Published on July 13th, 2012 | by Adam Vjestica2
RaiderZ Interview With Producer Rudiger Moersch
The Z Stands For Ziggy
After thoroughly enjoying my time with the subscription based MMO TERA at this year’s Rezzed, I was intrigued to find out whether or not a free-to-play alternative would be able to deliver an equally compelling experience.
My test subject was a new free-to-play MMORPG called RaiderZ. My conclusion? Definitely.
At a glance, RaiderZ seems like just another typical MMORPG. There’s a fantasy world, magic casting, weapon crafting and as many quests as you could possibly fathom. However, to dismiss RaiderZ as just another take on the old formula would be doing the game a serious injustice. RaiderZ is all about the thrill of the hunt, the way you hunt, and the fact that more than often… you’ll become the hunted.
RaiderZ prides itself on the massive, gruesome and intriguing monsters that roam the land. They come in all shapes and sizes, and each one is deadly, challenging and a whole lot of fun to take down.
During my hands-on time with the game I went toe-to-toe with a giant tree spirit; I vanquished a beach full of pesky enemy crabs (seriously); and I even conquered another in-game player by means of a duel. However, instead of just pointing my cursor over my enemies, TAB locking, and clicking my mouse to the point of stupor, I dodged, blocked and cast my way to victory; switching between weapons on the fly, racking up experience with every kill. I became the very definition of a “monster hunter”.
Although RaiderZ is still very much in the alpha stages of development, I was surprised by the quality of the visuals and the appeal of the game’s art style. The vast open world that housed the on-screen action was lush with foliage, and the distinct locales were pleasantly brimming with subtle detail. The game was fluid and charming; graphically impressive enough to please the hardcore and stylish enough to engage the more casual newcomer.
Once I’d slain a variety of monsters and completed my fair share of quests, I began to go through the old mental checklist, critiquing the game in my head. But then I suddenly remembered… RaiderZ is completely free-to-play. Marvelous.
I got the chance to sit down with RaiderZ producer, Rudiger Moersch, as he introduced me to Ziggy, awesome monsters and why the free-to-play model might be the future of gaming.
So let’s talk about RaiderZ. On paper it’s a free-to-play MMORPG…
What is it that differentiates RaiderZ from other MMORPGs in the genre?
RaiderZ is an MMO with a monster hunting theme; this is actually a pretty new way to go for the genre.
It’s action-oriented, so it’s not point and click: you don’t go away and wait hours until the monsters are killed – there’s no bot in there doing the job for you. You have to do it. You have to evade, you have to block, you have to fight.
The other thing that differentiates RaiderZ is the kind of monsters we develop like Ziggy here (points to a cardboard cutout behind him). The real name is Zigneep. I’ve spent two nights with him in the room so I might call him Ziggy.
Haha, you’re good friends now?
Yeah, he didn’t eat me in the night so I think I’m his friend!
So, the monsters in RaiderZ are very interactive with the player. They pick you up, they throw you over the battlefield; they stamp on you, they eat you and spit you out. They can jump two miles high in the sky and come down on you with crushing force. They’re absolutely awesome.
We also have something in the game called the “breakable parts system.” Big monsters will sometimes drop parts of themselves: sometimes it’s armour, sometimes, with this frog boss we have called Eluga, it’s a horn. You can then pick this part up.
In some cases it’s only a buff, but a nice buff. In other cases it’s a weapon and it changes your whole talent set completely.
How many types of monsters do you think there are in the game that players can look forward to? Is there any monsters that will require you to team up with friends to defeat, or can you take them down on your own?
I can’t give you the complete number because I don’t know! There are so many in there and more are coming everyday because we’re continually expanding the game as we speak.
In answer to the second part of your question, there will definitely be some monsters that will require you to team up. If you fight Ziggy for example (he will appear towards the end of the game) your character will basically be as strong as his toe. Fighting him on your own is… I think… Not really a good idea!
However, there are other monsters that you will be able to take down on your own. Some of them are really tricky, and it’s really challenging to go alone. But you always have the feeling that if you do a little bit more, you can maybe defeat them. And sometimes… You can! Naturally, your ability to take down these bosses will be dependent on your character’s level also.
The idea of having no true set classes but unlockable abilities, is definitely an intriguing direction for an online RPG. Even though there are four base “classes” to choose from, though I use the word class lightly, how does this added freedom benefit the player?
In RaiderZ we have fighting styles because they are linked to the weapon that you use. At the beginning, to make things easier for the player, you’re locked into one fighting style until level 10.
So you choose a fighting style to begin with and you put the first, let’s say ten, talent points into that fighting style tree. After that, you’re completely free to assign your points wherever you like. There’s 350 talents in the game at the moment and it’s still growing.
There are benefits to the class-free system, as well as naturally, pros and cons. If you specialise in something, you will be very powerful in this special area, but you’re not very versatile. If you split your talents up a bit, then you’ll get a more unique character set for yourself, a unique skill set that suits your own personal playing style.
Another benefit is that you can react to certain monsters much better. Some of them require, for example, your character to possess fire spells. Others may require more brute force to take down whilst in turn, another set of monsters may be easier to take down with ice spells. So, if you balance your abilities effectively, your character will be more versatile and interesting in combat.
Players are encouraged to master a number of abilities due to the fact they’re not restricted to one class. Will players be punished for becoming a jack-of-all-trades?
No, not punished in the sense of the word. You may have certain weaker spells, but you’ll be a good option for team players as you can jump in and fill any gaps or weaknesses that your party may have very easily.
One of the most noticeable things about RaiderZ is the non-targeting, dynamic combat system. Can you explain why you chose this system over the more traditional auto-locking system?
Because it’s more fun! Point and click has been out there for a long, long time. We have seen it in dozens of MMOs, and it got boring! I was never the point and click type.
I can’t understand why people actually play games where they have a bot that they can set up – they let it run for two days and they come back and say: “Yeah! I killed 200 monsters!” – you didn’t… Your bot did!
I want to be in the middle of the fray. I want to fight. I want to feel it! Believe me, when you’re in there, and when you are fighting these really cool monsters you are in the middle of it.
The first time I ran into Eluga I was really stunned for a moment. I was standing there looking at it and thinking, wow! Then suddenly I had him down to something like 50% health, and then he was gone?! So I was thinking, what the hell just happened? All of a sudden I look up… And he’s coming down on me because he had jumped high into the air. It was absolutely unbelievable!
Your fighter’s hand-to-hand abilities are affected by the type of weapon they wield. Will switching between weapons, as well as choosing the right weapon before a battle be a tactical necessity?
If you really split your abilities into all four fighting styles, you will have to choose in advance before you go into battle which weapons you have on the active tabs. This is because you might not be able to access certain abilities depending on which weapons you chose.
You always have two active weapons which you can switch very easily with the TAB key; that only takes something like a second to switch. Then you have different abilities to choose because the abilities are linked to the weapons.
You mentioned the feature above where you can collect parts of your enemies and use their weapons against them. Can you expand on that a little bit more? That just sounds so unique.
Haha, it is absolutely unique. I’ll basically give you two examples: one is where you fight Eluga; he has a horn. If you hit the horn a couple of times it breaks off, you can take the broken horn and then use it as a ram. So you have two different attack styles that you get with the horn. It’s really cool and it’s really powerful. It’s not just for fun, the monster’s parts will give you a definite advantage in a fight.
Second, let’s say if you fought a dragon, they’d drop one their scales. You pick it up and it will give you a buff for protection.
One of the other things I love about RaiderZ is that in one of the missions, you can pick up these huge ship cannons and walk around and shoot with them. It’s directly at the beginning so you get a feeling of what’s to come. It’s really fun.
Even though RaiderZ is still in the alpha stage of production, the game is beautiful. The art direction in particular caught my eye. What inspired the art style?
The thinking behind the art style is that we wanted to create a world that was different to what was out there currently. The game isn’t set in Medevial times, it’s end of Medevial, beginning of the Renaissance. That’s why certain buildings look more modern then most people will be used to from MMORPGs.
The other noticeable thing is that RaiderZ has a very beautiful and light world. We decided to do this on purpose because we wanted to bring out the contrast. On the one hand you have this beautiful light world; on the other, there are these dark, dangers lurking in the form of the monsters.
So you’ll be strolling through a beautiful area and then suddenly, there are these crazy races coming at you like a two-meter-high spider, and she really wants to bite off your head!
Can you tell us about the underlying story in the game?
Sure. The world of RaiderZ was typically normal with different kingdoms and different races. But five years ago, a meteor landed in the desert. Scientists were sent to investigate and they found out that inside the meteor there was a material that could be used to transform other materials. So what did they do? They used it to transform metal to create better weapons.
What they didn’t see was that this transformation process also occurs on a natural basis. This is where the monsters have come from. They were normal animals, plants, even dead bodies which have now transformed and trans-mutated. Five years later, everyone is aware of the problem so the kingdoms tried to build a huge wall around the infected area to contain it: but it didn’t work.
The champions are basically coming in to clean up the mess. They have to find a way to stop it.
The free-to-play model is becoming increasingly popular with developers, with companies such as Crytek announcing that they too will be seeking to provide free-to-play games in the future. Why did you decide that free-to-play was the correct model for RaiderZ? Do you see free-to-play as the next logical direction for MMO’s?
Personally, I’m a big fan of the model. We decided to go free-to-play because we believe it’s the most fair model out there at the moment.
With retail titles, you always have the problem that ok, you’ve read some very good articles that you guys may have wrote for example, or you get some good advice from your friends. But technically, you always jump in blind. You give $30, $40, $50 and you don’t really know if you like the game.
Even if you play one level, or a demo level, you still don’t know if the whole game is of your liking, or if it’s long enough to satisfy the amount of money you’ve put into it.
Now with the free-to-play model, you can go in, you can play as long as you want. You can try out everything, and you don’t have to pay if you don’t want to. Of course we hope you pay as that will help us to keep on designing the game!
What can players who decide to invest their money into RaiderZ look forward to? And how are you combating the stigma that’s often associated with free-to-play titles: pay-to-win?
First of all, we are trying very hard not to include any item in the game that is pay-to-win. I can’t promise that maybe one time, we might slip and an item might suddenly appear as though it has pay-to-win properties but if it is, we might remove it. But we don’t want that situation to happen.
What we are trying to do at the moment – we’re still looking into what we actually can do – we have a few things like cosmetic items of course which are very popular with a lot of people.
The other things we might include could be slightly increased versions of already existing items such as better health potions or a respawn scroll. We’re also thinking about giving players access to new zones earlier if you pay for it. But we will never go as far as to say this area is pay-to-enter only. Paying will only grant you earlier access.
The game seems really accessible and easy to pick up and enjoy. Was this a conscious decision when designing the game?
Yes. We want as many people to try out RaiderZ as possible. So far, people I know who have seen RaiderZ in action have looked at it and said, “That looks cool, I want to try it!’
Finally, MMORPG’s are notorious for their addictive qualities and it’s easy to see people getting sucked into RaiderZ’s world. Are there any fail-safes in place to say, hey, look maybe you should stop playing now? And if not, do you have any tips for the over enthusiastic RPG player who just needs to leave that quest for another day?
Wow, that’s a hard question! You know, I’ve been in this industry for 25 years and I’ve seen a lot of different games that appear to some people as addictive, yes. If you look over the stats, it’s normally a very minor group of people who get addicted.
A lot of them are hardcore players, and we want them, the game is designed for hardcore players.
We will put in a warning (there is one in place from the Korean version of the game) which advises that you should take a break every couple of hours. But we can’t force players not to play!
We can have a look at certain things, and in the future, we will monitor how many people are playing and how long they are playing. But basically we can’t forbid them to play. There is no legal obligation that we have to do that. It’s a difficult question to answer!
Haha, of course. Thank you for your time and good luck with the game.
You’re welcome! Thank you.