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Veil of Secrecy – interview with Lionet

Veil of Secrecy – interview with Lionet

2022-12-19

Written by: Bosst

Views: 3977

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Salutations Lionet! Thank you for finding the time for this interview – we are very honoured. For the benefit of new players, or those who may not have heard of you – could you give us a brief description of your role and responsibilities at CipSoft?

Hello TibiaSecrets, I’m honoured to have been chosen to be your interviewee! ? Here at CipSoft I work as a Game Content Designer on all kinds of new quests, NPCs, lore and as of recently also the sound and sometimes music of Tibia as with the 25th anniversary trailer, for example. I’m also responsible for a few of Tibia’s mysteries of course, so hopefully I’ll be able to answer all your expertly asked questions without spoiling any of Tibia’s secrets. ?

Could you tell us a few words about yourself? Do you have any hobbies, favourite books, music or games?

Sure, I’m a fan of videogames in almost all shapes and forms. Friends say I am collecting games as well but I only ever bought games to play and enjoy them, there’s no real concept behind it – maybe it’s because I refuse to let go of any game… since the 80s.
My favourite pastime is to work on small game projects for my friends and tinkering with mods for any game that supports it. ?
I also love writing music and watching classic movies, mostly from the seventies, eighties and nineties. My favourite musical genre would be too hard to narrow down since I like so many different styles. I’m fascinated by a lot of electronic music but also enjoy jazz and classical pieces. My favourite book is from Arthur C. Clarke. It’s the first one in a cycle where everything is about an alien race which always does everything in threes… ?
As for games, my favourite game is probably „The Chaos Engine” by the Bitmap Brothers. Other than that I am very fond of Vagrant Story and the first Dark Souls, which are some of only a few games I consider near perfect masterpieces. Since Tibia has been a part of my life for many years, I’m now also very fond of a lot of characters and stories I invented over time and I absolutely *envy* ultra-high level players who own even the most bizarre boss we create to enjoy all the mysteries and rewards the game has to offer for them. Some of my favourite quests are practically undoable for my own characters and I can only see and enjoy that content via our own tools when editing. So keep going you guys, you’re amazing and we’ll see that there’s always something rewarding at the end of every challenge. ?

Let’s now move to questions related to the content of our Fansite ?
In the Secret Library we learned that one Demon betrayed Zathroth in order to acquire the knowledge of the Godbreaker. Many players have been interested in this lately and have searched for Zathroth’s hoard by venturing through the dangerous corridors. Does the Zathroth hoard hold more secrets apart from the knowledge that was already stolen?

Zathroth certainly is a being worth investigating and with the many stories and quests surrounding him to this date, I can fully understand the renewed interest… You know me, however, and the chances for me to spoil anything in regards to such entities would be kind of a combo breaker. ?

When it comes to old school, most people think of Excalibug, Lake Amros, Basilisk and so on… Do you think nowadays we have mysteries so deep and intricate as them?

Oh yes, indeed we do! ? We always have and always will take great care when creating our puzzles and mysteries. It’s part of the creation of Tibia and every new quest, every new item and every character is a possibility for us to weave the net of secrets that holds the Tibian lore together. I can go as far as to saying that there are some things in there you haven’t even seen yet since no players have stumbled upon them yet.
We also intend to make our mysteries solvable and meaningful. A lot of secrets we implemented in recent times were a bit more clearly telegraphed, thus could be completed faster. These quests are no less intricate, however, and often tie into our rich lore at various points – or even into other mysteries – maybe even those you likely haven’t thought of yet. ?

 

When you create content, what spot do mysteries, puzzles and secrets have in your craft? How would you describe this process?

As you probably have guessed (and I presume TibiaSecrets is *very* good at guessing, which is also evident from your interview questions…) mysteries actually take a significant chunk of my creative process. The way I plan my riddles and secrets is by rooting a lot of things in the past and combining subtle aspects of our ever growing world. Of course this only works if you plan content over the span of more than a single update, which I did for a long time, even spanning years of development. It is a level of possibility and depth almost no other development project can offer. The design of Tibia is unique in a lot of ways and that is one of them.

We’ve noticed that some content creators have their own signatures in their most beloved works. We know that Chayenne used to have sleeping ladies as hers, and we’ve suspected for a while that The Bucket, found (so far) in Cobra Bastion and Marapur is your signature, could this be true?

Ha, that’s a nice find! But no, the bucket is an allegory to life and the irony in many things. If I had to pin down something that could be defined as a signature, it’s probably that I always try to put additional layers of meaning into even the smallest details. ? With so many interested and inventive players to explore every nook and cranny, it’s actually quite rewarding for myself as well.

Extremely small details like the heavy trunk in Liberty Bay seem to have a huge impact on the mystery hunting community. It’s never mentioned anywhere but it’s extremely mysterious. How do you come up with such ideas?

And they should have an impact, a lot of mysteries can be solved because of small, even insignificant details. As a fan of Arthur Conan Doyle, I can only encourage everyone to observe all the tiny things destined to be overlooked by so many. They often hold clues to the weirdest mysteries and, outside of games, maybe even to the riddles of life itself. ?
The heavy trunk is a very old detail and was created just shortly before I began working for CipSoft. So it’s not only me but several people in the team who work on puzzles and secrets – another reason why we have a lot of complex mysteries in the game.
As for coming up with such things, it comes quite naturally actually. When you have a rich lore and characters to work with in the game, you have a lot of possibilities. Then you combine these with your own ideas and wishes for a mystery and you start getting creative.

Excuse us, but it’s impossible to talk about mysteries without touching Serpentine Tower eventually… For 20 years people have been looking for answers, thousands of posts have been written, and hundreds of theories invented and tested. Is there anything you can tell us (mystery hunters) about the Tower? What’s the impact of such legendary mysteries in your current designs? (On a side note: we would love to have an initiative similar to the featured article „Serpentine Tower – Myths and Theories” published in 2011. Maybe a second part?)

Hmm, that’s a nice idea. However, there’s only so much you can tell about the tower without spoiling anything. You’ve looked for answers on this one for years indeed. Well, I’ve read requests and questions about it for years, too. Probably for as long as some of your readers were researching. So let me ask you something in return: why does the mystery of this specific tower and not any other locked door, chest or pathway still hidden in Tibia exert this powerful appeal to puzzle solvers?
When you create a mystery, it is almost impossible to intentionally have it pan out in a specific way or over a specific time, nor can the developer control the impact or interest a puzzle generates. It’s like trying to intentionally create a viral video. So it would be interesting from a developer’s standpoint to learn more about how the fascination built up and what has led to the fascination of a mystery like this.

For unsolved quests, how do you (content creators) know you are giving the right amount of clues? When there are too few, there is a risk that the quest will never be solved. Conversely, when there are too many, it can spoil the fun for players. How do you balance it?

That’s a great question. This is our main focus when designing a quest and indeed, this is one of the most challenging parts. At first we use our experience, try things out, test it ourselves. Then we show the quest to colleagues, let them try it, experience the whole thing. After enhancing it (sometimes you have to go for more signposting, telegraphing more of the important bits, altering the narrative a bit etc. – or the opposite, toning hints down to not outright „spoil” everything at the start by the questgiver) it goes into a testing phase. That’s when it’s our testers’ turn to play the quest, gather clues, work out the final kinks and then we put it in the external test for an even larger audience to enjoy before it’s finally released. In contrary to actual bugs which can be tested, found, and fixed, clues and flow of information in a quest are a completely different beast.
When designing a quest, there’s a large sprectrum of things that play a role, for example technical issues, matters of taste, spoilers and getting the hints right. Concerning the hints, we usually lean towards the „do not spoil too much” side, but my personal doctrine is that everything should be solvable and findable within the constraints of the game itself. If you actually need a guide to solve a puzzle because the ingame hints are not enough or we didn’t telegraph core elements of a puzzle well enough, the design is difficult for no good reason. Some designers in the industry lean on the community in situations like that to help mitigating a communication problem of a quest. But ultimately the community, websites or search engines should not be necessary at all to solve any quest.
An explicitly designed exception was a part of the Planestrider by the way. This played with the „meta” concept of quests and I could only design it because we usually design our quests strictly the other way round. In addition to that, design that incorporates external or „meta” sources should continue to remain a specific exception in Tibia.

Some time ago, the discovery of one of our team members regarding Mysterious Skulls amazed the community. Could you tell us something more about these enigmatic objects? Are we on the right path looking for them everywhere?

That’s another example of an idea we had a lot of fun playing around with during development and when it was added to the game, we actually thought it would take players quite some time to figure things out.
As for additional skulls and related places, I’d never spoil anything in that regard of course but it’s an ongoing theme in the game as you have already noticed. The connected mysteries don’t always come in the same shape or form, however. ?

The community of mystery hunters, or „mysteriandos” as we like to call them, which has grown up around Tibia, and our website fully dedicated to them, is something of a rarity in the gaming industry. Do you think that solving mysteries or difficult quests can be a good alternative for players who are not interested in powergaming?

Of course. A good MMO with a persistent world should always be as immersive as possible and offer interesting possibilities for players, even things not directly connected to a quest or game mechanic. Mysteries can grow and evolve in a complex and detailed world and offer something that goes beyond the immediate missions and activities the game offers. In Tibia we also use mysteries to tell stories between the stories of quests and characters. Sometimes two quests can be connected with each other via a puzzle or secret that in itself is not part of an actual quest. It’s also possible to make connections to places or characters that then open up new interpretations for certain story elements. There should always be ways to immerse yourself in the game world, the lore and its characters. From complex puzzles and mechanics to custom languages and intricate map design, there is a multitude of ways to tell a story on the metalevel that will only reveal itself to players who read between the lines and explore every nook and cranny of the world.

And now a little bit of RPG from our side:
Just recently I had this dream where string of mending wrapped around my right hand with a broken ring of ending, so tight that I ended up in a different world, alone… I asked myself – wait I’m left-handed, and how did I even arrive here? And then I woke up in Thais temple…”

Ring of ending – one of the prime artefacts still makes us very curious about the origin of the item. Knowing the properties of other artefacts, the ring must be also very powerful. Before Galthen found other artefacts, you mentioned that we should look over our shoulder now and then, but was this just a wait for Galthen to identify other prime artefacts… or there is indeed a story about the spinning ring of ending?

The Ring of Ending is indeed very powerful. In terms from the average Tibian to even well-versed scholars in Edron and beyond, the raw power of this ring would be indescribable. It is already known – even experienced by a select few brave players – that it has absolute power over life and death. This, however, is not even the beginning of a description of the true might it holds. As far as we know, Galthen was indeed not aware of what this ring, nor any of the other artefacts he looked for, would hold in store for this world. He did know the essential consequence of these specifically, however, and that was „absolute evil”. And he was certain, as we are today, that there are several such conundrums out there, related to ancient artefacts buried across vast distances of time. There was probably no way for him to find all of those on his own since he started this chapter of his quest rather late in life. Yet he was always determined to find and destroy magic in all its physical shapes and disguises. Only the players have a true chance and the capacity of uncovering and experiencing everything necessary to unlock the meaning of a device like the ring and similar artefacts.

In the Planestrider quest, we saw the first instance of the need to use external hardware for solving the quest (with the menhirs) and one of the few times we’ve had to look for answers in the website (among with the gnomish test). Will you introduce new quests that need external software in the future?

This was indeed a special occasion and we are quite strict in making all our current and future puzzles and quests solvable completely from within the game. The Planestrider was a specific exception of this rule to actually focus puzzles like this to a single set of events and basically outside the borders of traditional quests. As content designers we often have ideas that go beyond the „usual” so this was one occasion were it all culminated in something out of the ordinary. I talked about this a bit more in question 9 of this interview.

We know you were particularly happy about the sound in Tibia. Are there any plans on using this for secrets and mysteries in the future?

Ah yes, a very good question and one that has been asked many times by fellow developers and designers alike! Indeed, I am quite happy with how the sound worked out but for me there is always room for even more ideas and enhancements. In the case of mysteries I would not give away any detail at all – as you might guess – but let me just say that there are some things I would still really like to see (and hear) in the game in addition to what’s already there. Also Tibia’s sound and it’s impact on our world is now a part of the game we constantly think (and hear) about, too. ? I did aim for an experience that feels complete however, when approaching the release date so we tried to not create any loose ends right from the start. I can say that things like specific sound puzzles and mysteries have not been implemented on purpose when it was released.

There are mysteries that are not widely known by the community like the Basilisk Eggs or the Troll Lady (to name some). Have you ever thought of giving them some more attention by throwing some extra clues here and there?

Oh yes, absolutely. ? Not only me, I think everyone on the team is thinking about expanding on the details whenever possible, especially on the mystery part… It’s sometimes just a thing of getting the balance right, since we strife to expand the world with what we got and the possibilities grow with each update. So our imagination and the puzzles we want to add do, too. ? I for myself have started to head for some purposefully added loose ends of my content in the past and connect some specific dots. It’s what I need for a few things I’m working on and I hope it pans out with our tight schedules. As for detailed specifics, well you already know I rarely ever hand those out. ?

We noticed that you have been adding more hints for the Opticording Sphere quest to help players realize their mistakes or misunderstandings. Is there an ongoing process of „guiding players to existing mysteries”?

Usually we put in all the hints we want and let the challenge pan out. Sometimes we want to nudge players into the right direction after some time but it’s generally not common or planned to be expanded on in the future. However, some mysteries have multiple parts and are yet to unfold completely. So there are additional cases for which we might indeed add more hints to explain something that happened in the past. It sometimes comes naturally with the addition of new content, too.

The last time we had a large article about mysteries was in 2015 with A Night Full of Mysteries, but since then, the mystery community has grown a lot. Have you thought of making a new featured article? Many players are waiting longingly for the next one.

Our Community Management usually has a multitude of ideas for featured articles (sometimes even we developers are involved, too) and I know for a fact that this specific topic is one they are quite fond of. ? So it’s good to know that players are interested in this! And who knows, there are a lot of ideas we still want to implement, so there are also plenty of chances to write about further mysteries when enough new content has piled up!

Could you give some examples of your good and bad memories (or really difficult moments) as a content creator?

Of course! I have a lot of good and quite many very good memories, with only a few challenging moments in between as a content creator. ? The very good moments also include mysteries by the way – beginning with the Planestrider and things I buried when I designed the Deeplings, to the most recent tales around Galthen.
Mysteries have an integral part of my designs and it’s actually something I have a lot of fun with, too!
I liked the moments when players started to really grasp the design of the orders like the Falcons, Cobras and Lions, as well as their specific hunting grounds. To this day I enjoy when players find things to enjoy and are positively surprised by subtle things we implemented.
The single most challenging thing for me as a creator is fitting everything I want to do into the limited amount of time we have. I am actually quite proud of my time management and usually thrive on constraints like Tibia offers them, such as limited spaces, graphical or technical features and their limits, but the amount of hours in a day is affecting everything altogether. So when players feel there should be quite something more in an area or a better explanation to an element of the lore, I feel you. And 99% of the time I had something for just these situations in mind but couldn’t cram it in anymore even if I wanted to. So working on a complex project such as this is to always find a balance there.

We’ve had the words „GALTHEN, AERITH and BSTH4E” making us crazy for more than two years now. Who is Aerith? What does BSTH4E mean? Is Galthen alive?

Well, these words are about a bunch of people. ? Concerning Galthen, I can assure you that he is absolutely not alive anymore. He had his time, which he used well and if players do opt for a certain truly selfless action, it was all worth it for him, too. ?

Opticording Sphere Quest was done in sprints, where the next parts of the mystery were added after players have accomplished the goals. We saw this as a new mechanic, where the quest was evolving from update to update. Was the lore of the quest and allusions well thought from the very beginning, or was it shaped when players solved the quest? (So that players’ actions/methods could reshape the questline). Is this something that was done in-game in the past, or was this experimental, or perhaps it turned out like this due to limitations of time per quest per update?

A lot of things were experimental about the Planestrider and this quest. However, I experiment in anticipation of successful results and in that case it was quite what I had envisioned and imagined. ? A lot of the things I’ve done there came with some trade-offs during the development and that was optimised over time. I could start something like this again without the need of that much experimentation since much of this is well-trodden ground now. But one thing is that I don’t like to repeat things too many times and want to do something new, and the other thing is that you need a certain amount of time, continuity and the right projects to pull something like this off. In other words, lots of stuff needs to come together correctly. So you’d probably have to ask the universe, but most likely I’ll just do something completely different and new anyway. ?

In the video you released to celebrate Tibia’s 25th anniversary, we noticed CMs scrolling Tibia-related stuff on Twitch. Are you, as a content creator, visiting fansites or other community-made places for example on Discord or Reddit to see what people are currently discussing in terms of mysteries?

Oh yes indeed, especially when it’s about mysteries or more recently when working on the sound for Tibia! I’m glad that our Community Management also sends us community feedback directly as well so we can stay in touch with the players at any time. And we get the sober facts as well as the cool stuff so yeah, we also get a good look at both sides of the coin most of the time which is often quite helpful indeed. I’m also quite fond of the amount of contests that are always going on. Actually everyone at CipSoft really likes those. From hand-made objects, pieces of art, stories to music, there’s a lot going on and it’s always nice to see! When I once saw someone put a Tibia-related tattoo on I thought „Alright, now it’s really on, working on Tibia comes with some serious responsibility…!” Was an awesome tattoo, too.

Level 999 Island was introduced about 7 years ago, however, no one has yet figured out its secrets. It’s a nice place and it’s great to relax after the hard work of reaching such a high level. But we feel that it hides something far greater… Any recommendation or hope that you can give to the high levels who visit our website regarding said island?

That’s like asking Robert Louis Stevenson’s Captain Flint to spill the beans about the gold on treasure island! ? He made a map, however.

In Tibia there are many languages of different races or specific areas. For example, some less famous but equally interesting ones like the „ancient language” (CHAMEK ATH UTHUL ARAK!) which is spoken by demons or by other ancient races as well. Or the language we see in Zao mainly (ULTAH SALID’AR, ESDO LO!) by Oberon or A Sleeping Dragon. Where does that inspiration come from? Is it possible to learn them in the game?

Most of our fantasy languages have been designed with specific goals in mind. For some we tried to go as far as possible within the constraints of a single update like the Deepling language. Others have developed over the course of several updates together with the lore of the world. Some are inspired by classic fantasy literature like the language of the elves and some are designed as a mystery in itself. There are various sources of inspiration, Tolkien being the most famous one in fantasy literature for example. The complex and intricate world design including runes and languages in the Ultima universe would be another classic example. Implementing languages and cultures like these can massively support the believability and enhance the immersion and the sense of „being there”. And a well-developed language could indeed be learned, you’d need quite a large vocabulary and at least a few characters actively using it to really make it learnable. Maybe we’ll expand on all this one day. ?

If you ever met a Bonelord in real life, what would you like to tell him? Feel free to answer this in your favourite cryptic language ?

No sweat, I’d simply say „1/0”.

Thank you so much for your time Lionet, we really appreciate it! ? Just one last thing, considering we have a huge mystery-hunting community which loves your work and helped with some questions we have asked you in this interview, do you have any message for them?

Indeed, I would like to thank all the mystery hunters, puzzle solvers and conundrum conquerors who are working on the solutions to all the secrets me and our team continuously put into the game. You helped shaping the very content of Tibia, too, and your interest and all the love you put into this is appreciated by me and the everyone here very much! I hope you feel the love we put into the creation of Tibia’s content as well as we feel your passion when playing it. We are looking forward to see your reactions when the next mysteries hit that will hopefully inspire you just as much as you inspire us when making them. ?

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