Champions: Return to Arms Interview

Eschalon: Book II

Publisher:Sony Online Entertainment
Developer:Snowblind Studios
Release Date:2005-02-07
  • Action,Role-Playing
Platforms: Theme: Perspective:
  • Third-Person
Buy this Game: Amazon ebay
Snowblind's Champions: Return to Arms draws nearer to completion, so we felt it was once again time to track down the development team for an updated interview about the action RPG sequel. Answering our questions this time around is producer Clint Worley:

GB: How is development coming along with Return to Arms, and are you still on a track for a February 2005 release date? Have you recently reached any major milestones?

Clint: Progress on Return to Arms is on schedule and will be available February 2005. We are really aiming to get in an amazing level of new content and unlockable features. It has been challenging, but no one is really complaining since this will be a truly amazing game once it is available. Our completely redesigned multiplayer lobby has just made it through testing. This is significant since it allows the player a new level of interaction among players that was not present in the first title. We are looking forward to players meeting up for games, using voice chat and creating friends lists for future gameplay sessions.

GB: Have you been successful in achieving 60 frames per second in RtA? Also, can you tell us about the streaming audio improvements you've made? How about any other graphical improvements?

Clint: Our goal has been to improve the overall graphical presentation. We addressed the framerate by optimizing both the level art and the creature art. It resulted in higher framerates with more creatures on screen. I am sure that will please the players! We were also able to optimize the audio pipeline so now players will have an even more immersive experience with new sounds and a great new sound track throughout the game.

GB: What were the primary factors in your decision to add the Iksar Shaman and Vah Shir Berserker, as opposed to other EverQuest race/class combinations? What will set these new characters apart from the original five?

Clint: The main factor that played into the character decision is the camera. Don't get me wrong, we did talk about having Frogloks and even Dwarfs but they turned out to be very small on screen. This made it less enjoyable since you could hardly see the character, and since he is the Hero of the game that was a problem. The two races that we did choose (Vah Shir, Iksar) are both very interesting when played.

The Vah Shir is skilled in throwing axes and is able to use his animal instincts to use abilities that literally scare the enemies to death. They are essentially a melee class with the ability to throw axes, and they are actually able to summon new axes when they run out.

The Iksar is a master in the ways of Dark Magic. Using blunt weapons makes melee combat somewhat challenging but his magical abilities more then make up for this. Giant Growth, Tagar's Insects and Poison Bolt all make the Iksar a formidable opponent.

GB: Tell us about the new deathmatch and arena combat modes. How will these work, and will they be available for online players only?

Clint: One of the biggest requests from the first title was head to head fighting. Champions Return to Arms has included it along with a few other types of cooperative gameplay modes.

Head to Head (VS) mode will be both off line (Multitap up to 4 players) and Online (up to 4 players). This mode allows players to settle the long standing debates about who has the stronger character.

Arena combat mode introduces a twist on the standard gameplay. Up to 4 players will be able to play against countless waves of enemies. With the elimination of each wave a new waves will appear. The weapons are able to be equipped and used to deal out more damage and the gold collected will buy the players additional (lives). This mode is extremely fun and people keep playing to see just what level they can clear.

GB: In our last interview, you had mentioned that some areas of the game will need to be unlocked before players can explore them. Can you give us an example of how such a "secret" area will work and what the players might have to do to unlock it?

Clint: At the conclusion of a typical level the player will unlock a medal round. This medal round is a mini game that has goals for the player to hit. Three levels of unlockables are available tied to the player completion percentage. If the player is required to save 5 gnomes, then saving all 5 would award a Gold completion medal. These medals unlock the interesting features that are hidden in the game.

Players will be able to enhance their characters above and beyond the normal levels present in the single player game. New side quests will become available, and multiplayer exclusive maps will be unlocked.

GB: As you probably already know, there was a trick in Champions of Norrath that allowed players to instantly increase to level 50 (or close to it) when fighting certain boss monsters with a level 1 character. Have you taken any precautions to avoid such exploits in the sequel? Also, will players still be able to save their game and import from a previous save at any time?

Clint: It was an honest mistake! We use a variety of tools and codes to help with the development and testing of the game. This just happened to make it under the radar when the game went out. We weren't all that worried about it since the majority of our players still played through the game in a more (honest) way, and would use the cheat to check out some of the other races.

GB: What choices will a player have to make through the game that will ultimately decide if they are good or evil, and what outcome will either alignment have later in the game?

Clint: Early in the game the player will be able to make the decision to go either down the good or evil path. Both paths offer new storylines and alternating levels that are unique to each side. This lets the players have a slightly different gameplay experience tied to the decision they made.

We'd like to issue our thanks to everyone at Sony and Snowblind Studios, especially Clint, for taking the time to answer our questions!