GameSpot recently talked with VR1's Keith Baker about the upcoming massively multi-player
online RPG, Lost Continents. The game, which is inspired by classic Jules Verne stories and 1930s,
pulp-era adventure serials, was announced last month.
Baker, the game's lead designer, explained that the pulp-era provides a unique basis for setting, with its
combination of fantasy and science-fiction elements (mummies and mad scientists was an example Baker used).
He said players can expect to encounter lost civilizations, time travel, mythical beasts and ubiquitous archvillians.
Although combat and experience point-driven character development are prominent in Lost Continents,
expeditions and exploration are at the fore of the experience. While battles can be a part of any scenario, Baker stressed
the various methods for advancing in the story. For example, an archaeologist character type might slip past
guardians, dodge traps, and make with the treasure without engaging a single adversary.
Six major powers compete for control in the world of Lost Continents: SKULL and OMNI, scientists empowered
with advanced technology; the Knot and the Shadow, warring mystical cults; and the Institute and the Triad, mysterious underground power
brokers. The player can negotiate power relations by siding with up to three of these groups. Alliances of a more interpersonal
nature can also be formed, as the player can aid and abet reporters, spies, shady agents, and scholars and archaeologists in their goals.
A major component of Lost Continents is private zones. In order to make the player feel like a central hero in a shared, online world,
the game spawns separate iterations of a certain zones, which are specially tailored in terms of challenge and narrative to the acting group
of players. According to Baker, this feature was devised to provide a more compelling, causal brand of storytelling often found
in smaller-scale, offline RPGs. For example, when a player reaches the bottom of the Great Pyramid, the Mummy King will be
there with no chance of finding of pack of encamped online players waiting for him to re-spawn. Puzzles and traps can also be implemented more effectively in a private zone than when a dungeon is shared with hundreds of people.
Private zones also protect against antisocial players given to kill-stealing and verbal abuse.
Baker assured that private zones will not limit interaction, since public areas comprise half the game's world. Moreover, he stressed that
what sets Lost Continents apart from other MMORPGs is its strong treatment of both private and public interaction. The game encourages individualism and heroism
over "tedious bottom-feeding." There is no death in Lost Continents--experience points and objects are never lost--and the player is always ensured of making
a daring escape in precarious situations. The concept of heroism is said to encourage players to test their limits. Heroism is gained by overcoming difficult challenges and
lost when escapes are made. On the public side, players can form adventurer's societies, which can align themselves with the game's major powers and acquire special trophy
items that benefit all members of the group.
Lost Continents is scheduled for a 2003 release in Japan. RPGamer will continue to report as more details concerning this ambitious title arise.
Update (01.17.2002): RPGamer has been informed by VR1, the game's developer, that the title is destined for the PC and not the Xbox. Also, the game is slated for the North American market only right now.