Soul Master Interview: How Innovative?
Questions by Vincent Haoson, OnRPG Journalist
Answered by: Andrew Fernandez, Soul Master Producer
OnRPG: The game boasts that it's a genre bending MMORTS, what reasons do you have to prove this claim?
Soul Master merges the most successful features of multiple genres in such a way that it creates a gaming experience completely separate from anything that's out there in the industry right now. It has the action-oriented game play of a brawler, with the strategy and tactics of an RTS, and the character development and rewarding progression of an RPG. Players directly control their character that has a unique set of skills based on their class and level, are able to find, craft, and upgrade their own equipment, and go on quests and missions like an RPG. At the same time they're able to make buildings to produce and upgrade an army of units, construct towers and walls for base defense, and fight over resources like an RTS. What we've aimed to do is take the most compelling concepts of numerous genres and combine them in unique ways to create something entirely new in terms of game play.
Attacking enemy base
OnRPG: What game systems will Soul Master have? (can you elaborate on the features the game has?)
We've got a number of different game play modes and in-game systems that will definitely keep things entertaining for the entire time a player's in the game. There are "Challenge" missions, storyline scenarios, and boss raids in particular which will make up the majority of the PvE content. Players will be able to pick up quests from the towns and complete them during any of the missions or scenarios they take on, depending on what the assignment is. The "Challenge" missions focus more on the RPG aspect of the game, and act like dungeons where players will need to team up with other players and fight through several maps one after the other before reaching a boss or very difficult group of monsters at the end. The storyline missions have a number of different game modes such as base defense, caravan escort, survival challenges, laying siege to enemy strongholds, etc. They're going to be more like set-piece scenarios more reminiscent of an RTS with cut scenes and scripted events that players can go through together. Boss raids combine both and put you and your party up against huge, hard to beat unique monsters with better rewards. Throughout all of these your character is able to acquire loot from monsters, earn rewards, and level up. As you level you're able to unlock new units and additional abilities for your character. Back in town you can also do everything from crafting to forming guilds, and also upgrade your armor and weapons to have special stat bonuses which will improve everything from how fast you build your buildings to how quickly your character's skills cool down after use. This means that you can completely change your playing style in PvP just by switching to a different set of gear loaded with different stat benefits.
OnRPG: Will there be a PVP system in place? How will this work in Soul Master?
It's going to be one of the largest parts of the game, and personally I think the one that players are going to enjoy the most. PvP will be done by entering a game lobby that can be accessed from any of the towns in the game, where they can join rooms separated by level range that other players have made or create one of their own with the settings they like for up to 6 people. After a player enters a game room they can decide which items from their inventories they want to bring in with them to the match, which map to play on, what the teams are, and then once everyone has clicked that they're ready the host will be able to start the PvP match. The goal of the match is to either destroy your enemies' bases entirely, or kill each of the other team's characters until they run out of lives and can't respawn anymore. What we're looking forward to most is watching players develop effective PvP strategies, and seeing tactics evolve to counter them.
High level unites
OnRPG: How does the resource driven RTS combat system work in the game's overall gameplay?
During both PvP matches and most of the PvE missions and scenarios there are resource points around the map guarded by NPC monsters or owned by enemy players. As you take these over you'll continue to get more resources which you can use to create buildings that either produce units or serve as defense like walls, towers, and structures that automatically repair the other buildings around them. You'll also use the resources you have to create units and upgrade their abilities during a match, and progress through the tech trees which grant you access to your stronger, higher tier units with more powerful special abilities.
OnRPG: Can you explain how players can get the units that they use in the game? How can players take part in battles and control their units all at the same time?
By completing certain storyline scenarios and progressing through the game players are able to unlock access to new and more powerful units with better special. These units can then be built when a player gains enough resources and makes the necessary buildings when they are playing any PvP match or PvE mission afterwards. Back in town, the units a player has access to can be permanently leveled up as their character advances, and their units will carry those upgrades with them into future matches. Units can also be given temporary improvements to things like attack and defense during a match that will last until the game is over, but in each individual mission or PvP match players will need to gather resources, build buildings, and create their units again like you would in an RTS. The way the RPG and RTS aspects function together is that your character is basically the general commanding an army and can also use special combat abilities of their own to fight. Soul Master uses a non-targeting combat system, which means that instead of selecting a monster and attacking them automatically, you need to swing or use one of your character's special attacks in the direction of your enemy and you'll hit whatever's in the way of your weapon, or miss if they see it coming and dodge away. While you're fighting with your character manually and capturing resource points, you can use hotkeys (or click) to control the RTS side of the game and build your buildings and units back at your base, set rally points for them to go to after they're made, and give them upgrades. While they will fight nearby enemies on their own, you can call your units to follow you and command them to attack in a certain direction or use their special abilities where you tell them to. While you're sending a group of units to attack in one direction you can call another group to come with you to another area, and still have the other group following your orders on the far side of the map while your character is personally fighting elsewhere.
Knight and mob fighting
OnRPG: Is there a class system in place in Soul Master? (If you can't give details can you give us a little info about it?)
We view the different character selection options as something of a combination between an MMO's job classes and an RTS' different factions. Each faction, the "Valiant Empire" for the Knights and Slayers, the "Harmony Tribe" for Bearcats and Maharites, and the "Holy Empire" for Priests and Chrisnians, have their own types of units with unique skills that are used by both of the faction's character classes. So say the Maharite and Bearcat will have access to the same types of RTS units, but they have completely different character skills and abilities, which still makes playing them a very different experience from one another. The Knight is a well rounded melee class that does well in both attack and defense. The Slayer is a two-handed sword wielding, high damage dealer. The Bearcat is a fast, mid-range fighter that excels at laying traps and scouting. The Maharite is a powerful long-range class that excels at improving their RTS units' abilities. The Priest is also a long-range fighter, but can heal and strengthen allied units and characters around them. The Chrisnian is an agile close-range fighter who wields dual swords and can get into and out of a fight quickly. We've made it a point to maintain a careful balance between the strength of the 6 individual character types, as well as each of the 3 factions' units.
OnRPG: In the game's trailer, it seems that one character is in control of more than 4 units, how does this work? And does this mean that even PVE is big in Soul Master?
Right now for PvP matches and PvE missions the unit cap for each player is at 60. Each unit takes up 2 or more points towards that limit, with higher tier and more powerful units taking up more. So each player right now can control up to 30 different units at once, and when playing a 6 player game, there can be 180 units battling it out around the field alongside the 6 player-controlled characters and dozens of NPC monsters that guard the various resource points. 6 player games can get fairly large, and we're still aiming to increase both the number of players that can fight at once as well as increasing the available unit cap to allow for some pretty epic battles.
OnRPG: How big are the maps in Soul Master? Will it be able to host the number of players and their units as they travel the world?
The way Soul Master works is that players won't be able to run around with their armies of units while in the neutral town areas which serve as meeting hubs where they can accept quests, form parties, and go off on missions together or enter PvP rooms. Currently the PvP maps we have available hold 6 players at a time, but they need to be pretty big in order to be able to do even that. Since players are controlling entire armies of units that would mean 6 armies of about 30 units each, plus the characters themselves, plus the monsters around the map which guard the resource points each team needs to take, which makes for a total of over 200 characters and creatures fighting it out on the same map. There also needs to be room for players' starting bases, additional buildings, neutral resource points to fight over, etc. so they're pretty extensive. Depending on the type of PvE mission you go on there can be several large maps like these linked together, and parties of players need to progress through in order to complete, similar to an MMORPG dungeon with loot drops and bosses at the end.
Knight and his units
OnRPG: What's the game's storyline and how are players part of game's story?
We're continuing to develop the storyline, and there are going to be some changes made to how the quests and missions go through it and the player takes part in it. Basically the three factions, which are the Valiant Empire, Harmony Tribe, and Holy Empire, are at war with each other over control of a single continent. The Holy and Valiant Empires used to be one large nation called Elamond, but after they discovered Magic it tore the Empire apart. Half of the population embraced Magic, but began to study and experiment with it too deeply, while the rest of the Empire was afraid of its destructive power and the consequences that its research and mastery could bring about. A civil war split the Empire in two, and the faction that would become the Valiant Empire, the ones that distrusted magic, fled to the North after they were beaten by the magic using side which would form the Holy Empire. While in exile, the Valiant Empire turned to technology as a means of defending themselves, and the war came to a stalemate. A powerful group of nomads known as the Harmony Tribe that claimed the same region as their long lost homeland suddenly appeared in the midst of the uneasy truce between the two Empires, and toppled the three factions into war. The quests and missions for each faction revolve around this constant state of war where each side is trying to defend their own nation while taking control of enemy held land which they believe to be rightfully theirs.
OnRPG: Will there be any latency problems when players start to flock the game? Why or why not?
We're preparing to have thousands of players in Soul Master around the clock 24/7, and there still shouldn't be any latency problems involved. Each mission and PvP match is in its own instanced area, and the largest number of people you can have in a match or mission where you control your armies of units is 6 right now. We also have several channels prepared for the launch, as well as additional hardware ready to go in case we need it. So we're pretty confident that if you have a fairly decent computer with a fairly decent connection, you shouldn't experience much difficulty while playing the game.
OnRPG: How has Soul Master development been? Have you guys faced any hitches in preparation for the game's CBT?
It's been going rather well actually. We've been taking time to analyze the balance between our MMO versus RTS and PvE versus PvP game play systems, and focusing on getting more content added in the directions we see things could be the most fun for people. Our intention is to release the game for CBT when there's nothing more we can find that needs to be improved on, which I think the community will definitely appreciate once they get their hands on it and see how deep the game play actually goes.
OnRPG: How many players will you be letting in the game's CBT? What are the things you will be opening for players in the game's CBT?
We're trying to get as many people into the CBT as possible, and we haven't set a final limit on the count just yet. We'll be doing so based on the traffic and registration patterns we're seeing as CBT approaches, so it's definitely advisable to register as soon as possible in the eventuality that we need to close off entry into the CBT if there are too many registrants for the type of controlled monitoring of the game that we need to be doing during CBT so we know what to fix, change, and improve before OBT.
OnRPG: How long do you expect the game needs before its open for CBT
Right now we're continuing to develop additional content and as we come across ideas for new in-game systems or missions and scenarios we're adding them in as soon as they're developed, tested, and polished. We already have more than enough content for a successful CBT, but we're of the school of thought where if we can make the game better overall by taking another week to add in something that people are going to have fun with then we will. CBT will definitely be open this summer, with a target date of July right now when everyone will be able to jump in and play. We're also considering running a pre-CBT earlier than that for certain members of the gaming public, but we'll be able to release more specifics about that later.
OnRPG: What's in store for players in the game's CBT?
Soul Master's game play going into CBT is already more solid than most released titles, and we've got a fairly intense content update schedule going on right now which will be kept up throughout the game's first year of open service. We're looking forward to seeing players' reactions when they see exactly how deep the game actually is, and the strategies and tactics they'll develop once they get a grasp of the mechanics during CBT. We're very confident that the game will more than meet the community's expectations, and that they're going to be having fun with it for a long time to come after trying it for the first time this summer.
OnRPG: Thank you for your time!