Available : June 2003
Anarchy Online: The Shadowlands Dev-chat Interview © Funcom
By Andreas Misund Berntsen.

Focusing on The Shadowlands: playfields & traveling in the new lands + upcoming Beta Test

  • Gaute Godager: AO Game Director
  • Thomas Johnsen: Community Manager
  • Morten Byom: Lead World Designer
  • Johan Karlsson: AO Lead Designer
  • John Helgi Thorainsson: Designer
  • Runar: Designer (story development, NPCs etc.)
  • Tom Erlend: Content designer (mission dungeon system, and NPCs)

[Gaute Godager] Hello everyone!
[Gaute Godager] We would like to thank you all for coming (back) to this AO dev-chat. We are very pleased that so many took time to join us today. We are all very excited about the upcoming Shadowlands expansion pack. One of the most important aspects of this upgrade to Anarchy-Online is the ambience, setting and general feeling of the Shadowlands themselves. That makes me even more excited especially about this chat. Even though words can not truly justify the beautiful places
[Gaute Godager] On a personal note, I would like you to cheer a tiny bit for Funcom today! We celebrate our 10th year anniversary these days. Having been there from the start (hehe, see how I snuck that in ;p) I can say the times have never been more exciting than this spring! Shadowlands, a sequal to the Longest Journey, another MMO in development and even minds left to think about the next booster pack for AO after the Shadowlands!! With that social booster pack on the cooker
[Gaute Godager] We would like to thank you all for coming (back) to this AO dev-chat. We are very pleased that so many took time to join us today. We are all very excited about the upcoming Shadowlands expansion pack. One of the most important aspects of this upgrade to Anarchy-Online is the ambience, setting and general feeling of the
[Gaute Godager] Shadowlands themselves. That makes me even more excited especially about this chat. Even though words can not truly justify the beautiful places and terrifying monsters appearing on our screens - more every day - they are truly important for this product, and will shape it a lot.

What will the restriction to gain access to Shadowlands be, and are all the pictures we've seen only of Shadowlands, or will there new playfields on the regular Rubi-Ka and by updated graphics what do you mean?

[Gaute Godager] Access to the Shadowlands Areas will be restricted to the buyers of the Expansion packs.
[Gaute Godager] The pics are all from the Shadowlands. The only new area in Rubi-Ka is the city of Jobe.
[Gaute Godager] That will also be restricted to buyers only.

When Anarchy Online first came out, one of the major selling points was the 4-year storyline that would run concurrent through the life of the game. Things did start out with a bang, but most of the events weren't considered "Story", so only a few of the developments could be considered part of the actual storyline that was planned. Now, 1 and a half years later, we're nearly halfway through that story schedule. Has the things that you set out in your 4 year plan been accomplished so far, or has that guideline been shortened/lengthened? Being the first MMORPG to promise this, it would be interesting to see how you think you're doing.

[Runar] The storyline is running, but firstly what has happened is that it has "stretched out". As we got through the initial phase of AO and productions and ideas had piled up and been made reality (NW for example), it became ever more clearer that the storyline would become stretched similarly. Shadowlands is the first really "significant" event...
[Runar] ...that has to do with the story. A major development will take place on Rubi-Ka as the Jobe Research scientists "drill" hole into the Shadowlands. The storyline may as I say stretch past the 4th year, but the important part is that we fill every step of the way with meaning and good content :)

How big a graphics update can we expect compared to todays AO?

[Morten Byom] In shadowlands we are focusing on making all aspects of the enviroment work together as best as it possibly can. The result is a world that looks fantastic if you ask me, and it looks much better ingame than what we have shown so far in screenshots. We have pushed the engine a little bit more and what we got out looks really good and still being able to keep a good framerate. We are also focusing a lot on making new and stunning world effects that will blow aw
[Morten Byom] that will blow away everything you have seen so far in AO. as you probably understand by now I am really excited about Shadowlands and I am really proud how it is turning out.

Along with the new outdoor playfields are there any plans for new indoor playfields (i.e. static dungeons)?

[Tom Erland] There will be a large amount of auto generated, static dungeons. These dungeons will have different loot and NPCs. A huge difference from today is that these dungeons will be auto generated, but one entrance will always spawn the same dungeon. These dungeons will work similar to static dungeons, with re-spawn of NPCs and treasure. We will not have mission dungeons like you know it, but every one of them will be connected to quests somehow :)
[Gaute Godager] We are also working on hand-made static dungeon(s). But it is too early to say the amount atm :)

What features do us tradeskillers have to look forward too and will jewelry crafting be able to have skill boost added to it? and when will we be able to make silver armor?

[John Helgi Thorainsson] Tradeskills will play a major role in The Shadowlands. You will be able to make variety of utilities that are vital to your survival, both consumed items and worn.
[ John Helgi Thorainsson] Also, you will be able to make totally new stuff, tradeskills will make exploration easier and you will be able to pave your way to special encounters through gathering resources and putting them together.

What about the two new characters... What will they be, and how will they work together with the previous chars..?

[Gaute Godager] We are making two new professions yes.
[Gaute Godager] It is still to early before we announce their uniqueness, though.
[Gaute Godager] It is important for me to mention that enhancing EVERY professions uniqueness is a very clear and important goal for us in the Shadowlands!
[Gaute Godager] I think you will notice how you stand out more, with the expansion.
[Gaute Godager] Thus we want the proffs to be a bit more balanced before we go into details. I hope you understand. Next chat, perhaps?

Is Shadowlands aimed at the whole AO audience or will it be level restricted, what I mean is new characters will find content there or is it aimed at higher level characters

[John Helgi Thorainsson] The Shadowlands is definitely for the whole of the Rubi-Ka population, and more; you can even create characters in there. The playfields that are easiest to access will of course contain monsters and tasks that are fit for low to medium level players, but a level 200 character will find challenges as well, right from the start.
[John Helgi Thorainsson] Obviously the journey will become harder, the further into the Shadowlands you get.

With the massive additional playfields will there be an upgrade to the existing world in terms of servers/handling of the playfields to handle the extra load?

[Gaute Godager] There are several major important aspects of the handling of extra load. Most importantly: We have learned a LOT since launch about playfield design, server load and several other things. Like
[Gaute Godager] First, there will be extra hardware for the new playfields. Secondly, each section of the playfields will be somewhat smaller than the Rubi-Ka playfields. Third: We are designing the playfields better, to spread important places around.
[Gaute Godager] Fourth: We have just turned on a new compression scheme for the playfields, that we are already seeing
[Gaute Godager] improvements in performance from. Hopefully it will all add up to a stable and enjoyable game!

Shadowlands will bring Specialisations and perks... that a bit fuzzy. can we get some info one what that really would add to our chars?
[Belith] Perks will be a way for your character to boost your power in certain skills. There are active perks and passive ones. The passive ones are like normal buffs today and the active ones will be useable in combat like a extra attack.
[Belith] The powerboost will be significantly and by combining special combat perks with team mates you will be able to boost it even more
[Belith] This is done so a perk cant be used unless an other profession has used his perk first. You will have to work better as a team if you want to trigger the best actions.
[Belith] Personally I love this new system and it will take your characters skills to the next level specially when it comes to combat =)
[gaute] Specialization is a way for players to get the nanos that grant the highest level characters the most power. Through quests (not missions) they will gain access to things that enables these powerful nanos. They are not available through normal shop or drop regime...
[gaute] Remember the skill budget for the Shadowlands can almost double the power of your character, so it is important that there is a challenge in gaining the full potential...

There has been a lack of high level content in Ao thus far, upping the xp for mission smobs QL200+ was a great move, but when are high level players gonna see more content? Inner Sanctum STILL isn't open yet.... do we have to wait till Shadowlands, where we will have to pay for our content?
[gaute] Thanks for liking the XP change.

[Gaute Godager] Inner Santum is slated for 14.9. I will now do some disclamers. We do not know when that comes out, but hopefully some time this spring / early summer.
[Gaute Godager] Now, with the Shadowlands - there will be a LOT of high level content!
[Gaute Godager] I hope there will be a lot of level 200 characters waiting to get in to the Shadowlands and take part in that action, because giving them stuff to do is very imporant in that package.
[Gaute Godager] We also feel the need for High level content - and SL is our big break there.

Can someone start in Shadowlands before in Rubi-Ka or not ?
[John Helgi Thorainsson] Yes, you can.

Related to the "snow screenshot"; Will be there seasons in Shadowlands or are these just snow regions?
[Morten Byom] There will not be changing seasons in shadowland, but the different zones all have very different weather types and environments. So traveling from one zone to another will be a change in season.
[Morten Byom] Gaute is forcing me to write out some of the names of the playfields. Do keep in mind that these are internal names and could be changed at a later time
[Gaute Godager] Hehe, I just want to let you guys have a feel of the different environments ;)
[Morten Byom] Nascense: This is the first playfield you will encounter. It will introduce you to the new aspect that shadowland is and you will experience a little bit of a lot :)
[Morten Byom] Inferno: as the name suggest this is a world that is dominated by fire and death. you will encounter large volcanoes and a burned out world.
[Morten Byom] Penumbra: the snow playfield. Biting cold with vicious snowstorms raging.
[gaute] (Just want to mention that each name is representative of a "playfield cluster". Like the street banks, in a way. They will be compromized of 2-5 parts (or playfields if you like)).
[Morten Byom] Elysium: The lush beautiful place with large forrests and beautiful waterfalls.
[Morten Byom] What all playfields have in common is that the laws of physics do not apply to shadowlands in the same respect as on Rubi-ka. The entire world has been ripped apart by an enourmous force.
[Morten Byom] so if you find large pieces of rocks floating around, its not a World Design bug :) don't sent me a report on it please :)
[Morten Byom] There are several more playfields, but I wont mention them here as this is starting to take too long :)
[Morten Byom] on a side note. The Shadowland playfields are very much about exploring and discovering. Its a journey from the beginning to the end.

Will the Agent profession still be the ongoing experiment that it is today? Or can we expect some TRUE Agent nanos that are useful and highly competitive to the other profession upgrades. If you are scrapping the Agent profession altogether.. what will our compensation be?
[Belith] I wouldn’t call the agent an ongoing experiment =). The agent profession will get a significantly boost in shadowlands with there own nanos. There will be less false profession nanos and more pure agent nanos and with these you will be competitive to other professions
[John Helgi Thorainsson] Scheol is the playfield where you leave the world of the living and start the journey through a underworld, filled with otherworldly beings and unnamed horrors... this is where you leave what you know and enter a world of chaos.
[John Helgi Thorainsson] Adonis. The great city, raised by the ancient civilization. Now a home of ghosts and some interesting little techno scavengers. This is a place you will be able to find help in unexpected places
[John Helgi Thorainsson] The last and scariest of all the main playfields is Pandemonium... it is a place where different pieces of the universe have been torn, twisted and thrown together, forming a place where danger looms at every footstep and nothing can be taken for what it seems to be.

Shadowlands has been said to introduce a new combat system, can you give us any details on this? will the new level cap in SL affect the new combat system? and last...how will ARK Events team expand into SL?
[Runar] Belith already covered the player-part of this with his walkthrough of perks and the new gameplay elements knowing how to use them fully will bring. But there is one vital part of a "new combat system" and that is how existing combat elements (damage per sec, DDs, debuffs etc.) work on NPCs, and that is what I want to elaborate a bit on.
[Runar] We are creating some new basics - redesigning certain core elements of the NPCs - to make them different. It will be subtly noticeable in some cases, directly in others. To sum up: With regards to non-pvp, there will be some changes that experienced players will subtly "feel"; SL mobs will be different on a very basic level.

I am assuming there will be a lot of focus towards adding thing to the professions via Shadowlands, and things in Shadowlands..... how do you plan on keeping the balance, as maybe not all people are able to get the expansion
[Gaute Godager] We will not try to maintain balance. There will be TONS of things people without the expansion can do, and some stuff will "trickle down", but balance wise it will not add up.
[Gaute Godager] That is not our goal, either. If we did not give people investing in the Shadowlands more power and cool items, no one would buy it.

Can we expect to see widely developed cities in the Shadowlands. How, advanced are the civilizations that have the conflict between them in the Shadowlands
[John Helgi Thorainsson] Cities. Depends what a City is in your eyes. Definitely there will be cities, but who knows what beings will live there, or how they will receive travelers : )
[John Helgi Thorainsson] There WILL be a lot of different settlements, villages and, well, even cities yes. Places where you will be able to get whatever you will need . Not all of them will be where you expect them to be, or even in places where you can get without some major effort.

We all know and love the many AO Characters, NPCs and ARK Events characters. Can we expect to see more storyline events and more characters in-game in the new Shadowlands expansion and in the game in general?? How about employing some professional RP-ers to play semi-full time characters in the game??
[Runar] Just the mention of ARKs brings a warm and cuddly feeling to my stomach. These people are faaaantastiiiic. Having said that J I can tell you that new and old characters will be popping up in different places in the Shadowlands.
[John Helgi Thorainsson] Sure will
[Runar] Their roles will be varied, ranging from sitting on some knowledge like a dragon on its gold, to having arrived at a crossroads in their lives (for better or worse). I would be spoiling a lot to spill my guts, obviously, so I'll suffice to say that you should be prepared for some unexpected or surprising developments in characters you have come to know and love (or hate, depending on if you are a Clan terrorist, an Omni scum or a Neutral fence-sitter, hehe).

And the last question of the evening is.... *drum roll* : When is the SL beta starting?
[Thomas Johnsen] We're aiming for the beta to start in April - likely towards the end of that month.
[Thomas Johnsen] I should also mention that we're going to run it a lot like the beta for Notum Wars, and invite core testers and people we have worked closely with first.