Citadel of Sorcery is the most ambitious game you’ve never heard of (interview)

Citadel of Sorcery screenshotGamesBeat: You say you don’t have much competition, but there are other MMOs out there now — especially Star Wars: The Old Republic, The Secret World, and Guild Wars 2 — that all feature personal, branching storylines. What will make Citadel of Sorcery any different?

Blood: It’s vastly different. We’ve played all those, and they’re not even a shadow of what we’re talking about. MMOs for years have said those marketing words, that “we have living worlds,” that “our stories are grand adventures.” But if you really take a look at individual quests [in those games] … go find me Lord of the Rings. The entire Lord of the Rings story. Or is it that there are some bad guys in a cave, and you’ve got to go kill them? There just aren’t epic storylines in these games.

Most games claim to have time move forward but don’t, really. The day just repeats. If I go to the same town a year from now, will the same people be there? Will the same things take place? When I go there, can I talk to the same guys, and will they be in the same areas? In all the games you’re mentioning, the answer is yes. Our world changes every day. Time literally moves forward. If a town burns down today, it won’t be there tomorrow. It’s true, forward-moving history. Even the plants on the entire planet continue to grow every day.

GamesBeat: So if time actually moves forward in the game, can your character age?

Blood: Yes, but it’s not something that you’re really going to notice simply because in our game’s mythos, all players are what we call Fallen Heroes. All Fallen Heroes are of something we call the Blood … and they live for hundreds and hundreds of years. But NPCs might grow old and die [or] have children.

GamesBeat: I was kind of looking forward to playing a granny with a battle-ax.

Blood: [Laughs] There are issues with that because not everybody wants to grow old.

Citadel of Sorcery screenshotGamesBeat: The press release for Citadel of Sorcery claims that monsters in your world never respawn, and you said earlier that if a house burns down, it stays burned down. If that’s true, what happens if players manage to kill every single mob in the game world?

Blood: When monsters die, the game is constantly monitoring the entire world. And what it’s doing is it’s dividing it up by region and territory and keeping track of how many monsters are currently within those areas. And as players are killing them, the game is constantly repopulating the area, but not by popping that same monster back into existence. All of our monsters are all objective-based. They’re all doing something. And if you don’t stop them from what they’re doing, they’ll try to achieve their goals. Sometimes they will because players won’t run into them, and they’ll go and attack that village or sack that farm and cart the people off — those kinds of things.

GamesBeat: How hard is it to code all of this? MMOs are already known for their bugs and constant patch updates. This sort of sounds like a quality-assurance person’s nightmare.

Blood: There are ways to solve every problem. And the real answer to that is it takes a lot of time to develop it. You can’t put this out in a year or two. That’s why it’s taken eight years. Part of that eight years includes writing tools to automatically find and flag problems in the world so that we don’t have to experience them to find them.

GamesBeat: Your team has worked on this game for eight years for pretty much nothing. The MMO genre is so highly competitive. Why take such a huge risk?

Blood: I felt that the game industry needed to advance the MMO genre into something more than what it was. And so I decided to see if I could do something about it. After so many years in the industry, I knew many people, and I went to them and laid out what I planned to do. Most of these people had worked with me — or for me — on various projects, and every game I ever produced or designed shipped to market. So they all believed that if I told them it was going to ship, that it would ship. I even warned them, “This is going to take a lot of sacrifice and a lot of years, but it will get finished.” And so, because of my history with them, they went for it. Not a single person who started eight years ago has left the company.

So, what do you think? Are you excited to play the game?

GamesBeat: It sounds interesting, but … it sounds a bit like Peter Molyneux-style overpromising, without having seen the game in person.

Blood: Yeah, everybody thinks that. It’s the danger of coming behind other games that have made promises and not delivered. I can’t tell you the number of times that I’ve read marketing hype for a new game, bought the game, and found out it’s not what they said they were going to do. Or it’s such a pale comparison to what they’re saying that it disappoints you. I understand completely why you would have that view. It’s something that we’ll have to fight until the day we release the game. We can only tell you the truth and hope you believe it. So I take no offense to your comment. [Laughs] It’s sort of expected.

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