Eurogamer: Will we be able to develop romantic relationships with AI characters?
Colin Johanson: Ha. There are some [non-player characters] who might get romantically attached to your player. They may love your character so much they start following you around. We want to make really strong emotional bonds between you and the characters in the game world. That's really important to us. If you want to tell a great story you need to have compelling characters and great interaction with them. We've tried to make sure that element is there all the way through the game. You are going to have interactions with important NPCs and you'll develop relationships with them. And those relationships will change entirely based on choices you make when you're playing through your storyline.
Eurogamer: How long is our personal storyline - will it accompany us up to the top levels and beyond?
Colin Johanson: We're not talking too much about personal story at this point. The idea is that as you're playing through the game you always have a story step available to you. And we have a whole lot of varied endgame content available, so you can keep playing for as long as you like.
Eurogamer: Dynamic events are not instanced - other players can see their effect on the world?
Colin Johanson: That's right. They're out in our persistent game world where hundreds of players are together on the same map at the same time. These events are happening all over and are chaining and cascading and changing the game world as players play.
Eurogamer: They sound like they'll require a good group of players to complete. What happens when I log on and no one else is around?
Colin Johanson: We've developed a scaling system for our dynamic events that automatically detects the number of players who are actively participating and changes the difficulty of the event to match that.
If you're the only player in the map and you're the only one doing the event, the event will scale down so it is just difficult enough for you to play it.
Eurogamer: That's great, but I prefer to work on my own or with a small group of friends rather than in an unorganised swarm. If the event scales to compensate for tens of people, won't it become unachievable if they're a dishevelled mess?
Colin Johanson: One thing we've really tried to do is build a content type to encourage players to work together. What we've seen in testing is that even people who are solo players have these moments where they form an ad-hoc group. It's a bunch of solo players that end up playing together because of shared goals. Everybody gets rewarded equally for taking part so there's no reason not to help each other. These events are little community-building moments all over the game world. Even if you're not in a group you end up playing as if you are, because you're trying for the same goals.
We never punish you for having a player nearby. In traditional MMOs, other players can come up and steal your loot by doing more damage to the creature, causing the last hit. Or they can kill a target you're trying to get for your quest before you. In our game, we reward you for that. If another player helps you kill a creature, both of you get rewarded. If everybody participates in the event, everybody gets rewarded.
Eurogamer: This sounds like Warhammer Online's public quest system. Will the rewards of the change depending on the number of people participating in them?
Colin Johanson: It's really important to draw a large distinction between our events system and Warhammer Online's public quest system. When their public quests happen, it's a slice in time: it happens, it's really static, and it ends. Nothing in the world changes. You get a timer that counts down until the public quest happens again.
Our dynamic event system, when it ends, will dramatically change the world depending on the outcome of the event. That then cascades into other events that change the world around them. Nothing is ever static or stale. You never get a timer saying, "Three minutes until content runs again." You have content that is dynamically spreading across the map and changing, which is very different to what [WAR's] system did.
Eurogamer: That's a gutsy approach. Can the players handle the responsibility of shaping their own world?
Colin Johanson: We are trying to drastically change the game world based on the outcome of events. We aren't nervous about it. That's what players want. We've seen from our playtesting that this really works well. There are real consequences, the world feels alive. We want to create a situation where if an event changes the world, you can really see what it did. There will be towns full of merchants that you will defend in an event. If players don't show up to help, the entire town will get wiped out and be taken over by bad guys who will use it as a base and start operating in the area to attack other locations. Players will need to band together and take that location back.
Eurogamer: These dynamic events presumably need something to trigger them to start?
Colin Johanson: There are whole lot of ways our event system triggers. We've tried to vary it up. Some are on timers and randomly occur in the world at different points and chain from there. Some are hidden in remote parts of the world. These are driven by player interaction; you use something in the world that causes an event to happen. A great example is an Asura who is standing outside of a cave that has a tiny entrance that the Asura can't fit into. He tells you that there is a bunch of mushrooms growing inside the cave that he needs to get. And he'll turn you into a pig if you volunteer your help. And when you turn into a pig it triggers an event where you can sneak through the hole and start digging up all the mushrooms for him, and you have animals that are chasing you around and you can dodge them and use your pig skills. There are cool little hidden things like that all over the game world.