The Continuum
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The Continuum: Exclusive Beta Interview
Angelo M. D Argenio

The Continuum is a new Flash based online collectible game produced by Seven Lights LLC. The game promises to feature a persistent board game like world easy to learn but hard to master, that features all the best aspects of collectible miniatures games, war games, and even a traditional RPG leveling aspect. The Continuum itself follows a comic of the same name made specifically for the game. As the comic progresses, the world of the Continuum will change and update, constantly giving players new options and strategies. The official website had this to say.

The Continuum, the online collectible wargame coming soon from Seven Lights, combines strategy with a deep and involving narrative to create an all-new kind of gaming experience. Follow the ongoing story of a universe unhinged in The Continuum comic series. As the narrative unfolds, new characters, abilities and equipment become available in the game.

The Continuum is currently in closed beta, and will be releasing a public open beta very soon. This has many gamers in the collectible world on the edge of their seats, waiting to see if The Continuum delivers on all of its promises. Being that The Continuum has been near the top of the list of our most anticipated new releases for some time now, we here at TCGplayer decided to see if we couldn't get a little bit more information out of the game's design team. We sat down with Tim Harris, Seven Light's founder and this is what he said.

Let’s start simple. For the gamers out there who don’t know, what is The Continuum?

The Continuum is an online collectible wargame where the persistent characters in your collection develop RPG-style and can be traded like cards. Its gameplay roots are from squad-based tabletop games—players setup their armies with whatever characters they own and can experiment with an infinite number of combinations to create the ultimate strategy. Those armies then meet in head-to-head match-ups on a host of different battlefields where war is waged and loot is found. Players keep the loot they find on the battlefield and use the experience points they gain to develop their characters over time.

What makes The Continuum different from other games in its genre?

We are starting to see games that combine the collectible and army-building aspects of miniatures games, RPG development, and loot-finding, but The Continuum really shines by adding in a deep and involving narrative, through the free comic book series, as well as a ton of community features that have already solidified a fervent fan base without even being in beta. Each player gets a profile page to call their own, where they can get headlines, personal messages, interact with their collection, view incredibly detailed battle histories and connect with each other.

Why should gamers choose The Continuum over other online games on the market right now?

It comes down to being a part of a game that will never be finished. The mission for this project was to create an iterative design, story and community that would change and evolve with the tastes, preferences and storylines of the players themselves. We designed the backend of the game so that introducing new maps, characters, abilities, and equipment can happen almost in real-time. So expansions and new cool stuff will be coming out in a steady flow, but it will be far from predictable. Surprises are our bread and butter-- ask anyone in our current registration base about the secrets we hide around every corner.

What made you want to create The Continuum?

We’re huge fans. Not just of gaming and collectibles, but of comic books, action figures, movies and pop culture in general. We’d been talking about why no one had made a game quite like this and thought—well, we should do it. Our hunch is that there a lot of other gamers out there like us, and this would hit a nerve. Having 15,000 players sign up before the beta was even underway has given us a good sign that we might be right.

What was it like designing the game?

I’ve never had so much frustration or fun—ever. We decided to give ourselves the added challenge of doing the whole game in Flash, so that there wouldn’t be any download required, and anyone could play it on any machine globally. Someone should punch me in the face for that.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad we made the choices we made now that we’re introducing the game to Beta players (sidenote: the closed beta is underway now, with the public beta on its way in the next month or so), but it’s been a technological struggle from day one to get Flash to do what we want it to do and not require downloads or add-ons of any kind. Our team has had to be extremely nimble to tackle all of the nuances of game design that needed to be manipulated to fit within a framework that the technology could handle.

From a game design standpoint, the game has been a joy—we wanted it to play like a boardgame, except with the added element of knowing each time you utilize a character, he/she will become faster, stronger, more powerful. I’ve always been fascinated by the development processes of games and how that makes the game experience change. Like many other gamers, I love looking for the next thing to discover and then accomplish—knowing that a more powerful spell or ability is going to come into play if I can just—level—up! On top of that, everyone at Seven Lights loves the loot. Wargames usually diminish the individual aspects of equipment ,and RPGs only let you equip a handful of characters. In The Continuum, if you have enough equipment, you can give each one of your hundreds-- or even thousands-- of characters an individual weapon, piece of armor, and an item.

What is the story of The Continuum?

The story of The Continuum is that of a universe unhinged. A massive Disruption in the space-time continuum causes a number of distinct and separate realities to come together, forming a new one known as the Crossworld. Characters from vastly different worlds suddenly find themselves bitter enemies and unlikely friends-- the official narrative follows many of these characters during their transition to the Crossworld and through their subsequent adventures. What caused the Disruption, what the nature of the universe is, and who will emerge as civilizations rebuild themselves remain a mystery but will be revealed over time. Some of these things will be affected by the players themselves. In fact, four early members of The Continuum’s community were featured in Issue #3 of the comic already.

What made you choose that story and theme above all others?

Two reasons—the most important being, we wanted a fantasy theme with a built-in reason for exploration. This story emerged from us discussing things we find fascinating about narrative and great stories we’ve read or watched growing up. Secondly, it bakes in a never-ending source of creative options. If we want to introduce a reality comprised of pure magick, one where animals dominate, or another where all substances interact with current denizens of the Crossworld in a frighteningly awful way, we can do that.

What steps does The Continuum take to immerse gamers into its online world?

First we give them a home on the site—the profile is a launching place, a meeting place, and a place to organize yourself for the next battle. Next, we provide a backstory and ongoing narrative that they will hopefully find compelling to richen their in-game experience. Finally, the game itself will not only immerse players in the struggle over the Crossworld, it will also start to have affects on the direction that the gameplay and narrative are going.

What is the gameplay of The Continuum like? What does the game include for die-hard RPG fans?

For me, the very best RPGs have given me a great story and made me care about my player-characters. The Continuum is taking a crack at both of those aspects by taking great care in the storyline, as I’ve mentioned, and also giving players the ability to tweak every aspect of their characters’ performance. When characters level, you can upgrade their stats, gain new abilities, upgrade current abilities, or make new equipment types useable. You can name every one of your characters, and you’ll see a History of that character in the details, including the number of battles they’ve been in, the kills they’ve dealt out, and the number of deaths they’ve endured on the battlefield.

For TCG fans?

We wanted to give the collectible fans plenty of tools. For us, the more organizational tools the better—and the more information about your collectibles, the better. As an example, consider that “rarity” has started to lose some of its meaning with many games because they either flood the market with the supposedly “rare” cards/items or you just don’t really know how many are out there. We’re going to be transparent about the numbers, from Common characters to Heroic. On each and every character, you can see the “print #” of that character, which includes what number your character is out of the total number of that character type in all of existence. We’re working on the same kind of system for equipment.

What aspects of gameplay are entirely unique to the Continuum only?

The uniqueness really shines through when you’re in combat. The game is squad-based, so you have up to 20 characters in any given squad. When it comes down to giving orders in combat, players must choose a squad order, which sets the targeting and potential buffs for a squad, but if the player chooses, he can give each individual unit an order to use his special abilities (sling a Fireball, Evoke Fear, etc). This makes for very interesting combat, as there are a possible 40 interactions in any one Combat Round. We’ve all seen stacking of spell effects and opening/finishing moves in other games, but in The Continuum, it reaches a whole new level of depth.

In addition we’re going to take equipment to a place not seen in any other game. Sure, we’ll have the regular loot that everyone will outfit their characters with, but we’re going to be hiding things in the Crossworld that link to other things on the web, unlock content, bestow totally unique abilities on characters, and something I’m incredibly excited about, but can’t describe in detail just yet. Readers who are in our Closed Beta right now will know what I’m talking about when I say “Legendary Loot.”

What makes The Continuum a collectible game?

You won’t buy the game at retails, since it’s entirely online and web browser-based. You’ll buy the characters in random “packs” and employ those characters on the battlefield against your opponents. You’ll eventually be able to trade them, and we’re looking into the possibility of offering up characters as prizes for winning tournaments, events, and even everyday battles. On top of that, we’re making an attempt to redefine what it means to have a feeling of ownership over your various in-game items. You’ll start out collecting and determining the development of your characters and equipment, but eventually, the game will encompass mastery over geography, commmunal possessions once guilds are introduced and a whole bunch of other interesting collectible treats.

Will there be promo items or “foil” items or other sorts of limited edition rare items?

Definitely—the top Rarity for our characters and equipment is designated as Legendary. These will be limited edition, one-of-a-kind or other very special characters. They will be either variations on existing character types or completely unique types in and of themselves. They’ll find their way into the Crossworld (and player accounts) through events we hold, contests won, and sometimes randomly in packs of purchased characters.

How has The Continuum changed since it first debuted at Gen Con, and since we covered it last February?

I’d have to say that the only real change is in the scope of the game. When we debuted at Gen Con, we were thinking about a fun game that would release and then we’d introduce expansions every now and then. The reaction to the idea, and, as a result, our own ideas about how far we can push this thing swept us along to the point where we are now. We won’t just stop at the core game—we’ll be introducing mini-games and training exercises you can use your characters to play, a robust trading engine, guilds and social tools for organizing the community and a whole host of features that will enrich the core game.

Where do you see The Continuum going in the future?

The beauty of the game is that it’s so flexible. Creating it entirely on the web means that our website experience isn’t a support for the actual game—it’s part of the game itself. If we want to build out a feature (and we plan to) like tradeskills, we can do that either in the Flash application, or make it more of a website interaction. We’ll put features where they’ll be most player-friendly. In addition, being web-based means that changes can be dreamt, developed and introduced to players at an extremely rapid rate.

If we have our way, The Continuum will evolve into a multi-faceted game experience with the strategy game at the center, orbited by the rich community features, official and fan-created narrative in text, video and comics, and a variety of content-creation tools that are in the hands of the players. We’ll be introducing everything from map builders to scenario-builders to role-playing tools that let players immerse themselves in the storyline of the Crossworld).

Can we have a sneak peak?

Of course! Our key priority is getting to the initial launch of the game, but we already have an expansion halfway done, and will be eager to show it to you as we get nearer. It’s true that most of our initial characters are humanoid in nature but here’s a shot of a prominent character from our first expansion that’s anything but! (TCGplayer exclusive!)

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