The Continuum
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The Continuum - Game Launch Interview
Angelo M. D Argenio

So The Continuum, a multiplayer online collectible miniatures game, has been out of Beta for a while now and this was especially exciting to the people in the TCGplayer office since we have been covering it since we first saw it at GenCon Indianapolis last year. Beyond all the new miniatures and mechanics, the full release of The Continuum has added a great deal of depth to the game itself. We caught up with Tim Harris of Seven Lights, the creators of The Continuum, to see how the game has changed since our first interview. He had quite a bit to say, including some interesting new tidbits of info for both long time Continuum players, and potential newcomers alike.

It's nice to be talking to you again. To start, what are the major changes that have been made to The Continuum since the beta? What will new players be surprised about if all they have played was the beta?

You, too-- great to reconnect right after our official launch. It's the Seven Lights way and ongoing obsession to update constantly, so we put a ton of new goodies into the game when we launched. I think we did at least one new build a week during beta, and we'll continue to do that as we go. The launch introduced a new, very vicious battle map, tons of new equipment, expandable chat, the ability to reset characters to their base specifications, greater control over setup options and a bunch of tutorial features for newcomers that break down each element of the game. Beta players who come back to the game will probably notice the balance changes most—Common characters have now taken their proper places as forces in The Continuum, and we've made major strides toward evening out the power balance across the board.

Can you give us a rundown of The Continuum's gameplay system now that it is complete? How exactly is the game played?

Definitely. TC is, at its core, a RPG/wargame based around the progression of your collection of characters. You might have the 20 we give out with registering for the game, or you might have hundreds (some of our players have thousands already), but the key to success isn't numbers—it's developing your characters over time into a highly-specialized fighting force that can take down foes. The system is built so that a player can tweak every imaginable aspect of every character, from characteristics like Strength, which helps with hitting and damage, to Abilities, like Devastate, which decimates enemy forces, to equipment you find on the battlefields during games. The simplest way to explain the uniqueness of the game is to call it equal parts collectible game, tabletop wargame, and RPG. Any player of any of those genres will find something to like.

It's played by loading up the Flash-based application (no download), entering the chat rooms, organizing your army and challenging another player to a battle (or accepting an Open Challenge made by another player). The game is based around head-to-head matchups, though players are encouraged to play Unranked games to get their feet wet before diving into the Ranked madness.

What can TCGplayers look forward to if they take up The Continuum as a game?

They can look forward to 3 things—deep, deep strategy, a community that has a real say in the ongoing development of the game, and constant updates to characters, abilities, equipment and gameplay.

What does The Continuum have in common with other miniatures games? What does it do differently? What does The Continuum have in common with other online games? What does it do differently?

The look and feel of The Continuum will be immediately familiar to a fan of miniatures games. From the initial purchase of character packs, where you get the thrill of a good pull, to the setup of the “board” with tile-based movement, special power-ups, and loot tiles, to the combat itself, The Continuum is heavily influenced by many miniatures games that have come before. The difference is what the computer brings to the equation. Remembering the rules behind every single special power or ability is difficult, so the computer does it for you. Combinations of abilities and effects that stay on characters over time are all kept in front of you and you can fully focus on the smiting of your foes

As far as online games, you'll see the things you'd expect from an online game in TC, even though it's done entirely in Flash with no download (which is the big difference from many other online games). You've got persistent chat, both single games and a meta-game of gaining Skill, Title, and eventually, influence as Guilds emerge. You also more information on the website than you can shake a stick at, including Skills Trees, outlines of rules for every single ability and information on every character and statistic in the game. Every single game you play of The Continuum has its own web page that any player can access to assess what you did wrong, right, and what went down throughout the battle.

What sort of gamer are you marketing The Continuum to? What type of gamer do you think will enjoy The Continuum the most?

The sort of gamer we're aimed at, and who seems to be getting the most enjoyment out of TC, is the BEST sort. Sounds like I'm joking, but I'm not. We're only a couple of weeks into this game, and already fans have created a wiki, a weekly newsletter that features work from a rotating team of 10, and a full separate database of all of the equipment they're finding in the game (and there's a ton). This is a thinking-player's game. It's not casual-- it's not something you can fully digest in one session, so if you want to just get a 15 minute game in and leave with the full experience, this game's not for you. However, if you're ready to have a serious meal over time, help with the ongoing development of a game that will never be finished, and you want to experiment with combinations of characters, powers and equipment, then TC is for you.

How is miniature acquisition handled in The Continuum? Do players buy booster packs? If so is there any difference between different packs? Will expansions change this?

Everyone that signs up gets 15 free characters (a booster). After playing 3 games, they get 5 more, which makes up a full squad in the gameplay of TC. Beyond that, players can purchase starters and boosters in much the same way as any collectible game. The best deal for players, though, is to purchase the Element (E), our in-game currency. E is a better “bang-for-the-buck” and can be used to purchase packs, re-spec characters, and will be used for certain event entries as we introduce them. All packs are the same as far as chance to get certain characters except for our option of buying one character.

How is game balance handled in The Continuum? How is the staff at The Continuum working to keep the metagame fair?

I would love to have a few of my more serious players in on this interview with me. There are a few, and they know who they are, that could recount the early days of beta with Morale Busting Squads were the rage. Then came the Monster Squad and the Immobilization Squad. We even had a fellow with a Life Squad that was much feared. We worked through those issues as we found them, and achieved a solid balance for launch, based on a Point Value system similar to what you see in tabletop minis games. The trick is that we have constantly evolving characters with hundreds of abilities that interact with each other, so nailing a system that kept everything in balance was difficult. We're on the edge of sweet, blissful balance, though.

As far as the meta-game, it's only just begun, so we're not as veteran on that yet. We've baked so many little treats into this game, then tied them up into the meta-game of a player's Title, so we're only now seeing the effects. Playing in certain ways yields awards of many different types—those awards give you points towards your Title, which is your road toward becoming a Legend in the game. Title points are given from playing/winning/losing, as well, and will soon be awarded for many other activities. As the drama around Titles increases, the guys at 7L will keep introducing new uses for them, new ways to get Title Points, and new ways to keep things fair.

What is the rarity system in The Continuum? Will some miniatures be more rare than others?

Characters, equipment, and awards range go, in order of rarity from Common, to Uncommon, to Rare, to Heroic, to Legendary. Currently there are no Legendary characters or equipment in the game—something that our very vocal player base has been grumping over. We will be introducing those elements into the game as expansions roll out, and that will be very interesting. We just need to finish a few more features…

What was your inspiration in designing The Continuum? Do you think the game has met up to your original expectation?

Like so many good ideas, the inspiration was simple—3 of 7L's founders were playing tabletop minis a ton and we said “you know, this would rule if the characters changed over time and rules and effects were calculated for you. And if there were a deeper storyline.” Poof—The Continuum. We started on the narrative and game design then next week. Our other inspiration was just web culture in general. Instead of what we'd experienced so many times in Betas and with other online games where the player base was seen as someone far away, we decided to embrace what the web is good at and connect everyone directly with us as we made the game. Players interact directly with the developers every single day, and it's easy for me to say, but it's true—players are listened to. The game has vastly exceeded our expectations in terms of depth and player base, and I think it's because we treated the player base as our partner in development.

What are your plans for Continuum expansions? Will we be seeing expansion sets any time soon?

Another “traditional” model we want to turn on its side is the 6-month (or longer) for an expansion model that many collectible games employ. To that we say “meh.” We plan on launching smaller expansions at a much more rapid rate. Our first expansion will launch at Gen Con, Indy in August, and will feature new characters, abilities, and some very crazy equipment. We'll also be launching some new features at the same time.

What was something you wanted to do with The Continuum that didn't make the final cut? Why?

About 75% of our plans for TC didn't make the final cut! It was just a matter of time. We wanted to get the game in the hands of the players and let them weigh in on future features as we make them. The Continuum won't ever be finished, so players can look forward to trading, an Ally system, a Rivalry system (where you can play an ongoing series with a foe), tradeskills, Descendants (our innovative referral system), our 4th comic book, a 1Player version, and a host of others. Those are simply the ones we're working on currently.

Where is The Continuum going in the future?

The game will continue to evolve as the web platform evolves. We'll introduce a 2.0 interface, higher-quality 3D-modelling and closer integration with the website features. In addition, the narrative will weave itself into the game beyond the current comics and players will have a hand in the direction the narrative takes. Tourneys and Events of all kinds will appeal to the casual and the hardcore player of TC alike, and those developments will inform the ongoing narrative and what we choose to release as content. Beyond that, we're planning additional game experiences that tap into the TC universe that will have effects on your collection even though they may be totally separate. The Continuum was always meant to be a series of gaming experiences—not just one game.

What would you like to say to our TCGplayer fan base out there?

If you haven't already, come and get your free 20 characters, and tell us TCGplayer sent you when you see a 7L developer in the chat rooms. We'll introduce you to “rolling” on our tasty loot table for a piece of great equipment. You won't be sorry…

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 The Continuum
7/22/2008 5:50:54 PM 
Great article!
Great Game!

 Come on in!
8/1/2008 1:11:38 AM 
As 'one of the more vocal players' described above i'd like to invite anyone interested to come and give it a try: there are plenty of 'mentors' (other players) in game that will be happy to help you get started and teach you the ropes.

Oh, yeah... a comment, well! What can i say? This is one of the best games i have ever played online, and i've played a ton of retail games! Truely worth visiting at the very least- so i say again! come on in!

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