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My visit to Square Enix London (Legacy of Kain related)

Mama Robotnik

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Apr 11, 2008
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There was an event a good few weeks ago now that I wanted to write a thread about. It was one of the most surreal experiences I’ve ever had as a gamer. This is a bit different to my normal threads, it might be a bit too LiveJournal like for some tastes. Personal recollections are not my usual writing style, so it might come across as a bit clumsy. There's also a disclaimer at the end too.


The Context

The Legacy of Kain series had been dead since the release of 2003’s Defiance. During the franchise’s peak (1998-2002), there was an online community of thousands of gamers discussing the intricacies of every line of dialogue. We hacked the games, created our own save files, discovered masses of cut content, and pieced together abandoned plot points. Artists and musicians produced some fantastic fan works, amateur swordsmiths forged their own versions of the Soul Reaver sword, and the clan symbols littered throughout the games inspired banners and tattoos. It was a fun time.

As the years passed by, this community faded as gamers naturally moved on. A few dedicated fans kept records of the story and behind-the-scenes discoveries – long-lived websites such as TheLostWorlds, Dark Chronicle, Legacy of Kain Wiki, The Ancients Den, and others kept updating. I had occasional contact with many of these dedicated fans over the decade. We were happy that Amy Hennig (Soul Reaver) found new fame at Naughty Dog, and saddened as Denis Dyack (Blood Omen) rose and fell. The discoveries of the cancelled The Dark Prophecy and Dead Sun, and the seemingly-unsubstantiated rumours of a Soul Reaver Remake, were interesting but disheartening. Companies were bought and sold, and the Legacy of Kain series seemed to be a dead IP in the vaults of Square Enix. There were rumours of a multiplayer game of some sorts, which seemed very unusual.


The Invitation

We get to Summer 2013, and something bloody strange happened.

I received an ambiguous email from a very pleasant Square Enix representative, asking if I’d like to be involved in something. Given that I had only recently exposed the cancellation of Dead Sun – I was somewhat surprised at the gesture. I replied that I’d like to know what they had planned.

The explanation was given: Square Enix wanted to host the first ever Legacy of Kain fan event at their London studios. They were deadly serious about this. Don’t live in the UK? No problem, we’ll pay for your flight and hotel. Don’t live in London? No worries, we’ll sort out a train. They were very, very eager to do this, and had invited the webmasters of the remaining major Legacy of Kain websites along with myself.

They told us by email that they’d been working on Nosgoth – which indeed was a multiplayer game, and wanted to use this event to present their game to us. It was a really intriguing prospect: a chance to play a game before its completion, to attend a game studio, and most excitedly, to meet international LOK fans who I had interacted with online for the last ten years and never expected to actually meet in person.... for free. I’d have been mad not to accept.

I spent a few weeks speculating. Would this UK branch of Square Enix actually know anything about the series? What if I turn up and it’s awkward, particularly with my expose’ on Dead Sun? What if the new game is terrible, what would I say?


The Evening Before

Time eventually passed and the weekend arrived. I got the train down to London and accepted my reservation at a hotel near to the Square Enix Wimbledon studio. The invited Legacy of Kain fans – a group of approximately fifteen people, had agreed to meet for the first time ever in the evening, down in the hotel lobby.

I didn’t have any life experience to prepare me for this. Fifteen so people, who have never met each other in person, from vastly different backgrounds. Would we get along?

It was surreal, we clicked immediately. On a long table in the hotel restaurant, we chatted for hours about our love for the Kain games. Almost everyone favoured either Soul Reaver 1 or Blood Omen 1. Everyone mocked Blood Omen 2 mercilessly (“Did Kain have Brain Damage in that game, serious question?”). We chatted about our concerns about the multiplayer game we were about to see. It was quite strange that, for a series so centered around blood, killing and time-travel revenge, the fans were some of the nicest and most approachable people I’ve ever met. I spent a fantastic evening with them.


The Day

The morning came, and it was time to visit Square Enix. We were welcomed at the entrance of the Wimbledon studio, and led through some very nice looking offices. The walls had a lot of artwork for upcoming games, the new FF and Kingdom Hearts, and a wall dedicated to the new Thief. There was a life-sized statue of Lara Croft, and some development Xboxes near one of the biggest TVs I’ve ever seen. We were led into a large room with massive banners, our first look at the artwork for Nosgoth.

Square Enix’s community manager George Kelion (aka Monkeythumbz) introduced himself, and the Nosgoth team – a company called Psyonix. There was a ten-computer LAN setup in place, loads of snacks and drinks, seats and a presentation screen. Everyone got a drink and mingled for about twenty minutes, and we settled down for a presentation.

We watched an introduction trailer (which I think was very similar, if not identical, to the one which was eventually released a few weeks ago). We were invited to ask questions, and it became quite quickly apparent that they knew their series lore. I began to form an impression: the team had been commissioned by Square Enix to make a free to play multiplayer Legacy of Kain game. The team took this non-negotiable concept, and aimed to weave it into the existing mythos as devoutly as they could. They had researched obscure tidbits of background story only present in early releases of the SR1 instruction manual, and had established an entire faction on a very obscure Blood Omen character. They’d used some of the concepts that never made it into some of the games. They talked of the themes of the series, and how they had enjoyed looking through all the games to find a place where the story of their multiplayer war could fit in.

Their enthusiasm was somewhat infectious. The most important thing would be, of course, if the game was actually going to be any good. A structure was established. We’d be split into teams, and would play some matches against one another. Winners would go through to a final match to win a prize.


The Game

Finally, I had the chance to play the game. Nosgoth is a third-person deathmatch game of sorts, set in the era between Soul Reaver’s intro sequence, and the resurrection of Raziel. Each round consists of two matches: in the first match Team A play the vampires, and Team B play the humans, and vice versa in the second match. Both sides goal is to kill each other, as you might expect from the genre. If you are interested, I can describe the experience of playing each side:

Humans: My favourite faction. Humans come in (so far) three classes, and all use projectile weapons. They have supers such as spawning walls of flames, or binding vampires in launched manacles. They have comparatively little health compared to their vampire counterparts, but can recharge their health at multiple healing sites within each level. The best strategy we seemed to work out, was to keep the humans together, and move round as a team picking off overconfident vampires from a distance.

Vampires: Tough units who make up for their lack of projectiles with brute force. They have far more exotic abilities than the humans – stealth, flight, running up walls to name a few. They have a lot of health, but can only regain lost points by drinking blood out of human corpses. This leads to an interesting dynamic in which vampires race to the same corpse, creating tension in the overpowered team that contrasts the harmony of the human faction.

We only played rounds in two environments, and I developed a fondness for two units in particular: The Sisters of Anacrothe – A cult of pyromancers who can turn the environment into fields of vampire-burning fire; and the Turelim – a brute force vampire unit that charges into battle with its human-crushing bulk. I started seeing hints at deeper strategies, such as vampires pouncing out on humans near the human healing sites, and humans keeping watch on corpses, and taking down vampires who tried to feed on the blood within.

Despite little experience with the genre, our team won. I definitely had fun with it.

As the day drew to a close, we were given the chance to give some direct feedback to the developers. Some things they couldn’t tell us, but a repeated point was that they hoped the free to play model of the game would allow considerable expansion if it was successful. I can’t remember all the raised points, but a recurring concern from the fans was the need for more visual imagery that echoed the rest of the series: more familiar locations, vampire clan symbols, etc. A really good point raised by a fellow fan was for the inclusion of female vampires in the ranks. Unfortunately at this point I had a train to catch, and had to leave a short time before all the other attendees.

It was a remarkable weekend, and probably my most surreal experience as a gamer. As much fun as it was to visit a development studio, and play a genuine work-in-progress game, my most memorable moments were meeting fellow fans from all over the world for the first time, all paid for by Square. The Legacy of Kain fans are awesome people.


The Feedback

In the weeks that followed, Square Enix sent out feedback forms and asked for our individual input. It made me think about the game, and put into words what I would like to see in the final product. Away from the shock of just being at their studio, the excitement faded and I had a chance to cement my impressions.

First of all, it’s a fun game. When the last round ended, I was ready to play further. I felt that there were nuances to some of the classes I was only just beginning to uncover.

Is it a Legacy of Kain game though? I think it’s on its way to being. At the visit to the studio, I saw a passion from the development team for the story of the series. I want to see more of this passion. In my written feedback, I expressed a wish to see more story, in whatever form fits into their multiplayer model. How about unlockable story chunks that tell tales of Nosgoth’s war tied to Steam achievements, or lore linked to lost artifacts found in the field of combat? How about statues and murals telling us biased and romanticised events of recent past – a recurring lore mechanic in the previous games – to give the world more depth? How about gradual changes to the appearance of high-level vampires, showing transitionary stages between their human origins and their eventual bestial devolved appearances in Soul Reaver?

I told Square Enix that I hoped to see more character classes, and more familiar environments. I also hope hope hope that the Free to Play model doesn’t lean towards pay to win. I hope there are more combat modes, and more imaginative super abilities. I feel they have a good start to build on here. I want more abilities, more classes, and more depth to the fiction of the war. Having met the team, I am optimistic that this is achievable.


The Conclusion

My desire for a single-player Legacy of Kain is paramount, especially after an absurd amount of false starts – (and these cancelled games are just the ones I know about!). I wanted Kain II, Dark Prophecy and Dead Sun, and still hope for a vast single-player epic in my favourite game universe starring a certain time-travelling vampire. Nosgoth is not that game, but it is something else of note: an enjoyable and quite different game that will be free, looks good so far, plays smoothly for something that is still work-in-progress, and shows us a different era that (in my view) settles in quite well with the pre-existing lore. I want another single-player game, but I want to play Nosgoth too.


The Disclosure

I think this bit is really important for transparency. Square Enix paid approx £35 for me to get the train to London and back, and approx £98 for my hotel room overnight. They provided snacks, a goody bag with miscellaneous Nosgoth paraphernalia (mouse mats, t-shirts, etc). They also held a tournament which my team won, and we were each given a sealed Kain action figure from the Soul Reaver release line as a prize, not sure how much it is worth. In no way did I (or anyone else who attended as far as I am aware) agree to write anything regarding the game, and at no point did Square Enix try to coerce or encourage any positive article or posts. I originally intended to post this thread ages ago but other commitments (holiday abroad and a poorly cat) have kept me mostly offline.

Thanks for reading.
 

Fermbiz

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Sep 8, 2010
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I <3 you Mama Robotnik!

Excellent read. You brought the hype meter up about a notch, but I'm still sceptical about this false LoK game :-(
 

Diomedeskun

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Sounds like a really solid, interesting idea. I'd like to try it out, even if it's not the game that I really want. At least the team behind it A) cares about the past of the series and B) is getting to make a game that looks like it will actually come out. The idea that the humans are cooperative and the vampires competitive sounds like it is well implemented.
 

Nokterian

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Jul 20, 2012
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Fun read but since the announcement i couldn't care less, because what is a singleplayer game, have they forgotten that people still enjoy it? I love Blood Omen and Legacy of Kain series but this? No thank you.
 

Newblade

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Feb 22, 2012
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Thank you for taking the time to write this up. I absolutely agree with your story feedback. Let's hope we see something like that and not just a "mindless" action game.
 

RaikuHebi

Banned
Jun 16, 2013
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Thanks for sharing. Nice to hear a branch of Square that is doing things the right way (I guess deep down they're still Eidos).

Reminds me that I need to get into the Legacy of Kain series. I'm a big Tomb Raider fan so it shouldn't be difficult.
 

rocketskates

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Mar 25, 2013
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that was a good read. seeing your opinion and knowing how big of a fan you are of the games makes me more interested in nosgoth.


hope your cat is ok!!!
 

MegaZeroX

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Sep 29, 2013
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I don't even know who this F2P game cater towards...

This. I know very little of the game, but Square Enix is using an old IP with different mechanics. Trying to win many people over with the overcrowded market will be unsuccessful, and most of the original fans won't want to play a Multiplayer only game.
 

Reallink

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Jan 7, 2008
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There was an event a good few weeks ago now that I wanted to write a thread about. It was one of the most surreal experiences I&#8217;ve ever had as a gamer. This is a bit different to my normal threads, it might be a bit too LiveJournal like for some tastes. Personal recollections are not my usual writing style, so it might come across as a bit clumsy. There's also a disclaimer at the end too.

...

The Disclosure

I think this bit is really important for transparency. Square Enix paid approx £35 for me to get the train to London and back, and approx £98 for my hotel room overnight. They provided snacks, a goody bag with miscellaneous Nosgoth paraphernalia (mouse mats, t-shirts, etc). They also held a tournament which my team won, and we were each given a sealed Kain action figure from the Soul Reaver release line as a prize, not sure how much it is worth. In no way did I (or anyone else who attended as far as I am aware) agree to write anything regarding the game, and at no point did Square Enix try to coerce or encourage any positive article or posts. I originally intended to post this thread ages ago but other commitments (holiday abroad and a poorly cat) have kept me mostly offline.

Thanks for reading.

The act of giving out all expense paid trips and goodie bags is more blatant (and effective) coercion than anything else they could do TBH. Not that I'm saying it colored your impressions, but that was their intention with this, just to point out the obvious.
 

Easy_D

never left the stone age
Jan 5, 2008
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Isn't tacked on multiplayer usually worse than the Single Player campaign? And this multi mode is actually good? :(
 

Treechopper

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Aug 31, 2010
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Mama, I know nothing about the Legacy of Kain series but everytime I see one of your threads it boosters my desire to at least find one of the games and play. You just might create a fan out of me one day.
This can't really be a Mama Robotnik thread if I can scroll through it in less than 30 seconds.
Also this lol.
 

Krusenstern

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Feb 20, 2013
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In no way did I (or anyone else who attended as far as I am aware) agree to write anything regarding the game, and at no point did Square Enix try to coerce or encourage any positive article or posts.

And this I should believe you? I aways respect your threads, but understand that I'm very sceptical about this whole tohubohu.
 

Mama Robotnik

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Apr 11, 2008
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Thanks for the nice comments. I enjoyed what I played - I'm certainly not saying that every LOK fan will - the decision to go with a multiplayer game is highly highly divisive. I can only speak for myself when I said that I had fun.

The act of giving out all expense paid trips and goodie bags is more blatant (and effective) coercion than anything else they could do TBH. Not that I'm saying it colored your impressions, but that was their intention with this, just to point out the obvious.

Well, they obviously wanted to make a good impression (though I'd object to "all expense paid" as inaccurate). If I didn't enjoy what I played and saw some potential in it, it would have been completely pointless.

And this I should believe you? I aways respect your threads, but understand that I'm very sceptical about this whole tohubohu.

Well, assume I'm lying if you like, there is literally nothing I can say or do to prove that Yosuke Matsuda didn't give me a yacht full of gold in order for me to go on GAF and say that I enjoyed their multiplayer game but see potential areas for improvement - and list those areas in detail.

If it helps, I'm still going to be posting any material regarding the cancelled Dead Sun that comes my way, and am still devastated by its cancellation.
 

Morrigan Stark

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Jul 23, 2010
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Thanks for writing. Still won't play that game, because a) probably no controller support (or it's added later which means it's gonna suck) and b) fuck off nowadays false Kain ;)

The act of giving out all expense paid trips and goodie bags is more blatant (and effective) coercion than anything else they could do TBH. Not that I'm saying it colored your impressions, but that was their intention with this, just to point out the obvious.
Yes, it's a standard industry practice.

And this I should believe you? I aways respect your threads, but understand that I'm very sceptical about this whole tohubohu.
Considering Mama Robotnik's posting history, I have no reason to disbelieve his/her integrity. I don't think your skepticism is really warranted. I do think s/he is probably being too nice though. :p
 

mekes

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Jun 30, 2013
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I just find it such a strange choice for a LoK game, especially after so many false starts with what would be fairly anticipated single player titles. Absolutely one to keep an eye on tho, I enjoyed reading your experiences of the game - I didn't actually know Nosgoth was F2P, colour me a little more skeptical all of a sudden. Hope it is good.
 

Monkeythumbz

Communications Manager, nDreams
Jun 8, 2012
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The invited Legacy of Kain fans &#8211; a group of approximately fifteen people...
It was supposed to be 20 (I really wanted Aevum to attend), but in the end the group only numbered 15 due to schedule conflicts, some cancellations and a few people declined as well, presumably because they didn't find our project appealing (which I totally understand).

Massive thanks needs to be extended to our long-serving forum mods Driber, Umah_Bloodomen and The_Hylden; without their invaluable assistance I wouldn't have been able to put the whole shebang together.

The act of giving out all expense paid trips and goodie bags is more blatant (and effective) coercion than anything else they could do TBH. Not that I'm saying it colored your impressions, but that was their intention with this, just to point out the obvious.
Please bear in mind that we invited the potentially most critical group of people possible to come check out and play Nosgoth first, before any press have even seen it. I can tell you that both Bill Beacham and I were nervous as all hell the morning of the presentation and that we were preparing ourselves for open hostility, having tracked the reactions to our pre-announcement statements online. I'm pleased to say that the group we invited turned out to be more friendly than we anticipated, and I hope that's more down to the quality of the gameplay and our own passion for all things LoK rather than the fact we paid for travel, accommodation and refreshments. It's probably mostly down to them all being such lovely, lovely people though. I and the rest of my team-mates had a wonderful time that day and, as a enormous LoK fan, it was an unprecedented thrill being able to mull over the minutiae of esoteric tidbits of lore both at the event and at the impromptu session down the pub that followed. It was a shame Mama Robotnik couldn't join us for that!

It was important to me personally, as a gamer, a human being and long-time forum goer (Marathon.org FTW), that we serviced the perennial active members of the Legacy of Kain boards on the Eidos forum first and foremost. Did we hope that they'd like the game? Of course, I mean that's only natural and to be expected. However we needed to ensure that we were actually as in-keeping with LoK lore as we thought we were, and this was the best way of doing so. Additionally, we wanted to know how some of the most hardcore LoK fans in the world would fare with the game once they actually got their hands on it. The feedback provided by the survey forms Mama Robotnik mentioned have proved incredibly useful and is informing our thoughts and decisions on a daily basis. We're still some way off from sharing new art, but we'll get there and when we do, we're hoping it'll demonstrate that we really are listening and taking community requests on-board in as practical a way as possible for this project.

This can't really be a Mama Robotnik thread if I can scroll through it in less than 30 seconds.
^This.
 

Katori

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Nov 16, 2010
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Thanks Mama, I am now a little bit more excited for Nosgoth. I'll try anything F2P regardless, but it's great to hear good things about it so early.

Color me impressed by the community support in action here.
 

Darkmakaimura

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Dec 12, 2008
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My desire for a single-player Legacy of Kain is paramount, especially after an absurd amount of false starts – (and these cancelled games are just the ones I know about!). I wanted Kain II, Dark Prophecy and Dead Sun, and still hope for a vast single-player epic in my favourite game universe starring a certain time-travelling vampire. Nosgoth is not that game, but it is something else of note: an enjoyable and quite different game that will be free, looks good so far, plays smoothly for something that is still work-in-progress, and shows us a different era that (in my view) settles in quite well with the pre-existing lore. I want another single-player game, but I want to play Nosgoth too.
I just wish all the resources put into the MP game could have been used for a SP one instead. For me, it's not proper LoK. Honestly, I would have been okay with even an old school style of game. I still look forward to how they fit this all into the storyline.
 

jaypah

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When I saw the thread title I was hoping it was you because of how much you love the franchise. Sounds like a pleasant experience Mama, thanks for sharing.
 

Sulla1980

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Jan 18, 2009
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When I saw the thread title I was hoping it was you because of how much you love the franchise. Sounds like a pleasant experience Mama, thanks for sharing.

I was going to say something very similar!

Again, thanks for sharing!
 
Jun 16, 2004
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It's f2p so it won't hurt giving it a try but I really hope they take the suggestion and load the game up with lore. I'm not a multiplayer person and so even if it turns out to be a well made example of the genre, it's doubtful I'd invest much time into it otherwise.

Still it's good to hear the teams passion for the material measures up to MR's standard.
 

Agent Gibbs

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Well, MonkeyThumbz already sold me on the idea of the game, and the thought that if its successful SE might finally give us another single player, but after Momma's impressions i'm doubly sold!
Just hope i get picked for the beta now

Hope your cat gets well soon Mama,my cats been ill recently too (he has an enlarged heart and fluid on the lungs) and the tablets have given him a new lease on life, but i'm sadly all too aware of the feelings you go through when a pet is ill, so hope all of you are coping well
 

Darkmakaimura

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Thanks for the positive impressions.
Think I'll pass.
The thing is, the game itself is probably good for those interested in multi-player. I have no doubts about the quality of it as a standalone game. My issue is with the fact it's got the LoK attached to it. I know it was from the cancelled game and I apologize in advance if this has been mentioned before, but why cancel the SP game but release it's MP component to a series known for it's SP gameplay? It's confusing why they'd let this happen. Is it just because it's easier to go with MP then to set up stories and characters and locations for the SP game? Dead Sun looked pretty damn good.

But you know what, I'll be the first (okay, Mamarobotnik will be actually) to praise Nosgoth if it really does inspire or somehow allow another SP sequel to the LoK franchise.

Mr. Monkey, please make it so.