Written By: John Bergerud
Posted On: Wednesday, March 10, 1999
Dragon Hoard is a strategy/role-playing game where the player
assumes the role of a great dragon of legend. The player chooses
to be one of five types of dragons. The player ("he") will spend
much of his time flying around a full 3D world, with a third-person
perspective. He will collect gold to increase his hoard, gain
prestige and knowledge, fight fantastical creatures, compete head
to head with other dragons, and influence the various races in the
full world simulation to do his bidding-all in an effort to become
the most powerful dragon in the land.
Dragon Hoard combines a real-time strategy game with role-playing and action game elements,
to create a game experience for the player that is both role-playing
game and god-game, where the god-like being is the player-dragon.
The concept works on a number of levels, and has a strong precedent
in the classic game Sid Meier's Pirates. In the game Pirates, the
player's task is to become a great pirate, performing all of the acts
for which pirates were universally known: fighting warships and sword
duels, amassing great treasure, and becoming famous. Dragon Hoard will
advance this concept by applying the latest technology
advances to this hybrid game experience to create a rich gaming
experience for the player.
Dragons wield great influence over the people, places and events in
Dragon Hoard. It is up to the player to decide how he wishes to
play the strategy portion of the game. He can use his immense power
to subjugate the humanoid races under his sway, ruling an area by
fear and intimidation. Or he can choose to work in subtler, and
perhaps more positive ways to help one of the "lesser" races to
succeed and as a result worship the dragon for its wisdom and aid.
To "win" the game, he must become the most powerful dragon in the
world, defeating all other dragons in the process. The game has
tremendous possibilities as a multi-player game, with players assuming
any of the five different dragon types and competing with one another
for world supremacy.
In terms of the strategy genre, Dragon Hoard features a
fully-simulated world in which the player as the dragon must work
to influence and control the humanoid races, monitor the progress
of other dragons, and control the territory he inhabits in the game.
As for role-playing elements, the player can choose the type of
dragon (character) he wishes to play. As the player-dragon moves
through its many age changes, he can also choose which attributes,
spells, attacks (bite, claw, tail, breath, etc.) and defenses he
wishes to build up at each level. He can gather, store and use magic
items, spell books, etc. And finally, Dragon Hoard has action game
elements, in that the player flies through a full 3D world, battling
humanoid parties and armies, unique creatures and monsters and, of
course, other dragons.
Though there is a compelling back-story that plays throughout the
game and ties things together for the player, much of the essence
of Dragon Hoard revolves around the myths and legends of dragons
themselves. Dragons are among the most potent and terrible of
creatures of mythology. Though descriptions vary to some degree,
in the main they are huge yet agile, bright but vain, enchanted but
physical, and learned yet savage beasts. Dragons are the embodiment
of all natural forces of knowledge, motion, strength, and magic, be
it for offense or defense. No creature of legend or nature manifests
such a wondrous blend of attributes.
Though there are five different types of dragons in Dragon Hoard,
they all share similar features. They possess slender but
well-muscled bodies, six appendages (two legs, two arms, and two wings),
great talons, a long neck and tail, horns, and scaly body armor,
relatively soft on the underside and reinforced along the spine by
a row of raised or spiked plates.
Dragons are always looking to
increase their knowledge, especially involving all things magical.
They are always on the lookout for new spells. Dragons can grow to
be powerful spell users in the game, though each dragon type has
their specialties. Dragons are even willing to trade service to gain
this magical knowledge.
Given all of the above, the question that might naturally rise is:
"If dragons are this powerful, then why don't they just eliminate
the lesser races?" The quick answer is that they need an audience.
Dragons are amazingly boastful, self-centered and invariably consumed
with pride. They revel in flattery and bask in others' adoration.
Their nature forces them to show the lesser creatures how great and
powerful they are, generating worship akin to that given to minor
deities. The more fear or adoration the dragon receives, the more
power the dragon has. He can force others to do his bidding, based
on status attained.
The player-dragon will be concerned with four key things: Prestige,
Gold, Vanity, and Knowledge (includes magic knowledge). The most
important element of Dragon Hoard is prestige. Everything the dragon
does in the game either increases or decreases their prestige. This
in turn has a great effect on the attitudes of the races, creatures,
and other dragons toward the player-dragon. The more prestige and
influence that the dragon has on the world, the easier it will be to
overcome villages and defeat other dragons in the game.
Dragons also have an innate and well-documented need to collect gold.
They use this gold to transform from one age to another. They also
use it to compare themselves against other dragons. The more gold a
dragon has, the more prestige they have relative to other dragons.
The dragon is always interested in increasing their treasure hoard.
Dragons are also notoriously vain creatures. Dragons often boast
about their deeds. Judicious use of boasting can increase the
player-dragon's prestige and power. However, if the player is not
careful, this can backfire on him. For example, boasting to a more
powerful dragon just might make that dragon angry enough to seek out
the player, and force him to back up his boasts-a potentially lethal
situation for the player.
The player starts the game as a young dragon. He must gain
experience, knowledge, power and gold to grow in stature and
rank. The game will present itself to the player as a series of
scenarios. Each time the player completes a particular set of
scenarios, he will enter a special dragon sleep, which lasts but a
few moments in real-time but in the game, many decades at least will
have passed when he awakes. The dragon will have grown in size and
power, gained new spells and abilities, and will be ready to deal with
the world as it has progressed through those many years. The world,
and its inhabitants, will not have been idle.
Dragon Hoard is broken down into ten different segments, each
representing the dragon's age. When the player accumulates enough
gold, he will enter a special sleep, in which the dragon will grow
to the next age level. Since a dragon often lives 1000 or more years,
this process can take many years to complete. The dragon will awaken
to a brand new world having gained more powers and abilities. The
player will be able to pick and choose these new skills and abilities,
much like traditional role-playing games. This enables the player to
tailor the abilities of the dragon to his style of play.
The player will spend much of his time flying around a full 3D world,
with a third-person perspective situated above and behind the dragon.
He will control their dragon with a combination of the keyboard and
mouse as he flies over a richly textured landscape of forests, mountains,
plains, towns, castles, and more. The player will use all his resources
including the dragon's breath weapon, spells,
tooth and claw to battle various 3D modeled creatures, from the
wandering groups of lowly goblins to massive fire giants. Once defeated,
enemies often yield treasure, mostly gold but sometimes useful magic items.
Whether to heal battle wounds or just plan their next move, the
player will return often to their lair. This is his home base. The
player will use the lair as a place to plan his next strategy, store
important magic items, change available spells, and heal. He can also
examine the world situation with an extensive informational map.
The map will display the status of controlled villages, the
territories of the other dragons and races, and interesting power
areas and special sites.
A dragon's weapons are many. Their huge claws, whip-like tails, and
massive, multi-rowed teeth enable them to physically overpower almost
any foe. But the dragon's most devastating weapon is his powerful
breath weapon. Dragons have an innate ability to spew forth various
elements, depending on their heritage and environment. The great
Mountain Dragon belches forth a cone of incendiary fire, while the
Desert Dragon shoots forth a bolt of lightning-each devastating in
its own way.
The player-dragon's pursuit of magic is another important element in
the game. They are always looking to increase their magical
knowledge. This is accomplished by seeking out wizards, completing
quests, controlling Elven villages, and defeating powerful creatures.
The more magic knowledge a dragon has, the more powerful they are and
the more prestige they will have earned.
The exploration and combat in Dragon Hoard would not be as
captivating without a living, breathing world in which to interact.
While the player is going about their business, the world is being
simulated. Three races: Elves, Humans and a mysterious third race
we are calling the Vrak will be competing with
each other as they try to establish themselves in the world. Each race
has their own unique abilities and characteristics. These change
and grow over time as the races advance their technology.
Technology includes things such as magic, armor, weapons, tactics
and general defense, depending on the particular race. Villages can
grow from a small collection of hovels to large castles and cities,
with requisite advances in technology. Advances in technology will be
one of the primary vehicles for increasing the difficulty-level of the
game as the player advances.
While the races have their own goals and ambitions, how these play
themselves out during the course of the game is different every time
the game is played. In one game, the Elves and humans may be at
constant war while in another they may co-exist peacefully. The
player's actions can often have a large impact in shaping the world.
It is very similar to the pebble in the pond analogy. The player's
actions, though they may seem small at the time, can ripple throughout
the world. This offers a multitude of situations and challenges for
the player to experience, each and every time he plays the game.
The different villages of the races offer a unique opportunity for
the player. Dragons can control these villages, either through fear
and intimidation or through kindness and service. These villages can
confer on the dragon gold, prestige, and knowledge in varying amounts,
depending on the location and race of village. Once a player controls
a village it will continue to confer the bonus to the player until
another dragon takes control of the village, the population revolts
against the player, or the village is destroyed. The size of the
village determines many things: the amount of gold, prestige, and
knowledge it produces; the type of defense, the strength of the
defense, the service/intimidation needed to subdue the village, etc.
While it may have been easy to subdue the low-tech human village, the
heavily fortified castle is a different story.
There will be other power areas in the game as well: castles,
wizard towers, ancient magic areas, and special locations that confer
gold, prestige, knowledge, or some other special bonus. Some of these
might be one-time bonuses or they can be controlled, like a village,
and confer the bonus over time. But, they can also be taken over or
destroyed by other creatures/dragons.
The game will end when the player completes the last stage of his
life and has defeated all the other dragons.
When will we see this game and where are you in terms of game development?
Dragon Hoard's tentative ship date is Q2 2000, so we're still more than a
year away from the game's release at this point. We haven't even nailed
down a publisher yet, though that situation is beginning to sort itself out.
We've got a number of follow-up meetings set up for the Game Developers
Conference out in San Jose in March, where we expect we'll be getting
close to determining who our publishing partner will be.
But for now, I can tell you that we've got
a beautiful looking dragon flying around in a pretty awesome looking 3D
world, with some special effects in place. There are some game play
elements in place as well. That's about it, but IMHO that's pretty good
considering we're more than a year away from ship.
Editor's Note: The company's president and cofounder is Adam Levesque. Levesque was most
recently the general manager of Papyrus Design Group, a Cendant Software
company. Prior to holding that position, he was the executive producer at Papyrus
for the Grand Prix Legends auto-racing game, and the producer and designer of both
the NASCAR 1 & 2 racing games.