BSN*: Hi Jamie, can you tell us a bit about yourself and the team you are making the game with?
Jamie: I’m Jamie McCormick, and I am the English Marketing Manager for Gala Networks Europe. I work in and am from Dublin, Ireland, and the game we are publishing this June is called Dragonica, an arcade-style 3D side-scrolling MMORPG, available for free through the www.gPotato.eu gaming portal.
BSN*: So how did you come to the idea for Dragonica’s world, some sort of comic, or cartoon based story? Maybe old-school Final Fantasy games and Japanese chibi characters?
Jamie: The Korean developers, Barunson Interactive, have a game called Dragon Raja which came out a number of years ago. Much of the background and story from Dragonica is based on it. Barunson have spent a long time developing a really detailed, vibrant and living world for players to explore. There are also lots of references to pop culture and gaming culture that players will laugh at.
BSN*: What is the story behind Dragonica? The object of players desire, villain to defeat, princess to rescue or an object of mystic power?
Jamie: A number of years ago there was a war, and the evil Dragon Lord Elga was locked up in a prison. He’s been there for a long time, but recently an evil witch called Paris broke in and released him. Dragotaka has seen an increase in weird activity and a Dragon Fellowship has been formed to get Elga. You start the quest arriving on the continent of Odelia, and you have to join the fellowship and go on a massive adventure by yourself or with up to three friends as a four player party.
BSN*: How is that that you decided that the game will be free, because there aren’t many games of this type that are? Most of them are quite bad or use "free player is a gimp compared to one who decides to pay for special stuff" system.
Jamie: Our company is a free to play games publisher, so this is the business model we have chosen. We are an online community company and games give us a huge opportunity to develop solid online communities across Europe with good, free games at their heart. There are a lot of free to play MMO’s in the market, but we are a European company and we have games coming from nFlavor and Aeonsoft, the Gala Group’s two developers in Korea. We are also publishing Dragonica for Korea’s Barunson Interactive and Allods for Russia’s Nival Online, which we can offer to new players and our existing 1 million+ registered players.
BSN*: As any other free online game out there will it have an item mall, special deals for those who want to pay, unique items for sale, more exp gain scrolls and stuff like that?
Jamie: Yes, Dragonica contains a cash shop. It features cosmetic items, so if a player wants to have a pink afro or bunny ears for their character, or if they want to change their avatar into a skeleton they have the option to buy them. Players who don’t, don’t have to or need to. There will also be functional items such as barrels of health. However, there is a full in-game market so that players can source weapons and armour in-game away from the cash shop.
BSN*: How long have you been developing the game?
Jamie: Barunson Interactive have spent a lot of time on pre-production and three years on development of Dragonica. It is very highly polished and the quality of the game really shows.
BSN*: At the moment you have opened registrations for closed beta of Dragonica. Is there a big interest for the game?
Jamie: Yes, the Closed Beta is going for mid-May and we have had a great reception to Dragonica so far. The media that has seen the game loves it, and we have run a number of playtests in Ireland and the game has gotten a very positive reaction from all types of players. It seems to appeal to all age groups, as well as guys and girls. Younger players love the multiplayer modes and the MMO gameplay. Older players love the side-scrolling beat-em-up gameplay. There hasn’t really been a new side-scrolling game in a long time, and players are soaking up remakes on consoles, so we feel that Dragonica is coming out at a good time. Also, the game is free so players have no reason not to try it at least once.
BSN*: What type of players are you trying to attract with this game, or is it going to be a game for all? Are you going for those who mostly play free online games or are just looking to offer something different to the gamers? Maybe anime fans who are bored of stiff and serious stuff like Lineage2?
Jamie: I think when we started, we were thinking that the main age group that would be interested in the game were teenagers. However, I’m a 90’s gamer, and I thought it would be interesting to see if it would play on a SNES pad. I had a USB adapter I bought to play some emulator games, and when I tried it on Dragonica it worked. The game doesn’t officially support control pads, yet, but it’s still possible to play with one if you know how. Dragonica doesn’t require a mouse either for combat, so it’s very much a console style game.
Dragonica is also very system specifications friendly, with low entry specs. I’ve personally tested it on a number of 4-5 year old laptops and desktops, as well as on one of the small netbooks. It’s worked on everything which is good to see. Also, as our game is a free to play download, players will legally be able to get the game off Bittorrent, and just register with gPotato.eu to start playing. This gives a lot of players who can’t buy games in the shop and don’t have a credit card to buy online off Steam will have a good, legal game available to them for download. Finally, Dragonica is very much a competition friendly game. We’re confident that LAN events as well as internet café’s will like to have Dragonica on their PCs.
BSN*: The game is MMORPG, but arcade 3D style; do you think it is a little strange combination? When I think of arcade MMORPG Tabula Rasa comes to mind but this appears more like good old classical 2D side scroller arcade game. It features 3D animation but from what I have seen movement and action is definitely 2D style.
Jamie: The developers wanted to make a fully 3D game, but then play it from a side-scrolling point of view. The graphics allow a really nice game world, while the action is kept in the foreground of the screen. You can’t go everywhere in the game world, but there are springs which let you jump from one “layer” of the same area to the next. There are also a lot of platforming sections further into the game. The fact that it is 2D means that the controls can just use the keyboard, and the special moves in the combo based combat are mainly based on directions and button presses, so beat-em-up fans will like Dragonica too. I think it’s a strange combination in your head, but picture familiar old-school gameplay with a brand new, MMO setting. I haven’t come across someone who can’t pick the game up in 5 minutes.
BSN*: Well the game will be in 3D, so what are the minimum requirements for playing the game; will someone with notebook (exp. Asus eee pc) be able to play it?
Jamie: The system specs are very low, Windows 2000, 1.0 GHz processor, 512MB RAM and a 64MB graphics card. Basically anything made in the last 7 years. I have personally tested Dragonica on one of the small netbooks (an Acer one) and the game worked fine in low detail. The game just drops all the background animations and the gameplay stays at the same speed.
BSN*: Is the game player versus environment, player versus player, hybrid of both or one extreme with added bonus of other's gameplay type?
Jamie: Dragonica has a lot of different types of areas. Towns allow players to mingle and trade. The main fields let players explore and fight monsters alone or as a friend. Up to four players can enter into one of the mission maps, which contain bosses and give rewards to everyone who participates depending on how skillful they are. The PvP environment is like a console lobby, where players can create or join games, set up deathmatch or team modes, and start playing with up to ten people. There will be additional features and maps added at a later point as well. Later this year, the game will feature a 40 player Guild Wars mode, allowing 20v20 Emporia wars.
BSN*: In videos we can see an example of each player class fighting monsters and collecting shinies like in a arcade game. Where does the MMORPG element come in? Can you fight monsters in party of players or you had something else in mind?
Jamie: You can go on quests to earn items or money in a way familiar to players, or go on the main story quest to progress the storyline. You can also compete with other players in a variety of ways, trade with other players, and communicate. Everything that you expect in a fun, good MMORPG, just in a side-scroller.
BSN*: How far do you plan to go with character customization options? Do you plan to have basic look for everyone or allow different faces, hairstyles and colors?
Jamie: There are enough options between the four starting classes and two genders to give a wide selection of looks. However, lots of monsters and bosses drop items which can be worn, and others which players have found and are trading on the open market. There will be a lot of cool costumes in the cash shop, but there are also a wide variety of costumes to be earned for free so everyone can make their character theirs.
BSN*: When comparing classes when they are fighting monsters we can obviously see that fighter class is doing obscenely low damage compared to others. While we could say that these are only videos and final game could be different, we all know that every MMO has very low damage warrior classes. So what is the reason for that? What part of balance goes in fighter's favor in here?
Jamie: With regard to the majority of videos available online, most of these are recorded off much older builds. With the game now live in China, a lot of work has gone into rebalancing the character classes, and they work pretty well. Dragonica isn’t about raw strength and brute damage. The combat is combo based, so a good warrior player would take down an enemy by lunging forward and knocking their opponents down, moving in, hitting them down on the ground, then when they stand up sending them skyward, jumping up, comboing them in the air before smashing them down to the ground, and giving them a final smash for good measure. It’s quick paced, and good skillful players will really like the game. Also, you can hold the attack and press the different directions to pull off the move, so it’s not a particularly button bashing game.
BSN*: I have seen on YouTube some videos labeled Dragonica PvP and it appeared like something out of Mortal Kombat. Two players duking it out in small arena. Is there an option for party versus party or larger scale PvP in the game?
Jamie: Dragonica’s PvP is side-scrolling, and the multiplayer is most definitely beat-em-up style. In the main PvP mode, up to ten players can face off against each other, and the game really suits competitive gaming. There will be a forty player guild mode added later this year which will have a lot of new features, as well as additional levels and game modes for the PvP. Also, if you’re good in PvP you can earn special points which can be redeemed against a special suit of armour, which lets you show off that you’re good at PvP.
BSN*: If the game becomes popular have you thought about some sort of expansion or sequels?
Jamie: There will be lots of expansions to Dragonica, which we are expecting to deliver to players roughly every quarter. As for sequels, the truth is that I don’t know. We’ll see how players react to the game, and the developer will decide.
BSN*: Who is Mr.Potato, and why is he so secretive?
Jamie: I call him spud. I’m Irish, and potatoes are a big thing here. He’s our mascot and brand, and we hope that players will associate him with quality, free online games.
BSN*: In May it will be closed beta, and after that public beta. So can you tell when are you planning to release the “baked” product?
Jamie: The Closed Beta begins in May, so we’ll have thousands of players having a first look at the game, and after that the game will go into Open Beta, allowing all players to play Dragonica. The full “finished” game will be ready when Barunson have implemented all the features and content that they want to.
BSN*: Ok last question. I have seen player's heads transform into various animals or things. Like fighter's into a bear head, archer's into chicken's and the sickest part magician's into a frickin cannon. I am dying to know, what is the deal with that?
Jamie: There is a lot of humour in Dragonica. For example, when you get to the second beach, don’t be surprised to see a turtle dragging a banana boat with three sheep on it hitting a wolf being dragged behind. Special moves are split into three groups. Attacking moves are funny special moves, such as the warrior pulling out a giant hammer, the magician shooting a cannonball, the thief dipping his claws into poison and the archer firing a rocket launcher. Passive moves increase abilities, while the buffs such as the bear’s head temporarily make the player stronger, quicker or more capable of taking damage.
Thanks for the opportunity to tell your readers about Dragonica, which will be available this Summer in English, French and German for free from www.gPotato.eu