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Interview: Stephane Quilichini from Dark and Light

Dark and Light is being hailed as one of the largest game worlds we will ever set in for a Massively Multiplayer Online game. Developed by NP Cube this is a game which has attracted gamers the world over, but has been silent since E3'04.

Selenia tracks down the man himself, to ask questions expanding upon what we've all learned since E3, with exclusive screenshots too!

Interview: Stephane Quilichini - Selenia (07-28-04)

Hello and thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions about your upcoming game Dark and Light. First off, would you mind telling us who you are, and what role you have in DnL's development?
Hi, my name is Stephane QUILICHINI and I am one of the lead game designers of DnL.

What is the premise of Dark and Light?
DnL wants to be more than a MMORPG, it is well and truly a virtual world in which gamers can progress on many axes. The will to have one and only server for all our gamers explains our choice to have this unique world of Ganareth alive. The mythology in DnL is of medieval fantastic type with some originalities like delta plane self controlled flight or balloon tranrfortation.

Flying Into The Sun
What kind of games do you primarily play, and were they a big part in developing your book?
These days mostly MMORPGs, Horizons most recently. My creative energies were also aimed primarily at them, although my next project will be a single-player game. As a result MMORPGs are woven throughout the book, not in the two chapters devoted to them. All types of games are represented however, and for the book I played dozens on all platforms.

Dark and Light is being hailed as the largest mmo ever. Several questions pertaining to that: With the game world being so large, and claimed to even have room to add onto, how will people populate all that land mass? Will the story arc and quests of the game lead you to explore far flung lands, similar to City of Heroes or World of Warcraft, or are they just kinda “there”?
Gamers will decide to populate that land of Ganareth or they likeliness, with of course meeting point as the great city of Al Drifa. We do consider exploration as progression way itself as combat, such a huge world give full sense to that idea. Of course we have solutions to permit gamers to group themselves according to they affinities in a constructive and efficient way, with a notion of "hot spot" , and a gamer or group of gamers deciding to explore wild and savage area will do so without fear of coming across many people on they way.

Also a gamer or group of gamer willing to enrol in a fight will be able to do it quickly. So in DnL we have four progression ways which are:
- Exploration
- Combat
- Craft
- Politics
So yes exploration is really an axis of this game that justifies such a huge terrain.

What are your proposed system req's for the game?
P IV 1.5 GHz or Athlon equivalent, 512 Mo minimum, DX9 3D card with 128 MO Vram. Are the minimum requirements to keep your horizon at 50 kms in the game, but with less detail closer. The best is to boost your RAM with a quick high quality product up to 750 Mo or 1 Go of RAM. The last 3D card (NVidia 6800 or ATI 800) are top even the ATI 9800Pro is quite ok these last one are getting more affordable now. Of course fast processor will help, at the difference of other games we are in Open GL and the power of the 3D card is of a less importance at a certain level compared to the RAM (quality and quantity) and the processor's power.

Will character advancement be level based, skill based, or a combination of both?
It really is a mix of the two. Our singularity is having two real separates axis of level, the FXP (Fighting eXperience Points) and the SXP (Social eXperience Points) in lieu and place of the classical XP of level based game. And also at a certain level appears some Skills of research witch are equivalent to a system of "skill based" as you need a minimum skill level to start, then no more skill points are necessary, but a search based on more /less complex quests to acquire abilities. We believe DnL has its own identity on the development of the gamer, the return seams favourable we are awaiting for the real tests to fine tune if needed.

How exactly is PvP going to be implemented? There's obviously the factional based conflict there, is that going to work out for large armies of players going at each other, or is it more suited to small scale encounters?
PVP is very flexible in the number of gamers involved. In fact it will greatly depends on the target, as an example to take a fortress will need less people than the one of a barony also compare to the one for a county and so on… We manage effectively thanks to the Gods intervention the unbalance combats. A gang of guild organised gamers will not be allowed in total impunity to attack 10 to 1 each of the fortresses on they way. PvP in DnL is looked after… there are some surprises here for the pure PKs.

Armed and Ready
There has been a large amount of hype surrounding the weather system in DnL. Would you mind explaning what makes this system so revolutionary and hype worthy?
In DnL there is a real climate system, and a day of Ganareth is 84 minutes which gives approximately a change of season in the game each week and then a full year in a month of heart life. For example winter as a different height of snow depending of the latitude the position and the height in Ganareth, objects could then be totally recovered by the snow during winter, lakes are freezing permitting to go to certain places only in winter. The wind could bring clouds which in numbers could bring rain and snow if temperatures are bellow zero Celsius … but maybe the most interesting part to my eyes is that most of our quests are linked to the climate, the location and the astronomy to have better chance of success. For example forge a sword in town will give a success rate of X % and the fact of waiting for the best time or to go to the good location will considerably increase the rate of success. This will become very important for object with very high ingredient quality. To make it short DnL has a real dynamic climate system that reinforce that unique immersion felling.

How is your server technology set up to support an "unlimited" amount of players? Wouldn't it just be one big laggy mess?
We have spent almost a year integrating an Australian technology « BigWorld » to our 3D engine. .this server technology is based on a cellular system enabling an almost unlimited number of gamers to in the same world without server lag. Of course there is the problem of the lag client when the gamer's machine must show many hundreds of people on screen in real time. It is evident that the most powerful machine will be ahead in the on screen display in these conditions.

How are along is the game in development, and when is the expected release date? Is the beta test going well, or are you coming across a number of unforeseen bugs in the world?
The game's development is on schedule except for one good month of delay due to the implementation of some new server resources from BigWorld. The next great beta phase will be in week's time and will bring our first NPCs to life in our beta. NPCs combat will also be available even if we have not yet implemented all the combat skills. Then 15 days after will be the test of 5000 beta tester together to check the server…Also we are starting our new servers witch will be the base unit of our farm of servers. We are thinking of having our game in release by the end of 2004 and of course it can be one or two month in 2005 if more fine tuning are necessary. The hard core development part of the game is due to be finalized in October 2004.

In the faq it mentions an “offline active player mode” for both crafting and handing situations in which the player goes link dead. How does that work exactly?
The idea is that a gamer cannot stupidly die in combat for a sever problem when he is on a winning side. In that case, the gamer will have the choice of accepting a default script driving his character to continue the fight or to run away during a server lag. Many different scripts will be available on release or combat phases as well as for craft phase. In term a script language will b available but this is not a priority.

You have two ways of gaining experience points, for both fighting and social points, correct? In what situations would such points be granted to a character?
Yes in effect we have 2 axis of parallel development to manage playing DnL. The combat phases will mainly give FXP, and the craft phase will mainly give SXP. Exploration and politics will give FXP and/or SXP depending on the different phase of the game.

Again from the faq, it mentions a time lock from switching from a Light to a Dark character on the same account. What exactly is the intention of this system, as any hardcore griefer type could easily just log into another account?
The more high level your character will be in the dark or light side the more difficult and time consuming it twill be for your character to switch side. This to limit the spy temptation of a gamer. And of course we cannot spot a gamer to connect himself on another account... but to our estimation this will not be very frequent.

Our Treehouse! No Gnomes Allowed
What unique features set Dark and Light out from among the crowd of current and upcoming contenders?
To be different, we try in this game to have a lot of new things; one of them is to push to the maximum our concept of virtual world, more than game arenas. To do so the game design at start has been worked toward this concept. Our first beta tester hare unanimous to say that the immersion sensation in our world is something out of the ordinary.

Fairies and Elves? Lots of different Elves... What was some of the major factors in developing playable race selection, and how important is what race you choose to your in game advancement?
The most important for the choice of race is to be well aware that the type of divine alignment that we could be cut of. The faction with other NPCs and PCs could then affect the all life of the gamer. Some combination in effect gives a lot of power but make the character unplayable in the relation between players. It's a full part of the role play in DnL.

Are the thousands of citadels you are said to be implementing the only type of player housing that will be available, or will there be smaller scale buildings as well? What benefit does a citadel grant a player or guild, anyway?
Yes there are thousand of citadels in DnL and they will be created only in relation of the density of gamers in the world, to maintain a challenge to the gamer. Guilds and gamers will be allowed to have they home and land in DnL. These houses could well be protected zone or not and then be destroyed. That house option may not be present at the release of the game but will be implemented rapidly.

I would like to thank you again for taking the time to speak with us, and wish you good luck on your upcoming release of Dark and Light. Is there anything else you'd like to share with us, or comment on?
Thanks again for the interest that you have toward our title. Many are amazed buy independent character of our team, with the ambition to do "such an enormous game" in the same path as the one of the titles of the majors of the video game… To tell the truth this has never been our aim to be there, we really wanted at first to do a game that should be different and that pleased us. Because we did not find the game we wanted on the market. And I must deeply thank our community of gamers that are behind us for almost 2 years now, without them we will never have been able to make the impossible happens... :)

To learn more about this upcoming game, head over to the official Dark and Light website or stick around and check our front page for further updates, this is a title were keeping an eye on as well.

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