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GDC09: Runes of Magic has lots more in store

We had the opportunity to sit down with the Runes of Magic team at GDC last week. As one of the strongest free-to-play entrants in the MMO genre in the last little while, we've been very curious as to some of the things they have in store for the future. Luckily the guys from Frogster didn't disappoint as they sat down and gave us some hints of the many things that players can look forward to in upcoming months.

Unlike many MMO publishers, the Frogster team is actually maintaining a fairly large live team; 65 people are currently working on Runes of Magic. Normally when an MMO launches, you'll see the teams cut down to about 20 or 30 people. That said they have a fairly ambitious schedule of things they want to release, so maintaining a full live team was something they said they felt was important to do. The Runes of Magic live team are looking to publish new content approximately every four months.

Gallery: Runes of Magic Gallery | 68 Photos

GM Icarii was nice enough to show off his shiny armor and play tour-guide

For example the next large update is expected as late as July but they're trying for an earlier launch date. This next update will bring in elves as a racial choice for new players, as well as bringing in two new classes. They have hinted that the new classes may be elven racial only, and we heard the words Runedancer and Druid mentioned - but quickly silenced. Looks like we'll all have to keep an eye out for more news in that regard.

Along with the new race and two new classes, the Runes of Magic team are also adding in lots of refinements to the already existing world. Some of the things that we were treated to hearing about were as basic as new sky textures so that the world will have the sun and moon; adding in underwater visual effects and breathing so that they can look at implementing underwater battles; priests will be getting a new revive which will reduce debt from death penalties; scouts are getting some love in terms of crowd control; and new elite skills are coming out for levels 30, 35, 40 and 45.

You'll need those skills against nasty guys like this

As if all of that weren't enough, they will be adding in a new Pig mount for players who like to collect unique mounts, and when someone suggested it be able to dig up items, they agreed that sounded fun. (Who knows, they may try incorporating it!) While the current pet system is a bit on the "meh" side, there's word that we will soon get a system to train and raise pets for combat or to sell to other players as a pet trainer profession. They are also adding in an Ice Beast and Burrower mounts to allow up to three players to ride on them together. To further customize all mounts, they are going to allow players to add their guild flags on their mounts. In terms of guilds, they are working on the guild castle siege mechanics, which they say will really require guilds to pull together to win. Finally they're adding in new soundscapes, which will bring in everything from background music and ambient noise to mob cries/howls and NPC dialogue.

It looks like the Frogster team is dedicated to ensuring that Runes of Magic remains one of the strongest titles in the free-to-play field. Offering so much great new content for free will certainly draw a great deal of player interest. We're looking forward to catching up with the Frogster team again for more behind-the-scenes looks into the game, and will report back if we pick up any more juicy tidbits from them!

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