Roma Victor - Preview

Roma Victor
Developer: RedBedlam
Publisher: RedBedlam
Release Date: 2005
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All Roads Lead to Roma

RedBedlam looks to add an ancient Roman twist to the MMORPG world with Roma Victor. This setting has been available in other genres, but never before has an MMORPG taken this idea and really run with it--at least not to the extent of Roma Victor.

The Roman way of life comes into play with the social classes a player can take on. Players must battle through the ranks of slave, gladiator, legionary, nobleman, and others in this simulation of the Roman-ruled Europe about which we read in history books. The game will further replicate this world with historically accurate political boundaries and topography, as well as certain guilds' acknowledgment of the era's various deities. RedBedlam does not claim that the deities present and their respective forms of worship as presented in the game will be an authoritative guide to ancient religions, but the practices present will still reflect ancient life. The company plans to make available religions from Celtic, Roman, Egyptian, and other origins, but says that giving more detailed notes on them before the game's release would spoil too much.
"RedBedlam wants to capture the real process of fighting and killing an ancient Roman."

The above features are all well and good, but an MMORPG just feels empty without furious battles. Fighting will call for proper use of the Escape key, which toggles between chat mode and navigation mode. In navigation mode, the keyboard controls a character's movements while the mouse controls where the player is looking. Using Escape to switch to chat mode makes the keyboard do what it was originally created for--communicate. The camera will be set to a first person view with the center of the screen being where attacks will be focused. Right-clicking the mouse will make the player use the item in his right hand. The type of swing can be altered by a simultaneous keypress, allowing thrusts, slashes, etc. The left mouse button will do the same with the weapon/shield in the character's left hand. Since standing still is not a winning strategy in a fight, players will often be using the keyboard and mouse at the same time. This brings up the issue of targeting, since landing a mouse-guided crosshair on an opponent's neck sounds hard to do while bobbing and weaving. To this end, RedBedlam has made a character's accuracy dependent upon his developed combat skills. After learning all these controls, it's time for players to familiarize themselves with some very realistic combat....

Whereas most RPGs use Hit Points, no such thing will be found in Roma Victor. Instead of patterning a fight after a statistical comparison between man and foe, more animation and physics are used to display battles that are more like real fights. RedBedlam gave the below example to demonstrate the realism involved with Roma Victor's fighting.

Conventional RPG fight:
-Bandit hits you for XX points of damage.
-You miss the bandit.
-Bandit hits you for XX points of damage.
-You hit the bandit for XX points of damage.
-Bandit misses you.
-You hit the bandit for XX points of damage.
-The bandit dies.

Real life fight:
-*Clank* as the bandit frantically blocks your sword with his shield.
-*Smack* as your shield comes up under the bandit's chin. (That might do it - he's getting tired since you've both been fighting fiercely for several minutes and you're both slowing down)
-*Thunk* as the bandits poorly timed thrust misses introducing his hand to your helmet.
-*Squelch* as your sword surprisingly slips through a gap in his lorica causing severe damage to the bandit's upper arm and causing him to collapse in a useless (probably screaming) heap.

In Roma Victor, combat can be expected to have much more in common with the latter example. RedBedlam wants to capture the real process of fighting and killing an ancient Roman. The only measurable damage that a character will take on occurs after the armor has been penetrated. A steel helmet might deflect a poorly-timed stab to the head, but don't expect it to fend off a warhammer wielded by an angry barbarian. When immediate killing isn't an option, one can disable an opponent's limbs, gaining all the more advantage in the fight. Not stopping there, it's possible to inflict an open wound a character, which can cause impairment or even death due to the excessive bleeding.

While all this is going on, a character's vigor and adrenaline are kept in check. With every swing of the weapon or raise of the shield--no matter how effective or ineffective--the character's vigor decreases. When low on vigor, attacks will come less frequently and be acted out more slowly when they can be pulled off. Running away will not be an option without enough vigor to do so; the character will be far too tired to run fast for long.

Conversely, with increased adrenaline comes a bit more speed and strength. Adrenaline usually comes when someone is attacked, rather than doing the attacking. This arrangement has some interesting effects. For example, if one player jumps another from behind, the victim of the attack has a fight-or-flight option. If the victim simply leans on their run key then it's unlikely the attacker will be able to catch them, unless he has a mount or some fast friends waiting nearby. In contrast, one might choose to utilize the defender's advantage to the full and start swinging back in full force straight away. Things like this contribute to the realism RedBedlam is shooting for.

Like most other MMORPGs, Roma Victor will allow for the creation of player unions known as "guilds." Each guild falls into one of three categories: Mercantile, Military, and Religious. This is the first thing players select when creating guilds. Combined with that, the guild founder's class at the time of creation determines what type of guild will be made, outlined by the following table.

  Mercantile Military Religious
Roman non-Citizen characters House Auxiliary Cult
Free/Barbarian class characters Tribe Warband Cult
Citzen class characters* Patrician House Legion Imperial Cult

A character's location at the time he creates the guild will be its home. Next, a name and area of specialization are chosen. Specializations are based on the type of guild a character is in, meaning Military guilds choose combat-based skills, while the Mercantile select from various non-combat talents, and Religious guilds select a deity from the ones listed above. Each guild has a preset rank system containing fixed ranks to maintain the varying levels of authority within the guild. There are also special positions, which are provided just for the sake of guild management. The final step in guild creation is the entering of special notes, which may consist notes, rules, a slogan, or anything the creator would like.

Belonging to a strong guild will be a crucial part of Roma Victor. When in one, if a character is killed, any close-by characters within the guild will be notified of it. This applies to player characters as well as NPCs who have been hired by the guild. The person who has done the killing will then be placed on the guild's "Wanted List," regardless of whether or not anyone could identify him. He'll remain there until killed by a member of the guild he's offended. All guild members are instantly notified when someone on their wanted list has been taken down.

The community and developers will do much interacting in this game because the political story is actually steered by a partnership between players and developers. One demonstration of this interaction is that special types of guild called Legions are direct subjects to the orders of an Emperor, which is a player controlled by RedBedlam. While Legions are generally a more powerful type of guild than the others, the members must pay for it by being subject to this Emperor and having certain fees subsidized by him. Leaders of non-Roman guilds can align with each other. This is a handy feature, since all Roman guilds and legions are considered aligned by default. Aligned guilds can form their own terms of alliance, then share the do things like share Wanted Lists and hook up instant communication lines between top-ranking members of the different guilds.

Roma Victor wasn't built in a day. In fact, the game has been in development since 2001. But the end of the road is finally in sight for prospective players. "Commercial" service is set to begin in May, but that word should not throw players off--there will be no monthly fees in Roma Victor. Instead, real money is used to purchase game money. There are also ways to make money in the game, so crafty players may not be spending much cash. Time shall tell.

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