GDC 2013: Dragons Prophet First Look
Dragon’s Prophet Senior Producer Todd Carson offered us a first glimpse of this new and novel free-to-play MMORPG at GDC 2013. Featuring a dragon-based pet and mount system on steroids, Dragon’s Prophet also sports a robust housing system and intriguing class choices. Learn more in our GDC preview of Dragon’s Prophet.
Playing the Prophet
Players will be able to choose between four classes – the tankish Guardian, the magic-wielding Sorcerer, the bow and (later) dual gun-wielding Ranger, and the Oracle – a melee DPSing healer with some control abilities (knockback and such). On the character select screen, each player was paired with a dragon and, aesthetically, the Oracle won out. Draped in sleek blue and white robes with something vaguely high elfish about him, the Oracle was paired with an equally svelte dark grey and purple trimmed dragon with a pensive look (bear with me) about the face.
Todd noted that dragon diversity is a big thing for the game. In addition to the Runeseeker dragon paired with the Oracle, hundreds of dragons are in the game, and some are the result of elder dragons mating with creatures in the world. A favorite of these was a humongous rhinoceros-looking dragon paired with the Guardian. The dragon-esque features – wings, scales – were present but decidedly understated, and it would be hard to imagine that this dragon is anything but flightless. Still, such a dragon would be great to have in a fight.
But I hear you saying, ‘Why would you need a class or any fancy combat abilities when you have a dragon? Won’t a dragon just kick ass at my bidding?’ And the answer is: yes, but for a limited time only. A yellow bar under the player’s health and magic bars indicating the player’s bond with the dragon, and it decreases quickly during a fight. When it’s exhausted, much like the fabled Drizzt and his panther from the astral plane Guenhwyvar, your dragon must leave to recharge the bond. Players can increase their bond pool by investing in the Charisma trait; one of six a player can put more points in with each level.
Whether or not your dragon is summoned either as a co-combatant or for mounted travel (ride, glide, or fly), players have a special dragon ability (indicated by claws around the icon) available. Players can have the abilities from six dragons (out of their dragon “stall” of 12 – SOE seems taciturn about using dragon’s lair) in their combat hotbar at any given time.
SOE’s How to Train Your Dragon
Out of the hundreds of dragons available, Todd noted that about 150 are tame-able. The dragon taming process is a fun little minigame reminiscent of Red Dead Redemption’s horse taming mechanic. If you come across a dragon in the wild you want to tame, you hop aboard, and it’s ride ‘em bronco as you struggle to keep a cursor contained inside a circle. Once tamed, you’ll find out what skills (6-8 out of a few dozen) your new dragon has, since many are randomized.
Todd explained that you don’t raise dragons Daenerys-style – dragons won’t grow in size as you train them or have them plunder resources for you. But if you like the look of a dragon but not the skill set, you can swap out skills from other dragons, but the catch is that you’ll have to release the dragon you’re swapping skills from.
When not in action, your dragon either does resource gathering or hangs out in your house’s dragon stalls. On the resource gathering tip, different dragons specialize in finding different materials, so you may have to mix and match which dragon you’re sending after what in order to craft what you’ll need. More information on crafting will filter out, but for now Todd’s saying that players can craft in six different ways and that crafting will require a time component. In what became a theme of this interview, station cash could be used to reduce the time involved. Similarly, dragon resource harvesting will cost you gold for shorter gathering periods, but should you wish to have your dragon gather overnight and while you’re at school or work, you’ll have to pay Station Cash.
Dragon’s Prophet offers a full-fledged housing system that, inside, is very reminiscent of EverQuest II. Rotate and plop a huge goods found on the auction house or crafted by friends, change interiors, and make your player house a home. Outside, your house occupies a lot in the Frontier, a system of player instances which will someday include PvP elements. Buying a standard lot will “take a while”, according to Todd, but has additional benefits including crafting and, post-launch, aerial combat.
The art direction of Dragon’s Prophet reminded me a lot of TERA, which is strange given that Taiwanese developer Runewaker’s flagship title is Runes of Magic. The armor styling is slightly exaggerated and distinctly Asian F2Pish, take it or leave it, but the costuming on the goggle-helmeted Ranger and especially the Oracle is refreshingly new. I primarily play healers, and I’m intrigued at what the melee DPS cloth-wearing healer Oracle would play like.
The imaginative takes on what creatures like a rhinoceros dragon would look like are likewise striking, and the visual effects of spells like a Sorcerer dropping a pool of fire around her are as good as I’ve seen.
But perhaps the most compelling aspect of the game for me is still a mystery. Some of you might remember the Drakan series of games dating from 1999 and featuring a scantly leather clad female hero riding a dragon. The graphics were amazing for its day – perhaps contributing to the weak reception the game got due to its high minspec – and featured thrilling aerial combat combining the melee skills of the player and the ranged capabilities of the dragon. Todd noted that the hotbar for the flying dragon included several empty spots on the hotbar, but we’ll have to wait to see what direction Dragon’s Prophet takes with aerial combat.
Our thanks to Todd Carson and the SOE crew for an advance look at Dragon’s Prophet at GDC 2013. No beta or launch timeline has been set for the game, but we look forward to hearing more about the game during this summer’s event cycle.