Many gamers may not remember the Legacy of Kain series. Not having an official release since 2003, I myself only experienced Soul Reaver as a passing fancy, back in the days of my youth when PS1 demo discs were still a thing.
Nosgoth sought to fill that gap, finding Square Enix partnering with Psyonix to provide a free-to-play multiplayer experience set within the Legacy of Kain universe—and if anyone knows multiplayer it’s Psyonix. Nosgoth offers fans something they can love, and also gives newcomers a fun game they can enjoy even without knowing much about the franchise. CGM sat down with System Designer at Psyonix, Jacob Mott and Design Director at Square Enix, Bill Beacham to discuss Nosgoth’s creation and future coming out of early access.
Comics & Gaming Magazine: When did you decide to deviate from making a traditional Legacy of Kain game?
Bill Beacham: As, I think, has become a matter of public record through various stories and leaks, which we’ve confirmed, we did start making a single player, more traditional Legacy of Kain game with a different team. When we decided we wanted to add a multiplayer component to that title, we went looking for a specialist in that area of gameplay, which is how we came to be talking with Psyonix. We very rapidly realized that they were the right team for us. Even back then, the two modes were separate even though they were part of the same title. They were set in different times in the franchise’s history, different lead characters, different playable characters, and different gameplay.
The multiplayer game shaped up very nicely, and when we decided what the single player game wasn’t going to be what we wanted it to be, we decided to continue with the multiplayer component separately. We’d always talked about potentially releasing it as a standalone product—if you liked multiplayer gaming you could just get that part of it—so it was quite easy for us to make that separation and continue with the aspect that we thought was really promising… and over time that became Nosgoth.
CGM: What were some of the initial challenges you guys came across while designing the multiplayer?
Jacob Mott: The asymmetrical combat. There’s a difference between how vampires approach combat and how humans approach combat and it makes a huge difference in the way maps need to be designed. Big open areas are very favourable for humans; closed areas are more favourable to vampires. And even from that angle there’s more stuff that goes in to balance.
BB: I think I’ll just jump in and say, map design for characters who can climb everywhere, leap far distances and in some cases even fly; we knew it was going to be challenging, but it was something we all believed in. It’s probably caused these guys some headaches, but it makes the game pretty exciting to play and pretty unique.
CGM: What will be different about the finalized version of Nosgoth compared to the early access version?
BB: The big update that we’re about to release (I think it’s the biggest release we’ve ever done) is substantial. This is our last big content update before we go fully live. So what we’ll be doing is looking at how that is received; we want to give it some time so we can look at any bugs or exploits that come out of it. So once we’re happy that we’ve ironed out any major issues there, then we’ll be coming out of early access. So it’s not so much that there’ll be more content, the content that we have will just be that much more robust and polished.
Over the course of early access we’ve doubled pretty much all the content in terms of numbers of maps, classes, game modes and just content generally. We want to make sure that the content that we’ve got is fun and smooth and accessible. Once we have made that transition there will be more content coming.
CGM: Is the live release going to be restricted to Steam or will it see a console release? Or is that something that will be determined by the success of the game?
BB: Yeah, we’re looking to see how it does. We’re aware of the console audience; when we started this project, free-to-play on consoles was less of an option but I think that has changed over time. So it’s certainly a possibility.
CGM: Do you think that the success of Nosgoth might lead to some fully realized Legacy of Kain or even Soul Reaver games in the future?
BB: We haven’t publically announced anything; I don’t want to speculate particularly. I think it’s a possibility. Square Enix has shown we can take an IP that was dormant and make successful games. We just need to make sure it was the right proposal, the right time, and the right team. All the factors that would tie into it. As I’m sure you’re aware, making these big story-driven games is a complicated and a time consuming process, it’s not something you dive into lightly.
I’d love there to be, I’m a massive fan. It’s one of the IPs that attracted me Eidos back in the day. So I hope there will be but it’s not something we can say yes or no to right now.
CGM: Was it challenging for you guys to make a game of this calibre while adapting it to the free-to-play model?
JM: It’s definitely different comparing when the game came into early access versus the free-to-play playing field now. That said, a lot of what went into the free-to-play design is similar to what’s going in now which is: we don’t want pay-to-win mechanics at all.
BB: I think it’s one of those things with free-to-play, in the bad ol’ days they had a very bad rep of not treating their players particularly well, with pay walls and pay-to-win mechanics. I remember very early on I had a conversation with the guys and nobody wanted to make a game like that. The philosophy is that if you make a good game, players will come to it and will invest in it, and that is ultimately the recipe for long-term success.
Generally, the quality of free-to-play games now is just increasing. They’re not quick, cheap, knock-‘em-out products, there are some really polished games out there. It was important to us that the game felt like a “real” product, not some fast turnaround.
CGM: Before I get to my last question, what can you tell us about the new Beastmaster class?
JM: The biggest thing about the Beastmaster is he’s the first human class that can fly. Originally, the most mobile characters were the vampires, whereas humans were more hunkered-down, looking to pick off vampires from range. The Beastmaster can hunt down vampires when they’re trying to flee over roofs. He can chase them around and scout out their positions with the new pinging system, so their teammates know. And once he does find them he can transform and fight them at their own range with his shotgun.
CGM: My final question to you is: what can players who are unfamiliar with the Legacy of Kain franchise expect out of a Nosgoth? What does the game offer them?
JM: The asymmetrical gameplay has been a really big draw. It’s not just two sets of marines with assault rifles fighting each other. It’s melee characters vs. ranged characters, there’s a big difference between what they’re looking at and how they want to approach combat. And in a single round you’re playing both sides, so you’ve got to figure out your opponents and how they change and adapt.
BB: I think Jake really nailed it but I’m going to talk anyway. The players for this type of game are going to be traditional franchise fans and that’s fine, that’s the audience we’re making this game for. The lore is a wrapping around that. It gives every aspect, the art design especially but also the game design, that depth and thoroughness. From our perspective it’s been a great benefit, not having to invent all this stuff from scratch. We’ve inherited this wonderful world to play in. But ultimately, this is a game experience that you’re not going to get anywhere else, it’s very different, it’s very fun, and ultimately that’s what’s going to bring players in. If they find out more about the world and the Legacy of Kain that’s cool. It’s a world we’re definitely proud of, but it’s the gameplay that is the number one attraction.