Interview with Siegriel
From Medivia Online Wiki
I’m happy to deliver an interview between Life Shiver and the storyteller and quest designer of Medivia: Siegriel.
We talked a bit about his inspirations as Loremaster, conceptions of lore creation, problems and opportunities around the mainland revamp, the challenges of designing a quest, and so on!
I hope you like it!
If you find more doubts than answers here, drop a comment below and pray for the feedback!
I would like to start talking about your relationship with Tibia and Medivia. It’s common knowledge that Medivia derivates from Tibia, that's a fact. When did you find Tibia and Medivia and how was it?
Tibia was popular as hell in Poland when I was about 14, it was an excellent game for our reality. It didn't weigh much, so our poor connection allowed everyone to download it and the requirements was low as well, so every PC could run it. I remember how I played it on school computers with my friends. Honestly speaking, I never achieved anything major within the game as I preferred 3D approach proposed by offline games, though I admired community.
I never heard about Medivia before I started working. So, my relationship with the Medivia was money-only at first, but after the first test server (Garrogat, Osaris and Yehsha update) I started loving how it works, how the community behaves and overall how the things look in the game. Now, I really love working here and I feel really connected with the game.
Currently, Medivia is focused on becoming an original game slicing old links that connect the Universe with its predecessor. This goal has a complex challenge: create everything from the beginning without lose the essence. Also, it’s a fact that The Lord of the Rings was the raw inspiration for Tibia; which originate Medivia, as we can notice in old lore as in the eternal fight between two position forces, Good and Evil. In this context, what should we expect in the next revamps and what are your inspirations as a storyteller?
First things first, I really love fantasy as a genre. It’s my most favorite genre in terms of books, games or films. Lord of the Rings is one of my two favorite movies (the other one is Star Wars), but to be honest I don't consider LotR as a direct vision to Medivia development. My approach to Medivia is more a mix between fantasy experience and reality.
I was a Gamemaster for tabletop games for a long time, Saphron was one of my players, our adventures made a big impact on how I write quests and how I perceive user (player) experience. Beside that I'm a X-th century reenactor and I fought in many battles, google Wolin battle as an example.
Overall, I want to bring more reality and darkness to the game while trying to keep the genre as high-fantasy. You can expect a lot of new topics in the lore, such as terrorism, extremism, love problems, corrupted evil wizards, dangerous plays of the noble houses and even overambitious officers. All these aspects in addition to the "great evil" that’s just waiting to jump in and destroy the humanity.
Wolin Festival 2019
Could you describe a little how you understand our community and how it behaves differently?
The community is incredibly active. I'm a gamer and I never found a player base so interested in the game lore or in the game itself. I love how our players make their own events and how they work to find unique, yet useless, items. I remember how during our Halloween pranks, I wrote a letter to a player that were hosting a stream and, immediately, some players posted trade offers just to have this letter signed by Siegriel! It’s very fascinating and inspiring, especially when you are a lore developer and, let’s be honest, in most cases players don't play MMO to enjoy lore aspects.
Could you tell us which Tabletop games did you used to be gamemaster? And, how these experiences contribute to your job, especially as quest designer?
I used to be a GM in Warhammer, I and II edition, Fajerbol (which is a minimalistic polish RPG), Neuroshima, Monastyr and my own system a bit.
What aspect of this experience aids me the most?
For sure the inability to anticipate players strategies. It was always so funny when I planned a quest and I had 3 or 5 possibilities to be chose, but then players always found a 6th that I would, ever, anticipate. It’s the same when you plan a quest in Medivia, you never know how hard, or how easy, it will be a designed stage. Some things obvious for a developer, may be extremely hard for a player to figure out by himself.
Basically, tabletop mastering gave me experience to understand the differences between a quest on paper and how it plays after the release.
Interesting! Let’s go back to storytelling now.
Both titles, LOTR and SW, are articulated around two opposite sides: good and evil, the classic clash of these two forces. The Ruthless Sevens, which present this eternal clash, were a tale of Medivia, years ago. It seems that this eternal clash will remain after the revamp, but with more layers when we explore relations between human and, maybe, other races, right?
Yes, this is true. I'm not replacing this “eternal clash” for common folk issues - I'm adding that. I want to make Medivia feels truer, more natural - realistic. NPC’s often have relations between each other (you can check this in Garrogat already) and even though it doesn't really add anything to gameplay itself but add layers of immersion while you’re exploring.
I’m going to illustrate my question with LOTR again. Basically, races were derivate from gods identities and their relationship, between each other, also derivates from their creators. Somewhat Tibia was like that, and in consequence Medivia too. Meanwhile, we noticed a lack of content about this in-game. In this context, what’s your strategy to structure the lore around myths, and history, so explorers can access these tales and origins?
I cannot answer this directly, cause it’s going to be in game and I don't want to spoil everything. Anyway, if you listen, talk and read - closely - you may find answers regarding these aspects. I can say that there is already a lot of new lore in Medivia, but it’s hard to cover everything. Sometimes, I just forget to write a book, or a line, about certain material that supposed to exist. The best thing you can do is message me about it, like Reinhard asked about the history of Uliaarthar, in this case, the books which contained tales about it we had, simply, forgot to place in the game!
When we talk about Mainland revamp, we also talk about total lore revamp. That’s something extremely complex that can lead to certain cohesion problems.
Osaris and Yehsha revamp fixed a considerable flaw regarding old Ankrahmun lore. This old continent just doesn’t belong at all, and, in my point of view, that happened because they had drained everything from their mythologic so there was no other alternative than create something away from their Universe.
I would like to know your thoughts about it and what's being done about mythology, nemesis, and history to conceive a Universe which can bear future updates without being vulnerable to witness plants eating the gods of yesterday in future updates.
Building a new lore is one thing. It’s quite easy to come up with a few quests and some background behind them to connect them together. On the other hand, building an universe in which you can support all quests and future updates is a different thin. It’s like writing a book containing only information’s about the world.
When I shaped the new Genesis, I wanted to create something that won't be changed later, something to base our game on without worrying about cohesion problems. And, later this strategy was exposed as a big problem: we need to push the update soon, and we still don't have the mainland ready, also, our custom lore, from previous writers, needs to make sense as well. A large part had to be remodeled and that was a very hard job.
Aside from that, I had to write this update in a way it doesn’t slow me down later, thus in some cases, right now, you can see in-game names of cities that doesn’t exist yet. Mittenhof and Eschen are mentioned a few times, for example.
I believe that the current lore can bear lot of future updates, since I left many doors opened. I even have some ideas for extensions and even a next update, but I won't spoil it now.
About Gods of yesterday.
I don't know how fast will people grow in power over the years, but I understand what you mean. You'll see in time how the new Genesis makes it possible to add stronger enemies without worrying about coherence. Just notice how monsters and demons, in Genesis, are leveled by their age and experiences.
For example, there’s demons from that were alive before the first cataclysm, those who’re sons of “The Brother”. Then, there’s monsters that have their origin after the first cataclysm, weaker ones. After that, we’ve monsters after the second cataclysm followed by nowadays creatures. I'd like to remind everyone (I don't know if anyone noticed so far) that there are no Gods in genesis beside the four Brothers (and as we now - they are dead).
What could we expect from races that were placed aside for so long and are now, in-game, so inferior to mere soldiers; like Minotaurs?
That won't really be a revamp, more like a bit different approach. I'd categorize monsters a bit so they have some connections, between each other, but there are no serious discussions about those races.
In this universe, what player's characters represent, what they are? How can we explain the fact that they cannot die?
I'd place players as adventurers, where some of them settle in the lands of Medivia while others go after its wealth. A Player position will be clarified during the Campaign, revealing a bit story behind who the hero might be (not who he is, I suspect the campaign ending will start a nice discussion).
Moving now to quest design.
Have been said that we’re going to discover another Epic Quest and even a Campaign in the next update. But now, with the revamp of the mainland, we're going to witness the outcome of some random quests, like Warlord Sword Quest. It's been stated before that these quests are somewhat random and doesn’t have a related quest log.
The fact of these quests contains random aspects in their design implied, for the community, a common sense that these quests are almost impossible to solve. Should we expect to find more random quests or you guys plan to link lore to their solution while trying to keep the original level of challenge?
There will be a huge quest, a few longer quests and yes, there will be "random" quests not connected to factions, to the campaign and maybe not even connected to lore. Remember, this is "real" world with their own problems, people may fight each other over business or personal relations, some bandits may just want to gather easy gold and some lords will be unfair for their citizens. If you ask about quests that are not in quest log, somehow secret quests, then yes. There will be secret quests without quest log. That will be another level of challenge, a smile towards those players whom are able to read between the lines and investigate NPC’s or Towns to satisfy their own curiosity
Are there still hidden quests lying around Osaris, Garrogat and Yehsha update?
There are no hidden quests around Al Najira, but I already said something about it and I won't repeat myself. Not because I don't like to, but because I don't want to make it too easy :)
Regarding the context between Quest Design and Roleplaying.
Once we were able to make choices that impacted our lives in-game, for example, there’re dilemmas such as: “Should I join Thaian Army or Lightbringers?” or “Am I more inclined to be a Kazordoon’s Champion or have the respect of Elves?”. In this case, we use to take our own decisions and we couldn't go back in time since we’re, instantly, declared as an enemy of the other side. For my personal taste, this old design used to be more Role Playing than today - which has become task oriented. Overall, what should we expect about this?
Expect something around it’s a problem. Because, we’re preparing a full content and if it’s a strategy the players would suffer in experience what Medivia has to offer. I think there’s might be some choices in quests, but surely not in the matter of factions. I like consistency in terms of lore and quests. In this matter, I don't want to stop people from completing all faction quests on single character.
Since I'm answering about Roleplaying, I'm going to write a critic of mine.
Abukir and Forgula were amazing updates. The revamps that followed next were even better technically. But, on last updates, I've been noticing the presence of Tasks in a manner that these are set as a strategy from staff to make players stick around and set a level of difficulty. Basically, we slay a certain amount of a creature to progress in the quest line. Then, we’re obliged to slay more X-Thousands of another... In the long run, it's boring and demotivates a lot of people. Some love it, but it seems like Medivia, and others of the genre, are getting each update away from Roleplaying.
The opportunity to make choices was a great characteristic of past Factions Design: you could just say a big and loud "Fuck you!" to Thaian Empire and side with Lightbringers. Doing that, we’re taking into consideration a degree of social alignment for our chars. That used to boost players interaction to a next level. Not just the relation of the players with the game design (NPC), but with other players.
So, what’s being done to boost community interaction and create more layers of interaction between players that goes beyond War, Market and Party Hunts?
I think I already stated myself in the matter of tasks systems.
I do not like the non-story style of these "quests" and I'll do as much as I can to build a good lore about it. Killing X monsters is a natural way to slow down player progress, games have been doing it for years, especially MMO games. If someone wants to drop everything and be a level-oriented player, they’re free to read spoilers, kill monsters while and ambush people.
No game will ever reach the roleplaying level of a tabletop RPG, no matter how hard they try. There will always be some limitations caused by system, budget, players or even the platform itself. NPCs can't respond to all possible lines and players won't simply talk to you if they don't want to.
I can't speak about the last question; a lot is being talk within the staff and there are a lot of ideas that are not certain enough to talk about them now.
In past updates, some NPCs were totally silent if you didn't say exactly the 5 words that it was programmed to do, which was basic info about their job or quest. Books were something rare, especially during Abukir and Icenhaal Update.
Therefore, explorers were tied to NPC lines which are, mostly, an only time event. These NPCs won’t reply if you ask them for old lines, for example. The problem is: you can't access that knowledge anymore. I understand that now we may have more NPC interaction and they might have more lines. And the fact that these lines will add useful knowledge in any shape or form is still in doubt.
In this context, which insights could you give us about NPC Interaction and access to information?
First I'm going to talk about Quest Log.
I don't know if you noticed, but now logs show information in a different manner than before. Hypothetically, when a hero is recollecting something on his quest log it’s almost like a personal journal, so, I find it suitable to add some thoughts and clues:
"Pharaoh Anhamtap won't let me take the role as Yehsha Executioner until I get rid of the old one. Apparently, he fled from town taking with him a lot of valuables, then set up a hideout somewhere in desert. He keeps killing random people just for fun. His name is Jaffr. Well Jaffr, I'm coming for you."
Secondly, sometimes players get a long rest between quests for several reasons. After a longer time, they might just forget what they had to do, this is normal. It's like coming back to your old save game that you haven't touched for months, certainly, you will spend at least an hour or two just trying to figure out what the heck. I hope with this kind of quest log writing I can partially remind what is happening, like what players needs to do, and disclosure some extra lore behind it as well.
A lot material regarding lore is written between the lines, and, if you want to know everything you must ask everywhere and connect the dots yourself. I'm writing new books, I hope you will find them interesting and I believe that it’ll expand the lore. When it comes to lost knowledge from the quest parts, that’s something I hope the quest log might help. As an example, I will paste a log after killing omen:
"Nobody would ever believe that one of the greatest enemies on deserts is hidden in a sacred hammer Karvos used to kill Demon Lord Azeran long time ago. However, to extract and kill the monster I had to destroy the weapon, so Azeran's plan has succeeded - to render his only threat broken. From his body I recovered a left horn, I think I should keep it."
Now, how to trigger conversations with an NPC is another concept. Unfortunately, sometimes we have no idea of which keyword to use. Because of that, explorers may lose essential information about lore or simply won't discover a possible secret. There's just not enough information to guess if a certain NPC can do something, or just trade items. Around this, what's being done regarding triggering conversations and keywords?
We design NPC’s to respond to a standard set of keywords. Take Yehsha and Osaris for example, every (I think every) NPC react to God, Elyon, Priest, Job and other keywords. So, if something is hidden it’s always possible to find it through talking and deducting.
When it comes to puzzles and knowledge, I often talk with players during test server trying to find out what information they possess and which parts of lore I wrote that they have no idea about. The community extremely motivated, and dedicated, to find every possible line that an NPC has to say. It’s incredible, people can find everything – that’s for sure.
In other hand, observe players progress while they’re doing the quest is important. On test server we've found that people were stuck on some puzzles, or just couldn’t progress in conversations with NPC’s of the Lord Azeran Quest. In this case, we simply had to revise and rework it a bit, so it’s easier to access or make it more obvious. For example, a lot of players ignored the helmet parts dropped from Omens, so we forced NPC’s to say that would be good if one takes the loot with him. After that, we also added the log part I mentioned above, and that was enough.
As a person responsible for quests and NPCs I like to sneak with people when they’re playing and observe how they talk with NPCs. Can players think about keywords with the current knowledge that they possess? Is the knowledge available easily? And if we want to hide a quest a bit so it’s more secret than others, did we hide it too much and players simply cannot find it? Or they are too close to the truth compared to the time taken? These are common questions during the development phase of quest working and are never easy to answer alone.Another important aspect of social life that I haven't seen in a game like Medivia is Religion. Seems like Religion isn't a thing; isn't something that can move mountains and blind people. So, there are any plans to add religion in the game or lore, besides some NPCs lines?
Religion will be a thing, but beside NPC lines? I don't know how you can see that. If you want to ask if the religion will be implemented in game system, no it won’t. It’ll be a lore thing only but will be a bit bigger than just some answers from NPCs. In Eschen you can find a huge church dedicated to The White Light with a whole faction quest based on this religion, but don't expect angels aiding you in battle if you pray for them before the quest!
Regarding test servers. I understand that the test server is amazing for developers like you stated before - and it's a wise move indeed. On the other hand, doesn't it break roleplaying aspects when players could explore everything without any risks? When the update is officially online these quests, and their reward is completed extremely fast and without any risk, this fact breaks the magic of past updates - like Forgula one. Players do not risk money or their lives anymore, because they have an alternate reality to do it. Is there something being talked about it in staff or test server is a new feature that's going to stay?
I'm not quite sure about that. Test server is optional, role-players can simply avoid it, but I understand that the sheer possibility to explore something new may lure enough people to try it.
I think it’s better this way.
Imagine if you’re trying to go through a quest and after 12h you realize that the quest is unsolvable because an unexpected bug which the only fix is to reset the progress for all players. This could happen only on test servers and I remember that players who tested Lord Azeran quest had a lot more work to do than they have now.
During this journey, what do you determine as the hardest challenge between Storytelling and Game Mechanics?
I think the hardest challenge at the begging was the programming itself as I was almost a complete noob when it comes to programming. Anyway, Iryont helped me with everything and was very patient, so the process of learning was quick and easy for me. Now I find that the real challenge is using the system to its full potential. Not everything can be achieved, so many things need to be dropped because of how the game works. I can't make animations, instances, can't make an NPC disappear from your game or mimic two NPCs talk, so the process of quest writing already involves what can and cannot be done, though usually I must drop everything a level down later. Some parts may become too easy or too hard and everything needs to be redone. It’s painful to acknowledge the fact that your last 5 hours of work needs to be wiped because something simply does not make sense.
To finish the interview, your topic in Medivia Official Discord works for what purpose?
My topic on Medivia Discord works for lore discussions. If there are things you'd like to ask or talk about with each other, feel free to join and talk, I'm always eager to talk about my writing.
Thank you, Siegriel!
Thank you for the interview, I liked it and I hope we'll meet again after the update, so we can clarify if what I said here was right or wrong :)