Dark Legends: Our Interview with the Designer

Recently I spoke with Niklas ‘Swede’ Johansson, Senior Game Designer, Spacetime Studios about their new game Dark Legends. The game is a IOS MMORPG that lets you wage battle against the Undead.

What is the background and setting for the game?

Dark Legends is set in an alternate version of Earth. Here the battle between Humans and Vampires has been fought in the shadows for millennia. Recently the Vampire Nation decided to make their existence known to the public, in an effort to live alongside Humanity.

Unfortunately many Humans distrust and fear their newfound neighbors and so Vampires often find themselves the target of crime and persecution. Some shady organizations hunt them outright and their goal is to exterminate all vampires – regarding them as aberrations and demons.

The game is set in Carvina, a fictional city in North America. An unusual number of Vampires call this city home and it’s considered a safe haven. With the sudden disappearance of the city’s Vampire Queen things have gone from bad to worse. Internal squabbling and power plays have become opportunities for Vampire Hunters to gain a foothold. Now the city is on the brink of outright war between Humans and Vampires.

How do the controls work for the game?

The HUD layout will be very familiar if you have tried our other Legends titles: movement with a joystick on the left or through tapping the screen, abilities and attacks controlled with your right thumb.

However combat in Dark Legends is a different story. There’s no longer an auto-attack, you want to do damage you have to tap a button. The attacks are instant and often directional instead of auto targeted. It plays more like an action RPG than our other Legends games. Combat is fast, furious and visceral.

In addition this is the first of our titles to include ‘charge’. Press and hold down any of your abilities for a super-charged version of the attack, with a stronger (and gory) payoff.

How is social networking handled?

With Dark Legends, we make it easier than ever before to play with your friends, as well as make new ones. In dungeons, you may choose to play multiplayer, which will automatically try to match you up with other players of your level.

If you make new friends, adding them to your friends list will make it really easy to play with them again. You can even go straight to the world map and see little icons next to the dungeons that your friends are playing, making them simple to find.

For Android devices, we take advantage of the new Android Beam™ technology. This will allow you to add them to your friends list by simply tapping your phones together, or if you’re already friends, teleport to their location in the game.

What are some of the challenges in creating for the IOS market compared to console and PC games?

From a tech standpoint, it’s more comparative to PC game creation. There are so many different platforms out there and you have to make sure your game works for all the different hardware and screen resolutions etc.

For the gameplay you have to consider how your target audience generally consumes games on the mobile platform. As an example, play sessions are shorter so we want to cram them full of excitement. That way the player can’t wait for the next time he’s stuck in a line at the grocery store and able to play again.

The smaller play space also provides challenges – limited space for storytelling through text, making sure the UI is user friendly and intuitive, balancing so that there’s enough game surface around the player so he can see monsters approach but at the same time not so far zoomed out that his character is a blip and the environments lose their luster.

What enemies will players face?

The Vampire Hunters play a significant role as the opposing force for the player. When they’re not directly involved, they’re often the puppet masters behind other enemies. A secret society that has been around for millennia, hunters’ methods have improved and they now employ modern technology to battle Vampires, such as UV lights.

We have a wide range of enemies though, from zombies and corrupt police to gargoyles and unfriendly Vampires.

What can you tell us about the gaming engine and what it will bring to the table?

Our proprietary engine was originally created for full scale PC MMOs, so it has a lot of power and capability which allows us to rapidly improve and update our games as more powerful mobile devices reach the consumer market. Additionally, our brilliant programming team works hard to keep up with the (often) crazy demands of the design team – further improving the engine’s capabilities.

Without this engine, it would have taken us many more years to be able to create the fantastic new action style combat that you will see in Dark Legends.

What are some of the locales gamers will see in the game?

Our artists outdid themselves this time, with some of the best looking environments in any mobile platform game. Some examples include modern city streets, ancient crypts, large mansions and insane asylums. The maps are rich with detail. Players will also experience interactive objects, such as bookshelves to rummage through and animated set pieces which really make the world come alive.

What are some of the biggest obstacles you see in creating the game, and what are your biggest goals for the game?

Dark Legends was new ground for the team. It has an action style combat and a brand new way to present story and content, so it’s unlike any other product out there. It is Spacetime’s most ambitious project since the PC MMO days and as such many parts of the game were iterated upon and redesigned several times to meet our steep requirements.

It’s our goal that players will feel as happy with the end result as we are. Creating something new is always a gamble, so we’re both excited and nervous to see how it’s received.

How are characters created?

Creating a new character in Dark Legends is straight forward. Your first choice is simply your gender and at the end of the tutorial you have the opportunity to change features, hairstyles etc.

The real meat of individualizing your character comes as you’re playing the game. With all clothing being ‘vanity’, meaning that it has no stat bonuses on it, you can pick the style you want without it affecting your combat efficiency.

What classes are available?

For Dark Legends we decided not to create set classes. Everyone is a Vampire and it felt strange to divide them up between classic archetypes such as tank, healer etc.

Instead, you choose what to specialize as you progress through the game. Selecting what abilities to equip and rank up, as well as directing your gear towards the role you want to play. Want to be a ‘Tank’? Choose the appropriate abilities and find equipment that has a high health and armor bonus.

How is leveling handled?

Leveling is handled a little different in Dark Legends than most RPG’s. Instead of receiving experience towards your next level each time you defeat an enemy, we grant you a set number at the end of a ‘dungeon’. This removed the restraint of balancing exactly how many enemies were in our maps, allowing us to instead focus on providing the most fun for the player.

Our dungeons also scale with the level of your character, increasing both the difficulty of the monsters and the power of the loot they drop. This ensures that it’s both fun and rewarding to replay dungeons post the first play-through.

How are new skills, power ups, and weapons managed and obtained?

New skills are unlocked as your character grows and at higher levels you are able to rank these skills up- improving them and further tailoring your character the way you want to play.

Power ups are found while performing the story elements of Dark Legends. These come in the way of timed buffs, ranging in power from a slight speed boost to doubling your damage output. We basically took the elixirs of our previous Legends titles and instead of selling them, made them rewards for exploring the content.

Loot is acquired by defeating enemies, searching for stashes and successfully completing dungeons. The most important of this loot will be weapons and power gems. Weapons very directly affect your damage output but often have secondary stats that improve both offensive and defensive capabilities. Power gems are shards of power that can be equipped to further customize your character towards defense or offense.