Free-to-play MMO Runes of Magic is doing very well for a game that was branded a World of Warcraft knock-off on its release. With players now past the 3 million mark and the Chapter 3 expansion being delivered to gamers, we caught up with Julien Crevits, Community Manager Runes of Magic, to find out what's currently happening with development.

Q: How is Runes of Magic doing for you guys? How many people are currently active players and what do you hope to reach?

Julien Crevits: First of all, Runes of Magic is doing extremely well as we hit the 3.5 million players mark more than a month ago. Let me put this figure in perspective by reminding you that Runes of Magic was officially launched back in May 2009, just over a year ago.

Of course, the more players Runes of Magic has, the better it will be for everyone but we're not aiming for any "goal" in particular. We are just trying to make the Runes of Magic experience as enjoyable as possible for our community.

Q: Could you explain a bit about the story for Chapter 3 and how it relates to the previous Chapters?

JC: Chapter I and II of Runes of Magic told the story of an arch-villain, the "Demon Lord", which ended at the end of last year. With Chapter 3, we are introducing a completely new story arc which takes place on the continent of Zandorya.

On this new continent, a young king, Callaway, is facing internal struggles among the six factions he rules, such as Kalos, Lechif and Shador. Players have to help the king rally his allies under the royal banner. This background story opens up many opportunities for hundreds of new quests, monsters as well as new NPC races, while letting the players discover huge new zones, each containing varied landscapes and settings.

Q: Runes of Magic is obviously influenced by WoW, but are you interested in making the game distinct from that MMO as you introduce more Chapters?

JC: Runes of Magic is an MMO, therefore it shares basic similarities with other games from the same genre, defined long before WoW - just like First-Person-Shooter games play similarly to other FPS games as well.

Runes of Magic features many gameplay differences and functionalities, such as the dual-class system, allowing players to combine two classes and have access to special skills after having reached level 10 and choosing a second class. Every player in the game also has free access to a house, freely customisable with furniture and housekeepers. Our guild system is extremely advanced, too and features guild levels with special guild quests, mini-games, guild castles and more.

Just a few weeks ago, one of our latest additions was the pet system, allowing everyone to have one (or more) pets out of hundreds of possibilities, which can be levelled up, fed and will join you in battle.

Q: Chapter 3 is introducing new upgrades for guilds, could you tell us about that?

JC: First, we've added a whole new type of castles for guilds, which looks completely different from the basic castles. Awesome castles can be built with massive stone walls and a central dungeon using resources gathered by the guild.

Guilds now also have access to a new type of building - towers - which grant special access to bonuses and buffs. Moreover, we have added new guild quests and special mini-games, such as the Call of the Horns which resembles a real-time strategy game but with goats!

But the huge cherry on the top is the new Siege Wars mode which allows guilds to face one another across all our servers and on special maps featuring each guild's castle. This mode comes with deadly and impressive siege weapons, resource points to capture, special turrets, PvP rewards and leader boards. It has been a huge success ever since the feature's been live and has proved to be one of our most important guild features!

Q: You'll also be introducing difficulty settings to dungeons. How did this idea come about?

JC: We wanted to give players of Runes of Magic the opportunity to be able to enjoy our most difficult dungeons, because the new Easy mode allows new players to complete these dungeons with less effort and get some cool gear nevertheless, which will help them tackle the dungeons on the Normal difficulty setting later on.

We have also introduced a new system for some of the more difficult dungeons which lets players automatically save their progress after a boss is defeated. Let's say that you just defeated one of the bosses in an instance but have to quit playing for some reason, you'll be able to directly teleport to the last defeated boss and resume your progress but all the non-boss mobs will have respawned.

All in all, these two new features make the high-level dungeons of Runes of Magic more accessible while not reducing their appeal for our more "hardcore" community.

Q: Thunderhoof Hills is the latest zone to be introduced in Chapter 3, could you describe it for us?

JC: Thunderhoof Hills is the first zone players will access when stepping on the new continent. It contains the capital city, Dalanis, in its centre. It also boasts a broader variety of landscapes than the original Runes of Magic regions. Players will discover lavish waterfalls and wild forests as well as a giant valley boasting massive monuments dedicated to the original leaders of the six principalities.

The zone also features hundreds of new quests, new monsters and much more. From there players have access to the next zone, the Southern Janost Forest just recently being launched.

Q: How does the new Collectible Card system work?

JC: Previously, RoM players were able to obtain monster cards randomly while ridding Taborea of some its foes. Those cards had to be added permanently to a special compendium. If a player hadn't added a card to his card collection, he was able to trade it with other players, but the cards didn't grant anything special apart from the enjoyment of collecting them all.

With Chapter 3, cards now confer small but stackable bonuses on characters such as a small boost in physical attack or defence. With over 800 collectible cards, a player who manages to get his hands on a fair few will still get a nifty statistics bonus.

Additionally, cards can now be taken out of the compendium and sold through the auction house. Some of them are actually extremely rare since they can only be obtained by defeating specific bosses and require some luck to be looted.

Q: What can players expect in the future from Runes of Magic?

JC: Well, first, we will wrap up Chapter 3 which is being delivered through several content patches and then we'll add the last zone, the Northern Janost Forest, complete with new quests and a new instance.

In the meantime, we'll keep on listening to our communities and one of the most requested features will soon appear in-game: the relationship system, which allows players to get married but also choose other players as family members, enter into a master-disciple relationship, become friends, or even lovers, which will grant access to special boosts in-game when playing with them.

We will also start announcing new things for Chapter IV but I am afraid I cannot reveal anything at all for now. Keep an eye on our official website!