We recently had the chance to sit down with Co-Founder and VP Business Development and Programmer of NP Cube, Laurent Parent on their newest game, Dark and Light. This MMORPG boasts some impressive figures when it comes to game space. How will Dark and Light measure up compared to games like Neverwinter Nights and Star Wars Galaxies? Check out the following interview to see where Dark and Light is headed.
the Junkyard: Please tell us a little bit about yourself, your position and background.
Laurent P. Parent: Hi, my name is Laurent P. Paret, Co-Founder and VP Business Development and Programmer. My background is more technical than anything else, and I have worked on many games in the past for other companies for various platforms such as Alone in the Dark 2 and 3, The Devil Inside, From Dusk Till Dawn, and many others. I can say that it's the first MMORPG Iíve worked on and that the team I'm working with is the kind of team everyone dreams to work with. We do a lot of hard work (as usual in this industry), and have a lot of fun as well!
tJY: Can you tell us a little bit about NP Cube and it's history in the gaming industry?
Laurent: Well, NP Cube was founded in August 2002 by 5 people, with 4 of them coming from the video game industry. One of them, Cesar Jacquet Ė CEO, comes from the IT industry. In fact, this is him who gathered everyone to form NP Cube. The other founders are Christope Nazaret - Programmer, Vincent Pelisson - Art Director, and Vincent Pourieux - Programmer. Everyone had his own experience and has worked in the same company but never worked all together until now. Cesar came to Vincent Pourieux (aka Pix to differentiate from Vincent Pelisson, aka Plis) 2 years ago and presented a project that was to become Dark and Light. Pix started to talk to Cesar closer after Cesar saw the terrain rendering technology Pix was developing. As a visionary, Cesar quickly saw the advantage of such a thing to create a bigger, greater idea than the original one. Then Cesar talked to a couple of his friends who were already involved in the project back in Reunion Island, where weíre located And they came up with what is Dark and Light today. Then, Stephane Quilichini, Gilles Zedde and Frederic Caille designed (mostly in their heads) with Cesar what Dark and Light should be. And, as far as I know, they brainstormed a lot. They were all Everquest players and fans and also traditional RPG players and Game Masters with limited computer gaming development knowledge. So Pix asked a bunch of guys to work on the project (the 4 seniors), and after a lot of talking everyone decided to move to Reunion Island to develop the game. Then many other people joined us to make a solid as a rock team. Today, we have 10 people in house and we work with 5 to 10 external people for graphics. Two musicians are involved in the project as well.
tJY: With Dark And Light having the largest game-play area of any MMORPG, are you worried about not having enough people to fill up enough space? How are you prepared to deal with this potential problem?
Laurent: First of all, we have one server. So, everyone will be on the same server.
Thanks to the transportation system, we added a notion of hot spot that gives the player the ability to move to where there is in his community.
This question is the main problem of every game in this genre. So, while I will not tell you that you will never feel alone, youíll actually never be alone... In fact because of our past experience in scripted off line games and thanks to the Game Designers who played a lot online games, we have chosen to always give hints about the environment to the player. The game communication systems were also developed to always be in touch with people from your community. With our ALF (Autonomous Life Form) system, we can have a lot of life close to you. ALFs are popped in your area to disturb you. Many game mechanics exist to entertain you.
tJY: Your slogan is "The Largest Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Game (MMORPG) you've ever seen!". Just how big is DnL?
Laurent: Hum, DnL is a 200kms by 200kms seamless terrain. Itís about 15,000 square miles area. We voluntary limited the surface to make future extensions. In the DnLís forum, the community says that itís currently 20 times bigger than SWG. There are not only mountains and prairies, but there are also oceans and seas. And a wide range of climates, of course.
tJY: Will the servers be solely hosted by dedicated DnL servers or will any person who owns the game be able to host a server?
Laurent: There is only one server which hosts DnL. And one server only for the entire planet. So many people from many countries will be able to play all together.
tJY: Since there is only one server, is it possible to exhaust the server if too many people join the game?
Laurent: With the system we use, it is difficult to exhaust the server. But, never say never. The technology is very stable and is intended to support scalability. If many people are in the same place at the same time in a specific area, the server will automatically focus its efforts on this specific area. On the Client side, the player only sees the closest players and the important ones (based on priorities, vision radius, and many other variables). The server side has the same kind of features/processes per cluster for a player and NPCs.
tJY: Are there any estimates on how much this game will cost monthly, and how are you ensuring that people will stay with the game?
Laurent: The monthly fee is not decided yet, but I can tell you that it will not be higher than the other games. For the second part of the question, there are many things to discover and the world cannot be entirely discovered in a month due to its size. And, we are also pretty confident with the game mechanics Stephane and Gilles designed.
tJY: Will there be a specific ratio of the different races or classes in a world? For example, if players wish to, could everyone in a server be a dwarf, or is there a system to deal with this problem?
Laurent: We already have tested this using our web site. And the result of the opinion poll is that it seems to be very promising. In fact the result looks like a Gaussian curve.
tJY: If one person can have multiple characters in a family, will different people on multiple accounts be able to live in the same family?
Laurent: The answer is YES! We currently manage a family of characters. So you can play on only one account or play occasionally with 2 accounts.
tJY: Will players be able to communicate with each other? If so, how is this done?
Laurent: We have a chat system with multiple channels that you can mix as you wish. You can create your own channel as well!
tJY: How is the elimination of the zoning effect possible without overwhelming the computer running it, and will it create large load times?
Laurent: DnL is seamless... The terrain database is generated in real time procedurally which really helps.
tJY: Can you tell us a little bit about the dynamic weather effects that you have planned for DnL? What type of effects will be seen... rain, snow, wind?
Laurent: We currently implemented a weather management layer which is based on the location (North, SouthÖ) and the altitude. The temperature and wind are also involved. All of these parameters give us the ability to create snow, rain, storms, hurricanes, tornados, and frozen lakes. Clouds are moving in the sky and the 2 half moons influence the weather. Finally, you also find micro-climates (showers).
tJY: How much will the weather affect the gameplay? Will it simply be asthetic or will there be strategic advantages depending on the conditions?
Laurent: Hey, you got it all! Weather conditions certainly make you play differently, especially when you have to walk in snow. Depending on the weather conditions, some monsters can be popped or not, and be more or less aggressive. For crafts you also have the notion of bonuses in regard to weather conditions. Certain areas are accessible during winter thanks to frozen lakes. When spring arrives, the snow disappears, and hidden items will be revealed.
tJY: Just how scalable will the engine be and how is NP Cube planning on making it scalable enough to allow a variety of players with a variety of computers play cooperatively?
Laurent: We are currently developing the PC version, but we are keeping in mind that other platforms exist. So we currently focus our efforts on PC optimizations and code specialization, and then we will do the same thing for other platform for efficiency.
tJY: Your first ingame video had a system running with these specs: Athlon XP1800+, GeForce4 4400, 512MB DDRAM. Are players going to have to own rigs like this in order to play DnL comfortably and if so, aren't you afraid that you'll be excluding a large majority of the gaming community because of this?
Laurent: Moderate and hardcore gamers are our first target audience. And at the time DnL will be on shelves, this configuration will certainly be a moderate one.
tJY: For those planning on attending this year's ECTS (August 27, 28 and 29 in London) and the Tokyo Game Show (September 26, 27 and 28), what can we expect to see from DnL there?
Laurent: We will show the game (Beta 1) with a lot of new visual effects that are currently still in development. And more of the gameplay will be shown for sure.