Celestial Heavens spoke with two representatives of Kuju Entertainment, the developer of the multiplayer modes of Dark Messiah. In this short interview, Alastair Halsby and Richard Underhill talk about balancing the character classes, making the game newcomer-friendly and possibly offering updates after the release of the game.

For some reason, it appears that they never played Legends of Might and Magic before. What a shame! You can read what they had to say here.

Dark Messiah: Q&A with Kuju

In my report about the Dark Messiah multiplayer beta test, I said the game was stable, offered impressive visuals, provided a fair amount of innovation and, most importantly, was fun. That opinion was shared by most of the gaming publications on the Internet. However, there were some concerns about the balance of the classes. I decided to ask the development team what they thought. Below are the answers from Alastair Halsby and Richard Underhill, both from Kuju Entertainment, the company responsible for the online multiplayer part of Dark Messiah.

Note: Halsby was the producer of Aliens Versus Predator, while Underhill worked on games such as Call of Duty: Finest Hour, Warhammer 40,000: Fire Warrior and Syndicate.

Celestial Heavens: How do you plan to achieve balance in the final game? Via rock-paper-cissor matchups between the various classes, or a true balance that will allow a player to stand good chances against any other class?

Alastair Halsby: That is indeed one of the hardest parts of my job. I started with a rough intention of rock-paper-scissors, but quickly realised that there was an important addition to the equation - that of range. In a game of both melee combat and spellcasting / archery, range is obviouslyvery important. This (amongst other reasons) meant that a simple rock-paper-scissors comparison isn't always useful - not to mention the fact that we have 5 classes instead of 3.
An uncareful player in front of a high-level mage is a dead player.

Balance in the final product comes about from careful analysis of what the characters are doing, and how they relate to each other. We look at core DPS (damage per second) ratiosto make sure classes are balanced initially, but our final balance comes from looking carefully at the statistics of people actually playing the game and making careful tweaks where we see a problem.

Personally,I feel I can take any class and do well with it against any other class. I sincerely hope others feel the same!

CH: Does the development team have experience with any of the previous Might and Magic games? Have they taken a look at Legends of Might and Magic?

Richard Underhill: Not particularly, but I played Heroes III an awful lot and I'm looking forward to getting the time to play Heroes V.

We do have a number of RPG fans in the team and our professional experience of Multiplayer game development is quite extensive having worked on such titles as Call of Duty: Finest Hour and Alien Vs Predator.

CH: A multiplayer server filled with experienced players is not the friendliest place for a rookie. What do you plan to do to make new players feel right at home?

R.U.: During the closed-Beta test that is running at the moment, we've setup a special 'noobie' server that can be used as a gentle introduction to the game. Experienced players are honour-bound not to go in there and cause any massacres and in fact we've found some experienced players actually coaching new players. We haven't finalised any plans for after launch to do with hosted servers, at present, but this would be one of the factors we'd have to consider.

Guarding the flag is an easy task. Or is it? Look closely.

CH: The Steam platform allows very easy game updates. Are there any plan to throw additional content to the game after September 28? New maps, new weapons, new skills or spells?

R.U.: We really hope to. We've already been given a little more time to expand the feature set a little, but I'm sure Ubisoft would shoot me for disclosing exact details at this point:-) I think this type of game is an ideal target for enhancing over a long term. The commercial model would obviously be a consideration here, but should the game be as popular as we all are striving for, then Steam does allow us efficient content delivery and the guys at Valve do a great job in supporting us in this area.

CH: Which multiplayer mode do you think will be the most innovative?

A.H.: I'd say the Crusade mode, on balance, but I'm proud of the others too. The opportunity to play a multiplayer match and yet configure your character a bit like an RPG gives a whole extra dimension of strategy - especially when considered with the fact that you're playing as a team. For example, if the humans know they're going to be pushed back to their City, they're going to need experienced Archers and Mages to shoot down from the walls, so it's important to encourage someone on your team to be building those skills before you get there. That's not to say it's inevitable you'll need them, though! If you're winning the war, the Undead will never turn up at the gates of your city, and your attacking troops will be most in demand!

A Crusade game on a server filled to capacity will be something to see,
especially the final round in the home castle.

CH: Who is this Myrmican guy and how did he manage to kill me fifteen times in a row?

Ed: Myrmican is usually playing as a knight on the beta servers, killing the enemies who foolishly stayed in front of him. Many players just run away when they notice his name tag.
If you see this guy in a dark alley at night, run!


A.H.: That would be me, sorry! One of the most exciting things about this stage of a multiplayer game is watching people play it for the first time, and seeing what they think. The best way to do that is usualy to dive in and play, but unfortunately we have been playing this for quite some time already, so we're all a little bit more experienced. We won't stay that way for long - I fully expect to be slaughtered in online matches after release!

I would like to thank the guys at Kuju for their time and Guillaume de Butler at Ubisoft for his kind assistance.