Community Spotlight: Dawn of Fantasy

By Ozzie Mejia, Dec 11, 2012 10:30am PST

Steam unveiled another group of Greenlight titles and John Locks (Shacknews user "johnlocks") couldn't be happier to see it. One of the titles revealed was Dawn of Fantasy, a game on which Locks serves as a programmer. As Valve hammers out the final details with developer Reverie World Studios for DoF's upcoming Steam release, Locks shared some details about the game with Shacknews.

Dawn of Fantasy is described as a step forward for the MMORTS genre--a full, free-to-play 3D experience with real-time siege combat, in which players can manage their economies, construct towns, direct their citizens, and complete dozens of quests in a growing online realm. Of course, Locks points out that this is the marketing department's description of the game, so how would he personally describe the game?

"I prefer to describe the game as an RTS with persistent cities," Locks answered. "Your city is like your RPG character--you develop it and increase its abilities and resources. It interacts against other targets in the world, of the player and non-player sorts, gaining or losing depending on how you play. So yeah, you could say it's an MMORTS, but I don't like to let people get carried away with that idea."

Locks takes a special pride in DoF, as he's made a significant contribution to the game's development. "My title is lead programmer, but that's a bit misleading, as I programmed 90 percent of the game with very little leading going on," he explained. "We only ever had one other programmer make significant contributions. We didn't know what we were doing business-wise for a long time. We just worked on it in our free time in hopes of trying to make a successful company one day. I would say real development was actually for a period of three years before we finally released it. During that period was when we really started acting as a real business as well."

Dawn of Fantasy has been around for over a year, but its new-found exposure on Steam will lead to an influx of new players. Locks describes the combat for anyone new to the game. "The game plays similar to any other RTS at is most basic level, but we've taken a strong focus on siege combat. You ram the enemy gates, scale the walls, and send thousands of men to storm the massive citadels. A lot of people heard about Stronghold, and this was, in part, our inspiration -- burning attackers with boiling oil, impaling on hidden spike traps, and all that other fun stuff. It can be an epic and bloody experience, representing brutality of siege combat, even in the fantasy themed settings, and we are rather happy with how it all turned out."

Dawn of Fantasy will feature three selectable races--Elves, Orcs, and Humans. Locks talks about incorporating the best ideas from different RTS games, taking cues from StarCraft in constructing the game's races. "Our goal was to present players with three unique gameplay styles," he added. "On top of the norm of unique buildings, units, hundreds of technologies and completely different art style, in Dawn of Fantasy each race also comes complete with its own lore, language, world region and terrain, and unique 50 quest campaign. In addition, we took our time in designing three distinct gameplay approach to base building and economy."

Locks was ecstatic to see Dawn of Fantasy make the Steam Greenlight list--and not just because he's an avid consumer of Steam games. However, he points out that the road to Steam was not an easy one. "Before Steam announced Greenlight, we made several attempts to get on the service, but never received any response whatsoever. That's pretty maddening when Steam is such a huge player in PC gaming and lots of people won't even buy a game that isn't on Steam. I suspect they just didn't have the manpower to deal with all the submissions they got. Unless they recognized who you were or what you were submitting, you got filtered out. They've now solved that with crowdsourcing but it's terrible to have your business left out in the cold without knowing why."

Those looking to jump into Dawn of Fantasy may have some catching up to do, as the game has been out for more than a year, and received bug fixes, tweaks, and feature patches. With the End of the World mini-expansion recently seeing the light of day, Reverie World Studios is preparing to release Siegeworks, the next expansion that will add new units and more than a dozen new NPC towns. Locks says Reverie is aiming to add three new expansions to DoF in the next year.

Even through his intense work schedule, Locks still makes time for Shacknews, having been a part of the community since 2008. "My post history goes back to 2008, but I feel like it was earlier than that," he said. "I don't post a lot, but I've had a few gems, comments on obscure subjects, attempts at dispassionate arguments in heated political threads, or insights into the biology of video game characters. It's always entertaining."

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