Interview to Knightmare
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TH: First of all, there's anything you would like to tell our readers about the Knightmare behind the screen?
Knightmare: Ah well, I have been a fantasy/scifi fan since my youth and I acquired several 'nerdy' hobbys like reading, writing and fantasy role-playing games. My video game carreer begun with a rather simple video game console before the atari. I chose it as birthday present over a bike which kind of defined my attitude for the rest of my life ;o) I had an Atari system, a c64 and then a PC and have been playing video-games ever since. Well, sometimes I took a break to go to the bathroom.
So I was able to turn my hobby into my profession and I hope some of the passion I have for stories and games is felt in my work. I still fancy the idea of writing a fantasy book sometimes but I sadly lack the time to pursue this on a regular basis.
What can you tell us about your first contact with Tibia?. ¿Where, when and why?
Knightmare: It was about Christmas time. I had holidays and was looking for some online game which was free to play. I had somehow gotten a trial account for Meridian-something and wondered if there were similar free to play games out there. In those days multiplayer onlinegames were quite rare though and a flat rate for internet access was something you could only dream about. I did some searches in the web and that's when I found Tibia. It reminded me of several older games I had played and I liked the way you had to improve your character and earn your stuff.
Back then only virtually a handful of people played Tibia. There was not much beyond Thais, the sewers, the lighthouse and the orc dungeon to the north. With the cyclops being the strongest monster and the need to get twice the exp you had already earned to get to the next level, levelling was somewhat capped at level 8. There were no classes and no magic. Eating instantly healed you though (but I might get that mixed up). You see it was simple and very basic - a´but yet we had a great time.
I teamed up with another player and we had some adventures together. Later I met more and more players and a small community formed. You can imagine how small the community really was when you hear that: when a giant update introduced classes, each player could actually mail to CIP and tell them what class their character should be converted to.
With the update came a few more dungeons and several new monsters like minotaurs, dragons, be... uhm ...bonelords and the demon. For a while dragons were seen as unbeatable for single players and demons beyond the reach of any, except for sorcerers, since invisibility worked on every creature for some weeks. On player request this was changed quite soon. By then we had a great community and being online in Tibia was more about socialising then anything else. Later I volunteered to add some NPCs and to create some parts of the map, but that's a different story.
The Knightmare we know is an old level 32 paladin. Do you have other secret characters or you prefer to play other games? We know that playing the same thing you're working may be a bit stressing.
Knightmare: The idea of secrecy is not to tell anyone, so ... ;o) Though you can't say that you actually 'play' a game you are working on. It rather feels like yet another "play testing" due to the familiarity with the mechanics. It is difficult not to see the game as numbers and conditions when you worked that long on and close to this stuff. It lacks the sense of wonder and exploration for which I envy you players. To me there are no myths in Tiba, nothing to discover. If I play, I play for the people and the community. I like low level play more then playing on high levels. I like the sense of achievement you get when your new level, skills and equip enable you to beat new monsters and challenges that formerly gave you a beating. Of course I play other games too from single-player to multi-player and even the occasional browser-game but as I mentioned earlier, time is sparse and real life demands its chunk too.
You were one of the first players that started doing "fan work" for the game. Where you got those ideas?
Knightmare: I started playing fantasy-games when I was about 16. I read a lot, watched movies and TV. I was accustomed to come up with new ideas and stories for my pen and paper role-playing game, to improvise when players did unexpected things and to adapt to changed situations seamlessly. So it was no that hard for me to come up with new ideas for Tibia. When I begun creating stuff for Tibia, I already had imagined so much that 'might' come with one of the next updates and there were so many things that I had hoped would be introduced into Tibia, it was almost as if I only had to pick some ideas from a shelf where I had stored them and put them into the game. Of course not all ideas were suitable for or possible in Tibia though. But with a little bit of creativity I introduced most of the ideas I already had in one way or the other.
Creating content for Tibia is like telling a story. In this case you have to convert the story somehow into a playable sequence. Sometimes it's a certain concept that you want in the game. But to make it special, it has to have some kind of twist. For example: having a city 'in the water' like Venice was something I had in mind. Just to copy the idea from real life 1:1 seemed a little boring though. So my first concept was a pyramid city ruled by undead that had been built in the water. For several reasons this never came to be (actually this would have been modern day Carlin). The ideas made their way into the game though as the swamp city of Venore and the pyramid city of Ankrahmun. I especially like to take something that is known and twist or merge it into something new and unexpected.
Other ideas evolve almost naturally around some concept or mechanic that I like. I think in general you can't force yourself or someone else to be creative. If you try to enforce ideas they often feel not right and 'taste' artificial to me. The best approach to creativity seems to be to let your imagination do what it thinks is best. Therefore it's not a conscious process but more like a trained ability like riding a bike or swimming or even walking. You don't think about each step but you just do it. I think we all are creative people. If you give your creativity more room and more chance to evolve you will see that it's not that hard to be creative and things come naturally to you.
Did you thought twice before starting to work officially for Cipsoft? How did they purpose it to you? There was any special design or proposal that made them decide to sign you?
Knightmare: It was rather my work and dedication to the game as a whole that made Cipsoft consider me as an employee. I had helped Tibia for quite a while with NPCs, mapping and game-mastering before even the idea of CipSoft took hold. I think I and some members of CIP talked about the possibility to actually do professional work for Tibia in the game and it got more substantial via e-mail contact. We had met one time before in person to talk about the game and to get to know each other personally in a meeting in which Taghor and Lillanan were present too, it was formally a meeting with the senior GMs. Other than that we had extensive contact via mail and in the game though.
It still took a while until it became evident that CipSoft needed dedicated full time employees. It was a big move for me and so I had to consider several things in my life before I accepted to work in a far away city. To me it was a bold change in my life and my plans for my life so far. On the other hand, as I mentioned, I had already spent a good part of my time for the game in mapping, scripting and game-mastering and Tibia had become a part of my life anyway. So for one part it was only formalizing things that had worked before. For the other part it was a big step that was not taken easily. CipSoft was just starting to grow, I guess we have 10 times the employees now compared to when I started, and you had to put faith into the idea of the game. Given the fact that I usually tend to avoid risks and play safe, you can imagine how much faith I put into Tibia.
When you and your mates create new content, do you design it thinking mainly in players or there are several other factors that come to your minds?
Knightmare: First there is an idea, a concept, the story that should be told. Then there are technical restrictions and necessities. Of course you consider even then what is fun, accessible and appropriate for the game, but in a more general and broader sense.
When the story becomes more tangible, you begin to consider other things. Then you see the parts from a players perspective and see the needs and expectations of the players as well as the appeal and value of the concept. If you, for example, have the idea of a dragon isle with fire and volcanoes and some shocking secret it is more like an image in your mind. Then you begin to think about what level the players will have that explore the area, how they will arive and leave, should there be a depot, traders etc. From there it goes to the parts of the area, like how many caves are there and how are they populated etc. Step by step you leave the more broader scope and come to the more player based things, like considerations of changes that make it easier to navigate the map and stuff like that. At latest when you do the first tests in the roughest version of the area you are fully in a players perspective and change things accordingly.
People may not remember that Knightmare was one of the firsts Gamemasters. Some time ago Cipsoft decided to change the role of Gamemaster for the auto-detect tool and report system. You agreed with that when it was being decided? Cipsoft never thought in replacing inactive Gamemasters before changing the whole system?
Knightmare: I enjoyed my time as a gamemaster and I enjoyed my time in the team, but that was long ago. When the need for more content was growing, the time I could dedicate to gamemastering was melting away. Eventually I was tasked with concentrating on new content only, whereas others were tasked to look after community issues and the gamemasters. So I was no longer involved with gamemastering and decisions about it when those changes were implemented. So I can say only little about the discussions and decisions that lead to this change. As mentioned, my work had shifted to content generation and my knowledge of the changes, needs, and approaches had grown too vague over the years to evaluate such decisions. So - in the end I had no influence on these changes and can give no conclusive comment on that issue.
Which is your favourite Tibia version? Why do you think people says that old Tibia was better?
Knightmare: In general, my most favourite Tibia version is the fifth next ;o) Honestly, I understand nostalgia but aside from that, we have moved ahead quite nicely. The features we have now pale those of the mystified older versions in comparison. And there is still so much room to improve and add features. Of course, certain elements are debatable since they are subject to personal tastes, but all in all, I think that only progress will keep players entertained and happy. And Tibia is in a constant progress of evolution.
Personally I have seen so many changes that changed the face of Tibia in enormous ways that I am sometimes somewhat lost why people might get so unreasonably annoyed with some changes. Admittedly, it's sometimes hard to see the bigger picture and as soon as personal taste comes into play it becomes hard to debate. But, as mentioned earlier, Tibia has still a lot of room to improve. Some of those changes have to begin with a first step... Unfortunately, this step might end on someone’s toes sometimes.
I understand that certain things you have been accustomed to for your whole Tibian career might be missed if they are changed. Still, just because something has been there for so long, it does not have to mean that it had been good for the game as a whole. When I begun working for Tibia we had no quests as you know them today. There was no possibility to even implement world events, not to mention world changes. We had no raids, no rare bosses etc. Since then we got a lot of new and exciting stuff and it has been a looooong way. Tibia has become so much richer in details and options that it is easy to overlook such things that are taken as common today. Of course all those things more or less appealed to different kinds of players and changed the way you could play the game. This is easily overseen in the discussions and people who want back some older version are usually not really referring to the older version, but a couple of features that suited their playing style more than the current one. So, all in all, it is a matter of personal taste on the one hand, and for the other hand, a matter of the evolution of a game that will always take place in the course of time.
This one is obligated. Which is your favourite quest? And the quest you most enjoyed while designing?
Knightmare: I usually tend to like the newest ideas and concepts a lot. As fun as an idea once was, as soon as you have new concepts, you naturally become more interested in them. Of course you also learn what works and what doesn't and you get new tools and features to flesh out your quests, so the newer ones always have some kind of advantage over the earlier ones. I don't think that this is a bad thing though and wouldn't discredit our old work.
More generally spoken though, I personally prefer the more fun quests over the battle heavy ones. I had fun creating the "isle of evil" quest just for the fun and irony I could put into it. I also liked the new concepts and mechanics introduced in the 'a pirates death' world event. Both are meant more as entertainment for people than a way to earn powerful items and the like. Of course the most favourite game mechanic is not necessarily also the most fun thing to script, so I cannot truly recall what quest was the most fun to design. But I guess it's more important how content you are with the implementation in the end.
Do you think every quest in the game are fine or some of them should receive an update?
Knightmare: Oh, you can definitely give older quests certain face-lifts. There is always something you could polish, something fun to add or something to improve. The fact alone that the earliest quests did not have the technical options of today's quests means that there is certainly room to improve. But of course it is a bit complicated to do significant changes to existing quests or add side-quests, since so many people have already done the basic quest. Some may feel cheated when an easy quest becomes more complicated, or a difficult quest becomes easier. So improvements to older quests will probably be only some streamlining that can be done without upsetting too many people.
That being said, an update concentrating on improving existing quests would hardly be recognized at all by the players. Those who had completed the quests won't be able to do them again and those who will do them for the first time would not notice any difference. So it seems wiser to concentrate on newer content then to put a significant effort in major changes of old and classic questlines, although now and then we might find the time to tweak some of the older stuff too.
It is by far easier and more reasonable to do changes on world tasks and the like, because some of the aforementioned problems do not apply to them. Also, people usually rather want to have new content than to have older stuff changed.
Which is the most challenging task about creating new quests and stories?
Knightmare: The most challenging part is for one the technical realisation of an idea. The other, is to tell the story you want to tell, without boring players to death.
Some ideas simply do not work appropriately and you have to come up with other ways to implement them or even drop them completely. Another crucial point is that you constantly have to keep in mind that there are several abuse and endanger scenarios connected with new quests. It's dangerously easy to get some players stuck somewhere because they did things in unexpected ways. So expecting the unexpected is part of the job. You have to consider countless 'if's and when's' when creating a quest. The possible problems and complications are sometimes overwhelming and just when you think you finally got the right idea the next 'if' lifts it's ugly head and shatters it all. Some ideas that seem fun on paper are met with overwhelming problems or absurd efforts to be implemented. One of the most challenging tasks is therefore not to fall in love with an idea before it's save that it can really be implemented the way you envisioned it.
Has any major quests or area been rejected from being added to the game in the last moment? It's hard to put hours and hours in making up something new and after that, never see it in-game?
Knightmare: Several things had to be changed for several reasons, but all in all, we plan that much ahead that gladly such things do not occur. Usually it is quite clear in advance what is possible and what can't be done. Unsuitable ideas usually do not make it very far. The worst that could happen is that you are in love with a new idea that cannot be implemented at the moment - but that is usually nothing that hits you by surprise.
The only stuff that has never been completed, were some legacy issues from the past, like the maps that were never truly finished by volunteer map designers and the like. With the transition of Tibia from a project to a business things got handled more effectively and such dilemmas are avoided.
If we're right, other of your main tasks is creating NPCs and dialogues. ¿Which are your favourite NPCs ingame? ¿Any fun fact you can tell us about any NPC?
Knightmare: Well you should love all your children equally ;o) I don't think any of them stands out in that regard. Sometimes, when I read an old script for an NPC I am amazed what they have to tell, because I simply forgot that I gave them this kind of personality or opinion. I am really interested how people interact with my creations and therefore I am a bit sad that I can't stand still, close to an NPC and just listen to what he's talking about with players which is something I did regularly in the past. I still love to read about stories players have to write about NPCs on the boards.
Sometimes it's a bit shocking though what people think about certain NPCs or how they misunderstand them. A common example is Aruda who is a pickpocket but certainly not what some players interpret into her. Another odd thing is the colour code some people tend to see in NPCs. Although I love allusions it never crossed my mind to dress up someone in some country’s national colours. To avoid that we probably had to make the NPCs wear several shades of pink only - though even then people would probably assume we are promoting or mocking some brand ;o)
I cannot recall any specific fact about NPCs that are worth to mention. My advise though is, when you are interested in NPCs, just talk to them a little bit, some might even surprise you with answers about issues that are not commonly asked about and are a bit aside from the usual dialogue.
Let's get into swampy. There have been quests in the game that no longer exists and players never found? Has Tibia nowadays secrets that haven't been discovered yet or it's mostly said in order to keep the old RPG essence alive?
Knightmare: This question is is somewhat missing the crucial point of this issue. Let me put it that way: If you are not interested in a 'treasure hunt' (in some way) for the hunts sake, you can just as well let it be. The problems start with the question: what is a quest for you? What if there is a secret that King Tibianus wears pink underwear and nobody knows about it yet? You could probably figure it out by talking to dozens of NPCs and follow their leads and in the end the only reward would be that you know about it. Figuring out what versions of Tibian history might be the truth, what the motivations were of certain shakers and movers in Tibian history might be a riddle - a quest - something you could put work into to figure it out. There would be no substantial reward whatsoever though. Would that still be a quest in the context of the question then?
Consider the age of quests, too. For example, there could be an incredibly old quest, that nowadays would hardly be considered a quest anymore. The reward might be something that is common loot in our days. Would that still suit the taste of the treasure hunter? Just imagine that the reward might only be gold. Perhaps a veritable fortune in the past, but not even a weeks loot today. You would probably even fail to claim the fame to have solved the quest. As soon as you announce it, a dozen others would claim to have known it all along and even accuse you to have spoiled the secret.
What I want to explain is: If you have fun in exploring, experimenting, reading and talking - then have fun, regardless of the outcome. Then the question really is irrelevant for you. If you are interested in the reward mainly, and an answer to this question is substantial for you in order to follow the leads, then rather do your hunting routine and simply get it when it's common knowledge and you are interested in it. There is simply no guarantee in Tibia that your efforts will always pay off. Some might not be rewarded at all, you might even reach a dead end at one point or chase something that does not exist. If you enjoy the hunt, that does not matter.
By the way, I honestly doubt that most of the people who want more mystery quests in Tibia today have actually solved the dream challenge or the desert quest completely on their own. It's even unlikely that they found the way to the paradox tower at all without hints from some true explorers. So I would advise everyone not interested in exploring to wait until something becomes common knowledge rather then to waste time in a wild goose chase, and I wish all others lots of fun on their adventures and exploration tours.
Did you ever thought about adding quests for old and legendary items? Is this an option in a close future?
Knightmare: That is not a decision for me to make and nothing I am currently thinking about. I personally would rather add new items and create new legends instead of devaluing old stuff. I am not aware of a necessity to re-add items that were once available. Please keep in mind though that this is in no regard a guarantee that a certain item stays as rare as it is. The game is subject to change and I simply can't tell what the future might bring, but as I said there are currently no plans that I am aware of to add 'old' items to the game in that way.
Talking about items, don't you feel that most weapons and armours doesn't have anything that makes them attractive or interesting? Nowadays most items seems that are only worth for selling to NPCs and that's sad.
Knightmare: Well, I see this problem especially from the point of view in which we have to add rewards for quests. From that perspective, it becomes painfully obvious that we are somewhat limited in regard of adding diversity to items right now. If you just add a few points of stats you probably end up devaluing existing quest rewards. Eventually you would create more and more powerful items until the values become ridiculous. We run into this dilemma when deciding about quest rewards, as well as monster loot.
When you have more values and effects to tinker with you can obviously create more interesting stuff. But to change this is a broader decision that is not made by the content team alone and would take a great amount of resources from other teams. Besides, there are other possible solutions to the loot/reward issue that have to be considered too. So in general we would like to add more interesting stuff, not only weapons and armour, but that will take time, planning and even new features, so I cannot promise anything.
Thanks for answering! We can't wait to see all the new things that you'll bring us in the future!