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It's a tough issue. One thing that's interesting is the genre, right? Obviously, the high fantasy MMO thing is kind-of... "tapped out" is not the right word, but there's super-stiff competition, let's put it like that.
EJ: Honestly, there's the 800-pound gorilla. I mean, fantasy RPGs have to contend with WoW. It's great, well executed, polished; it has great pedigree now. And I still play it. It's still something that I enjoy in my time. I'm a fantasy RPG guy from way back, and the reason I got into the industry was Ultima. That's why I ended up at Origin in the first place.
So it's definitely a market that I think still has potential, and I think that there are lots of games that can go in there and make a splash. But they can't do it by doing the same things as everyone else.
We certainly flirted with the idea of taking this type of franchise and creating a fantasy game, but if we do it, it's not going to be another MMORPG that has the same mechanics. We're going to find a way to make it distinct, just like we have here.
I think that branching out of that genre is sort of uncharted territory in terms of massive games, right? I see that you've done things with the design that are definitely completely removed. Look at City of Heroes, right? It's a great game, and it has obviously managed to find a really consistent audience, but in the end it's not that much different than skinning another MMO, right?
EJ: Right. It was very important for us to not to just skin the game. We definitely flirted with different ideas on how we wanted to approach it. But it always came back to the same thing. We looked at the tags that we place on these things -- we call them MMOs, we call them RPGs -- some games want to make their own acronyms. To us, we don't care. It's not about how we classify it, it's about what the game does.
So for us, all we always say is: it's an online action game that has persistence. That's the important part for us. So, we don't try to look and see what else is out there, and go, "Well, we should have this feature, or this type of play, because that's what everyone else is playing..."
That's why we don't have levels; that's why we don't have arbitrary statistics. We want to try to see what players [do] -- what's important to us is what what we measure from players. Their artistic ability, their action game skill, and eventually the other types of game types that we introduce with this.
How do you maintain player interest without the carrot-on-the-stick of levels and similar systems? I mean, they maintain them in many games because they are a proven treadmill.
EJ: They're absolutely great. The whole DIKU-style of RPGs is genius in what it does, but there's only a certain group of people that really enjoy it. Now, that's not to say that they're [just the] 10 million people playing WoW, but it's finding what works for your game; finding out how your game works.
For us, we do have functional progression; we do have cosmetic progression; we do have things for players to achieve. It's always about putting things out there, that work for your game, that players want to continue to achieve.
Some games, like Counter-Strike, have no progression, but they still have achievement. You know, people created leagues, they created leader boards -- it really goes to what your game is. Our game is an action game. For us, most of it's going to be about players comparing each other, and seeing how we can weave achievement into that. So, as you achieve, you get things that make you more famous.
Again, the game is really about that celebrity. But there is also, like I said, functional progression. You don't get everything up front, you have to earn the types of cars, the weapons; all that stuff is progression in the game.
This game has a very sophisticated design, from everything I've seen. How do you arrive at these designs that have not been seen before in this type of combination, and how do you know it's going to work?
EJ: We don't.
EJ: That's part of it. I mean, I have to say that the person who should get credit for really pushing those boundaries is Dave Jones. I mean, he's never been someone who adheres to what's already out there. He wanted to make a game, he had vision for it, and he brought people in like me, to go, "Okay, this is the broad vision -- how do we make it practical?"
And we went through lots of trial and error. I mean, honestly, we've gone through the whole gamut of functional progression. We've looked at how the action game could work on that many multiplayer.
We've just continued to iterate and arrive at what we thought was the best way to do it. And we're continuing to learn. Honestly, when we get it out there in beta, we're going to see what works and what doesn't; what we can change, we're going to change.