As part of our 'Atlantica Online in October ' promotion, NDOORS has agreed to write four developers journals for exclusive publication at Allakhazam. This week, Kim Tae Gon, Producer of Atlantica Online chimed in on the goal to make Atlantica Online a 'unique experience'. The Journal entree -- which is primarily about the turn based combat system (that can be loosely defined as a 'console RPG-MMO hybrid') is well written and by an individual that knows the industry, and has a clear focus as to what he wants his game to be.
Getting Turned On
When we first started working on Atlantica, one of our foremost goals was to create an online gaming experience that was unique. In a genre dominated by games that seek to emulate their most successful competitor -- I think you know the game I'm referring to here -- we took it on as our duty to present the gaming world something new and fresh. At the heart of Atlantica, you find the turn-based combat system. This adds a level of strategy that we believe is seldom found in today’s MMORPGs.
Unlike most online games, where you control a single character, a large part of a player's "character" development in Atlantica actually revolves around finding and hiring various mercenaries to fight alongside you. When entering a fight with a monster or another player, you find yourself in charge of moving not only yourself, but up to eight additional other characters that you have picked up during your travels. If you think of these mercenaries as your friends, then your strength and effectiveness becomes largely about who you know.
While you have options like class to choose from when creating your main character, that character is more of a starting point from which to build your strategy. Your character’s development is augmented by the wide variety of allies you can bring together. This allows you to change your team's capabilities and focus to match any situation. By implementing the character development system in this way, we think we’ve created a system that allows the player maximum flexibility while maintaining character balance.
One comment we see a lot is, "The idea of a turn-based MMO seems boring." But more often than not, that comment is followed up with "That's why I was so surprised by how fast-paced the action is!" Adapting turn-based combat to online play was a challenge we were happy to rise up to. Several of the design choices we made in this regard are probably pretty self-explanatory.
When combat begins, the combatants are divided between two sides and are facing each other in the field. Let's take an example of PvE with a party of up to three players (and when each player can control nine characters, that’s quite an army!) against three monsters (monsters also control multiple characters, the same as players). Each side takes its turn together, so that all three players move at once, followed by all three monsters moving in unison. Your turn is timed, so you only have 30 seconds to decide what you're going to do. When you’re faced with a strong defense to overcome, 30 seconds seem to disappear much quicker than you thought. You find yourself having to think on your feet, which isn’t something most people expect when faced with turn-based battles.
In addition, each player (and monster) can only move five of his characters in one turn. Different characters have different amounts of "Action Power," which controls how frequently they can act. Even if all of your mercenaries are ready in one turn, you have to pick the five you want to perform an attack. There are several reasons behind this, one of which is to add another factor to deal with in your scant 30 seconds. This increases the sense of urgency in battle, especially if against a difficult foe. This also forces players to prioritize their strategies, since each mercenary in your formation has different specializations and abilities that affect the flow of battle in different ways.
The central aspect of strategy in Atlantica revolves around formation. Every player's team is laid out in a 3-by-3 grid reminiscent of an ancient phalanx. Each mercenary can be classified as either a melee, ranged or magic mercenary. Melee mercenaries are generally strong tanks, but they can only hit the front of the enemy formation, while ranged mercenaries are more fragile but can hit a wider range of targets. One common formation has melee fighters taking positions along the front line to protect a row of marksmen attacking from the middle, while mages provide various support and nuke spells from the rear. Of course, there are mercenaries who are designed specifically to disrupt spells and skills of other types of mercenaries. While this basic formation works for many, we've also seen successful PvPers who dominate with other less conventional approaches.
I hope this has given you an idea of what combat is like in Atlantica, or if you’re already an Atlantica veteran, some insight into our approach in making the game the way we did. Perhaps we shall meet in Atlantis and share stories of our many adventures!
Kim Tae Gon
Producer - Atlantica Online