Massively: What lessons have you learned from prior projects and the previous expansion (City of Villains)?
Melissa Bianco: One of the lessons that we learned is just about planning. We always plan everything well, but on this expansion NCsoft really gave us the time and the resources to put a lot of effort and depth -- into the story, into the lore, into the assets. They supported us with a new graphical upgrade so we could really make this expansion shine and make it unique.
One of the things we really wanted to make sure of is even though we're a six year old game and have six years worth of content, we wanted to make sure we were innovating always, and NCsoft has definitely supported us with that. We also wanted to kind of reinvent the game a little bit for players that haven't seen it in a while. We really learned that you always have to step up your game, and we do with every issue, but an issue is a small chunk of time. With an expansion, though, that's where you want to be sure that the rubber hits the road, that you just nail it coming out of the gate. I think that we do that with every [update], but with this one we've stepped the bar up really high.
What does the expansion offer returning players?
Even if you're a veteran player, you can create a new Praetorian character. Praetoria is a 1-20 experience. So you get to experience this whole new universe with everyone else. It's all new, no one is ahead of you in any way. Hundreds of new missions, new badges, new places to explore... for the player who's never played before, we've got a brand-new tutorial, but for the veteran it's like a whole new world. You can reinvent a character and start over.
What kind of innovations would you say are at the center of the expansion?
The way we present our missions. Before, you'd kind of get a wall of text -- we'd try to explain our story with a lot of text, and for some people that's just way too much. Now what we do is use dialogue trees. We've used those before, but we've really taken those and expanded on them in this one. So it's almost like you're having a conversation.
Some people want to know all of the notes, but some people really just want to get to the meat of it and get playing. So for those that really want to find out the lore, we can use those dialogue trees. We're also using a lot more custcenes to tell the story -- we've used those before, but now, any time you go through a really signature moment, like having a really important conversation, you get a really nice cutscene.
We also have phasing contacts -- so, for example, in this mission if Belladonna was standing on this street corner and you took her down, from then on she's gone [for that character]. But another player might see her, because that player hasn't taken her down. We're also doing things like sabotage and subterfuge. So if I'm in a mission for Praetor White, Calvin Scott might gives me a call and ask me to damage the Praetor's files -- and I can do that. Then you go back to your contact, and they recognize the choices that you've made and they react accordingly.
We've put a lot of time and effort into building the lore around the stories, and so players can really experience that it is a shade of gray between the two factions, it's not black and white. One of the things the players have really told us is that in this game, it's all about their characters. The reason we have so much customization from powersets to costumes, auras, creation, is because you don't want to be a carbon copy of the guy next to you. Our players feel very strongly that their character has its own unique journey, and so we're trying to really support that with our mission system, and make them feel like "wow, this is something that's happened to my character and is very personal to them."