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Anarchy Online: Shadowlands News Interview
Jonathan 'Ringo2000' Sharpe :: 03:00 AM @ August 5th, 2003 :: In-House: Interview
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We recently got a chance to sit down with Funcom's very own product manager Jorgen and grill him in regards to their upcoming game "Anarcy Online: Shadowlands". It's a lengthy but good read, so here it is:

GameGossip: Anarchy Online's storyline has already been continued once by the Notum Wars booster pack. Can you set the stage for where Shadowlands storyline picks up, and where you plan to take it?

Jorgen: The Shadowlands story picks up when the scientists of the floating city of jobe discovers a porthole into a dimension holding a fraction of the earlier planet. (The game of AO is on a planet called "Rubi-Ka".) This fraction is several million years old, and holds the remnants of an ancient civilization the players will rediscover. The goal of the Shadowlands is for the players to travel, fight and explore their way through the 20+ playfields composing the Shadowlands and the city of Jobe, and finally come to the end, called "Pandemonium". You can compare this journey with Dante's fantastic travels in the underworld, going into hell.
GG: Early coverage of the game talks about improvements on the tech that powers this award winning franchise. Tell us a bit about what cool new tech features we'll find. What sort of hardware to do you forecast we'll need to see all the bells and whistles?
J: There are many numerous new technological achievements in the Shadowlands. There is a new GUI, there is a new ground rendering system with higher number of textures and polygon count. The environment system has been vastly improved, with custom made environmental effects for each play area. There is new water, new skies, the vortex inside the Shadowlands, lava effects, environment which phase in instead of popping up�I could go on and on. It is not so much one or two groundbreaking new features, as a vast number of new details and focus.
GG: One interesting new feature that is being introduced in Shadowlands is the two new player classes. What will motivate experienced players to start a new character? Will any of the existing classes get a revamp?
J: First off. All the old professions (that we call them, classes normally.) have a big set of new powers. They have what we call "Perks", which are special powers and attacks available for all. (But with specializations for your profession.) These will encourage cooperation, and many of the powers from the perks will be unlocked only through the cooperation with another profession.

In addition all the professions get what we call "profession specialization". This is a focus and power increase of the character. With the added level range (20 new "Shadowlevels") the player can increase his normal powers considerably through various approaches.

The two new professions, The "Shade" and the "Keeper" are two totally different professions both based on the conflict found in the Shadowlands. In the ancient civilization they fought over to what degree they should extract / exploit power from the "Source of all Creation". This conflict is carried over into the two new professions. The Keeper is a group focused character that aids his friends and fights with big swords. His through power comes when he is with a full group, that is when his healing and benifitial auras will kick in.

The Shade on the other hand, is the total opposite. He gives nothing, he only takes. Stabbing his opponents in the back, he drains them of their powers, slowly boosting himself. A truly powerful character profession.
GG: Just what can we expect as far as combat-oriented areas and players? Can you expand some on special attacks and combat upgrades that will be included in the expansion?
J: There will be a host of new special attacks coming from the perks. The main difference is that they will require a much more active combat style. You have to focus on orientation, distance and relation to the fighting target in a much higher degree. There will also be a high degree of focus on cooperation. Let me give you an example.

Let us take for instance the Engineer (a profession in AO). He will get a special ability that lets him place a bomb on the target, for instance on a huge robot or any other monster. To be able to do this, the monster must be "dazed". He becomes this only for a short period of time, when the Agent has stunned him. Etc.
GG: How has the introduction of new character options affected the economy? What steps have been taken to ensure a well balanced economy as the result of the expansion?
J: The economy of an only game will never be 100% balanced, just as it isn't in the real world. There will always be groups of people not having as much as others, with prices too high for them. There will always be people who buy stuff for more than they can sell, due to inflation. As long as there always are more items for the player to buy or sell, the value of money will always be there. Just as the new players will find prices higher for items because "everyone else" has so much (as in the old players), they will see "low end" items dropping in price because there is an inflation on the number of items as well their price.
GG: Word on the street is that the expansion will come with a slew of new weapons, items, and armor. Can you tell us what cool gear we can get? What is your personal favorite of the Expansion?
J: Each profession will get specialized new range of weapons only for him, for his group (like artillery group). He/she will get new armor, for their profession, headgear, cloaks, power helmets etc etc.

There are hundreds and hundreds new items and it is impossible to list them all here. In addition there is the element of discovery. We, hm, would like to keep that a bit to ourselves atm.
GG: Another interesting area of the expansion would be the floating city of Jobe. Can you expand on what the city will be like, and what an adventurer can find there?
J: This will be a place of trade, access to the Shadowlands and the origin of missions / quests. This place will act more like a "hub" than adventure zone in itself.

And of course, if you pre-order Shadowlands you get the cool luxury apartments:
GG: Avid fans have noticed that you'll be upping the level cap to 220. Can you explain to our readers what cool high level enemies will be found in the new land?
J: Ooh, again to list it all. There are monsters of basically 3 main allegiances:

1. The redeemed. These are angel like beings of terrible powers. They will attack with huge burning swords and force players with another allegiance to adapt. Of these I can mention the Ecclesiast, The Redeemed, The Empath, and The Forester. Each will have different, terrible AI scripts to quickly and easily devour the disobedient.
2. On the opposing side, you have the Unredeemed, The Prophet and the Guardboile. These are dark, terrible beings of a massive, destructive force.
3. The third faction is known as the "brink". Here you find perhaps the most terrible monsters that "live" by deconstructing the land, the landscape itself.

In total there will be around 1500 new monsters in Shadowlands. There will be more than 40 unique looks, and they again come with lots of variations. Not only in looks, but also in strategies you need to adapt to take them down. E.g. a monster in Inferno (the lava theme) might have one kind of attack, while a similar looking monster in Penumbra (hell frozen over) uses cold attack. This is just one of many things in Shadowlands which gives constant variation.
GG: Out of all the new feature and game play element in the expansion, what would you say is your favorite, and why?
J: I would say to be able to rediscover the world, the ambience and exploiting it with my perks.
GG: In closing, we would love for you to spill the beans. Tell us something you've been dying to talk about but no one has asked you yet.
J: Hm. Ok, the new fighting AI. We have now the possibility to custom make the AI of the monsters so that they will behave like a boss monster in a shoot-em-up, with shifting states, shifting vulnerabilities and abilities. We think this will take the gameplay to another dimension in interacting with the player. I am not 100% sure how much we "dare" throw at the player from the outset, as the AO player isn't used to this type of focused behavior from the boss monsters, but we shall try and see.

Secondly, there will be a GUI makeover close to launch or close after: The whole "main control" center of the GUI will be taken from the 21st century into the 22nd. It looks amazing, expect screenshots in the time to come. (Too early yet�=)

Latest Similar Story: Interview Round-Up (03/16/06)

#1 - Ram - 08/05/03 @ 04:03 PM EST
Heh, he said porthole.
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