as slaying a cryohydra, while others involve making unique character choices that will lead to different results each time you play through.

Liquid_Dev: Charley: Some of these champion artifacts will be visible on the player model, such as the massive Draconic Femur instead of a wooden club, or vorpal daggers instead of throwing knives.

Liquid_Dev: Ben: There is also a reward shop where you can purchase additional magical items and manage your inventory between missions. Completing objectives throughout the missions will earn you more points and allow you to upgrade your champions.

WarCry: And that's our last question for the evening. A massive thank you to the team from Liquid for joining us tonight!

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