Interview: William Beacham On Nosgoth, Balance & The Legacy Of Kain Community

Following on from our hands on time with Nosgoth, an upcoming free to play multiplayer game in the Legacy of Kain universe, we were able to sit down with William Beacham, Design Director at Square Enix London Studios to ask him a few questions about the game.

Naturally, we started with a question – maybe slightly paraphrased – that would be on the lips of many fans of the franchise.


TSA: What was it that pushed you to making this multiplayer game in the Legacy of Kain universe? It started as an offshoot from a full retail project originally, but considering the traditionally single player experience what made this the right franchise to target?

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William Beacham: So, I think the nature of the world of Nosgoth is one that gives you the chance to do something that has a unique identity. We wanted to make a multiplayer experience and we looked at what we could do with this where you’ve got these two races, Humans and Vampires, who are very different in philosophy, technology, culture. Everything about them is different and that’s much more interesting than special forces vs. evil special forces.

There’s lots and lots of competitive multiplayer experiences out there, so it’s a real struggle to have something that has its own unique identity. So, looking at the lore, the history, the breadth and depth of that world gives us an amazing starting point. You look at these two races and go, “They could be fun to play!”

The challenge there was that the Vampires are pretty obviously going to be fun to play, and we’ve tried to make the Humans as powerful, as aspirational and fun. We’ve put a lot of thought into that and I think that giving anyone a crossbow that can, you know, drop a Vampire is going to make you feel pretty poweful!

So I think Psyonix, to their credit, have done an awesome job in making a game where I don’t have a favourite side! Whichever side I’m playing at the moment is my favourite. Then the round switches and I’m like, “Ah yeah, cool. I get to be…”

I wouldn’t be able to pick a favourite side, so I think that is like, “Yes, job done.”

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TSA: What’s interesting is this asymmetrical design, but as you were explaining the backstory earlier, you described this power struggle and civil war between the Vampires, which led to this Human resurgence. Why did you focus on the Human-Vampire war and not the various Vampire factions fighting each other?

William: Well, we could have made a game that would have been much more similar to other games that are out there, though not necessarily in terms of the actual hands on experience. In any MOBA you have two teams of guys with magical powers fighting it out, and they all have their own personality and flavour, but ultimately it’s hard to really set them apart. You rely on the visual presentation and the audio, and you can make them feel different, but at times you can struggle to really differentiate them.

Whereas here you have two teams that are just so different. We could have said that we were all going to be Vampires or all going to be Humans, and we talked about game modes in the past that involved that kind of gameplay, but part of what makes Nosgoth fun for me is the fact that it is so different.

If I was a Vampire jumping on another Vampire, it could be a good game but I don’t think it would have had the same character. Playing as a Human, all I’ve got to rely on is my ingenuity and technology, so that I can take out this killing machine. Then as a vampire, I’m forced to turn it on its head and use my raw natural abilities. That’s what’s fun.

TSA: Within both factions, you have a variety of different classes which form to certain archetypes and similarities to other games. Why did you pick this route and how have you chosen those particular classes?

William: We knew we wanted quite familiar classes to start with. We started developing… I won’t say the simplest… ah, maybe I will, because we knew there were so many things that we wanted to do and some of them were going to be really, really hard. What you don’t do is then add on top of that!

We needed to prove a couple of things. Can we have a game that supports totally different movement sets within the world and can you have gameplay that’s fun when your core engagement group is so variable – because Humans always want to engage at range, Vampires up close.

Early on, when Vampires got up close, Humans then wanted to melee them and fight them off. I get that, and I want to do that, but then the Vampires want to have ranged attacks and suddenly we’re back to two generic sides. So we needed to prove that range vs. melee could work, and not with one big melee guy and a bunch of weak ranged guys, which we’ve seen elsewhere.

That was a massive challenge, so to then want a class that can fly, teleport… we always had those ideas in the back of our mind, but we needed to choose a reasonable number of risks, take them head on and prove they work. The best way to do that is with fairly archetypal characters, but at the same time, we knew that the flying was going to be such a game changer that we had to be working on that as well.

What we’ve done is thought that we’ve got the six characters, but what order do we then present those to players? What’s going to be easiest to get to grips with? We give those up front and unlock the others as you play the game.

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TSA: You do also have more classes coming, though. You have the Prophet for the Humans and the Deceiver for the Vampires. How difficult is it to be adding those into the mix without disturbing the balance? You are still at a fairly early stage, but…

William: Yes, but it doesn’t feel like it!

It’s exponentially challenging and fun!

TSA: So, do you feel that you’re able to eventually add another class that is as utterly different as the Sentinel’s ability to fly?

William: There’s a finite number of those that we can do, to be honest. I think that there will come a point where we say that anything we add is either something you’ve already played but slightly tweaked – in which case, is it worth doing? – or it’s a great idea, but it breaks so much that we can’t do it.

I think there’ll be a natural end point, but we’ll keep pushing, absolutely. The other complicating factor is that it can’t suddenly be that a new character class comes in and the game starts falling apart because everyone is playing as this one class and it’s unbalanced, then we’ve done something wrong.

I’ve complete confidence in Psyonix that they can keep adding numerous character classes, but I think there will inevitably be a point where we need to start thinking of something else, whether that’s game modes, maps or whatever. We’re going to be building all of those anyway, but it may be that’s where there’ll be more longevity. I don’t know.

Part of the exciting thing with this is that we’ve got a long list of content that we want to add, whether it’s systems for community support or new game types. We’re working our way down that list, but at some point we’ll stop doing that, because that’s not what the community wants and what they’re asking for.

So I think I know what Nosgoth is going to turn into, but I’m perfectly prepared to be completing wrong because we’ve listened to the fans. As long as those ideas aren’t game breaking, we’re here to give them a game that they want to play!

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TSA: Speaking about the community, I think that when Nosgoth was first announced last year, it didn’t exactly get the most overwhelmingly positive reaction from Legacy of Kain fans. [laughs] Have you been able to win people over and what kind of reaction does it get now?

William: Yes, we knew that there was going to be a potential backlash, so what we did was we reached out to the community. We identified key people in the community, who have kept websites and forums alive over the years, and brought them into the office.

Outside of the publisher and the developer, they were the first people to play the game. We explained what we were doing, showed them the characters, talked through the lore – and these guys live and breathe this stuff with a passion that is awesome to see.

Some of them are now out there on the forums having those arguments with other players. New players come in and go, “That’s not Legacy of Kain,” and we’ve now got people who, because we’ve engaged with them and they were open minded enough, have turned around and said that this is a fun game.

We’re never going to convince everyone, we get that. The biggest thing we see is that people who play the game, by and large, like it.


Thanks to William for taking the time to chat with us. Check out our hands on with Nosgoth, which went live earlier today.

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1 Comment

  1. Lovely interview. Such a shame that passionate people end up being so closed-minded about their beloved franchise taking on new form (in some way). Still, they went about it the right way and hopefully they can all be won over by a good game. :-)

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